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+4 votes
In various places on the site, people have mentioned not believing in revolution. Yet many people seem to conceive of anarchism as a revolutionary position. In fact, very many of the questions people ask here (how would you deal with rape, etc) are framed in terms of "after the revolution."

How would you explain a non-revolutionary anarchism to someone who has only considered it in terms of before and after?

(To be clear, I'm not talking about gradual transition, which has its own question already.)
by (20.5k points)
It's not circular. One day I wish anarchists will drop the term revolutionary.

awesome question!

i'm not ready to post an answer, but my gut response is:

anarchism may have some inherent relationship with/dependence upon a revolution, i have no idea. but my anarchy does not, and i choose to live anarchically as much as possible in this pre-atr world.

revolutions, as best i can perceive, simply modify positions and dynamics of power. the very concept, imo, implies an acceptance of mass society as fundamental to the human condition, and mass action as fundamental to liberation from authoritarian relations. neither of which i agree with.

i guess i presume that revolution requires mass, coordinated effort of some sort. i would be open to hearing of completely different forms of revolution that do not require (or even allow) that approach.

all that said, if shit busted out in some revolutionary explosion, i would surely find my own ways to participate.

1 Answer

0 votes

In this episode of the brilliant Aragorn! discusses the relevance of the Russian Nihlists today. While what has come to be known as anarcho-nihlism is in a few ways disconnected from this history, nihlism has definitely had an effect and continues to offer lessons to anarchists. To the extent an anarcho-nihlism could exist it would be this rejection of a revolution, rejecting the idea of a better world, and rejecting the hope of a better tomorrow. Even the attack of nihlists,  such as the assassination of the tsar is not about a mass movement, or transforming the world.

Another aproach though unfortunately I cannot recall where exactly Im remembering this from (I think it's from Kazynski's early work but I could be incorrect) is that revolution is undesirable from an anarchist perspective because revolution is only a means by which society can be reorganized not deorganized/destroyed. This isn't exactly the same language but I would say this idea also relates to how Perlman discusses how many attempts at combating civilization have turned into civilizations of their own (in the text Against His-Story Against Leviathan).

by (130 points)
"revolution is only a means by which society can be reorganized not deorganized/destroyed"

my take is somewhat similar to that. revolution simply changes authoritarian (and institutional) power dynamics, it does not (even seek to) destroy them entirely.

I don't think this understanding is entirely correct, mainly just from two words.

"revolution simply changes authoritarian (and institutional) power dynamics" I think here the term Authoritarian, depending in how it's used, could be misleading. The French revolution for example was very much in my opinion an attempt to make society less "authoritarian", in regards to the centralization of power. Today even without revolution we see the diffusion of power away from the discipline of force more and more into self policing in our heads and less direct less central means of control. So even though obviously the revolutionary project of Marxists for example is explicite in its ideal of authority, I think it is limiting to understand the problem of revolution being it can only lead to more authority.

"it does not (even seek to) destroy them entirely" while there are many revolutionary projects that are upfront in their appeal to authority, again Marxists for example, it should not be understood that the failing of these revolutions is that they don't seek to destroy authority. Many anarchists for example are in fact revolutionaries, and believe full heartedly that they do not seek to recreate these institutions. And yet the ideology of these instituions is do ingrained that despite this want/claim to not recreate these institutions, they are still often reproduced typically in different terms and defended just as much.

"The French revolution for example was very much in my opinion an attempt to make society less "authoritarian", "

no doubt. so was the u.s. revolution. did either one in any way destroy - or even seek to - the institutional authority upon which all nations are dependent?

"did either one in any way destroy - or even seek to - the institutional authority upon which all nations are dependent?"

No because their goal wasn't to seek to destroy the "institutional authority upon which all nations are dependent" but both did seek to destroy the institutional authority upon which all monarchies are dependent. And so in this way a modern revolutionary movement, in attempting to destroy the institutional authority upon which all nations are dependent, will most likely create some new structure, that can in a way be described as less authoritarian (people do distinguish authoritarianism from democracy and slavery from wage slavery) but still end up being oppressive/limiting one's autonomy.

indeed, of course there are shades of gray in any comparative spectrum. there are more and less overtly authoritarian institutions. democracy can easily be seen as a form of authoritarianism (tyranny of the majority/plurality), albeit a much milder version than, say, military dictatorship. but any revolution that does not have as its intent an anarchistic result is not one that any anarchist i find interesting is likely to participate in - at least not with any expectation of anarchistic outcomes. as you pointed out, neither of those revolutions (fr and us) - indeed none in history that i am aware of - had anarchy as its intention. so perhaps we are speaking to different points.

edit: in terms of the institutions themselves, i am referring to generalized structures such as government, economy, religion. which apply to nation-states of all types, including monarchies, democracies, theocracies, etc.
My point is that even an anarchist revolution, that explicitly seeks anarchy, may (i would argue is likely to) still be oppressive.
agreed! revolution is oppressive! so we were speaking to different points. :-)