The Saint-Imier Gathering (19-23 July 2023)
Part I: The anarcho-authoritarians
Personal critical reflexion on the Saint-Imier gathering (19-23 July 2023)
At the beginning of the year 2020 some individuals started making preparations for a large gathering of anti-authoritarians from all over the world, to celebrate, in the summer of 2022, the 150th anniversary of the Congress of the anti-authoritarian international (Saint-Imier, 15-16 September 1872).
Because of the Covid virus and the restrictions introduced by the states to the free movement of individuals, at a certain point it was decided to postpone the gathering to the year 2023.
So, from the 19th to the 23rd of July 2023, a large crowd of “anti-authoritarians” (the figure is estimated to be around 4,000), convened in Saint-Imier to meet, present, debate, and put the foundations for interesting future projects and networking on common themes.
This short text intends to offer a personal reflexion on this gathering and a critical view of what happened just before and during the meeting.
Three weeks before the meeting, a text appeared on the Web accusing me (Gian Piero de Bellis) and one of the main organisers (Chris Zumbrunn) of being a sort of infiltrators who had nothing to do with this gathering. In actual fact, since the end of 2021 I was no longer part of the organization because I felt that my suggestion of using the gathering for relaunching the anti-authoritarian movement was not shared by any of the organisers.
The main accuse addressed to me is that I am an anarcho-capitalist. The funny thing is that, very recently I had circulated an article where I was criticizing both, anarcho-communism and anarcho-capitalism for all, as sectarian positions, deleterious for the development of the movement. My standing is that of anarchy without adjectives, a view advocated by Tarrida del Mármol and that I have been promoting in my website.
As a matter of fact, I go even further, and I share the enthusiasm expressed by Max Nettlau for the existence of parallel societies on the same territory, a multitude of voluntary non-territorialist communities whose member practise different styles of living but do not impose (and are refrained from imposing) their way of life to others. This approach is called panarchy and, in my opinion, represents the most radical form of anarchy.
So, why do they attribute to me the label of anarcho-capitalist (libertarien in French)? I guess for two essential reasons:
- I am in favour of free exchanges (goods, services) and free movement (individuals).
- I am against the monopolistic state in all its forms (including the welfare state)
Clearly, I didn’t take any notice of this false, totally invented, attribution and I was prepared to take part to this event with a program that I had prepared and submitted to the organisers in May. I intended to use my Centre (World Wide Wisdom) and an external room that I had rented for the occasion in order not to subtract any space for other workshops. On the contrary, I even offered to the organisers some slots of the space I had rented, and my offer was readily accepted.
My program, that I list here, was fully in tune with a radical anti-authoritarian approach, linked to the Congress of 1872 and to some basic tenets of anarchy (e.g., debate on anti-authoritarian resolutions, overcoming the town/country division, setting up new economic tools for facilitating the exchanges, etc.):
• Presentation and discussion of resolutions for re-launching the anti-authoritarian movement
• Aviezer Tucker, Anarchy & Panarchy
• Thomas Greco, The tyranny of the global money system and how we can free ourselves from it
• Gian Piero de Bellis, The state as a monopolistic criminal organisation
• Luisa de Bellis, Julian Assange: how the state kills the truth
• Matthew Skjonsberg, Living cities and civics
The morning of the first discussion of the resolutions (in French) some people, belonging to official federations and groups, intervened criticising a proposal drafted by an anarchist; she was putting forward interesting idea about how to involve more people in the movement. Probably some participants to the workshop thought that I had written that text and they wanted to criticise me more than analyse the content of the proposal. After having expressed what I consider very flimsy criticism, they refused to read a second document and abandoned the room to show their contempt toward me and, implicitly, to very idea of relaunching the anti-authoritarian movement based on a fully critical and open-mind approach.
Before the meeting I had also given to the participants a print-out with the list of my future presentations and discussions. To my total bewilderment, they used that list to go back to their headquarter and erase from the general program all the presentations I had planned.
So, in an event promoted under the title International Antiauthoritarian Gathering – 150 years later, a group of ultra-authoritarian self-proclaimed anarchists, acting as Central Supreme Committee, had decided to which ideas people could or could not be exposed and discuss, who was to talk and who was to be silenced.
All throughout the history of the anarchist movement the presence of sectarian authoritarian self-proclaimed anarchist has been visible for all to see. I thought, erroneously, that that behaviour belonged to the past, that expulsions, discriminations, censorship were no longer part and parcel of the current anarchist scene. And this, considering that so many anarchists in the past had experienced and were victims of authoritarian behaviour, as in the case of their expulsion from the First International. Karl Marx, who was the principal actor of that expulsion, has said something that is nevertheless worth quoting. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) he wrote:
“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
The expulsion of the anarchist component from the First International was a tragedy. The authoritarianism and sectarianism of many current self-proclaimed anarchists is a farce.
The typology of these so-called anarchists could be represented in this way:
- folk anarchists: they impersonate the image of the anarchist as portrayed by the state: chaotic, disorganised, disrespectful, uncivilised, violent, dirtying the walls with graffiti, misusing, or misappropriating other people resources, etc. To offer just an example of uncivilised behaviour, during the Saint-Imier gathering, the crossing of the railway line while a train was approaching led to the interruption of the regular traffic on the line and a consequent disruption that lasted for days. No need here to pinpoint to other specific unpleasant occurrences that also took place.
- fake anarchists: they are a sort of radical chic anarchists, who consider themselves quite superior to the common people because they are engaged in a political movement that they qualify as revolutionary of the extreme left. They ignore that the classic anarchists abhorred politics and all aspects related to it, and that left and right are party collocations in a state parliament and so are categories that have nothing to do with anarchy.
- fraudulent anarchists: they are the real infiltrators and provocateurs, the true pillars of the state, those who commit gratuitous acts of violence and, in so doing, justify the existence of the Big Brother State as the supposed guarantor of peace and security for all.
The behaviour of these self-proclaimed anarchists is characterized by:
- Control (of other individuals’ actions)
- Censorship (of other individual’s ideas and expressions)
- Coercion (of other individual’s ways of living)
This Saint-Imier gathering has been, primarily, a festival of bier and music, in which very young people, almost totally ignorant of the history, principles, and ideas of the anarchist movement, have convened to faire la fête. As far as I know, no one who took part in the first short-lived seminar on Resolutions for a Non-authoritarian Future had read the original resolutions of the 1872 Congress.
As for the members of the Supreme Central Committee, those self-proclaimed anarchists are nothing else than the old state socialists with a tinge of fascism in the form of nationalism, patriotism, welfarism, territorialism.
What has happened before and during the gathering has pushed me to evolve and precise my position: from anarchy without adjectives to anarchy without anarchists.
I then consider essential to analyse the main features of these state anarchists who are the real copy of previous state socialists, to unmask them and try to prevent a tragi-farcical repetition of the past.
The Saint-Imier Gathering – Part II: The anarcho-statists