En revolutionär infoportal

My Anarchist Past and the "Infantile" Analogy

This post is inspired by an email exchange I had

with the one of my regular readers regarding my background as an

anarchist and why I'm now a communist who identifies with the

Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tradition. [Note that this regular reader is

part of community that produces excellent blogs that can be found here, here, and here.] Since I still have comrades/friends who identify as anarchist, I figured why not write a post about my anarchist past...

When I was intitially politicized, and became involved in student activism, I was an anarchist. Or maybe, at first, a quasi-anarchist

who was sympathetic to, because of my parents and uncle, liberation

theology. A strange combination perhaps, but one that somehow made

sense to me at the time. Of course, the more involved with

undergraduate activism I became, an involvement that culminated in the

2001 FTAA protests in Quebec City at the end of my BA, the more

theoretically anarchist I made myself. When I began my MA I was a

confirmed anarchist familiar with Goldman, Bakunin, Bookchin, etc.

Generally speaking, and like most radical

activists of my generation, I saw communism as an authoritarian dead

end. Believing I was more radical than the old marxist left, and

unaware that many of my critiques of communist movements were actually

rightwing critiques veiled as left, I was a typical self-righteous

activist: outside history, confident that my individualistic

understanding was beyond reproach. Sometimes I cringe when I think of

my younger self, especially when I contemplate my partner’s more

critical perspective (and patience with me), along with many of the

vacuous positions I argued. [Here I really need to credit my partner

for my politicization, for many of the theoretical paths I took––this

was the prime influence behind what I chose to read and investigate,

described below.]

And yet anarchism has been the default radicalism at the centres of

capitalism for decades. The Soviet project failed, the Chinese

Revolution followed, and it is much easier to ascribe these failings to a

failure of ideology––to complain of Party authoritarianism, naive to

the fact that we are echoing liberal complaints about collectivism––than

investigate the complex and historical reasons for this failure.

Convenient narratives were available: Stalin the moster, Mao the even

worse monster (a claim once again promoted by the right). We could

believe we were questioning everything, while we were also refusing to

question ideas and history that we assumed were common sense.

Even so, there are still things about anarchism that make sense: the

rejection of heirarchy and authority is wise in the face of cults of

personality; the utopian belief in the creative potential of masses to

reject tyranny protects us against resignation; the suspicion of those

people and organizations that claimed to speak for heterogeneous


In my MA, however, I began to discover that anarchist theory was

generally far less sophisticated, far less developed, and far more

myopic than the marxist tradition. My first slog through Capital

(only the first volume at that time––I read the second and third in the

summer between my MA and PhD), along with readings from other marxists,

was very enlightening. Not that I was prepared, during the first year

of my MA, to abandon anarchism. I was also reading a lot of

post-colonial and contemporary anti-racist literature that in my mind

complimented anarchism because it rejected marxism as eurocentric. Then, at the end of my first year, I read Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and discovered that the historical materialist tradition was not, as I had initially and naively assumed, simply eurocentric.

It was during the second year of my MA, when I was working on my Masters

thesis, that my allegiance to anarchism began to disintegrate. I

encountered the Autonomist Marxist tradition, along with the

Situationists and Deleuze and Guattari, which was my "gateway drug" to

marxism. Nick Dyer-Witheford, Harry Cleaver, early Antonio Negri and

other Italian workerists proved that I could keep the spirit of

anarchism while shedding its theoretical shell. Autonomism, after all,

rejects vanguardist praxis, the party form, the need to sieze state

power, and all of the "authoritarian" aspects of marxism my anarchist

self found abhorrent.

My reasons for eventually abandoning autonomism, however, were caused by reading Hart and Negri's Empire.

Excited that Negri had co-authored a new book on contemporary

struggles, I was excited to read his thoughts in this regard.

Unfortunately, since I was at that time generally ignorant of

contemporary anti-imperialist political economy, I could not properly

understand what Empire was critiquing. Even still, the

jargon-laced theorization of a centre-less capitalism just struck me as

wrong––especially in the post-9/11 universe where it seemed clear, or at

least I thought it seemed clear, that imperialism did possess centres.

And so began, through an investigation of political economy, my descent

into what may or may not be an "orthodox" marxism. Soon I was reading

Samir Amin, probably the greatest living anti-imperialist political

economist, and becoming equipped to understand just why Empire was

wrong. Two years into my PhD, because of Amin and other radical

political economists, I was reading Lenin and Mao and critical histories

of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions. The activist and academic

community I found myself engaged with at that time (and am still engaged

with) allowed for many theoretical and practical encounters. The steep

(yet also privileged) reading/studying/cognizing requirements of my

doctoral dissertation, along with the activist work I was doing at the

time (both in and outside my labour union), contributed to my changing

political views. In any case, rather than continue boring anyone who

has bothered to read this far in an onerous post, I won't waste time

describing an inventory of my route to where I am now.

Suffice to say, the 20 year old version of me would probably not like

the 32 year old version of me very much; the 25 year old version of me,

though a little closer, would probably think he was smarter and more

philosophically sophisticated––as does everyone who begins their PhD in

philosophy until they (hopefully) realize that grad school is filled

with similar minded 25 year olds, or until (even more hopefully) they

are corrected and humbled through their engagement with a healthy

political community. These previous selves (that, in many ways, prove

Hume's point about the fiction of continuous consciousness), would

probably be quite horrified that their future self ended up defining as a

Maoist, or at least a Maoist-influenced, communist. But it was my

anarchist self that was also drawn to aspects of Maoism, such as the

mass-line and the whole "bombard the headquarters" furor in the GPCR.

Just as it was my autonomist self who was drawn to the notion of

revolutionary theoretical innovation through world historical


Communists, especially very ortho-communists, sometimes like to call

anarchists "infantile" and anarchism an "infantile disorder",

referencing Lenin of course (and more in a polemical than a theoretical

manner it should be pointed out). For me, in some ways, it was more of

an infantile developmental stage than a "disorder." Nor do I think it's

wrong, at least in my context, to think of anarchism as infantile––not

that I think any of my anarchist comrades/friends are infantile, I just want to examine how the analogy applies to my experience. No analogies are perfect, but what the hell...

Children engage with the world with wonder, as if everything is new, and

their minds are not yet set in ruts and patterns that may limit their

consciousness. Certainly children are uncritical, but they are also

undogmatic. (Again, no analogy is perfect: I realize that a lot of

anarchists, who claim they are anti-authoritarian, are also prone to a

very uncritical dogmatism and sublimated authoritarianism.) Another

commenter on this site once asked me to consider the problem of

psychological investment in my theoretical position: do I want certain

struggles to fail because I am invested in a particular view of history

and must defend it at any cost? The point is well taken, and I want to

write a post on this in the future, and speaks to this analogy.

Children are not psychologically invested in specific positions; they

are still largely open to the future.

If anarchism is "infantile" then maybe ortho-communism is the equivalent

of a grumpy old man who shakes his cane at the young'uns. We can also

speak of communisms that are the equivalent of arrogant students who

think they know everything. Or communist theoretical positions that are

also "senile." And maybe the spirit of anarchism is good for marxists,

even us marxists who believe in concepts of the party, to retain.

M-L-M Mayhem!

Länk: https://moufawad-paul.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-anarchist-past-and-infantile-analogy.html



Jules Bonnot

Anarkism och marxism går utmärkt att förena - som Daniel Guerin gjorde i sin bok. Man tillför anarkismen den dialektiska historiematerialismen och tar bort det auktoritära draget hos marxismen med rådssocialismen. Situationisterna lyckades bäst med denna syntes, och den autonoma rörelsen likaså. Så slipper man att bli renegat.

Staffan / Konst och Politik

Etiketter är för ideologer. Var inte en ideolog


Etiketterna står artikelförfattaren här för. Anarkismen är inte en ideologi utan en rörelse och en filosofi. Trodde jag du visste, jag vet det åtminstone, @.

Konst och Politik

Jag menade artikelförfattare


OK, då är vi överens.