Like many anarchists, the image of police breaking into polling stations, seizing equipment and dragging away would-be voters fills me with dread. Violence and repression has always been the most foundational of control measures that the state uses to legitimate itself.
Like many anarchists, the images of a festival of nationalist flags – whether Spanish or independentista – fills me with worry. Nationalism has always been the first step towards isolationism and discord.
Others have written eloquently of the dilemma facing the anarchic Left on the topic of Catalan independence; it is not for me to tell those on the streets, engaged with their struggle what they should and should not fight. Here in my own country there are similar forces calling for self-determination, and multiple struggles for national independence: Alba, Cymru, Eire, and even Kernow have all raised their flags, seeking to break away from Westminster centrality. That is the issue we have (it seems to me). Centralizing authority whose policies reflect the desires of the free market rather than the desires of citizens, made even more dangerous by a culture of exclusivity – politics here is a profession, not a method. No matter what stripes or colours of our flags, everything is laid down before the centralizing capitalist machine.
What is to be done, as anarchists? Do we join our voices to a flag, hoping that we can shout down the larger?
We can offer aid to those in need. We can question any move towards bigotry or centralization – whether inside the state, or inside the independence movement. We can question any move towards free-market capital. There are myriad ways that aid can happen in communities and on the streets as it does in our own social centres and collectives: Soup Kitchens, First Aid, Legal Observers, Info Points, Crash Spaces, Safe Spaces for the elderly or in need. Free Education. Activist Counselling, Legal Advice. We can put our bodies in the way of the policeman’s baton, the riot shield. We can grow and distribute food. We can sing songs that remind us of our shared humanity. Some might argue that this hand of support “enables” nationalist movements to continue, but with what better weapon than solidarity are we to combat exclusivity?
There are no easy answers – especially the dichotomous sort that any Referendum wants. But that is something that we anarchists are at least used to. The absolutist answer of “In or Out” is an inadequate one when we are talking about peoples lives, their families, and their futures. As anarchists we seek a praxis of solidarity and liberty, right now. We’re not content to wait for the answer of a Referendum, or for a movement to coalesce – we seek to provide aid where we can, and to deshackle each other from the centralizing, repressive economies that surround us.
I remember an anarchist meme that was doing the rounds; it was a little thing, a simple thing in a sea of punched-Nazi gifs. “I am an Anarchist:” it read, mimicking the occasional adverts you might see for political parties or religious denominations:
“If you are hungry, I will offer food; If you are thirsty, I will offer water; If you are cold, I will offer warmth; If you are in need, ask and I will try to help. I do not do these things for reward, but because I know them to be right.”
Keep marching. Keep singing your songs with a hopeful voice. Keep marching, and take the time to hold the hands of your sisters and brothers at your side as you do. Take the time to hold a thought for all those who cannot or will not – whether it be disagreement or fear or otherwise – be beside you either; for it is only through understanding, hope, and mutual aid that any lasting victory can be won.