Left Unity Is A Suicide Pact: For An Anarchist Antifascism
In most of our lifetimes, anarchy has never been in as good of a position to start wrecking shop and making marks on the story of the place they call America as right fucking now.
A totalitaritarian nationalist has ascended to power, his rise spurred on by a combination of promises to fix a country in which no one feels they have a say in their futures, and to punish the law-breakers, foreigners, outcasts and heathens (expressed in words that can be compatible with both mainstream center to right sensibilities, as well as a growing wave of ecstatic fascists, depending on how one wants to hear them). In power, he shows that his priorities are far more with intensifying the speed and intensity with which those on the margins are persecuted and beaten down than they are with bringing any sort of better life to the Rust Belt, Appalachia, or the forgotten, so called “real” America. What middling support the new tyrant had on election night against an incarnate symbol of a system that has never given a fuck about anyone who has ever set foot in a Wal Mart or ridden on a public bus is sinking fast, but that significant fraction who were in it for a strongman, cops with gloves off, or ethnic cleansing couldn’t be happier.
While scores of millions are outraged by the new tenant on Pennsylvania Avenue, only a fraction seem to be really mourning the loss of business as usual. Naturally, those voices speak the loudest in the media, and in the clumsy infrastructure of resistance that has popped to fight one new master rather than them all: swearing that this new world is not to be normalized, as if the old “normal” was anything to be celebrated. But most are generally reacting to a new intolerability aimed at their person, their loved ones or their ideals that no party platform has ever delivered on, and many are excited to see anarchists do what we do best: doing shit that needs doing, beholden to no agenda but our own. Burning limos and punching famous fascists are serious crimes in any state, yet these actions have been cheered on by millions who have never set foot in an infoshop and couldn’t pick up Emma Goldman out in a lineup. Anarchists have the benefit of wrecking it in all times, and it is looking to serve us well.
And as always, most are just trying to survive, seeing politics as a storm to weather or avoid, with nothing to offer them but a headache.
All of this isn’t intended to deceive ourselves into thinking the masses (whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean) are on our side and don’t know it yet, just to say that things are moving fast in drastic and terrifying directions, and the soil is uniquely ripe for the ideas and actions of those who have the enemies of authority from the word go, if we can stick to our guns.
And into that mix, comes a monster called “left unity.”
Left unity, at least as I have encountered it, seems to be code for “authoritarian Marxists and anarchists must stick together, cause we both hate liberals and are cool with shooting cops and fascists, or at least joking about it.” I don’t know how it plays out in anarcho-hubs where it seems anarchists can be as open as they can about whatever the differences they have amongst themselves and still find plenty of people to build and/or break with, but in most of the rest of the country and online, this relationship seems to be solidifying as the default. It’s rare to find explicitly “anarchist” or anti state organizations and projects, rather a sea of “anti-capitalist” or “radical left” formulations, where the circle A and the hammer and sickle sit side by side or intertwined as just alternate options, heading in the same direction, the differences more or less irrelevant in the face of a greater enemy. This seems especially true (and to be fair, has been for a while) in anti-fascism.
And yes, the state communists may be reliable to be, or at least talk, militant towards far right forces and the liberal state. They always seem a lot more organized, seem to have plans and histories of winning (and then losing spectacularly, torn down by the very people they claimed to liberate but w/e) Fuck it, plenty of them aren’t bad people, and Marxism has brought some good shit to the table. It can be tempting to find common cause with people who share the same enemies and are resolute in fighting them with us, even grace us with the sweet name of “comrade”, especially in times of rising far right power. But this left unity is a suicide pact that we don’t have to join.
I will leave alone for the most part the horrendous history of cooperation between state communists and anarchists over the last 150 years. This article is being written mostly for those I trust to know that history but if anyone unfamiliar with the history is reading this, it usually involves our kind being mass murdered by the leaders these so called friends put up altars to. No other ideology has killed as many anarchists over the twentieth century, and the treatment for rebellious proletarians and others that have refused to take orders from an absolute state authority has been the same. In 1900, the workers movement and anti-capitalism was demonized as a place for lazy people and dangerous rebels, and potential recruits were scared away from it by fear of chaos and anarchy. A hundred years late, capitalism could make a dishonest but convincing argument for itself as the path of liberty and self determination, their point made by a century of Marxists in power.
But my point isn’t to warn anarchists that working with state communists means they’ll wind up in a gulag, working at the gunpoint of old friends. Anything is possible, but in this country at least, the odds of a Leninist takeover are next to fucking nothing. But every second we try to build false unity with state communists is a second that we can’t be true to our best qualities, qualities that are uniquely useful right now.
We can either fight a rising fascism as a force that believes that individuals know how to run their lives better than institutions, as sworn and weathered enemies of all oppression, or we can fight it with the fans of some of the greatest tyrants of all time, dulling everything about our message that actually appeals to people to focus on the common ground of being sharing and laughing at jokes about dead (capitalist) cops. Catering our message to be compatible with Stalinists means we can no longer be taken seriously as out for liberation.
Just as in the alt right, where a diverse mix of shitty tendencies converged to fight a common enemy, only to have statist neofascists become the main face of the movement, authoritarians trying to follow in the footsteps of proven tyrants tend to rise to the top in unity movements. Gather a slew of anarchists, Leninists and randos that hate cops, racists and bosses under their various flags and logos, and sooner rather than later it becomes an argument with bystanders about whether or not some of the most despotic regimes in history were really all that bad, and whether those they crushed had it coming by not just getting with the program. Anarchists could, in that situation, assert themselves as enemies of all authorities and the heirs of some of the greatest enemies of those states, or we could stand there next to the apologists awkwardly, our hands in our hoodies, lying to ourselves and saying we’re on the same side, all in all. Left unity means a lot of energy wasted rehabilitating the architects of great atrocities that anarchists have stood and fought consistently against (though with a slow and fatal learning curve, to be honest).
All of the time spent building bridges to small handfuls of authoritarian leftists could be spent far more effectively finding comrades that don’t believe that freedom is a bourgeois farce. There has been a growth of interest in state communism over the last couple years, and perhaps some naïve enough to think that it’s not so bad will join us if we make our objections clear and do good work, but they’re not gonna if we delude ourselves and those we speak to into thinking anarchism and a hundred years of bloodthirsty dictatorships have jack shit in common.
When 1984 is back on the bestsellers list because it rings true to the world we live in, it’s a terrible idea for anarchists of all people to be seen as having fuck all to do with the regimes that were the inspiration for that book in the first place! When walls are being built to keep an entire population out why the fuck would we want to be holding a banner with anyone who thinks the Berlin Wall was a good thing? The fascists have always framed their militant and illegal enemies as being just a bunch of “communists”, preferring it be seen as a clash of two totalitarian ideologies than a battle between those that want a world of unlimited possibilities and those that want total control. We must make it clear how wrong they are. Those in charge of the state and the Nazi and alt right reactionary goons want a world of suffocating restriction where everyone’s future is spoken for. We can fight them as the antithesis to all they want, or we can fight with people who want a life just as restricted as part of a left/right beef. Let the authoritarian left find a way to make America want to live in the Soviet Union all by themselves. We’ve got something amazing and intoxicating of our own and we’d be fools to dial it down for anyone.