Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The following is a reprint from the New Zealand Blog 'Anarchafairy' mentioned previously. as the author mentions the ideology of "primitivism" hardly translates outside of North America and, in particular, its birthplace the USA. While Molly may disagree with the author saying that this ideology stands in the tradition of American individualism (it actually stands much more firmly in the tradition of American millenarian religious cultism) what he says is very perceptive. It should be seen as the statement of the classic "unbiased outside observer". Anyways here it is:

"I just received a copy of Green Anarchy(Issue 23) today- an American "anti-civ" journal.
Now, I must admit before going any further that I used to call myself something of an anarcho-primitivist. The images of going back to a simpler, more peaceful, "wild" undomesticated existence really did something for me, and in many ways they still do. But I think anti-civ anarchists have really lost the plot, and I'm really not surprised that this is a current largely confined to the US (and a little to Britain). (1)
Anti-civ anarchists are strongly influenced by insurrectionism(2), though they probably don't know it as they religiously claim to be "anti-ideology" This critique of insurrectionalism applies very well to the anti-civ crew. It seems that the anti-civ fetish with small-scale militant direct action, their perceived(REAL!-Molly Note) social isolation and their perceived backwardness of the majority of people are very much a reflexion of their desire for radical social change in the face of ecological destruction but the lack of mass struggle. I can understand their rejection of mass organization, but not their rejection of mass movements. They seem to be very much trapped in the American individualist tradition and quite out of touch with popular struggles in North America (!!!!!!-Molly)(excepting their fetishizing of indigenous struggle...they're wild peoples, you see). In fact, they remind me of the desperation of militant groups in 1970s US, the Weather Underground, who became more militant the more apathetic the general population became.(3)
The other major point of critique has to be questioning exactly what the fuck "civilization" is. Having read a lot of this, I know that the definitions(4) are all over the place. It seems bizarre to reify such a vacuous concept and create a whole political ideology seeking its abolition. They claim they seek the end of domestication, while "leftist" anarchists merely seek the destruction of the State and capitalism. What do they mean by domestication ? Well, at times it refers to human domestication, at other times it refers to animal domestication and at other times to all forms of domestication of life, including plants. Surely the first is the aim of any anarchist project, and the second the aim of any anarchist project with the slightest of an animal-lib tinge. The third is more bizarre, and obviously aims for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle simply not possible in a lot of countries (NZ included) (5) and not possible with current population levels. Their reasoning for it is based in Marxism, and some recent (6) , rather weak anthropological studies that point to the domestication of plants and the resulting surplus as the seed of domination. This fails to take into account all the anthropological evidence, from the likes of David Graeber, that show that hunter-gatherer societies come in both authoritarian and and non-authoritarian varieties, as do horticultural societies. See Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology for more on this(he takes a paricularly vicious swipe at John Zerzan(7) ).
John Zerzan, while were on the topic, also seeks as part of his abolition of civilization the abolition of time, language and symbolic thinking. Go figure. Thankfully most of the anti-civ people haven't taken this on board.
Anti-civ anarchists go to great lengths to characterize other anarchists as latent authoritarians, going so far as to claim that after our revolution 99% of social life will be the same. Well I certainly hope not. I would imagine the destruction of the State, capitalist relations, patriarchy, ecological domination, etc. would mean quite a major shift i daily life for most people.

Molly Notes:
1)I've personally observed and read about a very small number of Spanish and Italian adherents to this American export, though in both countries their influence on the much larger anarchist movements there is virtually nil.
2)Very true, sometimes the "personnel" is virtually interchangeable. Cheering on mindless militancy that can easily veer into terrorism is part and parcel of the American anti-civ fad.
3)One hopes that the analogy only holds for that part of American anarchism that is romantically attached to "summit-hopping" and perpetually losing street battles against the police. The phenomenon of 'Weatherman' was a symptom of a movement in terminal decline. One hopes that present day NA anarchism has grown up and moved on to better things rather than being hooked into nostalgia for the "glories" of the recent past.
4)So are the definitions of such things as "technology" in the wordplay that passes for "theory" in such circles.
5)Speaking from Canada it is still possible for a small number of people to live as "hunter-gatherers" here and, to a lesser degree, in the USA. What is actually astonishing if you stop and think about it is that a few people do indeed make such an attempt, but none ie exactly zero of the ideologues of primitivism have ever been known to do such a thing. An ideology that is never practiced by its proponents while others do make the attempt to live according to the dictates without professing the ideology. There is something more than slightly smelly here.
The high priests of primitivism in the USA have declared "ex-cathedra" that the accusation of "hypocrisy" is not applicable, but they have never said why it is not except for the fact that they have said it.
6)Actually the most cited anthropological studies amongst the primitivist cult are about 40 years old and have been well debunked decades ago. The whole matter of cultural materialism and the concept of "surplus" is not restricted to Marxism and is a matter of great dispute amongst the legitimate study of anthropology outside of cultism.
7)Zerzan may not be the total dip that his Papal pronouncements make him out to be. After all he acquires both fame and money from his bullshit, an accomplishment ! for somebody who has never acquired a useful skill to make his living in the real world. Those who take his nonsense as gospel, however, are quite likely to end up serving lengthy prison terms...but the Pope keeps on getting paid for interviews. In a low reptilian way he's a lot smarter than his followers. But never let us forget that the accusation of "hypocrisy" doesn't apply to these "cosmonauts of critique". They say so themselves.

1 comment:

anarchafairy said...

Hey Molly... just letting you know that I'm deleting my blogspot blog for good and finishing the move over to wordpress ( ... in case you want to update your blogroll. :)