In the years between the Haymarket tragedy and the first ‘Red Scare’ (roughly 1887-1920), anarchism exerted a powerful influence in these so-called ‘united states.’ It drew tens of thousands of adherents from people of all backgrounds, and informed major developments in both radical and reactionary politics. The ‘Beautiful Ideal’ flourished particularly in Italian and Jewish communities, where disenchantment with exploitation and oppression in the ‘land of the free’ met many of those fleeing poverty, repression and pogroms. Anarchism offered both an analysis and possible alternative to the pervasive tyrannies of the State, Capitalism, and restrictive traditions. Jewish and Italian militants formed alternative communities within their respective enclaves, complete with their own publications (in Italian and Yiddish), affinity groups, labor unions, social centers, schools, theater groups, holidays, political tendencies and internal debates. These revolutionary social currents actively participated in and were informed by the larger international movement as well, demonstrating the anarchist ethic of solidarity through autonomy and celebration of difference.
We’ll take a look at some of the people and events that shaped these radical communities, read from participants in their own words, and discuss their ideas and actions in relation to the evolving ethics of our movement. It’s exciting and fascinating history to look at, and can hopefully help us to understand a bit better where we come from and some ways we might be able to go forward.