JDRyan: Any recent anarchist success stories?
To which I assume you also mean what have the so-called ‘anarchists’ accomplished lately? how have they directly made the world better- recently? I suppose one could talk about burning McMansion’s down, torching SUV dealerships, robbing banks, rioting at capitalist economic summits, fighting with neo-Nazi’s, organizing workplaces in order to achieve better pay and conditions, or maybe even writing and distributing books to spread your ideas and add to the political discourse. All of which is fine, I guess, and would have to entail a whole conversation about merits, detractions, the weighing of the pros versus the cons of such actions, etc. It would seem that whether or not one is inclined to take a stance for or against such militant or direct actions can be logically and reasonably argued from several perspectives. I know I could take either stance for any of the above actions; ultimately though, I don’t think it is because the people who carry out these types of things call themselves “anarchists” which leads them to these actions. Certainly it is true that not all (in fact, not most) people who have or do identify their politic to be libertarian left take part in such things; which means that looking at such things is not looking at what it is that the anarchist sets out to “accomplish” given his or her personal socio-political leanings. If we don’t know the goal we’re going to have a hard time recognizing success. It must be noted that such actions take a certain type of individual that says nothing about their necessary political leanings. The entire psychology of a person cannot be boiled down to a simple philosophical or political idea. Such risk-taking behavior, such disregard for legal and social convensions, such a feeling of both powerlessness and emboldenment, such conviction of one’s ideas; these things are all aspects of the people who have carried out the above. To declare that what they did and the choices they made is merely the function of one idea they hold, rather than all the complexity and depth which actually makes up the personality of an individual (whether you agree or disagree with their actions) is it’s own folly. If I take part in any of the above (or similar) actions, I do so more because of my personality than directly because of my politic. If I support these actions it is because of a particular strategy which may (or may not) be useful towards achieving the goals of my politic; but it is a strategy, not a political or social goal or belief itself.
What, then, are we really talking about?
When I declare I am an anarchist I do not do so to make a statement of a political scheme, of a utopian social order. I am making a statement about my ultimate opinion of humans, and human nature, and how it is Right to be in the world. It is a statement about what I seek to know of myself, and how I strive to relate and interact with others. Considering myself an anarchist, I am not attempting to imply some sort of moral or ethical superiority or perfection; rather, it is a striving, a goal, and one which I most certainly stray from when going about in a more automated (and less aware, less authentic) manner. It is precisely the anarchist’s realization that each of us, far from our truest nature (in our most god-like, our “Buddha Selves” perhaps they’d say in the East), each of us in our lives is distracted, has deviated from the uppermost reaches of our own potentials. That we compete rather than cooperate, that we judge rather than empathize, that we knowingly and willingly allow a very few go about life with so much wealth, so much power, so much freedom, and we allow the vast majority to wallow in poverty, oppression, slavery, embarrassment and inadequacy, this is the greatest tragedy. This is what the anarchist concludes: there is widespread suffering, inequality, and oppression throughout the world, and it needn’t be.
When I declare myself an anarchist I am not proposing a particular social or political system, I am pointing out that the current (and most all previous) system is Wrong, is inhumane; the socio-political systems which we know and live by are contrary to what I believe is our true human potential and I will always take the side of that which seeks to improve on this circumstance. The ideas that I hold- what to me seems Right, and fair, and just- may give me certain ideas or opinions about what I think a truly free society looks like, but ultimately I am not an “anarchist” who sees that there is one right methodology for organizing society; I simply seek to identify and do away with any manner of injustice, oppression, and un-equal (un-warraned and imposed) power-relations.
Likewise, when I declare myself an anarchist I am not proposing a particular, singular way in which to go about the struggle for this ultimate change. Through careful consideration, through a commitment to finding the causes (rather than the effects) of our human plight and doing away with them I hopefully will focus my attention (my activism, my political leanings and engagements) on the areas where we can achieve the most direct change to the most root causes of our suffering. In the previous posts in this series I have attempted to outline some of the ideas- the principles- that I (and many other so-called “anarchists”) have concluded overtime to get to the heart of what seems to me to be the essence of the anarchist’s realizations regarding the world of humans. It is not a singular vision of how I think society should be organized and implemented that I will from time to time “succeed at” or “fail” one way or another. Life, as with society, is a process, an unfolding moment, it is not an event or a linear movement that can be measured finitely.
So in these ways those who would rightfully know themselves to be “the anarchists” (based on a fundamental understanding and analysis of power and power-relations) are “successful” inso far as they live their lives according to these principles, to the best of our abilities. Of course I do not agree with the capitalist labor market, yet I must to some degree take part in it in order to provide myself sustenance and comfort (I think in previous installments of this series I have touched on my opinions regarding those who claim some sort of lifestyle that does not “take part” in the system). Every time I go to your house to lend a hand with your renovation project, every time you come over to my place to help my with a home improvement, every time I seek dialoge rather than coersion in my social relations, every time I do for myself (or help my neighbors, friends, or family) in a communal, cooperative manner rather than a letigous, authoritative, or “market-based” manner, I am achieving an “anarchist success”. For the anarchist, there is no point in time which marks “success” as in there is nothing to struggle against, nothing to remain vigilant against, nothing to confront and try to overcome. There was always be, throughout the world and in my own personal life, a tension between progress and regression, power-sharing and power-concentration, Right and Wrong. At every moment of everyday for all of human history we have the opportunity to act and be in a way that is healthy or pathological. The anarchist’s battle will never be over because the anarchist’s battle is ultimately the battle of life over death. The anarchist’s “success” comes everyday, unknowable times, in countless ways, whenever we act, recognize, and choose to be as it is our truest nature to be.