A little while back there, JD Ryan posed the question: “Any recent anarchist success stories?” to which I had no immediate answer; but  I promised I’d elaborate on the topic in a future post.  This, my friends, is that future.  Or, the beginning of that future.  Well it’s something.

Though really, JD, for asking such a question, my short answer is simply: fuck off, ya commie bastard!  At least that’s what I’ve been thinking every time I’ve sat down trying to figure out how to answer this question.  And I think I finally figured out why: it’s the wrong question; or put another way, the question itself understands anarchism in the wrong way.  It’s a fatal flaw few actually avoid, which leads me to my elaboration.

And what an elaboration it is!  So much so, that it’s going to have to come as a series.  This first part is general stuff, background stuff.  In fact, this first part has absolutely nothing to do with JD’s question whatsoever!  But there was just no way for me to even begin giving a good, thorough, complete answer without getting into all this.  Well, maybe there was, but if that’s what you expect from me, you clearly don’t understand me or how much I enjoy geeking out on this stuff.  Besides, this is exactly why I wanted to have this blog- to write about the shit that I love. 

I’ll try my best to be quick and consistant in getting the other part(s) out.  Enjoy….

First, a bit of background…. because “anarchism” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  Now, for some of the terms I use interchangeably, others would argue there are recognizable differences in meaning between them.  Whatever.  At  any rate, I identify and agree with what’s known as anarchist-communism, libertarian-socialism, or even just anarchism.  This is an entirely different world view and value system than many other schools, which is important to understand.  The complexity of someone saying “I’m an anarchist” is something like asking someone what books they like and having them say “hard cover”; it’s really not so clear.  And I know that I, for one, certainly do not what to be associated in theory or otherwise with the politics and belief systems of many of the people who would identify themselves with this god-awful word.  A few of the most popular schools of thought that I do not agree with:

-Primitivism, or green anarchy, is often identified with the ‘Eugene Anarchists’, Earth First!ELF, and the like.  In general, they believe that technology and material (scientific) progress happens only at the expense of “mother earth” and therefore they generally are expecting for the end of civilization to come and wipe most of the world’s population away; at which time they will happen to be the only people not only to survive but also capable of survival because of their honed survivalist skills.  They will then live happily for eons in complete harmony and peaceful utopia.  This includes a lot of “hippie” politics, but generally the self-identified “anarchists” in this lot are more militant than your average granola eating hippies.

Social Ecology, (which is similar or identical to Libertarian Municipalism) is the only one I put on this list that I’d actually call a real school of anarchist thought; developed by Vermonter and Institute for Social Ecology founder Murry Bookchin, it can be fairly complex to try and sum up in a paragraph.  SE does not reject technology per se, though is very intent on analyzing the ecological problems of our world and the ways industry (capital, power) allows such things to happen.  I do actually agree with a lot of SE’s stances, and ultimately I consider Bookchin to be very influential in my own beliefs, but there are aspects and conclusions in some of it that just don’t sit right with me.  A side note, which is that Bookchin deserves credit, regardless of anything else, for predicting global warming way back in the 1960’s.  He is unquestionably the first person to have suggested that the planet would rapidly begin warming as a result of human-made carbon emissions, but because of his radical politics the message wasn’t picked up until, well, a little later on.

-Lifestyle anarchism, or those kids you see and think of as “gutter punks”, also includes some aspects of “hippie” culture (though some hippie culture is involved with primitivism and green anarchy).  This group of folks includes the DIY folks, and is especially typified by the downright self-absorbed CrimeThinc culture.  A great quick critique of CrimeThinc is available here, and is worth the read by anyone who finds themselves being tempted and seduced by their bullshit.  These “anarchists” are hyper-individualists who in reality do nothing more than glorify “drop out” culture and live off the fat and waste of capitalism.  In truth, this crap has nothing to do with “anarchism” whatsoever, and they are a good part of the reason why it’s cliché to even use the word.  I don’t care how people live their lives, or what they choose to believe and do for themselves, but by falsely claiming to be “anarchists” (the “real” and “post, post-modern” anarchists even) they have made talking directly about it with regular, “normal”, working people nearly impossible.  Well, them and the government propaganda anyway.  

I could go on, there are tons of “ideas” of what anarchism is and isn’t.  For me, it’s all mostly bullshit.  I am generally a class struggle anarchist, meaning that for most issues, I would argue that the matter boils down to issues of class, economics, and the concentration of power (capital).  I believe that the only truly revolutionary class is the working class, and that only the working class itself, through its own self-organization, posses the power and the means to wage what is known as the “final revolution”, which is the “Revolution (which) gives social wealth to the producers… and the State has nothing to do; or (else) the Revolution does not give social wealth to the producers, in which the Revolution has been a lie and the State would continue.” (Diego Abad de Santillan, 1936).  Unlike some who identify as “class struggle”, I do recognize that their is some revolutionary potential in the higher classes, specifically in regards to “class traitors” (people who come from or are a part of upper socio-economic classes but who nonetheless are genuine in their passion for revolution, despite that it would mean an end to their privilege).

On top of all this, I am a Platformist, or neo-Platformist, which is to say simply that I generally agree with my understanding of a document published in 1926 by a group known as the Dielo Truda (Worker’s Cause).  They were a group of Russian anarchists exiled in France, having barely escaped the Bolshevik Revolution.  Their Organizational Platform is highly controversial among people who follow such things.  In essence, they were reflecting on their experiences in Russia and why their ideas ultimately lost out to those of Lenin and the Bolshevik’s.  They wrote this document to suggest what they thought people who believed strongly in anarchism could do to win the “battle of ideas” and popularize their beliefs, and prevent another Soviet Union.

Anarchism, real anarchism, is in many ways an economic theory.  As well, it has a strong economic rebuttal against capitalist economics, in theory and in practice.  But importantly, it arrives at the point of class consciousness because it is an idea that is seeking to reconcile the two greatest currents of human experiences- the two most immediate, and contradictory forces in our lives: the ultimate and unfettered rights of the individual, and our biologically social nature, as a species, which calls on us to survive as a community of people rather than as a singular, solitary species.  Class struggle is the means, or the praxis, but ultimately the goal is for complete Freedom for everyone.  Daniel Guerin in his Anarchism explains: “For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account” (emphasis added).  Anarchism seeks near absolute freedom for the individual, but within the context of a cooperative, fair, directly democratic, and efficient society.  It identifies power dynamics between people, between people and nature, and objects; it identifies inequalities, and injustice, and it offers other possible ways to carry on the business of being a single planet with a shitload of people on it.

I hope you’ll tune in next time as we explore what those other ways are, and ultimately, all the countless examples of their “success” we can find in the world today….