Constructing Anarchisms (Reimagined)

When Constructing Anarchisms was interrupted by “reopening” and a growing pile of unanswered questions, plenty of unfinished business remained. I’ve been chipping away at it ever since. The fundamental questions I needed to answer before I could start my historical survey have largely been answered. The toolkit from “A Schematic Anarchism” has been an unexpected bonus. The process of answering those questions seems to have been useful to others as well.

One of the general goals of the project was simply to contribute to the normalization within anarchist circles of a certain kind of “shop talk,” a certain kind of active interrogation of the fundamentals of anarchist theory. That was always going to be the most difficult part of the project, particularly with interactions being so decentralized. As things played out, there were plenty of opportunities for me to talk about “making anarchism our own” by “making our own anarchisms,” but none of the forums that served as nodes in the discussion showed much sign of becoming the kind of spaces in which others were likely to attempt the experiment.

As the other dropped threads from Constructing Anarchisms have been gradually woven into new projects, the possibility of attempting some reimagining of that third stage has been in the back of my mind. Then the recent surge of interest in the Fediverse introduced me to WriteFreely, which is the simplest sort of blogging platform, but with Activitypub support for publishing to the Fediverse, so that blogs can be followed and individual posts can be searched out from Mastodon, Pixelfed, Pleroma, etc. Hosting with the developers was cheap enough that I have simply gone ahead and set up a “Village”-sized instance with them at constructinganarchisms.org.

My plan for the site is simple: I’m going to pursue one of the lines forward from “A Schematic Anarchism,” building up what I have called a “plain” or “shareable” anarchism from the formula I have proposed, and I’m going to invite anyone who would like to make a somewhat belated attempt at “making anarchism their own” to join me—or at least work in parallel with me on the new site.

The site description is “Simple stories about the beautiful idea”—and my hope is to make it a source of consciously constructive, relatively non-sectarian material related to the rudiments of anarchism in its various forms.

A few technical clarifications: WriteFreely is not a replacement for Mastodon, in the sense that it really is simply a publishing platform. With it, we can offer material for reading, forwarding and discussion on other platforms, both in the Fediverse and the open web. And when I say that it is the simplest sort of blogging platform, I mean that titles, formatting, hashtags and such all need to be provided by the blogger, using elements of html and Markdown. With one of the goals being to supply material to feeds on platforms like Mastodon, that simplicity can arguably be considered a feature. However, discoverability in the Fediverse depends on the careful use of elements like hashtags, so it will be important to make the most of the simple toolkit available.

The invitation to collaborate is intended to be broad, but, of course, a few key points of agreement are almost certainly required. I’m happy to welcome participation in this new phase of Constructing Anarchisms from anarchists who find they can agree to the following:

  • Anarchism is a diverse and living tradition. Its best days and clearest expressions are likely still to come, but they may be a long time coming if we are unable to come to terms with the anarchist past.
  • The heart of the anarchist tradition is the pursuit of the beautiful, uncomfortable notion of anarchy. Anarchy is an extraordinarily radical aim. Its pursuit entails a lot of more specific struggles, some of the utmost urgency, but none of those pursuits is, alone, the pursuit of anarchy itself. Among our various anarchist practices, we arguably need to make space for direct engagements with the “beautiful idea.”
  • Anarchism is more than any of its various tendencies, more even than the sum of those tendencies. As a result, our particular projects and struggles, and our individual reflections on the rudiments of anarchism, probably need to be supplemented by yet another class of practices, involving an ongoing consultation among anarchists, resulting in some degree of mutual correction and local synthesis.

If that sounds agreeable and you want to explore the possibilities of this new platform, feel free to get in touch through the contact form, email or social media.

Again, the goal is to produce a fairly steady stream of “simple stories” about anarchism, accessible in the Fediverse. There are a variety of ways that project might be approached—and I have linked some related material in the sidebar. Among the precedents in the tradition, we find the sorts of similar statements of anarchist belief I have collected as “declarations and professions of faith” in the Anarchist Beginnings archive, the examinations of concepts in the Encyclopédie Anarchiste, the various anarchist surveys and consultations on specific subjects, etc. It might make sense to update any of these approaches, just as there may be lessons to be learned from close readings of anarchist “classics” of various kinds. And then there is the final constructive project left from Constructing Anarchisms.

If the project appeals to you, then I would be happy to try to work through the process of trying to narrow down the nature of your contribution.

My plan is to continue to explore a variety of approaches, with some emphasis on the project already mentioned of “rebuilding” a general account of at least one sort of “synthetic” anarchism from the schematic I have proposed and the general observation that “Anarchy is what happens in the absence of the very things we are led to believe will always be present.”

I’ve sat on this proposal for a long week now, trying to decide if my heat-of-the-moment enthusiasm has (once again) led me a bit astray. I’ve finally decided that if the project doesn’t make sense to others out there, that’s probably all the more reason to continue on my own for now. So, onward…

And if what I’ve proposed here sounds useful to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2637 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.