Survey: Response by Jose Angel Santana Guerra

1. — How would you most succinctly define anarchism? Is there a shared “anarchist project” — and, if so, how would you characterize it?

Anarchism is broad tradition, encompassing a variety of different political, social and economic viewpoints and to that end, I would define anarchism through the shared concept of the abolition of hierarchies and social inequalities within all spheres of life. Since the scope of the anarchism is broad, this has allowed a multitude of differing ideological tendencies to be produced, many of which, have conflicting premises, practices and approaches. In terms of defining a shared anarchist project, I might suggest there exists a multiplicity of them but only within certain confines, pertaining to the particularities of the involved group’s theory and plans of action.

2. — What is the relationship between anarchism and the concept of anarchy?

I think the concept of anarchy has it’s place as a grounding idea for the practice of anarchism. It helps to establish frameworks of analysis for it’s constituent subjects. Since the conception of Anarchy isn’t necessarily absolutist, it sets the tone for what anarchism may become in terms of practice.

3. — What is the value of tradition within the anarchist milieus and what might be its uses?

Anarchist tradition provides foundations for current revolutionary analysis and if understood without dogmatism or absolutism, it may be used to help form new perspectives for not only anarchists but for the general public and the social sciences. It allows us entry into perspectives and paradigms not commonly used or discussed in current society, which helps towards it’s improvement. Anarchist tradition has been tempered by debate within our own beloved historical figures and I think this is unique, in the sense that our tradition does not place many values on so-called “golden pedestals” – that nobody is protected from critique. This, to me, creates a culture and process of continual questioning, which I see as greatly beneficial for the advancement of our understanding of how violence is produced within hierarchic modes of relation between groups and individuals.

4. — What, specifically, is the role to be played in the present by the anarchist literature — whether theoretical or artistic — of the past?

Anarchist literature has a broad role that shouldn’t be limited to “this subject or another.” If we, as anarchists, are seeking to advance anarchism, then our literature must take a variety of forms. I wholeheartedly advocate that anarchists produce poetry and fiction because it not only adds to our culture but also allows for expressions of anarchism to reach audiences outside of our milieu. Not everyone is a theory wonk, like myself. While I personally prefer to read theory, that perspective shouldn’t be universalized. I think if anarchists were to broaden their scope of literary production, our ideas and thus practices, could become more ubiquitous within our society.

5. — What are the most significant challenges facing anarchists — and anarchism, as you understand it — in the present?

I personally think internal conflicts between anarchists concerning the subject of what is usually deemed “identity politics” has it’s place as one of the larger issues. I can’t say that this is the most important issue necessarily because of the amount of issues within anarchism but this one is certainly the most pertinent to my values, conceptions and experiences. Class-reductionism becomes oppressive at the point it disregards the existence of other methods and structures, besides class, that are able to produce hierarchic relations between marginalized subjects. Due to that, it does not allow for a proper analysis of the material conditions these subjects are existing in. I think it would do anarchists a great deal of benefit to learn more about modern radical sociology to inform their ideas and conceptions.

6. — How would you characterize the present state of anarchist activity (outside the realm of theory and propaganda)?

Compared to the early 2000’s, anarchists have made a great deal of progress, especially in the realm of practice. According to Black Flags and Social Movements, the US alone has around 360 anarchist organizations, 18 of which, carried over from the early 80’s, saying a lot about their longevity. With newer anarchist organizations, such as the Black Rose, allying themselves with the now, more public, struggles of transgender groups and post-colonial subjects, I think anarchists are headed in the right direction. Although, I would like to see more active organizing towards the goal of protecting these groups and others from state violence while not resorting to legalism.

7. — How would you characterize the present state of anarchist theory and propaganda?

In terms of theory, there has been a great amount of new subject material produced but in terms of propaganda, I sense a lacking. There’s quite a bit of online activity, with meme pages and such yet I think groups of anarchists need to use propaganda in order to organize their immediate communities more. I think there is a lot of isolation between groups of anarchists and I think community building through the use of propaganda has a lot of potential.

8. — What are the most urgent changes to be made in anarchist practice moving forward?

Reducing and recognizing the ways in which we may reproduce hierarchies within our practices. It’s hard to not fall short of the demands made by the idea of anarchy but it’s a necessity that we practice what we preach, so to speak. This is especially true when attempting to organize with other anarchists because we can’t create an anarchist movement without properly practicing it as much as we can within our own communities.

9. — What is the role of some kind of “anarchist unity” moving forward? What form could or should that unity take?

I’m not necessarily sure if there should be some kind of “anarchist unity.” If there is one created, I would like to see it grounded in particular methods of analysis but I don’t see that happening. Nor do I see the general concept of anarchy as a unifier between the disparate ideological tendencies. Yet, I don’t consider that to be a negative. A diversity of perspectives with mutual discourse helps to improve and refine, over time, the theories we produce. But I suppose what anarchist unity could be made must be between the particular tendencies that agree on some general framework or specific conceptions those groups both agree with.

10. — What are the greatest needs with regard to new anarchist theory, propaganda, literature and art?

I would personally say that queer theory and critical race theory are subjects that need to be addressed with much more rigor within the anarchist community. These subjects are already developed in great capacity with fantastic analysis but anarchists need to grasp these subjects with more intensity because there is a wonderful amount of discussion we can add to these subjects. For example, it is of my opinion that Proudhon’s ideas of Collective Force and Unity-Collectivity may elucidate and produce new understandings surrounding the habitus racialized subjects exist in. We can ask questions such as; In what ways are Proudhon’s ideas of Collective Force and Unity-Collectivities applicable to current discussions of race and identity? In terms of determined ontological being, what composes the unity-collectivity of racialized subjects? As collective force informs Proudhon’s analysis of exploitation and general relations between subjects, what could this tell us about its manifestation in racialized subjects? I’ve been working on these things myself but I would like to see more of this critical discussion within anarchism.

As for literature and propaganda, I think as I said earlier, a broadening of the scope of non-theoretical work and using propaganda in the community is a need that should be met.

Art is another medium that I would like to see more explicit anarchist involvement in. My local “anarchist” (they wobble on soc dem) coffee shop often sells local Dadaismo artwork but that’s about all I see. Creating anarchist art, whichever the style, helps to make our culture more understood in our general society.

11. — Do you currently identify with any particular anarchist current or tendency — and, if so, how do you characterize your position?

Yes, I currently identify as a Neo-Proudhonian Mutualist, with strong Post-Structuralist influences. Proudhon’s idea of collective force has influenced my conceptions on how exploitation functions within society but the most meaningful attraction to Mutualism, from my perspective, is the anti-absolutism and non-system centric method of analysis. It allows for a multiplicity and diversity for manifestations of society, which compliments my beliefs in decolonization as well.

12. — What additional questions would it be useful to pose to a broad anarchist audience?

I would ask that questions concerning class reductionism and identity politics be added to later surveys. I would also like to see questions about how other anarchists envision the structure of anarchist organizations they would like to participate in.

13. — Would you be interested in participating in future surveys, perhaps addressing more specific elements of anarchist theory, practice and culture?

And yes, I absolutely would be interested in participating in future surveys