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+2 votes
"What is the relevance of anarchist ideas, methods, within the context of a larger decolonial struggle? Can anarchism offer any insight which can be useful to decolonization? If it can, what are those insights?"

(I came across this question elsewhere, and think this site might offer radically different responses... promise I'm not trollin')

Conversely, are there any useful insights from decolonization theories for anarchists?

3 Answers

+3 votes
i look forward to other people's answers to this question (although i'm not sure that this is actually the best site for this question at the moment - since this is an offshoot of a local/bay area controversy, *as well as being a totally valid question on its own*)...
but here are some thoughts on the topic.

a. asking what the relevance of anarchist ideas and methods are on an anarchist site is either simplistic (not saying that to be hostile...), or its asking us to help mystify non-anarchist projects. (just as pointing out what undercover cops do wrong allows future undercover cops to hide better.)
but in the interest of good faith conversation - i will just say that projects that are not anarchist, can learn from anarchists about the problems of hierarchy and believing in other people more than you believe in yourself, and the historical precedents of that kind of behavior, both internally and socially.

b. to the extent that anarchists don't promote a grand plan, but fight where they are against both big and little structures of domination (?better word?), then yes, absolutely it is still called anarchism regardless of what it exists because of, or within. anarchism (for me, i know this is different for other people) is not a winning strategy. it is an acknowledgement that things are so deeply fucked up that all we can do is the best that we can do, and that we do it anyway, because our desires are important enough to stand by - even in the face of overwhelming odds.

c. again, speaking for myself, theories on and talking about decolonization, racism, sexism, gender, genocide, etc. are definitely useful to the extent that they encourage us to remember bodies; it's not hard to become abstract when dealing with really big fights that exist on multiple levels at all times, and that implicate all of us so deeply (as constructions of power do to all of us).
bodies, territories, specifics are important because context is important, and the things that remind us of context are crucial.

d. the issue that i have with decolonize (similar to points i have made elsewhere about feminism, etc) is that the word is now so loaded, and so contradictory in some of its definitions, that it is not useful. some people hear a criticism of feminism as being a criticism of an anti-sexist practice, for example, and respond as emotionally and vigorously as if that were true. this makes conversations more complicated and less interesting/useful then if other words were used. (and of course when other words are used, then people don't engage in the conversation at all. this means that there is no opportunity to engage in a conversation where actual communication happens.)

edited to add a period. lol.
by (53.1k points)
edited by
+1 vote
From my perspective anarchist ideas are what truly undermines the colony.  The colony has always been a specific form of organization originating out of mechanical philosophers such as Descartes and Hobbes who used the mechanical metaphor (the heart as a machine, the social body as machine) as the outline and construction of the state. Put simply, the state form of organization is the colony, embodying a complicated set of relationships and reason for existence, justified by words like "progress," "modernization," and "development." This is roughly how I approach this question and ask, "What is decolonization?" Implying, how do we break the colony, its racism, sexism, and generalized inclusion into a system or regimented order--how do we create our own relationships and maintain autonomy, and live a dignified and content life? Not to forget, how do we deal with a system that coerces us, humiliated us, and in many ways just socialized us to a way of life that was not of our choosing, or better imposed choices--providing a menu or framework of choice and life.

For me, the only political theory that has the potential to realize decolonization is anarchy and maybe anarchism. This is the challenging of state structures--this is challenging at its core the colonial structure, which is no longer corrupted, but rotten to the core in its very function and socialization, arguably treating Human, non-human people, and the natural environment as natural resources to build the wealth of the colony (aka state). Decolonization to me puts into question the role and function of the state, notions of progress, and specialized order it necessitates. For me anarchy and  (some conceptions of) anarchism constantly try to undermine the state and colony making new spaces for experimenting with decolonization and how to reclaim our social relationships, break down social barriers between people, and begin to address the systemic problems and tensions that prevent projects and experiments with decolonization.

So yes, I believe ideas of anarchy have great insights into decolonization, but again I think of decolonization as a response to the colony organization and what it breeds. To really decolonize we need to challenge the colony organization and realize that colonialism and internal colonialism are just two sides of the same coin of capitalism that play the home and the periphery against each other--with greatly different and varying forms of intensities of violence and "soft" or friendly controls, but at the end of the day our lives are offered to the order of the colony and its conception of progress.

You ask, "If it can, what are those insights?" It is hard to answer, it all depends how far you want to take decolonization and acknowledge the deep-seated  effects of living within the state/colony. People have always been trying to figure this out with many experiments, projects, and so on. But for me, I don't want a new party, mode of industrialization, and forms of social control--police formal and informal. I would like to challenge the colony and try to experiment with opening up spaces of contention and attack that are difficult to recuperate and re-brand that often end up extending and intensifying state control and its economy. For me this is a deep and long life question where there is no easy answer, but for me this is a question first and foremost: how far do you want to take decolonization in your life--do you want state integration or decolonization of the very relationship and structure imposed by the machine? These question might help to determine how you want to struggle within the colonies of the world--"democratic" and authoritarian.

I guess the question is for me is this: we are all fucked up, confused, hurt, and some with more than others, but how are we going to deal with the colony and its effect on our lives for fulfillment, dignity, and for fun.

Hope this is useful in some way.

by (140 points)
0 votes
The problem first should start with the premise that the world is finite. When groups of people split, there is a tendency to put distance in between the group. If the old values don't work, many times people would just leave and find somewhere else to live to practice their new values.

The anarchist is relevant because we can't run away from someone without stepping on another's toes. This was true 500 years ago and more so today. The colonialism of America was partly connected to the imposition of European empires on the people of North America and their desires to pillage the continent at the expense of those who lived there. But it also was done because conditions in Europe, socially and economically, were bad and leaving to risk ones life for an opportunity at living a new life seemed preferable.

So, with this in mind, the colonialism of America is more about people uprooting and leaving to find a new life than it is about empowering the European metropole. This is something that comes to people naturally. The colonialism of America started when people first spread here. Like their counterparts elsewhere at the time, they had no real society to speak of and the world had plenty of space to experience life as a keystone species in harmony. This is not the story of Native Americans as it is not the story of Europeans, Africans or is the story of the world being settled by humans.

About 2,000 years ago Europe reach capacity at its time and its people started flooding over the Alps and into the Roman Empire. About 1,500 years ago the first half of the Roman Empire collapsed. Its collapse changed everything as there was no longer a central metropole to guide Europe, so what was the Roman Empire was shaped by its invaders rather than its native imperialists. Eventually the peoples melted together, lost context of their cultures as new cultures were created, new Empires were born with new centers of power to guide the Barbarian dominated Europe.

About 500 years ago the second half of the Roman Empire collapsed and the Golden Age of Islamic culture was born. During the same period Europeans were recovering from the Black Death, which had decimated their population. About 500 years ago is where the current context of the world started. Fearing the growth of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic culture, Christian Europe changed how imperialism was done. Not wanting to empower Islam by traveling through its realm to benefit from the trade between Asia and Europe, The European powers opted to find sea routes around the stalemate. The maritime empires were born.

From here, America was discovered by the Europeans and exploited for the empowerment of their metropole until the late 19th century when the newest barbarians, the Americans, had established themselves as a power and culture to itself. People want to claim America doesn't have a culture...this is entirely false. America is imposing its culture on the world and its global dominance is an imperialism never seen before. Typically conquered people and conquerors breed together to become one people as their cultures melt together.

To emphasize the point, pagan holidays are observed within a Christian or Western context, with only a minority of dissenters rejecting them. Easter is about Jesus only partially. Most of the imagery of Easter is of pagan origin. Our measurement of seconds and minutes comes from Babylon which used base 60 for many things. The days of the week are named after pagan gods and months named after Roman Emperors.

So with all that said, decolonization is impossible and assimilation is inevitable. There is no way to escape and keep or establish new values without the values of the invading culture mixing in. While American values have absorbed some of the Native values, the massive genocide prevents a more even sided assimilation from occurring as it has happened in places like the British Isles before the Norman invasion. The Norman invasion might very well be a precursor to the invasion of America. They were never defeated and its colonization, like all the world's colonies that weren't wiped out, never ended, just melted into its current form.

Today's Native territories are in a similar state as the Anglo-Saxon baronies after the Norman invasion. There is some recovery, but the cost is full acceptance of Norman dominance and playing by the rules of the Normans, including the politics of the day.

For anarchists, we reject domination altogether. We can accept where we are at in the present. We can accept that history is not inevitable and we can find ways to resist or destroy what controls us. The negative consequences are like those of all civilizations that were brought down by willful hands. There could be lots of death, a breakdown in society and a collapse of civilization. The end result probably would merge all people's together, but not as "one people", but rather the creation of new ethnic groups with new shared cultures that look to the past as full of mythology.

The more positive outcome, if we must paint pictures, is everyone engages in ultra-politics (democracy), votes power out after a few hundred years of debate and a few political revolutions later. Slowly people would assimilate together as the gears of politics slowly churn towards reconciling people. This seems to be unrealistic though.

Not very happy with this answer, but I'm posting it to create discussion rather than because I feel a strong correctness in its expression.
by (3.9k points)