Anarchism in America (AK Press, 1983)

73 min. wiki :: imdb :: rerelease

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“Anarchists generally believe that as groups or individuals, people should directly run society.”

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“I think in the romantic view of the American character, there is an implicit anarchism.  It is flawed by one thing – the abstraction of patriotism.  People who will damn the government from morning til night and oppose the state in a million and one ways will, at times of national crisis, will become incredibly patriotic and begin to say they will do anything for the state.  And they begin to talk of duty, service, sacrifice, all of the words that are the worst words in the world it seems to me in a human sense.

I don’t know why this is, unless it is that these are such goodhearted people that really believe that the American state is totally different than any other state, and it’s certainly somewhat different.  And that they feel it’s important to preserve…  they feel they’re preserving the country, but the only language that is available is to preserve the state.  I have an idea that one of these days there’ll be another language in which we can talk about preserving the country- the landscape, the neighborhoods, the people, and the communities without talking about perserving the state- at which point they’ll be a lot of radical farmers, factory workers, and small town residents in this country.”

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(Emma Goldman)

The film is a series of interviews with self-described anarchists, libertarians, and other government-opposed individuals mixed with footage of protests, the American countryside, and other relevant shots.  The film-makers frequently appear on screen asking questions, usually bringing the conversation back to the word “anarchism,” which they envision as an ideology as opposed to “anarchy” which many people describe as violence and vandalism in the film.  Every interviewee has their own take on the concept and the film gave a decent overview of ideas, though none were fully fleshed out.

Anarchism, for these filmmakers, was the subject and desired end, and thus it felt as though the filmmakers were looking at the world with blinders on.  Since the, for me, absolutely vital issues of resource consumption and food distribution were overlooked in the analysis of human-government relations, most of the people being interviewed were propounding ideas, not describing action.  Not to say that many of them weren’t important and influential thinkers, but most of them seemed to be just that- thinkers.  One exception was Mildred Lumes (sp?), an associate of Ralph Brusotti (also sp?), a homesteader who believed in ‘responsibility’ and doing it one’s self.   Her outlook took the emphasis away from the anarchist ideas, and put it on the idea of sustainability first and formost, which I felt the documentary as a whole was lacking.

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“[I don’t think] that one can go around living a holier-than-thou ethical life that essentially amounts to an ongoing guilt trip against other people.  I find that it is basically impossible to live a thoroughly anarchist life within a capitalist society.  But I do believe this- that one can try to maintain a high ethical standard, and that is one of the beautiful things about anarchism: that it brings ethics into socialism instead of neo-science into socialism such as Marx does.”

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(Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys)

“Anarchy begins with the mind and American minds for generations have been programmed totally the opposite direction.”

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