Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Anarchism in the arts

As a political theory that encompasses the full spectrum of social, philosophical, political and economic, Anarchism has a deep reach in culture.

Like socialism, communism and even fascism, Anarchism has a plethora of imagery and symbolism which have become associated with a variety of groups and movements, and co-opted (or "recuperated) by capitalist industry. The influence of anarchism is not always directly a matter of specific imagery or public figures, but may be seen in a certain stance towards the liberation of the total human being and the imagination.

Table of contents
1 Visual Art
2 Music
3 Written fiction
4 Film/Video

Visual Art

(ie, the use of art or illustration to promote specifically anarchist ideas)

Anarchism had a large influence on French Symbolism of the late 19th century, such as that of Mallarme, who said "le livre c'est le bombe" (the book is the bomb) and infiltrated the cafes and cabarets of turn of the century Paris (see the Druken Boat #2).

More significantly, anarchists claim that 'strains' may be found in the works of the Dada group, whose anti-bourgeois art antics saw them wreaking havoc in war neutral Switzerland during World War I. However on closer analysis the Dadaists were much closer to the Council Communists, having much of their material published in Die Aktion.


As anarchism has traditionally emphasized the liberation of the imagination and subjectivity from the constraints of the present social order, many anarchists erroneously consider that it finds one of its closest allies in the work of the surrealists.

Surrealism is both an artistic and political movement aimed at nothing less than the total liberation of the human being from the constraints of capitalism, the state, and the cultural forces that limit the reign of the imagination. The movement developed in France in the wake of WWI with Andre Breton as its main theorist and poet. Originally it was tied closely to the Communist Party. Later Breton, a close friend of Leon Trotsky broke with the Communist Party. Surrealism has a strong continued following today in places like Portland, Oregon, the Czech Republic, Minneapolis, Chicago, Australia, and Portugal.


A number of performers and artists have either been inspired by anarchist concepts, or have used the medium of music and sound in order to promote anarchist ideas and politics.

Punk rock is one movement that has taken much inspiration from the often potent imagery and symbolism associated with anarchism and situationist rhetoric, if not always the political theory. In the past few decades, anarchism has been closely associated with the punk rock movement, and has grown because of that association (whatever other effects that has had on the movement and the prejudiced pictures of it). Indeed, many anarchists were introduced to the ideas of Anarchism through that symbolism and the anti-authoritarian sentiment which many punk songs expressed.

Anarcho-punk, on the other hand, is a current that has been more explicitly engaged with anarchist politics, particularly in the case of bands such as Crass, Poison Girls, (early) Chumbawamba, The Ex, Flux Of Pink Indians, Riot/Clone, etc. Many other bands, especially at the local level of unsigned groups, have taken on what is known as a "punk" or "DIY" ethic: that is, Doing It Yourself, indeed a popular Anarcho-punk slogan reads "DIY not EMI", a reference to a conscious rejection of the major record company. Some groups who began as 'anarcho-punk' have attempted to move their ideas into a more mainstream musical arena, for instance, Chumbawamba, who continue to support and promote anarchist politics despite now playing more dance music and pop influenced styles.

Other musical artists who promote anarchist ideas include:

Written fiction

Anarchist writers, or those that have incorporated anarchist ideas into their fiction, include: