Yesterday arguably one of the biggest general/sympathy strikes in modern history kicked off. I refer, of course, to reddit and the shuttering of hundreds of subreddits in protest of a woman’s firing and, more broadly, the lack of democratic accountability on reddit.
Millions of people right now are excitedly joining a general strike with billions of dollars at stake. Now the leftist subreddits have expectedly sneered at the strike because they despise the broader culture in reddit and see themselves as adversaries to anything popular in the site’s notoriously problematic userbase. But it’s an interesting situation because, you know, I was raised to never cross a picket line. And one would be hardpressed if one stepped bac... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Introduction
Twenty years ago a group of Detroit anarchists began work on a new synthesis of environmental and anti-authoritarian thought. Distinguishing themselves from other burgeoning ecological movements in the eighties anarchopunk scene they sought to draw inspiration directly from our primitive roots. Anarchy, they declared, should not be considered in terms of an abstract state to be politically won, but rather a living experience and extensive historical reality. Reevaluating the ideologies and dogma of the classic anarchist movement they turned attention to the archaeological record and existing indigenous societies. By building on post-left critiques they passionately worked to bring attention to a much wider context and histor... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) While presidents almost always expand the power of their office and of the government, Donald Trump is likely to enact a degree of barefisted authoritarianism the modern United States is totally unprepared for.
Even if the corrupt and limp political elites that have so far utterly failed to stand against him unexpectedly rally a steadfast resistance in Congress Trump will still enter office with the overwhelming backing of rank and file law enforcement. A strongman unburdened by any conditioning of social norms or sufficient intelligence to understand game theoretic constraints. A man who the NYTimes reported “privately muses about all the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day.”
Never mind the wild geopolitical ca... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Fighting over the definitions of words can sometimes seem like a futile and irrelevant undertaking. However it’s important to note that whatever language gets standardized in our communities shapes what we can talk and think about. So much of radical politics often boils down to acrimonious dictionary-pounding over words like “capitalism,” “markets,” “socialism,” “communism,” “nihilism,” etc. Each side is usually engaged in bravado rather than substance. Radical debates turn into preemptive declarations of “everyone knows X” or “surely Y,” backed by nothing more than the social pressure we can bring to bear against one another. And yet — to some ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Is it possible for our enemies to discover actual insights? The impulse to deny this is universal. The third reich dismissed special relativity as “Jewish physics” and lost significant advantage. The USSR worried that accepting Darwin’s insights in evolution would open the floodgates to capitalist social darwinism and so they hurt themselves by sticking with Lamarckism.
Most people can admit their enemy invented a useful mousetrap, but it’s much harder when one’s ideological enemies make a claim that has rhetorical power for their position.
The calculation/knowledge problem — a family of critiques discovered by bourgeois economists — has traditionally been used by capitalists to suggest There Is N... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Despite the right’s stereotype of antifascist activists as close-minded thugs or paid protesters, in reality the majority have long been quite geeky, prone to lining their bookshelves with obscure fascist screeds and abstruse historical tomes. This comes with its own problems. Fascism is a multifaceted phenomenon to say the least and different threads can easily preoccupy a researcher their whole life. This has made fascist studies a kaleidoscope of particulars that can be forbidding for newcomers and resists general summary. We are all lucky then that in a moment when suddenly everyone is interested, Alexander Reid Ross has undertaken the herculean task of mapping an overview of fascist historical and ideological currents across a my... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Anarchists face the question:
Without nations and states wouldn’t a free society be especially ravaged by pandemics? Who would enforce quarantines without rebuilding a centralized institution of violence?
It’s a fair question.
Anarchism isn’t about a finite goal, but an unending vector pointed towards increasing liberation. We’re not in the habit of “good enough” compromises, we want everything. However it’s always worth talking about prescriptive or aspirational visions to shake out what is and isn’t possible with freedom. “How might we solve this without depending upon the state or relationships of domination?” is always a useful question.
And anarchists should take p... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) There’s a few images going around simplifying the adversaries in each season of The Legend of Korra as political or philosophical ideologies: Communism, Theocracy, Anarchism, and Fascism. Sometimes recurring irritants on the show get comparable billing and the roster expands to include capitalism and monarchy. But the first world audience is relatively comfortable with these two and so, as a consequence, is Korra. The implicit, although at this point near-explicit, moral in the show is the danger of perspectives that deviate too far from our present prejudices and norms. If these are extremist positions the average viewer starting point is taken as moderation–near some golden balance–that, if it can be narrowed down, will ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) There’s a particular narrative–surprisingly common in certain corners of the anarchist scene–that no one has really bothered to call out and so has grown rather fat and comfortable over the last few decades. It goes something like this:
Thinking or acting from a big-picture perspective is–if not The Problem–then at least a major root cause of everything miserable about our world. Any claims, theories, ideals, or motivations that extend our frame of reference beyond our immediate lives are predicated in the same mistaken arrogance, a mistake responsible for the seemingly intractable poison within the left and activist struggles, as well as so much more. In response we must ward ourselves from the ideologies, th... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Another week, another misogynist and/or white nationalist terrorist attack. They’re urging each other on, they’re forming broad movements, ecosystems, networks of cells. The Base. Atomwaffen. The Rise Above Movement. American Identity Movement. Hammerskin Nation. Wolves of Vinland. European Kindred. Proud Boys. The names and factions proliferate. Hordes congregate online to cheer the latest atrocity and urge further. One is left unsure if the shootings will speed up in their regularity or if they are moving towards some dramatic escalation. Perhaps they will shoot up a nursery. Spread gas in a major city. Finally make good on their “Right Wing Death Squad” promises and try to march door-to-door exterminating enemies.... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Anarchists have always paid a lot of attention to feedback loops. Seemingly small actions, small arrangements, small evils tolerated, can rapidly or inexorably build up to systematic and seemingly omnipotent power relations. Things that, in isolation don’t seem that bad, can lead to the formation of states or make those states even more authoritarian. Certain economic arrangements can lead to wealth progressively concentrating power into the hands of a few. As anarchists we are always laser focused on the the dangers of letting anyone get a monopoly in anything. On the dangers of even the tiniest interpersonal acts of domination. And as radicals we never settle for established conventions, we’re always questioning where what is ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Why do so many authoritarians on Twitter have anime girl avatars?
The rapid emergence of authoritarian ideologies online — both right wing and left-wing — is perhaps the biggest story of the last five years and one that has caught existing activist communities off foot. For decades radical politics was almost exclusively the domain of anarchists and other explicit anti-authoritarians. Sure there were neonazi gangs on the streets of many cities and the occasional Trotskyist or Maoist on the edges of the activist scene, but anti-authoritarianism was for all intents and purposes hegemonic.
The internet eventually helped shatter this hegemony, it gave authoritarians the spaces to recruit that they weren’t capable of holding ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) James C. Scott’s latest book, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, is sure to become a classic and a brick in the wall of core anarchist theory. It covers somewhat different but complementary ground to Peter Gelderloo’s Worshiping Power: An Anarchist History Of Early State Formation. I have some significant critiques of the narratives it pushes, particularly around the character and downfall of early stateless sedentary agricultural societies, but on the whole I loved this book.
Scott is admirably nuanced and attentive to more complex contemporary discoveries and insights. This is not a book pushing the simplistic primitivist line. It notes in detail the kind of exceptions that I’ve been pointing out ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Contrary to the assertions of some leftists there are in fact thoroughly monstrous people who are not just victims of their social conditions. Humans vary. We each follow somewhat random paths in the development of our values and instincts, buffeted by a million tiny butterfly wings of context that can never be managed or predicted.
A hundred cloned children with identical genes, given identical love and education, will nevertheless face moments of uncertainty where one must randomly pick a hypothesis or strategy from among those possible and run with it, to test out different models and values. Tendencies of course emerge in the aggregate, but they have exceptions. Sometimes these exceptions are themselves an aggregate phenomenon. An appr... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) For decades taxi regulations have served as the textbook example of government regulations creating artificial enclosures, rents, and wage labor. In addition to a host of prohibitous regulations that even extend to the color of a driver’s socks, the “medallion” system dramatically limits the number of taxi in major cities while at the same time allowing licenses to be rented and sold (prices range between hundreds of thousands of dollars and over a million in New York). Naturally this imposed scarcity has led to monopolistic situations with medallions tightly controlled by middlemen, forcing drivers to operate under capricious bosses in dire working conditions.
Today, finally, this remarkably sharp and long lasting perver... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Gelderloos complains at length about perceived small misreadings and misrepresentations in my piece warning about skews to “Diagnostic of the Future” but then he engages in a number of such himself. “They say I claim that fascism should only be critiqued at the institutional level, and never at the ideological level.”
But note that I made no extrapolations that Gelderloos thinks we should “never” talk about the ideology of fascism. What I wrote is that in his piece he casts fascism “in terms of dictatorship — a structure of institutions — rather than as an ideology.” This focus is what I take exception with.
What I actually say is that fascist ideology is ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) One of the best things about The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy is that David Graeber finally tackles issues directly relevant to anarchists. While his prior work has had value, it’s also largely been about rather obvious topics and punctuated with a need to apologize for or defend anarchism. Graeber has rarely written to us. His usual intended audience is much broader, much more liberal, and this has led to a kind of ever-present defensiveness and basics-covering that bogs everything down and taxes one’s patience. You can only read about the liberatory power of direct democracy so many times before your eyes roll away permanently. And yet, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere comes a... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Let’s talk about Brandon Darby.
Brandon Darby was an activist rockstar who took over one of the most visible projects in the anarchist milieu. Brandon Darby was flipped by the cops. And, as of Monday, it’s safe to say that Brandon Darby ended up putting two people behind bars.
No sense in dressing it up. Beyond even the jail time, in the realm of perception–both public and internal–this was a great loss for us. For a million reasons we shouldn’t be in the condition where we have activist rockstars, and we shouldn’t be in the condition where our rank and file are ignorant and shallow enough to crack. But we are.
Brandon Darby’s inclusion within the Anarchist milieu was always extremely problematic... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) When asking the question of whether [party ] was successful in the 2008 RNC protests, it’s worth noting that protests are not outright confrontations and cannot be judged by the same standards. Because protesters, no matter how militant, are still on some level inherently self-restrained. The cops fire concussion grenades; we spray silly string. Thus in a conventional sense, protests are always, inevitably, lost battles. What makes protests useful to protesters are the strategic changes they can effect in the process of losing.
Most people forget but Seattle was actually a failure. We got extremely lucky and succeeded somewhat in one tactical goal (impeding delegates), but made no ground whatsoever in the larger struggle. Despite ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) So last Sunday in the midst of a second wave of blockades of tech company busses in San Francisco and Oakland, a bus window was broken by some anarchist activists and the action immediately sailed to the top of countless news sites. Activists had been trying to draw attention to how the busses (collectively termed “Google Busses”) are subsidized by public infrastructure for free, but the real issue here is the starkly heightening class conflict between techies and those less wealthy in the Bay Area. This crisis is primarily a housing issue, but it has been amplified by the extreme insularity of the upper class tech community, and the private, tinted busses are naturally ground zero for symbolic actions. Vandalism is a venerable ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Two weeks ago we all learned that Brad Spangler, a professed libertarian and anarchist once of some prominence, is a child molester. There have always been hidden monsters and no movement, community or culture is entirely immune. But while we’ve spent the last two weeks recoiling in horror and crushed under the sadness of these revelations, one of the most striking dynamics to come out of this has been how many women in the liberty movement are only now being listened to.
To be sure, it’s easy to see creepy behavior in a far more sinister light with hindsight, but many of Spangler’s semipublic actions were still clearly objectionable in their own respect, of the kind that alienates community members and poisons movements.... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) So we’ve survived another election cycle and the inevitable surge of libertarian socialists like Chomsky lecturing anarchists about our abstention from voting.
I want to be clear: it is certainly true that the results of elections can matter. Unless you’re gonna roll the very long odds on a type of accelerationism, a bumbling centrist would be better than literal Hitler. Today, as the republican party lurches to the furthest white nationalist extremes, the “eh the parties are the same” rhetoric no longer cuts it for many. However. Just because the results of an election matter, doesn’t remotely mean that your individual vote matters.
The odds of your single vote swinging an important election are astronomical... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) In their call for nuance on the issue of indigenous nationalism, Emmi ends up writing in ways I find quite dangerous,
The nationalism that we oppose is Westphalian. It is neoliberal. It is authoritarian communist. It is anti-cosmopolitan. Its roots are in the sociopathic protection of geographic kin at the expense of those deemed “other” as a means of justifying colonial exploitation and expansionism. The nationalism we oppose is predominantly settler and colonial even if its ideological roots and practices are much older than the modern nation-state.
Sure we oppose those things, but that is hardly the full breadth of what we should oppose about nationalism. In fact the limited condemnation of nationalism here hones... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) If we can urge you to do one thing in this spiraling crisis, please note the way the “checks and balances” of the liberal state are rapidly dissolving in the face of a demagogue president with near universal police support.
Many cops are just outright ignoring the court orders against Trump’s draconian ban.
Cops at Dulles are reportedly detaining and shipping people off to unknown offsite detention centers (ie black sites) to avoid a ruling saying those detained at Dulles should be granted access to legal counsel.
Cops have refused to talk directly with a sitting US senator and have in many places responded to legal/etc. requests with sneers of “ask Mr Trump.”
While journalists and civil ri... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) It’s no secret that economists and libertarians have developed a bad habit of assuming things about history and other societies on first principle without actually checking archaeological or anthropological findings. On occasion the divide can be quite stark. David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years gets a lot of momentum by attacking a widely circulated economic fable purporting to explain the origin of currency wherein coinage precedes credit. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the “I need a blanket and all I have to barter with are five chickens but everyone in my village likes cowry shells” dilemma at the start of elementary economics textbooks has no clear historical basis; there’s little evidence sma... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) There’s a number of folk celebrating the collapse of the legitimacy of US civil institutions in this election, but regrettably it’s not so simple as de-legitimize the state and presto anarchism. Liberal democracy is an incoherent, ultimately unstable and unsustainable system, but there are many more stable configurations of society and a lot of them are far more dystopian.
Our strongest critique against liberalism is not that its founded upon horrific, unnecessary and intolerable violence — although it is — but that it is insecure against slow rolls or sudden descents towards greater authoritarianism and fractious civil war.
When the civic religion of a country withers and the treaty of liberal democracy is reveale... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) You know what I love most about the milieu? The level of our discourse.
Magpie Killjoy’s lobbed a short trollish broadside at Markets Not Capitalism calling it “racist” and “disgusting.” Of course he’s couched his hodgepodge assembly of emotionally-charged misreads with a few notes about how he has no fundamental objection to market anarchism per se and that many of the views inside Markets Not Capitalism are legitimately anarchist, but nuance doesn’t bring the pageviews and rallying the troops against teh ancap scourge–tendrils to be found in your very collective!–does.
There’s not much to work with here but I’ll throw down for the heck of it, if only because there’s... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) When evaluations of reality become seen entirely in terms of their utility as rhetorical weapons it ruins a group’s capacity to get an accurate lay of the land and efficiently strategize. Everything becomes about winning debates, not about ultimately winning ground.
One of the main things the social media age has done is collapse divides between private and public conversations. This leaves everyone constantly on edge for how they posture and maneuver rhetorically contra the outgroup — to the point of overwhelming honest internal discussions. Most productive conversations require a limited or specific audience. This is necessary to discuss any specialized topic or claim that not everyone on the planet agrees with or has caught ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Anarchists tend to pose our core differences with marxists in terms of degrees of radicalism or rootedness. One of the classic ways this gets stated is that marxism deals with the political whereas we deal with the ethical.
These terms to the disagreement, once posed, are almost always immediately acknowledged and indeed embraced by both marxists and anarchists.
The marxists tend to be delighted by the framing because it smoothly follows their narrative of being the pragmatists. And additionally by and large most marxists are explicit moral nihilists — they don’t believe there’s a point to the investigations of ethical philosophy. They’re not interested in interrogating what values or desires they should hold, they... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Personally, I don’t think “the left” ultimately represents much of anything coherent, but rather constitutes a historically contingent coalition of ideological positions. Bastiat and other free market folks sat on the left of the french assembly, and while we might try to claim that as part of a consistent leftist market tradition, we should be honest that one’s position in that particular revolution — much less revolution in general — is hardly indicative of very much. There are always revolutionaries who desire systems far worse than our own, and similarly there have been many broadly recognized “leftists” whose desires were utterly anathema to liberation.
It’s popular these days to p... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)