some thoughts for future readings (after january 2017)

please feel free to add things in the comments here.
i was just reminded that there has been some real thought by anarchists i never hear about (or rarely) on psychology.
so future readings could be otto gross

“I have only mixed with anarchists and declare myself to be an anarchist,” Otto Gross said in 1913. “I am a psychoanalyst and from my experience I have gained the insight that the existing order … is a bad one. … And since I want everything changed, I am an anarchist” (Berze/Stelzer 1999, p.24)”. He was the first psychoanalyst to link analysis with radical politics and wrote: “The psychology of the unconscious is the philosophy of the revolution” (Gross 1913c). So, when Coline Covington recently wrote, “Analysis is essentially a tool for revolution (Covington 2001, p.331)”, she was just echoing something that Gross said nearly 90 years before. He was not just a psycho-analyst – he was a psycho-anarchist and thus stands for the subversive potential of analysis – which earned him the epithet of the “devil underneath the couch” (Raulff 1993).

Although Gross played a pivotal role in the birth of what today we are calling modernity, with wide-ranging influences in psychoanalysis, psychiatry, philosophy, radical politics, sociology, literature, and ethics, he has remained virtually unknown to this day. Already in 1921, less than a year after Gross’ death, the Austrian writer Anton Kuh wrote of him as, ‘a man known only to very few by name – apart from a handful of psychiatrists and secret policemen – and among those few only to those who plucked his feathers to adorn their own posteriors’ (Kuh 1921, pp.16-7). Today, still, most analysts have never heard of Otto Gross, or their knowledge is confined to, ‘Isn’t that the one who became schizophrenic?’ To a large extent this is the result of an analytic historiography which Erich Fromm has rightly called “Stalinistic” (Fromm 1957, p.133): dissidents become non-persons and vanish from the records. This practice of purging history makes the story of Otto Gross a secret one: it was hoped that we would never know.

Yet Adam Philips recently said: “There is no future for psychoanalysis if it doesn’t want to look in other places for regeneration, and particularly if it doesn’t look to the places it wants to exclude. By its own logic, that’s where the life is, that’s where the action is” (Philips 1997, p.164).

Psychoanalysis was created as a tool to create a better future by turning from the present to the past. It is a “looking backwards to the future” (Handy 2002). What was repressed, powerfully returns, and thus the past gets continually created anew. History has exactly the same function on the collective level. The historian Edmund Jacobitti calls it “composing useful pasts – history as contemporary politics” (Jacobitti 2000). Mindful of this, let me take you “where the action is” – to look at the repressed aspect of analytic history that is Otto Gross.

Of course, his story was not always a secret one. There was a time, in the first decade of the last century, when the greatest minds in psychoanalysis were full of the highest praise for Otto Gross. In 1908 Freud wrote to Jung, “You are really the only one capable of making an original contribution; except perhaps O.Gross” (Freud/Jung 1974, p.126). A few months later, after Gross had been in an analysis with Jung that at times became what we would today call a mutual analysis, Jung replied to Freud, “In Gross I discovered many aspects of my own nature, so that he often seemed like my twin brother” (ibid., p. 156). Thomas Kirsch (Kirsch 2000) in his recent study of “The Jungians” does not mention Gross, although, in view of these feelings expressed by Jung, Gross might well be called the first Jungian. The writer Emil Szittya (1886-1964) even went as far as calling Gross “a friend of Dr. Freud and the intellectual father of Professor Jung” (Szittya n.d., p.211). As late as 1986 the eminent scholar of psychoanalysis Johannes Cremerius wrote about the C.G.Jung of 1909, ‘He is still completely and entirely the pupil of Otto Gross’ (Cremerius 1986, p. 20). So we might as well call Jung an early Grossian. In 1910 Ferenczi wrote to Freud about Gross, “There is no doubt that among those who have followed you up to now he is the most significant” (Freud/Ferenczi 1993, p.154). Ernest Jones in his autobiography wrote: Gross “was my first instructor in the technique of psychoanalysis” (Jones, 1990, p.173) and he called him “the nearest approach to the romantic ideal of a genius I have ever met” (ibid.).


The psychology of the unconscious is the philosophy of revolution: i.e., this is what it is destined to become because it ferments insurrection within the psyche, and liberates individuality from the bonds of its own unconscious. It is destined to make us inwardly capable of freedom, destined to prepare the ground for the revolution.

The incomparable revaluation of all values, with which the imminent future will be filled, begins in this present time with Nietzsche’s thinking about the depths of the soul and with Freud’s discovery of the so-called psychoanalytic technique. This latter is a practical method which for the first time makes it possible to liberate the unconscious for empirical knowledge: i.e., for us it has now become possible to know ourselves. With this a new ethic is born, which will rest upon the moral imperative to seek real knowledge about oneself and one’s fellow men.

What is so overpowering in this new obligation to appreciate the truth is that until today we have known nothing of the question that matters incomparably above all others – the question of what is intrinsic, essential in our own being, our inner life, our self and that of our fellow human beings; we have never even been in position to inquire about these things. What we are learning to know is that, as we are today, each one of us possesses and recognises as his own only a fraction of the totality embraced by his psychic personality.

In every psyche without exception the unity of the functioning whole, the unity of consciousness, is torn in two, an unconscious has split itself off and maintains its existence by keeping itself apart from the guidance and control of consciousness, apart from any kind of self-observation, especially that directed at itself.

I must assume that knowledge of the Freudian method and its important results is already widespread. Since Freud we understand all that is inappropriate and inadequate in our mental life to be the results of inner experiences whose emotional content excited intense conflict in us. At the time of those experiences – especially in early childhood – the conflict seemed insoluble, and they were excluded from the continuity of the inner life as it is known to the conscious ego. Since then they have continued to motivate us from the unconscious in an uncontrollably destructive and oppositional way. I believe that what is really decisive for the occurrence of repression is to be found in the inner conflict … rather than in relation to the sexual impulse. Sexuality is the universal motive for the infinite number of internal conflicts, though not in itself but as the object of a sexual morality which stands in insoluble conflict with everything that is of value and belongs to willing and reality.

It appears that at the deepest level the real nature of these conflicts may always be traced back to one comprehensive principle, to the conflict between that which belongs to oneself and that which belongs to the other, between that which is innately individual and that which has been suggested to us, i.e., that which is educated or otherwise forced into us.

This conflict of individuality with an authority that has penetrated into our own innermost self belongs more to the period of childhood than to any other time.

The tragedy is correspondingly greater as a person’s individuality is more richly endowed, is stronger in its own particular nature. The earlier and the more intensely that the capacity to withstand suggestion and interference begins its protective function, the earlier and the more intensely will the self-divisive conflict be deepened and exacerbated. The only natures to be spared are those in whom the predisposition towards individuality is so weakly developed and is so little capable of resistance that under the pressure of suggestion from social surroundings, and the influence of education, it succumbs, in a manner of speaking, to atrophy and disappears altogether – natures whose guiding motives are at last composed entirely of alien, handed-down standards of evaluation and habits of reaction. In such second-rate characters a certain apparent health can sustain itself, i.e., a peaceful and harmonious functioning of the whole of the soul or, more accurately, of what remains of the soul. On the other hand, each individual who stands in any way higher than this normal contemporary state of things is not, in existing, conditions, in a position to escape pathogenic conflict and to attain his individual healthi.e., the full harmonious development of the highest possibilities of his innate individual character.

It is understood from all this that such characters hitherto, no matter in what outward form they manifest themselves – whether they are opposed to laws and morality, or lead us positively beyond the average, or collapse internally and become ill – have been perceived with either disgust, veneration or pity as disturbing exceptions whom people try to eliminate. It will come to be understood that, already today, there exists the demand to approve these people as the healthy, the warriors, the progressives, and to learn from and through them.

Not one of the revolutions in recorded history has succeeded in establishing freedom for individuality. They all fell flat, each time as precursors of a new bourgeoisie, they ended in a hurried desire to conform to general norms. They have collapsed because the revolutionary of yesterday carried authority within himself. Only now can it be recognized that the root of all authority lies in the family, that the combination of sexuality and authority, as it shows itself in the patriarchal family still prevailing today, claps every individuality in chains.

The times of crisis in advanced cultures have so far always been attended by complaints about the loosening of the ties of marriage and family life … but people could never hear in this “immoral tendency” the life affirming ethical crying out of humanity for redemption. Everything went to wrack and ruin, and the problem of emancipation from original sin, from the enslavement of women for the sake of their children, remained unsolved.

The revolutionary of today, who, armed with the psychology of the unconscious has a vision of a free, happy future for the relationship between the sexes, fights against the most primal form of rape, against the father and against father right. The coming revolution is the revolution for mother right.* It does not matter under what outward form and by what means it comes about.

(From Die Aktion, April 1913, reprinted in Anarchism…, vol.1 p281, Robert Graham.)

Otto Gross claimed that the rape that established patriarchy was the true ‘original sin’ and “that the entire structure of civilisation since the destruction of the primitive communistic mother right order is false.” He also argued that “the real liberation of woman, the dissolution of the father right family by socialising the care of motherhood, is in the vital interests of every member of society, granting him the highest freedom” (Springer in Hueur, Sexual Revolutions, p118; Peter Davies, Myth Matriarchy and Modernity, p254-6).

Gross’ poor record at parenting his own children rather discredits his opinions on childcare. But he certainly took the issue seriously at an intellectual level. Indeed, the last paragraph of his last article includes the statement: “The mission: to make individual cells of the social body an object of agitation and sabotage. To initiate a fight against the principle of the family, that is, against the prevailing family of the Father Right, on behalf of the Communist Mother Right” (P.Pietikainen, Alchemist of Human Nature, p91).

Gross derived these ideas from Johann Bachofen, the 19th century historian, who had written that: “The end of the development of the state resembles the beginning of human existence. The original equality finally returns. The maternal element opens and closes the cycle of everything human” (August Bebel, Woman under Socialism, Ch.8).

Inspired by Marx, Engels was also very interested in Bachofen’s ideas, as well as those of Lewis Henry Morgan, claiming that: “The rediscovery of the original mother-right gens as the stage preliminary to the father-right gens of the civilised peoples has the same significance for the history of primitive society as Darwin’s theory of evolution has for biology, and Marx’s theory of surplus value for political economy” (The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, p35). Marxists such as Bloch, Benjamin and Reich continued this interest in Bachofen, and Erich Fromm wrote about the “materialist-democratic character of matriarchal societies” (The Crisis of Psychoanalysis, p149). However, as the threat of social revolution continued into the 1930s, the anthropological establishment wanted to discredit all such ideas. Bronislaw Malinowski made his thoughts clear when he said:

“A whole school of anthropologists, from Bachofen on, have maintained that the maternal clan was the primitive domestic institution. … In my opinion, as you know, this is entirely incorrect. But an idea like that, once it is taken seriously and applied to modern conditions, becomes positively dangerous. I believe that the most disruptive element in the modern revolutionary tendencies is the idea that parenthood can be made collective. If once we came to the point of doing away with the individual family as the pivotal element of our society, we should be faced with a social catastrophe compared with which the political upheaval of the French revolution and the economic changes of Bolshevism are insignificant. The question, therefore, as to whether group motherhood is an institution which ever existed, whether it is an arrangement which is compatible with human nature and social order, is of considerable practical interest” (N.Allen, Early Human Kinship, p70).

In recent years, however, anthropological and genetic studies of African hunter-gatherers indicate that early human society may well have been both matrilocal and matrilineal (Allen, p80-2, 186; Sarah Hrdy, Mothers and Others). Furthermore, in many simple hunter-gatherer communities, childcare is more collective, and women have more power, than in agricultural societies. So, perhaps, Bachofen, Morgan, Marx, Engels and Gross were more right than the anthropological establishment of the 20th century.

Of course, it still remains to be seen whether Gross’ prediction of a “revolution for mother right”, or Marx’s, not dissimilar, prediction of capitalism’s “fatal crisis [leading to] … the return of modern society to a higher form of the most archaic type”, will be fulfilled in the 21st century (MECW vol.24, p357, 350).]

other readings could be from On An(archy) and Schizoanalysis, and/or break out from the crystal palace.

reading for 12.27

the part about controversies and disagreements at the bottom of

the wikipedia entry for critical race theory

if people already have the charles mills article “but what are you really?”, then you could revisit that, although probably that won’t be the reading… (it’s a bit long), it’s just really interesting.

the following is from CRT:an intro

What do critical race theorists believe? Probably not every
member would subscribe to every tenet set out in this book,
but many would agree on the following propositions. First,
that racism is ordinary, not aberrational—“normal science,”
the usual way society does business, the common, everyday
experience of most people of color in this country. Second,
most would agree that our system of white-over-color ascendancy
serves important purposes, both psychic and material.
The first feature, ordinariness, means that racism is difficult
to cure or address. Color-blind, or “formal,” conceptions of
equality, expressed in rules that insist only on treatment that
is the same across the board, can thus remedy only the most
blatant forms of discrimination, such as mortgage redlining
or the refusal to hire a black Ph.D. rather than a white high
school dropout, that do stand out and attract our attention.
The second feature, sometimes called “interest convergence”
or material determinism, adds a further dimension. Because
racism advances the interests of both white elites (materially)
and working-class people (psychically), large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it. Consider, for example,
Derrick Bell’s shocking proposal (discussed in a later
chapter) that Brown v. Board of Education—considered a
great triumph of civil rights litigation—may have resulted
more from the self-interest of elite whites than a desire to
help blacks.
A third theme of critical race theory, the “social construction”
thesis, holds that race and races are products of social
thought and relations. Not objective, inherent, or fixed, they
correspond to no biological or genetic reality; rather, races
are categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires
when convenient. People with common origins share certain
physical traits, of course, such as skin color, physique, and
hair texture. But these constitute only an extremely small
portion of their genetic endowment, are dwarfed by that
which we have in common, and have little or nothing to do
with distinctly human, higher-order traits, such as personality,
intelligence, and moral behavior. That society frequently
chooses to ignore these scientific facts, creates races, and endows them with pseudo-permanent characteristics is of great interest to critical race theory.
Another, somewhat more recent, development concerns
differential racialization and its many consequences. Critical
writers in law, as well as social science, have drawn attention
to the ways the dominant society racializes different minority
groups at different times, in response to shifting needs
such as the labor market. At one period, for example, society
may have had little use for blacks, but much need for
Mexican or Japanese agricultural workers. At another time,
the Japanese, including citizens of long standing, may have
been in intense disfavor and removed to war relocation
camps, while society cultivated other groups of color for jobs
in war industry or as cannon fodder on the front. Popular
images and stereotypes of various minority groups shift over
time, as well. In one era, a group of color may be depicted as
happy-go-lucky, simpleminded, and content to serve white
folks. A little later, when conditions change, that very same
group may appear in cartoons, movies, and other cultural
scripts as menacing, brutish, and out of control, requiring
close monitoring and repression.
Closely related to differential racialization—the idea that
each race has its own origins and ever evolving history—is
the notion of intersectionality and anti-essentialism. No person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity. A white feminist
may be Jewish, or working-class, or a single mother. An
African American activist may be gay or lesbian. A Latino
may be a Democrat, a Republican, or even a black—perhaps
because that person’s family hails from the Caribbean. An
Asian may be a recently arrived Hmong of rural background
and unfamiliar with mercantile life, or a fourth-generation
Chinese with a father who is a university professor and a
mother who operates a business. Everyone has potentially
conflicting, overlapping identities, loyalties, and allegiances.
A final element concerns the notion of a unique voice of
color. Coexisting in somewhat uneasy tension with anti-essentialism, the voice-of-color thesis holds that because of
their different histories and experiences with oppression,
black, Indian, Asian, and Latino/a writers and thinkers may
be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters
that the whites are unlikely to know. Minority status, in
other words, brings with it a presumed competence to speak
about race and racism. The ““legal storytelling” movement
urges black and brown writers to recount their experiences
with racism and the legal system and to apply their own
unique perspectives to assess law’s master narratives.

things even this cursory reading brings up–
1. what does it mean that the most cutting edge theory on race is coming from a group of lawyers?
2. obviously the solutions for lawyers are not going to be ours, but what responses could anarchists have to these different thoughts on what race means/implies in the us?
3. intersectionality is a term that has taken off amongst identity adherents. the concept was intended to be a challenge to essentialism, but seems not to have been at all. what do people think about that? have you had experiences with this term in particular?

and… a random but very interesting chapter from Seeing Through Race: Idolatry

reading for 11.29.16

here are the texts of the lexicon pamphlets Anarchism and Racism. I suggest (we can talk about it more on the night of) that we do a couple of weeks of readings on the lexicon series (it includes also colonialism, power, and gender), with the following questions in mind: what is the purpose of these pamphlets? if you were to accept the purpose, how would you do it? what do you agree with, what sounds good but you don’t agree with–perhaps you would agree under certain circumstances–and what seems straight up wrong to you? if you were going to write a series of introductory primers on ideas that are significant to anarchists, are these the key words/topics you would choose? etc. If you feel uncomfortable stating your own opinions (or don’t know), then consider how what you consider the general opinion of the study group is different from, similar to, or other than, what is expressed here.


At its core, anarchism is indeed a spirit—one that cries out against all that’s wrong with present-day society, and yet boldly proclaims all that could be right under alternate forms of social organization.
There are many different though often complementary ways of looking at
anarchism, but in a nutshell, it can be defined as the striving toward a “free society of free individuals.” This phrase is deceptively simple. Bound within it is both an implicit multidimensional critique and an expansive, if fragile, reconstructive vision.
By anarchist spirit I mean that deeply human sentiment, which aims at the good of all, freedom and justice for all,  solidarity and love among the people; which is not an exclusive characteristic only of self-declared anarchists, but inspires all people who have a generous heart and an open mind. —
Errico Malatesta, Umanita Nova, April 13, 1922
Here, a further shorthand depiction of anarchism is helpful: the ubiquitous “circle A” image. The A is a placeholder for the ancient Greek word anarkhia —combining the root an(a), “without,” and arkh(os), “ruler, authority”—meaning the absence of authority. More  contemporaneously and accurately, it stands for the absence of both domination (mastery or control over another) and hierarchy (ranked power relations of dominance and subordination). The circle could
be considered an O, a placeholder for “order” or, better yet,  “organization,” drawing on Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s seminal definition in What Is Property?  (1840): “as man [sic] seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy.” The circle A symbolizes anarchism as a dual project: the abolition of domination and hierarchical forms of social organization, or power-over social relations, and their replacement with horizontal versions, or power-together and in common—again, a free
society of free individuals.
Anarchism is a synthesis of the best of liberalism and the best of communism, productive, harmonic dissonance: figuring out ways to coexist and thrive in our differentiation.
Anarchists create processes that are humane and substantively participatory. They’re honest about the fact that there’s always going to be uneasiness between individual and social freedom. They acknowledge that it’s going to be an ongoing struggle to find the balance.
This struggle is exactly where anarchism takes place. It is where the beauty of life, at its most well rounded and self-constructed, has the
greatest possibility of emerging—and at times, taking hold.
Although it happens at any level of society, one experiences this most personally in small-scale projects—from food cooperatives
to free schools to occupations—where people collectively make face-to-face decisions about issues large and mundane. This is not
something that people in most parts of the world are encouraged or taught to do, most pointedly because it contains the kernels

of destroying the current vertical social arrangements. As such, we’re generally neither particularly good nor efficient at directly

elevated and transformed by the best of traditions that work toward an egalitarian, voluntarily, and nonhierarchical society. The project of liberalism in the broadest sense is to ensure personal liberty. Communism’s overarching project is to ensure the communal good. One could, and should, question the word “free” in both cases, particularly in the actual implementations of liberalism and communism, and their
shared emphasis on the state and property as ensuring freedom. Nonetheless, respectively, and at their most “democratic,” one’s aim is an
individual who can live an emancipated life, and the other seeks a community structured along collectivist lines. Both are worthy
notions. Unfortunately, freedom can never be achieved in this lopsided manner: through the self or society. The two necessarily come into
conflict, almost instantly. Anarchism’s great leap was to combine self and society in one political vision; at the same time, it jettisoned the state and property as the pillars of support, relying instead on self-organization
and mutual aid.
Anarchism as a term emerged in nineteenth-century Europe, but its aspirations and practices grew out of, in part, hundreds of years of slave rebellions, peasant uprisings, and heretical religious movements around the world in which people decided that enough was enough, and the related experimentation for centuries with various forms of autonomy.
Anarchism was also partly influenced by Enlightenment thought in the eighteenth century, which—at its best—popularized three pivotal notions, to a large degree theorized from these revolts. First: Individuals have the
capacity to reason. Second: If humans have the capacity to reason, then they also have the capacity to act on their thoughts. Perhaps most liberating, a third idea arose: If people can think and act on their own initiative, then it literally stands to reason that they can potentially think through and act on notions of the good society. They can innovate; they
can create a better world.
A host of Enlightenment thinkers offered bold new conceptions of social

organization, drawn from practice and yet articulated in theory, ranging from individual rights to self-governance. Technological advancements in printing facilitated the relatively widespread dissemination of this written material for the first time in human history via books, pamphlets, and periodicals. New common social spaces like coffeehouses, public libraries, and speakers’ corners in parks allowed for debate about and the spread of these incendiary ideas. None of this ensured that people would think for themselves, act for themselves, or act out of a concern for humanity. But what was at least theoretically revolutionary about this Copernican turn was that before then, the vast majority of people largely didn’t believe in their own agency or ability to self-organize on such an interconnected, self-conscious, and crucially, widespread basis. They were born,

for instance, into an isolated village as a serf with the expectation that they’d live out their whole lives accordingly. In short, that they
would accept their lot and the social order as rigidly god-given or natural—with any hopes for a better life placed in the afterlife.
Due to the catalytic relationship between theory and practice, many people gradually embraced these three Enlightenment ideas, leading to a host of libertarian ideologies, from the religious congregationalisms to secular republicanism, liberalism, and socialism.
These new radical impulses took many forms of political and economic subjugation to task, contributing to an outbreak of revolutions throughout Europe and elsewhere, such as in Haiti, the United States, and Mexico. This revolutionary period started around 1789 and lasted until about 1871 (reappearing in the early twentieth century).

Anarchism developed within this milieu as, in “classical” anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s words, the “left wing” of socialism. Like all socialists, anarchists concentrated on the economy, specifically capitalism, and saw the laboring classes in the factories and fields, as well as artisans, as the main agents of revolution. They also felt that many socialists were to the “right” or nonlibertarian side of anarchism, soft on their critique of the state, to say the least. These early anarchists, like all anarchists after them, saw the state as equally complicit in structuring social

domination; the state complemented and worked with capitalism, but was its own distinct entity. Like capitalism, the state will not “negotiate” with any other sociopolitical system. It attempts to take up more and more governance space. It is neither neutral nor can it be “checked and  balanced.” The state has its own logic of command and control, of monopolizing political power. Anarchists held that the state cannot be used to dismantle capitalism, nor as a transitional strategy toward a noncapitalist, nonstatist society.
They advocated an expansive “no gods, no masters” perspective, centered around the three great concerns of their day—capital, state, and  church—in contrast to, for example, The Communist Manifesto’s  assertion that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” It’s not that anarchists didn’t take this history seriously; there were other histories, though, and other struggles—something that anarchism would continue to fill out over the decades.

As many are rediscovering today, anarchism from the first explored something that Marxism has long needed to grapple with: domination and hierarchy, and their replacement in all cases with greater degrees of freedom. That said, the classical period of anarchism exhibited numerous blind spots and even a certain naïveté. Areas such as gender and race, in which domination occurs beyond capitalism, the state, and the church, were often given short shrift or ignored altogether. Nineteenth-century

anarchism was not necessarily always ahead of its day in identifying various forms of oppression. Nor did it concern itself much with ecological degradation.
Of course, comparing classical anarchism to today’s much more sophisticated understanding of forms of organization and the myriad types of domination is also a bit unfair—both to anarchism and other

socialisms. Anarchism developed over time, theoretically and through practice. Its dynamism, an essential principle, played a large part in allowing anarchism to serve as its own challenge. Its openness to other social movements and radical ideas contributed to its further unfolding. Like any new political philosophy, it would take many minds and

many experiments over many years to develop anarchism into a more full-bodied, nuanced worldview—a process, if one takes anarchism’s
initial impulse seriously, of always expanding that worldview to account for additional blind spots. Anarchism was, is, and continually sees itself as “only a beginning,” to cite the title of a recent anthology.
From its beginnings, anarchism’s core aspiration has been to root out and eradicate all coercive, hierarchical social relations, and dream up and establish consensual, egalitarian ones in every instance. In a time of
revolutionary possibility, and during a period when older ways of life were so obviously being destroyed by enormous transitions, the early anarchists were frequently extravagant in their visions for a better world. They drew

on what was being lost (from small-scale agrarian communities to the commons) and what was being gained (from potentially liberatory technologies to potentially more democratic political structures) to craft a set of uncompromising, reconstructive ethics.

These ethics still animate anarchism, supplying what’s most compelling about it in praxis. Its values serve as a challenge to continually approach the dazzling horizon of freedom by actually improving the quality of life for all in the present. Anarchism always “demands the impossible” even as it tries to also “realize the impossible.” Its idealism is thoroughly pragmatic. Hierarchical forms of social organization can never fulfill most
peoples’ needs or desires, but time and again, nonhierarchical forms have demonstrated their capacity to come closer to that aim. It makes
eminent and ethical sense to experiment with utopian notions. No other political philosophy does this as consistently and generously, as
doggedly, and with as much overall honesty about the many dead-ends in the journey itself.
Anarchism understood that any egalitarian form of social organization,

especially one seeking a thoroughgoing eradication of domination, had to be premised on both individual and collective freedom—no one is free unless everyone is free, and everyone can only be free if each person can

individuate or actualize themselves in the most expansive of senses. Anarchism also recognized, if only intuitively, that such a task is both a constant balancing act and the stuff of real life. One person’s freedom necessarily infringes on another’s, or even on the good of all. No common good can meet everyone’s needs and desires. From the start, anarchism asked the difficult though ultimately pragmatic question: Acknowledging this self-society juggling act as part of the human condition, how can people collectively self-determine their lives to become who they want to be and simultaneously create communities that are all they could be as well?
Anarchism maintains that this tension is positive, as a creative and inherent part of human existence. It highlights that people are not all alike, nor do they need, want, or desire the same things. At its best, anarchism’s basic aspiration for a free society of free individuals
gives transparency to what should be a democratic processes. Assembly decision-making mechanisms are hard work. They raise tough questions. But through them, people school themselves in what could be the basis for collective self-governance, for redistributing power to everyone. More crucially, people self-determine the structure of the new from spaces
of possibility within the old.
Anarchism gives voice to the grand yet modest belief, embraced by people
throughout human history, that we can imagine and also implement a wholly marvelous and materially abundant society.
That is the spirit of anarchism, the ghost that haunts humanity: that our lives and communities really can be appreciably better.
And better, and then better still.




Biologically speaking, there’s no such thing as race. As hard as they’ve
tried, scientists have never been able to come up with an adequate
definition of it. Yet the social and political effects of race are very real.
Race is like a dollar bill—a human creation rather than a fact of nature
that has value only because people say it does. And like money, people
give race “value” because it serves a function in society. That function
in the United States is to suppress class conflict.
In the United States, the system of race (what we now call “white supremacy”) emerged in the late 1600s to preserve the land and power of the wealthy. Rich planters in Virginia feared what might happen if indigenous tribes, slaves, and indentured servants united and overthrew them. Through a series of laws, they granted the English poor certain rights and privileges denied to all persons of African and Native American descent: the right to be excluded from enslavement, move about freely without a pass, acquire property, bear arms, enjoy free speech and assembly, change jobs, and vote. For their part, they respected the
property of the rich, helped seize indigenous lands, and enforced slavery.

In accepting this arrangement, the English poor (now called “whites”) went against their class interests to serve their “racial” ones, and thereby reinforced the power of the rich.

This cross-class alliance between the ruling class and a section of the
working class is the genesis of white supremacy in the United States. It
continues to this day. In this system, members of the cross-class alliance get defined as white, while those excluded from it are relegated to a “not-white” status. By accepting preferential treatment in an economic system that exploits their labor, too, working-class members of the white group or “race” have historically tied their interests to those of the elite rather than the rest of the working class. This devil’s bargain has undermined freedom and democracy ever since.
As this white alliance grew to include other ethnicities, the result was

a curious form of democracy: the white democracy. In the white democracy, all whites were considered equal (even as the poor were subordinated to the rich and women were subordinated to men).

At the same time, every single white person was considered superior to every single person of color. It was a system in which whites had an interest in and expectation of favored treatment, in a society that claimed to be democratic. It was democracy for white folks, but tyranny
for everyone else.
In the white democracy, whites praised freedom, equality, democracy,

hard work, and equal opportunity, while simultaneously insisting on higher wages, preferential access to the best jobs, informal unemployment insurance (first hired, last fired), full enjoyment of civil rights, and the right to send their kids to the best schools, live in the nicest neighborhoods, and receive decent treatment by the police. Even white

women, who were otherwise denied full citizenship, enjoyed the benefits of white democracy, such as the right to legal representation, favored access to certain occupations (teaching, nursing, and clerical work), easier access to better housing (including indoor plumbing, heat, electricity, and time-saving household appliances), and/or the all-important guarantee that their children would never be enslaved.
In exchange for these “public and psychological wages,” as W.E.B. Du Bois

called them, whites agreed to enforce slavery, segregation, genocide, reservation, and other forms of racial oppression. The result was that working-class whites and people of color were oppressed because the working class was divided. The tragic irony is that many poor whites often did not get to make use of these advantages, yet despite this, they defended them bitterly.

The white democracy continues to exist, even after the end of slavery

and legal segregation. Take any social indicator—graduation rates, homeownership rates, median family wealth, prison incarceration rates, life expectancy rates, infant mortality rates, cancer rates, unemployment rates, or median family debt—and you’ll find the same thing: in each category, whites are significantly better off than any other racial group. As a group, whites enjoy more wealth, less debt, more education, less imprisonment, more health care, less illness, more safety, less crime, better treatment by the police, and less police brutality than any other group. Some whisper that this is because whites have a better work ethic. But U.S. history tells us that the white democracy, born over four hundred years ago, lives on.

The white race, then, does not describe people from Europe. It is a social system that works to maintain capitalist rule and prevent full democracy through a system of (relatively minor) privileges for whites along with the subordination of those who are defined as not white. The cross-class alliance thus represents one of the most significant obstacles to creating a truly democratic society in the United States.

This is not to say that white supremacy is the “worst” form of oppression. All oppression is equally morally wrong. Nor is it to imply that if white supremacy disappears, then all other forms of oppression will magically melt away. It is simply to say that one of the most significant obstacles to organizing freedom movements throughout U.S. history has been the white democracy, and that it remains a major obstacle today.

In a global economy (and a global recession), corporate elites no longer
want to pay white workers the privileges they have historically enjoyed. Instead, they want to pay everyone the same low wages and have them work under the same terrible conditions.
Generally speaking, whites have responded to this attempt to treat them
like regular workers in two ways. One is through “multiculturalism.” This
approach, popular in universities and large corporations, seeks to recognize the equality of all cultural identities. This would be fine, except multiculturalism regards white as one culture among others. In this way, it hides how it functions as an unjust form of power. Multiculturalism therefore fails to attack the white democracy. It leaves it standing.
The other response is color-blindness, or the belief that we should
“get beyond” race. But this approach also perpetuates the white democracy, because by pretending that race doesn’t exist socially just because it doesn’t exist biologically, one ends up pretending
that white advantage doesn’t exist either. Once again, this reproduces white democracy rather than abolishes it.
There are right- and left-wing versions of color-blindness. On the Right,
many whites sincerely insist they aren’t racist but nonetheless support every measure they can to perpetuate their white advantages, including slashing welfare, strengthening the prison system, undermining indigenous sovereignty, defending the “war on drugs,” and opposing “illegal immigration.” On the Left, many whites assert that race

is a “divisive” issue and that we should instead focus on problems that “everyone” shares. This argument sounds inclusive, but it really maintains the white democracy because it lets whites decide

which issues are everyone’s and which ones are “too narrow.” It is another way for whites to expect and insist on favored treatment.
Multiculturalism and color-blindness (on the Right or Left) are no
solution to white supremacy. The only real option is for whites to reject the white democracy and side with the rest of humanity. Fighting prisons, redlining, anti-immigrant laws, police brutality, attacks on welfare (which are usually thinly disguised attacks on African Americans), and any other form of racial discrimination are valuable ways to

undermine the cross-class alliance. So are struggles to defend indigenous sovereignty, affirmative action, embattled ethnic studies programs in high schools and colleges, and the right for people of color to caucus in organizations or movements. All of these struggles—which people of color engage in daily, but whites only occasionally do, if at all—seek to

undermine whites’ interest in and expectation of favored treatment. They point out the way toward a new society.
We can see this in U.S. history, when fights to abolish the cross-class

alliance have opened up radical possibilities for all people. Feminism in the 1840s and the movement for the eight-hour day in the 1860s came out of abolitionism. Radical Reconstruction (1868–76) very nearly built socialism in the South as it sought to give political and economic power to the freedmen and women. The civil rights struggle in the 1960s not only overthrew legal segregation, it also kicked off the women’s rights, free

speech, student, queer, peace, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and American Indian
movements. When the pillars of the white democracy tremble, everything is possible. An attack on white supremacy raises the level of struggle against oppression in general.
Even today, the white democracy stands at the path to a free society like
a troll at the bridge. The task is to chase the troll away, not to pretend it doesn’t exist or invite it to the multicultural table. Of course, this doesn’t mean that people currently defined as white would have no role or influence in such a society. It only means that they would participate as individuals equal to everyone else, not as a favored group.
Political movements in the United States must make the fight against any
expression of white democracy an essential part of their strategies. The

expansion of freedom for people of color has always expanded freedom for whites as well. Abolishing white interests is not “divisive,” “narrow,” or “reverse racism.”

It’s the key to a free society.