Learning from Anarchists in the Past

The complexity of ‘anarchism” is hitting traditional media outlets more and more.  Here, we see another write up on a book about anarchist Lucy Parsons in which the writer, Jacqueline Jones, seems to actualy understand the many nuanced perspectived of anarchism, from the “left” side of anarchy to the “right” side of Anarchy.

What we can learn from anarchists

….. is it possible that self-identified anarchists from the past can tell us something about our politics in the present? Specifically, in the quest for a just and equitable society, are political labels of all kinds not just irrelevant, but counterproductive and even divisive?

Largely forgotten today are the anarchists from America’s Gilded Age, men and women who sounded the alarm about many of the same issues that make headlines today–the widening gap between rich and poor, the critical role of labor unions in protecting workers of all kinds, the mixed blessing of technological innovation in the workplace, the corrupt influence of money on politics; and the seductive, destructive power of rapacious profit-seeking.

During the late 19th century, one woman agitator in particular attracted large adoring crowds all over the country. She began each of her speeches with the defiant declaration, “I am an anarchist!” From the beginning of her first speaking tour (in the fall of 1886) until her death in 1942, Lucy Parsons reveled in her own notoriety, with reporters hanging on her every word and seeking her out for interviews. She told one inquisitive reporter, “I amount to nothing to the world and people care nothing for me.”

In this assertion she was wrong.

Parsons’ long and tumultuous career as orator and editor has largely been overshadowed by that of her husband Albert. They were an odd couple–she the daughter of a former slave and a white man, he a veteran of the Confederate army. They met in Waco, Texas, after the Civil War, and in 1873 moved to Chicago, where they embraced first socialism and then anarchism.

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Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines. He is the director of Social Cognito, an SEO/Web Marketing Company. You can reach Paul at pg@istate.tv