Anarchy’s Weinstein moment?

Letter by Christopher Draper, Llandudno

ImageCongratulations on having the courage to spot the ‘elephant in the room’ and devoting five pages of the last issue of PN to bans, censorship and bullying in the anarchist movement. The movement I joined 50 years ago as a teenager has been taken over by authoritarians whose ‘anarchism’ amounts to little more than attacking opponents.

It is crucial that this incident is not viewed as an isolated event or exceptional behaviour. Four weeks after the London violence, a friend of mine and fellow peace activist and PN subscriber was physically ejected from the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair.

Too many political activists wrap the black flag of anarchy around themselves without abandoning authoritarian party-building tactics and psychology. Over the last decade or so, those of us active in the ‘Peace & Love’ politics that formerly characterised much British anarchism have been first derided, then insulted and isolated, censored, banned and even physically attacked by authoritarians determined that their sectarian, sociopathic version of anarchism predominates.

A key ingredient of this authoritarian take-over is the widespread adoption of anonymity. PN commendably continues to identify its editors and correspondents but this practice is now almost entirely absent from anarchist media. Regrettably, most individuals claiming to speak and act for anarchism hide behind masks and fake names. How can anonymity ever foster accountability and comradeship?

This is all a far cry from past decades when anarchism was a widely-admired and emulated political model with intellectual credibility. After the London Bookfair violence, some anarchist groups issued statements applauding the perpetrators, causing their national organisation to rupture, but I consider this a hopeful result.

The attack on Helen Steel was but the tip of a very dangerous iceberg. The anarchist movement could not and should not have continued with business as usual.

The bullies and bigots have had their way for too long. Free speech, real names and the absence of bans and censorship are essential ingredients of anarchism that must be restored. Only if peace-minded comrades actively intervene will the movement once again practise what it preaches. If freedom-lovers would just turn up the volume (preferably to 11) on their still, small voices the 2017 London Anarchist Bookfair might yet prove a watershed, anarchism’s Weinstein moment.