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Announcement :: Politics
9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
12 Sep 2005
A Critical Look at the U.S. Anarchist Movement
What's The Matter With Anarchism?
A Critical Look at the U.S. Anarchist Movement

with Ramsey Kanaan

Thursday, September 22nd, 7pm

Lucy Parsons Center
549 Columbus Ave.
Boston, MA
(617) 267-6272

Despite the much needed breath of militancy and creative protest anarchists have brought to many social struggles over the past few years, there is something of a crisis in the U.S. anarchist movement.

Unlike countries with a strong libertarian tradition, the anarchist movement in United States is largely young and inexperienced, white and middle class, and lacking roots within larger social movements of the oppressed and exploited.

This talk will take a highly critical look at the current state of anarchism in the United States, and hopefully offer some constructive ideas and insights of what it might take to bring the movement to a level of serious revolutionary activity in the future.


Ramsey Kanaan is an anarchist from Scotland, best known as a founder of the publisher and distributor AK Press. He was also involved in actions against the Poll Tax in Britain during the Thatcher government, and a singer with the early UK peace punk band Political Asylum. He currently resides in Oakland, California where he continues to work at AK Press and volunteer at San Francisco's collectively run anarchist bookstore Bound Together Books.


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Sounds fantastic
12 Sep 2005
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
12 Sep 2005
its not anarchism that has failed - everything - (Scotland and Euro too) though the blame must lie with the Leaders - who though anarchist like to pretend do not exist (theoretically) always do - though to be grown up we must recognize that writers, organizers, editors are all LEADERS - in reality !!
so ask Zerzan, Jensen, Starhawk, Nader, the EF! Journal, Crimethink etc - what is wrong with anarchism - or everything - they know because they know they are the problem - A very big and lethal problem...
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
12 Sep 2005
Nader. Hehe...
What's the problem?
12 Sep 2005
It's a petit-bourgeois ideology for small businessmen who hate workers power as much as they hate capitalism. It offers nothing to the workers and oppressed.

Read the truth -- oh, I forgot, most anarchists don't read anything but comix books and indymedia! Ha ha ahha ahhaahahaa!
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
12 Sep 2005
The problem with anarchism is anarchists have the nerve to look shocked if you fuck up their little marxist party. Never have I hard so many impertinent fucks trying to tell ME what to do, what to believe, and who I can't disagree with.
Main Stream Media Is The Problem For Anarchism?
13 Sep 2005
I've watched many MSM news on Anarchist protests. Mostly showing supposed anarchist breaking windows and causing meyhem. Alway a few bad apples. Or maybe a cop that's undercover in the group. (Never know...) I'd change the name to no neos. Hell, you might get me out there!
13 Sep 2005
I like that the commie posts a link to a bunch of texts from the 19-th Century to discredit anarchism as just "petit-bourgeois ideology"

Can't you find something that doesn't pre-date the lightbulb?

Also what's with this comment "most anarchists don't read anything but comix books and indymedia!" The talk is from one of the founders of AK Press, an anarchist publishing group. Books - publishing- it all goes together. Your just trying to be a jerk, aren't you?

At least anarchists never built something like the berlin wall.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
13 Sep 2005
Petit-bourgeoise? Haha. Marxists are adorable.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
13 Sep 2005

...If only those uncivilized anarchists would accept the will of the people's red army.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
13 Sep 2005
Why isn't this called "What's wrong with anarchists?"
13 Sep 2005
this imc has the worst trolls/generally obnoxious bigmouthed/smallminded users ever
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
13 Sep 2005
craig is right... the problem doesnt lie in the theory, in lies within ourselves.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
13 Sep 2005
Well, I've met anarchists who had their shit together and anarchists who didn't- but it seems to me- and this has always confused me a little- how do you ORGANIZE people around a principle which is basically ANTI-ORGANIZATIONAL?
My background is more with left-liberal folk- you know they tend to do teach-ins, start co-ops, and volunteer with howard dean. I think they've grown lilly-livered, opportunistic, and wimpy since the eighties. So I'm looking for peopel to work with. But I certainly haven't found that amongst the anarchists here in Boston.

Anarchists really SEEM to have something good to say, when one reads their writings- but when I actualy encounter them they are mostly yelling, dresing alike, playing childrens' games, and marching in protests-protesting in EXACTLY the same manner we were doing thirty YEARS ago! But then again, alot of what I see them doing is trying to rescusetate the carcasses of dead organizations. Anarchy needs to stop inhabiting and trying to half-assedly turn co-ops, bookstores, and the dead protest "culture" into a clubhouse, and start working out ways of stopping the corporate monster that are effective. And for god sakes, if you ARE going to try and resurrect a dead bookstore or co-op or protest culture, you have to DO IT- not just kind of half do it. Not just QUIT when it stops being fun and starts entailing actualy work.

I find them- on the whole- to be really cliquey and unfriendly to anyone who isn't white, young, and dressed like them(I am asian, middle-aged, and not too stylish)- and I'm REALLY pretty disturbed that they tell people NOT to VOTE. Sure, democrats pander and do terrible things. Sure we needed to get off our butts and do something about it in the Clinton era- like when CLinton sacntioned iraq to starvation while bombing in the "no-fly" zone, and penned NAFTA, and helped out wal-mart. But do they REALLY and TRUELY do as much damage as neo-conservatives? Would as many people world-wide- i mean really, materially- be DEAD, or MAIMED now if kerry had won the two sided corporate election?

Anarchists seem totaly unwilling to work inside the system at all. . . you need BOTH- people inside AND outside the system. workers AND middleclass people AND even what wealthy people can be TURNED from the SHIT to work TOGETHER. because thats how powerful of a machine corporate america is. its vast. its huge. Dancing to some antiquated sex pistols imitators(which they are, i saw the real sex pistols at their last show all those years ago, and they would have laffed modern "punk rock" out the window)-- sorry folks, but that isn't going to stop the juggernaut.

you have to put your silly pride on the shelf and talk to people who AREN'T like YOU in order to make things better. I've never yet seen an anarchist in Boston do any such thing. Nor a communist, maoist, or marxist, for that matter. How many of you pathetic trust fund babies has ever even TALKED to someone who you'd consider to be a "WORKER"? No, not your buddy who "works" at the local record shop- someone in debt, with kids, with no college, who really has NO other alternative? You are all just wasting your energy in the cliques!!

To me, the anarchist movement looks like the result of the ME generation, the FEEL GOOD generation. There are a great many intellegent, energetic, resourceful people invovled with anarchism- but change isn't all partying and dumpster diving, folks. If you don't ORGANIZE and build REAL coalitions with people who are not EXACTLY like YOU, then you will accomplish NOTHING.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
14 Sep 2005
Who ever said anarchists are anti-organizational? Anarchists are anti-hierarchy, not anti-organization. It is possible to be organized on an egalitarian, directly democratic, non-hierarchical basis. Also, what's with the sweeping dismissal of anarchists in this city? I know plenty of anarchists who look pretty normal and participate in all kinds of social movement activity -- be it labor, neighborhood groups, anti-prison work, etc -- in a pricipled manner.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
14 Sep 2005

The U.S. does have a "strong libertarian tradition". However, unlike in Europe, in the U.S this is a strong centrist or right-leaning libertarianism that is not associated with Marx, soclialism or the left in general. In Europe, libertarians were historically associated with the anti-authoritarian wing of the socialist movement Iie anarchism). As a result, much of the contemporary analysis of class, nations, the state, etc. coming from these left-anarchist cricles is simply rehashed or reformulated Marxism.

Unlike Mr Herring, I do not find anything liberating for workers or anyone else in Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism-Maoism-or Castroism. If anything, these movements have provided a blueprint for the oppression of workers, not their liberation.

Maya, left-anarchists are far from anti-organization. If anything, they wish their organizations were larger/stronger because they would have more influence. In this respect anarchism is like any other political ideology.

Anyway, have a nice day and I hope you have fun in Boston.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
14 Sep 2005
As an anarchist in this city, I think what Maya has to say has a lot of truth to it.

Of course, I am an organizationalist anarchist-communist, though. The anti-organizationalist thing that Maya is talking about was coming out of max stirner based individualist anarchism and it was by far marginal as compared to anarchist-communism and anarcho-syndicalism for over a 100 years until the student movement of the sixties unfortunately popularized individualist anarchism including its whack-ass, anti-organizationalist strains. But realistically serious anarchism is all about organization, but organization with others not for or above others.

Maya is right in general though about the anarchist "movement" (scene for the most part, really) is just a bunch of playful bullshit. Not all of it is though. Fed up with the predominantely white, predominantely middle-class anarchists in the united states, groups like the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective and the Anarchist People of Color are doing their own thing. Here's a good article:
And here's the Anarchist People of Color Website:
Also, groups like NEFAC ( ) and others provide a good local alternative organizationist model that's striving for real shit not just playing and calling it "anarchy".

I think that if you want to look at what anarchism for serious anarchist-communists and other organizationalists looks like, you're better off looking at groups like the zapatistas and the autonomistas, who don't call themselves anarchists... but are doing real similar shit. Which makes sense... afterall, Argentina had a really strong anarchist movement in the late 19th century and 1st half of the 20th century that carried over. And Zapata was heavily influenced by the famous Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon. In fact, Zapata's slogan "tierra y libertad" (land and liberty) was taken from the title of Ricardo Flores Magon's most famous work of that same name.

Anyway, anarchism is heavily misunderstood and a lot of that has to do with self-proclaimed "anarchists" who have to take their (our) heads out of their (our) asses and do some serious work at building real movement WITH others here locally in boston under the principle that leadership and decision-making on issues should be to the degree that your affected by the issue.
zapatistas as claiming connection to anarchists
14 Sep 2005
Actually in a 1995 interview with Subcomandate Marcos he made the following statement:

Los comunistas lo acusan de ser anarquista: Culpable.
Los anarquistas lo acusan de ser ortodoxo: Culpable

In English

The communists accuse it of being anarchist: guilty.
The anarchists accuse it of being orthodox: guilty.

This matches what's being said above by t@g... not to mention the zapatistas being anti-capitalist, anti-statist focused on self-determination, autonomy and cooperation.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
14 Sep 2005
I disagree with "t@g" and "@" take on the contemporary Zapatista movement. It is simply not anti-statist. In fact, what the EZLN has asked for repeatedly since its creation was a "seat at the table" with the national goverment--first the PRI and then the PAN.

In 1994, the EZLN, distributed a paper called‘The Mexican Awakener’ [El Despertador Mexicano]. It contained their declaration of war, a number of revolutionary laws and orders for their army. They said they were fighting for "work, land, shelter, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace."

I understand that every ideology needs its heroes but the EZLN are essentially nationalists who want the indigenous people to have control over their land and natural resources. Nothing wrong with that but this is not anarchism.

But you are correct about Zapata's links with Magon and Patrido Liberal Mexicano. However, during the Mexican Revlution, anarcho-syndicalists and communists organized in the "red brigades" both attempted to squash Zapata's rebellion b/c it wasn't proletarian enough for them. Not only that, some of the more Marxist-influenced anarchists even decried the (original) Zapatistas as "counter revolutionaries".

Lastly, there are a number of reasons why anarchism was popular among Latin American and Caribbean workers in the 19th and early 20th centuries and why workers in those same countries are not as interested in anarchist ideology today. Part of it has to do with the difference between the way work was organized under artisanal production, industrial production and post-industrial production, part of it is due to communist treachery and part of it is due to errors made by the anarchists themselves.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
14 Sep 2005
Considering state communism has never done anything more than fuck over everyone living under it (save the party), while backstabing the anarchist movements they came to power on the backs of, you all talk a lot of shit. Face it. State communism has failed. No one wants to be censored or sent to the gulags, socially purged, stripped of their individuality, or the likes. You party line hasn't changed in hundreds of year. The industrial revolution is over.
And whats more, you cant set up the final state of communism-a decentralized society, based on community and cooperation, not hierarchy- through a dictatorship. No shit, Marx was wrong. Now move on and stop assuming everything you say is correct because its party doctrine, and writtin in your studip newspapers you feel the need to push on everyone at any leftist event. Get off it.
And whats more, leave us the hell alone. We dont sent creepy cult-like youth groups to your events to pull fire-alarms and generally disrupt things.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
14 Sep 2005
LOL icepick....
indeed. LOL

Okay yah onto buisness:
sounds great that we can have this talk at LPC. Hopefully it will be fruitful and not just a cacophony of egos mashing against one another.

AK press is good so im sure homeboy is on point.
The US A movement could use some okay alot of growth but its as conflict would put it "sussed and strong" . So Just keep on keeping on , assess our strategies and outlooks often and we will make the day we dream of reality.
Of course organizers and thinkers are leaders of sorts, its how you institutionalize or dont that leadership that matters. To recognize it is all too important though, i think esp green tendencies need to admit leadership forms natural in social settings.

Seriously marxism is so much more of a joke than anarchism. If i approached 25 workers , dudes i work with, young workers in their twenties, and gave em a crash course on marxist and anarchist ideas, most are drawn to the freedom of anarchism. The end economic equality is the same, anarchism you are free though.
So put that in your trot pipe n smoke it.

Do we need to work on our movement, do we need to be a beacon of revolutionary activity and not fool ourselves into think we ARE the revolution ? Of course.
Should we give in and fold because some bougie kids who have never suffered the shit of the world but are star eyed and idealist, and call themselves anarchists too?
I should fucking hope not.
Zapatistas perfect? Nah , godamn good try at a revolutionary model. Fuck yah.
I like the sup's comment on culpability of not fitting an idealogical mold.
Viva Zapatista, Viva Anarchista, Viva Communista,
No more fighting amoungst ourselves, save that for the caps and the state!
15 Sep 2005
A. Of course they will. Leaders exercise influence, rulers exercise power.
Leaders use their experience, knowledge and ability to exercise influence,
rulers use force to control the communities they rule. Rulers can be
democratically elected, appointed by an oligarchy, or exercise a divine
right to rule. They make decisions for the people they control.
The difference between a person who exercises influence and one who exercise
power is that those who exercise influence cannot impose their will through
force on the people they are trying to influence. The line between
exercising influence and power can be blurred because people who exercise
power simultaneously exercise influence. The central difference is that in
an anarchist society people are not obliged to accept the proposals made by
influential members of the community they live in. They can if they choose,
follow a completely different path because power ultimately rests in the
hands of the people, not rulers.
Although individuals and groups living in an anarchist society are able to
exercise influence, the people, not a representative or a ruler make the
decisions about what happens in that community. Spheres of influence will
change with different issues, leaders will exist at many levels of an
anarchist society; leadership roles will not just be limited to a ruling
oligarchy. People with drive, knowledge, expertise and experience will be
propelled into the limelight in an anarchist community.
Whether the names of the same people appear over and over again and whether
the structures that give people the opportunity to display leadership roles
in an anarchist society become fossilised and whether exercising influence
becomes synonymous with the exercise of power, is ultimately dependent on
the active participation of the members of an anarchist community in the
life of their community.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
15 Sep 2005
We actually get on really well with our neighbors, thanks.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
15 Sep 2005
hmmm. . . . i agree with some of what maya has to say. . . . . i have certainly found folks in the boston anarchist movement who were mean to people who were not in their clique. not all the people in it, though. i've also met folks here who consider themselves anarchhists who were working really hard to work with lots of different people to make the world suck less. i've met both. the clique-y-ness really pisses me off(and LAST time i mentioned it i got lambasted as a STALINIST by one of them- never did find out WHO- which didn't help my opinion of the more cliquey anarchists one tiny little bit.)

but seriously the communism-vs-anarchism arguement, in the face of what is going on for most people in the united states. . . . .well, it seems absurd to me. its always seemed to me that pretty much ANY system would WORK if there were enough checks and balances on it to ensure it was functional while at the same time seeing to it that people are simultaneously free and not killing each other in the streets. Communism worked hideously in large nations, but it works quite well on tiny farming "communes"- anarchism *with leaders* has been cited several times here. thats a check and balance. Localised economy is a capitalist cousin-- and it may be one of the only hopes of stopping corporate gentrification. food nto bombs was started by left-progressive anti-nulclear activists, and now is primarily an ararchist organization. but what it does is still the same--

systems are not fundamentalist religions. they are tools for people to organize themselves-- ideally. And they are ALL highly susceptable to corruption. . . . . . and hence in need of balancing factors.

i just wish the anarchist movement in town was more able to build workign relationships with other poeple. it can be a wonderful thing, but it also feels(to me) like a clubhouse more than a real dedicated community centering thing-- for ANYONE who might be interested in shaking off corporatism and war and forty-hour-a-week slavery and so forth. this was NOT always the case-- lucy parsons center, for instance, it became a NEXUS for ALL kinds of people in the community when their building in central square got gentrified. . .i don't think its anyone's fault per se.. . .. that kind of thing just happens in organizations sometimes.

but whether you're an anarchist, a UFJP-er, a kucinich voter, or a nader one, a maoist, communist, deaniac, decentralist, libertarian, environmentalist, anti-corporate activist, god, man, whhatever-- while we're out here arguign about this shit, the rigth wing has CONSOLIDATED itself. While we're arguing teh finer points of a system which never even took HOLD in teh united states, THEY are gettign busy stacking courts, changing laws, creating a survelence society, screwing over anyone who isn't rich and corporate, and oh yes! killign thousands and thousands and thousands of people in the middle east- and who knows where all else. is there nothing constructive we could ALL agree on? isn't there even just one thing we could ALL agree on? because then perhaps we'd get somewhere--
well, i won't be here for this talk- i hope an article gets posted about it. .. . . thanks for reading, and i mean everythign i say in respect.
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
15 Sep 2005
p.s.- jeez resident LPC rocks. . . . . . .
LPCer said "We actually get on really well with our neighbors, thanks."
20 Sep 2005
You can ask:

Lucy Parsons Center Web Admin:

email: rednblack (at)
Also, Daniel Keshet, same address dkesh (at)

And ask:

baam (at)
micah lee
Jeff8163 (at)
exist (exist (at) Jamie NEFAC
R E Guill (guilrose (at) Elly
Matt McLaughlin (circleamatt (at) 377 Laurel St. Hartford, CT 06105
Simon Rios (electrodread (at)
Alexander Dwinell (alexander (at)
J K (dielo_trouda (at) Jim
lungfish (lungfish (at) fluidsanity (at) Homes Not Jails
Choke (dubious_battle (at) aka Scott LPC projectionist ABC
josh (brownies (at) runs Books Not Bombs
Michelle Millette (zenga9032 (at) aka Mothra PZL age 22 in 2005 Lives in JP MassArt student
Eric Ginsburg (drummer2320 (at) is from Wellesley, MA
Debbie Richards (vorse (at)
laura_d (at) PZL
Clariche87 (at) Clara and Juliet PZL ABC
trenchesfullofpoets (at) Jake
sharpie (at) doesnt have cable, principal of Boston Anarchist Network/Council/Etc at LPC
Pete Stidman (pstidman (at)
maus (xmausx (at) Boston staying in Philly
Sholom Keller (atheistrabbi (at) really BRIAN Keller
evan (at)
MaRK Laskey (kronstadt (at)
coweatman (at) ABC (Matt B Carroll) fatboy w dreads. fone:617 - 304 - 5784
serena jve (maliciouspity (at) LPC PZL
tania_michele (at)
tfiori (at) tfiori (at) Thomas
MaX Kennedy (korah_in_heaven (at)
shadowboxer (at)
Tree Monkey (bangarangatan (at) Frances Little BAAM ABC
Jamal Hannah (jah (at)
michael_patrick (at) IWW
Re: 9/22 What's The Matter With Anarchism?
21 Sep 2005
Someone has a little time on they're hands, eh? Wow, you have a bunch of random local anarchist's email addresses. Nice work. Now you can... I dunno, send them spam or something. Oooga-booga....