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  November 2005
volume 3 number 4
  home   (archived)
  center stage
Marie Lecrivain
Sarah Maclay: poet, teacher, and author of Whore
  editor at large
Marie Lecrivain
Fiction+Opinion=Fact: David Howard of Crackpot Press
Gene Justice
Rules of Engagement: What the Chinese Shuffle Teaches us about Poetry
Marie Lecrivain
Nessa O'Mahony's Trapping a Ghost
Laura A. Lionello
Periel Aschenbrand's the only bush i trust is my own
Aire Celeste Norell
Marv Wolfman's & Ted White's The Oz Encounter
Marie Lecrivain
L.A. Writers Recommend...part II
Marie Lecrivain
Ex Machina Press: Silent Voices Volume 1
Julia Bemiss
Social Anarchism: A Journal of Theory and Practice
Angel Uriel Perales
Ariel Robello's My Sweet Unconditional
Francisco Dominguez
Pat Patriot Riot?s Me & Pudd Part I
Francisco Dominguez
Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 3
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Julia Bemiss November 2005


Social Anarchism: A Journal of Theory and Practice

    For those who may mistakenly associate social anarchism with the clichéd assumption that it is the violent overthrowing of government institutions in favor of a lawless society, the journal defines social anarchism “As both political philosophy and personal lifestyle, (it) promotes community self-reliance, direct participation in political decision-making, respect for nature, and nonviolent paths to peace and justice.”
    The first feature article is “The Impasse in Israel/Palestine: Moving Forward Toward a Cooperative Commonwealth,” by Bill Templer. In it, he notes Israel and Palestine moving toward the concept of a shared, bi-national state, each nation giving up the dream of sole sovereignty. He mentions that many political commentators on both sides are in favor of such a structure, but that the ongoing Occupation distracts the government and inhibits further progress.
    He further discusses the politicians’ and commentators’ lack of plan for how such a state may be born, and ironically, has none of his own to offer based on his extensive research and can only point out what is hoped for.
    What is hoped for is a commune of sorts, a “community of communities” where “peoples’ groups” such as neighborhood and employee associations, cooperative housing associations, assembly halls, alternative schools, and locally controlled media outlets allow citizens to “participate in several communities simultaneously, thus enhancing their free choice and civil liberties,” as expressed by Ehud Tokatly. Tokatly, a “maverick populist decentralist” and novelist, imagines such a utopia in his book Neualtneuland (literally New-Old -Newland).
    It all sounds well and good, but the idea of a grassroots movement starting in the streets among everyday people that would swell toward a dynamic, shared, and democratic nation sounds more like the stuff of fanciful imaginings when there is no concrete blueprint outside of flowery platitudes and the idyllic notion of a single, unified utopia. Even the word “utopia” implies an unrealistic wish for a perfect nation state, bi-national or not.
    The article further loses focus when the author suggests mobilizing disparate groups as wide ranging as the animal rights group One Struggle and the Israeli gender political group Black Laundry, which unifies gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders against the Occupation.
    It seems to be an oversimplification to suggest that such fringe groups, as well as predetermined rallying cries (“khalas!” or “enough is enough”) and underground, journalistic, political comics could collude to topple a monolithic history of religious and political war and bloodshed. A more effective (and more difficult) strategy would be for social anarchists to infiltrate the government and the media, but to do so, the social anarchist movement would need to mainstream itself, bringing itself from the fringe to the middle ground without losing too much of its anarchist roots.
    The article proposes many ideas toward unification but does not follow up on the specific actions in which to achieve unification. There is a highlight, however, in the stories of West Bank villages in which Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals stand their ground to halt the bulldozing of their land for Sharon’s “Separation Wall,” but it is not clear if the stoppage is temporary or permanent. One thing is for sure: these sorts of stories of hope and progress do not get the same amount of media coverage, or any coverage at all, compared to the endless acts of successful suicide bombings, an unfortunate reality.
    Nonetheless, any attempt toward peace—no matter its success or failure, no matter its credibility—is not in vain. The article closes with a direct and poignant quote: “Be realistic and do the impossible, because if we don’t do the impossible, we face the unthinkable.”
    The article “The Anarchists, Zionism, and the Birth of the State of Israel” by Sylvain Boulouque, translated from the French by Jesse Cohn, is an historical account of the anarchist movement in the Middle East and Europe between the 1920’s and 1960’s and focuses on the birth of the State of Israel. It is a fascinating account on how we may learn from history; it is also a critique of America’s anarchist movements, which reflect the isolation of America itself. The U.S. does not have the expanse of anarchist history of countries like France or Spain; there are few translations from non-American anarchist texts to English but a wealth of translations from English to French and Spanish.
    Without the context of history or memory and without the knowledge gleaned from international perspectives, Boulouque lays bare America’s black-and-white view of Middle Eastern culture, religion, and politics. The result is as current as today’s headlines: an ongoing Gulf War and an American public increasingly frustrated with its president’s refusal to withdraw American troops and call an end to the allied occupation of Iraq.
    The pieces “The Anarchist Case for Moderation,” “We have met the Enemy and They Are Us,” and “The Matrix: Revolution or Simulacrum in Hollywood?” explore the application of anarchist theories and practice in technology, literature, and filmed entertainment.
    “Moderation,” author Prole Cat argues that television still reigns supreme despite the Internet because of television’s inability to “transmit.” In other words, television is pure reception and a swallowing of whatever the networks and advertisers want us to buy and believe. The Internet, on the other hand, receives and transmits; that is, if users are so inclined, they may build their own websites and web logs to further their causes, politics, and philosophies; it is the difference between using and being used by technology.
    In “Enemy,” author Bob Black explores the history of the role of the revolutionary and the concept of revolution in the classic anarchist text The Manual of Revolutionary Leaders, by Fredy Perlman. Perlman is a noted critic of anarchist thought and practice who pushes Marxism to a Marxist critique, a sort of self-referential argument that at times intentionally parodies itself regarding disorganization and its failure to seize state control. Perhaps the most piercing revelation, which eerily reflects today’s ever-pressing need to question our government and media institutions regardless of our political affiliations, is this:

    “The time to seize state power is when people have overcome their controllers but not yet their need to be controlled...For if people overcome their fear of freedom by continuing to act freely at the point of production and everywhere else, they are unlikely again to relinquish their self-powers, even to a revolutionary government.”

    In “Matrix,” author Sandra Jeppesen explores revolution and the revolutionary in the context of the cyber-punk genre. She contends that freedom from “the matrix” exists at the point when humans destroy the machines but also when an individual can achieve freedom of one’s mind, an important aspect of becoming a revolutionary. There is a balance between collective freedom (as in social anarchy) and individualism, though the author stresses it is the collective freedom that must be kept in mind.
    Jeppesen compares other Hollywood films to The Matrix, including a brilliantly scathing critique of Erin Brockovich, in which she clearly states the difference between films that employ revolutionary characters and those, such as Brockovich, which employ the (specifically American, capitalistic) portrayal of the hero:

    “Instead of questioning the power of corporations, or challenging their domination over individuals and the state, the film’s attitude to multinationals is that one person can go up against a corporate giant and win…There’s no challenge to the hierarchy or patriarchy…She gets her new SUV” from her male boss “and is able to move up in the world and out of poverty, but you can’t help feeling that she’s becoming exactly the kind of person who couldn’t or wouldn’t have helped the cancer-stricken families in the first place…Hollywood is heavily invested in heroes because it does somehow confirm and validate the status quo.”

    She goes on to state that revolution is more palpable in science-fiction genres that are situated in the distant past or future and not the present, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Terminator, films that are about very different worlds from our own, where “the revolution can succeed because it is not seen as a threat to the actual status quo.”
    The article overall is comprehensive and enlightening despite an undercurrent of cyber-punk fanaticism. One suspects the author is an aficionado of the film and the genre, which may or may not compromise her objectivity.
    A particular aspect the article does not seem to capture is that, despite The Matrix’s many positive philosophical and narrative views of or toward social anarchism, the film is still a vehicle for entertainment and lest we not forget, became a trilogy, pooling well over a half-trillion dollars gross from audiences worldwide. Who knew subtle and not-so-subtle references to revolution, the revolutionary, and a new social order—concepts imperative to social anarchistic thought and practice—could be so profitable? Whether or not audiences actually take the time to ponder their current governments and the possibility of envisioning alternative structures is of little consequence.
    The journal Social Anarchism also includes readers’ letters and authors’ responses, poetry, reviews, in-depth biographies of the current issue’s contributors, and even a column “Anarchists Write!” which invites readers to write on a broad array of topics having to do with social anarchism. Highly recommended, Social Anarchism is an intelligent, inquiring, and at times rigorously academic journal, but several articles are more than engaging for the layperson. It is a primer of sorts for those who may consider changing their politics or whom take an interest in politics on the whole, as well as those who have long since joined the movement.

Social Anarchism: A Journal of Theory and Practice, $6, published by the Atlantic Center for Research and Education, Baltimore, MD

copyright 2005 Julia Bemiss


Julia Bemiss

author's bio

Julia Bemiss has been published in the San Diego Reader Online, The San Diego Troubadour, WordSD, and in the anthologies for poeticdiversity and the Valley Contemporary Poets. She has featured and read at venues in Los Angeles and San Diego and self-published two chapbooks.