Review of “Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation”

28 Oct

Here’s a review of my book, Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation: The History of the Boston Antiauthoritarian Movement and Other Essays (2012), written by British writer Kevin Eady, author of an e-book entitled Uncontrollable, the autobiography of a fictional 101-year-old Spanish anarchist, which you can parchase here: Uncontrollable.


Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation – The History of the Boston Antiauthoritarian Movement.

by Jake Carman.

A Review by Kevin Eady


This was an interesting read. For a European (British) reader this document lifted the lid on contemporary American anarchism in a most revealing way. European leftists tend to view America as the Great Satan and focus on the seemingly overwhelming right-wing political culture of that country’s leaders, generals and opinion-formers. What we miss out on are the undercurrents of radical thought and action which have never ceased to flow below the surface. Socialism, communism, feminism, black radicalism, anarchism and other anti-establishment movements have always been present, even if the numbers of adherents have remained few and fluctuating.


The History of BAAM helps to show why anarchism, in particular, remains such a minority movement, whilst at the same time commanding much sympathy from segments of the population. We are shown examples of BAAM educational leaflets, linking current-day struggles with historical ones in Spain and Russia, and with modern-day movements in Mexico and Greece. We are given instances of BAAM’s involvement in local and industrial conflicts at home and of BAAM’s participation in anti-war, anti-capitalist and ecological demonstrations and protests.


The author also honestly presents us with the truth about organisational in-fighting and dissent, a problem which has beset many anarchist movements in other parts of the globe and at other times. It almost seems that many of us are more willing to waste our time arguing about the minutiae rather than get stuck in to challenging the monstrous forces of the state and capital which control large aspects of our lives. It’s easy to spend a lot of time debating strategy behind closed doors whilst the rest of the world gets on with its life outside.


What impresses me as an outsider about BAAM is the bravery of those who participated in its actions, and the photographs help demonstrate this remarkably. Although few in number and at times subject to violence and intimidation from the authorities, there was never any attempt to hide their allegiance to anarchism – instead a pride in independence of thought and an awareness of continuance of a historical tradition are more than manifest. This reminds me somewhat of the Provo movement in Amsterdam in the mid-1960’s. Small numbers of committed individuals, for a time, can galvanise wider sections of society into taking action and confronting the powers that be.


Sadly, like Provo, nothing lasts forever. BAAM is no more, but it must still leave a legacy in the minds of the many hundreds and thousands who took part in its activity, read its leaflets and witnessed its presence on the streets. Whether anything more will result from all of that only time will tell and it would be easy for BAAM activists to lose heart and become inactive. What we all have to remember is that all of our actions have an impact. We may be a million miles away from achieving our goals, but our immediate realities may have inched forwards, our confidence in ourselves may grow every time we confront authority and the minds of our fellow citizens may have begun to question just that little bit more.


This document is clearly written and easy to read. I am not quite sure who its intended readership will be, other than future historians of minority movements and present-day enquirers into the problems and opportunities for non-hierarchical politics. It is certainly not a polemical piece, nor one intended to convert anyone to anarchist perspectives. Personally I found some of the more interesting parts to be those concerning Greece and Mexico, both countries where anarchistic movements have acquired some mass membership and support, rather than activities carried out in Boston itself. But, all in all, a book well worth reading. If the anarchist movement in my part of the world ever got anywhere near as interesting, articulate and effectual as BAAM then I would explode with enthusiasm.

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