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The stock-standard announcement (I hope to start blogging a bit more soonish):

imminent rebellion #9 is fresh off the printer! (In fact we’re still high off the ink) Weighing in at a staggering 108 pages, imminent rebellion is making a come back after 3 years of hibernation as an irregular anarchist journal from deep in the South Pacific.

Included in this issue are personal commentaries from some of those arrested as part of the October 15 ‘terrorist’ raids, an overview of the police’s Operation 8, a consideration of police treatment of activists over the last few years, critiques of NGOism, activism and identity politics, and more.

Read online or buy direct from our website: http://www.rebelpress.org.nz

Rebel Press
info@rebelpress.org.nz
PO Box 9263, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand

I thought I might as well upload my honours project from last year, and let those of you with masochistic tendencies have a read. It’s entitled:

Post-Anarchism and Social War
Post-Structuralism, and the Revival of an Anarchist Subterranean

I’m trying to re-write the thing into a 3,000 word article for imminent rebellion coming out in April, so if you just want the gist maybe wait till then.And don’t point out all the spelling and grammatical mistakes, there are loads – I only had 15 days to do the thing in the end.

Download the PDF.

* * * * *

From the conclusion:

The collapse of the utopian project in the post-World War Two era is widely accepted as a given, as if those that previously fought for the total reorganisation of society had finally given themselves to the lesser task of the more rational and humane management of the status quo (social democracy, the third way, etc.). The failure to see the continuation of a utopian project, or rather a multitude of such projects, is due precisely to a shift in the very conception of revolution and utopia. The very real and substantive difference between Marxism and classical anarchism over the question of the State and power masked the fact that both were really quite similar – as products of Enlightenment thinking – in their foundational assumptions. These assumptions, the a priori that haunts classical anarchism, can be reduced to two key aspects: firstly, a notion of power as transcendent to the social body and originating in the singularity of the State, working in a simple top-down fashion upon the otherwise autonomous organisation of society; secondly, a humanism that posited a human essence that was essentially freedom-desiring, cooperative, that tended towards egalitarian relations and which was suppressed under the ‘yoke’ of the State. Upon these assumptions were built the familiar utopian project. Freedom, the aim of the classical anarchist project, was conceived unproblematically as the absence of power, in which conditions the natural cooperative tendencies of humanity could be unleashed so as to realise, once and for all, the revolutionary society. Revolution, therefore, was the destruction of the State – a cataclysmic rupture and qualitative change with previous social organisation – and was to be conducted by the revolutionary subject embodied in that broad mass in whom lay the seeds of change and are collectively known as the ‘oppressed’. A utopian project conceived such as this – Marxist or anarchist – has indeed largely subsided in the post-World War Two era. But the utopian impulse has not died; rather, it has been eclipsed by a project that bears little superficial resemblance. The singular and totalising conception of revolutionary change of the classical emancipatory theories, the notion of becoming-major to use Deleuze’s formulation, has instead been replaced with a dispersed, decentred and viral becoming-minor of contemporary, second-wave anarchism.

Post-anarchism is a systematic attempt to build an anarchism without the a priori faults of its predecessor, to further deepen the tendencies of contemporary – as opposed to classical – anarchism, and to commit itself to an understanding of the social founded upon an ontology of immanence. In the first instance, power is conceived as decentred and exercised from innumerable points, as immanent and necessary to all interactions, and as constitutive of larger relations of domination. This latter aspect forms the basis for Deleuze’s separation of micro- and macro-politics. These domains don’t correlate simply to the State and society, and nor are they fixed to any particular strata, but rather describe the processes whereby emergent strata are ontologically produced from the complex and non-linear interactions – the micro-politics – of the strata below. Power, therefore, is for the most part bottom-up, where macro-assemblages and large-scale relations of domination are produced in the micro-politics of everyday life. While macro-politics remains important (it is not one or the other, as Deleuze insists, but ‘and, and, and…’), the micro is primary. Moreover, fundamental changes in social relations necessitate a total transformation in the relations of everyday life or else risk, as Foucault warned, simply a reconstitution of the politics of old. This is a non-functionalist conception of macro-politics, where the historical construction of macro-assemblages is not teleological, but arises through the capillary and contingent spread of certain techniques at the expense of others. Crucially, in regards to this discussion, freedom is conceived not as an absence of power but rather a specific organisation of power, one that avoids the asymmetric and frozen relations that characterise conditions of domination, and which seeks the free flowing exercise of power distributed throughout the social terrain. This is not a static state, but instead a becoming, a practice, an ‘ongoing actuality’. In the second instance, post-anarchism views the subject not as transcendent to the forces that act upon the body but as produced by them, as an effect. The ‘oppressed masses’ cease to occupy a pure space of resistance and come instead wholly complicit and produced by the everyday practices of which they are part. The revolutionary subject of post-anarchism, therefore, cannot be founded upon an existing social category that is produced out of relations of domination; its aim, in fact, is for the eventual abolition of those very categories. The revolutionary subject must instead be an orientation, an inclination towards permanent revolt against practices of domination and a tendency towards social experimentation and reorganisation of power relations, aiming always to further maximise conditions of freedom. In a similar vein, the notion of revolution is transformed. Social change must be approached in a fashion concomitant with the operations of power. Cataclysmic, qualitative change is replaced with widespread change in degree, and utopian finality is replaced with an open-ended conception of revolution, as a process never fully realised.

A radical new underpinning such as this necessarily entails a shift in practice, in the conceptions of social change. The classical anarchist project contained within itself three tendencies of resistance: the insurrectionary tendency, the evolutionary tendency, and anarcho-syndicalism. The first was heavily rooted in classical anarchism, representing a purely destructive moment and relying on the egalitarian impulses of the masses. The second, the evolutionary tendency, was its opposite and focused entirely on the constructive moment in the creation of alternative institutions, but in lacking a destructive aspect and often choosing institutional legality, the evolutionary tendency was limited and risked full integration into hegemonic practices. Of the three, anarcho-syndicalism was the most developed, aptly integrating both the destructive and constructive moments, but it was limited by its focus on simply on the condition of work. In addition to an insistence on both the destructive and constructive moments to anarchist practice, and in its opposition to the totality of relations that constitute domination, the post-anarchist project brings a number of insights from its revised view of the social. The politics and transformation of everyday life becomes an essential aspect, both in the reconstitution of macro-political assemblages and equally in the creation of new subjectivities. These transformations must be treated as experiments, and must be conducted not en masse as a singular project, but rather as a multiplicity of small-scale projects, each designed with the aim for their reproduction and spread across the social terrain. Moreover, this is a tactical model of change. In opposition to a singular strategy, a multiplicity of tactics works in accordance with the decentred, bottom-up, and non-linear nature of power, constantly pressing against various practices, transforming some, and creating other relations anew. Contemporary anarchist practices offer many such examples of possible tactics, including the notion of exodus, direct action, and the creation of autonomous spaces. In all, the aim is a prefigurative politics: withdrawing ourselves from practices deemed antithetical to relations of freedom, similarly fighting against and disrupting those of which we are not a part, and seeking out fissures of time and space so as to create new relations with one another and with our material world. This notion of social war, of revolutionary practice without end, is one that seeks not the conquest of power but rather a generalised revolt and the viral adoption of these tactics throughout the social terrain, opening and creating spaces of becoming-minor.

The central question with which we started – ‘What is to be done?’ – remains perhaps only partially answered. Indeed, more concrete answers lie in the substantial and expansive practical work in implementing and experimenting with the multiplicity of tactics and relations that are available in pursuing freedom as an ongoing actuality. Nevertheless, the criticisms of the ‘spectacles of resistance’ made of the anti-globalisation movement ring even stronger in this evaluation. The large anti-summit protests, at least by themselves, make for a weak tactic precisely because they maintain the notion that there exist centres of power to global capitalism, whether in the Group of Eight, the World Trade Organisation, or otherwise. Indeed, in many ways they marked a return to the insurrectionary model with all of its faults. It appears, in fact, that since the decline of the anti-globalisation movement it is to the alternative praxis advocated here that many have turned, and perhaps there is in that some hope.

I’ve been having an ongoing discussion about the the distinction between ‘political’ action, and ‘personal’ or ‘lifestyle’ action with a friend of mine. Lifestylism is considered a political slur amongst anarchist circles, and is almost as bad as petit-bourgeois is considered in Marxist circles. However, I feel the debate around it is really quite ill-thought out.

To be a lifestylist is to, apparently, falsely believe that personal decisions can be political… or something like that. The usage of the word came about in Bookchin’s vitriolic polemic Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An unbridgeable chasm from around 1995, by which point he was well past his prime of writing. From his conclusion (note the insulting use of ‘petit-bourgeois’ – you just know he has Marxist roots!):

Minimally, social anarchism is radically at odds with anarchism focused on lifestyle, neo-Situationist paeans to ecstasy, and the sovereignty of the ever-shriveling petty-bourgeois ego. The two diverge completely in their defining principles – socialism or individualism. Between a committed revolutionary body of ideas and practice, on the one hand, and a vagrant yearning for privatistic ecstasy and self-realization on the other, there can be no commonality. Mere opposition to the state may well unite fascistic lumpens with Stirnerite lumpens, a phenomenon that is not without its historical precedents.

My contention, firstly, is that there should not be an opposition between the ‘personal’ and the ‘political’, and rather that political, indeed all macro social structures, are actually constituted through practices of everyday life. My second contention is that the aim of anarchism shouldn’t be either socialism or individualism, but rather what a number of authors have called communal individualism.

The collapsing of the macro and the micro into a single field of relations and practices has been attempted by a number of theorists: this is Delueze and Guattari’s ‘plane of immanence’ and the ‘abstract machine’; it is Bruno Latour’s ‘flat social’ (a quite conservative social theorist otherwise however); and it is the turn to everyday life of the Situationists, of Lefebvre, and of much of post-structuralism. Put simply, it is the idea that when we talk of ‘the State,’ for example, we are not talking about a concrete thing but rather a conglomeration of social relations that, through their repeated performances of certain key practices and their collective orientation that is, on the whole, the same, they create the notion of the State. The State is therefore not the reified conception that some are prone to, but rather a mass of social practices in which certain key practices (ie. obedience to agents of the State, obedience to the Father) are critical in maintaining the overall illusion. The State is constituted through practices of repression and violence, but similarly through obedience and consent.

What this means is that there is no secondary sphere of political action, nor a sphere that is simply personal, but that relations of everyday life are already political. The distinction between lifestylism and politics ceases to make sense, except for the Statists who consider only those actions within the sphere of the State as political (a claim which makes no sense for those seeking the abolition of the State).

It is obvious what those who make the attack of ‘lifestylism’ are getting at. It is usually a charge of a lack of collective action, or a charge of consumer-oriented change. That it is always up to individuals to change their behaviour is always going to be the reality, but it is also a reality that freeing ourselves from oppressive social relations comes through a mass refusal to perpetuate those relations. This is not a charge against ‘lifestylism’ per se, but rather a distinction of effective action, and one which could easily be levelled against the mass marches that are so fetishised as being political, and which so often fail to count as “mass” at all. Secondly, the critique of consumer-oriented change is similarly valid but not against lifestylism, instead against naive liberal notions that we can buy buy buy our way to a better world.

Secondly, Bookchin sets up a fantastic division between egotistical individualists and social revolutionaries, and of course this is nothing but the classical distinction between individualists and socialist anarchists. The former puts the self above everything else, while the latter instead prioritises the collective. As for me, anarchism only makes sense when it is concerned with the freedom of the individual (what sense does it make to talk of the freedom of collective?), but it is both a negative freedom-from and a positive freedom-to. Certainly, the latter can only be generated through communal action. This is the notion of communal individuality, where the measure of freedom is based on the freedom of the individual, but that this freedom is extended and fostered through communal action. The development of the ego (in the Stirnerite conception of ‘the unique one’, NOT the popular conception) should therefore be of primary concern; that is, the development of selves both willing to defend their freedom, and to extend it further, à la Stirner’s ‘union of egos.’ Any ego freed from the ‘spooks’ in their heads will immediately realise the paralysing and repressive social order with which they are met and that any desire that they may have for ‘privatistic ecstasy’ immediately becomes a social desire aimed at abolishing the conditions that make that desire impossible.

The charge of lifestylism maintains the division between the public and the private spheres, between the personal and the political. I believe instead that the terrain of political action is the terrain of everyday life; there is no secondary or tertiary spheres of politics or ideology. Moreover, the development of selves radically desiring of freedom is essential to any revolutionary project aimed at communal individuality, one that is opposed to the subjugation of the individual to yet another collective spook.

Somehow a pair of right-wing libertarians, calling themselves “Brothers in Anarchy”, managed to get themselves a column in Victoria University’s student newspaper Salient. My response:

Dear “Brothers in Anarchy”,

By some feat of luck it appears you have managed to gain a regular column in Salient – I only wish you would make better use of it.

I should play my cards up front: I am an anarchist, but of a variety quite opposed to the vulgar politics you two profess. As far as I can tell, you seem to advocate an anti-State right-wing libertarianism, a neo-liberalism of the most extreme kind. You reject the State and democracy but seem to entertain a misplaced belief that the all-too-obvious evils of capitalism will right themselves through some sort of unabated market mechanism.

This anti-State right-wing libertarianism of yours developed a small, short-lived, but vocal following in the mid-90s in the U.S., a following that also used the label “anarcho-capitalist”. This, of course, was to distinguish them from the vast majority of anarchists at the time who – of both the social and individualist varieties – located themselves firmly in an anti-capitalist politics. This anarchism, which has strangely gone unacknowledged in your column thus far, had its roots in the development of socialism in mid-19th Century Europe (notably Russia). It underwent an historic split in the last part of the 19th Century with the Statist socialisms (Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.) that would eventually result in the predictable events of the Long Twentieth Century. It was also this anarchism which utterly eclipsed the proponents of “anarcho-capitalism” in 1999 in the now-infamous Seattle riots and the onset of the anti-globalisation movement.

But these semantic debates between anarchists and the “anarcho-capitalist” variety are now well-worn and tiresome. Rather than arguing who represents the most legitimate variety, perhaps it is best to go back to roots upon which we can both agree.

For me, anarchism is based upon an ethics and a desire which aims towards the maximisation of freedom. This is not simply the freedom of the tyrant to do what they wish, but instead a generalised social freedom that aims towards enabling individuals the ability to “grow naturally and simply, flower-like, or as a tree grows” (to quote Oscar Wilde). That is, it is a ‘freedom-to’, rather than just the liberal ‘freedom from’.

Compare these root values with your “anarcho-capitalist” system. While you seek the abolition of the State, you seem to quite happily transfer its repressive functions (namely its police and military forces, and their enforcement of law and especially property relations) to be managed through profit-seeking security companies. You advocate State court systems being run by businesses and using some sort of price mechanism as the basis for law. In fact, in an Orwellian twist, the pigs appear as men and the men appear as pigs. The functions of the State appear to have been retained in full and delivered through the mechanisms of the market and pseudo-State corporate forms. This vision seems more like a dystopian nightmare than anything worth fighting for.

More to the point, you seem to completely miss the oppressive capitalist relations involved in the employee/employer relationship – otherwise known as wage slavery. For 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week (or more if there are no labour laws), people will continue to endure the micro-dictatorship of the workplace. And so long as private property is staunchly defended by your corporate security lackeys, a combination of poverty and no access to productive capital makes wage slavery unavoidable (unless we retreat to sea-floating platforms as you advised us in your last column??). With profit the only basis for law, I would imagine a “race to the bottom” of working conditions and wages unparalleled by even the worse exigencies of economic globalisation today.

Anarchism must be anti-Statist and anti-nationalist, but it must also be anti-capitalist.

Nothing of your political vision seems to me to be anything that might approximate the “maximisation of freedom”. Orwell wrote that “if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face – forever” and I wonder if this might have been perfected in your politics?

From Fifth Estate… worth a read:

Revelation Vertigo

Stevphen Shukaitis

Autonomy is both the goal sought after and that whose presence–virtual–let us say, has to be supposed at the outset of an analysis or a political movement. This virtual presence is the will to autonomy, the will to be free. – Cornelius Castoriadis

There exists a tendency, shared across different strains of radical political thought, to see the horrors of our present as comprising a false totality, that when torn asunder, will reveal a more liberatory existence hidden beneath. This is to understand revolution as revelation; as the dispelling of the conditions of false consciousness, and a reclamation of an autonomous existence that continues to live on, albeit deformed, within this world we must we leave behind. Read the rest of this entry »

ANZAC day should be opposed for at least two reasons. The first is the most obvious: rather than being a day to remember those who have died in various wars the New Zealand State has sent its soldiers to fight and kill in, rather than being a day to resolve “never again”, and far from acting as a stimulus that “lest we forget”, ANZAC day is instead a celebration of the New Zealand military.

You will never see the various wars New Zealand has fought in, and continues to fight in, condemned. The lists of those killed always excludes “the enemy”, for they don’t really count, they are an unpeople; indeed, to humanise “the enemy” would be to expose the murderous foundations upon which the military is premised. You will never see conscientious objectors celebrated as heroes after enduring imprisonment at the hands of the New Zealand State. ANZAC day is a celebration of a murderous and violent institution, the backbone of any State, and a symbolic gesture towards those either forced or duped into murdering at its behest. Nowhere else in society would such actions be celebrated, except, apparently, when perpetrated by the State.

ANZAC day cannot be allowed to pass once again as if there is some sort of social consensus over New Zealand’s history of State violence or over its current military operations in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

Just as dangerously, however, is the second force at play on ANZAC day: an insidious and growing nationalism. ANZAC day, more and more, functions as a key ritual of nationalism. Nationalism is essentially the ideology of the State, it is the identity of a “people” that is constructed to unite very real divisions within any State, to legitimate its exclusive use of force and its claim to territory. The maintenance of New Zealand nationalist identity requires constant work against creeping divisions, and essential to this are national rituals and performances that cement this identity. Both Waitangi day (as part of official biculturalism policy) and ANZAC day are deployed in this way as government policy by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage alongside their plethora of websites.

This is all the more dangerous for anti-nationalists and anti-Statists considering the recent growth of New Zealand nationalism. Many believed ANZAC day would eventually die as ex-soliders went the same way, but instead, since about the mid-90s, there has been a growing youth presence at ANZAC ceremonies who are there not as part of Scouts or their associated groups, but out of a growing sense of national pride. Anybody who saw images of the Big Day Out would have noticed the growing presence of New Zealand flags being voluntarily brought along, some wearing them as items of dress (paralleled too, but far worse, at the Australian Big Day Out). And ‘New Zealander’, despite not being a recognised ethnic group, was submitted by 429,000 people at the recent 2006 census.

As part of an anti-nationalist and anti-Statist politics, ANZAC day should be recognised as a ritual cultivating nationalist identity and thus opposed.

It is a bizarre situation, then, that those on the left, even those claiming its radical margins, are unwilling to oppose in any meaningful way the ceremonies of ANZAC day. They fear offending those mercenaries of the State in attendance. They fear disrupting what is in fact a near-sacred national ritual. They, apparently, lack an ability to compare an act that merely offends with systematic and legitimised murder, armed patrols, nightly curfews, military checkpoints and all the other associated tactics of the New Zealand military.

ANZAC day must be opposed as part of a generalised anti-militarist, anti-State and anti-capitalist position.

NZTroopsOutNow.orgCampaign Proposal

For the past six years, the anti-war movement has not focused specifically on New Zealand troop involvement. The New Zealand military is often deployed under the rubric of ‘peacekeeping’ missions and ‘humanitarian relief,’ despite actively facilitating military operations in these countries. As a result, there has been a tendency to overlook the actions of the New Zealand military and a latent assumption of the benign nature of its operations. The anti-war movement’s approach, till this point, has largely been limited to calls for government condemnation of US wars through the use of ad-hoc tactics.

We propose to rectify this situation through a concerted campaign, coordinating with various groups and individuals from around the country.

Goals

1. No New Zealand troop deployments
2. No participation in joint training or military exercises with any other military, including the United Nations
3. No support for foreign military, including the ‘war on terror’.

Outline

This campaign involves two components: education and action. In the first instance, the purpose is to challenge the humanitarian image of the New Zealand military and explore the interests served by its actions. We want to expose the reality of New Zealand’s military activities overseas. In the second instance, we will employ tactics including direct action to undermine the operations of the New Zealand military.

The focus of the campaign, in particular, will be on New Zealand’s current military involvement in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

Education and public outreach

We want to have consistent, clear campaign messages through the use of various media, including website, factsheets, posters, leaflets, teach-ins, stalls, street theatre and outreach in educational establishments. This will include directly countering propaganda put out by the military and regurgitated by the mainstream media.

Action

In an effort to “bring the war home,” we want to encourage mass direct action against the New Zealand military, employing tactics that will directly stop its operation and support services, such as blockading, occupying, and sabotage. Targets for action could include military bases, transport of military equipment, recruitment efforts, display events, defence HQ, high ranking military and political officials (both NZ and from overseas), and national days of military celebration/commemoration.

Campaign Requirements

Involvement of other groups and individuals from around the country
Encourage formation of new groups through education and networking
Channel of communication for groups involved (e.g email list, wiki, forum)
Creation and distribution of educational material (including research,
design and production)
Planning joint actions
Funding
Transport
Legal support

Either the State for ever, crushing individual and local life, taking over in all fields of human activity, bringing its wars and its domestic struggles for power, its palace revolutions which only replace one tyrant by another, and inevitably at the end of this development is… death!

Or the destruction of States, and new life starting again in thousands of centres on the principle of the lively initiative of the individual and groups and that of free agreement.

The choice lies with you!

FistsThe post on Unite and the ensuing discussion got me thinking about unions as a form of class organisation, and the possibilities they offer to a revolutionary project, as well as their limitations. I’ve also been thinking that some form of modified anarcho-syndicalism, with a presence beyond work and in the community, could well prove to be project that might alleviate some of these limitations and is worth investigating further. For the meantime, however, here are some (incomplete) notes about existing forms of anarcho-syndicalism, starting with its essential aspects.

The Essential Aspects

Unions for workers, run by workers, with no separation between organisers and members, with no hierarchy whatsoever. Controlled from the bottom, using mandated, recallable and temporary delegates, and with no authority positions outside the shop floor, voted or otherwise. This is an attempt to stop the formation of power over workers in the form of a union bureaucrats which, despite their best intentions, develop interests of their own that come to partially align with those of capital, and become a class of their own (leftist managerial class).

Industrial unionism, not trade unionism. Unions will be organised around the workplace, not the individual trades. A hospital, for example, will be organised as a single union, not in multiple unions such as cleaners, doctors, junior doctors, receptionists, etc., in recognition of a common enemy in the employer and in recognition that no one job is more valuable than any other. Unions within a similar industry will cooperate in federation to stop scabbing and unions in a geographic locale will also cooperate in federation to organise strike support and local workers initiatives (education, food coops, etc.).

Use of direct action to get the goods. This means non-cooperation with any form of State-based worker-employer arbitration board and rather a reliance on, and development of, workers’ own strength. It means avoidance of contracts, etc. except in conditions of very weak workers’ power, as contracts prohibit direct action for agreed lengths of time.

Anti-parliamentary position. A refusal, on all accounts, to engage in State-based politics, whether backing a left party claiming to act on their behalf, or seeking reforms (as reforms invariably are made after they are established on the ground).

Preparation for the general strike/general insurrection. This includes not only preparation for the defence of workers when they take back the means of production in the form of community militias, but more importantly the preparation for continuing production (in industries worth continuing, that is) after the productive tools are expropriated. This means developing relationships with workers in other industries for which cooperation is required, developing skills among workers within an industry to continue production by themselves, etc.

The Possibilities

Schools of the revolution. Anarcho-syndicalist unions teach through practice the various essential tendencies required for an anarchist society, including cooperation, mutual aid, solidarity, egalitarian and non-authoritarian forms of organisation, reliance on themselves and not on others, etc.

Preparation for worker-run industries. This preparation doesn’t mean a continuation of the status quo of industrial society, either. It merely means that in the immediate aftermath of any general insurrection the material necessities can be provided while more thorough material changes can be made (ie. decentralisation of industry, etc.).

The Limitations

Social struggle reduced to class struggle. Anarcho-syndicalism, primarily, is organised around production and our material existence. It may not be well suited to other sites of social struggle, such as racism and indigenous oppression, patriarchy, etc., without concerted effort and an adaptation of tactics.

Tendency towards pure economism. That is, a tendency to focus almost exclusively on day to day and immediate economic issues, seeking just the bread but neglecting the roses. Other social issues well suited for anarcho-syndicalism to attack, such as war, may be sidelined (as the Spanish CNT found). As well, a vision of a general insurrection and its preparation will tend to be deferred to focus on immediate needs.

Tendency to just focus on workers, and exclude others from class struggle, ie. unemployed, single parents, students etc. This arises from the difficulty of unemployed to fight against WINZ as, unlike workers, they don’t have their labour power to deny. New tactics are required for these groups whose struggle is very much class oriented.

Opposition between workers’ immediate interests under capitalism and other social struggles. For example, between miners and ecological destruction. Successful compromises, such as the green ban, require workers to go beyond their immediate and even mid-term interests. However, the end of all coal mining industries, for example, which is necessary to halt climate change is too conflictual under capitalist relations for a working compromise.

LothlorienThey’re particularly rare today, but enlightenment literature is littered with hundreds of examples of utopian works. Originally propelled by the widespread belief in human progress, utopian works had already largely disappeared by the turn of the 20th Century and by the advent of the post-WWII era, with threats of nuclear annihilation, memories of Nazi concentration camps and the more recent warnings of ecological collapse, the march of modernity today is more likely to trigger images of dystopia than utopia.

Perhaps with the exception of The Dispossessed (which, for the record, was less a pure utopian work than a realistic utopian work), there are few recent anarchist utopian visions (and Parecon is hardly utopian). Indeed, cynicism and pessimism effectively foreclose discussion of future possibilities, reducing anarchist theory and practice most often to mere opposition.

Utopia is a loaded word, but a vision of a future society is essential in both guiding our practice in the present and, perhaps more importantly, providing us with an image of a society so beautiful that it propels us towards action and out of the depths of despair. Less beautiful than visionary, what follows is an outline of my own vision of a future society drawn largely (I think) on my memories of reading Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread more than 5 years ago now and also, I have to admit, on the imagery from The Lord of the Rings of both the Shire and the Elves.

* * *

I should start with the commune, as this is the basic unit of political and economic life. This is a small intentional grouping of people in which the bulk of everyday life is lived. Small enough to allow for face to face decision-making but large enough to allow for a degree of self-sufficiency, the commune numbers probably less than 500 people.

The commune is organised economically in accordance to the principles of libertarian communism: from each according to their abilities, to each according to their desires, based on reciprocity and voluntarism. All property is held in common by the commune and used according to the needs and desires of the commune as a whole. Each commune would engage in food production, craft works, and small-scale industry, producing the bulk of their needs and desires and working together with other communes to produce those things that require large-scale cooperation, specialised production or require certain climates or geographies.

Production would be organised based on need, rather than profit (money would not exist), and emphasis would be on reducing work, rather than creating it. There would be no poverty, or else everybody would share the same level of poverty, and there would be a tendency towards material simplicity and making what already exists last to its fullest.

Politically, the commune is organised based on face-to-face assemblies and some sort of consensus model. It should be generally unnecessary, however, for the commune as a whole to ever make collective decisions and this, combined with the sheer difficulty of achieving consensus across so many people, would mean most day to day decisions of a political and economic sort would be made amongst those most directly affected. Only extreme situations or decisions requiring everyone’s cooperation would need to be made by the commune as a whole. Beyond this, and in addition to the various economic ties of inter-commune cooperation, the commune would be organised into a loose horizontal federation or network to collaborate with other communes in their region.

The individual would exist in a condition of communal individuality: emphasis being placed on individuality that is enabled through communal cooperation. The individual would be free to engage in pursuits as material need dictates and as their desires fancy them, and would participate in all manner of cooperative associations. People would engage in a balance of both mental and physical labour: a morning spent in the gardens, an afternoon spent doing craftwork and an evening in passionate discussion or study.

Daily life would be lived communally with others, but certainly not based around the nuclear family. People would live together, sleep together and work together, but always there would be space for retreat, for privacy and contemplation.

Gender identities would either have dissolved or proliferated, and the social significance of actual sexual differences (eg. reproduction) would not be based on hierarchy or power. So too would identities of sexuality have dissolved, and free love would be widely practised. Ethnicity would cease to be a point of social hierarchy, and so too would all other forms of power be abolished.

Daily life and the processes of the commune would not simply be organised according to decentralisation and without hierarchy, but as opposed to these (see David Graeber and societies organised against the State). All sorts of processes would be enabled to identify and stop all instances of domination in daily life.

Children would cease to be anyone’s property, and would belong to themselves, cared for by the community as a whole. Education would not be compulsory: children would freely choose when they were ready and willing to learn, and tutors would only be guides and helpers, not authority figures. As much effort would be made to integrate education into everyday life (and not as a separate institution unto itself), and the emphasis would be on learning by doing.

Prisons and punishment would be abolished, these being instances of nothing but State sanctioned revenge and violence in themselves. Anti-social crimes would require careful consideration: careful not to impose ethics which clearly come from no higher authority but ourselves. Seeking understanding, rehabilitation and redress would be the priority, not punishment or revenge.

Every effort would be made to integrate daily life into the processes of the local ecology. Production for need and material simplicity would have a huge impact and so too would the daily experience of working with nature in the gardens (as opposed to the alienation from nature in modern urban cities). No animals would be kept against their will and nor will they be allowed to be tortured or killed.