PugetSoundAnarchists.org. Aug 6:
The following is a response to certain claims from a piece by The Black Orchid Cadre. There is much to be said response to their claims, but the arguments addressed here are the ones this author felt most compelled to address.
When we are looking for leaders we are bound to find them. A year ago members of the Black Orchid Cadre put out an analysis of Seattle’s anti-police protests, and asked why Seattle didn’t riot. Their conclusion (simply stated) was that the anarchist’s “hardcore ideological criticism of all leadership prevented them from effectively focusing the energy of the crowd they had helped assemble”. The failure of anarchist leadership is not because of an ideological opposition, but because others are looking to be led. We are socialized into authoritarian models of thinking, conditioned into a linear top-down view of the world. We mistakenly use this lens to view the world and then place varying phenomenon into hierarchically stratified categories. But these are misconceptions based on linear/statist logic. Due to these the BOC consistently mistake self-organization for leadership.
If there aren’t enough banners or signs at a hastily organized march, its not a problem of self-organization, but a lack their of. We assume others will do the work because of our authoritarian top-down conditioning. Our failure is not due to a lack of leadership, but a reliance on it. Having the skill-set necessary to plan a march, design a flier, write a communique, give a speech, etc; do not make one a leader. Leadership does not mean having skills, but the desire for others to follow.
The tactical suggestion for revolutionaries “leaders” to formalize into cadres in order to educate the working-class on how to lead will not only reproduce our alienation, but exasperate it. By acting from a sense of revolutionary duty or moral obligation we re-create the same alienating dynamic of work. Tasks that should be enjoyable in their own right become obligatory, done with an “If I won’t then who will?” mentality. Acting from guilt places a morally righteous value onto our activism-as-atonement. Instead of selling our labor to bosses we donate (sacrifice?) our time to the “movement”. Exhaustion and fatigue become badges to be worn, proof of our devotion. When anarchists say “Give Up Activism” we do not mean the title, we mean the practices of morally righteous self-sacrifice.
“We have to invent a form of war such that the defeat of empire will no longer be a task that kills us, but which lets us know how to live, to be more and more alive” ~Living & Wrestling, Tiqqun
We shouldn’t share our skills out of some sort of revolutionary duty, but because we enjoy spending time together. Our “failure” as revolutionaries is not from a lack of peer-to-peer education, but when we act from a sense of moral obligation instead of shared desire. We need friendships that matter, based on shared desires and mutual understanding of one another’s differences and agreeances; not feelings of guilt or obligation toward each other. Our methods of fighting this society need to carry the relationships we desire within them. Only in this way can our struggles be carried out with joy, free from the moral baggage of duty & sacrifice.
I don’t want leaders, allies, or followers; I want accomplices. I want comrades I know and trust whom share my desires in order to explore, experiment and play with them. This practice is known as an affinity group. Affinity is not a given between acquaintances but something cultivated by intimate knowledge and reciprocal understanding between individuals. This is also known as friendship. What we need is the willful effort of individuals willing to confront their own alienation by means that don’t inadvertently reproduce it. I am not claiming this as a practice I have mastered, but as an approach toward cultivating the relationships I desire. I don’t want my friendships to feel like work, I never want to act from obligation, I want to act from a place of desire, not guilt. I doubt any revolutionary practices it begins or ends with guilt and obligation.