Immigrants against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America.

Author:Hoyt, Andrew
Position:Book review
 
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Kenyon Zimmer, Immigrants against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America

Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2015; 320pp; ISBN 9780252080920

Kenyon Zimmer's recent publication, Immigrants Against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America, explores three communities of anti-statist radicals: New York City's hub of Yiddish-speaking eastern European Jewish immigrants; the Paterson, New Jersey, node of northern Italian anarcho-syndicalist silk weavers and IWW organisers; and the more ethnically and ideologically diverse community of anarchists who gathered in the San Francisco Bay area (including not only Italians and Russian Jews but also Indian, Chinese and Japanese anti-colonial exiles). By following these three communities through the six decades that comprise what is often referred to as the era of the classical anarchist movement (1880-1940), Zimmer is able to narrate the connections and contradictions which animated these vibrant anarchist strongholds as they sparred with each other on ideological grounds and built relationships of solidarity in the face of governmental oppression. In this monograph Zimmer has made a significant contribution to a growing body of work by authors such as Pietro di Paolo, Thomas Tomchuk, Davide Turcato and Jennifer Guglielmo, all of whom explore various aspects of the transnational history of classical anarchism.

Zimmer's scholarship is full of excellent archival research spanning primary sources in numerous languages. He maintains a close attention to the role of the anarchist press in movement building while providing readers with fascinating narrative details that weave together organisational conflicts and ideological battles (particularly those between organisational and anti-organisational anarchists) with personal life stories, thereby bringing these vibrant and largely forgotten communities to life. He explores in great detail American-based anarchists' reactions to and participation in the Mexican Revolution, their anti-militarist resistance to the First World War, the ideological conflicts surrounding the Russian Revolution, the repercussions of the Palmer Raids and the first Red Scare, reactions to the closing of American borders in the...

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