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Thursday, September 23, 2010

How can we dance? A brief look at Post Left Anarchism (2005)

by Roger White
This essay appears in Post Colonial Anarchism: Essays on race, repression and culture in communities of color 1999-2004. Access the complete book here
As far as I can tell the most recent calls for anarchists to leave their leftist associations in the past have come almost exclusively from the professional primitivist scribes and their fellow travelers in our mist. This makes sense. One of the few things that these post-left anarchists are clear about is their disdain for organizations as such. The reason? Well, anarchists organizations haven't "worked" in the past, particularly in North America. In organizations "the means tend to displace the ends" and "the division of labor engenders inequality of power." (Bob Black, Anarchy After Leftism Cal Press 1997 P.61) We should be talking more, writing more, listening to each other talk more, reading more about who's a real anarchist and who isn't and why. You get the picture.
If you never intend to change anything, then organizations are indeed worse than useless. Creating propaganda is a lot easier than organizing people and trying to convince them that taking action against illegitimate authority and social hierarchy will bring more results than spending time engaging in the type of internecine warfare that anarchist intellectuals are infamous for. The large scale anarchists organizations of 20th century Europe certainly weren't perfect. But due in part to their efforts European workers get six to eight week vacations, free health care, have real rights to organize, and generally work less hours than American workers do. If the anti- organizational bias of post left anarchism isn't yet another capitulation to liberal market individualism and its on going campaign to keep people from coming together to struggle against social domination, what is it?
Whatever it is it ain't revolutionary. And that's just fine with them. According to Hakim Bey we must not only give up "waiting for 'the revolution'" but we must also "give up wanting it" (Hakim Bey "T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchism, Poetic Terrorism," Autonomedia, 1985 P.101) Maybe a riot here, a Burning Man art gathering there, ya know, "cultural terrorism." Do I have to write that this is about as relevant to communities of color fighting against police repression and for economic survival as Grateful Dead jam sessions were to the black liberation movement of the 1960's? I don't, but I did just in case anyone needed to read it.
The post left anarchists don't seem to mind that their notions are of little use to the struggles of people of color in the Americas. Their support for "Zero Work" is an example. John Zerzan's critique of the work demands that production requires in technical society, though by no means original, is certainly worth a look. But to insist that the most plausible anarchist reply to capital over production lays in an attempt to reestablish hunter and gatherer, or forage/ scavenger societies with dreams of their "primitive affluence" not only makes the real substance of anti-authoritarian thought all but inaudible to communities of color (who don't have the class luxury of rejecting either work or technology on philosophical grounds) but also to about 98 percent of the rest of the population as well. Go up to a day laborer who gets up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to find work to feed his family talking about the "Abolition of Work" and you might find yourself in the hospital. Ahhh. Could this be the reason the post leftists don't want to organize?
Perhaps the split has already taken place. The post left anarchists have already rejected feminism (Black P.150) and the vast majority of third world liberation struggles against white neo- colonialism (Internationalist Anarchist News, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed Fall/Winter 2001-2 P.27.) In short just about every major struggle against white, male world domination. Before anti-authoritarians of color hop on the post- leftist wagon we should not only ask where is it taking us from, but also where is it leading us to. If there's no social justice at the revolution how can we dance?