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(en) Czech, AFED: With an ethical compass and a vision - Review of the book Anarchism and its Ideals by Cindy Milstein[machine translation]

Date Tue, 16 Jun 2020 08:34:59 +0300


In May this year, Neklid published a book by the long-time activist and promoter of anarchist ideas, Cindy Milstein, in a Czech edition called Anarchism and its Ideals . If this title reminds you of something, I will tell you: as Anarchism and its vision, it was published in 2013 by Between Lines. The original was first published ten years ago as Anarchism and Its Aspirations . ---- Every time I write a review of a book, I try to grasp, among other things, what central feelings she has left in me. And sometimes they don't even have to be directly related to the content. In this work, it is mainly a feeling of alternating optimism and pessimism in relation to one's own beliefs about the possibility of realizing the ideas of freedom and self-government. The publishers themselves notice this in their preface when they recall the hopes of 2011, when people arose in various parts of the world, and whether they consciously or not used the methods of anarchist theory and practice. While today we are more witnessing several years of onset of reaction with its xenophobia, nationalism and calling for the hard hand of a strong leader. In her ten-year-old prologue, the author admits that many aspirations from the peak of the alterglobalization movement seem to be irreversible, that even anarchists are becoming greater nihilists, and that "the gap between the ideals of anarchism and today's social reality, even in anarchist circles, can be very depressing." Still, hope does not give up and seeks to provoke a "debate about what anarchism is and what it could be," to exclaim at the very end of the book that "if we give our best, we can dare to go utopian from below to the world from all and for all '.

Anarchism and its ethical dimension

The first chapter is an introduction to anarchist theory and practice. Although many views and definitions of anarchism can be found, the shortest could be "the struggle for the free society of free individuals," meaning "the abolition of dominance and hierarchical forms of social order, or power in social relations, and their replacement by horizontal versions, or division of power." to all ". And all with the knowledge that there will always be some contradictions in the relationship between individual and social freedom, which requires a constant search for balance. This means that anarchism must be inherently dynamic thinking.

Milstein also delves into the past, when two currents formed in the socialist camp - the libertarian and the authoritarian. The idea of taking state power has simply always been unacceptable to anarchism. In addition, he was always very self-critical, which allowed his further development. It is important to realize that "anarchists are not necessarily better or worse people than others. The complex networks of hierarchies, hatred, and commodified relationships that distort every person also distort anarchists. "But at least there is some reflection between them and an effort to do something about it.

Principles such as freedom, solidarity, internationalism, autonomous and federal association, education, mutual assistance, harmony, etc. have always remained important for anarchism. In addition, many new topics have been added, such as ecology, animal rights, technology, sexuality, gender...

Anarchism is a revolutionary political philosophy, so it just doesn't surface and doesn't just try to patch up problems. Based on the critique of capitalist practice, the author shows why such an attitude makes sense. "Anarchists believe that when people put their heads together, they come up with and create a more creative, multidimensional social organization."

In practice, anarchists propose "modest experiments with great goals" - to enable people to realize their desires and create new relationships on a non-hierarchical level; to encourage them "to think and act for themselves and to do both on the basis of emancipatory values." He follows the ethical compass on this journey . Instead of expediency, they ask for the correctness of their actions. This encourages them to find ways even where no one has ever been able to imagine them, and to adhere to the unity of goals and means.

With such a compass, you can then follow the path of utopia, put the principles into practice, inspire and build the germs of the future society already in the current one. "Anarchism looks to the past, when people made much more use of communal and self-governing ways of organizing, noting the possibilities of the present and maintaining a common belief that people can be better at it in the future." they operate on anarchist principles or experiment with them in various ways.

Anarchism inspired and inspiring

The alterglobalization movement of the late 1990s made anarchism visible. Not only were anarchists involved in it, but the movement was directly shaped by the anarchist practice of decision-making and horizontality. The anarchist movement used to be mostly socially and anti-capitalist. In the second half of the last century, however, the influences of the Situationist International, social ecology, the discovery of the model of affinity groups, West German autonomism and, last but not least, the Zapatista uprising were manifested in it. Anarchists thus "humbly perceived themselves as part of the many different struggles for freedom waged by various anti-authoritarians."

Anarchism suddenly not only inspired others, but also set the rules for the debate - it is not so much about globalization as it is about its economic form determined by capital. For many, it suddenly became much more acceptable to identify as anti-capitalists, and more and more people made "sense to think outside the state." Some were forced to turn to the self-help approaches with which the anarchists already had extensive experience.

Anarchism rejected the leftist horizon of small concessions and instead called for a strong emancipatory response. He warned against situations where "the helpless stomp on the helpless, and the powerful will come out without scratching."

At the end of the book, however, Milstein also asks important questions about the fact that we often cannot express what we are fighting for and whether street events are not just a countercultural version of lobbying, while most people do not have power over their lives. It also challenges decision-making within affinity groups, which is not applicable to broader, and therefore heterogeneous, groups of people. It is therefore still necessary to deal with ways of decision-making, combining them and experimenting with them.

There are many examples of people ruling themselves. "They require, among other things, patience, reflection, self-reflection and imagination. And also courage."

So let's gather courage, follow our ethical compass and fulfill our vision of a free and self-governing society.

Cindy Milstein: Anarchism and its ideals . Neklid, 2020. 156 pages A5, price 215 CZK, available at kosmas.cz .

https://www.afed.cz/text/7186/s-etickym-kompasem-a-vizi
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