Designing Anarchy?

Anarchy has different meanings in various contexts. Anarchia, meaning “absence of a leader,” is the root. Anarchy can suggest total chaos or a brand for resistance movements. In the United States the most famous anarchists were two Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, convicted of murdering two men during a 1920 armed robbery and executed seven years later after a legally dubious trial. They were immortalized as victims of government abuse by Ben Shahn in his Ordeal of Sacco and Vanzetti mural and paintings (see here) and Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti print (here and here). These were beautifully designed and composed images that became iconic and continue to have resonance. (Were they innocent or guilty? Their conviction has long been a subject for intense debate.)

Anarchists follow a credo best expressed in a 1947 issue of Resistance: An Anarchist Monthly (above):

We offer no blueprints of a future society, no handed-down program, no ready-made philosophy. We do not ask you to follow us. We ask you to stop depending on others for leadership, and to think and act for yourselves.

Organized mass murder, called “war” — conquest and plundering of nations, called “liberation” — regimentation of human beings, called “patriotism” — economic exploitation and poverty, called “the American system” — repression of healthy sexuality, creativity and living called “morality” and “Christianity” — these are the warp and woof of present-day society.

These things exist because a small group of politicians, militarists and bankers, controlling the wealth of the nation, is able to starve people into submission, to buy their minds and bodies, and hire them to kill and imprison each other. These things exist because people are trained in the home, in the school and on the job to obedience and submission to authority, and are beaten into indifference by the dog-eat-dog struggle for existence; because people cling to ancient myths of religion, patriotism, race and authority, and let hirelings of the ruling group do their thinking for them.

We believe this system can be ended by refusing to be pawns of the ruling group, by our learning to think and act for ourselves, by our finding ways of living and working together in peaceful, free cooperation.

The misconception about anarchy is that it is totally anarchic, without rules or structure. As the statement above indicates, there is a lot of glue that holds anarchists together. Rather than rant-driven and design-less, these magazines that serve as the glue are strictly designed in a regimented fashion. Type and typography is legible and readable, even though the American Resistance (started in 1941) and German Fanal (started in 1926) the mastheads exude defiance. None of the magazines here attempted to be typographically anarchic.

The UK magazine, Anarchy: A Journal of Anarchist Ideas, is routinely covered in an artful manner by designer/illustrator Rufus Segar (read more here).  He successfully morphs from style to style over a long period of time, giving Anarchy the freshness it needs to keep readers from becoming too comfortable.

Anarchy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the mistake is accepting the stereotypical definition. Read the statement from Resistance — and remember that it was written in 1947 long before the Tea Party, Libertarian Party and Occupy parties.

 

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  1. This reminds me of the great history of workers rebellion.  One of the greatest figures of Resistance or rebellion was Ned Lud, and I guess in some small way anarchy.  The word Sabotage comes from dutch textile workers throwing their wooden shoes or “sabots” into the machinery, and breaking it.  Coincidentally, there is a great Anarchist bookstore in Philadelphia called “The Wooden Shoe”.