Friday, July 11, 2008

This series of posts has been inspired by the recent lack of interest in The Carnival of Anarchy, an attempt at a "blog carnival" dealing with this, that and the other thing revolving around the subject of anarchism. This first installment will hardly be applicable to the CoA, but others in the future may be.

Molly has been playing this game since the early 70s, and she has certainly seen her share of "ex-anarchists". Most of these can be put into the "bought-off" slot. It is entirely possible that anarchism is very much like Trotskyism and the Jehovah's Witnesses in that there are far more ex-members of these two groups than there are present members(by perhaps a factor of 10 to 1 at any given time), and this has been true for many decades. It is also possible that the basic outflow is the same. In the case of the Trots this is obviously true as the "general left" affords infinitely more career possibilities, whether they be in social democracy, the unions, the NGOs or whatever, than Leninist sectarianism offers. There is also little-or none- barrier to a Trot becoming an ex-Trot and still believing that he or she hasn't changed his or her beliefs at all. One would assume that there should be a "crisis of conscience" when anarchists get bought off in this manner, but our present situation is quite different from that when Molly first became an anarchist back in the Mesozoic. The advantage that anarchism has gained by basically becoming the ultra-left has been bought at the cost of the dilution of what anarchism means. It is entirely possible that an anarchist could as easily become a functionary today as Trots have always been able to do. But there are worse things to become than a sell-out.

The grossest example of this was perhaps provided by the disintegration of the late (and unlamented-in Molly's view) Love and Rage Federation. The decision to "sell out" is actually an act of intelligence, with a rational calculation of self interest as its basis. The decision to go from one leftist sectarian organization to another of considerably less intelligence, moral rectitude, aesthetic appeal, sophistication, etc. is another matter entirely. This is neither rational nor intelligent. In particular it depends upon a lack of what Molly styles as "emotional intelligence" which is something quite separate from "book-learning" (often quite superficial amongst leftists) or even common sense(though a good modicum of common sense should provide a barrier to such religious impulses). It has to be admitted that many of the people who initially joined Love and Rage were quite juvenile to begin with, and that set the stage for the organization's eventual disintegration. The "left" that they couldn't see was different from anarchism was far different from the left of our day. The Maoist illusions, particularly in the USA, were far more prevalent than they are today, and they were reinforced by a sort of cultish guilt-mongering that, while it still exists today-once more especially in the USA-is far weaker today. The brutish decision of some of the split-offs from Love and Rage to adopt neo-Maoism as an ideology or to hanker after a cultish religion of "race-politics" would hardly be repeated today except in the worst shadowy corners of modern anarchism. The majority are now immune to such bizarre delusions, because of the march of history.

Anarchism has certainly produced its own share of monsters over its history, but I cannot think of anything so ultimately silly as what some of Love and Rage became. Other examples such as the advocacy of Spaniards such as Pestaña with his Syndicalist Party and Garcia Oliver's eventual conversion to conspiratorial quasi-Leninist politics at least preserved some connection to reality. Going from anarchism to Maoism is no such thing. One can be comforted that such stillbirths are very much dependent upon their national milieu, and they will hardly be common outside of the USA.

So...stick with us as we explore the question of "why anarchist projects fail" in greater length in future posts.

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