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Is it hypocritical for anarchists to not live an illegalist lifestyle?

+3 votes
Lifestyle probably isn't the best word for what I'm asking, but...
Anarchists oppose and wish to abolish state, capital, jobs, and a whole variety of other no-no's depending on what we consider important. So wouldn't it make sense to live according to no law the best we could, squatting and reclaiming space, expropriating what we like, robbing a bank and throwing the money across a ghetto for fun, or not having anything to do with money and exchange value whatsoever?
It'd probably be tough, sure, and a prison sentence might come up real quick, but is that the only reason for not living according to beliefs?
asked Jan 27, 2013 by anonymous

1 Answer

+2 votes
Principles are good but life isn't contained by principles. It will always exceed those principles—flood over them. I don't say this from experience, but from what little I know of the world it seems to be the case and it's probably a safer bet. Even in choosing to live that life, this will still be true. It wouldn't be "tough"—it would be impossible. In making any of those decisions you will have completely forfeited any safety net you may have had. None of them will change the world which you felt compelled to withdraw from in the first place. Meanwhile, many anarchists will have somewhat stable lives. You will have cut yourself away from the possibility of sharing with diverse experiences, important differences which could help grow or bolster a part of your personality you never anticipated. For one who dreams of social revolution this is the ultimate loss of perspective; it can become an oblivion. People who proclaim to rob banks for the revolution don't throw the money across the ghetto. They use it to buy more guns, more political capital, more instruments to deploy in their cynical, cutthroat competition with the police. Underground militancy is effectively owned by police agencies and many of the most bloodthirsty militants have been police agents. A good wealth of research is in early (1918-1933, give or take) collusion between American leftists and the Soviet Union, because that was a time when most people who adhered to your mentality turned towards the Soviet Union for possibilities.  (Although not necessarily illegalist.)

Basically, it isn't your burden to "live your principles" in the way that you imagine they should be lived because if the world were ever to change in the way that you hope it would not go along with your singular fragment of life. It would exceed it in ways that you can't even conceive of, and it would begin in places you would never have thought to look. It is an impossibility and should be understood and treated as such.

This is propaganda from elsewhere, but it's smart propaganda based on experience and not political exigencies:

1.    You don’t have to join anything – set your own terms of engagement with the milieu.

2.    Only give that which you feel comfortable giving.

3.    Never tolerate moral pressure to participate in ‘actions’. In response to activist holy-joes say, ‘we should do nothing’ to establish different grounds.

4.    The revolution does not rest on your conforming to a set ‘consciousness’, so don’t feel bound by orthodoxies or demand it of others.

5.    All groups only really survive on the work of one or two individuals, so if you do make any contribution at all you are doing more than most – and always speak as yourself and not as the group.

6.    It is possible to be pro-revolutionary and lead a normal life; don’t run away to Brighton; don’t adopt an extremist personality; don’t confuse pop/drug/drop-out culture with revolution.

7.    If you try and ‘live’ your politics you will separate yourself further from other people, thereby limiting shared experiences and perspectives.

8.    Try and commit yourself for the long term but at a low level intensity, understand that early enthusiasm will fade as everything you do falls on deaf ears and ends in failure.

9.    Remember the role of the pro-revolutionary milieu is not to make revolution but to criticise those attempts that claim to be revolutionary – in other words: push those who are politicised towards a pro-revolutionary consciousness.

10.    Just because in the future you will become disillusioned and burnt out, and you will think pro-revolutionaries are tossers, it doesn’t follow that revolution is hopeless.

11.    Remember that revolution does away with revolutionaries, it does not canonise them.

12.    Begin by criticising all cliques. If you are on a demonstration and you look around and everyone is dressed the same as you and they are all the same age then there is something wrong – expect there to be hidden agendas and personal fiefdoms.

13.    Groups should only exist to achieve a stated short-term purpose. All groups that have existed for more than five years have outlived their usefulness.

14.    Don’t get sucked into single issue campaigns unless you personally want a particular reform; revolution cannot be conjured from animal rights, legalisation of cannabis, peace, etc.

15.    There is a cyclical tendency in groups to ‘build up’ to big anti-capitalist events – resist this, consider why groups are so keen on spectaculars, then think of the day after May Day.

16.    When someone makes a statement, think to yourself: who is speaking, what do they really mean – what do they want from me?

17.    Many pro-revolutionaries have decent jobs and come from comfortable backgrounds and then lie about it/adopt prole accents, etc. They’ve got a safety net, have you? Don’t give too much.

18.    Don’t look for ideological purity, there is no such thing. If it suits you, if you have a reason, then participate all you want as an individual in any reformist political group or institution, so long as you do not attach to it a ‘revolutionary’ importance. Your pro-revolutionary consciousness must be kept separate from all personal and political activity.

19.    There is no need to go looking for ‘events’ – they will find you. In this way your effectiveness will be magnified because you will be ready and you will act in a certain way which the people around you can learn from, e.g. solidarity, ‘us and them’, and ‘all or nothing’ perspectives, etc.

20.    If it helps, think of it this way: you are an agent from the future; you must live a normal life in the circumstances in which you find yourself. Maybe you never talk to anyone about all of what you think but that doesn’t matter because when the situation arises you will be in place to tell everything that is appropriate because that precisely is your (and nobody else’s) role. All the time you are getting ready to make your contribution, one day you will do something, and you have no idea what it is, but it will be important.
answered Jan 28, 2013 by madlib (2,970 points)
edited Jan 28, 2013 by madlib
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