— Original title: “Ni dieu, ni maitre – Une histoire de l’anarchisme” —
Anarchy is often used as a synonym for chaos and destruction with anarchists seen as black-clad nihilists fomenting violence at peaceful protests. But NO GODS NO MASTERS reveals the far more complex history of a viable social system and the men and women who devoted themselves to making it a reality.
This is the story of Anarchism. By going back over the key events of the last two centuries of social history, the series reveals, for the first time, the origins and destiny of a political trend that has been fighting all gods and all masters for over 150 years.
Who exactly are they? Where do those who have always called themselves anarchists come from and what is their line of thought? Why do we consider their thinking to be confused and their history such a cause for concern?
Featuring previously unseen and forgotten archive footage, this documentary series recounts the history of a movement that from Paris to New York, and from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, has constantly imbued the world with its freedom and revolt.
Based on Daniel Guerin’s book No Gods No Masters.
A Film by Tancrede Ramonet; A Temps Noir & ARTE France Production in Association with LCP, UR and RTS
Part 1: Lust for Destruction (1840-1906)
Born in France, around the Commune de Paris, and in the wake of the French Revolution, anarchism rapidly disseminated its theories throughout the world. When the brand new International Workers’ Association was created, anarchism even became predominant within the workers’ movement.
Yet early on, anarchism instilled fear in people, not only because all over the world it waged the war for an 8-hour working day, founded schools with no God and no master, and promoted free love, but also, and above all, because from time to time it was quick to use violence and to destroy authority in a highly concrete way. From Ravachol to Bonnot, from the assassination of Empress Sisi of Austria to the Battle of Stepney, from bombs to raids, anarchism has become the bete noire of heads of states and royalty who, in an attempt to protect themselves from it, created anti-terrorist laws that are still in force today.
Part 2: Land and Liberty (1907-1921)
At the start of the 20th century, everything seemed to be plain sailing in the best possible of libertarian worlds, because anarchism had rid itself of its former demons. And thanks to the major waves of migration that carried the movement to the remotest areas of the world, it was able to rally a major part of the peasantry around to its cause.
But to ensure their ideal triumphed, before the imminence of a world conflict, libertarians could no longer afford merely to indulge in wishful thinking and think up generous practices. They must take up arms and go on the offensive once again. And so, from the two shores of Mexico to the vast steppes of the Ukraine, in an era full of sound and fury, Nestor Makhno and the Flores Magon brothers found themselves at the forefront of the first major revolutions of the 20th century as they tried, once and for all, to change the world.
Part 3: In Memory of the Vanquished (1922-1945)
By assassinating nearly a third of Europe’s workers in some countries, World War 1 reduced the militant mass to silence. But it was above all the repressive measures of the major democracies that, from deportations to executions, dealt a blow to the anarchist movement.
In this fertile inter-war period, where capitalism gave birth to its two foul beasts, Stalinism and fascism, more than ever before, anarchism continued to be the only force of resistance for the people, in the face of the totalitarian hydra that was increasingly generalising theft and industrialising death. From Boston to Barcelona, from Tokyo to Paris, anarchism was to lead a struggle on all fronts. It was eventually in Spain, during the course of a war resembling a revolution that the movement finally came within reach of utopia.