Anarchism and the arts

Anarchism has long had an association with the arts, particularly in music and literature. It shares these traits with other radical political movements, such as socialism, communism, liberalism/libertarianism and even fascism.

The influence of anarchism is not always directly a matter of specific imagery or public figures, but may be seen in a certain stance towards the liberation of the total human being and the imagination.


Anarchism had a large influence on French Symbolism of the late 19th century, such as that of Stéphane Mallarmé, who was quoted as saying "Je ne sais pas d'autre bombe, qu'un livre." (I know of no bomb other than the book.) Its ideas infiltrated the cafes and cabarets of turn of the century Paris (see the Drunken Boat #2).

More significantly, anarchists claim that 'strains' may be found in the works of the Dada group, whose anti-bourgeois art antics saw them wreaking havoc in war neutral Switzerland during World War I, although it could be argued that the Dadaists were much closer to the Council Communists, having much of their material published in Die Aktion.

Many American artists of the early 20th century were influenced by anarchist ideas, if they weren't anarchists themselves. The Ashcan School of American realism included anarchist artists, as well as artists such as Rockwell Kent and George Bellows that were influenced by anarchist ideas. Abstract expressionism also included anarchist artists such as Mark Rothko and painters such as Jackson Pollock, who had adopted radical ideas during his experience as a muralist for the Works Progress Administration. Pollock's father had also been a Wobbly.

David Weir has argued in "Anarchy and Culture" that anarchism's only had some success in the sphere of cultural avant-gardism because of its failure as a political movement; cognizant of anarchism's claims to overcome the barrier between art and political activism, he nevertheless suggests that this is not achieved in reality. Weir suggests that for the "ideologue" it might be possible to adapt "aesthetics to politics" but that "from the perspective of the poet" a solution might be to "adapt the politics to the aesthetics". He identifies this latter strategy with anarchism, on account of its individualism. Weir has also suggested that "the contemporary critical strategy of aestheticizing politics" among marxists such as Fredric Jameson is a product of the demise of marxism as a state ideology. "The situation whereby ideology attempts to operate outside of politics has already pointed Marxism toward postmodernist culture, just as anarchism moved into the culture of modernism when it ceased to have political validity".In the late 20th century, anarchism and the arts could primarily be associated with the collage works by James Koehnline, Johan Humyn Being, and others, whose work was being published in anarchist magazines, including and Fifth Estate. The Living Theatre, a theatrical troupe headed by Judith Malina and Julian Beck, were outspoken about their anarchism, often incorporating anarchistic themes into their performances.

In the 1990s, anarchists were involved in the mail art movement, which can be described as "art which uses the postal service in some way." This is related to the involvement of many anarchists in the zine movement. And many contemporary anarchists are involved in making art in the form of flyposters, stencils, and radical puppets.

Visual art


quote=An anarchist world…a surrealist world: they are the same.
source=Andre Breton

Anarchism has traditionally emphasized the liberation of the imagination and subjectivity from the constraints of the present social order, so it is no surprise that many anarchists are attracted to the work of the surrealists.

Surrealism is both an artistic and political movement aimed at the liberation of the human being from the constraints of capitalism, the state, and the cultural forces that limit the reign of the imagination. The movement developed in France in the wake of WWI with Andre Breton as its main theorist and poet. Originally it was tied closely to the Communist Party. Later, Breton, a close friend of Leon Trotsky, broke with the Communist Party.


Though typically associated with nationalism, and by extension, fascism, anarchism had some minor influence on Futurism.

Carlo Carrà's best known work was "The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli", painted in 1911. In the 1912 catalogue for the Futurists' first Parisian exhibition Umberto Boccioni remarked "the sheaves of lines corresponding to all the conflicting forces, following the general law of violence" which he labeled "force lines" encapsulating the Futurist idea of physical transcendentalism. Mark Antliff has suggested that this futurist aesthetic was "designed to involve the spectator in the very politics that led to Italy's intervention in World War I and, ultimately, to the rise of Fascism in Italy" [ [ The Fourth Dimension and Futurism: A Politicized Space | Art Bulletin, The | Find Articles at ] ] . The art historian Giovanni Lista has identified this aesthetic as first appearing in the anarcho-syndicalist current, where Marinetti encountered the Sorelian "myths of action and violence."


A number of performers and artists have either been inspired by anarchist concepts, or have used the medium of music and sound in order to promote anarchist ideas and politics.

Punk rock is one movement that has taken much inspiration from the often potent imagery and symbolism associated with anarchism and Situationist rhetoric, if not always the political theory. In the past few decades, anarchism has been closely associated with the punk rock movement, and has grown because of that association (whatever other effects that has had on the movement and the prejudiced pictures of it). Indeed, many anarchists were introduced to the ideas of Anarchism through that symbolism and the anti-authoritarian sentiment which many punk songs expressed.

Anarcho-punk, on the other hand, is a current that has been more explicitly engaged with anarchist politics, particularly in the case of bands such as Crass, Poison Girls, (early) Chumbawamba, The Ex, Flux of Pink Indians, Rudimentary Peni, Riot/Clone, Conflict, Oi Polloi, Sin Dios, Propagandhi, etc. Many other bands, especially at the local level of unsigned groups, have taken on what is known as a "punk" or "DIY" ethic: that is, Doing It Yourself, indeed a popular Anarcho-punk slogan reads "DIY not EMI", a reference to a conscious rejection of the major record company. Some groups who began as 'anarcho-punk' have attempted to move their ideas into a more mainstream musical arena, for instance, Chumbawamba, who continue to support and promote anarchist politics despite now playing more dance music and pop influenced styles.

Techno music is also connected strongly to anarchists and eco-anarchists, as many of the events playing these types of music are self-organised and put on in contravention of national laws. Sometimes doors are pulled off empty warehouses and the insides transformed into illegal clubs with cheap (or free) entrance, types of music not heard elsewhere and quite often an abundance of different drugs. Other raves may be held outside, and are viewed negatively by the authorities. In the UK, the Criminal Justice Bill (1994) outlawed these events (raves) and brought together a coalition of socialists, ravers and direct actionists who opposed the introduction of this 'draconian' Act of Parliament by having a huge 'party&protest' in the Centre of London that descended into one of the largest riots of the 1990s in Britain. Digital hardcore, an electronic music genre, is also overtly anarchist; Atari Teenage Riot is the most widely recognized digital hardcore band. It should be noted that both Digital Hardcore, Techno and related genres are not the sole preserve of anarchists; people of many musical, political or recreational persuasions are involved in these musical scenes.

The genre of folk punk or "radical folk" has become increasingly prevalent in protest culture, with artists like David Rovics openly asserting anarchist beliefs.

Negativland's "The ABCs of Anarchism" includes a reading of material from Alexander Berkman's "Now and After" and other anarchist-related material in a sound collage.

Artists and artworks inspired by anarchism

Visual art

*Freddie Baer
*Enrico Baj ("Funeral Of The Anarchist Pinelli")
*Beehive Collective
*Carlo Carrà ("The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli")
*Flavio Constantini
*Carlos Cortez
*Eric Drooker
*Marcel Duchamp
*Mike Flugennock
*Clifford Harper
*Donald Judd
*James Koehnline
*Josh MacPhee
*Louis Moreau
*Arthur Moyse
*Paul Signac
*Gustave Courbet
*Laura Norder
*Richard Olmsted
*Francis Picabia
*Camille Pissarro
*José Guadalupe Posada
*Mark Rothko
*Winston Smith
*Seth Tobocman
*Gee Vaucher
*John Yates

Comics/sequential art

* J. Daniels
*Roberto Ambrosoli
** Anarchik
*Alan Grant
*Jay Kinney
**"Anarchy Comics"
*Alan Moore
**"V for Vendetta"
*Grant Morrison
**"The Invisibles"
*Donald Rooum
** "Wildcat Comics", see "Freedom" newspaper
*Chaz Wood
**"The Black Flag" (Graphic novel)


* Étienne Roda-Gil
** "La Makhnovtchina" [ [ La Makhnovtchina] hymn lyrics. Retrieved June 1, 2008]


*Edward Abbey
**"The Brave Cowboy"
**"Good News"
**"The Monkey Wrench Gang"
*Isaac Babel [Isaac was a non-anarchist, his two works, "Discourse on the "Tachanka" and "Old man Makhno" being anti-anarchist polemics. " [ Notes on the History of Anarchism in literature: a chronology] " Retrieved October 6, 2007]
**"Discourse on the "Tachanka", "Collected Stories"
**"Old man Makhno"
*Iain M. Banks
**The Culture novels
*Don Bannister
**"Hard Walls of Ego"
*Ralph Bates
**"Lean Men" (1934)
*Alexander Berkman
**"Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist" [1912]
*Horst Bienek
**"" (1970)
*André Breton
*Joseph Conrad
**"The Secret Agent" (1907)
*Philip K. Dick
**"The Last of the Masters" (1954)
*E L Doctorow
**"Ragtime" (1975)
*Martin B. Duberman
**"Haymarket" (2003)
*Greg Egan
*Dario Fo
**"Accidental Death of An Anarchist"
*William Godwin
**"Caleb Williams" (1794)
*Pietro Gori
**"Primo Maggio" (1895)
*Frank Harris
**"The Bomb" (1908)
*M. John Harrison
*Jaroslav Hašek
**"The Good Soldier Švejk"
*Robert A. Heinlein
**"The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress"
*Henry James
**"The Princess Casamassima (1886)
*Ba Jin
**"Family (novel)" (1931)
*Maurice Leblanc
**Arsène Lupin books were inspired by Marius Jacob
*Ursula K. Le Guin
**"The Dispossessed"
*Emanuel Litvinoff
**"A Death Out Of Season"
*J. William Lloyd
*John Henry Mackay
**"Der Schwimmer" (1901)
*Ken MacLeod
**Fall Revolution sequence
*Leo Malet
**"Fog on the Tolbiac Bridge"
*Ethel Mannin
**"Red Rose"
**"The Lover Under Another Name"
*Henry Miller
**"Tropic of Cancer"
*Michael Moorcock
*Emile Pataud (and Emile Pouget)
**"How Shall We Bring About The Revolution?" (1913)
*Pedro de Paz
**"The Man Who Killed Durruti"
*Marge Piercy
**"Woman on the Edge of Time"
*Emeric Pressburger
**"Killing a Mouse on Sunday"
*Thomas Pynchon
**Against the Day (2006)
*Olivia & Helen Rossetti
**"A Girl Among the Anarchists" (1903) by Isabel Meredith (fictional memoir)
*Ramon J. Sender
**"Seven Red Sundays" (1932)
*Victor Serge
**"Birth of our Power"
**"Men in Prison"
*Upton Sinclair
**"Boston" (1928)
*Leo Tolstoy
*B. Traven
**"Government" (1931)
**"The Carreta" (1931)
**"March to the Monteria" (1933)
**"The Troza" (1936)
**"The Rebellion of the Hanged" (1936)
**"The General From The Jungle" (1940)
*Lois Waisbrooker
*Richard Whiting
**"No. 5 John Street"
*Oscar Wilde
*Robert Anton Wilson
**"Illuminatus trilogy"
*Emile Zola
**"Germinal" (1885)
**"The Debacle" (1892)


*Tony Blackplait
*Raegan Butcher
*Hugo Dewar
**"Barcelona" (1936)
*Lawrence Ferlinghetti
*Pietro Gori
*Sadakichi Hartmann
*Joe Hill
*Philip Lamantia
*Philip Levine
*John Henry Mackay
*John Manifold
**"Makhno’s Philosophers" [ [ "Makhno’s Philosophers"] republished by in "KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library #9". John Manifold himself was a non-anarchist member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. ]
*Kenneth Patchen
*Benjamin Péret
*Diane di Prima
*Kenneth Rexroth
**"Again at Waldheim"
*Lola Ridge
*Karl Shapiro
**"Death of Emma Goldman"
*Gary Snyder
*Ernst Toller
*George Woodcock
**"Black Flag"


*Julian Beck
** Actor, director and painter who founded "The Living Theatre" with Judith Malina.
*Luis Buñuel
**In particular, his documentary "".
* Peter Coyote
*Martin B. Duberman
**"Mother Earth: An Epic Drama of Emma Goldman's Life"
*Jon Jost
*Nelly Kaplan
*Adonis Kyrou
*Judith Malina
**Actress who was an integral part of the "Living Theater" with her husband
*Godfrey Reggio
*Jean Vigo
*Yoshishige Yoshida
**Directed "Eros Plus Massacre", about anarchists Sakae Ōsugi and Noe Itō.
*Yu Yong-Sik
**Directed "Anarchists", about an underground cell of insurrectionary anarchists.


*Martin B. Duberman
**"Mother Earth: An Epic Drama of Emma Goldman's Life" (1991)
*Tom Stoppard
**"The Coast of Utopia (A Trilogy)" (2002)
*Howard Zinn
**"Emma: A Play in Two Acts about Emma Goldman, American Anarchist" (2002)

See also

*Anarchist symbolism
*List of fictional anarchists
*Libertarian science fiction, some of which constitutes anarcho-capitalist literature.

Footnotes and citations

Further reading

*cite book |last=Sonn |first=Richard |title=Anarchism and Cultural Politics in Fin-De-Siècle France |publisher=University of Nebraska Press |location=Lincoln |year=1989 |isbn=0803241755
*cite book |last=Antliff |first=Allan |title=Anarchist Modernism: Art, Politics, and the First American Avant-Garde |publisher=University of Chicago Press |location=Chicago |year=2001 |isbn=0226021033
*cite book |last=Macphee |first=Josh |coauthors=Reuland, Erik |title=Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority |publisher=AK Press |location=Stirling |year=2007 |isbn=1904859321
*cite book |last=Antliff |first=Allan |title=Anarchy and Art: From the Paris Commune to the Fall of the Berlin Wall |publisher=Arsenal Pulp Press |year=2007 |isbn=1551522187

External links

* [ Anarchism, Art, & Critical Mass]
* [ Anarchism & Science Fiction] , a bibliography of works of science fiction which feature or were inspired by a theme of anarchism.
* [ When Gendarme Sleepsndash Anarchist Zine of Poetry]
* [ Libertarian Communist Library Arts and Culture Archive]
* [ Notes on the history of anarchism in literature: a chronology]
* [ Parser: New Poetry and Poetics] , a journal of anarchist poetry and poetics
* [ People's history of Culture] , a working class and anarchist cultural history page

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