Prefuturist anarchism - Raz Chaoten

An article arguing the division between lifestyle and class struggle anarchism is a false one, published in Black Flag magazine, with which we do not agree but reproduce here for reference and discussion.

Errico Malatesta, an Italian Anarchist revolutionary and propagandist in the 1920s wrote two articles entitled “Let’s Demolish…and then?” and “Postscript to ´Lets demolish…and then?” In these he wrote of the need for revolutionaries to have firm and practical ideas about what we could replace the institutions we wish to abolish with. A good and clear example would be food: in a hypothetical situation in which somehow the working class (not limited to actual employed urban workers, but as a general term to describe those that do not constitute, and are exploited by the ruling class) managed to destroy the institutions of the state and capital, how would we feed ourselves the very next day? If we do not have solid answers to questions such as these, all talk of revolution is foolish and perhaps even dangerous, as a successful insurrectionary period against the established order would most likely simply result in chaos, out of which a new oppressive order would arise, rather than a society based on the principles of anarchism. If people’s experience of post-revolutionary life seems to be significantly worse than what preceded it, it is only to be expected that they will put trust in authoritarian figures promising a return to stability - and such figures, history shows, are always to be expected to reveal themselves in like circumstances.

If we accept this line of reasoning, it seems imperative for those interested in working to achieve such a revolution to experiment in the here-and-now with “anarchic” alternatives to the hierarchical structures which today, whether we like it or not, meet so many of our basic needs. If such alternatives are discovered, it then becomes imperative to raise awareness as much as possible of their existence and the practicalities of how they function. For instance, if an ingenious and highly feasible alternative to policing and incarceration is devised by a small collective of revolutionary experimenters, they must spread the knowledge of it as much as possible amongst the general population. Therefore, if a successful insurrection ever takes place there will hopefully be enough people with knowledge of this new system to be able to implement it immediately, or without significant delay. Thus, if the mass of people perceive that their quality of life has significantly improved as a result of the revolution, it is likely that they will keep faith in it and work to advance its ends, which after all, should be their own, or else what’s the point?

This revolutionary experimentation, which I shall henceforth refer to as “prefuturist anarchism”, cannot be limited merely to material questions. It must also be about experimentation in different modes of relating both to one another, and our environment, for a genuine revolution is a fundamental change in social relations, with consequences for all aspects of our lives. Prefuturist anarchists would ask the question “how would I behave after the revolution, in a given situation?” This is in line with prefuturism in general, which is a philosophical school that conceptualises the present in terms of it’s relation to an as-yet-undefined future, asking the question “what would I do now, with the benefit of hindsight?”.

The great appeal of prefuturist anarchism is that it is not necessary for its participants to actually believe in the likelihood, or even possibility of an anarchist revolution coming about. They may simply like the idea of anarchism, or even just prefer the “anarchic” alternatives to material, social and environmental relations to the mainstream. There are many people in such a condition, which I will refer to as “anarcho-cynicism”. Anarcho-cynics may never join a revolutionary organisation or even discuss the idea of revolution as a serious possibility. But this would not stop them from participating in, say, workshops on consensus decision making, or a co-operative enterprise of some kind. Thus what many revolutionary anarchists dismiss as “lifestylism” is actually integral to the class struggle, as long as it meets the above criteria of being combined with attempts to spread the “anarchic” alternatives beyond the limited circles in which they are currently practiced. Anarchist revolutionary strategy is, by necessity “a strategy of having many strategies”, as an American comrade once put it. Workplace agitation (which most revolutionaries put so much emphasis on) is one such strategy, “lifestylism” is another, and it is meaningless to debate which is the more significant as to be ultimately successful they must complement each other.

The practice of mutual aid and cooperation in the here and now almost always helps the cause of revolution, the exception of course being cooperation with the bosses, the State, or any other source of authority when they try to prevent revolutionary activity. To me this is what George Fontenis meant when he wrote in the “Manifesto of Libertarian Communism” that anarchism is not a humanism, and that there is not one humanity but two (which he called the ruling class and the working class, others may prefer different terminology) - we do not apply the same ethical standards to our class enemies as we do to each other (i.e. mutual aid and cooperation). This is contrary to “anarcho-pacifists” who take lifestylism to such an extreme that it does indeed cease to be revolutionary.

“Revolutionary” activity itself can be said to be prefuturistic, when it is undertaken in non-revolutionary circumstances. We imagine ourselves in a post-revolutionary mode of existence, in which class society and the institutions, ideologies and relations that sustain it have been abolished. We then imagine ourselves looking back, with hindsight, to the present, and we ask, “what did I do back then which helped to achieve this?” We then base our action in the present on such a thought process, and do what we think must be done in order to one day make possible an anarchist revolution.

This is not to say that we believe such a revolution to be inevitable - one of the fundamental errors of certain branches of Marxism. All that we can ever know about the future is that is has not happened yet. This truism is the existential basis for pre-futurist thought: the condition of being “before the future” or “prefuturist”, is fundamental to human existence. However, recognition of the agency of our conscious desires allows us to know at least one more basic fact about the future: that our actions, conscious or not, will affect it, possibly in ways that our desirous to us. We have all experienced desires that came to fruition on the basis of action we took as a result of the very same desire. So if the future is up for grabs, at least in the sense that it is not predetermined, why shouldn’t we be the ones to try and grab it?

If a hypothetical post-revolutionary future is desirous to us, why should we not work to achieve revolution? Not to do so would be to deny ourselves, at least so it seems to me. This line of argument may not be enough to convince the proponents of anarcho-cynicism, but the beauty of prefuturist anarchism is that it does not need to. As long as they participate in activities that may have a knock on effect on making possible a revolution in the future, whether or not they do it for that reason, then they are revolutionaries, and so is anyone else who participates in such activity.
So enough of “class struggle anarchists” moaning about “hippies” and “lifestylists”. To commit yourself to living differently from the norm in this society is truly a struggle in itself, and one which goes hand in hand with the struggle to liberate the working class. And enough of lifestylists and Anarcho-cynics dismissing revolutionary ideology and its adherents as close-minded idealists stuck in the past. Class society still exists, as is evident by a moment’s contemplation of social reality, so opposition to such a society should not be considered a relic of a by-gone age but an urgent necessity for the present.
Our struggles are one.

Toward a revolutionary future, by whichever means seem necessary to us in the present.
Towards Anarchy!

Comments

Steven.
May 8 2010 15:27

this article makes assertions, but with no sort of evidence to back it up. So basically it seems to be 1500 words saying "can't we all just get along?".

I don't mean to be harsh, but I don't really see the point of this article. Eating out of bins and not using deodorant (lifestyleism) has nothing to do with creating social change, and this article doesn't have any evidence to make me think otherwise.

Ed
May 8 2010 15:38

Of all the years to travel back in time to, why did I choose 2004? confused

Joseph Kay
May 8 2010 15:43

well to play devils advocate, eating out of bins can be useful. skipped food helped feed hundreds of people in the Sussex Uni occupation. Of course then it was a practical means to sustain a collective direct action rather than a lifestyle choice...

Invictus_88
May 8 2010 21:22

One can readily accept the value of prefuturist anarchism (the main point of the article) without accepting all of the things which exist under the umbrella of Lifestyle Anarchism.

Cooked
May 8 2010 23:37

I have personally stayed away from anarchism mainly due to a dislike of the lifestylist element. I do however find the almost religious condemnation of all lifestylist things on this site a bit odd. I suspect personal traumas or over enthusiasm after recent conversions to the new faith wink

Similarly the "economic" argument that you shouldn't do this or that because it is ineffective and wasteful of energy does not take into account that people have different abilities and feel able to contribute in diffrent ways.

The reactions to these tendencies go way beyond normal constructive criticism which would help people develop into more mature politics. The word sectarian comes to mind...

(My comments reflect beyond this thread)

Rob Ray
May 9 2010 10:15

Mm it's not my personal favourite article in the magazine, the version we published stripped out some of the more repetitive/pretentious bits to get it down to page-length.

Nyarlathotep
May 10 2010 15:14

The whole concept of "lifestylist" is a bit distorted, in my opinion. Bookchin was just making a general point about the poor quality of left-wing social revolution (or what passed for such) among the post-Woodstock generations...now "lifestylist" has become a derrogitory smear for anyone who doesn't follow the neo-"platformist" party line. (Which would probably actually include the late Bookchin) If these socialist ideologues, "libertarian" or otherwise, had any sort of social power, it would be the Rengo Sekigun all over again.

Bookchin's original "Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism" (1997) is not even in the running for his most interesting essay. I agree with his criticisms of, say, bohemianism, but Bookchin himself is guilty of "mak[ing] assertions, but with no sort of evidence to back it up"....for example he tries to make the historical case that "social anarchism" and (Stirnerite, not Tucker-Spooner) "individualist anarchism" were two deeply contradictory and irreconcilable schools of thought. For an alternative view I suggest reading Avrich's "The Russian Anarchists".

Another example is Bookchin's wack-job attempts at etymological interpretation of various words ("freedom", "autonomy", etc.) Not only does he fabricate a historical social rift that didn't actually really exist, he claims without evidence that only good social anarchists use the word "freedom" while bad, liberal-infested egoist individualists use words like "liberty" and "autonomy". Again, besides being historically untrue and a total fabrication from Bookchin's mind, (as any historical survey of European anarchist literature will tell you) this goes beyond legitimate self-criticism and into nut-bar, disciplinarian Rengo Sekigun thought-police territory.

Here's a good example of how Bookchin lacks any sort of vigor in much of his criticism:

Quote:
More recent works on lifestyle anarchism generally sidestep Stirner's sovereign, all-encompassing 'I,' albeit retaining its egocentric emphasis, and tend toward existentialism, recycled Situationism, Buddhism, Taoism, antirationalism, and primitivism

So we have an alleged academic conflating existentialism, Max Stirner, Situatonism, Buddhism, Taoism, and John Zerzan-style "primitivism"...I might as well say that college Republicans are the same thing as Lyndon LaRouche and the Flat Earth Society. "Lifestylism" is just a laundry list of regions of intellectual exploration that need to be banned so the free-thinking individual doesn't learn to question the party line.

Joseph Kay
May 9 2010 15:46
Nyarlathotep wrote:
now "lifestylist" has become a derrogitory smear for anyone who doesn't follow the neo-"platformist" party line.

i really don't think this is true, not least because like many of the posters here i'm critical of both lifestylism and neo-platformism. it's not a smear, it's a real tendency that substitutes lifestyle change for social change, for example this woman spoke recently at the Cowley Club in Brighton. now of course the term can be applied innapropriately, but when used correctly it's perfectly valid to criticise it.

Nyarlathotep
May 9 2010 15:52

Which is why I think there is much validity to Bookchin's observations on the post-Woodstock anarchists. Bookchin obviously spent years carefully studying the Spanish Civil War, so I would be disappointed if he didn't realize that bohemian slumming and dumpster-diving has nothing to do with an actual protracted class-war.

At the same time, with his original essay on lifestylism, Bookchin began to paint a broad ideological condemnation of anyone who disagreed with his specific philosophical background, a tendency which his followers (who, like all followers, are of significantly lesser intellectual quality than the original) tend to exasperate. Thus any anarchist who studies Buddhism or Taoism, or doesn't have some sort of slavish, knee-jerk, cookie-cutter agreement with young Marx's criticism of Stirner in "The Holy Family", or is more interested in Foucault than Noam Chomsky, or argues, like Postone, that Marx's critique of capitalism is a critique of social modernity, is lumped in with John Zerzan and Crimethinc.

Joseph Kay
May 9 2010 15:58

well, any term can be misused. that doesn't mean criticism shouldn't be applied to that which it properly denotes. the article states:

Prefuturist Anarchism wrote:
Workplace agitation (which most revolutionaries put so much emphasis on) is one such strategy, “lifestylism” is another, and it is meaningless to debate which is the more significant

which is just fuzzy 'i'm ok, you're ok' thinking. there's literally no point in strategy unless you evaluate its efficacy. some things are utterly inneffective (like Katherine Hibbert's book), others may have some use, others still may be more promising. but the article says we shouldn't make such judgements, but just do it all because it's all necessary - a baseless assertion.

Rats
May 9 2010 16:09

Jeez, hasn't this person read Conquest of Bread?
The basic theory is that we take into account our needs, and our history, and hopefully through a correctly balanced equation we can get a socially and ecologically sustainable answer. Amirite?

also; opinion on dumpster diving is surely contained to a national context. Anyone else here experienced the joys of an australian supermarket dumpster? They have more variety than the shops themselves.

Anarchia
May 10 2010 11:44
Quote:
also; opinion on dumpster diving is surely contained to a national context. Anyone else here experienced the joys of an australian supermarket dumpster? They have more variety than the shops themselves.

Yes, you can get a lot of good stuff from dumpsters in Australia. Obv though, there's nothing "wrong" with dumpster diving, the point is that there's nothing remotely revolutionary / anarchist / communist (or, I would prob argue, even political) about it. If you want to do it (because you're poor, or because you'd rather spend your money on an iPod, or because it's nighttime, you're hungry and the shops are closed) then obviously you should, but don't pretend that you're in any way doing something that will help to bring about a revolutionary situation.

Rats
May 10 2010 08:49

Word up comrade asher.

Anarchia
May 10 2010 11:45

I should have added, nor should you pretend that it in any way means you can escape capitalism, nor that it is a method that could be adopted by a great mass of people.

Farce
May 10 2010 13:19

This bit from the AF's introduction pamphlet was actually written before Prefuturist Anarchism, but I still think it works pretty well as a reply:

Quote:
The Limits of Prefiguration: Lifestylism

The labels ‘lifestylist’ and ‘individualist’ are often used, frequently unfairly, as insults and so we have to be very careful when we use them. When we talk about ‘lifestyle’ politics we’re talking about a kind of politics that focuses in some way on ‘dropping out’ of capitalism, on getting ‘off the grid’ and living without relying on capitalist exploitation. This can mean many things. It can be something small scale like living in squats and surviving by stealing from supermarkets or taking the perfectly good food that they throw out (‘skipping’ or ‘dumpster diving’). Or it can be something much larger like a project to communally farm a piece of land or establish a new community.

The reasons that people have for doing this kind of thing are very good ones. They see the harm that capitalism does every day and want no part of it. By stealing or taking what is thrown away they try to stop giving support back to the bosses that exploit us and people all over the world. By going back to the land and trying to be self-sufficient in food and power they try to live with as few links to global capitalism as possible. More than this, often these kind of political lifestyle choices involve building and living in communities based on solidarity and mutual respect. Many involved in this kind of activity would argue that this is ‘building the new society in the shell of the old’.

Whilst we respect many people who make these personal lifestyle choices, we reject this as a useful form of political action. The main reason for this is that it is not something that the majority of people can easily involve themselves in. Those with significant debts, dependants, health problems or any number of other things that limit their freedom of action find it very difficult, if not impossible, to ‘drop out’.
There is no possibility for building a lifestylist mass movement. Indeed, lifestylism does not attempt to overthrow or destroy capitalism; it only attempts to wash its own hands clean of the blood.

This is, in fact, a huge political problem with lifestyle responses to capitalism. Often this form of politics leads to a kind of elitism and snobbery on the part of people living ‘political’ lifestyles. Ordinary people become ‘sheeple’, hopelessly brainwashed by their jobs and the media and as much part of the problem as the people that own and run the economy. In its most extreme forms, such as primitivism, this leads people to openly call for the extermination of the majority of the human race and a return to a hunter gatherer lifestyle.

This kind of attitude is not an inevitable consequence of dropping out, but it is very common, and it is the result of an individualist way of looking at capitalism. Capitalism does not exploit us as individuals: it exploits us as classes or groups. We are exploited as workers, as women, as non-white minorities or even majorities. We are oppressed as gay or transgender, as professionals with some perks, or temporary workers with none, as ‘consumers’ in the west and as disposable labourers in the global south.

If we respond to the damage that capitalism does to us as individuals then the only logical answer is to abstain. You live without a job, without shopping, without relying on the systems of exploitation that surround us. If this is impossible, then you minimise your impact. You get an ‘ethical’ job, buy ‘ethical’ products and reduce your contribution to exploitation that way. From here it’s only a short step to despising the people who aren’t as ‘enlightened’ as you, who keep capitalism going by ‘refusing’ to abstain.

However, if you respond to capitalism as a member of a broader exploited class, then the logical response is collective. You show solidarity with people in the same situation as you, you fight where you are for better conditions, and for more control over the conditions of life. A collective response like this is always oppositional. It always has to fight capitalism rather than trying to go round it. It is, in potential, the beginning of a mass movement and the basis of a new society based on the recognition of our common interests.

In the end, it is this that the ruling class are afraid of, not people dropping out, and it is this that we should be looking to try and build.

Joseph Kay
May 10 2010 14:05
Cooked wrote:
The word sectarian comes to mind...

fwiw i know the author of this and we work together on various things. political criticism ≠ sectarianism.

Nyarlathotep
May 10 2010 15:12
Quote:
which is just fuzzy 'i'm ok, you're ok' thinking. there's literally no point in strategy unless you evaluate its efficacy.

Obviously I am with you on this - I'm just explaining why I don't rely so exclusively on the term "lifestylism" to articulate these sort of criticisms.

Quote:
also; opinion on dumpster diving is surely contained to a national context. Anyone else here experienced the joys of an australian supermarket dumpster? They have more variety than the shops themselves.

You're missing the point. Grocery shopping and dumpster diving are both just efforts that the majority of humanity must make to survive under capitalism. Both activities signify our dependence upon the global economy. The majority of the human race already survives off of "dumpster diving" so there's nothing fundamentally paradigm-shifting about advocating it. Beyond simply rejecting legalistic ethics in all aspects of life, (since here in the US dumpster-diving is illegal) it's just self-indulgent wankery by segments of the working-class that wouldn't be dependent on dumpster-diving in the first place and are only doing it so they can wallow in a sense of abject squalor rather than participate in our collective liberation.

Yorkie Bar
May 10 2010 21:11
Quote:
Obv though, there's nothing "wrong" with dumpster diving, the point is that there's nothing remotely revolutionary / anarchist / communist (or, I would prob argue, even political) about it. If you want to do it (because you're poor, or because you'd rather spend your money on an iPod, or because it's nighttime, you're hungry and the shops are closed) then obviously you should, but don't pretend that you're in any way doing something that will help to bring about a revolutionary situation.

To be honest this says everything that that pamphlet says on the subject, better and more succinctly.

Cooked
May 11 2010 12:47
Quote:
Quote:
The word sectarian comes to mind...

fwiw i know the author of this and we work together on various things. political criticism ≠ sectarianism.

Yes you are correct there is nothing in your comments or this thread suggesting sectarianism. My apologies for bringing issues observed elsewhere in the forums to this thread.

Jenni
May 11 2010 15:07

i don't see a problem with being 'sectarian' about the notion that lifestyle choices have anything to do with class politics. the basis of the article is like doing science backwards, starting with a theory you like and then finding/concocting the evidence; it begins with the assertion that lifestylism is revolutionary and then desperately tries to validate this using vague philosophy and even vaguer appeals to 'working together'. the whole point of class struggle is that it doesn't need to be cleverly justified, it just exists as the only way people can really affect their conditions.

JoeMaguire
May 11 2010 17:11

Borrowed heavily from leftist groups where the word is banded about all the time, sectarianism is now taken to mean you essentially have a consistent criticism or argument against another group. A kind of battleships for the lefty trainspotters. In essence I think you would arguably have to be in the same movement for it to be valid, this applies arguably to the liberal fringe as it does anarchist/leninist divide. Whether were talking communist or/and libertarian politics is almost by and by. When in reality sectarianism means to simply put your own groups [or relative body/bodies] needs above those of the needs of the class. Its simply there to call out people who are in reality building fiefdoms or cliques rather than advancing struggle, when it seems to be forever used to be a catchism for almost anything.

Cooked
May 11 2010 21:14

My understanding of the term was that it describes the tendency of (particularly fringe) religious, political, cultural groups to feel more antipathy toward, and direct more energy against, groups who hold views similar to their own than towards groups who really are their opponents.

I am foreign though and english is not my first language.

Sectarianism as described above seems to be an incredibly strong force, that appears in every fringe grouping. Very much worth while keeping it in check.

JoeMaguire
May 12 2010 00:29
Quote:
Sectarianism as described above seems to be an incredibly strong force, that appears in every fringe grouping. Very much worth while keeping it in check.

Were talking about political sectarianism. Not really. People can choose to organise in numerous ways and still not hamper the class in any definitive sense. I would have thought it was referring to people who wreck practical activity aimed at wider benefit because it chooses to follow a sect mentality. For example there was a demo two years ago called by locals and trade unionists against the BNP's - Red, white and blue festival and UAF from what I remember decided to call for a separate demo elsewhere. Its unprincipled nonsense like that which needs to be called sectarian.

Raz Chaoten
May 15 2010 14:25

Hi everyone.
Thank you for at least not saying explicitly "this guy is a hippy scumbag who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes".
yes, i spend my time between squats and protest camps, yes i eat food from bins. Shock horror, i even have long hair and write folky reggae songs. ( really dont get what peoples problem with that song is by the way, ever heard of constructive criticism? as opposed to just "this guy wrote this song i dont like so therefore dont listen to anything he has to say")

However, in "prefuturist anarchism" i dont say, anywhere, that people should live the same lifestyle as me, nor do i believe it. It wouldnt be possible and wouldnt be to most people's tastes. I do not claim that living like this is a "strategy" for social revolution. What i DO say is a strategy for social revolution, and which none of you have addressed, is "prefigurative experimentation", or "prefuturism".

In my life as a dirty lumpenprole scumbag hippy that ought to be crushed by a big fucking workers hammer, i have come across certain things that fall under this category, but which are not inextricably bound up with a certain lifestyle and which i beleive can be applied to other things.

A good example is the idea of a "safer spaces policy" which was used during the anarchist movement conference last year, which was full of "I'm definitely not a hippy" types like some of you seem to be. However, the context within which i'm more familiar with it is the political squatting scene. Safer spaces entails asking people to question aspects of their own behavior to ensure that they are not acting in an oppressive manner towards others. It's not about asking of yourself "should i nick this bit of food rather than paying for it" but "should i snap a sarcastic comment at this person or should i calmly explain my point".

"After the revolution" we would surely want society to have more of a culture of this, we would want all the world to be one big "safe space", otherwise it would not really be a society free of all forms of oppression. So trying our best in the here and now to apply this to the spaces in which we operate (whether they're squats or ridiculously overpriced hired university buildings) is both an experiment to give a clearer picture of the future we're fighting for, and a way of materially improving our lives in the present (because hopefully less people feel too intimidated to speak their mind and contribute with useful ideas).

I dont deny that many of us hippy squatter types are indeed, very smelly. I was called up on this only yesterday. Also, reggae can be very repetitive and boring. No doubt about it. But we are still human, and not only that, we are the class allies of the proletariat because the interests of the bourgeoisie are contrary to our own (they want us to work for them, or take their dole money, we want to be autonomous). We also have real, functioning brains capable of abstract thought, much of which is not complete bollocks. So yeah, basically i am saying "cant we just get along?" Mutual aid? ever heard of it.

P.s. i didnt study anthropology but you werent far off the mark. What a capitalist i must be!

Joseph Kay
May 15 2010 14:53
Raz Chaoten wrote:
"After the revolution" we would surely want society to have more of a culture of this, we would want all the world to be one big "safe space", otherwise it would not really be a society free of all forms of oppression. So trying our best in the here and now to apply this to the spaces in which we operate (whether they're squats or ridiculously overpriced hired university buildings) is both an experiment to give a clearer picture of the future we're fighting for, and a way of materially improving our lives in the present (because hopefully less people feel too intimidated to speak their mind and contribute with useful ideas).

i've not come across 'safer spaces' before but i think the general point is fair enough, i think most people here would subscribe to some form of prefigurative politics. as i said above, my criticism is the idea it's meaningless to debate whether workplace agitation or "lifestylism" is more meaningful action. i think it absolutely needs to be debated, whatever your answer to that is (and i certainly don't think class struggle is confined to the workplace nor even to economic issues). now of course even if "lifestylism" is reected as a strategy, that doesn't mean you shouldn't live such a lifestyle. and fwiw i'd put against the wall before the hippies wink

Raz Chaoten
May 15 2010 15:09

Yes, clearly it is. yet many people dont seem to draw much of a link between the future they want to see and their behavior now. Lik mare people who call themselves anarchists and go around intimidating and discriminating against others on the basis of their lifestyle choices.
On the other hand some people, like who i would call actual hippies, think that their behaviour now and the future world is literally one and the same, ie that there doesnt need to be a revolution. I spend a lot of time arguing against these people so thats why i get pissed of when people assume i'm one of them cos of my appearance etc.
then there's insurrectionists who see the necessity of armed revolution, as do i, but dont really develop much of an idea of where to go from there, or even how to get to a point where an insurrection would actually achieve something, rather than being just a minority of violent people wondering why noone else is joining in.

So what i'm trying to do is to get people to join up the dots. Theres the class struggle, which for the purpose of this we can think of as people struggling for their material interests while class society still exist, whether by fighting for better pay or by "dropping out" like squatters (and believe me i'm much better of materially now than i was before, and it is still a struggle).
How do we get from the class struggle to revolutionary insurrection? The moment when we collectively destroy the oppressive institutions of capitalism?
All these arguments about whether you should be an industrial network of workplace resistance groups, or be an anarchosyndicalist union, dont seem to be to contribute anything to that debate.
Then finally, how do we get from the insurrection to the free society? This is where classical anarchist writers (to me) are worth reading: kropotkin, Magon, Malatesta. All these thought they were living in a time when the revolution could happen within a generation. So they thought long and hard about what anarchists would need to do to prevent an insurrection just turning into a new form of oppression. People today dont seem to think about these questions, they just mutter something vague about workers councils or spontaneity.

Life has changed a lot since the time of the classical anarchists. The same questions they tried to answer need to be asked again, but with modern answers. But i think that too many anarchists dont really see revolution or the free society as a serious possibility, its just a nice idea for some escapism, or its a theorectical construct. But capitalism is in crisis, insurections are already taking place in many places. And where are we? are we giving advice to the masses on how to take power over their own lives? maybe some of us. But when we talk collectivly we dont seem to really be sharing tips on how best to do this.
We seem to be bitching and calling each other names over the internet.

We need to remember that the future's coming and that we play a role in shaping, whether by our action or our inaction. Thats why i use the word prefuturist, so that i never stray too far down abstract theorectical ally's, and always remember what the whole fucking point is.
I advise others to do the same, hence why i wrote something and tried to get it published. I'll be writting a lot more on the same subject, taking people's criticisms on board. So please keep this thread going, as long as you're not gonna just childishly insult my creativity.

Raz Chaoten
May 15 2010 15:34

didnt see "joseph kay"'s response.

i guess i'm saying that i agree that just living an alternative lifestyle vs workplace struggle isnt a useful debate. But prefigurative experimentation has to be considered an important part of class struggle, so when particular "lifestylist" thing can also be considered a prefigurative experiment its is a pointless debate.

I also totally agree that non workplace struggles are still part of class struggle. I see my activity as class struggle activity and i dont have a job. but some types of community organising overlap a lot with "lifestylism", like communal volunteer and donation-based meals, safer spaces, squatting, and even skipping. It all depends how its being done.

mons
May 15 2010 18:44

I agree with you that we should behave in the now in a way that 'prefigures' how we wish a future society to be. For example, we want a future society without sexual oppression, so we should not discriminate against others on the basis of gender or sexuality. Equally, the 'safe spaces' thing you mention sounds reasonable, yes we want a safer society in the future now, and so keeping spaces safe now seems sensible. Nobody would dispute this. Also, this probably aids struggle, as it makes things more inclusive.
When it comes to things like skipping it's slightly different, because I don't see how that is an activity I'd like to do in the future, and cannot see its potential for changing society at all either. That's not to say it's bad, it just isn't revolutionary. As Asher says:

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Obv though, there's nothing "wrong" with dumpster diving, the point is that there's nothing remotely revolutionary / anarchist / communist (or, I would prob argue, even political) about it. If you want to do it (because you're poor, or because you'd rather spend your money on an iPod, or because it's nighttime, you're hungry and the shops are closed) then obviously you should, but don't pretend that you're in any way doing something that will help to bring about a revolutionary situation.

Why do you think

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living an alternative lifestyle vs workplace struggle isnt a useful debate

? Surely it is. It is worthwhile determining what factors aid struggle, and recognising some things do more than others. Otherwise we might as well just play scrabble and consider that revolutionary. Again, this is not to preach or moralise, we are not saying don't do it. Just I don't see how it is a substitute for actual workplace or community organising.

Jenni
May 16 2010 09:17

to be fair he isn't saying it's a substitute, he's saying it's an equally important stategy to coexist with class struggle. the problem i have is that it can't be equally important because i think for something to be of equal importance it has to have equal relevance to most people, and living alternative or experimentary lifestyles is pretty alien to the majority. i think, anyway. class struggle politics exist because they make sense in peoples lives/jobs/communities whatever, id argue thats even more important right now just as we're faced with a massive load of cuts. i guess this is why there's the (admittedly) knee jerk over the top response to people saying that living anarchically in the here and now is just as important, they dont want class struggle politics associated with something that's irrelevant to most of the people they know and meet, whether its work-based or whatever community based stuff is going on. just a thought anyway. on the other hand Raz i apologise for being unnecessarily rude, it was uncalled for. my bad. and as yuo say clearly you're not the "class enemy" or owt. wink

Farce
May 16 2010 16:58
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Then finally, how do we get from the insurrection to the free society? This is where classical anarchist writers (to me) are worth reading: kropotkin, Magon, Malatesta. All these thought they were living in a time when the revolution could happen within a generation. So they thought long and hard about what anarchists would need to do to prevent an insurrection just turning into a new form of oppression. People today dont seem to think about these questions, they just mutter something vague about workers councils or spontaneity.

I think this is a massive strawman. Obviously, I can't speak for any groups other than those I've been a part of, but I think that in my experience of class struggle anarchism there is a lot of reflection on how to prevent new forms of oppression emerging though our actions. F'r instance, we rotate the editorship of Resistance on a regular basis in order to minimise the influence of the individuals who produce it - obviously, that in itself isn't going to eliminate all hierarchy, but equally it's hardly the behaviour of people who just trust the workers councils to sort everything out.