Survey: Response from Bob M.

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

A world where people are responsible for their own actions, without rulers or bosses of any kind. I believe this implies both individual liberty and social responsibility — we need to be free to be ourselves and act according to our lights, while at the same time recognizing that we are part of a larger society and have a responsibility to that society. While there are many differing visions of what anarchism means and what it should be, I believe we all have certain things in common. In the same way that capitalists work through their differences to support their broader social goals  — i.e. there are rightist capitalists, leftists, authoritarians and libertarians, those who support the corporate behemoths we have now and those who hold or prefer a smaller more individual-focused vision, but they all work together to oppose all varieties of leftism or socialism. I think anarchists need to take the same approach — our longer term visions of how we want the world to be may be quite different, but they all have certain elements in common; we should be focusing on those elements, and on our opposition to what is now, and save the factional fighting until “after the revolution,” in whatever sense of that term you use.

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

I am not clear enough in my own head about this to answer well. I could say that anarchism is the theory and anarchy is the practice, but I think that is too simplistic. This is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about. It strikes me as more abstract, and my interest is in what can we do now in our day-to-day lives. Which is not to diminish the role of theory…

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

I believe it is important to know where we came from, but it is even more important to not be bound by where we came from. It is also important to learn from traditions other than our own — many societies were essentially non-authoritarian, with an authoritarian overlay, by which I mean that for much of our history, people have lived with minimal interference on a day-to-day basis from their “rulers,” but the rulers were always there and could interfere when they wished or needed to; I think there is much to be learned about how to live our lives in general, but also how to live freely within an authoritarian structure, by studying how people lived in medieval Europe, for example, or ancient China, or other places.

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

Inspiration, ideas of what can be done and some approaches to take, a sense of the vision that inspired our forerunners. Not, definitely not, directions or rules or blueprints. It is inspiring to read the old writings, or about the old revolutionaries, but it can be painful to realize just how much our heroes got wrong, or failed to consider or take as seriously as we now do.

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

I think the insidiousness of authoritarian thinking is a major problem. I know far too many anarchists who are essentially leftists with a less-authoritarian bent — they want the government to do this and do that, just not the things they don’t want the government to do. We have to be clear that the problem is authoritarianism, of any kind — social democracy as well as Stalinism. Yes, of course there are differences, and we struggle hardest against the worst of them, but we do not do so by relying on the less worse of them.

I also think that most anarchists fit well into how we live now, in their day-to-day practices — paying taxes, accepting government aid, that sort of thing. This is related to that earlier point. It is hard to be against what supports you.

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

I used to be very involved, when I was younger. Age and poor health have compelled me to step back. I no longer feel I have a good sense of where things are at. I get a sense, though, that this is a time, like the late 60s, when we can move our ideas to a greater audience. I just hope we can be more successful than then of building something that lasts (that is when I came of age, and discovered the ideas, as did so many of my peers and comrades; unfortunately, so many of them moved more to the mainstream).

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

It seems like there is lots of good thinking going on. There seems to be lots of good thinking of a libertarian bent in non-anarchist forums. Again, I am less in touch than I wish I was.

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

Developing practical ideas, moving away from theorizing. Much of what the populist right has to say can be said by anarchists, with just a change of emphasis — the elitism of the political class, the way corporations have let down working people, just for example. It is certainly true that much of the support for Trump is irredeemably authoritarian, but that is a much smaller number than those who actually voted for him. There are a great many Trump voters who have been totally let down by the system as it stands. Anarchism should be where they are looking for their hope, not some right wing authoritarian rich guy who will use them and throw them away. Our ideas make much more sense, in their terms, than anything he has to offer. And we need to figure out how to reach those people.

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

As I said earlier, we need to figure out how to work together to fight what is. We do not need to agree, other than to agree to work together in spite of our differing visions. We are a long way from an anarchist society; when we get closer we can argue about the shape of that society.

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

As with number 7, I wish I was more in touch. I think we need to develop ways to reach out to new people on a practical, what’s in it for me, basis. That is how we will reach beyond a fringe.

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

I am probably more of a socialist anarchist. I like elements of primitivism, but I don’t see it as practical. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about defining myself.

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

Maybe some on what people are doing now, and how that fits with their ideas

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

Sure, given that i am not as much in touch as i wish. I do still think about things.