Book Review: Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism

Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism by Michael Schmidt is a study in the world history of Anarchism. Michael Schmidt is Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and Administrative Secretary of the Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa. An active participant in the international anarchist milieu, he is an investigative journalist, a researcher, an amateur song-writer and a tireless advocate for journalistic freedom. With Prof Lucien van der Walt, he is the author of Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, published in 2009 by AK Press. He lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. 1

Cartography is published by AK Press a collectively owned and operated publisher. It specializes in radical left and anarchist literature and accessories. I usually do not include publisher information in reviews, but AK Press practices what they publish. They are organized as a worker’s co-operative; there are no bosses, all members are paid the same and have equal say in the company.

Schmidt has a rather straight forward mission: Provide a global history of Anarchism. He does a through job of writing a detailed history divided into five waves:

First Wave 1868-1894
Second Wave 1895-1923
Third Wave 1924-1949
Fourth Wave 1950-1989
Fifth Wave 1989 to the Present

Each Wave has major events that anchor in place. The Fifth Wave, for example, starts with the fall of the Soviet Union. The introduction is detailed and provides background information and defines anarchism and syndicalists as well as making comparisons to Marxism. The history is very detailed, but the writing style is extremely dry. At times I felt like I was reading a list. Schmidt does an excellent job documenting his work and the notes give plenty of additional source material. This is a rather difficult book to review because the history is presented without embellishment, but the reading is dry. Cartography is an excellent reference book, but probably something you would want to read cover to cover. 4 stars for the information. 2 Stars for the writing. 3 Stars overall.

1 Michael Schmidt’s biography is pulled directly from the AK Press

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