Yesterday I noted fringe hate groups are on the prowl across the southern United States, securing the nation from immigrants and whoever else they don't like. And now, Europe is seeing a rise in anarchists groups. Is it me or is this becoming the Year of the Fringe?

 

Anarchistic thinking has this sweeping way of blaming just about everyone in a society for the evils of an elite few.

In his new book, The Dynamite Club, Yale historian John Merriman treats the case of Gilded Age France, where anarchism saw a healthy few decades of bombings and various smash-ups that killed few and scared many. French anarchists were the Al Quaeda sleeper cells of the late 19th century who blamed not only the owners of the means of production for enslaving the masses but also the petty bourgeois who complacently did nothing about it.

Hard numbers on the anarchist footprint in the United States are difficult to come by. Infoshop.org, whose motto is "kill capitalism before it kills you," says "there are no reliable numbers on the actual amount of anarchists in the United States." Social Anarchism, the leading print venue for anarchist writings, has an upcoming survey of anarchist activity we will be sure to forward to you when it is released. Anecdotal evidence would show American anarchism to be but wan shadow of its former self from the halcyon days of Sacco and Vanzetti. Trust-funded and dreadlocked co-ed's now seem to be the main purveyors.

Anarcho-syndicalists still form viable cross-generational political parties in many European countries though their positions have for the most part shed violence as a modus operandi in favor of hard left progressivism with a strong emphasis on workers' rights. Still, late last year French anarchists were at it again, sowing minor chaos to the TGV network on many lines.

More than revanchist thinking, even a slight rise in anarchist activity in the developed world would be a pretty marked transition from the sedate years of fundamentalist capitalism and as Michael Klare noted in Salon yesterday, the number of fringe movements likely to get their day in the sun in 2009 is really quite staggering.

What do big thinkers see as anarchism's contribution to debates on social change? Probing critique or smoke and shrapnel?