On Anti-Authority, Cooperation and Utopia

conjunctionopposition_01Interview with Yavor Tarinski

Excerpts from an interview given at the end of May 2016 for an activist group from Freiburg (Germany), aired on radio dreyeckland and freie-radios.

Where is the distinction between anti-authoritarian and self-organized?

The anti-authoritarian has a perspective into the future, while this is not necessarily the case with the self-organized. There are various self-organized groups today, in the sense that they gather spontaneously and maybe don’t have pyramidal structure, but their target is not necessarily to change society in radically different way. That is, in a way that will dethrone authority from the central place it takes today. In the university, at work, in the family, even in the gender relations, everything is based on authority. By saying that we are anti-authoritarian we mean that the tools we use, like direct democracy, self-organization, self-regulation, solidarity etc, are being used with the perspective to achieve broader change in the long term. It is not a strict ideology, but a current political culture projected into the future.

Thus it is not enough to be self-organized, although it is a great step. It is really encouraging when people are engaging in self-organized projects. I think this is really important because it acts as a school, as university in which people to participate and to believe that things can be done in a different way. But still we have to act today, having in mind the future.

How the cooperative and horizontal projects that have emerged across Europe during the last years can be scaled up? Some have been proposing networking forms. What is your opinion?

I’m not against networking, if it is made in a self-instituting way. By that I mean networking that is not just a bureaucratized entity, simply attached to the state or capital. There are such formations, involving many groups that are promoting solidarity, but in a more reformist left-wing way, not being antagonistic to the status quo. Of course I don’t mean that such formations should follow narrow ideological lines like political parties do. What I want to say is that it should rest on certain core principles like direct democracy, non-hierarchy and solidarity, all of which are contrary to what the present system stands for. Such principles can be recognized in many social initiatives that are coming from common people, and by common people I mean people that were not involved in political organizing until now. Such initiatives that are trying to satisfy real societal needs and not that of some artificial market.

So in order the present system to be successfully challenged there is a need of such networking, but it should remain loose networking, which to retain the autonomy of every collective in it, but simultaneously, through direct-democratic processes to allow coordination between them. We know from the history for the existence of such forms like the councils for example, and modern ones like digital platforms, with which currently is being experimented with. There is no need of a strict way. All of us, through deliberation and participation, can adjust our projects to our local contexts. What can work in one place is not necessarily what has worked in Chiapas. Every working model is a germ that someone else can use by taking the best parts of it and adjusting them to his context. As the Zapatistas are saying, the best way to support them is to build our own autonomy where we live, and not necessarily to copy what they are doing. This is the most important, in my opinion.

Another target should be to not become an Ngo in search for recognition by the State, but to strive to be recognized by society as well as by the participants and to be able actually to articulate real needs. And this on completely different principal basis from the today’s one – i.e. beyond authority, hierarchy, barbarity, bureaucracy and through direct democracy, local and broader autonomy instead.

What is the anti-authoritarian utopia?

Me personally I don’t really like the term utopia, since it means something that cannot be done. We are seeing in a lot of places across the planet people to be building their “Utopias”. The Zapatistas are celebrating 22 years of self-rule in some of the harshest environment imaginable. And now something similar is taking place in Rojava. And then we have Europe, where despite everything negative happening during the last decade, we still have communities resisting fascist thugs, trying to deal with the crisis in a cooperative way, and even locals working together with migrants in building spaces where they can coexist peacefully.

So you don’t have a utopian society as an end-goal?

I think it proved wrong to base your imaginary on a ready model, a blueprint that you most go and implement. I think people got disappointed by the big promises of 19th and 20th century that we will achieve a certain “image” exactly as we have imagined it in the beginning.

On the other hand what we can frame as the project of autonomy today signifies a general direction, in which all of us direct-democratically will be building our future and allow our imaginations to lead. Like all these initiatives I’ve mentioned earlier. You cannot know where they will end up. If someone comes as a prophet, claiming that he knows where we are heading in these dynamic times, I think it will be easy to unmask him as a charlatan. We don’t know what will happen with our society, we don’t even know what will happen with European Union or with the nation-states. We don’t know when the next capitalist crisis will come. Neither we know how our grassroots structures will develop. With the speed of development of information technologies things are changing fast. If in Ancient Greece people were saying that democracy is possible where the orator can be heard by all, today an orator from India, for example, could be heard all across the globe. Thanks to internet there are no borders for communication, at least for now.

In this context it is a mistake to build strict ideologies, which to tell you what behavior and steps you should undertake. But simultaneously we should not abandon our principles. These principles should be adjustable. They should serve as a general culture that can orient us, to guide us in these dynamic times, and allow us to experience the history as creation and not as deterministic plan that is driving us through different historic stages. I think that is really important for us to feel as protagonists in our lives and to passionately participate in the creation of the building blocks of tomorrow.

Source: radio dreyeckland & freie-radios

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