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Anarchists: ‘unemployable layabout scum’?

The TUC March for the Alternative in London resulted in a story that’s all too familiar. You’ve heard it a hundred times: a minority of anarchists spoiling an otherwise peaceful, law-abiding march attended by up to half a million families, teachers, football supporters and students.

At least that’s how much of the media reported what happened. Yet this dichotomy created to divide ‘anarchists’ from ‘peaceful marchers’ reflects a hopeless misunderstanding of anarchism, a political movement I am researching as part of my Ph.D.

The folly of dividing up people into fixed identities is exposed by the fact that I am an anarchist: but I am also a family member, a teacher, a football supporter and a student. My march on Saturday was the very model of the polite anger that Ed Miliband and Brendan Barber are trying to claim for the non-anarchists (this was ‘the voice of Middle Britain’, said the latter).

I was peaceful, good-spirited and made sure I put my empty couscous tub in the bin. I didn’t wear a hoodie, nor have a bandana over my face. I damaged no property, was not aggressive to a single police officer and remained on the main route of the TUC march. I was indeed the very model of ‘Middle England’- a polite young man brought up in privileged comfort in South Staffordshire. Yet I was still an anarchist, and I resent that my actions as a ‘peaceful marcher’ have been co-opted by those whose agendas I do not fully support.

That others have sought to use my actions on Saturday for their own ends is not surprising, however, and is nothing more than the logic of liberal democratic representation in action. As Gilles Deleuze – a theorist who I draw heavily upon in my work – has argued, the politics of representation which currently predominates is not interested in representing as the term is commonly understood; it is no process of ‘speaking on behalf of’, but rather one of silencing; one of crushing difference in favour of identities constructed by those in positions of power. In this instance, the diverse, plural and problematic identities of those marching have been collapsed into the creation of a majority which cannot speak for itself.

That I am an anarchist is, in part, born of a desire to overcome such a way of doing politics. I do not authorise Ed Miliband or Brendan Barber to speak on my behalf; I wish to speak for myself. Through a tolerance of difference and consensus decision-making, anarchism allows for individual differences to be heard and respected, without collapsing into a politics of wanton individuality. It is a diverse, creative philosophy which – in my Ph.D. thesis and my forthcoming book for Zero Books– ‘The Shape of Utopia to Come’, I apply to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel ‘We’ and musical improvisation. I believe it offers us a new way to think about the kind of world we wish to live in: something I am experimenting with through the Eastside Island Utopia project, which I am curating. To those who remark that such a politics is impractical in organising ‘real life’ communities I point to the successes of the Zapatistas, to free schools, to climate camp and to the proliferation of autonomous social centres.

This is not the vision of anarchism that you will get from reading mainstream accounts of the demonstration that took place on 26 March 2011. What you find there is a cartoon construction: anarchism as empty violence- the pathetic actions of ‘unemployable layabout scum’.

I do not claim that anarchism is inherently non-violent. Many anarchists believe that violence against the property of oppressors is a justified form of ‘propaganda by the deed’, directed against companies whose actions form part of a far greater structure of violence. Still others would go further and argue that violence directed against agents of oppression – the police – is justified; certainly when the police are using violence themselves to defend the interests of those anarchists see as oppressors. Many anarchists believe that there is a qualitative difference between the violence of the weak and the violence of the strong, though they certainly don’t all endorse the former on all occasions.

Anarchism is a mature philosophy which contains numerous viewpoints on these issues, but which is honest enough about the world in which we live to have frank, open and dissensual discussions about if – and when – violence might be justified.

It is this maturity and complexity that gets lost in the representation of anarchism in the mainstream (with occasional exceptions) and especially in the media where – like everyone else except the ruling elites – anarchists are to be seen and not heard.

David Bell

Published inPolitical theory


  1. Matt Matt

    The vandals out on the streets of London on saturday certainly weren’t anarchists.

    Anarchists don’t smash up stuff in the name of the welfare state, or for the purpose of defending big-state government.

    They were just plain, old fashioned, SWP idiots. The same sort you see at every nonsense event promising to change the world.

    The same sort that wish the Berlin Wall fell the other way.

  2. Nick Nick

    Thoughtful post David. Whatever happened to Subcomandante Marcos, is he still in the jungles of Chiapas?

  3. john john

    Of course this is true, there are different types of anarchists, but equally it seems hard to deny that there is a “Rent-a-mob” element that attaches itself to these events, which does believe in the Anarchist principle of the “propaganda of the deed” and so I don’t think it’s a total media distortion, even if it’s a bit of a crude simplification. The bigger issue is that whoever they are, theyre substitutionalists, they believe their vanguard clique of predominantly young-white-male-middleclass activists will “spark” the dormant masses into revolution by smashing up starbucks, they don’t do the long hard boring work of building legitimacy for their actions, they take action in the name of autonomy and freedom, in a way that could be described as a type of fascism of the Left. Political violence must have popular legitimacy, the Poll Tax Riots, the Miners Strike, the PIRA all these movements had legitimacy in their communities, I just don’t know who the propagandists of the deed represent, and so it is quite hard for me atleast to see them as much different to football hooligans.

  4. Alex Alex


    Actually, anarchists have several reasons for protecting the welfare state. First, pace Colin Ward, public owned co-operative enterprises are closer in ethos and style to the kind of institutions anarchists would wish to create, characterised by mutual aid, even though they may be associated with the state. Second, anarchists see welfare in general as part of the social wage offered by capitalism – as a concrete struggle as with wages in general they will therefore attempt to keep it high – they want to see no reversal of the real gains of working people against capitalism. Thirdly, anarchists tend to be flexible and non-dogmatic about things (it is a practice first), recognising that since the end of the state and capitalism is not about to suddenly occur, and that the lack of these services would cause real suffering,
    then they should be defended.

    Good article David!

  5. Dave Bell Dave Bell

    Nick- Thanks for your comments. The Marcos ‘brand’ is a little problematic for the EZLN, I think: it rather plays into the logics of the spectacle (politics for the media), and he can- I think- be accused of the kind of vanguardism that anarchists and open Marxists are wary of. Though such contradictions aren’t fatal to the project, and I think we can continue to learn from the Zapatista’s struggle.

    Matt- I wouldn’t be so quick to say that. I haven’t asked them how they see themselves, and some will be anarchists (others are not). I’m not sure I’d blame the SWP- I don’t think they’d spray the ‘A’ logo onto banks! My claim isn’t so much that anarchism is peaceful, it’s that there’s more to it than thoughtless violence- and that as a movement it is thoughtful enough to hold difficult debates about violence. It does not deny the reality of violence, unlike (neo)liberalism, which presents itself as a nonviolent philosophy, despite the deaths it causes. might be relevant in this regard.

    I’d also encourage people to read an excellent post here:, which articulates a similar perspective to me (and is by an MA student in the school).

  6. Dave Bell Dave Bell

    ‘they don’t do the long hard boring work of building legitimacy for their actions’

    How do you know?

    I accept that there are ‘summit hopping’ activists- and there’s a strong critique within the anarchist movement of this. But propaganda by the deed doesn’t have to be a standalone tactic: many people who advocate and use it will also be involved in building grassroots networks of solidarity- the ‘long, hard, boring work*’. Mark Stone/Kennedy acknowledged this in the Guardian at the weekend:

    *Though post-left anarachists, in particular, say this doesn’t have to be boring.

  7. john john

    That’s a fair point, but then is there not a major tension between that type of community activity and the tactics of “propaganda by the deed”? For me this is a tactic which by its very nature is anti-popular and un-democratic because the “activists” are piggy-backing the popular movement (in which they have very little or no legitimacy) in order to perform their act of propaganda, the fundamental logic of propaganda here is about 3,400 young-white-middleclass-men hijacking the message being sent by 300-500,000 diverse peoples from all ages, races and backgrounds. Whats worse is that the violent activists must be aware that their “propaganda” relies upon and is complicit with the forces of reaction, it is welcomed by Government, Media and Police as a route to discredit the mass protest. So, for me this is what the whole thing is about, its not about bringing down capitalism or the state, its about discrediting the mass protest organised by the TUC, because they see it as meaningless and statist. A lot of contemporary anarchism is heavily influenced by a variant of Italian Autonomism which in the 1970s was very happy to encourage unemployed workers and student activists to attack picket-lines and beat-up trade unionists because they were perceived to be a “labour aristocracy” and “class-collaborators” and this logic is still very present in the “propaganda by the deed” tactic today. This dynamic is all the more sinister when you consider the class character of the anarchist activists, in contemporary Europe atleast you have a relatively privileged element of the young educated bourgeoisie rebelling against the culture of their parents, but in essence they are invested in their privilege, their privilege to be autonomous is prized above all else, its an inversion of bourgeois logics which is ultimately incapable of outlining an alternative, because it lacks transformative agency.

  8. AB AB

    Nice post Dave. However, perhaps its also worth mentioning that tradition of Anarchism that chooses to side with the unemployed and the ‘layabout’ as a tool of destigmatization and as part of forming new solidarities as well (Haywire Mac, who wrote Big Rock Candy Mountain, was an IWW member, in more recent times groups like London Coalition Against Poverty and Vancouver Anti Poverty Committee have taken on such tools). Part of how anarchism came to be associated with a dropout culture was a tendency amongst some to use such strategies and the subsequent attempts by the dominant discourse to explain this as ‘laziness’. This also points us in that tradition of anarchism as an outsider politics, one that seeks to mobilize those that don’t fit into the scripts provided by trade unions or vanguard Marxist movements- for example indigenous and queer movements, or people concerned with environmental issues, and doesnt seek ‘mass mobilization’ but looks to other tactics- indeed on occasion, but far from always, the black bloc- to try and force a space for these groups in a public discourse.

  9. anonymous anonymous

    John, I don’t see how the Black Bloc breaking windows is ‘anti-popular’ or ‘undemocratic’, any more than your going for a walk without asking me first would be ‘anti-popular’ or ‘undemocratic’. You need to get past the prejudice that someone else who does something you don’t like is automatically either ignoring the ‘legitimate’ authority you should have over them, or else is deliberately trying to harm you / your cause. You will find precisely zero textual evidence that anarchists or autonomists using black bloc tactics wish to ‘discredit’ other forms of action; they usually see A-to-B marches either as a useful part of diversity of tactics, or as simply a waste of time. They usually don’t think these forms of action achieve very much, and therefore want to go further. And why not? You want them to refrain from using their chosen tactics, so as to not have any effect on your using your chosen tactics? That’s downright non-reciprocal – what you’re doing affects them as well – how would you feel about being told you shouldn’t do A-to-B marches because it opens the door for the media to discredit other activists as “too extreme”? Black bloc tactics aren’t vanguardist either – a vanguardist is someone who tries to speak for you when they don’t, and the black bloc aren’t trying to speak for you, they’re just ignoring you, and speaking for themselves. Did the youths in Sidi Bouzid, whose stone-throwing started the Middle East revolutions, have ‘community support’ before they revolted? Did they stop and ask for a majority decision of the neighbourhood assembly before they fought back? Of course not. Does this make them vanguardist, undemocratic, anti-popular? As for playing to the media – how exactly is direct damage to corporations any more media-dependent than mass demonstrations which cause no disruption?

    As for autonomists ‘attacking picket lines’, you’re making this up. Autonomia was all about the defence of working-class autonomy through means such as fighting off police attacks on pickets. Presumably you’re thinking of the attempt to prevent a Communist leader from addressing students, days after this same leader used police against the students. In any case, if this was the agenda on Saturday, why didn’t the black bloc try to storm the podium at the rally? If the police had attacked the TUC march on Saturday, you know very well the black bloc would have been the first to defend it – this kind of thing has been seen a thousand times.

    I think there’s a deeper problem here, though. You aren’t really struggling for liberation at all, you’re still stuck in an authoritarian frame. You seem to think everyone should submit to the whims of the conformist ‘majority’, else they’re committing some kind of political sin. This duplicates bourgeois nationalist views of the essential nature of community belonging. It’s revealing how much common ground you have here with Blair’s ‘respect agenda’ and the old Tories at the Daily Mail insisting we’ve lost ‘community’ because people are ‘too selfish’ or insufficiently socialised or moralised. It reeks of a particular nostalgic fantasy of the 1950s, of a ‘good subject’ stance within a period of capitalism which is long-gone. It worries me that the Old Left still seem to stick to this delusion that the “community” should have some kind of veto over how people live, act and relate… completely upside-down, relative for instance to the Deleuzian idea of subordinating social production to desiring-production. Personally I’m completely against ‘gemeinschaft’ (the illusory community ‘above’ the self) as a Stirnerian spook, and as complicit in a thousand varieties of fascism. I’m all for the ‘bund’ – self-constituted groups based on affinity, formed for particular purposes. I think the oppressed have every right to resist, by whatever means they choose (aside from oppressive means), and they’ve every right to form their own action-groups for this purpose, with no need to ask permission from anyone. It’s just the same as if a Nazi is trying to kill you, you don’t have to stop and ask your neighbours if they agree with the Nazi, or call the council and ask for permission to fight back. The battle is between oppressor and oppressed – the gaze of the bystander is really irrelevant, unless they’re going to take sides – and in insisting the oppressed ask permission from the in-group first, they’re taking sides with the oppressor (or at least with the authoritarian logic of oppression). There are ways for bunds to coexist – they can form affinity-networks, make consensus decisions, agree on diversity of tactics / ways of life, or simply operate in different areas – but they fundamentally can’t be held to some overarching power which decides what they can do, including that of other bunds.

    Oh, and yes, the RIGHT to be autonomous should be prized above all else, especially above the sickly devotion to ‘community’, ‘norms’, ‘rules’ and other such figures of the arborescent power of the system – figures which are simply the internalisation by workers and ‘leftists’ of the capitalist command to subordinate their desire to the system. Ultimately the limit to working-class politics is that too many working-class people identify with the conformist, bigoted, pro-system subjectivities which make them ’employable’ to begin with. Autonomy is all about breaking with the very root of capitalism, the demand to be ’employable’, the reproduction of labour-power. A movement which does not put autonomy first is reproducing the subordination to the system as a ‘greater whole’.

    As for anarchists/autonomists being middle-class – why, then, do the tabloids, and YOU, repeatedly refer to anarchists as unemployed and unemployable? I think you’re the one who is really middle-class nowadays. There is now a split within the working-class between the included workers – who have effectively become middle-class, through benefiting from exclusions which are highly selective and conditional (they are the “employable” people) – and the precariat / emarginati, who are situated in various marginal positions: casual, part-time, or similarly constructed work; the informal sector; quasi-self-employment; illicit activites; benefits; deliberately prolonged studenthood; autoreduction. Even those who are effectively extracting a tribute from their (Fordism-enriched) parents fall into this category. The precariat are now the majority, on a global scale the overwhelming majority, and the emerging force behind new modalities of direct action which don’t accept the nation-state as the final referent of politics. And one of the biggest things holding the precariat back is the continued fantasy of the organised, stably employed worker as the norm. It isn’t a problem with ‘working-class’ versus ‘middle-class’, it’s a problem of included (and hence pro-nation-state, pro-community, pro-moral-regulation) versus excluded (and hence unbound by any such limits), of conformist (and hence psychologically repressed, awash with character-armour, prone to authoritarian personality traits and slave moralities) versus dissident (and hence aspiring at least to flows of active desire). The Old Left is dying because it hasn’t caught up. It thinks that by being nice, acting ‘disciplined’, keeping in place repressive collectivism, it will be allowed a place at the bargaining table, at the expense of the ‘rabble’. It isn’t and it won’t, and it still hasn’t figured out why: capital is now strong enough that it no longer needs to bargain with the Old Left to keep the ‘rabble’ in line. Before, capital knew that if it didn’t bargain with the Old Left, the Old Left wouldn’t control the ‘rabble’, and there’d be a revolution. Now, it knows the Old Left will keep abetting its control of the ‘rabble’ even without any concessions – so the concessions are no longer made. The Old Left has forgotten that only the power of the ‘rabble’ got it to the bargaining table to begin with.

    The excluded can’t afford this little charade. We have urgent unmet needs. Our voices are silenced. We are under siege in our very existence. We are facing threats from the police-state the likes of which would make you cringe if they were applied to your stratum. We are told, day in, day out, that we’re inferior, that there’s something wrong with us, that we don’t deserve human rights, that we don’t matter because only the conformists matter. Our living spaces have been saturated with cameras, police, threatening posters, micro-regulations. We are under attack from authoritarian officials and bigoted neighbours who would ruin us for being different. For us, a change back to Blairism would make no difference – it was Blairism which tormented us with micro-regulation and criminalised our everyday lives. We are the most hurt by the cuts, which affect our basic survival strategies in fundamental ways – we’re the ones who’ll have to leave our homes, to go without, or to jump a hundred new hurdles to get what we need. To their credit, some of the left have stood with us on some of the issues affecting us. But the Old Left fetish of united, disciplined, homogeneous communities has done us nothing but harm. It has empowered our tormentors, and it has contributed to our stigmatisation. If your own battle is for a bigger slice of the pie, a better reward for your own conformity, then it has little in common with our life-and-death struggle. So stop trying to impose your limits on us. The more you do so, the more you empower the forces which are disempowering you too. You simply make yourself irrelevant.

  10. Nick Nick

    And that is the best post I’ve read on this website bar non, nice work Anon and a big up to old Max Stirner from Bayreuth as well 🙂

  11. john john


    Excellent contribution, loads of really challenging stuff to be getting on with. So I wont take all of your points, but I find these two lines particularly striking.

    “The oppressed have every right to resist by whatever means they choose (aside from oppressive means)”.

    “there are ways for bunds to co-exist… but they fundamentally cant be held to some over-arching power which decides what they can do, including that of other bunds”

    So it seems to me the 2nd statement here in conjunction with the bracketed qualification of the first serve to almost entirely negate the radicalism of the initial statement. The oppressed have the right to resist but not by any oppressive means or in any way by appealing to any over-arching power including “rules” and “norms” of popular or social discipline, which are apparently merely “figures of the arborescent power of the system”. So in the hypothetical you outlined of the neo-nazi kicking down your door, you have the right to hit him in the head (without consulting your neighbour) thats fine, but imagine he`s a six-foot mad-man and you`re a 70 year old grandma, do you have the right to contact the police? Surely that would be an “over-arching power” employing “oppressive means”? To me the argument here, along with much of contemporary “post-left” anarchism since Max Stirner is massively scary because it rests on a basic logic whereby “the oppressed” is the sacred individual Ubermensch (or perhaps Bund) and the “oppressive means” are all things social and collective. This is why I consider it a radicalisation of Aristocratic values and in fundamental contradiction to the essential collectivism of the popular. For me the hypothetical Grandma is the oppressed and the Neo-nazi the oppressor, and she has the right to resist by ANY MEANS she chooses, including oppressive means and including by appealing to the over-arching power of the social – its your ethics and politics which seek to constrain her, not mine.

    For me the social consequences of this logic are monstrous (it doesn’t take any big leaps from Max Stirner to Nietzsche and Social Darwinism to get to some pretty dark places). In the context of that kind of “utopia” I`ll admit I am guilty of a “sickly devotion” to community, because I see everywhere it is the popular collectivism of community which is the fundamental site of resistance to logics of individualism and elite power. So maybe I am “stuck in an authoritarian frame” if popular discipline is authoritarian then im very proud of that, because I disagree with your assertion that it was the Rabble which won a place at the table for the “Old Left”, I think it was the Rabble getting collectively disciplined and organised which won that place at the table. This is the fundamental point, it seems to me you`re suggesting that the oppressed can be formed as individual subjectivities outside of the conditions of their collective oppression, this in my opinion is utopian and leads to a contempt for the popular that culminates in precisely the type of politics you outline which says: the working class are now the middle class, and the activist middle class (possessed as they are of a learned sense of their own voluntarist precarity) are a new revolutionary agent – hence the black bloc and their use of “propaganda by the deed”.

    So this is the point, my criticism wasn’t of a particular group (black bloc) but of a particular tactic (“propaganda by the deed”) which I believe to be in contradiction with another tactic (TUC march) in this case, so I don’t think the analogy with going for a walk works because there is no contradiction or strategic implications there. “Propaganda” as a tactic by definition implies a spectacular relationship, its not just an action, its a political action in relation to the “gaze” of an audience. If the Black Bloc want to smash up Oxford Street on any Saturday of the year, thats fine, thats for them, but they chose THIS Saturday – the day of a massive TUC march. Surely this is not a coincidence; they want their voice to be heard ahead of the voice of the TUC march (with whom they disagree politically) and they achieve this through complicity with the interests of the right-wing press etc. All well and good, but the ethical problem is this performative egoist tactic of 500-1000 (largely socially privileged) activists is parasitic on and self-consciously damaging to the collectivist tactics of 300,000-500-000 ordinary workers, in the same way that if there is a minute`s silence, 1 person shouting negates 100,000 observing, this is a relation of power, but you seem to privilege it, simply because its minoritarian power, this is why (in my opinion) the logic you and the Black Bloc are working with is anti-popular, anti-democratic and taken to its logical Stirnerian conclusion proto-fascistic.

  12. Realist Writer Realist Writer

    As a person that has been called an anarchist despite outright stating that I support a strong State (which I believe is exactly the opposite of “anarchy”) for the simple reason that I argued that people should have the right to choose the State that they want to be enslaved to, I think the very word “anarchism” is not very that useful. Anarchism is a philosophy, yes, but it’s not a united or coherent one*; people who self-identify as “anarchist” have widely differing views and beliefs.

    And yes, that includes the “cartoony” vision of the anarchists that caused chaos in London. If they have self-identified themselves as anarchists, then their views too deserve to be respected by this blog post. Or not. Because due to the differing views of anarchists towards one another, it is possible to say “These anarchists are ‘unemployable layabout scum’. WE anarchists, on the other hand, are not.”

    *To be fair, I doubt there IS a unified or coherent philosophy, each individual tend to compose their own belief system, and then choose an inadequate label for it.

  13. anonymous anonymous

    Using oppressors against oppressors is a morally complex field. I wouldn’t want to say it’s wrong in principle, because of the kind of case you’re talking about, but at the same time, it isn’t building a better world, it’s patently reproducing an oppressive present. And it has its own “slippery slope” problems. If the police are beating down the hypothetical grandma’s door, does she have the right to call the local neo-Nazis over to beat up the police? What if she calls the police, not because she’s about to be beaten-up, but because some kid with Tourette’s is swearing in the street (which is how these pro-police bigots act in practice)? What if the Yardies are beating her door down and she calls the neo-Nazis to come and string them from lampposts? What if her Muslim neighbour is playing loud music at 3am and she calls the anti-terror police to report that he’s awake at 3am, knowing full well that he’ll be disappeared for two weeks, probably tortured, and quite possibly stitched-up for terrorism? What about calling the Gestapo because her Jewish neighbour is playing loud music, in full knowledge her neighbour will be dragged off to the camps and gassed? By your standards, all of this is fine because she’s part of the essential “popular” and hence pure and above critique. Ultimately, instead of seeking to create non-oppressive relations, you’re identifying a particular idealised subject and implying that everything this subject does is justified. This simply sets up the subject as a new oppressor. Ultimately, collectivism leads to Hobbesian individualism writ large, with each collective reconstituted as a Hobbesian individual in total war with other collectives – hence why Blairite communitarianism is part and parcel of the war on difference (ASBOs and the like), why IR Realism reproduces Hobbesianism in international affairs, why Appadurai’s ‘fear of small numbers’ is a correlate of every majoritarianism.

    You’re using a methodologically undeveloped ‘common-sense’ binary of individual and community which is clearly unable to cope with advances in social-constructionism and psychology. I’d recommend Frijthof Bergman’s “On Nietzsche and Analytic Ethics” as a decisive rebuttal of the kind of position you hold. (Incidentally, Nietzsche isn’t a social Darwinist, and Nazism is the epitome of a majoritarian and communitarian position, the volksgemeinschaft).

    You assume people are necessarily bourgeois molar-subjects, and therefore, there is a straight choice between a capitalist individualism and a repressive (capitalist/authoritarian) collectivism (between gesellschaft and gemeinschaft). People (as “individuals”) are basically evil, and the only way people can be prevented from a Hobbesian war of all against all is by being ‘socialised’, hence subordinated, domesticated and repressed in relation to an overarching spook. But if people are basically evil, from what standpoint could a human being nevertheless determine this? It would be impossible to know. Claiming that human beings are basically evil can only mean one thing: a choice of self-hatred within the self, of reactive desire.

    And this kind of common-sense, bourgeois model you promote will not hold up to scholarship. Firstly, desires are sub-individual, trans-individual, complex, and socially articulated. Strip away the repressive forces of collective normativities and one is left with a being which is still, in most cases, social. Hence, it is a myth to imagine collective conformity against individual deviance. Like most radical scholars of “crime”, I don’t believe there is such a thing as “crime” in the usual sense. There’s no stratum of predatory individuals. There are social problems with social causes, which are misrepresented by bourgeois ideology as individual, so as to claim the label of the collective for the standpoint of the authoritarian.

    Secondly, repressive desires are in a sense individualising: people are atomised by feelings such as fear, anxiety and envy. What passes as ‘individualism’ is itself a product of the very same mechanisms of ‘socialisation’ which produce ‘collectivism’.

    Thirdly, there are many types of social relations which are not at all reducible to the ‘collective’ in the sense of normativities and spooks. For example, a hunter-gatherer band as discussed by Tim Ingold is most certainly neither a collective in your sense nor a Hobbesian aggregate. If you understand bands/bunds at all, you will realise right away that they do not fit into the individual versus community, gemeinschaft versus gesellschaft binary.

    Fourth, there is no singular ‘society’. There are always multiple subject-positions and social relations, and people choose on a discursive level which ‘societies’ they identify with (usually an unconscious choice). When people talk about ‘society’ in an unmarked sense (as opposed to a specific ‘gang’ or ‘subculture’ or ‘group’), they’re talking about naturalised categories of supposedly primordial belonging, most often the nation-state. Naturalising these categories is an ideological gesture.

    “it is the popular collectivism of community which is the fundamental site of resistance” – most often, “community” is the site of enforcement of neoliberalism, particularly in the pervasive mutual surveillance which underpins the police state, and the pressure for crackdowns which generates the support-base for neoliberal parties. Today, “community” is also the site of reactive movements such as fascism, Euroscepticism, Hindu communalism, ethnic cleansing, wannabe retro-1950s throwbacks, the war against difference in all its forms. Scratch the surface of communities of resistance, on the other hand, and there is always a bund not far beneath, even if it pretends to be a ‘community’.

    “they want their voice to be heard ahead of the voice of the TUC march” – no, they just don’t want to be kettled, beaten-up and thrown in authoritarian prisons for years on end – outcomes which are far less likely to happen if they act alongside a larger mobilisation than if they pick their own day. Also, this day was set aside for action against the cuts, and they ARE acting against the cuts, even if you don’t like how they do it.

    ““Propaganda” as a tactic by definition implies a spectacular relationship” – I’m not sure how many people in the Black Bloc would refer to ‘propaganda by deed’, but you’re completely misunderstanding how ‘propaganda’ is meant in this context. The act ‘propagandises’ by inspiring and empowering. The Black Bloc ‘propaganda’ is the fact of attracting others into the Black Bloc (the fact that kids off the estates put on hoods and joined in), and the fact of demystifying the cityscape (apparatuses of power come to seem fragile and flimsy). Nobody cares what the media thinks, because the media just lie.

    As to ‘proto-fascist’ – if you ran our respective positions through ‘political compass’, I’d be down in the far left corner, you’d be somewhere in the upper half, probably top-left quadrant, up towards the top. Neither of us is especially close to fascism (which occurs on the top line and towards the centre – not far from NuLabour), but you’d be a lot closer than I am, and I’m as far away as is possible on this diagram. Also, fascists don’t believe in individualism, fascists believe in collective discipline. “For if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism and hence the century of the State” (Mussolini). “It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of the nation, that the position of the individual is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole” (Hitler). Lrn2history.

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  16. haider ali haider ali

    Excellent piece. I am interested in reading more about this subject. So, I just want to know which book/article this quote of Gilles Deleuze is taken from
    “the politics of representation which currently predominates is not interested in representing as the term is commonly understood; it is no process of ‘speaking on behalf of’, but rather one of silencing; one of crushing difference in favour of identities constructed by those in positions of power. In this instance, the diverse, plural and problematic identities of those marching have been collapsed into the creation of a majority which cannot speak for itself”.

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