Recommended books - four short book reviews
Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-libertarian Thought and British writers from William Morris to Colin Ward, David Goodway.
This book so excites me that I'm reviewing it before finishing reading it. Goodway gave a talk/book launch when in Sydney a couple of years ago, which was great, but nothing like delving into each of the fascinating essays that comprise this masterful work. Not that I agree with all his points and positions, but it provides a richness of thought and analysis of a huge range of authors, from many I know little or nothing about to the famous, like William Morris, E P Thompson, Herbert Read, Oscar Wilde and George Orwell. It's not just that he brings out the anarchist connections in their thoughts and writing, but about their interactions and debates, and the part many played as activists. Stimulating.
The Accumulation of Freedom: Writings On Anarchist Economics, (Editors) Deric Shannon, Anthony J. Nocella 11, & John Asimakopoulos.
As the title suggests, this is another of the several recent works that aim to develop a modern approach to 'anarchist economics', a topic that I've been getting into lately. Overall, this collection of essays helps to confirm my contention that there is no such thing as 'marxist economics', however some of the authors still mistake Marx and Engles' analysis of capitalism for a statement on economics. This is my major critique, but doesn't apply to all the authors represented here. On the very positive side, there is a broad inclusion of many aspects of what an understanding of economics should include, and topics that anarchists have been writing about and putting into practice for generations. Economics is often a scarey topic for some, but this treatment isn't.
Kontrrazvedka: The Story of the Makhnovist Intelligence Service, V. Azarov.
Black Cat Press has published several books from new research on the Russian Revolution. We know of the betrayals of the Bolsheviks and the heroics of the Makhnovists, but often the details are missing, this slim book fills in some very interesting and critical information. The lessons learned from these studies describes how hard it is to maintain an insurrection, and the variety of resources needed: 'insurrection' as distinct from 'revolution'. One interesting anecdote was about Maria Nikiforova, who led an anarchist detachment much like Makhno. At one point they pulled guns on each other - relax, it was sorted out, she got the resources needed and headed off to blow up some Whites and free the Makhnovist General Staff that Trotsky had arrested, unfortunately already shot when she got there.
Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism, Michael Schmidt.
A brief but important book that seeks to explore the wide range of anarchist movements across the globe - hence the 'cartography' in the title. Schmidt follows the approach of a previous publication 'Black Flame' in that he covers only anarchism from 1868 onwards, continuing with the thesis that anarchism began then. Yes, I have serious trouble with that notion, but not with the breadth of information in this book. Many popular movements are covered, albeit briefly, and several of them I'd not heard of, didn't know of their extent, or had only read a whisper of information about them, eg, the ZZZ of Poland, the 1928 East Asian Anarchist Federation and the strange Manchurian Revolution of 1929-31 - among many others. This is more than just a catalogue of events, it also holds interesting analysis and shows the international linkages that led to millions of people aligning with anarchist organisations.