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post-left anarchy

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Post-left anarchy is a recent current in anarchist thought that promotes a critique of anarchism's relationship to traditional leftism. Some post-leftists seek to escape the confines of ideology in general. It has rapidly developed since the fall of the Soviet Union, which many view as the death of authoritarian leftism.


The Left, even the revolutionary left, post-leftists argue, is anachronistic and incapable of creating change. It offers critiques of radical strategies and tactics which it considers antiquated; the demonstration, class-oriented struggle, focus on tradition and the inability to escape the confines of history. The book Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs, for example, criticizes traditional leftist ideas and classical anarchism while calling for a rejuvenated anarchist movement. The CrimethInc. essay Your Politics Are Boring as Fuck is another critique of "leftist" movements:

"Why has the oppressed proletariat not come to its senses and joined you in your fight for world liberation? ... [Because] they know that your antiquated styles of protest—your marches, hand held signs, and gatherings—are now powerless to effect real change because they have become such a predictable part of the status quo. They know that your post-Marxist jargon is off-putting because it really is a language of mere academic dispute, not a weapon capable of undermining systems of control..."

Some post-anarchists have come to similar conclusions, if for different reasons. In From Bakunin to Lacan, Saul Newman remarks:

"There is a certain litany of oppressions which most radical theories are obliged to pay homage to. Why is it when someone is asked to talk about radical politics today one inevitably refers to this same tired, old list of struggles and identities? Why are we so unimaginative politically that we cannot think outside of this 'shopping list' of oppressions?" (p. 171)

What most post-left anarchists seemingly reject is the idea of command and control. In this rejection they are not alone: modern corporate management science also strongly rejects C and C structures, in fact they are rarely if ever taught any more! A post-left anarchy offers, among other things, a way to adapt private corporate methods to management of public resources and processes. Some post-left anarchists view outsourcing of government functions accordingly as a good thing, though many tend to view government-to-government contracting as better because it has no profit motive.

Conflicts with Leftism[edit]

Post-leftists argue that anarchism has been weakened by its long attachment to contrary leftist movements and single-issue causes (anti-war, anti-nuclear, etc.). It calls for a synthesis of anarchist thought and a specifically anti-authoritarian revolutionary movement outside of the authoritarian leftist milieu. It sometimes focuses on the individual rather than speaking in terms of class and in some cases shuns organizational tendencies in favor of attempts at absence of hierarchy, with some attention paid to the fact that informal, unstructured groups tend to create informal hierarchies.

The authoritarian left, post-leftists argue, is anachronistic and incapable of creating change. Several post-leftists have also argued that an essential element of authoritarian leftism is a reliance on "compulsory moralism" - and of a particularly specific sort, the Mommy state described by George Lakoff in Moral Politics. Such socialized value judgements perpetuate alienation and an inability on the part of individuals to think critically. Post-leftists believe that anarchism necessitates organic, subjectively derived self-theory.

In this also they are easily backed up with methods from systems theory: Donella Meadows twelve levers, Dee Hock's chaordic methods (as used at Visa!) and the various methods based on Stafford Beer's and Buckminster Fuller's thought, focusing on tensegrity.

Notably, some political party activists have pushed conventional parties strongly in this direction. The Green Party of Canada Living Platform was an example of an attempt to synthesize systems methods with green politics and some eco-capitalist policy that, in the view of Greens, enabled decentralized management. Of course, reactions from authoritarians in that party were extreme, and the project was soon stopped - this should be the strongest evidence of its validity.

Proponents and Detractors[edit]

The ideas associated with Post-left anarchy have been criticized by other anarchists, notably Murray Bookchin (died 2006). Bookchin's polemic, Social Anarchism vs. Lifestyle Anarchism, attacked these recent trends in anarchist thinking, and advocates a traditional focus on class struggle. Bob Black wrote a book in response to Bookchin's arguments called Anarchy After Leftism, an important post-leftist work. Anarcho-communists have also criticized post-leftist thinking. Many primitivists, including John Zerzan, can be said to be post-leftists (Zerzan himself has claimed to be 'anti-leftist'); however, most proponents of Post-left anarchy are not necessarily primitivists. Probably more favour green syndicalism.

At times the trolling between proponents and detractors has grown extremely fierce. Some proponents of Black's view of the group entity and Zerzan's view of number were extremely active on Wikipedia during 2002-4, and had major influence there. A number of them formed the Wikipedia red faction and later the world trolling anarchization - despite a focus on ethical trolling only, all were banned for life. With Green Party of Canada dissidents a few known trolls founded the tikiwiki-based service which remains a very important reference on open politics methods and post-leftism. It contains complete proposals to apply Meadows' and Lakoff's methods in particular to the organization of a political party to decentralize power. It remains controversial whether conventional parties and trolling could actually achieve any meaningful decentralization, but under Lakoff's theory this is at least theoretically possible. Other trolls founded to do wikiscience on the theoretical issues regarding symbol-to-body relationships. The use of a wiki user name including the word "troll" is thought to signal some affinity or agreement with these people and the specific views of Black, Zerzan, Lakoff, Hubley, Meadows, Jane Jacobs, Carol Moore and others the trolls much favoured.

In 1999 the Situationist influenced book Two Hundred Pharaohs, Five Billion Slaves by Adrian Peacock was published. Written in response to the 1997 Albanian revolution and the Battle of Seattle, the book re-assesses class dynamics, industrialisation and globalisation while deriding what the author sees as compromised ideologies such as Anarchism, Council Communism and Situationism itself. Purportedly an underground classic, "Two Hundred Pharaohs" (ISBN 184166071 Ellipsis imprint) has been criticised for being a work of ideology itself, verging on Workerism and dogma. See reviews [1] and [2]

Some groups and individuals associated with Post-left anarchism include: CrimethInc, Jason McQuinn, Bob Black, and the magazines Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and Green Anarchy.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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