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How did you get into anarchism?

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explainthingstome's picture
explainthingstome
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Dec 28 2019 16:57
How did you get into anarchism?

I'm curious to how people here became anarchists.

Here's some questions that can be useful:

How did you get into politics? Was it related to a conflict at work? Or was it something else?

Did you immediately become an anarchist or did you start from a different political ideology?

explainthingstome's picture
explainthingstome
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Dec 28 2019 17:01

I got into politics in school. It had no connection to my own life, I wasn't working an awful job or not getting healthcare or something.

I was reading a history book that was extremely anti-communist. Churchill, someone I knew had said and done nasty things, was portrayed as a great person. So I started reading about Lenin. I got hooked by his anti-racism and anti-imperialism. I therefore adopted the rest of his views aswell.

I developed an obsession with Trotsky, whom I had heard of before becoming interested in politics. To me, Trotsky is a bit Christ-like: he was on the rise and then he got betrayed, exiled and murdered.

After a while, I started becoming a little ironic about Lenin and Trotsky. I started making and laughing at jokes about them and communism. I think that humour made me a little doubtful of what my opinions were. Was red terror justified? Was war communism justified? I grew more distant from Lenin and Trotsky.

I eventually started reading about the bolshevik ban on factions, and about how the Cheka tortured people. I had just handwaved the red terror previously, but I think reading about actual cases made me reconsider. That's when I started reading communist critiques of leninism. And that eventually led me to reading about anarchism.

I don't think I'm a "proper" anarchist for the moment, but I do wish for an anarchist society.

zugzwang
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Dec 30 2019 02:42

Don't really consider myself an anarchist nowadays (and there's probably more interesting people on here with 20+ years of being libcom's) but I'd attribute it firstly to a lifelong uneasiness toward the state of things, and maybe with some mental illness thrown in there also etc. I read Berkman first while taking a US gov. course, not as part of the curriculum, but just knowing that it was mostly nonsense we were being taught and forced to regurgitate in essays and tests (among my thinking at the time: why do we need a "president" anyway; representative democracy really doesn't give us a say in decisions actually being made; why is poverty still a thing when we can provide for everyone within reason; etc.), which sparked my interest in anarchism. I was reading/listening to loads of Chomsky and Pat the Bunny (whose music I still have somewhat of an affection for) around the time also.

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Lucky Black Cat
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Dec 31 2019 10:21

I've always preferred the red and black jellybeans, so anarchism was a natural choice for me.

(jk, this is a cool thread/questions, I will give a serious* answer another day, I just don't have time right now. But wanted to comment so the post shows up in my "tracking" tab and I can be reminded to answer later.)

* (But I am serious about preferring red and black jellybeans.)

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Dec 31 2019 11:05

Not an anarchist anymore, but once upon a time in 2014 after a general election I became an anarchist after being very disappointed with the Social-democratic party. I found syndicalism as some sort of radical alternative, though nothing really came of it because I was still in high-school and isolated from the left. I tried to join syndicalist youth-federation(SUF) at some point but bailed, a few years later I tried to join again and went to one meeting but it was very different from what I wanted from organizing. I can't really pin point at what point I stopped really being an anarchist though, it went sort of in waves. Before I tried to join SUF again I was not really an anarchist, I think I called myself a "bordigist", but after I didn't really find what I was looking for in SUF I turned a bit more towards some form of anarchism, reading Camatte, Nihilist Communism, Desert, Fredy Perlman, developing anti-organizational tendencies, and so on. After I started working and becoming a trade unionist I turned towards leninism again, but ended up in an anarchist organisation so I was still organizationally an anarchist even if my personal politics were not really anarchist.

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the button
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Dec 31 2019 12:20

A mixture of events (the Falklands war and the miner's strike a couple of years later, plus the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation) and finding the address for Black Flag (back when it was a fortnightly paper). Got a nice letter back from Leo Rosser saying how good it was to hear from "younger comrades" (I was 14 or 15 lol).

How I came to write to Black Flag was seeing convoys of police going past the top of my road under army escort, heading for the M62 and the picket lines, then seeing the miners mixing it up with the Old Bill. One of my teachers at school said that picket line violence was the fault of anarchists. "I'll have some of that," I thought.

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Dec 31 2019 16:28

Via Anti Fascist Action in east London. Then going into Freedom Books and reading various magazines. An article in Organise! published by the Anarchist Communist Federation convinced me to actually join the anarchists.

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Jan 1 2020 15:48

My parents were (and are) about as far left as you could go whilst still being a supporter of the Australian Labor Party, and they weren't really quiet about it either. The values of anti-racism, unionism, anti-sexism, etc were imbibed down through the umbilical cord so by the time I was thinking about politics I was already instinctually on the left. I grew up in a multicultural area of Sydney in a multicultural family at a pretty bad time for race relations, with things like the Cronulla riots occurring. That does something to you: you can see the value of the diversity you experience in your day-to-day life, and you can see it being threatened by politicians (of both sides), so lines were sort of drawn up that way.

Then when I was around 11 I read Animal Farm, because I wanted to seem smart and I thought it would impress girls. It didn't work but I liked the book anyway and learnt that Stalin was bad but socialism itself was pretty good. I had heard nationalism was bad and connected it to the racism in Australia, so I googled "anti-nationalism" and found an article that said anarchism is anti-nationalist extremism. I thought that's pretty good then so I started reading anarchist things (probably on libcom), and after years of reading basically every Chomsky interview I could find, I finally just started calling myself an anarchist proper.

In my final years at school I was seeing ways to relate anarchism to everything, eg I used to dream about going to a progressive, libertarian school instead of my miserable authoritarian Catholic one. Or about how less stressful I'd feel about employment if my job was as creative and collaborative as the music I used to make in my spare time. You see things as they are but also as what they could be. That goes for work, the family, school, whatever. I still think that about anarchism, that's why it's so good. Society's fucked in many ways, but there's good parts in it and the good parts can expand and un-fuck the bad parts by overwhelming them. Broadly speaking.

Still in the process of trying to find my way in organised anarchism but that's more to do with my city's pretty average scene than anything else.

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Jan 2 2020 16:01

As a sixteen year old a friend loaned me this record... https://youtu.be/uwr9qWjdUS8
I read the inside of the large fold out cover, which was essentially a short essay covering various things such as racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, animal rights and anarchism. It changed my entire outlook on the spot. The stupidity and hypocrisy of the world suddenly had a solution and I was very excited.
I ended up as part of the anarcho punk scene, formed a band and gigged with some of the well known bands of the time and also carried out a number of what we thought were political actions, but whilst my friends were happy to stay in the punk ghetto and parrot the anarcho punk tropes that everyone else was spouting, I became very disillusioned, realising that we needed to connect with regular folk if anything was gonna happen. My connection with the punk scene ended when during what was to be our final gig, I took my frustration out on our singer by unstrapping my guitar and lumping the poor bastard with it, and that was that!
I found the record cover a few years back and re-read it - it really was incredibly naive, just a load of nonsense mostly, but all the same it entirely changed my outlook on the world and so, as a catalyst it was incredibly powerful.

Scallywag
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Jan 3 2020 00:15

I gradually came to anarchist conclusions somewhere between 2013 and mid 2014. I was a Liberal at the time and like most liberals felt my opinion was worth something and having nothing else to do spent a lot of time debating with people online. I was lucky that radical leftists also sometimes got involved though and I think the arguments they made around 2 big events at the time whether we should take military action against Syria and whether the pro-eu demonstrations in Ukraine where something to support I think helped push me away from the idea I had before of liberal democracies as a force for progressive good in the world. It also steered me towards chomsky and further criticisms of western governments and of the whole idea of governments and states. I must have been becoming more disillusioned with government and politicians prior to all this and more interested in alternatives to capitalism and so when I eventually discovered anarchism it was like it had all the answers. I wish I had a cooler origin story though.

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Jan 4 2020 11:28
Noah Fence wrote:
I found the record cover a few years back and re-read it - it really was incredibly naive, just a load of nonsense mostly, but all the same it entirely changed my outlook on the world and so, as a catalyst it was incredibly powerful.

This is probably a point that we can all do with bearing in mind more, I think it's easy to jump on any text that's not 100% righteous and sorted, but it's always worth remembering that something can be deeply flawed in a lot of ways while also having the potential to have a really positive influence on someone who finds it at the right time.

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Jan 4 2020 12:56

I think I know what you’re getting at here RT, but there’s a big difference between a bad take from well meaning members of our class and a bad take from members of our class that mount vicious attacks on their class fellows for criticising that take, especially when that bad take actively supports the ruling class in it's subjection of the people they are attacking. Numerous times over the last few months I’ve been called everything from a transphobe to an ableist to a right wing plant to a toff(yes really, a fucking toff!), for critiquing Labour and stating that I won’t be voting. That is SO different to the experience recorded here.

explainthingstome's picture
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Jan 15 2020 15:34
Noah Fence wrote:
I think I know what you’re getting at here RT, but there’s a big difference between a bad take from well meaning members of our class and a bad take from members of our class that mount vicious attacks on their class fellows for criticising that take.

I think R Totales post was more about how a naive or shallow critiques of the things that anarchists oppose (states, nationalism, capitalism etc) can work as a gateway to better critiques of those things. Like that record you got when you were younger

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Jan 15 2020 20:31
explainthingstome wrote:
Noah Fence wrote:
I think I know what you’re getting at here RT, but there’s a big difference between a bad take from well meaning members of our class and a bad take from members of our class that mount vicious attacks on their class fellows for criticising that take.

I think R Totales post was more about how a naive or shallow critiques of the things that anarchists oppose (states, nationalism, capitalism etc) can work as a gateway to better critiques of those things. Like that record you got when you were younger

I was referring to something on another thread though I don’t know what thread it was!
Anyways, maybe you’re right, if so then my bad.

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Jan 15 2020 21:08

Oh yeah, I can't 100% remember what was going through my head when I wrote that but I don't think I had any specific cross-thread beef in mind at the time, if it was aimed at any specific person I was probably criticising myself there.

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Jan 16 2020 15:55

This comment I made in another thread briefly summarizes my evolution over the first several years of the 2010s:

Quote:
I wonder what I would be like had I never underwent a transformation in my personal beliefs, had I never ventured on libcom and the countless other anarchist/communist/marxist sites on the web that had influenced me. It all seemed like an accident. Up till my high school senior year, 2010-11, I was a hard core conservative with the most reactionary view on everything. And like most conservatives, I believed in the "American dream" and "big business". Then I took AP (Advanced Placement) English with a teacher who, although largely conservative as well, had a mix of liberal and conspiratorial views. Long story short, our discussions around his desk while he tried to do his paper work instead of teaching class had me chasing the web, doing research and looking for answers to all sorts of questions after school. That year, I remember the world made less and less sense to me, and I was becoming vulnerable towards conspiratorial views.

Eventually, I decided to look into socialism. I think it was because I read Albert Camus, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley and they were socialists of some sorts, which got me interested in it. From around the end of high school, up until my first post, I went through all the different versions of leftism before being won over to anarchism.

I'm not sure if there is anything I would change or add to it.

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Jan 17 2020 21:28

That’s a great story Agent. It shows that conservatives are not necessarily a lost cause. It seems to me that generally speaking, liberals are as, er, conservative(!) in the technical sense as conservatives themselves.

autogestión
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Jan 18 2020 00:11

In sixth form, a friend accused me of always being "anti-everything" and challenged me to articulate what I was "for". I had always been vaguely socialist, but then I began thinking "well, if socialism is going to work, it's going to have to be really democratic, otherwise it will end up like the USSR".

Later, I was talking a bit about these vague thoughts to my dad (who is an old lefty of some description), and he said something dismissive like "So you want each army platoon to take a vote every 10 minutes on whether to keep fighting, like the Spanish anarchists?".

He meant to be dismissive, but what he had actually done was alert me to the fact that the ideas I was groping my way towards had a name - "anarchism".

The internet did the rest.

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Jan 23 2020 19:52

Mid 70s I was first drawn into the SWP (IS) because of the people I met were up for taking on the fascists. They were expelled from the SWP and set up Red Action and I joined another Trot group... I have reading problems and adhd so I liked the certaintity of being told what to think (at that time). We entered the Labour Party. After a while I found life in a Trot sect was not good on a human basis so I left the Trots but stayed in the Labour Party with a group of other mosty ex trots and ex stalinists. (The out and out reformists were much better human beings than the Trots by the way.) The 84-5 miners strike happened and it became clear the Labour Party was a lot of shit. I was lost, had no idea what to do where to go. I was unemployed and felt broken after the strike. After a year of depression I got involved in the local claimants union I then met a group of working class anarchists who lent me books- argued with me- took me to see plays and art exhibitions and encouraged me to take action. What the anarchists had done during the strike made a lot more sense than some of the Labourite shit I had been drawn into. I had a long talk and was leant a few books and soon was seeing my self as an anarchist. One of the key things for me was the rejection of Irish nationalism by anarchists in the then Anarchist Communist Federation- I had been raised to hero worship the RA but had witnessed how reactionary they were in working class communities in Ireland- it was a big break through in my thinking when I grasped that my enemy's enemy was not always my friend.