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Towards an Another Anarchism

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  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo ZNet | VisionStrategy Towards An Another Anarchism by Andrej Grubacic; February 07, 2003
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2003
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      News for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      ZNet | VisionStrategy
      Towards An Another Anarchism
      by Andrej Grubacic; February 07, 2003

      Rough transcript of a talk given by Andrej Grubacic as part
      of the Life After Capitalism forum (WSF3, Porto Alegre,
      2003.)

      A friend of mine has written recently that: "no one needs
      another -ism from 19th century, another word which imprisons
      and fixes meaning, another word that seduces a number of
      people into the clarity and comfort of a sectarian box and
      leads others in front of the firing squad or a show trial.
      Labels lead so easily to fundamentalism, brands inevitably
      breed intolerance, delineating doctrines, defining dogma,
      and limiting the possibility of change".

      It is really difficult not to agree with this attitude.
      However, today it is exactly my pleasant duty to present an
      -ism, and that is the -ism which is the dominant perspective
      of today's post-Marxist global social movement. It is
      anarchism. This idea, the idea of anarchism, has coloured
      the sensibility of the "movement of movements" of which we
      are the participants, and has stamped it with a essential
      inscription. Anarchism, its ethical paradigm, represents
      today the basic inspiration of our movement, which is less
      about seizing state power than about exposing,
      de-legitimising and dismantling mechanisms of rule while
      winning ever-larger spaces of autonomy from it.

      It is my intention, in this couple of minutes that I have at
      my disposal, to present to you in short the history of
      anarchism, in order to be able to subsequently suggest a
      model of modern anarchism and strategic implications which
      follow from accepting of such a model.

      I am inclined to agree with those who see anarchism as a
      tendency in the history of human thought and practice, a
      tendency which cannot be encompassed by a general theory of
      ideology, that strives to identify compulsory and
      authoritarian hierarchical social structures, by posing a
      question of their legitimacy: if they cannot answer to this
      challenge, which is most often the case, then anarchism
      becomes the effort to limit their power and to widen the
      scope of liberty.

      Anarchism is, therefore, is a social phenomenon and its
      contents as well as manifestations in political activity
      change with time. One thing that is special about anarchism
      is that, unlike all major ideologies, it could never have
      had a stable and continuous existence on the ground through
      being in government or a part of a party system. Its history
      and contemporary characteristics are therefore determined by
      another factor - cycles of political struggle. As a result,
      anarchism has a 'generational' tendency in the sense that
      you can identify pretty discreet phases of its history
      according to the period of struggle in which they were
      shaped. . Naturally, as any other attempt at
      conceptualisation, this one is also doomed to be simplified.
      I hope that, regardless of this, it will be useful for the
      understanding of this social phenomenon.

      Historically, the first phase was shaped by late 19th
      century class struggles in Europe and is exemplified both
      theoretically and practically by the Bakuninist faction in
      the 1st international. It starts in the run-up to 1848,
      peaks with the Paris Commune (1871) and dwindles through the
      80s.

      It is quite an embryonic form of anarchism, mixing together
      anti-state tendencies, anti-capitalism and atheism while
      retaining an essential dependence on the skilled urban
      proletariat as a revolutionary agent. Bakunin, that
      magnificent dreamer, that "dynamite, not a man", who, in
      1848, shouted that " Beethoven's Ninth symphony should be
      saved from the coming fires of the world revolution at the
      price of giving up one's life", has bequeathed to us one of
      the most beautiful and perhaps the most precise descriptions
      of a single leading idea within the anarchist tradition: "I
      am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique
      condition under which intelligence, dignity and human
      happiness can develop and grow; not the purely formal
      liberty conceded, measured out and regulated by the State,
      an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than
      the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest;
      not the individualistic, egoistic, shabby, and fictitious
      liberty extolled by the School of J.-J. Rousseau and other
      schools of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the
      would-be rights of all men, represented by the State which
      limits the rights of each -- an idea that leads inevitably
      to the reduction of the rights of each to zero. No, I mean
      the only kind of liberty that is worthy of the name, liberty
      that consists in the full development of all the material,
      intellectual and moral powers that are latent in each
      person; liberty that recognizes no restrictions other than
      those determined by the laws of our own individual nature,
      which cannot properly be regarded as restrictions since
      these laws are not imposed by any outside legislator beside
      or above us, but are immanent and inherent, forming the very
      basis of our material, intellectual and moral being -- they
      do not limit us but are the real and immediate conditions of
      our freedom".

      The second phase, from the 1890s to the Russian civil war,
      sees a considerable shift to Eastern Europe and is thus of a
      clearer agrarian focus. Theoretically this is where
      Kropotkin's anarcho-communism is the most dominant feature.
      It peaks with Makhno's army and carries over, after the
      Bolshevik victory, to a Central-European undercurrent. The
      third stage, from the 20s until the late 40s, is again
      focused on Central and Western Europe and is again
      industrially oriented.

      Theoretically it is the peak of anarcho-syndicalism, with
      much of the work being done by exiles from Russia. In this
      moment the differentiation between two basic traditions in
      the history of anarchism has become clearly visible:
      anarcho-communist and one might think, say, of Kropotkin as
      a representative -- and, on the other hand, the one of
      anarcho-syndicalism which simply regarded anarchist ideas as
      the proper mode for organization of highly complex, advanced
      industrial societies. And that tendency in anarchism merges,
      or inter-relates, with a variety of left wing Marxism, the
      kind one finds in, say, the Council Communists that grew up
      in a Luxembourgian tradition and that is later represented,
      in a very exciting fashion, by Marxist theorists like Anton
      Pannekoek.

      After WW2 anarchism had a major downturn due to economic
      reconstruction and surfaces only marginally in
      anti-imperialist struggles in the South that are, however,
      quite dominated by a pro-Soviet influence. The struggles of
      the 60s and 70s did not contain a serious upsurge of
      anarchism, which was still carrying the dead weight of its
      history and could not yet adapt to a new political language
      that was not class-oriented. Thus you may find anarchist
      leanings in very diverse groups ranging through the anti-war
      movement, feminism, situationism, black power etc., but not
      anything that is positively identifiable as anarchism.
      Explicitly 'anarchist' groups from this period were more or
      less a restatement of the previous two stages (communist and
      revolutionary syndicalist), and quite sectarian -- instead
      of engaging with these new forms of political expression
      they closed themselves off to them and usually adopted very
      rigid charters like the anarchist of so called "platformist"
      Maknoist tradition. So this is a 'ghost' fourth generation.

      Arriving at the present, we have two co-existing generations
      within anarchism: people whose political formation took
      place in the 60s and 70s (which is actually a reincarnation
      of the second and third generations), and younger people who
      are much more informed, among other elements, by indigenous,
      feminist, ecological and culture-criticism thinking. The
      former exists in as various Anarchist Federations, the IWW,
      IWA, NEFAC and the like. The latter's incarnation is most
      prominent in the networks of the new social movement. From
      my perspective Peoples Global Action is the main organ of
      the current fifth generation of anarchism. What is sometimes
      confusing is that one of the characteristics of current
      anarchism is that its constituent individuals and groups do
      not usually refer to themselves as anarchists. There are
      some who take anarchist principles of anti-sectarianism and
      open-endedness so seriously that they are sometimes
      reluctant to call themselves 'anarchists' for that very
      reason.

      But the three essentials that run throughout all
      manifestations of anarchist ideology are definitely there --
      anti-statism, anti-capitalism and prefigurative politics
      (i.e. modes of organization that consciously resemble the
      world you want to create. Or, as an anarchist historian of
      the revolution in Spain has formulated "an effort to think
      of not only the ideas but the facts of the future itself".)
      This is present in anything from jamming collectives and on
      to Indy media, all of which can be called anarchist with the
      understanding that we are referring to a new form . There is
      quite a limited degree of confluence between the two
      coexisting generations, mostly taking the form of following
      what each other is doing -- but not much more.

      The basic dilemma that permeates contemporary anarchism,
      therefore, is the one between traditionalist and modern
      conceptions of anarchism. In both cases we are the witnesses
      of the "escape from tradition" of its kind.

      I dare say that "traditionalist anarchists" have not fully
      understood the tradition. The very word "tradition" has two
      historical meanings: namely, one is more familiar and more
      widespread, and that is the meaning of folklore -- "tales,
      beliefs, customs and behavioural norms", while the other
      meaning is less familiar, and that reads: pass on, hand
      down, articulate, confer, recommend . Why do I call
      attention to, but also over-emphasize, this difference in
      the explanation of the word tradition? Exactly because of
      the possibility that the term tradition can, in the history
      of ideas, be comprehended in two different ways. One way
      (probably a more common one) is that tradition is accepted
      as a completed structure that cannot or should not be
      changed further on, but should be preserved in its solid
      state and passed on into the future, unchanged. Such an
      understanding of tradition is connected to that part of the
      human nature which is referred to as conservative, and which
      is prone to stereotypic behaviour, Freud would even say "the
      compulsion of repetition". The other meaning of tradition,
      which I advocate here, relates to the new and creative way
      of reviving the experience of tradition. Such a, let us say
      immediately, positive way of conveying, has been put into
      effect of the other side of the general human nature,
      provisionally deemed revolutionary, along the lines of
      paradoxically expressed truth: a wish for a change and, at
      the same time, a healthy need to remain the same.

      Another form of the "escape from tradition" is the one that
      takes refuge in various post-modern interpretations of
      anarchism.

      I think it is high time for a certain, to quote Max Weber,
      "dis-illusioning" of anarchism, an awakening from the dream
      of post-modernist nihilism, anti-rationalism,
      neo-primitivism, cultural terrorism, "simulacrums". It is
      time to restore anarchism to the intellectual and political
      context of the Enlightenment project that is nothing else
      but understanding that "objective knowledge is a tool to be
      used so that individuals could take informed decisions on
      their own". Reason, says the famous Goya's painting, doesn't
      produce monsters when it dreams, but when it sleeps

      I would say that today the dialogue between different
      generations within the modern anarchism is necessary. Modern
      anarchism is imbued with countless contradictions. It does
      not suffice to surrender to the habit of the majority of
      contemporary anarchist thinkers who insist on dichotomies.
      It would be good to abandon the exclusiveness of the "or --
      or" way of thinking, and enter into discussions, in search
      of synthesis. Is such a synthetic model possible? It seems
      to me that it is.

      A new model of modern anarchism, which can be discerned
      today within the new social movement, is the one that
      insists on widening the anti-authoritarian focus, as well as
      on deserting the class reductionism. Such a model endeavours
      to recognize the "totality of domination", that is, "to
      highlight only the state but also gender relations, and not
      only the economy but also cultural relations and ecology,
      sexuality, and freedom in every form it can be sought, and
      each not only through the sole prism of authority relations,
      but also informed by richer and more diverse concepts. This
      model not only doesn't decry technology per se, but it
      becomes familiar with and employs diverse types of
      technology as appropriate. It not only doesn't decry
      institutions per se, or political forms per se, it tries to
      conceive new institutions and new political forms for
      activism and for a new society, including new ways of
      meeting, new ways of decision making, new ways of
      coordinating, and so on, most recently including revitalized
      affinity groups and original spokes structures. And it not
      only doesn't decry reforms per se, but it struggles to
      define and win non-reformist reforms, attentive to people's
      immediate needs and bettering people's lives now as well as
      moving toward further gains, and eventually transformational
      gains, in the future."

      Anarchism can become effective only if it contains three,
      encompassed, components: worker's organizations, activists
      and researchers. How to create a basis for a modern
      anarchism on intellectual, syndicate, and popular level?
      There are several interventions in favour of an another
      anarchism, which would be capable of promoting the values I
      mentioned above. First of all, I think it is necessary for
      anarchism to become reflexive. What do I mean by this?
      Intellectual struggle must reaffirm its place in modern
      anarchism. It appears that one of the basic weaknesses of
      the anarchist movement today is, with respect to the time
      of, say, Kropotkin or Recluse, or Herbert Read, exactly the
      neglecting of the symbolic, and overlooking of the
      effectiveness of theory.

      Instead of the anarchists' criticizing of the popular
      Marxists post-modern fairy-tale "Empire", they should write
      an anarchist Empire. Marxist religion has, for a long time,
      referred to the theory and, by this, has given itself a
      scientific appearance and the possibility to act as a
      theory. What anarchism today requires is the overcoming of
      extremes of anti-intellectualism and intellectualism. Like
      Noam Chomsky, I also have neither sympathy nor patience for
      such ideas. I believe that the antagonism between science
      and anarchism should not exist: " Within the anarchist
      tradition there has been a certain feeling that there is
      something regimented or oppressive about science itself.
      There is no argument that I know for irrationality, I don't
      think that the methods of science amount to anything more
      than being reasonable, and I don't see why anarchist
      shouldn't be reasonable". Like Chomsky, I have even less
      patience for an unusual trend that has spread, in various
      manifestations, within anarchism itself: "It strikes me as
      remarkable that left intellectuals today should seek to
      deprive oppressed people not only of the joys of
      understanding and insight, but also of tools of
      emancipation, informing us that project of Enlightenment is
      dead, that we must abandon the illusions of science and
      rationality -- a message that will gladden the hearts of the
      powerful..."

      Before us, further on, lies the assignment to envision a
      type of an anarchist researcher. What would be the role of
      an anarchist researcher? She would certainly not lecture,
      like the old left intellectuals do. She should not be a
      teacher, but someone who envisages a new and a very
      difficult role: she must listen, explore and discover. Her
      role is to expose the interest of the dominant elite
      carefully hidden behind supposedly objective discourses.

      She has to help activists and to supply them with facts. It
      is necessary to invent a new form of communication between
      activists and activist scholars. It is necessary to create a
      collective mechanism that would connect liberterian
      scientists, workers and activists. It is necessary to found
      anarchist institutes, reviews, scientific communities,
      internationales. I believe that sectarianism, unfortunately
      a very widespread phenomenon in modern anarchism, would in
      this way loose its power, as the consequence of such an
      effort. One of the organised attempts to resist sectarianism
      in modern anarchism is the outline of the new anarchist
      international, which I have recently been given, and which
      I will now read to you.

      THE ANARCHIST INTERNATIONAL is an initiative meant to
      provide a venue for anarchists in all parts of the world who
      wish to express their solidarity with each other, facilitate
      communication and coordination, learn from one another's
      efforts and experiences, and encourage a more powerful
      anarchist voice and perspective in radical politics
      everywhere, but who wish to do so in a form which rejects
      all traces of sectarianism, vanguardism, and revolutionary
      elitism. We do not see anarchism as a philosophy invented in
      19th century Europe, but rather, as the very theory and
      practice of freedom -- that genuine freedom which is not
      constructed on the backs of others -- an ideal that has been
      endlessly rediscovered, dreamed and fought for on every
      continent and in every period of human history. Anarchism
      will always have a thousand strands, because diversity will
      always be part of the essence of freedom, but creating webs
      of solidarity can make all of them more powerful.

      ********* HALLMARKS: *********

      1) We are anarchists because we believe that human freedom
      and happiness would be best guaranteed by a society based on
      principles of self-organization, voluntary association, and
      mutual aid, and because we reject all forms of social
      relations based on systemic violence, such as the state or
      capitalism.

      2) We are, however, profoundly anti-sectarian, by which we
      mean two things:

      a) we do not attempt to enforce any particular form of
      anarchism on one other: Platformist, Syndicalist,
      Primitivist, Insurrectionist or any other. Neither do we
      wish to exclude anyone on this basis -- we value diversity
      as a principle in itself, limited only by our common
      rejection of structures of domination such as racism,
      sexism, fundamentalism, etc.

      b) since we see anarchism not as a doctrine so much as a
      process of movement towards a free, just, and sustainable,
      society, we believe anarchists should not limit themselves
      to cooperating with those who self-identify as anarchists,
      but should actively seek to cooperate with anyone who are
      working to create a world based on those same broad
      liberatory principles, and, in fact, to learn from them. One
      of the purposes of the International is to facilitate this:
      both to make it easier for us to bring some of those
      millions around the world who are, effectively, anarchists
      without knowing it, into touch with the thoughts of others
      who have worked in that same tradition, and, at the same
      time, to enrich the anarchist tradition itself through
      contact with their experiences

      3) We reject all forms of vanguardism and believe that the
      proper role of the anarchist intellectual (a role that
      should be open to everyone) is to take part in an ongoing
      dialogue: to learn from the experience of popular
      community-building and struggle and offer back the fruits of
      reflection on that experience not in the spirit of the
      dictat, but of the gift

      4) Anyone who accepts these principles is a member of the
      Anarchist International and everyone who is a member of the
      Anarchist International is empowered to act as a
      spokesperson if they so desire. Because we value diversity,
      we do not expect uniformity of views other than acceptance
      of the principles themselves (and, of course,
      acknowledgement that such diversity exists)

      5) Organization is neither a value in itself nor an evil in
      itself;the level of organizational structure appropriate to
      any given project or task can never be dictated in advance
      but can only be determined by those actually engaged in it.
      So with any project initiated within the International: it
      should be up to those undertaking it to determine the form
      and level of organization appropriate for that project. At
      this point, there is no need for a decision-making structure
      for the International itself but if in the future members
      feel there should be, it shall be up to the group itself to
      determine how that process should work, provided only that
      it be within the broad spirit of decentralization and direct
      democracy.

      Furthermore, anarchism must turn to the experiences of other
      social movements. It must be included in the courses of
      progressive social science. It must be in collusion with
      ideas that come from the circles close to anarchism. Let's
      take for example the idea of participatory economy, which
      represents an anarchist economist vision par excellence and
      which supplements and rectifies anarchist economic
      tradition. It would also be wise to listen to those voices
      that warn of the existence three major classes in advanced
      capitalism, not just two. There is also another class of
      people, branded coordinator class by these theoreticians.
      Their role is that of controlling the labour of the working
      class. This is the class that includes the management
      hierarchy and the professional consultants and advisors
      central to their system of control -- as lawyers, key
      engineers and accountants, and so on. They have their class
      position because of their relative monopolization over
      knowledge, skills, and connections. This is what enables
      them to gain access to the positions they occupy in the
      corporate and government hierarchies.

      Another thing to note about the coordinator class is that it
      is capable of being a ruling class. This is in fact the true
      historical meaning of the Soviet Union and the other so
      called Communist countries. They are in fact systems that
      empower the coordinator class.

      Finally, I believe that modern anarchism has to turn to
      envisioning of political vision.

      This is not to say that various schools of anarchism did not
      advocate very specific forms of social organization, albeit
      often markedly at variance with one another. Essentially,
      however, anarchism as a whole advanced what liberals are
      calling 'negative freedom,' that is to say, a formal
      'freedom from,' rather than a substantive 'freedom to.'

      Indeed, anarchism often celebrated its commitment to
      negative freedom as evidence of its own pluralism,
      ideological tolerance, or creativity. Medjutim, failure of
      anarchism to enunciate the historical circumstances that
      would make possible a stateless anarchic society produced
      problems in anarchist thought that remain unresolved to this
      day. One friend has, not so long ago, told me that "you
      anarchists always strive to keep your hands clean, so that
      eventually you are left with no hands at all." I believe
      that this remark relates exactly to the lack of more serious
      thinking about political vision.

      Pierre-Joseph Proudhon attempted to formulate a concrete
      image of a libertarian society. His attempt turned out to be
      a failure, and viewed from my perspective, utterly
      unsatisfactory. However, this failure shouldn't discourage
      us, but point to the path followed by, for example, social
      ecologists in North America -- a path leading to the
      formulation of a serious anarchist political vision.
      Anarchist model should also encompass the attempt to answer
      the question:" what are the anarchist's full sets of
      positive institutional alternatives to contemporary
      legislatures, courts, police, and diverse executive
      agencies. To "offer a political vision that encompasses
      legislation, implementation, adjudication, and enforcement
      and that shows how each would be effectively accomplished in
      a non-authoritarian way, promoting positive outcomes would
      not only provide our contemporary activism much-needed
      long-term hope, it would also inform our immediate responses
      to today's electoral, law-making, law enforcement, and court
      system, and thus many of our strategic choices."

      Finally, what would be the strategic implications of
      promoting of such a model?

      I have, several times in contact with anarchist activists,
      heard a strategic proposition for which I have neither
      sympathy nor explanation. We should, they say, to make an
      effort and live worse in order for things to be better. As
      opposed to this extraordinary logic, which reads "the worse,
      the better", I think it would be wiser, and far more
      sensible, to listen to the advice of Argentinean anarchists
      which advocate a strategy of "expanding the floor of the
      cage". Such a strategy will understand, instead, that it is
      possible to fight for and win reforms short of revolution in
      way that both improve people's conditions and options now,
      and that also create opportunities for further victories in
      the future. This strategy will understand, that is, that to
      be an advocate of a new society does not warrant ignoring
      people's current pain and suffering, but does warrant that
      when we work to address current ills and work to make things
      immediately better, we should do so in ways that raise our
      consciousness, empower our constituencies, and develop our
      organizations and that therefore lead to a trajectory of
      on-going changes culminating in new defining economic and
      social structures. Expanding the floor of the cage will not
      dismiss people's short run struggles for higher wages, an
      end to a war, affirmative action, better work conditions, a
      participatory budget, a progressive or radical tax, a
      shorter work week with full pay, abolishing the IMF, or
      whatever else -- because it will respect the reality of how
      people's consciousness and organizations develop through
      struggle, and, aggressively avoid the kind of contempt among
      activists for people's courageous efforts to improve the
      quality of their lives.

      To conclude, I think that such a model of modern anarchism
      could have a significant role which is to build, amidst the
      current horrors of capitalism, a post- Marxist movement that
      would reclaim the values of the Enlightenment and make them
      finally realize their full potential.

      Thank you.

      * I would like to thank my friends David Graeber, Uri Gordon
      and Michael Albert. Any idea you read here might very well
      actually have ben invented by one of them.

      --
      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.
      http://www.wildsidepress.com/index2.htm
      http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1587154838/thedanclorenecro

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      Said Smygo, the iconoclast of Zothique: "Bear a hammer with
      thee always, and break down any terminus on which is
      written: 'So far shalt thou pass, but no further go.'"
      --Clark Ashton Smith
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