From Machine Gun Kelly to Sacco, Vanzetti
In the many hours I spent gingerly turning the brittle pages of dusty tomes to get a full picture of the past, present and future of anarchism (read: a bit of Googling), I discovered that this political philosophy, which holds that all forms of governmental authority are dumb and that society should be based on voluntary cooperation (i.e. fewer gated communities, more Little Free Libraries), was likely first espoused in the mid-1800s by French politician Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, considered by some to be the father of anarchism. “Property is theft!” he claimed in his 1840 book, What is Property?
While anarchism exists mostly as a radical, fringe philosophy, every so often it crosses over into pop culture via artists, musicians, actors and other icons who espouse anarchist ideals as a way to embrace a rebellious worldview, some with more conviction than others. And so, in honor of Camp Anarchy, the punk-rock/craft beer/camping festival held at Legend Valley from May 31-June 2, here's a ranking of anarchists from least to most committed.
The Sex Pistols
“I am an anarchist!” Johnny Rotten sings in “Anarchy in the U.K.,” sounding like a disaffected youth seething with rage, spittle forming at the corners of his mouth. But you could argue that Rotten, aka John Lydon, and his bandmates weren't anarchists in the least. And you'd be right. “I never was [an anarchist]. Whoever told you that? Anarchy is mind games for the middle class,” Lydon told UK publication Ham & High in 2012.
Though the Guy Fawkes mask is now synonymous with anarchism and radical rebellion, the real Fawkes was a Catholic radical hell-bent on assassinating King James, a Protestant, in order to restore the Catholic monarchy in the early 1600s. Protestants got their name by protesting the Catholic church, so in retrospect, Fawkes feels more like a guy who wanted to tamp down a rebellion.
Machine Gun Kelly
The Cleveland rapper doesn't believe in government, and he has a giant circled-A tattoo above his belly button to prove it.
The author of 1984 fought in the Spanish Civil War alongside anarchists, but he was more of a democratic socialist.
The anarchist graphic novelist, best known for Watchmen and V for Vendetta, was critical of the Wachowskis' 2005 film adaptation for V, telling MTV that the comic book was “specifically about things like fascism and anarchy. Those words, ‘fascism' and ‘anarchy,' occur nowhere in the film. It's been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. … The intent of the film is nothing like the intent of the book as I wrote it.”
Unlike the Sex Pistols, the English art-punk band from the late '70s and early '80s talked the talk and walked the walk when it came to anarchism, employing an all-DIY approach to its music, which served primarily to provide political commentary and promote an anarchist philosophy.
An anarchist who found himself on Nixon's list of enemies, Chomsky isn't just a political activist; he's also a linguist, cognitive scientist, analytic philosopher and the author of more than 100 books (he is, as they say, wicked smart).
“The Anarchists are right in everything,” the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina wrote in the 1900 essay On Anarchy, and his views led to his excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901.
Sacco and Vanzetti
Italian-born American immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted of murder in a 1920 armed robbery in Massachusetts. They also happened to be anarchists. The two were sentenced to death in a trial steeped in controversy due to apparent bias against the men's political beliefs and Italian heritage. Despite calls for a retrial, the two were executed in 1927. Fifty years later, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that stated, “Any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.”