De-Stereotyping Anarchism as a “White Ideology”

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.

daf
DAF, an anarchist organization, helping in the Rojava Revolution in Northern Syria

 

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.

Ferguson
Ferguson; Despite a popular insurrection, the media quickly spinned it as otherwise

 

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?

Magonistas_en_Tijuana
International Magonistas army in Tijuana

 

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. It was brutal times (another day for the “Global South”, but nonetheless, insurrectionary theories began to take root during these times); desperate times calls 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:

  1. Because its not; it’s erases the non-white anarchism that has its own history and streams.
  2. Because the media tries to dismiss anarchism through stereotyping.
  3. Because it plays into the common narrative that anarchism is ‘chaos’; it’s not.
  4. 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.

 

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11 Comments

  1. I thought anarchist ideology stemmed back from France. Is that not white? Wasn’t the label as an anarchist popularized by the dominant white punk scene? I also have heard a few qtpoc friends not identify as anarchists (but instead abolitionists) in order to decolonize politics.

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    1. In the post I was addressing the beliefs of those who say that anarchism’s tendency towards anti-authoritarianism only helps colonial/capitalist relations (what I meant as a “white ideology”). I think that’s problematic, and excuses those who want an authoritarian party, and erases it’s history against capitalism. Now, it’s undeniable that anarchism as “mutualism” appeared from Europe, though anti-state thought/practice has been transnational prior/after colonialism. The punk scene doesn’t own the monopoly on anarchism as a whole either (at least in my opinion, I hardly listen to it anyway haha). I have heard about the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement, I don’t know if that’s what you’re referring too?

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  2. Thank you for the clarification. Yes, I was referring to the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement. I am still learning about anarchism and anarcho communism. I personally don’t identify as either, but I am learning where I best fit as a Xicana queer feminist in all of this.

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  3. For sure. I came across a statement from RAM on It’s Going Down recently. Sounds cool.

    But back to the topic. It’s undeniable that some anarchist streams have European or “Western” influences. But the West doesn’t have a monopoly on anti-state/anti-authoritarian thinking either. There’s plenty of anti-authoritarian thought that does not originate from the West. We’d also have to tackle the meaning of the “West”, and that can be problematic. Like Edward Said said in Orientalism, racist discourse not only homogenizes the so-called “East”, but ironically the “West” as well. So if anarchism as a whole (already shaky ground), indeed is a “Western” discourse, then what type of Western“ism” are we talking about, and precisely why is it not helping to undo hierarchy?

    At least for me, it’s less about the origin point and more about how the constructs within capitalism can be used/destroyed to create something new. The Magonistas for example. Being anarchists in the Mexican Revolution, they allied themselves with Yaqui indigenous and American leftists and fought together. It’s about what ideas and practices can land us solidarity, and challenge domination and hierarchy as a whole, with what we have. Whether that’s anarchism or something else, cool. Personally, as a queer chicano myself, I like it, use it, and I think anarchism is a good tool for solidarity 😀 As with everything else, it’s complicated. Sorry for being wordy.

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    1. I really loved your post!!! And I am trying to write my own poetry-anarchist theory too! Your blog is definitely very inspiring. I also wanted to offer insight about anarchism in mexico D.F. right now. I studied at UNAM last fall and one of my T.A.’s introduced me to the world of anarchist kolectivos. It was a transformative experience!! But my point is that this is a new generation of anarchists, my TA and all his fellow anarcho-punks and anarcho-feminists friends are all writing theory just like you! They are actively mobilizing in unique and extremely artistic ways, while simultenously transforming how political power is consilidated in Mexico. In fact, they are fighting several luchas (and have fought before in the past), without little to no solidarity from us Chicanos/as/xs or Mexican-Americans. Rght now, a lot of kolectivos actively involved in the future of Marichuy la candidata indigena, there’s also a lot of mobilization to fight for the autonomy and rights to the urban space they have nurtured and organized. I think it is important that they are there and they exist and that it is a new generation of mestizx and indigenous youth who are anarchist. And they are definitely NOT white. In fact, I’d argue that my queridos amigoches in D.F. understand and practice Anarchism because they understand liberty through their indigenous identity and their brown identity, understand how absolutely present colonialism is in the Mexican state and how urgent it’s destruction is. Anyway, the story is long and there’s too many things that escape me right now. But I just briefly wanted to write this because I really loved your post and I am also looking to connect with more anarchist pueblo here in Gringolandia.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ALSO: the anarchist-punk scene i was referring too is also brown and indigenous in mexico. I wanted to clarify that.

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      2. Wow that is both inspiring and informative. Please let me know if you want to collaborate or complement each other in our writing. I can write/read Spanish too (to a lesser extent but enough)! Here in the Bay Area there are some anarchist groups, and some are busy building some collective-run infrastructure in Oakland. What is also erased is how many of these projects are by people of color, and you san see radical activity popping out in our neighborhoods. The Chicanos are difficult to get on board, unfortunately, mainly because the organizations that are still around are very much nationalist based and redirect energy in reformist measures. This should change, and like I said, if we can work to create a solidarity project, that would be amazing!

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