Arts & Culture

Lyrically Defining the Line Between Lefts

By Celina Simmons

Metaphors and moments in history are utilized in the song “Baby, I’m an Anarchist” by Against Me! to explore the ideological differences in the political left, specifically liberalism and anarchism.

Far left politics are generalized as political systems that support social equality and oppose social hierarchy. Liberalism and anarchism both fall into this category although anarchist methods and philosophies can be deemed more extreme than others. This is demonstrated by the lines “I burn down buildings/ While you sit on a shelf inside of them”(ll. 14-15).

The writers are suggesting that liberals will fall along with the government due to their passiveness. Typically, anarchism opposes electoral politics in general and supports a self-sufficient society where intervention from the state is unnecessary, undesirable, and harmful. Despite the perception of criminal activity, anarchy is a far left position in the political spectrum. The lyrics reflect that liberals have faith in a democratic government and their own beliefs, gleaning information from both parties though coming to their own conclusions.The writers express these differences throughout the second verse.

You watched in awe at the red,
White, and blue on the fourth of july.
While those fireworks were exploding,
(30)I was burning that fucker
And stringing my black flag high,
Eating the peanuts
That the parties have tossed you
In the backseat of your father’s new Ford.
You believe in the ballot,
Believe in reform.
You have faith in the elephant and jackass(ll. 27-37).

The Spanish Civil War and the Battle of Seattle are moments in history where liberals and anarchists initially fought together for the same objective but were divided in differences of tactics to reach those goals. “Do you remember ‘36/ We went our separate ways/ You fought for Stalin/ I fought for freedom”(ll.3-7).

During the Spanish Civil War, Spanish nationalist fought against Republicans. The Republican side consisted of urban workers, the educated middle class, and some political left parties, including liberals, communists and anarchists. Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union was the only country to lend aid to the Republican side, which raised tension between many anarchists and liberals. Since anarchy opposes a social hierarchy, and State, they rejected help from Stalin while the liberals accepted the aid. This added to the tensions of inner fighting within the Republicans.The Battle in Seattle, also known as the 1999 World Trade Organization Protests (WTO), demonstrated a further separation between liberal and anarchist methods. Militant anarchists joined together in a formation known as the “black bloc”, and their protests consisted of smashing cars, windows, and blockading intersections while liberals were exhibiting more peaceful protest behaviors and not in favor of vandalism..

We marched together for the eight-hour day
And held hands in the streets of Seattle,
But when it came time to throw bricks
Through that Starbucks window,
You left me all alone.(ll.22-26).

Another aspect to consider is how consumerism and corporate control is in opposition to anarchist beliefs. Hence smashing Starbucks windows at the WTO protests. The Starbucks corporation began as a small coffee shop and quickly became one of the largest corporations with roughly 20,000 shops around the world.

It is important to know that this is not a love song. The writer uses metaphors to make it seem like a love song so that the ideas are easier for a listener with opposing views to digest. In other words, the song comes across less offensive when put in an artistic light.
These metaphors tie the song together with the last lines “No I won’t take your hand/ And marry the state”(ll. 46-47). In society today, marriage is considered “human nature” but the writers’ beliefs disagree with this. The idea of marriage involves the government and church intervening in a personal relationship.

Anarchists reject this constitution of marriage because they do not feel comfortable making vows to institutions that they do not believe in. This also roots back to the original meanings behind “husband” and “wife.” “Husband” being another word for the manager of another’s property, and “wife” originally just meaning woman. So when you put the two together, a marriage can be seen as a man possessing a woman which, once again, betrays anarchist beliefs.

Liberals and anarchists share common philosophies and beliefs but draw a line in their extremities, as suggested in “Baby, I’m an Anarchist!”. The writers of this song support their opinions through examples in history such as the WTO Protests and Spanish Civil War. Although liberals want to attain similar goals, the writers suggest that they will not fight for them to the extent that anarchists would.

Categories: Arts & Culture

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