We Are Anarchists
The following brief statement was read by a bunch of anarchists, with big smiles on their faces and a red & black flag in hand, at the general assembly (GA) on Thursday, October 13, 2011, at the occupation in Philly, using the “call and repeat” technique of the people’s mic. Several anarchists—who like hundreds of other people of diverse political persuasions, have been participating in numerous wonderful ways in the do-it-ourselves Philly occupation—took the initiate to craft this statement. The words were motivated by an electronic firestorm of derogatory attacks against anarchists—including specific anarchists by name—that same day, largely initiated by one person who had admin privileges on the Occupy Philly Web site, Facebook page, and Twitter account, and basically booted off all the other admin people. Fortunately, both online and especially in person, the divide-and-conquer tactic not only failed but instead actually backfired. The vast majority of folks at the occupation stood solidly behind anarchists and solidly behind the direct democracy that we’ve created together; if anything, the assault seemed to bring people together a bit more, and many folks said it made them curious to learn more about anarchism! Still, many anarchists at the Philly occupation also felt the need to proudly, loudly, fabulously, and strongly offer a public statement that evening. Here’s a text, culled from handwritten notes, so while it’s not exactly what was said, it’s a close approximation. Feel free to share. (Alas, the live stream footage of our GA and this reading was allegedly lost by accident; if anyone taped this reading, please upload and post it widely, including onto our Web site: http://radoccupyphilly.wordpress.com/).
We are anarchists. We don’t speak for anyone else, just ourselves.
You’re right. We have an agenda:
We’re people just like you. We’re parents, teachers, we walk your dog, we serve your coffee (etc.).
We are not violent. In fact, we’re critical of the most violent people here: the police.
The kind of divisive tactics of fearmongering that took place today through rumors will shut down what all of us are doing! Groups will be targeted as bad people versus good occupiers on the basis of ideology, race, and so on.
Anarchism is inherently against all forms of domination, so no, we’re not hijacking the Occupy Philly movement.
We’re here talking about and trying to practice what it means to be anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-labor, queer friendly, anti-classist, anti-ableist, anti-ageist, and so on.
We’re here with everyone else, practicing power-with not power-over.
And lastly, we really respect the directly democratic process. We use consensus-based decision making in many, if not all, of our own spaces and projects.
* * *
There are now some 225 tents, pumpkin displays, portable toilets courtesy of a local union, skateboarders, a worship area, outdoor movies, Mischief Brew playing live tomorrow night, a “possibility station,” an engineering crew that wants to consult on weatherizing structures, a tent for gathering good ideas for our occupation, a second couch and several armchairs, a working group that wants to connect with other occupations, increasingly easy and animated political discussions, multiplying classes and an ever-expanding library collection, and growing camaraderie. Growing camaraderie! Plus a lot more laughter. At least on this Saturday night, in what’s becoming a place that people are already talking about not wanting to leave—ever.
To my mind, it’s more a relation between means and end. We’re practicing the “ends” (freedom, solidarity, mutual aid, direct democracy) using the same means, but only approximations, as we trip and stubble through our learning process of de-socialization, and that is the politics too. And slowly but surely, all are becoming more radicalized–in the sense, that we are increasingly talking about, debating, and honing in on the roots of problems and practicing potential alternatives. I keep hearing people say “When are we going to find something or make demands to unify us?” even as we’re increasingly becoming united in our commitment to this place we’re creating together—and the creation is increasingly exemplying that something, our demands: realizing the impossible, which we are possibly doing already.
Like all occupations, that means grappling with who and what we here before us, from centuries ago to, tangibly, many people without homes at present, in ways that aren’t about displacement or usurping or control over. That’s been one of the harder balances, but I sort of think people are slowly understanding that too: this wasn’t a blank slate (there were people “occupying” here before us), even though, in certain ways, it also is a blank slate (we’re forging an actual neighborhood that more and more offers real community and doesn’t want to be displaced itself, particularly since it increasingly gestures toward notions of “replacement” for various hierarchical structures).
Tonight during our general assembly, sitting on the ground, various folks kept chatting about things like “Maybe we should occupy a nearby building as warmth during the winter?” or “Let’s start gathering info on all the amazing radical organizing spaces and projects around Philly, and figure out ways (print, in person, etc.) to connect people to them and each other, and build on what we’re already doing” or “Why don’t we think about working toward neighborhood assemblies?” or “Why aren’t we strategizing about federating/coordinating with other occupations regional or continental or even internationally to really take on social transformation?” Or as one woman said during our GA, “This is about changing the whole system. We don’t need to cooperate with the city. Most of us are already cooperating just fine, with each other. Most of us are already being respectful to each other.”
We’re starting to do it, what state and capitalism don’t want us to do, making our means and ends relate in ways that alter our social relations and social organization in people- and earth-centered ways, around our shared yet also individual needs and desires. As one of my housemates who, perhaps even more than me, is overly involved in this occupation, said tonight as he was cooking up stirfry for yet another midnight-plus dinner, “It just gets more radical by the day,” meaning that people are starting to see the systemic roots of social problems and starting to “own” their own horizontal power. The big question for me—especially with increasing though still subtle policing methods to break us apart—is whether we’ll have enough days. Our enemy is the police, for sure, but it’s also just sheer time. The relation between means and ends, radicalization and politicization, is all about time. Or as one of my dad’s jokes goes: Someone stops a cab in NYC and asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The driver responds, “With practice; practice, practice, and more practice.”