As faith in institutions collapses + popular rebellion grows, both Trump + Biden have attacked anarchists - likening them to terrorism + chaos. But what is anarchism, a movement nearly destroyed by fascism + Stalinism + given new life in struggles against neoliberalism? A thread.
Since emerging as a global movement, anarchism has been attacked by authoritarians on the Left + Right. Often confused or used synonymously with terrorism or simply chaos, anarchism is one of the most widely misunderstood movements of modern times, despite its broad influence.
Coming from the Greek word "anarkhia" - "without a ruler," anarchism advocates for a society organized not around top-down, centralized States, but instead a de-centralized society in which power is organized from the bottom up and spread out horizontally.
This rejection of the State sets anarchism + other currents that run parallel to it - apart from what we are told are the only existing models: both the neoliberal capitalist State in all its flavors or existing "socialist" models, be they social-democratic or authoritarian.
In place of wage-labor + State or capitalist ownership over the means of existence, anarchists propose that the way in which we sustain ourselves must fundamentally change. That human labor goes towards human needs + that the means of existence come under community control.
Modern systems of neoliberalism + State socialism are both fundamentally different versions of industrial capitalism, an unsustainable global system which is destroying the living earth and hurdling us all towards an ecological collapse.
It's important to point out that unlike the State and capital - these ideas are not new - they have existed within human communities since the beginning of time. There has always been a tendency to reject State authority in favor of different forms of social organization.
Anarchism is but one current among many to advocate for human relations outside of + against systems of domination + exploitation. From indigenous cultures and life-ways, to new social movements against neoliberalism that arrive at similar autonomous anti-capitalist conclusions.
The history of anarchism - and of societies that reject the State and capital - is global. Spreading from the mid-1800s outward, anarchists argued that peasants, workers + the colonized could overthrow their masters now - and create a different society from the ground-up.
This led to clashes with Marxists + later, Marxist-Leninists, as anarchists + other autonomous movements argued that a stateless and classless society could be created now - while others argued that a 'revolutionary' State was needed to pass society through 'stages' first.
Up until World War II, anarchists participated in a wide variety of social movements, struggles + full-on revolutions. From anarchist + abolitionist Lysander Spooner's plots with John Brown against slavery to revolutions in Spain, the Ukraine + Manchuria that involved millions.
In everything from mass unions, federations, to networks of small affinity groups, free schools + community centers; in both day to day living and in active rebellion, the global anarchist movement showed the world that it was possible for everyday people to run their own lives.
But these ideals also made anarchists a lightening rod for repression, assassination, and deportation. Just in the US, the government passed laws criminalizing anarchists, attacked organizations like the IWW with fierce repression, deported key organizers, and put many to death.
In the face of this repression, some anarchists in the late 1800s + early 1900s carried out violent acts directly against the rich + powerful. The ruling class used this to brand anarchists as "mad bombers," which in turn became further justification for more repression.
In the US, the ruling class was even more terrified of mass revolts + strikes that took over entire cities + in some instances, were able to reach across racial-lines. From the Great Upheavel of 1877, the Green Corn Rebellion, Seattle General Strike + the Redneck War of 1921...
To put down this insurgency, the State used massive amounts of violence. From militias that massacred picketers, to the Airforce that dropped bombs on strikers, anti-labor thugs like the Pinkertons, to the newly formed FBI - all with the anarchist as a chief boogeyman.
As anti-anarchist hysteria grew in the early 1900s, deportations of radicals + immigrants began across the US. Ironically, many anarchists, including Emma Goldman, were deported to Russia, just in time to see their comrades thrown in jail by a new "revolutionary" government.
Between both World Wars, millions of people were killed in the fighting, while Bolshevik, fascist, and colonial governments slaughtered and crushed anarchist revolutions + revolts in Manchuria, Mexico, Spain and the Ukraine.
By the end of World War II, what was once one of the largest global anti-capitalist movements had been crushed under the boot-heels of repression: from Nazi death camps to "communist" gulags. In the hangman's noose of the capitalist and by the bayonet of colonial regimes.
But ideas, as they say, are bulletproof. In the decades that followed, anarchist and autonomous anti-capitalist movements + ideas grew out of the post-68 revolts, often coming into direct conflict with Communist + Socialist Party control over labor and community struggles.
While pundits and bureaucrats declared the "end of history" with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the marking of 500 years since the invasion of the 'New World' by Columbus, a new wave of social movements was growing beneath the surface, ready to challenge the neoliberal order.
In 1994, the Zapatista movement launched an insurrection in Chiapas, Mexico against the passing of NAFTA. Rejecting a vanguard political model, the Zapatistas embraced indigenous ideas of autonomy and direct democracy, helping to inspire a new generation of autonomous politics.
Globally, movements against neoliberalism grew as governments fell, economies crash + massive trade meetings were disrupted. In Seattle in 1999, thousands shut down the World Trade Organization meeting - making history. Suddenly the word "anarchist" returned to the headlines.
During the 90s anarchism had been growing. Inspired by autonomous movements in Europe + the Zapatista movement in Mexico, anarchists fought in a variety of struggles, ranging from tree-sits blocking clear-cuts, to protecting community gardens in NY + against neo-Nazis + the KKK.
With the success of the Seattle protests, everyone from rank-n-file union members to indigenous groups in the global south were quickly seeing themselves as part of a growing movement against corporate globalization. In this context, anarchist ideas found new currency.
As protests against so-called free trade grew more intense, the tactic of the black bloc also became much more widespread - and also cemented itself as the primary boogeyman of those in power and in the media.
After the 9/11 attacks, the anarchist politics of the anti-globalization movement were eclipsed by the anti-war movement, which was dominated by liberals, progressives, and Socialist groups. With the election of Obama, the anti-war movement dwindled.
After 9/11, the State rushed to increase its own power over its citizens. The Patriot Act was passed. The NSA developed a vast network of online spying and monitoring. Organizations like the FBI gained new powers and the Department of Homeland Security + ICE were born.
Meanwhile, Democrats following NAFTA worked to militarize the border as newly made migrants were forced to look for work. People like Joe Biden pushed for the 1994 "Crime Bill," which expanded the war on drugs and helped usher in increased mass incarceration.
As repression grew, the neoliberal economy continued to crash; in the 1990s, the early 2000s + finally in 2008 as the subprime loan crisis led to millions losing their homes in foreclosure. This crisis also kicked off the Occupy movement.
Occupy directly was inspired by anarchist ideas and tactics and showed that a massive, decentralized movement with no set leadership could self-organize itself, carry out massive actions, and have broad appeal.
At the same time, the Alt-Right was attempting to come off of the internet and become a force as the Trump campaign built a sea for them to swim in. Rising up to confront this new generation of fascists were participants from a variety of autonomous social movements.
Branding this new wave of autonomous movements that were hitting the streets which included Native water protectors, Black liberationists, abolitionists, anarchists + antifascists - simply as "ANTIFA," both Trump and the media helped popularize their 'new' boogeyman.
The recent 'Blue Leaks' for example, show that while far-Right + white power violence is growing exponentially, the FBI and DHS are obsessed with Black Lives Matter, anarchists, and antifa - to the point of even believing far-Right conspiracy theories.
Meanwhile, across the social terrain, faith in institutions is declining + the social contract is breaking down. The State more + more presents itself as an entity out only to serve itself and the daily class war with all its racialized structure is becoming more and more clear.
Its within this context that anarchists + autonomous anti-capitalists are organizing. When the #COVID19 pandemic hit, within days free grocery programs, mutual aid networks across neighborhoods + free stores to distribute supplies were being organized.
Growing out of relationships formed during the prison strikes of 2015 - 2018, anarchists + abolitionists were also involved in pushing for the release of prisoners threatened with #COVID19 as well as helping to organize rent strikes in the face of the pandemic.
Similar conditions can be found in communities across the US: from Flint, Michigan to Chicago to hollers in Appalachia. Anarchism asks the question: if the State + capital aren't coming to save us - then when will we begin to become our own liberators?
As half of US adults are now unemployed, a wave of mass evictions looms + Trump attempts to force kids back to school in the face of a pandemic that has already killed over 150K people in the US - now is a good time for the State to find a boogeyman to justify broad repression.
The State is hoping that it can scare the public into supporting the demonetization of anarchists in an effort to crush the rebellion and justify a wide-scale crackdown on anyone still out on the streets, regardless of their political ideals. It's up to all of us to push back.
Thanks to everyone who shared and enjoyed this thread. If you're looking to go a bit deeper, a really good place to start is 'Anarchy Works' by IGD contributor @PeterGelderloos.
We also encourage people to investigate the truly global history of the anarchist (and other parallel) movement. 'Non-Western Anarchism: Rethinking the Global Context' is a great launching off point.
In the context of so-called North America, the invaluable work and contributions made by indigenous and anti-colonial anarchists such as @zig_zag48 and @eelk cannot also be overstated. We encourage people to follow and support their work.
You can follow @IGD_News.
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