FRR: Anarchist Projects Under Capitalism

  • Posted on: 6 August 2017
  • By: Dirtroll

Free Radical Radio is back after a brief unplanned break. Today we bring you four recordings of essays out of Anarchy: A Journal Of Desire, Armed issue #64, released at the end of 2007. That and some of my thoughts around it here.

You can find all of the audio here.

These four essays were the reading for one week of the Berkeley Anarchist Study Group, which meets every Tuesday, 8pm at The Long Haul in Berkeley (come!). Most of us here at Free Radical Radio have gone to the group a number of times, picking fights and making friends.

The four essays are:
* To Dance With The Devil - Aragorn
* Capitalism means never having to say you’re sorry - Dot Matrix
* Thinking from the Outside: Avoiding Recuperation - Andy Robinson
* Proudhon’s Ghost: petit-bourgeois anarchism, anarchist businesses, and the politics of effectiveness - Lawrence Jarach

All four revolve around the topic of modern anarchists doing anarchisty things within capitalism. It teases out the contradictions and tradeoffs involved. This brings up a number of questions for me:
- What are the tradeoffs associated with selling out in various ways?
- What is and isn't an anarchist project?
- How does one make a successful anarchist project?
- What are different ways to think about success other than effectiveness in
capitalist terms (big numbers, constant growth, measurable metrics)?
- What is the role of property in anarchist projects?

Personally, the coolest anarchist projects I've experienced have revolved around a consistent physical space. In my life this has looked like a publishing project out of a home, a mostly-legal punk house, and the reading group at the long haul. Each of these have benefited from having the space legally recognized - it allows them to be stable and persist over long periods of time in a way unlike illegal spaces like squats. Having a consistent place where people are consistently bumping into each other helps facilitate close relationships and creates connections that allow for anarchist projects to germinate outside of that initial physical environment. The reboot of Free Radical Radio really is a result of relationships seeded or nurtured by the reading group.

However, having these physical spaces comes at a cost. First and foremost it is a compromise of our values. Owning and renting in effect is accepting normal property relations, and makes it harder for us to have a posture and habit of attack and confrontation of the state, since we have something they recognize that we'd like them to continue recognizing: our legitimacy in use of that space.

A second cost of these physical spaces is the cost: the money. Someone needs to have enough money to pay the landlord or buy the property and keep up with taxes/mortgage/bills. There seem to be two styles of how people pay for anarchist spaces:
1. An individual or small group funds it out of their own pocket, through
inheritance, wage slavery, illegalism, or a combination.
2. The project (at least attempts) to be self-sufficient, i.e. collects the
money from other people as a part of the project, all the time, or in
fundraising bursts.

There are good things and bad things about each of these. Thusfar I've talked about physical spaces, but the ideas are very similar for virtual anarchist spaces, or really any project involving a bit of money. I'll pivot to talking about those to explore these tradeoffs.

Free Radical Radio costs about $40/year for the server, $15/year for the domain name, $150 each for a decent microphone in a few cities, the soundproofing we dumpstered from a local bakery, and the desk+chairs we got free off craigslist. We work normal ass jobs to pay for it with our own money.

In a sense, this allows us to push the dirt out of the project and into our personal lives. The content can stay pure - we can record whatever we like, and no one has the power to stop us. Our idea of what success for the project means is also in our control. For me personally, it's to engage with the content I'm recording in a deeper way (success!), start more interesting conversations around the content (failure!), and have a creative/playful outlet (success!). Pushing that dirt into our personal lives only hurts the project itself in that we have less time and energy than we want to commit to it.

Now we can oppose that model of funding with a project that takes the other approach: making the project self-sufficient. IGD is also a virtual space that produces and publishes shortish content on a website, and it appears that they are funded by donation or "donation" (where you "donate" and they send you things, also known as a commodity transaction). By making this choice, what dirt are they bringing into the project? First, in order to continue the project, they need to make sure that income stream continues to flow. It's a small step from that realization to all of the standard needs of a non-profit or a business. The content has to appeal to a wide audience instead of just anarchists, or just their friends, or even just them. The site design may surrounded the content with assertions of self-importance accompanied by requests for money because the survival of the project depends on that. They need good branding, advertisement, and public relations. They may, against their values as anti-capitalists, fall to the obvious incentives to partner with other businesses that facilitate that income stream, like Patreon, where they wanted $3,000-$5,000 per month (unclear for what, for the cause?).

Whatever other goals one has for a project can be put in danger of being overshadowed by this logistical need for money, so tread carefully and self-critically!

Lastly, to add one more thing to consider when listening to these essays: consider AK Press. Explicitly or not so explicitly, these essays talk about the centralizing and less-than-anarchist nature of AK press in 2007. It's been 10 years since these essays were written. How has anarchist publishing changed since then? What's better now? What's worse now?

It sucks living in capitalism, but the options seem to be living in it or dying. If we choose life, we have to make compromises, and where we make them can matter! Choose wisely, but keep exploring!

-- Dirtroll



It seems you have a knack for asking great questions, Dirtroll. It hides a lot of knowledge that has gone into them. I enjoy reading your article and might offer to some criteria for anarchist projects.

1. contributes to direct democracy and participation of people in their own quality of life and how they govern themselves. Violates against autocratic, hierarchical forms of leadership.
2. contributes to labor ownership and management of production, both at the macro level (such as taking over of factories) and at the micro-level (such as renewal of time-shared markets, decapitalized economies, etc.).
3. contributes to political and economic autonomy in person as well as autonomy of local neighborhoods and communities, including the elimination of titles/deeds, royalties, claims of ownership or wanton destruction for profit of any aspect of nature shared by humans and the environment, such as land, water, air, minerals/ etc.
4. contributes to social dignity and respect which value equality, egality and fraternity, mutual assistance, mutual, direct action and the like. Violates against a culture of obedience and national unity/repressing personal needs for the sake of the nation. Violates against incarceration and promotes instead a system of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights by the mutual interest of the people in a neighborhood.

I don't know: What truly important criteria should be on our short list.

Yep, funding such as IGD did leads to where many have ended up: a message being so watered down to become bland. The project becomes the focus and not the message. Some excellent points and reminders in this article. And yes, IGD, let's have a breakdown of your costs because I, for one, was sceptical as to why money was so necessary to you. FRR has provided the cost of setting up a podcast which includes having guests on the show. I know other podcasts simply use Skype or Apple's FT. I knew people who did punk zines (circa 1979) and it was DIY. The integrity and control of the message lay in DIY. IGD appear to 'selling' their message like any other commodity? Also, many 'message' projects now offer members privileged (money upfront) info about their message? Says it all really. What benefit and who benefits from such as scheme, certainly not the message! Let's see where Rev Left Radio go as they 'grow their message' via donations and Patreon.
'Anarchy in the UK, Coming to your screen some day'

shout out to ajoda website!!!

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