Sunday, April 22, 2007

Before Molly leaves the wild and woolly world of anarchism to blog on other matters she just has to (just,just,just,just has to ) comment on how much things have changed from the time in the early 70s when she first became an anarchist. At that time the "left" beyond social democracy and the remains of the Communist Party was heavily dominated by a rather mindless form of Maoism that the New Left had drifted into because of its own incoherence. Trots there were aplenty too for those who had morality slightly above that of a venomous lizard. Anarchists were, to say the least, rather sparse on the ground. This changed as time went on, particularly as the new youth subculture "punk" adopted anarchism as part of its trappings. As the weary hand of time wiped more months and years away the punks "grew up" and became the activists who dominate the "anarchist scene" today. Anarchism experienced a slow and steady growth from the 1960s onward, a gradually upward sloping line that is obscured by the desire of many present day anarchists to see some sudden "burst" that was connected only with their own personal acceptance of anarchism. In truth there was no "burst". those of us who had been around long enough were pleased beyond measure with the growth of anarchism before Seattle 1999, and we saw no sudden "flocking of the masses to the black flag" because of those events. It was merely the time when a long developing plant burst the "soil" of public awareness and represented no new stupendous growth.
That is what I find so amazing and also encouraging about anarchism today. To all intents and purposes anarchism is the left of today , the left beyond social democracy. The old Communist Parties are shells of their former selves, and the best they can do is try and pretend that they are more consistent social democrats than the real ones. with more than a little bad faith as they retain their totalitarian methods of organization even as they advance a "political program" that is little more than statism in retreat. Trotskyism today is a bad joke, only viable in France, Britain and the USA- where its adherents retain the skills gained by the tactic of "entrism" to manipulate larger organizations but have nothing to offer as a "program" to ordinary people. Maoism continues to exist as something more akin to religious cults rather than political parties, and its function today has been subsumed by anarchist spin-offs such as primitivism and "post leftism" who trumpet their ideology of "purity" (sic) from the sidelines of a growing anarchist movement. Yes, anarchism has absorbed many of the bad habits of the of New Left. The ideological purism and detachment from reality of primitivism and post leftism is only one example. There are still those amongst the anarchists who wish to push identity politics to its logical extreme of reducing politics to a cultish collection of guilt mongering meetings.
But all that being said the modern anarchist movement is far healthier than the New Left was in its prime. Cultish behavior and beliefs are very much on the margin for the new and less ideological anarchists, and when they do occur they are often balanced by a much more profound tendency in the opposite direction- to accept very minor reforms as "evidence" of the reformability of present society and to refuse to consider a long term strategy for real reform. Issue hopping in other words.
Nowadays anarchism is pretty well "the only game in town" vis-a-vis more serious left wing opposition to the present economy and state. I see evidence of this in my failed attempt to gather news about upcoming anarchist events. I didn't even get to the west coast of Canada, and my snippets about other countries were sparse to say the least. Back in the early 70s the article that I posted earlier on this blog would have been the same length for all anarchist events for the upcoming year with a complete search. My search was definitely not complete. Anarchism has now grown beyond the capacity of any one individual to even keep track of its events. To me this is very encouraging news.


Larry Gambone said...

As an early member of the post-60's anarchists I agree with Molly's statement about anarchism today and find it all very heartening. But for most of those years, I sure didn't feel that way as anarchism was restricted to a fring of the fringe.

jo said...

I have felt that myself, Anarchism got really bad press for a long time, I think that having unrestricted/uncensored information available thru the internet has helped alot with its growth in recent times.

mollymew said...

I guess it depends upon where you live and what you've seen. I moved from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg about 24 years ago. Back there and then it took a lot of "wheel spinning" to get anything "anarchistic" going at all. Certainly in Saskatoon we had close to 40 people involved with various anarchist activities, from anti-election campaigns, to support for Poland's Solidarnosc (interesting story there about myself and the president of the Saskatoon LabourCouncil trading death threats in a hallway, as well us "passing" an "identity check" by same as we were not associated with their enemies of the hour, as well as us getting "the truth" out of the Solnidarnosc Canadian rep in a private meeting aboutwhat the CLC was doing) to publication of a newspaper and other literature activities.
I certainly observed a slow growth of sympathy in Saskatchewan in my years there, but it wasn't until I moved to Winnipeg that I saw an "anarchist scene" that wasn't the product of one small group of activists but was rather dispersed amongst various groups. This "scene" gradually grew, and today it might be said that it is the ONLY way that any number of young people enter radical politics here. There is a tiny Trot group here, and the remnants of the CPC-ML along with a small number of kooks associated with another Maoist sect, but all these factors are VERY minor. The ancient New-Lefties are more than slightly desperate to recruit anarchists to their ranks, but very few are biting at their bait. Here in Winnipeg I saw a slow and gradual growth, and as best as I can determine it was the same elsewhere.
My opinion is that since the demise of Maoism and the later collapse of the Soviet Empire that anarchism has been "the game in town" for at least two decades. Of course it depends upon where you live as to when Maoism collapsed. Some localities held out much longer than others, Quebec in particular. But.....I would say that it is at least two decades since anarchism in general has ceased to "be a wart on the ass of the commies who were in turn a wart on the ass of the social democrats". My own impression is of an almost smooth growth over the last 4 decades. I can't "prove" this for obvious reasons. It's what I call a "clinical impression without scientific backing" in my regular work life. Sorta like the answer to the question "How long will my cat live ?". I might be wrong here as all that I can judge for other places is in what I read.