Breaking with Delusion: Musings for Life beyond the Left
On Saturday December 1st 2012, anarchists in Atlanta gathered for a monthly anarchist assembly. A few days prior, an anonymous comment was left on the online event page for this assembly. The comment proposed a debate and posed the question that became the subject of our discussion that night. What is “the left”? Are anarchists of it? Do our roots in utopian socialist traditions continue to bind us to the left or does the left signify some-thing that ought to be abandoned?
While this has been an ongoing conversation among many anarchists in the milieu, Dec 1st saw what was probably the first time a public debate between left anarchists and what one participant called “the others” has taken place in this city. Although the left anarchists were few among the crowd and it could be argued that no one held a staunchly left ideological line, the arguments presented by those who tend toward left politics were important and informative. That said, the general sentiment of the crowd pointed toward severing ties with leftism all together. Most present at the December 1st anarchist assembly seemed to agree that anarchism aims for something qualitatively different than the left.
The influence that social anarchists and left anarchists have had on the anarchist milieu has been disproportionate to their numbers. Many local anarchists continue to struggle from a position informed by identity politics and overly determined programmatic organizational forms. Despite their ideological influence, many of us continue to question if there will ever be any material action to back the rhetoric of left anarchists or the authoritarian formations, both of which are currently fighting to remain relevant.
We write this piece in hopes of creating room for healthy debate among comrades; the sort of debate that will allow us all to reflect on our positions and motivate us to look for new ways to move forward. We also hope that this piece (in conjunction with other pieces coming out of Atlanta) can help to further combat the anti-intellectualism that is present in many anarchist circles. There is a need for our critiques and a need for debate. Reflection and writing only help to strengthen our praxis. Lets not detract from our capacity to attack but let us strengthen it by learning from mistakes.
While we look forward to furthering this conversation and engaging in critical debate with the partisans of the left with which we might find more affinity with than others, we present this collection of musings for life beyond the left as an attempt to give definition to some points and tendencies present in the context of Atlanta (though these things might apply to other cities as well). We present this for those who might be on the fence, for “the others”, and to the majority present that night who agreed that anarchists and the left are altogether different even if we don’t know exactly where that acknowledgement will take us.
**** The following is in no way intended to speak for every anarchist in Atlanta. These are simply some conclusions a few of us have reached. The following perspectives aim to clarify positions, opinions, and critiques as a way to further the conversation started that night. ****
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- DEFINING THE LEFT
- BREAKING WITH THE DELUSION
- “THE MASSES”
- SO WHAT ABOUT LEFT ANARCHISM OR SOCIAL ANARCHISM?
- A PARTIAL CRITIQUE OF AUTHORITARIAN SOCIALISM
- A “NEED” FOR THE LEFT
- FOR A REDEFINITION OF LIFE AND STRUGGLE – TOWARD THE DISILLUSION OF THE LEFT
- FINDING EACH OTHER
- A BRIEF NOTE ON GOOD Ⓐ VS. BAD Ⓐ AND THE GAMES OF THE LEFT
- SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS
Look around – How many empty unfulfilled lives and unrealized potentials cross our gaze day in and day out? Is it even worth quantifying or might it be easier at this point to assume that most of us have been forced into a condition that accepts this totalizing spectacle as “life as we know it”? It’s true for most that this world finds us in a sort of structured chaos; one where our lives have little social value beyond their profitability. Where our goals and aspirations have to be domesticated and worked into a market, sold for profit, policed, and compartmentalized. How many of us have forgotten (if we ever even realized in the first place) that our lives are meant to be lived? From early on, we are groomed to fill some role in this system – roles that are imposed – but how many of us have the privilege of giving extra thought to our own desires? Is our own realization even possible in this overly determined world of work, policing, war, politics, and competition?
The usual morning cup of coffee complete with that bitter taste of foreign exploitation, the shocking headline that no longer even elicits a reaction from its reader, the commute to work or school, paying the rent or facing eviction and possible homelessness, imposed identities and all the other social constructs mediating how we relate to one another, satisfying our cravings with commodities and social networks that hardly ever provide a substitute for meaningful relationships and creative self realization; one rarely has to look far (even beyond themselves) to see how our lives are entrenched in conditions that negate life itself. We don’t intend to present a bleak outlook on our current situations but it is worth illuminating a certain set of conclusions that we’ve come to – that is, that we also don’t have to look far beyond ourselves to find the very reproduction of these conditions within our own activity and often within our very struggles against domination.
In spite of our best efforts, it’s easy to see futility in certain attempts to dispense with the alienation that marks our lives within this current system. This leaves many of us settling for indulgence in the spectacle merely to experience a simulacrum of the things we wish we had: a life of meaning, acceptance, pleasure, and mutual aid but as capitalism would have it, these intimate parts of our lives can only be bought and sold. History is full of waged struggles against this reality but contemporary resistance finds itself in a situation marked by stagnation – refusing to shake off the dust of these old forms.
Contemporary resistance may be plagued by an ideal, a sort of canon presented to us by the left attempting to define what struggle or revolution is and what our own role within that process ought to be. From within these models, we are restricted in action and often doomed to relive historical failures. While we are expected and often coerced into embracing the traits and attributes presented to us as those of the model revolutionary, we have to come to a realization that this identity, this ideal, is marked by more limits than possibilities. If we are to advance towards new stages of resistance, we have to part ways with the old.
One might ask – What exactly are we breaking from? Where are we headed? How? While some only look for answers in the theories of Marx, Lenin, Bakunin, or Kropotkin, and others obsess over ideology or choose to limit activity to tactics that may or may not have been successful in the decades and centuries that predate our own, there are still even more of us who have come to acknowledge a need for something new – something entirely different. This does not mean disregarding the history and theories that have inspired past ruptures and revolts but it does mean acknowledging the context that we are in and gleaning from the past and present that what we face is itself something ever-changing. In all of these past struggles, a limit was reached, but new potentialities were created. We are hurting ourselves if we refuse to move forward, cross old boundaries, and establish new limits. We are deluding ourselves if we continue to fetishize the past while ignoring the new ways capital and authority affect how we relate to our surroundings and to each other.
Despite past efforts, our very resistance has been recuperated and co-opted – strengthened are the networks of domination over our lives. It is long past time to envision something else beyond the old “tried and true” methods that have left us in the same predicament, arguably worse off – more entrenched in our subordination to authority and our obsession with the spectacle. So internalized are these things, that we have been unable to even cast them off in the very process of revolt.
Defining the Left
Left2 Noun : In politics, the portion of the political spectrum associated in general with egalitarianism and popular or state control of the major institutions of political and economic life.
During the aforementioned debate, some participants referred to the left as “enigmatic”, “nebulous”, and without definition. That the left is an umbrella term for those who struggle for egalitarianism, justice and other familiar terms or phrases regurgitated by the general activist milieu. We disagree with our comrades here but we would rather not engage in a game of semantics. In opening this section, we offered a fairly basic definition of what it is we are referring to as “the left.” We offer these critiques to challenge what is generally accepted as the norm within the context of social struggles and to dispense with a certain narrative of legitimacy presented by partisans of the left (whether it be the unions, democrats, NGOs, activists, communists, or even other anarchists) who aim to manage the proletarian class and their activity.
“We continue to see the enemy as a subject that faces us – instead of experiencing it as a relationship that binds us – we confine ourselves to the struggle against confinement. We reproduce the worst relationships of dominance under the pretext of an alternative. We set up shops for selling the struggle against the commodity.”
– Call , Anonymous
If anything, the left signifies to us an outdated, inflexible institution that has come to represent “resistance” – becoming nothing more than the image of resistance rather than an actual living force. These coalitions, popular fronts, parties, and formations have funneled in potential friends and co-conspirators and turned out the “radical”, the “revolutionary”, the “organizer”, and the “cadre”. It has succeeded in the art of maintaining itself (rather than replicating itself and generalizing its ideals) despite its much-needed re-evaluation.
As evidenced by the fact that capitalism still exists and governments still oppress, we can see that the revolutions of the past (whether anarchist or authoritarian) were not complete. Rather than focus on the specifics of their failures, we instead aim to draw your attention to specific tenets of the left accepted by the majority of people who would identify with this portion of the political spectrum. We do this to point out shortcomings and blind spots that we hope might inform a future rupture – one which refuses to be controlled.
Breaking with the Delusion
“The rejection of ideology, that is to say, the rejection of every program, idea, abstraction, ideal or theory that is placed above life and individuals as a construct to be served. The rejection, therefore, of God, the State, the Nation, the Race, etc., but also of Anarchism, Primitivism, Communism, Freedom, Reason, the Individual, etc. when these become ideals to which one is to sacrifice oneself, one’s desires, one’s aspirations, one’s dreams. The use of ideas, theoretical analysis and the capacity to reason and think abstractly and critically as tools for realizing one’s aims, for reappropriating life and acting against everything that stands in the way of this reappropriation. The rejection of easy answers that come to act as blinders to one’s attempts to examine the reality one is facing in favor of ongoing questioning and theoretical exploration.”
- Wolfi Landstreicher – From Politics to Life: Ridding Anarchy of the Leftist Millstone
To begin, it would be short sighted and arrogant to not take a moment to point out our own shortcomings. Though many of us have attempted to break with the delusions of leftism we still find ourselves replicating its forms and tactics far too often. Many have speculated how we should move forward and we have even seen critical self reflection (here as well) come from our milieu. This sort of critical engagement is altogether new for the Atlanta anarchist milieu. It shows a level of maturity and engagement that is often rare in North American anarchist circles. It should be said however that almost as soon as new possibilities open up, we often see a return to more of the same. That is – a return to leftist forms of organizing and an acceptance of general leftist narratives. What can we do to truly break from this old dizzying and fruitless cycle and enhance our ability to revolt and act? How do we avoid being specialists in our attacks but allow for them to spread like wildfire?
“… for the anarchist, there is no difference between what we do and what we think, but there is a continual reversal of theory into action and action into theory. That is what makes the anarchist unlike someone who has another concept of life and crystallizes this concept onto political practice, in political theory”
– Alfredo Bonanno, The Anarchist Tension
Let us take time to add reflection, debate, and self-care to our list of priorities so that we can better break from the drudgery of society and leftism.
We have to note that many who occupy a left position (anarchists included) fall into the leftist fixation with “The Masses” – a numbers game which prioritizes quantity in action over the quality and outcome of said action. As such, much of the left has reduced itself to some form of evangelism or another. Much like Christians, they seek converts to their pre existing ideas and aims. Many among the left find themselves trapped here, never venturing into any form of activity that isn’t designed explicitly to appeal to “the lowest common denominator.” Never is there room for open dialogue, debate, diversity of tactics, or a change in trajectory unless of course the management of the left establishment see these as politically expedient. Likewise, the activity of rebels and rogue proletarians is policed so as to maintain a populist veneer under the assumption that some fictional mass will materialize so long as we don’t frighten them off in the practice of our liberation and autonomy. We know the opposite to be true. That is to say that the practice of our liberation and autonomy lays the material foundation for the broadening and generalization of collective struggle while creating possibilities for others to engage on their own terms.
This very same Mass is held up by partisans of the left as a (if not the) precondition for insurrectionary activity as well as a precondition to our own self realization. The populist and seemingly democratic (even directly democratic) institutions and formations of the left generally boil down to nothing more than a push toward reforming the state and how it manages capital. Our liberation is not on the agenda. Complete with its laundry list of desired reforms, the established left seeks not to emancipate humanity but to gain certain concessions that might improve our outlook upon the bankruptcy that marks our lives. Upon closer examination, this is done only through a process that in the end helps capitalism ‘work better’ under their management. To these leftists, the ability to force certain social changes proves successful when the talking heads who read the news, politicians, and celebrities regurgitate the narratives and talking points constructed by movement leadership. This very same language however is employed to control our movement and activity.
Tactical questions such as the question of violence then for the Left are not dependant on their potential to destabilize power relations or on any of its emancipatory potential nor are they seen as moral questions. Instead, the focus is diverted to how the movement can further work within the already established structures and institutions – those that perpetuate domination. The left has an ingrained tendency to avoid and delegitimize any activity that might scare those in power with which they are attempting to negotiate and those whose ranks they aspire to one day join. Herein lies the sinister nature of the left’s mass appeal. Much like the state, democracy for them lends a sort of quantifiable legitimacy to their claims of ownership over our individual struggles; reducing and homogenizing its base into a force toward ends already determined by officials, candidates, and activists. This logic is often followed up to the point of negating the very possibility of open revolt. Instead, this logic inadvertently supports the monopoly of violence that is the state itself. In fact, they simply seek to replace the individuals in the structures of the current social order with their own- rather than to dismantle those structures completely.
The activity of the left begs the question: Is our intent to pressure those around us along with the state over us into adopting a set of positions and a sort of specialized language? Is that really the object of our rebellion? Do we measure our power based on our ability to directly confront and change the conditions over our lives or on numbers, statistics, and the turn out to ineffective rallies and symbolic marches? If we are to be true to ourselves, odds are that we will find ourselves in complete conflict with much of what makes up the Movement. Moreover, when we push toward our desired ends, we will find ourselves at odds with society itself. While there is an abundance of the social, we aim to inject the antisocial.
“[W]e don’t need to be reliant on the Left for developing class-consciousness. Class-consciousness is not as scarce as some assume it to be. The widespread destruction of businesses and the attacking of the police in many riots make this very clear. What is not present is class solidarity and widespread class conflict. We believe that the experiences of the exploited, through direct action and social conflict, are the main force for transforming people’s perspectives and relations.
[T]here are many on the Left who are much more ideologically committed. These people propose more symbolic activity intended to appeal to those in power, or activities that seek to show large numbers of people while deemphasizing direct action. On occasion they propose direct action as a last resort and as simply a tactic –a means— towards political power.
[In every revolutionary moment and struggle] the Left recuperated and liquidated uncontrollable radical and anarchist elements. People should really study and learn from the history of failed social struggles. We’ve got to think about these things and be sharp in our criticism and opposition to the Left, not through obsessive anti-Left ideologies that become ends in themselves, but in order to understand how we deal and interact with them.”
- A Murder of Crows interview with Modesto Anarcho
So what about left or social anarchism?
Critiquing comrades closer to one’s position can get tricky. We don’t use them to entrench a position but to point out problematic tendencies within them.
It has to be said that any position willing to reduce itself to a platform or down to a particular historical tactic like syndicalism will fall short of escalating rupture to the point to total liberation. While the tactics in and of themselves might provide us with a useful tool in some cases, we should not reduce ourselves down to them but be open and flexible enough to explore them all. The truth is there are more struggles than we can count and even then, one could argue that every individual carries their own internalized struggles. Realizing a truly libertarian and communist spacewill not be possible when our methods reduce the object of our struggles down to a set standard, tactic, organization, program, or platform. Yet, within these reduced and often overly programmatic tendencies we are encouraged to prioritize organization or – more specifically The Organization – at the expense of everything else including our own desires and often even our collective ability to realize them. Its no surprise that we hear the same talk from these comrades that we hear from the marxists… that realizing communism has to wait.
Left Anarchism is often it’s own worst enemy rendering itself ineffective time and time again with heavy bureaucracies and a fixation on organization. Despite their allegiance to an anti-authoritarian ideal, many left anarchists recreate structures that limit rather than allow room for individual autonomy. This organizational fetish fosters a condition where the material situation at hand goes unexamined often throughout the entire existence of The Organization. The focus becomes the organization itself and rarely is an eye turned outward – assuming there is even time to look there, given the amount of tasks mandated as necessary to the functioning of the bureaucratic form. We see this in every organization that values perpetuating itself, many for several years through meeting and planning more meetings but never producing action, spreading revolt, or generalizing their own tactics. Tactics they spend hours and sometimes years talking about but never apply in any concrete way.
Likewise, our ability to act in the moment hits the imposed wall that is created when our own agency is bound to a specific model and it’s maintenance. In fact, the way many left anarchist groupings organize themselves strips the individuals within them of their agency; their role as actor; their ability to determine their own lives. In exchange we get facilitators, organizers, instructors, delegates, and activists. In short, a reproduction of the failures of the left rarely accompanied by self criticism or self examination. The typical formal left anarchist organization asks it’s members to fill the role of representatives in a fight against representation or to fill the role of service provider lending others a charitable hand while failing to realize their own autonomy. Like most of the left, these organizations ensure that the practice of autonomy and emancipation be forever postponed.
Rather than let the form of organization facilitate the realization of our individual potentials and further develop methods of collective self-organization, the methods of left and social anarchists tend to reproduce politics and a certain structural authoritarianism. When organization is fetishised and so much effort is placed into it that “building” the organization and it’s maintenance replaces a real engagement and confrontation with the social order, the organization is either a distraction or an excuse. From our experience, the result is the organization ends up being a substitution for actual struggle. The organization becomes the representation of struggle and participation in it substitutes action. Form becomes prioritized over content.
If action and our very desires and lives have to be postponed until after we all figure out what form to impose we might never get to the acting. If we remain comfortable in stagnant organizational forms and fail to realize how we can begin now to fashion a life worth living, these mythical masses of the left might never see what is materially beneficial in joining in our conspiracies. Yet repeatedly, we see left anarchists groups start with organization before they’ve got anything to organize. In this we see the seeds of ideological thinking in which ideas rule the activities of individuals rather than serving them.
This over emphasis on organization contributes to a popular misconception about the rest of us anarchists. Many have come to mistakenly conclude that anarchists of the “little a” variety (as some left anarchist call us) are foolish in our total rejection of organization. Our rejection of the left however should not be understood as a condemnation of organized resistance but rather a tendency to ask what kind of organization, when, and for what purpose – that is – allowing the form to fit the content as opposed to falling victim to fetishised and historical organizational forms and methods or being held captive by them. It’s important to critically examine how our own self organization might perpetuate and reproduce the conditions we are rebelling against.
It’s not that we reject organization, but that the form of organization facilitating our struggles should be the direct result of the process of struggle itself, not a precursor or a necessity. We often find ourselves in constant examination of form and function so as to understand which will provide for us to act from our particular positions and further emancipate us from the conditions we currently find ourselves in. It’s important to examine what level of organization is necessary to provide for our needs while still allowing room for spontaneity and our creativity; two weapons that the anarchist arsenal should never go without. If we refuse to conform to a line and continue to organically move and act we just might be left with an approach to organizing ourselves that will further build the anarchist milieu by opening up room for diversity in action and trajectories. Unfortunately, this process is more often seen in reverse – that is – organization and ideology before actual material struggle. Building the organization and populating it’s organs with active members becomes a precursor to honest and sincere engagement in the material world around us. It’s lamentable that it isn’t only the foolish dogmatic Communist cadre groups with their mandatory political education and refining of the political line who fall into this trap. We expect that much from them but we however see left anarchists, platformists, syndicalists and others fall for this same leftist devotion to organization for the sake of organization even to the detriment of realizing their aims. More often than not, proponents of left anarchism spend so much time doing this kind of work that they drive themselves closer to the irrelevance of the left and further from the potentials that an anarchist practice can offer.
A short anecdote:
A tree has fallen down across the street.
Mario and Destiny decide to go around, find, and organize people on the street to handle the job. They all meet and create a committee to handle the job. They designate people to go out and get tools, find others, and develop a plan. Several hours later the tree is cleared.
On the other hand, Trish sees the tree grabs a saw and starts to cut it down. Neighbors see Trish working and they grab other tools and join in. Three hours later the work is done.
This is an example of the difference in form emerging from content. Trish did not have to create a committee, get others, and develop a plan she simply began to act and others joined in to fulfill their mutual desires. Therefore, the form organically emerged. We have to questions when and where organization is needed.
A Partial Critique of Authoritarian Socialism
“[…]when a theory is transformed into an ideology, it begins to destroy the self and self-knowledge. Originally born of a feeling, it pretends to float above and around feeling. Above sensation. It organizes experience according to itself, without touching experience. By virtue of being itself, it is supposed to know. To invoke the name of this ideology is to confer truthfulness. No one can tell it anything new. Experience ceases to surprise it, inform it, transform it. It is annoyed by any detail which does not fit into its world view. Begun as a cry against the denial of truth, now it denies any truth which does not fit into its scheme. Begun as a way to restore one’s sense of reality, now it attempts to discipline real people, to remake natural beings after its own image. All that it fails to explain it records as its enemy. Begun as a theory of liberation, it is threatened by new theories of liberation; it builds a prison for the mind.”
- Susan Griffin
Like their international and historical counterparts, local Leninists have met failure time and time again; losing ground and potential comrades while falling further into the margins as a result of their leftist authoritarian mindset. A mindset that would see them taking a paternalistic position of leading and directing not only “the masses” but even their own friends and co-conspirators. With countless organizations (over several decades) forming around prescribed points of rupture, new faces and accomplices join only to have their activity managed through a top-down culture of discipline and “rigor”, a watering down and pacifying of rhetoric to the public (via various front groups), and a constant appeal to those yet to be brought into their fold. The result is more and more of their would be accomplices find themselves alienated and driven away. (This is great news for anarchists!) One doesn’t have to strain to see the cause of continued stress and sheer boredom that marks their activity as the burden of work is reproduced in the very forms of organization used by these would-be managers and revolutionary elites.
Complete with a specific lingo, ideological line, and practice which can only come as the result of indoctrination, training, and conditioning, (pre-designed syllabi and “mentors” for new recruits) these would be bureaucrats and jailers abandon the consciousness that can be found in our collective experiences and replace it with a faith similar to that of religious dogma. Plagued by the fetishization of identity, whether it be race, sex, or class, and an adherence to specific programs, their own tunnel vision narrows their potential to expand or make meaningful connections with others who are currently active. Rather than attempt to engage in any kind of meaningful exchange or even attempt to generalize their ideas and practices, their activity remains confined to the purview of a select few experts and professional revolutionaries – rarely illustrating that they have anything new to offer.
In their organizations they demand discipline, productivity, and worst of all obedience. This “discipline” has been used on our friends and comrades as a way to guilt these individuals into working on tasks despite their lack of interest and desire. Their conception of “productivity” often displaces their focus away from how we can act now to attack the current system and instead points the focus toward the project of building up their own capacity to rule. Productivity becomes synonymous with their own perpetuation – meetings for the sake of meeting, and self-reverential activity for it’s own sake and perpetuation rather than critical or meaningful action. The “Obedience” they demand, stems from the aforementioned obsession with a canon of revolutionary “philosophy”, and thus the individual in the authoritarian formation must relinquish their desires and hold back personal differences in favor of a reductive unifying political line. Despite occasionally allowing room for some debate it should be clear that only one position will be allowed to move forward and that all dissenters will have to accept it or be written off.
“The concept of a positive proletarian identity, of a single, unified, positive proletarian project, has no basis in reality since what defines one as proletarian is precisely that her life has been stolen from her, that he has been transformed into a pawn in the projects of the rulers.”
- Wolfi Landstreicher, The Network of Domination
Along with these unquestioned ideological tenets, the authoritarian left has become bogged down by the ideal of the worker or the working class as a sort of token subject – a subject to be managed. (This trap keeps them from seeing that there are not revolutionary subjects but instead there are revolutionary situations.) The very end goal of lived communism becomes burdened by the refusal to cast off this identity and mindset. Rather than ending the proletarian condition or creating the conditions of communism here and now, their aspirations present us with a generalized proletarian population led by a party toward a future that we doubt they’ll ever produce. If these vanguardists have failed to connect with ordinary people, it is because of their failure to reach the same conclusion anarchists reached a long time ago – that life is hard enough, so let’s keep our rebellion joyous. That the ends should be present in the means and that emancipation comes with the rejection of being ruled as well as the refusal to rule. Instead we are expected to buy into theories and programs that replicate the same unappealing power relations (between leader and led; boss and worker).
What leninists fail to see is a need to break with power or to imagine life and revolt outside of a productivist framework. Their attempts at revolt far too often mirror more and more the burdens of daily life while we on the other hand seek to engage in a truly free and libertarian project. One doesn’t have to strain to see the cause of continued stress and sheer boredom that marks the activity of the authoritarian left as the burden of work is reproduced in the very forms of organization used by these would-be managers and revolutionary elites.
In breaking with the left, we have to recognize the traps and pitfalls they fall victim too. We have to begin to organize ourselves in ways that reject the notion of the professional revolutionary and the vanguard by allowing for a diverse rebellion and open participation. We aim for a rebellion open to engagement in ways that allows for our individual desires to be sought after and fulfilled and for our autonomy to be realized. There’s no need to burden ourselves and those who act with us more than life already has. While we have already spent too much time detailing the failures of authoritarian ideologies, we would like to point you to already existing critiques of the Leninist tradition (Here is another “classic of libertarian and anti-leninist socialism”) and hope that more detailed criticisms might be in the works.
Another short anecdote (see the one above)
Tony and Sam see the tree and decide to go out and organize others in the neighborhood. They first, develop the entire plan for tree removal. After the plan is developed they delegate tasks from above. The tree is cleared but the neighbors are left feeling more used that included. (Let’s avoid managing others – let’s act autonomously and on our own desires instead.)
The Personal is Political
When revolution becomes your job, perhaps there is a reason for why you would want to divorce politics from life. For those of us who seek to take control of our own lives however, this division is nothing if not artificial. A division that leads to the masses vs. the organizer, the leader and the led, or the vanguard and its followers.
A “Need” for the Left
During the debate, many participants (including those of an insurrectionary and post left bent) made the claim that as anarchists we have to realize that “we need the left”. To clarify, it’s not that our comrades meant to say that without the left we wouldn’t or couldn’t exist as a force of our own, but that the left provides for the spectacular organized struggles that we can inject ourselves into. That the left provides a narrative supposedly within the spectacle that we can engage with and attempt to “push to it’s limits.” This position however might be giving the left far too much credit.
These things probably do imply that anarchists should engage in an exchange with the left but more importantly (and lets not forget) anarchists should engage wherever there’s struggle against domination. The left/right dichotomy matters little if both reproduce the power relations that rule our lives. It should be said, a solid defence for the need of a left has yet to be seen.
A need for the left is misplaced focus when ignoring a need to engage in struggle from our own particular positions and toward realizing our selves. The left, in most cases, dominates the forms struggle take and defines what is and isn’t legitimate in struggle. This power to impose on our ability to attack is a power that intends reduce and narrow our collective capacity to create the world we want. One that would manage and direct our efforts into whatever political goals are expedient to whichever politician, manager, or activist.
The only need for the left we share as anarchists is a need to destroy the left.
For a Redefinition of Life and Struggle – Toward the Dissolution of the Left
Once we break with the delusions that have held us here and stagnated our resistance, where do we go? We have to move towards redefining ourselves – exploring Life in the beyond. A Life that cannot be experienced within this system dominated by authority, surrounded in the hyperreal.
Where the Left falters is where we excel. There is no limit to what a life beyond tradition and formality can bring. When we enclose ourselves in ideology, in politics, in theory; we reject experience. We let our lives take a backseat to process, and predetermined forms. There is something to be said for meshing the two. Ideology alone however leaves us with yet another religion. A belief with nothing material to show for it. In fact many left ideologies (traditional anarchism included) carry with them a certain euro-christian enlightenment baggage. As products of the enlightenment, these ideologies transformed Christianity into marxism, anarchism, and the leftist tradition. Within these ideas there is the continuation of the religious tenet that the present is inherently incomplete and unfulfilling and that some apocalyptic cataclysm will herald utopia or heaven – a post revolutionary society.
“Therefore, we begin by withdrawing from them. We contest nothing, we demand nothing. We constitute ourselves as a force, as a material force, as an autonomous material force within the Global Civil War”
- Call, Anonymous
Our redefinition cannot come within the “shell” of the old world; we must break the spell and free ourselves from the stranglehold that all social relations of this world have on our lives. We must begin to live in the here and now to “live communism, spread anarchy.” We have to break through limits and embrace new ways of relating to the ongoing struggles; refusing to be a leader or to be led, refusing to fall into the role of specialist that again sets up a hierarchy, and refusing to replicate the drudgery of work in our self-organization.
“Power itself must be abolished – and not solely because of a refusal to be dominated, which is at the heart of all traditional struggles – but also, just as violently, in the refusal to dominate. Intelligence cannot, can never be in power because intelligence consists of this double refusal.”
- Jean Baudrillard, The Agony of Power
Finding Each Other
There is no cookie cutter image of “the revolutionary mass” that we can galvanize or organize. We have to organize ourselves and find those who can conspire with us to meet our needs and desires in a way that is mutually beneficial. This is the basis of solidarity. This is how we break from the left and its reaffirmation of our inability to do for ourselves; that which would reduce our activity to focus on an enigmatic other, and transform our resistance into a sort of charity aimed at others. If we continue to conceive of our project in this light, we continue to reinforce the identities that have trapped us in the predicament we currently find ourselves in.
“There remains only to gamble on the existence of another outcome, a thin ridge, just wide enough for us to walk on, just enough for all those who can hear to walk on it and live.”
- The Invisible Committee
We have to abdicate from our roles in society and maintain relations to this world that allow us to expand our circle of collaborators. We must reach towards those around us while breaking outside of that which surrounds us in opening up the potential for something beyond.
A Brief Note On Good Ⓐ / Bad Ⓐ And Games of the Left
-We saw it being employed on some movement manager’s Facebook wall
- We read it in almost every angry liberal’s indymedia lecture/comment left on every article posted by an anarchist. (comments most of us only read for a good laugh)
- The liberal and authoritarian groups who play nice with “good anarchists” while hating on the “bad” ones and the “good anarchists” who play along
- The “organizer” who asks those he chooses to peg as “good” anarchists to name names and snitch on other anarchists, monitor and keep tabs on other anarchists, or to carry some message meant to impart movement discipline onto other anarchists
- The informative texts that ask you to come out and support an event but warns you not to tell “those” anarchists
- The deceptive tactics of some leninists who very intentionally, methodically, and dishonestly play smiles and grins with a select few left/social anarchists or those they can convince to do things for them – all the while demonizing them to their comrades
To Atlanta’s Ⓐs: I love y’all for being the powerful destabilizing force that you are and for refusing to be anything other than wild! I hate y’all for just as many reasons. Lets keep doing what we do and disagree when we disagree but be weary of forces outside our milieu intentionally trying to stick a wedge in whatever it is we are doing.
I strongly doubt that any of us will fall for the petty divisive tricks currently being employed by movement management and their liberal lackeys in general right now, but we need to be hip to what is happening and realize that some people are fucking dumb enough to try it. I’m confident in most of my comrades to know that none of us are the type who would ever fall for this kind of laughable and cheap lowbrow deception. It is however important enough to express the seriousness of the effects that the “good anarchist / bad anarchist” narrative has on our friends and comrades and the danger it puts some of our friends in.
The list at the start of this segment illustrates a game. Lets call this game “good vs. bad anarchist” – a game I strongly recommend we never play into…. We have to be conscious of the fact that this is an intentional and obvious attempt to split anarchists away from their tendency and force an adherence to programs and political lines. It’s an attempt to divide us and sweep up the leftovers as new recruits. Most importantly (yet also most sinister), it is an attempt to isolate those who destabilize the management and programatism of struggle so as to be targeted.
Do not allow those who have reduced themselves to politics, a line, or a program to divide us. Those of you who have been granted the status of “good anarchists” by the left establishment or the activist milieu might notice a slight privileging within the context of these social movements compared to those of us who occupy the fictitious category of “bad” anarchist. I plead – Do not allow our struggles or our activity to be recuperated by the language of legitimacy while allowing others just like us to be vilified and isolated by that very same language. Isolation is dangerous for anarchists. Lets not forget that those who these degenerate boot lickers are pinning as the “bad anarchists” are often those who have taken bigger risks and rocked the boat the hardest. Allowing these people to be vilified means allowing these people to be isolated and at risk for repression. This does our tendency nothing but a disservice. It’s up to us to reject these divisions.
We debate, we argue, we fracture – but these things make us stronger when we refuse to accept these imposed divisions and if we continue to practice a diversity of tactics and trajectories – If we continue this exchange of ideas and work to generalize our methods. Any “good anarchist” who plays into the good vs bad anarchist dichotomy is no comrade of ours. In fact, they’re very anarchism is suspect.
DON’T PLAY GAMES ATLANTA!
Some Closing Thoughts
“The struggle of the left does not grow out of the desires, needs and dreams of the living individuals exploited, oppressed, dominated and dispossessed by this society. It is not the activity of people striving to reappropriate their own lives and seeking the tools necessary for doing so. Rather it is a program formulated in the minds of leftist leaders or in organizational meetings that exists above and before people’s individual struggles and to which these latter are to subordinate themselves”
- From politics to Life: Ridding Anarchy of the Leftist Millstone by Wolfi Landstreicher
This piece is an attempt to challenge ourselves to be creative in our desires; to free ourselves from the chains of leftism. While we chose to put extra focus on the authoritarian socialists and left anarchists this piece does not claim to have all the answers. Even those of us who reject the label of the left might be wise to acknowledge that these tendencies pop up even within ourselves and in our own organizing. We all have a lot to learn and a lot to unlearn if we are to undo the effects of our indoctrination and move towards fulfilling our desires and spreading revolt.
Reflection, debate, strategy, and action combined to create an ever-changing ever-freer praxis are just a few ways that can help us moving forward and while we have dabbled in certain left tactics and their application, we ought to be more intentional with our rejection of them in our practice.
“Thus, the communist movement is ‘nihilistic, in that it is a conscious negative force that attacks the existing order as a means of demolishing the dictatorship of capital. Yet, at the same time it is also a positive material force – that while destroying the separations between us, it communizes the means of existence in the same breath. There is no way to separate these things; for they must be one or not at all.”
In an attempt to pose some ideas for ways to move forward let’s draw from and negate the strategies of the left. Let’s refuse to define our resistance in any positive sense but let’s instead move in a way that is untamed, uncontrolled, and unpredictable. Let us keep in mind a few things that can help us as we traverse this path:
1. rejection of a political perception of social struggle
2. rejection of organizationalism
3. rejection of democracy and the quantitative illusion
4. rejection of making demands on power
5. rejection of the idea of progress
6. rejection of identity politics
7. rejection of collectivism and the subordination of the individual to the group
8. rejection of ideology
For a resistance without limits, for a joyous insurrection.
Communization and it’s Discontents: Contestation, Critique, and Contemporary Struggles by Ed. Benjamin Noys