Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Better Selves Are Possible


There’s nothing like being hosted, with care and thoughtfulness, in a gigantic villa-like squat — a romantically crumbly building on a hill overlooking a centuries-old waterfront and sparkling blue sea — for a gathering of 150 anarchists from around the Mediterranean, Balkans, and Europe to make one feel the intensity of what’s possible in this world. Not only what’s possible when we self-organize, but what’s possible when we share a love for humanity and the nonhuman world with each other in these self-created spaces of autonomy, dignity, and mutual aid.

There’s nothing like waking up, in one of the dozens of huge bedrooms (with beds), and stepping out on the squat’s enormous rooftop terrace, and watching the sun begin to climb into the sky, passing light through the two red&black flags hanging on the balcony’s railing. Then standing there, recalling all the overload of “solidarity experiment” stories I’ve heard over these short-long 6 days so far of the 10-day Mediterranean Anarchist Gathering, now moved to this 11-year old squat on the island of Crete in the city of Chania, to continue our comradely dialogues and lived camaraderie. And thinking on the words of a Spanish comrade a couple nights ago: that we’re self-organizing reconstruction and doing rebuilding work that has resistance nestled inside it — not the other way around. It’s easy to believe that when I’m literally standing on the new, somehow able to survive in the shell of the old and yet contest it, first and foremost by offering a completely different way of being and organizing.

So many people, anarchists and many others, around the globe are doing the common sense of looking at what’s around them, knowing it’s wrong — oh so wrong — and simply going ahead and self-crafting, collectively, what is right. Even if there are only a handful in many of those places. Link them together, and you have something beginning to resemble what’s possible in what’s already actually existing and working. It’s not that we’re winning per se; here in Europe, war, fascism, racism, displacement, and death are so much more palpable than in North America in a much more widespread sense — not pockets but potentially sweeping over the whole of societies and regions. Yet if we also look at the pearls in the sharp-edged shell of the present, and string them together, we have something resembling the gem of a new world capable of contesting this too-long-standing one.

So I’m feeling the love of solidarity today, and but also — and this is especially key for us “US” anarchists to remember — the notion that anarchism can and should love solidarity, and anarchists can and should love each other and humanity enough to want to act in increasingly humanistic ways. Rather than romanticizing the riots and graffiti and squats of Europe, even though they are remarkable and essential, we “US” anarchists should be trying to borrow and practice the far deeper sense of communal bonds and self-chosen responsibility toward each other, toward struggle and prefiguration here for everyone (not just anarchists) who wants to see a nonhierarchical and liberatory society begin to appear on the horizon, in the everyday common sense of our lives.

Here’s another a glimpse of that solidarity, penned (with typos) yesterday:

And I got word this morning as well that the anthology I finished editing about a month ago, “Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism,” is now in print (order yours now at akpress.org). It’s my wish, more than ever, being here in this anarchist space where anarchist comrades speak through the collective and movements and humanity first, before getting to the “I,” that we anarchists in North America can do far, far better to become the world we want to see and, crucially, the people we want to be — toward all.

Love & solidarity, C

*    *    *

Note: Please excuse any typos; I’m writing a bit more hurriedly than usual so I can stay focused on this incredible experience of ten days of gathering with anarchists from across the Mediterranean, Balkans, and farther afield in Europe. More polished words soon.

(Photo by Cindy Milstein, street art of reconstruction, Athens, Greece, Oct 2015)


3 comments on “Better Selves Are Possible

  1. Raye
    October 17, 2015

    This is really lovely. I especially like what you say about what North American anarchists can learn. I often feel as though anarchism in the US, at least in the PNW where I am, is very cliquey and ironically colored by the “individualism” so lauded in American exceptionalism. I have found more love, solidarity, and communality with people who are not explicitly aligned with anarchism than I have with many folks who call themselves anarchists. Would love to hear some of your ideas on how we can do better.

  2. cbmilstein
    October 18, 2015

    Thanks for your comments, Raye. I agree! And I’ll definitely be sharing more thoughts, hopefully more coherent, in depth, and without as many typos, in the near future.

  3. Gillian Sanderson
    October 20, 2015

    Thanks Cindy, your news and wonderful experience with Anarchists in Chania is so inspiring and uplifting for us here in Victoria, B.C. Canada, where we’ve just had a federal election. Luckily, en masse, we’ve managed to oust the tyrranical ex-Prime Minister, and the Liberal Party has won. For me, however, it’s not a total rapture, as I
    don’t think they will change very much. They’re still materialistic, support the oil and gas industry, and I wonder if they’ve got the courage to cancel all the restrictive and mean Acts made under the previous regime.
    GO Anarchists, Go ! I’ve been a secret anarchist all my life, and I’m now 80 years old. We came to Crete 3 years ago, and simply loved it, the land, people, kindness
    and ancient history. Unfortunately we didn’t get as far as Chania.
    YES ! That’s the sort of life we could develop everywhere…what you all are doing for each other. It’s just splendid. Congratulations and lots of best wishes to you all.
    We live on an island about as big as Crete, Vancouver Island, off the mainland of

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This entry was posted on October 16, 2015 by in Dispatches from Life, Dispatches from Rebellious Spaces.
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