I had the pleasure of interviewing the always wonderful Salar Rajabnik for part I of our basic anarchist series. The goal of this series is to lay groundwork and provide resources for curious thinkers. While popular notions encourage us to believe anarchism is synonymous for chaos and destruction, our goal is to dismantle these misconceptions and provide readers with a spark to help conceptualize and analyze theories and practices not widely accepted on the mainstream spectrum of political philosophies.
What are the major ideological similarities (and differences, if any) between left-libertarianism and anarchism? Socialist libertarianism and anarcho-communism/social anarchism? Are these just interchangeable labels for the same over-aching goals and priorities? If not, what are the basic differences?
Salar: Some within the leftist realm feel as though all of these terms refer to different ideologies, others feel that they basically all describe the same viewpoint. In a way I feel that both of these scenarios are true simultaneously since the differences some point out between these ideologies are minute in the grand scheme of political consciousness and are specific reforms or tweaks within an over-arching worldview that advocates stateless societies based on social justice and advocation. Taking the in-depth writings of certain figures from these movements and cross-analyzing them will reveal differences in views, but it will also reveal a common understanding which rejects state power, elitism and predatory capitalistic practices.
Most people today have false ideas and assumptions of what anarchism is. With the understanding that anarchism has a wide underbelly of complexity and a multitude of conceptions, is there a way to simplify the goals? Developed notions and commonalities amongst anarchist thinkers include a movement toward highly structured and organized society but on the basis of “free and voluntary participation” - with this in mind, could we simply describe anarchism as radical democracy or is this an unwise suggestion?
Salar: Simplification is necessary so anyone who is unfamiliar or generally uninterested in anarchism or political analysis can understand such concepts. Because anarchist thought seems so abstract to the average person and is so completely at odds with the indoctrinated worldview of the masses, some generality is necessary to explain these ideas. Utilizing the method of referring to anarchism as a sort of direct and representative democracy seems to be one of the more effective methods to help those who carry serious misconceptions better understand the subject. For example, all people can generally grasp the concept that our current system is not remotely representative and that a more direct form of representation is far more just.
Who are some notable contemporary anarchist activists and thinkers?
Salar: Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Abdullah Öcalan, Howard Zinn, Pete Seeger, Lemmy, and countless lesser known figures who work within social justice movements the world over.
What are some major contemporary anarchist movements happening around the globe? And here in North America?
Salar: Globally, the Rojava project/autonomous region in Kurdistan which is battling ISIS and building a free society is one of the best examples. The Zomia region (Asian highlands lying between China and India) is ungoverned by traditional means as well. Another example would be the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities, which are territories in the Mexican state of Chiapas controlled by the Zapatista rebel groups there. Additionally, countless protest and social justice movements in & out of the United States contain anarchists. Despite media suppression, most major protests in the US in the past decade (of which there have been many) are full of anarchists.
A huge thanks to Salar who's been my informal mentor in this realm as of late. It's been a pleasure. With that, we both agree that some of the more important works we've come across can be found at libcom.org. I'd also like to encourage you to check out one of my personal favorites, zcomm.org. With the current state of our world and the doomsday atmosphere and political trash heaps that are continually impeding on our desire to survive and thrive freely, we must think outside the confines of the repulsive systems that have been thrust upon us. For me, it's always been a matter of simply existing and following my own moral compass, yet I'm always somehow seen as a deviant or a rebel. Even as a kid I was shamed for refusing to obey someone I didn't agree with, regardless of their so-called authoritative position. It is exactly the sort of judgment by someone calling me a "defiant brat" that stems from a culture conditioned to believe we're meant for subservience and obedience and nothing more. I'm not about that life. Are you? I don't need another human's immorality policing my perfectly decent life choices in the name of God or Law.
Stay tuned for part II of the series.