A difficult subject

Title: A difficult subject
Author(s): An anarchist without the habit of deconstruction
Date: October 2011
Topics: affinity groups France
Notes: Contribution to the 2011 subversive bookfair in Brussels.
Source: Retrieved on May 2013 from http://www.non-fides.fr/?A-difficult-subject

A difficult subject, yes. A subject that can rapidly turn towards a polemic, sterile or otherwise. But that is not the goal. Neither is this an existential questioning, a “Who are we”, or a “Who am I”. I want to discuss about the anarchist movement the way I know it, that means the movement of today, although I can imagine that these mechanisms apply to other times or perhaps outside the anarchist movement. There are a lot of things to say, but I would like particularly to talk about the dynamics that uphold the relationships inside this movement, between each other, across language and geographical barriers. However I would not like these words to be taken for something they are not, in fact in whatever I talk about I include myself, and the mechanisms that I describe here, I have produced and reproduced myself. The will to write these lines comes from numerous discussions with anarchists from here and elsewhere, in different contexts, who also feel the need to bring up these questions amongst ourselves, to discuss them openly and without much formality. Of course I don’t pretend to represent these comrades, because I start in the first place from myself.
This text is frustrating, it troubles me. I hope nonetheless that by discussing these taboos, they don’t become a taboo itself, or a tool for self-castigation. I also hope, that on the occasion of these encounters around the subversive book, this contribution will be the moment to think about these questions, that are according to me, indispensable for the development of our ideas and for the encounter with other uncontrollables.

First of all, we don’t have to deceive ourselves, the anarchist movement is truly a movement, maybe a bit crippled, but whatever. We can, most of us, put in the centre the question of the individuality and of the uniqueness of each individual, that will never prevent the entity bigger than the individual, the movement, from substituting itself for the individual will and for the desires that belong to everyone inside the movement. Actually, every social group has its margins, it’s the condition sine qua non of its development, of its own self limitations. Since to be able to define ourselves, we also have to say what we are not and what we resemble. From there, the expression of originality in individuals and affinity groups is often normalised to fit into a mould, a sort of common binding. Until this normalisation no longer works, as in every social group, it is followed by contempt or ostracism.

That’s how automations fall into place and are no longer questioned. “It’s like that”, “it’s not the right moment”, “it has always been like that”. These mechanisms give the power to a handful of guardians the passing on of this sacred formula, holders of the ultimate truth and are generally not so enthusiastic to put any of this into question, despite the evaluation that hindsight allows us, which attest to decades of undisputed failures. I clearly said power and I add forced centralisation. The organization through affinity, which I agree with, has the fault of sometimes being badly distributed, to give too much power to certain individuals that have more social relations, and sometimes more seniority. We have to go through them, him or her, in order to organise, to meet other anarchists, basically for everything.

We know that power at the same time gives anxiety and is seductive, it attracts and disgusts at once. I don’t talk about institutional power but about relations of power between individuals. When one starts to acquire a bit of power, one wants always more. The formula is simple and basic, it occurs among anarchist, even though we are sceptic of these topics, simply through playing with qualities such as admiration and “charisma”. We start to admire the activity of anarchists in this or that country for quantitative or exotic reasons, and so we are locking ourselves up in the pursuit of models: “doing as in Greece” etc. We start to admire the prose and the charisma of this or that comrade (those who are reading this text can certainly think of a comrade that has more social value inside the movement than the others). This is where power relations are born, creating classes inside the movement, through rhetoric, through charm, or through politics. Actually, the movement becomes a place favourite to persons who know exactly what they want but who hide behind rhetorical artifices, some questions and some discussions lead to imagine the possibility of an opening that in reality is not there, because in reality “it’s like that, and that’s all”.

Actually, these mechanisms create leaders, who end up locally centralising the activities of the movement. Those who turn away from this centralization have to in one way or another justify their absence and give plausible arguments for one’s disagreement or non-presence at this or that cornerstone event of the movement, this goes for ideas as well as places (an assembly, a space, a specific struggle). The voluntary non-participation of these holy collective moments has to be justified, and not the opposite, at the risk of coming off as “arrogant”. Thus, without the need of a recognized authority, the multiplicity of the ideas of the individuals is limited to the dimensions of mostly the “charismatic” comrade(s). These mechanisms are inseparable from banishment; against those who are not there where one has to be, in this struggle, in that place, in this assembly, who are thus of course “wankers”, “who don’t give a shit”, “petit-bourgeoises” etc. this seems to develop a sort of point system, not so far from parole conditions. Mechanisms that can be found in recent struggles a bit everywhere, from Val Susa to the struggle of Tunisian clandestines in Paris or the struggle against foreign detention centres throughout Europe, or even “international solidarity” when it becomes blackmail.

I’ve seen many comrades give up, or simply drop out because of these mechanisms. This certainly demonstrates a lack of persistence and of will to create the circumstances one wants in their life, and sometimes I hold it against them. But I cannot completely hold it against them the fact that they give up because often the strength and the persistence are on the side of those who hold the power, since in any way that is what one needs to have and keep it.

To tell the truth, I think that I’m not getting much further by discussing about something that we all clearly see inside the movement: the roles, those damn roles. At some point we have all found ourselves confined in roles within our groups. The handyman, the writer, the social butterfly, the technician, the theorist, the idiot, the intelligent one, the one that does layouts, the one that puts up the posters, the graffer, the kamikaze, the paranoid, the shy one, the distracted, the radical, the moderator, the artist, all with a level more or less echoing professionalism. What is really important, is to get out of it.

Nonetheless, I don’t want to deny or level out the differences of everyone, every individual is animated by different tendencies, passions and tastes, but one thing is sure, we don’t have to leave the monopoly of all the respected attributes to one or some individuals inside a group, because it’s the easiest way to create a leader, sometimes even without their consent. And we know, it’s been said over and over a thousand times, there are only masters because there are slaves who obey them.

So we have to distrust within our groups, as well as in the relations between groups, everything that encourages “prestige” or “merit”. The elders are not the most respectable, prison doesn’t make comrades more interesting, the quality of a comrade is not measurable by the number of broken windows… It just isn’t quantifiable in any way. Prestige is hierarchy, and hierarchy is power. We shouldn’t be afraid to expose our fears and doubts, we don’t have to be intimidated by dogmas. It is not because a comrade is better in exposing his certainties rather someone else talks more about his doubts that the former has the truth on his side. First of all because truth doesn’t exist, but also because rhetoric only shows the capacity to persuade and not to convince.

Those who are more used to expose their positions, and here I include myself, have thus a responsibility if they don’t want to take power. Inside the anarchist movement, the mechanisms of intellectual authority have to be fought as much by those who are able to produce it as by those who are able to reproduce it.

An anarchist without the habit of deconstruction

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Comments

Almost slips into slave-morality and then BAM right at the end busts out some good advice to wrap it all up:

"And we know, it’s been said over and over a thousand times, there are only masters because there are slaves who obey them."

"The elders are not the most respectable, prison doesn’t make comrades more interesting, the quality of a comrade is not measurable by the number of broken windows… It just isn’t quantifiable in any way. Prestige is hierarchy, and hierarchy is power."
bullshit. not quantifiable in anyway. then what the fuck is a hierarchy? doesn't a hierarchy automatically imply some setof ordinal values. what is a quantity of not a set of ordinal values? numbers are still words kids, so if you are just babbling nonsense, be careful because some people take this stuff seriously.

look at the syntax corruption. damn this guy is getting seriously shit on by the system no doubt.

This is good. I read it more as critique of social capital.

I'm through being cool.

I read this and thought, hm, not many comments. I thought maybe the author would appreciate someone commenting on his/her article but it seems they really don't care much one way or the other.

I think anarchists spend an inordinate amount of time navel-gazing at themselves, self-critiquing, finding "oppressive dynamics" and tyrannies of structurelessness and informal leaders etc. Look, it's something to keep an eye on but it's hardly our most pressing problem. It doesn't help expand our space, which is the only way to really avoid having older charismatic people dominate things. But really, name some anarchist "celebrities" or "leaders" with real power in this world. I mean the power to mobilize thousands, to stop government policy, to spread ideas throughout society etc. That's right, there aren't any. Frankly I think we could use some! People who really dedicate themselves, take risks, etc. Not so they could lead us or tell us what to do, but to provide an example and yes, to rightfully earn our respect and a certain prestige, as upstanding comrades who have actually done more for anarchy. Everyone's contribution is important but some people have done more, let's face it.

Anyway if someone is "oppressing" you or excluding you or whatever, 9 times out of 10 it's because you're letting them. Go start your own project, it's not that difficult.

Noam Chomsky is a reputable senior anarchist academic of long standing and influence. He's a counter-example to your claim there are none such as he. It's said George Orwell was an anarchist. He wrote 1984, a book that has inspired/motivated millions. There are many others, too many for my ignorance to name. Still, they exist.

Oh god. Fuck Noam Chomsky. If anything he is proof positive of what this article is arguing.
Chomsky has a pretty established cult of personality among libertarian leftists.
He also exemplifies the division between ideas and action. He writes from the comfort of his academic armchair for others to pick up and act on it.

Also... Orwell was a democratic socialist (that's not even close to anarchist)

I guess his "Homage to Catalonia" is a fake or a misattribution. What?

You do realize that socialists and Stalinists and republicans fought in the war too right?
Orwell was on the front lines maybe but he most definitely fought with the POUM which was a socialist party / militia heavily influenced by Trotsky. Orwell wasn't even anti authoritarian at that point. It was his experiences with Stalinist repression that later led him in that direction.

Learn some fucking history you hippie fuck.

Coming from someone who learned his "history" from Wikipeedia -- that would be you, Sparky -- being called a "hippie fuck" ain't nothing but FUNNY.

not the same person who posted the wiki quote bellow but whatever.

Seriously, what exactly do you want Chomsky to do? He's like 100 years old, seriously! And even then, he did give talks and chants at a couple of Occupies. This myth you're perpetrating about Chomsky being an armchair revolutionary is not true. Although, these are the same sorts of people who talk a big game and then go to their nice condominiums paid for by the same institutions they are presumably railing against. And between that, books sales, speaking fees, and so on, the old man makes some serious cheddar. So the smart thing for anarchist such as ourselves would be not to complain about him but to send him letters and emails asking him to put us in his will when he dies in the next 5-10 years.

And even when he was young and able all he did was talk and sell books.
Fuck Noam Chomsky.
Fuck the left.

I'll actually challenge you on your rather flippant description of Orwell as being a democratic socialist ! Basically, if you hold a gun in your hands and are stationed at the front against Franco's fascist forces and get a bullet in the head, you get a gold pass to being an anarchist!

Anyone who fights fascist forces is an anarchist, ok lol, so like the millions of Russians in WWII?

Oh, right smart ass, you wanna split hairs, you know EXACTLY (lol) the context in which I was referring, but YOU, wanna be a fucking sociopath, WELL FUCK YOU!

what context is that?
Stalinists and republicans fought and died in that war against Franco too. Does that make them anarchists?

The context is of one's consciousness, oh, but you don't know what that is, you think and act on impulse, like an animal. Farming folk, innocent non-ideological people, livestock, pigs (sorry Bob), all died during that war, and they were what is regarded as collateral damage in the capitalist vernacular, in their ideological war. I'm an anarchist and I know and act like one, its there for the taking, very easy.

PS And Orwell passed the criterion for being an anarchist, that is, he took a bullet on the frontline in an anarchist platoon facing off against Franco's army. Can I make it any clearer to you?

Oh the horror! The horror!

-- Bob Black (pig ffffucker and honorary Rosicrucian)

I'm not concerned with whatever honorary title you want to give people who've earned a warm spot in your heart. I'm interested in facts.

Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950),[1] known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist and journalist. His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism.[2][3]

Someone just wikipeediad all over himself! Yeah it MUST BE TRUE, it's on Wikipedia! BWAAHAAHAA.

well you could certainly check the sources that are sourced on wikipedia and you will see that they are Orwell writings. In fact source #3 includes a quote from page 103 in 'Selected Writings' by Orwell and that quote is ""Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. [italics from printed source]". Also he eventually started to support the Labor Party and gave a reason as to why on page 373 of the penguin collecton of his writings called The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 1 – An Age Like This 1945–1950.

I like how specific this response is. Although, Wikipedia does suffer from selective sourcing at times, I do believe. And it's funny to read it in other languages and see the differences in the exact same entry because the articles are sourced differently or even grammatical difference that imply their opposites. Wikipedia does reflect particular biases, but that's normal. It's not like Britannica or anyone else doesn't also.

typical of socialist fucks like you to appropriate figures from history and mislabel them for your benefit though.
Good job but fuck you, you smug sack of horse shit. I've never seen someone so wrong yet so smug about it.

Oh cause you can source where Orwell identifies as an anarchist?

Didn't think so. Run along.

fuck you, liberal.

Chomsky's ok, but he mainly complains about US foreign policy from his Pentagon-sponsored seat at MIT in a way that doesn't really distinguish him from any other ticked off progressive. Plus he's ancient now. I was thinking we could use a few Malatestas and Durrutis, Berkmans and Goldmans, people who can inspire a crowd to make an insurrection and participate in it themselves.

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