Saturday, May 10, 2003

Where do you put the emphasis in your Anarchism?

A screed which I wrote, put on Infoshop, but which I haven't gotten around to putting up on this website yet kind of addresses this question; but more to the point, Anarchism is the fusion of radical individualism and socialism, but I wonder where many anarchists put their emphasis.

Bakunin declared that all anarchists are socialists but not all socialists are anarchists; you could also say that all anarchists are individualists but not all individualists are anarchists.

Reflecting on the total hostility coming from some anarchist circles to anything which smacks of organized leftist politics, whether it be unions, issue campaigns, the welfare state, alternative political activism, my confidence that people put their emphasis on 'socialist' is a little shaken. After all, all of those things which I've cited, in one form or another, are things which Anarchists are in favor of. Why should they be hostile to them?

In contemporary America individualist is easy but socialist is hard; individualism has been around for a long time but the socialist tradition in America has been almost completely stamped out and is only slowly gaining steam again. It's not even easy to find resources telling you what a typical socialist program along the lines of the social democrats looks like, much less what even more radical ideas are about.

I find myself a partisan to the Socialist tradition in the United States; I think that the Socialist tradition, preserving it, getting the word out about it, honoring it, is more important than quibbling over whether this particular facet of socialist history is authoritarian or statist, and certainly more important than trying to find a 'pure' strain of anti-statist worker socialism. Fighting over things like this is the forte of people who are really just individualists and who don't really agree with socialism, although they label themselves Anarchists.

Socialism is hard; individualism is cheap. The fight by workers and allies for a just society is a fight which is more important than is that of the latest manifestation of radical individualism.

So I take a big tent approach to these things; my question is how far can a person go in repudiating the ideals of the greater socialist tradition, which the American Anarchists certainly were a part of, before what you're talking about has little to do with the historical movement known as Anarchism and more to do with your own prejudices.

After all, to say it again, socialism is hard, understanding it is hard, finding resources is hard, individualism is cheap. It's my suspicion that many Anarchists who take purists stances against any left wing activity, movement, organization, event, etc... that has the taint of statism haven't risen to the challenge of Socialism at all, but are just faking it by invoking the image of radical individualism any time they come across something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

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