February 28, 2021

TOTW: The a-word

As I’ve grown older as an anarchist, I’ve felt that one “a” word is more than enough to describe my politics. It engages, provokes, and scares in equal measures, at worst giving people an invitation to attack (with words or more), at best a chance to have meaningful conversations otherwise lost in our drab costumes as banal normies.

Yet it seems a lot of anarchists don’t feel like they’ve had their fill with just one. In addition to anarchist, they pile on the antis – anti-authoritarian, anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, anti-, well, you get the idea. There’s also no shortage of projects by anarchists that get swallowed whole by these vague words and concepts, not calling themselves anarchist at all.

One context in which this is happening is one in which Endnotes says “leftism itself has become one identity among others, and one that in itself is of no great importance for the success and evolution” of what they term “non-movements” like the yellow vests in France, the George Floyd protests, etc. Leftism is another margarine word, but replace it with a somewhat less oily anarchism and the point still stands. Far be it from me to lay the course of world events at our feet, but is a reason for our irrelevance perhaps that so many of us are getting swept along in the tide, and failing to say what anarchists must – that is, that we’re anarchists at all?

That said, there’s also an argument that the “a” word can amount to favoring style over substance, and spoiling potential affinities out of the gate due to a label. Anti-fascist or anti-capitalist may feel friendlier or more specific to what you’re doing and leaves the door open for people who may no be anarchists today but could be tomorrow.

But then, could it not be considered a howl in the attentat sense – “social, intended to collect friends; exultant, a response of health & joy, not fear and sickness” and “I howl alone not because I am alone, but because I exult in the joy of… those who are coming.” How do we find each other without this howl?

How important is it for you to name yourself an anarchist to others? How important is it that your projects be explicitly anarchist?

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