Tuesday, July 24, 2007

(or Comparing the Anarchist Forums):
Freedom from London England is the oldest running anarchist paper in the world. Founded in 1886 by Kropotkin and friends it has served as the "grand old lady" of the English speaking anarchist movement for most of the time since. Molly has a special soft spot for Freedom as it was the first anarchist publication that she subscribed to way back in the early 70s. In addition to published a paper Freedom Press has done more than any other publisher to produce fine books and pamphlets in the anarchist tradition. Their titles grace libraries across the world, and while they may have been overtaken in volume in recent years by AK Press they are probably more responsible than any other outfit for introducing people to the ideas of anarchism via the public and university libraries.
Molly has watched Freedom change over the years as successive generations come and go. The present editorial collective has certainly done their best to enliven the appearance of the paper via the use of colour and a less "cluttered" layout. They retain some of the best of the "old" Freedom (in whatever incarnation this may be) such as the regular Wildcat cartoons by Donald Roome while introducing many new features such as the 'Anarchist Quiz Book'. The reviews section is quite contemporary and generally avoids the trap of dogmatic concentration on thing only the thoroughly converted would be interested in. The paper concentrates on "news" rather than analysis which may be a drawback as "news" rapidly becomes old if you are only a fortnightly.
Molly is of the opinion that there has to be some happy half way station between "news" and the sort of ill digested buzzwords and rhetoric that graces (disgraces?) far too many anarchist publications(journals of pseudo-intellectualism armed ?), particularly in the USA-bullshit that goes by the name of "theory". She also has to admit that at least some of the articles in each edition achieve this balance. Perhaps Freedom achieves a very reasonable balance given the limitations of print.
The present collective running the show for the past few years are rather stern "class struggle" anarchists, as the typology goes in the UK. This has its good points and its bad points. The good is that it makes them immune to the pathogens in the cesspool of those who want to "deconstruct the hermetical, epistemological and ontological texts in order to transfigure disambiguous contestations with the teleology of neo-primitivism". Yes, boys and girls, all of the words run together in the quotation marks, along with far too many others, are used by those who have only a vague idea of what they mean so that they can appear "superior". Who also don't give a flying fuck about actually achieving something by the way. The people at Freedom actually do care , and they are trying to make their paper accessible to the ordinary person who might actually want to do something rather than find a "meta critique" that gives them an illusion of being "enlightened and superior".
Has Freedom succeeded ? No !. That is one of the bad points of their position. Molly can remember the "good old days" when Freedom had regular "individualist" viewpoints with people like Arthur Moyse and S.E. Parker amongst others as well as the "reformist" views of Colin Ward. Now I will agree that it may be better to avoid entirely the "individualist" viewpoint today as it has been thoroughly corrupted by the American post-leftists exporting their toxic ideological waste across the world. I'm sure that if they can dump their garbage into the minds of a small number of Spaniards despite the presence of a mass anarchist movement there that they can have a much more bad smelling effect in the UK. Yet, I look at Freedom, and it is pretty obvious that they haven't produced a paper that can appeal to the casual unfamiliar browser. Like too much of what we anarchists produce it is preaching to the choir. Yes, they may have a better sense of humour than the anarcho-cultists who scream, yell and posture. But any positive number is, of course, greater than zero. They may have far more accessible language and choice of subject matter, but I still cannot imagine handing out Freedom to the ordinary person who wasn't already interested in anarchism.
The old individualists actually had "grab appeal", perhaps something of a "lost leader" if you will, that could draw in people who were not immediately interested in the concerns of the activists. I realize that these are different times, and because of this I would probably agree with the tack that Freedom has taken. I also realize that Freedom is on the horns of a dilemma that nobody could solve to the liking of everybody. So, I still love them nonetheless.
The Limitations of Print:
But most importantly Freedom is a print publication, a fortnightly with all that that implies. They have yet to initiate an online edition which is a shame. many other anarchist publications are ahead of the grand old lady in this regard. They do, however, post some of their stories on the LibCom.org site, even if they are lost in the maze of news reported there. which brings us to the comparison part of the title above. There are a number of anarchist forums and news feeds active today. All have their good points and their bad points. The most popular one is, of course, the various Indymedia sites. To say that these are plagued by grevious problems understates the case greatly. Most are cursed with an abundance of conspiracy theory nuts(and plain ordinary nuts), anti-semites, Zionist opponents of same and various other pieces of flotsam washed up on the shores of history. Few have fulfilled their potential as an alternative news source for local and regional news. The ainfos site is a great site if you wish raw news items and little else. There actually is a forum for commenting on stories there. at least I think there still is. Molly found it some time ago with dilligent searching. Let me say that it takes some effort to find just as the procedure for posting to that site does. A-infos has the advantage of being a multilingual site, a great advantage from an international perspective. It is, however, a grey text source that usually not only leaves graphics to the reader's imagination but also leaves references to the same imagination unless the posters are diligent enough to include them. A-Infos may be "interactive", but you have to launch a quest for the ring to find out how to do this. A-Infos is long overdue for a makeover.
The Anarckismo site is much easier to navigate and post to. This site is not just strictly "class struggle" but is explicitely platformist in orientation. That's all well and good, and the editors at Anarkismo have hardly been overly strict on this from what I have seen in the past. They actually have sections for 'Other Libertarian Press' seperate from anarchocommunist posts as well as the 'Non-Anarchist Press'. I would hardly call them dogmatic by any definition. Yes, they have dealt with occasional "anarcho-nuts" by barring them in the past, but they are far more open than their opponents give them credit for. Also far more open than their opponents often are(see Infoshop later). Anarkismo is also a multilingual site, though its multilingualism is nowhere as thorough as that of Ainfos. It basically means Spanish and Greek in addition to English, with a smattering of French and German. Anarkismo is also not as up to date as A-Infos which may be understandable as it concentrates more on the analysis and theory aspect than that of news. For daily anarchist news A-Infos is the best. If you are looking for intelligent anarchist comment of a theoretical nature Anarkismo is the place to go. An intelligent adherance to principle with a properly libertarian tolerance. In contrast to.....
The dreaded Infoshop. God, I really don't want to get into this. This is standing and overwhelming proof that there are many different kinds of "intelligence". There is, for instance, intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence. Infoshop is a great example of the first and a sterling example of how the second doesn't connect with the first. The technical design of Infoshop is brilliant (a creation of many years of work). It outshines LibCom.org(see later) in some areas while being pretty well "retarded" in others. It has a very user friendly layout and competes with A-Infos on the daily news front. It doesn't have the depth of LibCom.org for those who want to explore further, but that is simply a function of the fact that the type of "anarchism" that Infoshop plays to is more than slightly juvenile as compared to the sort espoused by A-Infos, Anarkismo and LibCom.org. The article in Freedom that I have recently read ('A Bunch of Dirty LibCommies') quotes one of the members of LibCom.org as characterizing Infoshop as "defining the anarchism-as-a-hobby approach". Molly would go further and be a bit more precise. The owner of Infoshop is a very intelligent man who has an emotional defect. In some ways he has escaped the usual politically correct leftist rhetoric, and this is all to his credit. But he holds to one of the most rigid points of views that I have ever seen. Yes...I can remember a contest on LibCom.org in which entrants were asked to submit the most bizarre reason why they had been banned from Infoshop. The owner of Infoshop is generally quite careful to choose collaborators who either agree with him totally or who can be intimidated. Watching the reasons for his manouevers over the years I would expect to find an utterly immoral manipulator at the centre. No...it's a person who has far less ambition than that, but a person who has the "Stalin in the Soul", someone who cannot abide contradiction.
The basic political "line" of Infoshop shows how any good idea can become a malignant cancer. The line is that anything that styles itself as "anarchism" is good, both the sensible ideas and the silly ones. Anyone who challenges this idea is, at best, subjected to abuse. Usually deleted and banned actually.Note the contest above. Baby-Ass anarcho-terrorism in the USA, for instance, is at the same level (or greater) of deserving of support as attempts to organize mass resistance. Anybody who disagrees will be wiped from the online forum. All that I can say is that I am extremely glad that such a person has limited ambitions. There is a more than slight resmblance to evangelical preachers. And others, of course, who you hope will never achieve power.
Which brings us back to the article in Freedom. LibCom.org is one of the best online anarcho-sites that Molly in her ignorance is familiar with. Aside from the questions relating to the differentiation from the "anarcho-nuts" which the interviewee John Stevens describes as "ideas which we think are counterproductive to building working class power" the interview in Freedom raises many, many, many questions. The idea of "activistism" where people go off half cocked in order to "do something" is one. The connections between a site such as LibCom.org and the general population is another. According to the interview LibCom.org has achieved the sort of balance that Molly has talked about above. This may indeed be easier to achieve on the internet than in a print publication, and Molly has little doubt that the success stories quoted in the interview are true. But as far as they go ? There is little doubt that LibCom.org has room for improvement. Their news section is current but not current enough. Their references for further investigation are beyond anything in the other sources described above. They,however, have a humour quotient of "zero" unless you enter into their forums where they are far better than most other anarchist sources, let alone the general left. If you have spare money to throw around it would much better be spent in supporting the LibCom.org people than some of the other items mentioned above.
So...try out the LibCom.org site. It's well worth the visit.
LibCom.org http://libcom.org/

1 comment:

eugene plawiuk said...

Excellent post thanks.