Sunday, February 17, 2008

While stalking along the internet looking for little mousies to add to her Links sections Molly came upon a pair of truly strange mice, the likes of which she has never seen before. Kerplunk ! Down the rabbit hole she fell into what may be the strangest of all strange lands. Now, after doing this schtick for about 35 years, Molly has come across all sorts of strange hybrids that have attached the name of "anarchism" to their beliefs. A few decades from now it is pretty well certain that other generations will look on our present primitivists with the same quizical sense of amusement that we can look back at the "anarcho-futurists" of early 20th century Russia who determined to "build an anarchist utopia in interplanetary space". Or with less amusement the way we now look at the "Soviet anarchists" who covered their betrayals to Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin with a coat of fluffy theory. Anarchism, after all, is a pretty plastic term, and it can mean many different things, some of them quite contradictory to each other.
But then we find...."Mormon anarchism" ! No, that's not a misnomer nor an insult. Molly found one site, LDS Anarchy, which stands for, you guessed it, Latter Day Saints Anarchy. Yup, brought to you by the same sort of clean cut youngersters who show up at your door at 9:00 am on a Sunday morning, just when you are out of bullets and too hungover to aim anyways. Exploring the site I found that there was a lot on Mormon doctrine and precious little on anarchism, and that the brand of "anarchism" that the author(s) seemed to favour was more anarcho-capitalism than the sort of socialist anarchism that the word has stood for through much of its history. Maybe the author still has intent to present more anarchy in future posts, but what was there seems to be very much of a light snack as opposed to the 12 course meal of Mormonism so far on the table.
A fish of a different colour can be seen at The Mormon Worker, obviously named in imitation of the Christian anarchist 'The Catholic Worker'. The anarchism there is quite obviuos and in the tradition of Christian anarcho-pacifism. Now I know that there are those who deny the Mormons the label of "Christian", especially because of their rather unique position of the Trinity, but the orthodox trinitarian position that most of us learned at an early age is hardly the only one that Christians have adopted in the past or even adopt today. The orthodox are merely the most numerous. The Mormon position of "extended monothelism" in which there are three distinct gods with one will might have been the orthodox one today if then accidents of history had been different. The position of the Mormon Worker is clearly on the socialist side of the anarchist spectrum, just as that of the Catholic Worker and the Jesus Radicals is. What Molly found to be one of the site's most interesting aspects is the name of the author, a professor at Brigham Young University. He is...wait for it... "Warner Woodworth". This may be rather an incomprehensible in-joke to many younger anarchists, but for those of us who have been around for awhile the name Woodworth, as in Fred Woodworth, the publisher of The Match ! and long time hater of all things religious, especially the Mormons, strike us as more than slightly out of place in such company. Would Fred go ballistic or what if he found this coincidence out.
What does Molly think about all this ? Well, I am somewhat taken aback by the strangeness of it, but I guess that it is a tribute to the gradual percolation of anarchist ideas through society that some would try and synthesize these two seemingly incompatible ways of thought. No doubt that there are many similar hybrid memes working their way through other, more orthodox, Christian communities today, and Molly wishes all the best to them. It was only a few decades ago, before Marxism began its process of decomposition, that religious radicals looked more to patch together totalitiarian Marxism and their religion. This new trend is certainly a healthier one.
But I must end on a religious note. Molly falls into one of her ecstatic trances and begins to prophesy. "Lo, and the clouds were opened, and it was Christmas Eve. I did see then, as in a cloud of glory, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and they did open their mouths to sing. And the song that they did sing was 'A Las Barricadas'. Back to Earth with the next post I promise.


eugene plawiuk said...

Rather than Bakunin this is the pacifist anarchism of Tolstoy. So perhaps you title would have been less provocative and shocking and more accurate if you had used Tolstoy in the title..but then you would never have gotten my attention....

mollymew said...

Yes, I believe I mentioned this as per 'The Mormon Worker', as to what tradition these Mormons have picked up on. Still, the title is very good for dramatic speak of drama, I can only hope that an "opening" to the many that are coming to anarchism today, an opening that I approve of, will not result in consequences like those described by Aeschlus, Soiphocles and Euripides. Do we overstep ourselves here and lead to tragic consequences ? The latest Anarcho-Syndicalist Review has a couple of good articles on anarchism and religion. Well worth the pondering.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I appreciate the press.

Grégoire said...

Reconciling Mormonism with the political left is difficult for those who don't know the history of the religious movement. Mormons today are as ready to bury the past on the issue as anyone, so there's some understandable confusion.

Folks in Utah can read up on Orderville. Canadians can look to Mormon social experiments like those in Aetna and Raymond (Alberta), which was the site of some Mormon collective farms. The Mormon example of the theory and practice seems remarkably similar to both the kibbutz and kolkhoz examples.

I'm a secular Mormon, and closer to being red than black, thus I don't pretend to agree with everything published in the Mormon worker. I am glad some Mormons are raising consciousness about social issues, whatever their motivations.