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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Cats for Chaos! An Anarchy Cats picture special.

It has been noted previously on the Streetlamp (see 'here' ) that the contributors, as well as having a passing interest in libertarian socialism, are all great cat lovers. That's not surprising, as the idea that cats, particularly black cats, are symbolic of anarchism has a long history.

Most people will be familiar with the the  Industrial Workers of the World inspired Wildcat (above), said to represent  the spontaneity, direct action, solidarity and militancy of a wildcat strike. Usually depicted with an arched back and with claws and teeth bared, it is closely associated with anarcho-syndicalism and was designed by Ralph Chaplin, who was a prominent figure in the IWW.

More recently, the IWW has cottoned on to the lolcat phenomenon, most specifically the I Can Has Cheezburger? offshoot with these image macros popping up on the internet:

Another historical black cat, Felix the Cat , the popular 1920s cartoon character, has also been seen to pop up occasionally as an anarchist logo:

Very recently, I've noticed image macros of cats popping up on anarchist sites and on the blogs and personal sites of anarchist acquaintances. The best and funniest of these is almost certainly this little hooded kitten:

There are a few other variations of this floating around on the internet but I reckon this is the best of them. A few other 'anarchist cat'  images have been cropping up too. Here's a selection, of variable quality:

So, why cats, you may be thinking. Well, I reckon that humans have long recognised that the cat is just too much a lover of liberty to be ever truly domesticated in the way that, for example, dogs are. Back in the Victorian era, when Kipling was explaining the fantasy origins of various creatures through his Just So stories, when it came to writing about the cat, he finishes the tale of The Cat That Walked by Himself by writing:

"But the Cat keeps his side of the bargain too. He will kill mice and he will be kind to Babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone."

Yes, writers recognise the strong streak of independence that just can't be coaxed, bribed, starved or beaten out of the cat. Hemingway, a fanatical cat lover, wrote in For Whom the Bell Tolls :

"It is not liberty not to bury the mess one makes, he thought. No animal has more liberty than the cat; but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist. Until they learn that from the cat I cannot respect them."

Another great American writer, Mark Twain, wrote the following in his notebook in 1894:

"Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."

And it's not just writers who recognise this quality in cats. The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson , widely considered to be the master of street photography and the father of modern photojournalism, loved cats and was once quoted as saying:

 "I'm an anarchist, yes. Because I'm alive. Life is a provocation.... I'm against people in power and what that imposes upon them. Anglo-Saxons have to learn what anarchism is. For them, it's violence. A cat knows what anarchy is. Ask a cat. A cat understands. They're against discipline and authority. A dog is trained to obey. Cats can't be. Cats bring on chaos."

 So it seems that this seemingly recent internet phenomenon of the 'anarchy cat' has a long and proud tradition. Areas of political protest closely allied to anarchism have also been employing the image. Here are a few examples:

We here at the Streetlamp enjoyed these images so much that we decided to see whether we could come up with some ourselves. Below are our first efforts. We hope you like at least some of them:

We'll finish off with a tribute to the oldest anarchist joke in the book:

If you know of any more 'anarchist cat' pictures we've missed, drop us a line. We'd also be delighted to see any of your own efforts.


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