An Exploration into Characteristics and Colonialist Roots of White Anarchism
So what exactly is meant by White Anarchism?
Well if you call yourself an anarchist, chances are you know White Anarchism well. In fact its the status qou. Most anarchists of color see it clearly, whereas most white anarchists are completely oblivious to it.
In the U.S. and other western countries it is a very prevalent ‘anarchist’ narrative that is rooted in the western colonialist culture, imbedded with all of the implicit racial biases of eurocentric communist/socialist intellectualism.
Post colonial anarchist Rob White illustrates this point in a paper called ‘Post Colonial Anarchism’.
‘The full record shows that North American anarchists haven’t had much experience in maintaining long-term stateless, social formations. But they have produced theory and “analysis”- plenty of it. And it’s this busy intellectualism that has scorned and turned its nose up at our national struggles for liberation as “statist” and “reformist” while demanding that global south anti-authoritarians adopt anarchism’s workerist mantle or conform to some romantic notion of how pre-agricultural peoples lived. To help put this in context it’s important to look at the universalist underpinnings of the traditional anarchist worldview and how its adherents understand their movement in relation to other struggles around the non- European world’
He proceeds to explain how these anarchists push their universalism and also illuminates it’s intellectual connection to colonialism.
‘The rejection of nationalism by many North American anarchists is often an expression of a colonial mindset that requires all of the peoples of the world fighting for liberation to define their social selves in relation to the class war. In this war there are two classes- the workers and the ruling class. The downtrodden of the world are to see themselves as worker’
‘The embrace of universalism by anarchists has had a significant impact on their analysis of important issues and events. The interpretation of imperialism as an economically driven regime of capital and the view of nationalism as inherently retrograde and divisive owes a lot to the internal logic of universalism. If imperialism has as much to do with cultural hegemony or geo-political dominance as the capitalist market expansion and raw material exploitation of private business, then maybe an international workers revolution may not come first or be the most fundamental task before all the world’s oppressed. If nations and national liberation movements are not necessarily the statist antithesis of internationalism but represent just another social grouping of peoples with a common land, culture, and language, some of whom are willing to fight to maintain their ways of life, then maybe anarchists need to rethink their opposition to nationalism.’
‘European universalism has never truly been about the recognition of our common humanity. In practice it’s been about forcing the particular norms, prejudices and ideals of white, Christian cultures on the rest of the peoples of the earth, sometimes through economic domination, sometimes through cultural imperialism, sometimes through force’
‘Under this view the universality and primacy of the class struggle is a strategic necessity for the overthrow of the capitalist order. It’s not a conclusion that comes out of the study and analysis of the history, situation and cultures of all peoples. At this stage, anarchists, autonomists, abolitionists and anti-authoritarians of color can not afford to be swept up by theories that have never bothered to view non-white peoples as historical subjects. We are not mere props in the political stagecraft of white leftists’
This issue is not just a side bar to the issue of Anarchism and how it relates to the post colonial world and the rest of POC struggles but it is central to it. If White Anarchism cannot find a way of shedding the colonialist mindset then White Anarchists will continue to isolate themselves from the larger, global struggles for liberation.
These anarchists have the luxury of ideological purity from within thier relative positions of privilege.
They look down on the most marginalized communities and determine that the framing of their struggles are not consistent with their Ivory tower formulations of liberation.
The difficulty stems from an instance of asserting the primacy of the idealism of an anti authoritarian/anti statist ideology over practical liberation strategies and tactics.
So even a limited support of nationalistic or in some cases, even statist strategies, supported by the community and widely understood to be a matter of survival becomes, for the Saltine (White) Anarchist, an ideological matter of ‘not anarchist enough’. Supporters of these survival strategies, become ‘tankies’ and ‘authcoms’. These criticisms center around the continuity of these eurocentric intellectual anarchist traditions as formulated decades or even centuries ago from within the colonizers social construct. In reality they should be centered around the practical question of whether or not these strategies and tactics are improving the lives of these marginalised communities and bringing them closer to full liberation. Most importantly, the question any Anarchist should be asking is, ‘is the community expressing or asserting it’s right to self determination by the means of the strategy in question’. If the answer is yes, than no self respecting anarchist should have shit to say about it. Most especially if they do not come from within the community in question.
The bottom line is this. You either believe that Anarchism and it’s formulations of anti authoritarianism and anti statism are the absolute ends goals and proceed to elevate the process above all else OR you believe that Anarchism and it’s formulations are the best and most likely means to achieve the global liberation of all people’s and proceed to elevate the actual liberation of people’s above all other considerations.
Personally, I believe that liberation is the goal and Anarchism is just the most likely way to achieve that goal. This is why I am an anarchist. Anarchism is not my God or my Master. Is it yours?
White, Roger. “Post Colonial Anarchism Essays on Race, Repression and Culture in Communities of Color 1999-2004.” The Anarchist Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2017.