TOTW: Scarcity of Labor

  • Posted on: 4 September 2017
  • By: SUDS

Anarchy requires participation. Engaging in projects that will help our culture remain relevant into the next century is an almost innate intuition for many of us. Some even espouse dreams of land projects, federations, and worker cooperatives. Yet, wishing does not make them so.

Serendipity and human effort are perhaps our greatest assets and yet lack of preparation, competence, and infrastructure cripple our ability to thrive as innovators, allies, or agents. A frequent grievance among project managers (who may even have access to hundreds of volunteers) is that the majority of the day-to-day responsibilities fall onto the shoulders of a few individuals. In the household the complaint is so frequently about the dishes.

Business is no stranger to this challenge, as building a competent team is a popular topic from either side of the fence. However, rapport—and in some cases even politics—in business is generally seen as secondary to merit and execution. Anarchists, however, seem to fetishize rapport over effectiveness, and in turn end up making new friends at best and accomplishing few if any of their goals at worst.

scott crow, in his book Black Flags and Windmills, which focuses on the efforts of the Common Grounds Collective in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina says,
“I wanted us to be as horizontal and democratic as possible. I reluctantly recognized that Common Ground Relief was probably going to be some sort of amalgam of completely anarchist ideal, which in reality we needed years to build, and something more centralized… This challenged my dreams of having large, open assemblies.
We didn’t have the luxury of lengthy meetings, a history of actions together, or longstanding community interactions to establish deeper relationships and consult with each other. It was not a secure foundation to build on.” (PG 136-137)

When it is time to do the dishes, participate in assemblies, engage in the execution of long-term projects, or otherwise participate in the revolution of everyday life, why are we so short-handed?

We tried dropping-out, but when we came back, did we really come back?



As I get older, the way I assess people's effectiveness is definitely getting more grim. I know lots of radicals who're lovely, intelligent people and I value them as friends or acquaintances that I share an unusual bond with BUT -

Lots of them are lazy flakes! There, I said it. I'm pretty lazy myself but I can still do organizing work, I tend to show up when I give my word or at least apologize when I can't. As the months and years pass, you see who keeps showing up and actually gives a damn and it's a tiny minority. Everyone has their reasons, many of which are misanthropic and I get it but despair is even worse than being around people, isn't it?

The flakes are mostly good people, good friends but that's only a small part of what makes a good comrade or accomplice or whatever term you prefer. Your anger, your desire for a better world, your fascination with the beautiful idea should be motivation enough, not an excuse to sneer at everyone.

I dont not organize because Im lazy. Organizing is the opiate of the anarchists. Resistance is a subcultural thing or something. Just sit back and enjoy reading wordy critiques printed in books that fall apart at the spine if you try to read them.

I actually know Aragorn! I disagree with him on many basic things, but I would not accuse him of laziness. At this time, he is toiling away at an IT job, under a boss. I suppose I should envy/hate him because his skills are in much more demand than mine have been since 2008 (I'm a landscape contractor) and his hourly pay could easily be twice mine, or even more. He is probably creating working capital for LBC. And I doubt laziness is how he acquired his skills.

Now being a Bad Kitty (and at 165 lbs., the size of an average male cougar), I suppose I should make lots of catty, catty remarks too.

So you've been initiated into the Sambian workforce? ;)

OP here, I find some of Aragorn's politics and rhetorical style to be obnoxious but I definitely wouldn't consider that person lazy! Far from it.

curious why aragorn! keeps being brought up in this context.

See above post: "I do not organize . . ."
JZ was the subject of personal attacks earlier, tho some of these were removed.

Maybe the organizing work is actually pointless.

What exactly is there to organize? Now that we have a Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the DSA, we're all set. We have an IWW, too. We have Antifa. It's looking really good! /s

Here's the real problem: anarchists are far too concerned with fixing society, and far too disinterested in collectively improving their own lives.

I know that this sounds simple, but when this problem is unpacked then there are a lot of other underlying issues. Anarchists differ quite a bit on the standard of living they're personally going to aim for. Some are OK with squatting, others with sharing small houses with numerous others, others with renting a 0-2 bedroom apartment for themselves and maybe a significant other, still others with taking out a mortgage for a house, and even more others with starting a sustainable commune. Some are OK with holding down a full-time job, two full-time jobs, no job, signing up for government assistance in various forms, starting their own co-ops, their own businesses. Some want to live in the stix, the inner-city, the suburbs.

There's anything but a standard.

But even more than this, anarchists tend to be opaque as fuck when it comes to their personal financial situation and normie consumers when it comes to their purchasing practices. They buy shit individually instead of collectively, whether that's items like phones or services like an oil change.

So a priori, they limit the scope of what's worth "organizing" and attempt "the impossible" instead.

And then they fight each other about the inevitable disappointments that this will lead to. Cause it MUST be the nihilist theory at fault!!

Yes,,,they always blame it on the nihilist theory don't they? And nihilists are never disappointed,,,,,,,

… I think that's a weird interpretation you get from consuming anarchist media online. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything and I certainly don't think nihilist theory is the reason. Nihilist theory is a tiny niche within a tiny subculture, it hardly matters at all except here in this little sandbox on @news.

The only reason it even seems like a real opposition is because those of us with a grasp of just how little effort is being put in, end up getting frustrated with people who insist even LESS organizing needs to happen because of what an asshat position that is.

Not that I care what you personally do but if you choose to spend your time telling everybody else they should sit around whining too, I might tell you I think you're an idiot.

Note that maintaining this website is organization. Publishing on any kind of scale requires organization, even maintaining the electrical grid and building computers is organization so lets not get hung up on semantics.

Either you sit around, farting opinions out of your mouth and fingertips OR you're probably participating in some kind of "organizing", usually by other people, usually capitalists. Society itself is an organization so the emphasis here is on explicitly anarchist organizing and whether or not your existence is a passive one.

It does not need to be emphasized.

… I know ziggy, this stuff should be obvious but since it's the TOTW and apparently some of the thicker skulls around here are struggling with reading comprehension instead of against power, I steal your grubby little soapbox for a few minutes ;)

"Note that maintaining this website is organization."

your use of the term "organization" seems rather broad to me. when i make my own dinner, am i organizing?

"organizing" was concentration camp inmate slang for stealing

like I said, I'm not breaking out the dictionary here, I'm trying to talk about -anarchist- organizing but because this site has it's share of socially stunted cyborgs who try to argue that "organizing is for activist you fucking leftist", so I'm nipping that in the bud. Lets just say groups of people working together on a political project that isn't limited to benefitting only themselves.

what are we organizing for again?
oh yeah, i remember.
...i'll be down by the tennis courts

You're organizing so that when you inevitably square off with the pigs, there's fear in their eyes too haha

Piggers only have two facial expressions; that smug look where they know they can crush you like a bug, OR the vastly preferable "oh shit" look which they hide behind a standard poker face.

But hey, if all you ever do is chirp online, you'll probably never know what I'm talking about?

shifting their expression from former to latter is highly enjoyable for me
ecause I'm doing this for the thrill of it, killin' it

Thrill-seeking is fine, I'm guilty of the same but longterm? It's a bit like doing meth to make you feel smart. Diminishing returns yo!

truth. so lets link up! how trustworthy are your services?

Those 2 facial expressions are not exclusive to just the police, but to all humans, as any physiognomist will verify, and often seen on the faces of outnumbered activists both left and right.

obviously where is the line between left/right-insurrectionary organizing and police-behavior?
does the unique cosmic organism know institutional society from chirping ?
fuck the police! upside the head!tear out the eyes!Organize!Unionize!Now!

Can't believe you bothered to type this … a joke you fool!

If you were to pick a city/town where there is a known anarchist presence and go there, would you have any idea how to meet up with the anarchists there and use your supposedly scarce labor power for some project?

I can think of some places where you can. But mostly, you can't.

I personally know of at least 2 land projects on either side of the USA. I have no idea where they are. I couldn't tell you in any meaningful way how someone would replicate their successes if they had the labor power or money.

I can give you an update on the Seattle Solidarity Network's ongoing project(s), but what about other Solidarity Networks?

I know of a handful of infoshops and cafes that used to exist and no longer do.

I can also tell you about dozens, if not hundreds of non-anarchist projects that break with waged labor, involve free exchange instead of markets, and produce tangible goods/services. I can point you towards cooperative and commune movements that have nothing to do with anarchism.

But mostly, what anarchists are either putting most of their energy into doing ...or putting most of their energy into promoting on the front pages of their websites (including this one) are "social struggle" interventions and theory. Whether that's some non-violent thing, Antifa, ATTACK!, or DEFEND! ...anarchists have an (earned) reputation for being some sort of wayward activists.

Yet, when we look for examples of anarchists participating in some sort of revolution in everyday life, it's places like Exarchia, or Rojava, or Catalonia that get attention for this. Not just in our anarchist media, but in films and documentaries as recent as Accidental Anarchist.

So anyway - it's not just the media on the Internet. There are clear differences in priorities when it comes to the use of our capacities in the USA and elsewhere. Different from other places with sizable anarchist presence, and different from other times.

One group I can think of that seems like they combine an emphasis on practical outcomes and theory is the IAS. For as much as I am less than enthusiastic about their output, the fact that they can provide scholarship money towards the goal of a stronger presence of anarchist thinking in the academy is praise-worthy as an accomplishment of dedication and coordination of resources.


It's definitely weird … your logic I mean. You start with "Whats the point of organizing?" and finish with "anarchists aren't doing enough to improve their own lives." Organizing should be about that too. I've participated in enough smaller projects like food shares, fund raising, etc. These types of things are low-key local affairs that you're unlikely to hear about outside of the city/scene that it occurs in but I agree that a lot more of it should be happening. Then again, me and mine have been doing it for years so … that's how I arrive at my position.

This actually isn't that hard but so few people are willing to put in even a few hours a month to do it. Running social spaces is my standard anarchist project, really hard for 3 or 4 dedicated people, a lot easier for 12 dedicated people and it opens up all these other possibilities for organizing.

I said, "Maybe the organizing work is actually pointless. " and this was in regards to the "As I get older..." comment. In that context, I think it's clear (maybe you don't) that what I'm saying is that the specific projects that Oldster is calling people too "lazy" to do are pointless projects.


Yeah, that's the same anon throughout. Aka "oldster", which is me. I'm a bit over 30, practically dead for an anarchist! I also never defined what I meant by anarchist projects, except mentioning social spaces later.

So whether you assume it's because I'm old and boring and do boring, old-person things OR accept my opinion that a lot of this comes down to how listless, self-indulgent and unmotivated the anarchist movement in the US and Canada seems to be, that's up to you.

There's also a strong connection to stagnant wages and high cost-of-living that leaves poor and working-class people with no spare time or energy to organize, along with the standard arguments about people wasting all their spare time in electronic fantasy worlds, so it's not about blame. Just trying to be honest about the terrain, you know?

Listen you old fuck, what you describe is a quasi-organization which will evolve into a lattice of hierarchical and authoritarian power units. Maybe NA anarchists are beyond leftist politburo type systems of representation.

Or maybe there's such a thing as power without hierarchy or authoritarianism? Wouldn't that be an interesting revelation... Anyway, troll on! That's quite a maybe at the end of your post there! Sound like a 3rd-rate hippy mystic. "We're just like, so BEYOND you maaan."

Your "maybe" is bigger than my "maybe". Sort of like cars and guns, if you know what I mean, regarding anatomy?

Ha! You're probably right but my maybe is the ultimate fascination of anarchists for centuries and yours is just a boring little ego jerk.

I'm going to my girlfriend to make her happy, and you can take some history books when you visit yours.

This is going to be all over the place, but:

I agree that participation levels is difficult to maintain for anarchist spaces. I also agree that anarchists are doing things for themselves that we don't hear about, re your comment: "These types of things are low-key local affairs that you're unlikely to hear about outside of the city/scene that it occurs in".

I just don't think that this is a problem of laziness.

One problem I'm identifying is that over the past 10-20 years, anarchists (in sum) have given more media to "activist" activities than "DIY" activities. To clarify what I mean by "activist activities":

- The content on Submedia's It's the End of the World as We Know It
- Coverage of pitched street battles with police (or fascists) locally and elsewhere
- Summit protests

And to clarify what I mean by "DIY" activities:

- Crimethinc's Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook
- Seattle Solidarity Network
- Free Stores and Free Skools and Hacker Spaces

10-20+ years ago, you used to read a lot more from local groups that are currently doing these kinds of "DIY" things... and that was on this site and others. There was a lot more focus on questions like, "How do we collectively improve our lives together?" than there were on questions like, "What did anarchists do at the latest protests?" Partially, it's because in the United States there's just been a lot more protest demonstration in general. And when someone said "organizing", they were usually about to start talking about NEFAC, the IWW, and other organization building efforts. Emphasis on "organization building". This was when a lot of people were still talking about, "Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm" by Bookchin (1995).

So if you weren't into this organization building stuff, you were likely into this DIY stuff that Crimethinc helped to promote. If you were really cutting-edge, maybe you were interested in Insurrectionary Anarchism and the strategy of trying to create moments of insurrection that were easily-replicated the hopes that they would "generalize" into a larger-scaled insurrection, never returning to "normal".

There were also the academic-types who started the Institute for Anarchist Studies (1996) and gave out grants ...including grants to people like Peter Lamborn Wilson, Murray Bookchin and Saul Newman. In a lot of ways, they can be thought of as carrying the banner of AK Press. Don't worry... I won't digress on AK Press.

So what I'm saying with all of this is that there has been a shift away from the local, DIY-oriented activities and spaces where many anarchists (including myself) came to learn that bomb-throwing wasn't the be-all-end-all of anarchist activity. Some of this could be considered a "counter-power" model, but that is easy to conflate with the large-scale organization building stuff I mentioned earlier.

I think there is good reason now for contemporary US anarchists to take a look around and think that the "organizing" taking place is POINTLESS. I think we should be trying to put more of our efforts into creating and maintaining techniques for improving our own lives AND promote the successes in doing so. Mostly because those techniques can be replicated AND they benefit those that participate in tangible ways. What's becoming lost is our capacity to have a base anywhere... even if it's a shitty one. And like I was getting at in an earlier comment, there's a lot that can be done to use collective techniques to benefit everyone involved when it comes to our consumption habits.

Here's a thought... Something else that happened in that 1995-ish time period is that eBay started. 22-years have passed since then and I have yet to see a distribution network by and for anarchists using dynamic web applications. Why? I think it's because of this overall picture I've been painting of anarchists focusing more and more on changing (mass)society more than they have focused on improving their own lives. What would 22-years of an anarchist distribution network look like? 22-years of improving models, critique, and scope. 22-years of building an infrastructure that can reduce our dependence on "shopping".

Can you explain it?

If the Insurrectionary Anarchists don't want a "return to normalcy" then why the fuck aren't they creating something to return to (after the riot) that isn't normalcy? If the Anarchist Nihilists think that revolution isn't possible, then what are they doing that IS possible? If the Egoist Anarchists want a Union of Egoists ...where the fuck is that union? Are there not enough self-acknowledged egoists that share enough interests in the same things?

Yes, you're all over the place. All I can say to that is why begin your rant with this generalization about pointlessness? Everything else you say is probably true but why take a big old shit on what everybody else is doing to make your point?

A lot of the symbolic gestures get fetishized or overemphasized, true. That doesn't make them pointless though. I used to make anarchist media and the simple truth is, making videos about gardening and leatherworking is fucking boring so you tend to film riots instead.

That's probably why LBC started platforming those ITS shithead scumbags, media is about getting and holding people's attention.


Its because ppl r lazy!, its because the projects you expect them to work on are pointless


You're shitting on ALL organizing fool. I never even defined something for you to argue the pointlessness of. That's just contrarian noise you damned windbag haha

this oldster is lazy as fuck

this trollster: FTFY

Being a bohemian dilettante is a major part of what anarchy is. Organizing should be given a marginal place of inportance not a perrenial place. The more the emphasis on organizing the more you configure organization based ideology which is political and hierarchical.

I didn't know about the Katrina responders on the ground. This is a must read book. I see a similar development in the Houston one today.

"Some even espouse dreams of land projects . . . Yet wishing does not make them so." HOW TRUE!

Myself, I'm preparing to rent out my condo and live in my truck w/camper shell for 4 years to make the $$$ for a rewilding sanctuary (Home) happen. I'm already experienced/competent with the truck thing, and with wild Land.

I was very effective at destroying slavery in my life (both external and internal) when I was NOT a dilettante. Then, half-free, I didn't finish what I started. I became a dilettante instead. (No, this was not a fully conscious choice.) Dilettantery worked fine in my case so long as nothing serious went wrong. By 2008, almost everything was going badly wrong. And this went on for 8 years. I won't bore the reader with the whole story.

it's alright, we stick with it
see you on the wild road or
at some sanctuary, anyway.
half-free isn't enough for me, either.
troll-face :)

A cat 5 hurricane is headed straight for me, I'm getting organized!

Hellow fellow anarchists

ah, well i guess if i don't feel like i can sit around and complain im not a very good anarchist :-/

and worst of all, if im not getting other people to do it, im not a very effective one either

i can almost laugh now maybe.
make a personal statement and dissertation on word press about the apocalypse and go vegan.
thanks all hasta la vista or not

yeah, because what makes a real anarchist is "work ethic". fuck you.

Yeah yeah, why should anyone care what you think if you never DO anything? ;)

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