Who and What Counts as Anarchism? Reply

From an anarcho-communist Facebook commentator.

WHO AND WHAT COUNTS AS ANARCHISM?

There’s a number of different views on who’s deemed to be a real anarchist and what’s deemed to be legitimate schools of anarchist politics.

Let’s imagine a spectrum of these views, measured in terms of “strictness” of who’s in vs out.

ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE

we have the view that anyone who calls themself an anarchist is one, along with anybody from history who seems vaguely anarchistic. So everybody from voluntaryist capitalists to primitivists to pro-market transhumanist individualists to anarchist communists to national anarchists counts as “in”.

ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE

we have the view that the only legitimate school of anarchism is social anarchism. Meaning anarchist communism (and its descendants), as it existed from its formation within the St. Imier International in the 1870s. Also including the collectivists of Spain, the anarcho-syndicalists, and anarchist social ecologists.

This may seem extreme, after all, wouldn’t this exclude the first person to call themselves an anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and even Mikhail Bakunin?

Yes it would. And supporters of this view cite the fact that while both men used the words anarchist as an adjective, and anarchy as a noun, neither ever used the term anarchism (as an -ism) and probably would’ve been against doing so.

They are therefore seen as foundational to movement anarchism, but not part of it themselves. Much like how Rousseau was foundational to Romanticism, while being dead before it became a current in European thought.

COMPARISONS

To dismiss, at the beginning, the view that absolutely anyone who calls themself an anarchist is an anarchist, I think pretty much the only person who takes this view seriously is Keith Preston and his “pan-secessionism” clique. He proposes that we have privatised cities next to fascist racial separatist nations next to anarcho-communist confederations. Not something that’s going to happen.

But even if you exclude the fascists and the capitalists from anarchism, is there not still tension between those who favour a stateless “free market” (even a socialist one) and those who favour a stateless confederation of free communes?

This is why I’ve become more sympathetic to the “consistency” view on the other side of the spectrum. It may seem strict, but I think we need that in order to ground ourselves intellectually and make our theory coherent.

That’s not to say we can’t still describe things outside social anarchism as “anarchistic”, or as part of the wider “family of anarchy”, but we should only use the term anarchism to identify tendencies who cohere with a common sense of ideas and practices.

What do you think?

Where do you place yourself on the spectrum and why?

 

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