Friday, 18 September 2015

Two serious problems with popular anarchist thinking

The anarchist movement in the UK is fairly strong right now (a lot of this will apply to USA too). We must be doing something right. This is not intended as an attack. It's a challenge to keep moving forward.

There are two very serious things wrong with popular anarchist theory right now:

The way we talk about Capitalism

The way we talk about British capitalism is at least 50 years out of date. This shows up the strongest when we try to describe how exploitation works; we go straight to talking about factories and stuff. Who do you know that works in a factory? I know one guy. To be honest I can't really even imagine what the inside of a factory looks like these days. Even talking about the general idea of the "means of production" is pretty strange in an country where the service sector makes up about 75% of the economy.

We need to set ourselves the task of learning how exploitation works in a call centre. How do the hundreds of thousands of low level managers and supervisors fit into the picture? These are some of the most common jobs in the country. What about government employees? There are some parts of the country where nearly half the workforce works for the state, can we describe the difference anarchism would make for them? Very few of us have a clue how the stock market works. Trillions of pounds is floating around above our heads and we haven't got a clue what to say about it.

Talking about means of production and factories all the time is lazy.

The way we talk too much about economics

The important task of incorporating a strong stance against social hierarchy into anarchist thought isn't new. Let's not get in the way of those who are taking up that baton today. A few of us seem to have got a certain distance down that path and then just randomly stopped. Like those who accept that classism and racism matters but are sceptical about patriarchy or homophobia or transphobia (my spell check doesn't even know that last one yet!).

Don't stop in random places damn it!

We've got a long way to go, anarchism is always in front of us smashing into new hierarchies that we haven't even properly conceived yet. It is never behind us in some glory days. Behind us lie examples and they are valuable but anarchism is always ahead.

This is not to say that our economics doesn't matter just to say that hierarchy is not just confined to the economic sphere of life. Most of the pain people carry around with them, certainly for people I know, is inflicted on them in their personal relationships especially family. What does anarchism have to say about that? I know some good work is going into supporting anarchist parenting, I want to encourage that. There is so much more to do on discovering how anarchist ideals could transform all aspects of our lives.

I can say for sure that the fact that I don't get get to keep hold of the full value of my labour is an injustice. I seriously resent my the fact that my landlord is supposedly entitled to walk away with a massive chunk for example, but other things matter to me too. Is there anything worse than being sick? My mental and physical health matter a lot more to me than money. The quality of the area that I live in is also a big deal, have I had to move hundreds of miles away from my community to get work? Do I ever get too see anything green? Is my whole town set up for cars and I can't afford one?

What else have we had to give up in order to make room for capitalism? It isn't just our surplus labour! I know that we can show how these things are connected to the capitalist economic set-up but lets not treat them as an after thought.

That is all.

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