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(en) Freedom 6320 19th Oct. 2002 - What we say ...

From FreedomCopy@aol.com
Date Sat, 2 Nov 2002 09:01:17 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

At the beginning of the last century, anarchist militant
Alexander Berkman defined an anarchist society as one
"without force and compulsion, where all men shall be
equals and live in freedom, peace and harmony". He added
that "every human being who is not devoid of feeling and
common sense is inclined to anarchism. Everyone who
suffers from wrong and injustice, from the evil and
corruption and filth of our present day life, is instinctively
sympathetic to anarchy".
Almost a hundred years on, we seem further away from
Berkman's ideal than ever. The 'instinctive sympathy' for
anarchy has been replaced by disillusion, cynicism,
withdrawal from political life and the reality of an anarchist
movement ever more detached from the 'present day life' of
most people.
The twentieth century offered, not freedom, peace and
harmony, but the carnage of the Holocaust and the Gulag.
The First World War began in Sarajevo and at the century's
close the city's name was still in the news, with the scar of
'ethnic cleansing' again a political commonplace.
At the start of the Second World War, the idea of a mass
media didn't exist. The knowledge of mass murder, for
those who weren't affected or implicated, came after the
event. Now we can watch rapes and massacres as they
occur but do nothing except change channel. Milosevic,
architect of ethnic cleansing, stands indicted of war crimes
- but most of us would sooner watch Big Brother.
The rich grow richer, more and more of the rest of us grow
hungry; but the politics of equality have been replaced by
internecine civil war within working class communities.
(Witness the growth of fascism across Europe and say this
isn't so). What hope for those of us who still hold with
Berkman's dream of freedom? Are we wasting our time?
Are our meetings and bookfairs just ways of denying our
The answer can't be given yet. If we're honest, much of
what we say and do means nothing to most people. But
over 250,000 turned out last month to demonstrate against
the prospect of war. Most people, when asked, say time
and again that they're working class, however much New
Labour says class no longer matters.
Berkman also had something to say about why those who
"endure poverty, misery, tyranny and oppression" all too
often take no action to end their conditions. He noted that
"lawful violence and the fear of it dominates our whole
existence, individual and collective. Authority controls our
lives from the cradle to the grave ... All your life is a long
chain of fears - fears which bruise your body and lacerate
your soul".
For most of us, the fear of 'lawful violence' is stronger still
today. More of us go to jail than ever. CCTV, and even the
mobiles in our pockets, act as the eyes of the state. The
misery of private life seems a safer option than joining with
others to take any kind of political action. But apathy and
despair don't stop governments making our lives worse.
They just offer them further licence.
Anarchist politics is based on direct action and
co-operation, a politics of resistance to oppression based on
solidarity and mutual aid.  It's a real alternative to the 'long
chain of fears' which keeps the system of exploitation in
If we want to create a situation where 'everyone who
suffers from wrong and injustice' is again inclined towards
anarchism, the anarchist movement in all its diversity has
to take responsibility for ensuring that its politics and
actions relate to, and impact on, the 'present day life' of
everyone else. There is a better future, but we have to
make it.

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