Wobblies & Zapatistas


Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History
Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic
2008, PM Press
261 pages

LATIN AMERICA is a point of transit passed through during this excursion into the ideas of Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic – who discuss through the book the relationship between Marxism and anarchism – but it is not a destination. Much of the work, which will nonetheless be a valuable addition to the library of radical thought, makes reference to histories pertaining to events outside the region although, as the title suggests, this “conversation” places due emphasis on the contribution of Mexican zapatismo to anarchist thought, and both analyses are, anyway, irremediably internationalist, making Latin America’s low profile neither a sin of omission nor an analytical disadvantage. The ideas of Zapata, and indeed Mariátegui, were an effort to transpose a communitarian praxis on an ideological import, anyhow – not that this really matters. That said, Sub-comandante Marcos does provide the perfect opportunity to examine the relationship between Marxism and anarchism, and Wobblies and Zapatistas thereby offers a timely intervention, not least because the left in Latin America is facing something of a retrenchment as the full impact of the global financial crisis begins to muddy some of the shine on the boots of the recent leftward march. And if there is one thing that we can learn in this period from the broad spectrum of recent left-of-centre advances throughout Latin America – from contemporary zapatismo to Dieterich’s “Socialism of the 21st Century” – it is that genuine, grassroots participatory democracy is the only really novel institution to come out of the region’s progressive turn. It is also probably the most important. A big bow and berets off must go to Denis O’Hearn for introducing the Zapatistas to the Irish struggle, but what is most heartening about Wobblies and Zapatistas is the fire that still burns in the radical heart of Lynd, the great grand-daddy of US activism who represents the best traditions of American socialism. If we could all have the man’s energy and enthusiasm, then revolution would indeed be within our grasp. – GO’T

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