Listen Anarchist!

Bufe, Chaz

Publisher:  Processed World
Year Published:  1988  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX16490

Bufe criticizes many of the failings of the anarchist movement in North America, in theory and in practice.



One major problem is the deliberate self-marginalization of a relatively large number of American anarchists. Anyone who has been around the U.S./Canadian anarchist movement for any length of time quickly becomes familiar with the "marginals" and the "fashion anarchists." (Marginals considerthemselves anarchists, while "fashion anarchists" simply use anarchist—and punk—trappings.) These people often run around with huge circle-"A"s painted on their jackets; loudly proclaim themselves to be anarchists, and for the most part have never studied anarchist theory and couldn't offer a coherent definition of anarchism to save their lives.

The reason why such people (both marginals and "fashion anarchists") choose to label themselves as anarchists is undoubtedly, in many cases, that they believe the worst bourgeois lies about anarchism—that it's a synonym for chaos and an extreme everyone-else-be-damned form of individualism. They use "anarchism" as a blanket justification for irresponsible, antisocial behavior. (I've even heard "anarchism" used as an excuse for smoking in public places.) It's unfortunate, to say the least, that such people are the most publicly visible proponents of (what they consider) anarchism.

A troubling aspect of the marginalized milieu is the anti-work (and often anti-worker) attitude frequently displayed by the marginals. This is unfortunate for two reasons. One is that work must be performed in order for society to exist, and adoption of an anti-work attitude simply begs the crucial question of how work should be organized. It's all well and good to say that work should be replaced by play, but how do we get from here to there?

The other problem is that most able-bodied people work, and it would be difficult to find a more alienating approach to those of us who work than the anti-work attitude, which in effect states: "What you're doing (work) is worse than useless, and you're stupid for doing it," while offering no alternative whatsoever. This problem is aggravated by the fact that some anti-work advocates, who could work but choose not to, practice a form of parasitism—they receive money from the government (extorted from those who work). It's rather difficult to take seriously those who rail against work while grasping a black flag in one hand and a welfare check in the other. (However, these comments should not be construed as an attack on welfare recipients. Unemployment is built into the economy, and it's undeniably fortunate that forms of relief are available to its victims. But for those who most stringently condemn the state—anarchists—to deliberately rely on it as their means of support, robs them of credibility.)

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