Episode 27 – An anarchist positive program

This episode comes with an editorial and concerns whether anarchism is a negative or positive thing. Preferences are stated.

For me anarchism has always been a two-sided coin. There is the destructive “anti” side, the side that says that all forms of capitalism, government, hierarchy, authority, etc. should be completely destroyed ASAP. And then there is the positive side, the part that says that “another world is possible”, and that that world would look something like people coming together voluntarily as equals to cooperate, share and help each other out. My concern is that in recent years the positive side of anarchism has been overlooked, or even forgotten about, while the attack-and-destroy negative side of anarchism has become more of what people think about when they think of the big A-word.

I would like to see this change. I would like to see anarchism become more positive. Now, I know that I may sound stupid and hokey saying this, but I really do believe that positivity in some form really does serve a purpose. I believe that positivity can sustain & nourish people, that it can keep people going. And with a big social-political philosophy like anarchism, it also serves the purpose of providing a sense of direction, a way to orient yourself towards what it is that you do want, instead of just getting away from what you don’t want.

There is an Israeli anarchist guy I’ve known for a long time named Ilan Shalif who recently said this online: “If I had no vision of libertarian communist alternative for human society I would not have survived the full 82 years of my life.” Now, I am definitely not as old as he is, but I do feel the same way he does. Having a vision for what human beings are capable of, in the positive sense and on a large-scale global level, has certainly kept me going all these years that I have been alive. And with the anarchist scene being what it is these days, this positive sense of our human potential has kept me sticking with anarchism, even though there are a million and one reasons presented to me as to why I should leave it all behind.

Let me be clear here, just because human beings have the potential for great and beautiful things does not at all mean that these things will happen. Possibility does not mean inevitability. And likewise, having a wonderful vision for how human society can be does not mean that this vision will ever be realized. In some sense our visions for a future anarchist world are siblings to the fantastic worlds created in science fiction. The difference is that our anarchist visions are of worlds that we actually do believe can happen, and they are ones that we are ostensibly working to make into a reality.

So with this episode, I would like to hear what your anarchist utopia looks like. I would like to hear how your ideal society (or lack thereof) would function, what daily life would be like, how stuff would get done. Would your ideal society keep the old anarchist dream of workers’ councils, neighborhood assemblies and mandated recallable delegates within massive federation structures? Or would you go with more of a 21st century approach and make collective decisions via directly voting for things on your smartphone that is connected with a mesh network and uses heavy encryption? Or would you keep things really old school and instead have humanity be organized the way it was for most of its history, as small bands and tribes of nomadic hunter-gatherers?

Speaking for myself, the centerpiece of my ideal anarchist society would be authentic heartfelt connection between people. So my ideal anarchist world would have people taking the time and effort to be honest with themselves and those around them, really taking the time to listen to and understand those around them, and working through the conflicts and difficulties that inevitably arise in human relationships. My ideal anarchist world would then have specific times and spaces set aside for people to do this kind of messy personal/interpersonal kind of work. And then with that foundation in place, the whole gamut of non-hierarchical meeting facilitation processes and organizational systems can be utilized to help the various “councils”, “assemblies”, “tribes” and “collectives” run more smoothly and harmoniously than a group of alienated antagonistic people using Robert’s Rules of Order or Formal Consensus would ever be able to.

And then, ultimately, we would have bad-ass anarchist colonies on Mars, the asteroid belt, and the rest of the solar system. That is my dream, anyway….

4 Replies to “Episode 27 – An anarchist positive program”

  1. Fauvenoir

    Digged that episode!

    Tho you guise may wanna raise the volume level as I’m always having a hard time hearing the show properly, even with the speakers at full volume.

    I’m also personally into the practice/idea of keeping supporting small projects at arm’s reach that actually bring something good to those involved. That caller at the 2/3rd of the show was being a tad irate about “big, large-scale societal change”, tho it’s relatable. A lot of effort, energy and resources are wasted on building/maintaning these big-ass organizations, movements, parties and serving broader “global communitites” ’til we realize this is just a load of bullshit and some wily agents are also already been profiting from this stuff.

    Now I’m looking at a free food-sharing fridge/shack in a rural area, that didn’t took too much effort to set up, where people can come bring or pick up food at any time of the day… for an instance. Essentially anarchistic project (even if it ain’t obviously promoting itself as such.. or needs to!) that beyond bringing something good for everyone, allows people to have a bit of chatting, it’s got the potential of recreating the “village” social arrangement, of people gathering around one or a few central resources everyone benefits from (instead of more endless sprawls based on highways and capitalist corporate outlets).

    Projects like these have little or zero revolutionary pretense yet they compensate for the huge, dramatic flaws/shortcomings of the capitalist society in a way that is also counter-capitalistic in essence. It’s really odd that NA anarcho-commies didn’t seem to get the importance of praxis such as these, yet will lower themselves to big ASS-emblies or fixing potholes… 😉

  2. Siddiq

    What was that NVC utopia book that Ian mentions as his favourite sketch of the future? It was called something like “recovering our human fibre” or something like that, but when I look it up all I get are things related to diet and nutrition

  3. Siddiq Khan

    Oh wait I found it — Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future by Miki Kashtan

    Nice episode by the way. It struck me however — and this is indicitive of the often dogmatic anti-heglian & anti-marxist outlook of much post-left anarchism — that the posibility of a dialectical relationship between negativity and positivity was never seriously explored, whereas this has been the mainstay of radical understanding of popular revolt from the first stirrings of working class consciousness: it is through the “negative” organisation of insurrection that the “positive” new world becomes possible: the forms of relationship and organisation that emerge during the course of advanced social contestation being precisely the same forms that might — if they go one step further, begin supplanting the forms of relation and organisation of the old world in a dual-power situation until they are popular enough to suppress the state and commodity economy entirely. On the theme of endless meetings, it´s worth mentioning the proposal of William Benbow, a 19th century cobbler who offered the first theoretical conception of the general strike as a form of a months long FESTIVAL where workers would stop working in order to finally take the time they have hithero never been allowed to figure out how to deal with the problems that face them directly, rather than rely on representatives. Bob Black, who besides Zerzan is one of the few post-left anarchists to have seriously considered the question of revolution as an outcome of class struggle at some point in their lives (though neither were at all optimistic about the prospect) has a useful write up of Benbow here


    but the original text is well worth a read (although it´s on marxists.org Benbow wrote this years before Marx and Bakunin were even of legal drinking age)


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