American Anarchism

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Anarchism has had little appeal in the United States. There was some interest in utopian communities. An important early advocate was Josiah Warren (1798-1874). Even the utopian communities that developed, however, had rules. Two early figures in the American anarchist movement were William Greene and Benjamin Tucker. They founded journals like The Word and Liberty where they published the work of important European anarchists such as Peter Kropotkin, Michael Bakunin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Leo Tolstoy. At this time anarchism still had an essentially pacifist ethos. In response to scts of terror, European monarchies became increasingly repressive, especially in Russia. This was just as large numbers of European immigrants began reaching America. Important anarchists in Europe, including Johann Most and Emma Goldman, joined the immigrant flow to the United States. Seeing the poor working conditions here and a government largely favoring moneyed interests, they both inisisted that as in Europe, violence was acceptable to overthrow capitalism. Neither saw that the democratic system was a tool for change or the importance of law. (Goldman was to see first hand when she returned to Lenin's Russia after the Revolution the horrors of violence in a society without laws.) Anarchists were blamed for the Haymarket Bombing in Chicago (1886). The Chicago authorities were never able to identify the actual person who threw the bomb. They did identify an anarchist cell (Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fisher, Louis Lingg and George Engel) who helped organized the meeting. They were tried and sentenced to death for "conspiracy to murder". The anarchist movement in America lost whatever minor support it had as it becamne associated with violence. Alexander Berkman, a Russian immigrant and anarchist attempted to murder industrialist William Frick (1892). Gaetano Bresci, am Italian immigrant, returned to Italy and assassinated King Umberto. Another anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, from a Polish immigrant family assassinated President William McKinley . This resulted in the passage of the Immigrant Exclusion Act (1901). This barred known anarchists from entering the United States. A group of anarchists founded the political journal with the imcendiary title Blast (January 1916). Alexander Berkman edited the journal and published articles by Emma Goldman, Mary Heaton Vorse, and Robert Minor. After World War I and the Russian Revolution, a wave of strikes and bomb attacks occurred in America. The result was the Red Scare (1919). Thiscled to the Palmer Raids. Authorities deported a number of leading radicals, including anarchists (Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and Mollie Steimer). Two Italian immigrants with anarchist sentiments (Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti) were tried and executed for murder. The case became an international cause ceklebre. Many believed that their conviction was based more on their anarchist beliefs than the evidence.


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Created: 7:39 PM 5/30/2009
Last updated: 6:36 AM 8/3/2009