So when I became a radical first I described myself as an anarchist. Eventually some things that bummed me about the anarchist scene pushed me towards a form of libertarian bolshevism. Now I’m spreading my wings/tentacles, opening my mind a bit again, and I’m wondering – maybe I’m already an anarchist? Maybe I’ve actually still been one for the last five years? Help me out here. (Also note I’m not abandoning the label socialist, I’m hoping a person can be both.)
Could we have an anarchism which is not a manic drive to eliminate all rules or functional hierarchies or routines, but instead is a mission to defeat the main ruling class of society, eliminate all oppressions of specific demographics, and to generally create a situation where nobody-is-in-charge-because-everybody-is-in-charge?
Note that I said “functional hierarchies.” There are obviously material and ideological hierarchies in society that I oppose, whether it’s the main hierarchy of ruling-class-over-everyone or the dehumanization of specific groups.
However – THE HORROR – I think it’s okay for a political group to elect a leader (as long as they can be questioned, easily removed, etc). And THAT is the kind of thing I am talking about. Can I really be an anarchist if I hate bosses but believe in realistic organizing methods?
If I am a direct-democratic, anti-capitalist revolutionist who believes in workers’ self-management, huge redistribution of wealth, fighting demographic oppressions, and a healthy distrust of all formal leadership, do I qualify?
WHAT KIND OF ANARCHIST WOULD I BE?
I already know there is some vocabulary within anarchism to describe what I am.
For example, apparently I am a “specifist.” That means I think it’s okay to have groups of people who are explicitly radical, and which disallows people who don’t fit the basic purpose of the group. I think it’s okay to make that rule. Some anarchists would call that oppressive.
I’m class-oriented and labor-oriented, so maybe I’m an “anarcho-syndicalist.” Apparently this doesn’t precisely fit, because I embrace a variety of tactics regarding unions. For example, I think it’s okay to faction-fight within a pre-existing union for improvements, whereas from what I hear the syndicalists think this is a bad idea, and stand for setting up a splinter or competitor union which is radical from the start. Whatever; obviously I’d be some kind of red anarchist.
I am also apparently an “anarcho-collectivist” and not precisely an “anarcho-communist.” Anarcho-communists believe in immediately de-commodifying absolutely everything, from the major banks all the way down to consumer commodities like pencils and oranges. This places a heavy reliance on pure spontaneity, and frankly I don’t yet trust the entire population just as it emerges from capitalism. I think it’s too open to exploitation, attempts by criminal cartels to seize and corner goods, etc.
Apparently “anarcho-collectivists” believe in placing all workplaces under collective ownership, but still requiring people to show up and work to get paid. At first this sounds too similar to the same-old-shit of capitalism, but when you realize that we’ve eliminated the massive profits being skimmed off by private owners (pay hikes all around!), plus instituting workers’ democratic management of the workplace, it’s actually a huge, revolutionary difference.
Do I believe in starving people who refuse to work, even under such improved conditions? No. I just don’t believe in giving them free money to buy cell phones. So maybe I’m a collectivist-communist hybrid.
I also know that I am NOT an “insurrectionist.” I believe in insurrection, but a constant insistence that it should be right this second is stupid. Revolution is a social process, of which insurrection is the climax. I believe in uniting a huge majority around issues that truly affect them, and then convincing that huge majority to batter down the power structure (not the infra-structure!) and build a new arrangement for itself. I believe that every step of that process is revolutionary (including right this second), not just the one day when the Senate gets raided. I believe in social movements, not a few people either breaking windows or trying to become serious terrorists.
“DUDE YOU’RE NOT A TROO ANARCHIST”
There’s a lot of situations in which a person will be called “not a ‘true’ anarchist.” This is what I’m worried about.
For one thing, I’m not really into the obligation to have a weird lifestyle, and I don’t buy into consumption-based politics. I think every commodity is covered in blood, so I’ll enjoy my Gatorade. I think that only certain types of movements have the capability to gain critical mass or physically alter the system, and that fair trade coffee is not one of them. And until then, I think it’s obnoxious to lecture people about how they shop, given that we have so little time and money anyway.
There’s a crimeth.inc-driven “situationism” which seems to imply that a person must be constantly breaking laws and indulging in extreme hedonism in order to be a “troo anarchist.” What if I’m tired from work, which I have to do to live, and I just want to go home and watch TV in between protests? Does that make me a bad person too? Would you place me on the low end of your implied hierarchy of evaluation? (Note that I’m not against counterculture, just against the obligation.)
There also seems to be a marxist-anarchist dividing line on certain tactics and practices. I’m trying to figure out if I just consistently fall on the marxist side or if there are splits within anarchism over these things.
For example, I think the black bloc can be counterproductive. I tend to encourage demonstrations where the largest amount of people would feel safe and welcome. I am also skeptical of the idea that deep down everyone at a demonstration constantly wants to riot and just needs a little boost. There’s a time and place for it, but another problem is that “the bloc” tends to operate on a rogue basis without consulting the groups who set up a protest (say, during the long process of organizing and meetings during which a demonstration is typically planned). Obviously once part of the crowd incites a riot, the police can crack down on everyone. That’s bad for my broad-movement model, because it makes it hard to bring a stroller.
I also am against consensus decision-making. I think simple democracy is good enough, and consensus is so time-consuming as to be unrealistic and repellent to working people who have busy schedules or kids. Simple democracy satisfies my hope of an anarchism which is not purist, but creates a situation of everyone-in-charge.
Seriously, let’s keep in mind – in American society, democracy is actually radical. We don’t have democracy at work. We have hardly any democracy in politics, really effectively none (when’s the last time you actually voted on a policy?). We also don’t have democracy or true democracy in most voluntary organizations, even many progressive organizations. Achieving basic democracy in the USA would itself entail a tremendous revolution.
So what do you think? Can I circle that A? Or am I just an evil Leninist infiltrator?