A difficult subject

  • Posted on: 5 September 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>Translated from french multilingual anarchist website Non Fides: http://www.non-fides.fr/?A-difficult-subject

A difficult subject, yes. A subject that can rapidly turn towards a polemic, sterile or otherwise. But that is not the goal. Neither is this an existential questioning, a “Who are we”, or a “Who am I”. I want to discuss about the anarchist movement the way I know it, that means the movement of today, although I can imagine that these mechanisms apply to other times or perhaps outside the anarchist movement. There are a lot of things to say, but I would like particularly to talk about the dynamics that uphold the relationships inside this movement, between each other, across language and geographical barriers. However I would not like these words to be taken for something they are not, in fact in whatever I talk about I include myself, and the mechanisms that I describe here, I have produced and reproduced myself. The will to write these lines comes from numerous discussions with anarchists from here and elsewhere, in different contexts, who also feel the need to bring up these questions amongst ourselves, to discuss them openly and without much formality. Of course I don’t pretend to represent these comrades, because I start in the first place from myself.

This text is frustrating, it troubles me. I hope nonetheless that by discussing these taboos, they don’t become a taboo itself, or a tool for self-castigation. I also hope, that on the occasion of these encounters around the subversive book, this contribution will be the moment to think about these questions, that are according to me, indispensable for the development of our ideas and for the encounter with other uncontrollables.</td><td><img title="Where is the there? What is the stuff?" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/waterman_hat.jpg"></td></tr...

First of all, we don’t have to deceive ourselves, the anarchist movement is truly a movement, maybe a bit crippled, but whatever. We can, most of us, put in the centre the question of the individuality and of the uniqueness of each individual, that will never prevent the entity bigger than the individual, the movement, from substituting itself for the individual will and for the desires that belong to everyone inside the movement. Actually, every social group has its margins, it’s the condition sine qua non of its development, of its own self limitations. Since to be able to define ourselves, we also have to say what we are not and what we resemble. From there, the expression of originality in individuals and affinity groups is often normalised to fit into a mould, a sort of common binding. Until this normalisation no longer works, as in every social group, it is followed by contempt or ostracism.

That’s how automations fall into place and are no longer questioned. “It’s like that”, “it’s not the right moment”, “it has always been like that”. These mechanisms give the power to a handful of guardians the passing on of this sacred formula, holders of the ultimate truth and are generally not so enthusiastic to put any of this into question, despite the evaluation that hindsight allows us, which attest to decades of undisputed failures. I clearly said power and I add forced centralisation. The organization through affinity, which I agree with, has the fault of sometimes being badly distributed, to give too much power to certain individuals that have more social relations, and sometimes more seniority. We have to go through them, him or her, in order to organise, to meet other anarchists, basically for everything.

We know that power at the same time gives anxiety and is seductive, it attracts and disgusts at once. I don’t talk about institutional power but about relations of power between individuals. When one starts to acquire a bit of power, one wants always more. The formula is simple and basic, it occurs among anarchist, even though we are sceptic of these topics, simply through playing with qualities such as admiration and “charisma”. We start to admire the activity of anarchists in this or that country for quantitative or exotic reasons, and so we are locking ourselves up in the pursuit of models: “doing as in Greece” etc. We start to admire the prose and the charisma of this or that comrade (those who are reading this text can certainly think of a comrade that has more social value inside the movement than the others). This is where power relations are born, creating classes inside the movement, through rhetoric, through charm, or through politics. Actually, the movement becomes a place favourite to persons who know exactly what they want but who hide behind rhetorical artifices, some questions and some discussions lead to imagine the possibility of an opening that in reality is not there, because in reality “it’s like that, and that’s all”.

Actually, these mechanisms create leaders, who end up locally centralising the activities of the movement. Those who turn away from this centralization have to in one way or another justify their absence and give plausible arguments for one’s disagreement or non-presence at this or that cornerstone event of the movement, this goes for ideas as well as places (an assembly, a space, a specific struggle). The voluntary non-participation of these holy collective moments has to be justified, and not the opposite, at the risk of coming off as “arrogant”. Thus, without the need of a recognized authority, the multiplicity of the ideas of the individuals is limited to the dimensions of mostly the “charismatic” comrade(s). These mechanisms are inseparable from banishment; against those who are not there where one has to be, in this struggle, in that place, in this assembly, who are thus of course “wankers”, “who don’t give a shit”, “petit-bourgeoises” etc. this seems to develop a sort of point system, not so far from parole conditions. Mechanisms that can be found in recent struggles a bit everywhere, from Val Susa to the struggle of Tunisian clandestines in Paris or the struggle against foreign detention centres throughout Europe, or even “international solidarity” when it becomes blackmail.

I’ve seen many comrades give up, or simply drop out because of these mechanisms. This certainly demonstrates a lack of persistence and of will to create the circumstances one wants in their life, and sometimes I hold it against them. But I cannot completely hold it against them the fact that they give up because often the strength and the persistence are on the side of those who hold the power, since in any way that is what one needs to have and keep it.

To tell the truth, I think that I’m not getting much further by discussing about something that we all clearly see inside the movement: the roles, those damn roles. At some point we have all found ourselves confined in roles within our groups. The handyman, the writer, the social butterfly, the technician, the theorist, the idiot, the intelligent one, the one that does layouts, the one that puts up the posters, the graffer, the kamikaze, the paranoid, the shy one, the distracted, the radical, the moderator, the artist, all with a level more or less echoing professionalism. What is really important, is to get out of it.

Nonetheless, I don’t want to deny or level out the differences of everyone, every individual is animated by different tendencies, passions and tastes, but one thing is sure, we don’t have to leave the monopoly of all the respected attributes to one or some individuals inside a group, because it’s the easiest way to create a leader, sometimes even without their consent. And we know, it’s been said over and over a thousand times, there are only masters because there are slaves who obey them.

So we have to distrust within our groups, as well as in the relations between groups, everything that encourages “prestige” or “merit”. The elders are not the most respectable, prison doesn’t make comrades more interesting, the quality of a comrade is not measurable by the number of broken windows… It just isn’t quantifiable in any way. Prestige is hierarchy, and hierarchy is power. We shouldn’t be afraid to expose our fears and doubts, we don’t have to be intimidated by dogmas. It is not because a comrade is better in exposing his certainties rather someone else talks more about his doubts that the former has the truth on his side. First of all because truth doesn’t exist, but also because rhetoric only shows the capacity to persuade and not to convince.

Those who are more used to expose their positions, and here I include myself, have thus a responsibility if they don’t want to take power. Inside the anarchist movement, the mechanisms of intellectual authority have to be fought as much by those who are able to produce it as by those who are able to reproduce it.

An anarchist without the habit of deconstruction


I used to see the tendency of anarchists to be endlessly self-critical as one of the biggest things holding back our "movement". Then I saw "Occupy", and what happens when people attempt to mount a revolution without addressing any of these issues. Now, I see such criticism as probably our biggest strength.

Certainly something like this is mostly true where I live. Concrete suggestions for avoiding it or fixing things, however, are lacking in this peice.

I think he/she was rather asking questions than bringing actual solutions.

What about creating subgroups within your collective? Despots hate subgroups, probably that's what their strongest source of unease.

French anarchists make better lovers and better warriors, experience.

They also are horribly elitist and chauvinistic, to a point of dissing support to some anarchists in prison.

(this last comment was written by me, a French anarcho-troll)

Oh, don't worry, that's not just French anarchists!

*cough* hpwombat *cough*

excellent piece

Maybe somebody could create a PDF booklet? My CPU is down with the FBI right now, but i wanna print and distribute this text.

Abstractions, such as the ones sketched out here, invariably become embodied sooner or later. Unless we are dealing with chickens. Chook, chook, chook...


Sounds like dude could benefit from reading a little Max Stirner.

WTF! ---- Is this some college boy scenario borrowed from a weekend party at the parents holiday house?

"To tell the truth, I think that I’m not getting much further by discussing about something that we all clearly see inside the movement: the roles, those damn roles. At some point we have all found ourselves confined in roles within our groups. The handyman, the writer, the social butterfly, the technician, the theorist, the idiot, the intelligent one, the one that does layouts, the one that puts up the posters, the graffer, the kamikaze, the paranoid, the shy one, the distracted, the radical, the moderator, the artist, all with a level more or less echoing professionalism. What is really important, is to get out of it."

The reality --
The handyman = able to drive 3 inch nails into chipboard to seal windows at the local squat.

The writer = spray paints 'capitalists die' on every wall he finds bare.

The social butterfly = insecure and lonely person who gains self-esteem by offering companionship, unfortunately there is also endless innane conversations and awkward offerings of sexual fulfillment.

The technician -- Rips music and hotwires autos

The theorist -- Endless discussions about hierarchy and class society whilst secretly feeling superior in intelligence and receiving an equally secretive trust fund.

The idiot = someone like me, keeps my mouth shut and breaks things.

The intelligent one = Can recite poetry whilst cooking a feast with scraps from the dumpster.

The one that does layouts = obsessive compulsive.

The one that puts up the posters = frustrated interior decorator.

The graffer = friend to the writer.

The kamikaze = has sex with the idiot.

The paranoid = the sanist person in the whole crew.

The shy one = the undercover cop

The distracted = strung out on meth

The radical = liberal on meth

The moderator = pays the rent

The artist = gay

I would expect more honesty from Non Fides!!!

"The shy one = the undercover cop"

That's baaad! You're terrible to write something like that.

There's tons of reasons why somebody would be shy, especially in a group made of long-established relationships, where the dynamics are overwhelming.

Furthermore, I don't recall legendary undercovers like Mark Kennedy or Brandon Darby of being anywhere near the "shy" guy or girl.

Long-term infiltrators have much better reasons to take a central position of revered militants in a group, rather that shy individuals, who're much easier targets for collective suspicion.

Use yer brains next time, fool.

So your loose lips over the last few years have informed the feds about what sort of body language anarchists look for i.e. militant positive extroverted instigators, right? And so any subsequent tactic by them would, with their usual predictable lack of imagination, do a total backflip toooo,,,,,"a shy fucking not in the face fucking persona so as not to appear too over the top" !!!! WHO'S THE FUCKING MORON NOW? I wouldn't want you as a friend because of your lack of Machiavellian imagination and cunningness!!!I merely have anticipated the new FBI tactic, call it reverse profiling, but I am a rocket scientist, and this shit is soooo fucking predictable! I will restate it--- undercover cops are NOW shy unassuming meak fuckers! Ask Bob Black! FUCK YOU!!!

Yes, go ahead and ask me. That's right, I dare you. I double dare you!

-- Bob Black (pig ffffucker and Shell's Answer Man)

Soooo, I can't believe I'm actually bothering to reply to you, considering your,,,heinous history as,,,. No let's not go there, rather, for some reason in your moralistically justified actions you voided anarchist desire and adopted a statist solution to solving a personal crises. We've all had guns pointed at our heads at one time or rather in our lives, remember, they are only steel tubes, what you do in reaction to a proposition determines your mettle. Sorry Bob, you failed!

I am proud of what I did, and would do it again. Sorry if you think that means I've failed. I call it WINNING.

-- Bob Black (pig fffucker and sanitary napkin dispenser)

Hey kid, if you wanna make a point:

1- Stop taking chemical drugs

2- try to clean up that mess in your head

3- make your sentences intelligible

4- ???

5- Profit!

You're a fucking cop from you condescending attitude, I CAN SAY THE RAIN FALLS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN IN SPAIN better than you fucking can!!! You gonna get rained on hard if you don't get the cop outta your head, ala enema!

Face it: you need "cops" to reinforce your sense of your own importance. Without "cops" everywhere, you are nowhere.

So you ARE A FUCKING COP!!!OMG, I'm actually going to get into a philosophical debate with a cop! DONUTS AND COFFEE PEOPLE!!!
So your proposition you poxy slave is one of an assumed binary dependancy between outlaws and the law, hmmm?

No, you poor bellowing fool: I'm not a cop, just someone who has observed the *obvious* fact that you need the idea that COPS are paying attention to you to feel important and powerful. Without that idea, you *obviously* feel unimportant and weak.

OMG visually your comment looked like a flat ball of dough, thus,'to enlighten you to the nuances of terminology, e.g. teachers are cops, politicians are cops, bank managers are cops, even YOUR MUM AND DAD might be cops!! It seems you missed the nuance, its about consciousness, not uniforms newbie!!

yes, *everyone* is a cop except you, who are a totally free and autonomous individual.

and they're *all* out to get you, even my mum and dad!

I've said for years that undercover agents come in pairs. Either as a gregarious couple or separately with an overt pig to draw attention away from the subtle one. And I'd say they come in all varieties and modes. It's the deep cover you really have to watch out for though.

"The theorist -- Endless discussions about hierarchy and class society whilst secretly feeling superior in intelligence and receiving an equally secretive trust fund."

hahahahaha. NAILED IT

The troll - the one who's not there but makes people in the gang stay for hours on Anews instead of doing anything worthy

The troll's troll = gay

"And we know, it’s been said over and over a thousand times, there are only masters because there are slaves who obey them."

But of course... yet still for many anarchists and wannabes, authority is some kind of institution dependent on defined forms, and even a person. While in reality authority is a RELATION, depending on a negative and positive, on a master and slave, a patriarch and his "children", a dominating male and "his women".

Obedience to authority and its social relation finds many ways to go beyond traditional socio-cultural forms, and this is why I apprehend all those liberals who think that Queer/vegan counterculture is some sort of anarchist struggle. Because manarchists sure know how to disguise their monopoly over a group by hiding their penis under a robe. That's already an old trick, but it still work wonders in some milieus.

Like it or not prestige has been used by lots and lots of highly functional societies, from the most repressive to egalitarian. Prestige is one of the main operative motives that makes anti-capitalist economic activities like the potlach (potluck) work.

Realistically I don't think we can escape or run away from prestige. It seems far too human of a thing. On a more personal level I sometimes feel that trying to vanquish complex dynamics like prestige is a bit of a liberal flattening of the world to "solve" the problems of being human. I think it is more realistic and also more interesting to challenge ourselves to form and moderate prestige, to place it in a healthier context, turning it into something more helpful than not.

What do you think?

I think that it depends on what kind of prestige one (or a group) is willing to honor. There is very little unquestionable prestige. Money certainly doesn't guarantee it (there are super-rich who would be laughed out of some places), nor intelligence (vice-versa), and reputations are shifting. Seems to me there are just certain people, let's cal them 'slave-makers', who have a need to force certain people into a position 'below them', and have very poor manners. I find that more often than not, the most vicious of those are middle class social climbers who have very deluded views about what 'prestige' is, as, in my experience, both the poor and the wealthy (in money or talent, etc) are more likely to have authentic humility, and understand that it's wrong to humiliate and oppress those (at that juncture of time) 'below them'.

Forget about honor or prestige, these old notions and value benchmarks must be dismantled, they are the exact reasons why a new social aesthetic is needed. There should be no prestige, because it introduces the possibility of hierarchical preference, there are no qualitative nuances in judging anyone, there is only fact, and it seems that fact to you has taken a preferential leaning! Sorry.

ok whiner, you're starting to see reality. go ahead and drop out now before you depress yourself even more.

who are you talking to, psychopath?

tell me more about reality. can't wait.

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