Friday, 3 April 2015

Get some progress

Political geekery

There have been times when I've found myself spending a good bit of time thinking about what my ideal society would look like and hoping for a dramatic revolution to brining it about. In between these times I go outside my house...

When I go outside my house I find myself interacting with people, we chat, some people I work with, some friends, some family. I love to talk politics, I could do it all day but even I need to switch it off every now and then and talk about music, or a film or have a laugh about something or whatever. It can be those times that interesting insights come.

People doing stuff... possibly not wanting to be lectured about ideology

Recently it has occurred to me that everyone is busy living their lives, thinking about what they want, thinking about people that matter to them, planning, working, resting and playing. Some are struggling, some are doing okay, some like talking about political stuff, many find it boring, some people have no choice but to take an interest and be active politically because their well-being or even their survival is at stake.

Having an ideologically pure vision of a perfect society, being able to describe how it should be brought about and being able to defend the principles it's based on seems to only have deep appeal to certain minds. I don't mind admitting I'm one of them, a total idealist who likes to read about theory and enjoys thought experiments. Apparently, the Myres-Briggs personality types INTJ and INTP are pretty big on this (INTJ here). When  I step back it almost looks ridiculous, like a mad hobby, like I'm more of a politics geek than anything else and there is a risk of that. BUT... I still think we have something to contribute to the actual struggle, as long as we don't get too detached from real life!

Sweet sweet progress

Let us retain our ideas about how things should be,  (we aren't going to drop them anyway), but let us also turn our minds to the question of progress and of specific situations. Let us begin to ask, not just; 'what is the ideal here?' but also; 'what might constitute progress here?' (bearing in mind that we will need to ask other people involved in a situation what they believe constitutes progress too!).

I want to alert fellow anarchists in the west to the disappointing fact that revolution is not about to break out here. Revolution comes, not when a small group of dedicated activists manage to rile everyone up and get them all out on the streets but when the masses of ordinary people get pushed to their limit. At this point they will rise up whether or not there are radicals amongst them. Radical ideas help, they can give people a framework within which to think about their what's going on but they don't topple social orders until the people are ready.

Great masses - unhappy
Yes, things aren't good right now, a lot of us have got it bad. Here in the UK we've got huge numbers of people needing food banks, we've got a serious housing crisis with homelessness and rough sleeping on the rise, we've got a resurgence in racism and of the far right, we've got growing inequality and we're experiencing a painfully slow and unequal recovery after a long recession. But... a lot of other places have it much much worse and on top of that are much less fractured societies than ours and yet still revolution does not always come.

So what do we do when the great masses of ordinary people aren't pushed to their limits? Turn to reform instead? Not in this lifetime. We should instead consider progress as our goal. In fact, everyone everywhere should consider progress as the goal (and I think that's what a lot of people who don't consider themselves super political are doing anyway when they get pissed off about some issue and decide to do something about it, of course their problem can be that they have no framework for their action being a part of any wider struggle and no ideology at all sometimes).

Anarchism is better thought of as a word for the struggle, not a word for a theoretical end-state that can be reached or achieved in some way. The goal is a fully anarchistic society we all know that we should never drop that as our aim but there is such a thing as letting perfection get in the way of progression.

Even in Rojava, Chipas, anarchist Catalonia or the Free Terriory the struggle never stopped, obviously due to having to defend against outside aggression, but even internally it will always take people who want to keep pushing and keep the pressure up, people who remain vigilant and hostile to authoritarianism in all it's forms. But we are where we are, there is no other world apart from the one outside and we have to deal with that, your struggle is the one you're in whether you like it or not, your community, your workplace, your family, your friendship groups. We can either join in with those who want to grab chances to make things better or sit back and find fault.

This isn't supposed to be an endorsement of individualist lifestyle-ism (which is a vague and overused term but still has a core of important meaning) nor is it an endorsement of any tactic which is inherently self-limiting, anti-anarchistic and reformist (like voting). It's just to say that we may as well get involved in whatever we've got going on and get some progress here and now, if not we might be sat around complaining for a long time!

If we're more for anarchism as a concept than we are for the people then I fear that we're pointless.