In his recent satirical editorial “Red Black and Blue: Anarchists get behind state GOP’s lawsuit” Rich Broderick mocks anarchists as being so stupid and unstrategic in their ideas that they would gleefully support the GOP’s attacks on government services for the most needy. Broderick adds additional comic venom by claiming anarchists agree with the GOP’s attacks on gay marriage (as a step towards eliminating marriage), use “bombs to get [their] message across” (an affinity with the GOP’s “concealed handgun crowd), and also, “hate socialists”.
Such statements show a willful ignorance of the truth about anarchism and worse, support the climate of demagoguery and misinformation that seems to be the order of the day. This then is Broderick’s affinity with the Republicans—he chooses to twist the truth against the interests of most people rather than ask how we can work towards a more liberated society.
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Let’s start by looking at how anarchists are actually responding to the state shutdown. Organizing under the name Shut Down/Rise Up a group of local anarchists have put out a detailed and beautiful pamphlet, are organizing a free meal every night of the shutdown at 5pm at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, and are creating a space for conversation for a grounded and effective popular response to the crisis.
Their pamphlet critiques both Republican and Democratic cuts as “propping up the same ruling class, on our backs”, and while it notes that Dayton’s proposal “may slow down the erosion of our rights and resources, it still leaves the rich and powerful in the driver’s seat”.
Perhaps it is the existence of real anarchist groups putting forward an independent position that can call a spade a spade, a Republican an asshole, a Democrat an imposture that upsets Broderick?
So then, should we understand, as Broderick insinuates that anarchists support the GOP’s attack on government social services, unionized workers, gays and gay marriage, or hate socialists? Absolutely not.
While far from perfect, since the beginning anarchists have been a powerful presence in struggles against oppression, from workers, to anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles, to those of women, gays, and more. Indeed, anarchism was perhaps the first social movement in this country to openly address and propose gay liberation in the early 1900s. Moreover, with regard to hating socialists, anarchism is the libertarian branch of socialism as opposed to the authoritarian State Communist branch exemplified by the horrors of Russia, China, and North Korea. Anarchists don’t hate socialists; they are socialists who have learned from history, including that holding state power doesn’t lead to liberation and that isolated bomb-throwing is counterproductive.
And as we can see with the work of Shut Down/Rise Up anarchist politics are crucial to a strategic response to the world we find ourselves in.
Mainstream politics have been paralyzed by the realization that both Democrats and Republicans are firmly controlled by a united ruling class enforcing massive cutbacks in social programs, the breaking of public sector unions (Massachusetts’ Democrats are doing Scott Walker proud) expanding the war on terror, and more.
Anarchist however are not phased by this, and in fact see this as the typical state of affairs. When we look at history we see that the economic elite—the capitalists—and the repressive apparatus of the state have always been two sides of the same coin. The state is by its nature a mechanism through which the minority controls and exploits the vast majority, and therefore trusting the state to sustainably meet people’s needs is doomed to fail.
At best government is forced through struggle to give us something of what we need, for example how Social Security was won through the massive unrest during the Great Depression. At worst, government support provides us with some needs but destroys the possibility for broader movements for liberation, as was done though the creation of nonprofits and corporate foundations to co-opt and destroy the global movements that came out of the sixties. And of course, anything that is won can always be taken away when there is no force backing it up, which is what we see happening today.
As such, there is an obvious need to build power independent of either party, and to do so in a way that won’t simply fall into the control of the ruling elites or recreate an oppressive state. For anarchists this means building powerful, democratic, institutions run by everyday people to fight for their needs in the present and for the popular control of their own lives in the long term.
The IWW or Industrial Workers of the World, an independent union that made local headlines for their organizing at Jimmy John’s, is another example of anarchist-style organizing, though the IWW is not formally an anarchist organization.
Anarchism then, provides fresh air and political common sense in this stifling climate of infighting, fear, manipulation and bad choices. If we don’t build power we run ourselves we can never expect power to serve our interests.
Rich Broderick, socialist or not, should consider the politics of his humor more carefully, lest he be skewered by the irony of his hypocrisy. The living example of Shut Down/Rise Up clearly contradicts his claims and reveals the ignorant emptiness of his attacks on anarchists. While Broderick claims that anarchists are Republican supporters in disguise it is he who is playing into a culture of infighting, hopelessness, and manipulation that can only benefit the worst players on the political field.
You can find more about Shut Down/Rise Up at shutdownriseup.org, and you can find the full text of their pamphlet at shutdownriseup.org/posters-and-pamphlet/. For more info on the IWW go to twincitiesiww.org.