The anarchist synthesis in a nutshell

Lesedauer: 9 Minuten

This contribution was published on 11.04.2023. A friend recommended me at least to have a provisional translation of some of my writings.

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„Take a little bit of each ingredient and throw it together blindly“ – This is how the often diffuse streams of thought, shaky positions, weak commitments and unsteady practices in leftist scenes could be described, of which anarchists have always been and still are a part.

„After years of uncertainty, I have found a true standard on which the world must be measure“ – This is how all the statements of the rightists of the various factions, whether they call themselves Marxist or feminist, egoist or communist, syndicalist, platformist, insurrectionist or non-violent, sound in my ears. The confusion, positionlessness, noncommittalism, and restlessness on the one hand and the problematic claim to truth, the authoritarian behavior, the top dog behavior, and the scathing criticism on the other are two sides of the same coin.

Both sides were already present in anarchism. But both are also reactions to the certain conditions of exactly our time. In this one there are strong emancipatory social movements, but they lack the vanishing lines to change society as a whole. There are numerous, also new, groupings that want to change something and start with it directly in their environment. But they lack a shared vision as an orientation towards which they can direct their important everyday struggles and their communication.

However, the crises and problems of this world are pressing. Yes, this is what radicals have always said. Those who always bite become harmless because their teeth wear out. Nevertheless, it is also true: the form of society in which we live will change fundamentally in the coming decades, and that is why conflicts are being waged today. The question is whether we want to look on, criticize, react reflexively and doctor around actionistically – or whether we want to align ourselves in a social-revolutionary way.

This does not concern first what we do – because there is already much that is right, good, valuable – but how and why we do it. It is not first about whether we have power and what power we have – because we are at the same time powerless and capable of acting – but whether we want to disempower the powerful – and how we can do this. And: whether and how we can build together with many a libertarian-socialist form of society, contrary to the usual, violent, solidified and sticky order of rule.

A libertarian-socialist society, consisting of millions of federations of decentralized, autonomous communities and voluntary associations, in which social freedom is realized and anarchist ethics is practiced, in which people can coexist in their diversity and individuals can determine themselves and be unconstrained communally. There the classes are overcome, the means of production are socialized and self-administered; the social labor output is reduced to the necessary.

There, material and social security, equal access to education, health care and culture, form the basis for self-organized communities in which all can participate in the negotiation and implementation of agreements in all matters that concern them and resolve their conflicts in a good way. The hierarchization of genders will be overcome, as well as the state of evil alienation and a regeneration of the co-world will begin.

And a lot more could be said about the libertarian-socialist society – Those who say that this is a boring utopia are right. It is as boring as the good, beautiful, rich and fulfilled life, if we want to fight and create the conditions to make it possible for all people unconditionally. And it is so utopian because its ambition seems so great and the goal so distant. „Unrealistic,“ however, is this conception not; impossible is, that it appears from nowhere and simply sweep away the rigidity, violence, and depth of existing relations of domination.

But concretizing anarchist utopias is not about designing some ideals and building dream castles. It is about having ideas, not only against what, but what we long for, what we fight for, what it is really about.

We can orient our everyday thinking on this and tell about it. We can orient our important, often small, invisible, radical, right actions in a social-revolutionary way. With them we enter into confrontation, lead confrontations in unequal power relations, in which we will always be David and never Goliath.

The new, desirable form of society, like all its reactionary competitors, is maturing in parallel with the existing ruling order of capitalist and patriarchal statehood. If one day it is actually born, we know very well that anarchy will also challenge it and set it in motion….

It is worthwhile to stand up for anarchy and to live it. That is why there is sense in letting anarchism become stronger and grow in its plurality. But how can this succeed? Because our meta-project, libertarian socialism, is heterogeneous and motley, we ourselves cannot represent one-dimensionality. – There are many ways in which anarchists can organize, be it as a social reference group or informal action group, in open-minded groups or autonomous syndicates, in movement networks, commune projects, or neighborhood stores.

It is important to consciously choose such forms of organization, to shape them, and to be aware of their respective possibilities and limits. Many possibilities also exist as to what practices and tactics appear to be useful and viable. They, too, are as varied as life. They should be related to our own experiences and desires, but should always also inspire us to leave the familiar paths and try something new. There is neither an intrinsically correct practice nor, in the vast majority of cases, various options as to what can be usefully done.

It is important to be in conversation with each other about this in order to counteract the problematic development that many anarchist organizational forms and practices have become independent and have become ends in themselves. This in turn is related to the widespread disorientation of anarchists (and other currents as well). It is furthermore linked to the fact that they – rightly – adhere to the idea that their activities have something to do with them, are not meant to further alienate them, but to reduce alienation. This is in addition to the struggle against oppression and exploitation.

But when there is no review of the relationship between means and ends, when old beliefs are upheld even though the context has changed, when traditions and principles suppress considerations of what needs to be done and what can be done – then it is time to sally out and dare to do something new.

This can only be done if we bring dogmatics, romanticism and pragmatics into a good relationship. There is nothing wrong with having beliefs and starting from truths. Those who deny that there is a class society, patriarchy, climate change or pandemics, that the nation-state produces systematic exclusions of social groups and divides and rules over them by means of recognition policies and racism – with them we have no basis for discussion at eye level. However, when our dogmas are put together into a closed system, when they form a dogmatic doctrine against which we measure the whole world, it becomes difficult. There are always other ideas, and our own position is always both subjective and historically specific.

It is the same with romance. It is important that emotionality can play a role in all our activities, that we do not split off our feelings from our actions and become cold like communist political cadres. Romantic – because ultimately unfounded – are also our values. The belief in the principally equal dignity of all people, the scandal that they are degraded, the fact that we can fight together for our dignity – these are convictions that arise from our own experiences. Which, by the way, we share with many people all over the world. What is difficult, however, is when we create romanticized identities, ideals, or practices out of anarchism, the justification for which would then simply become superfluous.

Dogmatism and romanticism are opposed, thirdly, by pragmatism: An orientation not to truths and desires, but to things in themselves – a materialist thing, in other words. Anarchists are known to be practical-pragmatic and try to focus on tangible projects that can achieve visible success. For example, a labor struggle, beautification of the neighborhood, a mass action of civil disobedience, direct action, or a alternative room. This approach makes a lot of sense. Nevertheless, there is the danger of pursuing certain activities as an end in themselves and losing ourselves in them. Against the widespread dogmatism and rampant romanticism, we frantically pretend that things speak for themselves. But things can’t speak, can’t think, and can’t act – that’s what we do with them. And we should do it reflectively, in alignment with our understanding and with our feeling.

Finally, we can use it to enter into the dispute about various ideological, content-related and strategic questions. In the best case, we are finally ready to enter into constructive and productive disputes instead of slimy harmony and fihting for our own „truth“. Today, as a hundred years ago, there are anarch@-communist, -syndicalist and -individualist groups, people and approaches. In addition, there are non-violent and insurrectionist anarchists, eco-anarchists and again a stronger formulation of anarcha-feminist positions.

They all have their truths and something to say. This is not about identities and categorizations, but about naming different strands, traditions, approaches, backgrounds of experience and networks. In reality, they often appear intermingled in different guises, and that’s fine. However, it is important to become aware of one’s own points of view and to develop them actively – in discussion with others.

This does not mean relativizing one’s own convictions or having no judgment criteria of one’s own. On the contrary. It means recognizing and affirming anarchist plurality because we live in a complex society, because social groups within it are affected in different ways by exploitation, oppression and alienation, and because a diverse form of society is our goal. Only with an understanding of each other can we come to an understanding of our own character and perspectives, name differences and act together wherever it seems possible and desirable.

Of course, it also means having our own boundaries clear and making it clear what we cannot get involved in – and in some cases, what we do not want to accept. Only by relating to one another can we become stronger together and, through our diverse abilities and perspectives, a relevant and formative factor in the struggles for egalitarian, solidary and free social conditions.

Fair enough. But that’s a privileged view, with all that nice-guy hippie intellectual claptrap, you might say. And that’s true, too. Those who feel exploitation and oppression very directly have a justified need for clear answers, for practical starting points on how changes can succeed that is fruitful for ourselves. Those who are alienated cannot just step out of the wrong circumstances like out of a cave into the light.

These are questions to be asked. But the ones at issue here are those about how we leave behind unnecessary divisions, problematic dogmatism and romantic self-conceptions and deal with the conflicts between us in a constructive and productive way. This firstly feels better for ourselves and secondly, instead of tearing ourselves apart, enables us to work together against the ruling order.

So everybody does what they do anyway and listens a little better, asks a question, discusses with each other? O k a y . But what is the anarchist synthesis itself about? As I said, first of all, it is about recognizing plurality and being confident about precisely in variety lies potential to become stronger and to produce emancipating actions.

Second, it’s about a self-awareness of what anarchism is: that we can explain our perspectives, stand up for our positions, and advocate for them confidently. This „anarchism“ has something to say about most social problems and issues. We have something to offer with it.

Third, anarchists who welcome the synthesis can help establish it within anarchist scenes, but also beyond. Through discussion, mediation and positioning, they try to think together what can be effective together – without putting it under one hat.

Fourth, synthetic anarchism strives to spread its ideas quite practically in wider circles. This also means leaving the comfort zone of the scene swamp again and again. It does not mean, however, to renounce actions that are unpopular or could entail repression.

Fifth, groups that decide to practice the anarchist synthesis will nevertheless concentrate on certain fields of struggle, places, forms of organization and action – because concentration is necessary to pursue successful and continuous activities and likewise because we seem to keep getting caught up in them. The question here is whether we succeed in looking beyond our own horizons and relating our respective activities and themes to one another.

So this is it, the anarchist synthesis in a nutshell.

Once again, a pretty big nut.