AOH :: BADBR-06.TXT|
BAD BROADSIDE no. 6: Anarchist "revolutionaries" are the wrong tra
ANARCHISM AND CIVILITY
BAD Broadside #6
A generally accepted anarchist tenet is that the state can only be
effectively dismantled by a voluntary, cooperative, and spontaneous
insurrection by the people. Authoritarian revolutions gotten up by
manipulative vanguardists are rejected as inconsistent with the anarchist
belief that the means must be consistent with the ends. History has plenty
of examples to show that seizure of power through elitist revolt, rather
than furthering the goals of the revolution, actually becomes a process for
the strengthening of the state in a new and more vicious form. From an
evanescent moment of exultant freedom one inevitably wakes up to the
hangover of a Napoleon or a Lenin or a Mao.
Nevertheless, contemporary anarchists are often still mesmerized by the
call to arms, even when the chance of such a romantic gesture succeeding is
nil. The only real revolutions occur when popular discontent causes the
state to collapse under the weight of its own folly, not when some bloody
vanguard, following whatever destructive fantasy its leaders concoct, meets
the modern state head-on. This inevitably results in meaningless hardship
for the people involved, with the greatest misery reserved for innocents who
gets in the way of either side's fallacious ideology. Being a "rebel" and
antagonizing the flatulent powers-that-be in a modern state can be an
exciting game, but it is only bluster and puerile self-gratification when
genuine revolt is implausible. In the end the most radical
"revolutionaries" either end up as bitter, dead-end martyrs or become the
next generation's "born-again" capitalists. Having had their fling, they
come to believe in their new "realism" as solipsistically as they embraced
rebellion. None of this brings us any closer to a solution to the problem
of the state.
The fallacy of revolutionary adventurism is mirrored on a personal
level by the intolerant and abusive discourse of identity politics.
Everyone is pre-judged by their race, gender, sexual or religious
affiliation, and socially compartmentalized in some politically correct egg
basket. The goal of the anarchist movement is to establish a free, tolerant
and cooperative society which will embrace diversity and celebrate
difference. If the means are to be consistent with the ends, then how can
such a abrasive and bigoted practice as identity politics possibly achieve
that end? Identifying the "enemy" by birth or predilection, regardless of
an individual's actual beliefs or actions, is simple bigotry. Awarding
moral virtue on the same grounds is simple stupidity. Similarly, essaying
to act as a unwarranted spokesperson for a diverse grouping of individuals
who by chance share a single basic characteristic is the most arrogant sort
of elitism. Real people, stripped of their individual identities, are thus
subsumed in some hypothetical single-dimensional construct that effectively
denies them any complexity of character. This isn't an answer to
institutionalized racism and bigotry, but rather its mirror image.
This sort of prejudicial activity has appeal for the simpleminded.
It's easy to either attack or adulate a stranger on the grounds of
appearance. A similar anxiety powered the old Sumptuary laws which punished
anyone who dressed above their social class -- it was too unnerving for the
elite to think they might make a mistake and treat an inferior as an equal,
thanks to illicit appearances. Political prejudice makes it simple to get
through the difficulty of rootless modern life where there are no clear cut
exterior indications of what a person might really be like. All white males
(unless, perhaps, gay) are dangerous, power-driven and bigoted. All women
(unless, perhaps, Republican) are intuitive, nurturing and empathetic with
Nature. Members of minorities (take your pick) are morally superior to
members of majorities. Classifications and labels which assist us in making
such decisions are more real (and more important) than the people they
describe. Et cetera. Bullshit.
The goal of a tolerant and cooperative society of free individuals can
only be achieved by those very means -- by being tolerant, cooperative and
free. We must be better companions to our fellow mortals, whatever their
outward characteristics. Civility, which facilitates cooperation, is
imperative if anarchy is to really work. Pigheaded and self-important
aggressiveness, hypercriticism, and easy intolerance is a recipe for the
We don't mean to suggest some sort of all accepting, "turn-the-other-
cheek" bourgeois crap, either. Once you get beyond the labels, there are
still unfortunately plenty of folks that it makes sense to despise.
Arrogant, violent, intolerant, fanatical, bigoted, manipulative, rapacious
-- individuals with these characteristics must be guarded against, but they
are not all found in one easily recognized group identity. These adjectives
equally describe individual men, women, blacks, whites, handicapped people
-- the whole gamut of the human race. Nor is anyone as morally pure as some
of our new puritan idealists would insist that they be. A person is the sum
of their character traits, not a distillation of the most pronounced ones.
Radicals are just as prone to frailties of character as industrialists.
It is by their actual effect on their community and environment that we
should evaluate our fellow beings, not by some dominant virtue or fault
which particularly excites us. It would be far preferable to tolerate a
insensitive verbal bigot who in practice actually helped people than a pious
hypocrite who mouthed politically correct platitudes and then went home and
beat his lover.
Anarchism involves conscientious and responsible judgement, and the
effort to see through the shucks, facades, and hype of our unregenerate
society. One of the most virulent traps for the contemporary Left is the
aping of the knee-jerk bigotry of the Right, which involves a mean-spirited
"us-and-them" prejudice through group identity. There are plenty of actual
villains out there, some easily identifiable, others hidden in hypocrisy.
There are equally many good people obscured by the accidents of their birth,
uprearing, or situation. Let us therefore focus on the individual rather
than the group, and recognize that the only way we will ever really achieve
the goals of Anarchy is through living those difficult precepts in the here
and now, and treat each other civilly. There can be no other effective
preparation for Anarchy's ultimate realization in the future.
Please send two copies of any review or reprint
of all or part of this to:
Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade
PO Box 1323
Cambridge, MA 02238
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