The Free Voice of Labor

by R.S.

Check out this fab doco on the American Yiddish anarchist paper Freie Arbeiter Stimme. Here is the blurb that goes with the video:

“The Free Voice of Labor: The Jewish Anarchists” traces the history of a Yiddish anarchist newspaper (Fraye Arbeter Shtime – The Free Voice of Labor) publishing its final issue after 87 years. Narrated by anarchist historian Paul Avrich, the story is mostly told by the newspaper’s now elderly, but decidedly unbowed staff. It’s the story of one of the largest radical movements among Jewish immigrant workers in the 19th and 20th centuries, the conditions that led them to band together, their fight to build trade unions, their huge differences with the communists, their attitudes towards violence, Yiddish culture, and their loyalty to one another.

It is a pretty great story.What I would have liked to have seen would be the sites where tensions in such a movement lied. Where did the characters in this story depart in their politics? Where did they think their activism “worked” and where, with all that time to look back on the production of the paper, did they think they could have focused their energies more?

What made me think of this (and there are numerous examples besides) was the scene where they are talking about the anti-authoritarian pedagogies they had set in place in the school they established, the Ferrer Modern School. One of the former students tells us that the children “did not have to do anything set out by a teacher but did the things they wanted to do”. Which sounds nice, but surely this may have been a site of tension – what were the limits of such logic? What of the children with special needs? To what extent were they ashkenaz-centric? Mostly though I wonder if, imagining myself school age, I would have ever learnt to read and write in such an environment if – joy of joys – I could do what ever I wanted. Such circumstances and the tensions that inevitably arise could have given greater depth to the story.

In any case, this doco is more a celebration than than an exploration along these lines and I don’t mean to detract from it awsomeness.

You should have a watch:

Hat tip to slackbastard