The act of remembrance is not for us, as we so often repeat, one of simple commemoration, nor of retrospective evaluation: was an event, a movement, a revolt, a revolution, significant? The question begs criteria, criteria of what is politically and socially important, which is in turn judged according to “measurable” changes in what exists.
Originally published by Autonomies.
As a project, yes. Projection, planning and programming have never done anything but project what it was possible to calculate at a given moment. And consequently, they block the image of a future already hemmed in. Of course, it is necessary to predict and calculate: but we must first manage to see what must be seen and therefore fore-seen. Should we project more cars? Vehicles with different energies but with the same principle of quasi-individual travel? Not cars but other forms of transport? What ones? For what kind of city? What kind of journey? We quickly find ourselves beyond the projectable and the possible. But it’s always a question of something beyond the possible! The burgher of 1430 had no idea what would happen in 1492, when Columbus reached an ‘American’ island. And in 1930, we had little idea of Europe and the world in 1992. Which is not to say that nothing should be done: we should be careful, but careful of what is not visible, not recognisable, not formed…Jean-Luc Nancy, (interview: L’Humanité, 28 August 2013)
Judgements of this nature however submit and are confined to what is, to existing social relations, institutions, authorities. Politics are gauged by the extent to which these later may be pushed, altered, changed. In other words, it is to engage in reformist (i.e., accepted, legal, institutionalised) politics (or the flipside, opposition to the same) and to thereby accept the existing frame, and therefore limits, of that politics. (A “revolutionary politics” whose ambition is to overthrow what exists and create something against it, can, by this light, also be called “reformist”). A “true radical” politics is then assessed in terms of efficacy, of a possible future projected from what presently exists. The realisable future is thereby defined by the present and any other politics is deemed impracticable and illusory, both at the level of means (method, practice) and ends (utopia).
What is absent from such a politics is what is not, what is not socially evident, what is not politically taken for granted; more positively, what is imaginable, what can be fantasised, dreamed, invented, discovered. It is all of this which reformism sets aside in the name of effective realism.
Leon Trotsky records in his political autobiography, My Life, an encounter – his first – with an anarchist named Luzin.
The first time I ever met a living anarchist was in the Moscow transfer prison. He
was a village school-teacher, Luzin, a man reserved and uncommunicative, even cruel. In
prison he always preferred to be with the criminals and would listen intently to their tales
of robbery and murder. He avoided discussions of theory. But once when I pressed him to
tell me how railways would be managed by autonomous communities, he answered: “Why
the hell should I want to travel on rail ways under anarchism?” That answer was enough
for me. (Leon Trotsky, My Life, 1930)
Trotsky’s contempt for the anarchist is that of the judge of history and of real politics; it is the contempt of the dictator – political, but also ethical and cognitive.
It is in this same spirit that the “occupy movement” of the united states, born with the occupation Zuccotti Park on the 17th of September, 2011, in New York City, as Occupy Wall Street, is judged and condemned: it failed in its goals (in effect, it changed nothing), it was inept in its means (e.g., occupation, horizontal-consensual decision making, absence of leaders and political programme) and bequeaths no lasting legacy.
It is not our intention to invert this judgement by for example recalling the impact of Occupy on the political party debate in the country – which it did and does have -, nor to cite its many afterlives in ongoing political engagements and activity – and they are abundant. Even less is it a call for some new form of organisation – inevitably, a political party with leadership and programme, capable of giving shape to the multitude in struggle on a large enough scale to confront global capital (e.g., in the guise of “reformed” social democratic parties, populist-Left parties, neo-Leninism, and the like).
And if one may point to the obvious: these last examples have been realised nowhere and if they are are to be judged by historical precedent, they will most likely end in monumental and tragic failure. And, furthermore, it is by no means obvious that, by contrast, the small scale, plural, anti-authoritarian, autonomous “micro-politics” fare worse, even by the same criteria of evaluation.
The so-much decried “Occupy-like” radical politics of the last twenty or thirty years – and one may perhaps trace it as far back as the 1960s – may indeed be burdened by all the fragilities that state-centred “radical” politics contends, but only when estimated against a metamorphosis of the present. But if it is the present that is to be questioned and contested, then any radical politics must root itself in the imagination, in a historical and materialist imagination where the past, the many pasts and presents, remain open and permanent possibilities. It then becomes meaningful, as it must, to say with Trotsky’s “first anarchist”, “Why the hell should I want to travel on rail ways under anarchism?”
What the occupation of the squares of 2011 created was the fragile space-time in which this openness appeared. That this open space-time was not secured, made stable, institutionalised was a failure, but it has been the failure – if we must speak of successes and failures – of all “revolutions” hitherto. Was the Paris Commune of 1871 a failure? Its violent repression would suggest as much. But to declare it so would be to not only betray the lives of those who committed themselves to it in one way or another, but also, and more significantly, to ignore what was truly radical about the event, namely, what it rendered imaginatively possible in both means and ends.
And by the end of October, early November, the seemingly “harmless” occupy encampments in the major cities of the country were cleared, manu militari, by the police.
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, we share three important texts on the events: David Graeber’s “Occupy Wall Street’s anarchist roots” (Aljazeera, 30/11/2011), Mark Bray’s “Horizontalism: Anarchism, Power and the State” (Black Rose Anarchist Federation, 11/07/2018) and Peter Lamborn Wilson/Hakim Bey, “Occupy Wall Street, Act Two” (Interactivist Info Exchange, 16/12/2011). And we close with a modest selection of video records of the occupations, a record of the voices of Occupy.
Occupy Wall Street’s anarchist roots
The ‘Occupy’ movement is one of several in American history to be based on anarchist principles.
New York, NY – Almost every time I’m interviewed by a mainstream journalist about Occupy Wall Street I get some variation of the same lecture:
“How are you going to get anywhere if you refuse to create a leadership structure or make a practical list of demands? And what’s with all this anarchist nonsense – the consensus, the sparkly fingers? Don’t you realise all this radical language is going to alienate people? You’re never going to be able to reach regular, mainstream Americans with this sort of thing!”
If one were compiling a scrapbook of worst advice ever given, this sort of thing might well merit an honourable place. After all, since the financial crash of 2007, there have been dozens of attempts to kick-off a national movement against the depredations of the United States’ financial elites taking the approach such journalists recommended. All failed. It was only on August 2, when a small group of anarchists and other anti-authoritarians showed up at a meeting called by one such group and effectively wooed everyone away from the planned march and rally to create a genuine democratic assembly, on basically anarchist principles, that the stage was set for a movement that Americans from Portland to Tuscaloosa were willing to embrace.
I should be clear here what I mean by “anarchist principles”. The easiest way to explain anarchism is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society – that is, one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants.
Anarchism versus Marxism
Traditional Marxism, of course, aspired to the same ultimate goal but there was a key difference. Most Marxists insisted that it was necessary first to seize state power, and all the mechanisms of bureaucratic violence that come with it, and use them to transform society – to the point where, they argued such mechanisms would, ultimately, become redundant and fade away. Even back in the 19th century, anarchists argued that this was a pipe dream. One cannot, they argued, create peace by training for war, equality by creating top-down chains of command, or, for that matter, human happiness by becoming grim joyless revolutionaries who sacrifice all personal self-realisation or self-fulfillment to the cause.
It’s not just that the ends do not justify the means (though they don’t), you will never achieve the ends at all unless the means are themselves a model for the world you wish to create. Hence the famous anarchist call to begin “building the new society in the shell of the old” with egalitarian experiments ranging from free schools to radical labour unions to rural communes.
Anarchism was also a revolutionary ideology, and its emphasis on individual conscience and individual initiative meant that during the first heyday of revolutionary anarchism between roughly 1875 and 1914, many took the fight directly to heads of state and capitalists, with bombings and assassinations. Hence the popular image of the anarchist bomb-thrower. It’s worthy of note that anarchists were perhaps the first political movement to realise that terrorism, even if not directed at innocents, doesn’t work. For nearly a century now, in fact, anarchism has been one of the very few political philosophies whose exponents never blow anyone up (indeed, the 20th-century political leader who drew most from the anarchist tradition was Mohandas K Gandhi.)
Yet for the period of roughly 1914 to 1989, a period during which the world was continually either fighting or preparing for world wars, anarchism went into something of an eclipse for precisely that reason: To seem “realistic”, in such violent times, a political movement had to be capable of organising armies, navies and ballistic missile systems, and that was one thing at which Marxists could often excel. But everyone recognised that anarchists – rather to their credit – would never be able to pull it off. It was only after 1989, when the age of great war mobilisations seemed to have ended, that a global revolutionary movement based on anarchist principles – the global justice movement – promptly reappeared.
How, then, did OWS embody anarchist principles? It might be helpful to go over this point by point:
1) The refusal to recognise the legitimacy of existing political institutions.
One reason for the much-discussed refusal to issue demands is because issuing demands means recognising the legitimacy – or at least, the power – of those of whom the demands are made. Anarchists often note that this is the difference between protest and direct action: Protest, however militant, is an appeal to the authorities to behave differently; direct action, whether it’s a matter of a community building a well or making salt in defiance of the law (Gandhi’s example again), trying to shut down a meeting or occupy a factory, is a matter of acting as if the existing structure of power does not even exist. Direct action is, ultimately, the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.
2) The refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal order.
The second principle, obviously, follows from the first. From the very beginning, when we first started holding planning meetings in Tompkins Square Park in New York, organisers knowingly ignored local ordinances that insisted that any gathering of more than 12 people in a public park is illegal without police permission – simply on the grounds that such laws should not exist. On the same grounds, of course, we chose to occupy a park, inspired by examples from the Middle East and southern Europe, on the grounds that, as the public, we should not need permission to occupy public space. This might have been a very minor form of civil disobedience but it was crucial that we began with a commitment to answer only to a moral order, not a legal one.
3) The refusal to create an internal hierarchy, but instead to create a form of consensus-based direct democracy.
From the very beginning, too, organisers made the audacious decision to operate not only by direct democracy, without leaders, but by consensus. The first decision ensured that there would be no formal leadership structure that could be co-opted or coerced; the second, that no majority could bend a minority to its will, but that all crucial decisions had to be made by general consent. American anarchists have long considered consensus process (a tradition that has emerged from a confluence of feminism, anarchism and spiritual traditions like the Quakers) crucial for the reason that it is the only form of decision-making that could operate without coercive enforcement – since if a majority does not have the means to compel a minority to obey its dictates, all decisions will, of necessity, have to be made by general consent.
4) The embrace of prefigurative politics.
As a result, Zuccotti Park, and all subsequent encampments, became spaces of experiment with creating the institutions of a new society – not only democratic General Assemblies but kitchens, libraries, clinics, media centres and a host of other institutions, all operating on anarchist principles of mutual aid and self-organisation – a genuine attempt to create the institutions of a new society in the shell of the old.
Why did it work? Why did it catch on? One reason is, clearly, because most Americans are far more willing to embrace radical ideas than anyone in the established media is willing to admit. The basic message – that the American political order is absolutely and irredeemably corrupt, that both parties have been bought and sold by the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population, and that if we are to live in any sort of genuinely democratic society, we’re going to have to start from scratch – clearly struck a profound chord in the American psyche.
Perhaps this is not surprising: We are facing conditions that rival those of the 1930s, the main difference being that the media seems stubbornly willing to acknowledge it. It raises intriguing questions about the role of the media itself in American society. Radical critics usually assume the “corporate media”, as they call it, mainly exists to convince the public that existing institutions are healthy, legitimate and just. It is becoming increasingly apparent that they do not really see this is possible; rather, their role is simply to convince members of an increasingly angry public that no one else has come to the same conclusions they have. The result is an ideology that no one really believes, but most people at least suspect that everybody else does.
Nowhere is this disjunction between what ordinary Americans really think, and what the media and political establishment tells them they think, more clear than when we talk about democracy.
Democracy in America?
According to the official version, of course, “democracy” is a system created by the Founding Fathers, based on checks and balances between president, congress and judiciary. In fact, nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution does it say anything about the US being a “democracy”. The authors of those documents, almost to a man, defined “democracy” as a matter of collective self-governance by popular assemblies, and as such they were dead-set against it.
Democracy meant the madness of crowds: bloody, tumultuous and untenable. “There was never a democracy that didn’t commit suicide,” wrote Adams; Hamilton justified the system of checks and balances by insisting that it was necessary to create a permanent body of the “rich and well-born” to check the “imprudence” of democracy, or even that limited form that would be allowed in the lower house of representatives.
The result was a republic – modelled not on Athens, but on Rome. It only came to be redefined as a “democracy” in the early 19th century because ordinary Americans had very different views, and persistently tended to vote – those who were allowed to vote – for candidates who called themselves “democrats”. But what did – and what do – ordinary Americans mean by the word? Did they really just mean a system where they get to weigh in on which politicians will run the government? It seems implausible. After all, most Americans loathe politicians, and tend to be skeptical about the very idea of government. If they universally hold out “democracy” as their political ideal, it can only be because they still see it, however vaguely, as self-governance – as what the Founding Fathers tended to denounce as either “democracy” or, as they sometimes also put it, “anarchy”.
If nothing else, this would help explain the enthusiasm with which they have embraced a movement based on directly democratic principles, despite the uniformly contemptuous dismissal of the United States’ media and political class.
In fact, this is not the first time a movement based on fundamentally anarchist principles – direct action, direct democracy, a rejection of existing political institutions and attempt to create alternative ones – has cropped up in the US. The civil rights movement (at least its more radical branches), the anti-nuclear movement, and the global justice movement all took similar directions. Never, however, has one grown so startlingly quickly. But in part, this is because this time around, the organisers went straight for the central contradiction. They directly challenged the pretenses of the ruling elite that they are presiding over a democracy.
When it comes to their most basic political sensibilities, most Americans are deeply conflicted. Most combine a deep reverence for individual freedom with a near-worshipful identification with institutions like the army and police. Most combine an enthusiasm for markets with a hatred of capitalists. Most are simultaneously profoundly egalitarian, and deeply racist. Few are actual anarchists; few even know what “anarchism” means; it’s not clear how many, if they did learn, would ultimately wish to discard the state and capitalism entirely. Anarchism is much more than simply grassroots democracy: It ultimately aims to eliminate all social relations, from wage labour to patriarchy, that can only be maintained by the systematic threat of force.
But one thing overwhelming numbers of Americans do feel is that something is terribly wrong with their country, that its key institutions are controlled by an arrogant elite, that radical change of some kind is long since overdue. They’re right. It’s hard to imagine a political system so systematically corrupt – one where bribery, on every level, has not only been made legal, but soliciting and dispensing bribes has become the full-time occupation of every American politician. The outrage is appropriate. The problem is that up until September 17, the only side of the spectrum willing to propose radical solutions of any sort was the Right.
As the history of the past movements all make clear, nothing terrifies those running the US more than the danger of democracy breaking out. The immediate response to even a modest spark of democratically organised civil disobedience is a panicked combination of concessions and brutality. How else can one explain the recent national mobilisation of thousands of riot cops, the beatings, chemical attacks, and mass arrests, of citizens engaged in precisely the kind of democratic assemblies the Bill of Rights was designed to protect, and whose only crime – if any – was the violation of local camping regulations?
Our media pundits might insist that if average Americans ever realised the anarchist role in Occupy Wall Street, they would turn away in shock and horror; but our rulers seem, rather, to labour under a lingering fear that if any significant number of Americans do find out what anarchism really is, they might well decide that rulers of any sort are unnecessary.
Horizontalism: Anarchism, Power and the State
We are excited to present “Horizontalism: Anarchism, Power and the State” by Mark Bray which appears as a chapter in the collection Anarchism: A Conceptual Approach from Routledge. In this piece Bray relates a range of global movements from mass neighborhood assemblies in Argentina, to the squares movement in Europe and Occupy Wall Street to various political conceptions of power, movement building and electoral politics. He begins with drawing a distinction between horizontalism as a specific form of popular mobilization that has recently emerged and more broadly the practices of horizontal style organizing. From this he points out that while anarchism is horizontal in it’s approach to organizing and movement building, horizontalism is much more fluid, “non-ideological,” and lends itself to decidedly non-horizontal directions of electoral organizing – politics which anarchist have traditionally contrasted their politics in opposition.
Given the length of the article we are also introducing a beautifully designed PDF reader format of the article which you can download by clicking the image below. The essay was originally appears as “Horizontalism” in Anarchism: A Conceptual Approach edited by Benjamin Franks, Nathan Jun, and Leonard Williams. Bray is the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook and Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street and a member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation.
The decades that have followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 have witnessed a historic resurgence of directly democratic, federalist politics among global social movements on a scale unheard of since the ?rst decades of the twentieth century. From the Zapatistas and Magonistas of southern Mexico, to the global justice movement, to the squares movements of Tahrir Square, 15M (15th of May), Occupy, Gezi Park, and many more around the world, to Black Lives Matter, we can see the powerful impact of the style of leaderless (or leaderful),  autonomous, direct action-oriented organizing that has characterized resistance from below during this era. Some of the groups and individuals that composed these movements were directly, or indirectly, in?uenced by the enduring anti-authoritarian legacy of anarchism, whose international popularity has surged over recent decades in conjunction with a heightened interest in federalist, anti-capitalist politics. Many more, however, came to reject the hierarchical party politics of authoritarian communism not as the result of an explicitly ideological in?uence, but rather because occupations, popular assemblies, and consensus decision- making were widely considered to be the most ethically and strategically appropriate forms of struggle given existing conditions. Such was the case for most of the Argentines who rose up to occupy their workplaces and organize neighborhood assemblies in the wake of the ?nancial crisis of 2001. Out of this popular rebellion against neo-liberalism came the term “horizontalism” (horizontalidad). While this slippery term has meant slightly di?erent things for di?erent people, it generally connotes a form of “leaderless,” autonomous, directly democratic movement building whose adherents consider it to be non- ideological. Since the Argentine uprising, the term “horizontalism” has established itself as the overarching label for this amorphous form of directly democratic organizing that has swept the globe.
Certainly horizontalism and anarchism overlap in their advocacy of federal, directly democratic, direct action-oriented, autonomous organizing. Long before the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, anarchists railed against the inherently deleterious e?ects of hierarchy and authoritarian leadership while building large-scale federal models of workers’ self-management in the form of anarcho-syndicalist unions with memberships in the hundreds of thousands, or even above a million in the case of the Spanish CNT in the 1930s. In some cases, such as the French CGT in the early 20th century, anarchist unionists even endorsed creating non-sectarian revolutionary syndicalist unions that could group the working class beyond political divides (Maitron 1992, 326; Maura, 1975, 495). It is unsurprising that many anarchists have thrown their lot in with the horizontalist mass movements of the past decades in order to safeguard and promote their anti-authoritarian tendencies. The intense proximity that exists between these two currents raises some important questions: is horizontalism merely a new name for anarchism? Are they basically the same idea masquerading behind di?erent histories? Given such a high level of overlap, are we simply quibbling about semantics if we insist on a distinction between the two?
To answer this question, I will draw a distinction between “horizontalism,” which I use as a historically speci?c term to demarcate the wave of directly democratic popular mobilization that has emerged over the past few decades, and “horizontal,” which I use as an analytical descriptor to describe any form of non-hierarchical activity, regardless of context. Once this distinction is drawn, it is apparent that although anarchism is inherently horizontal, the historical horizontalism of recent years is a ?uid entity that occasionally promotes values and ideas that are at odds with anarchism as a result of its minimalist, “anti-ideological” ideology. Although some anarchists and others have characterized anarchism as “anti-ideological” as well, the history of the movement shows that most of its militants and theorists have viewed it as a solid, though ?exible, doctrine anchored in a set of anti- authoritarian tenets. This stands in sharp contrast with the prevalent post-modern tendency of proponents of horizontalism to view it as a malleable set of practices disconnected from any speci?c political center. This “anti-ideological” focus on form over content, which is to say, its emphasis on how decisions are made over what is decided, has created signi?cant tensions in the context of more or less spontaneous popular horizontalism for anarchists who are supportive of mass organizing and hopeful about the political openings provided by such movements. Because horizontalism attempts to divorce itself from ideology, its structures and practices are susceptible to resigni?cation in decidedly non-horizontal directions, such as participation in representative government.
It is important to clarify that this critique of the “anti-ideology” of horizontalism applies to essentially spontaneous popular movements where thousands of random people suddenly engage in direct democracy with each other for the ?rst time, not to examples like the Zapatistas of southern Mexico whose horizontal practices developed slowly over generations and were inextricably bound to widely shared values. When assemblies emerge without the opportunity for such steady growth and development, their lack of formal ideology greatly reduces the barriers to entry for a mass of disaggregated, disa?ected people, yet it also makes the movement’s content and trajectory capricious. The implicit horizontalist assumption that horizontal decision-making mechanisms are su?cient to yield egalitarian results stands in sharp contrast with the avowed anarchist commitment to both horizontal practices and anti-oppressive outcomes. This demonstrates that although anarchism is horizontal (in the analytical rather than the historically speci?c sense of the term), and horizontalism is anarchistic (meaning it bears many of the traits of anarchism), horizontalism and anarchism are not identical.
In late 2001, a spontaneous rebellion erupted in Argentina when the government decided to freeze bank accounts to forestall a mounting ?nancial crisis precipitated by the IMF-mandated privatization and austerity measures of the 1990s. In under two weeks, popular mobilizations ousted four governments. Against the hierarchical machinations of the political elite, social movements organized democratic neighborhood assemblies and workplace occupations around principles that were increasingly encapsulated in the concept of horizontalism. Occupied workplaces forged networks of mutual aid and assemblies formed locally before establishing inter-neighborhood organisms of direct democracy guided by both the sentiment and the practice of consensus decision-making. This uprising was eminently pre- ?gurative as it sought to embody the society it desired in its everyday practices. As Marina Sitrin (2006, 4) argues in her in?uential Horizontalism: Voices of Power in Argentina, horizontalism “is desired and is a goal, but it is also the means – the tool – for achieving this end.” For many, it was “more than an organizational form,” it was “a culture” that promoted new a?ective relationships and communal solidarity (Sitrin 2006, 49). This culture of openness and rejection of dogma could even impinge upon the consolidation of horizontalism as a ?xed entity since, as the Argentine Colectivo Situaciones argued, “horizontalidad should [not] be thought of as a new model, but rather horizontalidad implies that there are no models…. Horizontalidad is the normalization of the multiplicity … The risk is that horizontalidad can silence us, stop our questions, and become an ideology” (Sitrin 2006, 55).
The accounts Sitrin gathered from the direct participants in the Argentine uprising demonstrate that for many, horizontalism was perhaps an anti-ideological ideology composed of a ?uid mixture of ?exible, participatory, non-dogmatic values and practices oriented around consensus, federalism, and self-management. However, these attitudes and outlooks emerged in a number of di?erent groups and movements long before they were associated with the term “horizontalism.” In Unruly Equality: U. S. Anarchism in the 20th Century, Andrew Cornell (2016) demonstrates how the di?use remnants of early twentieth-century anarchism that were increasingly inclined toward paci?sm and the avant-garde in the 1940s and 1950s
provided theories, values, tactics, and organizational forms, which activists in the antiwar, countercultural, and feminist movements took up [over the following decades]; in turn, these mass movements radicalized hundreds of thousands of people, a portion of whom adopted anarchism as their ideological outlook. (245)
The destruction of the American anarchist movement in the middle of the century and the polarization of the Cold War led many American anarchists to experiment with new tactics and strategies. This included consensus, which was ?rst used by American anarchists in the radical anti-war organization Peacemakers in the late 1940s (Cornell 2016, 180–181). More than a decade later, consensus was introduced into the civil rights organization Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) by Peacemakers organizer James Lawson (Cornell 2016, 229; Carmichael 2003, 300). This in?uence carried through Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and other groups into the 1970s and 1980s where the New Hampshire Clamshell Alliance pioneered the use of spokescouncils and a?nity groups in the anti-nuclear movement, feminist consciousness-raising circles experimented with non-hierarchical organization, and the Movement for a New Society (MNS) incorporated Quaker consensus methods (Farrell 1997, 241; Anarcho-Feminism 1977; Cornell 2011). During the same decades, similar tendencies were at play in Europe with elements of the feminist, anti-nuclear, and autonomous movements (Katsia?cas 1997). The tradition that these groups forged was adopted by subsequent groups such as the direct action AIDS group ACT UP, the radical environmentalist Earth First!, Food Not Bombs, and others feeding into the global justice movement at the turn of the twenty-?rst century (Gould 2009; Wall 2002; McHenry 2012). The squares movements of the Arab Spring, 15M, Occupy, Gezi Park, Nuit Debout, and others were in part a reboot of the assemblies, spokescouncils, a?nity groups and direct actions of the global justice movement oriented around a speci?c geographic space in the form of the plaza. Others have been in?uenced by the concept of rhizomatic organizing put forth by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987; Chalcraft 2012; Anderson 2013). While the speci?c practices of these groups and movements varied,
their investment in deliberation, consensus-building, individual participation, diversity, novel technologies, and creative engagement stands as a self-con- scious counterpoint to doctrinaire and hierarchical models of mobilization, political, and religious sectarianisms, polarizing debates over national identity, and even representative forms of democracy. (Anderson 2013, 154)
Horizontalist opposition to representative democracy usually comes in the form of consensus decision-making. Rather than formulating a proposal and simply concerning oneself with accumulating enough votes to push it through, consensus requires participants to take the concerns of the minority seriously and cater proposals to their outlooks. The idea is not that everyone has to agree all the time (the strawman portrayal of consensus), but rather that the majority is forced to make concessions to the minority and, for the group to function, the minority must grow accustomed to tolerating decisions that it ?nds less than ideal. Consensus seeks to promote not only the formal practice of assuring that proposals will satisfy the minority, but more deeply, a sense of unity within the group and a culture of care that can all too easily get trampled in the pursuit of a voting majority. This form of decision-making works best when all members of a group have a shared sense of purpose. When they don’t, the process grinds to a halt. For example, Occupy Wall Street implemented modi?ed consensus, only requiring 90% rather than 100% agreement, to provide a little breathing room for such occasions. Nevertheless, when members of a body are working at cross purposes it only takes 11% to shut down the objectives of the other 89%. Occupy Wall Street and many of the other squares movements encountered such problems when spontaneously incorporating thousands of random individuals into their decision- making bodies. Even when consensus is practiced by a cohesive group with a shared purpose it carries an inherent bias toward the status quo by making it more di?cult to pass a proposal or resolution. As George Lakey of Movement for a New Society remarked, “consensus can be a conservative in?uence, sti?ing the prospects of organizational change” (Cornell 2011, 47). Clearly consensus carries a number of pitfalls, but so does majority voting. Ultimately it is very di?cult to navigate con?ict which is why anarchists place such a great emphasis on voluntary association (and, therefore, voluntary disassociation). Sometimes the only solution is for two groups to go their separate ways rather than forcing them to coexist.
Many of horizontalism’s most energetic advocates view it as means and ends wrapped together into a uni?ed set of practices and values. From this perspective, values inform practices which shift as they encounter varied circumstances. In turn, the horizontalist hostility to “dogma” allows values to adjust to the needs of the people as movement contexts twist and turn. Horizontalism’s “non-ideological,” “apolitical” focus on form, practice, and immediate problem-solving over large- scale “sectarian” con?icts has endowed this historically speci?c tendency with a portability and adaptability that has allowed it to ?ourish in contexts as di?erent as rural Greece and lower Manhattan, Istanbul and Hong Kong. Unsurprisingly, the politics undergirding horizontalism have varied drastically. This is unproble- matic if one has no predetermined goal; if one adheres to the liberal notion I have referred to elsewhere as “outcome neutrality” (Bray 2014). Yet, anarchism has always been about much more than direct democracy; it is a revolutionary socialist ideology grounded in anti-domination politics as well as non-hierarchical practice.
Anarchism and Horizontalism
Anarchist responses to the growth of popular horizontalism have ranged from elation to disgust, with many in between. Those who have been more enthusiastic have viewed horizontalist movements as opportunities for the mass promotion of non-hierarchical politics while critics have seen them as betrayals of truly horizontal principles especially as they have ventured into electoralism. There are a range of anarchist responses to horizontalism, as the examples below from Spain, the United States, and Turkey will demonstrate.
The shared federalism  of anarchism and horizontalism can be traced back to the eighteenth century. While one can also trace it back even further, in terms of the history of socialism it makes sense to start with the in?uence of the dictatorial Jacobin “republic of virtue” during the French Revolution, which pioneered elements of central planning and modern conscription. Over the following decades, the European republican movement was split between Jacobins and their sympathizers who longed for a renewed “reign of terror” and federal republicans who were aghast at the bloody consequences of centralized authority, even in the hands of republicans, and instead advocated local and regional autonomy. Unsurprisingly, many of the ?rst disciples of the anti-authoritarian works of Proudhon and Bakunin began their political lives as federal republicans while many Marxists have hailed the Jacobin dictatorship as a preview of their desired dictatorship of the proletariat (Zimmer 2015, 73; Esenwein 1989, 16–17; Maura 1975, 68; Toledo and Biondi 2010, 365; Lenin 1975; Mayer 1999).
Anarchists advanced the federal republican opposition to centralization by forming a critique of the state, whether federal or centralized, and developing modes of struggle and methods of self-organizing that re?ected the world they sought to create. Most Marxists reject the notion that anything approximating communism could be enacted in a capitalist society and therefore conclude that the form that an organization or party takes is only of instrumental value. For Marxist-Leninists, for example, this essentially amounts to the position that it is acceptable for a vanguard party to act in the best interest of the proletariat – to act as the proletariat would allegedly act if it had already achieved full class consciousness – as long as the same end result of communism is eventually achieved (though, of course, it never was). For most anarchists, however, the society of the future will inevitably re?ect the values, principles, and practices that went into making it.
To understand how anarchists have attempted to put this idea into pre- ?gurative practice, it’s important to distinguish between what David Graeber (2002) and others have come to refer to as “capital-A” and “small-a” anarchism. Although the gap that separates the two tendencies is often vastly overstated, the distinction can help us identify the connection between consensus and majority decision making and the areas of overlap that exist between anarchism and horizontalism. The anarchists that Graeber referred to as “capital-A” anarchists are much more self-consciously in?uenced by the legacy of “classical” anarchism (from roughly the 1860s to 1940). They tend to focus on the construction of large federal organizations, such as anarcho-syndicalist unions or anarchist communist federations, that operate by majority voting with a strong focus on class struggle and mass resistance. Historically such organizations have operated by federating local unions or political groups into regional, national, and even international bodies that operate by majority voting as carried out by recallable mandated delegates. As opposed to parliamentary democracy where elected representatives decide on behalf of their constituents, anarchist delegates are only empowered to express the perspective of their union or locality. Legislative power remains at the base level while allowing collective self-management to scale up. This does not mean that such systems become hierarchical, rather they allow locally-grounded decision-making bodies to coordinate across large regions. Lately consensus has become so ubiquitous in certain horizontalist/anarchist circles that some don’t realize that the majority of anarchists throughout history have implemented majoritarian voting.
The anarchists that Graeber referred to as “small-a” anarchists are generally those whose anarchism has grown out of the anti-authoritarian and countercultural currents of the Cold War era rather than “classical” anarchism. They tend to create smaller, less formally structured groups and collectives that operate by consensus, associate with more countercultural milieux, and focus on non-class politics such as environmentalism or feminism. “Small-a” anarchist collectives are essentially examples of small-scale horizontalism infused with anarchist politics. This is unsurprising considering the fact that horizontalism and “small-a” anarchism grew out of the same post-war constellation of non-hierarchical, consensus- oriented groups discussed above, and “small-a” anarchists were among the original organizers of many recent manifestations of popular horizontalism. This demonstrates that, to some extent, horizontalism grew out of certain strains of anarchism. They part ways, however, when horizontal practice is divorced from anti-authoritarian politics. Certainly some anarchists eventually disowned the horizontalist movements they helped create because they allegedly strayed too far in a popular and/or reformist direction away from the more intentional and explicitly radical designs some of their early organizers had envisioned. Yet, pro-mass-movement anarchists (whether of a “smaller” orientation or not) have continued to play important roles in horizontalist movements because they see them as opportunities to promote elements of anarchist politics on a large scale.
I was certainly among those who joined Occupy Wall Street in order to advance the movement’s non-hierarchical agenda and infuse it with more anarchist content while maintaining its popular appeal. I made a case for such an approach in my book Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street where I documented how 72% of OWS organizers in New York City had explicitly anarchist or implicitly anarchistic politics (Bray 2013). For these anarchist(ic) organizers, and their counterparts in other movements, the horizontalist movement is a broad, dynamic space where popular struggles can interact with revolutionary politics, ideally shifting through such comingling. Such struggles are opportunities for anarchists to reclaim the mantle of democracy and attack what they consider to be the fraud of hierarchical, capitalist, representative government. In the United States, for example, anarchists have had some of their greatest successes winning liberals and centrists over to their ideas by arguing that non- hierarchical direct democracy is the only true democracy. In a country where the ideal, if not the actual practice, of democracy is universally revered, such arguments can strike a popular chord.
Yet not all anarchists have been equally enamored with the squares movements. Some anarchists rejected Occupy either because their local encampment truly was reformist (the politics of the many Occupy encampments ranged widely) or because they were hostile to popular politics that was not explicitly anarchist (Bray 2013, 168). In Spain, for instance, many anarchists supported and participated in their 15M movement for similar reasons as the anarchists of Occupy, but a signi?cant number withheld their full support because they considered the movement to be reformist (Taibo 2011; 2014). Even when some of the anarchist unions wanted to support a 15M march, for example, they were frustrated by the movement’s refusal to have unions and parties march with their ?ags which stemmed from the 15M’s desire to remain “non-sectarian.”
Another interesting element of the relationship between the 15M and Spanish anarchists is that they generally don’t attempt to reclaim the mantle of “democracy” from the political parties and government. For example, a popular 15M chant goes “They call it democracy, and it isn’t.” Once, however, I was marching near a group of anarchists who sarcastically chanted “They call it democracy, and it is!” Here, the intent of the chant is to convince listeners that the corruption and disregard for the masses that epitomized the government is inherent to its very nature. From an anarchist perspective, that is what governmental “democracy” is and will always be. In part this stems from the popular association between the post-Franco parliamentary regime and the term “democracy.” For many Spaniards, the government that has been in power since the 1970s is “la democracia,” and therefore the term has more of a speci?c meaning than in the United States, where it is understood more as an egalitarian decision-making method that the government allegedly happens to embody.
In 2013, the Spanish Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados (Coordinated Anarchist Groups) published a little book called Contra la democracia (Against Democracy). This book created quite a stir in Spain in December 2014 when it was cited as evidence to support the arrest in Catalonia and Madrid of eleven people from Spain, Italy, Uruguay, and Austria accused of being members of what the state claimed was “a terrorist organization of an anarchist nature” responsible for “several bomb attacks” (“Catalan Police” 2014). In what came to be known as Operation Pandora, seven of the original eleven were held on terrorist charges because they had “Riseup” e-mail accounts, owned copies of Contra la democracia, and were found with a canister of camping gas. Later, the Chilean anarchist Francisco Javier Solar, who was ultimately convicted with fellow Chilean Mónica Caballero of bombing the Pilar Basilica in Zaragoza in 2013, denied accusations of being one of the text’s main authors (Pérez 2016).
Given the importance that the authorities placed on this text, one might assume that it’s a bloodthirsty bomb-making manual, but in fact, it’s simply a historical analysis and critique of democracy. The book’s introduction concludes by arguing that “If we believe that democracy is liberty we will never stop being slaves. We will unmask this great lie! We will construct anarchy” (Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados 2013, 8). Later, in its only reference to the 15M, the text attacks the movement, because it “asks for electoral reforms that bene?t the small political parties … it propagates citizenism (ciudadanismo) as ideology; a ‘democratization’ of the police … [and] the total paci?cation of con?icts through mediation and delegation by a corps of social services professionals” (Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados 2013, 68). Yet, despite these critiques of “democracia” and the 15M, the authors of this text are not against all directly democratic organizing. They advocate the creation of networks of social centers, free schools, and other bodies “to build a new society capable of freely self-managing (the only real sense that the term ‘democracy’ could have) …” (Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados 2013, 66). That, of course, is exactly what anarchists who call for true direct democracy have in mind. Contra la democracia shows us that although many anarchists in Spain and elsewhere may have a very similar vision of the future self- management of a post-capitalist society, some ?nd it strategically useful to ?ght to reclaim “democracy” while others seek to permanently discard it.
Much of the reluctance that anarchists have had in getting involved in the Spanish 15M and other movements has had to do with the prevalent tendency of horizontalist mass movements to be siphoned into non-horizontal, electoral politics. The allure of representative government is so powerful that although early on movements may proclaim “¡Que se vayan todos!” (“Get rid of them all!”) in Argentina or “¡Que no nos representan!” (“They don’t represent us!”) in Spain, frequently such cries are transformed into calls for horizontalism to be extended into o?ce through the ballot box. Often such arguments are couched in terms of the perspective that after the initial wave of protest has raised awareness about an issue, what is necessary is to transition into the “serious work of making concrete change” through governing. In Spain, the most signi?cant party that grew out of the 15M was Podemos (We can) which has formed electoral coalitions with other similar parties and platforms like Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona in Common) and Ganemos Madrid (Let’s win Madrid) which calls for the promotion of “democratic municipalism” and the creation of political structures that are “democratic, horizontal, inclusive, and participatory …” (Ganemos Madrid 2016). Their rhetoric is rife with horizontalist references to “autonomy” and “autogestión” (self-management). They essentially claim to be merging the spirit and ideals of horizontalist assembly with the lamentable “necessity” of taking o?ce. Moreover, they fully embrace horizontalism’s antagonism toward formal ideology by rejecting the left/right binary and eschewing the usual trappings of leftism. Yet, within a year Podemos had already drastically moderated its platform to cater to the electoral center, thereby alienating a number of the party’s more leftist leaders who later resigned (“Spain’s Poll-Topping” 2014; Hedgecoe 2016). After the June 2016 elections Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias announced that it was time for his unconventional horizontalist party to become “normalized,” and enter a phase “of much more conventional politics.” He even went so far as to argue that “this idiocy that we used to say when we were of the extreme left that things change in the street and not in the institutions is a lie” (Ríos 2016).
Turkish anarchists also formulated critiques of horizontalism. As the Gezi Park occupation movement of 2013 in Istanbul’s Taksim Square developed, the Turkish anarchist organization Devrimci Anarsist Faaliyet (Revolutionary Anarchist Action, DAF) distributed hundreds of copies of a pamphlet it had written called “An anarchist criticism to ‘Occupy’ as an activity of ‘99%.’” The pamphlet sought to diagnose what the group perceived to be the reformism and depoliticization of Occupy. It argued that the tactics of Occupy have “worn a libertarian discourse but [are] far far away from practicing it …” and instead the movement tended, in their eyes, “to consume concepts such as occupy, direct democracy, freedom, action etc.” While the pamphlet contains many insightful critiques of Occupy, certain elements of the authors’ analysis su?ered from the extreme distance separating them from events on the ground. At a meeting with several of the pamphlet’s authors years later at the DAF o?ce in Istanbul, I had the opportunity to answer their questions and clarify some misconceptions that they and many others had developed about Occupy Wall Street through the press and speak about the centrality of anarchist organizers. Nevertheless, the heart of their critique about the misapplication of libertarian principles applied to many (if not most) Occupy encampments and horizontalist movements in general. Despite the presence of DAF and their pamphlet, the Gezi Park movement also experienced electoral spino?s such as the Gezi Party. Seeking to remain true to the movement’s horizontalism, the party claimed that its leaders would only act as “spokespersons” (“O?cial Gezi Party” 2013).
Similar developments would have unfolded during the Occupy movement in the United States if it weren’t for the narrowness of the two party system. Yet, several years later, many former Occupiers campaigned for Bernie Sanders in his failed bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Certainly many who participated in Occupy before supporting Sanders were simply leftists who travel from one manifestation of left populism to the next without any allegiance to (or often direct knowledge of) horizontalism. Others, however, attempted to argue that the Sanders campaign was an extension of Occupy. This was manifest in an article titled “Occupy the Party” from the Not An Alternative collective that appealed to former Occupiers to treat the campaign “like any street or park and occupy it” (Not An Alternative 2016). In the name of pragmatic populism, this article sought to drain the term “occupy” of its associations with direct action, direct democracy, “leaderlessness,” and revolutionary politics to convince readers that it can be used as a catchy shorthand for buying into the cult of personality developing around a moderate social democrat attempting to burrow into a strati- ?ed, capitalist political party. From an anarchist perspective, parks and streets are terrain of struggle that can be occupied because non-hierarchical, direct action politics can be transplanted onto them. Working within political parties, especially those like the Democratic Party, requires jettisoning those practices and incorporating oneself into the party structure. As the Irish Workers Solidarity Movement organizer Andrew Flood (2014) argued in his essay “An anarchist critique of horizontalism,” “horizontalism without a vision and method for revolution simply provides protest fodder behind which one government can be replaced with another.” Indeed, many anti-horizontal organizers, have been perfectly willing to humor the directly democratic “quirks” of horizontalist movements while biding their time waiting for opportunities to convert popular upheavals into “protest fodder” for reformist objectives cloaked in the imagery of rebellion.
Debates over electoral participation within horizontalist movements are merely the latest rounds of a con?ict that has challenged the broader socialist movement since the nineteenth century. Although his position changed several times, ever since Proudhon advocated electoral abstention in 1857 in response to the authoritarianism of Napoleon III, con?icts over electoralism have raged (Graham 2015, 62). Historically anarchists have opposed parliamentary participation for a variety of reasons, including their opposition to the hierarchical nature of representation, their rejection of the social democratic notion that it is possible to vote away capitalism (a goal that social democrats eventually discarded), and their argument that, as Mikhail Bakunin phrased it, “worker-deputies, transplanted into a bourgeois environment … will in fact cease to be workers and, becoming Statesmen, they will become … perhaps even more bourgeois than the Bourgeois themselves” (quoted in Graham 2015, 116).
In 1979 a group of German radicals attempted to bypass the dichotomy of socialist workers’ parties and anarchist abstentionism to create a non-hierarchical “anti-party” that would operate based on consensus and rotate their representatives to preserve their commitment to direct democracy. This attempt to stu? horizontalism into the ballot box was called the Green Party. Despite the best of intentions, internal con?icts and “realist” calls for “pragmatism” doomed the party once it entered parliament. Within less than a decade it had become simply another left party (Katsia?cas 1997, 205–208).
In the wake of the sectarian strife of the twentieth century, many radicals have found refuge in the anti-ideological ideology of horizontalism. Yet, as we can see, it is often insu?cient to guarantee truly horizontal and non-hierarchical outcomes. Even apart from electoralism, horizontalist movements have at times struggled to counteract the encroachment of patriarchal, homophobic, transphobic, white supremacist, and ableist tendencies that inevitably come when broad swaths of society are suddenly brought together. I can still hear the common refrain of many white men in Occupy Wall Street that we had “lost sight of Wall Street” as our main focus when we addressed race or gender. Horizontalist movements spread notions of direct democracy, direct action, mutual aid, and autonomy far and wide. This is incredibly important insofar as they in?uence broader cultures of resistance and extend beyond the standard reach of most radicalism. Since political ideologies are digested whole only by their most committed militants, shifting political sentiments and practices in mass contexts is essential. Yet, the horizontalist reliance on form over content runs the risk of producing a muddled populism that is easily redirected away from its non-hierarchical origins. As the work of Michael Freeden (1996) suggests, the meaning of horizontalism shifts depending on its political content. From an anarchist perspective, this illustrates the value of anarchism’s holistic analysis of the interrelatedness of all forms of domination and the interconnectedness of forms of self-management and their political outcomes. While they di?ered on the details, anarchists from Mikhail Bakunin to Errico Malatesta, from Nestor Makhno to the creators of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) in Spain have agreed on the need for anarchists to collectively engage with mass movements to disseminate their truly horizontal political visions.
- I would like to thank Stephen Roblin, Deric Shannon, Miguel Pérez, Özgür Oktay, and Yesenia Barragan for their insightful feedback and helpful information.
- By “leaderless,” Occupy and others really referred to the absence of institutional leadership, not the absence of those who lead. Hence the shift some made toward the term “leaderful” which implied that in a horizontalist movement anyone could become a leader by getting involved.
- I use the terms “federal” and “federalism” to refer to broadly decentralized forms of organization. Certainly the anarchist use of the terms “federation” or “confederation” to describe their organizations, such as the Fédération Anarchiste in France and Belgium or the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo in Spain, entails a greater level of decentralization than the federal state advocated by federalist republicans. Nevertheless, there is a shared tendency
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Occupy Wall Street, Act Two
Peter Lamborn Wilson
“Money Has An Enemy.”Charles Stein
Some radical historians claim the entire Historical Movement of the Social went wrong in 1870 when the Paris Commune failed to expropriate (or at least destroy) The Bank. Could this really be so?
Since 1971 Bank Power — “Money Interests” as the oldtime Populists and Grangers used to say — i.e., the power to create money as debt — has single-handedly destroyed all chances to remake any world closer to our heart’s desire. Some anarchist theorists hold that there can be no real revolution except the revolt against money itself — because money itself WANTS capitalism (i.e. money) to rule. Money itself will always find a way to subvert democracy (or for that matter any government power that opposes Money’s interests) and to establish the rule of Capital — i.e. of money itself.
“Alternative currencies” will not cure the situation (as Marx rightly sneered) because real [bad] money will always drive the “good” money out of circulation. Alt. money only “wins” in the scenario where it replaces money entirely. But in that case it will have simply become money itself (which is protean and can take many forms).
American progressive Populism — like the agrarian Grange or industrial Knights of Labor — knew certain esoteric secrets we should study. They believed the real producers (“labor”) could organize alternative institutions (within the legal system) that could erode the rule of Money and perhaps eventually replace it: producers & consumers co-operatives and labor unions. Money would still be used at first — but not banks — so toxic debt could be avoided. True producers would mutually finance each other (ay at 1% interest to cover administrative costs). With “Mutual Banks of the People” plus co-ops they would protect their economic position and advance it thru labor agitation including strikes, boycotts, etc.
“Mutuality” works as a non-State non-central-buraucratic form of socialism, thus providing no unjust power positions for its administrators. it starts, like Occupy Wall Street, as a consensus-ruled direct democracy (the exact opposite of the Neo-Con freemarket “democracy” of predatory Capital). Revokable delegates are sent to larger regional or other administrative Councils.
Thus success of such a system means NEVER participating in representation or “republican” forms of legislative politics (“keep politics off the farm” — Grange Songbook). The American Populist movement made thefatal error in 1896 of joining the Democratic Party — and instead of being crucified on a cross of gold, American radicalism was crucified on a cross of silver. [I’m not going to explain this joke; look in the Encyclopedia under “William Jennings Bryan.”]
The only true method of organizing the alternative world of Mutuality is thru voluntary non-state free institutions such as co-ops, mutual banking & insurance, alternative schools, various types of communalism and communitas, sustainable economic ventures (i.e. non-caitalist businesses) like independent farms and craft ateliers willing to federate with the commons outside of the sphere of bank/police/corporation power.
Of course if it ever reached a certain point of success this Mutualism would be directly challenged by Money Interest Power. Lawyers & police will swarm, then military force will be used. The question then will become a different question — War against Money. Could such a struggle be waged as “non-violent war?” In theory, maybe — in reality, who knows?
Actually the whole OWS movement and its future becoming might well be seen as “military” in a Sun Tzu way, i.e. as tactical and strategic —”politics by other means” (to reverse Clausewitz). Interestingly, however, the originary move in such a strategy would now appear to be a tactical retreat — just like in certain kinds of Judo or Aikido — a retreat from the world entirely ruled by money to a world of voluntary cooperation (“the gift”) outside the power of BANKS.
This retreat would happen gradually — and since in truth there is no “Outside” to retreat to, the tactic must remain mixed and impure. We can make a new Outside out of our own failure. But as we begin to (re)create an Outside to Money, I believe the rewards will be rich and immediate. Sharing things is inefficient and bad for Capitalism — but (or rather — so) it’s got a pleasure nexus in it, an intimacy and human fellowship that millions of Americans now lack and miss. Even the family is threatened by our present “economy of Greed” — as for the Social in general, i believe it may already be dead and beyond revival. However intend to go on acting and writing as if I believe it can be SAVED — why? — because pessimism is so boring.
In fact boredom is already a sign that the enemy is very near — it’s the sine qua non of consumer trance and obedient wage slavery. Cheat boredom (as the Sits used to say) and already you’re winning something back.
Adventures in Mutualism will have to start small — but even a few neighbors can organize a car-pool — or share other “necessary” technologies lie electric power, garden tools, telephones, etc.
The next stage of sharing might include cooperatives — a neighborhood CSA or food bank or home-school group. Then the next stage could be institutional and move toward genuine Mutual insurance and banking (Fraternal/Sororal organizations used to supply many of these functions — including the Grange and the Knights of Labor.)
The next stage would be federative, nets of groups and regions as envisioned by Kropotkin and Landauer as well as Proudhon — and by the free Russian Soviets before the Bolshevik coup in Oct. ’17.
The key here would be to “organize the kernel of the new world inside the shell of the old” as the IWW Preamble suggests. In other words NOT to wait till “conditions are ripe” in Marxist terms but to begin here & now — not just with demonstrations and media games and info info info, but also with real-life economic and cultural organizing. Why? — because who wants to have to wait to enjoy some fruits of Revolution if it were possible to experience at least a few of them NOW — or after a few years of intense agitation and attention.
Such organizing certainly doesn’t “take the place” of resistance (including even riot and crime, much less squatting or debt refusal). It already IS a form of resistance — but also a pleasure in itself — a prime reason for human sociality — a structure fir creativity and imagination — for poeisis or aesthetic making, whether it be tools or human relations or music or gardening or shelter or just normal everyday conviviality — that lost ideal.
in any face-to-face confrontation with Wall Street “we” must always lose — because WALL STREET IS EVERYWHERE. The up-side of this is that therefore we must occupy “Everywhere.” We must inhabit our own space-of-daily-life — the real physical space/time we live in. If necessary we will squat it. And from the space of tactical retreat (not abject dispersal and defeat, but the orderly retreat toward logistic reinforcement — to quote Guy Debord quoting Napoleon!), from the liberated zones whether temporary or not, we will plan our next moves in this end-game between Money and Life itself.
For further reading, we recommend a piece by the CrimethInc. collective, “Occupy: Democracy versus Autonomy”, and the collection of essays published under the title, Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupy Movement 2009-2011 (libcom.org).