Retrieving an Asian American Anarchist tradition
March 4th, 2008 by jalan_journal
by Jane Mee Wong
[Author’s note : This piece has been published in the Spring 2008 issue of Amerasia Journal]
I may be old and lonely, but I have resisted in wars, agitated in movements, and marched numerous times to where the crowd gathered.
Ray Jones 1968
Contrary to racist beliefs of Asian passivity and apathy, Asian Americans have historically contributed to revolutionary traditions in American politics.
However, one may argue, the political strands in progressive and radical Asian American circles have largely been dominated by state-driven conceptions of socialism. As Him Mark Lai documents in his important study of the Chinese left in America, Asian American involvement in the first half of the 20th century was mainly channeled into the Communist Party mechanism. The level of sophistication that the Comintern offered organizationally attracted many Asian radicals who subsequently endorsed the popular front tactics of Soviet Stalinism. From the 1960s onward, statist visions of Maoism also gained popularity for putting forth a vision of unity among third world peoples within the US and internationally. Nonetheless the mass-line and vanguardist approach of Maoism toward political organizing rendered it severely undemocratic, and vulnerable to unprincipled maneuvers of identity politics.
It is within this context that the literature of Pingshe, otherwise known as the Equality Society, and the writings of Ray Jones are refreshing and inspiring. Jones offers a more democratic vision of Asian-American radicalism from below. Despite the limited amount of information available about him, the collection of his works, including those compiled by Him Mark Lai at the Ethnic Studies library archives at UC Berkeley, have been immensely valuable. These archives have allowed me, a young Asian American political activist, to piece together parts of an Asian American anarchist tradition.
Internationalist and American at the same time, the work of the Equality Society rips apart the notion of Asians as perpetual foreigners, interested only in the affairs of the homeland. It reflects how involvement in politics of the homeland and immersion into US domestic politics are not inseparable, but come together as necessary and integral aspects of internationalism.