Friday, January 14, 2011

'Red Ruffians': online archive of Aotearoa's anarchist and syndicalist past

‘Red Ruffians’ is an online archive of writings, pictures and other goodies on Aotearoa’s anarchist and syndicalist past. Such a tradition did (and does) exist, but records of it are fragmented across different websites, books or archives — making them hard to find and accessible to only those in the know. The role of this site is to compile these fragments into one easily accessible location.

Why anarchism and syndicalism? And why care about the past?
Firstly, history is not static — the lessons from the past inform and influence both the present and future struggle:

“This type of historical awareness is a key reminder that we still live in a society deeply divided by class. The actions of the past stand as inspiring, yet unfinished movements to continue to build upon and to adapt to present conditions.” (Nicholas Lampert, Realising the Impossible).

Secondly, such narratives are important because those in power would have us believe that revolutionary currents in Aotearoa were either misdirected, without influence, or simply didn’t exist. The examples here go some way in debunking such notions.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge those who have held firm in their beliefs and struggled for a more humane and just society, “those spectral, semi-mythical figures whose humor, iconoclasm, commitment to working-class culture and dedication to democratic principles can still provide inspiration for actions in the present and hopes for the future” (Mark Derby, A Country Considered to be Free). Not just those mentioned in writing, but the nameless yet equally important women and men whose actions deserve to be remembered.

“Traditionally, labour history has tended to deal almost exclusively with the development of trade unions, implying that the workers had no history but that of the unions.” (Jeremy Brecher, Strike!). By focussing on anarchism and syndicalism, this site aims to highlight historical narratives that have gone beyond such a narrow scope.

It is important to remember that while Aotearoa is the focus, the ideas of anarchism and syndicalism and those who adhered to them were internationalist in scope — often transient by nature and committed to solidarity that transcended nation states. The site is here to link Aotearoa to that wider, transnational movement, rather than promote Aotearoa in a nationalist sense.

If you would like to contribute an article or know of something that should be on here, please contact garage.collective [at] gmail [dot] com. Content is always being uploaded, so be sure to bookmark the site.

Red Ruffians:

Gerd Arntz book out now

Have a peek here:

As a politically engaged graphic artist and designer Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) portrayed the world in wood and linoleum cuts. During the 1920s, he conveyed his vision on social wrongs and the rise of Nazism in Germany in his prints. He did this in such a simple, direct style that anyone - regardless of their education and nationality - was able to understand his images. This prompted the Viennese social scientist Otto Neurath (1882-1945) to ask him to design the symbols for the ’International system Of Typographic Picture Education’ (ISOTYPE). During his long career, Arntz made more than 4000 coherent, powerful and legible symbols and figures. We still see their traces around us on a daily basis: in pictograms featured on objects ranging from traffic signs to gameboys, and in information graphics.

This book displays many Isotypes and explains the system and its context. This overview of Gerd Arntz’s life and work includes a selection of his political prints and other rare visual material that was never published previously. With contributions from Flip Bool, Gert Dumbar, Mieke Gerritzen, Nigel Holmes, Max Kisman, Paul Mijksenaar and Erik Spiekermann.

Previous blog posts on Arntz here:
Art as a Weapon
The Radical Design of Gerd Arntz