No Gods, No Masters: A History of Anarchism Part 1: The Passion for Destruction (1840–1906)

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This episode of NO GODS NO MASTERS shows how anarchism emerged from the horrendous social conditions facing workers at a time when industrialization was, paradoxically, providing better hygiene and social standards – for some. In an era in which the life expectancy of workers was 30 years—most of those spent in misery—it is no surprise that new approaches would arise.

No Gods, No Masters: A History of Anarchism Part 1: The Passion for Destruction (1840–1906)

This episode of NO GODS NO MASTERS shows how anarchism emerged from the horrendous social conditions facing workers at a time when industrialization was, paradoxically, providing better hygiene and social standards – for some. In an era in which the life expectancy of workers was 30 years—most of those spent in misery—it is no surprise that new approaches would arise.

Tracing the history of early anarchist thought from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who declared that property is theft, to Mikhail Bakunin, who advocated violent revolution to destroy the state completely, THE PASSION FOR DESTRUCTION provides a look at both the theoretical and practical origins of the movement.

Anarchists played a role in the revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871, which was crushed with an unprecedented brutality that saw the deaths of as many as 20,000 people. It was the kind of response anarchists would soon face whenever they succeeded in wresting power from authority.

Anarchists issued a formal declaration of principals following their first international, held in St-Imier, Switzerland, in 1872, advocating free speech, free thought, equality for all, atheism, internationalism, and an end to political parties.

THE PASSION FOR DESTRUCTION follows the expansion of the anarchist movement from Europe to America, where it grew, fueled by disillusioned immigrants. Anarchists would spread their influence through general strikes – a form of action they developed – and collective action within the trade union movement, which was concerned with much more far-reaching change than working conditions. The film also offers an in-depth look at the Haymarket Affair, which saw four anarchists wrongfully hanged for a bomb that went off during a demonstration against police violence, and which would deeply influence anarchist activists such as Emma Goldman.

But even as anarchist-influenced revolts would spread through much of the world, the movement faced a sharp division between those advocating “propaganda of the deed” (bombings and other violent acts that would serve as a catalyst for revolution) and those who favoured the more incremental gains of syndicalism.

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