Four short book reviews
Decolonizing Anarchism, Maia Rammath
This is a brilliant book, a part of a series of books out of a collaboration between the Institute for Anarchist Studies and AK Press, which leads to critical research and a vehicle for published outcomes. This is especially important in that it brings to western - especially Anglo - anarchists the basic idea that other forms and approaches to anarchism abound on this planet. There are other recent books that focus on this, such as Michael Schmidt's Cartegraphy of Revolutionary Anarchism, and James Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed (both stimulating reads), but Rammath focuses on the South Asian (mainly Indian) region. She also focuses on important people and movements that are rarely or never mentioned in Euro/US based studies, their thoughts, strategies, highs and lows. Hard to find a fault.
The Best of Social Anarchism, Howard Ehrlich & a.h.s. boy
Social Anarchism is one of the best contemporary journals that critically analyses anarchist thoughts and practice, both historical and largely on current matters. The book 'The Best of....' puts together articles from the journal in sensible and understandable themes, and begins with a good history of the journal itself. Some themes and topics are: theory, education, current practices, anarchafeminism, 'new anarchism', violence, consensus and democracy. Quite enjoyable and thought provoking, however there should have been a thorough proof reading done before its publication.
The Tyranny of Theory: A contribution to the anarchist critique of Marxism, Ronald Tabor
Quite simply, Tabor does a demolition job on Marxism. The core of his analysis is the theme of authoritarianism that he demonstrates pervades not only the theories of Marx and Engles, but also their practice. The main benefit of the book is that it brings into play a lot of recent thought and covers virtually all aspects of the theory and practice of Marxism, including both the originators and the followers up to today. In essence, Tabor doesn't add anything essential that has not been covered by Bakunin and Kropotkin, however departs from those anarchists by pulling apart Marx's analysis of capitalism at its core. Pretty academic in approach, but that's the terrain that's being analysed.
Black Flame: The revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism, by Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt
This book hit me in the face with so many challenges that it took a bit to get to grips with its fundamental thesis: that anarchism began in September 1869, with Bakunin in particular, and generally with anarchists in the First International. Thus they say that Proudhon, Godwin and Stirner, are not anarchists becuse they were not a part of a revolutionary working class movement. Great argument, but seems historicaly determinist in that the implication is that anarchism is not possible without industrialisation and the urbanisation that accompanied it. Others have made similar arguments, such as the early Bookchin and Morris, but they also accept that anarchism is not only a product of history, but of human action, namely, the fight for freedoms and against authoritarianisms that has occured throughout humanity's existence, and continues today.