(AA) FREEDOM - 6th April (extract)

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Thu, 11 Apr 1996 02:48:30 +0200

article taken from FREEDOM - current issue
84b, Whitechapel High St.,
E1 7QX

sample edition available on request from London.



It is certainly an indication of the changing
audience for anarchist propaganda that the
latest international anarchist gathering was set
up by the Sociology Department of the Pierre
Mendes France University at Grenoble in south-
east France. It is one of several universities
sharing the same campus outside the town,
reached by an enviably cheap and frequent
tramway whose quiet and comfortable
vehicles should be envied by British cities.
The conference on La Culture Libertaire ran
from 21st to 23rd March with over thirty
sessions (some parallel) running from 9am to
7pm for three days. Admission was free to all
and every session was packed with young and
old, sitting in the aisles of the lecture theatre
and often in an adjacent room with a television
screen. As a non-polyglot, I skipped plenty of
sessions, but each had audiences of between
100 and 150, and the problem was usually that
of finding a seat and of sitting next to the right
whispering translator among friends from
Holland, Switzerland or France.
Downstairs a variety of bookstalls peddled
the impressive range of anarchist literature in
French, German, Italian and Spanish. In sheer
volume, the most remarkable of all was
probably the Atelier de Cre'ation Libertaire
(BP 1186, 69202, Lyon, Cedex 01, France,
and the associated bookshop Librarie La
Gryffe,5 rue Sebastien Gryphe,69007, Lyon,
France). However, I also learned from
Alternative Libertaire (BP 177, 75967, Paris,
Cedex 20, France) that Jean Maitron' s history
of the French anarchist movement has
recently been published in Arabic in Lebanon.
When we consider the failure of the inter-
national anarchist movement to penetrate beyond
the European and North or South American
world (apart from well-known incursions in
China, Japan and Korea, as well as parallel
trends in India), this is intriguing news. But
why did it have to be history, rather than an
application of anarchist ideas to the current
ferment in what, to us, is the Middle East?
This question of contemporary relevance
was one of the themes of several participants,
and was phrased in various ways as the
difference between the old and the new
anarchism. It was tackled head-on by Rossella
Di Leo from the Italian group who publish the
monthly Rivista A, the quarterly Volonta and
the Eleuthera series of books with authors
ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Marge Piercy
(Edizione Volonta, casella postale 10667
20110, Milano, Italy). She urged us to avoid
recriminations between different concepts of
anarchism and to be conscious of current
trends outside our private world. "Anarchism
is not just a variant of industrial archaeology"
she declared, and she talked about the links
between anarchist thinking and the Green
movement, the women's movement, current
citizen direct action campaigns, and 'chaos
theory'- in geography and mathematics, as
well as educational and biological theories
about small self-governing cells as the
foundation of social behaviour.
She was followed by Anna Niedzwiecka
who circulated various anarchist journals
from Poland, and stressed that the noteworthy
fact about them was the youth of the
participants. The only occasion when angry
voices were heard from the audience was
when Mimmo, a big bearded guy from Lyon,
reported a comparison between the social
characteristics of the anarchist movement in
1895 as reported at the time by Augustin Hamon
in Psychologie de l'anarchiste-socialiste and
in 1955 as discovered by his own research. His
findings were much like those of two readership
surveys conducted thirty years apart by Freedom,
but he was accused of stealing anarchism from
the industrial workers and handing it over to
the graduate intelligentsia. I thought it a bit
hard that he should be blamed for accurately
reporting on social facts, but there wasn't any
time to explore the thought that sometime in
the next century a new anarchist movement
might arise from-the 'underclass' created by
the collapse o@ industrial employment
throughout the western world.
But there was a series of arguments worth
pursuing further. For example, John Clark from
Louisiana was talking about links between the
eco@ogical movement and libertarianism, an
issue nicely explored in the Freedom Press
pamphlet Deep Ecology and Anarchism, but
when we took the bus to Charnrousse to have
a meal out of doors with snow all around us,
we fell to talking about Cajun music instead
of the issues involved. Personal enthusiasms
took over from ideology.

Eduardo Colombo, a veteran from L@
Protesta in Buenos Aires but long settled
in Paris, and a student of the psychology of
anarchism, placed us art various points on an
overlapping continuum. Anarchists, he felt,
can be located in several categories of attitude.
They include:
1. The Millenarians, who believe that one day
everything will change, after a ' social
2. The Post-Enlightenment radical relativists,
who expect a series of different and uneven
radical changes in society.
3. The Eternal Rebels, who become anarchists
for reasons related to their personal psychology.
4. Those whose anarchism is part of their
whole social situation. This, he argued, was
true for example among unionists workers in
various trades in the FORA in Buenos Aires
or the CNT in Barcelona. This is the kind of
anarchism that can actually provoke
revolutions, but not necessar11y sustain them.

Rudolf De Jong from Amsterdam took as
his title 'Anarchism after the Fall of the
Berlin Wall', in order to raise the issue of real
and unreal revolutions. He remarked that there
used to be a song about the fall of the Bastille
in the French revolution. It said: "The Bastille
has fallen / And nothing has changed."
This, suggested De Jong, was both true and
untrue. Nobody had actually resisted the
attack on the Bastille and nobody had resisted
the attack on the Berlin Wall. But there were
deep differences between the two unresisted
mass movements. Unlike the French
revolution of 1789 or the Spani@h revolution
of 1936, the fall of the wall in 1989 was
accompanied by no new ideas.
Its aim was simply to bring to an end the
absurdly oppressive old re@ime, whose
population was contlnua ly decllnlng as
people risked their lives just to get out. But the
only alternative on offer was that of a
capitalist market economy - dissenting voices
from the left were either in prison or in exile
or had given up the struggle. Nobody was left
to produce new ideas on how to organise the
production and distribution of goods and
services, so the poor became still poorer and
the victims of the old regime were also the
vlctims of the new one too.
De Jong compared the Spanish revolution of
1936 which affected about ten million people
at the most, with the events of 1989 which
affected the three hundred million inhabitants
of the Soviet Empire. Statistics apart, one of
his important arguments was that if some
selective virus killed off all the world's
anarchists tomorrow, anarchism as an idea
would survive and emerge in every kind of

The same kind of issue was raised by a
variety of speakers: Alain Pessin, our
host, Ronald Creagh from Montpellier and
Peter Schremps from Switzerland, who
reminded us of the theme of 'Old and New
A@a@chis@ had l@ee@ the @hject of ar
international meeting in 1974 when Luce
Fabbri called for a "soto voce anarchism"
when it is likely to get a hearing, urged us to
remember that it wasn't necessary to pose the
one against the other. I seem to remember the
same sentiments in 1984 at the Venice
gathering, and I certainly believe that
adherents of both old and new anarchism, if in
fact they differ, should push their own
approaches, not among each other but in the
unfnendly world outside.
In fact, I heard of about half a dozen
experiments in applied anarchism when I was
in Grenoble. Jean-Manuel Traimond, who
was kind enough to act as my translator, is the
author of a book of stories from the
25-year-old squatter settlement in Christiania,
Copenhagen (see also article on page 7). Other
people talked about the school called
Bonaventure on an island north of Bordeaux,
and about the community called Los
Arer@lejos o@t@ide l@l@ga i@ s:o@lther@ @pain
(see also article below). I learned how Peter
Schremps had organised a cooperative
cleaning agency in Switzerland, by-passing

Auzlas about a progresslve sc oo venture m
@ntes (the Lycee Autogere) org@ni@ed within
the official system by Gabriel Cohn-Bendit.
Anarchism does slip in with a quiet but
persistent voice.
That was the message I brought back from