The Anarchist Century

(Stéphane Mallarmé painted by Manet)

This edition of Turfing is dedicated to my friend Morgan, whose revo/evolutionary spirit has deeply moved me over the years. He works incessantly with social/politcal/art issues, touching many lives. He always brings a fresh viewpoint, rooted well in historic and often humourous precedents. To know him is to love him!

As you can tell, Turfing has a new look. I am cracking the PHP code slowly but surely. Necessity is the Mother, I must tell you.

More later, working on The Invisible College and falling behind.

Hot today here in Portland. 90′s plus predicted.




On The Menu….

The Links

The Article: Power and Revolution: The Anarchist Century

Poetry: Stéphane Mallarmé


The Links:

‘Brazilian Stonehenge’ discovered

Born Into Cellblocks

Massive Attack – Special Cases

The musical Mr. Hatch…

Everything, is under Control

Wanted: a warning to last 10,000 years…


Power and Revolution: The Anarchist Century

by Andrej Grubacic

{This paper is a revised version of the essay co-writen with David Graeber: Anarchism or the Revolutionary Movement for the 21st Century. It is revised and will be revised further for the presentation for the June 1 – 7 2006 Z Sessions on Vision and Strategy, held in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. }

(Jonathan Talbot, “Large Anarchist Patrin,” )

It is becoming increasingly clear that the age of revolutions is not over. It’s becoming equally clear that the global revolutionary movement in the twenty first century, will be one that traces its origins less to the tradition of Marxism, or even of socialism narrowly defined, but of anarchism.

Everywhere from Serbia to Argentina, from Seattle to Bombay, anarchist ideas and principles are generating new radical dreams and visions. Often their exponents do not call themselves “anarchists”. There are a host of other names: autonomism, anti-authoritarianism, horizontality, Zapatismo, direct democracy… Still, everywhere one finds the same core principles: decentralization, voluntary association, mutual aid, the network model, and above all, the rejection of any idea that the end justifies the means, let alone that the business of a revolutionary is to seize state power and then begin imposing one’s vision at the point of a gun. Above all, anarchism, as an ethics of practice-the idea of building a new society “within the shell of the old”-has become the basic inspiration of the “movement of movements”, which has from the start been less about seizing state power than about exposing, de-legitimizing and dismantling mechanisms of rule while winning ever-larger spaces of autonomy and participatory management within it.

There are some obvious reasons for the appeal of anarchist ideas at the beginning of the 21st century: most obviously, the failures and catastrophes resulting from so many efforts to overcome capitalism by seizing control of the apparatus of government in the 20th. Increasing numbers of revolutionaries have begun to recognize that “the revolution” is not going to come as some great apocalyptic moment, the storming of some global equivalent of the Winter Palace, but a very long process that has been going on for most of human history (even if it has like most things come to accelerate of late) full of strategies of flight and evasion as much as dramatic confrontations, and which will never-indeed, most anarchists feel, should never-come to a definitive conclusion.

It’s a little disconcerting, but it offers one enormous consolation: we do not have to wait until “after the revolution” to begin to get a glimpse of what genuine freedom might be like. Freedom only exists in the moment of revolution. And those moments are not as rare as you think. For an anarchist, in fact, to try to create non-alienated experiences, true democracy, is an ethical imperative; only by making one’s form of organization in the present at least a rough approximation of how a free society would actually operate, how everyone, someday, should be able to live, can one guarantee that we will not cascade back into disaster. Grim joyless revolutionaries who sacrifice all pleasure to the cause can only produce grim joyless societies.

These changes have been difficult to document because so far anarchist ideas have received almost no attention in the academy. There are still thousands of academic Marxists, but almost no academic anarchists. This lag is somewhat difficult to interpret. In part, no doubt, it’s because Marxism has always had a certain affinity with the academy which anarchism obviously lacked: Marxism was, after all, the only great social movement that was invented by a Ph.D. Most accounts of the history of anarchism assume it was basically similar to Marxism: anarchism is presented as the brainchild of certain 19th century thinkers (Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin…) that then went on to inspire working-class organizations, became enmeshed in political struggles, divided into sects…

Anarchism, in the standard accounts, usually comes out as Marxism’s poorer cousin, theoretically a bit flat-footed but making up for brains, perhaps, with passion and sincerity. Really the analogy is strained. The “founders” of anarchism did not think of themselves as having invented anything particularly new. The saw its basic principles-mutual aid, voluntary association, egalitarian decision-making-as as old as humanity. The same goes for the rejection of the state and of all forms of structural violence, inequality, or domination (anarchism literally means “without rulers”)-even the assumption that all these forms are somehow related and reinforce each other. None of it was seen as some startling new doctrine, but a longstanding tendency in the history human thought, and one that cannot be encompassed by any general theory of ideology.

On one level it is a kind of faith: a belief that most forms of irresponsibility that seem to make power necessary are in fact the effects of power itself. In practice though it is a constant questioning, an effort to identify every compulsory or hierarchical relation in human life, and challenge them to justify themselves, and if they cannot-which usually turns out to be the case-an effort to limit their power and thus widen the scope of human liberty. Just as a Sufi might say that Sufism is the core of truth behind all religions, an anarchist might argue that anarchism is the urge for freedom behind all political ideologies.

Schools of Marxism always have founders. Just as Marxism sprang from the mind of Marx, so we have Leninists, Maoists,, Althusserians… (Note how the list starts with heads of state and grades almost seamlessly into French professors – who, in turn, can spawn their own sects: Lacanians, Foucauldians….)

Schools of anarchism, in contrast, almost invariably emerge from some kind of organizational principle or form of practice: Anarcho-Syndicalists and Anarcho-Communists, Insurrectionists and Platformists, Cooperativists, Councilists, Individualists, and so on.

Anarchists are distinguished by what they do, and how they organize themselves to go about doing it. And indeed this has always been what anarchists have spent most of their time thinking and arguing about. They have never been much interested in the kinds of broad strategic or philosophical questions that preoccupy Marxists such as Are the peasants a potentially revolutionary class? (anarchists consider this something for peasants to decide) or what is the nature of the commodity form? Rather, they tend to argue about what is the truly democratic way to go about a meeting, at what point organization stops empowering people and starts squelching individual freedom. Is “leadership” necessarily a bad thing? Or, alternately, about the ethics of opposing power: What is direct action? Should one condemn someone who assassinates a head of state? When is it okay to throw a brick?

Marxism, then, has tended to be a theoretical or analytical discourse about revolutionary strategy. Anarchism has tended to be an ethical discourse about revolutionary practice. As a result, where Marxism has produced brilliant theories of praxis, it’s mostly been anarchists who have been working on the praxis itself.

At the moment, there’s something of a rupture between generations of anarchism: I would like to express my affinity with what might be loosely referred to as the “small-a anarchists”, who are, by now, by far the majority. But it is sometimes hard to tell, since so many of them do not trumpet their affinities very loudly. There are many. in fact, who take anarchist principles of anti-sectarianism and open-endedness so seriously that they refuse to refer to themselves as ‘anarchists’ for that very reason .

But the three essentials that run throughout all manifestations of anarchist movement are definitely there – anti-statism, anti-capitalism and prefigurative politics (i.e. modes of organization that consciously resemble the world you want to create. Or, as an anarchist historian of the revolution in Spain has formulated “an effort to think of not only the ideas but the facts of the future itself”. This is present in anything from jamming collectives and on to Indy media, all of which can be called anarchist in the newer sense.

The new anarchists are much more interested in developing new forms of practice than arguing about the finer points of ideology. The most dramatic among these have been the development of new forms of decision-making process, the beginnings, at least, of an alternate culture of democracy. The famous North American spokescouncils, where thousands of activists coordinate large-scale events by consensus, with no formal leadership structure, are only the most spectacular.

Actually, even calling these forms “new” is a little bit deceptive. One of the main inspirations for the new generation of anarchists are the Zapatista autonomous municipalities of Chiapas, based in Tzeltal or Tojolobal-speaking communities who have been using consensus process for thousands of years-only now adopted by revolutionaries to ensure that women and younger people have an equal voice. In North America, “consensus process” emerged more than anything else from the feminist movement in the ’70s, as part of a broad backlash against the macho style of leadership typical of the ’60s New Left. The idea of consensus itself was borrowed from the Quakers, who again, claim to have been inspired by the Six Nations and other Native American practices.

Consensus is often misunderstood. One often hears critics claim it would cause stifling conformity but almost never by anyone who has actually observed consensus in action, at least, as guided by trained, experienced facilitators (some recent experiments in Europe, where there is little tradition of such things, have been somewhat crude). In fact, the operating assumption is that no one could really convert another completely to their point of view, or probably should. Instead, the point of consensus process is to allow a group to decide on a common course of action. Instead of voting proposals up and down, proposals are worked and reworked, scotched or reinvented, there is a process of compromise and synthesis, until one ends up with something everyone can live with. When it comes to the final stage, actually “finding consensus”, there are two levels of possible objection: one can “stand aside”, which is to say “I don’t like this and won’t participate but I wouldn’t stop anyone else from doing it”, or “block”, which has the effect of a veto. One can only block if one feels a proposal is in violation of the fundamental principles or reasons for being of a group. One might say that the function which in the US constitution is relegated to the courts, of striking down legislative decisions that violate constitutional principles, is here relegated with anyone with the courage to actually stand up against the combined will of the group (though of course there are also ways of challenging unprincipled blocks).

One could go on at length about the elaborate and surprisingly sophisticated methods that have been developed to ensure all this works; of forms of modified consensus required for very large groups; of the way consensus itself reinforces the principle of decentralization by ensuring one doesn’t really want to bring proposals before very large groups unless one has to, of means of ensuring gender equity and resolving conflict… The point is this is a form of direct democracy which is very different than the kind we usually associate with the term-or, for that matter, with the kind of majority-vote system usually employed by anarchists in the past. With increasing contact between different movements internationally, the inclusion of indigenous groups and movements from Africa, Asia, and Oceania with radically different traditions, we are seeing the beginnings of a new global reconception of what “democracy” or “revolution” should even mean, one as far as possible from the neoliberal parlaimentarianism currently promoted by the existing powers of the world.

Again, it is difficult to follow this new spirit of synthesis by reading most existing anarchist literature, because those who spend most of their energy on questions of theory, rather than emerging forms of practice, are the most likely to maintain the old sectarian dichotomizing logic. Modern anarchism is imbued with countless contradictions. While small-a anarchists are slowly incorporating ideas and practices learned from indigenous allies into their modes of organizing or alternative communities, the main trace in the written literature has been the emergence of a sect of Primitivists, a notoriously contentious crew who call for the complete abolition of industrial civilization, and, in some cases, even agriculture. Still, it is only a matter of time before this older, either/or logic begins to give way to something more resembling the practice of consensus-based groups.

What would this new synthesis look like? Some of the outlines can already be discerned within the movement. It will insist on constantly expanding the focus of anti-authoritarianism, moving away from class reductionism by trying to grasp the “totality of domination”, that is, to highlight not only the state but also gender relations, and not only the economy but also cultural relations and ecology, sexuality, and freedom in every form it can be sought, and each not only through the sole prism of authority relations, but also informed by richer and more diverse concepts.

This approach does not call for an endless expansion of material production, or hold that technologies are neutral, but it also doesn’t decry technology per se. Instead, it becomes familiar with and employs diverse types of technology as appropriate. It not only doesn’t decry institutions per se, or political forms per se, it tries to conceive new institutions and new political forms for activism and for a new society, including new ways of meeting, new ways of decision making, new ways of coordinating, along the same lines as it already has with revitalized affinity groups and spokes structures. And it not only doesn’t decry reforms per se, but struggles to define and win non-reformist reforms, attentive to people’s immediate needs and bettering their lives in the here-and-now at the same time as moving toward further gains, and eventually, wholesale transformation. It rejects the very opposition between reformism and revolution.

(Yves Tanguy)

And of course theory will have to catch up with practice. The problem at the moment is that anarchists who want to get past old-fashioned, vanguardist habits-the Marxist sectarian hangover that still haunts so much of the radical intellectual world-are not quite sure what their role is supposed to be. Anarchism needs to become reflexive. But how? On one level the answer seems obvious. One should not lecture, not dictate, not even necessarily think of oneself as a teacher, but must listen, explore and discover. To tease out and make explicit the tacit logic already underlying new forms of radical practice. To put oneself at the service of activists by providing information, or exposing the interests of the dominant elite carefully hidden behind supposedly objective, authoritative discourses, rather than trying to impose a new version of the same thing. How to move from ethnography to utopian visions-ideally, as many utopian visions as possible? It is hardly a coincidence that some of the greatest recruiters for anarchism in countries like the United States have been feminist science fiction writers like Starhawk or Ursula K. LeGuin.

One way this is beginning to happen is as anarchists begin to recuperate the experience of other social movements with a more developed body of theory, ideas that come from circles close to, indeed inspired by anarchism. Let’s take for example the idea of participatory economy, which represents an anarchist economist vision par excellence and which supplements and rectifies anarchist economic tradition. Parecon theorists argue for the existence of not just two, but three major classes in advanced capitalism: not only a proletariat and bourgeoisie but a “coordinator class” whose role is to manage and control the labor of the working class. This is the class that includes the management hierarchy and the professional consultants and advisors central to their system of control – as lawyers, key engineers and accountants, and so on. They maintain their class position because of their relative monopolization over knowledge, skills, and connections. As a result, economists and others working in this tradition have been trying to create models of an economy which would systematically eliminate divisions between physical and intellectual labor. Now that anarchism has so clearly become the center of revolutionary creativity, proponents of such models have increasingly been, if not rallying to the flag, exactly, then at least, emphasizing the degree to which their ideas are compatible with an anarchist vision.

This doesn’t mean anarchists have to be against theory. It might not need High Theory, in the sense familiar today. Certainly it will not need one single, Anarchist High Theory. That would be completely inimical to its spirit. Much better, I think, something more in the spirit of anarchist decision-making processes: applied to theory, this would mean accepting the need for a diversity of high theoretical perspectives, united only by certain shared commitments and understandings. Rather than based on the need to prove others’ fundamental assumptions wrong, it seeks to find particular projects on which they reinforce each other. Just because theories are incommensurable in certain respects does not mean they cannot exist or even reinforce each other, any more than the fact that individuals have unique and incommensurable views of the world means they cannot become friends, or lovers, or work on common projects. Even more than High Theory, what anarchism needs is what might be called low theory: a way of grappling with those real, immediate questions that emerge from a transformative project.

Similar things are starting to happen with the development of anarchist political visions. Now, this is an area where classical anarchism already had a leg up over classical Marxism, which never developed a theory of political organization at all. Different schools of anarchism have often advocated very specific forms of social organization, albeit often markedly at variance with one another. Still, anarchism as a whole has tended to advance what liberals like to call ‘negative freedoms,’ ‘freedoms from,’ rather than substantive ‘freedoms to.’ Often it has celebrated this very commitment as evidence of anarchism’s pluralism, ideological tolerance, or creativity. But as a result, there has been a reluctance to go beyond developing small-scale forms of organization, and a faith that larger, more complicated structures can be improvised later in the same spirit.

There have been exceptions, such as the North American Social Ecologists’s “libertarian municipalism”. There’s a lively debate developing, for instance, on how to balance principles of worker’s control-emphasized by the Parecon folk-and direct democracy, emphasized by the Social Ecologists.

Still, there are a lot of details still to be filled in: what are the anarchist’s full sets of positive institutional alternatives to contemporary legislatures, courts, police, and diverse executive agencies? Obviously there could never be an anarchist party line on this, the general feeling among the small-a anarchists at least is that we’ll need many concrete visions and many utopian dialogues. Still, between actual social experiments within expanding self-managing, ungoverned communities in places like Eastern Europe or Latin America, and of the efforts of new anarchists all over the globe, the work is beginning. It is clearly a long-term process. But then, the anarchist century has only just begun.



Poetry: Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)


The flesh is sad, alas! and all the books are read.

Flight, only flight! I feel that birds are wild to tread

The floor of unknown foam, and to attain the skies!

Nought, neither ancient gardens mirrored in the eyes,

Shall hold this heart that bathes in waters its delight,

O nights! nor yet my waking lamp, whose lonely light

Shadows the vacant paper, whiteness profits best,

Nor the young wife who rocks her baby on her breast.

I will depart! O steamer, swaying rope and spar,

Lift anchor for exotic lands that lie afar!

A weariness, outworn by cruel hopes, still clings

To the last farewell handkerchief’s last beckonings!

And are not these, the masts inviting storms, not these

That an awakening wind bends over wrecking seas,

Lost, not a sail, a sail, a flowering isle, ere long?

But, O my heart, hear thou, hear thou, the sailors’ song!



Her pure nails sprung up exalting their onyx,

Anxiety, this midnight, bearing light, sustains,

In twilight many dreams burnt up by the Phoenix

Whose scattered ashes no sepulchral urn contains

Atop the sideboards, in the empty room: no ptyx,

That voided toy of vibrant nonsense, left inside,

(Because the Master went to draw the tears from Styx

With that exclusive object wherein Naught takes pride.)

In vacant north seen through the casement frames, a gold

May agonize at times, within the setting, to behold

Fire-breathing unicorns arrayed against a nix,

She, lifeless naked mirror image, repetition

Whom in the twinkling framed forgetting, is to fix

Through sparkling timed in septet, composition.



La lune s’attristait. Des séraphins en pleurs

Rêvant, l’archet aux doigts, dans le calme des fleurs

Vaporeuses, tiraient de mourantes violes

De blancs sanglots glissant sur l’azur des corolles.

—C’était le jour béni de ton premier baiser.

Ma songerie aimant à me martyriser

s’enivrait savamment du parfum de tristesse

Que même sans regret et sans déboire laisse

La cueillaison d’un Rêve au coeur qui l’a cueilli.

J’errais donc, l’oeil rivé sur le pavé vieilli

Quand avec du soleil aux cheveux, dans la rue

Et dans le soir, tu m’es en riant apparue

Et j’ai cru voir la fée au chapeau de clarté

Qui jadis sur mes beaux sommeils d’enfant gâté

Passait, laissant toujours de ses mains mal fermées

Neiger de blancs bouquets d’étoiles parfumées.


The Faun

Those nymphs, I want to perpetuate them.

So bright,

Their light rosy flesh, that it hovers in the air

Drowsy with tangled slumbers.

Did I love a dream?

My doubt, hoard of ancient night, is crowned

In many a subtle branch, which, remaining the true

Woods themselves, proves, alas! that alone I offered

Myself as a triumph the perfect sin of roses.

Let us reflect …

or whether the women you describe

Represent a desire of your fabulous senses!

Faun, the illusion flows from the cold blue eyes

Of the most chaste like a spring of tears:

But the other, all sighs, do you say she contrasts

Like the warm day’s breeze in your fleece?

But no! through the still and weary rapture

Stifling the cool morning with heat should it struggle,

No water murmurs unless poured by my flute

On the thicket sprinkled with melody; and the

Only wind, quick to escape the twin pipes before

Scattering the sound in an arid rain, is,

On the smooth untroubled surface of the horizon,

The visible and serene artificial breath

Of inspiration returning to the sky.













under an inclination

glides desperately

with wing

its own

in advance refallen with a difficulty in setting up flight

and covering the outpourings

cutting utterly the leaps

very interiorly resumes

the shade buried in the deep by that alternative sail

as to adapt

to its wingspan

its gaping depth as the hull

of a vessel

tilted to one or the other side

THE MASTERoutside old calculations

where the maneuver with age forgotten


inferringlong ago he grasped the helm

of that conflagration at his feet

of the unanimous horizon

there is preparing

stirring and mixing

in the fist that might clutch it

as one menaces a destiny and the winds

the unique Number which cannot be another


to hurl it

in the tempest

refolding the division and passing proud


a corpse by the arm set apart from the secret it keeps


than to play

like a hoary maniac

the game

in the name of waves

one invades the chief

flows like a submissive beard

shipwreck that direct from man

sans ship

no matter

where vain

ancestrally to not open the hand


beyond the useless head

legacy in the disappearance

to someone


the last immemorial demon


from null regions


the old man towards this supreme conjunction with probability


his puerile shade

caressed and polished and rendered and laved

made supple by the wave and abstracted

from the hard bones lost between the planks


of a gambol

the sea with the grandfather tempting or the grandfather against the sea

an idle chance



veil of illusion gushed their phobia

like the phantom of a gesture

will totter

will fall



an insinuation simple

in silence rolled with irony


the mystery



in some nearby whirlpool of hilarity or horror

flutters around the gulf

without strewing it

nor fleeing

and cradles the virgin index


plume solitary distraught

save that encounters or skims it a midnight cap

and immobilizes

in velvet crumpled by a guffaw somber

that rigid whiteness


in opposition to the sky

too much

for not marking



bitter prince of the reef

puts it on like the heroic

irresistible but contained

by his little reason virile

in lightning


expiatory and pubescent




The lucid and seigniorial aigrette of vertigo

with invisible brow


then shadows

a stature dainty tenebrous erect

in its siren torsion


to slap

with impatient scales ultimate bifurcated

a rock

false manor

right away

evaporated in mists

that imposed

a limit on infinity


stellar issueNUMBER


otherwise than scattered hallucination of agony


upwelling but denied and closed when apparent

at last

by some profusion widespread in rarity


evidence of the sum if only one





more nor less

indifferently but as much CHANCE


the plume

rhythmic suspense of the sinister

to bury itself

in original foams

not long ago whence sprang up its delirium to a peak


by the identical neutrality of the gulf


of the memorable crisis

when might

the event have been accomplished in view of every result null



an ordinary elevation pours absence


inferior lapping whatsoever as if to disperse the act void

abruptly which if not

by its falsehood

might have founded


in those regions

of the wave

in which all reality dissolves


at the altitude


as far as a place fuses with beyond

apart from the interest

as to it signaled

in general

according to such obliquity by such declivity

of fires


this must be

the Septentrion also North


cold from forgetting and desuetude

not so much

that it does not enumerate

on some surface vacant and superior

the successive clash


of a total count in formation




shining and meditating

before stopping

at some last point that consecrates it

Every Thought sends forth one Toss of the Dice


Stéphane Mallarmé was born in Paris in 1842. He taught English in from 1864 in Tournon, Besançon, Avignon and Paris until his retirement in 1893. Malarmé began writing poetry at an early age under the influence of Charles Baudelaire. His first poems started to appear in magazines in the 1860s. Mallarmé’s most well known poems are L’Aprés Midi D’un Faun (The Afternoon of a Faun) (1865), which inspired Debussy’s tone poem (1894) of the same name and was illustrated by Manet. Among his other works are Hérodiade (1896) and Toast Funèbre (A Funeral Toast), which was written in memory of the author Théopile Gautier. Mallarmé’s later works include the experimental poem Un Coup de Dés (1914), published posthumously.

From the 1880s Mallarmé was the center of a group of french writers in Paris, including André Gide and Paul Valéry, to whom he communicated his ideas on poetry and art. According to his theories, nothing lies beyond reality, but within this nothingness lies the essence of perfect forms and it is the task of the poet to reveal and crystallize these essences. Mallarmé’s poetry employs condensed figures and unorthodox syntax. Each poem is build around a central symbol, idea, or metaphor and consists on subordinate images that illustrate and help to develop the idea. Mallarmé’s vers libre and word music shaped the 1890s Decadent movement.

For the rest of his life Mallarmé devoted himself to putting his literary theories into practice and writing his Grand Oeuvre (Great Work). Mallarmé died in Paris on September 9, 1898 without completing this work. (From Ubuweb)

Discover more from

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading