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Wobblies and Zapatistas reviewed by PMR

Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism, and Radical History
Reviewed by Deric Shannon
University of Connecticut
Political Media Review

Wobblies and Zapatistas is basically a long conversation between Grubacic and Lynd about building bridges between the best traditions within anarchism and Marxism written for modern militants, revolutionaries, and working people. It is a series of provocations, led by Grubacic as he asks Lynd probing questions about radical practice contemporarily and historically.

One particular theme of interest is the position of contemporary anarchists in regards to mass social movement work. Grubacic (24) writes that “the generation of new anarchists… must learn how to ’swim in the sea of the people’”. Lynd replies with recollections of the Left’s past, focusing at one point on the SDS and how sections would leave school and organize amongst poor populations. Lynd describes the approach as short lived, but offers his own concept for organizing with workers and the poor.

This concept, accompaniment, is a major theme in the book. It is used to describe the ways that radicals might organize alongside marginalized communities. The radical organizer accompanies the struggles of the marginalized like a string quartet might accompany a horn section’s lead. This “lead”, however, isn’t to suggest uncritical acceptance of the politics of marginalized populations. Rather, it asks of us to be honest and vocal about our disagreements without resorting to patronization.

This concept is similar to the idea of social insertion articulated in especifismo, a Latin American variant of anarchism. That is, anarchists should involve (socially insert) themselves in mass movements and actively argue our politics within them. Many anarchist events I’ve attended over the last decade or so have included workshops on bike repair, mushroom foraging, punk music, etc. with little attention paid to involvement in social movements and mass struggles. This missing piece in anarchist practice is also apparent in the ways that modern anarchists at times actively discourage working class organizing. Lynd and Grubacic argue for a radical milieu that involves itself in mass struggles and sees the positive contributions of working class people in fights for social justice, as well as reminding us that without a struggle for socialism-or worker’s self-management-we do not have a movement capable of talking about “justice” in holistic terms.

Other interesting items of discussion include conversations on direct action, dual power, “whiteness theory”, and behaving like comrades (something many of us could learn a lot about on the Left with our entrenched history of denunciations, sectarian squabbling, and our seeming inability to have diplomatic and principled disagreements). Throughout its pages, this book is about drawing those common threads together from the best of anarchism and Marxism. In a time of global economic depression, with factory and school occupations all over the world, as well as radical movements in as disparate places as Greece and Iran having pitched battles in the streets with the state, it is incumbent on us Leftists to work together. There is radical potential in the world right now-potential that need not be wasted over theoretical quibbles. This book is a good start in creating commonalities in practice along the radical Left-and at just the right historical juncture.

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