Pro-State Does Not Mean Pro-Freedom: A Late Response to Meghan Murphy
The power of the actions of anarchists, whether major smashing spectacles or simple attempts to self-organize, is often threatening to a great number of people. The rejection of authority and representation is likely to make many nervous; especially those who would like to have authority over us or represent us.
On May Day of last year, anarchists in Seattle took it hard to the financial district and Federal Courthouse destroying thousands of dollars in private property. This action clearly threatened the democratic state, and they have since responded with a Grand Jury intended to smash a hole into anarchist networks, for the state to see better the enemy they face. The corporate media also initially followed suit demonizing anarchists as much as possible. All and all these tactics have mostly failed.
While these responses are mostly obvious when they come from such established institutions as the state itself and the corporate media, they are often more subtle when they come from those seen as “within the movement” (whatever the hell that is). While these reactions from authority and representatives, or those that desire to be such, are often very harmful to us and should not be taken lightly; they can present us with a powerful opportunity for counter-information.
I was listening to an interview with Lierre Kieth on Feminist Current the other day when I was suddenly reminded of another Deep Green Resistance cult leader Derrick Jensen, and his whole FBI fiasco. A moment or two later I was reminded of another post on Feminist Current, the post which actually made me aware of the website in the first place, and I decided I couldn’t go any longer without there being an anarchist response to it. (I only first read it back in January)
In February of 2010, I would say that anarchists in Vancouver did a great job of countering attacks on them with regard to the whole diversity of tactics debate, after the anti-olympic heart attack march. In May of 2012 we missed another opportunity to present our case to many, perhaps only because it was not so high profile. It is for this reason, and in the spirit of another May and May Day approaching, that I write this article.
“Being anti-state does not equal being pro-freedom: Misogyny and the imagined “circle of protection” in progressive communities” was written by Meghan Murphy on May 4th 2012 as a response to the “circle of protection” that a number of people (a group of predominantly women, and including a few anarchists) from Occupy Vancouver used in the winter and spring of 2012 to deal with an abusive man who was stalking a woman he had previously been dating. In the article, the author voices their opposition to such horizontal and autonomous forms of self-defense that they see as “utopian.” They even go on to say that only “privileged” people would try and stop relying on the state for the solution of personal conflict. When I first read the article I became so angry and flabbergasted that I could only post a comment that I knew would not be published, something along the lines of “fuck this post and the civil society it rode in on!”
I did not put a lot of energy into the circle of protection so I will not attempt to speak for or assess the effectiveness of the organizing for those who made it their constant project. I was however an organizer of the May Day 2012 Reclaim the Streets action and we posted a statement on our blog regarding the whole Ben Pearson problem and our solidarity with those taking it on regularly. For this reason among others I feel a special need to address Meghan Murphy’s garbage arguments, not to mention how “triggered” (as they say in privilege politics) I feel whenever I hear someone using supposedly anti-racist, and anti-sexist arguments to defend the State and Capitalism!
A centerpiece of her article is an anecdote where she once moved to what sounds like a Gulf Island. A place that she has decided is somehow a good example of an autonomous, self-organized “anarchist” community, where she discovered that patriarchy exists there too! From what I know of the Gulf Islands, and other rural communities like them, while they might be lacking in a constant police presence, and (on the Gulf Islands especially) where the cheapness of land has made it so that a lot of people looking for more independent and alternative lifestyles will tend to move there, they most certainly are not self-organized or in anyway separated from capitalism and the Canadian State. Lots of hippies does not make it anarchist! This is a problem throughout much of her article. Now I am not trying to be-little what she experienced there, it must have been an awful let down and probably quite traumatizing!
“It is not uncommon for assault to go unreported in anarchist and activist communities specifically because women are discouraged from calling the cops, essentially leaving these men free from accountability.”
It is also not uncommon for a person in any community not to go to the cops for help after they have experienced anti-social crime specifically because the police are nearly totally useless! Or because the degrading experience of going to them for help (especially in the case of sexual assault) is discouraging in it self!
About seven or eight years ago, my sister was in an abusive relationship. She was drinking with her boyfriend one evening and after hitting her a couple times he started threatening to kill her and her family and pets. She was very drunk and upset and didn’t know what else to do so she called 9-1-1, talked to the operator for some time and hung up without giving her whereabouts. A little later on in the evening, one of her guy friends punched her boyfriend out after hearing about what happened.
Meanwhile at my parent’s house where I was living at the time (and so was my sister), I was eating dinner after coming home from a late shift at work, when there was a hard knock on the door. I opened it to see two dark figures of what looked to be cops on the porch. One of them was stuttering extremely badly and I began to fear I might get shot having some idea of how dangerous a scared pig can be.
They asked “is there a woman in the house?” And I was like “my mom?” They then barged their way into the house, one searching every room and waking my Mom up, the other staying beside me in the kitchen with their hand on their gun. As it turned out they decided because her phone bill was addressed to the house that she must have been there, and that I must be her boyfriend holding her hostage. When my sister arrived home, they were not at all concerned with what happened with her and her boyfriend and more with chiding me and my mom with allowing our family member to drink underage. They didn’t even make an effort to deal with the actual problem!
Now this is not the only story I could share about the downside of using the police to settle disputes even when one is left with no other choice. And I don’t think a supposedly radical feminist like the author of Feminist Current would argue about the humiliation that women usually experience when going to the police and courts to deal with domestic abuse and sexual assault, so I am actually quite baffled they would make the claims that they do in their article unless they really just have a grudge against anarchists. Does she actually believe for a second that the system has ever had women’s interests in mind?
“And even if we don’t consider these events or movements to be necessarily activist movements, the point remains that self-described progressive communities have never protected women from abusive men. Often, a libertarian or anarchist ethos has been used to pressure women into accepting misogynistic treatment silently and peacefully.”
Well I don’t know if I’m stating the obvious here but since it appears not to be obvious to the author: From the European witch hunts of the middle ages, to the missing and murdered indigenous women of KKKanadian society, the system has done nothing but perpetuate, and generate misogyny and violence against women. Why would continually going back to the same system for protection make any sense?
People from a libertarian and anarchist perspective (specifically women) have attempted to deal with this for quite some time. They have attempted to deal with the fact that the institutions of a system based on domination and exploitation could never help us out with any of our problems. I’ll give two very well documented examples that deal with the problems of a patriarchal society, but there are thousands more:
The Mujeres Libres from the Spanish Revolution who organized social programs to help working class women with their daily problems as a self-determined force within the revolution, and more recently Philly’s Pissed from Philadelphia, who worked to support survivors of sexual assault, including within “progressive communities” from an anti-state perspective.
Men who, in our society abuse, do so not only because they can often get away with it, but also because it is encouraged and mystified, and generally upheld by the system itself!
Another one of her absurd assertions:
“I also believe that the only people in society who have the freedom to reject the state and to denounce the criminalization of abusers are people who already have a huge level of privilege and who already feel safe in progressive communities. If you walk around this world feeling free, then it’s easy to say that you don’t need the protection of the state and that you don’t need the law. If you already have power and privilege it’s easy to argue that you can protect yourself, that you don’t need the police to protect you.”
Actually no, more often than not, those who reject the state and begin to self-organize, are exactly those who have been caught under it’s boot, just ask the people of Cheran, Michoacan right now!
Or maybe INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence who in their words:
“identify “violence against women of color” as a combination of “violence directed at communities,” such as police violence, war, and colonialism, and “violence within communities,” such as rape and domestic violence.”
And who also use non-state solutions to deal with real life problems!
I find it incomprehensible that a supposed “radical” would suggest that being anti-criminalization is a “privileged” position. The prison industrial complex expands in the United States and Canada, at the same rate as the war on us all, and that is no coincidence! When you take into consideration that people from recently colonized populations are over-represented in the prison system, Meghan Murphy’s arguments start to sound, a little, should I say, colonial? (And I won’t even bother going into the term “progressive” LOL!)
I usually try to avoid the blanket generalizations that Meghan makes when she labels a broad group such as anarchist’s “privileged.” But one can’t help but assume from this article alone that an academic such as herself has gained the privilege necessary to abstract human experiences of oppression so badly that they can’t even think of them in real terms anymore. Since this is a way that academics communicate with one another, might I suggest she read something? Perhaps “Who is Oakland”, which addresses quite thoroughly, the problem of how privilege politics is being used to defend the racist and patriarchal logic of the system in the Bay Area?
As a male-bodied person, I know this will not be taken seriously, but I don’t care. I want to defend myself. I want the ability to defend myself. I want every woman or anyone else that I love and care about to be able to defend ourselves. I don’t want to rely on a murderous institution to do it for me!
With freedom comes responsibility and that is why my goal is total liberation! Since my own liberation is tied in with the liberation of all others, I begin to wonder if Meghan Murphy’s idea of a radical feminism no longer includes the concept of women’s liberation! Yeah, you know, LIBERATION, the freedom from oppressive structures such as the state and capitalism, and the ability to make one’s life as they choose!
For further information on how many anarchists or even a possible anarchist society would look at anti-social crime such as violence against women, I would have to highly recommend the book “Anarchy Works” and it’s chapter on crime which can be found in pamphlet form on Rise Like Lions.
The entire book can be read online at The Anarchist Library, and can be ordered from Little Black Cart.
Death to Middle Class Society!
Have a nice day!