A few thoughts on comradeship and friendship

  • Posted on: 5 July 2015
  • By: worker

From Seaweed blog

As I’ve said many times, the enemy does not occupy every inch of our lives. There are many fissures in the dominant reality, and places where the patrols and henchmen are few. So we can, if we choose, as individuals or in groups, take advantage of these weaknesses. We dream, we make love, we play, we fight, we speak our minds, we break, we join indigenous traditionalists in their re-occupation camps, we sabotage, we romance, we learn sensual skills, we withdraw and we attack, we analyze, we laugh, we try, we experiment, etc. In all these areas we experience freedom, possibility, potential, joy and meaning.

The fact is that authoritarian civilization, structurally, is a global grid of institutions, a vast network of impersonal social structures that consists of the inherited capacities of the first priests, aristocrats, bullies and their sycophants and toadies. That is a lot of capacity. However I choose to believe that there probably is a critical mass of ungovernable individuals who could theoretically push back these ideological bases of authoritarianism and thereby claim some space to experience freedom in a much fuller degree (if not in its fullest). If that ever happens, then perhaps the whole nightmare will come to a close because death blows, whether from external punches or internal failures, become more possible when the enemy is weakened.

For some of us this possibility is what makes us keep a foot or an ear or an eye in milieus, even if only to varying degrees throughout our lives. It feels good to know that there are others who share all of the same emotions triggered by my outrage and humiliation stemming from my understanding that we are inmates of an authoritarian social order and extra good to know that some of them have the fighting spirit! When I feel inspired to take direct action or to initiate a project, I draw from this well of potential allies and co-conspirators.

But in terms of my friendships, and I have a few, they tend to be with like-hearted people, not like-minded people. Most of the deeper aspects of my relationships with comrades have withered and dissolved over the decades. It isn’t that a comrade can’t be a true friend or vice versa. But in my experience, sharing a rational perspective with someone isn’t enough of a foundation to build a lasting friendship on. And while my intellect is often stimulated by the milieu, my emotional state often suffers from it. Within the milieu, I am a comrade among comrades, not kin among kin. Anarchist milieus are social/psychological places where it is easy to become one dimensional as beings- demographic scenes where anger is the primary fuel that powers our days, where the main emotional consequence of our powerlessness is brought to the fore: the daily reminder that as inmates of civilization our dignity is under constant abuse and attack. This can lead to a tiresome negativity, defeatism, self-destructive behaviors and a lonely sense of oneness that is the opposite of the fierce ungovernable individual or the embedded individual who feels supported and safe among true kin that I aspire to.

Most of my friendships with comrades ended over political differences: in one sad instance over whether we should support the Nicaraguan Sandinistas or not-I was opposed and he wasn’t. That was it, a five year history of co-operative resistance, mutual aid, building infrastructure for rebellion, laughter, shared creativity, etc., just evaporated. When I look back at this loss of a friend, I wonder whether that was just our individual immaturity. Or is it a way for scenes as entities-in-themselves to constantly rearrange the pack to keep like cards with like cards in order to avoid chaos and self-destruction? Or yet perhaps it is simply because comrades aren't really friends, and there should be no disappointment - milieus are after all just places where people choose to associate based on quite limited affinities. Once those affinities are weakened or become non-existent it makes sense to move on to new comrades.

One of my closest friends of the past 25 years is a born again Christian. Our feelings for each other verge on the gushing. This is partly because we long ago agreed that real friendships suffer or die within the political realm. We share our outlooks, with the deepest honesty and lucidity we can muster, but never try to colonize the other with our beliefs and opinions, no matter how passionately we feel about them. Politics and friendship are just too prone to cancel each other out.
Friendships thrive in some of the same cracks and fissures where the dominant reality is weak; that is primarily in our hearts, where love-making, romance, forgiveness and humility exist, especially the last two. And as most of us have probably come to notice, tolerance and modesty are often viewed as flaws in anarchist milieus where bravado and swagger are pervasive.

Expecting genuine friendships primarily through milieus and scenes can easily lead to disappointment just as often as hoping one’s friends will all enjoy the same authors and share the same opinions will. This doesn’t mean true friendship isn’t possible among comrades or that friends never come to the same conclusions, but generally the words comrade and friend refer to distinctly different relationships. Milieus aren't places where any level of genuine community can be nurtured, they are temporary, fluid social spaces where relationships are based on fleeting affinities largely based within limited and similar demographic groupings.

Comments spurred by Aragorn!'s blog As much as I hate you work is worse



Keep politics and position out of anarchy.

That's … not even close to what you just read but myopic reading-comprehension is the least of your problems.

Still, you're accidentally right that this is good stuff. I've often struggled to articulate this to my friends, why I have an entirely different group of "friends" who could be described as comrades and my reasons for appreciating those people in a very different way, up to and including; not always enjoying their company but still respecting them in a fucked-up sort of way.

It's a bit like the bonds that form between strangers when they're all thrown in to an emergency situation together and a bit like striking up a good conversation in a bar and a few other bizarre social combinations that don't always run smoothly but lead to interesting things.

Hard to describe but ultimately good for me cause it's the exact opposite of the type of alienation that social media encourages, the tendency to only interact with people that you already agree on everything with. No tension, no growth.

My post is more to point out that it resonates with my own views. Being a comrade usually is contingent on the things such as politics and position which renders genuine friendship and concrete relationships secondary.

As usual, I'm changing the subject, because what you're trying to make happen here is boring.

I read Aragorn's blog entry, linked above, and really appreciated it. It's grim, I don't quite share his pessimism, but he's brutally honest and he keeps things in perspective, in a way that is finally really touching. I would love to see more writing like *this* from comrades.

Aragorn's pessimism borders on obnoxious, pompous snark but he remains insightful enough that only 8 out of 10 people want to punch him instead of listen to him. Could be worse.

This may be so, and it isn't the first time I've heard it said, in one form or another. On the other hand, I find those of a similar mind to me are far more likely to offer me acceptance for who and what I am.

If we must separate friendship and comradeship, then I'd say comradeship is far more important. Friendships are a personal, and to some extent, selfish need (though not one we should refrain from indulging in on principle). Comrades help us fight for what needs to be fought for. If I had to choose, I choose the latter.

I figure you don't have to choose one over the other. Better to accept that you're just somebody with more varied reasons to associate with a greater variety of people. Many folks can only bond over music, sex and alcoholism. We can add anarcho-scene-masochism to the mix!

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Enter the code without spaces.