Brief Reflection: Anarchists, we know nothing!

[Image of Kropotkin, by Clifford Harper; a great anarchist and artist, you should follow him on Facebook.]

A strange thing usually occurs in debates between Anarchists / Revolutionary leftists and essentially any one from across the the rest of the political spectrum; the greatest weapon against claims by Anarchists is (perceived) to position their views outside of and in contrast to political knowledge itself. Once the usual assaults of naive utopianism, over-optimism of human nature, ignorance of economics, or a critical assault on black bloc tactics, the more pushing debater or critic usually tends to finalise their outrage towards revolutionary positions with a denouncement of Anarchism as not only un-empirical and ridiculous, but counter-rational and other to political knowledge and sensibility

Beyond simply revealing the flimsy and unstable, yet ultimately authoritarian, nature of traditional political pluralism, in which Conservatives recognise Liberals and Social Democrats and vice versa (mostly ¬†because they rely on each other for survival in the great spectacle of institutional, consensus and establishment politics), it is crucial for Anarchism (and other similar revolutionary theories) to be defined outside of Politics itself as something external to true, productive political debate. (or perhaps as Todd May would read in Jacques Ranciere’s theories; Anarchism is defined in opposition the Police Order which constitutes establishment ‘politics’ that we all live within.)

In a simple Foucauldian reading of political discourse, Anarchism has always remained as external and threatening to political discourse. It is simply defined as non-knowledge and non-politics due to its severity and threat; even in my limited discussions with friends about anarchist politics/ethics, the common response is that of “you don’t know what you’re talking about!” or ridicule of one’s intelligence for binding yourself to something as ridiculous and blind as the Anarchist project. When John McDonnell raised and read from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book in November 2016 in Parliament (or perhaps when Thatcher referenced Hayek), his actions were met with protest; how dare he invoke the words of a brutal political tyrant? Yet his actions were still deemed one’s of political importance and significance; if he were to have raised Kropotkin’s Conquest of Bread, I’m sure only laughter would have arisen. Of course the political legacy of Anarchism is one vastly different and less extreme (in most cases) of totalitarian states like that of Mao, but my point remains. The central approach to Anarchism is not just one of derision, but of attacking it as specifically ridiculous, absurd and anti-knowledge.

How are Anarchists to overcome this tactic? Seemingly the black bloc tactics in recent times (the Trump inauguration demos) have damaged the Anti-fascist and Anarchist image severely (although it has been in a state of poverty amongst the general political population for essentially its whole existence). I am not sure; the internet and new media seemed to giving greater coverage to positive Anarchist demonstrations and activities, as well as spreading its doctrines and history, but most importantly, outside of the Western Liberal political bubble (not really ruptured by the rise the Alt-Right or Nationalist-Populist leaders, I would argue) Anarchists are significant political forces gaining influence, and establishing new ways of being and seeing.


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