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Beer and Revolution: The German Anarchist Movement in New York City, 1880-1914

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Beer and Revolution: The German Anarchist Movement in New York City, 1880-1914.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Tom Goyens(Author)

    Book details

Understanding an infamous political movement's grounding in festivity and defiance

Beer and Revolution examines the rollicking life and times of German immigrant anarchists in New York City from 1880 to 1914. Offering a new approach to an often misunderstood political movement, Tom Goyens puts a human face on anarchism and reveals a dedication less to bombs than to beer halls and saloons where political meetings, public lectures, discussion circles, fundraising events, and theater groups were held.

Goyens brings to life the fascinating relationship between social space and politics by examining how the intersection of political ideals, entertainment, and social activism embodied anarchism not as an abstract idea, but as a chosen lifestyle for thousands of women and men. He shows how anarchist social gatherings were themselves events of defiance and resistance that aimed at establishing anarchism as an alternative lifestyle through the combination of German working-class conviviality and a dedication to the principle that coercive authority was not only unnecessary, but actually damaging to full and free human development as well. Goyens also explores the broader circumstances in both the United States and Germany that served as catalysts for the emergence of anarchism in urban America and how anarchist activism was hampered by police surveillance, ethnic insularity, and a widening gulf between the anarchists' message and the majority of American workers.

3.5 (7688)
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Book details

  • PDF | 296 pages
  • Tom Goyens(Author)
  • University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition (15 Nov. 2014)
  • English
  • 3
  • History

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Review Text

  • By MH Lambert on 6 August 2008

    I got this book for three reasons. First: the title. Any book called "Beer and Revolution" deserves my attention regardless of subject matter. Second: Johann Most. There aren't many great English language sources on him and he seems like such an interesting character. In Swail's "Slow Burning Fuse" he said he went of to the US so as a German migrant, there would be some inclusion of him. Third: I didn't realise there was much of an anarchist movement in New York during the period. Italian, perhaps but not German. So I picked up a copy and had a read.First impressions are very good. The author is obviously well-informed and at no stage calls anarchists bomb-wielding chaotic psychopaths so it doesn't mean I have to write a strongly-worded letter to the publisher. He also makes reference to the current anarchist movement when discussing the role of Infoshops and parallels them with activities in German beer halls which I thought was not only inspired, but very poignant. In addition there are little maps representing radical geography which are particularly useful in seeing where all the action took place and photos and illustrations from the period which are always useful in constructing an image of everyday life. Whilst the author is obviously sympathetic to the anarchist history and is informed on current political developments, he is no propagandist and I don't imagine he stayed in C-Squat during his stay at New York, nor saw Leftover Crack play at ABC No Rio...The book is divided into 6 chapters. The first contextualises the radical geography of the German anarchist movement alongside immigration and the physical space of New York itself. The second discusses the German anarchist movement, its subsequent outlawing and exiling of membership. The third and fourth cover the main bulk of socio-political developments, with the radical circle formed around Most and the subsequent dissent against such a strong personality. It is the fifth and sixth chapters which are by far the most revealing and interesting. From a social perspective Tom Goyens discusses the everyday lifestyle of German anarchists. Not with bombs but on picnics, radical gatherings in beerhalls and bars with libraries and talking spaces. The promotion of unions at the Steinway factory, the splits, personalities, factions and debates are all covered. Meetings in theatres, saloons and the radicalisation of everyday German migrants are discussed in a very detailed and relevant way, adding some real life and energy to the book.The book also covers developments in US anarchist history in passing and context to the German movement, such as Haymarket, the Pittsburgh Congress and the run up to the war. There are also a few cameos from Emma Goldman (who was a German anarchist in New York...) adding some wit to the tale of the anarchists. With an extensive series of notes and a brilliant bibliography for those interested - the book is well researched, developed and argued.So why four stars? Well, although not really covered in the remit of the book, the author alludes to the Italian community and the other migrant communities and mentions how they were segregated along ethnic rather than political lines. Whilst I agree with the statement, it would be interesting if the book were a part of a larger volume such as "the anarchist movement in New York" and contained the other movements. At times I felt it would be relevant in the tale of the German movement and could have pushed the book just that little bit further.However, don't let it deter you. The book is brilliant, readable and does exactly what it says on the tin. Not too long, nor too short, it is very informative, if a little specific! For those interested in the history of anarchism it is excellent, for those concerning social history it is exceptional and for those studying historical New York it would be a great addition to material discussing the radical geography, such as that of the Lower East Side. Alright, it is pretty obscure but it is informative, well written and argued and a thoroughly good read. And who knows, perhaps it reads better with some Choking Victim! Enjoy.

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