Retiring the poor old A-word
From The Match!, Issue No. 116, Summer 2017
From the Editor
About 68% of my life span has gone into the publication of this journal, up to now. That's not an easy figure to achieve, believe me. It means that The Match has been coming out for about 20% of the entire time that the USA has existed and about 1.6% of the time that the pyramids have stood. I hope it lasts a lot longer and I'm going to do my best to see that it does.
It's been an Anarchist journal all this time and that's how it's going to stay. But after this present issue, I'm dropping the word "Anarchist". It pains me to do it, but it's time. I'd hoped that prefacing the A-word with "ethical" would rehabilitate it enough, or distance this magazine enough from the unethical or nonethical version, but it hasn't, and considering how the milieu has changed, I'm embarrassed to use it anymore.
I've never believed in majority rule in general, but in usages there's no alternative. If you're reading a manuscript written in Paris in the year 1100 it's no use frowning at how bad the fellow's Latin is if he wasn't writing Latin at all, but perfectly good Old French. Spanish, Portuguese, and Roumanian aren't ungrammatical or ignorant Latin either; they're whole new languages.
I don't know where they stopped being Latin, and I don't know where Anarchism stopped being what it was, but I do know that continuing to label this journal as Anarchist is the same as speaking an obsolete language that few understand anymore.
This isn't the first time this has happened either; 45 years ago we Anarchists were also known as "libertarians", but we had to abandon that one when the right-wing profit-and-contract-worshippers took it over, which illuminates the unavoidable fact that it's dangerous to use any label. Even if it doesn't change meaning naturally in the course of years, it can be made deliberately to do so - and if both processes operate all you can do eventually is bow and move out of the way.
In physics of course it's a principle that motion is relative, so some meteorite may for all we know be stopped in space when our planet runs into it, but from our frame of reference it is more convenient to ascribe to it the high velocity with which it shows up and plows into the ground. I'm pretty sure that the Match still stands for what it always has, and that it's other Anarchists that have moved, but I'd bet money that it will be no time at all before I hear them yelling that it's the other way around.
Basically, what I conceive this magazine as standing for is the basic desire of human beings and other sentient animals to be let alone, to be free of interference or infliction of pain or oppression or control. I regard the principle of government - authoritarianism - as an outrage. I don't want to be pushed around or censored or silenced, and I don't want to do these things to someone else. Defensive violence is justifiable, but it should never be more than a regrettable necessity. If people want to say something we object to, let them say it. Blast them with criticism and ridicule later, but don't try to shut them up; otherwise why shouldn't the same oppression be carried out against US with just as much justification?
This, however, is not what I'm seeing in many other Anarchists anymore. There's a routine attitude now that if "we" (that is, some mob, of which I am not a part and will never be a part) decide that someone is objectionable, it's okay to keep him from speaking or being heard. It's okay to smash other people's property just because we feel contempt for them or their values.
I'm starting to see a large amount of this stuff. Here's a picture in the New York Times of Anarchists in action: faces masked, legs braced at extreme angles as they hurl big rocks at someone or something. Here's a slick magazine calling itself Anarchist (as well as a regular laundry-list of other politically-correct things) that carries an article gloatingly recommending a plan to shut down major highways by dropping off large containers in traffic lanes. People could be killed by that! They brag and snigger about macho escapades to sabotage braking systems on huge vehicles - again without apparent or perceptible concern for lives.
Humane decency, which ought to be the heart of Anarchism, has largely gotten replaced by these recitations of ideological "stances": against racism, sexism, classism, "transphobia", and so on. At the same time there's no rejection of random theft, shop-lifting or even arson if some kind of rationale about "the environment" or some other sanctimoniously defined entity can be invoked. As an example of this, here's some language from a recent publication that as far as I'm concerned could just as well be a manifesto from the Hitler Youth:
"They can't stop us; why break windows? The attack is the most beautiful moments (sic) an anarchist can undertake. Feeling the adrenaline of rushing to a window with a rock in hand, or the moments before striking a cop with your fist... The attack is an experience unlike any other, one many of us desire to experience, and many of us have experienced. We get tingles and a rush of adrenaline just thinking about it...
"At this point in history we have reached an interesting rock and hard place with lines blurred between right and wrong, where the liberal fog of non-violent 'resistance' is but a facade fewer and fewer individuals are upholding. A time when Molotov cocktails have been thrown in America. A time where it feels as if nihilist anarchism is growing in popularity. A time where Murray Bookchin's ideas have actually inspired a revolution...
"The anarchist tension is not defined by the destructive and tyrannical relationship between the worker and the boss, rather it is defined by the bullet lodged in the boss's head as the worker runs in gleeful hurry to the nearest safehouse...
"The smashing of a window, like all acts of resistance, is as exciting as it is risky. The adrenaline of running up to a window and smacking it with a flag is an experience unlike those which we commonly experience... Tagging 'fuck gentrification' on the wall of that new coffee shop is nothing in comparison to smashing its windows out during a riot or a small and simple attach with friends! Smashing a window is the most intense form of attack and tension building you can do without facing too much legal repercussions. Smashing a window is also ridiculously easy... also a very popular, and very effective actualization of propaganda by the deed. I would not be writing this if it wasn't for an anarchist smashing a window in front of me. How exciting and fun that looked! I kept hearing chants of "Anarchy now!" as well, so of course I went to google...
"...Feel what it is like to resist and fight back as an individual, take power for yourself and throw the brick!"
Sure, sure, I KNOW that that is the authentic voice of the police provocateur and probably actually IS one. But here's my point: It's either what it purports to be (an "Anarchist" who doesn't even realize that he's a thug that Mussolini would have been proud to have in the phalanx), OR it's a laughing undercover police bastard who gets coached and paid - and both possibilities show that Anarchism has failed.
Our movement either has actually gone in this rotten and criminal direction, or it is so appallingly ineffectual that it cannot prevent even the most transparent deliberate discreditations. There's no other way of putting a spin on this reality: Anarchism as a political or anti-political entity with a name, has failed, and the name itself now signals, more often than not, something that no thoughtful or ethical person should want to be associated with.
The publication I just quoted is financed by a state university and it has had, for years, a fair-sized budget - certainly larger than our own or that of any other real Anarchist publication that I've ever known about. The magazine is called The Student Insurgent, and a statement in it says that it's published by "a horizontal editorial collective" (whatever that is) at Oregon State University, in Eugene. A guess would be that "horizontal" means there is no "hierarchy", or vertical structure, so no one person at any time can bring sober knowledge to bear, and the result is that tyranny of structurelessness which I would call a mob. Financing - from a state body, needless to reiterate - has varied from $17,645 to $22,222 per year in past years, according to public records. The publication is supposed to do some of its own fundraising, but in a recent year it reportedly generated on its own, either from readers or from someone else, less than $100.
Yet with this ridiculously slight, horrendously flawed financial base there can spring vicious propaganda capable of undoing others' work of lifetimes - and this is by no means the only such project systematically undercutting and smashing identifiable Anarchism. Aside from the outright libels against Anarchism (or Atheism, we might add) made openly by interested authorities or the religious, purported Anarchist works themselves have included mysteriously financed periodicals repeatedly advocating the bludgeoning to death of utterly harmless animals, the engaging of adults in sexual acts with small children, the lauding of racist criminal gangs like the Black Panthers, bank robbery, vandalism, censorship, intimidation, and routine theft.
Proclamations ABOUT Anarchism radiate from giant media outlets, and actual Anarchists cannot contest them. Thus a powerful New York magazine can claim that a baffling newcomer whose salary is paid by yet another university is now the "spokesman" for this philosophy. A marx-esque linguistic jargonizer paid by a different one draws huge crowds as our unelected representative as he blasts "capitalism" while whole shelves of his tortuous books keep lengthening - courtesy of big publishers.
The Anarchist milieu is itself dominated by exclusive inherited-money outfits like AK Press who practice systematic exclusion; and weird European entities such as the International Center for Research on Anarchism dedicatedly exclude publications like The Match from their library or listings while the Alternative Press Index makes sure that U.S. libraries are efficiently barred for decades on end from hearing about our own existence. This then results in further exclusion like the University of California's recent book on U.S. Anarchism in the 20th Century that omits even the slightest reference to our 48 years of work in this area; and of course THAT will then metasize into other articles and books that are similarly made to see Anarchism in a bluntly maneuvered way.
ALL Anarchism isn't this censored, slyly managed, or gutterized version, but for every responsible and scholarly project like the Anarchosyndicalist Review there's always some number of Open Roads or Green Anarchists with the graphics of machine-guns and fists in the air and circled A's.
It has become so irresponsible and arrogant that book-fairs are dying or cancelling because no one wants to host them or provide a venue. In England a recent one concluded with a mass of people emerging at the end of the day, and as someone suddenly "became offended" at some matter, a small riot ensued. In San Francisco the usual Spring book-fair has been cancelled indefinitely due to, we believe, inability to find a venue, which is not surprising. No public event for or of Anarchists anymore can proceed without the probability of identically-clad (in black), masked "black bloc" street thugs who are invariably identified either by themselves or the press or both, as Anarchists, mobbing in and "fucking shit up" for no discernible or justifiable reason.
So I'm retiring the poor old A-word, and I intend for The Match to go on for a good long time more without it, though not without regrets and a certain nostalgia for it, and the inescapable feeling of having, in some sense, partially misspent a non-refundable 68 percent.
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