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Nature and the Anarchist Imagination: May Day and Working-Class Environmental Thought in Gilded Age Chicago

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Abstract:

Although contemporary radical environmentalists and environmental studies scholars have made extensive use of anarchist and Marxist theory for understanding environmental inequality, little work has been done on exploring how actual anarchists in the past viewed the natural world. In this paper, I describe the place of nature in the anarchist community of Gilded Age Chicago. I argue that starting in the 1870s, the radical community in Chicago (comprised principally of German workers, but also American, Irish, and Bohemian men and women) routinely used natural spaces in and around Chicago to imagine an international proletarian community that extended well beyond the limits of the United States. In some cases, anarchists used parks in “nature’s nation” to wave the black flag, signifying the negation of all nations. I also explore the invention of May Day, and how radicals in Chicago explicitly connected the efflorescence of nature in the spring with the emergence of class consciousness and collective action. Despite the Haymarket incident of 1886 and the creation of Labor Day in 1894, radicals continued to celebrate May Day. While trade unionists used Labor Day to demand reform of labor markets, the radicals used May Day to call for the end of capitalism and the birth of a new world entirely free of alienation, a world in which every day would be May Day.

Most radicals hoped that after workers seized power new steam technologies used to exploit nature’s resources would be available to all, but some romanticized a pre-industrial world where artisans were less alienation not only from their own labor but also the land. While most Chicago anarchists were utopian and none had an explicit awareness of the human place within a given ecological system, some adopted “anarcho-primitivist” positions that anticipate some variants of contemporary green anarchism.
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Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171298_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Fisher, Colin. "Nature and the Anarchist Imagination: May Day and Working-Class Environmental Thought in Gilded Age Chicago" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171298_index.html>

APA Citation:

Fisher, C. "Nature and the Anarchist Imagination: May Day and Working-Class Environmental Thought in Gilded Age Chicago" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171298_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Although contemporary radical environmentalists and environmental studies scholars have made extensive use of anarchist and Marxist theory for understanding environmental inequality, little work has been done on exploring how actual anarchists in the past viewed the natural world. In this paper, I describe the place of nature in the anarchist community of Gilded Age Chicago. I argue that starting in the 1870s, the radical community in Chicago (comprised principally of German workers, but also American, Irish, and Bohemian men and women) routinely used natural spaces in and around Chicago to imagine an international proletarian community that extended well beyond the limits of the United States. In some cases, anarchists used parks in “nature’s nation” to wave the black flag, signifying the negation of all nations. I also explore the invention of May Day, and how radicals in Chicago explicitly connected the efflorescence of nature in the spring with the emergence of class consciousness and collective action. Despite the Haymarket incident of 1886 and the creation of Labor Day in 1894, radicals continued to celebrate May Day. While trade unionists used Labor Day to demand reform of labor markets, the radicals used May Day to call for the end of capitalism and the birth of a new world entirely free of alienation, a world in which every day would be May Day.

Most radicals hoped that after workers seized power new steam technologies used to exploit nature’s resources would be available to all, but some romanticized a pre-industrial world where artisans were less alienation not only from their own labor but also the land. While most Chicago anarchists were utopian and none had an explicit awareness of the human place within a given ecological system, some adopted “anarcho-primitivist” positions that anticipate some variants of contemporary green anarchism.


Similar Titles:
The Historical Continuities and Discontinuities of White Working Class Culture: Acceptance and Rejection of Diverse Community and Work Environment

“Imagine Working This Way”: Disrupting Normative Gay and Working Class Narratives and Politics in the Novels of Leslie Feinberg and Maureen Brady

Working Class Wilderness: Immigrant, African American, and Working Class Leisure in the Forest Preserves of Industrial Chicago


 
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