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  • Writer's pictureLaurence Dunn

A Brief Introduction: Post-Left Anarchy

In 1997, Jason McQuinn published Bob Black’s “Anarchy After Leftism.” The cover boldly declared: A Farewell to the Anarchism That Was! AAL was Bob’s rebuttal to Murray Bookchin’s 1995 “Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm,” a scurrilous scattershot attack against all kinds of anarchists who— so he claimed — were ruining his party; freaks and losers keeping otherwise natural born anarchists from pouring into the so-called movement. Other responses to Murray’s bullshit soon followed, mostly negative (1), which in turn led to a circling of the intellectual (?) wagons among Social Ecologists and anarcho-leftists alike, who rushed to defend Murray’s assertions. Despite Bookchin finally declaring that anarchism wasn’t what he professed any more (privately the same year SALA was published, publicly four years later), his bizarre creation, the dreaded Lifestylist, retains a peculiar life of its own through continual citation by leftists of all stripes – a kind of updated refutation of anarchism tout court, akin to how Marxists trot out the idiotic essay “On Authority” by Engels.

 

Not one to rest on his laurels, Jason sent out a letter soliciting essays from other writers in and around Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (aka Anarchy Magazine, aka Ajoda), and in 1999, a themed issue came out featuring half a dozen texts laying out the general outline of what is now known as Post-Left Anarchism.

 

Since then, the discourse has widened substantially. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have deepened that much. Some critics (2) want to know why the discourse hasn’t progressed into a specifically anti-left anarchism, making more explicit a break from all kinds of allegedly extraneous problems; others, clearly uncomfortable with the idea of rejecting leftism, embrace the binary dichotomies of the Popular Front and issue dire warnings about the intrusion of, or attraction to, fascist ideas into post-left anarchy (3). And while it’s true that there are several internet personalities who espouse a strange mix of socially conservative notions (apparently there’s no structural racism or sexism) with a PLA self-identification, none of them are capable of articulating why, preferring to repeat right-wing talking points (4). There are also a host of Stirnerian edge lords who deploy terms like “spook” and “ego” without having understood them; thankfully, almost all of those dopes are incapable of doing much more than sharing memes (5)

 

Regardless, the core ideas of PLA remain relevant, especially in these post-Occupy days when social contestation seems to have reverted to forms more familiar to historians of the early 20th century, like trade union organizing and an occasional strike (most anti-war activism is suffused with the logic [such as it is] of the historical pro-state monstrosity that is Anti-Imperialism, with its attendant ignorance of anti-militarism). (6)

 

And what are those core ideas? Skepticism of organization for organization’s sake, with or without a rejection of formal organization. Refusal of the incipient bureaucratism of conformism and centralization while promoting critical thinking. Skepticism toward revolution (however variously understood, but usually as a discrete event, and mostly as shorthand for something else), especially as the teleological repository of amelioration or solution. Principled internationalism. Re-centring the individual – not necessarily in opposition to the collective, but also not automatically subordinate to it – without relying on mawkish humanism and the moralism accompanying it. Explicit rejection of representational politics, which obviously includes all types of democracy. Heavy skepticism of technology and civilization, more generally, especially Green Capitalism. A rejection of the logic of Liberalism, where some alternative to a problem is required to take the critique of the problem seriously.

 

None of these ideas were new to anarchism when the post-left discourse began, nor should any of them be unrecognizable to anarchists familiar with the history of anarchism as a discrete (anti-)political philosophy; post-left discourse was (and still is) considered necessary for those of us who remain interested in it precisely because there are so many self-described anarchists who have found the leadership principle attractive, who have found that some hierarchies aren’t really so bad after all, who have found that there are types of authority that are legitimate, and who have found that voting for representatives in local and national elections qualifies as harm reduction.



References:

 

(1) Among the first were “Beyond Bookchin,” (1998) by David Watson of Fifth Estate, the anthology “Social Ecology after Bookchin,” (1999), and – a very late entry – the pamphlet “Being a Bookchinite,” (2007) by Chuck Morse.

 

(2) Most notably, John Zerzan. While initially definitely sympathetic to the discourse, he became disenchanted for various reasons, among them an annoyance that PLA didn’t go down the same anarchist-primitivist path that he pioneered. He missed the memo where PLA authors expressed skepticism toward all prescriptive ideologies…

 

(3) The most alarmist being “Against the Fascist Creep,” (2017) by Alexander Reid Ross, whose own trajectory from Earth First! to academic, sometimes contributor to an anti-leftist think tank, to unethical journalist whose articles for the Southern Poverty Law Center were removed from their website after complaints from targeted leftist activists and authors complained about his unsubstantiated allegations of fascist sympathies.

 

(4) Perhaps the most notorious is the personality behind the screen name “SirEinzige,” who can be found commenting on anarchistnews.org and Reddit. He is purportedly a mixed-race Canadian whose comprehension of basic spelling and grammar is as rudimentary as his notions on what is—and more importantly, what isn’t—identity politics. Further, he exhibits a stunning lack of awareness of the existence of structural inequalities fostered, maintained, and enforced by the state.

 

(5) For amazingly absurd examples (even for that platform), check the subreddit “fullegoism” on Reddit.

 

(6) There are far too many self-declared anarchists (especially the former [?] Trotskyist Wayne Price) who fully support the Ukrainian military and its hyper-nationalist paramilitaries (hey, don’t call them neo-Nazis even as they parade with portraits of Bandera…) in their conventional NATO-proxy war against the Russian invasion, but these ammosexuals never talk about draft resistance or desertion, refusal to follow orders, fraternization, or even the classical Leninist strategy of revolutionary defeatism .By boles

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