The IAS Blog
A Review of Maia Ramnath's Decolonizing Anarchism: an Antiauthoritarian History of India’s Liberation Struggle and Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism from Anarkismo.
What the Institute for Anarchist Studies’ Maia Ramnath has achieved with these two books whose angles of approach differ yet which form companion volumes in that they intersect on the little-known anarchist movement of South Asia, is a breathtaking, sorely-needed re-envisioning of anarchism’s forgotten organisational strength in the colonial world which points to its great potential to pragmatically combat imperialism today.
Anarchism’s Anti-imperialism Enabled its Global Reach
To paint the backdrop to Ramnath’s work, we need to break with conventional anarchist histories. Lucien van der Walt and Steven Hirsch’s Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Post-Colonial World (2010) states: “The First International provided the womb in which the anarchist movement emerged, but the formal meetings of the International, its press, and its debates were located within the body of a dynamic global working class and peasant network. Anarchism had an organised presence in Argentina, Cuba, Egypt and Mexico from the 1870s, followed by Ireland, South Africa and Ukraine in the 1880s. The first anarchist-led, syndicalist, unions outside of Spain (the Spanish Regional Workers’ Federation, 1870) and the USA (the Central Labor Union, 1884) were Mexico’s General Congress of Mexican Workers (1876) and Cuba’s Workers’ Circle (1887). These were the immediate ancestors of the better known syndicalist unions that emerged globally from the 1890s onwards. To put it another way, anarchism was not a West European doctrine that diffused outwards, perfectly formed, to a passive ‘periphery.’ Rather, the movement emerged simultaneously and transnationally, created by interlinked activists on [four] continents – a pattern of inter-connection, exchange and sharing, rooted in ‘informal internationalism,’ which would persist into the 1940s and beyond.” They concluded that to “speak of discrete ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ anarchist and syndicalist movements’” as is common in contemporary anarchist discourse, “would be misleading and inaccurate.”
Proposing a Counterhegemonic Economic System
by Enric Duran, with contributions from members of the Temps de re-voltes collective. firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated by Scott Pierpont email@example.com
January 2008, Translated September 2010
“If people living in an area cannot trade among themselves without using money issued by outsiders, their local economy will always be at the mercy of external factors. Therefore, the first step for any community aiming to become more self-reliant is to establish its own currency system.” (R. Douthwaite, The Ecology of Money, 1999.)
2. Justifications for the Project
3. How it Will Work
4. How to Begin
From Against the Grain
On Wednesday January 11th, IAS board member Chris Dixon appeared on Against the Grain Radio on KPFA. You can download the program here.
It's been the strongest current of radical politics to emerge in North America since the early 1990s. Anarchist organizer and scholar Chris Dixon discusses anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, and non-sectarian politics, exploring the sources of its strengths and the problems that beset it. He also talks about how anti-authoritarian ideas and practices have shaped the Occupy movement.
From Outside the Circle
Seems like some really bad, bad people called me a terrorist on Twitter today, to try to destroy Occupy Philly by creating a straw person (“the anarchist”), and of the many words of solidarity, I have say that Kotu Bajaj put it best, “Cindy’s the kinda of terrorist that kills with kittens and hugs”–although I’d substitute “convinces” for “kills.”
And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the occupation in Philly amazes me yet again. After a day of vicious attacks on anarchists, often including me by name, as a divide-and-conquer strategy to destroy this beautiful movement/space, the outpouring of people showing solidarity was incredible; but much more incredible was the fact that people knew this was meant as an attack on all of us, on our occupation, on how well it’s actually making & taking its own collective power. The sign that we’re doing well is that we not only are targets of such tactics but that we can also withstand them; that they bring us closer. So many people hugged me tonight, from all political persuasions and of many colors, genders, ages, backgrounds–all to say, we have each other’s backs. So many people asked me how I was. I kept answering: “Great! Just great!” And I meant it. I mean it. We’re only being attacked–so far, primarily people of color and anarchists–because we seem easy targets to stir up hatred around in order to subdue and dismantle this uprising; but we’re only being attacked because we’re winning, because we have power together, not power over, and increasingly, achingly hard as it is sometimes, we’re doing the hard work of undoing ourselves and our socialization to become, faster than I ever imagined, new people who can be trusted to begin to stand with and for each other.
From Outside the Circle
First autonomous action at occupied city hall in Philly: we brought a couch, chatting “occupy the couch” and “there’s going to furniture working group!” Some folks replied, “our home!”
And now, an hour into Philly occupation, there are probably about 1,000 to 1,5000 people already. I never thought I’d be able to say this, at a space that instantly become a do-it-ourselves community: it’s working; we’re working; this us really what direct, confederated democracy looks like, in actuality. Or as one sign declared, “This is real!”
As the occupation began, a bunch of us anarchists hung banners, painted the night before: “Commons Not Capitalism,” read one; and another (my favorite, because it’s true today) proclaimed, “We’re Occupied with Direct Democracy.” Our occupation engaged in two general assemblies on this first day of occupation—where thousands worked though proposals and made decisions together—and implemented the “CoCo”—the coordinating council for all the working groups, which daily will send delegates (rotating regularly) before each general assembly to work out issues and send proposals to the general assembly, for decision making by the GA. Confederation works! Direct democracy works! And among so many folks who have never, ever done it.
Despair has come over me in the last few years. Normally this manifests itself as exhaustion and frustration. To understand it this time, though, you’d have to understand that the last few years haven’t been so good to my family.
My dad lost his job a few years ago, and from there, we lost our house on Christmas of 2009. We had an emotional conversation about what it means to lose a home, the place where we played soccer in the hallways, and the windows, the ones we snuck into after staying out too late before mom could catch us. This loss of home and income, class, and most importantly to some, status, all led to some pretty serious depressive symptoms that have lasting impacts on a family. Some would de-politicize the moment and say ‘life is about more than politics,’ or some vague sentence about how this is ‘real life not politics.’ But that can’t be further from the truth. These moments are the key reminder that capitalism exists in our daily lives and isn’t just beyond the walls of our homes or in our theory texts. It’s in our workplaces, our schools, and unfortunately, our social relationships. That is to say, capitalism has a way of not just stealing your labor as Marx taught us, but also stealing your spirit and meaning, and teaching us to treat each other in these ways as well; as my good friend and fellow anarchist Cindy Milstein reminds me.
Late September. It's just another day in the community of Juana Millahual. Jose Llanquileo is driving a team of oxen pulling a heavy iron plow, clearing furrows in the hillside for a spring crop of potatoes, barley, and onions. Nearby, Angelica is starting a fire to burn away the last traces of pine and eucalyptus planted by timber companies on stolen Mapuche land. Today, the sun shines and the wind blows softly through the tepa trees on the banks of Lleu Lleu, one of the cleanest lakes in South America. On another day, it wouldn't be at all out of place to see a hundred heavily armed police backed up by jeeps, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers, knocking down the doors of one of the small houses to conduct a raid or search for a fugitive. The rural indigenous communities on the banks of the lake, peaceful as they seem on any day when the police don't come around, are a source of fierce resistance to capitalist investment and neoliberal development.
This community, similar to many of its neighbors, is in a process of forcefully recovering hundreds of hectares of their traditional lands which have been usurped by timber companies. Forestal Mininco, which is controlled by one of the richest families in Chile and partners with the IFC, the private arm of the World Bank, operates thousands of hectares of pine and eucalyptus plantations just around Lleu Lleu. Where there used to be farmland or native forests, the timber companies have planted genetically modified pine and eucalyptus in homogenous rows, at great detriment to the health of local soil, watersheds, and biodiversity. The exotic tree plantations, which produce mostly for export, drain the water table and steal food directly from the mouths of indigenous communities.
At a September 14th symposium on the Chilean anti-terrorism law, the lawyer Julio Cortes pointed out that the frequent use of the law despite the absence of any real terrorism in Chile illuminates its fundamentally political, persecutorial character. Historically, terrorism was first used by the new bourgeois state against the old order. Only later did the phenomenon of terrorism from below emerge.
September 11th in Chile is an interesting day. While much of the rest of the world follows the US-driven discourse of the War on Terror, Chileans remember the state terrorism at work in the 1973 military coup by General Pinochet against the socialist president, Salvador Allende. Ultimately thousands of political opponents of the new regime would be tortured, disappeared, or executed. Once the dictatorship transferred seamlessly into democracy, with many of the same people remaining in power, and without revoking any of the neoliberal economic changes violently forced through by the dictatorship and under the direction of economists trained at the University of Chicago, people began commemorating September 11th with massive protest marches. The marches typically go from the city center to the General Cemetery, where there is a memorial to the victims of the regime, and where the day usually ends in heavy rioting against the police. At night, in the poorer neighborhoods, which received the brunt of state terrorism under Pinochet and continue to be the prime targets for pólice violence under democracy, people traditionally set up burning barricades and fight the carabineros and military special forces that come to antagonize them.
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