Flat White

The anarchist bookstore and the Lodge: a parable

16 August 2016

7:25 AM

16 August 2016

7:25 AM

Walking past the Newtown Anarchist’s Club/Bookstore, I noticed their shopfront window was smashed.

“Fitting”, I thought, before walking on.

But as I walked, I realised that an Anarchist’s Club poses all sorts of questions.  For the true anarchist, surely joining an organisation that is, well, organised, poses some sort of existential crisis?

Let’s Go Clubbing

First, for anything to be achieved, someone must be in charge, nominated as Club President, as it were.

Effectively, the Leader.

But this places the alpha-anarchist in an invidious position – as the authority figure in a milieu dedicated to toppling authority figures, he must constantly be aware his position is under threat from the get-go.

Most clubs also elect a Treasurer and Secretary. Usually, a Secretary keeps the minutes and issues correspondence to members. But what does an Anarchic Secretary do? Scribble mindlessly during minute-taking? Destroy any evidence of the meeting? Surely the only correspondence they’d be issuing would be mail bombs and anthrax powder in small envelopes.

Similarly, the Anarchic Treasurer should be embezzling the funds, burning or eating the chequebook, and using whatever is left over to sponsor a rebellion against the Leader.

What about the building itself? The broken window points to at least one committed anarchist, but how do the rest tolerate a structure built by capitalists, with rent going to capitalists? Surely they should be desecrating such an edifice rather than subsidising it, gutting it rather than furnishing it with couches and tables. Operating as it does as a bookstore, surely the bookshelves, reading lamps and chairs are the products of division of labour and socio-industrial practices and require immediate destruction because of this fact?

Mission Impossible

Back to the Anarchist-in-Chief. He sets a meeting for 7pm.  Does anyone attend  Simply by turning up, his fellow anarchists are flouting the very rule-breaking they hold dear.  How can they abide him calling the meeting “to order”? To appease their bruised principles, do they sit through the meeting only to smash the coffee urn at the conclusion?

On the other hand, if nobody attends, how do they ever organise anything?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume they do hatch a plan for mayhem; say, blowing up a bank, that vile temple to capitalist greed. Schemes, plots, and capers all require a level of coordination and cooperation that implies, well, order.

Their nemesis.

Surely they’d feel morally bound to sabotage their own Plan, plunge it into chaos? There they are, all piled into a van and going over last-minute details when the driver – overwhelmed by the ideological conflict in his soul – deliberately crashes the vehicle. Inspired, his fellow anarchists set fire to it, whilst another calls the police to ensure any remnants of The Plan are thoroughly thwarted Satisfied, they return to the Club on foot, leaving the bank unmolested. Hurrah!

Anarchic or Anachronistic

Perhaps this is why anarchy never really gets a foothold in the wider public as an ideology. Even if anarchists could subjugate their devotion to disorder and organise themselves long enough to stage a coup, where are they then?

In charge.

If their ideology succeeds then it follows that their ideal is the new normal. As anarchists living in anarchy, what is there to do? In the absence of order they cease to have any meaning. In anarchy, they are the establishment.

If they only have meaning and identity in an ordered society, then surely it doesn’t make sense to pursue their ideology with any real enthusiasm, lest they succeed and either become what they once beheld or vanish altogether. In light of this, it is clear why anarchy never lasts long and is kinda shit, ideology-wise.

Broken Window, Perfect Mirror

I wondered if the window at the Newtown Anarchist’s Club would be repaired, and, if it was, whether the anarchists would be ashamed of themselves for doing so. The true Anarchist’s Club should be unable to hold a meeting, keep a functional premises going, execute even the simplest of plans or elect someone to lead them.

Ah yes, the Leader.

One feels for him in such circumstances. His position untenable and his life forfeit upon swearing in, he is unable to set an agenda, frame a policy or even get everyone to a meeting. Indeed, there is only one other job in the country at the moment that approaches – dare I say exceeds – it in its sheer futility … although at least the windows at The Lodge are rarely broken.

Benjamin Allmon is a freelance writer and author. His work can be found at benjaminallmon.com.



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