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A History of American Anarchism

Posted on December 27th, 2010 by Ben Spera

SaccoVanzettiAnarchism is a teenage phase to most. High schoolers pissed off at their parents and school administrators carving the infamous anarchy symbol into bathroom stalls and writing it on their school binders. To me it’s always just been an overused cliche used by politicians and the media to discredit their opposition. Do legitimate anarchists even really exist? I’ve never seen one. Never met one. Some would argue that libertarians and conservative, small-government advocates are nothing more than anarchists, but obviously doesn’t hold any real merit.

The truth is that the United States has had a very real Anarchist presence in the past. Most notably in the early 20th century. European and American anarchists such as Luigi Galleani, Emma Goldman, Guiseppe Zangara and the infamous Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti made their way here from Italy with others looking for work. But unlike today, these anarchists’ violent resolve has yet to be matched by another political movement as of yet. Murders, assassinations and bombings were common place. The Wall Street bombing of 1920, the 1916 Preparedness Day bombing in San Fransisco and U.S. President McKinley‘s assassination have all been proven to be committed by dedicated followers of the Anarchist movement.

Europe wasn’t getting off any easier. In 1900 Italian King Umberto I was murdered with four revolver shots by the Italo-American anarchist Gaetano Bresci, in 1917 the Russian Revolution was incited by anarchists, including expelled Americans Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. Meanwhile, exiled Russian anarchists such as Nestor Makhno were huddled in Paris, France drafting the Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists in an attempt to organize the anarchist movement. Several years later Spain experienced an Anarchist revolution which resulted in the only true sovereign Anarchist state, Catalonia, although it did not remain for long. The impressively fluid anarchist movement knew no bounds, and when kicked out of one country, simply moved onto another without skipping a beat.

It is no coincidence that Anarchists were held in high contempt, almost to the extent of America’s arch nemesis, communism. Ironically, as World War II developed and fascist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Musselini gained higher profiles, the Anarchist movement and United States found themselves cooperating in the war against the Axis powers in Europe.

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