Anarchist Organization: an Oxymoron, or Not?

Chuck0's picture

by Flint Jones flint [at]

Originally posted at the Independent Media Center

A response to "U.S. Anarchist Movement: Over hyped or Tangible". Description of organizations anarchists join, list of specific anarchist organizations.This is a response to Sinew's U.S. Anarchist Movement: Over hyped or Tangible.

"Anarchy is organization, organization and more organization" -Errico Malatesta

First, the Black Bloc is not a political organization. Please consult the informative page Black Blocs for Dummies.

Second, the most comprehensive resource available on for a discussion on anarchism is An Anarchist FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions. The best resource for those looking too see the interconnection between various trends in the North American anarchist movement is the Infoshop.

In the North America, anarchists tend to belong to other organizations as individuals. Typically those organizations have an emphasis on directly democratic (or consensus, or modified-consensus) decision-making, and a further focus on direct action as the primary means of accomplishing their goals. Decentralized structures, local autonomy and recallable delegates are often typically used. Some of those organizations and groups (some of these groups are not what you would typically call, an organization) with a strong anarchist element are the Industrial Workers of the World, Food Not Bombs, Anti-Racist Action, IndyMedia, Earth First!, micropower radio movement, Direct Action Network. Critical Mass, Homes Not Jails, Reclaim the Streets. Ruckus Society, Act-Up, Art and Revolution, Catholic Workers, WarResistors League and many more. You'll notice a variety of "single-issue" groups, as well as groups that generally support many other activist groups. It should be stressed again that these are not anarchist organizations, they are not "front" groups; but rather organizations that anarchists are comfortable working with and can be found in some number. Sometimes anarchists are a majority, other times they are significant vocal minority.

That is not to say that anarchists are only found in the most radical of organizations. They participate in all manner of NGOs and non-profit groups: cooperatives, labor unions, tenants unions, professional associations, credit unions, neighborhood assemblies. Many of their activities are quite mundane but anarchists often take an active part in participation in community groups. Many of these accepted, respectable institutions often have anarchists as part of their history, whether it was the AFL defense of the Haymarket Martyrs, the ACLU's formation in response to the repression of the IWW, workers and consumer cooperatives from early twentieth century to those of the 60s. North America has long been a hotbed of libertarian syndicalists populist organization.

Anarchists do create formal political organizations based specifically upon their politics, and I will list them shortly, but first I will try to explain why the majority of anarchists in North America can be found outside of those organizations. Anarchism's opposition to hierarchy, dogma, electoral/parliamentary politics cause them to reject the creation for unitary political organizations that attempt to sieze control of the government and enforce their will upon the masses. Anarchists sometimes have sought to use the electoral process as an opening for a forum of ideas, most notably in the early socialist parties, as well as the libertarians and greens, but the results are usually less than satisfactory and most anarchists eventually reject those organizational forms.

Unfortunately, Jed is quite wrong when he says anarchists have a knee-jerk rejection of communism. Instead, anarchists view communism typically as an economic choice rather than a comprehensive political system. Preference on economics has been on of the long divisions between anarchist... between those who want a communal economy and those who want some form of fair/free market. Most formal anarchist organizations are supportive of a libertarian communism. Collectivists and individualists can still be found if you look hard enough and often work well with their anarcho-communist comrades. For some strange reasons a small segment of free marketers insist they are anarchists, but they are an extreme minority fairly disconnected from the anarchist movement. Even the primitivists tend toward communalism.

Anarchists will work with non-anarchist communists. In fact the recent "black bloc" calls have always made room for autonomist Marxists, council communists, situationists... as long as you are anti-state, anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist, anarchists are happy to join with you at the barricades. Unsurprisinglyy it is these same portion of the "Ultra-Left" that rejects Leninism and all it's tyrannical democidal offspring. Indeed, most of these socialist currents left or were expelled from various Marxist (and Leninist dominated) internationals because they rejected the need to build a single (is that was is meant by serious and unified?) revolutionary party.

There are leaders in the anarchist movement, make no mistake about that. What is different about anarchists is that we distrust leaders in general, and demand instant accountability. We want the "leadership of ideas" instead of the "leadership of authority". Leaders are fallable. Theoriticians make mistakes. People are blinded by their own privilege. Anarchists recognize that and seek to check the power of individuals over others at every turn. If a leader has good ideas that people agree with, then people will act on those ideas. But simply because someone had good ideas in the past does not mean that their ideas will be good in the future. Further overreliance on a leader will undermine people acting for themselves (DIY - Do It Yourself). Anarchists seek to empower everyone as full human beings taking part in every decision that affects them.

There is no single anarchism. It has a broad back and can carry many. So there are many possible utopias, and we would like everyone to be able to build their own. As long as they do not oppress anyone else in the process, then people should do as they like. Where there are problems that affect us mutually, we need to address them mutually. Limiting the decision-making to a few who come to control others is unacceptable. We will resist that the same way we will have our social revolution: through refusal. Refusal to work, refusal to rent, refusal to be taxed, refuse, refuse, refuse! Further we will take direct action to meet our own needs. We will smash the state by replacing it with voluntary agreements. We will destroy capitalism by withdrawing from corporate structures and ignoring it's property laws, instead replacing it with an participatory economic system of either worker/consumer cooperatives/councils or a free communism. And, unfortunately, we will be forced to defend ourselves when the hierarchs choose to use violence to enforce their oppression.

The anarchist movement probably hasn't grown much since Seattle. The recent growth of the anarchist movement has been earlier, since the early 90s (as the Soviet Union fell apart) and to a lesser extent in the 80s. What has grown was awareness of it in the mass media in the United States since Seattle. Further, anarchists have been sometimes grudgingly accepted by the progressive Left. Changes in communication technology... both the internet and micropower radio have also greatly aided the anarchist movement; of all political movements anarchists adopted it earliest.

Love and Rage is dead, true enough, and yet anarchism grows in North America without it. There are many formal anarchist organizations in the U.S. Typically they are small, independent affinity groups. Some might tend to a bookstore or infoshop, others release a periodicial, others are a general collection of actisists. There are some federations of anarchists in North America... though most are regional in scope. The European anarchists tend to have much more emphasis on both national federation of anarchist groups... as well as more contact through formal internationals.

Anarchist Black Cross Federation (ABCF)
Atlantic Anarchist Circle (AAC)
North Eastern Federation of Anarcho Communists (NEFAC)
Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA-IWA)
TAO (The Anarchy Organization)

International Workers Association (IWA-AIT)
International of Anarchist Federations (IFA)

Institute for Social Ecology
Institute for Anarchist Studies

AK Press
Charles Kerr Publishing
See Sharp Press
Black Rose Books
Left Bank Books



Anarcho-Syndicalist Review
Social Anarchism
Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed
Practical Anarchy
Left Green Perspectives
Democracy and Nature
Eat The State!
Green Anarchist
North Eastern Anarchist
The Shadow
The Match
Venomous Butterfly
Alternative Press Review
Z Magazine


P.S. The Black Blocs generally attempt to work with larger calls for actions, but do not consent to the guidelines that some organizations wish to impose upon them. Many non-governmental organizations are opposed to civil disobedience, but Direct Action Network doesn't agree to that. There are separate organizations for reasons. There is a spectrum... for instance you could expect to find anarchists in the Sierra Club, Green Peace, the Green Party, Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front and probably even the Environmental Protection Agency.

The actions guidelines shouldn't have been imposed in the first place. No public organizer can be expected to be able to control all participants in a demonstration, nor would they be in much of position to actually call for illegal action. That some groups like Ruckus and DAN do has allowed them to be targeted for arrest and massive bails. P.S.S. That Blackout Books can't afford its rent New York City is a cheap shot. Last I saw, it was authoritarian communist parties that were turning to dust. Hell, you've lost Eastern Europe, Latin America and most of Asia. Quite frankly there isn't enough room in the dust bin of history, so anarchists have to climb out... otherwise there will never be enough room for Trotskyists.

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