It’s happened many times before. That awkward moment sitting in that one meeting for [insert organization here]. Then, as you question the direction/tactics because you don’t believe in the politics of demand, you not only become discovered as an anarchist, but also criticized for it. I think it’s too many a time when I was told “anarchism is a white ideology” (whatever that means); “the only anarchists are white”; “anarchism is a privileged political philosophy”; you get the point.
Thinking this way, though, has some ‘truth’ in it. The truth is that none of these claims are true to begin with. But in addition to this, it illustrates the perspective of just how strong media narratives are. It points out that this stereotype (because that is what it really is) is just the same old story pushed and propagated by the media. When one speaks of anarchism, immediately organizers/activists think of black dressed white dudes (never mind you can’t see their face), who go around and breaking windows. They think of anarchism only as how the media spins it off; as black bloc tactics that end in chaos, as a mess.
Never mind that Mao Zedong and many Chinese socialists were at first, anarchist. Never mind that the Mexican Revolution was mainly provoked by mestizo anarchist Flores Magon; never mind that Japanese anarchism took a surge by Noe Itō, a feminist and organizer in her own right; never mind the mutualista societies in Mexican and Black communities in the United States; never mind the stateless societies in Latin America, both intentional communities and prior to colonial contact; never mind the Syrian anarchist Omar Aziz, who played a role in the Syrian Revolution; never mind the Rojava Revolution itself, a plural society of Syrian Kurds and Arabs in democratic confederation; never mind the societies not mentioned here.
To say that anarchism is a “white ideology” not only plays into the dominant narratives and stereotyping; it is in itself racist. It erases and dismisses such a diverse and rich history of struggle from all walks of culture and geographies. It ignores the context of different ideas and tactics.
What anarchism proves is its threatening nature to the State and its form. When they find the exception, it is magnified. Let’s not pretend this is not true; state socialists/liberals and activists are always on the defensive because they all know the nature of media. This is true for anarchism as well, especially for anarchism. It is even true for the cities that go up in flames after neighborhoods experience the death of one of its own (Ferguson comes to mind). The media, instead of focusing on economic causes, or systematic failures of the governments, flares against the ‘thugs’, ‘gangsters’, ‘out-of-towners’. What is the ‘truth’ behind the lie though? Well, we don’t need to be asked this. As organizers we know better than to play in the stereotypes the media reproduces.
Usually, anarchists are accused of being ‘unstrategic’, too quick too violence, even vanguardist, hyper-individualist (they haven’t read Emma Goldman obviously). But a quick overview of what it really is proves all these moot (unless one is citing from the media or government, where the generous use of “anarchist” is used profusely). Have they forgotten the Magonista-Yaqui-American alliance in taking Tijuana and Baja California during the Mexican Revolution? Have they ignored anarchist organizing in Argentina, where collective action is part of its own dissenting society? Or the anarchist role in achieving a massive change of society in the Spanish Civil War (come on y’all, you knew I was gonna bring it up sometime or another)? Or even the role of anarchism in Africa, taking up position with indigenous narratives of resistance?
Perhaps these criticisms might apply more to insurrectionary anarchist projects. It’s romanticization of violence within its theory is well-deserved, but it has updated. And accounting the whole of anarchism as its “insurrectionary” stream is intellectually dishonest – a straw man. It ignores the context of where plots and schemes against politicians and CEOs took place. Consider the climate after the defeat of leftists in Europe during WWII. These were brutal times (another day for the “Global South”, but nonetheless, insurrectionary theories began to take root during these times); desperate times called for desperate measures.
How else is one supposed to act against dictatorship; against Pinochet, Franco, Mussolini or Hitler? Create a union and then be declared as open-season radicals? Insurrectionary anarchism is certainly a threat for anyone that has planned using the nation-state construct. It is no coincidence that then anarchists have to suffer the pains of being attacked by both conservative misconceptions of anarchism, but also leftist arguments and (mis)understandings, given their agenda.
To recap, why accusing anarchism of being a “white ideology” is wrong:
- Because its not; it’s erases the non-white anarchism that has its own history and streams.
- Because the media tries to dismiss anarchism through stereotyping.
- Because it plays into the common narrative that anarchism is ‘chaos’; it’s not.
- Because it goes against the use of the state of both the left and the right, and therefore the stereotype get’s recycled to justify their agenda.
How can we solve this? We can’t control the media, so that’s not gonna happen. What we can do is organize; only by accompanying struggling peoples, whether workers, students, indigenous or anything else, can we transform our own perception to people, as well as transform together in practice.