Mon, 10 Mar 1997 16.10 GMT

A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

ANARCHISM TODAY Franc,ois COQUET [This article taken from Le Monde Libertaire will shortly be published in FREEDOM]

We will never be able to overemphasise on these pages that today we live, perhaps, in the most favourable period in history for anarchism at least since 1917. Every day liberal capitalist society presents itself more and more in its true colours: a society of misery and exploitation; social-democracy presents no alternative other than a change of government, the Marxist states have done enough damage to ensure their beyond the pale reputation. ----------------------------------------- ?SABRIA USTED TRADUCIR ESO AL CASTELLANO? ------------------------------------------ On the other hand, from the anarchist point of view, things are not so bad thanks. One might even say, without overdoing the self-satisfaction, that our image has improved noticeably. The collective efforts of political parties have, for some considerable time, succeeded in reducing us, in the popular imagination to bomb throwers, crazies or petty bourgeois. It still works occasionally but less and less so. We have won respect and, dare we say, credibility because of what we have done by integrating ourselves within the social movement, in the struggle against the moral order and for the defence of individual and collective freedoms. When a workplace is on strike the presence of anarchists is felt, more and more, by the strikers because it is often a guarantee of determination in the struggle by the workers themselves with neither intermediaries or highjackers. As soon as a social movement of some one hundred or so people appear on the streets of Paris thousands of Parisians tune into Radio Libertaire to hear not politicians, not sociologists, not journalists but the people involved in the movement who can express themselves on our airwaves without having to go through the information mill at the whim of the state or the admen. When, last autumn, the pope came to France to spin his reactionary doctrine, faced with apathy or the reactionary thinking of traditional secular organisations, the engine-type role of the anarchists, particularly the French Anarchist Federation (FAF) allowed those who did not wish to bend to the yoke of clerical consensus to let their views be known.

The demonstration on the 14th October in Lorient was particularly striking where despite the absence - when it wasn't a case of sabotage - of almost all the left (fellow or non fellow travellers) 3,000 people according to the local press were happy for the anarchists to organise the 'unwelcome' for John Paul II. On an international level also the dynamic is noticeable. Anarchist organisations are now to be found on all five continents. Libertarian press titles can be counted in their hundreds throughout the world testifying to the richness and diversity of the movement. One can read - and use! - some of them (The Anarchist Age in Australia, Freedom in England and, as of this year, Le Monde Libertaire) on the Internet or Usenet. In addition, electronic forums dedicated to debate or anarchist propaganda are expanding fast and will lead in a short space of time we feel to a multiplication of international contacts between anarchists, individuals and organisations. It is reasonable to see in these examples a beginning and an encouraging sign rather than an achievement. But the trend is apparent: anarchists are on track for getting their ideas across in social movements and in those areas where until recently they could not make their voice be heard.

However, we must not be satisfied with all this. In effect even if we have gained in credibility in terms of struggle and in practical terms anarchism still has a long, long way to go before it comes across as a credible alternative this time as a social project. This perhaps is one of the main lessons to be drawn from the social movements of December 1995; imagine if those millions who came out onto the streets also had an idea of social transformation... Anarchism could have played this role. We weren't there. So, next time?

Of course we are not starting from scratch. Anyone who asks us about the libertarian society as we conceive of it can be given the basic idea of how it would work: free association of individuals and groups on the basis of a reciprocal contract; federalism between these groups, self management of the commune and that work which would still need doing, social equality. We can, even in the today's society, find the seeds, routes (worthy of exploration with our eyes open) to show and demonstrate the feasibility of our goals: mutual societies, coops even the association movement... We can still speak of the achievements of libertarian Spain. We can, why not, remember that a bookshop (Publico), a weekly (you are reading it) and a radio station (Radio Libertaire) have been functioning according to anarchist principles for decades with no serious interruption. We can also finally note that it is not our intention to present people with a blue print since the first task of a libertarian society will be to make it what the people want! Of course... we don't want to stay in the domain of generalities and platitudes so that we don't even know if the society we want is the same as the one our neighbour is thinking of just as much an anarchist as you there will probably not be a lot of people who will sign up for such an indefinite cause and it would seem paradoxical that we, who refuse to give a blank cheque to the politicians, should ask for something similar for our proposals. Now, in so far as we reject avant-guardism, we will need mass support for our ideas or at least a high level of confidence if the realisation of a libertarian society one day becomes an urgent question.

Therefore today we must take our first steps in building the anarchist project: the clarification of ideas, tidying up our aims (not necessarily convergent), permanently debatable that is worthy of criticism, but by means of which each and every one of us can form for themselves a concrete idea of how such a society might be. In a nutshell what anarchism means today.

Le Monde Libertaire publishers in conjunction with Alternative- Libertaire in Brussels published in 1995 and 1996 two interesting pamphlets from this point of view. The first was dedicated to anarchist analyses and proposals on the theme of work. The second, put together by the Union Re'gionale Rho^nes-Alpes of the FAF and is called 'Anarchism Today...' (1) Each of these pamphlets took the risk of presenting views which were not consensual, even among anarchists. The role to be given to unions in the organisation of a future society and even the intrinsic value to be given to work are dissimilar from one writer to the next in the pamphlet on work. The productivist voluntarism which comes through in the pamphlet on anarchism today is also open to debate. The main value of these pamphlets is precisely, even if it rubs people up the wrong way, to present possible paths to anarchist society/ies. One will use perhaps one of them or several, some others will be abandoned. Others will surely need inventing. In any case, it is more than necessary to show, as of now, that a libertarian future is possible, is reasonable. Thus we look forward to more experimentation, more publications, other points of view about how a future society will be... about the future we wish to build.

In any case, the current development of anarchism will necessarily make us face up to these questions. Current efforts to rebuild the political left around a few symbols (for example the republican front against the National Front or supporting the EZLN and the big media rout in Chiapas this summer) make a bad job of hiding the vacuum, an incredible lack of proposals other than slogans against neo-liberalism which don't take much effort to make up. We are not complaining! But we have a social project to get across and not simply a political shopwindow to preserve and we cannot afford to waste such an opportunity to let it be known as it truly is. This demands debate, an exchange of ideas, putting things into perspective, using one of the great strengths of anarchism that is to say its diversity.

This will necessitate a certain individual and organisational maturity. Diversity can have its bad side which is the proliferation of rival factions. The recent split in the AIT which Le Monde Libertaire has reported should, along with other things, put us on our guard. Nothing would be more disastrous and nothing would please our enemies more and nothing would be worse publicity for an anarchism which is becoming more attractive than to see these vital debates degenerate into internal faction fighting. The federal and synthesising idea which is at the very base of the FAF should remind us of the need to stay above these dangers. Let's remember that we "only" have to change society!

Franc,ois COQUET (1) Both pamphlets are available from Publico and other outlets of the FAF

FREEDOM PRESS INTERNATIONAL http://www.tao.ca/~freedom

******** The A-Infos News Service ******** COMMANDS: majordomo@tao.ca REPLIES: a-infos-d@tao.ca HELP: a-infos-org@tao.ca WWW: http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/