Category Archives: Anarchism

Black liberation as the model for the struggle against facism

William C. Anderson and Zoé Samudzi have an incisive article “The Anarchism of Blackness” in the current issue of “Roar” magazine (roarmag.org), headlined: “The Democratic Party has led Black America down a dead end. The sooner we begin to understand that, the more realistically we’ll be able to organize against fascism.” The authors believe that “in the coming months and years, left and left-leaning constituencies in the United States will need to make clear distinctions between actual and potentially counterproductive symbolic progress.” They also think the Black liberation struggle has and will provide “a blueprint for transformative social change,” thanks to “its positioning as an inherently radical social formation.”

Under the heading “The Failings of American Liberalism,” the authors write, “The United States’ self-ascribed democratic traits have long been filtered through oppressive forms deemed necessary by the state and a capitalist system benefiting only a few. For many years now, American liberalism has been a bitter disappointment to many who somehow maintained faith in the two-party system. The Democratic Party has seemingly been the only choice for those who consider themselves progressives working for a better society, but the notion that social inequities will be solved through the electoral process was always naïve at best. The entrails of this system are lined with the far-right fascism currently rising and long bubbling under the façade of liberal democracy at the expense of non-whites in a white supremacist society. A system predicated on the over-emphasis of ‘order’ and ‘security’ is primed for authoritarianism.

Over time, the genocide, enslavement, and other forms of violence present at this nation’s birth have been displaced and restructured by more insidious and invisible modalities of community destruction facilitated by liberalism like the reservation, the prison system, and austerity policies. Over the past few decades, the United States has seen a shift in liberal politics leaving the Democratic Party in a completely compromised position. Instead of moving left, the Democratic Party pandered to the right, facilitating a conservative shift. Liberal support for the Iraq War, post-9/11 domestic policy, and the foreign policy extensions of the War on Terror have led to the current administration led by a plutocratic tyrant hell-bent on the destruction of vulnerable populations. Despite the optics of change and the promises of a new day and the moral victories of ‘going high,’ an old sun is rising on a white horizon.

Societal fascism describes the process and political logic of state formation wherein entire populations are either excluded or ejected from the social contract. They’re excluded pre-contractually because they’ve never been part of the social contract and never will be; or they’re ejected from a contract they were previously a part of. Black Americans are the former: residents in a settler colony predicated on the genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of Africans; residents in the United States, as opposed to citizens of. Despite a constitution laden with European Enlightenment values and a document of independence declaring egalitarianism and inalienable rights as the law of the land, Black existence was that of private property. The Black American condition is perpetual relegation to the afterlife of slavery as long as the United States continues to exist as an ongoing settler project. Black exclusion from the social contract is existence within a heavily surveilled and heavily regulated state of subjection.

Whiteness has long sought to grapple with the existential threat posed by Black freedom. Black repatriation to Africa was the solution for slaveholders concerned that the presence of free Blacks would inspire enslaved Blacks to revolt and worried that Black families would burden state welfare systems and that interracial labor competition would ultimately compromise wages for white workers. The ‘Back to Africa’ project was subsequently taken up by Black thinkers like Marcus Garvey in the late-19th and early-20th centuries following the failures of Reconstruction in the South, the first attempt to meaningfully extend citizenship to newly emancipated Blacks and protect them from white supremacist violence, and also the social and political disillusionment of Blacks who had migrated to northern states.

Since then progress has been secured by Black people’s mobilization rather than by any political party. We’re the ones who have achieved much of the progress that’s changed the nation for the better for everyone. Our organization can be as effective now as it has been in the past, serving every locality and community based on their needs and determinations. This can be achieved through disassociating ourselves from party politics that fail to serve us.

While bound to the laws of the land, Black America can be understood as an extra-state entity because of Black exclusion from the liberal social contract. Due to this extra-state location, Blackness is in many ways anarchistic. African-Americans, as an ethno-social identity comprised of descendants from enslaved Africans, have innovated new cultures and social organizations and have engaged in anarchistic resistances since our very arrival in the Americas. From slave ship and plantation rebellions, to the creation of maroon societies in the American South, to Harriet Tubman’s removal of enslaved peoples from the custody of their owners, to post-Emancipation labor and prison camps, to combatting the historic (and present) collusion between state law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan, assertions of Black personhood, humanity and liberation have necessarily called into question both the foundations and legitimacy of the American state.

Liberalism can’t defeat fascism; it can only engage it through symbolic political rigmarole. The triteness of electoral politics that’s been superimposed onto Black life in the United States positions Black people as a mule for much of this nation’s social progression. Our hyper-visible struggle is a fight for all people’s freedom, and we die only to realize that everything gained can be reversed with the quick flick of a pen. While liberalism takes up the burden of protecting ‘free speech’ and the rights of those who would annihilate non-whites, Black people and other people of color assume all the risks and harms. The symbolic battles the Democratic Party and its liberal constituents engage in pose direct existential threats to Black people because they protect esteemed ideals of a constitution that has never guaranteed Black people safety or security. The current fascist moment is neither ideologically new nor temporally surprising; it’s an inevitability.

The mechanisms working against us deal death and destruction in countless numbers across the non-Western world while turning domestic Black and Brown neighborhoods into proxies for how to treat sub-citizen ‘others.’ The militarization of police, border regimes, stop-and-frisk, and ICE are clear examples of how the state regards the communities it targets and brutalizes. At the very least, a conversation on self-defense that doesn’t mistreat our survival as a form of violence is sorely needed. It would be even better if the conversation normalized anti-fascist organizing that prepared people for the possibility of a fight, instead of simply hoping that day never comes and respectably tut-tutting about those currently fighting in the streets.

Everyone has a stake in the fight against fascism. It can’t be defeated with bargaining, petitioning, pleading, ‘civilized’ dialogue, or any other mode of response we were taught was best. Fascists have no respect for ‘othered’ humanities. Regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, religion, physical ability, or nationality, there’s a place for each of us in this struggle. We’re always fighting against the odds because there’s no respite in a perpetually abusive state. It can only function through this abuse, so we can only prevail through organizing grounded in radical love and solidarity. This solidarity must prioritize accountability, and it must be authentic. Strategic organizing of this sort, organizing where we understand the inextricable linkedness of our respective struggles, is our means of bolstering the makings of a cohesive left in the United States. We no longer have time to waste on dogma, sectarianism, prejudice, and incoherence.

The sooner Black America in particular begins to understand our position as an inherently anarchistic element of the United States, the more realistically we’ll be able to organize. A better society has to be written through our inalienable self-determinations, and that will only happen when we realize that we are holding the pen.

 

William C. Anderson is a freelance writer, published by The Guardian, Pitchfork, Truthout, and at the Praxis Center for Kalamazoo College, where he’s a contributing editor covering race, class and immigration.

 

Zoé Samudzi is a Black feminist writer and PhD student in Medical Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco. Her current research is focused on critical race theory and biomedicalization.

The case for anarchism

Anarchists imagine and are attempting to create a society based on three principles: freedom, equality, and solidarity. They believe that freedom in a society based on voluntary association rather than coercion is essential for the full flowering of human intelligence, creativity, and dignity.

If freedom is essential for the fullest development of individuality, equality is necessary for genuine freedom to exist. There can be no real freedom in a class-stratified, hierarchical society riddled with gross inequalities of power, wealth, and privilege. In such a society, only a few – those at the top of the hierarchy – are relatively free; the rest are semi-slaves. “Equality of opportunity” under capitalism is meaningless, since there can be no real equality of opportunity for the children of a millionaire and those of a minimum-wage worker.

The final essential is solidarity, which for anarchists means mutual aid: working voluntarily and cooperatively with others who share the same goals and interests. Solidarity and cooperation means treating each other as equals, refusing to treat others as means to an end, and creating relationships that support freedom for all. To practice solidarity means that we recognize, as in the slogan of the Industrial Workers of the World, that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” We sink or swim together, and by standing together, we can increase our strength and attain our goals.

For anarchists, freedom is individuals pursuing their own good in their own way, making decisions for and about themselves and their lives, and being responsible for those decisions. As Rudolf Rocker wrote, freedom doesn’t exist because of something “granted” or “set down on a piece of paper, but only when it’s become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair it will meet with the violent resistance of the populace.” Anarchists support the tactic of “direct action,” for, as Emma Goldman argued, we have “as much liberty as we are willing to take.”

An anarchist society will be non-coercive – violence or the threat of violence won’t be used to “convince” individuals to do anything. It will be non-hierarchical. And it will be self-governed by confederations of decentralized, grassroots organizations operated by direct democracy rather than the delegation of power to “representatives.”

Contrary to popular belief, anarchists aren’t opposed to structure or organization; they simply want to abolish hierarchical structure and avoid situations in which “leaders” or “representatives” have more power than others. Anarchist organizations build in accountability, diffusion of power among the maximum number of persons, task rotation, skill-sharing, the spread of accurate information and the sharing of resources. For most of human existence, people have engaged in self-directed organization – cooperative forms of economic activity involving mutual aid, free access to productive resources, and a sharing of the products of communal labor according to need. Anarchists don’t advocate going “back to the Stone Age;” they just note that since the hierarchical-authoritarian mode of organization is a relatively recent development in the course of human social evolution, there’s no reason to suppose that it’s somehow fated to be permanent. Similarly, anarchists don’t think human beings are genetically programmed for authoritarian, competitive, and aggressive behavior. On the contrary, such behavior is socially conditioned, or learned, and as such, can be unlearned.

Anarchist organization is based on direct democracy (self-management) and federalism (confederation). These forms of organization ensure that decisions flow from the bottom up rather than being imposed from the top down. We can start to create an anarchist society by the way we act here and now, building alternative institutions and relationships. When there’s a need to put someone in charge of a project, the group can tell him or her how they want it done, so that nothings gets done without everyone’s decision. Delegates acting against their mandate or starting to make policy decisions on their own would be instantly recalled. Thus, in a confederation of communities, the community assemblies’ decisions would determine policy at local, regional, national, and international conferences. Any compromises made by a delegate during negotiations would go back to his or her general assembly for ratification. Assemblies would also be able to call confederal conferences to discuss new developments and inform action committees about changing wishes and instructions. Finally, the basic community assemblies could overturn any decisions reached by the conferences and withdraw from any confederation.

Only this form of organization can replace government (the initiative and empowerment of the few) with anarchy (leaderlessness: the initiative and empowerment of all). Free agreement, confederation and the power of recall, fixed mandates, and limited tenure are mechanisms by which power is removed from the hands of governments and placed in the hands of those directly affected by decisions taken. That this kind of organization can work was demonstrated during the 1930s by the Spanish anarchist movement.

A true anarchist society would be based on free experimentation, with different individuals and groups picking the way of life that best suits them. Those who seek less technological ways of living will be free to do so as will those who want to apply the benefits of technologies they see as appropriate. Similarly, those who want to live in a money-less society in which resources are shared according to need can do so, while those who want to exchange goods market-style can live that way. (Truly free markets don’t exist under the government-supported system of capitalism.)

Our current governments support nation-states and wars, failing completely to include citizens in most life-and-death decision-making and forbidding them from coming together to create needed global policies.

On the question of violence, most anarchists support it only in defense of life and freedom. Although the violent acts of individuals and terrorist groups receive the most publicity, states and governments are by far the major perpetrators of mass terrorism and violence.

For more, see “Anarchism” under the Possibilities heading.

(Note: Some of the above was taken from the infoshop.org website.)

 

 

 

Rob Hopkins on what to do

Many of us are struggling daily with anxiety and questions about “what to do now.” Here are some (abridged) ideas from Rob Hopkins, Transition Towns leader, who wrote recently on post carbon.org:

“It’s an oddly Western notion that compassion and anger are incompatible polarities. Consider the ‘wrathful deities’ central to Tibetan Buddhism – wild, horrific visions who symbolize the tremendous effort it takes to vanquish evil. They often carry ritual implements which symbolize wisdom and compassion. On its own, anger is a volatile, unskillful energy. Combined with compassion and wisdom, however, it can be a clear and powerful force. I see it in the work of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, facing militarization and brutality with resolution, strength and compassion. Wrathful compassion is a powerful tool, and we need it now more than ever before.”

Hopkins also recommends that we “dream big and unleash imagination – beautifully and with humor, care, kindness, and compassion…Before and after President Trump, we fetch wood and carry water – build resilient communities, model new futures, create new enterprises, support each other, and build connections. We speak truth to power in calling out the absurdity of economic growth and increasing emissions on a finite and ailing planet. We reimagine and rebuild local economies, weave imagination and playfulness through all that we do, and work to meet our communities’ needs rather than those of big business. We resist racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. We invest differently, tell new stories, and celebrate together.”

 

 

Descending into darkness

How appropriate it is that the election of Donald Trump – to many the arch-nemesis of the good – has occurred as we descend into the darkness of Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival behind Halloween. These ancient “pagan” festivals follow the cycles of nature, and in the northern hemispheres Samhain is the time at the beginning of winter, when all is fallow, when we must descend into relative darkness with faith that the sun will return and seeds will grow when the dark time recedes.

I thought of this as I read two articles on rebellesociety.com by Vera de Chalambert. In the first, “Kali Takes New York,” posted on 8-7-15, de Chalambert describes how six days earlier filmmaker Louis Psihoyos and his team projected images of endangered wildlife onto the Empire State Building, “New York’s brightest and most recognizable symbol and capitalism’s earliest totem.” The images culminated with a warning — the face of the Hindu goddess Kali, “the Divine Feminine Maha Shakti, goddess of spiritual death, destruction and resurrection.” Kali, a “fierce protectress of truth (she tells it like it is), beckons us to face the stark reality of the global ecological crisis and let heartbreak be the ground from which we awaken and serve. Never underestimate the power of holy darkness to reveal the Soul of all matters. The dark is where illusions are shattered, false certainties are broken, and the mind is cut off so that the heart can see. It’s time to let holy darkness be our medicine. The world as we know it must change or perish…It’s time to get our Kali on inside and out; to cut off the head and commit to the heart. Kali calls us to rise from our own ashes, take on all our shadows, and serve and protect all life as we would our own child.”

De Chalambert ends by quoting spiritual writer Andrew Harvey: “In preparation for the birth of the Divine, the human race is going through a dark night, which will result in a new humanity, humbled and chastened by tragedy, so that it may open completely to the mystery of divine grace. This dark night can’t be bargained with, explained away, leapt over, or mitigated. It’s the destined crucifixion of a communal human ego now revealed to be suicidal, matricidal, dangerous to itself and to the whole of creation. No one and nothing will stop Kali dancing Her terrible dance of destruction and re-creation. There will be no resurrection of an embodied divine humanity without a systematic, perfectly organized, brutally complete crucifixion of everything in us that keeps us addicted to the systems of illusion that are now rapidly destroying everything.”

De Chalambert’s second article, posted 11-18-16 on the same website, is “Kali takes America. I’m with her.” In it de Chalambert says “it’s really Holy Darkness – the Dark Mother, the destroyer of worlds, oracle of change, the tender-hearted beheader – that won this election. Kali brought down our house in a shocking blow, stripping the illusions of America in a single night. We’re not who we thought we were, and now we must stand in the goddess’s much-needed fires of transmutation. As our collective heart breaks, and our veneer cracks, we stop shining false light and open to more integrity, more truth, more tenderness. We stop trying to be all things for all people. We become one small thing, feigning nothing. The price of true hope, it seems, is being unsettled beyond repair. And this is exactly the opportunity our political moment is presenting.

From all corners of our shocked culture, there are cries of hope, demands of needing to become brighter lights amidst the spreading darkness. I disagree. I think this moment gives us an opportunity for reckoning only if instead of running for the light, we let ourselves go fully into the dark. If instead of resolving our discomfort too quickly, we consider the possibility of staying in the uncomfortable, in the irreconcilable, in the unsettled. Before we rush in to reanimate the discourse of hope prematurely, we must yield to what is present. Receptivity is the great quality of darkness; darkness hosts everything without exception. We mustn’t send suffering into exile – the fear, the heartbreak, the anger, and the helplessness are appropriate and must be made welcome. We can’t dismember ourselves to feel better. We can’t cut off the stream of life and expect to heal. In a culture of isolation, be the invitation to everything.

Christian theologian Mathew Fox speaks extensively about the reemergence of the Dark Feminine archetype into our collective consciousness in his piece The Return of the Black Madonna. It’s in darkness, he reminds us, ‘where illusions are broken apart and the truth lies.’

We saw darkness reclaiming its place last week in the passing of Leonard Cohen, our latest biblical prophet. His last and perhaps most spiritually astute album, You want it Darker, is the ultimate invitation into Holy Darkness. Can we swallow the pill of darkness and still say, ‘I’m here, God. Bring it on!’?

The mystics tell us that we must enter the Cloud of Unknowing, the deepest despair, the most profound darkness within, without hope, in order to grow spiritually. They call such a time of deep crisis, of great uncertainty, the Dark Night of the Soul. There, in our radical desperation, in our absolute abandonment, it’s said, the Divine Doctor awaits. The wound is the gift, and this election is a good dose.

Kali is the great protectress and ultimate sacred activist. She’s at Standing Rock, roaring against the black snake and the abuses of corporate capitalism. She marches in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. She’s the changing of the tides, and she means business, having come to burn up the old paradigm of separation and transfigure the collective heart. Kali beckons us to embrace our sacred fury and let our heart roar for all living beings. Like her, we must rise as protectors or perish as fools.

Love is always a disturbing presence. We must disrupt the order of things to obey the orders of Love. Disruptive acts will spread with the fires of truth that Kali’s lit. As the old story of convenience and profit turns to ash, hearts across the planet are aflame for love and justice. Heaven has no fury like the Great Mother scorned.

We must rest in Kali’s darkness, lay heart to the ground as a country, and feel intimately all that’s being unraveled. Every seed must go into darkness, turn inside out, and break open in order to grow.

It’s my prayer that this regression gives rise to a counterculture of grassroots movements the likes of which we have never seen. And to a culture of love beyond measure.”

Amen!

Reminder: there’s no guarantee of “success” in any of this. Follow your Kali- or otherwise-inspired heart because it feels right to you in that moment. Let go of “hope,” ideologies, being “right” or better than anyone else, and attachment to results. Find your brothers and sisters (potentially, anyone/everyone). We’ll live through this, or we won’t. The Mother will prevail. Align with her.

 

 

Chris Hedges recommends an end to male violence

Alternative Radio recently featured a 3-17-15 presentation by Chris Hedges, American journalist, activist, author, and Presbyterian minister, entitled “Extractive Industries and Sexploitation,” Here’s the description of it in Hedge’s words: “The scourge of male violence against women won’t end if we dismantle the forces of global capitalism. The scourge of male violence exists independently of capitalism, empire and colonialism. It’s a separate evil. The fight to end male violence against women, part of a global struggle by women, must take primacy in our own struggle. Women and girls, especially those who are poor and of color, can’t take part in a liberation movement until they are liberated. They can’t offer to us their wisdom, their leadership, and their passion until they are freed from physical coercion and violent domination. This is why the fight to end male violence across the globe is not only fundamental to our movement but will define its success or failure. We can’t stand up for some of the oppressed and ignore others who are oppressed. None of us is free until all of us are free.”

Right on! Though, actually, Chris, we have been taking part in liberation movements for hundreds of years, offering our wisdom, leadership, and passion. And we don’t need you to free or liberate ourselves (that happens in our own minds and hearts). A bunch of you males need to free/liberate yourselves of your prejudices and preconceptions about us, and your need to feel better than and/or dominate us. That would help us all in our efforts to make needed changes — I definitely agree that if women don’t/can’t take a full leadership role in our various movements, they’ll fail; the world will not be saved.

Here’s the connection with the extraction industry, as explained by the Vancouver Post at the time: “The extraction industry and the prostitution of women are both the results of global capitalism, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Chris Hedges said in a controversial speech on Friday. Hedges delivered the keynote speech at Simon Fraser University’s State of Extraction conference in downtown Vancouver, Friday evening. In a packed room of more than 300 attendees, the former New York Times war correspondent spoke for 90 minutes, drawing parallels between exploited sex workers and the exploitation of the the extraction industry.

“Prostitution fits perfectly into the paradigm of global capitalism. No one chooses to die of silicosis or black lung disease. No one chooses to sell his or her body on the street. You go into the mines, like you go into prostitution, because global capitalism doesn’t offer you a choice. In every boomtown that rises up around extraction industries, you’ll find widespread sexual exploitation by bands of men.”

As I’ve said before, and will say again, all of these issues, all these “isms” are connected, and must be fought at the same time. Women and people of color are exploited by capitalism and by sexism and racism, respectively, and women of color are subjected to a triple whammy.