The eleventh issue of the Irish Anarchist Review goes to press in the middle of the biggest battle in the war against austerity in Ireland to date. Tens of thousands of people have taken part in mass demonstrations against the water charges, up and down the country thousands have taken part in acts of physical resistance against water meter installation and hundreds of thousands, at the very least, are getting ready to participate in a mass boycott of the charge. Furthermore, the level of political consciousness of the population has risen considerably over the last year, with a distinct anti-establishment atmosphere, and in some cases an anti-state atmosphere, developing.
Methods of organising have more or less followed community syndicalist lines that are highly compatible with anarchist practice, with local committees using direct democracy and the tactics of direct action. At the moment there is no unified national campaign, but a number of different umbrella groups representing different outlooks and tactics. Somewhat counterintuitively, this has been one of the strengths of the campaign so far, with sections retaining the ability to use the tactics of their choice and a movement that is not beset by infighting, as was the case in the latter days of the Campaign against Home and Water Taxes. At the same time, anarchists should argue against attempts to divert the movement into the cul de sac of electoralism, as is the wish of both unashamed reformists and self described revolutionaries alike.
Across Europe the dilemma is the same. Seven years of resistance to austerity has seemingly produced limited success. In Spain, the arrests of anarchists and Basque activists this year, along with the gag law threatens to stifle dissent. Some will look to the electoral sphere, through Podemos, to get out of jail, in a manner of speaking, but with anarchists and migrants still incarcerated under Greece’s left wing SYRIZA government, is this really a solution? It certainly seems that SYRIZA’s progressive programme has hit a brick wall and that they are beginning to withdraw some of their more radical policies.
While the turn to electoralism could make some of us despair, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There's a theory in evolutionary biology known as 'punctuated equilibrium' which claims that most species show little evolutionary change over the course of their collective life span. Instead, they remain in an extended state known as stasis until, over a short space of time, geologically speaking, rapid evolutionary change occurs. There is a case for saying that the fight back against austerity in Ireland has unfolded in punctuated equilibria, over three phases, beginning with the public sector strike in 2009 and the left and trade union led marches of 2010, rekindling in 2011 with the occupy movement and the campaign against home taxes, and finally, evolving into the spontaneous revolt that has unfolded against the water charge with periods of stasis in between. Each stage has been more developed and right now, it is not set in stone that the electoralists will be able to co-opt the campaign.
As Andrew Flood writes in his article on Rojava, “Revolutions are seldom made in favourable circumstances”, and we can take inspiration from those, like the people of Western Kurdistan and in Chiapas, Mexico, who are conducting revolutions in circumstances far less favourable than ours. Their revolutions may lack the ideological purity that many anarchists would desire, but they exist in the real world and not in the dusty pages of the manual for revolution. Political engagement with movements that are actively engaged in revolutionary transformation can only enrich our tradition and in turn, our ideas could help influence those revolutions. But before we can influence anyone, it is important that we have a unity of ideas and a method of articulating those ideas in a coherent fashion. Too often in recent years, anarchism has suffered from being all things to all individuals, a smorgasbord of ideas you could pick and choose from. Maybe it’s time for anarchism to grow up; And by that we don’t mean we think it should dispense of it’s utopian yearnings and make peace with “pragmatic solutions”, rather that it should “come of age”, and articulate a vision for a new society that begins with the conditions of the early 21st century, not the 20th.
To achieve this goal, we reiterate the necessity for anarchist organisation. Most of our competitors who articulate an alternative to the current society, and indeed, all of those who are trying to convince us that this one is just fine, are highly organised and have the means to set the political agenda of the coming years. But while those organisations can have the appearances of monoliths with one voice, ours should be a diverse movement of many voices that can nonetheless act with effective unity. We hope that you find the articles in this publication stimulating and that the ideas expressed will encourage you respond with ideas of your own, and maybe you will join us in the pursuit of radically transforming society. It is long overdue.
IAR Editorial Committee - Mark Hoskins, Brian Fagan, Ferdia O'Brien
Special thanks to Paul Bowman and Liam Hough for feedback and editing help
Layout - Brian Fagan
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