The anarchist synthesis in a nutshell

Lesedauer: 9 Minuten

This contribution was first published as pamphlet in July 2023 on a radical bookfair. The article was translated with help of If someone wants to revise it linguistically, the original can be found HERE. The english version 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 creating 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 fighting 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.

Anarch@syndicalism and (anti-)politics

Lesedauer: 19 Minuten

This contribution was first published on on 03th, 10th and 17th September 2022 as guest posts. Its author blogs at The article was translated with help of If someone wants to revise it linguistically, the original can be found HERE. The english version was published on 11.04.2023. A friend recommended me at least to have a provisional translation of some of my writings.

A contribution to the political theory of anarchism

In the following, I will reproduce some insights that I have gained through my intensive study of the political theory of anarchism. The basic idea is that in anarchist syndicalism there is a discomfort with politics and a certain critique of it, while at the same time a reference to politics happens and is also inevitable. It is precisely from this tension that direct action, dynamic organizations, and a constructive social-revolutionary perspective emerge. The approach formulated in the article is by no means „correct“ in itself, but a proposal to interpret and reflect on anarch@-syndicalist practice. The veracity of this theoretical input ultimately proves itself in experiences, discussions, and social struggles.

With my text I pursue four goals: First, I want to share knowledge to those interested; second, I want to stimulate comrades to form an awareness of their tradition and position, their forms of organization and action; third, I want to spread and renew theoretical thinking in anarchism; and fourth, I want to point to my activities.

On the Critique of Politics in Anarchist Syndicalism

In the mid to late 19th century, the socialist movement differentiated into three main directions. Thus emerged social democracy, party communism, and anarchism. While the former two referred to political reform and political revolution as essential transformational strategies, anarchism centered on, among other things, the rejection of what was understood by „politics“ during this period. Anarchists related to the concept of social revolution, through which they sought to achieve radical and comprehensive social transformation not by influencing or taking over the state, but through decentralized, autonomous, voluntary, and federated social movements and self-organized communities.

Anarchism is pluralistic. Interestingly, all of its tendencies – individualist, mutualist, communist, insurrectionist, syndicalist, and communitarian anarchism – include a distinctive critique of politics. From this critique emerges a generally skeptical attitude toward politics. And from this derives a striving for autonomy that is shared by all anarchist currents, but which results in different practices, styles, forms of organization and action. Here, for obvious reasons, I will focus on anarch@-syndicalism.

A defense against the politicization of socialism

Modern european anarchism emerged, as mentioned, during a historical period when grassroots socialist movements were being politicized. Instead of forming hierarchical parties and seeking reforms within or with the help of the bourgeois-capitalist state, or forming political-revolutionary vanguard groups to seize state power and establish a „dictatorship of the proletariat,“ anarchists continued to rely on decentralized and autonomous self-organization. They rejected parliamentarism as a domineering mediation of social conflicts and wanted to lead social struggles outside the framework of institutionalized political rule. In doing so, they rejected the modern nation-state as a whole – with its bureaucracy, its educational institutions, its military apparatus, its newly emerged welfare state and the state churches that serve it – and wanted to look for other forms of organizing egalitarian, free and solidary communities.

While Marxists drew the conclusion from their critique of politics that socialist politics were needed to establish a „socialist people’s state,“ anarchists did not share this view. They assumed that relations of domination could only be overcome simultaneously with each other. That is, that capitalism could not be overcome with the state, but only against it. Instead of seeing a comprehensive development of state and capitalist relations as a prerequisite for a socialist form of society, they assumed that desirable social relations existed in parallel with the dominant relations of domination. This is the reason why syndicalist anarchists fight not exclusively or mainly for higher wages, but for less working time, democratization and self-management of production sites, the socialization of private property, and finally for the abolition of wage labor in favor of voluntary, self-determined and meaningful activities.

The Pull of the State and the Nationalization of Politics

Another fundamental problem with what we commonly think of as politics is that the state appropriates self-organized social movements that seek autonomy. Politics is not necessarily state/statist. But in very many cases, politics is nationalized. This begins where demonstrations have to be registered, certain ways of acting are not considered legitimate and are demonized, certain perspectives are completely distorted and excluded from political discourse, political strikes are illegal in the FRG, and so on.

Social movements are characterized by the fact that they consist of different currents. Some of them aim to be heard by politicians with their concerns, to have a share in the political discourse, to be included in decision-making processes of nationalized politics, to develop political forms of organization and to found parties or so-called non-governmental organizations, for example.

Anarch@syndicalism, on the other hand, is a current within the socialist trade union movement that resolutely opposes this appropriation by and assignment to the state and instead advocates autonomy and self-organization. Anarchist syndicalists reject social-democratic and party-communist trade union federations. This is because they pay functionaries, are based on internal hierarchies, aim at social partnership and compromises negotiated with employers, ally themselves with political parties, take on a legalized and thus supporting function in the state structure, therefore prevent autonomous strikes and independent organizing, and ultimately give up the claim to fundamentally overcome capitalism.

The economy as an anti-political point of reference

In anarchism as a whole, the effectiveness and meaningfulness of action in the political field is questioned. With Anarch@-syndicalism, a fundamental class antagonism is assumed and the primacy is placed on the economy in order to establish workers‘ power. The economic sphere is thus opposed to the political sphere. It is above all in the economic sphere, i.e. at workplaces, that it is necessary to organize on the basis of economic interests and the realities of workers‘ lives in order to effectively attack the existing order of domination and, in the same course, to be able to produce the nuclei of a new society. In anarchist syndicalism, the economy is understood as an anti-political antithesis to nationalized politics. And this is not an abstract theoretical insight, but is based on the repeated experience that trade unions have been instrumentalized by political parties, that the political mediation of labor conflicts leads to lazy compromises and paralyzes their dynamics and clout. Politicians mostly reject direct action and wildcat strikes, which are powerful weapons of self-organized workers – precisely because they are not politically contained.

Justified political disenchantment and the anarch@-syndicalist way

Finally, the so-called „disenchantment with politics“ plays into the hands of anarchist syndicalism. Despite the change of governments or even of forms of the state, the followers of anarch@-syndicalism assume that within the political order of rule there can be no fundamental change of class society and no perspective for the emergence of a libertarian-socialist society. And they share this impression with quite a few other people who are not convinced radical socialists. In fact, the spectacle of the elections and the way politics is presented in the media really work towards depoliticizing, apathetic and frightening the population. The consequences are affirmative belief in the state, withdrawal into private life and reactionary compensation of the isolated citizens (e.g. racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, conspiracy mythologies).

The anarch@-syndicalist path is directed against this. With it, proletarianized people are to be organized. In the syndicates they synthesize their common interests, they develop class consciousness, they learn to act in a self-determined, direct and collective way and thereby empower themselves as exploited and oppressed class(es). In this process, the participants simultaneously produce cooperative relationships and forms of organization that can serve as models for a libertarian-socialist form of society. These aspects of the anarch@-syndicalist approach were developed out of a fundamental critique of politics-making. Here, for a change, the focus is on one’s own interests – and in a thoroughly collective sense.

Intermediate consideration

So there are comprehensible historical, well-founded theoretical reasons, based on extensive experience, why „politics“ is criticized and sometimes downright rejected in anarchist syndicalism. What had long been understood indirectly by workers who carried out wildcat strikes and organized loosely, led to a second phase in which autonomous trade union activists, disappointed party socialists and movement-oriented anarchists came together and founded anarch@-syndicalist unions in many countries between 1895 and 1919. Unlike people in other socialist currents, anarch@-syndicalists assume heterogeneity of the working class, position themselves resolutely anti-national and think transnationally, find the involvement of individuals important (’subjective factor‘), and adhere to the motto of the First International, which is: „The liberation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves!“

Since that time, the common understanding of politics has changed in some respects. Apart from that, different understandings of what „politics“ actually is continue to exist. One can argue about this at length in everyday-worldly or political-theoretical language, as one pleases. In my view, however, this does not change how we relate to the basic problem: That politics within the existing order of domination is ultimately a relationship of domination between the governed and the governed. It is analogous to capitalism, as an economic relationship of domination; to patriarchy, as that of gender; to white supremacy, in the origin and attribution of ethnicity; and to anthropocentric domination of nature, and can only be overcome in concert with these. For tactical reasons and to open up the debate on this, I think it is worthwhile to remain at least skeptical of „the“ politics and to form a critical concept of it.

The political game

In my reflection on an anarchist understanding of politics, I have chosen to use a governmental, conflict-oriented and ultra-realist definition, which I would like to illustrate briefly here: According to my understanding, politics consists in the negotiation of conflicting interests, which are represented by different actors. This representation eliminates many social groups, e.g. those without citizenship in a certain country. Furthermore, the respective interests and courses of action are hemmed in so that they are considered politically acceptable and negotiable in the first place. Whoever then sits at the negotiating table – especially if we think globally – usually represents a relatively privileged minority, while excluded social groups and classes are directly ruled over – even if their interests should be taken into account for strategic reasons.

Although we can imagine a round table around which politicians sit, at least in a democratic system, they actually have very different power resources. In the image of a deck of cards, some have quite a few trumps and high ranking cards, while others have mainly blanks. Some are dealt cards by their servants. Powerful actors may also leave the negotiation room, go to a side room, and then present a decision that can no longer be voted on. And of course, powerful actors can bribe others, threaten to throw them out of the room, and thus force them to accept their proposed decision. If decisions are then worked out that go too far for certain participants (e.g. because they mean too much social compensation for them), they can still veto them, while others cannot. Finally, after a game of several processing stages, a squishy compromise is reached. If this is resisted, coercion and force are used to enforce the decision.

In the end, the whole procedure served to change nothing in the existing class relations. The immense wealth of the economic and political elite, appropriated through exploitation, was thus not touched, but often enlarged and secured. Some adjustments, as minor as possible, are made or innovative projects are promoted if they are exploitable. When the elaborated decision is announced in front of the assembly hall, the citizens are told that this is the expression of their will. The game itself is not questioned at any point, but is presented as a necessity.

With this description I want to express that the political terrain is highly shaped by the political order of governance and dominated by powerful political players. Politics is governmental because it is related to governing. (This is tautological, but exactly, what politicians try to conceal.) That there were and can be ‚complex‘ communities that are not governed and in which people can organize themselves quite well is a basic anarchist assumption. Politics is conflict-oriented because it is essentially about the assertion of interests, rather than the equal mediation of the concerns and needs of all participants. And the concept of politics used here is ultra-realist, saying that politics does not only, not always, and not in every case take this brutal, ‚Machiavellian‘ form. But we should not deceive ourselves about the fact that this is precisely what constitutes the core of (nationalized) politics – and criticize it fundamentally for this reason.

The social democratic response to the political game is to accept the rules of the game and play along as best we can to get the best for our own clientele. The authoritarian-communist answer is to play along with the game in order to exploit it and then impose our rules on others. The anarchist answer, on the other hand, is that the game sucks, but there is no need to play it either. Even if we are told very forcefully that we could achieve something there, it is much more worthwhile to go outside the door and realize that there are quite a lot of people there who are mastering their lives, coming together in groups, not primarily having political interests, and sometimes even being organized in alternative communities.

The problem of many leftists is that they expect far too much from politics – and this also applies to the extra-parliamentary socialist movements and, to some extent, to scene-politics that revolves around itself. By believing that the political game is so important, that we measure our own successes in political categories, that we think only political organizations are effective or that our campaign only makes sense if politicians take it up, we fall into what Emma Goldman called the „politics trap“. Only when we work our way out of it and begin to strive for autonomy we may arrive at self-determined and social-revolutionary action. In anarchism as a whole, alternative ways of thinking and acting to ‚leftist‘, ‚democratic‘, ‚grassroots‘, ‚radical‘, ‚radical-real‘ or even to ‚revolutionary‘ politics are thus shown.

The political void: reality of political power, political dominance

So now we could say that anarch@-syndicalists reject politics, with good reasons. They organize themselves in syndicates, pursue labor struggles, don’t appeal to politics, spread their ideas of self-organization, autonomy, etc. and that’s about it. It is not unlikely that this approach will make them more capable of action and more effective than people who rely on conventional party politics and wonder why the „right“ politicians keep breaking their election promises. This disillusions people who, without a critical understanding of politics, often give up trying to change anything at all. Self-organization, direct action, emancipating consciousness-raising – all this is already happening in the syndicates. Politics, on the other hand, seems suspect, tedious, boring, inhibits initiative, is bureaucratic, hierarchical, inauthentic… Let’s just leave it behind!

Unfortunately, there are five problems that make it at least difficult and perhaps not strategically sensible for Anarch@syndicalists not to care about politics at all.

First, most people can hardly imagine that they can organize themselves – contrary to politics in its form under the existing order of rule – in ‚complex‘ forms of society. However, this is not (according to the definition used) because people are intrinsically ‚political beings‘ and that the modern nation-state has more or less automatically emerged as an unwelcome but nevertheless logical consequence of this alleged anthropological predisposition towards authority, hierarchy and centralization. It is a form of political rule linked to capitalist class interests, usually brutally imposed and enforced, which determines the framework and functioning of the political terrain. Anarch@-syndicalism is meant to act outside and against politics. The importance of nationalized politics for the production of the public sphere, common decisions and their implementation is therefore partly an ideological fiction (Just as it is a fiction that political power would lie in parliament, rather than in ministerial bureaucracies).

At the same time, however, the nationalization of politics is manifest. Many people must necessarily remain entrenched in the belief in the necessity of state politics, because other forms of organization are marginalized, i.e. kept small and pushed to the margins. This happens, for example, with anarch@-syndicalist unions because they do not figure in the dominant political logic. If they want to become more as (potentially) social-revolutionary minorities, it is sometimes also necessary to dock with the political consciousness of people in order to offer plausible explanations for why „politics“ permanently fails, does not represent one’s own interests and what alternative forms there are to it.

Secondly, anarch@-syndicalist unions have been and continue to be taken over by political actors. These can be, for example, social-democratic, Leninist or Trotskyist groups at the local level, which openly or covertly offer themselves as political representation and speak of „splitting“ when their leadership claims meet with rejection. Historically, the formation of the Third International Workers Association was about subjecting all trade union federations to Bolshevik party doctrine. Anarch@-syndicalists therefore founded their own International Workers Association in 1922 – explicitly committing themselves to the anti-political goals of the First International. In any case, the grassroots trade union experience with the political dimension was always bad. The problem, however, is that this is partly due to a failure to deal with politics and occasionally a narrow-minded focus on economics. Whether there can and should therefore be a dual structure of economic and political organizations is discussed below.

Internal conflicts, other battlefields and prefiguration

Third, there are occasionally political conflicts within syndicates. This is due to the different economic positions and situations of their members, as well as to their different political-ideological preconceptions. The basic idea is that these should be put aside by synthesizing the common interest. In fact, however, this is not easily ‚objectively‘ definable, and there are divergent ideas about which strategies can be used to produce it. Differing views regularly lead to conflict. And in some cases, this also means understanding and managing them as political conflicts. How to behave towards left parties, actors in socialist movements or other socialist groupings on the basis of particular issues (e.g. participation in rallies) is a political question that should not be in focus, but also cannot be permanently faded out.

Fourthly, in different syndicates, in varying degrees, the question of the significance of other fields of struggle for one’s own practice comes up again and again. Labor struggles and union organizing are in the foreground of anarch@-syndicalist activity – that is clear. But how should anarch@-syndicalists relate to the issues and fields of struggle of feminism, anti-racism, ecology and other social struggles, e.g. tenants‘ initiatives? It is argued that there are other political groups dedicated to these issues, but hardly any self-organized trade union work. To be able to work effectively in this field requires a focus and a recognizable profile. Although the argument is understandable, it does not change the fact that FLINTA and migrants are systematically harder exploited, receive worse jobs and are discriminated against in their workplaces. It does not change the fact that ecological destruction is also a class issue and that rising rents particularly affect those social classes and milieus that anarch@-syndicalists want to reach. My answer to this would be to refer to an intersectional understanding of economic struggles. The other topics should not be dealt with by grassroots unions, but should be considered and included in the analysis and – where appropriate – in their own communication. To this end, a fundamental political debate should be conducted at least at longer intervals.

Finally, the question of the prefiguration of a desirable society also arises in anarch@-syndicalism. This means: How can a libertarian socialism be thought of as a real utopia and incorporated into our practices applied today, so that we already realize it? In economic terms, according to the claim, private property is to be socialized and enterprises are to be transferred to self-management. Work should be distributed as similarly as possible according to the respective abilities, feel meaningful and be done voluntarily. In order to realize this, the anarch@-syndicalist perspective also needs at least a basic idea of how communities are organized. This is about their forms of organization, the creation of a shared public sphere, shared decision-making processes, etc. starting with neighborhoods. Whether we ultimately call these matters a „political dimension“ is of little consequence if libertarian-socialist forces actually succeed in realizing a qualitatively different mode in the self-organization of autonomous and decentralized communities. If anarch@-syndicalists want to remain true to their claim to be nuclei of the coming society (with all the contradictions and shortcomings that this entails, which does not make the claim any less true), it seems to me that the formation of a shared basic understanding with regard to alternative communities would be useful.

Four anarch@-syndicalist ways in dealing with politics

In dealing with the political sphere, essentially four different directions have emerged in anarchist syndicalism. Groups that call themselves this way, but in the end actually merely act like left-wing political groups (e.g., only make propaganda, organize in plenum, mainly participate in left-wing demostrations, do not fight labor struggles, etc.), are in fact not to be counted among them.

One strand wants to be a union for everything. Behind this lies the idea that the economic questions ultimately contain the political ones. If the production sites were taken over and private property socialized through labor struggles, this would be the basic prerequisite for a reorganization of society as a whole, which could then also be restructured according to anarch@-syndicalist ideas. Émile Pouget, for example, advocated this approach as a prominent mastermind of anarch@-syndicalism. This focus can also be used to generate some self-confidence and clout. In my view, however, it is truncated. It is justified to put union issues, etc., in the foreground. But the transformation of society toward libertarian socialism must take place on different levels and with different means.

Another strand refers to organizational dualism, as advocated by Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, for example. That is, in addition to the anarch@-syndicalist unions, there should be political anarchist networks, which in particular engage in propaganda, consciousness-raising, and high-profile actions. The former are supposed to be mass organizations, while the latter are formed by convinced militant activists. During the social revolution in Spain, this relationship was practiced relatively successfully by means of the CNT and the FAI (until its entry into government), which did not really work in the Germany of the Weimar Republic between the FAUD and the FKAD (Federation of Communist Anarchists of Germany). More recently, the „Platform“ was founded (in Germany), which could be seen in such a relationship. For certain reasons, however, I do not believe that an organizational dualism in the real sense can succeed with it in perspective. Especially in the FRG, people often see left movement networks from a more communist tradition, such as the Interventionist Left, as partner organizations in the political field. In my view, however, there is still a political void that is apparently not (adequately) filled by anarchists.

The third direction can be located in a tradition pioneered by Christiaan Cornelissen. He was concerned to see the economic struggles of anarch@-syndicalism in relation to certain political struggles, referring primarily to anti-militarism, anti-clericalism, and the cooperative movement in his time and context. This involves more than extra-parliamentary politics, but rather, if you will, anti-parliamentary socialist politics „on the street.“ In contrast to organizational dualism, it would thus not be an explicitly anarchist organization (or its substitute) that is supposed to deal with the political questions, but different, independent social movements that often merge into one another. Nevertheless, grassroots unions are still mainly concerned with the economic field. It could be discussed whether this approach is comparable to what I described above as „intersectional class struggle.“

I see a fourth strand in the ideas of Rudolf Rocker. I call them occasional politics. Rocker emphasizes that the accusation that Anarch@ syndicalists are „apolitical“ is completely false. Rather, they would not vote for political reasons, because the political sphere of the bourgeois-capitalist state is being squeezed. The focus here, of course, is also on labor struggles and union organizing. But where it makes sense, anarchist syndicalists should, for example, also actively participate in rallies, criticize ruling politics in a differentiated way, or think about and campaign for alternative political models. For this reason, Rocker also actively advocated council democracy and described it as an adequate political form of organization for a libertarian-socialist society. (The concil modell was first developed in the Russian Revolution of 1905. Basically, it is a continuation and renewal of the concept of decentralized autonomous communes since 1870).

As can be seen from my delineation, I think the first approach of „one union for everything“ is understandable, but overall too short-sighted. The organizational dualism is more plausible in my eyes, but it does not change the reasons why there is a political void and can also be thought very schematically and dogmatically. I have more sympathy for a good relationship of anarch@-syndicalist unions to self-organized socialist politics in different areas and for the approach of opportunity politics. Thus I understand anarchist syndicalism primarily as a social movement. The extent to which this overlaps or can cooperate with other movements depends on whether these have a similar understanding of politics, and a striving for autonomy and self-organization.

In the end, however, this is an individual position that is not inherently more correct than others. As I said, my main aim in this contribution was to map basic considerations in anarchist syndicalism, to reflect on them, and to make them discussable.

The (anti-)political tension in anarchist syndicalism

It has become clear that I have argued in contradictions. On the one hand, I have established that a radical critique of politics, a distancing from it, the opposition of the economic sphere and the reference to it, are characteristic features of anarchist syndicalism. On the other hand, I have worked out that focusing solely on the economy and completely ignoring the political sphere creates a void that can undermine the concerns of anarch@ syndicalists in the long run. This is especially true if they neither fetishize the past anarch@-syndicalist tradition nor remain merely a sectional union, but actually want to work out a constructive social-revolutionary perspective. The contradiction between politics and anti-political reference points and moments is not a logical problem, but arises from the fact that politics is constituted in the present form of society as a relationship of domination of governance, often assigned to the state and appropriated by it.

According to my line of argument, anarch@-syndicalism is therefore not apolitical or non-political. In theoretical terms, it is rather to be understood as (anti-)political. This means that politics should continue to be eyed skeptically and criticized. It is worthwhile to be self-critical in dealing with our ideas of „politics“ and to ask ourselves what other possibilities for action exist or which we already practice (even beyond anarch@-syndicalist activities…). The problem with politics can only be overcome to the extent that the dominant capitalist and state relations of domination (as well as those of origin/attributed ethnicity, in gender and nature relations) are replaced in a processual way by libertarian-socialist social relations. In principle, the conditions of the political field imposed on us and the enormous inequality of political power can always be further dismantled and reduced – which, however, is not a question of good concepts, but of counter-power.

The interconnectedness of economic and (anti-)political struggles cannot be easily resolved in Anarch@-syndicalism. And the reason for this is that historically as well as today it emerges from the fusion of grassroots union activists, disappointed party socialists and movement-oriented anarchists. It is only because, for example, Pouget, Cornelissen, Rocker and others were anarchists who then turned to union work that anarch@-syndicalist unions differ from sectional unions – which makes them interesting. As I said, in my opinion, anarch@-syndicalists can never completely avoid politics, as problematic as it is. The fact that the tension between politics and anarchy cannot simply be dissolved makes other insights and practices possible.

Direct Action, Social Revolution and Libertarian Socialism

Thus, direct action was and is developed to confront entrepreneurs directly, rather than going through the negotiation process led and preformed by politicians or demanding social policies from the state. When social laws are enacted that represent an improvement in the lives of many people, this cannot and should not be done through political demands (whether party-based or extra-parliamentary), but through the pressure of autonomous self-organization from below. Instead of relying on more social laws, it is crucial that these become a practical reality. For example, a minimum wage is of no use to all those who are forced into undeclared work, labor rights are of no use if they are constantly undermined by entrepreneurs, and legal trade union freedom is of little value if it only applies to certain unions or is made impossible by repression.

Behind the position and way of thinking presented here is still the reference to a social-revolutionary perspective. This is not a question of acting and fighting more and more, more actively or more seriously. Instead, the question is how anarch@-syndicalist practice is understood and with what concern it is implemented. Even if the real utopia of a libertarian-socialist form of society seems far away, it is worth orienting ourselves towards it even in our everyday struggles. Because it should be about the whole and the fundamental change of the framework conditions of our actions.

If a constructive approach is associated with anarchist syndicalism, it is also worthwhile to take the vision of a libertarian-socialist form of society as orientation. The fact that we are light years away from its comprehensive realization does not, in my opinion, change the meaningfulness and value of such an orientation. But this means to name more precisely at least some of the desirable basic conditions of a desirable social form (with regard to socialization, collective enterprises, syndicalist forms of organization, etc.). Its realization remains a question of the balance of power and its change, thus remains a question of organization, consciousness-raising and action of libertarian-socialist forces – but this is exactly what a shared vision, assumed to be feasible and realistic, serves for. In order to be able to work this out, it is necessary understand the field of tension of (anti-)politics better, from which even anarch@-syndicalism cannot completely escape, and to find a productive way of dealing with it.

Keine richtige Bank im falschen Kapitalverhältnis

Lesedauer: 4 Minuten

Zu Fernando Pessoas Ein anarchistischer Bankier

An einem verregneten Samstagvormittag las ich auf die Empfehlung einer Person hin die knappe Schrift Ein anarchistischer Bankier von Fernando Pessoa. Der zu seinen Lebzeiten fast unbekannte Schriftsteller, welcher heute als einer der bedeutendsten portugiesischen Schriftsteller mit einem eigenen Stil gilt, hatte die Erzählung 1922 verfasst.

Das Setting ist simpel: Ein völlig bedeutender Gast fragt im Hause seines Gastgebers nach dessen vermeintlicher Vorgeschichte. Er hatte gehört, der erfolgreiche Banker wäre früher Anarchist gewesen. Daraufhin erwidert jener, dass er es immer noch sei; dass er seinen anarchistischen Vorstellungen weit eher gerecht werden würde, als Gewerkschafter oder jene, die individuelle Gewalttaten ausüben. Dieser denkbar weite Widerspruch dient nun zum Anlass einer monologisierenden philosophischen Abhandlung.

Der Gastgeber sieht durchaus die gesellschaftlichen Übel, welche die Anarchist*innen anprangern. Seit seinem jungen Erwachsenenalter habe er ihre Flugblätter gelesen und ihre Diskussionen verfolgt. Daher prangert er die Klassengesellschaft, ebenso wie die Kirche und die institutionalisierte Ehe an. Als Anarchist sieht er diese als widernatürlich und irrational an. Im Sinne einer Stirner’schen Egoismus meint der Gastgeber allerdings, dass diese herrschaftlichen Institutionen und Beziehungen vor allem aus kollektiven Fiktionen ergeben. Daher bringe es nichts, eine Anzahl von Kapitalisten oder Politikern umzubringen oder militante Arbeitskämpfe zu führen. Aufgrund des fiktionalen Charakters gesellschaftlicher Herrschaft, würde diese weiterbestehen und nicht grundlegend überwunden werden.

Die Anarchist*innen, welche dagegen von der Schaffung sozialer Gerechtigkeit motiviert sind und der Vision einer „freien Gesellschaft“ anhängen, welche sie mit verschiedenen Mitteln erkämpfen wollen, propagierten damit unbewusst neue Fiktionen, die es zu problematisieren gilt. Und dies umso mehr, als dass ihre Ideologie sie zu einem dumpfen und bornierten Kollektiv zusammenschweißt, was sich selbst genügt und auf dem Level von mehr oder weniger geteilten Meinungen verharrt. Darüber hinaus verhindere ihre ideologische Verblendung, dass sie sich ernsthaft Gedanken über den Übergang zu einer anderen Gesellschaftsform machen würden.

Der Bankier sinnierte in der Vergangenheit darüber, inwiefern er selbst für die Verwirklichung höherer Idealen wie der sozialen Gerechtigkeit leben sollte, kam aber zum Schluss, dass dies verschwendete Zeit und Energie wäre. Erstens ersetzte er damit bloß eine christliche Haltung, die auf abstrakten Verpflichtungen, Schuld und außerweltlicher Anerkennung beruht. Zweitens muss es in der anarchistischen Herangehensweise darum gehen, dass sich die Individuen konkret selbst befreien, statt auf eine Erlösung irgendwann oder die Revolution in der Zukunft zu setzen. Drittens stelle der bereits erwähnte Kollektivgeist in der anarchistischen Szene im Grunde genommen ein neue und schwer zu greifende Form von Herrschaft dar. Einzelne ordnen sich dem angenommenen Gemeinschaftssinn unter (der voller Vorurteile, Mutmaßungen. Verkürzungen usw. ist), um Anteil an der sozialen Gemeinschaft zu haben.

Umgekehrt möchte der „philosophische Anarchist“ selbstverständlich anderen weder seine Ansichten aufdrücken, noch sich von diesen in seinen eigenen Aktivitäten hemmen lassen. Wenn die stärkste gesellschaftliche Fiktion aber das Geldverhältnis sei, zieht er den vermeintlich konsequenten Schluss, dass er umso freier wäre, je mehr er über Geld verfüge – und sich damit dessen imaginärer Verfügung über ihn entziehen würde. Dass er dazu bestimmte Fähigkeiten, wie Intelligenz und Initiative mitbringe, stimme, wäre allerdings keine „gesellschaftliche Fiktion“, sondern eine natürliche Veranlagungen, die man schlecht kritisieren könne, selbst wenn sie möglicherweise über Generationen (von ungleichen Voraussetzungen) geprägt und damit naturalisiert wurde.

Auch einhundert Jahre nach der Verfassung dieser Erzählung ließt Ein anarchistischer Bankier kurzweilig und ist interessant. Meiner Ansicht führt Pessoas soziale Unfähigkeit, die mit einer blühenden Phantasie einhergeht, zur wichtigen Kritik am Kollektivgeist, welcher sich auch in anarchistischen Szenen finden lässt. Menschen darin übernehmen teilweise irgendwelche Dogmen, Meinungen, romantischen Phrasen, Stile und Feindbilder um sich sozial zugehörig zu fühlen. Der unreflektierte Bullenhass ist sicherlich – trotz aller Berechtigung einer Kritik der Polizei und der Bestrebung, diese vollständig abzuschaffen – einer der deutlichsten Ausdrücke dafür. Ebenso ist die Kritik an der Erschaffung neuer ideologischer Vorstellungswelten und Moralsysteme wichtig.

Problematisch wird es, wenn Pessoa in seiner selbstbezogenen Eigentümlichkeit und seiner Rolle eines verkannten Genies, Menschen abspricht – trotz ihrer ideologischen Prägung, welche sie neue Ideale aufstellen lässt, sowie ihres Bedürfnisses nach sozialer Zugehörigkeit – sich eigene Gedanken zu machen und reflektieren zu können. Weiterhin ist die Folge seiner egoistischen Denkweise, dass er die gesellschaftlichen Voraussetzungen für seine eigenen Fähigkeiten leugnet, obwohl ihm durchaus bewusst ist, dass er über Privilegien verfügt, die aus einem ungerechten gesellschaftlichen Zustand ergeben. In seinem Abwehrreflex, sich dafür „nicht schuldig“ fühlen zu wollen, kommt gerade seine Verhaftung in religiösen Moralsystemen zum Ausdruck, welche ihn nicht zu einer kollektiv gestalteten Ethik führt. In seiner Rebellion gegen den Kollektivgeist, der sich auch in anarchistischen Szenen findet, verweist die krampfhafte Distanzierung dennoch auf den versagten Wunsch nach Anerkennung.

Mit der Betonung des fiktionalen Charakters von Herrschaft gelangt er zu einer tatsächlichen Kritik an den gesellschaftlichen Verhältnissen, relativiert jedoch die Tatsache, dass Menschen objektiv davon profitieren, während andere in Armut und Dummheit gehalten werden. Daher ist Rechtfertigung der individuellen Selbstbefreiung – welche dann in die absurde Schlussfolgerung mündet, selbst Banker zu werden – eine Überbetonung der persönlichen Handlungsfreiheit, welche ja gerade mit der kämpferischen Veränderung der Bedingungen für sich emanzipierende Gruppen zu erweitern ist. Schließlich ist es sehr wichtig, auf die imaginäre Dimension von Herrschaftsverhältnissen hinzuweisen, wie es unter Anarchist*innen sicherlich zu selten geschah und geschieht. Zugleich ist diese jedoch ein Bestandteil des gesellschaftlichen Zusammenlebens selbst, kann also auch aktiv, transparent und kollektiv gestaltet werden.

Wie im anarchistischen Egoismus insgesamt, kreist das bürgerliche Subjekt des „anarchistischen Bankiers“ letztendlich um sich selbst – und gelangt damit zu Einsichten, die eine Hinterfragung von Menschen in Szenen und sozialen Bewegungen ermöglichen, welche gleichfalls von den Bedingungen ihrer Zeit geprägt sind. Was die Lektüre Pessoas interessant macht, ist seine ausgeprägte Beobachtungsgabe, die Selbstreflexion über seine spezifische Sichtweise sowie das Wissen um gesellschaftliche Verhältnisse.

Socialist Movements, Anarchism and (Anti-)Politics

Lesedauer: 11 Minuten

A Plea for a Movement-Anarchism and (Anti)Politics

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

This post was first published on on January 2023 as a guest post. Its author blogs at The article was translated with help of If someone wants to revise it linguistically, the original can be found here:

I wrote this text for the debate blog of the german Interventionistische Linke (IL) because – well – with it I am looking for the debate. In the specific case, I was also interested in the fact that there is definitely theoretical thinking on a higher level in anarchism. That’s why I wrote the text the way I did. In another place it would be shorter and easier to summarize. In the function of an intellectual, I see it as my task to move at interfaces and to walk a tightrope. In this case, between people who see themselves as anarchists and those who consider themselves to be part of „left-wing movements“. And of course all this is to be understood as a proposal for discussion…

With the following contribution I would like to stimulate a critical debate about our understanding of politics, reflect on the relationship between anarchism and left movements, and point to my activities. Understanding politics from an anarchist perspective can help broaden the discussion about our strategies and practices. To do this, it is important to look at the ambivalent rejection of politics and the reference to it by anarchists, which is different from that of radical left currents. For many years I have seen myself as an anarchist and have participated in some events to which the IL had also mobilized. Among them were the protests against the fascist march in Dresden, COP15, Castor Schottern, Blockupy and the G20 summit in Hamburg 2017. Even though the focus of my activities has changed in the meantime, I still believe that fundamental change can only succeed through pressure on the streets, diverse direct actions and self-organized grassroots work.

Anarchists and Socialist Movements

In so called „left movements“ groups and networks, people come together who can be located in the three main currents of socialism: social democracy, party communism and anarchism. Instead of fighting primarily over ideological positions, as in groups that come together according to their convictions, or over programs, positions and voters‘ favor in parties, the focus in groups of left movements is on joint action. Even if controversies are by no means absent, this creates the basis for the cooperation of people who are shaped by different currents. This is welcome if there is an understanding that comprehensive social transformation cannot succeed through the masses to be led, but that it does require the diverse many to join forces.

There are few people who see themselves as anarchists and are organized in the IL. More often, however, it happens that anarchist contexts participate in the actions of left movements and yet maintain a certain distance from it. And there are understandable reasons for this: First, anarchists are skeptical of addressing masses because they often seem lethargic rather than allowing spontaneity to emerge. Even actions that rely on a large number of people can therefore only function that good – and have an emancipatory effect as well – as those who participate in them are organized in reference groups and also organize themselves in everyday life. Secondly, anarchists criticize symbolic politics, which were partly served and promoted in actions of civil disobedience. Relying primarily on media effectiveness does not generate counter-power.

Third, there is a critique of the event character of mass protest. If this is made palatable primarily as a spectacular experience in order to mobilize people for it, it cannot be sustainable and profound. A fourth point concerns the sometimes non-transparent way in which action consensus is reached and communicated. This also points to hierarchies in the background, as they admittedly also exist in anarchist organizations. Fifth, „movement management“ is considered problematic, in which professional strategists presume, for example, to determine certain forms of expression in advance or to place groups involved in protests like chess pieces. Finally, sixthly, those involved in left-wing movements can also tend to appropriate actions from other groups or, if necessary, to distance themselves from them in a way that lacks solidarity.

These criticisms are not new. They are also not only put forward by declared anarchists. They are observable effects that need to be reflected upon according to one’s own demands and to which there are various possible answers. The anarchist perspective on the left movements is important so that it can continue to develop.

A Movement-Anarchism?

Anarchists organize themselves – at the present time and in the German-speaking context – not as one movement, but in different, more or less overlapping scenes. At the latest since the work of the anti-globalization movement, they are confronted with the phenomenon that numerous practices, styles, forms of organization and action, as well as some theoretical considerations in leftist movements originate from the anarchist tradition, while at the same time there are only a few explicitly anarchist groups. It is precisely the experiences that people make in radical struggles in hotspots that produce new insights and ways of acting, which are then often adapted and, in the worst case, appropriated by the ruling order. Beyond ideological positioning, anarchists are more skeptical about these processes than many leftist actors. They sometimes accuse them of remaining within the given political framework.

It is by no means self-evident that anarchists nevertheless participate in left movements. Some come together primarily in ideological groups, others focus entirely on grassroots unions, and some prefer autonomously acting affinity groups. Beyond this, however, the presence of a „movement anarchism“ can likewise be detected, which is particularly evident in the radical ecology movement and queerfeminist contexts in contemporary terms. Historically, Errico Malatesta, Johann Most, Emma Goldman, and Christiaan Cornelissen, for example, can be described as movement-anarchists. As anarch@-communists they saw themselves as a libertarian-socialist wing within social movements, especially in the labor movement, the cooperative movement, anti-militarist, anti-clerical and feminist movements.

A self-conception as a libertarian-socialist wing within movements would be useful for those anarchists currently involved in socialist groups and protests. But it would also be good for the socialist movements as a whole. However, this also includes a perspective against and beyond parliamentary politics and thus goes beyond mere extra-parliamentary opposition. In this way, the libertarian-socialist wing within left movements also advocates a critical distance from Left Parties, which can also be validly justified beyond dogmatic reflexes of demarcation. As mentioned, movement-anarchism is not a reality today. To organize it would require strategic discussion processes within and outside left movements, which I believe are worthwhile.

Approaches for transformation

The starting point for this are different understandings of transformation, which need to be discussed. A prerequisite for the emergence of anarchism as an independent socialist current was the rejection of political reform as an expression of social democracy on the one hand and political revolution as the horizon of party communism on the other. Instead of the former, approaches were developed in which mutualist self-organization was relied upon to change society in a grassroots way. The rejection of the latter led to the advocacy of insurrection and everyday subversion. In addition, the transformational concept of autonomous protest emerged, focusing on radicalization and self-organization in social movements, and finally that of social revolution. Social revolution is not about the takeover of state power, but about the fundamental transformation of political structures into federations of decentralized autonomous communities. The socialization of private property and the means of production is to be carried out by the workers themselves and directly.

Moreover, social revolution is meant to overcome the different dimensions of the order of domination (e.g. gender and nature relations, culture and ethics) at the same time. And it happens processually, constructively developing new forms of organization and community and prefiguratively oriented towards concrete utopias. In movement anarchism, particular reference is made to the last two concepts. When Simon Sutterlütti advocates transformation as a „construction“ that leads to „Aufhebung,“ he is referring (implicitly and unconceivedly) to thoughts from anarchist transformation strategies. In the notion of „germinal theory“ („Keimformtheorie“) this is even borrowed verbatim from anarchism. Unfortunately, however, this is done in a truncated way, because comically it insists on reinventing the wheel with „commons approaches“ in an idealistic way, instead of consequently formulating a contribution to theoretically renew anarchism. To obscure the anarchist core of these theoretical strands does not advance the debate on contemporary, meaningful approaches to transformation.

In this context, thinking like that of John Holloway (2010) or Eric Olin Wright is more helpful for the socialist movements. Here, the latter attempts to combine transformation through rupture (party communism), through free spaces (anarchism), and through symbiosis (social democracy) to make a common socialist project conceivable (Wright 2017: 375-485). In doing so, Wright argues, genuine social transformation can only be made possible if all three approaches are brought together. With its emphasis on concrete utopias, the assumption that socialism will not grow out of capitalism, that social empowerment is needed, and that multiple strategies must work together for a fundamental transformation of society, the conclusion of his book in particular seems directly anarchistic (Wright 2017: 486-496), his conception of transformation is only partly so. And therein lies precisely the strength of a conception that thinks different approaches together. However, this presupposes that the adherents of the respective currents, wings or spectrums, get to know and further develop their own foundations, abilities and difficulties. Incidentally, this is also the prerequisite for disputes that are conducted in solidarity and constructively, rather than dogmatically and divisively. The latter, however, does not mean renouncing radical doubt where it is necessary….

Critique of politics and (anti-)politics in anarchism

The distinctive feature of anarchism within socialst movements is its emphasis on autonomy, decentralization and self-organization of social movements, instead of being apron organizations of parties or even artificially created pseudo-movements (as for instance the conservative, „populist“ and anti-emancipatory wing of Sarah Wagenknecht). With anarchism, prefiguration is also made strong, that is, the concern to already embody with one’s own forms of organization and action the form of society that is to be aspired to and generalized. The own ethics and the social dimension among activists also gains an important significance: The own movement should have a tangible emancipating effect. In this way, the confrontation with the structures of domination is sought, instead of only using them provocatively to enter into negotiations with those in political power. And initiative is to be appropriated instead of merely rushing after the day-to-day business of the political agenda of overall social developments or their framing by government policy.

Anarchists conclude at this perspective through a specific critique of politics. In order to explain why anarchists take this position, the term „politics“ must be defined. Firstly its use in everyday language is very diffuse. Furthermore, the definition of „politics“ is highly controversial – and thus itself a political act: According to the way we understand „politics“, we deal with it in different ways. This is worth thinking about more carefully, so that we can develop content and positions in a self-determined way. In conservative thinking, politics has above all the task of maintaining a „good“ (i.e. stable) social order. Abbreviated state-socialist approaches see politics merely as the result of economic constellations. Liberal-democratic thinking considers the political sphere in a field of tension between state and society and assumes that various processes lead to the opening or closing of politics. This is opposed by the radical-democratic tradition, which contrasts solidified politics with „the political“. The latter is the processual questioning of orders of domination by self-organized groups, for example in the plaza-occupation movements.

In contrast, for strategic reasons, I refer here to a certain anarchist understanding with which politics is always linked to governance („governmental“). According to this definition, politics is always linked to conflict („conflict-oriented“), but it is doubted that its main goal is the establishment of a „good order“ (for all) („negative-normative“). Finally, politics can also be understood as always being about often bloody and intriguing power struggles and the preservation of power between mostly extremely unequal actors („ultra-realistic“). Of course, politics is not only about this. It is also about negotiation, sometimes it seems unavoidable, especially if we claim to change the form of society as a whole – and thus also the shape of what politics is in a particular order of rule. But if we accept this definition (and there are numerous people around the world and throughout history to whom politics appears this way), from an emancipatory point of view it can rightly be questioned whether doing politics is worthwhile. As I said, this is not about supposedly right or wrong terms, but about the worthwhile questioning and shifting of our perspective.

Anarchists, then, have a greater skepticism about policymaking than is present in other socialist currents, which, in this view, underestimate the extent to which statehood appropriates and monopolizes political action. Furthermore, activists in other currents of social movements often attribute their political action to the state (for example, by proposing very specific laws and deferring concerns that are considered unrealistic). For example, members of political parties tend to limit the autonomy of a social movement to serve their own interests. The same is true of NGOs, which sometimes take on a very statist function as a result of new governmental techniques („neoliberal governmentality“). But even people who re-politicize themselves, as in Fridays for Future, often believe that „politics“ should finally act in the face of clear evidence and therefore appeal to it. Left-wing radical groups, on the other hand, do not assume that they can influence government policy with their actions, but they still often remain oriented toward rudiments of the scheme of political revolution.

Striving for Autonomy as a Libertarian-Socialist Wing

But anarchist thinking functions differently from stating a contradiction between „reform“ and „revolution“, which could be bridged by „radical realpolitik“ – be it in the understanding of Rosa Luxemburg. As already indicated, on the other hand, the aim is to overcome this contradiction with the understanding of social revolution. In this way, the terrain of politics defined by the prevailing order is consciously left behind. Politics, however, does not have to be seen as „bad“ or „evil“ because of this. It is enough to keep in mind that we can act at least as powerfully in many other spheres if we want to fundamentally change society. These other spheres, one strives away from relations of domination and towards autonomy, can be found in many aspects which are familiar to us from leftist scenes and environments. They have their points of reference in the individual (the self-determination and self-development of all individuals), in the social (e.g. neighborhood assemblies), in „the“ society (e.g. building counter-power from below), in the economy (autonomous unions) and the community (communes and alternative scenes). Furthermore, art, ethics and utopia are understood as antipoles to the political sphere.

However, this does not lead anarchists to an a-political or non-political attitude, but to a lived contradiction with the political field, which is constituted under conditions of the existing order of domination as a statist relationship of domination. Accordingly, the invocation of the so-called „civil society“ and the reference to it must also be questioned, because it is – with Gramsci – the space upstream of the state. This by no means excludes working with various people who do not have any decidedly „leftist“ convictions and backgrounds. More people than we think see through the „political illusion,“ that is, the idea that it makes sense to spend one’s energy and time on activities in the enclosed political terrain. But that doesn’t mean they can’t aspire to fundamentally change society.

If the movement left were to align itself more closely with its (potential) libertarian-socialist wing, it would have to be more consistent about what it really wants to change and model where it wants to go. One starting point for this is not to fall into the „trap of politics“ – as Emma Goldman called it – but to strengthen and communicate its own perspectives, approaches to action and groups. Examples of this are well-known projects like the autonomy efforts in Rojava and Chiapas, as well as the historical self-organization of workers, the autonomous movement of the 70s/80s or munizipalist/communalist movements today. The aim is not, for example, to glorify these movements or to present them as better, but to work out the differences in the political understandings in order to discuss them further. As always, there are different positions on this and it is important to continue the disputes and debates it.

(Anti-)Politics in Individualist Anarchism

Lesedauer: 11 Minuten

This contribution was published on 05.04.2023. A friend recommanded me at least to have a provisional translation of some of my writings.

This post was first published in CONTRASTE. Zeitschrift für Selbstorganisation in Feburary 2023. Its author blogs at The article was translated with help of If someone wants to revise it linguistically, the original can be found here: h

In the following text, I explore the question of the relationship between individualist variants of anarchism and politics. In a previous article (see CONTRASTE No. 459, December 2022), I considered (anti-)politics in mutualist and communitarian anarchism, while elsewhere, I illuminated the paradoxical relationship to politics in anarchist communism and syndicalism. I continue these remarks in order to make available some of the results of my PhD on the political theory of anarchism.

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Along with social democracy and party communism, anarchism is one of the main currents of socialism. While the former refer to the state with the strategies of political reform and political revolution, anarchists criticize action in the political field and the reference to political logics, procedures and organizations. In contrast, acting in the form of direct action, personal convictions and one’s own way of life appears to be much more meaningful, effective and emancipatory. In terms of the history of ideas, anarchism adapted elements of liberal theories. This is evident in its emphasis on individuality and subjectivity, as well as in theoretical concepts of „free agreement“ and „self-organization,“ the organizing principle of „voluntarism,“ and in the reference to free will, self-responsibility, „self-ownership,“ and the sovereignty of individuals to be achieved. Even if it bothers some communist and syndicalist anarchists, individualist aspects are essential components of anarchist thought and action as a whole.

Starting Points and Strands of Individual Anarchism

There is not „the“ individualist anarchism per se, but different strands. In my opinion, we can distinguish between Enlightenment rationalism (starting with William Godwin), egoism (starting with Max Stirner, Émile Armand and Renzo Novatore), transcendentalism (e.g. Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Lev Tolstoy or Simone Weil) and ultra-liberalism (Benjamin Tucker or John Henry Mackay). In addition, even proven communist anarchists such as Emma Goldman or Errico Malatesta occasionally took individualist positions when warning against collectivist egalitarianism or partisan obedience and usurpation of authority.

The liberation of the individual is an essential orientation of all anarchists, as the early anarch@ communist Carlo Cafiero noted already in 1880. What characterizes individual anarchists, however, is the importance they ascribe to the liberation and empowerment of individuals in the here and now, and the recognition that emancipation must be concretely experienced in the lives of individuals in order to count for anything. „Freedom“ therefore cannot be achieved solely by creating the social conditions for self-determined living, nor does it consist primarily in the detached self-realization of isolated individuals. Rather, it is measured by the possibility of critique and transgression of any constraints, norms and hierarchies, which can always arise in collectives. This is what Daniel Loick calls „aesthetic freedom“ in his introductory volume, but it was actually already addressed by Michael Bakunin in 1882.

It is impossible to imagine anarchism as a whole without individualistic aspects. This is also evident in the fact that issues such as diversity and self-determination in gender identity and sexual desire are relevant in our time. Likewise, individualism plays a role in strategic questions about how to inspire and motivate individuals for anarchist projects, as well as in ethical considerations about how one can and should live according to anarchist ideas in a world full of domination. If anarchists want to contribute to the understanding, critique and further development of the current form of society, it is necessary to understand how they can describe and productively deal with the tension between collectivity and individuality.

Mass society and pseudo-individualism

Let us go back a step to the emergence of the anarchist movement around the middle of the 19th century. Parallel to the enforcement of the capitalist economic system, the model of the patriarchal nuclear family, the construction of „races“ in the course of colonization and enslavement as well as the systematic domination of nature, the modern nation-state spread. Nation-state political rule regulated, controlled, and governed more and more social spheres. Serfs, peasants and artisans became „citizens“ and inhabitants formed a „population“ that was statistically recorded and bureaucratically administered. At the same time, the dawn of modernity is a highly ambivalent affair. Innovations in agriculture, health care, machine work, education and productivity made a relative prosperity possible for a part of the people and thus formed – connected with an conception of man changed by humanism – the prerequisite for the self-determined, individual organization of life.

The individual-anarchist criticism of this is firstly that self-determination and self-development were not equally possible for everyone and secondly that bourgeois individualism was a pseudo-individualism – individuals were only allowed to develop their particularity to the extent that they did not attack or irritate traditional or newly introduced conventions and hegemonic ideas. This concerns, for example, sexual morality and non-sessile lifestyles, bourgeois etiquette, and certain boundaries between what should be kept private and what should be shown publicly.

It is no contradiction that this pseudo-individualization goes hand in hand with the rise of mass society. Through factory work, standardized living quarters and forms of consumption, state schools, and military service, proletarianized social groups were made equal and individual particularities became irrelevant. This homogenization, as well as the displacement of pre-modern ways of life in favor of national mythology, served to carve out a supposedly coherent „people.“ Standardized industrial production displaced handicrafts and industry, monocultural agriculture regionally adapted cultivation methods. With the culture-industry, forms of expression, role patterns and narratives suitable for the masses were standardized.

Far be it from me to idealize pre-modern pasts with this description or to use them as a romanticized projection surface of a supposedly ideal and reconciled world contrary to modern forms of society – however cold, destructive, isolating and presumptuous the latter actually is. It is much more important to gain orientation about where we want to go together – and how we can already live and fight here and now to realize this. The fact that all individuals can determine, shape and develop their own lives should continue to be the vanishing line of emancipatory social change. For emancipation only succeeds where it can be experienced in the lives of tangible individuals and is carried out by them. Social freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but a way of being whose conditions we can create and expand.

Politics as leveling of the individual and „politics of the first person“

Individualistic anarchists also want to change social conditions. They do this starting with their own lives and their immediate environment, because this is the horizon in which they can become effective and thus also experience self-efficacy. This raises the question of what relationship to politics can be derived from this.

The fundamental criticism is that political action is appropriated by the modern state, monopolized and often assigned to it. In representative, parliamentary democracy, only an extremely mediated representation of individual wishes and aspirations is possible. Majority decisions lead to minorities and thus also the demands of individuals being systematically ignored. The bureaucracy of the modern state treats its citizens not as individual human beings with specific desires, needs, abilities, and lifestyles, but as a population to be counted and calculated, just as they are regarded by capitalist enterprises as a workforce with human capital. Interests of individuals need to be aggregated and articulated in a technical language in order to be considered in political processes and procedures. Politics, then, in a form of society dominated by the political rule of the modern nation-state, necessarily leads to the alienation of individuals from their immediate, own desires, needs, interests, ideas, and social relations. This applies equally to state institutions and to political parties.

The state is not interested in what people think and do in their private lives, whereat it defines where the boundary between private and public is drawn. Liberals emphasize this boundary, but also justify the necessity of the state, which establishes the bourgeois mode of existence – linked to the bourgeois legal system and private property. Anarchists want to extend the self-determination of the individual against nationalized politics, but in doing so they also overstep the boundaries of what is privatized and publicized. The slogan of the second wave of the women’s movement „The private is political“ clarifies what is at stake: It should not be a private matter whether, for example, men patronize or command their partners, because the patriarchal nuclear family is a domination-shaped institution that must be criticized and overcome. This happens at various levels, including that of social relations. Feminist movements were successful because they addressed living conditions and behaviors that had been relegated to the private sphere, created alternatives to them, and directly changed their environment.

However, the emphasis in the various strands of individualist anarchism with regard to the understanding of politics is set differently.

Starting from Stirner, there is a fundamental critique of politics. It is assumed that politics always subjugates, absorbs and levels the individuals, who should instead simply follow their needs and passions directly. Therefore, it is also necessary to be fundamentally skeptical of socialist politics, which would also disregard the individual. As a contemporary thinker, the French philosopher Michel Onfray, for example, stands in this tradition, which paradoxically slides into an anti-liberal, cross-front populist tendency.

Thoreau, on the other hand, formulates an attitude of pronounced indifference to state policy, criticizing it precisely because it intervenes in the affairs of individuals. If you will, politics should be kept as far away as possible, but conversely, this by no means precludes taking care of one’s community and, connected with that, consciously shaping one’s own life. From this approach, above all, concepts of civil disobedience were derived, which refer to a higher „justice“ and thus to an imaginary social contract, which is broken by nationalized politics.

The latter is also the case with Godwin. It is in his line that an individualist anarchist politics can most readily be formulated. For example, he rejects the state and church school system, but argues that a public school system is needed for people to emancipate themselves. Thus, as a matter of course, he assumes that it is not the task of the state to create or administer social institutions, because the state would not enable self-determination for individuals.

Tucker mixes aspects of various anarchist thinkers and advocates a variant of socialism that is primarily cooperative and mutualist in orientation. This could best enable the self-determination of individuals, who should join together directly in a voluntary agreement. For this, however, the tendency toward monopolization and state regulation would have to be countered.

What all strands of individualist anarchism have in common is that they criticize the leveling of individuals through nationalized politics and do not consider the political institutions and procedures of the modern state to be suitable for producing self-determined individuals. Therefore, they also oppose authoritarian communism and are skeptical of large-scale social designs and concepts of revolution. In addition, they criticize the ideology of political rule, which is produced, for example, by schools, historiography, state media and national celebrations. While these approaches are related to left-liberal understandings, on closer inspection they prove to be independent perspectives from which different positions in dealing with politics can be identified. While Stirner places himself squarely on the anti-political pole and Thoreau advocates indifference, Godwin and Tucker seek to free politics from its nationalization and place it in the service of individual self-determination.

From liberation to self-determination of the individual

From the point of view of the history of ideas and political theory, anarchist individualism, as described above, cannot be equated with the idea that individuals should just „do their own thing“, that no one should „interfere“ their thoughts and actions, that they should only look after their own happiness or even advocate the right of the strongest. In other words, individual anarchism is to be distinguished from bourgeois-liberal individualism and its intensification in the rage-bourgeois-right „libertarianism“ or so-called „anarcho-capitalism“. Therefore, the criticism of Marxists, Leninists and many communist and syndicalist anarchists against advocates of individualist anarchism is not correct.

From individual anarchism follows neither an endorsement of the capitalist economy, nor a right of the strongest, nor even necessarily the disorganization of social movements. On the contrary, it is argued that the modern state, capitalism and patriarchy do not allow or tolerate genuine individualization in the anarchist sense, and that this must therefore be expanded against the relations of domination. The emphasis on the individual and her/his/its self-responsibility can contribute precisely to the promotion of an ethical life in which people take responsibility for each other, understand each other, support each other and want to grow together. Finally, it strengthens groups in social movements precisely when individual views and positions are heard and respected. It is precisely through this that individuals in particular can voluntarily relate to a collectivity in which they are not ignored or incorporated.

At the same time, however, it is also true that we live in a form of society which, even in the 21st century, is extensively characterized by pseudo-individualization and mass society. The digitalization and acceleration of life has even exacerbated both complementary phenomena: contemporary people often feel a compulsion to present themselves on social media, to highlight their supposed peculiarities and tastes, or even to overemphasize their personal concerns. At the same time, they are manipulated, whipped up and appropriated, especially by right-wing populist actors. These have no interest whatsoever in their real self-determination, but on the contrary are directed against it; let’s look at the debates about abortion, for example.

Such conditions understandably also affect the organization of social movements: Those in a group who permanently insist on asserting their own views, who are chronically offended and believe they will never be heard, understood or respected, can hardly form lasting and deep alliances with others. Those whose worries and aspirations permanently revolve only around themselves will not understand the need to change the circumstances that make it difficult for us to find a positive and authentic relationship to our self. Those who fall for the neoliberal promise of happiness and seek short-term kicks in the addiction to experience and the hankering for attention – even if it is in the consumption of alternative subcultures – will not only just miss out on happiness, but will also be unable to develop a rebellious attitude. It is precisely in relation to these issues that individualist-anarchist reflections can inspire, if they are understood as independent contributions. For this, however, it is necessary to move from the individualistic anti-reflex to real self-determination, which is sometimes a fine line. In this respect, individualist anarchism stands as the starting point of the emergence of anarchism, but it can also represent its decline.

Conclusion for individual-anarchist (anti-)politics

In terms of politics, this means first of all: to start to change things with oneself and one’s own environment. This is where we know ourselves and where we experience the self-efficacy that is crucial for turning our own lives as a whole into the change we want to see in the world. To do this, we don’t need to pontificate about revolutions or claim that the conditions for radical and emancipatory change are not there – because they always are or never will be.

In organizational terms, secondly, this means organizing on the basis of tangible social relations wherever possible. This does not mean being friends with all comrades, but developing affinities with them. It is therefore a matter of actively shaping relationships according to one’s own demands, of communicating sensibly, and of treating each other with respect. Even large social movements are only as strong as the individuals in them directly unite, trust and cooperate with each other – which does not appear from nowhere, but can be actively encouraged.

Third, a skepticism about policy-making can be derived from individualist anarchism, which is quite appropriate and can be well justified. Actions are not only „successful“ if they can be used to exert pressure on the state so that it feels compelled to introduce reforms. Direct actions speak for themselves and have immediate effects on the things we want to criticize and change. This requires that individuals act actively, voluntarily, reflectively and consciously, i.e. self-determined. This anticipates, i.e. already practices, what anarchists as a whole are striving for: A form of society in which all people have the conditions to determine and shape their lives themselves – which also includes that they can and should take responsibility for themselves. Whether the resulting action is then called „political“ or not is unimportant. The crucial thing is to move away from the nationalized mode of political action.

Sabotieren, neutralisieren, vergesellschaften, umfunktionieren

Lesedauer: 3 Minuten

Gavin Muellers Maschinenstürmer

zuerst veröffentlicht in: GWR

Was wäre, wenn wir die digital gestützte Megamaschine – wie Lewis Mumford, die hierarchisch gegliederte und technokratisch organisierte Gesellschaftsform nannte – anhalten könnten? Wenn wir Techno-Kapitalist*innen aufhalten, uns endlich entschleunigen und besinnen würden? Was, wenn daraufhin proletarisierte, zur maschinisierten Lohnarbeit gezwungene Menschen sich organisieren und die Eigentumsfrage neu stellen könnten? Was, wenn dies die Ausgangsbasis dafür wäre, einen libertären Sozialismus zu verwirklichen, in welchem Technik den Menschen dient? Einer Gesellschaftsform, in welcher Menschen nicht zu Rädern an Maschinen degradiert werden, die sie kontrollieren und mit falschem Glücksversprechen passivieren?

Technisierung und Widerstand

Mit dem Buch „Maschinenstürmer“, das 2021 auf englisch unter dem Titel „Breaking things at work“ erschien und 2022 von Josefine Haubold ins Deutsche übersetzt wurde, widmet sich Gavin Mueller genau diesem Themenfeld zwischen maschinisiertem Tech-Kapitalismus und der Gesellschaftsform, welche ihn hervorbringt und die durch ihn geformt wird. Auf fesselnde Weise erzählt der an der Universität in Amsterdam angestellte Autor von den Problemen der Einführung mechanisierter Webstühle und von der Durchsetzung tayloristischer Arbeitsorganisation. Mueller beschreibt die Automatisierung und den Einsatz von Computern in Wirtschaft, staatlicher Bürokratie und Militärapparat, um schließlich den zeitgenössischen Hightech-Kapitalismus zu kritisieren.

Doch nicht nur dies, parallel zur Einführung neuer Technologien und der aus ihnen folgenden sozialen Probleme, stellt er die Geschichte des Widerstandes gegen diese dar. Zu lesen ist von der Ludditen-Bewegung, Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts in England, von den Wobblies zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts in den USA und von Arbeiter*innen, die in der Sowjetunion gegen den Taylorismus vorgingen. Der Autor berichtet von Sabotageakten gegen die Automatisierung der Fabrikarbeit und den Beiträgen in der technik-kritischen Zeitschrift „Processed World“ in den 1970er und 80er Jahren. Im vierten Kapital schreibt er über Hacker und die Entwicklung und Verbreitung freier Software.

Mit dieser gleichermaßen pointierten und fundierten Flugschrift wird endlich mit dem Stigma des „Luddismus“ aufgeräumt, welcher technik-kritischen Linken unterstellt, sie wären „primitivistisch“, „konservativ“ oder „kulturpessimistisch“. Diese Unterstellungen wurden und werden ebenso von den Eigentümer*innen kapitalistischer Konzerne, wie von zahlreichen linken Intellektuellen vertreten. Unter Letzteren gibt es nach wie vor Anhänger*innen des „Akzelerationismus“ (von „Beschleunigung“), welche der Ansicht sind, die vorangetriebene technologische Entwicklung würde zu mehr Freizeit führen, das Leben insgesamt angenehmer machen und sogar die Voraussetzungen für einen zeitgenössischen Sozialismus schaffen. Wenngleich diese ebenfalls marxistisch argumentieren, räumt Mueller mit dieser Vorstellung auf und entlarvt sie als Mythos.

Eine emanzipatorische Kritik an der Technik der Herrschenden

Mit dem Vorurteil gegen den Luddismus wird Arbeiter*innen zudem abgesprochen, zielgerichtet autonome Kämpfe gegen ihre Arbeitsverhältnisse geführt zu haben und zu führen. Dabei ist der Kampf gegen die Einführung von Maschinen häufig von rationalen Überlegungen geleitet und durchaus im nachvollziehbaren Interesse der Arbeitenden. Überhaupt waren und sind die Motive der Saboteur*innen meistens gar keine dezidiert technik-feindlichen, sondern darin gegründet, dass Technik nicht als „neutral“ betrachtet werden kann, sondern die herrschende Ordnung in sie eingeschrieben ist. Dies gilt für den Webstuhl, welcher den Arbeiter*innen einen grausamen Rhythmus aufzwingt, ebenso wie bei der extrem durchgetakteten Fließbandarbeit, Computerprogrammen für die Büroarbeit oder die Nutzung zahlreicher Smartphone-Apps.

Mit dem Kampf gegen Maschinen, die im Besitz von Kapitalist*innen sind und ihren Zwecken dienen, wie auch gegen technokratische Regierungsmaschinen, sind demzufolge ebenso Klassenkämpfe, ökologische Kämpfe, das Aufbegehren gegen Entfremdung und Leistungsfetischismus verbunden. In seinem Buch wagt der Autor eine häretische marxistische Perspektive, mit welcher Walter Benjamins Herangehensweise ernst genommen wird: Die Lokomotive des kapitalistischen Fortschritts führt keineswegs zur Revolution, sondern jene besteht im Gegenteil darin, die Notbremse zu ziehen. Analog zu diesen Überlegungen könnte auch Gustav Landauers Geschichtsverständnis gesehen werden, das allerdings nicht in einer marxistischen Linie zu verorten ist. Damit richtet er sich auch gegen die Sozialdemokratie und den Kommunismus seinerzeit, die ironischerweise in Hinblick auf die Technisierung von Arbeit, Konsum und Freizeit häufig keine Antagonist*innen der herrschenden Klassen waren. Anarchist*innen sabotieren weltweit Baumaschinen, Fließbänder, Versuchsfelder für genmanipulierte Pflanzen, Funkmasten, Bahnstrecken, Fahrkartenautomaten, Software oder Pipelines. Wie strategisch sinnvoll derartige Handlungen im Detail sind, dazu gibt es sicher von Fall zu Fall sehr unterschiedliche Ansichten. Mueller zeigt auf, dass sie durchaus in einer anhaltenden und begründbaren Tradition luddistischer Politiken stehen. Mit ihnen müssen keinesfalls prinzipielle Technikfeindlichkeit, menschenfeindlicher Primitivismus oder ein esoterischer Naturalismus einhergehen. Sabotage kann einfach das Naheliegende sein, was es zu tun gilt.

Gavin Mueller: Maschinenstürmer. Autonomie und Sabotage, Edition Nautilus, Hamburg 2022, 232 Seiten, 20 Euro, ISBN 978-3-96054-307-7.

(Anti-)politics and communist anarchism

Lesedauer: 11 Minuten

This contribution was published on 05.04.2023. A friend recommanded me at least to have a provisional translation of some of my writings.

This post was first published on on 06.08.2022 as a guest post. Its author blogs at The article was translated with help of If someone wants to revise it linguistically, the original can be found here:

When I decided five years ago to devote myself comprehensively to the political theory of anarchism, it seemed obvious to me to explore the basic concepts of this pluralistic socialist current. For in anarchism there is an independent theoretical thinking, which must necessarily be understood in connection with the anarchist ethics and its ways of life as well as anarchist ideas of organization. Therefore I asked myself the questions: What do anarchists actually understand by „politics“? How do anarchists behave towards „politics“? And: Can there be an anarchist „politics“ and what would be its criteria? The concept „(anti-)politics“ expresses that it is a field of tension caused by the existing order of domination, in which anarchists always act in contradiction.

Statehood as an organized political relationship of domination

It is striking that in all anarchist currents there is a fundamental critique of policy-making. This relates to government policy, the state bureaucracy, parliamentarism, and the party politics. But it also refers to the political logic and mode of organization in a broader sense. For what we commonly understand and associate with „politics“ is not a neutral terrain. Rather, the activities of social movements that tend to be autonomous and self-organized are often attributed to and often appropriated by the state. „Politics“ takes the form of political rule in liberal-democratic forms of society. This means that statehood emerged as a relationship of domination between those who govern and those who are governed, and this is carried into potentially all areas of society.

It is in the logic of the state to regulate, control, sanction and capture all social spheres. If a „private sphere“ is constructed through it, then this is just as little in itself exempt from state domination as „the“ economy cannot really be thought of separately from the state and „leisure“, the flip side of wage labor. Statehood can be thought analogously to capitalism, the economic relation of domination, patriarchy in gender relations, and anthropocentrism in the societal relation to nature.

As a relation of domination, it potentially reaches into all social spheres, but it is not total. Alongside it exist suppressed and repressed forms of how people can organize themselves. They do so even when statehood is the dominant political relation of domination. On most activities that take place on the political level, the state claims a monopoly or at least wants to control and regulate them. Conversely, when most people think of „politics,“ they very quickly associate it with statist structures and logic – because their consciousness is shaped by the ideology of the existing ruling order.

Radical democracy or skepticism towards politics?

If anarchists reject the nationalization of politics, one possibility would be to oppose it with a kind of self-organized and autonomous politics „from below“. A „radical democracy“ or „grassroots democracy“ is to be opposed to state rule, that claims itself wrongly to be „democratic“. If you like, these approaches are about reclaiming the concept of „politics“ and thus redefining it. Obviously, many anarchists are always concerned with what is going on in „politics“ and also try to intervene in it. This happens when they register rallies, participate in demos, are possibly active in associations, perhaps also talk to politicians or deal with politics in order to be able to criticize and delegitimize it.

With the topic connected is the question, which starting points exist for the organization of a libertarian-socialist form of society. Even if there are plausible arguments for this radical-democratic view, I decided to use another concept of politics. I describe it as (ultra-)realist, governmental and conflict-oriented. By this I mean to express that the political field is always about power struggles and that those involved in it have extremely unequal power resources. This means, as I said before, that politics is never neutral in the existing order of rule. Rather, its conditions are already shaped by political domination.

In other words: In politics as it appears to us today, there is little to almost no room for anarchist positions. If they bring social-revolutionary aspirations into it, they are marginalized and demonized. If anarchists try to work pragmatically for gradual improvements, they are ignored or hemmed in. These effects should not be underestimated, as is the case with numerous leftists who found the hundredth political sect, join political parties despite their discomfort, or despair of politics and want to be effective only culturally or with their personal lifestyle, for example. From an anarchist perspective, it is worthwhile to remain continually skeptical about making politics.

Reasons for the discomfort with politics

Incidentally, it was, among other things, the dispute over the concept of politics itself that gave rise to anarchism as an independent current. In the mid-19th century, the grassroots socialist movement became politicized. This happened, first, through the appropriation of its demands by bringing forth a state social policy. Second, social democratic and communist party politicians sought to impose their own claims to leadership and rule through political reform or political revolution. Third, self-organized, autonomous movements and self-governed areas were subjected to brutal repression in the course of the enforcement of the modern nation-state. Therefore, they took on organizational forms that were legalized in the bourgeois order of rule and were thus assigned to it. Anarchists resisted this politicization of socialism by emphasizing the organizational principles of autonomy, decentralization, federalism, and voluntarism, and by working for comprehensive social change through social revolution.

In addition to the historical, there are other reasons why it is important to be skeptical about policy-making from an anarchist perspective. This concerns the already mentioned observation that tendentially self-organized autonomous social movements are again and again appropriated by or assigned to state politics. This can also be seen, for example, with Fridays for Future: Although FFF was relatively successful as a movement, there were efforts within it to found its own parties, to see itself as a vanguard organization of the Greens, and to appeal permanently to those in political power. Numerous leftists also keep formulating demands to „the“ politicians, although they do not have the power base to enforce them. We know this from demostrations, where the participants already have the feeling that they have made a contribution to emancipation when they walk through the streets with others. A rally is meaningful when similarly minded people can meet at it, exchange ideas, feel strong together, convince others or go into confrontation. But taken on its own, it does not generate any serious pressure for those in power.

A pluralistic anarchism

Within anarchism there are very different traditions, perspectives, viewpoints, experiences and practices. Because of this, there are ongoing and profound controversies and disputes among anarchists. Many positions of people who call themselves anarchists may annoy or even provoke other anarchists. Since they are about something, it should also not be pretended that all views can stand side by side on an equal footing. Because then they remain arbitrary opinions, which is not sufficient to practice fundamental social criticism and to build functioning alternatives. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that anarchism is pluralistic. It may and should be, because if anarchism were homogenized and centralized by political leadership, it would ultimately be just one political current among others. But anarchism is qualitatively different from other socialist and also radical left approaches. And this difference is again expressed in the understanding of politics.

Individualist anarchists criticize political rule primarily because it restricts the self-determination of individuals, which they oppose. The needs and desires of individuals can only be defined by themselves. They do not want their interests to be represented by anyone. Mutualist approaches aim at self-organization, e.g. of neighborhoods, regional economic circuits, tenements, etc., and advocate cooperatives and collective enterprises. In anarch@-syndicalism, politics is clearly opposed to organization and struggle in the economic sphere. Instead of achieving political reforms through the state, the aim is to assert interests directly against the owners of capital and to use syndicates to lay the organizational foundation for the self-management of a libertarian-socialist form of society. Communitarian anarchism is about sharing life with like-minded people and – beyond politics – experimentally anticipating the coming society in alternative scenes or commune projects.

In contrast, anarchist insurrectionism assumes that anarchists should not produce any visions. Rather, any form of domination must be permanently attacked, without the need for „political“ alternative narratives. The insurrectionist tendency emerged, so to speak, as an inversion of communist anarchism. It developed, in my interpretation, as a result of the experience of the failure of anarchist claims, disillusionment with the failure of social revolution, and the brutal repression of libertarian socialist movements.

The traditions, perspectives, and practices of the various anarchist tendencies are initially interesting in their own right. We should not see their categorization too narrowly, because in anarchist scenes they mix in different manifestations. This is not bad, but can be very enriching. As different as anarchists are and think, they have one thing in common in their understanding of politics. And this leads to the striving for autonomy, i.e. the rejection of domination with the simultaneous realization of egalitarian, libertarian and solidary relationships and institutions.

The political void in anarchism

However, the radical critique of politics and its rejection in anarchism as a whole also creates two theoretical problems. First, if the political terrain is completely neglected, anarchist approaches tend to become ends in themselves. Revolt can become an aimless end in itself, which can be used to satisfy needs for rebellion, but which remains an anti-reflex and cannot fundamentally overcome domination. The autonomous center can only be subcultural and a house project becomes a nicer way of living in the gentrified neighborhood. Grassroots unionism is instrumentalized by political groups or masks its internal contradictions. Practices of mutual aid stop at social misery management or serving one’s own clientele. Subversive individuals merely revolve around their self-discovery.

Second, there is the question of how a libertarian-socialist form of society can be organized politically. How are self-organized communities formed and how are they interconnected? How are consensuses formed, how are decisions made and supported by as many as possible? If anarchists want to do justice to their own demands and prefiguratively create alternative realities, these questions do not arise conclusively and in the sense of an abstract draft of a new social order. Rather, they are essential foundations for developing emancipatory social movements and alternative structures. Anarch@-communists in particular deal with these questions. Therefore, I will now illuminate the (anti-)politics in communist anarchism. However, I would like to say in advance that the problem with politics cannot really be solved with it either.

The (anti-)politics of anarch@-communist groups

Even within communist anarchism, various statements are made about politics. For example, Johann Most makes a biting criticism of politicking, and Joseph Peukert also rejects „politics“ in a rather flat way. In contrast, Pyotr Kropotkin wonders how libertarian-socialist political relations can be conceived alongside and in opposition to the political domination relationship of the state. Communism is the alternative economic relationship, while anarchy is supposed to be the mode for the political relationship with little domination. According to this conception, the federation of autonomous decentralized communes is the political organizational model of the desirable form of society. The fact that different communities can organize themselves without becoming exclusive, homogeneous and hierarchical is based on historical experiences, which form the starting point for the vision of a libertarian-socialist form of society. Anarchists can describe such a concrete/real utopia without setting it in stone or believing in a master plan that cannot exist. They also need such a vision if they want to point out alternatives to the existing order of rule as a whole and if they want to realize their ideas not only in scenes and projects.

Because communist anarchism is about the social revolutionization of the entire form of society, it emphasizes propaganda, consciousness-raising and organizing more than other anarchist tendencies. Even though there is a pronounced skepticism about politicking in anarch@-communism, it is also the most „political“ of the anarchist tendencies in its organizations. Among other things, anarch@-communists refer to left-wing political groups and compare themselves with them, accept gradual differences in politicians, want to show social movements a certain direction, can imagine decisions through elections under certain circumstances, etc. Communist anarchism enters political territory with these basic assumptions, even if it does not involve state politics. But if statehood is understood in a broader sense as a political relationship of domination, a contradiction arises here. For how does anarch@-communist autonomous politics then really differ, for example, from the marxist approach, with which political domination is also criticized, but for which very reason reformist and/or revolutionary politics is pursued?

Accusations against acting on political terrain

Certain anarchists therefore raise the accusation that communist anarchism is basically just another leftist current. Its activists would consider themselves anti-authoritarian, but ultimately underestimate the fact that the social model they strive for would be at best a better order of rule, but would not amount to the abolition of rule at all. And at all with anarch@communism the political logic would not be left finally, thus still in categories from the mindset of the ruling order.

I consider these accusations to be false, because I am convinced that desirable alternative social relations already exist in the here and now, and that we can extend them and work for them. Instead of the ultimate fiction of a „liberated society,“ we should align ourselves with a vision for a credible and feasible concrete utopia, orient our struggles around it, and seek to become more as a radical minority. In my view, people are social animals who can only develop and determine themselves as individually special persons in society. And institutions are not structures of domination per se, but it is a social fact that people develop institutions – that is why their design matters.

Nevertheless, these accusations contain anarchistic truths based on experience. First, bad experiences have always been made with great social designs. This is especially true when humanistic claims have been used to dictate to others what would be right for them. Second, there is always a danger in larger and formal organizations that bureaucratic hierarchies will develop within them. This is also true of a libertarian-socialist form of society, in which domination will realistically not be completely abolished. Third, this brings us back to the basic problem with politics in general. If it is a terrain formed by domination, anarchists cannot gain anything for their actual goals. Therefore, they should spend their time otherwise than somehow referring to politics, dealing with politics or acting politically. Communist anarchists are aware of these problems and have also tried to find answers to them.

Becoming capable of acting in contradictions

This brings me back to my initial questions: What do anarchists understand by politics? How do they deal with it? Can there be an autonomous politics that really goes beyond the framework of the political relationship of domination and is not taken over by the state? Unfortunately, I cannot answer these questions conclusively. This is due to my undogmatic approach, with which I consider further questions and discussions more important than giving definitive answers or formulating fixed definitions. Therefore, I would like to share my questions with anyone who is interested and encourage them to think about them themselves.

I believe it is true that there is a theoretical contradiction in anarchist communism when, on the one hand, it is used to enter the political field while, on the other hand, the anarchist critique of policy-making is present in it. Apart from the fact that this contradiction is also present in other anarchist tendencies, although it is often dogmatically or romantically ignored and talked away, the question remains whether this is such a bad thing. For, that this contradiction exists is not due to an inadequacy of anarchist thought. Rather, it arises from the framework conditions of a certain order of domination, alongside and beyond which there are also desirable social conditions to which anarchists can positively relate.

In short, domination and freedom exist simultaneously. If this wouldn’t be the case, anarchists wouldn’t need to fight for anything else at all. This is true even if they were to devote themselves primarily to the destruction of structures of domination. If no desirable changes were possible at all, anarchists would either remain just any scene, riddled with romantic and dogmatic phrases. Or they would merge into political groups and make politics for a certain clientele. Or they would fall into nihilism, which is an absurd conclusion. Even if these signs of decay are present, I am convinced that people can in principle be empowered to determine their own lives and fight for a libertarian socialist society that will continue to be challenged and developed through anarchy.

Ultimately, it should be about the question of how anarchists can become capable of acting in contradictions in order to blow up the framework of the order of domination, to create self-organized communities and to establish egalitarian, libertarian and solidary relationships and institutions in them. Whether and how this can succeed would have to be discussed elsewhere on the basis of particular examples. For anarch@-communism, the thinking and actions of Emma Goldman and Errico Malatesta can inspire. In their biographies and texts I see a continuous commitment to bring different marginalized, exploited and oppressed groups into a common social-revolutionary project. In doing so, they connect different fields of struggle, attempt to mediate divergent anarchist viewpoints, and take clear positions themselves on specific issues.

(Anti-)Politik als Möglichkeit

Lesedauer: 6 Minuten

Ergänzende und erweiternde Überlegung „Politik. Staatsmacht und Gegenoffensive“

erscheinen steht noch aus…

Ein weiterer Beitrag, in welchem ich meine Überlegungen zum Politikverständnis vom Anarchismus ausführe, aber auch kontinuierlich weiter entwickle.

In der letzten Ausgabe der GWR veröffentlichte Oskar Lubin einen Beitrag, in welchem er einige Überlegungen zum Umgang mit Politik formulierte. Dies bietet mir einen geeigneten Anlass, um auf meine eigene Arbeit hinzuweisen. Denn erst kürzlich habe ich eine Doktorarbeit zum Politikbegriff im Anarchismus an der Universität in Jena verteidigt und erfolgreich abgeschlossen. Diskussionen drüber, was wir überhaupt unter „Politik“ verstehen und welche verschiedenen anarchistischen Perspektiven und Positionen es in Hinblick auf sie gibt, lohnen sich. In meiner Dissertation arbeite ich heraus, dass das Politikverständnis im Anarchismus als paradox gelten muss.

Dieser postanarchistische Ansatz entspricht auch dem, was Lubin stark macht, um das anarchistische Denken zu erneuern. Denn wie er schreibt, bestehen im Anarchismus zwei Verständnisweisen nebeneinander „die sich nicht selten ergänzen: Die Politik von oben wird als hierarchisch und herrschaftlich abgelehnt, ihr wird die Politik von unten als wahre und eigentliche Politik entgegengesetzt“. Anders als Lubin bestreite ich, dass „anarchistische Praxis politisch ist“. Und zwar, um eine kritische Debatte darüber anzustoßen, welche Assoziationen wir mit „Politik“ haben. Im Folgenden möchte ich einige meiner theoretischen Grundgedanken dazu darstellen.

Das Spannungsfeld zwischen Politik und Anti-Politik

In seinem Buch „The Politics of Postanarchism“ von 2010 geht Saul Newman davon aus, dass es im anarchistischen Denken eine unauflösliche Spannung gibt. Wenn wir definieren, was „Politik“ ist, entsteht automatisch, wird damit zugleich ihr „Anderes“ ausgeschlossen und verdrängt. Dies benennt Newman mit dem Arbeitsbegriff „Anti-Politik“ und sagt, Ethik und Utopie wären Aspekte von ihr. Meiner Ansicht nach ergibt dieses Schema tatsächlich Sinn. Denn Politik wird in der modernen Gesellschaft tatsächlich in Abgrenzung zu anderen gesellschaftlichen Sphären (z.B. Ökonomie, Wissenschaft und Privates) formiert. In ihr gelten eigene Regeln und Logiken. Sie hat Zugangsbarrieren und bestimmte Sprachen. Weiterhin sind Ethik und Utopie im Anarchismus zweifellos besonders ausgeprägt und im Konflikt mit dem, was wir unter Politik verstehen.

Ergänzen würde ich auf Seite der Politik die Aspekte „Strategie“ und „Programm“, die im Anarchismus nicht umsonst stark umstritten sind. Wichtig ist, dass beide Pole aufeinander bezogen werden, aber nicht aufgelöst werden können. Es soll also nicht darum gehen, eine „ethische“ oder „utopische“ Politik zu betreiben, noch darum, Ethik und Utopie politisch um- oder gar durchzusetzen. Stattdessen geht daraus eine „Politik der Autonomie“ hervor, also das, wie Anarchist*innen in Auseinandersetzung in einer widersprüchlichen Gesellschaftsform handeln.

Newmans Schema ist zwar nach geeignet, um einen Grundkonflikt im Anarchismus, nämlich den Umgang mit Politik, zu thematisieren. Allerdings gehe ich in meinen Überlegungen weit darüber hinaus. Erstens, ist entsteht „Anti-Politik“ ist irgendwie automatisch. Im Gegenteil machen Aktive in sozialen Bewegungen regelmäßig die Erfahrung, dass sie von der Politik enttäuscht werden, die faulen Kompromisse in ihr und ihre Widersprüche nicht einfach akzeptieren wollen. Zweitens ist eine Politik der Autonomie etwas Bestimmtes, weil der Anarchismus ein bestimmbares Phänomen in sozialen Bewegungen ist. Das bedeutet, wir können uns durchaus anschauen, wie Anarchist*innen handelten und handel, um die qualitativen Unterschiede zum politischen Engagement zu erkennen.

Für eine Debatte über anarchistische Politikbegriffe!

Ich würde sagen, dass Anarchist*innen ein grundlegendes Unbehagen mit der Politik haben. Und dies ist völlig berechtigt. Politik wird sehr häufig dem Staat zugeordnet und von diesem vereinnahmt – selbst, wenn sie in sozialen Bewegungen stattfindet. Wir sollten mit unseren politischen Illusionen brechen und Politik als Machtkampf mit äußerst ungleichen Machtressourcen begreifen, der noch dazu auf einem äußerst unfair strukturiertem Feld ausgefochten wird. Anarchist*innen aus verschiedenen Strömungen haben immer wieder darauf hingewiesen, dass es sich nicht lohnt, Zeit, Energie und Ressourcen für politische Kämpfe zu verschwenden. Vielmehr gibt es viele andere Gebiete, in denen sie wirkmächtig werden und die Gesellschaft emanzipatorisch verändern können.

Nun können wir uns sicherlich vehement und ausgiebig darüber streiten, was Politik „eigentlich“ wäre. Vielleicht wäre dies ganz interessant, führt uns aber nicht unbedingt weiter. Denn sowohl in den Politikwissenschaften, als auch von verschiedenen politischen Strömungen gibt es sehr unterschiedliche Definitionen dessen, was unter Politik zu verstehen ist. Entscheidend ist nicht, dass wir einen vermeintlich „richtigen“ oder „wahren“ anarchistischen Politikbegriff finden, sondern, das wir offenlegen, wovon wir ausgehen und uns somit bewusst machen, wie wir die Welt verstehen – um sie emanzipatorisch verändern zu können.

Um die Debatte anzustoßen, verwende ich deswegen einen bestimmten Politikbegriff, den ich als gouvernemental, konfliktorientiert, negativ-normativ und (ultra-)realistisch bezeichne. Damit wird „Politik“ auf das Regieren bezogen, besteht in Auseinandersetzungen um spezifischer Interessen durchzusetzen, stellt keine „gute Ordnung“ her, sondern vor allem eine Regulierung von Konflikten dar und gründet auf Führungs- und Herrschaftsansprüche. Ich halte es für strategisch wichtig, das Politikmachen und unser Nachdenken darüber insgesamt in Frage zu stellen. Anarchist*innen lehnen Staat, parlamentarische Politik und politische Parteien ab – das ist bekannt. Aber Politik wirkt auch darüber hinaus so, dass wir mit ihr unser Denken und Handeln einhegen und am Staat orientieren.

Das sehen wir immer wieder in sozialen Bewegungen. Als Erfolge werden meistens doch nur Ergebnisse angesehen, die sich in der herkömmlichen Politik, ja im Regierungshandeln widerspiegeln. Also in Gesetzespaketen, die ganz im Rahmen der bestehenden Herrschaftsordnung verhandelt und umgesetzt werden. Die Selbstorganisationsprozesse verschiedenster Gruppen in einer Szene, die Begegnungen und Erfahrungen darin, die Beeinflussung von Meinungen abseits der bürgerlichen Medien und so vieles mehr, gelten in der politischen Logik nichts. Deswegen tappen linke Gruppen immer wieder in die „Falle der Politik“, wie sie Emma Goldman genannt hat: Sie machen sich Illusionen darüber, was politisch tatsächlich möglich ist, damit auch dahingehend, wie der Staat funktioniert, wo die Macht tatsächlich liegt (viel seltener in Parlamenten, als z.B. in Ministerialbürokratien) und dementsprechend auch in Bezug darauf, welchen Einfluss sie dort ausüben können.

Gesellschaftliche Sphären und Bereiche als anti-politische Bezugspunkte

Nach der Untersuchung einer Vielzahl von klassischen und zeitgenössischen anarchistischen Quellentexten komme ich zum Ergebnis, dass verschiedene gesellschaftliche Sphären und Bereiche als Bezugspunkte für anarchistische Anti-Politik angesehen werden können. Um von der verstaatlichten Politik wegzukommen und nach Autonomie zu streben, orientieren sich Anarchist*innen an Individuen, dem Sozialen, der Gesellschaft, Ökonomie, Gemeinschaft, an Kultur, Ethik und Utopie. Es soll um konkrete Einzelne, um unsere Nachbarschaften, um die Föderation dezentraler autonomer Kommunen, autonome Gewerkschaftsarbeit, Kommunen, Gegenkultur, das gute Leben in Würde für alle und vorstellbare, verdrängte Alternativen gehen.

In verschiedenen anarchistischen Tendenzen werden unterschiedliche Bezugspunkte für das eigene Denken und Handeln in den Vordergrund gerückt. So differenzieren sich unter anderem die Strömungen des anarchistischen Individualismus, Mutualismus, Kommunismus, Syndikalismus und Kommunitarismus und Insurrektionalismus aus. Es werden aus Streits darüber ausgetragen, welche dieser Sphären am ehesten geeignet ist, um der verstaatlichten Politik etwas entgegen zu setzen. Ob subkulturelle Konzerte, Gewerkschaftsarbeit, Nachbarschaftsinitiativen oder Solidarische Landwirtschaftskooperativen als sinnvolle Ansatzpunkte angesehen werden, um grundlegend etwas zu verändern, macht einen Unterschied. Deswegen gilt es sich auch darüber zu streiten und auszutauschen. Gleichzeitig schließen die verschiedenen Ansätze sich keineswegs aus und können auch in eine Synthese gebracht werden, sodass ihre jeweiligen Stärken und die verschiedenen Gruppen, die sie erreichen, sich produktiv ergänzen.

Konsequenzen für die politische Theorie des Anarchismus

Weil Anarchist*innen sich nicht vom politischen Spiel beeindrucken und einfangen lassen, haben sie das Potenzial in anderen Bereichen Veränderungen zu bewirken und Alternativen aufzubauen. Oftmals wird behauptet, dass wäre wenig „effektiv“. Aber vor allem ist es weniger spektakulär und sichtbarer als politisches Handeln. Das Streben nach Autonomie führt allerdings auch zu einer besonderen Herausforderung für Anarchist*innen. Denn mit der alleinigen Konzentration beispielsweise auf Kommunen, Arbeitskämpfe, Bestärkung der Einzelnen oder anarch@-kommunistische Gruppen, besteht die Gefahr einer Verselbständigung der Praktiken in diesen Gebieten.

Mit anderen Worten: Die Hausprojektgruppe kreist doch nur um sich selbst; das Syndikat ist doch nur eine spezielle Interessenvertretung; die Selbstbeschäftigung von Unterdrückten mit ihren Identitäten nimmt nie ein Ende; Gruppen betreiben weltfremde Propaganda, die nicht bei den Lebensrealitäten von Leuten ansetzt usw. Wenn der Anspruch formuliert wird, die Gesellschaft in ihrem Herrschaftscharakter insgesamt zu transformieren, bedeutet dies, dass das politische Handeln, das politische Feld nicht völlig ignoriert und vernachlässigt werden kann. Dies ist der Grund, warum Politik – trotz der grundlegenden Kritik an ihr – auch im Anarchismus wieder durch die Hintertür hereinkommt.

Doch weiterhin gilt, dass wir uns keine Illusionen über die Möglichkeiten des politischen Handels machen, sondern ihr gegenüber skeptisch bleiben sollten. Ein Beitrag dazu ist eine umfassendere Debatte über unser Politikverständnis, ja, über Grundbegriffe des politischen Denkens insgesamt. Ihnen einen eigenen Inhalt zu geben, sie mit einer anarchistischen Perspektive zu definieren, darin besteht meine theoretische Arbeit. Sie ist keine intellektuelle Selbstbeschäftigung, sondern ein wichtiger Bestandteil, soziale Bewegungen in ihrer Autonomie zu begreifen und ihnen zu neuem Selbst-Bewusstsein zu verhelfen.

Geschichten vom Streben nach Autonomie

Lesedauer: 4 Minuten

zuerst veröffentlicht in: Libertäre Buchseiten der GWR / März 2023

Mit seinem neuen Buch „Fahnenflucht in die Freiheit“ gelingt Thomas Wagner ein großer Wurf: Er fasst zahlreiche Geschichten vom Streben nach Autonomie zusammen, welche in der gesellschaftlichen Linken verstreut sind, und erzählt sie auf prägnante Weise neu. Diese durch viele Fußnoten belegte, umfassende „Globalgeschichte“ ist dabei am Puls der Zeit. Ihre Entfaltung wäre nicht möglich, ohne David Wengrows und David Graebers bahnbrechendes Werk „Anfänge“ (vgl. GWR Nr. 472), James C. Scotts „Die Mühlen der Zivilisation“ (1) und den Erkenntnissen der anarchistischen Anthropologie, wie sie Pierre Clastres, Christian Sigrist und – an ihn anschließend – Rüdiger Haude und Thomas Wagner (2), Hermann Amborn (3) und andere etabliert haben.

Doch geht das Buch über dieses Gebiet hinaus und weist wichtige Implikationen für die politische Theorie auf. So gehöre der Staat, „zu den Dingen, die wir in der Regel vorfinden, wenn wir auf die Welt kommen, und seine Existenzberechtigung wird daher zumeist nicht infrage gestellt. Wer seines Lebens sicher sein und dauerhaft in geordneten und einigermaßen komfortablen Verhältnissen leben will, so lässt sich immer wieder vernehmen, ist auf jemanden angewiesen, der die Fähigkeiten zusammenhält, der in letzter Instanz entscheidet und buchstäblich ‚weiß, wohin die Reise geht‘. Die in der Regel kaum hinterfragte Vorstellung von der Notwendigkeit einer sich im Zweifel mit harter Hand durchsetzenden Regierung entspricht nicht zuletzt dem, was in den Klassikern der politischen Philosophie zu lesen ist“ (S. 15f.).

Im Sinne seiner Infragestellung durch Flucht vor dem Zugriff des Staates, seiner Gängelei, Gewalt und Befehlen, gibt der Autor die Geschichte des Exodus der Israeliten wieder, betrachtet die Staatsferne des Daoismus, Mythos und Wirklichkeit der Amazonen sowie die Entstehung der frühen Staaten und die „barbarischen“ Alternativen, welche ihnen gegenüberstanden. Wagner erzählt von der Irritation durch die Freiheit der Indigenen, von den Gemeinschaften entflohener Sklav*innen (den „Maroons“), von Piraten, Banditen, „Zigeunern“ und Vagabunden. Damit erhält das Essay den Charakter einer Collage, in welcher keine neuen Erkenntnisse generiert, sondern diese kohärent zusammengefasst und zugespitzt werden. So ist die „Absicht hinter den nun folgenden Skizzen (…) nicht mehr und nicht weniger, als diesen Gedanken eines Einflusses historischer Fluchtbewegungen auf die Entfaltung demokratischer Ideen plausibel zu machen“ (S. 29) und von einer „demokratischen Zivilisierung des Staates“ auszugehen – eine theoretische Figur, wie sie freilich wiederum bereits Graeber in „Einen Westen hat es nie gegeben“ (4) skizzierte. Zweifellos sind egalitäre Gemeinwesen durch die Geschichte hindurch und an verschiedensten Orten überall vorhandenen. Ob deren Praktiken und Organisationsformen sinnvollerweise als „demokratisch“ bezeichnet werden können und diese als „Demokratie gegen den Staat“ zu begreifen sind (wie sie der französische politische Theoretiker Miguel Abensour (5) nennt), ist dabei eine Debatte, die noch ausgiebig geführt werden sollte.

Wagner stellt sich in die Tradition anarchistischer Geschichtsphilosophie, wie sie etwa Pjotr Kropotkin formulierte. Der Anarchokommunist Kropotkin stellte fest, dass sich durch die gesamte Geschichte unserer Kultur zwei Traditionen ziehen, „zwei entgegengesetzte Strömungen: die römische Tradition und die volkstümliche, die kaiserliche Tradition und die eidgenössische, die autoritäre Tradition und die freiheitliche. Und heute, am Vorabend der sozialen Revolution, treffen diese zwei Traditionen von neuem aufeinander“(6). Dies kann man zwar, wie der konservative Philosoph Dieter Thomä, als Schwarz-Weiß-Malerei verspotten (7), offenbart damit aber zugleich ungewollt die eigenen Absurdität staatstragender Mythenbildung.

Einen Fehltritt leistet sich der Autor leider, als er im Kapitel über Banditen, 29 Mal aus Eric Hobsbawms Buch von 1972 zu diesem Thema zitiert und dieses damit also lediglich referiert (S. 160-168). Denn Hobsbawms Sichtweise ist eurozentrisch und teleologisch, womit das Banditentum konsequent in die Rolle vormoderner „Sozialrebellen“ verbannt wird. Damit erzeugte dieser willentlich den leider prägenden Eindruck, dass der Anarchismus eine „anti-moderne“, also anachronistische, Ideologie wäre, welche die Bedingungen der Zeit nicht erkennen würde. Da Wagner den Anspruch gerade verfolgt, gegen diese Herangehensweise anzuschreiben, wäre es angemessen, er hätte sich mit aktuellerer Literatur zu diesem Thema befasst.

Wer sich in der Materie etwas auskennt, kann sich vor allem über eine informierte Rekapitulation größtenteils bekannten Wissens freuen, welche allerdings durch neueste Einsichten aus der postkolonialen Theorie noch einmal anders gerahmt wurden und daher lesenswert sind. Lesenden, welche gerade erst in das Themenfeld einsteigen, wird hingegen viel Neues begegnen, dem sie mit dem leicht zugänglichen Erzählstil gut folgen können.


1) Scott, James C., The Art of Not Being Governed An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, New Haven/London 2009. Scott, James C., Die Mühlen der Zivilisation – Eine Tiefengeschichte der frühen Staaten, Berlin 2019.

2) Haude, Rüdiger / Wagner, Thomas, Herrschaftsfreie Institutionen. Texte zur Stabilisierung staatsloser egalitärer Gesellschaften, überarbeitete Neuauflage, Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, Heidelberg 2019.

3) Amborn, Hermann, Das Recht als Hort der Anarchie. Gesellschaften ohne Herrschaft und Staat, Berlin 2016.

4) Graeber, David, Einen Westen hat es nie gegeben & Fragmente einer anarchistischen Anthropologie, Münster 2022.

5) Abensour, Miguel, Demokratie gegen den Staat. Marx und das machiavellistische Moment, Berlin 2012.

6) Kropotkin, Peter, Die historische Rolle des Staates (1896), (Ders.), Der Staat und seine historische Rolle, Münster 2008, S. 68.


Zur Kritik der ultra-orthodoxen Apologetik

Lesedauer: 16 Minuten

Jens Kastner wies mich darauf hin, dass ich in meiner Arbeit über den anarchistischen Politikbegriff, eine meist unverstandene Leerstelle behandle, die auch Wolfgang Harich gesehen, aber nicht wirklich begriffen hätte. Aus diesem Grund schaute ich mir das Büchlein Zur Kritik der revolutionären Ungeduld (1969/1971) genauer an.

Leider wirkt diese Kritik am alten und neuen Anarchismus mit ihren Unterstellungen und Vorurteilen auch nach mehr als 50 Jahren weiter nach. Aufgrund der Schwäche der anarchistischen Szene, ihrer Diffamierung sowie der Unerkenntnis ihrer eigenen theoretischen Grundlagen prägten diese das (Miss-)Verständnis des Anarchismus in deutschsprachigen Kontext bis heute.

Ein paradigmatisches Opfer mit Stockholm-Syndrom

Um mit der Falschdarstellung des Anarchismus etwas aufräumen zu können, gilt es zunächst einen Blick auf den Autoren zu werfen. Harich wurde 1923 geboren, war Mitglied der KPD und als marxistischer Intellektueller in der DDR tätig. Als solcher positionierte er sich gegen die Niederschlagung des Ungarn-Aufstandes durch die Sowjetunion (17.06.1953) und trat für einen reformierten „Sozialismus mit menschlichem Antlitz“ ein. Vier Jahre später wurde er deswegen zu 10 Jahren Haft verurteilt, von denen er auch acht in Bautzen absaß. Als Kompromiss, um nicht mit dem Tod bestraft zu werden, schwörte er, sich fortan staatskonform zu verhalten. Was er auch tat.

1964 wurde er entlassen und dem Akademie-Verlag zugeteilt. Später beschäftigte er sich mit ökologischen Fragen, ohne jedoch von seinem Autoritarismus abzuweichen. Fragwürdig ist deswegen, wenn er heute von Denker*innen der Postwachstums-Bewegung unkritisch wiederentdeckt wird. Als 1990 das Urteil gegen ihn nachträglich revidiert wurde, wehrte er sich dagegen und sah die Bestrafung aufgrund seiner früheren oppositionellen Äußerungen als gerechtfertigt an. Vor diesem Hintergrund verstehe ich Harich als einen ultra-orthodoxen Denker. Um sich dem System anzubiedern, dass ihn als „linken Oppositionellen“ grausam unterdrückte, verteidigte er stalinistische Praktiken noch, als sie bereits aus der Zeit gefallen waren.

Harich kann als paradigmatisch für oppositionelle Kommunist*innen im DDR-Regime und anderen Staaten des Ostblocks angesehen werden. Diese erkannten die Widersprüche des „realsozialistischen“ Systems, wiesen auf sie ganz im Sinne ihrer kommunistischen Überzeugungen hin und fielen dann dem Autoritarismus zum Opfer, den sie teilweise selbst entfesselt hatten. Anders als z.B. früher Alexandra Kollontai, die zu diesen Entwicklungen schwieg, ging Harich noch einen Schritt weiter und gelangte mit einer Art Stockholm-Syndrom zur Überspitzung des orthodoxen Marxismus-Leninismus. Damit wird verständlich, warum er im Zuge des 68er-Aufbegehrens seine Anarchismus-Kritik formuliert, weswegen es wie erwähnt bis heute gegen die Unkenntnisse und Missverständnisse des Anarchismus anzugehen gilt.

Zum Charakter der Schrift fällt Harichs Diffamierung des Anarchismus als „kleinbürgerlich“ (S. 25, 73) ins Auge, wie er seit Marx‘ Kritik an Proudhon auf langweilige Weise von autoritären Kommunist*innen fortlaufend reproduziert wird. Wie Harich selbst feststellt ist der Klassenhintergrund der Anarchist*innen äußerst divers. Dies macht anarchistische Perspektiven meines Erachtens nach auf positive Weise vielfältig. Es kann außerdem als eine unter mehreren Erklärungen dafür angesehen werden, dass anarchistische Ideologien eher durch ein Set an undogmatischen ethischen und organisatorischen Prinzipien integriert werden, als durch eine in einem bestimmten Schriftenkanon festgelegte – innerhalb desselben – kohärente Lehre. Harichs Vorwurf besteht allerdings nicht wirklich in einer sozial-strukturell erklärten Bedingung anarchistischer Theorie. Vielmehr offenbart er durch diesen seine eigenen Identitätskonflikte, welche er als Bürgerkind in einer Umgebung von Kaderpolitikern mit mehrheitlich wirklich proletarischen Hintergründen, bearbeiten muss.

Projektionen sind eben einfacher als das Eingeständnis eigener Unsicherheiten. Leider geben damals wie heute auch fundamentalistische, selbstreferenzielle Denksysteme leichter Orientierung, als ein gereiftes, reflektierendes und sich aktiv in Widersprüchen bewegendes Bewusstsein. Harichs Unentschiedenheit einerseits eine „objektiv“ fundierte Kritik formulieren zu wollen, sich aber andererseits in Pöbeleien zu verstricken, macht es zwar etwas lustiger sein Buch zu lesen. Damit zeigt sich aber auch, dass hier jemand zu Unrecht etwas zu sehr von seiner Meinung überzeugt ist.

Ein ganzes Strohpuppen-Theater

Zur Kritik der revolutionären Ungeduld ist sicherlich auch deswegen bekannt geworden, weil sie einige richtige Punkte in der 68er-Bewegung trifft. Dies tut sie allerdings in einer falschen Konstruktion anarchistischer Annahmen, die er allesamt seinem Hauptargument zuordnet, der Anarchismus sei ein diffuses und zielloses Rebellieren ohne Bezug zur Arbeiter*innenklasse und irrelevant. Er sei sogar konterrevolutionär, weil er von den eigentlichen Aufgaben ablenke. Diese bestünden in der Konzentration auf die Übernahme der politischen Macht im Staat, um mittels der Diktatur des Proletariats den Sozialismus als Vorbedingung des Kommunismus einzuführen.

Sicherlich wollten die Achtundsechziger zunächst alles sofort und duldeten keinen Aufschub, ihres angestauten revolutionären Begehrens. Falsch ist aber, dass anarchistische Theorie von einem „Umsturzausgeht, wie Harich behauptet (S. 2). Wie auch im Folgenden misst der Autor den Anarchismus in seinen marxistisch-leninistischen Kategorien, was ihn eben zu einem grundlegenden Missverständnis führt, welches er nur durch Strohpuppen auf seine Argumentation hin zurechtbiegen kann. Im Anarchismus gibt es verschiedene Transformationskonzepte, welche als mutualistische Selbstorganisation und praktischer Experimentalismus, Aufstand und Subversion, autonome Bewegung und soziale Revolution benannt werden können. Da die Übernahme der Staatsmacht zum Ärger Harichs konsequent abgelehnt wird, besteht – zumindest nach der Wende zum 20. Jh. – nicht mehr die Vorstellung eines politischen „Umsturzes“ (s. Berkman 1928).

Zweitens behauptet Harich, im Anarchismus ginge es um die sofortige Verwirklichung der „schrankenlosen Freiheit des Individuums“ (S. 4), welche im Kommunismus ebenfalls ermöglicht werde, aber eben erst am Sankt-Nimmerleins-Tag. Die Aktiven der 68-Bewegung hatten begriffen, dass Emanzipation auch jene ihrer selbst sein muss. Und dies ist ein entscheidender Unterschied zu einem Apparatschik wie Harich, der sein Leben dem System unterordnet, welches in bedroht. Hinsichtlich der Befreiung der Individuen kann zurecht gefragt werden, ob es sich hierbei nicht vorrangig um das Ausleben eines bürgerlichen Freiheitsverständnisses handelt. Dies ist aber eben keine Frage, die primär den Anarchismus betrifft, in welchem der Begriff der sozialen Freiheit und von Autonomie als Organisationsprinzip ja gerade eine Brücke zwischen individuellem Engagement, kollektiver Selbstorganisation, zwischen freiwilliger Partizipation und Verantwortungsübernahme für die Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, geschlagen wird. Einzelne Anarchist*innen mögen als Kinder ihrer Zeit dieses Konzept und diesen Anspruch verschieden leben und umsetzen (können). Im Kontext von Harichs Schrift, handelt es sich bei seinem Argument aber um eine Unterstellung.

Harich misst den Anarchismus, drittens, in den nationalstaatlichen Kategorien, welche er aus dem ML kennt. Diese stellt für ihn einen Hauptgrund für die Erfordernis einer „Diktatur des Proletariats“ dar, welches sich eben nach innen gegen politische Reaktionäre und nach außen gegen die imperialistische Aggression kapitalistischer Staaten verteidigen müsse (S. 11). Diese Fragen haben zwar ihre Berechtigung, wenn man in der Logik eines „realsozialistischen“ Staates denkt – den Anarchismus verfehlen sie jedoch. Aus diesem Grund formuliert Harich zudem die Lüge, dass Anarchist*innen den Ersten Weltkrieg unterstützt hätten (S. 44). Dabei bezieht er sich auf das Manifest der Sechszehn, welches unter anderem von Peter Kropotkin und Jean Grave unterzeichnet wurde. Sie fordern darin, dass der Krieg gegen das Deutsche Reich nicht sabotiert werden soll, da dieser Staat die Ausgeburt staatlicher Unterdrückung sei. Der Aufruf hat verständlicherweise zu großen Verwerfungen in der anarchistischen Bewegung geführt. Denn diese verstand sich größtenteils als dezidiert anti-militaristisch, weil sie konsequent anti-national eingestellt war. Da Harich dem Anarchismus einen nationalstaatlichen Bezugsrahmen unterschiebt, welchen dieser gar nicht hat, missversteht er auch anarchistische Theorie.

Viertens bedient sich Harich der „klassischen“ Marx’schen Unterstellung, der Anarchismus sei utopistisch. In seinen Worten handelt es sich um „Wunschdenken“ (S. 12ff., 81), woraus die Strategie folge, die schlechte Wirklichkeit am guten Ideal (S. 32) zu messen und auf diese Weise zu radikalem Handeln zu motivieren, welches aber pseudo-revolutionär, diffus und diskontinuierlich bleiben müsste. Der Vorwurf trifft den Anarchismus deswegen nicht, weil die kritisierten utopistischen Aspekte in allen Strömungen des Sozialismus in unterschiedlicher Gestalt auftreten und dies umso stärker, je revolutionärer sie orientiert sind. Mit dem Stalinismus Harichs, wird die Utopie als gesellschaftliche Totalität verstanden und ihre Durchsetzung Irgendwann-Irgendwo soll die Unterwerfung und Ausbeutung gegenwärtig lebender Menschen durch eine pseudo-kommunistische und paranoide Bürokraten-Kaste rechtfertigen. Die Kritische Theorie mit ihrem Bilderverbot, als auch die Antideutschen, welche sich auf diese beziehen, stellen dazu das Spiegelbild dar: Sie verwerfen die Utopie aufgrund ihrer Brauchbarkeit für totalitäre Regime und fundamentalistische Polit-Sekten und verfallen in den Umkehrschluss, dass eine rein negative Kritik auf das wiederum total gedachte Ganzandere verweisen könnte.

Für Anarchist*innen sind dies abstruse Denkweisen. Sie distanzieren sich vom Utopismus der Frühsozialist*innen und suchen in der bestehenden Gesellschaftsform Ansatzpunkte für deren sozial-revolutionäre Überwindung. Wie Harich feststellt, aber aufgrund seines eigenen Utopismus nicht begreifen kann, denken sie hier ganz immanent (S. 81). Gleichzeitig braucht es konkrete Utopien zur Orientierung sozial-revolutionären Handelns, wozu Mittel und Wege miteinander zu vermitteln sind. „Utopie“ ist im Sinne Landauers und Rockers aber keineswegs als „Unmögliches“ oder „Irreales“ zu verstehen, sondern als verdrängte Möglichkeiten, unerfüllte Sehnsüchte und Hoffnungen, die sich gleichwohl auf Erfahrungen von real lebenden Menschen gründen. Harichs Vorwurf greift schlichtweg nicht. Und in Hinblick auf das Utopie-Verständnis, wie auch die Immanenz, gehen marxistische und anarchistische Vorstellungen tatsächlich auseinander.

An den Utopismus-Vorwurf anschließend, behauptet der Marxist-Leninist ferner, der Anarchismus funktioniere als Religionsersatz (S. 14-19). Er stelle ein quasi-religiöses Heilsversprechen in Aussicht, dass jedoch nicht auf ein Jenseits verschoben werde, sondern im Hier und Jetzt verwirklicht werden solle. Seine ausgiebige Auseinandersetzung mit der Religionskritik Ludwig Feuerbachs bestärkt ihn in dieser Annahme (S. 14). Und mit kaum einem besseren Argument hätte Harich bezeugen können, dass sein eigenes Denksystem auf unhinterfragten Setzungen beruht, die einer rationalen Begründung entzogen werden und daher quasi-religiösen Charakter annimmt. So ist es der ML, welcher auf einer apokalyptischen Erlösungsvorstellung gründet, mit welcher die Würde einzelner Menschen negiert wird. Dagegen besteht im Anarchismus in der Bezeichnung von Martin Buber (1950) ein Verständnis von prophetischer Eschatologie. Dies bedeutet, anzunehmen, dass der potenziell umfangreich zu verwirklichende libertäre Sozialismus bereits im Hier und Jetzt angelegt und konkret vorhanden ist.

Die Vorstellungswelten der Revolutionäre früherer Generationen sind häufig von religiösen Denkfiguren geprägt, weil aus religiösen Denksystemen Kategorien entlehnt wurden, mit welchen abstrakte Begriffe wie Mensch, Gesellschaft, Zeit, Wandel gedacht werden konnten. Dies lässt sich z.B. bei einem der ersten Kommunisten, Wilhelm Weitling gut sehen oder beim Frühsozialisten Henri de Saint-Simon, dessen Sozialismus-Vorstellung einen pseudo-religiösen Charakter annahm. Im Anarchismus waren einige Führungsfiguren wie Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis Pfarrer, bevor sie den Sozialismus predigten. Die anarchistische Szene in den USA hat sich z.B. von den Praktiken der egalitären Gemeinschaft der Quäker beeinflussen lassen und sucht heute Inspiration in der Spiritualität der Indigenen. Dem widerspricht nicht, dass es im Anarchismus eine grundlegende Religionskritik gibt, weil diese in ihrer Funktion als Herrschaftsideologie als reaktionär angesehen wird. Sich von religiös geprägten Menschen inspirieren zu lassen oder sich darüber bewusst zu werden, dass philosophische und theoretische Traditionen mit religiösen Denkweisen verknüpft sind, bedeutet nicht im Anarchismus einen Religionsersatz zu suchen. Hingegen verharrt selbst der vermeintliche Materialismus des ML in religiösen Denkfiguren, wenn er die Reflexion über sich selbst verhindert und seine Grundannahmen mit Sankt Marx begründet, auch wenn er sich bspw. über die Rolle des Proletariats, die Überbetonung der ökonomischen Dimension und deterministische Geschichtsverläufe geirrt hat. Gut, auch Marx war laut Harich etwas übertrieben optimistisch, was die Revolution anging, doch „der“ Marxismus hätte „Gegengifte“ gegen seine eignen Übertreibungen (S. 17-19).

Das Verkennen und Erkennen des Staates als politisches Herrschaftsverhältnis

Was Harich wurmt ist der „Apolitizismus“, den er im Anarchismus zu erkennen meint (S. 31). Es wäre eben das Unverständnis von Geschichte, ökonomischen Bedingungen und der Funktionsweise von Herrschaftsinstitutionen, welche verbunden mit der „revolutionären Ungeduld“ dazu führten, Politik grundlegend abzulehnen. Im Anarchismus werde Politik als „schmutziges Geschäft“ angesehen und ihr bestimmter Charakter in einer spezifisch-historischen Gesellschaftsformation verkannt. Hierbei trifft der Autor einen Punkt, der allerdings nicht auf den Anarchismus speziell, sondern auf die Reflexe in antiautoritären Bewegungen insgesamt zutrifft. Mit ihrer Abwehrhaltung gelangen sie keineswegs zu echter Selbstbestimmung und häufig wird in ihnen das Problem der Politik umgangen, indem das Rebellionsbedürfnis auf alle möglichen gesellschaftlichen Bereiche gelenkt wird, um ja keine Kämpfe auf dem politischen Feld im engeren Sinne führen zu müssen, wie Harich konstatiert.

Wenn für diesen der Anarchismus gewissermaßen die logische Verfallsform diffuser antiautoritärer Bewegungen darstellt, könnte man diese Ansicht auch positiv wenden: Ja, der Anarchismus ist die logische Konsequenz des antiautoritären sozialistischen Aufbegehrens. Weil Anarchist*innen jedoch über eigenständige Theorien und Erfahrungen verfügen, führt ihn die Verkennung der Politik tatsächlich zur Erkenntnis der Politik – und damit zu sozial-revolutionärem Handeln und dem Streben nach Autonomie. Die Bezugnahme auf Politik führe im Anarchismus zu einer Entpolitisierung. Harichs Gedanken dazu lohnt es sich ausführlicher darzustellen. Die Entpolitisierung als Konsequenz wäre

„keineswegs paradox. In der Anarchie wird politisches Verhalten per definitionem gegenstandslos sein; denn Politik, der das Merkmal der Staatsbezogenheit fehlte, wäre ein Widerspruch in sich, ein hölzernes Eisen. Wer also die Anarchie übergangslos, unter Auslassung des revolutionären Staates zu verwirklichen gedenkt, dem muß es fernliegen, einer herrschenden reaktionären, konservativen oder reformistischen Politik radikale Alternativen entgegenzusetzen, die mit ihr in dem Punkt übereinstimmen, selbst noch politischer Natur zu sein. Die Liquidation jeder Art von Politik ist für ihn die einzig akzeptable Alternative, und solange diese sich nicht realisieren läßt, wird das abstrakt-pauschale Nein zum Politischen überhaupt ihm als vorläufiger Ersatz dienen. Es ist dies der Grund, aus dem der Anarchismus einerseits den wichtigsten politischen Problemen mit einer immer wieder verblüffenden Konzeptions- und Ratlosigkeit begegnet und andererseits eine merkwürdige Vorliebe dafür hat, sich fanatisch der Revolutionierung von Lebensbereichen zu widmen, die politisch dermaßen belanglos sind, daß die regulären Parteien, welcher Richtung auch immer, sie achtlos zu übergehen pflegen oder allenfalls ein neu geheucheltes Interesse für sie übrig haben“ (S. 31).

Meiner Ansicht nach begreift Harich hier wiederum den Charakter des Anarchismus nicht. Er verfehlt ihn wie auch schon zuvor, weil er nicht in der Lage ist seine Perspektive zu wechseln und anarchistisches Denken zu begreifen. Man mag dieses teilen, sympathisch finden, durch es irritiert sein oder es grundsätzlich ablehnen. Da der Anarchismus aber eine Realität hat, die immer wieder aktualisiert wird, wäre es angemessen, ihn verstehen zu wollen. Und das tut Harich eben nur als ablehnender Beobachter, nicht aber als sympathisierender Teilnehmer der 68er-Bewegung. So ist das Politikverständnis im Anarchismus tatsächlich als paradox zu charakterisieren. Politik stellt sich in vergangenen und gegenwärtigen Gesellschaftsformen als Herrschaftsverhältnis dar, mit welchem Staatlichkeit – mit seinen autoritären, zentralisierenden, monopolisierenden und hierarchisierenden Prinzipien – in alle gesellschaftliche Bereiche übertragen wird. In der Ablehnung, Politik unter bestehenden gesellschaftlichen Verhältnissen zu betreiben, kommt eine zutreffende Kritik an Herrschaftsordnungen und den in ihnen als anerkannt, effektiv und legitim geltenden Praktiken, Verfahren und Logiken überhaupt zum Ausdruck. Was wiederum daraus folgt, kann sehr unterschiedlich sein, ist nicht festgelegt und darüber gibt es innerhalb des Anarchismus auch verschiedene Ansichten. Jedenfalls wird Politik zu großen Teilen als dem Staat zugeordnet und von diesem vereinnahmt angesehen. Staatlichkeit als solche wird von Anarchist*innen kritisiert und das sehr konkret und nicht pauschal, wie Harich unterstellt. Beispielsweise in Texten von Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Most und Goldman ist immer wieder von der Differenzierung zwischen Staatsformen zu leben, weswegen ihre Kritik zurecht auch „sozialistische Staaten“ trifft.

Auch ein autoritäres Huhn findet einige Körnchen Wahrheit

Harich macht seine Position klar: In pseudo-revolutionärer Manier fordert er die Diktatur des Proletariats, als auch die mit Gewalt verbundene politische Machtübernahme des Staates, um „den“ Sozialismus als Vorbedingung des Kommunismus einzuführen. Eine Teilnahme an der Politik gebietet sich aus kommunistischer Sicht nicht, um konkrete Reformen umzusetzen, sondern, um sich auf dem politischen Feld als entscheidendem Kampfplatz als geschlossene und überzeugte Gegenhegemonie zu platzieren, welche die Herrschaft übernimmt, sobald die „objektiven Bedingungen“ reif dafür sind. Praktisch führt diese Einstellung zum politischen Klassenkompromiss zwischen kommunistischen und konservativen Parteien, wie er insbesondere in Italien und Frankreich der 60er bis 80er Jahre ausgeprägt war und wie er noch heute bei Rudimenten wie der griechischen KKE vorhanden ist. Proletarische Kämpfe degenerieren zur kauzigen Folklore und systemstabilisierenden Familienunternehmen. Sie wenden sich taktisch gegen autonome und selbstorganisierte Kämpfe von Arbeiter*innen und gegen als „opportunistisch“, „reformistisch“, „trotzkistisch“ oder eben „anarchistisch“ geschmähte konkurrierende Sozialismen. Das ist also die politische Alternative für welche Harich eintritt. Und darin erweist er sich als ultra-orthodox, weil er an den ML-Prinzipien auch dort festhält, wo sie in der praktischen Politik notwendigerweise zu Widersprüchen führen müssen. In der 68er-Bewegung sollte dieser kommunistische Parteizirkus aufgebrochen werden. (Ebenso wie übrigens auch sozial-liberale Einhegungsversuche, wie sie etwa Wilhelm Wolfgang Schütz formulierte, der die Gefahr ud Illegitimität des Anarchismus ebenfalls in dessen Apolitizismus sieht.) Doch da der Antiautoritarismus tatsächlich in vielerlei Hinsicht unbegriffener Reflex blieb, mündeten größere Teile der Bewegung wiederum im autoritären maoistischen Sektenwesen oder der skurrilen und Che-Anhängerschaft, welche Harich zurecht belächelt.

Weil auch ein autoritäres Huhn manchmal ein paar Körner Wahrheit findet, macht der Autor die zutreffende Beobachtung, dass Anarchist*innen in einer selbstgenügsamen, „verblüffenden Konzeptions- und Ratlosigkeit“ verharren und ihre Energie auf die verschiedensten gesellschaftlichen Teilkämpfe verstreuen, nur, um sich nicht um Politik kümmern zu müssen. Dies stellt ein Problem dar. Allerdings meine ich, dass jenes darin begründet liegt, dass Anarchist*innen ihre eigene Theorie zu wenig verstehen und deswegen mit ihrer Erkenntnis über den herrschaftlichen Charakter von Politik nur selten zu einer Politik der Autonomie gelangen. Diese hätte eine andere Qualität und würde es ermöglichen, auch auf dem politischen Feld hier und heute sozial-revolutionäre Kämpfe zu führen, ohne von den dominierenden Logiken, Verfahren und Praktiken darauf aufgesogen zu werden.

Erheiternd ist auch der Abschnitt über die pauschale Institutionenkritik der frühen 68-Bewegung (S. 45-64). Eine kleine Zeitreise treten die Lesenden an, wenn sie Harich in eine Radiosendung folgen. In dieser führen der tief-konservative Soziologe Arnold Gehlen und der Kritische-Theorie-Übervater Theodor W. Adorno ein Streitgespräch über die „Verunsicherung von Institutionen“. Konservative finden sie problematisch bis gefährlich, Progressive – bzw. „Liberale“, wie Harich nicht ganz ohne süffisanten Unterton meint – finden es im Gegensatz dazu gut, wenn wir dieser Verunsicherung Raum geben. Beide Lager beziehen sich auf Institutionen als solche und Verunsicherung per se, wobei sie sich auf anthropologische Grundannahmen zurückziehen, wenn ihnen die Argumente versiegen. Menschen und die Institutionen, welche sie schaffen, in ihrem spezifisch-historischen Kontext zu begreifen, mit welchem eine pauschale Ablehnung oder Befürwortung ihrer „Verunsicherung“ lächerlich erscheinen muss, gelingt weder Gehlen noch Adorno. Auch hierin hat Harich einen Punkt. Was das mit dem Anarchismus zu tun hat, bleibt aber unklar.

Auch weitere Kritikpunkt Harichs treffen zu. Die antiautoritäre Bewegung war und ist diffus und kurzlebig. Sie funktioniert häufig Affekt-gesteuert und dementsprechend auf kurzlebige und gern auch spektakuläre Events fixiert. Sie kriegt es auch in endlosen Plena nicht hin, verbindliche Entscheidungen zu fällen oder gemeinsame Grundlagen herauszuarbeiten. Darüber hinaus stimmt es nicht, dass es keine Hierarchien gibt, nur weil Menschen sich für rebellische Antiautoritäre halten und erklären. So sagt man zumindest. Und es stimmt, je nach Ort, Zeit, Gruppe, Menschen und Umstände.

Wer emanzipatorische sozialen Bewegungen aufbauen möchte, die sich ernsthaft an der sozialen Revolutionierung der Gesamtgesellschaft ausrichten, darf diese Erscheinungen nicht ignorieren. Vielmehr müssen ihre Ursachen begriffen werden, damit ihre negativen Folgen abgemildert und die ihnen innewohnenden Potenziale genutzt werden. Darüber sollten wir reden. Die Frage ist allerdings, wie das geschieht und wer aus welcher Position heraus spricht. Sollen Harich und seine ML-Genoss*innen doch ihre Meinungen haben. Den Anarchismus derart verzerrt darzustellen ist aber nicht fair, sondern ein manipulativer Zug, der mit einem instrumentellen Umgang mit Menschen korrespondiert. Dies ist das Grundproblem bei Harich von Co., nicht die abweichenden Ansichten über Geschichte, revolutionäre Subjekte, Utopie, Strategien und so weiter.

Ausformulierung des eigenen Doppeldenk

Wie schon angedeutet, betreibt Harich in seiner apologetischen Schrift eine Art Orwell’sches Doppeldenk. Während es „schizophren“ sei, wenn sich Anarchist*innen zugleich auf Politik beziehen und sie ablehnen (S. 43) (was ich bejahe, aber das zutreffendere Adjektiv paradox verwende), vermittelt der Autor kontinuierlich zwischen zwei Welten. Dies sind jene der als materialistische Realität angesehenen ökonomischen und sozialen Struktur und historischen Entwicklung der menschlichen Gesellschaft einerseits und ihrem konstruiertem ideologischen Überbau, dem Marxismus-Leninismus, andererseits. In ihrem anmaßenden Irrglauben, objektive Wahrheiten erkannt zu haben und sie zu verkörpern, verselbständigt sich die marxistisch-leninistische Ideologie und baut sich selbst soweit in den Himmel, dass sie zum Wolkenkuckucksheim degeneriert. Schon alt geborene, verkrustete und vollständig Humor-befreite Funktionär*innen bevölkern diesen entlegenen Ort – fern ab von den Bedürfnissen, Sorgen, Vorstellungen und Lebenswelten real existierender Menschen. Was Harich den Antiautoritären und insbesondere den Anarchist*innen vorwirft, nämlich wirklichkeitsfern und abseits der Bevölkerung zu denken und zu agieren, trifft gelegentlich zu. Es trifft aber nicht allgemein und immer zu, sondern es gab und gibt ebenso Phasen und Orte, in denen anarchistische Gruppen ganz am Puls der Zeit waren und ein Gespür für die Stunde hatten.

Die antiautoritäre Revolte war nicht vorrangig eine von privilegierten Bürgerkindern, sondern von jugendlichen und prekär lebenden Menschen, welche verstanden hatten, dass sie in eine kapitalistische, restriktive und post-faschistische Fake-Welt gezwungen werden sollten. Von dieser Lebensrealität, die mindestens ein paar Millionen Menschen in der 60er und 70er Jahren teilten, waren kommunistische Parteikader soweit entfernt, wie irgendwie vorstellbar. Dagegen begriffen Konservative weit besser, dass die antiautoritäre Revolte in ihrer Vielschichtigkeit und dreisten Absage tatsächlich Grundfesten der bestehenden Gesellschaftsform erodierte. Wie alle Bewegungen am Puls der Zeit, reflektieren jene auch die Bedingungen der Zeit. Themen wie Sexualität, Kindererziehung, Musik- und Kleidungsstile gewinnen in Umbruchszeiten an Relevanz, weil die Gesellschaft sich weiterentwickelt und an Punkte gelangt, wo diese sich als Generationskonflikte bemerkbar machen. Anarchist*innen engagieren sich dafür, diese Bereiche alternativ zu gestalten und treten für die sexuelle Befreiung, selbstorganisierte Kinderbetreuung oder gegenkulturelle Stile ein. Dass diese bekanntermaßen ebenso kapitalistisch oder staatstragend vereinnahmt werden können, spricht eben nicht gegen ein Engagement in diesen Bereichen, sondern gerade dafür. Es ist auch nicht erst seit Ève Chaipello und Luc Boltanski (2003) bekannt.

Kein versöhnliches Ende in Sicht

Aus diesem Grund kommt schließlich selbst Harich nicht umhin, den Balanceakt zu vollziehen, es sich mit den Antiautoritären trotz seines Theorie-Gemackers und Gepöbels, nicht ganz verscherzen zu wollen. Beziehungsweise richtet er sich an seine ML-Genoss*innen und empfiehlt ihnen, sich nicht vollständig von der ihnen fremden sozialistischen Bewegung abzuwenden. So sei die „Herrschaftslosigkeit auch Endziel Marxismus“ (S. 5), wie er gleich zu Beginn deutlich macht. Man müsse mit den Aktiven der 68er-Bewegung im Gespräch bleiben, wie er im Nachwort nochmals einschärft. Immerhin seien sie im Unterschied zu den Alt-Anarchist*innen für den Marxismus empfänglich und würden von selbst darauf kommen, dass ihr zielloses Rebellieren nichts brächte. Auch hier stellt sich die Darstellung des Anarchismus als falsch heraus. Zu großen Teilen waren auch die frühen Anarchist*innen marxistischer Theorie keineswegs abgeneigt. Von Johann Most, über Carlo Cafiero, Émile Pouget zu Lucy Parsons und vielen anderen, nahmen sie diese ernst und – im Unterschied zu weltfremden Nur-Theoretiker*innen – häufig auch wörtlich.

Womit sie ein deutliches Problem hatten, war der Marxismus in Gestalt einer Ideologie zur Integration und Führung autoritärer sozialistischer Parteien. Deswegen macht sich Harich wieder einmal selbst etwas vor, wenn er behauptet, seine Kirche würde das gleiche Heilsversprechen verkaufen, wie andere sozialistische Strömungen. Dass Ziel ist nicht das gleiche, weil die Wege und Mittel im Anarchismus grundsätzlich anders konzipiert und ins Verhältnis zu den Zielen gesetzt werden. Das aber kann ein Wolfgang Harich eben nicht begreifen, weil er nicht in der Lage ist, die Prämissen seines eigenen Denksystems zu hinterfragen.

Gleiches gilt für die von Harich herauf und herunter gebetete Litanei des „Heranreifens objektiver Bedingungen“ (S. 13, 19) für die Revolution. Auch dahingehend geht der Anarchismus von einer völlig anderen Grundannahme aus. Er betreibt eine „revolution in reverse“, wie David Graeber formuliert, eine Ver-Jetzt-Zeitlichung, Ver-Inner-Weltlichung und Subjektivierung der Revolution. Wer jemals eine gesamtgesellschaftliche Revolution sehen will, muss hier und jetzt revolutionär-werden, wie es Gilles Deleuze im Einklang mit dem anarchistischen Denken formulierte. Damit werden das eigene Handeln und die eigene Orientierung revolutionär. Gustav Landauer schreibt, der Sozialismus bricht an, wenn wir ihn verwirklichen wollen. Wer daraufhin aber jeden Sex, jeden Kneipenabend, jeden Steinwurf oder jedes Herausbrüllen der eigenen Aggression als „revolutionär“ bezeichnet, hat trotzdem nicht begriffen, worum mit diesem Gedankengang geht.

Er führt nicht automatisch zu einem plumpen Voluntarismus, wie Anarchist*innen fortlaufend unterstellt wird (S. 31, 81) und welcher z.B. in der Auseinandersetzung von Bakunin mit Blanqui anarchistischerseits kritisiert wird. Diese Herangehensweise richtet sich auch nicht gegen die schlichte Tatsache, dass sozial-strukturelle und ökonomische Faktoren selbstverständlich gesellschaftliche Entwicklungen ganz wesentlich bedingen und prägen. Mit ihr wird betont, dass dies niemals ein Automatismus war oder sein wird, der auf „historischen Gesetzmäßigkeiten“ (S. 66f.) beruht. Stattdessen sind es immer konkrete Menschen, die handeln. Aufgrund bestimmter Bedürfnisse, kultureller und subjektiver Prägung können sie den Willen und Antrieb entwickeln, Gesellschaft auf bestimmte Weisen zu gestalten und zu verändern. In sozialen Bewegungen machen sie bestimmte Erfahrungen, die sie wiederum als Erzählungen weitergeben. Geschichte ist etwas, dass Menschen unter vorgefundenen Bedingungen, selbst machen, wie Marx wusste.

Statt sich im Kampf gegen Kapitalismus, Faschismus, Krieg, Klimawandel, Patriarchat oder was auch immer den Einladungen zur ML-geführten Einheitsfront anzuschließen – wie sie bis heute von den Karikaturen ihrer selbst der MLPD immer ausgesprochen werden – gilt es die Differenzen und Traditionen verschiedener emanzipatorischer Strömungen zu verstehen. Erst ihre Anerkennung ist die Grundlage für eine produktive Zusammenarbeit, wo sie sinnvoll ist und in welcher sich verschiedene Gruppierungen ergänzen können. Als gemeinsame Grundlage sieht Harich die Rätedemokratie und die Gemeinsamkeiten in den Erfahrungen historischer Kämpfe an (S. 95ff.). Wo so viel patriarchale „Gnade“ ausgesprochen wird, gilt es misstrauisch zu sein, auch wenn sie im Doppeldenk des Autoren kohärent erscheint. Ein gemeinsames libertär-sozialistisches Projekt zu formieren, verlangt, Perspektiven wechseln zu können, anstatt diffamierende Zerrbilder seiner Gegner*innen und Konkurrent*innen zu zeichnen.

Der Anarchismus hatte und hat insbesondere in Deutschland insofern einen schweren Stand, als dass seine Geschichte brutal unterbrochen wurde, seine eigene Theorie bisher zu unbekannt und unbewusst ist, seine Organisationen zu konturlos und diskontinuierlich und seine Aktionen zu diffus und kurzlebig geblieben sind. Dies ist wahr und darauf hat Harich in seiner Kritik teilweise zurecht hingewiesen. Umso mehr bedeutet dies, dass der Anarchismus zu sich selbst kommen müsste, um radikalisierender, emanzipierender, motivierender und inspirierender Faktor in sozialen Bewegungen werden zu können.