ONE MORE EFFORT TO BE REVOLUTIONARY!
The trouble with Revolutionary Anarchism is that it simply isn’t revolutionary enough- which is why I stopped calling myself one years ago, and, while I subscribe to many ideas contained within ‘Anarchism’ I see it as just another ideology to be eliminated by my class, the proletariat. I refuse to self-identify with the Anarchist label anymore, I am a simply proletarian and that’s all (try this with an authoritarian leftist, they really, really don’t like it!).
I start with the premise, that I am a proletarian and I want to abolish Capital and class society, I’m not interested in ideological divisions, I’m interested in what works. As far as I am concerned, all ideologies are expressions of formalised power; they consist of ideas and theory which have become petrified, subject to, and agents of, control.
I have always had great sympathy for anarchist ideas, and was once the member of an anarchist organisation, until I fell fowl of the group’s informal leadership and its dogmatic approach to revolutionary ideas and action, and the dynamic within the group, where members exhibited a disgusting deference to the age, gender, knowledge and experience of a minority of strong, egotistical personalities. It was also extremely boring- dull and unimaginative in its approach to ‘revolutionary politics’.
Anarchism as a ‘brand’ is fatally compromised at the very core of its meaning, by the fact that most people recognise the word ‘anarchy’ as meaning destructive chaos and disorganisation, and an anarchist being the agent of such chaos, harking back to the stereotypical bomb-throwing ‘maniac’ of the nineteenth century, a stereotype revived in the media by state-sponsored or manipulated groups like the rabid arsehole nihilists of the ‘IAF’ and other such supposed ‘urban guerrillas’ and also the actions of the Black Bloc across the world , which largely go unexplained. It is a profound handicap to have to constantly justify the very name of your beliefs and tiresomely explain, and then defend, its meaning. It is also something of an absurd misnomer since most strands of anarchism stresses self-government, rather than the total absence of government. This insistence on ‘Anarchy’ is an unredeemable obstacle to any supposed revolutionary objectives. Much as in the same way Nazis would love to rehabilitate the swastika as their political symbol. No offence, but it is nothing but plain stupidity and ideological obstinacy not to recognise the fact.
As an ideology, Anarchism operates outside the very class it claims to represent, or be a part of- constituting separate, often vanguardist bodies, which speaks to the class and not from it, with most anarchist groups wishing to build a movement out of proletarians that have been converted to the ideology. Much like the many Leninist and Trotskyite groups that it laughably ‘competes’ with, Anarchism preaches unity, co-operation, solidarity and non-sectarianism- all very fine words and principles, but ultimately empty ones, since the exact opposite is the order of the day. The irony of Anarchists criticising Trots for their own sectarianism is painfully funny.
Anarchism is another house divided against itself, and the ’57 Varieties’ of leftism are reproduced by Anarchists through multiple ideological divisions. Like these other leftist groups, Anarchism sticks to a set of rigid orthodoxies, embodied by a revered historical revolutionary tradition, and a fossilised iconography of the past. In the case of Anarchism, this conservative canon is rooted in the Spanish Civil War- regarded as one of the ‘movements’ great successes, despite the fact of defeat, and the horrific compromise of an anarchist leadership joining a bourgeois government. Anarchists are, by and large, traitors to their own cause, who cut off their noses to spite their face, being too hung up on ideological differences and the conceit that it breeds, intellectually scoffing at each other, grimly clinging to precepts that are largely theoretical and irrelevant, be they Insurrectionists, anarcho-communists, syndicalists etc.
Pretty, quaint- and irrelevent.
Anarchism is effectively stuck in the past- expecting to ‘build a mass movement’ in what is now a post-industrial society leaving an ideology without a constituency – In the UK the composition of the British working class has long been changed by the elimination of the heavy and light industry in the UK- the mines, the steelworks, the ship-building, the heavy engineering, the car industry and manufacturing in general (which now only accounts for 12% of the economy)- all these industries were as good as destroyed by Thatcher (just as other European countries, and the US, ‘outsourced’ industry to low-wage economies in ‘late developing nations’ in the Far East, South America and to Eastern Europe).
This is why Thatcher announced that there was ‘no such thing as society’, and then Major said ‘we are all middle class now’- essentially saying there were to be no more working class communities gathered around industries in which the workers could find, and forge, their common interests as a class…In Italy factory workers were known by revolutionary theorists ‘mass workers’ precisely because they worked in mass industries- The ruling class realised that workers who organised around an industry, threatening them with strikes, go-slows, occupations, boss-napping (and ultimately workers control) to resist the high rate of exploitation, had gained just too much social power- so they deliberately made entire communities redundant and exported the jobs abroad. The jobs once held by British, French and Italian workers are now either being done by robots or Brazilians, Chinese or South Koreans…(and the same productive forces have lead to their proletarianisation and resistance, whether in India with the Maruti car workers killing their managers, Bangladesh garment workers torching their factories or Chinese migrant factory workers rioting).
What has the UK got now? The service sector (clerical work with white collar and all), Retail, and Public sector jobs…In fact, the high level of people on benefits is an industry in its own right- the more unemployment there is, the more need for social services, the more illness, the more need for healthcare…All the rest is just paper/pixel shuffling, being a retail ’till monkey’ pushing buttons, bagging up and restocking, burger –flipping, temp, and short contract working. In this day and age, you’re just as likely to be a graduate in a call-centre as an estate kid working in Boots or JD Sports, or a single mum working in an office, or a labourer on a building site…or signing on and at college. Traditions breed inertia, and class-struggle Anarchists imagine that they are still living in the heroic age of industrial worker’s mass movements, and are consequently always looking backwards and failing to anticipate the attacks of capital and the state, before they arise. Since history tells us that ‘attack is the best form of defence’, our class cannot afford to indulge in the past glories of romantically doomed insurrections…
Given that the ruling class has so structured work to remove the possibility of mass workplace organisation (by de-industrialising the UK), what role can Anarchist groups really have in a fragmented service-based economy? I’d venture to say very little, apart from confrontations with the police on all too rare demos, and the occasional inner-city riot.
Anarchism’s ambitions are very great, but it looks like the proletariat can do without Anarchism, just as socialism, social democracy, Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Maoism etc. have proven insufficient in meeting working class needs, owned as they are by the reactionary middle classes.
The UK organisation Class War broke the mould of anarchism back in the eighties, tearing up the rule-book to produce inventive, militant and humorous propaganda and action. The beauty and the popularity of ‘Class War’ was the absence of a tedious ideology and an uncompromising immediacy. It lacked the inflexible, rigid, precious, purist beliefs of other ‘classical’ anarchist groups and publications…So successful was it, that it had to be destroyed, both from within and from without, with alleged infiltration, smears and by eventually being colonised by the very same middle class bureaucrats with their of ideological constipation. It wasn’t perfect however, with an over-reliance on a stereotypical ‘working-class-ness’ that put more emphasis on class-pride and culture than the abolition of class itself.
Anarchist ideology has overall, increasingly become a vehicle for the dead hand of the middle classes, reducing it to a series of moral injunctions, a form of militant liberalism, an impotent ‘philosophy of freedom’ and a largely ineffectual cult-like activist lifestyle, utterly divorced from the realities of everyday life. This ‘ghetto’ as it is affectionately called, ensures that a comfort zone of romantic, abstract and useless activity persists with Anarchists wrapped up in the security of their ideas. Anarchism is being effectively co-opted and neutered by interested middle class parties, from academics like Noam Chomsky and Sadie Plant, the anti-oppressive/ anti-discriminatory practices in elitist Universities, media-whore-activists like Naomi Klein, Laurie Penny, celebrity-whore- activists like Julian Assange and Charlie Veitch, to the squatters who are basically the vanguard of the gentrification of working class areas. Anarchism is also being ideologically raided by the likes of pundits like the ‘Red Tory’ Philip Blond, author of ‘Big Society’ voluntary communitarianism. Meanwhile in the US, ‘Anarchism’ is being hijacked by ‘libertarians’ such as Robert Nozick with his ideas of a capitalist ‘minarchist’ society, the fascist right organising as ‘National Anarchists’, whilein Germany, the ‘National Autonomists’ waive black flags and the ‘Immortals’ hold anarchist-inspired flash-mobs, and in Italy, Casa Pound, the pre-eminent cultural centre for street fascism there uses local activism strategies to extend its influence across communities (and has been successfully imitated by Golden Dawn in Greece). In the UK one trot party has even set up a front group of ‘People’s Assemblies’ all the while maintaining its petty party grip. The middle classes are hoping to ‘recuperate’ (steal) any useful revolutionary theory they can…The mind-numbing, garbled academic-wank language now used in university ‘anti-discriminatory practices’ is typical of a class that wants to preserve knowledge for itself, and therefore maintain its social power. This in turn has leached back into Anarchism, with Anarchists remaining immersed in a bubble of their own making, incapable of stepping back and seeing their ideology for what it has become.
All of these are examples of how the already moribund, out-dated ideology of Anarchism is becoming ever more diluted and compromised, subject to theft by the middle classes, and manipulation by its political foes (and state forces, with a perpetual infestation of secret police infiltrators and agents provocateurs)…
(Anarchos? No, Nazis waive the black flag in Germany…)
What we’ve seen in the global ‘Occupy’ movements in Greece, Spain and in the UK is a similar phenomenon, with the spontaneous formation of assemblies- and there has been a reluctance by Anarchists to join these movements. Why? Because they have contained elements which ideological Anarchists find abhorrent, because in their eyes they are ‘reactionary’ or ‘reformist’, or because they may have participants who are ‘nationalist’, ‘pro-police’ etc, etc, which are beyond their control… These formations have been of proletarians in all their complex, varied and radical glory, and you cannot get a much more real experience of the masses of individuals than that…Collective action in the streets as a response to the crisis has become the new terrain as collective action in the workplace is stifled by union bureaucrats. The Anarchists should have been there in full force, and mature enough to recognise these protests for what they were (which is what happened in Argentina in 2001-2, despite the anarchos being taken aback by events). Instead they mainly stood on the sidelines and carped, leaving the field open to middle class scum to protest their fall from celestial class-grace and push these movements into theoretical passivity and empty symbolic actions.
Anarchists appear to have been incapable of grasping potential revolutionary moments as they occur, staying well behind the social curve, bemoaning the reactionary nature of mass social movements, their ‘citizenism’, or the fact national flags have been waived, when in reality, they have been too afraid to have their own ideas challenged in an open forum, or too insecure about exposing them to wider scrutiny by living working class people, they are, by and large contented to sit back and look down from their ivory castles, where their ideas, and therefore, their identities, will not be challenged, and the ego-satisfaction they derive from the purity of those ideas that they think they own, remain intact and unquestioned. Individual identities so bound up with ideology that they are seemingly incapable of critical thought, originality or of thinking differently. Anarchists prefer to take refuge in their informally lead groups and to happily indulge in romantic riot-porn, post-meeting nights in the pub, debates on animal rights* and the tiresome Russian Revolution, and to produce dreadful, ineffective, clueless and dull propaganda, publications which look like parish council newsletters or punk fanzines from the 70s, or they print-up pointless stickers that say nothing at all, beyond the name of their club, er, sorry, their group…It’s no better on the internet; I’ve read anarchist literature online that drones on and on, using words such as ‘heteronormative’, phrases like ‘doing important political and cultural work’ and other such hopeless bollocks. In the UK, the pointy-headed ex-university academics of a certain well-known blog pour out sophisticated critiques and analysis by the score, in a glorified, toothless talking shop of a website which is easily confused with a college seminar- though to what end I couldn’t say…and one UK organisation apparently insists that their members subscribe completely to their set of beliefs (‘There shall be no god but the one god’?) Presumably so that they can remain as rigid and ossified as possible ‘come the revolution’.
The fact is, no revolution was ever ‘anarchist’ (except perhaps boring old Spain, and that was a counter-revolution), but the events of France 1789, Paris 1870, Mexico 1910, Russia, Austria and France 1918, Germany, Hungary, the Red Clyde and Merseyside 1919, Italy 1920, East Germany 1953, Hungary 1956, Novocherkassk 1962, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Mexico and France 1968, Chile 1972, Greece 1973, Portugal 1974, Italy and Egypt 1977, Iran 1979, Poland 1980, Romania 1989, Iraq 1991, Mexico 1994, Albania 1997, Argentina 2001…were all proletarian uprisings based on the power of democratic worker’s councils, not anarchist groups, federations or parties but the spontaneous self-activity and creativity of the proletariat. Social revolutions have never been made through political methods but that has neverstopped those whofail to understand the history or the nature of revolutions, the basic truth that revolutions occur at times of deep social, economic, or political crisis.
The only thing that may rouse people out of their passive slumber is prolonged and extreme deprivation, or a sudden shocking crisis (a war, mass water shortages, a collapse of the banking system, an energy crisis)- and frankly, the Anarchist movement hasn’t got a clue how to exploit it if/when it comes, with woefully inadequate propaganda and organisation. Ignoring the grim reality of the situation is tantamount to living in a fantasy world- It’s a fact that the chances of an actual revolution taking place are bleak- even now as the politicians, journalists, bankers, civil servants, cops, corporations and priests are held in the highest contempt ever in the history of the western world, with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, topped off with ecological collapse and an energy crisis- is this being exploited, or are ‘revolutionaries’ happy to live a lifestyle of ‘perpetual activism’ without tangible results?
During the normal functioning of the economy the compensatory comforts of consumer cornucopias off-set any desire to revolt, the bosses call it ‘political stability’ i.e. no class conflict and passive consensus. During a crisis, the question of legitimacy arises and consent begins to be questioned, if not withdrawn. Revolutionary groups make zero headway during ‘normal’ times, you simply don’t see people flocking to the banner of anarchist revolution do you? Nor is there a widespread burning urge for communism. Their activity is impotent, sterile and abstract, fundamentally banging heads against a brick wall. A crisis is an opportunity to reverse this sorry state of affairs- just as the state and capital is using it to ramp up their ideological attacks on our class – economic changes determine the change in social values.
A crisis that is a golden opportunity to exploit, by attacking the centres of power and the ‘legitimacy’ they are based upon. How otherwise does a tiny minority or rich bastards get away with exploiting a vast mass of people, except through their consent? Historically Anarchists have always been marginal actors during revolutions with the working class being perfectly capable of organising itself spontaneously into autonomous, direct democratic forms (without the need for ideological guidance). The idea of building an ideological ‘movement’ or a union is simply out of date. Anarchism is never going to be a global movement like popular Soviet-sponsored communist parties were in the 20s and 30s- and the idea of trying to compete with that history is laughable.
Anarchists need to accept that they are merely a minority of class conscious workers who reject Authority and Capital, that their strength as proletarians lies in the power of subversion, provocation and the spread of radical theory to the rest of the proletariat through effective propaganda -providing of-course, that they’re not some middle class ideologue, or a vile informal leader…
Ideally the thing to do in any crisis would be to exploit the situation as much as the capitalists exploit it, to go beyond mere resistance to their attacks- this starts with propaganda- and the question of the orthodox, rigid, ideological nature of Anarchism. By propaganda I mean by the word AND the deed, (so when the Black Bloc acts for example, its actions are also comprehensively explained).
Ideally, revolutionary groups would produce propaganda well in advance of any crisis that is relevant, based in the reality of life as it is lived, and the possibilities that a post-revolutionary society has to offer- directly related to lived experience or real issues affecting our class, critiques of power and ‘leadership’ as it is experienced from day to day- the bullying supervisor, the scumbag landlord, the shitty benefits ‘advisor’, the sexist doctor or the racist neighbour. Propaganda that is scurrilous, funny and hard-hitting. One that exposes the fundamental truth of psychotic power and the lies it depends on to maintain itself- how all workplaces are dictatorships, how deeply corrupt our politicians are, how the government engages in thuggery, murder and torture on a daily basis in its imperial wars, how we are infantilised by the media and the animalistic hierarchy that exists between workers, managers and bosses. A propaganda that speaks of how the world could be, how the assembly has become the organisational form of choice for proletarians around the world, how small libertarian communities are the model now considered to be the only sustainable form of urban living, how there are viable economic systems to replace capitalism, how information technology could truly revolutionise social relations. Positive shit basically, not just the unremitting bilge of what happened in Barcelona in 1936, or cheerleading the latest ‘exciting’ riot. Not the usual alienating, bland, whiney, weak and ineffectual “we don’t have a blueprint, nor do we want one” drivel.
Humans, by and large seek security- if you have no ideas to present, to offer people as a replacement for this shitty system, then you are starting from a position of weakness. Anarchists call on working class people to join them to overthrow capitalism, and yet they offer little idea of what it would be replaced with, there is simply no vision, no coherent critique of power and since capitalism is primarily a system of economics ,it might be a good idea to have some idea of an alternative to it- yet there is little discussion of such things as the sheer complexity of modern life, the division of labour, mediums of exchange, modern production methods, urban planning, international relations, how living standards globally would be maintained, fall, or rise, how people would, for example, get their deodorant or haemorrhoid cream, their baby food, or how opticians would be trained and paid, how worker’s control would function in service-economy workplaces like call-centres or offices that produce nothing… There is simply not enough fucking debate or critical thought. Visionary ideas, if they are looked at, at all, are left in the margins, like Parecon, bitcoin or how a digital signature currency (‘dissolving money’) might work …I’d say anarchism has yet to provide a coherent system of libertarian economics to underpin any vision at all, beyond vague ideas of a millenarian collectivism…but if you actually offered alternatives, people may come to think that you might actually be on to something. Propaganda has to be effective, otherwise, trying to compete with the total output of the commodity machine is just a non-starter, since you’re up against the X-Factor, Justin Bieber’s new CD, the latest Hollywood blockbuster , ‘Hello’ magazine, the latest fashion or gadget, new broadband deals, Sky-Plus boxes and any number of other mass consumer goodies that keeps people contented and disinterested in any idea of revolution -never mind the influence of the bourgeois press…
Our class enemy is diverse but recognises its collective interests and knows how to stand together in, and outside, of a crisis, revolutionaries who talk a great deal about ‘unity’ and ‘solidarity’ drown in a pointless ego-driven battle for ideas, and never manage to achieve either in reality. Ruling class power survives thanks to the simplicity of their ideology: Property rights, order and the legitimacy of Authority. Before you can even begin to fantasise about how to defeat CO19, SO11, the SAS CRW squads or the Army’s Public Order Battalions, to overthrow the rich, the real challenge is to actually unite and then to seriously contest Capital for the hearts and minds of the rest of our class, from plumbers to pole-dancers, hairdressers and Housing Office workers, bus drivers and nursing assistants -and their families…
Solidarity and flexibility, not ideological rigidity, is the key to any real unity and that means putting aside tired old ideas to work together. An idea doesn’t work, been tried and tested? – so throw it away, try a new one, move on. It’s OK to be wrong, never mind; it’s OK to change your mind. None of us have the absolute, definitive, answer in trying to ‘Make Capitalism History’, so we should drop all those pretensions that make us think that we as individuals or in organisations are ideologically, intellectually, strategically or emotionally ‘right’. Hatred of the system is what should unite us all, as proletarians first and foremost, and from that we should be able to forge unbreakable bonds of solidarity and comradeship, which should outweigh all other considerations. Egos are obstacles to unity, as is the amount of emotional investment individuals have in their particular ‘brand’ of politics. A radically subjective mind-set –‘I am myself first and foremost, Me, not the embodiment of a rigid ideology’.
What is needed is an ‘Anarchism-minus-anarchy’, or ‘Anarchy-minus-Anarchism ’or better still, to completely escape the straitjacket of the past, a totally new conception of uncompromising, militant and human revolutionary politics aimed at total democracy, total revolution and the abolition of class society. Anarchism is too ideologically fixed, too steeped in its own mythology, too negatively perceived by many working class people, and too easily ridiculed and co-optedby the bourgeois media. Ideology breeds inertia, hierarchy and boredom. All ideology is counter-revolutionary, it reproduces the system and merely serves to divide proletarians, and in the context of propaganda, it is boring, boring, boring. Drop the labels and the self-defeating psychology; reject the dried-up shibboleths of ideology and accept the living, human fluidity of theory. Above all, fuck all ‘isms’-
Revolutionary theory is the sworn enemy of all revolutionary ideology — and ought to know it.
Be Revolutionary, because Anarchism has ceased to be, and fuck Anarchism.
Be Revolutionary or accept the future of ‘a boot stomping on a human face -forever’…
THE RICH ARE OUR MISFORTUNE.
* (another middle class foible or the ‘political economy of anthropomorphised Disney characters’)