New laws in the new normal

Anarchist News

“Potential illegality comes within the law today, but the farseeing eye of the censor looks ahead to foresee its possible outcome. In the same way social deviance today might be a possible object of study or surprise, tomorrow it could become a concrete manifestation of social subversion.” – Alfredo Bonanno, Illegality

The jury’s still out on what they’ll call this moment in His-story. Perhaps we’re too close to know. They may chalk it up as a post-Something: post-Trump, post-George Floyd, post-COVID (though this one is still premature). Regardless of name, anarchists traveling through moments, like this one, accumulate baggage they carry onto the next trail: suitcases brimming with perspective, experience, joy, heartache. A particularly heavy piece of baggage comes from the current moment: new laws to govern the new normal.

As a result, new transgressors are named.

Previously legal acts are now illegal. The free movement of bodies is restricted through health passports. And curfews, whether for virus or riots, illegalize the act of existing in space and time – the potential consequences for allegedly violating these rules are put on display in the sexual assault and murder of Sarah Everard by police. Virtual spaces are not immune to this shift, either. “Formal” illegality, such as hosting certain anarchist media online, is reclassified into “real” illegality in the form of terrorism charges, as seen in the case of Toby Shone [1]. In this way, an existing political critique of distributing anarchist literature transformed into an illegal social critique due to the context of unrest. This, then, justified the convenient enforcement of post-9/11 laws – legal baggage from a previous state of exception – in the same way that subversive music, books, and sexualities continue to be censored.

“Insurrection leads us to no longer let ourselves be arranged, but rather to arrange ourselves” – Max Stirner, The Unique and its Property

While the enforcement of laws is largely unremarkable to the irreverent anarchist, it can be beneficial to reflect on how we are arranged in this new legal landscape to anticipate and outmaneuver new attempts to restrict everyday life. Past examples of shifting legal landscapes include the popularization of surveillance cameras over the past 50 years and heightened security practices we still rely on as a result of the Green Scare. How will our current legal context in the new normal influence how anarchists arrange themselves illegally in the future?

Call this an exercise in precognition, to live in illegality more effectively.

What acts are likely to shift from “potential” to “real” illegality in the near future? Will mutual aid projects, like Food Not Bombs, be able to occupy the same space and time they did before, or will there be an uptick in conflict? How do anarchist media projects continue to rely on a corporatized, State-cooperative internet? This same skepticism can be extended to our individual reliance on “private” and “secure” tech used to communicate, like Protonmail and Signal. What other common tactics or tools are outdated in our new context? What mindsets don’t apply anymore? How does illegality look down the trail?

How far will laws in the new normal go? Will there be Voight-Kampff tests to differentiate anarchists from law-abiding citizens? Will legal changes be swift in the form of executive orders and armed police, or will requirements, regulations, and bans slowly devour us from the inside out? Can this be anticipated or stopped?

As anarchists…how do we not get caught?


Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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