Looking for books on labor history. (Focusing on anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, communes, etc.)
March 14, 2011 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books on anarchist history. Topics may include: Kronstadt, The Paris Commune, The Spanish Civil War, Haymarket Square, or anything that seems thematically appropriate. Academic tests are good, and so are rigorous non-academic tests. I realize this is a serious niche market, but does anyone have any favorites?
posted by Stagger Lee to Education (23 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Emma Goldman has always been my favourite.
posted by saucysault at 9:45 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're a really, really beginner to the topic (like I am), you may like this, which I just finished. I'll grant it's more "introductory overview," but it may make for a very good jumping-off point, if you then track down the works cited within it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2011

I would also recommend Emma Goldman's autobiography, she is awesome. It is a wonderful observation of that history, among many other things.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

And of course Orwell's Homage to Barcelona is awesome for the Spanish Civil War, although he was with a Marxist non-Soviet group.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:50 AM on March 14, 2011

Homage to Catalonia, I believe you mean. Lovely book.
posted by entropone at 9:54 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're looking for primary sources, you might appreciate Guérin's enormous anthology No Gods No Masters. Quite a bit of it seems to be available on Google Books if you want to try before you buy.
posted by theodolite at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2011

British/Canadian writer George Woodcock, friend of Orwell & "anarchist thinker"
posted by canoehead at 10:08 AM on March 14, 2011

Read Homage to Catalonia, seriously, available free from this link.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:45 AM on March 14, 2011

Excellent anthologies:
Patterns of Anarchy: A Collection of Writings on the Anarchist Tradition, ed. Leonard I. Krimerman and Lewis Perry
Reinventing Anarchy, Again, ed. Howard Ehrlich

Some local histories:
The Anarchists of Casas Viejas, by Jerome R. Mintz
The Black Flag of Anarchy: Antistatism in the United States, by Corinne Jacker
The Russian Anarchists, by Paul Avrich

Here's a bibliography for further reading. Good luck, and fight the power!
posted by languagehat at 10:57 AM on March 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Your examples don't really strike me as specifically anarchist, but rather worker or as you said in the title: labour history.

Marx's history writings are always fascinating: Specifically the French Civil War and the Paris Commune that you mentioned, though he also wrote on the French Revolution, and the American Civil War.

Other works that focus on "workers" would be Michael Parenti's The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome, The Kibbutz: Awakening from Utopia, and A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924
posted by SollosQ at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You may find the Anarchism page at AK Press of interest.

Since this thread will probably cover European and American anarchism from 1848-1968 pretty well, I'll add that there are lots of interesting books that are about anarchist societies and anarchist movements that aren't what you immediately think of when you think "anarchist":

The Art of Not Being Governed, which is an ethnography, for example.

Also, Seeing Like A State and Weapons of the Weak, by James C. Scott.

Memoirs like Ringolevio and Berkman's Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist are good.

There's this website I just found , evocatively called "Dead Anarchists, which seems to have a lot of anarchist memoir stuff.

There's also Avrich's Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America.

If you want something that gives you the lived experience of anarchism in the recent past (well, there's lots of zines and stuff on AK Press) Microcosm Press has republished Seth Tobocman's great, great graphic novel War In The Neighborhood, a set of interlocking stories about squatting and the anti-gentrification struggle in New York in the late eighties and early nineties. Even though this book is a somewhat jaundiced and depressing look at that struggle, it was completely politically formative for me. Plus the art is amazing.

Anarchists are everywhere! If I had more time, I'd lind to more non-US, non-Europe stuff. Chinese anarchism is really different from Western, for example.
posted by Frowner at 11:05 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I liked Peter Marshall's Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism for the grand narrative. Because it tries to cover everything that might conceivably be called anarchism, you won't be satisfied by any one chapter, but it's great for referring you to things you might not otherwise have heard about.
posted by Beardman at 11:22 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing Emma Goldman.

The American Radical is a collection of pieces on various anarchists (and other very interesting people). It is perfect for someone who wants a casual introduction, as you can read an essay in 20 minutes before bed and have sweet dreams of revolution.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:50 AM on March 14, 2011

Death in the Haymarket is the most recent (and my favorite) of all the books on the Haymarket event. Paul Avrich's book, called The Haymarket Tragedy, is also good. The Chicago Historical Society has a great online collection of material as well.

For a great counter to Emma Goldman, I also recommend Avrich's An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine De Cleyre if you can find a copy.
posted by perhapses at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2011

There's a good chapter on turn-of-the-(twentieth)-century anarchism in Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower
posted by azure_swing at 12:15 PM on March 14, 2011

You people are awesome.
Apparently I'm going to have to buy a library.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:10 PM on March 14, 2011

Apparently I'm going to have to buy a library.

... or go to a library :-)
posted by lukemeister at 1:30 PM on March 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Seconding Death in the Haymarket; it's also available at the aptly named Haymarket Books, which has an entire radical labor history section. You'll see that its focus is generally Marxist rather than anarchist/syndicalist, but there are still some other titles in there that you may find useful as well.
posted by scody at 1:41 PM on March 14, 2011

One more: Anarchism and the Mexican Revolution: The Political Trials of Ricardo Flores Magón in the United States
posted by perhapses at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2011

It's not anarchy, but if you're looking for labor history, definitely be sure to look into Chavez and the Farmworkers Union. I just read "The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Union" but there is probably a lot of other good stuff out there, too. I can send it to you if you'll cover shipping or mail me something tasty when you get it.
posted by aniola at 10:19 PM on March 14, 2011

(metafilter's own) history is a weapon has an excellent website that hosts a number a good resources.
posted by dustyasymptotes at 5:08 PM on March 15, 2011

I want to "best answer" the entire thread. Thanks everybody. ;)
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:46 AM on March 21, 2011

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