Perspectives on Post-Left Anarchism

Far “Left” we place the Anarchists, Libertarians claim far “Right”;
Yet both decry the government: False continuum brought to light.

— from the poem Labels

Libertarians are Anarchists with money; Anarchists are Libertarians with balls.Ask any typical basement-dwelling web-connected self-proclaimed “anarchist” what time it is, and they’ll tell you how to make a watch. Ask ten of them the same question, and you’ll likely get ten different answers – especially when it comes to defining terms like “post-left anarchism”.

As for me, my house has a basement, I’m usually web-connected, and I have on occasion proclaimed myself to be a “post-left anarchist”. Being a man who values deeds more than words, however, I won’t drone on for twenty paragraphs explaining why when one or two will do. It’s really pretty simple. I believe that:

  1. The contemporary political “Left” is largely controlled by the same corporate fascist billionaire/bankster/bomb-maker military-industrial-complex Deep State that largely controls the contemporary political “Right”;
  2. There is a point at which the interests of the “Far Left” intersect those of the “Far Right”, which essentially negates the validity of the left/right political spectrum anyway; and
  3. Given either or both of the above, the political “Left” is no longer (and perhaps never was) a likely route to universal liberty, equality and solidarity.

There you have my perspective on post-left anarchism. Here are some others – possibly wiser, certainly wordier:

Bob Black
Coined the phrase

What is post-left anarchism? I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but it looks like I did. At some point, I asked several of the people most likely to know (including John Zerzan, Lawrence Jarach and Jason McQuinn), and no one was aware of anyone using the phrase before I did. Jason McQuinn confirms this in a recent letter. The first known use of the phrase is in the last sentence of my book Anarchy after Leftism, which was written in 1996 and published in 1997. This is the book’s last paragraph: ‘There is life after the left. And there is anarchy after anarchism. Post-left anarchists are striking off in many directions. Some may find the way…'”

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Jason McQuinn
Leftism is Dead

“[The Left] has most commonly engaged in a substitutive, representational practice in which mass organizations are subjected to an elitist leadership of intellectual ideologues and opportunistic politicians. In this practice the party substitutes itself for the mass movement, and the party leadership substitutes itself for the party… In reality, the primary function of the Left has historically been to recuperate every social struggle capable of confronting capital and state directly, such that at best only an ersatz representation of victory has ever been achieved, always concealing the public secret of continuing capital accumulation, continuing wage-slavery, and continuing hierarchical, statist politics as usual, but under an insubstantial rhetoric of resistance and revolution, freedom and social justice… The bottom-line question is, can anarchists do better outside the Left – from a position of explicit and uncompromising critique, than those who have chosen to inhabit the Left have done from within?”

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“Post-left anarchy is not something new and different. It’s neither a political program nor an ideology. It’s not meant in any way to constitute some sort of faction or sect within the more general anarchist milieu. It’s in no way an opening to the political Right; the Right and Left have always had much more in common with each other than either has in common with anarchism. And it’s certainly not intended as a new commodity in the already crowded marketplace of pseudo-radical ideas. It is simply intended as a restatement of the most fundamental and important anarchist positions within the context of a disintegrating international political Left… If we want to avoid being taken down with the wreckage of Leftism as it crumbles, we need to fully, consciously and explicitly dissociate ourselves from its manifold failures – and especially from the invalid presuppositions of Leftism which led to these failures. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for anarchists to also consider themselves Leftists – there has been a long, most often honorable, history of anarchist and left syntheses. But it does mean that in our contemporary situation it is not possible for anyone – even Left-anarchists – to avoid confronting the fact that the failures of Leftism in practice require a complete critique of Leftism and an explicit break with every aspect of Leftism implicated in its failures.”

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C. Derick Varn
Tied to Occupy

“I started going back over the post-left anarchist movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s. What happened to it? Most of the publications seem to have dried up and disappears just before Occupy or just after Occupy. Even Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed seems to be MIA. Interestingly, Murray Bookchin seems to be having a resurgence beyond the grave–and originally Bookchin had been a sort of transitional figure to me, but now reading some of the post-left attacks on him, a lot of them DO seem relevant. That said, aside from the few primitivists still in circulation? What happened to post-left anarchism and why is its fading seemingly tied to occupy, and then Occupy’s dissolution? I wanted to talk about this in the larger discussion of what’s left, and I find their arguments, but I can’t find much of them now. Another wave that crested on the beach of activist history?”

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Edmund Berger
Why Occupy Failed

“There are plenty of reasons why Occupy failed, from the repressive hand of the police to the inability to keep the momentum up following the eviction from the park to internal class-oriented strife. [Calling bullshit here: Occupy failed because it was co-opted by MoveOn.org, a front for the Democratic Party, the Left wing of the Deep State bird.] In North America the passing of 2011 seemed to close the door on mass militancy, at least until the #BlackLivesMatter and #ShutItDown protests swept across the nation. The movement between the two allows us a space of reflection, to look at why we failed then and how to better equipment present-day theory and praxis… Where [post-left anarchism] is concerned, debate focused on whether or not ‘lifestylism’ detracted from social anarchism, sidestepping the issue of the relationship between environments and infrastructures as the container for everyday life, regardless of what it looked like. In short, we took a misstep by seeing the world for the way it wanted to be presented, not for what it truly is. The only solution is, then, to take the spirit of past revolts while learning from its failures and, hopefully, craft ways to correct them.”

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Lawrence Jarach
Back to Basics

” Promoting self-activity, egalitarian interpersonal and social relations, and cultivating a critical perspective are among the best aspects of anarchism. As such, they are worth extending. Accepting spoon-fed solutions and programs, engaging in non-reciprocal solidarity with leftists, and other characteristics of ideological myopia need to be discarded. Anarchists, with their emphasis on the principles of mutual aid, voluntary cooperation, and direct action, cannot share a common agenda with contemporary leftists any more than they could 150 years ago… A return to authentically anarchist principles, coupled with some understanding of the troubled history of the relationship between leftists and anarchists, can go a long way toward reinvigorating antiauthoritarian theory and practice. At the same time, moving beyond the melioristic beliefs (especially about western European technology, culture, and science) of 19th century anarchism, which have made the programs of anarchists and leftists seem similar, is crucial. The relevance of anarchist self-activity can only increase when the vestiges of authoritarian leftist assumptions and distortions are discarded from the words and behavior of antiauthoritarian activists, critics, and theorists.”

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