Public vs Private Ownership of Government: A survey of Dangerous Ideas in Three Parts (Part III)

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To quote Michael Malice, “The black flag of anarchy comes in many colors” and also in his summation anarchy can be summarized by the simple statement that “you don’t speak for me”. The differing flavors of anarchy represent differing economic approaches in a governance that requires individual explicit consent.

Anarchism of a socialist bent has been part and parcel of the modern anarchist movement since its rebirth in the early to mid 1800’s. This movement began in earnest in the 1880’s with the arrival of Yiddish speaking immigrants. Starting in the 1880’s Jewish immigrants began to arrive in the United States with innumerable difference from their coreligionists who had arrived prior to that time. These Jews spoke Yiddish, came from Eastern Europe, and brought with them a religious fervor that had not had not been subdued by the desire to assimilate like those German Jews who had come before them. This fervor showed itself in both Chassidic orthodoxy as well as in revolutionary ideas, the most extreme and interesting of which was Anarchy. The Yiddish Anarchist movement can be traced through Yiddish publications and books that outline the rise, intensification, and withering of this fiery philosophy. This philosophy was not unique to Yiddish speakers, but the Yiddishists brought these thoughts into violent action. It was in this energetic action that Yiddish was causal to both the nature and intensity of the Yiddish Anarchist movement between 1880 and 1900. Without Yiddish, this movement would have resembled other anarchist movements in the United States that were waning prior to the arrival of the Yiddish speaking immigrants (Shaltiel, 20202, Yiddishists and American Anarchy (dissertation)).

“Peter Kropotkin, the famous late 19th- and early 20th-century Russian communist anarchist, stated that there are essentially two kinds of socialism: statist socialism and anarchism. The difference between the two is that statist socialism wishes to take control of the state and use it to enforce socialism, whereas [socialist] anarchism wishes to abolish the state and thereby the oppressive capitalist economic system. Kropotkin’s distinction solves quite a few inherent contradictions and problems in statist socialism, such as enforcing equality through letting a few rule the many via the state. But some of the problems persist in the anarchist version of socialism. The problems arise due to the fact that socialists generally tend to have a static view of society, which makes them totally ignorant of how things change over time. Socialists would probably not admit this is the case, since they do know that things have been changing through the course of history (Karl Marx said so) and that things never seem to stay the same. But still they argue as if ceteris paribus” is the divine principle of reality, and it is not.”

This inability to realize a change in times and circumstances led to an application of socialist economic ideation in a largely capitalistic milieu. The masses were willing to unionize, but they were not willing to take control of the means of production and were much less willing to usurp governmental control. That is not to say that action was not taken on the socialist anarchy front, it most certainly was. An anarchist assassinated President McKinley citing as inspiration Emma Goldman. (This by the way could be considered causal for the emergence of the Progressive Era, and arguably for the involvement of the United States in World War One which was terminal for the democratization of Europe.)

So as a whole early 20th century socialist anarchy was both unsuccessful and yet contributed to the downfall of the economic and governmental system that lorded over a continent for a millennium. This movement in a comet like arch burned brightly for about 40 years and fizzled out in the 1920s, outshined by the conspicuous consumption of postwar American capitalism that would rule the world through the next century (Shaltiel, 2020, Yiddishists and American Anarchy (dissertation)).

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