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Commentary :: Politics
anarchists that alienate
18 Mar 2005
The most interesting thing happened to me today. I was talking to a kid in one of my classes as we were walking back to our dorm and I mentioned I was going to a protest this weekend. I told him about the rally, the civil disobedience, and then the march on Harvard Square that the anarchists were planning afterwards.

He told me a story about the day after Bush was elected, at Copley Square, where there was a largely anarchist protest. They took Newbury Street chanting funny stuff and then they ended up on the grass in Copley Square playing games like “anarchist, anarchist, cop.”

The kid in my class said it was pretty fun, but he totally doesn't believe any of the stuff they talk about it. It's too much conspiracy theory. He thinks the world is definitely fucked up, but they just take it to an extreme and thrive off of it, using lots of alienating rhetoric while they're at it. He had fun, but afterwards he was thirsty and he went and bought something from Starbucks, and felt kind of awkward when one of the anarchists saw him drinking it.

The interesting thing about this story is that though neither of us remember, I was one of those anarchists that day. I don't dress like a street kid and I try not to be blatantly militant and uncompromising in my rhetoric, so at a glance no one would really know, which I think is why he felt comfortable telling me this. Maybe this is what's wrong with our movement? Maybe this is why we are often so marginalized?

This guy in my class, he is our ally. There are millions of people like him. He understands that the world is fucked up, but the anarchists he's met are too alienating to be appealing to him. And I agree, most anarchists I've met take themselves and their rhetoric too seriously and are too uncompromising in their ideology. I'm not saying we should compromise our ideology in a reformist sense, I'm just say we should stay open-minded. If a leaderless organization uses voting instead of consensus, especially if they're not even explicitly an anarchist organization, it doesn't mean that they're doing things wrong. Attempts at reshaping capitalism, like with Adbuster's Blackspot Sneakers, may not completely fall into an anarchist framework, but that doesn't mean we should criticize them for trying it. I don't even think we should criticize liberals who spent tons of time and energy trying to defeat Bush rather than trying to defeat war and poverty. It's diversity of tactics, and people don't always agree. If our way of doing things is really the best way, let's not scold people for not adhering to them. Let's just do things the way we do things, set an example, and if it actually works, people will follow the example. Wouldn't it be authoritarian to do otherwise?

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Re: anarchists that alienate
18 Mar 2005
I agree that anarchists can do things that are alienating. And groups that fall into a non-authoritarian framework can be allies. But there are very real political differences and contradictions between anarchists and some liberal groups. Liberal groups who try to fight bush to replace him with kerry in no way further our struggle, and yes, they do waste time and resources of the "left", if that means anything anyways.

And for the starbucks thing, if your friend feels guilty, whose fault is that? If he can support them without feeling bad, then he shouldn't care what others think.
Re: anarchists that alienate
18 Mar 2005
I think what I'm trying to say is that I agree that replacing bush with kerry is a waste of time and energy, but not everybody agrees with me about that, and that's perfectly fine. There's no use in wasting energy criticizing people that we disagree with (like liberals) when we could be spending all our time working on other projects. If our other projects are actually effective and actually work, then maybe some of the kerry people will realize that they're wasting their time as well and follow our example. We're just really marginalized right now. The vast majority of people who are "mainstream" don't take our ideas seriously, and they only think of us as a threat. There's no reason why we should be a threat to the vast majority of mainstream people. I think a big problem is that we run around screaming "smash the state" and spraypainting circle As so much that people just dismiss us as stupid kids that are using politics as an excuse to be immature. I don't know, I think that if anything the way that most anarchists I've met sort of scare away people from the movement by being so rash and firm in their ideology.

You can't convince someone who's fully indoctrinated into the system that they should maybe reconsider the role of police or of party politics in our society by telling them that abolishing capitalism and the state will fix the problem. I think you have to expose them to run awesome community projects and stop bioterror labs from being built, and let them come to that conclusion on their own.
Re: anarchists that alienate
18 Mar 2005
an article on this topic from a self-critical anarchist perspective:

http://slingshot.tao.ca/displaybi.php?0083008
Re: anarchists that alienate
18 Mar 2005
these are very good points and i'm glad they're being brought up. i personally got into anarchism because i started going to some meetings with friends, and people were very friendly, explaining all acronyms and slang. they were also accepting and patient. even though i fundamentally agreed with these people, if they had been more elitist when i met them, i would have stayed as a socialist who thought factories should be worker owned and who opposed hierarchy. in essence, i would be an anarchist who wouldnt admit it because i had been isolated by some self righteous people. and i feel like one thing we have to be very careful about (those of us who consider ourselves anarchists) is how we are perceived (myself included... i'd be one of the first to put up my black bandana and yell things like 'fuck the police'). one of the main problems i see is the perception that anarchy is immature and chaotic, which we (again, me included) only perpetuate when we all show up in black or rant about 'the prison industrial complex' without explaining ourselves.
Re: anarchists that alienate
19 Mar 2005
I recently read this really silly journal article about how fashion affects democratic connections, but it raked the coals and brought a few good embers of thought up.

One of the things it talked about was this goofy idea that certain types of clothes were more democratic in nature than others, so you could dress in a way that would inspire connections to others who you ordinarily wouldn't conspire with.

Overall, I think that people need to look beyond fashion and maybe pay attention to a variety of influences in the way they dress. I don't think creating any formula for how to dress is potentially effective or democratic.

I do think, however, that any group that shares a certain fashion code inhibits connections from others outside the code. It's a psychological thing.

I think Anarchists in a "Black Block" generally operate independently even in a mass protest situation. So much so that there is no interaction with others who might even be of the same mind.

Additionally I think anarchists can have a tendency, perhaps subconsciously, to judge others on appearance. One of our longtime IMC members was once asked if he was a cop at the DNC convergence space on the basis of his dress.

I would say to any anarchist group, if you look around in a meeting and everyone is dressed in roughly the same way you have diversity problems of a different order, even if race and gender have been addressed.

(Not to say that indymedia is above all that! We are currently working through our own diversity issues, and making some slow but good progress.)
Re: anarchists that alienate
19 Mar 2005
I consider myself alienating to all. I believe that is a good thing. I tend to alienate humans, and also anarchists. Anarchists get alientated by me when they find a well organized individual who dares to speak his mind ALONE in a crowd of their kind.

They are frequently alienated that someone who by all rights should be "one of them." Uses most if not all of the constitutional amendements as if they were his own personal playthings.

This is why I am the new king of Indymedia.

Fight Forward!
Re: anarchists that alienate
19 Mar 2005
remember that thing about how anarchists isn't communism, and that we (i hope) believe in both a cooperative AND individualistic society? You can believe whatever the hell you want, but if you're intimidated by that I have strong ideals, that's your problem.
I agree that some anarchists are alienating, but the problem should not be blamed solely on that many of us have strong opinions.
Re: anarchists that alienate
19 Mar 2005
Screw that, there are plenty of "non threatening" radical groups out there. Let them join sas, greens, socialists whatever. If they get involved enough with them they will come to see that the so called conspiracy theories are valid. Don't water down your outrage to try to involve people who might not ever see it.
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
Diversity of tactics is about tactics, such as civil disobedience, picketing, protests, violence, and property destruction. Diviersity of tactics has nothing to do with the bullshit that Democrats engage in.

I'm sorry that some anarchists alienate you. We have some people in our ranks who are like that. Let's face it, we all come from a fucked-up capitalist society, so we have our issues. Anarchism is not about threatening the average person, rather the rich powerful people that control our lives.

It looks like you are trying to figure things out. Anarchists are not interested in joining forces with the liberals or conservatives. We are *different* from them for many reasons. They aren't interested in working with us, so why should we try to change our politics? Anarchists are anarchists for many reasons. One of these reasons is that we oppose the state, whereas the Democrats support the state. I could go on and on, so I suggest checking out some anarchist books.
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
I have to disagree with chuck. There are no inherent, unchangeable differences between anarchists and other progressives or even conservatives. That view is self limiting and dooms us to confrontation on all sides. I think some people's versions of what anarchism can be are potentially universal. Democrats, libertarians, republicans, greens, and socialists all could learn a thing or two by observing how some anarchists organize. Just as we could learn some things from them.

The Boston anarchist "scene" is not the apogee of what is possible, but the theories behind it are noble.
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
I'd have to strongley disagree with my associate by name. There are in fact very real differences between anarchists and statists. Statists believe that the state , and its coercive power, can serve a benign and likely positive role in society. Anarchists counter that no from of coercive authority can ever serve a benign role. Seeing as these two, absolutely diametrically opposed points, are the most fundamental beliefs of the statists and anarchists respectively, I think it's amazing that the two groups even work with eachother as much as they do now.
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
The beginning of modern anarchism throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia showed that anarchism was a broad-based popular movement derived from the anti-authoritarian blend of socialism. It was an effective and legitimate threat to capitlism and the state at that time. Various individualist "anarchist" tendencies deeply hindered the popular potential of the ideals of anarchism. After Spain, broad-based popular anarchism has never recovered. The closest thing to this kind effective popular activity has been the zapatistas of chiapas and autonomists of argentina. Though they don't identify as anarchist, these movements are probably the closer to anarchism has been from its inception, than most folks calling themselves anarchists today. "Anarchism" for the most part in the united states has been a joke, irrelevant and ineffective. And the vangardist, purist, arrogant attitudes of people who are just in it for their own ego isn't going to get us anywhere.
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
Face it, your politics are boring as fuck.

You know it's true. Otherwise, why does everyone cringe when you say the word? Why has attendance at your anarcho-communist theory discussion group meetings fallen to an all—time low? Why has the oppressed proletariat not come to its senses and joined you in your fight for world liberation?



Perhaps, after years of struggling to educate them about their victimhood, you have come to blame them for their condition. They must want to be ground under the heel of capitalist imperialism; otherwise, why do they show no interest in your political causes? Why haven't they joined you yet in chaining yourself to mahogany furniture, chanting slogans at carefully planned and orchestrated protests, and frequenting anarchist bookshops? Why haven't they sat down and learned all the terminology necessary for a genuine understanding of the complexities of Marxist economic theory?



The truth is, your politics are boring to them because they really are irrelevant. They know that your antiquated styles of protest—your marches, hand held signs, and gatherings—are now powerless to effect real change because they have become such a predictable part of the status quo. They know that your post-Marxist jargon is off-putting because it really is a language of mere academic dispute, not a weapon capable of undermining systems of control. They know that your infighting, your splinter groups and endless quarrels over ephemeral theories can never effect any real change in the world they experience from day to day. They know that no matter who is in office, what laws are on the books, what "ism"s the intellectuals march under, the content of their lives will remain the same. They—we—know that our boredom is proof that these "politics" are not the key to any real transformation of life. For our lives are boring enough already!



And you know it too. For how many of you is politics a responsibility? Something you engage in because you feel you should, when in your heart of hearts there are a million things you would rather be doing? Your volunteer work—is it your most favorite pastime, or do you do it out of a sense of obligation? Why do you think it is so hard to motivate others to volunteer as you do? Could it be that it is, above all, a feeling of guilt that drives you to fulfill your "duty" to be politically active? Perhaps you spice up your "work" by trying (consciously or not) to get in trouble with the authorities, to get arrested: not because it will practically serve your cause, but to make things more exciting, to recapture a little of the romance of turbulent times now long past. Have you ever felt that you were participating in a ritual, a long-established tradition of fringe protest, that really serves only to strengthen the position of the mainstream? Have you ever secretly longed to escape from the stagnation and boredom of your political "responsibilities"?



It's no wonder that no one has joined you in your political endeavors. Perhaps you tell yourself that it's tough, thankless work, but somebody's got to do it. The answer is, well, NO.



You actually do us all a real disservice with your tiresome, tedious politics. For in fact, there is nothing more important than politics. NOT the politics of American "democracy" and law, of who is elected state legislator to sign the same bills and perpetuate the same system. Not the politics of the "I got involved with the radical left because I enjoy quibbling over trivial details and writing rhetorically about an unreachable utopia" anarchist. Not the politics of any leader or ideology that demands that you make sacrifices for "the cause." But the politics of our everyday lives. When you separate politics from the immediate, everyday experiences of individual men and women, it becomes completely irrelevant. Indeed, it becomes the private domain of wealthy, comfortable intellectuals, who can trouble themselves with such dreary, theoretical things. When you involve yourself in politics out of a sense of obligation, and make political action into a dull responsibility rather than an exciting game that is worthwhile for its own sake, you scare away people whose lives are already far too dull for any more tedium. When you make politics into a lifeless thing, a joyless thing, a dreadful responsibility, it becomes just another weight upon people, rather than a means to lift weight from people. And thus you ruin the idea of politics for the people to whom it should be most important. For everyone has a stake in considering their lives, in asking themselves what they want out of life and how they can get it. But you make politics look to them like a miserable, self-referential, pointless middle class/bohemian game, a game with no relevance to the real lives they are living out.



What should be political? Whether we enjoy what we do to get food and shelter. Whether we feel like our daily interactions with our friends, neighbors, and coworkers are fulfilling. Whether we have the opportunity to live each day the way we desire to. And "politics" should consist not of merely discussing these questions, but of acting directly to improve our lives in the immediate present. Acting in a way that is itself entertaining, exciting, joyous—because political action that is tedious, tiresome, and oppressive can only perpetuate tedium, fatigue, and oppression in our lives. No more time should be wasted debating over issues that will be irrelevant when we must go to work again the next day. No more predictable ritual protests that the authorities know all too well how to deal with; no more boring ritual protests which will not sound like a thrilling way to spend a Saturday afternoon to potential volunteers—clearly, those won't get us anywhere. Never again shall we "sacrifice ourselves for the cause." For we ourselves, happiness in our own lives and the lives of our fellows, must be our cause!



After we make politics relevant and exciting, the rest will follow. But from a dreary, merely theoretical and/or ritualized politics, nothing valuable can follow. This is not to say that we should show no interest in the welfare of humans, animals, or ecosystems that do not contact us directly in our day to day existence. But the foundation of our politics must be concrete: it must be immediate, it must be obvious to everyone why it is worth the effort, it must be fun in itself. How can we do positive things for others if we ourselves do not enjoy our own lives?



To make this concrete for a moment: an afternoon of collecting food from businesses that would have thrown it away and serving it to hungry people and people who are tired of working to pay for food—that is good political action, but only if you enjoy it. If you do it with your friends, if you meet new friends while you're doing it, if you fall in love or trade funny stories or just feel proud to have helped a woman by easing her financial needs, that's good political action. On the other hand, if you spend the afternoon typing an angry letter to an obscure leftist tabloid objecting to a columnist's use of the term "anarcho-syndicalist," that's not going to accomplish shit, and you know it.



Perhaps it is time for a new word for "politics," since you have made such a swear word out of the old one. For no one should be put off when we talk about acting together to improve our lives. And so we present to you our demands, which are non-negotiable, and must be met as soon as possible—because we're not going to live forever, are we?



1. Make politics relevant to our everyday experience of life again. The farther away the object of our political concern, the less it will mean to us, the less real and pressing it will seem to us, and the more wearisome politics will be.



2. All political activity must be joyous and exciting in itself. You cannot escape from dreariness with more dreariness.



3. To accomplish those first two steps, entirely new political approaches and methods must be created. The old ones are outdated, outmoded. Perhaps they were NEVER any good, and that's why our world is the way it is now.



4. Enjoy yourselves! There is never any excuse for being bored... or boring!



Join us in making the "revolution" a game; a game played for the highest stakes of all, but a joyous, carefree game nonetheless!
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
way to copy and paste crimethinc
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
I'm not suggesting watering down politics or working with liberals, conservatives, socialists, or other statists. I don't think we should compromise ideals to appeal to people- that's bullshit. What I'm saying is that if people that aren't part of the anarchist scene see someone with a bandana on their face screaming "smash the state," they're not going to be like "Oh, that makes a lot of sense. We should smash the state!" More than likely, unless they share parts of our culture, they're going to get turned off of anarchism because it.
Re: anarchists that alienate
20 Mar 2005
That does make more sense. I do wish that (A)'s would spend more time explaining their politics and spreading them around, instead of hiding them.
Crimethinc= whitethinc
21 Mar 2005
whitethinc (a.k.a. crimethinc) is white privledged, middleclass bullshit. All you "ex-workers" are living of the efforts of everyone else like you did (or are still doing) by living off your parents or your trustfund. The other group of people who don't work, only living off the "excesses" of others work, and spend all their time just enjoying themselves are called capitalists.
Re: anarchists that alienate
22 Mar 2005
hmm. at the risk of being called a stalinist again--

most of the alienating stuff i've encountered in the anarchist community has been SOCIAL, not ideaological. i'm in florda right now, and lemme tell you, there's not an anarchist in sight here. . .its a real learning experience. one of the reasons the various sects of neo-rightist capitalist authoritarians have gotten so far is because they are friendly, open, and welcoming. their ideology is one of the most alienating, horrifying, evil, hateful things around. but they are careful not to *socially* alienate people on the basis of much of anything in their so-called "fight for the hearts and minds of americans". they don't do it with the beauty of their ethics, folks. they do it by being nice as hell.

now, to me, there's definitely something insidious about that.it is, of course, fantasticaly dishonest. but it might behoove the anarchist community to examine the difference between "maintaining security culture" or "supporting affinity groups" and treating lots of people who haven't read the same material yet(because its hard to get your hands on most places) but might actualy be good allies in some things like lepers, outcasts, fashion rejects, and possible informants or spies.

i know that security is a really serious issue, but if you- we, they- really want to see the world become a free-er, less authoritarian place, where people actualy get the opportunity to KNOW about things outside their televisions and radios and shopping malls, like individual determination and collectives and cooperatives and concensus process and so forth-- doesn't it behoove anarchists to learn to speak to people in a language they understand without having to compromise ideals? i don't know, maybe it isn't possible, but i certainly hope it is. . . .
Re: anarchists that alienate
28 Mar 2005
Right on Katt. So true about the fascists who are extremely nice on the outside. Jeebus (who was absolutely an anarchist) himself was criticized for socializing with the "wrong" kinds of people--agents of the state like tax-collectors, outcasts like prostitutes. His answer was that these were the people he needed to reach. Be nice to your enemies he said. Why, because they deserve it? No! Because it's the best way to win them and others over to your side. Is it dishonest? Only if you think it's wrong to be nice to people you don't particularly like. Some would call that being magnanimous.

And yes, we do need to make politics fun. We practice politics because we care about people, and want them to feel good and be happy so we have to start by being so ourselves, even in the face of injustice, etc. A bad attitude never saved the world, but fun and laughter invariably makes a "party" grow!

Negativity is the enemy, whether it comes from like-minded people or ideological opponents. In the end if we win, it will be because we had our priorities straight, valuing the right things in life--namely each other!