The ongoing drama of global capital and the resistances it engenders has meant a year filled with riots, revolutions, and extra-parliamentary politics at home and abroad. As diverse movements and voices rise against our enemies, anarchists have been forced to analyze the possibilities of new bedfellows in our fight for liberation. Occupy’s uneasy coalition of liberals, Marxists, Ron Paul libertarians and solidarities with the Arab Spring hold promise to some, while others push against this with complaints of co-optation, contamination, and counter-revolution. Clearly we need to determine where alliances can be beneficial and where lines in the sand must be drawn.
Bakunin’s maxim, “The freedom of all is essential to my freedom,” clarifies the anarchist task. It holds three necessary dimensions: personal freedom, cooperation, and solidarity across identities. At the other end of the spectrum is global capital, which operates through authoritarianism, destructive competition, and hierarchical identities. State socialists, right-wing libertarians, national liberation movements, asocial rioters–most of these groups hold a mix of these two spectrums and find themselves under attack to some extent by those in power. In recognition of common enemies, some anarchists have hoped for a common front with these groups, soliciting for anti-capitalist coalitions or meekly suggesting preference for Ron Paul over Obama.
Unfortunately such common front proposals are doomed to fail because, for as many differences these groups have with global capital, they have just as many differences with anarchists. On the spectrum between anarchist politics and global capital, these groups are lining up perpendicularly to both. Hoping to reach the world we want through authoritarian socialism, right libertarians, or ethnic separatists is like trying to head north by walking straight west, a waste of time at best and a deadly mistake at worst. Putting our lot with these groups also subsumes anarchism’s deeper opposition to the false dichotomies that the status quo already feeds the world. “Don’t want globalization you say? Well have your pick between Milosevic’s Serbia, North Korea, and war-torn Somalia!”
Alternatives that espouse decentralization, mutual aid, and internationalism are always unspoken by power because they most dangerously subvert global capital. It is within these alternatives that we as anarchists should seek our alliances. Granted, many visions fall short of our personal ideals of anarchism, but the philosophies of autonomism, left-libertarians, decentralized greens, the Zapatistas, and other social movements that seek remedies in self-management instead of government reforms at least begin to share our values. Mutual solidarity with these groups, even if only passive, helps spread these united values. If we are to build broader popular coalitions they need to be based on shared values, not shared enemies.
Within this potential coalition of anti-authoritarians, the majority of political differences stem from divergent ideas of what is possible, and the most effective method of settling scores is to demonstrate by example. Debate between this or that strain of anti-authoritarianism will never hold real significance until we have crafted larger models of our ideals. Ideological attack may be important outside this alliance when we are fighting the damaging values of global capital, but within our own quarters talk is cheap, and our personal goal should be to carry freedom, mutual aid, and anti-hierarchy further than others think possible. A singular vision of “the freedom of all” may never be achieved, but we can at least spread the commitment to that freedom.