My political compass has always leaned left but, truth be told, it hasn't always leaned against the state. I was a teenage anarchist but somewhere along the road to adulthood I fell off that wagon and out of love with black flags and Molotov cocktails. I became a democratic socialist before I went full Bolshevik and became a fist-throwing communist. It's only recently, over the last several years, that I've come full circle and rediscovered my anti-statist roots. Yes, dearest motherfuckers, I have fallen back in love with anarchism and it really is even better than the first time. But in order to really understand why you have to understand where I've been.
The one constant through out my political journey has been Marx. I discovered the brilliant, bearded bastard in the oddest of places. In a seventh grade Catholic classroom Mrs. Williams taught us that Karl Marx stood against everything that America and the Catholic Church represented. Unfortunately for her, in those halcyon days of the Iraq War and my burgeoning queer-dom, that was the best sales pitch I had ever heard. That summer I bought a yellowed paperback copy of the Communist Manifesto from a church basement sale of all places and devoured it like a sacrament. I didn't understand every word but its homilies against the evils of empire and organized religion and the state that held it all together rang true. His calls for a Dictatorship Of The Proletariat however did not. So I kept looking for answers.
I found them in Chiapas where I first fell in love with anarchism. The Zapatista Army Of National Liberation, better known as the Zapatistas or the EZLN, were founded in the early/mid Eighties when a handful of North Mexican urban guerrillas traveled south to teach the Indians about Marx's dream of a post-state society only to discover that the natives were already living it. Together they developed a post-Marxist anarchist philosophy that was both brand new and centuries old. Neozapatismo, as it became known, preached that a truly communal society needn't rely on vanguardism or "temporary" dictatorships but could be better achieved through direct and leaderless democracy. They took this philosophy public in 1994 when the EZLN launched a largely symbolic and bloodless armed uprising in response to the devastation rought against agrarian Southern Mexico by NAFTA. Led by the daring and mercurial Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatistas were the gateway drug that introduced me to Che, Zapata, Bakunin and the Flores Magon brothers.
But my teenage tryst with anarchism proved to be short lived. Around the end of my senior year in high school I became infatuated with the rise of democratic socialism in South America known as the Pink Tide. Around the same time I also became overwhelmed by a series of devastating nervous breakdowns that caused me to lose a lot of the faith I once had in people and humanity as a whole. It took nearly a decade for me to realize the connection between the two. At a time when the world became a very uncomfortably chaotic place strong class warriors like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and the Kirchners became very appealing to me. But as my world continued to fall apart and I retreated further and further into myself, soon even the safety net of state socialism wasn't enough to sustain me.
I have always had a keen fascination with the Soviet Union. The adversary. The exotic dark horse. A superpower supposedly devoted to some notion of equality rather than conquest. During the darkest days of my twenties this fascination mutated into a strange form of Soviet nostalgia by proxy. At a time when I had nothing and nothing made sense, the idea of an orderly society where no one was rich but no one was left behind really turned me on. I use to dream about a simple life in Brezhnev Era Leningrad. Traveling home from some comfortably non-descript job at a railway depot on the Metro to my cozy fifth floor hovel in a suburban concrete Krushchyovka which I shared with my charming proletariat bride and our beautiful twin daughters (always twins, always daughters). Living a comfortably non-complex life straight out of 'The Irony Of Fate'. Getting drunk on Stoli. Getting fat on Pelmeni rations. Watching 'Nu, Pogodi!' on our tiny black and white TV. Celebrating New Years with our comrades at a local public banya. It sounds kind of twisted now but back then it was the only thing that made sense. A perfectly anti-American dream with little pink Dachas for you and me. Communism fit like a slipper at the bottom of a black hole.
Somehow, miraculously, I bounced back from rock bottom. I managed to claw my way out of that agoraphobic black hole and once my flesh tasted the blinding light of freedom my flirtation with communism soured rather quickly. I found it particularly hard to play red make-believe when I finally came to terms with my gender dysphoria and that there were plenty of days where I felt much more like a Nikita than a Nikolai which likely meant that the only dacha I would ever know in my formerly beloved USSR would be a padded cell in a sanitarium. But I'd always have Caracas, right?
Not so much. After years of struggling against every kind of American funded skulduggery imaginable and the suspiciously sudden death of my hero Hugo Chavez, the Bolivarian Revolution seemed to run out of steam. The very state that late democratic revolutionaries like Hugo and Nestor Kirchner had used to restore justice and equality to their impoverished nations was just as easily manipulated by their enemies to regain power and demolish everything they had worked so hard to achieve. I was forced to face the conclusion that it was the state itself that was the problem. Leaders came and went, some good, some bad, but as long as the state remained in tact the revolution could only be temporary at best. The Zapatistas had been right all along.
Just as I became painfully aware of how truly wrong I was, a new revolution came along that blew me away. A revolution that felt oddly familiar. Out in the dust-lands of the Levant, as the Wilson-era Pseudo-state of Syria disintegrated beneath the boots and truncheons of Uncle Sam's latest jihad Frankensteins, The regions long oppressed Kurdish population rose up and established a stateless society in what has become known as the Rojava Revolution. The seeds of this uprising where sewn by a fellow exiled ex-Marxist-Leninist who had become similarly disgruntled with the false promises of the state. From his prison cell on the Turkish Island of Imrali, veteran Kurdish revolutionary Abdullah Ocalan developed the anarchist philosophy of Democratic Confederalism which, just like Neozapatismo, saw centuries old tribal democracy as the best pathway to something roughly resembling Marxian utopia. Ocalan built the bomb behind bars but it took the brave pilgrims of Rojava to light the fuse and once again set my world on fire.
It's a little soon to know just how successful this new revolution will be and I'm more than a little uncomfortable with the fact that it's been infiltrated by American soldiers and Peshmerga nationalists, but Rojava has already survived ten times the blood and guts as the Bolsheviks and the Bolivarians combined, relatively speaking, and it has done so by doing the one thing that Lenin and Chavez lacked the courage and vision to do and that's trust the people. The Russian Revolution died the day the Bolsheviks banned the Soviets and the one piece of Chavez's dream likely to survive the fall of Bolivarianism are the autonomous communes he established in his countries poorest favelas. We'll never know for sure if these revolutions would have proven more successful if the strongmen who lead them had taken a leap of faith by trusting the people they were supposedly fighting for just a little bit more and loosening their grip on the reigns of power but at the very least they would have failed with a little more honor.
I turned to the state for comfort when I felt too crippled with fear to fight for the world I believed in and it is precisely this kind of fear that allows the state to flourish while true democracy suffocates on its fumes. Democracy takes work. Democracy requires the constant engagement of its citizenry to remain vital and it is only through this kind of full spectrum democracy that a better world is possible. And that's what anarchism is really all about, not black flags or Molotov cocktails, but democracy, unfiltered and unterrified. I know the sway that charismatic demagogues can wield, especially in times of fear and uncertainty. I've fallen victim to them myself. But you can't be given freedom like a brightly wrapped Christmas gift. You have to take it and embrace it every day. To paraphrase the late, great, syndicalist, Rudolf Rocker, I didn't fall back in love with anarchism because it's the final solution. I fell back in love with anarchism because I realized, that at least as far as I can see, there is no final solution.
It's never too late to go back home again, dearest motherfuckers, and your never too big to admit that you were wrong.
Peace, Love, Empathy and Anarchy- CH
P.S. This post is devoted to the loving memory of my former hero Justin Raimondo and all the other fine folks who lost their goddamn minds during the 2016 Presidential Election. Here's hoping for their speedy return to the light of sanity. We'll be here waiting with open arms and open hearts when they do.
Soundtrack: Some songs that influenced this post-
* Teenage Riot By Sonic Youth
* Bulls On Parade By Rage Against The Machine
* I Was A Teenage Anarchist By Against Me!
* I Fought The Law By The Clash
* Death Valley '69 By Sonic Youth
* The House That Heaven Built By Japandroids
* Testify By Rage Against The Machine
* What A Wonderful World By The Ramones