Anarchism and Me - Stig Dagerman

Essay by Swedish philosopher Stig Dagerman on his view on anarchism and society after World War II.

Submitted by Reddebrek on October 3, 2020

The critics of Anarchism do not all have the same idea about the ideological danger it represents, and that idea differs according to the degree of animosity, and according to the legal possibilities they have to use it. In Spain during the years 1936-39 the Anarchist was considered so dangerous to society that it was decided to shoot him from both sides. (in fact he was suppressed not only in the front by German and Italian rifles but also suppressed at the rear by the Russian bullets of their Communist "allies"). The Swedish Anarchist is considered in some radical circles, mostly Marxists as a stubborn romantic, with deeply rooted liberal complexes. More or less consciously, they do not recognise the fact, that essentially the anarchist ideology combined with the economic theory (Syndicalism) finished, in Catalunya during the civil war, a system of production that worked perfectly, based on economic equality, and not on mental levelling, on practical co-operation without ideological violence, and on rational coordination without the death of individual liberty, contradictory concepts which unfortunately seems to be increasingly widespread in the form of synthesis. Beginning with the aim to refute some anti anarchist critics, which are often made be people who confuse their miserable armchair with a barrel of gunpowder. And who due to the example of a few reports about Russia think that they have a monopoly on the truth about the working class and its conditions. I intend in the following lines to stay on that form of Anarchism which is well known, particularly in Latin countries, by the name Anarcho-syndicalism and shown to be perfectly effective, not just for the conquest of previously drowned freedoms, but also for the conquest of bread.

In the choice of political ideology, that royal state of society that expresses at least a few hundredths of similarity with the ideals of which we dreamed, before we realised the earthly compassions are hopelessly unjust. The knowledge that the other options failed is also intermingled, whether they be Nazis, Fascists, liberals or some other kind of bourgeois tendency, or also socialists of many nuances, have shown by the quantity of ruins, deaths, maimed, in countries directly hit by war. But also by the neurosis and cases of insanity and lack of stability in countries that apparently escaped war like Sweden.

The criteria for anomaly in a social system, is not only indignant injustice in the disparity in food, clothes and education possibilities. It also needs to be established that the temporal authority which inspires fear in its administrators, must be the object of sound distrust. The systems based on terror like Nazism immediately show their nature by physical brutality without limits. But just a little deep thinking will quickly lead one to realise that even the state systems of the most democratic states place a heavy burden on ordinary mortals that not even ghosts or criminals can match. We all remember the great, black and frightening headlines in the newspapers during the Munich epoch, -indeed neuroses weigh on their consciences- but the war on nerves which the masters of the world are making right now in London through the General Assembly of the UN, is no less refined. Let us leave aside what is unacceptable in the fact that a handful of delegates can play with the destiny of more than one billion people, so that no one finds it outrageous, but who will say how horrific and barbaric, psychologically, the method is by who regulates world destinies? The psychic violence, which seems to be the common denominator in politics, which makes countries as different as England and the Soviet Union capable of justifying each others inhuman regimes. It seems that for the authoritarian regimes, both the democratic and the dictatorial, the state benefit gradually becomes the goal in itself with the original policy wiped away: To benefit the profits of some human groups. Unfortunately the defence of the human element has become a slogan of liberal propaganda, which covers the selfish interests of a few monopolies under gentile humanistic dogmas without much idealistic content, but this cannot of course threaten the human capacity for adaptation, as the propagandists for state action want us to believe.

The abstract process that the state has undergone over time is in my opinion, one of the most dangerous conventions a poet must go through. The worship of concrete, which Harry Martinson became aware during his trip to the USSR, that it is the nucleus of the state doctrine, (and which was shown by the portraits of Stalin in all sizes and hanging in every space) this was of course only a shortcut to the canonisation of the abstract which is part of the most frightening characteristics of the concept of state. The abstract precisely, by its immutability, by its location outside the sphere of influence, can dominate the action, paralyze the will, prevent the initiatives and align the energy to a catastrophic neurosis of the imprisonment with psychic violence, which can for a certain time, to guarantee rulers some peace, comfort and apparent political sovereignty, but which can ultimately only have an effect as a social boomerang. The compensation which is given to the individual at every ballot, for the abilities at which he is deprived, are not enough for him and it is certain more and more that his capacity for initiative will be compressed. The unforeseeable links, which above the clouds unite in common the complex but grand destinies, the state and the big capitalists the rulers with those who handle them, and the politics with the money, bring into the ignorant part of humanity, a fatalism that neither the state-owned companies for housing construction nor the romances of Upton Sinclair have managed to cut off.

One can try to prove that the democratic state of the modern times represents some new type of inhumanity, that has the same values of the authoritarian regimes of previous times. The principle "Divide to rule" has certainly not been left behind, but the anxiety arising from hunger, the anxiety arising from thirst, the anxiety arising from social inquisition had, at least in principle, to give place, as a means of sovereignty within the province of providence, to the anxiety arising from the uncertainty and powerlessness in which the individual is, in order to dispose of the principal part of his destiny. Sunk in the state block, the individual is constantly tormented by an obsessive feeling of uncertainty and powerlessness, which reminds one of the boat in a tempest, or a carriage attached to a runaway train, where you are capable of thinking but cannot understand the signals, or change the track.

Some have tried to define the obsessive analysis of anxiety that characterises my novel "The Serpent" as some kind of "romanticism of anxiety". but romanticism involves an analytical unconscious, a deliberate way of ignoring every fact that risks not coming into line with his idea of things. While the anxious romantic, catching a secret joy to suddenly see that they got everything right, desires to mix the total in a system of anxiety. The analyst of anxiety fights against this totality with their analysis like a former bastion, stripping with its small knife all of its secret branches. According to the political viewpoint, it must follow that the romantic who accepts everything, must feed the braziers of his faith, and cannot blame anything on a social system based on anxiety, and even accepts it with a fatalistic joy. For me, who on the contrary is an analyst of anxiety, it is by the analytical process of elimination, that a solution for a societal machine that does not run on anxiety and fear as the source of its energy can be found. Of course it is true, that this supposes a totally new political dimension that has to liberate us from the conventions that we usually assume to be absolutes. Sociological psychology must give us the task of destroying the myth of the "effectiveness" of centralisation: the neurosis caused by a lack of perspective and by the impossibility of identifying one's own situation in society, cannot be offset by material advantages merely visible.

The break up of the Macro-groups into small individualistic unions who collaborate amongst themselves but otherwise self govern, advocated by Anarcho-syndicalism, is the only possible psychological solution in a neurotic world where the weight of the political superstructure squeezes the individual.

The objection that international cooperation would be hampered by the destruction of the various states, of course, does not stand in the way of analysis; for no one would dare to assert that the foreign policy made, at the world level, by various states, contributed to a closer approximation of the countries between them.

More serious is the objection that humanity will not be capable of living within an Anarchistic society. Possibly there is some truth in this view, at least to an extent: the reflection of the group consists of the education it absorbs, and paralysis of initiative this causes affects political thinking in many ways. (It is mainly for this reason that I explained my views on Anarchism in a negative sense.) But I doubt that authoritarianism and centralisation is inherent in humanity. On the contrary, I would rather believe that a new thought, in its own way, which, for lack of a better term, I would call intellectual primitivism, and which, by a very fine analysis, would carry out an x-ray of the principal conventions omitted by its ancestor, the sexual primitivism could eventually make proselytes among all who, at the expense of, among others, neuroses and world wars, wish to match their calculations with those of Marx, Adam Smith or the Pope. This may in turn imply a new literary dimension, the principles of which should be explored.

The anarchist author (necessarily pessimistic, because his is consious of the fact, that his contribution can only be symbolic) can momentarily attribute to himself, a totally good consciense, the modest role of an earthquake in the cultural humus, which without him would remain barren due to the dryness of conventions. To be the politician of the impossible, in a world where those of the possible are already too many, this is despite everything a role that contents me, as a social creature, as an individual and as author of "the serpent".



3 years 8 months ago

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Submitted by Reddebrek on October 3, 2020

I translated this from the Esperanto version,

Found several paragraphs to be incredibly difficult, and I haven't his book the Snake which is referred to heavily, but its been checked by a Swedish esperantist and another swede after the original was found.