Anarchism’s Political Correctness


Anarchy is very politically correct. Like the rest of the left, it’s big on denunciation and not much else. Kristian Williams tried to discuss a few of these issues in the Politics of Denunciation.

“Why have the forms of accountability processes that we’ve seen in radical subcultures so regularly failed?” she asked. “Is there a tension between supporting a survivor’s healing and holding perpetrators accountable?”

At that point she was, quite literally, shouted down. An angry roar came up from the crowd, from both the audience and the panelists. It quickly became impossible to hear her and, after a few seconds, she simply stopped trying to speak.

The weeks that followed produced an atmosphere of distrust and recrimination unlike anything I had experienced in more than twenty years of radical organizing. A few people were blamed for specific transgressions. (My friend was one: she was accused of violating the venue’s “Safer Space” policy, “triggering” audience members, and employing “patriarchal mechanisms” in her statement.) Others were called out for unspecified abusive or sexist behavior. And a great many more were alleged to have supported or defended or coddled those guilty of such offenses.

The ensuing controversy destroyed at least one political organization, and an astonishing number of activists––many with more than a decade of experience––talked about quitting politics altogether. I know people who lost friends and lovers, often not because of anything they had done, but because of how they felt about the situation. Several people––mostly women, interestingly––told me they were afraid to say anything about the controversy, lest they go “off-script” and find themselves denounced as bad feminists.

This is the left in a nutshell. It’s Orwell’s 1984. It’s the recent mania over penalizing people for offensive speech in the media.

It may be enough to characterize someone’s behavior ––or even his fundamental character––as “sexist,” “misogynist,” “patriarchal,” “silencing,” “triggering,” “unsafe,” or “abusive.” And on the principle that bad does not allow for better or worse, all of these terms can be used more or less interchangeably. After all, the point is not really to make an accusation, which could be proved or disproved; the point is to offer a judgment. Thus it is possible for large groups of people to dislike and even punish some maligned person without even pretending to know what it is, specifically, he is supposed to have done. He has been “called out” as a perpetrator; nothing else matters.

Again an accurate characterization of how the left functions… from within the left.

The obsessive need for political conformity, the mutual fault-finding that animates it, and the sense of embattled isolation that results––combined with a kind of self-righteous competitiveness (on the one hand) and a masochistic guilt complex (on the other)–– practically guarantees the sort of internecine squabbling we’ve seen emerge, not only in Portland, but in Oakland, Minneapolis, and New York as well.

The comments were telling…

The anarchs of better years(1886-1921) could integrate themselves into various currents and get the attention of the likes of DeCleyre(someone who was not an anarchist at first but ended up being one of the most notable) who were not anarchists at first. That’s the only shot anarchy has if the 21st century variant wants to come close to living up to the classics.

These filthy foot soldiers of Alisnky Gramsci and other 1968 Marxist Machiavellians in their insular activist subcultural form are nowhere near what is necessary to begin to infect other currents of thought that could be relevant to us.

Back in the present day, Kristian appeared at a panel and the foot soldiers showed up.

A group of Portland State University (PSU) students disrupted a panel on anarchy to protest a speaker they accused of “targeting survivors” of sexual assault.

Kristian Williams, an anarchist author whose career has focused on fighting against the state and police brutality, was supposed to be one of three speakers on a panel titled “Informants: Types, Cases and Warning Signs.”

But the event erupted into chaos as any efforts by a panelist or moderator to speak were thwarted by chants including “We will not be silenced in the face of your violence.”

“It’s not OK, and you shouldn’t be given the space to speak,” another yelled.

The May 10 panel was part of the school’s Fifth Annual Law and Disorder Conference.

Here’s your law and disorder.

  • Clare Spark

    More grist for the mill: “Why I left “the Left.” And see my pieces on political correctness, which may surprise some. The modern world emancipated women, slaves, Jews, and ordinary people from repressive elites. The thought police are devoted to reigning these persons in lest they stray from their influence.

  • ahad_ha_amoratsim

    Sounds like total anarchy.
    Back in the Revolution (ca. 1967 – 1973), the anarchists had no patience with anyone who tried to tell them what to do. What happened?
    Anarchy ain’t what it used to be.

  • DogmaelJones1

    Read the column, watched the video. Amazing how the Left can eat their own.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      the left is based on one-upping each other and denouncing each other for ultimate political privilege

  • Patrick778

    Gee, did you guys get equally upset when the Teabaggers shouted down congressmen during town meetings?

    PS – That ol’ socialist Orwell must spin in his grave every time the wingers try to recruit him for their agenda.

  • Tommy Gun

    Anarchists of the world unite!. You have nothing to loose but your brains….

  • 95Theses

    All these non-conformists are alike.

  • Connors

    Don’t dismiss anarchism just b/c a minority faction have this ‘mob justice’ mentality. Kristian Williams is an left-anarchist himself and much more of an admired figure within the movement than the characters who denounced him.

    As the comment you clipped suggests, the older anarchists would’ve been completely baffled by so much intolerance and close-mindedness on the part of people who identify as anarchists. They behave more like Leninoids, who are the historical enemies of anarchists.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Rage against the Cul de Sac for the right to be just like everyone else.