A short and eloquent reflection on the meaning of “anarchism”, by Christian Jesús Ferrer…
There is nothing more mysterious than the fate of anarchism, an ideal that might seem exaggerated if it were not so extremely sensible. Although the passage of time has diminished its brilliance, and it was even taken for dead, the “libertarian question” insistently continued to be posed, as anarchists seem to have the qualities of the phoenix, that of being reborn from themselves, as avatars that are reincarnated in diverse neighbouring and adjacent fields. The anarchist ideal, although it was politically and culturally noteworthy, is incomprehensible in our day unless we do not first turn the world on its head. In truth, anarchy always had a bad press – from the beginning -: a “utopia”. Called messianic, then, something wild, at times alive only in spirit, always sharp, caustic.
Do what you want, live the way you would like life to be lived in the future, do not join military ranks, do not eat animal carcasses, the enemy of the king is you, loathe prisons, glorify sex, affirm yourself, neither obey nor give orders, do not humiliate and do not let yourself be humiliated, do not abandon a partner, a comrade, in the lurch, rather pariah than hierarch, you can take sides [partido] and be part of the game [la partida] but not form a party [un partido], borders are false and the law a fiction from which the powerful take advantage, love is free and long live losing. Such are the watchwords, or counterweights, a decalogue of antagonism and amazement. As for the anarchists, it was said of them that they were frightful, and sometimes the characterisation was deserved.
It is useless to ponder their acts, their ups and downs, resorting only to the measure of success or failure, because the fact that “the Idea” has appeared in the world – as they called the ensemble of their principles – is a mystery of history . It does not seem natural. For the most part, even reluctantly, people conform to the world as it is, appeasing the inevitable malaise with aid, subsidies, and a few days of holidays over the course of the exhausting work year. There are few trying to turn things quickly around. The pyramids are also constructed to be climbed, not to be knocked down, stone by stone. Anarchism can be considered as an unusual, forceful and irreducible response to the existence of powers separate from the community, not less than to the obstacles and interdictions interposed to the will of personal self-creation, in short to everything that discourages or tries to direct the mad desire to live and precisely for that reason the anarchist creed promoted a multiple revolution: cultural, psychological and political at the same time. It was too much to ask, it was being right in excess, it was living without fear, with organisation and without it, it was enjoying the banquet, together, at least while the affinity lasted. No more than that, no less than that.
From the beginning of anarchism, when Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin laid the foundations, different branches and tributaries very quickly unfolded that emphasised, each in its own way, different possibilties: mutualism, collectivism, free love, concern for nature, vegetarianism, syndicalism, individualism, religiosity without established churches, spontaneity, female emancipation, morality without dogmas, experimental communes and a few other challenges that in their time seemed risky, if not flowers of evil: giving off a sometimes acidic odour, sometimes sensual, always varied and inventive. In addition, the aptitude of anarchism to influence people, ideas and groups, and sometimes multitudes, who did not necessarily define themselves as anarchists but who felt “called” to sympathise with these principles or to reconsider their own convictions, should be highlighted. In all cases, hierarchical power was considered a human catastrophe, the enemy of lives that could have been less harassed.
The opponents of anarchism are well known. The clergy, the powerful, the military, the bosses, the “patriots”, the rulers, without forgetting the communists, their old enemies since before the already forgotten Soviet Union existed. Those adversaries knew that libertarian sensibility emphasised issues and problems that had no resolution in the system of domination such as it was: among others, their very early criticism of technique and industrialism, their warnings about ecological excesses, their exhortations to desert failed affective relations, their defence of sexual emancipation, in addition to their condemnation of the imperialists, an aspect not always underlined. Anarchist practices, that is, their ways of living, sought to dissociate themselves from hierarchical power, whose image, inherited by all generations, is vertical, concentric, ascending, indestructible, immemorial. The anarchists however were not so much concerned with the before or after of the state, but with what was beyond its control. Insufficient thought is given to the fact that most human activities take place “outside” the principle of hierarchy, be it through networks of friendly sociability, peer groups or the countless conversations of endless intimacies.
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