Governments always overestimate what people will tolerate

From Chile to Hong Kong, through Catalonia to France — it has been kicking off everywhere. It all just needs a spark. What these events have in common is that they were all sparked by a government decision, of lesser or greater significance, but in all cases the States which did so thought they could get away with it, as they have done for decades until now.

These decisions have been inflicted on populations already massively oppressed by their living conditions, the politics of neoliberalism, and governments assumed that yet another form of oppression would go unnoticed because people already have a myriad of other daily life struggles to deal with and would just put up with yet another obstacle. That given a choice between striving for social change and their individual lives they would always chose the latter over taking care of their wider communities.

These assumptions were wrong, and now they are scrambling to contain mass, long-term protest movements which apparently took them by surprise. They deal with it, more often than not, with severe state repression. In Chile, for instance, the State quickly resorted to bringing the army to the streets in order to contain a protest movement which started due to its decision to raise ticket fares.

The question remains — who will be the ultimate beneficiary of this recent wave of protests across the World? Will it be the United States that, after a mix of repressions, divide and rule politics and token giveaways, somehow manages to contain it? Will it be the far-right with their populist policies? Or will these upheavals lead to long-lasting, positive and revolutionary changes to the world we all live in, the sort of changes we will be happy to support?

In the UK one may, perhaps optimistically, assume that with almost a decade of the Tory rule behind us that spark will eventually light. Right now, as always, it is impossible to predict what might cause it. One thing is however (almost) certain — it will happen, and once it does, the previous assumption that it was impossible will be laughable. Likely, as in many other places, it will be something seemingly minor, something the government will not think about too much of implementing, but will still create a critical mass of problems which people are not ready to put up with.

While it is impossible to say what it will be, we, the anarchists, need to do all we can to get ready. There are basically two ways to go about this. We can remain in the echo-chamber of our equal parts beautiful and niche political ideas and then join the wider struggle, hoping that somehow our niche becomes a mainstream. Or we may go out there, right now, talk to people, share our ideas in an accessible form, maybe be ready for some compromises and potential criticisms. Get ready for working with people who may not necessarily share the entirety of our position, but still have some common denominator with us. Start building structures based on the principle of mutual aid: show how this can work in practice. Share our knowledge of what the State is, and what its main principles are. Join in with local struggles. Show that anarchism, while it maintains a solid reputation of utopianism, can be and is the answer to the world-wide problems we are all facing. Do everything we can to make sure when the spark comes it is not taken over by the far-right, whose only interest, really, is to maintain the status quo of racist, oppressive states, poorly disguised as new politics and new hope, and blaming the most vulnerable people for the wrongs of this world.

This is, of course, a difficult mission to undertake. It is however the one we ought to carry on, that is, if we are serious about our own politics, and truly believe they can be introduced into wider society, and not only in our own spaces.

So get out there. Speak with your peers and neighbours. Share your resources, if you are privileged enough to have some spare. Show in practice that anarchism can work: even if it will initially only be on a smaller rather than larger scale.

And, most importantly, don’t sink to despair. After all, we are in a world crisis type of situation right now, but let’s all try to see it as a chance rather than already assumed failure. That’s how our enemies see it.

Not all is lost, but comrades, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Pic: Protests in Hong Kong earlier this year

This article was written for the Winter 2019/20 issue of Freedom Journal.