Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Anarchism vs. Bourgeois Anarchism


Anarchism vs. Bourgeois Anarchism


Bourgeois Anarchism

The anarchist movement in the US has turned from a workers movement into something increasingly alienated from ordinary people who would benefit from a serious anarchist movement capable of making changes to the way the country functions. The capitalist controlled media have been repeating for so long the image of the anarchist with bomb in hand that people believe it, and no one who is seriously concerned about their fellow human beings wants to be associated with that. At the same time, popular entertainment has been glorifying that same figure, the “rebel without a cause,” that there are a significant number of “anarchists”, who are upper class kids that have no idea of the meaning behind the word and just like the image. They dig through trash and smoke, or dig through trash and go straight edge, looking down on working class people who eat meat or shop at Wal-Mart. These people will never grow up to become revolutionary men and women because the type of revolution they follow doesn’t extend beyond the infantile, individualistic, and selfish feeling that their lives lack excitement. The fact that their lives of boredom and leisure are built on the shoulders of hard working people who earn nowhere near what they deserve is of far less importance to them than the fact that they bought a pair of new balance shoes or that they ride bicycles. The goal of anarchism is not to stop rich kids from being bored; the goal is for workers to take power from the bosses who exploit their labor, to achieve more equal distribution of wealth, to end the racism and sexism that keeps the people divided and powerless. Once these bourgeois anarchists realize that anarchism is very different than what they thought, they either return to their places as the privileged few (not that they ever really left) or continue to call themselves anarchists and follow their own delusions about what that mean

Anarchism

Most anarchists however, do not grow out of their ideals, because his ideals have substance, because they are realistic. At the core of anarchism are the ideas that all people should be free and equal, that all people should be rewarded for the work they do, that all people have the right to self determination, and that the success of a community should be measured by the health, freedom, and happiness of the members, and by how they achieve and maintain their community, at the expense of others, or by their own labor. These are principles that are subject to adaptation as we grow and learn, and so we can change constantly over our lives while working towards these things. There are anarchists who are 18 and there are anarchists who are 90, because we have no party line to stick to, and we identify as anarchists throughout radical changes in how we feel these goals can best be worked towards. Malatesta says, “better disunited than badly united”, and in that spirit we work with the people whose values we share. We unite with people who we find agreement with while still retaining our individual differences that lead to discussion and development of our ideas. With that in mind there are some things that all anarchists share in common.

Anarchists feel that government is inherently conservative and hinders the natural inventive tendencies of the human spirit. Rigid structure does nothing for people. Enclosed, we are useless and can do nothing but compete, lost in bureaucracy and hierarchy we can seek only to improve our own material condition; free and equal, we can work for the material and social wellbeing of people everywhere. We promote the idea of federalist organization, where worker’s councils, community councils, and regional councils communicate and organize through their own free will. These councils should have no authority to lead or direct past the extent that people accept and want to follow the suggestions they put forward. We believe in mutual aid, meaning that people help each other when help is needed and trade or give extra goods that can’t be produced in various areas but are needed.

Anarchists are against capitalism, as we feel that the capitalist system rewards people not for their ability to make themselves useful to society, or to create things of utility, but for their ability to manipulate and to exploit the hard work of others. In capitalist economic systems, the people who make the most money are those who own the means of production and the land. They do nothing for society, but buy and sell assets for their ridiculously lavish living, while the people who produce, who are useful, live from paycheck to paycheck, and can’t afford health care, food, adequate education, and little, if any, leisure time. The main question is; what do we value in society? Do we value those who make clothes, grow food, and care for children, who are nurses, mothers, firefighters, coalminers, teachers, writers and scientists? Or do we value CEO’s, accountants, corporate lawyers, cosmetic surgeons and politicians, who do nothing or extremely little to benefit the world. The people who are undervalued in a capitalist society are the very people who do the most for everyone around them, the people who are the most valuable.

Anarchism is a constructive theory for an economic organization of society, and we must stress the constructive elements. When violent acts are committed, we must give explanation and justification, or the act has no meaning; for the same reason, destructive acts must be accompanied by the constructive. What use is it to tear down the old if we have nothing to replace it with? We can have all the justification in the world for doing away with the current system, but without presenting a viable alternative, nothing will come of it. It is a good thing to fight against war, against capitalism, against police brutality, against hierarchy, but it is far better to do those things while fighting for. Fighting for healthcare, education, social services, independent media, and creating our own alternatives to the government programs that do these things poorly and inefficiently, and with the pacification of the people in mind. Bakunin says it best, in referring to the 1848 revolutionary movement. “[The movement] was rich in instincts and negative theoretical ideas that gave it full justification for its fight against privilege, but it lacked any positive and practical ideas which would have been needed to enable it to erect a new system on the ruins of the old bourgeois setup…” Such movements, without enough to offer to the world, must eventually crumble. Without the constructive goals of anarchism in mind, anarchism holds no relevance today. With these goals, anarchism stands as the most relevant, humanitarian, and realistic organization of modern society available.

-Megan of the Peninsula Anarchist Collective

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Supporting Not Exporting Revolution

A very intelligent and radical individual asked me a question today about anarchism and exporting it abroad. This person felt that an anarchist movement is not as relevant in the United States as it is in the Third World. Below are the question and my response. This question must be answered for clarification and to draw the line between statist-socialism and the socialist ideals of anarchism.

Question:

What's your stance on exporting the anarchist movement abroad to, say, a third world country that would benefit from such a revolution?

I myself am not an anarchist in any way but I do believe that establishing an anarchist system in a smaller, poorer country would allow the international movement a home from which the revolutionary ideals could be exported abroad with more ease.

Answer:

Third World countries would benefit from anarchist movements, be it under the name of anarchism or not. Indeed, there are anarchist tendencies found in a lot of Latin American countries. In Mexico, there are strong anarchist roots and have been ever since the Mexican Revolution. Ricardo Flores Magon, a Mexican anarchist who took part in the Mexican Revolution, is responsible for most of the anarchist theory found in Mexico today, and there has been a steady anarchist movement in Mexico since the revolution in the earlier part of the 20th century. People like Emiliano Zapata, who were anarchists, played key parts in the revolution until anarchists and workers were either killed or repressed by the “revolution’s leaders” who became the Pedido Revolutionario Instituionale. In the lower part of Mexico, indigenous farmers, the Zapatistas, have fought the Mexican government for "land, liberty and bread," with broad public support since 1994 until the present day. In Argentina, what's called "horizontalism" (an action theory in hopes of making everyone equal in class, without a pyramid of class structure, on a "horizontal" level), has had wide popular support and has involved workers taking over factories and running them in a non-hierarchical fashion is synonymous with anarchist ideals for workers' self-management. There are other examples: such as the pro-revolution indigenous contras in the Nicaraguan revolution in the 1980's, and the workers’ movements surrounding the Sandinistas; anarchists types, more anti-state Marxists, in Eastern European countries, once with many examples of workers' manangement (especialliy in the former Yugoslavia) are being brought back to Third World conditions in order to make room for corporate globalization ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain; anti-state communists in Iran (they have a history and I have a friend whose parents were anti-state communists who fled Iran when the Ayatollah co-opted the revolution); and other examples.

The point is this: anarchist ideals are out there and the goal is not for an anarchist exporting of revolution, but for anarchist support of revolutions. Exporting revolution, like the Marxists do, tends to lead to another case of rulers and ruled. In the pamphlet I gave you by Malatesta, he states, "we anarchists do not want to emancipate the workers; we want the workers to emancipate themselves," and that this false "good that comes from above and imposed by force" would isolate workers from the revolution and lead to another unjust state of affairs. By support, not export, of revolution, I mean helping the workers organize themselves. In the Spanish Revolution in the 1930's, anarchists, socialists and communists from all over Europe and the US sent supplies and people volunteered to fight the fascists. However, there wasn't an outer source exporting worker's self-management. The workers themselves took over the towns and ran a great number of cities and rural villages in a libertarian communist manner, totally in line with anarchist principles.

<> Also, the revolution does not need to happen just in the Third World, but here. This State is the belly of the beast, the heart of the American Empire and the heart of the counterrevolution. In order to make sure the US does not break up revolutions in the Third World and fuck things up for the populace, as this government continually does (examples unlimited), there must be a fight against this government here. There may not be a serious fight for a while but we must work towards this disruption, not just for the people in the Third World, but for us and people here, too. You have to understand that revolution is necessary here as well and that the population in the belly of the beast is struggling, too. Twenty percent of the population lives in Third World conditions in ghettos, barrios, migrant labor camps, Indian reservations, the Appalachian Mountains, etc. You also have to realize that the majority of the population, though privileged because of the destruction dealt out by the Beast in the Third World, is struggling, work far too hard and for little pay. Two thirds of the population have no savings and live from paycheck to paycheck. Only a few really own land or a house. The prison population, too, is at about 2 million, and almost ninety percent are in prison for nonviolent crimes. These people are in slave conditions because they grew up in poverty and were not given the proper opportunities that the State should but will not give them. People are struggling here, as well, and need anarchist ideals to come into reality. In order for economic inequality to stop, anarchist ideals must be put forth for people to understand them and act on them their selves. We must support poor and working class action without forcing exported ideals on them. If there was a true socialism, a true anarchism, to come about, it would be through the will of the workers and through many different and equally relevant theories and organizations, not through a group exporting and imposing their own values on others.

In solidarity and autonomy,

Rob of the Peninsula Anarchist Collective.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Worker-Bees Sympathizers, Not Enemies

Worker-Bees are Potential Sympathizers, Not Enemies

There is a misconception that claiming to be an anarchist requires you do insane amounts of work organizing, protesting and other such activities. This idea turns off a lot of people who mainly see themselves as worker bees trying to survive. Although they understand that there must be a better way, due to their conditions they may feel powerless to change anything. Our "vocal-ness" as Anarchists and our fierce passion scares a lot of these folks since they feel they have a lot to lose. However, they still agree with us.

We as anarchists who speak out against the obvious injustices that occur need to be aware of these folks and listen to them and their concerns. I say this because I am one of these people. Those who have a full time job/career, those who have responsibilities not just to themselves and to the cause, but to loved ones and children. The majority of the people within the movement are very young, usually in their late teens and early twenties who do not have these kinds of domestic responsibilities. Too often I hear these people in the movement disrespect and speak against these average worker bees for simply being afraid. Remember these are the people you are asking to sympathize with the movement; these are the people we will need to join us in our struggle when things go bad. Most young activists have no idea of the pressures us worker bees face on a daily basis, in our daily lives; the pressure to provide for the home, which goes along with the pressure to keep a job in the first place.
I say all of this because it is necessary to not isolate ourselves from these sympathizers. In any movement there are those who take action and those who help by sympathizing and understanding that some things need to be done. When a riot breaks out, we need people who will watch the madness on television and say, "Good for them, it had to be done."
How do we accomplish this? Very simply: by conversing. A lot of us wrapped up in the movement can scream and yell but this serves no purpose to the lumpen-proletariat. They don't really give a shit about what happens on the other side of the world since they have problems of their own. I heard Barry Pateman speak at the anarchist book fair and I was very impressed by what he said. He explained that we need not shout, but simply listen to their concerns, and speak to them about the truth. We don't have to be like jimmy fucking swaggart evangelizing about anarchism and the movement. Simply presenting our point of view, explaining the truth of our current government and its administration can pretty much open any rational person’s eyes.

We have nothing to gain by isolating ourselves from those we want liberated.

-by Ken of the Peninsula Anarchist Collective, May 2005.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Malatesta Pamphlet

Here's a pamphlet by the great Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta. A couple of us wrote the introduction and typed out the essay. It's probably the best short, simple essay I've read on anarchist organization. Here's the text:

Introduction

A common misconception when discussing anarchist organization is that order and organization are the antithesis of anarchism. We are taught in our vocabulary from a young age that the word anarchy means “chaos” and “disorder.” This serves, in part, to undermine and distract people from the political philosophies of anarchism.

The term “anarchism” is taken from the Greek words av, which means “absence of,” and apxn, meaning “authority,” “government” or “ruler.” Essentially, anarchist ideals are steps toward trying to create a societal order without rulers and ruled.

When the only examples of organization and order we have are forced on us- through parents, teachers, and “officers of the peace”- it becomes hard to imagine a group of people forming a society without imposing their will on others. How might we articulate how this ideology is forced? We might bring up the fact of a police force, but this can only go so far in convincing people, because there is no police force in the home or the classroom, and we can still feel forced without the threat of being beaten or jailed. With the language of oppression in all aspects of our lives, it becomes difficult to articulate our desire to live peacefully and freely, and in particular how we hope to do that. What we want is not to direct but to associate, and as Malatesta says, “[To] live with others in fraternal agreement in the interests of the greatest good of all.”

To live in this way of free association and mutual aid amongst one another, we must have an order absent of laws put forth by unjust governments. Professor Howard Zinn said, “Laws cannot, by their nature, create a good society; that will come from great numbers of people arranging resources and themselves voluntarily (what Kropotkin called “mutual aid”) so as to promote cooperation and happiness. And that will be the best order, when people do what they must, not because of law, but on their own.”

- Peninsula Anarchist Collective, May 2005.

Anarchism and Organization

By Errico Malatesta (1897)

Organization which is, after all, only the practice of cooperation and solidarity, is a natural and necessary condition of social life; it is an inescapable fact which forces itself on everybody, as much on human society in general as on any group of people who are working towards a common objective. Since humanity neither wishes to, nor a sufficiently developed social conscience to permit them to associate freely with those of a like mind and with common interests, are subjected to the organization by others, generally constituted in a class or as a ruling group, with the aim of exploiting the labor of others for their personal advantage. And the age-long oppression of the masses by a small privileged group has always been the result of the inability of the oppressed to agree among themselves to organize with others for production, for enjoyment and for the possible needs of defense against whoever might wish to exploit and oppress them. Anarchism exists to remedy this state of affairs …

Now, it seems to us that organization, that is to say, association for a specific purpose and with the structure and means required to attain it, is a necessary aspect of social life. A human being in isolation cannot even live the life of a beast, for they would be unable to obtain nourishment for themselves, except perhaps in tropical regions or when the population is exceptionally sparse; and they would be, without exception, unable to rise much above the level of an animal. Having therefore to join with other humans, or more accurately, finding themselves united to them as a consequence of the evolutionary antecedents of the species, they must submit to the will of others (be enslaved) or subject others to his/her will (be in authority) or live with others in fraternal agreement in the interests of the greatest good of all (be an associate). Nobody can escape from this necessity.

Admitting as a possibility the existence of a community organized without authority, that is without compulsion- and anarchists must admit the possibility, or anarchism would have no meaning- let us pass on to discuss the organization of the anarchist movement.

In this case too, organization seems useful and necessary. If a movement means the whole- individuals with a common objective which they exert themselves to attain- it is natural that they should agree among themselves, join forces, share out the tasks and take all those steps which they think will lead to the achievement of those objectives. To remain isolated, each individual acting or seeking to act on their own without coordination, without preparation, without their modest efforts to a strong group, means condemning oneself to impotence, wasting one’s efforts in small ineffectual action, and to lose faith very soon in one’s aims and possibly being reduced to complete inactivity.

A mathematician, a chemist, a psychologist or a sociologist may say they have no programme or are concerned only with establishing the truth. They seek knowledge; they are not seeking to do something. But anarchism and socialism are not sciences; they are proposals, projects, which anarchists and socialists seek to realize and which, therefore need to be formulated as definite programs.

If it is true that organization creates leaders [leaders in the sense of a political hierarchy]; if it is true that anarchists are unable to come together and arrive at an agreement without submitting themselves to an authority, this means that they are not yet very good anarchists, and before thinking of establishing an anarchist society within the world they must think of making themselves able to live anarchistically. The remedy does not lie in the abolition of organization but in the growing consciousness of each individual member. In small as well as large societies, apart from brute force, of which it cannot be a question for us, the origin and justification for authority lies in social disorganization, [a disorganization which, through force and impoverishment, was created by the state].

When a community has needs and its members do not know how to organize spontaneously to provide them, someone comes forward, an authority who satisfies those needs by utilizing the services of all and directing them to their liking. If the roads are unsafe and the people do not know what measures to take, a police force emerges which in return for whatever services it renders expects to be supported and paid, as well as imposing itself and throwing its weight around; if some article is needed, and the community does not know how to arrange with the distant producers to supply it in exchange for goods produced locally, the merchant will appear who will profit by dealing with the needs of one section to sell and of the other to buy, and impose his/her own prices both on the producer and the consumer. This is what has happened in our midst; the less organized we have been, the more prone are we to be imposed on by a few individuals. And this is understandable. So much so that organization, far from creating authority, is the only cure for it and the only means whereby each one of us will get used to taking an active and conscious part in the collective work, and cease being passive instruments in the hands of leaders.

But an organization, it is argued, presupposes an obligation to coordinate one’s own activities with those of others; thus it violates liberty and fetters initiative. As we see it, what really takes away liberty and makes initiative impossible is the isolation which renders it powerless. Freedom is not an abstract right but the possibility of acting; this is true among ourselves as well as society as a whole. And it is by cooperation with our fellow human beings that we find the means to express our activity and our power of initiative.

An anarchist organization must allow for complete autonomy, and independence, and therefore full responsibility, to individuals and groups; free agreement between those who think it useful to come together for cooperative action, for common aims; a moral duty to fulfill one’s pledges and to take no action which is contrary to the accepted programme. On such bases one then introduces practical forms and suitable instruments to give real life to the organization, thus the groups, the federation of groups, the federations of federations, meetings, congresses, correspondence committees and so on. But this also must be done freely, in such a way as not to restrict the thought and the initiative of individual members, but only to give greater scope to the efforts which in isolation would be impossible or ineffective. Thus for an anarchist organization congress, in spite of all the disadvantages from which they suffer as representative bodies, are free from authoritarianism in any shape or form because they do not legislate and do not impose their deliberations on others. They serve to maintain and increase personal contacts among the most active comrades, to summarize and encourage programmatic studies on the ways and means for action; to acquaint everybody with the situations in the regions and the kind of action most urgently needed; to summarize the various currents of anarchist opinions at the time and to prepare some kind of statistics therefrom. And their decisions are not binding, but simply suggestions, advice and proposals to submit to all concerned, and they do not become binding and executive except for those who accept them and for as long as they accept them. The administrative organs they nominate- Correspondence Commissions, etc. - have no directive powers, do not take initiatives except for those who specifically solicit and approve of them, and have no authority to impose their own views, which they certainly can hold and propagate as groups of comrades, but which cannot be presented as the official views of the organization. They publish the resolutions of the congresses and the opinions and proposals communicated to them by groups and individuals; and they act for those who want to make use of them, to facilitate relations between groups, and cooperation between those who are in agreement on various initiatives; each is free to correspond with whoever he/she like direct, or make use of the other committees nominated by specific groupings.

In an anarchist organization individual members can express any opinion and use every tactic which is not in contradiction with the accepted principles and does not interfere with the activities of others. In every case a particular organization lasts so long as the reasons for union are superior to those for dissension; otherwise it disbands and makes way for other, more homogenous groupings. Certainly the life and permanence of an organization is a condition for success in the long struggle before us, and besides, it is natural that every institution should by instinct aim at lasting indefinitely. But the duration of a libertarian organization must be the result of the spiritual affinity of its members and of the adaptability of its constitution to the continually changing circumstances. When it can no longer serve a useful purpose it is better that it should die.

We would certainly be happy if we could all get along well together and unite all the forces of anarchism in a strong movement; but we do not believe in the solidity of organizations which are built on concessions and assumptions and in which there is no real agreement and sympathy between members- better disunited than badly united. But we would wish that each individual joined their friends and that there should be no isolated forces, or lost forces.

It remains for us to speak of the organization of the working and oppressed masses for resistance against both the government and the employers. Workers will never be able to emancipate themselves so long as they do not find in union the moral, economic and physical strength that is needed to subdue the organized might of the oppressors.

There have been anarchists, and there are still some, who while recognizing the need to organize today for propaganda and action, are hostile to all organizations which do not have anarchism as their goal or which do not follow anarchist methods of struggle. To those comrades it seemed that all organized forces for an objective less than radically revolutionary, were forces that the revolution was being deprived of. It seems to us instead, and experience has surely already confirmed our view, that their approach would condemn the anarchist movement to a state of perpetual sterility. To make propaganda we must be amongst the people, and it is in the workers’ associations that workers find their comrades and especially those who are most disposed to understand and accept our ideas. But even when it is possible to do as much propaganda as we wished outside the associations, this could not have a noticeable effect on the working masses. Apart from a small number of individuals more educated and capable of abstract thought and theoretical enthusiasms, the worker cannot arrive at anarchism in one leap. To become a convinced anarchist, and not in name only, they must begin to feel the solidarity that joins them to their comrades, and to learn to cooperate with others in defense of common interests and that, by struggling against the bosses and against the government that supports them, should realize that bosses and governments are useless parasites and that the workers could manage the domestic economy by their own efforts. And when the worker has understood this, he or she is an anarchist even if they do not refer to themselves as such.

Furthermore, to encourage popular organizations of all kinds is the logical consequence of our basic ideas, and should therefore be an integral part of our programme. An authoritarian party, which aims at capturing power to impose its ideas, has an interest in the people remaining an amorphous mass, unable to act for themselves and therefore always easily dominated. And it follows, logically, that it cannot desire more than that much organization, and of the kinds it needs to attain power: electoral organizations if it hopes to achieve it by legal mean; military organization if it relies on violent action. But we anarchists do not want to emancipate the people; we want the people to emancipate themselves. We do not believe in the good that comes from above and imposed by force; we want the new way of life to emerge from the body of the people and correspond to the state of their development and advance as they advance. It matter to us therefore that all interests and opinions should find their expression in a conscious organization and should influence communal life in proportion to their importance.

We have undertaken the task of struggling against existing social organization, and overcoming the obstacle to the advent of a new society in which freedom and well being would be assured to everybody. To achieve this objective we organize ourselves and seek to become as numerous and as strong as possible. But if it were only our anarchist groupings that were organized; if the workers were to remain isolated like so many units unconcerned about each other and only linked by the common chain; if we ourselves besides being organized as anarchists in a federation, were not as workers organized with other workers, we could achieve nothing at all, or at most, we might be able to impose ourselves … and then it would not be the triumph of anarchism, but our triumph. We could then go on calling ourselves anarchists, but in reality we should simply be rulers, and as impotent as all rulers are where the general good is concerned.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Introductions and hellos

We are the Peninsula Anarchist Collective. A group of individuals working towards
happiness, equality, and autonomy. We are idealists but have no illusions. We work, we
live and we struggle in our everyday lives just as you do. We feel there is a better
way and perhaps by working together, we may be able to wean ourselves away from an
oppressive government and greedy corporate influence.

If we don't do it, who will?