The Libertarian Labyrinth
Encounters with the Anarchist Idea / Tools for an Anarchist Entente
René Furth, (René Fugler), « The Anarchist Question »
René Furth, “La Question anarchiste,” Anarchisme et Non-violence 31 (octobre-décembre, 1972).
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]
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Anarchism is a permanent obstacle for the anarchist.
It scatters more than it gathers. It fritters away energies rather than concentrating them. It squanders its gains when what is necessary is to mobilize them for new acquisitions. Summary judgments and the remnants of old popularizations stand in for the methods of analysis and the precise knowledge that it lacks.
Instead of devoting the best part of our efforts to the struggle against capitalism and political power, we exhaust ourselves struggling to patch up and hold together our fragile means : groups, press, networks of communication. It is with great difficulty that we find the means to support ourselves on any kind of basis. The groups and organizations keep breaking up ; those that take their place slip despite themselves in the ruts dug by the predecessors — unless they refuse everything, and toss and turn, for a while, this way and that.
The majority of the publications are as ephemeral as they are little known. Their theoretical basis — when there is something that resembles a theoretical basis — remains unstable and ragtag. In the best of cases, they earnestly reframe the old questions : celles those that had been forgotten for fear of the challenges. Or else they inject into the little anarchist world some elements of research and analysis done elsewhere, which is certainly useful and only too rare.
to depart or to begin again ?
This complete lack of cohesion and continuity reduces the anarchist movement’s powers of attraction to such a point that it can only retain a minority of the minority that traverses its sphere of influence. The numerical insufficiency contributes in turn to the limited life span of the initiatives, the poor quality of the contributions and the resorption of the exchanges.
That penury does not only concern the “specific” milieu, the groups and formations that proclaim themselves libertarian. Those who identify their practice with a libertarian perspective, without associating themselves with the milieu — precisely because they observe its deficiencies and because they are wary of the confusion that tarnishes anarchism — would have everything to gain from the existence of a living movement : information, theoretical reflection, variety of experiences, contacts, stimulants (even in polemics).
It remains to be seen whether we must stick with this admission of failure. Many have done so and have left for revolutionary tendencies that offer them greater means, a coherent theory and a more stimulating intellectual climate. Others hang on, unmoved by the confusion and fragmentation, because all that interests them is the radicality of specific, ad hoc actions or the rough outline of a lifestyle. Let’s not speak of those who have ordained themselves the proprietors of an “inalienable anarchy,” anarchists of divine right and guardians of orthodoxy, assiduous above all to track down the deviations not provided for in the catalog of their ideological bric-à-brac. Let’s leave these dealers in second-hand goods to call the shots in their shops ; the innocents who stumble in there linger less and less.
If we want to put an end to this critical situation, the question arises : is anarchism condemned by its nature to fragmentation, to outbursts with no future, to vague ideologies ? If not, can it find within itself the unifying principles that would give it strength of conviction and power to intervene ?