Book Review of Black Flame: The revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism. Oakland, CA: AK Press. By Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt.
by Deric Shannon
At the outset, after reading Black Flame, it's impossible not to reflect on the massive amount of research that such a work must have entailed. The book is a narrative about anarchism and, with interest in anarchism on the rise worldwide, it could not have come at a better time. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, we need new narratives of the anarchist tradition to understand where we've been. Secondly, Black Flame contains critiques of the ways that "radical" circles contemporarily have too often turned away from the radical class politics that have always defined the socialist movement.
Ironically enough, this is both a major strength of the book, but also, in my opinion, one of its weaknesses. As Schmidt and van der Walt state their case early in the book, "'(c)lass struggle' anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary or communist anarchism, is not a type of anarchism; in our view, it is the only anarchism" (19--emphasis theirs). This essentially leads to the authors deciding throughout the beginning of the book who the "real" anarchists are and who gets defined out.
Again, there are strengths and weaknesses with this approach.