In response to ‘The Religion of Green Anarchy’

  • Posted on: 26 August 2017
  • By: thecollective


In ‘The religion of green anarchy’, the author continually refers to their ideas of what “green anarchism” is about without referring to where exactly these ideas are stated. There is not a single quote from a green anarchist journal or book in the essay, nor is there any reference to what texts the author has or has not read dealing with green anarchy. If the author’s idea of green anarchy is based on conversations with individuals at land defense camps, it would be good to say so – in this case the critique becomes more about “how some people interpret green anarchy” then about green anarchy in its totality. This essay takes a large and complex tangle of ideas that have been evolving since at least the 80’s1, and simplifies them into a caricature (‘the morality of pure wilderness’) that neglects most of the theory that makes green anarchist thought and its associated currents worth reading in the first place. I would also suspect that this may be why Green and Black review did not respond to the essay.

It is true that green anarchy idealizes a time when people lived in ‘an unmediated, direct, instinctual way’, and equates this with hunter-gatherer societies2. The introduction to Zerzan’s ‘Running on Emptiness’ memorably asks ‘has anything of value been invented since the Stone Age?’ as a rhetorical question. That said, the actual stance of self-declared green anarchists on returning to the Stone Age is probably more accurately summed up in this quote from ‘Back to Basics: What Is Green Anarchy’:

‘While some primitivists wish for an immediate and complete return to gatherer-hunter band societies, most primitivists understand that an acknowledgement of what has been successful in the past does not unconditionally determine what will work in the future. The term “Future Primitive,” coined by anarcho-primitivist author John Zerzan, hints that a synthesis of primitive techniques and ideas can be joined with contemporary anarchist concepts and motivations to create healthy, sustainable, and egalitarian decentralized situations. Applied non-ideologically, anarcho-primitivism can be an important tool in the de-civilizing project.’

Much of what is theorectically interesting in green anarchy has to do with its critiques of industrialism, its theorization of ‘how we experience Being and the involvement of culture in generating specific subjectivites’3, its conceptualizations around ‘civilization’, its critiques of ideologies venerating ‘progress’, and its advocacy of ‘total and absolute liberation’. As well, much of the theory behind primitivism and green-anarchy comes from ‘real’ (ie professional-level university) research into stone age societies and human evolution, which will become apparent if one starts to read the literature. Jared Diamond (‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’) has written an essay about the emergence of agriculture entitled ‘The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”. Even if one does not wish to return to the Stone Age, these are extremely important analysis and should be widely read, if only to help collective theory evolve and coalesce (the importance of shared discourses and reference points), and also as a counter-point to existing social mythologies regarding history and progress which are so pervasive that we may not even be aware that they shape our ideas.

For example, a critique of industrial production should be a sort of ‘anti-capitalism 101’ by now. It relies on taking resources from one place (and thus on imperialism, colonialism, domination etc), manufacturing them in ways that are usually energy-intensive and polluting and require all sorts of chemicals and produces all sorts of non-biodegradable waste, and also requires CO2 intensive long-distance transportation networks. Socially, it ties in with a progressive loss of knowledge of how to make things and live from the world around us.

Now, not everybody has to necessarily subscribe to the desire to completely abandon all factory production or all occupational specialization – there are all sorts of liberatory currents in sydicalist/communist thought theorizing how the means of production can be tools and not masters45. That said, having the analysis of why mass systems dependent on external resources are extremely problematic is a foundation of trying to make something (‘somethings’, to be more accurate) that works.

It is also important to properly value ways of life that were capable of sustaining people from self-perpetuating ecosystems (‘wild’ – yes, it’s true, people are always intervening, the question maybe has more to do with their mindset and the subtleness of their interactions…). A society that is able to make everything it needs from plants, stones, and animals is a society that creates zero waste. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody should be forced to return to these lifestyles, but it does mean that these skillsets and knowledges should be actively promoted and encouraged. European peoples also lived this way, so no one has to appropriate from anyone aside from learning about the uses of plants and animals not found in Europe, and maybe a more general learning about worldviews, traditions and cosmologies when people indigenous to Turtle Island desire to share them. There is a lot to learn from a way of being in the world which represents 99.9% of our history. Do you really think people wouldn’t benefit from being able to perceive our reality more like pre-modern peoples did?

Which brings me to my last point: the statement “even if we returned to hunter-gatherer lifestyles, capitalism and domination could continue” – well, ok, I’m sorry but that is just not true. I realize that the current of anarchism represented in Counter-Montreal6 is not big on anti-capitalist economic theory/Marxism (“anti-capitalism” is conspicuously absent on the topic list) and that you apparently don’t like Communists, but, nonetheless, capitalism is in fact defined as an economic system based on the expanded accumulation of capital (I have capital, I build something/invest it, I make profit from what I own, my capital expands.) The emergence of capitalism as an economic system is directly linked with and dependent on technological developments enabling large-scale resource extraction, mass production, long distance transportation, and banking systems. Capitalism is an expansive system that is in constant technological evolution. It is based on being able to produce surplus, which in turn allows for the development of class society (people who don’t have to work or forage for themselves.7) Hunter-gatherer society is a steady-state system in which things mostly don’t change and material class stratification is minimal due to lack of surplus8. I don’t want to be rude and tell people they should maybe read a little more, but is this seriously where the level of ‘analysis of capitalism’ is at these days?

I wrote this response not to be snarky, (well, ok, maybe a little…) but mostly out of sincere concern for collective theory. I am extremely disturbed by a tendency I have observed in which a major component of intellectual activity seems to be identifying ‘wrong ideas and wrong groups of people’. If you have a bunch of nineteen year olds who are just being politicized and they get the idea that communism and green anarchism are things they don’t want to read or identify with and that the basis of being political is hating the right people, what kind of movement are you creating?

Amputating communism and green anarchy from ‘ideas people should be aware of’ is steering people away from the some of the theory that is the most dangerous and subversive to the established order. As well, those who own and manage the human-built world we live in laugh in delight when their assorted foes spend the majority of their energy tearing each other down instead of trying to wrap one’s head around each other’s analysis in a constructive and mutually respectful manner. (ie ‘well, I agree with this, I don’t personally agree with this/want this but if you want it for yourself that’s cool, I strongly disagree with this’ etc etc)

Obviously, critical analysis is extremely important to the evolution of theory, but isn’t it better to be like ‘these strains of thought are important, here are some critiques they have generated’? I mean, yes, there’s a lot one can say to nuance the analysis of green anarchist thought (“cough, much of it emerging from the communist tradition…”), but don’t you think it should at least be read by people who have grown up seeped in the narratives of the dominant culture? Do you really just want to have people engaging in property destruction and fighting cops without really developing their analysis of what has been and what could be beyond ‘State power is bad’?

One who hopes to see revolution in her lifetime.

  1. For example, the Earth First Journal characterizes EF as having had multiple stages, and characterizes their evolution as realizing the inter-relationship between social and ecological struggles. See 25th anniversary special issue.
  2. See Green Anarchy – really, if you haven’t already checked out this site you probably should just to get the real deal directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak…
  3. See Jensen re: language, Zerzan re: mediation, signification.
  4. See, among others ‘continuity and rupture’ by j. moufawad-paul, all of the literature on self-management – ok, it is true, I am committing the same error of being vauge on sources that I previously criticized another for, my apologies, but, that said, these currents definitely exist.
  5. I am also tempted to make a slightly teasing comment along the lines of ‘so if you’re against green anarchism and you’re also against communism, what kind of economic arrangement are you for, anyways?’
  6. Editor’s note: MTL Counter-info did not write ‘The religion of green anarchy’. The author of this response seems to have this impression.
  7. See the above-mentioned ‘Back to Basics’ for a detailed discussion on the emergence of surplus-production.
  8. See any first year university textbook. You could also read part three of ‘Socialism: utopian and scientific’ by Friedrich Engels; ‘Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism’; ‘The Original Affluent Society’ by Marshall Sahlins, or ‘The Domination of Nature’ by William Leiss which provides a much more detailed discussion about the evolution of ideas related to technological development and subjugation than is given in this response.


I dunno why the former text was published on Mtl Counterinfo since it was such a clusterfuck of straw men and other baseless assumptions... I also considered writing a response to it, though wasn't sure if it'd be equally published.

The title here raises what serious/deep green anarchy will have to deal with from the capitalists, should it ever start getting a wide hearing. Even more so should significant numbers of people start DOING it. The enemy, with their vast media apparatus, will claim we are a "religious cult, peddling Romanticism's 'Noble Savage' myth". All the more so since the motivating core of serious green anarchy is what (clueless) "civilization" calls "mystical experience".

Well I'm with the CCF types on this... there's no use wasting breath trying to smash the myths enforced by the mainstream media on any anarchists. They're forever likely to be distorting anyone who opposes their system, save actual authoritarian insurgents (as authoritarians recognize each other).

At best, having a media spokesperson(s) like the ELF used to do isn't a bad thing, but insurgents should spare justifying themselves as long as they are clear about their own intents and ideas. If you're down for something, just fucking do it and see how it flies later on.

Good call, before anyone should be spending valuable energy on "media outreach", there better be a whole lot of really cool shit people are already doing that begs for it. Otherwise, you're probably just a pretentious ass? Haha

I'd prefer being a pretentious ass than being shallow smokey ass like you. haha

A shit response to a shit piece, and one that is strongly unfamiliar with the current (green) anarchist milieu. Case in point:

1. "green and black review"

2. "most primitivists understand that an acknowledgement of what has been successful in the past does not unconditionally determine what will work in the future The term 'future primitive', coined by Zerzan..."

As expressed every tuesday night for the past few years and in recent writing, the most well known voices of primitivism have come to utterly reject this idea in favor of stark dogmatism.

3. "Which brings me to my last point: the statement “even if we returned to hunter-gatherer lifestyles, capitalism and domination could continue” – well, ok, I’m sorry but that is just not true."

Here the original author's statement is being treated as theoretical, when it is in fact practical. Theoretically, if everyone suddenly was a full-fledged hunter-gatherer, sure, they would also not suddenly be able to create capitalism again. In practice, people trying to transfer from civilization into hunter-gatherer bands would be ridiculously messy, with many resisting and trying to keep or recreate capitalism with whatever infrastructure remained at the time, and half the ones who tried out h/g would get burnt out after a few weeks.

is another straw man ("shitpiece" to use your word). The first people beginning the return Home will be few, it will be phased, and even when very advanced, it WON'T look just like original hunter-gatherer-permaculturist life. I know this because I'm preparing to DO it. A Pol-Pot style mass forced march is an obviously ludicrous straw-man, though over more time, nature will force the issue anyway. See my first comment on the Layla interview.

It's not a straw man. "It will be phased", and while you are off hunting and gathering, capitalism will continue. The author denies any possibility of capitalism continuing after people become h/gs. Do you believe most people will voluntarily phase out? Or perhaps you think a totalizing collapse will somehow force them, and it will be nice and pretty and no more bad things will happen?

Different commenter; this is why I got bored of "magic wand" political theories a long time ago.

As in, why should I waste energy on a discussion or theory that picks up at a completely impractical or purely hypothetical point?

Some of my friends moved to the woods, built their own housing and augmented their welfare money by growing some of their own food. This is practical and relatively reproducible for able-bodied folks but of course, they've mostly opted out of any meaningful resistance to capitalism and they're not even close to true independence from the rest of society. Mostly it's about eking out an existence with a little wage slavery as possible.

They opted for the tragic existence of the bitter hermit, which is understandable enough.

particularly these two articles feel very male dominated. It is now accepted by many that women provided the stable calories and nutrition and medicine. Zerzan Zerzan Zerzan without a nod to Layla hardly ever. Black and Green Review is male dominated too. I stopped buying it when Four Legged Human wrote about his arrow being guided by some spirit or other bollocks. Tucker is so in love with 'the ancestors.' Well, it was the ancestors who made the incremental changes and look where they brought us! Maybe Tucker wants to join the Sambia people and get a real 'taste' of the ancestors! And JZ has, as far as I know, has never taken part in anything remotely land based? He is, by and large, a writer living very nicely off civilisation. Yes, he and Layla provide a challenging critique of civilisation, granted.Sometimes, this stuff needs to be said.

WHO, exactly, is this ONE tribe I keep hearing about from people who have problems with "anarchoprimitivism". I have material from many tribes of normal (hunter-gatherer-permaculturist) humans, never heard of them. I've heard the majority of shamans among the Original People where I live (northern CA) were women.

Much as I suspected. The tribes of "New Guinea" are agricultural, patriarchal, have constant warfare, and I suspect have something that looks like private ownership of Land. They are Neolithic, not Paleolithic, tho I think they still hunt and gather some. For a well-researched paper on the first class societies, see Lineage Societies - The Origin of Women's Oppression, by Nicole Chevillard and Sebastian LeConte; it is in Women's Work, Men's Property, edited by Stephanie Coontz and Peta Henderson (Verso Press, 1986). "Primitive" is too vague a word, which I also reject on other grounds, and leads to confusion among those ill-informed. There ARE hunter-gatherer-permaculturist societies with highly concentrated resources, such as North America's northwest tribes, who had slavery and clan ownership of Land. Also, in severe polar climates where men bring in most of the food, male-dominated tribes like the Intuit.

Nevertheless its still ironic that JZ avoids the proliferation of the awareness of the plethora of primitive cultures which possess patriarchal and hierarchal values, thus revealing the innate flaw which the homo sapien species unleashes when it attempts to congregate in societies larger than the extended biological clan in size. Wiffs of Dawkins Selfish Gene me sniffs in the forest clearing,,,,,

It seems that homosexuality is a normative evolutionary tendency and real men have more fun if left to their devices.

(bisexuality most often) is extremely common in social species of mammals and birds, where it is mostly about cementing relationships. It is rare in cats, except lions (who are social). Male homosexuality looked VERY different among the Original People ("wild Indians") of California than among the damaged humans of Late Capitalism today. Some tribes of normal humans, the Hadza, for example, claim it doesn't exist among their People. Not sure what is going on here.

Presumably the same thing as when reactionary governments insist they don't have any LGBTQ in their populations. Bullshit denial and worse.

I wouldn't presume anything until I knew more. The Hadza do NOT have patriarchy, like the surrounding pastoral and agricultural tribes do. The Hadza and the San tribes (which include the Ju/'hoansi) find the child-rearing practices of these patriarchal/authoritarian tribes to be revolting, scarcely even human.

You can safely assume that outside of magical noble savage fantasy land, there's always a percentage of every human population that's not confined to sexual and/or gender binaries.

Or not. Whatever. But I'm willing to assume that people are people and culture doesn't actually have that much power to change us.

Rare in cats?! Bullshit denial! Its rampant in panther populations!!

Cougar-kitty is my totem animal. Please cite sources if you have them.
I do know 2 females will often bond to raise their cubs together - one can protect the cubs while the other goes off to hunt.
This is a good arrangement, and I don't know why this trait wasn't selected for in ALL female cougars.

It's common knowledge among psychology academics that mysticism is a spiritual fetishism, especially when powerful animals are assumed as accomplices in a power realm, and is a substitute for suppressed sexual drives and used to replace blatant domination with the mystique of having a benevolent holistic influence upon the overall harmony within a society. Just saying, no malice intended,,,,

my question.

Wait a min... since when are anarchists supposed to be making a moral value out of the normative or common character of practices? I assume that likely it wasn't exactly what you were implying, but I'm asking just in case it's the belief of some people here.

I recall that homosexuality was pretty normal back in Ancient Greece, and Rome to some extent... its normalcy has also decreased as women were starting to get out of the gynaeceum and into the public place... yet still conservatively. But then again how did Hypathia -in the very late and Christianized Roman civilization- ended?

So no, homo-normativity is nowhere a valid replacement for that much-despised heteronormativity. Now, I UNDERSTAND that that's not what anarchists tend to be promoting, yet there are among the IP crowds who more or less discretely see that as a social alternative. Homo-oritented people, at least the ones with mainstream social values, are still having babies, new houses and cars, no matter what, and they also fucking want more power for their clan.

Just ordinary people. With one or two cosmetic-level improvements, that only grease the same old machine.

Now get some popcorn...

Funny educational story, and in response to the other commenter above you, I can't talk for everybody else, but the only reason why I do enjoy myself with MY OWN dick (not another's) isn't because I feel it as the greatest sex on Earth, but because it's the most accessible, lazy way to get some level of sex. I wouldn't say it's satisfactory sex. Like other communications, I don't want communications with myself to be the only I'm able to practice, and enjoy in life, as this makes life vapid and depressing.

I was shown SOCIALLY how to do it when I was at the summer camp in the same cabin with other loser dorks like me. I just didn't end up in the cabin where the cool boys were managing to get the girls in. I did had a quick crush on some girl at the dance earlier that evening, but there was something lacking to make us better socialize... like maybe a more structured, codified dance would have heIped, or maybe some Depeche Mode instead of late '80s douchebag pop music. haha

I look back at it as a bad sexual education, in relation with the preventive sexual education we had in class earlier, tho not one merely due to that ugly wily jerk in my class who shown us how to wank in bed, that was presenting sex and love in that typical medical fashion/discourse. Poor educational content, poor consciousness, hence poor sexual practices. I guessed quickly that condoms were made to prevent shitty STDs. I got from earlier porn magazines and films how adults were fucking.

What I wanted to know is HOW PEOPLE FUCKING GET THERE, STUPID TEACHERS! Due to remaining a social misfit, it took me ages to figure that, and I still ain't very good at it.

But it was also due, I think, to the sexual separatism in our society, and the hype it generates, and how it draws a competitive line in the sand, where the most socially-skilled or well-mannered get the coming-of-age goodies, where the social rejects learn self-sexuality.

It's interesting to consider the thought, tho, of how we're in a way constrained to a certain level of homo-sexuality for how the road to our own genitalia is way shorter and easier than other's, especially opposite genitalia. The State, especially its more retrograde aspects, in a way is supporting this homo-centric divide, not otherwise. Through mainly the gender binaries, from the toilets to the commodity spectacle to the Church schools to the prisons. Girls aren't suppose to be intimate with boys unless through some articulated and compartmented socialization processes.

Cemeting relationships is indeed way easier between people of same gender, but I think -based on my experience- that's specifically because there's no sex involved. The idea of sexual intercourse is much hyped and therefore a major source of stress for many, no matter the gender.

Anyways I need to go back to reading that disgusting old fart Buckowski. There's a few things to learn about love in this, even with all the abhorrent, cynical sexism. Or maybe you know better literature?

This piece was written be a woman...

on 'our' site!!! What? A woman? Where? Off with her head!!! Phew, that was fuckin' close. Normalcy has been resumed. Now get back to work!

having a shit in isolation! When or why did humans decide having a shit was so idiosyncratic as to 'do it' out of sight and by oneself?

uhh... that's not just humans... afaik pretty much every mammal tries to avoid shitting if something is watching, since it's a moment of vulnerability (how you gonna defend yourself while taking a shit)

TIL you suck a defining civilization

Just do what this guy does but don't make a big deal out of it by turning into some pioneer project. Primitive archaic technology and ways of living in the world should begin as a hobby seeing as we are starting from a modern context. If it stays a hobby like is the case with this guy in Australia the at least it will be an enriching part of your life in and otherwise city and state civilized world. Let primitive ways of living be freed from the world of ideology. It really should be the anarchic take on chop wood carry water.

So the other text was "full of straw men" and this is not?

This piece is fucking pedantic and full of half-assed arguments that really don't have much to do with what is being said in the text it responding to.

This anarcho-educator likes to tell people to go read more books... but what was the use of reading all those books if your reading comprehension is shit?

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