How can we take our movement forward?
By: Zaher Baher
The world still suffers from the current economic crisis that started in 2008. It has not only made the vast majority of us poorer, our life harder and, in fact it has limited our freedom as well. In the meantime the number of visible and invisible wars increased and the number of their victims have gone up too. With all of these the leftist, communist, socialist and the anarchist movement have not gone forward.
This article only covers the anarchist movement. In my opinion after the Spain civil war of 1936 to 1939 there has not been any anarchist movement in anywhere in this world. What we had or we have just a few strong anarchist organisations. In France and Greece there were some street activities but I cannot call them the movement.
In this article I just point out the weaknesses of the anarchists in Europe in general and in UK in particular. For this, I criticise our comrades and stress on our weakest points. I believe without tackling those, talking about the anarchist movement for me does not make sense.
- Far from organising ourselves:
We cannot deny the role and the impact of organisation that plays in the movement. Of course, I am talking about the non-hierarchical organisation. It is true in history in many places there were many major popular uprisings and movements without people organising themselves before. However, these movements or uprisings either have been suppressed brutally or they have not made major changes, in fact most of them made the system stronger.
Although one of the main principles of anarchism is individual freedom and work on achieving it, at the same time anarchism strongly believes in working, struggling and living collectively while still the freedom of individual is protected, working and living together does not restrict it. In my opinion the relation and link between individual freedom and working, living, struggling collectively is very strong and to certain extent one completes the other. In other words weakening one of them is the weakening of the other.
Life under this brutal system imposed many commitments and obligations over every individual in society. If any of us wants to breach some of those obligations and commitments we have to pay the price in certain way.
While this system has been formed on the basis of brutality, exploitation inequality, poverty, unsocial justice, war and by its law and order made the individual to be subjected or obey to. At the same time, all of these are giving us enough evidence that this system cannot be changed without organising ourselves. We need to organise ourselves, we need to have our near and future plans, our aims and strategy. Without having the above, it is not possible to make the major changes we want. This is why it is important for the anarchists to organise themselves in the groups, organisations whatever they think is good and suits them.
Solidarity Network or effective Federation:
Self-organising alone, concentrating on only one single issue and keeping far distance with other groups in cooperating and doing activities together might still achieve what the group formed for, but never can change the system even cannot make a major changes in the society. If we want our activities effective and in a short time achieve what we want, we need to put away our simple disagreements and do not let them to be a wall between us. For this we need to have an active social network for many of the groups. Each of the group in the networks must have equal say, remain independently have its own voice and shape. Of course I do not mean forming a centre but as a framework that provides practical support, solidarity to any of the groups inside the network or outside it. To organise and call people for demo, protest and other activates.
I am aware that in UK, France and a few more countries we have some kind of Federations that contents a few groups. However, these federations because of certain reasons are not doing well with the current political, social and economic issues and events. In addition these federations are not strong enough for the needs of anarchist movement and cannot cope with the capitalist Media. Because of this we need an active, sufficient and influential social network. There is no doubt that we cannot form this without a strong foundation which is self-organising that I mentioned above.
- Marx and Marxism
Perhaps many of us have come from Marxism or even from Marxist-Leninist background and actively worked inside this organisation. This has positive and negative sides. The positive things are we have passed that stage and have enough knowledge and experiences in Marx’s theory in every aspect. We have tried that and finally realised that it was never a solution, in fact protecting the system. I personally even started from a Maoist organisation. I spent the best part of my life involved in Maoist and Leninist, then Marxist organisation. This experience pushed me to the stage that to think Marx theory is the best for serving the system and delaying the socialist movement.
The worse side of Marxism is although many of the anarchists rejected the political side of Marx, but they believe or stuck with his economic theory. They have not allowed themselves to be released completely from the shadow of Marx.
It is true Marx has studied and analysed capitalism economy very well: the sources of the profit, surplus value, the role of technology and the working class, the role of multinational companies, accumulating of the goods and finally the crisis with many more. But Marx put a lot of trust on developing technology, working class in term of quantity and quality, believing in centralism, predicting happening the revolution in the much industrialised countries. In all of them, in my opinion, Marx was wrong and his theory did not help the socialist movement. I do not say more about this subject as I have written a long article about this: http://zaherbaher.com/2016/10/06/leftists-and-communists-have-damaged-the-socialist-movement-as-much-as-the-right-wing-did/
What we need to know here is at present in the much industrialised countries all the conditions and the backgrounds that Marx described exist for a revolution to happen. The questions here are, why did not the revolution happen? How more long we have to wait while we are experiencing the most advanced technologies and the strong working class?
It is not just that, in fact Marx did believe that the socialist revolution will not be happening outside of the industrialised countries because of the above reason. This has given the excuse to Marx and his followers for supporting the bourgeois by working class to speed up developing capitalism in the country. In addition this has justified dividing the human beings society to five, six stages in term of reaching socialism. These are: primitive society, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism.
My understanding of anarchism is it can never agree with Marxism and they are very much opposite of each other. Because of that it is important for us to reject Marx and Marxism completely. We cannot have one leg with Marxism and the other with anarchism. We can look and see the things with an open mind; we should reject that opinion or theory that only seeing the possibility of happening the revolution in the much industrialised countries that up to this moment has been failed. We should see there is possibility for the revolution to be happened in none or less industrialised countries. http://zaherbaher.com/2016/12/11/where-the-revolution-is-more-likely-to-happen-in-developed-or-non-developing-countries/
- Individualism and Lifestyle
The individualism is another branch and another weakness of anarchism. In the 19th century it was appeared strongly and advocated by many anarchists. The individualism is defending the freedom and autonomy of the individuality, it has benefited from the anarchist principles that strongly believe in the freedom of individuals. This idea has been used by many anarchists to enjoy their freedom, to be active individually and keep distance from taking action collectively. This has been justified by them because they think the collective work or activities are not compatible with the individual freedom and their independence. This tendency directly or indirectly is against any kind of commitments in organising and activities. The individualism to certain extent serves the current system more than serving the anarchist movement.
The individualism is contradicting with one of the major aims of the anarchism which is building the communes and living inside the communes. The communes are the outcome of the collective activities, based on support, solidarity and the mutual relationship with the other communes that remain in the social life. Such communes cannot be built upon the idea of individualism. Communes and their autonomy should be seen in practising inside the framework of support, duty and very strong relationship between them, otherwise the commune will be only an independent, marginalised and will not last long.
The individualism believes in working class struggle but with the attitude of not participating and committing itself with the movement, remain lonely and ineffective. While the anarchism is love, concern, sharing, working and living collectively but the individualism only concern about its own autonomy and its lifestyle, so the distance between them remain wide.
Couple of centuries ago, when individualism claimed the personal autonomy – autonomy is different from the freedom – one could have enjoyed it. At that time the system and its influences were not as strong as they are now. Presently every individual is connected to the system, in many ways that made life extremely difficult. In other words in some ways the individual have been deprived from his/her own freedom.
Today the Ecology question has become a major part in the anarchist movement or revolution. I was wondering what will be the attitude of the individualism. What will the individualism role and how the individuals can take part and push forward the ecology question? In my opinion as long as the individualism sticks with its idea, it will be extremely hard for them to have a considerable role in this matter.
Bakunin and Kropotkin were talking about the freedom of individual and individualism. Both of them insist that the freedom of the individual with social anarchism is complete with one another and not against each other. Kropotkin was against the individualism that Max Sterner claimed and even called it “elitism”. Bakunin was more concern with social anarchism, in his book, Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 158, he says. “Even the most wretched individual of our present society could not exist and develop without the cumulative social efforts of countless generations. Thus the individual, his freedom and reason, are the products of society, and not vice versa: society is not the product of individuals comprising it; and the higher, the more fully the individual is developed, the greater his freedom — and the more he is the product of society, the more does he receive from society and the greater his debt to it”
The individualism is against authorities but it marginalises itself focusing mainly on the individual freedom at the expense of collective action, activities, political and social self-organisation, so the idea remains impractical.
Another negative side of the individualism for me is going with the current culture, while the socialist/anarchist revolution is incomplete without revolution on culture. The duty of the anarchists is to reject the current culture, which is the culture of the system that covered the entire European, American and the other industrialised countries. This culture in every way is in the interest of the capitalism so that if the anarchist as an individuals or groups does not reject it and do not stand against it, it is impossible to take the anarchism even one step forward.
As far as I know although the individualism is against the authorities and the system but it goes well with them and their culture. The system wants us to live and remain alone, not having contact with one another, look and concern about our own problems not others, you the first and the other second, having a certain lifestyle that does not intervene with the system, not organising ourselves, stick with a kind of life that we have chosen it or has been chosen for us. This is the culture that the system maintains and try to promote it through its powerful Media, without the culture, the system cannot renew itself and be survived
Superiority is another weakness point among some of our anarchist comrades in Europe. You cannot feel this unless you mix up with them. Perhaps this attitude has been inherited from the culture of colonization. For a part of the European anarchists currently dealing with the anarchists from non-European countries due to no knowledge of their culture, this will cause culture clash. This plays a big role in disconnecting the individuals from one another.
Part of this problem may be because people like me came from the countries that are the centre of nationalist, tribal and religious wars in addition to killing women or at least not looking at them as human. Having this sort of opinion or attitude about us may play a role again in the problem of Superiority. This wrong attitude among the European anarchist toward us may see us like any other individuals in the society where we came from, not seeing us like an anarchist comrade. They do not see that at least we came from the Marxist or Marxist-Leninist background and that background in fact have a right view and attitude towards women and far exceeding the culture and the habit that dominated the society at the time.
What I see and feel is constant distance. The relationships are usually correct, as between comrades, but not close. There is no friendship. There is some judging us without any knowledge of our cultures and background. There is not enough concern of the situations in countries we come from. Not enough of support for our events, activities, protests, demos, uprisings and even whole movements. Rojava and Bakur are the best examples: people there achieved a lot, but still the support from European anarchists is less than adequate. I believe all of these are a part of the culture and lifestyle that those comrades stick with as it is a main part of Superiority. For the comrades with this sort of attitude can be in doubt that whatever happen in the countries we came from, good, even if good it is still difficult for them to believe anarchist people like us are in the same level as them : intellectually, personally and practically.
I am not alone about what I said above, in fact many other comrades who are living in Europe who came from Middle East or other area share the same feeling. I personally in the last three years have made numerous contacts with the anarchists in the European countries including UK and Scandinavian anarchists, I can see this problem clearly, whatever try to get closer to them, it is impossible. It is very disappointing. This experience convinced me that I can make comrades but extremely difficult to make them friend, especially when the business of smoking, drinking and football do not involve.
While the anarchism is anti-authorities and anti-class and anti-individual domination, the individual anarchists must be against Superiority, arrogance, selfishness and undermining the others. All these are a part of Superiority, class and culture domination.
These negative attitudes are promoting the current culture that breaking down the relationship and keeping distance between us and them that actually completing the other weakness points that mentioned in this article.
If the basis of anarchism is looking after one another, loving, concerning, sharing and giving support and solidarity and also exchanging the idea, knowledge and experiences, then there is no doubt that Superiority, whatever its reason, its form and sources does not serve anarchism as much as serving the system.