The Movement for Youth Liberation

Common Notions: Handbook Not Required

Directed by Carla Berman and Corine Browne (2016)

Film Review

This documentary concerns a “youth liberation” space called The Purple Thistle a group of Vancouver BC young people ran between 2001-2015. This project was started by eight teenagers as an alternative to school. They involved a series of adult volunteers to sign the building lease, apply for grants and help them find mentors for their various projects.

The film features commentary by several activists and educational specialists who explain the phenomenal success of The Purple Thistle. They feel it’s a big mistake to exclude young people from the community by confining them to a classroom. At all levels, we need to focus more on teaching people to work collectively.

The only rules at The Purple Thistle were no alcohol, no drugs, no assholes (ie no racism, sexism or homophobia and clean up after yourself) and no sleeping (naps were okay). Kids at The Purple Thistle governed themselves via anarchist-based principles of consensus decision making and mutual aid.*

Most of the film focuses on on various creative projects Purple Thistle teenagers undertook.

The project was forced to close in 2015 due to funding cuts. (See letter to the community)


*The principle of mutual aid creates a safe space for people to ask for and offer help. It also promotes economic solidarity whereby no member of the community is allowed to go without.

 

 

Why We Don’t Quit Those Bullshit Jobs

Why We Don’t Quit Those Bullshit Jobs

VPRO (2019)

Film Review

This film, featuring anarchist anthropologist David Graeber, challenges the myth that capitalism is the most efficient form of economic production – namely because it creates a large number of managerial jobs that contribute nothing to the economy. Thirty-seven percent of UK employees believe it would make no difference to society if their jobs didn’t exist.

While adding nothing to the economy, many of these jobs are responsible for major environmental damage. This is especially true of jobs designed to aimed at increasing consumption of useless stuff. An advertising executive, for example, creates £8 of environmental damage for every £1 of salary.

Graeber contrasts redundant and damaging management jobs with low paid front line caring jobs. A childcare worker creates £9 of social value for every £1 of salary earned.

At the same time the productivity demands of the bureaucratic management class make it much more difficult for front line care workers to carry out their work. At present nurses spend 60-70% of their work day filling out forms for their managers. This leave them scant time for actual patient care.

Graeber maintains that contrary to right wing propaganda, corporations are every bit as bureaucratic as government, if not more so. Upper tier managers are loathe to reduce the number of front line managers because their pay and status derive from the number of people they supervise.

The film, which is in German with English subtitles, features interviews with a number of German managers and ex-managers. They talk about the nightmare of going to work everyday and trying to look busy (by spending time on Facebook and other on-line sites) because their assigned work takes up so little of their time.

 

 

The Vital Role of Anarchists in the Russian Revolution

No Gods No Masters Part 2

Icarus Films (2017)

Film Review

Part 2 covers 1907-21.

Link to Part 1: Why Social Studies Never Made Sense in School: The History of Anarchism

The early 20th century saw the flourishing of “individualist” anarchism. Unable to wait for the eventual overthrow of capitalism, the individualists simply chose to opt out of capitalist society, as many hippies would do in the 1960s. Rejecting work, country, religion, money and bourgeois morality (including marriage and clothes), they started libertarian* communes all over the world. Many Europeans emigrated to Latin America to start libertarian colonies, and a Jewish anarchist started the first kibbutz in Israel.

Under the influence of Spanish educator Francisco Ferrer, anarchists everywhere began experimenting with new forms of education to better prepare children to participate in a new society based on true equality and liberty. The shock caused by Spain’s brutal arrest and execution of Ferrer caused a new explosion of violence around the world. This time it focused mainly on the property of the ruling elite, particularly banks. Anarchists robbed banks (Stalin was a prime example) to help fund the coming revolution.

In 1912, the world saw the first successful revolution in Mexico. Although revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata never declared himself an anarchist, he had many anarchist supporters. Italian and American anarchists, as well as Black radicals, traveled to Mexico to support the Zapatistas.

Russia’s 1905 and February 1917 revolutions were both organized and led by anarchists.

The final part of the film describes the vital role played by Russian anarchists in helping the Bolsheviks come to power in October 1917, Ukraine’s anarchist army especial was pivotal in opening second front against European and US invaders who invaded Russia in 1918.**.

Once Lenin successfully consolidated power in 1921, he brutally quashed the Soviet anarchist movement by assassinating anarchists o4 sending them to Siberian labor camps. This move would prove catastrophic for global anarchism, which was already facing brutal repression from capitalists in many other countries (including Italy, China, Colombia, Japan, Bavaria and the US).


*Like Part 1, this video uses the terms “libertarian” and “anarchist” interchangeably.

**Called The American Expeditionary Force, the goal of the 1918 US invasion was to crush the Revolution.

Emma Goldman and the American Anarchist Movement

Emma Goldman: An Exceedingly Dangerous Woman

Mel Bucklin (2004)

Film Review

Other than the pro-capitalist depiction of the self-governing anarchist democracy Franco and his Wall Street supporters overturned during the Spanish Civil war, most of this documentary is historically accurate. The commentary, in contrast, is sentimental psychobabble and considerably detracts from the film.

The film beings with Goldman’s arrival in the US in 1885 at age 16 – escaping from an arranged marriage in czarist Russia. It would be four years before she connected with anarchists and other radicals in New York City.

The Panic of 1893, in which the US economy nearly collapsed, would launch her into the public spotlight. She led numerous protests marches of unemployed workers and spent a year in jail for incitement to riot. There was a crowd of 2,800 waiting outside the workhouse on her release.

American anarchists were extremely well-organized during a period of massive labor unrest and saw the wisdom of promoting a powerful speaker like Goldman. She believed that America’s founding father had a hidden libertarian/anarchist streak that had been corrupted by capitalism and often quoted from Jefferson and Paine.

In addition to speeches educating people about anarchism (ie replacing the state with self-governing workers committees and cooperatives), she also lectured widely about free speech, equal rights and economic independence for women, free love and birth control (she was sentenced to 15 days in jail for advocating for birth control in public).

She was an enormously popular speaker and received wide coverage in the mainstream media.

She also campaigned heavily against US entry into World War I, and in June 1917 was sentenced to 22 months for conspiracy to violate the Draft Act.

Shortly after her release in 1919 she was deported to Russia along with thousands of other Eastern European immigrants illegally arrested and deported during the Palmer Raids.

For me the most interesting part of the film concerns her meeting with Lenin in 1921.

Anarchism: It’s Not What You Think it Is

Anarchism in America

Pacific Street Films (2009)

Film Review

Despite its 2009 release, this fascinating documentary is largely based on 1980s interviews with America’s most prominent anarchists, including Karl Hess, Molly Stermer, Murray Boochkin and Ed Edamen. As well as a rare interview with Emma Goldman at age 64 (1933) when she was granted a 90-day permit to return to the US.

There is also footage from the 1919-1920 Palmer Raids, in which thousands of anarchists (including Goldman) were rounded up and jailed and/or deported; the global protests triggered by the police frame-up (1920) of Boston anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti; the Spanish Civil War (during which 3 million anarchists ran their own towns, schools, clinics and cultural centers for three years); and the anarchists involved in civil disobedience during the 1980s anti-nuclear movement.

Dispelling many common misconceptions about anarchism, the filmmakers depict anarchist political philosophy as the belief that people are capable of governing themselves independent of any state or hierarchical authority. They challenge all hierarchy – whether in male-female relations, the family, schools or work. Instead they champion decentralized participatory democracy.

Several of the anarchists interviewed view anarchism and distrust of authority as innate in the American cultural identity. This is evidenced by pervasive anti-government and anti-corporate sentiments among the greater US population. Hess asserts that right wing writer Ayn Rand borrowed most of her so-called “objectivist” philosophy from anarchist Emma Goldman.

Edamen asserts that at the end of the 20th century (before it was captured by the Koch brothers and other corporate elite), there were more anarchists in the US libertarian movement than any other group.

The filmmakers also highlight the anarchist roots seen in worker-run cooperatives and the homesteading (now called “prepper”) and anti-government punk rock groups such as the Dead Kennedys.

Work Sucks: The Case for Quitting Your Job

The Great Everything and the Nothing

The Oumun Group (2016)

Film Review

The Great Everything and the Nothing is a semi-satirical documentary elucidating the philosophy of the Oomun Group. The latter is a loosely knit organization in the UK which advocates the formation of a new society devoid of the corrupting influence of government and money. The film is cleverly constructed by interspersing clips of group members doing random interviews on the street with those of Prince Charles, John Lennon, Ricky Gervais and other comic figures.

The video is divided into 5 parts:

Part 1 is the trailer.

Part 2 asks why human beings have created a system causing “shitloads” of unnecessary suffering. It proceeds to propose an alternative system based on self-governance.

Part 3 outlines the various crises (debt, climate, energy, food, etc) that presently confront humankind. The first half of Part 3 is excerpted from the film Money as Debt and explains how private banks create money out of thin air (ends at 13:00).

Part 4 focuses on the food and energy crises, exploring various technological innovations that could potentially resolve these crises in a society unfettered by government or money.  Specific innovations include aeroponic food production, distributed energy and the use of hemp and cannabis to replace timber, plastics, paper, leather and the poisons used in cancer chemotherapy.

Part 5 advances the premise that politicians who make war and torture people are mentally ill and should be required to undergo psychiatric treatment (in a secure facility where they can’t hurt anyone). The filmmakers believe all human beings are capable of “grotesque” actions of this nature. They also maintain that people are soft wired for engagement, belonging and attachment, needs which are easily manipulated to create phony empathy based on religion and nationalism. They assert this systematic manipulation has created a “veil” between us and reality that allows us to accept barbarism such as war, homelessness and malnutrition.

This final section also explains how the Ouman Group proposes for our current society to transition to one based on self government. Above all, they advocate for people to quit jobs that suck to actively explore other ways of meeting their basic needs (eg squatting and producing their own food and water).

Refugees and Anarchists – Greece’s Burgeoning Popular Resistance

Resistance in Athens

Medialien (2016)

Film Review

Resistance in Athens is a short documentary about the ongoing dismemberment of Greece by the Syriza government to satisfy harsh bailout conditions imposed by the IMF and European banks. As brutal austerity measures continue to shrink the Greek economy, unemployment (now at 25%) and hunger continue to increase and more than 200,000 young people have left Greece for other European countries.

Meanwhile a continuing influx of Syrian, Afghan and African refugees across the Mediterranean continues to fuel the resistance movement. Owing to government budget shortfalls and refusal by other EU countries to accept non-European migrants, Greek anarchists and socialists have played a major role in welcoming refugees and meeting their needs for shelter, food and other survival needs.

The documentary focuses on Exarcheia, a growing self-governing anarchist community spanning four decades.

For me, the highlight of the film was the personal interviews –  with Exarcheia members about their work with traumatized refugee children and with refugees who have turned against capitalism due to their brutal treatment by European authorities.

Click on the cc icon in the lower right hand corner for English subtitles.