The revenge of the anarchist: Written another way, the revenge on anarchists by anarchism
Anarchism is everywhere. The only people that don’t realize it are the anarchists (well, except some). There are many reasons why the current era of global action could be deemed the revenge the anarchist but certainly the tell tale signs are in the air. The organizing principles of the General Assemblies of the Occupy movement are direct results of anarchism (particularly the tendencies in Spain) with their interest in organizational methods that eschew hierarchies in favor of consensus. The underlying ethos of anti-hierarchy, the valuing of consensus, and the inherent paranoia of power from every angle (government and corporate alike) are tell-tale signs of the anarchist influence. There are so many anarchist methods in the air today that they are hard to recognize as over the course of the last fifteen years they have begun to infuse themselves in the conditions of urban living.
Friedrich Neitzche wrote that doing makes the do-er and nothing could be more valuable in the strategies put in place by lifestyle anarchists. While Marxism drifted into the halls of academia and the labor movement shifted toward a nationalist, xenophobic, get your own corruption, lifestyle anarchists were developing new ways of being in the world. Food give-aways like Food not Bombs, community gardens, critical mass bike rides, squatting and social centers, DIY punk shows, pirate radio, hacking and artisanal forms of commerce and mutualism slowly but surely made their way into the centers of what is the contemporary form of urban living. And in so doing, these forms of being in the world that attempt to gravitate power back to the local are now the obvious principles of this movement.
Over the last twenty years, the do-ing of lifestyle anarchism has gravitated out of the hands of squatter punks and entered into that peculiar thing we know as the urban hipster. Without being derogatory (as the name hipster tends to evoke gasps of revulsion and dread), one can certainly draw a parallel between these tendencies in the shaping of the urban condition. The urge to get off the grid and return trade and personal experience back to the local, and out of the hands of the large-scale corporate monopolies, has in many ways become synonymous with the qualities of urban living. It is hard to imagine the contemporary imagination of gentrification without seeing knitting, bicycling, community gardens, and artisanal everything. This entire train of thought could open up an entire discussion of the benefits and problematics of this legacy and the point of this essay is not to go into this in too much depth. The point is to demonstrate how radically many of the lifestyle attributes of anarchism slipped away from anarchists over a decade ago, and have now become the default ethos of an entire urban generation. For it isn’t just the forms of life of lifestyle anarchism that have gathered momentum, but with that, their underlying ethos of autonomy.
It is no surprise to me that many in the occupy movement do not see their political motivations as anarchist. They certainly do not read the books, quote Proudhon and Emma Goldman, dress in black, listen to punk, or squat anything. Yet, they possess a deep belief in getting off the grid, questioning authority, consensus, mutualism and political paranoia. Yes, power is in the corporations, but it is also in the hands of the military, the government, the institutions, and on and on. At the same time, many that claim they are anarchists have a tough time relating to the multitudes in the movement that share their values in this form of life, but do not self-identify as anarchist nor possess the same kind of identity and ideological affinity to the actual term. Some anarchists, lets face it, went into anarchism for the purpose of resisting everyone. It can be an inherently anti-populist movement embedded in a populist struggle. I’m sympathetic to this manner of paradoxically working. It can also be frustrating for many political anarchists to witness so many hipster activists who possess such poorly articulated critiques of power, capitalism, gender, race, process, etc. Hey, but that is movement building for you. But the humorous point of all this is that the entire movement is predominately anarchist by nature and very few people know it.
Hipsters are the strange children of the anarchists.
This is an anarchist movement; in spirit, in principles, in organization. Much to the chagrin of the supposedly more strategic left-wing organizers, this movement privileges process and consensus. But it is also an anarchist movement much to the chagrin of many self-identified anarchists. Coming to terms with the new values that have been instilled by the last twenty years of increasingly autonomous forms of living encouraged by the restructuring of urban life and capital, is part of the task of not only OWS but of movements to come.