Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Anarchist Problem by Bob Black

"Anarchists may make lousy comrades but they're excellent customers."
As i have faced growing up & becoming responsible while at the same time trying to reconcile my own identity or at least leanings as a Punk Rocker & as an Anarchist, i have made many conclusions quietly & to myself. Old Punks & Anarchists can only maintain their involvement in the scene through some kind of role as a merchant. Anarchists sell books. Punks sell music. This then revealed another obvious but strangely profound fact: Anarchists read books, Punks listen to music & these are the central points to both identities. I never got into Bob Black because of my superficial gleaning of his "The Abolition of Work", which i have profound gut reactions against. Even though i essentially agree with the idea, & i appreciate the swipe at Marxists & there are alot of cherry quotes like this, "All industrial (and office) workers are employees and under the sort of surveillance which ensures servility." I have also been exposed to this essay's fruits. Anyhow, this particular essay "My Anarchist Problem" makes some excellent observations on anarchism which i found to be wholly comforting in their agreeability.

by Bob Black

Anarchism has always been problematic for me. It helped me to arrive at an unconditionally anti-statist, anti-capitalist perspective by the mid-1970's, and yet my first public statement from that perspective explained why I did not identify with anarchism. By dictionary definition, I am an anarchist, but the dictionary is only the beginning of wisdom. It cannot bestow coherence where contradictions abound or reduce differences to a unity by calling them by the same name.

Once an idea is launched into history it takes more and more of its meaning from its experience. Revivalist calls to return to first principles prove the point, for they are history too. And just as no Protestant sect has ever really recreated the primitive Church, no subsequent anarchist fundamentalism ever did or could reenact pure anarchism on Bakuninist, Kropotkinist or any other models. Anything which has entered importantly into the practice of the anarchists has a place in the anarchist phenomenon-in-process, whether or not it is logically deducible from the idea or even contradicts it. Sabotage, vegetarianism, assassination, pacifism, free love, co-operatives and strikes are all aspects of anarchism which their anarchist detractors try to dismiss as un-anarchist.

To call yourself an anarchist is to invite identification with an unpredictable array of associations, an ensemble which is unlikely to mean the same thing to any two people, including any two anarchists. (The most predictable is the least accurate: the bomb-thrower. But anarchists have thrown bombs and some still do.)

The trouble with anarchists is that they think they have agreed on what they all oppose -- the state -- whereas all they have agreed on is what to call it. You could make a good case that the greatest anarchists were nothing of the sort. Godwin wanted the state to wither away, but gradually, and not before the progress of enlightenment prepared people to do without it. Which seems to legitimate really existing statism and culminate in the banality that if things were different they would not be the same. Proudhon, who served in the French national legislature, in the end arrived at a theory of "federalism" which is nothing but the devolution of most state power on local governments. Kropotkin's free communes may not be nation-states but they sure sound like city-states. Certainly no historian would regard as anything but ludicrous Kropotkin's claim that medieval cities were anarchist.


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