In a pop-cultural sense, at least, the idea of anarchy has been characterized by either a middle-fingers-up, no-parents-no-rules punk attitude, or a panicky, more conservative outlook used by national and state sources to represent violent chaos and disorder. Today, we can see an extremely serious, radical leftist political philosophy on T-shirts at Hot Topic.
I appreciate Kristian Williams’ pamphlet, both the thought put into it and the challenge it represents. I learned a lot from its history, and in particular gained insight into the behavior of anarchists I meet today. Williams traces some practices of contemporary US anarchism back to pacifism, looking at how contemporary anarchists unthinkingly accept much of that philosophy. In my view, that influence led to the movement prioritizing providing comfort to its participants, rather than organizing to change the circumstances that led to the discomfort they feel with society in the first place. This emphasis accepts the inevitability of capitalism and is therefore a strategy to live within its parameters. But I don’t think capitalism will allow us these spaces. Instead, it has to be overthrown and not allowed to come back.
Anarchism has often been conflated with social work, much to the chagrin of those of us who prioritize undermining oppression over improving how it functions. The tendency towards charity, thinking it solidarity even when we want very different things politically from those we try to aid, is complicit in the maintenance (or manufacturing) of authority.
Fighting fascism cannot be done with cheat-sheets, graphics, or slogans; it must involve building vibrant, tolerant, and culturally-rich communities that refuse to discard spiritual meaning. And that cannot be done without interrogating the secular arrogance of the left’s “founding fathers.”
An editorial, from Rhyd Wildermuth
Tracing the Russian Counterrevolution
Following up on our book about the Bolshevik seizure of power, The Russian Counterrevolution, we look back a hundred years to observe the anniversary of the first time that the Bolsheviks used the Russian military to crush protests from the workers and peasants who had helped to put them in power. If we don’t want tomorrow’s revolutions to turn out the same way, it’s up to us to learn from the past.
No, the current times are certainly not favourable towards ideas. Flattened by technological prostheses, hollowed by the lack of a horizon totally other and emaciated by the devastation of interior worlds and of sensibility, our contemporaries are not very keen on ideas. They prefer chatter, they repeat what is told to them, they display their opinions... all very different from ideas, those “armed thoughts”.
James C. Scott’s latest book, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, is sure to become a classic and a brick in the wall of core anarchist theory. It covers somewhat different but complementary ground to Peter Gelderloo’s Worshiping Power: An Anarchist History Of Early State Formation. I have some significant critiques of the narratives it pushes, particularly around the character and downfall of early stateless sedentary agricultural societies, but on the whole I loved this book.
There’s no denying that many of the so-called problems with drug use are actually problems caused by the state, capitalism, and social attitudes towards drug use. However it is also just as naive to think that drug use does not have its inherent risks. As anarchists, we believe that people should be able to consume whatever they wish, but as people who wish to see a society built upon mutual aid, we also wish to engage in harm reduction.