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Immigrants against the State

Immigrants against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Immigrants against the State
    Book Description:

    From the 1880s through the 1940s, tens of thousands of first- and second-generation immigrants embraced the anarchist cause after arriving on American shores. Kenyon Zimmer explores why these migrants turned to anarchism, and how their adoption of its ideology shaped their identities, experiences, and actions. Zimmer focuses on Italians and Eastern European Jews in San Francisco, New York City, and Paterson, New Jersey. Tracing the movement's changing fortunes from the pre–World War I era through the Spanish Civil War, Zimmer argues that anarchists, opposed to both American and Old World nationalism, severed all attachments to their nations of origin but also resisted assimilation into their host society. Their radical cosmopolitan outlook and identity instead embraced diversity and extended solidarity across national, ethnic, and racial divides. Though ultimately unable to withstand the onslaught of Americanism and other nationalisms, the anarchist movement nonetheless provided a shining example of a transnational collective identity delinked from the nation-state and racial hierarchies.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09743-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, an international revolutionary anarchist movement emerged in opposition to the global expansion of capitalist modes of production, imperialism, and the rise of the modern nation-state. Fusing anticapitalism with antistatism, anarchists rejected nation-states as legitimate sociopolitical units, acceptable guarantors of rights, or viable vehicles for achieving freedom and equality. They instead envisioned a borderless world composed of voluntarily constituted communities, federated regionally and globally, with economies based on libertarian socialist principles.¹ Anarchism was the principal ideology of global radicalism between the collapse of the International Working Men’s Association (the First International) in the...

  7. ChaPter 1 “Yiddish Is My Homeland”: Jewish Anarchists in New York City
    (pp. 15-48)

    Between 1880 and 1924, approximately two million Eastern European Jews migrated to the United States. More than half made their homes in New York City, where Yiddish-speaking anarchist and socialist movements emerged from the sweatshops and tenement houses of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Anarchists constituted a “vital minority’ within the American Jewish labor movement from its origins in the 1880s until well into the 1920s, and Yiddish anarchism grew to become the largest section of America’s anarchist movement by the eve of the First World War. Along the way, anarchists forged a vibrant revolutionary subculture deeply embedded in the larger...

  8. ChaPter 2 I Senza Patria: Italian Anarchists in Paterson, New Jersey
    (pp. 49-87)

    Located along the Passaic River just seventeen miles northwest of New York City, Paterson, New Jersey, was America’s largest producer of silk by the turn of the twentieth century—as well as a notorious hotbed of anarchism. Italian anarchists were at the forefront of persistent local labor unrest, including the violent 1902 silk strike and famous 1913 general strike conducted by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). More infamously, a Paterson anarchist assassinated Italy’s King Umberto I in 1900. A year later, theOutlookclaimed, “Paterson has come to be the center of what is probably the most important...

  9. ChaPter 3 “All Flags Look Alike to Us”: Immigrant Anarchists in San Francisco
    (pp. 88-110)

    The Gold Rush of 1849 transformed San Francisco, only recently acquired from Mexico, into a boomtown, drawing thousands of people from across the globe. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 allowed a new wave of foreign-born workers from eastern ports of entry to flood the city. By 1890, San Francisco had a population of nearly three hundred thousand, making it the eighth-largest metropolis in the United States, and it more than doubled in size over the next four decades.¹ Anarchist activity in the city likewise grew in these decades, spurred by local conditions as well as the transplantation...

  10. ChaPter 4 “The Whole World Is Our Country”: Transnational Anarchist Activism and the First World War
    (pp. 111-135)

    The chorus of Pietro Gori’s popular “Stornelli d’esilio” (Songs of Exile), first printed in an 1898 songbook published in New Jersey byLa Questione Sociale, proclaims, “The whole world is our country / liberty is our law / and a rebellious thought / is in our hearts.”¹ Here, the anarchist experience was stripped to its essentials: mobility, cosmopolitanism, libertarianism, and unceasing rebellion. Gori, the “knight errant of anarchism,” was emblematic of these qualities: in addition to his preeminent role in the anarchist movement in Italy and in the formative phase of anarchism in Paterson and San Francisco, he was active...

  11. ChaPter 5 Revolution and Repression: From Red Dawn to Red Scare
    (pp. 136-165)

    The First World War and its aftermath fundamentally altered global politics. Empires crumbled, socialist and nationalist revolutions erupted, and tens of millions perished, while in the United States, rising patriotic fervor and wartime demands for “100 percent Americanism” marked immigrant anarchists as doubly dangerous, and Russia’s October Revolution amplified antiradical fears a hundredfold. America convulsed with widespread racial violence, its first Red Scare, and a colossal postwar strike wave. In this extraordinary context, the federal government proved willing to suppress radical speech and deport politically undesirable immigrants, efforts that were met with an unprecedented upsurge in anarchist violence, itself both...

  12. ChaPter 6 “No Right to Exist Anywhere on This Earth”: Anarchism in Crisis
    (pp. 166-205)

    In January 1925, ILGWU organizer and anarchist Anna Sosnovsky noted “a general revival amongst the Comrades.” By 1933, one anarchist newspaper counted seventy-five anarchist groups across the country, and a U.S. military intelligence agent reported “a keen revival of activities among the anarchists” on the East Coast. At the end of this period of recovery, anarchist sources could enumerate “some one hundred groups throughout the country actually functioning.”¹ This persistence and modest resurgence is reflected in available circulation figures from the era, which show that from 1925 to 1940 the American anarchist press retained approximately half to three-quarters of its...

  13. Conclusion: “The Whole World Is Turned into a Frightful Fortress”
    (pp. 206-214)

    The Second World War presented the remnants of the anarchist movement with another seemingly impossible choice between ideology and necessity. Fascism represented all the anarchists abhorred, and its destruction of the once powerful anarchist movements of Southern and Central Europe only heightened their hatred of it. But anarchists bore no love for British and French colonialism or the U.S. government and were sworn enemies of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, as the Allies battled fascism in Europe but left Franco’s Spain untouched, the war in the Pacific was steeped in brutality and racism (on both sides), and Franklin Roosevelt authorized the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 215-252)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-300)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-306)