Thanks to Netflix, L. and I enjoyed Anarchism in America the other day. No, not the condition (alas!); the 1982 documentary by Steven Fishler and Joel Sucher, recently reissued on DVD by the folks at AK Press. It’s well worth watching if you can get your hands on it. Here’s one of my favorite parts, from the interviews with Karl Hess (for those of you following along at home, it’s about 56 minutes into the film, after the segment with the truck driver Li’l John):
Well, I think there’s an implicit anarchism in any of the American tendencies that have organized people in opposition to the State. I think co-ops might have reflected this notion, organizing people not only in opposition to the State in effect, but in opposition to the major economic movement of the time. I think, as a matter of fact, just in the romantic view of the American character, there’s an anarchist tendency.
It is flawed by one thing: the abstraction of patriotism. People who will damn the government from morning till night, and oppose the State in a million and one ways will, at a time of national crisis, become incredibly patriotic, and begin to say they will do anything for the State. And they begin to talk of duty, service, sacrifice … all of the words that are the worst words in the world, it seems to me, in a human sense. … I don’t know why this is, unless it is that these are such good-hearted people that they really believe that the American state is totally different from any other state—and it’s certainly somewhat different. And they feel that it is important to preserve—they feel they’re preserving the country, but the only language that’s available is, to preserve the State. I have an idea that one of these days, there will be another language, in which we can talk about preserving the country—the landscape, the neighborhoods, the people, the communities—without talking about preserving the State. At which point there will be a lot of radical farmers, factory workers, and small-town residents in this country.
— Karl Hess, interviewed for Anarchism in America (1982)