There is a clear case to be made for the connection between ecology and anarchism.1 Many philosophers, academics, and radicals have elaborated this over the past two centuries2. But reviewing the history of this theoretical relationship is not the goal here. The movement surrounding anarchism in the past 200 years has certainly included its fair share of theory, yet what has rooted anarchist ideas so deeply in human society is the prioritization of action. It is this action-based relationship between the ecological movement and anarchism that we explore.
How has anarchism inspired and shaped ecological action in recent history, and how might it continue to? The experience of Earth First! over three-and-a-half decades embodies the most critical aspects of this question.
While Earth First! (EF!) has never considered itself to be explicitly anarchist, it has always had a connection to the antiauthoritarian counterculture and has operated in an anarchistic fashion since its inception3. In doing so, it has arguably maintained one of the most consistent and long-running networks for activists and revolutionaries of an anarchist persuasion with the broader goal of overturning all socially constructed hierarchies.
Laura Hall Laura Hall’s background is Mohawk and English-Canadian. Her work explores decolonizing and Indigenist approaches to environmentally sustainable community planning, while gendering the work in order to focus on the issues of Indigenous women as well as two-spirited peoples. She is a PhD candidate in Environmental Studies at York University.
Her project is called “Eco-Queer Indigenous Feminism” I name my approach according to my own experiential, embodied and intersectional lived experience, but also as a way of representing the depth of Indigenist and decolonizing theory. In grounded, embodied, intersectional movements and story, Indigenous Eco-Queer feminist analysis is forming against a number of pressing issues— opposing oil and natural gas development for example and also ongoing housing/poverty needs, the likes of which are being addressed in our Indigenous communities in creatively culturally rooted ways. I would like to draw connections between our movements and anarchist-socialist discourses, while also lending a (Haudenosaunee) Indigenist analysis of the state’s relationship to hegemonic theory and treaty understandings (at two extremes) in order to better understand ways that we might unthink the state, rethink the state, or dream new/old governance in the spirit of treaty based responsibility (as both Indigenous and ally/accomplice groups).
E Ornelas E Ornelas is a queer and genderqueer identified anarcha-feminist of mixed ethnic background who is an English-as-first-language, US citizen living in a colonized land. E’s research interests include the intersections of anarchist and feminist theory, particularly in educational contexts. When E is not facilitating both formal and informal discussions on these topics, E enjoys biking and baking.
E’s project is called “Purple & Black: An Anthology of Anarcha-Feminist Theory & Action” This is meant to provide a review and synthesis of anarcha-feminism while moving conversations about anarcha-feminism beyond past authors’ attempts at defining and defending it within anarchism, to a compiled recognition and celebration of its achievements and contributions. My approach is to examine and annotate pertinent anarcha-feminist cultural artifacts, whether textual, artistic, oratory, etc. Though I am influenced by previous anarcha-feminist publications, I also wish to expand their reach beyond a predominantly white, western, and/or predominantly English-speaking sampling of theory and action.
Jack McGinn Jack McGinn has long been involved in activism and international solidarity related to the Palestinian cause, having worked with Students for Justice in Palestine for six years, translating and distributing dispatches from activists based in Palestine, and writing for an online audience on related matters. He lives in Northern Ireland.
His project is called “Anarchist Trends in the Organizational Methods Underpinning the First Palestinian Intifada” Palestine remains a well-examined and critical point of focus for the international anti-hierarchical Left, situated as it is at the intersection of imperialist, capitalist, and neocolonical power. However, research into how specifically anti-hierarchical thought and practices play a role in the (multi-faceted) Palestinian resistance is lacking and in many cases is nonexistent. A pertinent example is the first intifada; a remarkable example of a decentralized and subaltern-led campaign of sustained resistance. Work has been done on the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall, and a sparse amount of research on the dynamics of queer resistance against patriarchy and occupation exists, but there is as yet no study (in Arabic or English) like that of Sam Dolgoff’s edited collection of essays on the anarchist collectives in revolutionary Spain, for example. This piece looks to fill that void.
According to anthropologist Akhil Gupta, the structural violence of the state in India kills two to three million people every year, mostly lower caste or tribal women and children. Yet, numerous anti-poverty programs target a population that actively participates in the democratic project through the electoral process. Gupta tries to explain this paradox in his new book, based on a detailed ethnography of the Indian bureaucracy.
“To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorised, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished.” Without directly referring to this quote from French anarchist Proudhon, Gupta provides a similar description of the Indian government that perceives poor women and children as “segments of the population that had not been as extensively surveyed, counted, classified, measured, injected, or schooled in the past” (261).
In fact, his references are less Proudhonian than Foucauldian. Basing his argument on the concept of biopower as it was elaborated by Michel Foucault, Gupta suggests that poverty in India has been normalized through numerous statistical projects aimed at measuring it. As a consequence of this normalization, the killing of the poor is neither considered a violation (of law, justice, morality or the Constitution), nor a scandal that delegitimizes power.
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Consistent with the ‘strategy’ theme of the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (No. 27), Shane Burley lays out what the anarcho-syndicalist tradition offers movements outside the workplace.
There has been an effort by scholars and organizers alike over the last forty years to segregate anarcho-syndicalism from the rest of the broad anarchist movement. The labor movement dominated social struggles in the first half of the twentieth century, but as large business union bureaucracies were formed and new shop organizing began to diminish, the participation of anarchists in labor began to wane as community struggles around environmental issues, LGBT and women’s struggles, and housing justice took precedence. The syndicalist strategies that defined the earlier successes of anarchism internationally diminished to only the most hardcore adherents of a labor strategy, though these ideas have had spikes during periods of economic crisis. This shift away from syndicalism as a strategic foundation has robbed movements of some of their tactical inspirations, and organizers from the New Left forward attempt to reinvent the wheel every time, completely reimagining every struggle as though it was disconnected from the entire history of libertarian social movements. This is a loss as these developing community struggles can still look towards these syndicalist battles in the workplace as a model for how to democratically structure movements.
The idea of community syndicalism, bringing the syndicalist organizing strategy out of the workplace and into other aspects of life, can be a way to intentionally create a specific set of tactics. These tactical choices could take the form of solidarity structures that form as a union, which mean that they unite a set of interests against an adversary that is in control of a particular sector of society, such as labor, housing, or healthcare. These different sectors are the different puzzle pieces of social life that are all intimately affected by access to resources, and one in which a real element of class is present at all times. Since syndicalism in the workplace does not rely on simply one tactic, but instead on the use of solidarity, trying to utilize community syndicalism could simply mean a whole range of strategic points all building on some of the basic ideas of anarcho-syndicalism. The question then arises: what are the core elements of anarcho-syndicalism that can be boiled down and moved from the shop floor to the neighborhood, from workers issues to healthcare and environmentalism, and to all the sectors where class struggle takes place?