The old individualist anarchism vs social anarchism debate

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A.uhuru
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Oct 8 2007 10:31
The old individualist anarchism vs social anarchism debate

I was just wondering if individualist anarchists of today are all defeatists or if there are still some that think there's a chance to change the world. I wonder what Proudhon would have thought of the many small, I'd say, almost secular squats across Europe. I've been reading articles about the shutting down of Ungdomshuset and was curious about what kind of impact that has had on the global anarchist movement, if any at all? Let's make it clear that i do live in Africa and have not had very much first hand experience with that kind of squatting, here there are more communities of squatters as opposed to single buildings being squatted. Can communes/squats work on a small-scale? Personally, i don't think so.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 8 2007 17:13

Well it kinda depends on what you define as squats "working". The British property laws are really loose (due to the Black Death and a housing crisis post-WW2) which meant that one entire street in London was squatted for about 60 years by 100 families until 2005ish. I mean, in reality, noone's gonna begrudge you attempting to live in free accommodation cos of necessity. Thousands of immigrants in London have attempted this, although unfortunately (especially amongst East Europeans) there is a growing culture of gangster landlords demanding extortionate rents for unequipped, unsafe, unowned buildings.

However, the difference arises when a squat (living somewhere unoccupied for free) becomes some sort of social centre, a flagship of the local "radical" (urrrggh) scene. Then all of a sudden we find ourselves presenting a rather distorted view of our politic to the outside world. Personally I've seen some great punk rock shows in squats, but is this really a revolutionary action?

RE: Ungdomshusett. I went there about a week before it was evicted (not for political reasons, I just happened to be visiting a friend in Copenhagen). It was a nice atmosphere, overwhelmingly punk save for a few bespectacled and intensely incongruous "radicals" and (to be fair) a couple of groups of really young (presumably local) kids. The beer was by far the cheapest in the city. The toilets were typically disgusting (although they had some nice FAU grafitti). As I understand it, the rioters in Denmark are largely young kids who used the centre as a sort of venue. I think the specifics around this case are bizarre (such as a really combative Christian organisation who literally thought it was a house of Satan, hence why they bought it just to demolish it) and if nothing else, it demonstrates the weakness of a social democratic state in the face of market forces. Are the riots a threat to capital? In December/January the youth house made a few contacts with sympathetic neighbours/loca community groups (and consequently there was a peaceful demo in support of the place) but I'm yet to see any evidence of the movement tying itself to more general demands or making links with other Danish struggles. Which is probably cos it's about 80% punk. After the failure over the weekend, I'd say it'd eventually die out...with the possible benefit of some local radical organisations recruiting a few members from the milieu.

Terry
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Oct 8 2007 17:45

I'm not sure there is a discernible anarchist tendency that you can call "individualist" or "lifestylist" interested in setting up communes and the like as a revolutionary strategy. Maybe in the U.S.? There is squating in Britain around accomadation needs, as Alan says, probably much like in South Africa, excepting the obvious differences in standard of living with South Africa. This is good.
There are also "youth" sub-cultures that take over land or buildings permanently or temporarily to hold parties. This is good.
Some of the later are someways politicised. I think people get pissed off when it becomes anarchism equals punk squat. But I think if you look at it objectivly it is grand in so far as what it is, but in no ways the basis for a broad political movement.
The people into making islands of freedom within capitalism as a revolutionary strategy are more to be found in the eco-villages/communes movement, which is more green, and to be honest is more of a thing from 30 to 40 years ago. There is actually a study of the (very few) communes in Britain dating from the late 80s where most people interviewed for it (commune dwellers) said 'nah this is a nice way for me to live, not really got much to do with changing society'. There are maybe a few more people who 'drop out' in this way, which is again grand for what it is, but no, not something one would base a strategy around.
I think we you find a lack of a class struggle orientation among "anarchism" it is more a feature of where people are coming from and how they got politicised and in what wider context, rather than there being an alternative "individualist" or "lifestylist" perspective or strategy as a worked out coherent thing.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 8 2007 18:05

Well yeah, individualists are kinda defined by their incoherence and disorganisation. It is more of an unconscious, kneejerk thing. I agree with what Terry says about it being about personal approach. I do genuinely believe that the majority of individualist anarchists became thus due to personal problems and effectively use individualist anarchism as a vindication of their difficulties with integrating into mainstream society. That largely explains why so many of them are so misanthropic.

I have borne personal witness to their attempts to become coherent and organise though, although to label them such would be "oppressive". Effectively it revolves around attempting to construct a community based around the dropout lifestyle, and attempting to make it more and more self-sustainable. Of course, the majority being punks, alcoholics or those with serious issues, their efforts are usually completely worthless and fail quickly.

Terry
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Oct 8 2007 18:37

That is actually not what I meant Alan. What I meant was if you have people radicalised through say an anti-war movement like that of the 2003 period, in a context of a historic low level of class struggle, maybe people of particular backgrounds, then you are likely to have a milieu with little orientation towards class struggle. Perhaps we are talking about different scenes. I'm thinking of some the Anarchist Youth Network material archived here on this site. Doesn't look very "individualist" or "lifestylist" to me. Looks more like not having a really properly worked out idea of what it is about. I suspect having such is more likely to be the preserve of certain types in this particular sort of context. I don't see anything that was like in the 1980s when you had so-called anarchist publications arguing against supporting particular groups of workers in struggle. Obviously I wasn't around the AYN so I could be completely wrong, but that is what it looks like to me based on my own experiences. Perhaps you are talking more about punks though. I don't know much about punks.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 8 2007 19:45

As I understood it, AYN was split between individualist lifestylists and the class struggle types, who went onto form the backbone of Libcom. Yeah there is definitely a lot of incoherence amongst young people organising themselves and they will be attracted to the most widely advertised, approachable image of anarchism. In my personal experience of squats and the lifestylist milieus, there is strong subcultural element and a high proportion of personal issues masquerading as praxis.

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blueyedbum
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Oct 9 2007 02:10

if your ever on the west coast on the u.s. i would recomment going to santa cruz. big big anarchist / liberal/ infoshop scene tons of places to squat

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Oct 10 2007 15:50

Eh, from looking at indymedia denmark and the social democratic danish newspaper politiken it appears that the lord mayor of copenhagen is going to enter into negotiations with the youth movement about getting a new social centre. This is a whole other discussion in itself.

But in the week before last saturday the chief of police had said he was in favour of a political solution. There had also been indications that the police hadn't expected the kids to continue on as long as they have, aswell as the police being overstretched with resources and overtime due to so many demos, actions, riots, etc.

http://english.indymedia.dk/publish/show/30

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 11 2007 18:59

Yeah I'd say finding them an alternative venue would be the most likely "solution" for the local state. I mean, we're talking Denmark here not Iran. The bourgeois apparatus is easily stable enough to allow plurality and the aesthetic of anti-state rebellion continue (look at Kristania for an example of that). A new social centre, legalised and regulated by the relevant authorities, a weeding out of radicals and troublemakers in order to split the movement between genuine radicals and subcultural punks etc.

Terry
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Oct 11 2007 19:12

Were they not looking to get rid of Kristania as well? Wasn't there a lot of government action against squats in Germany in times past? Doesn't this partly revolve around property values, re-development, gentrification and the like. Seems to me there is a lot less toleration of squatting on the continent than in Britain. Also what was the Battle of the Beanfield all about? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Beanfield Seems to me that if some of this wasn't associated with bullshit punk rock/animal rights/brick the windows "anarchism", different standards would be applied to it.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 11 2007 19:19

Au contraire, Kristania's a tourist attraction. What the government's doing is trying to "renormalise" it and integrate it back into the Danish state. They're closed down the main street (Pusher St), which used to be packed full of hash dealers. Right now it's basically a couple of stalls selling incense, a handful of bars and a residential area. Police can and will enter.

As for the the Battle of the Beanfield, seems to be a precursor to the free party/anti-CJA movement. Britain does have unusually tolerant squatting laws, like I said in my first post. I don't really see how this is relevant though. I mean, I don't really have much theoretical issue with it (well I do with particular cases, but not necessarily with so much with the form), it's more practical and empirical.

lem
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Oct 11 2007 19:26

surely you're too young for the free party laws Alan.

Terry
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Oct 11 2007 19:30

What the government's doing is trying to "renormalise" it and integrate it back into the Danish state.

Same difference.

The point of my reference to the Battle of the Beanfield is to say well if no government is bothered by this malarky then why would they devote a small army of police to it? It is obviously relevant given the thread is about squats, communes, droping out, et al, and the convoy was that on wheels.

Similarily if they were not bothered by squatting et al on the continent there would not have been the conflicts around it, riot police, tear gas, the works, mostly in Germany in the early 80s.

lem
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Oct 11 2007 19:34

it's "law" rather than "order" tho surely. i can't see free party goers being particularly more working class oriented than the next person.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 11 2007 19:34

Terry what point do you have exactly? Obviously the police are bothered by free parties. the majority of them are held on someone's land, who then calls the cops and they storm in to defend the private property. I don't understand what you're arguing? Do you think it's an anarchist's task to irritate cops? Cos I got better things to do than create macho spectacles with policemen and then end up in the nick.

Lem - if only free parties ended in 1994...actually that's a little harsh, I've never been to one and I suppose they could be fun, depending on who you go with. I wouldn't claim it's an anarchist's duty to do pills and listen to techno in a fucking forest though.

lem
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Oct 11 2007 19:36

my older brother used to put dnb parties on under a motorway bridge grin

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 11 2007 19:48

Well i went to a punk show in a squat the other week. It was alright but I didn't sit around discussing Bakunin. I actually spent most of the time discussing English punk and weedpipes. I have been to a couple of squat shows where politics were discussed, and to be honest, I'd rather make smalltalk to a fucking mattress.

lem
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Oct 11 2007 19:49

i dunno about this whole punk thing have they always been putting on squat parties?

there's certainly been more punk house parties recently ime.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 11 2007 19:59

Yeah punks used to squat cos they were all fuckin societal marginals basically...it wasn't a political thing, it was just cos they couldn't/wouldn't get jobs and therefore chose some sort of existence that didn't necessitate having a job. Of course, that then developed into a conscious ideology (if you think class struggle anarchism's dogmatic, trying talking to a "DIY" punk) and the whole lifestyle became glamourised and reified into what it is today.

To answer your question though, yeah I guess there are a lot of punk house parties.

Terry
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Oct 11 2007 20:07

"Terry what point do you have exactly? Obviously the police are bothered by free parties. the majority of them are held on someone's land, who then calls the cops and they storm in to defend the private property."

Sorry above I thought you were arguing that the state wasn't bothered by any of this (though I think it is sometimes more than private property, but that is another story).

"I don't understand what you're arguing? Do you think it's an anarchist's task to irritate cops? Cos I got better things to do than create macho spectacles with policemen and then end up in the nick."

That is precisly my point. All of this type of stuff is interpreted in terms of what anarchists should or shouldn't be doing, ie in light of the fact that one small sub-culture that does some of this stuff contains people who call themselves anarchists, and often seem to come out with silly nonsense about veganism and the like. Clearly people squatting land or buildings to hold parties is a good thing, clearly it is better if a bunch of youths in central europe adopt the Crass version of anarchism rather than the increasingly popular fascism. Obviously all that is as I said above "in no ways the basis for a broad political movement.", and in fact it is only that one of those groups contains people calling themselves anarchists (and I guess some actual proper anarchists as well) that I have to say that. I mean people are not gonna be really down on kids taking over a bit of an industrial estate to hold a rave are they? Nor if this ends in conflict with the authorities?

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 11 2007 20:17

Like I say, I've been to various illegal/squat parties in my time, like most people in my social demographic I'd reckon. It seems like we're debating at crosspurposes a little here, cos the OP deals with individualist vs social anarchism (which isn't the best dichotomy I can come up with, but nevermind) and bearing in mind where we are, the discussion will always head back to its relevance to revolutionary politics. Free parties are positive, but in general terms it's cos they offer more options on a Friday/Saturday night. I disagree with your dichotomy of subcultural anarchism vs fascism (apart from anything else, some fascists make use of squats too). I mean, if we wanna support stuff on the basis of it being better than fascism, then why aren't we leafleting for Labour in Romford or Barking?

lem
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Oct 11 2007 20:31
Quote:
precursor to the free party/anti-CJA movement

wasn't there a clamp down on squatting too?

parties generally change when you're not taking drugs. what's the point then, really?

Terry
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Oct 11 2007 20:58

Well we should support free parties or drop out sub-cultures from attack by the state. We should oppose a 'praxis' based around "counter-culture", what people here call individualism, or sub-cultural anarchism, or lifestylism or whatever. My problem though, is nobody ever seems to advance any evidence for such existing. I'm not saying it doesn't, but I could get more of a handle on what people are actually arguing about if someone went here there it is read this.
I mean you have crimethinc, but even crimethinc seems to have rejected some of this. There is mentions in "Anarchism and the Miners Strike" and "Anarchism in the Thatcher years" backed up with evidence, but this also seems more particular. So what is it? Punks being bitterly D-I-Y, is that not about having a nice scene they feel comfortable in, does anyone actually express this as part of a programme to change society?
It all seems just like umbrella terms for things people do not like.
It isn't a false dichotomy. It is clearly better that some of the politicisation of youth sub-cultures is to the left, rather than to the right. Labour et al doesn't compare because of the role Labour has played in the rise of the BNP etc...etc... (er not to mention it is the Labour party, who administer the state in the interests of capital). I don't see how Fash having squats comes in to it as a contradiction to what I'm saying, rather than it is a validation, there are sub-culture scenes to the right in Europe (darkwave for instance), any sub-culture is gonna be well sub-cultural, and it is better that some has often confused anarchist politics.

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Oct 12 2007 06:09
blueyedbum wrote:
if your ever on the west coast on the u.s. i would recomment going to santa cruz. big big anarchist / liberal/ infoshop scene tons of places to squat

roll eyes roll eyes roll eyes roll eyes

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A.uhuru
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Oct 12 2007 11:11

WOW. Well i never expected this thread would revolve around punk/sub-culture so much. I did know that a lot of punks squated in Europe but, as far as i could make out a lot of "anarchists" did as well. I was reffering more to the type of lifestylist anarchism you can read up on in a few crimethinc publications and the likes. It seems they promote worthless, almost counter-revolutionary ideas (shop-lifting, vandalism, having sex all day long) that do nothing but demonise real/social anarchists. To me crimethinc does nothing but encourage middle class kids to "drop-out" of society, and probably get arrested, without furthering any cause.
According to the history of Ungdomshusset it was given to socialists and the youth. I guess the punks and junkies scared them all off.
Here in S.A land laws are anything but sympathetic. After the ANC promised land and housing to everyone, people claimed empty land for themselves (illegally of course). In the law it is stated that landless people are entittled to low-cost or RDP housing BUT, if you have been living on land illegally, you are denied this right and will probably be evicted without the government providing an alternative. Recently, in preparations for the 2010 soccer world cup, the ANC has gone to great lengths to clean up the country. Thousands of people are now having to pay for electricity, which they did not have to do previously, if they were lucky enough to have electricity in the first place. this and numerous eviction campaigns has led to mass demonstrations and a deep hatred of the ANC in many cases. SO in that context i can see evictions as something that might strengthen the struggle.
Let me know your thoughts.

blueyedbum
I doubt that if i were ever in the U.S i would want to squat, but thanks anyway.

Mike Harman
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Oct 12 2007 11:34
Quote:
Well we should support free parties or drop out sub-cultures from attack by the state.

how?

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A.uhuru
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Oct 12 2007 11:47
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Well we should support free parties or drop out sub-cultures from attack by the state.

Should we? If they dropped-out of this system and just leeched off of it, what's to say they wont do it in any other? I think supporting free party's can be usefull if more people will understand that the free parties are a statement against private property and not just free entry so you have more money for booze and drugs. No one wants to listen to political discussion or read a leaflet at a party, they want to stay apathetic and dull their minds with cheap substances.

Terry
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Oct 12 2007 14:30

Actually what I meant there was that a cogent critique of the idea of counter-culture as a strategy for revolutionary change (this phenomenon allegedly exists but I have yet to see much evidence of it) should be able to make a distinction between that and sub-cultural things we see as positive. Practically the only things of late I can think of would be a protest march in Manchester after a party got busted, I guess some of the anti-CJA stuff, and I presume there was a defendants campaign/some effort to sue the police after the battle of the beanfield. Do I think this should be a priority of some sort, no not at all.


According to the history of Ungdomshusset it was given to socialists and the youth. I guess the punks and junkies scared them all off.

Possibly not. Given the numbers at the demos and riots about it.

A.uhuru I think you have read crimethinc and it has clouded your thinking with this leech off society thing. Some of the examples of people in the study I cited on commune participants above included a British Army deserter and women escaping patriachal households, the convoy, refered to in the beanfield wiki entry came into being at a time of mass unemployment, like what are you saying people should accept their conditions? Yes these are individualised solutions, sometimes perhaps with some potential to go beyond that, but people only have one life, and if they find where they are intolerable, I'm not gonna knock them for fleeing it.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 12 2007 19:51
A.uhuru wrote:
According to the history of Ungdomshusset it was given to socialists and the youth. I guess the punks and junkies scared them all off.

Youth, yes, socialists, dunno.

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Tacks
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Oct 13 2007 18:10
lem wrote:
surely you're too young for the free party laws Alan.

Freeparties still happen on a huge scale so, no. Thousands of people deal with the CJA every weekend.

This is neither a good or bad thing.

lem
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Oct 13 2007 18:18

i was told [as indeed i am too young for the free party laws] they're alot smaller now. that's right yeah?

surely it's a [non anarchist] bad thing that free parties are more difficult to put on. and it's a good thing they still happen, eventhough they lose charm without druqus.