Friday, 19 December 2008

Can the anarchist movement finally gain momentum?

It has now been three months since the run on Northern Rock and the collapse of sub-prime mortgages led us into an economic crisis that has demonstrated the glaring flaws in the capitalist system, and now the so-called "credit crunch" is really starting to bite. This week, we have seen OPEC cut oil output by 2.2 million barrels per day as both prices and demand plummet, the decline of the pound against the Euro, unemployment rise by 137,000, a spending spree as Woolworths - one of Britain's most popular high-street names - goes bust, and central banks in the US and UK slash interest rates in a frenzy that is having little effect.

As panic and fear grips Wall Street and the City, however, the streets of the real world are feeling the first effects of a growing discontent amongst the working classes. In Athens, Greek students stormed a state television station and militant workers have occupied union offices in only the latest incidents of nation-wide unrest that - though ostensibly focused on the shooting of Alexandros Grigoropolous - has drawn upon widespread anger at the social, and particularly, economic policies of the incumbent government. With good reason, some commentators have dubbed these events "the first credit-crunch riots."

But underneath the anger spreading across Greece, there is the hint of something deeper and more tangible. Greece's anarchists have been at the forefront of the mass protests, and across the globe other anarchist communities have been quick to stage demonstrations of solidarity. Anarchists have, of course, always been at the heart of direct action by the Left, such as the labour, anti-war, anti-fascist, and global justice movements, but here we are presented with an opportunity for something more.

In Greece, and particularly Athens, there already exists a large, vocal, and organised community of anarchists. Across the rest of Europe, too, the numbers are significant enough to make an impact. Now, however, anarchist communities are consolidating and strengthening their organisation in places such as Turkey in response to events in Greece. There already exists a wide network of anarchist and libertarian-left groups across the planet who are active but underground. The hope is that now, they will make themselves known.

Anarchism is not about rioting, nor about simply being against various things. The ultimate goal of anarchists everywhere is to dismantle all illegitimate hierarchy and authority in favour of direct democracy, freedom, equality, and free association in a loose collective of decentralised, highly-organised, and autonomous communities. Anarchists are now presented with a fantastic opportunity to get this message out, to disseminate our ideas amongst a global populace disenfranchised with capitalism and authoritarianism, and to increase our numbers. It may even be possible, in areas such as Exarchia, to show the world what we mean in practice by undertaking anarchic social revolution as was done during the Spanish Civil War, though this would prove the most difficult and dangerous of tasks.

Most importantly, however, we must make our presence - and, most importantly, our politics - known to the wider working class constituency.