Not so many years ago the dominant orientation of anarchism was leftist. Anarchists have always stressed self-management of society, but what that society should be was pretty indistinguishable from what marxists assume it should be. In other words, technology and mass production, rooted in division of labor and domestication, were givens to most anarchists.
In the course of the 90's there has been a fundamental shift, still underway, in what most anarchists see as the foundations of a free, healthy society. Self-managed factories and other forms of productionism and specialization are now widely understood as no advance at all. In this increasingly standardized, massified, anti-nature monoculture of a world, more and more anti-authoritarians realize that the answers go deeper than self-management of existing institutions.
A primitivist outlook, which indicts technology and civilization as well as capital, seems to be gaining ground in various parts of the world. As conditions visibly worsen at every level — the increasingly desolate individual psyche, ever more pathological and atrophied societies, the devastated natural world – we are driven to delve deeper in our analysis of a deeply toxic, future-less totality.
And there are signs that a new movement is beginning to emerge, signs of militancy in outlook that just might overtake the general cynicism and pessimism.
David Ehrenfeld wrote in the January-February 1999 Tikkun ("The Coming End of the Technological Age") that the days of the everywhere triumphant Megamachine are in fact numbered. Rather surprising to see a mainstream magazine herald the fairly imminent collapse of techno-capital, and in no uncertain terms. Ehrenfeld writes of the invincibility of the system as just an illusion compared to its real vulnerability.
Soon thereafter, the hitherto mainstream conservation quarterly Food & Water editorialized (Spring 1999) in its own surprising fashion. An editorial entitled "Objectifying Violence" concluded with the injunction to "Go forth and sabotage!" Decades of mild, non-militant, write-your-congressperson advocacy has led only to an accelerating assault on nature, Food & Water's editor reasoned, and he courageously faced up to this impotence. Needless to say, enjoining the magazine's readers to commit acts of sabotage horrified many of them.
The Yuppie Eradication Project has drawn local, national, and even international media attention for its vandalist efforts to protect San Francisco's Inner Mission District from complete gentrification. Trendy bars and expensive restaurants moved into the neighborhood, sending rents spiraling and creating an impossible hardship for the area's low-income residents.
Once suspected of being the handiwork of only a handful of people, Y.E.P. has drawn a hundred or more to recent meetings; nocturnal attacks have spread to at least one additional San Francisco neighborhood.
The 30th anniversary Woodstock rock festival in late July ended in the looting and burning of tents, booths, and 12 semi trucks. At the end of August an anti-consumerism group bombed fast food outlets at a Moscow shopping mall, declaring that "a dead consumer's unfinished hamburger is a revolutionary hamburger." Also this summer, the rising militancy of animal liberationists was publicly noted, and the implications of its advances were understood by some. Richard Epstein, a University of Chicago law professor, observed that "there would be nothing left of human society if we treated animals not as property bu as independent holders of rights."
In Eugene, anarchists have engaged in property damage for over a year, forcing public discussion of anarchy as the only real alternative to a cancerous, all-destroying global system. Breaking the rules in a sustained way has brought anarchy out of its former marginalized, suppressed position, and has raised radical alternatives, in Eugene and quite possibly, elsewhere soon. The June 18 "Reclaim the Streets" protest involved about 300 who indeed reclaimed the streets, breaking business windows and skirmishing with police for several hours in an "Anarchist Rampage," as the local front page headline put it.
This activism is informed by a critique of the ensemble of domination, including technologized existence and its wellspring, civilization itself. The primitivist analysis is now widely discussed in such places as London, Istanbul, and Paris, inviting the suspicion that public contestation may be just around the corner.
What does not seem likely is a return to an anarchy dominated by the productionist/workerist/syndicalist perspectives of, say, Murray Bookchin and Noam Chomsky. A far more radical liberatory vision is taking shape, equal to the horrors around us and aware of whence they come. This outlook vastly deepens the insights of Marx, and is entirely fed up with the endless compromising and half-measures of leftism.
From The Black-Clad Messenger zine