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    Monday, October 22, 2012

    The Problem of the Biodegradibility of Revolution

    Monday, March 19, 2012
    Jim Macdonald
     
    Four years ago, I wrote an essay called Revolution of the Small: The Uselessness of Global Action and the Need to Take Local Action (Here in Bozeman, Montana). The main point of the essay was that a person's voice is only meaningful within the range where that voice can be heard. Actions where people try to speak beyond the immediacy of our senses (as when people vote, or buy consumer goods, or join national advocacy organizations) are not meaningful actions because each of our voices becomes such a small fraction of the entire whole. However, because all of our actions do have consequences that reverberate across the universe, it is possible to take local actions which have revolutionary consequences.

    I want to piggyback off of that essay to consider a complementary problem of revolution. Because the systems of oppression in our society are so large - global capitalism, global-scale environmental destruction, nuclear weapons, huge nation states - one cannot pretend that a small group in Montana can (or should) successfully pull off the destruction of these systems by ourselves. If we were somehow able to bring capitalism, for instance, to its knees, what would that say about us? Would it say we are damn effective? Or, rather would it say that either we had far more power than any small group of humans should possess, or that we just somehow happened on hitting a leverage point in the system that brought the whole thing tumbling down? We should think the second case more fortuitous except for this point - what next? What happens if the system just unexpectedly crashes down because of a random action somewhere? Are we suddenly to expect liberty and justice to spread throughout the land? Will the hierarchies of abuse simply be gone because the governing and economic systems were thrown into a momentary state of chaos? I would think not, if only because there would have been no cultural change in society. Where would the racists have gone? Would people stop trying to be greedy? Would people stop trying to get others to work in the new factories? Will others not try to get their hands on nuclear weapons?

    The truth is that revolutions of this type have happened occasionally in history. The most obvious example was in Russia, where the disaster of World War I finally was the impetus for many decades of radical movement-building to bring about the collapse of the tsar and eventually the rise of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. The ultimate autocratic society crashed and along with it its capitalist institutions. What replaced it? - autocracy and graft and persecution of anyone who did not tote the party line. Defenders of Bolshevism say that this was due to the pressure and ostracizing from the rest of the world, which necessitated the hardships and ugliness of autocracy, but if you read works like Emma Goldman's Disillusionment in Russia and Living My Life one will quickly realize that what happened in Soviet Russia was not at all a revolution and its horrors could not be explained simply by outside intervention. And, that was at the beginning. After many decades of Communist rule, it would be hard to say that the Soviet Union was anything akin to a transitional state to a revolutionary stateless society.

    So, even if you doubt your intuitions that a sudden collapse brought about by a few people would not provide the revolutionary change we seek, search through the sudden revolutions of history (from France to Russia to Egypt last year) and see what little such a view of revolution has accomplished.

    I want to note two points from this discussion. The first is that a small group of people by themselves cannot bring about a meaningful and lasting revolution. The second is that there is a problem in identifying what will bring about a meaningful and lasting revolution.

    If revolutions must begin with small groups of people, but that it must also involve many small groups of people so as to be large enough to take on the system, obviously this raises a lot of issues - many of them I cannot discuss here and frankly I cannot answer. How do small groups coordinate in a way that they can become big while activists work only within the small local context? That is another problem we will need to turn to in another discussion and one that people are discussing. The problem I want to get at, rather, is the notion of the size, scope, and form of a revolution. That is, revolutions must arise out of small groups (if my previous essay from four years ago is correct), but revolutions must be large enough to have any hope of being meaningful and lasting. What form should they take so that they will not simply be transfers of power from one large group to another?

    I call this the problem of biodegradability. That is, revolutions must be biodegradable in the way that the consumer products we use should be biodegradable. The power we use to take down the systems of abuse in society must not itself become the new power that lords over everyone else. The power must decompose and not quickly come back. Eventually, any manner of injustice may come back and rise again, and so let me be a little more precise. I think it is enough to be meaningful and lasting if it is not likely to come back during a generation of life, the span in which those who brought about the revolution can live freely without imposing or being imposed upon in any essential way by someone else (that is yet another question we cannot delve into in this essay in any meaningful way and is another huge question). What can bring this about? What allows for small groups of people to band together to take on global power structures that just as quickly fade away?

    One controversial thing I'll say to start is that I think that this sort of revolution must then exclude the notion of an armed revolution. It is not necessarily to say that guns need fade away or be eradicated. The truth is; it's hard to see that happening. It is to say that the use of guns cannot be the power that produces revolutionary change. The reason for this seems simple to my mind. If guns are the power that produces revolution, does the power dissipate once the goal has been accomplished? Does not power now reside in those who used the guns to bring about the change? Why should we not expect a new Soviet Union? Why should we call this revolution? We will have killed people; will we have killed a system of hierarchy?

    This again is not to say that guns will be gone; the point here is one about power. What power is used to bring about change such that when it is finished, it too is finished? Revolution may in that way be seen more like a cancer on the system. Once the body is killed by cancer, there isn't something left over called cancer that rules the now lifeless body. It too is gone, and the body rots into the earth.

    What kind of power then eats at the system but is gone as soon as the system is gone? This is another reason to suggest that revolutions must be led by small groups of people. However, it is not any kind of small group of people. They must be small groups of people who do not function like the hierarchical systems that they resist against - that is, small groups of people who work on principles of consensus and mutual aid function in respect and solidarity with one another. If their actions are directed against abuses in the system, and those small groups are multiplied enough, then the cumulative effect of their actions should matter. If for instance, everyone opted out of the banking system AND worked on creating systems of material aid and support that worked within their very small community, then you would not only be hurting the system but also you would be doing so in a way that was culturally different. If things fall apart, then that small group has been developing the means to care for each other's basic needs. Revolution, then, is a simultaneous effort of large numbers of small groups taking direct action against leverage points in the system while developing and caring for the particular material needs of a group in a non-hierarchical, non-oppressive manner.

    Now, that sounds highly unlikely even if I cannot understand how it would be impossible. It may be why I would have trouble finding actual examples of revolution in history. However, it is not impossible. I challenge anyone to show me the contradiction in the model proposed. I do not find one, but I admit that I have no idea how you are going to have a movement so large composed of so many smaller groups of people working on a culturally just model who simultaneously take actions against the overarching system. Yet, that to me seems exactly what is required. It requires taking actions at a local level, not knowing whether anyone will be doing the same in sufficient mass, and doing so on a non-hierarchical model. Wow ... but is it any wonder that history is the sad story of humanity run amok?

    What's more, is it any reason not to work for it? The truth is, all of us are better off even if revolution remains elusive to try to go down this route. We will have greater voice the degree to which we engage each other within the range of our actual voices. We will be better off if we find ways to take care of each other. We will be better off if we force the powers that control the system to spend resources to try and quash us. It may not be enough for everyone and our world, but what other choice is there, really? Why should we expect a quick and easy solution? We want a magic bullet, but that is a large part of our problem. We want to get rid of the powers that abuse us, but we think that happens by some quick and aggressive power? This does not involve any meaningful revolution; it will only produce new devils.

    Right now, I'm reading about Alexander Berkman, who spent 14 years in prison for attempting to kill Henry Clay Frick during the Homestead steel lockout in 1892. Berkman saw what he was doing as an attentat, a violent act of propaganda, not so much against Frick, but against the system that Frick represented. Frick would die, and the people might see the power they possess through that act. The truth is that Frick didn't die, but even if he had, all that was likely to happen was that Frick would have been replaced. Even if somehow the act of propaganda had served its purpose and the strikers managed to win a pitched battle against Pinkertons and the militia at Homestead would see themselves suddenly as proletarians (somehow fully understanding the import of Berkman's act), why should we imagine that anything is likely to have changed in Western Pennsylvania? I wonder if ultimately that is the lesson that Berkman would have to learn the hard way when he too became disillusioned in Russia so much so that he wrote a book called The Bolshevik Myth.

    If we shoot and hit or shoot and miss, that means nothing. What matters is that we do something that has the potential for revolution. We won't get there by traveling to the seat of abuse where no one knows us and doing something where our voice will fall flat. Action must begin for me here in Bozeman and project at the tentacles of power that reach here. From there, you have to build growing overlapping circles of smaller groups, and then you have to hope. That's all we can do; if we really want profound change, we must toil and be workers. Revolution will come if and only if a critical mass embraces that cultural change.

    A lot has gone unsaid, and I hope that there is a path that is somewhat easier than the one I have outlined. At this point, I'll throw it out for discussion, particularly within the smaller groups in which I actively engage.

    Region: 

    Comments

    i would like to start i agree in general. revolutions indeed need to start with small groups of people, that because of our end goal (anarchy) these groups must be unhierarchical as well as there associations with other groups being nonhierarchical, that these groups need to orginize both against the current system and for the future system, and that a violent end to the leadership of the current system would in no way help create the future system.

    "If for instance, everyone opted out of the banking system AND worked on creating systems of material aid and support that worked within their very small community, then you would not only be hurting the system but also you would be doing so in a way that was culturally different. If things fall apart, then that small group has been developing the means to care for each other's basic needs."

    i think this banking example is a perfect one to illistarte how i feel about a wide variety of aspects of these issues. first, this quote states that we need to BOTH opt out of the current banking system as well as set up an alternative, this is very neccessary. i would go as far as to say that you could almost work from the other side more, that is to say that if you created an alternative banking system that would in fact be a blow to the current banking system. i think the last part of the sentence is also very revealing. we need to be caring for our own/communities BASIC needs. we need to provide a system to attain the things that are necessary to life, food, water, shelter. once our society has covered these needs, then and only then, can we move up the needs pyrimiad. this is part of the reason guns will be ineffactive in establishing change; while they could rest power they provide no sustenance of themselves for a future society. finally, i would bring a critizism against the occupy bozeman wells fargo divestment idea speciafically. (understanding it was not specificaly mentioned here it works well for my illistartion) When i first started hitting on the social revolution idea, only a few  months ago, i took a few actions that i thought i could personally take that would help change the world, i starting buying local organic food, sweat-shop free clothing, i stopped shopping at mojor corporations, and i divested from wells fargo. these were all acts that i was able to accomplish alone. when i saw occupy bozeman was starting a divestment campain against wells fargo it left me with the feeling that instead of telling people to take there money out of wells fargo (a one sided action) that they should instead be discussing what a world would look like that they wanted to live in and if that world did not include wells fargo, then it would be on each person to remove their money from corrupt institutions. i can see how the divestment campeign is such outreach but if this is true then it is overly spcific. if the people taking money out of wells fargo dont understand why they have done, and understand systemicly, then there action will only have the effect of hurting wells fargo but not of building a lasting future society without corrupt banks. previously Jim published a article the pointed out that critizism with no solution is not helpful so i will add to my previous statment by saying that instead of a divestment campaign we should be having community meeting in which we discuss the philosophical, political, social needs of the people around us, and thedirection they would like to see these issues taken then and only then, can we begin to take the actions necessary to addresss the problems. in a way i think this has been the problem we have expierenceed with the indy media group and its lack of interest outside of a core group of commited individuals. when we started the indy media site, we (the core member of the collective) all thought it was a very good idea but there was not a demand for it from the community at large. in a way we addressed a problem that did not exist. we are struggling  for content on our local media site because there may not be enough content to warrant a devoted local website. this is not to say we should stop, i use the site all the time and i really like it and would miss it dearly if it was gone but i understand how the rest of the community feels about. i also understand that it is party an issue of people not know about the site but i dont want to get into all that now, just making the point about addressing needs that are clearly axpressed. in the end i keep coming back to the need for the group to understand its goals. we have never really talked to each other about what a utopian society would look like, what a passable society would look like, or even what we think america shoud look like tomorrow. we dont know what the most important issues in each others lives are, we dont know who is suffering and from what. i think that philosophy, political, social discussions are the most effictive way address this issue and it would also be the first step on the revolutionary path.

    thanks for reading all that BS if you did,
    Mike D

    Hey Mike,

    I made it through all the "B.S."  I think there is something to what you are saying, though like anything important, it's complicated.

    Occupy Bozeman has not come up with a positive constructive purpose (besides vague ideas like - "go local") for very good reason; consensus in the group simply doesn't exist.  I don't think, however, that that makes action premature.  Part of creating a different culture shouldn't always be analyzed in terms of the positive complementary to an act of resistance.  Huh?  What do I mean?  I mean that in my essay above, I argue that we should get out of big banks and build some sort of alternative community-based banking, as an example of simultaneously fighting the system while creating the cultural change we need.

    But, what if it so happens, that the community can agree on the source of a problem but cannot agree on a solution to it?  Should that paralyze action?  I'd argue that it need not if the process of resistance represents a distinct cultural shift.  In this case, I'd argue that it does.  Look at what we have in Occupy Bozeman - we have liberals, we have Communists, we have anarchists, we have people who are all over the map or who defy categories.  It is no wonder that solutions are really almost impossible to come by - you aren't simply going to change worldviews.  Yet, the process of Occupy is anarchistic.  There is no organizational hierarchy; in fact, hierarchy is fiercely opposed.  You have embracing diversity of tactics, of direct action, of the basic problem that results in class war.  As an anarchist, I feel extremely at home with the process, even if I don't fully understand all the motivations and drives of my various colleagues - which is why I think a lot of anarchists actually have never fully embraced or quickly dropped out of occupy groups across the country (there is affinity of process without feeling affinity with the goals of the people in the group - this is a tragedy of avant garde elitism, I think).

    Does not the very process of resistance represent an extremely important step toward creating the communitarian culture that must rise among the ashes of of a collapsing system?

    I think so, and so I'd actually say it does little good actually to set forward a specific positive program.  Resistance is important; solidarity is important ... in those are the seeds for everything else.  If people build collectives or misguidingly use their savings to give to a candidate or do all kinds of things that are frankly inconsistent, none of this is particularly very important.  What's important is that people through the act of collegial resistance believe they have a voice and a community in which their voice and inspirations matter.  So, maybe I would have been better to make that point more explicit - it's what I really mean when I say that revolution is simultaneously resisting one while building another.  Obviously, though, part of building community is around basic needs - food, shelter, etc.  And, people should (and almost necessarily will) take seriously thinking of constructs that don't simply mimic the same abusive structures.  Yet, we can hardly expect that we will be able to get all our ducks in a row before we act.  It is the process of action and resistance, which drives conversation, which drives the lived experience that provide the metaphors that allow more rational and cohesive expressions of local action.

    The net result of this will never be utopian; it will always be messy.  The question is whether it's the abstract alienating mess we have now, or one that hits us directly through our senses.

    Anyhow, I'm sorry if that's a bit convoluted.

    I agree with a lot of what you say about the indymedia site.  I got involved with the project in large part because there were people already excited by it.  The truth is that media and networking has changed.  How hard is it to find a blog you can self-publish?  Everyone self-publishes over social media, and though much of it is inane, I don't know how you compete with that.  Indymedia is almost anachronistic as conceived; at most it can be a piece in a larger problem - which is very real - that we do not have truly common space with which to organize.  If we have that space, if we have that comradery, then we are going to want ways to stay in touch with our community.  Indymedia, then, is there to serve part of that purpose - particularly for substantive discussion.

    But, ultimately, it is a little forced.  What we really need to develop are strong notions of affinity (any chance you can stay in these parts?), of being close, of really seeing what it is we need to work on ... and how we can plug into it.  We cannot be selfish or self-indulgent; we don't have that bourgeois luxury.  So, it's not as though anything goes, and if we're not feeling it, we should drop away.  Nevertheless, it has to be truly useful.  Obviously, an online publication organ can be very useful, and it's here.  It's finished.  Now, what other pieces are missing such that this tool can actually be put to good use?  When we have space, that too will only be a tool - a tool toward what?  At that level, what we do in our collective is different from Occupy Bozeman.  Occupy artificially brings people together, but I sense real affinity of mind and spirit within indymedia.  We do need to develop those bonds intensely and think on a different level.  We have to be invested in each other's lives; that has to be part of the constructive purpose - and we have to have a clear mind on how we are going after the system.

    I think that's why some of us never saw this as a media project and why we had that discussion we had over the points of unity.

    Okay, I've rambled enough.  I hope to see you, soon.

    Cheers and solidarity,

    Your friend,
    Jim

    Jim, I particularly liked your idea of biodegradability.  I can imagine a similar analogy of making the revolution with "manufactured obsolescence," which would be something like a temporary State designed by experts in revolution.  (But then you have to buy something else?)  "Biodegradability" gets to the social ecology idea that environmental problems stem from social hierarchies.

    You bring up the idea about how we basically imagine revolution.  The word strikes the mind as sudden and totalizing - so most people are afraid of it - but it is defined by completeness.  As in, we make a revolution around the sun every year.  It is a turning over of the old, a cycling.  When we talk of making something new out of the capitalist order, we usually think of sudden change.  But we forget that capitalism, the most pervasive revolution in recent history, was put together piece by piece within the feudal order.  Something will come after capitalism - what will it be?

    It reminds me of the IWW slogan "building the new society within the shell of the old."  (And we know the IWW was not afraid to take sudden action.)  Doing the long, slow work in a place does not have the flare of "revolution," but is maybe more revolutionary in that a group of people actually constructs the alternative they want to live in.

    Yes, when I use biodegradability, I am certainly conscious of the ecological overtones.  The anarchists of the 19th and much of the 20th century were almost exclusively humanists, products of the intellectual fervor of their times.  In my academic studies in philosophy, I never came across or was introduced to any of the anarchist "philosophers" not because they were anarchist - no one in a philosophy program particularly fears studying anything - but because there was little fundamentally in them that you could not find in Hegel, Kant, or Hume before them.  In reading Bakunin recently and glancing over Kropotkin, I can understand why my professors didn't teach us these works like they taught other classics.  I have a lot of trouble understanding how people can grasp a huge insight in anarchism that property rights are a sham without understanding in the least where the theory of "rights" originates - and how the whole thing is a sham.  There is a liberalism that pervades humanism, and so the understanding that human entitlement over nature is also a hierarchy that hurts human freedom, definitely heightens my desire to use ecological metaphors.

    I like what you say about conceiving of revolution as a complete change - the full turn of the wheel.  Obviously, we don't mean the word simply in terms of the revolution of a wheel - "what goes around comes around" - as that would suggest that revolution was futile.  It would be a turning, ending back at the same place, perhaps a little later or a little further down the road.  Revolution rather puts emphasis on the motion, though the word is nominalized into a noun form.  The world turns is about the world, but revolution puts emphasis on the activity of moving.  However, it is not simply about a moment in the moving; it describes the entire movement.  Obviously, there are lots of moments we experience over a year - the revolution of the earth around the sun.  What makes revolution particularly significant is the emphasis on the dynamism of reality.  We move; we act; we play; we sing; we dance.  It's not about the relationship of who we are in terms of who we are not, but in what we are doing.  Revolution.  It is the stilted word signifying everything that moves in our reality.  So, it must involve movement and be focused on movement; that it comes back to where it started is to miss the point.  All that means is that the action is complete; that motion has happened - what makes it different from the status quo?

    I wax poetic, I realize - calling on my inner Heidegger ... but part of the paradigm shift away from hierarchy I think is the refusal to see where we are and who we are in respect to everything else to one where we think about what it is in life we want to do.  We do not impose a machine on it all; we give up the activity of stifling activity into arbitrary boundaries.  Doesn't that involve a shift in thought away from what we are into terms of doing - of living, of smelling, of breathing, of love?  Revolution needs to be a consideration of motion - not in terms of away and to (that will just lead us to notice that we are spinning in circles) but in terms of how and why.  Capitalist society is no way to live - with its castes, its exploitation, its abuse of everything, its atomistic parceling of property ... how do we resist it?  Why do we resist it?  And, what will we do to rediscover the fullness of our nature - not simply as cogs in a machine, but as children playing in grand wonders that we are blessed with in this region.  Children play now, you might say?  No, their play is harnessed to feed the grotesque inequities; only some children play.  Only some seem to breathe freely.  We know we can't even camp in the park.  We choke on the air.  Our play is crippled in ways most hardly begin to realize.  We must act; we must play; we must revolve (not evolve - the passive changing of time due to nothing more than genetic drift).  Revolution is a word worth thinking about; it is the stinking of a skunk, the hailing of the sky ... the kissing of lovers ... where the context is allowed to be those sweet and simple acts and nothing more.  Yet, we know we aren't there, and so we also need vague abstract concepts (freedom, revolution, hierarchy) ... these tools still available to us in capitalist society allow us to break out from within ... to use our unnatural weapons of abstraction to wreak havoc from within in - we just need to make sure those weapons don't come with us when the dirty deed has moved on.

    By the way, there's also a discussion of this essay at http://www.occupycafe.org/profiles/blogs/the-problem-of-the-biodegradibility-of-revolution , though I honestly am having trouble understanding where all the comments are coming from!  If anyone can make sense of some it, please do so ... (though I think my efforts here might be equally as foggy, I'm afraid!)

    First Jim,

    i would like to say we will have to have this as a vocal discussion at the collective potluck. that would allow a much easier back and forth as well as provide the other collective member the oppurtunity to participate as well. ok, here goes...

    "I argue that we should get out of big banks and build some sort of alternative community-based banking, as an example of simultaneously fighting the system while creating the cultural change we need."

    i think mostly i am trying to say that often the act of pursuing an alternative system is inherently an act of resistence against the currrent system. the act of creating an alternative banking system implies the act of removing funds from the current banking system(i understand it doesnt, you could take part out, but i think this is being overly specific to the banking senerio and not the point i was making.). i agree that we need both, i only think it is easy to come up with the resistence half of our actions and the alternative system part is much harder. mostly i think i am saying the same thing as you.

    But, what if it so happens, that the community can agree on the source of a problem but cannot agree on a solution to it?  Should that paralyze action?  I'd argue that it need not if the process of resistance represents a distinct cultural shift.  In this case, I'd argue that it does.  Look at what we have in Occupy Bozeman - we have liberals, we have Communists, we have anarchists, we have people who are all over the map or who defy categories.  It is no wonder that solutions are really almost impossible to come by - you aren't simply going to change worldviews.  Yet, the process of Occupy is anarchistic.  There is no organizational hierarchy; in fact, hierarchy is fiercely opposed.  You have embracing diversity of tactics, of direct action, of the basic problem that results in class war.  As an anarchist, I feel extremely at home with the process, even if I don't fully understand all the motivations and drives of my various colleagues - which is why I think a lot of anarchists actually have never fully embraced or quickly dropped out of occupy groups across the country (there is affinity of process without feeling affinity with the goals of the people in the group - this is a tragedy of avant garde elitism, I think).

    while it is undeniable that the orginization of occupy is anarchistic, i would say, from my admittedly very outsider perspective, that while most people in occupy think an anarchistic orginization is ok for the relativly insubstantialevents of occupy, in comparision with the other events in there lives (ie kids, work, school), but that anarchistic orginization is not the way to run a "state", business, or almost any other part of their lives, and that this is escpecially true in the smaller occupy of bozeman.

    i would finally like to concede that i often suffer from the avant garde elitism that you mentioned and am trying to understand the necessitie of involving the community at large as best i can manage at the moment.

    "I think so, and so I'd actually say it does little good actually to set forward a specific positive program."
    "Yet, we can hardly expect that we will be able to get all our ducks in a row before we act."

    this i think has been one a major sticking points in most comments we have shared on here. i have been very much for a "start your own town" style of revolution and you put more emphasis on remaining within the current society and building out of that. i think my position has been slightly over stated. that is to say that i think we should participate in this society when ours is not better. for example, we should have a community garden and should share the produce of said garden amongst the caretakers of the garden. while this will not provide all the food we will need it would be a start, a step in the right direction. this could later be expanded to provide a larger percentage of our food as our skills grow or we aquire more space. also this garden could begin to trade with other gardens for produce we either havnt the skill to produce or that comes from a different climate. food that we require that can not be produced in this fashion will continue to be purchased in the normal fashion. this would have the two fold effect of both creating a sustainable system for the post revolution era as well as take money out of the hands of giant grocers.

    "The net result of this will never be utopian; it will always be messy."

    i was really only trying to list the possible states the world could or could not exist in and what people views of them were so as to show how much we dont know about each other. even though a utopian society could not exist, i still dont know what or how other people view it not existing. i really shouldnt have used the word "utopian", it is a troublesome word.

    as to the indymedia group, i felt bad writing that because i didnt want to be discouraging. the collective has been a huge boon to my understanding of the activist world/community/philosophy and while i will be moving to oregon i will stay current with the site and our communities will have to cooperate. (currently, the state laws are forcing me to leave the state)

    in relation to the graden/food coop idea.i forgot to add, that although i think this is the correct action for me, and i hope the corect action for at least a small group of people, i do not think that it is the only way or that it should be required that others follow the example. i noticed that as a child when i watch my parents do something without there knowledge i would want to act like them but contrastingly if i was told to do something, even if my parents seemed to enjoy it, i would resist because the decision was not my own. i think we can be like the first example, have a community that is successful in fulfilling our physical needs and that also provides a happier way of life, that others will wish to join because they see the fruits of our lifestyle.
    sorry about this random note, just felt the need to clear up that position.

    Mike,
    I know we will talk more in person.  I just wanted to say that your views strike me as somewhat similar (though probably not exact) to what I read in Proudhon (the first person to call himself an "anarchist" even if I don't think his ideas are particularly the same as what would come to be called anarchism).  Proudhon was what he called a "mutualist," which partly arose from his belief that property did not belong to the state or to society but rather belonged to the individual laborer (not sure if that reflects your view - it may not; I personally hate it), but more to what strikes me, mutualism tended to call for decentralized associations to function on their own via contracts.  Rather than an open rebellion against the central state, the mutualist would simply begin creating the new society.

    Generally, anarchists have held that this is not good enough.  Creating alternative structures within or apart from the existing society without an open resistance to it is either ineffectual or works to prop up the existing society.  Developing a commune - for instance - apart from open resistance to the mechanisms of the state only exists at the privilege of the state.  It can be crushed at any time.  If it profits without interference, then it is only an aid to state power.  While everyone else toils, only those with the privilege to be different profit, and their profit comes at the expense of those who cannot.  It serves the propaganda of the state to say, "Look at these people who we do not harrass."  The Amish have something of this existence, but they profit from their wares in the markets.  Where they merely subsist and are allowed to subsist, the rest of society does not benefit from their labor.  To that extent, the commune only props up the authority of the state.
    That is why there is often a twin insistence - that communal or collective (depending on your brand of anarchism) life must also work as a revolutionary force against all forms of hierarchal power that humans use.  That is you must develop the alternative and resist, without which you have no hopes of destroying hierarchy.  In syndicalist theory, the idea is that as workers increasingly control the means of production while simultaneously hurting the uber structure of the state through direct action and general strikes, that power disappears (becomes obsolescent - to use the term mentioned in the comment above) the moment the system crashes because production will belong to the workers themselves.  I think that begins to get us to the idea of biodegradability that I'm talking about, though perhaps not all the way there.  How the people organize, coordinate, and consider the task at hand makes all the difference.

    That goes some way toward why the "start your own town" approach is only half of the anarchist equation - something akin to what Proudhon was suggesting, I suppose.  We must start our own gardens, of course, must consider ways of conceiving and solving the problem of basic economic needs.  Nevertheless, we cannot do that as a world apart; there is no such thing to an anarchist.  The class struggle doesn't only exist for us and our friends - that is a bourgeois notion, if ever there was - but everywhere that hierarchy exists - we are all connected that way.  So we must revolutionize within - not by fixing or reforming - but by simultaneously destroying and creating.

    There is no existing apart - you should know my views on that (that these so-called external relations of societies to Society always produce the third man argument).

    We'll talk more, soon!
    Resistance and solidarity,
    Jim

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