Thursday, February 4, 2010


Black and white—these two colors have defined so much of the American social landscape, casting their shadow over social struggles. If today on official documents and in academic studies “diversity” and “multi-culturalism” are recognized, at bottom, the dichotomy between “white” people and those who are not white remains the predominate definition of “difference”, because it is an all too useful tool in the hands of those who rule us.

It is quite easy to condemn white supremacists—blatant racists and bigots purveying a small-minded, narrow view of the world that impoverishes all it touches. For these nasty and ignorant people, the situation is simple: those who are not white are dangerous and must be dealt with as such. So out come the clubs and crowbars and the hunt begins. Or, more frequently, out come the laws and cops and the prisons fill up.

But what of the anti-racists, those good white people who have nothing against their black, brown, yellow or red sisters and brothers, who are even willing to defend them? These are quick to demand that those who are not white should not be mistreated, that their rights should be protected, because they are really “just like us”, they are our equals. These good, “broad-minded” people are ready to subsume everyone under that great, unified human race, blinding themselves to all that might threaten their abstract magnanimity.

But whether one chooses narrow-minded bigotry or broad-minded magnanimity, the result is the same: the different is made to disappear, because it must not exist; it is too frightening, too challenging. In fact the bigotry of the racist feeds on the rhetoric of the anti-racist. The doctrine of the latter, the promotion of “multi-cultural” homogenization and “diversity” as commodity, is really founded on a refusal to see that which should not need to be pointed out—that no individual is equal to any other; it fuels the fear of losing oneself. And if one has learned to define their peculiarity in racial terms, this doctrine will goad her to defend his racial heritage with ever more vehemence. Thus, the blind, abstract generosity of the anti-racist simply pushes the racist to be more narrow-minded and defensive. In the same way, the anti-racist needs the racist to whom she can respond. Without the racist whose attitudes and ignorance he can condemn, thus distinguishing herself, he’d have no way to prove his anti-racist credentials. For she, like the racist, is afraid of the different, and equally afraid of losing herself. Unlike the racist however, he does not express her fear with the club, but rather through self-deception and flattery. He does not see the arrogant and self-serving racism in her claims that “ they are just like us; they are our equals”. Such claims are not only insulting and arrogant, but false as well. But the anti-racist won’t understand this. Prey to their own bad conscience about sharing the same skin color as the white supremacists they despise, their anti-racism becomes a symbolic martyrdom, self-deprecation indicative of their inability to step thinking in essential racial categories.

There have been attempts in recent years among revolutionaries in this country to move beyond the pathetic dichotomy that still dominates the discussion of race. Although early attempts to point out the lack of a biological basis for the concept of race have sometimes led to a lazy refusal to deal with the matter at all, there are those who have taken the next step of trying to develop an analysis of the usefulness of the concept of race to the rulers of this order for the maintenance of current social relationships. In particular, the “new abolitionists”, publishers of Race Traitor, have made useful contributions to an analysis of how the development of the concept of the white race allowed the exploiting classes to create significant rifts between different parts of the exploited classes and to manipulate large portions of the latter into identifying with their exploiters. Such analyses indicate that these new abolitionists have moved beyond the simplistic self-righteousness of anti-racism, but there are still elements of anti-racist moralizing to be found in their ideas. Their tendency to still think in black and white (or white and non-white) may be an essential starting point for the development of their analyses that are ultimately attempting to supercede this dichotomous way of thinking. But their slogan, “Treason to the white race is loyalty to humanity”, seems to carry with it the attempt of the anti-racist to subsume all difference under that abstraction, the human race. Correspondingly, the practice to which the writers of Race Traitor most frequently call “white” people is the refusal of white privilege, the specifics of which—as described in their writings—seem to have more to do with personal moral righteousness, and thus self-sacrifice similar to that of the anti-racists, than with the development of a revolutionary project that can bring down this society and its concept of race.

A truly revolutionary project—one that can destroy class society, domination and exploitation and open the possibility for the development of free, self-determined relations—is rooted in the desire of individuals to determine their own lives in terms of their own singularity. In this light, I do not consider any individual to be equal to any other. Profound differences abound, and among these differences, which make up the uniqueness of each individual, are those characteristics that could be called “racial” or “ethnic”, but these are not the most fundamental characteristics. Nor do they make for the superiority or inferiority of any group. Rather they reflect that each of us is a unique being with our own history and our own way of facing the world around us. In order to create ourselves on our own terms—possible in the present only in revolt against the social order—it is necessary to examine the differences that have their basis in socially defined categories in order to overcome them, move beyond them and make them our own, servants to our singular selves. So I choose to relate to each individual not based on their racial or ethnic identity, but based on who I am and want to be and what interests and desires these individuals evoke in me.

It is this singularity, this very real difference between every individual, that is feared and rejected by both the racist and the anti-racist. The racist seeks to eliminate difference in a homogenized conception of whiteness which justifies the violent suppression of those who cannot be assimilated into this category. The anti-racist seeks to deny difference by assimilating everything into the “multi-culturalism” of commodification, offering only the murky greyness of capitalist pseudo-diversity—the “diversity” of products on the market. To move beyond this greyness requires precisely that we embrace that difference which cannot be commodified—the marvelous uniqueness of each individual. But such an embrace demands that we truly wrestle with those social concepts and categories in which the present world strives to enclose this difference with the aim of destroying these cages. Such an effort is essential if we ever want to dream in colors.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On the Degradation of Language and the Art of Listening

When you call someone a name you stop listening to him.

I do not write, publish, speak or discuss in order to propagate a fixed set of ideas for others to embrace; I’m not interested in disciples or followers. I do so to communicate and discuss my own fluid and evolving ideas, my desires, my dreams, my experiences and my projects as clearly as possible in order to discover affinities, to find accomplices with whom to share my activities. I am convinced that the only real wealth worth pursuing is found in other people with whom one can share the creation of a life together aimed at the realization of the needs and desires of each and every one. Therefore, I gladly throw my words out into the world as a wager that they will strike a resonant chord with others with whom I can share projects of revolt against the ruling order and of taking back our lives and activities as our own. Unfortunately, often these words, chosen with so much care, seem to meet misunderstandings of the strangest sorts.

My desires, my dreams and, thus, my projects are informed by a revolutionary perspective, that is, by the recognition that it is necessary to make a fundamental, destructive break with the existing world in order to open the possibility for a world in which we can truly create our lives together on our own terms. The existing world, dominated by the state, capital and their technological and ideological machinery of control, defines wealth in terms of the things that one owns. In such a world, human beings themselves become things that are owned by the apparatus, the ruling institutions. Their value is not in the unique beauty of their being, but in their capacity to produce more things either physically in the form of products or socially in the form of roles and predetermined relationships. Thus, what is unique in each of us is suppressed in the interest of production. Wealth in this sense is purely quantitative, the ownership of a large amount of shit, possession of a greater share of the impoverished reality that this world imposes. All this must be destroyed if we are to create a world in which we recognize the qualitative wealth of the uniqueness that each one of us has to offer the other. And this is the project I try to express.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to express such a project. Finding the balance between the simplicity that makes one’s language accessible and the complexity that is necessary to express how this revolutionary desire confronts the catastrophic reality of the world in which we live is not easy. It requires a certain precision and delicacy. By delicacy, I do not at all mean gentleness. Rather, I mean the use of great care in choosing the words that can best express one’s meaning while avoiding the pitfalls set by the increasing degradation of language in anarchist circles that has been caused by ideological thinking. But even this is not always enough. Real communication is never one-way, and the degradation of language (and ideas) doesn’t just affect how people say things, but also how they hear things. Those who make their language the servant of ideological ways of thinking will not so much listen to what someone says as filter it into the appropriate places within the frameworks of their systems for viewing the world.

The desire for simplicity itself can be a danger here. Things certainly seem simpler when we feel we have found the answers, so that we no longer need to call our ideas, our activities, our lives and ourselves into question. In a world of every day misery and catastrophe, the codified categories of ideology can be particularly reassuring. But this sort of reassurance comes at the expense of real communication and real discussion. Exchanges of words are reduced to mutual reassurances, evangelistic outreach and condemnations of those who don’t agree. The capacity to listen disappears, taking with it any possibility for real debate. Let’s look at a few examples of how this can work.

Activism, as a specialized role, carries its own vague ideology: things are bad, we need to do something to change them, we need to organize people for this purpose. Quite vague, indeed. But it doesn’t prevent activists from being fervent believers and hard-core evangelists. For the activist, as for any evangelist, the individuals they encounter are not unique human beings with whom to create relationships or share life, they are ciphers to convert into tools for the cause. Activists have sacrificed their own uniqueness and humanity to whatever cause, so why would they expect less of others? Thus, when activists speak of communicating with others, they mean that they are out to organize those others to fight for their cause. The activist transforms talking with your neighbors about the realities you face together into community organizing to build a movement.

Unfortunately, this activist ideology can seep into the way of thinking of individuals who are critical of activism and leftism, leading even these people to hear meanings in words that aren’t there. Thus, recently when I spoke of the need to talk with those around us about what we are facing in the world today and what we desire, one person asked if I was talking about “movement building”, a term with which I wasn’t familiar, but that sounds like something that would contradict my entire project as I’ve live and expressed it. (This individual was at least just asking and not immediately labeling and accusing, but her question left me flabbergasted.) Another, when I was not present, said that it sounded like the same old leftist shit (or something to that effect) and then later referred to me in writing as a “reformist community organizer”. I never knew that the idea of talking with one’s neighbors could carry so much baggage. Then again I’ve never been an activist or an organizer, and have carefully kept my distance from that sort of thinking. I always thought talking with someone meant just that, talking with someone. But ideological filters to listening can twist the simplest things into a complex maze of hidden implications in which the possibilities for meaningful discussion get lost.

But the worst attacks against open, straightforward communication within the anarchist milieu in recent years stem from the intrusion of political correctitude into the milieu. Political correctitude finds its clearest voice in the identity politics that became the dominant voice of the American left in the 1980’s. I was fortunate and managed to have very little direct contact with the preachers of political correctitude and identity politics for quite a while. It was clear to me that they were promoting an ideology based in victimization. Identity politics is an ideology based upon identifying with the category (or categories) through which one is oppressed: race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or whatever. In other words, one identifies with the categories that the ruling order has imposed. This identification is then supposed to be embraced as a source of pride, unity and strength. I don’t want to go into a full critique of this here, but only want to deal with the aspects relevant to communication. First of all, defining one’s identity in terms of one’s oppression is defining oneself as a victim (euphemisms such as “survivor” don’t change this). This leaves one feeling perpetually vulnerable and puts one on the defensive. Here is the basis for political correctitude. People who are always on the defensive, in need of being provided with a feeling of safety, become overly sensitive to language, granting it a power over them that it need not have. In “communication”, such people no longer look for actual meaning, but put their radar out for the code words and phrases that they have defined as inherently oppressive. Their rage will scream out at the wrong word in the wrong place or at another’s refusal to use the words and categories of their ideology. In the meantime, their real oppressors in the ruling class use smooth, politically correct language to enforce their oppression. A linguistic moral order is established that creates only one real change: the reduction of our capacity to communicate. In addition, creating a group identity involves identifying an opposing group to which the first group contrasts itself. If one defines oneself in terms of race or gender or sexual orientation, then this contrasting other must be defined in the same terms, and so the world gets divided into “people of color/white”, “female/male”, “gay/straight”, etc. (or more accurately, this supposedly radical ideology maintains and enforces the divisions the ruling order has already created). Since the first group in each set is oppressed, obviously the second group must be the oppressors, regardless of what any of them as individuals have actually done. Individual responsibility is swallowed up in an automatic collective guilt. But precisely because this collective guilt is detached from the real concrete acts of individuals, some mechanism to explain it must be developed. And so we learn that all “white people”, all “males” and all “straight people” are “privileged”. And people from oppressed groups who adhere to these categories, along with their humble auxiliary of willing political correctitude cops drawn from the “privileged” groups, can use this alleged “privilege” to automatically discredit someone. Thus, this ideology justifies the worst sort of ad hominem argument, the kind based on supposedly inherent traits, not on real actions of the person involved. It should be obvious how this closes down the capacity for really listening, and thus for real discussion and communication. A statement such as “…white folks, straight people and men need to shut the fuck up” is not on offer for discussion or communication and certainly not an attempt to open up an exploration of affinities and possibilities for shared projects. It is a command clearly intended to call someone to accept a subordinate position. Again, people are seen as things, as categories, and “communication” is reduced to the arrangement of these things, making real listening irrelevant.

Communication and the capacity for listening have also deteriorated due to the entrenchment of positions that has become prevalent within anarchist circles in recent years. This entrenchment can be seen in the ongoing tendency to create categorical dichotomies: social anarchism vs. life-style anarchism, green anarchy vs. classical anarchism, and the like. The capacity to make distinctions and even complete breaks where necessary is important and must not be lost in some ecumenical haziness in which we all just embrace each other in an incoherent orgy of contradictory conceptions drained of meaning. But the capacity to make distinctions also means the capacity to recognize false dichotomies that serve no other purpose than to define one’s own ideological identity. In fact, there is much in the entrenchment of positions within the American anarchist milieu that parallels the functioning of identity politics. For example, there tends to be a hyper-sensitivity to words that are taken out of context and drained of meaning (recent discussions about the word “communism” provide a fine example). There is also a tendency to use labels to consign the “other” to a hostile ideological camp and end discussion in this way. A sad example is the way some people have begun to use “leftist” to label anyone who disagrees with them. In this way, the necessary harsh critique of the left loses its content and degenerates into a vacuous “anti-left” ideology that serves no other purpose than to silence one’s critics. If we are to ever discover where our real affinities and differences lie, we need to leave the safety of our entrenched positions, throw away our ideological filters, and actually listen to each other, sharing fierce but principled critiques and recognizing that since we are still living and the world is still changing, none of us has found the answer. We have so much we need to talk about, but it is useless to try if we cannot listen, if we only put up the radar for signals that help us place others and their ideas into our ideological categories. So among the anarchist projects worthy of effort is the revival of the fine art of listening that makes communication as peers possible. But this is not an easy task since it involves attacking one’s own entrenched positions as well as those of others.

Communication is hard enough where the art of listening has been nurtured. A few words are never enough to express all that a person has to say. The passionate reasons that goad one into action cannot fit into a few lines on a few pages. In fact, an endless flow of words would still not be enough to express it all. But the point is not to express it all in words; the point is to leave a clue, a verbal finger pointing toward the moon of one’s ideas and dreams that says just enough to find accomplices in the crime of freedom. Unfortunately, these days most people only “think” from the entrenched positions of their confused ideological conceptions and contradictory dogmas, and so one cannot expect to be understood by very many. From such confinement, most can only see the pointing finger. But the few who can think and feel and dream outside of every ideological fortress may be able to hear these words and respond with comprehension, critically, their eye upon the moon. And maybe a few critical voices, striving fiercely for clarity, will be able to break through the entrenched positions, and the art of listening will make real discussion a possibility again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

FROM POLITICS TO LIFE: Ridding Anarchy of the Leftist Millstone

From the time anarchism was first defined as a distinct radical movement it has been associated with the left, but the association has always been uneasy. Leftists who were in a position of authority (including those who called themselves anarchists, like the leaders of the CNT and the FAI in Spain in 1936-37) found the anarchist aim of the total transformation of life and the consequent principle that the ends should already exist in the means of struggle to be a hindrance to their political programs. Real insurgence always burst far beyond any political program, and the most coherent anarchists saw the realization of their dreams precisely in this unknown place beyond. Yet, time after time, when the fires of insurrection cooled (and even occasionally, as in Spain in 1936-37, while they still burnt brightly), leading anarchists would take their place again as “the conscience of the left”. But if the expansiveness of anarchist dreams and the principles that it implies have been a hindrance to the political schemes of the left, these schemes have been a far greater millstone around the neck of the anarchist movement, weighing it down with the “realism” that cannot dream.

For the left, the social struggle against exploitation and oppression is essentially a political program to be realized by whatever means are expedient. Such a conception obviously requires a political methodology of struggle, and such a methodology is bound to contradict some basic anarchist principles. First of all, politics as a distinct category of social existence is the separation of the decisions that determine our lives from the execution of those decisions. This separation resides in institutions that make and impose those decisions. It matters little how democratic or consensual those institutions are; the separation and institutionalization inherent in politics always constitute an imposition simply because they require that decisions be made before the circumstances to which they apply arise. This makes it necessary that they take on the form of general rules that are always to be applied in certain types of situations regardless of the specific circumstances. The seeds of ideological thinking – in which ideas rule the activities of individuals rather than serving individuals in developing their own projects – are found here, but I will go into that later. Of equal importance from an anarchist perspective is the fact that power lies in these decision-making and enforcing institutions. And the leftist conception of social struggle is precisely one of influencing, taking over or creating alternative versions of these institutions. In other words, it is a struggle to change, not to destroy institutionalized power relationships.

This conception of struggle, with its programmatic basis requires an organization as the means for carrying out the struggle. The organization represents the struggle, because it is the concrete expression of its program. If those involved define that program as revolutionary and anarchist, then the organization comes to represent revolution and anarchy for them, and the strength of the organization is equated with the strength of revolutionary and anarchist struggle. A clear example of this is found in the Spanish revolution where the leadership of the CNT, after inspiring the workers and peasants of Catalonia to expropriate the means of production (as well as arms with which they formed their free militias), did not dissolve the organization and allow the workers to explore the recreation of social life on their own terms, but rather took over management of production. This confusion of management by the union for workers’ self-management had results that can be studied by anyone willing to look at those events critically. When the struggle against the ruling order is thus separated from the individuals carrying it out and placed into the hands of the organization, it ceases to be the self-determined project of those individuals and instead becomes a external cause to which they adhere. Because this cause is equated with the organization, the primary activity of the individuals who adhere to it is the maintenance and expansion of the organization.

In fact, the leftist organization is the means through which the left intends to transform institutionalized power relationships. Whether this is done through appeal to the current rulers and the exercise of democratic rights, through the electoral or violent conquest of state power, through the institutional expropriation of the means of production or through a combination of these means is of little importance. To accomplish this, the organization tries to make itself into an alternative power or a counter-power. This is why it must embrace the current ideology of power, i.e., democracy. Democracy is that system of separated and institutionalized decision-making that requires the creation of social consensus for programs put forward. Although power always resides in coercion, in the democratic framework, it is justified through the consent it can win. This is why it is necessary for the left to seek as many adherents as possible, numbers to tally in support of its programs. Thus, in its adherence to democracy, the left must embrace the quantitative illusion.

The attempt to win adherents requires the appeal to the lowest common denominator. So instead of carrying on a vital theoretical exploration, the left develops a set of simplistic doctrines through which to view the world and a litany of moral outrages perpetrated by the current rulers, which leftists hope will have mass appeal. Any questioning or exploration outside of this ideological framework is vehemently condemned or viewed with incomprehension. The incapacity for serious theoretical exploration is the cost of accepting the quantitative illusion according to which numbers of adherents, regardless of their passivity and ignorance, are considered the reflection of a strong movement rather than the quality and coherence of ideas and practice.

The political necessity of appealing to “the masses” also moves the left to use the method of making piece-meal demands to the current rulers. This method is certainly quite consistent with a project of transforming power relationships, precisely because it does not challenge those relationships at their roots. In fact, by making demands of those in power, it implies that simple (though possibly extreme) adjustments of the current relationships are sufficient for the realization of the leftist program. What is not put into question in this method is the ruling order itself, because this would threaten the political framework of the left.

Implicit in this piece-meal approach to change is the doctrine of progressivism (in fact, one of the more popular labels among leftists and liberals nowadays – who would rather leave behind these other sullied labels – is precisely “progressive”). Progressivism is the idea that the current order of things is the result of an ongoing (though possibly “dialectical”) process of improvement and that if we put in the effort (whether through voting, petition, litigation, civil disobedience, political violence or even the conquest of power – anything other than its destruction), we can take this process further. The concept of progress and the piece-meal approach that is its practical expression point to another quantitative aspect of the leftist conception of social transformation. This transformation is simply a matter of degrees, of one’s position along an ongoing trajectory. The right amount of adjustment will get us “there” (wherever “there” is). Reform and revolution are simply different levels of the same activity. Such are the absurdities of leftism which remains blind to the overwhelming evidence that the only trajectory that we have been on at least since the rise of capitalism and industrialism is the increasing impoverishment of existence, and this cannot be reformed away.

The piece-meal approach and the political need for categorization also leads the left to valorize people in terms of their membership in various oppressed and exploited groups, such as “workers”, “women”, “people of color”, “gays and lesbians” and so on. This categorization is the basis of identity politics. Identity politics is the particular form of false opposition in which oppressed people choose to identify with a particular social category through which their oppression is reinforced as a supposed act of defiance against their oppression. In fact, the continued identification with this social role limits the capacity of those who practice identity politics to analyze their situation in this society deeply and to act as individuals against their oppression. It thus guarantees the continuation of the social relationships that cause their oppression. But only as members of categories are these people useful as pawns in the political maneuverings of the left, because such social categories take on the role of pressure groups and power blocs within the democratic framework.

The political logic of the left, with its organizational requirements, its embrace of democracy and the quantitative illusion and its valorization of people as mere members of social categories, is inherently collectivist, suppressing the individual as such. This expresses itself in the call for individuals to sacrifice themselves to the various causes, programs and organizations of the left. Behind these calls one finds the manipulative ideologies of collective identity, collective responsibility and collective guilt. Individuals who are defined as being part of a “privileged” group – “straight”, “white”, “male”, “first-world”, “middle class” – are held responsible for all the oppression attributed to that group. They are then manipulated into acting to expiate these “crimes”, giving uncritical support to the movements of those more oppressed than they are. Individuals who are defined as being part of an oppressed group are manipulated into accepting collective identity in this group out of a mandatory “solidarity” – sisterhood, black nationalism, queer identity, etc. If they reject or even deeply and radically criticize this group identity, this is equated with acceptance of their own oppression. In fact, the individual who acts on his or her own (or only with those with whom s/he has developed real affinity) against her or his oppression and exploitation as s/he experiences it in his or her life, is accused of “bourgeois individualism”, in spite of the fact that s/he is struggling precisely against the alienation, separation and atomization that is the inherent result of the collective alienated social activity that the state and capital – so-called “bourgeois society” – impose upon us.

Because leftism is the active perception of social struggle as a political program, it is ideological from top to bottom. The struggle of the left does not grow out of the desires, needs and dreams of the living individuals exploited, oppressed, dominated and dispossessed by this society. It is not the activity of people striving to reappropriate their own lives and seeking the tools necessary for doing so. Rather it is a program formulated in the minds of leftist leaders or in organizational meetings that exists above and before people’s individual struggles and to which these latter are to subordinate themselves. Whatever the slogan of this program – socialism, communism, anarchism, sisterhood, the African people, animal rights, earth liberation, primitivism, workers’ self-management, etc., etc. – it does not provide a tool for individuals to use in their own struggles against domination, but rather demands individuals to exchange the domination of the ruling order for the domination of the leftist program. In other words, it demands that individuals continue to give up their capacity to determine their own existence.

At its best, the anarchist endeavor has always been the total transformation of existence based on the reappropriation of life by each and every individual, acting in free association with others of their choosing. This vision can be found in the most poetic writings of nearly every well-known anarchist, and it is what made anarchism “the conscience of the left”. But of what use is it to be the conscience of a movement that does not and cannot share the breadth and depth of one’s dreams, if one desires to realize those dreams? In the history of the anarchist movement, those perspectives and practices closest to the left, such as anarcho-syndicalism and platformism, have always had far less of the dream and far more of the program about them. Now that leftism has ceased to be a significant force in any way distinguishable from the rest of the political sphere at least in the West of the world, there is certainly no reason to continue carrying this millstone around our necks. The realization of anarchist dreams, of the dreams of every individual still capable of dreaming and desiring independently to be the autonomous creators of their own existence, requires a conscious and rigorous break with the left. At minimum, this break would mean:

  1. The rejection of a political perception of social struggle; a recognition that revolutionary struggle is not a program, but is rather the struggle for the individual and social reappropriation of the totality of life. As such it is inherently anti-political. In other words,it is opposed to any form of social organization – and any method of struggle – in which the decisions about how to live and struggle are separated from the execution of those decisions regardless of how democratic and participatory this separated decision-making process may be.
  2. The rejection of organizationalism, meaning by this the rejection of the idea that any organization can represent exploited individuals or groups, social struggle, revolution or anarchy. Therefore also the rejection of all formal organizations – parties, unions, federations and their like – which, due to their programmatic nature, take on such a representative role. This does not mean the rejection of the capacity to organize the specific activities necessary to the revolutionary struggle, but rather the rejection of the subjection of the organization of tasks and projects to the formalism of an organizational program. The only task that has ever been shown to require formal organization is the development and maintenance of a formal organization.
  3. The rejection of democracy and the quantitative illusion. The rejection of the view that the number of adherents to a cause, idea or program is what determines the strength of the struggle, rather than the qualitative value of the practice of struggle as an attack against the institutions of domination and as a reappropriation of life. The rejection of every institutionalization or formalization of decision-making, and indeed of every conception of decision-making as a moment separated from life and practice. The rejection, as well, of the evangelistic method that strives to win over the masses. Such a method assumes that theoretical exploration is at an end, that one has the answer to which all are to adhere and that therefore every method is acceptable for getting the message out even if that method contradicts what we are saying. It leads one to seek followers who accept one’s position rather than comrades and accomplices with which to carry on one’s explorations. The practice instead of striving to carry out one’s projects, as best one can, in a way consistent with one’s ideas, dreams and desires, thus attracting potential accomplices with whom to develop relationships of affinity and expand the practice of revolt.
  4. The rejection of making demands to those in power, choosing rather a practice of direct action and attack. The rejection of the idea that we can realize our desire for self-determination through piece-meal demands which, at best, only offer a temporary amelioration of the harmfulness of the social order of capital. Recognition of the necessity to attack this society in its totality, to achieve a practical and theoretical awareness in each partial struggle of the totality that must be destroyed. Thus, as well, the capacity to see what is potentially revolutionary – what has moved beyond the logic of demands and of piece-meal changes – in partial social struggles, since, after all, every radical, insurrectionary rupture has been sparked by a struggle that started as an attempt to gain partial demands, but that moved in practice from demanding what was desired to seizing it and more.
  5. The rejection of the idea of progress, of the idea that the current order of things is the result of an ongoing process of improvement that we can take further, possibly even to its apotheosis, if we put in the effort. The recognition that the current trajectory – which the rulers and their loyal reformist and “revolutionary” opposition call “progress” – is inherently harmful to individual freedom, free association, healthy human relations, the totality of life and the planet itself. The recognition that this trajectory must be brought to an end and new ways of living and relating developed if we are to achieve full autonomy and freedom. (This does not necessarily lead to an absolute rejection of technology and civilization, and such a rejection does not constitute the bottom line of a break with the left, but the rejection of progress most certainly means a willingness to seriously and critically examine and question civilization and technology, and particularly industrialism. Those who are not willing to raise such questions most likely continue to hold to the myth of progress.)
  6. The rejection of identity politics. The recognition that, while various oppressed groups experience their dispossession in ways specific to their oppression and analysis of these specificities is necessary in order to get a full understanding of how domination functions, nonetheless, dispossession is fundamentally the stealing away of the capacity of each of us as individuals to create our lives on our own terms in free association with others. The reappropriation of life on the social level, as well as its full reappropriation on the individual level, can only occur when we stop identifying ourselves essentially in terms of our social identities.
  7. The rejection of collectivism, of the subordination of the individual to the group. The rejection of the ideology of collective responsibility (a rejection that does not mean the refusal of social or class analysis, but rather that removes the moral judgment from such analysis, and refuses the dangerous practice of blaming individuals for activities that have been done in the name of, or that have been attributed to, a social category of which they are said to be a part, but about which they had no choice – e.g., “Jew”, “gypsy”, “male”, “white”, etc.). The rejection of the idea that anyone, either due to “privilege” or due to supposed membership in a particular oppressed group, owes uncritical solidarity to any struggle or movement, and the recognition that such a conception is a major obstruction in any serious revolutionary process. The creation of collective projects and activities to serve the needs and desires of the individuals involved, and not vice versa. The recognition that the fundamental alienation imposed by capital is not based in any hyper-individualist ideology that it may promote, but rather stems from the collective project of production that it imposes, which expropriates our individual creative capacities to fulfill its aims. The recognition of the liberation of each and every individual to be able to determine the conditions of her or his existence in free association with others of her or his choosing – i.e., the individual and social reappropriation of life – as the primary aim of revolution.
  8. The rejection of ideology, that is to say, the rejection of every program, idea, abstraction, ideal or theory that is placed above life and individuals as a construct to be served. The rejection, therefore, of God, the State, the Nation, the Race, etc., but also of Anarchism, Primitivism, Communism, Freedom, Reason, the Individual, etc. when these become ideals to which one is to sacrifice oneself, one’s desires, one’s aspirations, one’s dreams. The use of ideas, theoretical analysis and the capacity to reason and think abstractly and critically as tools for realizing one’s aims, for reappropriating life and acting against everything that stands in the way of this reappropriation. The rejection of easy answers that come to act as blinders to one’s attempts to examine the reality one is facing in favor of ongoing questioning and theoretical exploration.

As I see it, these are what constitute a real break with the left. Where any of these rejections are lacking – whether in theory or practice – vestiges of the left remain, and this is a hindrance to our project of liberation. Since this break with the left is based in the necessity to free the practice of anarchy from the confines of politics, it is certainly not an embrace of the right or any other part of the political spectrum. It is rather a recognition that a struggle for the transformation of the totality of life, a struggle to take back each of our lives as our own in a collective movement for individual realization, can only be hampered by political programs, “revolutionary” organizations and ideological constructs that demand our service, because these too, like the state and capital, demand that we give our lives to them rather than take our lives as our own. Our dreams are much too large for the narrow confines of political schemes. It is long past time that we leave the left behind and go on our merry way toward the unknown of insurrection and the creation of full and self-determined lives.