ANARCHY IN OTTAWA:
Molly was intrigued by a recent item on A-Infos, the online anarchist news service (see our Links section) listing "Groups represented at 'Building the Ottawa Anarchist Movement meeting on Sunday, April 1". The list goes on for 23 items and represent a diverse and vibrant movement. Now Molly is the most distant thing from a "triumphalist", and she is as well aware as any cynic of the reality of "phantom groups" and "multiple memberships". This phenomenon is hardly restricted to fringe political groups, though various Leninist sects have raised this trick of illusion to a high art form. More mainstream organizations engage in this slight of hand all the time. As a for instance the National Action Committee on the Status of Women claims a huge membership, but those who actually care (or even know they are claimed members) without collecting a paycheck dependent on government largess to the NACSW are not in the tens of thousands, nor the tens of hundreds but in the simple tens at best.
All that being said the groups listed have no appearance of being "phantom". They actually exist and do something. Cross membership there may be, but even allowing for this there are a large number of people in Ottawa willing to claim the anarchist label. They range from groups such as the Ottawa IWW, Ottawa Indymedia, The Road Network, Ottawa Earth First, the Ottawa Infoshop Exile Books, Rock and Roll Revival, and The Electric Gallery through other groups not reachable via the internet such as the Anarchist U Free School, the Student Coalition Against War, the Sierra Youth Coalition, the Ottawa Panhandlers Union, the Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop-in Centre, the Anarchist Discussion Group and many others. Anyone interested can probably access the complete list at http://www.ainfos.ca/ainfos03079,html .
One could always say that a "wish list" would be even more "inclusive" . No larger union organizations are present. No neighbourhood associations have declared themselves sympathetic. No co-ops beyond the "arts scene" seem to be there. No religious communities have declared themselves sympathetic. But Molly can remember the time in the 60s,70s and even 80s when any city in Canada outside of Montreal and Vancouver having more than 23 declared anarchist individuals would qualify it as a "hotbed of anarchism". Let alone 23 anarchist organizations/projects !!!!!!!
We've come a long way baby ! What the above list shows is that anarchism, even in as inhospitable a terrain as the Capital of Canada (which has no other reason for existing, an artificial city with one main industry-government) has begun to mature and engage in practical projects that are long term and less flashy than the "rent-a-riot" travelling protest that took centre stage a few years ago. Look out Ottawa, there's an enemy in your very heart.
If anarchism hopes to continue the sort of growth that it has seen in the last few decades it has to acknowledge the necessity of abandoning the flashy (the leftist spectacle of fighting the cops which is far less successful than any other spectacle offered by other players in society) and concentrating on small and practical projects. It also has to avoid the "in-group" illusion of delusional self importance just because it has reached the level where it "seems" that one can live an "anarchic life" within what is still a very restricted subculture. Molly offers the following "acid-test". When these gatherings contain the sort of groups that she has mentioned above AND when things like "Baptists for Libertarian Socialism" won't seem like unicorns then and only then will the near future possibility of a libertarian society be likely.