“Anarchists have long been accused of advocating chaos. Most people in fact believe that anarchism is a synonym for disorder, contusion, violence. This is a total misrepresentation of what anarchism stands for. Anarchists don’t deny the necessity of organization; they only claim that it must come from below, not above, from within rather than from without.”
With the media and progressive minds utilising the name anarchism, some in opposition and others in defence, I wish to briefly discuss the increasing ignorance towards a profoundly influential body of theoretical work: communal anarchism. Specifically, communal anarchism has links to a wide range of political and social challenges, given its criticism of hierarchy – freedom and emancipation would not occur without a wide-ranging social/political critique. Linked to this is a discussion of political tactics. For communal anarchists, direct action is key – but violence for the sake of it is criticised for constructing new forms of domination. Rather, the aim of anarchism is to create counter-power institutions based upon co-operation, freedom and non-hierarchical relations.
These organisations were central to the Spanish Civil War and the French Uprisings May/June, for instance. Forces from the right and left crushed them, however. Tactics are key, and for me the tactics of groups such as the Black Bloc are ignorant to both means and ends. Before people say it’s only a few windows, it’s not so much about ‘violence’, it’s about the actual political relevance of such tactics and whether supporting them for the sake of supporting anti-governmental gestures is wise.
I personally find it worrying that sections of the UKUncut are finding it hard to define the parameters of their debate/political praxis (consider the rather awful interview on Newsnight with the UKUncut representative last week). This isn’t about setting hierarchical structures of what is right or wrong but outlining the basis, meaning and political creed of your philosophical and political undertakings. As it stands, UKUncut are engaging in very political direct action. Their reclaiming of central political institutions will not result in a revolution over night, but it acts as political conscious raising where there are clear reasons and facts outlined for why such banks and places are occupied. During this, people ask questions, many UKUncut activists have mentioned the public’s interest in what they are doing. I feel that the Black Bloc’s tactics don’t allow for this; you can say that throwing some paint at a bank is a political act but what does it achieve? Do people ask why they did it? Some may, but most take a look and want nothing to do with it.
Anarchism for me is about steady evolutionary progressive changes, where counter institutions are nurtured to challenge the state’s power. Revolutionary struggles should resemble the type of society and organisational arrangements you want to replace the existing relations. Again, Black Bloc’s tactics aren’t based on a type of organisational relation that many people in the anarchist movement and radical political scene at large would encourage. Radical politics sometimes requires commitment to violence, as the Lybia rebels are a clear example of, but as it stands we are a long way to go before we reach that stage here, if we indeed do.
I understand why people support actions such as the Black Bloc’s but I think it is important to remain critical. The real political aim seems rather divorced. It sends an incredible individualised sense of what politics is about. As I have said, I don’t care if RBS gets sprayed, I just fail to see the point and more directly, it’s agitating to see anarchism increasingly associated with such a narrow form of action. Anarchism has a long history of emancipation, it’s critique of hierarchy meant it was one of the first traditions to really consider the problems of patriarchal dominance and has had a profound influence upon feminism, if not always recognised. I think we have to make sure that the strong political and historical importance of anarchism isn’t lost. We have to think critically regarding the aim and reasoning behind political protest alongside working in hope towards an end goal, no matter how ‘utopia’ that may seem.