Looking Left to Panarchy
I haven’t always been an anarchist but I’ve always been a radical. After being raised in the pro-life movement I discovered the Communist Manifesto as a 14 year old lapsed malcontent. I didn’t understand every word of it but the inflammatory anti-clerical rhetoric lit a fire in me that never went out. After spending several years as a teenage anarchist, influenced in equal measure by Subcomandante Marcos and Johnny Rotten, I turned to state socialism, inspired by the bold anti-imperialist antics of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. It was also around this time that I became enamored by tales of the Bolsheviks, Che Guevara, and those dastardly Castro brothers. Marxist-Leninism and Democratic Centralism made sense to a twenty-something closeted agoraphobic. Like my life it felt preserved in formaldehyde. It felt safe.
But there’s nothing radical about safe and when I came out of the closet to take my life back from mental illness and gender tyranny, I was ready to dream dangerously again. The suspiciously early demise of Hugo Chavez followed shortly by the cataclysmic failure of his signature revolution was the final straw. Chavez did everything right but when he dropped dead the revolution dropped dead with him. For me, that was the last nail in the coffin for state socialism or state anything for that matter. I was drawn back to anarchism by the unexpected triumph of the Rojava Revolution in Northern Syria and the prison writings of the man who inspired it, another post-Marxist anti-statist named Abdullah Ocalan. But I’ve remained both conscious and unapologetic of my tangled radical roots and my objectives have always remained the same, the creation of a classless post-capitalist society.
There’s another word for this; utopia, and its acquired a bad reputation by being bandied about by thugs and idiots. But utopia needn’t be a pejorative just because a few bloodthirsty Maoists mucked it up. When it all comes down to it, utopia is a goal. It’s something to strive towards eternally like a form of societal evolution. The only problem with utopia is that it’s a subjective premise. One person’s utopia is another person’s DMV. Expecting a Bible-thumping paleocon to ever be on board with my queer commie vision of direct democracy is about as reasonable as expecting a bomb throwing queen like me to thrive in a theistic monastery. As much as I may believe that my way is the way, enforcing that belief upon anybody would mean the death of liberty and the revolution for which it stands. At the same time, the earth melting apocalypse that is the American Empire doesn’t exactly leave us with a wealth of time to debate the fine points of stateless utopianism. My solution to this existential conundrum is embracing the philosophy of panarchy.
The basic concept of panarchy is that governments should be more like churches only with better benefits and less child rape, voluntary stateless communities that people can pick and choose to be a party to and can coexist within the same geographic spaces. This means that my Bookchinite municipality of pot-farming trannies can thrive on the same block as a distributionist Catholic polity or an anarcho-capitalist confederation. As long as all communities agree to a policy of strict non-aggression and cooperation enforced by a coalition of civilian militias the result will be a virtual marketplace of optional utopias. Those that succeed will grow in a decentralized fashion while those that fail will splinter into smaller communities to accommodate every possible lifestyle and way of life. The best part is that a violent upheaval may not even be necessary to achieve this. We can create these communities now as the American dream rots like a two week old jack-o-lantern. Some of us have already started.
My neighbors, the Amish, have thrived peacefully as an essentially panarchist society for well over a century and they’ve done it without firing a single bullet. They’ve simply chosen to opt out of mainstream society while simultaneously and peacefully coexisting with us wicked folks in the English world. Against all the odds they have persevered as a radical traditionalist, racially pluralist, theocratic aristocracy with virtually no classes, no private property, and no goddamn electricity. Their way of life seems completely insane to 90% of the planet and yet they continue to exist essentially unchanged even as the world burns down around their farms because they embrace the concept of a fully voluntary society where all transactions are completely consensual. When the Amish disagree they don’t war, they atomize, separating into smaller autonomous communities. Even their children are given the opportunity to experience the English world and chose for themselves whether they wish to join them. Some do, but many don’t. Many choose community over modernity. And isn’t that what all anarchists are truly thirsty for? An escape from the corrosive cult of bigness and a return to the bosom of the tribe, however we may define it?
The Amish way is not my way. I could and would never live that way. But goddammit if I don’t respect the shit out of their devotion to peaceful autonomy. And if they can do it their way then why can’t the rest of us do it ours? Why not syndicalists and mutualists and communists and traditionalists and libertines? Why should we all be at each others throats when we all essentially want the same damn thing? To strive for our individual utopias and be left the fuck alone. So give me your radical faeries, militiamen, and black nationalists. Give me your outlaw bikers, gang-bangers, and cyber-terrorists. Give me your Orthodox Old Believers, born again pagans, and Sufi mystics. Give me your gutter punks, skinheads, and black metal church arsonists. Give me all the freaks you got so we can come together to burn this motherfucker we call a state down, once and for all.
And to my appalled fellow leftists who are disgusted by the very notion of breaking bread with any of the above, I say take a cue from the Amish and lighten the fuck up. It’s called solidarity, dearest motherfuckers. Freaks of the world unite!
Peace, Love, & Solidarity- CH
Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post
* I Was a Teenage Anarchist by Against Me!
* Cherry-Coloured Funk by Cocteau Twins
* Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols
* That’s When I Reach For My Revolver by Mission of Burma
* We’re Not Done (End Title) by Mogwai
* Tribe by Gruntruck
* The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
* Shake Appeal by the Stooges
* Freak Scene by Dinosaur Jr.
* My Way by Sid Vicious