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Anarcha-Feminism | Robert Graham’s Anarchism Weblog

12 Mar

 

Robert Graham’s Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas on the emergence of anarcha-feminism.

Source: Anarcha-Feminism | Robert Graham’s Anarchism Weblog

 

Belatedly realizing that I should make a better effort to tie my posts into international dates, like Women’s Day, here is a section from the “Anarchist Current,” the Afterword to Volume Three of my anthology of anarchist writings, Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, in which I discuss anarchist critiques of patriarchy, hierarchy and domination that began to emerge in the 1960s and 70s. It’s a bit  out of order, but nothing wrong with that from an anarchist perspective (“I reject my own self-imposed order!”). I particularly like Carole Pateman’s critique of “libertarian” contractarianism, which ultimately results in an anarcho-capitalist dystopia of universal prostitution. Message to Benjamin Franks: please stop describing me as a liberal. You’ve misunderstood my essay on the “Anarchist Contract.” Take a look at the original, more ‘academic’ version, “The Role of Contract in Anarchist Ideology,” in For Anarchism (Routledge, 1989), ed. David Goodway. In both essays, I draw on Pateman’s critiques of liberal ideology, and no, neither “free agreement” nor “autonomy” are inherently “liberal” concepts.

 

 

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Patriarchy

In his discussion of the emergence of hierarchical societies which “gradually subverted the unity of society with the natural world,” Murray Bookchin noted the important role played by “the patriarchal family in which women were brought into universal subjugation to men” (Volume Three, Selection 26). Rossella Di Leo has suggested that hierarchical societies emerged from more egalitarian societies in which there were “asymmetries” of authority and prestige, with men holding the social positions to which the most prestige was attached (Volume Three, Selection 32). In contemporary society, Nicole Laurin-Frenette observes, “women of all classes, in all trades and professions, in all sectors of work and at all professional levels [continue] to be assigned tasks which are implicitly or explicitly defined and conceived as feminine. These tasks usually correspond to subordinate functions which entail unfavourable practical and symbolic conditions” (Volume Three, Selection 33).

 

 

Radical Feminism

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a radical feminist movement emerged that shared many affinities with anarchism and the ecology movement. Peggy Kornegger argued that “feminists have been unconscious anarchists in both theory and practice for years” (Volume Two, Selection 78). Radical feminists regarded “the nuclear family as the basis for all authoritarian systems,” much as earlier anarchists had, from Otto Gross (Volume One, Selection 78), to Marie Louise Berneri (Volume Two, Selection 75) and Daniel Guérin (Volume Two, Selection 76). Radical feminists also rejected “the male domineering attitude toward the external world, allowing only subject/object relationships,” developing a critique of “male hierarchical thought patterns—in which rationality dominates sensuality, mind dominates intuition, and persistent splits and polarities (active/passive, child/adult, sane/insane, work/play, spontaneity/organization) alienate us from the mind-body experience as a Whole and from the Continuum of human experience,” echoing the much older critique of Daoist anarchists, such as Bao Jingyan (Volume One, Selection 1).

Kornegger noted that as “the second wave of feminism spread across the [U.S.] in the late 60s, the forms which women’s groups took frequently reflected an unspoken libertarian consciousness,” with women breaking off “into small, leaderless, consciousness-raising groups, which dealt with personal issues in our daily lives,” and which “bore a striking resemblance” to “anarchist affinity groups” (see Bookchin, Volume Two, Selection 62), with their “emphasis on the small group as a basic organizational unit, on the personal and political, on antiauthoritarianism, and on spontaneous direct action” (Volume Two, Selection 78).

 

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As Carol Ehrlich notes, radical feminists and anarchist feminists “are concerned with a set of common issues: control over one’s body; alternatives to the nuclear family and to heterosexuality; new methods of child care that will liberate parents and children; economic self-determination; ending sex stereotyping in education, in the media, and in the workplace; the abolition of repressive laws; an end to male authority, ownership, and control over women; providing women with the means to develop skills and positive self-attitudes; an end to oppressive emotional relationships; and what the Situationists have called ‘the reinvention of everyday life’.” Despite the Situationists’ hostility toward anarchism, many anarchists in the 1960s and 70s were influenced by the Situationist critique of the “society of the spectacle,” in which “the stage is set, the action unfolds, we applaud when we think we are happy, we yawn when we think we are bored, but we cannot leave the show, because there is no world outside the theater for us to go to” (Volume Two, Selection 79).

Some anarchist women were concerned that the more orthodox “feminist movement has, consciously or otherwise, helped motivate women to integrate with the dominant value system,” as Ariane Gransac put it, for “if validation through power makes for equality of the sexes, such equality can scarcely help but produce a more fulsome integration of women into the system of man’s/woman’s domination over his/her fellow-man/woman” (Volume Three, Selection 34). “Like the workers’ movement in the past, especially its trade union wing,” Nicole Laurin-Frenette observes, “the feminist movement is constantly obliged to negotiate with the State, because it alone seems able to impose respect for the principles defended by feminism on women’s direct and immediate opponents, namely men—husbands, fathers, fellow citizens, colleagues, employers, administrators, thinkers” (Volume Three, Selection 33). For anarchists the focus must remain on abolishing all forms of hierarchy and domination, which Carol Ehrlich has described as “the hardest task of all” (Volume Two, Selection 79). Yet, as Peggy Kornegger reminds us, we must not give up hope, that “vision of the future so beautiful and so powerful that it pulls us steadily forward” through “a continuum of thought and action, individuality and collectivity, spontaneity and organization, stretching from what is to what can be” (Volume Two, Selection 78).

 

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The Sexual Contract

In criticizing the subordinate position of women, particularly in marriage, anarchist feminists often compared the position of married women to that of a prostitute (Emma Goldman, Volume One, Selection 70). More recently, Carole Pateman has developed a far-reaching feminist critique of the contractarian ideal of reducing all relationships to contractual relationships in which people exchange the “property” in their persons, with particular emphasis on prostitution, or contracts for sexual services, noting that: “The idea of property in the person has the merit of drawing attention to the importance of the body in social relations. Civil mastery, like the mastery of the slave-owner, is not exercised over mere biological entities that can be used like material (animal) property, nor exercised over purely rational entities. Masters are not interested in the disembodied fiction of labour power or services. They contract for the use of human embodied selves. Precisely because subordinates are embodied selves they can perform the required labour, be subject to discipline, give the recognition and offer the faithful service that makes a man a master” (Volume Three, Selection 35).

What distinguishes prostitution contracts from other contracts involving “property in the person” is that when “a man enters into the prostitution contract he is not interested in sexually indifferent, disembodied services; he contracts to buy sexual use of a woman for a given period… When women’s bodies are on sale as commodities in the capitalist market… men gain public acknowledgment as women’s sexual masters.” Pateman notes that “contracts about property in persons [normally] take the form of an exchange of obedience for protection,” but the “short-term prostitution contract cannot include the protection available in long-term relations.” Rather, the “prostitution contract mirrors the contractarian ideal” of “simultaneous exchange” of property or services, “a vision of unimpeded mutual use or universal prostitution” (Volume Three, Selection 35).

Robert Graham

 

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A for Anarchism B for Bakunin and C for Chomsky: A Book Review of ‘On Anarchism: by Noam Chomsky’

27 Jan

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A month or two ago, Terry Eagelton, in a review of Slavoj Zizek’s book had insight-fully reminded the irony of our age. One of the most popular and respected public intellectual he reminded us is a communist. The same remark would ditto apply to Chomsky, except that Chomsky isn’t a communist but a professed anarchist. He is the real life version of ‘the man who knew too much’ of our age. His commitment to his vision; and his passion for simplicity makes him the most feared scholar in the world.

Professor Chomsky is a believer neither of capitalism nor of liberal democracy. For thinkers like him, both are at the best an estranged couple who have to hide their troubled relationship behind layers of  paraphernalia to ‘prove’ that all is well. Reading Chomsky is an exercise in dismantling the prejudices of our age. It is learning how to see things, people and the world from a non-statist point of view. Living as we do in an era where writing is increasingly becoming sort of linguistic terrorism; authors like Chomsky remind us our profound need for clarity in our intellectual activities.

To write means to communicate, and not to parade before the reader’s eye coded phrases that makes little sense to them. Writers like Chomsky along with Isaiah Berlin are some of the best practitioners of the art of writing precisely for this reason. They write about complex issues in a language which is accessible even to 12 year old kids.

The thought–content of Chomsky is openly anti–capitalist, and anti–hierarchical. And he is not alone in this. Anarchism as a political philosophy has had a long existence. Bertrand Russell had traced the origins of anarchism in Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher. And Chomsky locates the same thought–content in Humboldt.

While anarchists hold divergent views, what Chomsky does in this book is to lay bare some of the principles of his version of anarchism that is known as anarcho–syndicalism. “Anarchy as a social philosophy has never meant “chaos” – in fact, anarchists have typically believed in a highly organized society, just that’s organized from below.” [pp.28]

 WORLD REVOLUTION

THE WORLD NEEDS A TOTAL REVOLUTION

 

And again Chomsky in his characteristic manner tells us that, “I think that whenever you find situations of power at the top, these questions should be asked–and the person who claims the legitimacy of the authority always bears the burden of justifying it. And if they can’t justify it, it’s illegitimate and should be dismantled. To tell you the truth, I don’t really understand anarchism as being much more than that.”[pp.33]

All anarchists like Chomsky are deeply suspicious of all forms of power and authority. Humans when held in chain resemble animal. Freedom is the air without which a being suffocates and experiences as Pamuk puts it ‘death-in-life’. Needless authority and domination is not merely antihuman, but is an effective barrier in development of a new human being.

Modern men crushed by ignorance, poverty, mass culture and ideology have become what is every dictator’s dream project of what humans should be like. Modern man either thinks too much and is assailed by doubts from all sides, or simply prefers to think nothing at all. His fertile intellect has been ravished by indoctrination; his thoughts are not thoroughly thought. His is lazy; he smokes much and substitutes all disturbing thoughts with liquor and woman.

It is not that he is not angry; he gets angry with everything, and then vents it either on his wife or on his pets. Anarchism is a political belief that asserts that most of these evils that troubles a modern man, since it originates in material world could be done away with; if only we could alter the economic, social and political structures of society that is withholding in its own womb the ciyotens of future republic.

One of the most violent debate that has troubled socialists around the world is the need for preserving an organized institution whose task would be to control and direct the task of reconstruction of a new society, once people have seized power. [See: Marx’s own pronouncement on Proudhon in a letter to P.V. Annenkov, dated December 28, 1846.]

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The communists have insisted on maintaining the sovereignty of poor, whereas anarchists have argued about radically devolving power to the lowest strata, so that the need for bureaucracy becomes superfluous. The issue of state power is what separates writers like Marx, Engels and Lenin from anarchists like Bakunin, Chomsky or even that ferocious thinker named Herzen. For these communists, a vanguard party was sine qua none for maintenance of the hard won liberties of the toiling masses.

The anarchist refuses to believe in anything known as red bureaucracy. “The suppression of the state cannot be a languid affair; it must be the task of the Revolution to finish with the state,” writes Chomsky quoting the anarchosyndicalist economist Deigo Abad de Santillan. [pp.5]

For thinkers, like Chomsky people’s stick is the same as master’s stick. Both do the same to mass, in whose name it usurps power and authority. ‘Every form of authority and domination and hierarchy, every authoritarian structure, has to prove that it’s justified–it has no prior justification.’[pp.33] Be that as it may, these are some of the issues that have been raised in this deeply engaging book.

Anyone who has iota of awareness about labour movement would agree that debates among leftists on serious social questions often take a violent form. One rarely sees this phenomenon of ‘killing for sake of abstract principles’ among the right. This is a typical left problem.

Chomsky with his usual scholarly tenacity devotes few pages into analysis of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-37. In the essay entitled, ‘Part II of Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship,’ he examines the reactionary role of the Communists in the Spanish Civil War where almost 50% of Spain was successfully brought under the direct control of workers and peasants. It was the communists who thought that the “revolution had gone too far” and hence used brute force to turn the tide. In this fight between members of left, ultimately it was right that emerged victorious.

 

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The revolution was crushed. Communist killed anarchists and then the landlords killed the communists. History became a graveyard of anarchists and communists. This book raises some of the most vital issues that have plagued progressive movement since its inception in modern world. If the left could, “overcome its suicidal tendencies and built upon what has been accomplished in the past decade, then the problem of how to organize industrial society on a truly democratic lines, should become the dominant issue for those who are alive…. [pp.18]

It was Nietzsche who had once said that the first generation of every party, nation, church and sect are honest and devoted to the cause. The generation that comes later is corrupt. It is a generation of comrade Napoleon from Orwell’s Animal Farm; of Victor Dunaev from Ayn Rand’s We the living. These selfish and self-serving men would be the white elephants of the new workers’ republic. This Nietzschean remark, apart from being source of several novels, would years later also be the source of reality.

The failure of Soviet Union, the world’s first workers’ state, was a fulfilment of prophecy of much of what thinkers branded as anarchists and ultra-leftist had to say about it. Most communists now agree on the emergence of a new-class in post-revolutionary society.

This new managerial class is the prime beneficiary of surplus-value. Filthy to their very bones, this class shares an antagonist relationship with the working class. And this is such a serious obstacle, that without battling it, no just and equitable society can ever be dreamt off. The dream of Marx is still the prisoner of the modern day bureaucrats. This book is a timely warning, that unless some way is found out to deal with bureaucratic Castle, no revolution would truly become revolutionary enough.

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A for Anarchism B for Bakunin and C for Chomsky: A Book Review of ‘On Anarchism: Noam Chomsky’, pp.168, Rs. 250, Penguin Edition, 2014.

 

 

On Anarchism provides the reasoning behind Noam Chomsky’s fearless lifelong questioning of the legitimacy of entrenched power. In these essays, Chomsky redeems one of the most maligned ideologies, anarchism, and places it at the foundation of his political thinking. Chomsky’s anarchism is distinctly optimistic and egalitarian. Moreover, it is a living, evolving tradition that is situated in a historical lineage; Chomsky’s anarchism emphasizes the power of collective, rather than individualist, action.

The collection includes a revealing new introduction by journalist Nathan Schneider, who documented the Occupy movement for Harper’s and The Nation, and who places Chomsky’s ideas in the contemporary political moment. On Anarchism will be essential reading for a new generation of activists who are at the forefront of a resurgence of interest in anarchism—and for anyone who struggles with what can be done to create a more just world.

 

Lights of rebellion shine at the Zapatista resistance festival; Zapatista’s host world festival of resistance and rebellion Against Capitalism

24 Jan

 

The Zapatistas: 20 plus years of reinventing revolution. Last month, the Zapatistas organized the first World Festival of Rebellion and Resistance Against Capitalism. One participant shares his impressions. by Giovanni Cattaruzza on January 19, 2015

 

 

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

The mountains of Xochicuautla, which are waiting for the snow and for yet another Christmas here in Mexico, don’t know anything about us.They don’t know anything about the thousands of people from all over the world who climbed up here in the cold. The mountains of Xochicuautla ignore what democracy looks like, where Palestine or Valle di Susa is, what sort of thing an international airport is, or what so-called “sustainable capitalism” looks like. They don’t know anything about mega-development projects, highways, garbage dumps, mines, GMO’s, transnational companies, militarization, and progress. They are only mountains, they speak Nahuatl, and it’s kind of complicated to have a conversation with a mountain.

 

Rebuilding from below

On December 21, the first World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism — “Where those from above destroy, those from below rebuild” — organized by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), was inaugurated in the San Francisco Xochicuautla community, municipality of Lerma, in the state of Mexico.

More than 2.000 Mexican activists, 500 international comrades from 48 different countries, and hundreds upon hundreds of indigenous community representatives started their journey throughout the country from these mountains.

The EZLN and the CNI invited all the people of the world here in Mexico in order to travel together to the southern-most point of the country and to discover the histories and struggles of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and the challenges faced by all the political organizations that take the Zapatistas as a point of reference — from the anarchists of the Z.A.D. of Nantes, to the Sem Tierra of Brazil, on to the teachers of Oaxaca.

Once again, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation together with the indigenous communities of Chiapas decided to build a common project in cooperation with the anti-capitalist movements of the planet.

Once again, from the jungles of the south-east of Mexico, they thought globally. Inviting the people from all over the world to Chiapas in order to fight against capitalism together. According to the Zapatistas, global capitalism in the year 2015 reveals itself most clearly through mega-development projects and violent attacks to Mother Nature all over the world.

This journey can be summarized in one line: preguntando caminamos (“asking while walking”), as the Zapatistas say. It is a time to learn and to doubt ourselves.

We walked and dreamed together from Mexico City to the tropical rains of the State of Campeche, on to to the cold altiplano of the Caracol of Oventik, sharing political practices of resistance, knowing that, as Subcomandante Insurgente Moises said:

There is no single answer. There is no manual. There is no dogma. There is no creed. There are many answers, many ways, many forms. And each of us will see what we are able to do and learn from our own struggle and from other struggles.

 

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“We give you 43 embraces”

During the so called “sharings” in Xochicuatla, Monclova and in the University of the Land (CIDECI) in San Cristobal de las Casas, we listened to hundreds of languages and political experiences of resistance, but most importantly we listened to the voices of the families of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa to whom the EZLN gave its own seat during the festival.

We cried together and we embraced each other under the cold rain of Oventik, looking at the members of the Comandancia of the EZLN hugging one by one the fathers and the mothers of the 43, after hearing the voice of Subcomandante Moises pronouncing the following words:

And so, when this day or night comes, your missing ones will give you the same embrace that we Zapatistas now give to you. It is an embrace of caring, respect, and admiration. In addition, we give you 43 embraces, one for each of those who are absent from your lives.

In the next weeks the EZLN will communicate in detail some actions and proposals to the world.

According to the Zapatistas and to the individuals and organizations that attended this first World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism, there is no more time to waste. The henchmen of global capitalism — big business, national governments and international organizations — are quelling all voices of dissent, attempting to destroy all forms of resistance wherever it pops up. Ayotzinapa is just another example of this mechanism that kills everyone who chooses to resist, from Turkey and Ferguson to Mexico.

Today is the time for unity of all those who want to fight capitalism and who do not recognize themselves in any political party.

 

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The lights of rebellion and resistance

The night is dark as only the nights in Chiapas can be, here in the Caracol of Oventik. It is December 31, 2014, 21 years after the Zapatista uprising.

Deaths, disappearances, repression and the threat of imprisonment will continue to challenge los de abajo also in the year we are entering. 2015 will be tough for them — but in the extreme darkness of the night, in the black hole of the capital in which we’re living, there are some lights of resistance.

The thousands of people who arrived here, in the mountains of Southeast Mexico, are here to share some of these little lights.

It’s funny to look at these little lights, here in Oventik, where the words of the EZLN — reaching us through the voice of Subcomandante Insurgente Moises — echo in the mountains:

Darkness becomes longer and heavier across the world, touching everyone. We knew it would be like this. We know it will be like this. We spent years, decades, centuries preparing ourselves. Our gaze is not limited to what is close-by. It does not see only today, nor only our own lands. Our gaze extends far in time and geography, and that determines how we think.

Each time something happens, it unites us in pain, but also in rage. Because now, as for some time already, we see lights being lit in many corners. They are lights of rebellion and resistance. Sometimes they are small, like ours. Sometimes they are big. Sometimes they take awhile. Sometimes they are only a spark that quickly goes out. Sometimes they go on and on without losing their glow in our memory.

And in all of these lights there is a bet that tomorrow will be very different.

The night is ours.

Giovanni Cattaruzza lives in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. He collaborates with the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomè de las Casas-FrayBa and is a graduate of Latin American Studies at Leiden University. A great supporter of Genoa C.F.C, proudly NO-TAV, and in love with the continent of Pancho Villa, he writes articles about the struggles of indigenous communities and social movements in Latin America.

 

 

First World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism

It’s been a long time since the Zapatistas last organized a major international meeting like this one.

However, at a time when people all over the world — from the squares of Spain and Greece to Zucotti Park, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Mexico and beyond — all turn their gaze towards Chiapas looking for an autonomous, direct democratic and horizontal system of self-governance from below, while the only alternative we are being offered back home is the same old parliamentary democracy, the Zapatistas respond by saying: “come and we’ll find our way together, without leaders and hierarchical structures.”

Maybe at the time when we need them the most, the Zapatistas (together with the National Indigenous Congress) invite the people of the world to Mexico once again — to meet, discuss, organize and decide the way forward towards our own emancipation. Just as the women and men of Chiapas have been doing for the past twenty years.

The programme of the Festival can be found here.

Leonidas Oikonomakis is a PhD researcher in Social Movement Studies at the European University Institute, a rapper with the Greek hip-hop formation Social Waste, and a contributing editor for ROAR Magazine. He is also an alumnus of the Centro de Español y Lenguas Mayas Rebelde Autónomo Zapatista — CELMRAZ.

The Zapatistas’ project of autonomy and horizontality has come to define a continent-wide cycle of struggles.

Democracy is forged from below, and peasants have been at the heart of many revolutions, emerging on decisive moments to define the course of history.
by Francisco Alonso on January 4, 2014 http://roarmag.org

 

Caracol II, Oventik, Los Altos, Chiapas.

They don’t say “how are you?” Instead, they prefer to ask “what does your heart say?” If you are well, you respond “jun ko’on” (my heart is united). If not, you have to respond that your heart is in pieces (“chkat ko’on“). And you have to be honest.

The verb “to struggle” does not exist in their language. Instead, they use the phrase “to form the word.” If one wants to understand the Zapatista struggle, it is important that first you understand their language.

They are the tsotsiles Zapatistas of the Los Altos region and the Caracol II of Oventik, and they are getting ready to host the first World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion against Capitalism. The festival will take place between December 3 and January 3, and the main  celebration (which will also be the commemoration of the Zapatista rebellion of January 1, 1994) will be hosted here in Oventik on December 31.

 

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This month, the Zapatistas are organizing a major international meeting in Chiapas: the World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism. by Leonidas Oikonomakis on December 21, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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