Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anarchist or Reformists


An anarchist ethics is an affirmation, an affirmation of the creativity, desire and power of the individual; it is an affirmation of the ability of individuals to come together and decide their own fate without the need of any imposed decision coming in from the outside whether in ‘totalitarian’ or ‘democratic’ form. As an ethics, it is both a way of living and a way of relating to others: how can we come together-combine-in a fashion that doesn’t restrict, limit and suppress the desire, creativity and active power of each other? This ethical question is at the heart of anarchism. As an ethics, anarchism recognizes that there is no escape from social life; the anarchist ethic, after all, grows out of the movement of the exploited and excluded, and it only remains vital within that movement. Living this ethic will mean that one will come into conflict with imposed social order, with hierarchy, with any archy or cracy. To live this ethic is thus not always an easy choice, we can’t make it into a Snickers Bar; anyhow, no matter how drained of content anarchism becomes the masses won’t run to sign up any day soon.

That said, it is also a simple fact of language that those who want to reform the present system are called reformists. There are also many people who wish to end the rule of capital and the state but unwittingly use means that can only bring about a reform of the present system. It is, therefore, obviously important to come to a clear understanding of the results of our actions; this is what theory and critique are for, and it should not be turned into a pleasant game of compliments. Yet, as anarchists, we can work with them towards intermediate aims, while always remaining clear as to how such aims tally with our ultimate goals. There are, however, important limits-limits that are obscured when we hold only an abstract conception of social change. Working to “demand authentic control over the police” might be a small step for social change in some general sense, but ultimately it is a step backwards as it strengthens the legitimacy of the police and of imposed decision. That is of course, unless one’s goal is nicer police and “democratic control over our lives”-the term ‘democratic,’ which we hear repeated over and over by activists these days, is another term usually left unthinkingly abstract. “Direct democratic control over our lives” might make a nice slogan, but it is vague enough for most politicians in Washington to use.

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