For anarchy, not anarchism

Why for anarchy and not for anarchism? This may seem like a small point to split hairs over but it is a point which is important to us. It is important because we are interested in a vital anarchist (anti-state communist) milieu. For us anarchism points to the notion that there could be a special set of practices (forms) which can be found out to be complentary for a free life for all. We feel this is foolish and assumes human life could ever take on a singular form. Life should take on the form necessary for its free reproduction, unlike its current state which only serves those who rule/control us.

Classical anarchism (i.e. European anarchism) was in many ways a pursuit of the best practices for/of anarchy: whether the mutualism of Proudhon, the collectivism of Bakunin, the individualism of the Bonnot gang or the communism of Kropotkin. As we want to distance ourselves from Eurocentric anarchy, we feel that there should be some leeway when it comes to all this; though it should be a tempered leeway. For us the emphasis should be on content over form. Let us explain.

The communization current often writes about this. For them it is not a question of radical democracy, equitable distribution, popular power, council-decision making, local self-management…but whether the set of relations are communist or not. Communism becomes the basis for judgment. Why? Because communism constitutes set of relations which are free, without measure, (and consequently) without exchange and without needless hierarchy. And this is something which most anarchists also aspire to. We want to wander away from anarchism because we feel it is more about defining how we should live than allowing us to live as we see fit, from time to time.

For instance, if some of us were to enter into a life or death battle then a consensus-based decision makes sense. We are all entering a situation where I lives may likely end. We should be able to decide our participation over own life or death. Now, if we are deciding whose house will hold the seasonal party do we really need a consensus? Do we even really need to come to a vote? Do we need democracy among friends? Do we put to a vote who will make the enchiladas or who will serve their homebrew? Probably not because this is not how daily life is generally decided. We rely on other factors to decide and other links of kinship/comradeship/friendship. This demonstrates the limitation of the fetishization of democracy (or consensus).

Also many speak of anarchism as though there is only one.i Recently one of us attended a free school gathering where a Classical Left-Anarchist presented their anarchism as the anarchism. Fortunately the attendees generally revolted against this conception, this insidious authority. We despise authority as much as we despise work and having to pay the rent. Instead of propping up our anarchism we prefer to gauge our forms against what is communist and what is not. We are anarchists that agree with the communization current when they say that the revolution is communization: or rather

“communisation will be the moment when [revolutionary] struggle will make possible, as a means for its continuation, the immediate production of communism. By communism we mean a collective organisation that has got rid of all the mediations which, at present, serve society by linking individuals among them : money, the state, value, classes, etc….Communism will thus be the moment when individuals will link together directly, without their inter-individual relations being superimposed by categories to which everyone owes obedience.”ii

This is briefly to state that the institution of communism and anarchy is not a pre-revolutionary possibility but a possibility that arises out of revolutionary struggle. This is why we prefer to speak of communism instead of anarchism. Communism becomes a revolutionary verb, whereas anarchism becomes a pre-revolutionary dead weight (noun) that some try to impose on the present (or future). This is why we say we are for anarchy (a condition) and for communism (a verb).

iThough truly, anarchism has never been pro-capitalist. Anarcho-capitalism is but an online abberration.

iide Mattis, Léon. “What Is Communisation.” Libcom, 16 Nov. 2011,

4 thoughts on “For anarchy, not anarchism

  1. PS: This was originally written in response to an account of a then-recent conference of the persons behind ‘Insurgent Notes’ in New York City early last year:
    I moved away from anarchism and began calling myself a left communist in the early 1980’s. I did not attend the ‘Insurgent Notes’ conference. Based on past experience I didn’t have to put fresh batteries in my crystal ball to know that discussions by U.S. ultra-left Marxists of real world efforts to assert what they claim to be about outside of their ideological echo chamber must always be brief ones.
    In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, an individual sometimes described as “the leading left communist in the United States” initiated an ongoing series of meetings of some ultra-left Marxists in Berkeley. I took part. My understanding was that we would move fast, come up with an analysis of the Sept. 11 events, and attempt to get this analysis out in some extremely visible way. Sept. 11, 2001 was the first major battle of the 21st century, it was the first time that U.S. government-style mass civilian casualty attacks were perpetrated against civilians in the U.S., and it was a horrific consequence of decades of malignant antics by the United States in Afghanistan. It was a unique moment in history — and it was a unique historical opportunity.
    Politics is about communication. It was time to communicate. My preferred low budget mass communications method takes the form of posters on walls — this may be a function of the limits of my imagination but posters had been very effective in the recent past. With this in mind I acquired a paperback book with a color image of Ronald Reagan and his jack-o-lantern grin on its cover.  Recent covers of Time or Life had a photo-shopped image of both World Trade Center towers going up in explosive flames, and my thought was to do 11 by 17 inch color posters of Reagan’s smiling visage in front of the burning and collapsing buildings, captioned in big yellow letters with red lines around them: ‘If you want to find the man responsible for 9/11, go to Bel Air and wake him from his nap!’ — highlighting the fact that the 9/11 attacks were blowback from Reagan and Jimmy Carter’s efforts to get armed Islamic fundamentalism up and running in Afghanistan in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was just a gesture and not particularly radical but it was simple, it could be done quick, and it was to the point. If anyone had come up with anything better we could have gone with that instead.  Time was of the essence in this matter — we had to act fast.
    The group met and talked. We met and talked. In compulsively inadequate ultra-left Marxist style we met and talked some more. Nothing happened. Grad student pedantry and incapacity were in a neck and neck race here. Our talk had drifted to plans for a Capital reading group by the time I stopped attending the meetings; apparently those who can, do, and those who can’t form Capital reading groups. Even this insular and inwardly-directed proposal went nowhere. The group folded. A unique historical moment had come and gone and with this a significant opportunity was squandered. This failure to act is consistent with all experiences I have ever had with people who like to call themselves ultra-left Marxists in the U.S. going back to the beginning of the Reagan era.
    In my encounters with “the leading left communist in the United States” I was struck less by this individual’s voluminous abstract erudition than I was by his complete lack of the practical political smarts that we develop if we assert unusual ideas in the complex world outside of our comfort zone. This gent had been a left communist for 30-plus years and all he had to show for it was a collection of his writings that are equally unreadable in seven languages on a web page. In the decade and a half since our 9/11 group’s belly-button fingering sessions he has continued to dabble in his hobby in the form of a website called ‘Insurgent Notes,’ whose identity with a nebulous “revolutionary left,” clarion calls for “building a radical left in the age of Trump” and paucity of accounts of sustained, credible, real world action add up to a politics of lite-rock Trotskyism. A few fiery ultra-left “positions” on unions, nationalism and the Bolsheviks after Brest-Litovsk don’t elevate ‘Insurgent Notes’ out of and away from the harmless left fringe of academia. These putative ultra-leftists don’t even appear to be decisively opposed to electoral politics, in the country that leads the industrialized world in the rate of mass abstention from voting and where mass abstention was in effect the number one vote-getter in the 2016 Presidential election.
    Revolutionary extremism is what it does If it does nothing, it is nothing. It is a real world phenomena or it doesn’t exist. It has to be readily visible in the larger society around us. A measure of its credibility is that it will be taken seriously by friend and foe alike. Ultra-left Marxism is supposedly an uncompromising form of revolutionary analysis — and ongoing collective action — focused on class conflict in advanced capitalist societies. Outside of the United States it sometimes is. The efforts of the somewhat ultra-left Marxist-influenced groups Wildcat and Kolinko in Germany, people associated with them in China and India, and comrades I’ve met in Bologna, Buenos Aires and elsewhere are the real deal. But in the United States ultra-left Marxism only attracts post-grads who should have become tenured professors and who missed their life’s true calling and career grad students who expect the world to accommodate their posturing, timidity and incapacity. Many Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist militants I have known, in particular Trotskyists, offer a striking contrast to this. Members of the ‘smash-ist-and-fascist,’ Stalinist group Progressive Labor and of various Trot organizations often get jobs in strategic sectors, as transit system operators, longshore or hospital employees, and spend years asserting their perspectives among co-workers. They often structure their lives around the fight for what they believe in. Their politics are no good, but the long term personal commitment they display in fighting for their convictions is superb. Far from being “alienated” this “militant attitude” is a wholly admirable and necessary thing.
    People attracted to ultra-left Marxism in the contemporary United States — they are almost exclusively middle aged and elderly males — are incapable of asserting what they claim to be about outside of a series of small safe spaces. Ultra-left Marxist fanboys will hold a meeting, at which they may valiantly decide to hold another meeting, and if by that point they haven’t completely run out of energy they might mightily rise to the occasion and decide to hold another meeting. They and their passively held opinions add up to nothing.
    In visceral antagonism to this I offer Subversion in Capitalist America: A User’s Manual.  This work is a template.  The pattern of action described here can be easily reproduced. The efforts examined should be used as points of departure for better efforts than mine in the future.
    “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid…”
    A vast gulf separates passive spectators from the energetic and determined minority who are hell-bent on making an impact. What we need requires commitment. It takes nerve. It means taking risks. It requires patience. It takes time. It means trying something new not for novelties’ sake but because there is no credible opposition now and new measures are required to build one. People who holler about boredom are bores. Mankind does not seek entertainment — only the American does. The revolutionary struggle can be exhilarating. It can bring us companionship, laughs and joy — but these are fleeting collateral benefits of what must for the most part be ardent effort in the face of setbacks. Thomas Mann defines a fanatic as an individual who, on recognizing the impossibility of his cause, redoubles his efforts. Mann may have a point. An ability to dust yourself off and keep going in the face of endless setbacks may also be the hallmark of a disinterested nobility of character; you do what you do not for kicks or to accrue subcultural capital but because you know it must be done…
    Alexander Selkirk
    Medellin, Colombia

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