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Jason McQuinn -Post Left Anarchism ?

Jason McQuinn -Post Left Anarchism ?

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Published by Adi Petre

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Published by: Adi Petre on Nov 28, 2010
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Jason Mcinn
Post-Le Anary?
T A L
ere remain large numbers of anarists who continue to identify closely with the po-litical le in one form or another. But there are increasing numbers ready to abandon muof the dead weight associated with the le tradition. Many pages of this issue are devoted tobeginning a new exploration of what is at stake in considering whether or not identificationwith the political le has outworn any benefits for anarists.For most of their existence over roughly the last couple centuries, consciously anaristactivists, theorists, groups and movements have consistently inhabited a minority positionwithin the eclectic world of would-be revolutionaries on the le. In most of the world-defining insurrections and revolutions during that time-those whi had any significant per-manence in their victories-authoritarian rebels were usually an obvious majority among ac-tive revolutionaries. And even when they weren’t, they oen gained the upper hand throughother means. Whether they were liberals, social-democrats, nationalists, socialists, or com-munists, they remained part of a majority current within the political le explicitly commit-ted to a whole constellation of authoritarian positions. Along with an admirable dedicationto ideals like justice and equality, this majority current favors hierarical organization, pro-fessional (and, too oen, cults of) leadership, dogmatic ideologies (especially notable in itsmany Marxian variants), a self-righteous moralism, and a widespread abhorrence for socialfreedom and authentic, non-hierarical community.Especially aer their expulsion from the First International, anarists have generallyfound themselves facing a hard oice. ey could locate their critiques somewhere withinthe political le—if only on its fringes. Or else they could reject the majority oppositionculture in its entirety and take the ance of being isolated and ignored.Since many, if not most, anarist activists have come out of the le through disillu-sionment with its authoritarian culture, the option of clinging to its fringes and adapting itsthemes in a more libertarian direction has maintained a steady allure. Anaro-syndicalismmay be the best example of this kind of le-anarism. It has allowed anarists to use leistideologies and methods to work for a leist vision of social justice, but with a simultane-ous commitment to anarist themes like direct action, self-management, and certain (verylimited) libertarian cultural values. Murray Bookin’s ecological anaro-leism, whethergoing by the label of libertarian municipalism or social ecology, is another example. It isdistinguished by its persistent failure to gain mu of a foothold anywhere, even in its fa-vored terrain of Green politics. A further example, the most invisible (and numerous?) of all types of le-anarism, is the oice of a great many anarists to submerge themselveswithin leist organizations that have lile or no commitment to any libertarian values, sim-ply because they see no possibility of working directly with other anarists (who are oensimilarly hidden, submerged in still other leist organizations).Perhapsit’stime,nowthattheruinsofthepoliticallecontinuetoimplode,foranariststo consider stepping out of its steadily disappearing shadow en masse. In fact, there’s still aance, if enough anarists can dissociate themselves sufficiently from the myriad failures,purges and ‘betrayals’ of leism, that anarists can finally stand on their own.Along with defining themselves in their own terms, anarists might once again inspirea new generation of rebels, who this time may be less willing to compromise their resistance2
in aempts to maintain a common front with a political le that has historically opposedthe creation of free community wherever it has appeared. For the evidence is irrefutable.Libertarian revolutionaries of any type have consistently been denied a presence in the vastmajority of leist organizations (from the break in the International on); forced into silencein many of the le organizations they have been allowed to join (for example, the anaro-Bolsheviks); and persecuted, imprisoned, assassinated or tortured by any leists who haveaained the necessary political power or organizational resources to do so (examples arelegion).Whyhastherebeensualonghistoryofconflictandenmitybetweenanaristsandthele? It is because there are two fundamentally different visions of social ange embodiedin the range of their respective critiques and practices (although any particular group ormovement always includes contradictory elements). At its simplest, anarists-especiallyanarists who identify least with the le—commonly engage in a practice whi refusesto set itself up as a political leadership apart from society, refuses the inevitable hieraryand manipulation involved in building mass organizations, and refuses the hegemony of anysingle dogmatic ideology. e le, on the other hand, has most commonly engaged in asubstitutive, representational practice in whi mass organizations are subjected to an elitistleadership of intellectual ideologues and opportunistic politicians. In this practice the partysubstitutes itself for the mass movement, and the party leadership substitutes itself for theparty.In reality, the primary function of the le has historically been to recuperate every socialstruggle capable of confronting capital and state directly, su that at best only an ersatzrepresentation of victory has ever been aieved, always concealing the public secret of con-tinuing capital accumulation, continuing wage-slavexy, and continuing hierarical, statistpolitics as usual, but under an insubstantial rhetoric of resistance and revolution, freedomand social justice.e boom-line question is, can anarists do beer outside the le—from a position of explicit and uncompromising critique, than those who have osen to inhabit the le havedone from within? Jason Mcinn, Editor3

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