Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Every once in awhile I come across the opinion that "anarchism is declining". Usually this is little more than a statement that that, for the individual writer, anarchism is less and less relevant in their personal life and that they believe in it less and less. Considering what sort of 'anarchism" is often offered as a model, particularly in the USA, this may be a very good thing. It is sort of like recovering from a belief in the most primitive of religious fundamentalisms.
But the opinion is often set forth by those who have a vested interest in maintaining such primitive beliefs, with all the gnashing of teeth that would be expected. Molly's own opinion, for what it is worth:
###YES, some "anarchisms" are indeed declining. Primitivism and post leftism are the primary examples. In terms of natural selection such futile pathways of thought will either inevitably decline to nothingness or will become fossilized as cults. The fossilization process is already well advanced in some cases. Mindless activism is also in decline, even amongst those who promote aspects of it. To say the least travelling across half a continent to provide 1/10,000th of the nuisance to a police force that local gangs provide is NOT a "revolutionary strategy". It is ego-boo plain and simple.
###AT THE SAME TIME more realistic anarchist strategies are growing by "leaps and bounds", if you will excuse an overstatement. Working within unions and community associations is the way that more and more anarchists decide to carry their ideals as they become older. Even the more "ideologically bent" "primitivists" eventually adjust their ideology to community reality unless they are into comic-book pseudo terrorism. When they come down to having to live in a human community they actually CAN make good contributions, and they often do.
###Molly thinks that anarchism is GROWING today, not declining. The difference is that certain juvenile expressions of anarchism are becoming less common at the same time as more mature and effective expressions are becoming MORE common. What Molly wants to see is the fastest possible transition that can be achieved to effectiveness. Hence her opposition to some anarchists who imagine that each and every thing that claims the "a-word" is equally valuable. Such a view aims to delay the transition to an real and effective anarchism for as long as possible. Mostly this desire is unconscious and merely stupid. In rare cases, however, it is quite deliberate, for the personal interests of the advocate. Molly intends to stand against the latter to the best of her ability.
To express your own opinion please go to our sister site Molly's Polls. All those who want to hiss and spit are welcome to do it here at this site.


Anonymous said...

I'm fairly new to anarchism, but it does seem self evident to me that those practices you suggest are increasing are far more likely to achieve change.

It saddens me to see (self defined) anarchists revelling in violence and destruction - how is that going to help establish a free and voluntary society? Surely it will only further the negative stereotypes of anarchism (which put me off the concept for many years) and alienate the very people we need to support anarchism (that is the ordinary people who suffer under the oppression of the state, but who don't realise it).

Anonymous said...

"Primitivism and post leftism are the primary examples. In terms of natural selection such futile pathways of thought will either inevitably decline to nothingness or will become fossilized as cults."

I've said much the same myself recently. Reality is the best guide -- those tendencies which are practical will flourish, those which spend all their time attacking those who do something (for being "leftists" or whatever) will decline.

Anarchism, I have also said, will grow when people have a practical outlet for applying our ideas. Without self-activity, it will decline. Luckily more and more anarchists are seeking out practical activities these days.

So, I'm optimistic.

An Anarchist FAQ

Anonymous said...

Oh, I've just noticed you link to my old website. That is no longer being updated, the new site is:


I'm slowly moving the old material across, and posting new articles. Also, I have a blog now:


Nice blog, btw -- I like the polls!

An Anarchist FAQ

Anonymous said...

Hey Molly, off topic but I don't know where to put it...

You should check this out and maybe blog it!


rsrcher said...

What Molly wants to see is the fastest possible transition that can be achieved to effectiveness. Hence her opposition to some anarchists who imagine that each and every thing that claims the "a-word" is equally valuable. Such a view aims to delay the transition to an real and effective anarchism for as long as possible. Mostly this desire is unconscious and merely stupid. In rare cases, however, it is quite deliberate, for the personal interests of the advocate.

Certainly it is difficult to identify any meaningful set of political ideas (anrchist or otherwise) that holds that all strains that claim a common label are equally valuable. And I could hardly disagree with the notion that direct community involvement and efforts to radicalize and engage union struggles are helpful. The claim that

"Such a view aims to delay the transition to an real and effective anarchism for as long as possible [and that] Mostly this desire is unconscious and merely stupid."

is perhaps less helpful, though I'm sure it is borne of tremendous frustration - likely justified - with particular reference to some antagonistic types (you mention primitivists and post-leftists, summit-hoppers and make reference to issues of violence). On the other hand, the kind of critique here, about 'reality' and the quickest route to success is one I'm very familiar with from some who care to slag the Food Not Bombs people, those who conduct occupations, those who set up communal living arrangements and social centers - and who may have some affinities to no-work or green anarchisms, or otherwise get labeled as 'lifestylers.' Yet, in many cases, a lot of these people - despite getting flak - do very concrete community work related to housing, copwatch, legal assistance, food proivision, and publicizing (in many cases without recourse to violence or plane tickets) particular issues and possibilities for resistance...

I'm thinking for example of some of the critiques I've heard from Anarchist-Communists in North America, and discussions I've had regarding, say, some of the occupation efforts in Greece that try to keep up a particular spirit located in the December revolt and its aftermath, such as this recent effort:


I really like the blog (very prolific!), and am certainly sympathetic to the idea that anarchists (whatever they call themselves otherwise) actually need to do something practical, local and less inclined to alienate the large part of the population...I was wondering if you could speak to this and maybe clarify your position with regard to these kinds of issues...

Larry Gambone said...

Like Molly, I try to keep on top of things in the global anarchist movement. As best as I can, I should add, as the movement is so wide-spread doing so would be a full time job. As for its "decline", I think not, the serious movements and groups seem to be getting larger and more numerous in fact. Another factor not mentioned is the spread of semi-anarchism - people who adopt some but not all of our program. Every day I find more of these - people now promoting worker coops, self management, localism, neighborhood councils etc.

mollymew said...

The one off-topic item referred to is the recent dustup between a small group of Nazis and a much larger group of anti-racists in Calgary.
I'll change your website link tomorrow Iain.
Total agreement with Larry about the growing popularity of anarchist tactics amongst non-anarchists. that is even more hopeful than the growth of the anarchist movement itself.
I'll get into the other comment tomorrow as it is almost half past pumpkin time and my glass slippers have fallen off. Til then.

mollymew said...

Now to the meat of the subject:
I actually don't find it hard at all to "identify any meaningful set of political ideas(anarchist or otherwise) that holds that all strains that claim a common label are equally valuable". Look carefully at what is NOT included in the rather extensive list of links on this blog. Do you see which more or less major anarchist news site that thinks that a broken window in Wobegone Nebraska or the trials of an idiotic juvenile would-be terrorist is of equal value to a mass strike(usually much more if you were to add up the word count) is NOT included? Aside from rejecting so-called "anarcho-capitalism" said site makes a very determined effort to try and cover up the differences between various approaches to anarchism, with, of course, as much propaganda as is possible for the sort of anarchism that the owner of the site favours. Guess which site ?
The sort of whine of "inclusion" is actually quite common amomgst primitivists and post-leftists today, as they decline in influence. The irony is that they inevitably started out as "attack machines" against other forms of anarchism. They become mortally offended when others respond in kind, and they are especially offended when their influence is declining. My heart bleeds.
But to get beyond the particular, I'd like you to consider the rhetoric of "diversity of tactics" that is so common amongst a subset of anarchists today. To say the least this is counterproductive simply and plainly because the mini rent-a-riots are much more ridiculous than threatening to any power that is. If this is NOT attempting to stifle criticism of certain views and actions, by a rhetorical trick, than I don't know what would qualify as such.
Back when I was young we had the police-provokers as well, except in those days they were the Communist Party of Canada-Marxist Leninist. Like too many anarchists today they were more than happy-thrilled actually!!!!!- to draw police violence on others by attacking and rapidly retreating. But at least, to their credit, they didn't cover up their actions by such rhetoric as "a diversity of tactics". In any case nobody would have listened to them if they had tried to use such excuses. Most larger groups put together goon squads to deal with them BEFORE they reduced protests to police riots.
Sooner or later a movement has to grow up. My major beefs are with pretending to be some sort of grand "revolutionary" movement by set piece battles with the police in which the participants are ALWAYS-I MEAN IT 100%- defeated in the end. This is NOT any sort of way to ANY social change. It is the stuff of comedy routines. The same goes for the candyass terrorism of those who imagine that commiting arson for MINOR causes (I mean it-minor)is anything but a demonstration of personal psychology and group think.
OK, that's put down as plainly and provocatedly as I can. There are, however, other things that you mentioned that deserve further discussion, and I'll get to them in a future comment. I am not actually as far away from what you say there as you may imagine.
Til then,

rsrcher said...

Fair enough...it's fairly clear that infoshop.org and Anarchy: A journal of desire armed are among the deliberately unlinked, and I can understand your reasoning. I tend to think that the former, at least, provides a lot of good info and hosts many intelligent discussions - that the excess (or lack) of the anarcho-primitivists and the less helpful post-leftists and 'riot-porn' direct-actionists can be filtered out (and sometimes pondered for a certain kind of insight, though perhaps more often not) by intelligent readers. It is sometimes a little much, and in the case of the latter, I admit that the Bob Black/AK press vitriol and some of the 'sectarianism' talk after AK blacklisted the mag do seem to speak to exactly what you're talking about in terms of equal valuation for everything with the label (and to the 'attack machine' anarchisms getting defensive). I agree that we certainly aren't obliged to value, link, or otherwise concern ourselves (except perhaps critically) with ideas and perspectives we find unhelpful and troublesome.

And your discussion of 'diversity of tactics, violence, provocation and piecemeal confrontation is a cogent response (other than the very few still clinging on in Canada/Quebec, I mainly know of the M-L types you refer to from reading old journals!); I appreciate the clarification. I kind of suspected that we may not be that far off, and my comment was certainly intended as an open question - it was really the tone and relative vagueness of the original post that I found a little disconcerting. As I said, the language and form are a little close for comfort to some that I've encountered in the context of dismissing some good work by well-meaning and intelligent people (not to mention dismissing likely allies in the process). Hence my question.



mollymew said...

I hope I'm making myself a little clearer. In addition to the things you mentioned as valuable outside of some idealized "class struggle", all of which I think are are good ideas or quite neutral, I could add many more-Indymedias, anti-racist and anti-fascist action/organizing, community gardening, bike activism, and no doubt dozens of others that don't come immediately to mind.
I have little problem with most of this, with a big caveat. There has NEVER been an idea put forward in ALL of human history that was so good and so pure that it wasn't susceptible to being wreaked by human stupidity. Sometimes this has happened and sometimes it hasn't, and most of the time it is somewhere inbetween.
I could take any number of anarchist initiatives as an example, but let's choose one that both you and I like- Food Not Bombs. It is actually a great "idea", capable of making a number of political points about say "food as a human right", "social priorities in spending while some go hungry" and "cooperative action that both feeds the hungry and builds community".
Good and great, and it has sometimes been disparaged as "the anarchist soup-kitchen". Well, full stop here. It would be really great, I mean it REALLY great, if it WAS the anarchist soup kitchen. If its activists would try and build toward a situation where they could go and speak to church congregations and knock on doors in any but the richest neighbourhoods soliciting donations. All this WITHOUT being obviously absurd.Great idea. prsents political points and encourages contact with ordinary people.
But here comes the weasel in the hen house. Suppose that some find things other than such political points more valuable or suppose that the last thing they want to do is make contact with ordinary people. Make the food served that of a small subculture ie vegan. Insist on wearing a uniform that sets you apart more than that worn by the Salvation Army, an uniform that is (consciously and deliberately ????) intimidating to many (most ???) people. Finish this off by insisting on being disgusting by scavenging half spoiled food from garbage dumpsters. Put all this together, and, if I was down on my luck, I would ALWAYS choose singing for my supper rather than taking a chance on food poisoning and eating tasteless food.
There's the point. Any good in the idea has long since been lost because ideas OTHER than the political points have been considered far more important. No doubt most FnB groups don't go the whole hog into such ingroup mentality, but some do, and most are somewhere along the continuum.
It IS important that such problems get recognized and called what they are. Food Not Bombs is actually a great idea, but only if the political points are seen as more important than the subcultural genuflections. If people recognize this fact they will hopefully do a lot in terms of actually making FnB 'the anarchist soup kitchen".