Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Now it's the 'wrong kind of anarchist'

Anyone else notice the little right-wing meme about the 'anarchists' on Saturday's demo that has popped up in several places? Basically the argument goes that of course if these people really were anarchists they would be supporting the cuts rather than opposing them because it would reduce the reach of the state. Ho ho ho.

I find it interesting as it suggests some general ignorance on the part of many 'libertarians' of the right-wing blogosphere about anarchism. First, it is ridiculously easy to see how a libertarian/anarchist could be against the cuts and thus on the march - because they consider the threat to their (or their colleagues) economic livelihood (freedom even) is greater than the potential freedom to be gained. That self-proclaimed libertarians of the Right can't see this is indicative of a wider trend - they just don't get the idea that power at the workplace matters too.

This leads on to my second point. There is, as I've blogged before, a long history of libertarianism in the labour movement, even explicit anarchism. This is, after all, what anarcho-syndicalism was all about. It should not be surprising then that libertarian members of the labour movement choose to support a major mobilisation of said movement against a perceived major attack by a hostile government. Unions are examples of voluntary self-organisation intended to act as a countervailing power to that of employers, be they public or private. There is nothing inconsistent in supporting these orgsanitions when they seek to do their job - defend their members. Again, that libertarians on the Right routinely attack them (even calling for their destruction) I think says more about the shallowness of their own libertarianism than anything else.

Thirdly, none of this is exactly hidden history. If you have read about anarchism in even the most general terms you will be aware that as a political movement (rather than a theory) it has been closely intertwined with the labour movement. I can only assume that Right libertarians only bothered to read the chapters in the Penguin Book of Anarchism about the individualist strain of anarchsim, overlooking the rather larger left-wing version.

This all leads on to my major point - I actually find the Right version of libertarianism we regularly see generally unconvincing. It's partly who they line up with. I have seen quite a bit of left anarchist stuff that repeats the bollox that there's no difference between Labour and the Tories. But our right-wing version seem to find it relatively easy to find common cause with the Tories and UKIP. It's partly that one-eyed view of power. They can see the jackboot behind the smoking ban, but can stare at corporate power and fail to anything troubling about it (or at least never blog about it as far as I can see). And it's also partly their own personal standards. They cheer on the police cracking heads on demos (because the wrong kind of anarchists are causing trouble), and one famous 'libertarian' even favours giving the state the death penalty. I'm sorry but it's not exactly No Gods No Masters is it?

As should be obvious given my political affiliation, none of this is to defend those that went on the rampage on Saturday in any way. But if people who work themselves into a lather about health and safety are setting themselves up as arbiters of who is or isn't a 'proper anarchist' something has gone badly wrong!

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