Anarchist Community Building in the Caribbean: How Countercultural Politics and Transnational Networks Shaped a Regional Radical Identity in the Early 20th Century

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 1:30 PM
Grant Park Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Kirwin Shaffer, Penn State Berks
From the early 1890s to the mid-1920s, anarchists in the Caribbean organized to challenge the ‘unholy quaternity’ of states-capital-religion-imperialism with the goal of creating a human society based on what many viewed as the natural order of equality and freedom—a natural order that had been ‘unmade’ by the authoritarianism rooted in the unholy quaternity. Anarchist individuals, groups, newspapers, and literature emerged throughout the Caribbean Basin in southern Florida, Puerto Rico, the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, Panama and the Panama Canal, and especially in Cuba. Havana became the central hub of a network that linked these regional nodes, as well as the regional hub that linked anarchists to other networks stretching across the Atlantic to Spain and along the US east coast to New York City. The network saw the transfer of anarchists themselves as they migrated from node to node, but the network also saw the transfer of newspapers, correspondence, money, literary works—all of which expressed a countercultural identity that challenged the reigning paradigms of democratic politics, capitalism, religious orthodoxy, and the ever-expanding presence of US political, military, and economic power. The paper utilizes anarchist newspapers and cultural productions like fiction, plays, and poems to illustrate how the transfer of countercultural politics between the Caribbean network nodes (often though not exclusively originating in Havana) helped to create a regional anarchist community that shared ideas, ideologies, experiences of repression, and goals for the future.
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