TOTW: Tents, Big & Otherwise

  • Posted on: 9 August 2018
  • By: ingrate

I often talk about anarchy as being a big tent in which we (anarchists) all congregate. I didn’t come up with the metaphor, and will ignore the holy roller revivalist implications of it for the time being. I see the anarchist space as being somewhere where we are all milling about, eyeing each other suspiciously. The Green Anarchists are over in their corner, probably having a drum circle or skinning a caribou or something, but sometimes mingling with the insurrecto-types and the nihilists. The Reds are in another corner, arguing about whether we should immediately communize everything (the insurrectos who wander over there for a beer often take a second to argue this point strongly) or work through syndicalist methods. The individualists are doing their own thing (or hanging out wherever is most interesting to them. Noam is probably outside the tent telling people that it isn’t actually the anarchist tent at all…

I can describe and perceive of anarchy in this way, and will probably continue to, which means that I share a tent with some people I don’t like very well at all, but there are a lot of other people who want to clearly pitch smaller tents and declare themselves anarchists, and the tent they inhabit THE Anarchist Tent (the only real one, despite others also claiming such).

Clearly there are some people who use the label anarchist who are not in our tent, like national anarchists and anarcho-capitalists (both of which are oxymoronic, or maybe just moronic) positions to hold. Me question is about the tents. How do you determine who is and isn’t in the tent with you? Do you see a need to agree with everyone in the tent? How small (or big) is that tent?



from what i remember, the "big tent" metaphor was meant to point to an inclusiveness that transcends sectarian squabbles, a way to promote the idea that we're all in this together, despite our specific organizational and ideological particularities. the big tent i want to be included in would have room for any explicitly anti-state and anti-capitalist person/project that used horizontal organizational and decision-making processes -- which means that there are those who don't self-identify as anarchists who would be welcome -- just as it means that not everyone who self-identifies as an anarchist would be welcome (as pointed out in the OP).

even during my most venomous moments, i have known that i would jump to the defense of other anarchists i didn't agree with if/when they got in trouble from the state. does that mean i have to be friendly with them? nope. does it mean that i can't have meaningful heated disagreements with them (in good faith, of course)? nope. does it mean that they all have to accept my particular vision or projects as impeccably anarchist? nope. the big tent metaphor doesn't preclude most of us knowing that those other anarchists are still doing it wrong. it just means that at some point, we still know that mutual aid and solidarity are desirable and necessary. but, the foregoing could just be the result of me enjoying the day.

a few times on my bike but it wasn't interesting to me at the time, I'd probably stop and check it out now days. Church is boring unless it's a big orgy naw mean?

I saw Three Crosses at a christian center, they were really good and playing some slamming funk tunes. My dancing caught the attention of a few people, I guess too much swing in the hips and every now and then the band would stop playing and make sure everyone wasn't too excited.

After the show they had everyone line up, go in a room and talk with the band members one on one, kind of like a struggle session. They offered counseling and made sure everyone was saved. My status was always dubious being an ex JW kid, they don't believe in eternal security and my testimony wasn't that convincing. So not only was I dirty dancing but I was a dirty JW to boot!

I don't know if the criddlers and hobos will ever mix well with the aces and the heroes of market anarchism but do they really have to? I can imagine a region organized horizontally with different tribes and tendencies separate but equal living in perfect harmony.

1.Context is the New Content

2.Delusions of Grandeur

3. Three Crosses - Michelangelo

They have to stay outside!
They're little, middle-class bitches!

Exception made for Graeber.
He can come in.
"Bullshit Work" rules.

No workerists!
They have to stay outside!
And read books, peasant morons!

Exception made for Bob Black
He can come in.
"Abolish Work " no rules.

*points and laughs while "peasant morons" beat and rob you*

*sits on hill overlooking tent and watches 'peasant morons' holding books upside down, making aeroplanes out of paper, wiping ass from pages out of book, lighting huge bonfire and burning books for BBQ*

*Complains over listserv about bbq not being vegan. How are you, an anarchist, against oppression while oppressing the most oppressed by eating their muscles drenched in a tasty vinegar based sauce*

*Communist peasants having BBQ outside tent and arguing over which of either meat burgers or lentil burgers are the most ethical call over a man leaving the tent to ask him what he thinks about ethics in cuisine. Little do they realize that the man is Max Stirner! Stirner walks over to the pile of meat burgers and takes some, screaming " Ethics are a spook you morons, I am hungry" and storms off.*

This question is only relevant in a navel gazing sort of way. When you're in the streets, in some shit, you're not asking about people's ideology.

"This question is only relevant in a navel gazing sort of way."
typical american anti-intellectual binary exclusivity of thought versus action. clearly folks like you should never bother being in a conversation with anyone about anything important.

I agree, that, where I am, mostly, those arguments mostly fade away when solidarity is needed, kind of like Boles mentioned. I also know that there are people who I see as politicians or opportunists who are happy to have you show up in solidarity, and then slag you off later for not believing the correct political line, and let's be honest, anarchy is not just about being out in the streets.

For me, I do believe in the big tent to a large extent, and that includes a lot of people whose anarchy is not my own. I am mostly fine with agreeing that we will keep disagreeing (by which I don't mean glossing over the disagreement, I mean we DISAGREE, sometimes vocally). I tend to identify with what has been called post-left and green (sand book) tendencies most strongly, and I still consider anarcho-syndicalists anarchists, even if I think their ultimate idea of a path to anarchy isn't going to get them there. On the other hand, I know lots of folks who would write off green anarchists as genocidal escapists, syndies as being stuck in the past, nihilists and post-left critique as being proto-fascist.

"anarchy is not just about being out in the streets."

Anarchy should not be about that at all if by out in the streets you mean some kind of struggle crap. Keep that nonsense to anarchism not anarchy. This is why we need the anarchism/anarchy distinction.

I doubt the reds would be out in the woods in just a tent. Instead, they'd be glamping in their own big motorhome. Pussies.

And the nihilists wouldn't even have come along anyway, since camping in a tent would just seem meaningless to them.

Insurrectos would be trying to take over the tent by smashing the tent windows.

Anarcho capitalists would be selling the tent from underneath everyone else.

National anarchists would be complaining that the tent wasn't white.

Existentialists would be saying ---Why tent?.......Cave?......Tree?........Car?........House?.........Palace?.......The planet Earth?

i dont really think of anarchy as 'a big tent in which we all congregate'. anarchy/anarchic is a label that people apply to themselves, ideas, things to denote a similarity, in this case a similar anti-authoritarian, anti-state, chaotic leaning critique of the world. because anarchists dont 'all congregate', and the places where we do congregate dont contain all anarchists. the tent im in is the tent ive constructed with the specific ways of interacting with 'other anarchists' -im not happy with that phrasing, but also im fine with it, so in scare quotes it goes- that i currently employ.

for example at the moment i dont have much contact with non-english speaking anarchists of any flavour, so i dont really feel in the same tent as them. in terms of interaction anywho, which to me is the only interesting sort of tent.

i dont really consider myself an anarchist in any essential way, it just happens to be a word i use. so i try not to bother much with who is an isnt 'in anarchy', because to me anarchy is not a place. and i do disagree quite a lot with loads of people i would be happy to call anarchist, though mostly out of convenience. im not sure im happy with this response @ingrate, but i like the question and will keep pondering it over coming week.

also it says this was posted 4 days ago, but i swear i only saw it today. am i going mad?

Settle down, no, you are not going mad, it only came out today, the same time of the week it usually does.

I was away from computers for a bit and so set it up to be posted if I wasn't there to do it ahead of time.

aha nifty

I tend to think there should be the return of some kind of broad baseline libertarian discourse might technically be called minarchist(though non rightwing). Libertarian discourse should be the way the broad baseline discourse that is used to gateway people into more radical positions and orientations.

Anarchy is really more of a qualitative temporal phenomena. It's something a way or living for certain types of individuals particularly within a hierarchical epoch. It's really not something that should be tied to elective positions or proposed solutions. That's anarchism and libertarianism(usually socialist).

As far as tents are concerned, the prospect of consummating a desire appears to be the determining factor for who gets to wiggle their toes with mine. This tent is an intimate and ephemeral space where individuals are coming, and going, and coming back, again and again, intermittently and continuous, flashbulbs and lightning strikes. I am a promiscuous lover in this tent.

Each has very different reasons for their presence, yet all share in being spontaneous and derivative creations toward the perpetuity of my senses and feelings. They must all flatter me, inspire and empower me.

Adverse to this dream and survival, and what acts as the permanent exit from the canvas, is the conception of an "individual" to nought but a material function. Antagonism can be a joy, but when I can no longer play, once an image of a human is only a rigid imposition, it's out in the cold. It's finished.


Within the Classical Anarchist tent a minority would be the American Individualist Anarchists like Warren, Tucker, Andrews, Greene et all. They are voluntarist market socialists of sorts. Unlike the majority of Anarchists, some of the Individualist Anarchists do not mind voluntary hierarchy including non-exploitive wage labor. The most extreme example is Stephan Pearl Andrews Pantarchy as a sort of voluntary state. All the American Individualist Anarchists oppose involuntary taxation and exploitive wage labor hence they oppose the state and capitalism. Warren's Individualist Anarchism predated Proudhon's Anarchist Mutualism though the majority of classical Anarchists prefer non-hierarchial workplaces like the views of Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin et all.

Stephan Pantarchy, NICE name for an anarchist. Never heard of him, must look him up, sounds different.

Sorry I should clarify with my comment. Stephan Pearl Andrews called his Individualist Anarchist society "Pantarchy". So its his society called Pantarchy not his actual name. Sorry for the confusion!

If only you had put an apostrophe between w and s in Andrews, then this confusion would not have occurred! SHAME ON YOU!
Sorry for being a grammar fascist.


“non-exploitive wage labor”

my tent is on fire
fuck you all

Quick, get some gasoline!

Don't forget the European individualists. They were a stark contrast to the early North American strains and much less amenable to markets, overall.

That's basically what post-leftists continue from. The answer to market exchange is not communism but affinity association based individualism.

There's currently a strong desire for ideologically segregated spaces, to the degree that there are calls for purges of ideologically impure anarchists from the tent. I don't know if this is cyclical, but there certainly hasn't been this degree of intolerance (for lack of a better word) in the ~20 years I've been around. Older anarchos: in your experience, is this new qualitatively or just quantitatively?

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