Anarchism as ideology, anarcho-communism as praxis

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while to clarify my political stance. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know I’ve referred to myself as a libertarian socialist (sometimes also called anarcho-communist) and it is accurate but with an important distinction: I believe in anarcho-communism as a good way to organise society not as an overall ideology.

According to the value system I live by, no human has the right to dominate and rule over another. That’s why I’m an anarchist. It doesn’t mean I believe a perfect world where no one ever even tries to boss over another is ever going to happen. I’m not naive enough to believe in such an utopia. But I will oppose all forms of oppression and all enemies of freedom whenever I can.

The thing in common among all “anarchos”, whether it’s communists, syndicalists, mutualist or capitalists, is that we all believe that the state is illegitimate and a source of oppression. A key difference between different anarcho types is what we consider sources of oppression beside the state.

Most anarchists believe private property (not to be confused with personal property) is one of the main sources, if not the main source, of oppression. This is why the majority of anarchists do not consider anarcho-capitalists to be real anarchists.

But, at least in my opinion, many left anarchists fail to see the oppressive potential of even the most direct democratic, economically democratic communes. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism and many other forms of oppression need no help from the state to thrive. On the contrary: the culture often changes, for better or worse, before the laws of the state.

Let’s say, as an example, that a group of activists came voluntarily together to create a commune where the means of production are collectively owned and the rules democratically decided. If in such a commune the people voted in the majority that leaving one’s romantic partner should be a punishable offense, I would because of my belief in personal freedom not support such a decision and would be opposed to the very idea that such a personal matter should be decided by the community.

Of course, many who identify as anarcho-communists would agree with me on this issue. But to me it is important that I point out that while I believe voluntary collective action can be a great source of liberation, especially for members of the proletariat who on their own have very little power to change their circumstances, the same community can also itself become an enemy of one’s freedom.

That’s why I nowadays prefer to refer to myself as an anarchist rather than an anarcho-communist. I don’t wish for people to assume that I believe there is no oppressive potential in the collective.

One could argue that in a society based on voluntary acts of collectivization, one could simply leave one’s commune if the rules started to become too repressive. True, but that would not necessarily be a simple thing. Peer-pressure is a real and very powerful thing. It is very easy within any group for popular opinion to become a form of unwritten law people fear to break almost as much as state law.

The answer to that, in my opinion, would be to foster a culture where people are thought to value themselves as individuals and to stand up for their right to self-determination. That’s something I believe should be done no matter the current organizing of society.

The question is how, considering many people’s tendency to long for submission and authoritarian leaders. And that is the million dollar question, isn’t it? I have made it one of my life’s goal to answer it and to help others embrace the thing I love the most: freedom.

 

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A World Tour of Books: Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (Austria)

Even if you have never heard of the name Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, it is likely you have at least once heard of the fetish named after him: masochism. This particular sexual inclination was a theme in many of his books and most famously in his work Venus in Furs.

It tells the story of Severin, a man who falls in love with a wealthy and beautiful widow by the name of Wanda. So enamoured is he by her that he asks to become her slave and for her to do with him whatever she wishes, even be cruel towards him.
At first she is disturbed by his fantasies. But because she also loves him she agrees to help him live them out.

Things are good between them at first and Severin gets to experience his kink but because Wanda grows to resent his submissiveness and lack of masculinity, she becomes increasingly vicious towards him to the point where the suprasensual Severin begins to regret his choice.

When I first heard of this book about ten years ago, I remember being intrigued by how a man could be so obsessed with a woman that he would willingly become her slave. It seemed pathetic to me but also a bit poetic.

I didn’t read it then because after being raised as a ultra-conservative Christian, I thought it immoral to read erotica. I have gotten over that pseudo-moral silliness since then and was now able to enjoy this piece of literature, which isn’t that erotic by today’s standards.

Interestingly, the point of the book was not merely erotic thrill but there is a moral to the story. It was part of a planned but never finished series titled The Legacy of Cain, which would be categorised into six different themes relevant to the author’s worldview. Venus in Furs was a novella in the first book, Love, and Severin’s conclusion about love between men and women is given at the end of the story:

“That woman, as nature has created her, and man at present is educating her, is man’s enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work.”

This view would explain Sacher-Masoch’s support of women’s emancipation, which was a controversial topic at the time the novella was written and whether or not you agree with his views, Venus in Furs is an intriguing and provocative read (or listen).

 

A World Tour of Books: Desert Flower by Waris Dirie (Somalia)

Waris Dirie is a world famous model. She has strutted the catwalks of Paris, Milano and New York and been featured in advertisement of brands such as Chanel and L’Oréal.

But her life started far from the glamour of the fashion world. Born to a family of nomads, she spent her childhood years trying to survive in the harsh Somali desert. The threat from thirst, starvation and wild animals such as lions made every day a struggle and several of her siblings did not survive into adulthood.

At 12, Waris Dirie ran away after finding out that her father was planning on marrying her off to an elderly man. She escaped to Mogadishu to live with relatives and from there she would move to London to work as a maid for her uncle, the Somali ambassador.

It was in the British capital that she would years later be discovered for her rare beauty and begin her long and successful career as a fashion model.

But her most important work as been as a UN Special Ambassador and activist against the practice of female genital mutilation. Having herself been subjected to it as a child, she knows first hand the horrors of it. Her experience on the day she suffered the mutilation is retold in the book and it is not for the faint of heart, so just be prepared for that.

FGM is today still practiced in Somalia as well as in many other countries. It is estimated that around three millions girl and women are subjected to it every year. To fight this, Waris Dirie started the Desert Flower Foundation. You can visit the website to learn more about FGM and what you can do to help fight it.

Desert Flower is an important autobiography from a brave woman and I’m glad I read it. I learned a lot about a country I quite honestly knew little about. You can tell that Waris Dirie loves her country of origin and that it is much more than one problematic tradition. This is definitely a book to recommend.

A less catastrophic election than expected – but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Yesterday was election day in Sweden. It was a day many anticipated with anxiety because of the increasingly popular far-right Sweden Democrats. Some polls put them at 25-28% of the votes, which would have made them the strongest party.

Luckily, those polls were wrong as in the end SD got about 17,6% of votes. Which is still higher than what they got in the last election, when they got 13%.

The party which won was the Social Democrats with 28,4% of the votes. But to rule a party needs at least 50% of votes. Since we have eight different parties in the Riksdag, this very rarely happens. So the Social Democrats have to form a coalition with other parties so that they together can get over 50%. Or they can make a deal with the other side to allow a minority government.

But other parties can also get together. If the right-wing parties would join forced with the Sweden Democrats, they could do just that. Then the far-right SD, a party started by an ex-SS and two neo-nazis, could become part of the government.

There are several different coalitions that could be made and right now the political parties of Sweden are negotiating a deal. Will fascists be let into the government? People’s lives depend on the Swedish traditional right standing against these forces of evil and saying no.

Bottom dysphoria and the curse of comfortable numbness.

Trigger warning: suicide, depression, dysphoria.

 

I’ve been on SSRI antidepressants on-and-off since my late teens. I tried to quit several times but couldn’t last more than a few months without becoming extremely depressed so I’ve always gone back to the pills. The dysphoria was driving me insane and I needed to get back that feeling of nothingness to pretend it wasn’t there.

I think the pills were both a curse and a blessing for me. A blessing because it’s likely that I would have offed myself a long time ago without them. A curse because they allowed me to slip into a comfortable numbness that made me ignore my problems for years.

Now is the first time since I started my transition that I’m off antidepressants. The reason at first was an accident: my doctor had gone on vacation and forgotten to refill my prescription. I wasn’t able to get a hold of him until weeks later but by then I was so happy to be able to feel a full range of emotions again that I didn’t want to get back on the meds.

I feared I would become depressed again but that hasn’t happened. I have days when I feel sad but it’s nothing like the crippling depression I used to experience. I think that it’s likely because I don’t feel as dysphoric since being on T and getting top surgery.

Being able to feel more emotions, both good and bad, has really shaken me up over the last few months. I’ve had to confront a lot of things about myself and I feel I’ve grown more as a person in months than I did in years.

The latest truth I’ve had to learn to accept is that I do have bottom dysphoria, no matter how much I like to pretend that I don’t. This will come as no surprise to those who have followed my blog for a while. I’ve gone back and forth a lot with whether or not I want bottom surgery. I even started a bottom surgery journey blog during a period when I was dead set on having phalloplasty, only to change my mind and delete it.

I don’t know how much I’m going to blog about my phalloplasty. It probably won’t be until years in the future (universal healthcare is great and I’m happy I won’t have to worry about paying for it but the waiting lists are long as hell) and quite frankly I’ve reached a period in my life when I’m sick of talking about being trans. I just want to get a body as close as possible to the one I should have been born with and get on with my life as just another guy.

Maybe I’ll do a Q&A post when the surgery is done, I don’t know. I’d prefer not to think about it too much for now since thinking about bottom surgery reminds me of what’s between my legs now and it triggers dysphoria.

If there’s one thing I’d like to end this post with it’s a message to other trans guys that you don’t need to feel ashamed of having bottom dysphoria or wanting bottom surgery. You might think “well, duh” but there is so much shitting on the surgery alternatives for trans men (often based on myths) that I feel it needs to be said. There also this message going around that having “vagina pride” and being a “proud man with a pussy” is the most empowering thing for trans men. Of course, some trans men don’t have bottom dysphoria and that’s awesome but getting surgery if it’s the right thing for you is just as empowering.

A World Tour of Books: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Spain)

Not so long ago I began to see Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s books popping up in the recommended section of many book stores. I made a mental note to check them out eventually to see what all the fuss was about but never got around to it.

The reason I finally got my hands on an exemplar of his novel The Shadow of the Wind was because it was gifted to me by an aunt. She is also an avid book reader and had a feeling I would like this particular one. And she was right.

The Shadow of the Wind I would say is a book for book-lovers, which is probably why it is one of the best selling novels of all times.
It tells the story of Daniel Sempere, a little boy who is one day taken by his father to a secret library called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He is told to choose one book to take home and protect for the rest of his life. The one he picks is a novel called The Shadow of the Wind, a tragic odyssey about lost time and unhappy love.

carax

Fascinated, Daniel tries to find out more about its mysterious author Julián Carax. But it turns out to be more difficult than expected since his books have only been printed in a couple hundreds copies each. To make matters worse: an unsettling figure calling himself Laín Coubert, the name of the devil in Carax’s novel, is tracking every remaining book to burn them.

Years pass as Daniel investigates what happened to Julián Carax and why. Strangely, his own life starts to resemble Carax’s. Will the same tragedy and heartbreak befall him? And will he once and for all learn the truth about the author and why someone is so desperately trying to erase every sign that he ever existed?

The Shadow of the Wind is a heartwarming novel about love, loss and redemption. It is melancholic but sometimes humorous and has many complex characters, both likeable and unlikable. It is a real page turner which most definitely has earned its immense popularity.

 

 

A World Tour of Books: Raif Badawi: The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story by Ensaf Haidar. (Saudi Arabia)

In 2013 a Saudi man by the name of Raif Badawi was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes. The next year, it was increased to ten years and 1000 lashes. His crime? Creating an internet site where he criticised Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian government and where people could freely discuss political ideas.

Since modern Saudi Arabia is a theocracy based on Wahhabism (an ultraconservative, fundamentalist branch of Islam), the authorities do not tolerate any criticism of the country’s cleric or any promoting of secularism. When they saw Raif Badawi do both these things, they decided to make an example out of him and gave him this cruel sentence.

Ensaf

This book tells the true life story of the love between Raif Badawi and his wife Ensaf Haidar. It began when they unintentionally ended up talking to each other when Raif called on Ensaf’s cell phone, which her brother had borrowed to call his friend Raif a few days earlier. Ensaf and Raif fell in love and a conflict ensued with her family who found their relationship inappropriate in a culture where men and women who aren’t relatives are not supposed to have any contact.

Eventually, they were allowed to marry and had three children. Raif ran a school and made a good living for them. But everything changed when the authorities discovered Raif’s website.

A long campaign of harassment began, both from the religious authorities and from Raif and Ensaf’s own families. Eventually, they decided to leave the country. Ensaf moved away first with the children but before Raif could join them, he was arrested.

Ever since, Ensaf has campaigned to bring attention to her husband’s situation. Many human rights organisations have taken an interest and Raif Badawi has won many awards for his activism. But as of 2018, he is still not free and has 950 lashes left on his sentence.

Raif Badawi: The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story is a shocking but inspiring tale of two brave people’s struggle for freedom in one of the world’s most conservative countries.

For more information on Raif Badawi’s situation and how you can help, please visit: https://www.raifbadawi.org/

An Accidental Manifesto

My thoughts are always the most restless when I wake up. I don’t really no why. Maybe because it’s before I take my ADHD meds. It’s both a blessing and a curse because it tends to make me anxious but it’s also when I get my best ideas.

I was having such a morning the other day when I suddenly felt the urge to write down my own political beliefs. Not as a statement anyone else was going to read but rather to clarify them to myself. I grabbed a pen and some paper and wrote down this:

Nothing is mine. There are the things I use and the things I do not use, but nothing in this world exists solely for me. Only I am entirely my own.

As I am entirely my own, so do every other person belong solely to themselves. I shall not bend them to my will through force or exploitation any more than I would strike my own flesh. I expect in return that they will respect me in the same way.

If you see me in bounds then will you help me, my friend? Whenever it will be in my power to do so I will help free you from your own chains. I will not turn a blind eye whenever I see oppression – this great enemy of freedom.

As I wish to be free, so I wish every human to be free. How could I truly enjoy the sweet taste of liberty when I see it denied to my siblings?

And so I say: let us all be free. Let us tear down the walls between us and burn the bounds around each of us. Let liberty be for each of us and for us all.

When I feel I had written everything I needed to write, I added the title “A Individualist-Solidarist Manifesto” on top of the page. I realised then that I had ended up writing a statement of my own political beliefs and values.

The term “Individualist-Solidarist” to me means someone who believes in personal freedom but that it can only truly exist in a world where people help each other out and help protect each other’s freedom. I used to think the problem with a lot of individualistic ideologies was that they took it too far. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t take it far enough.

For example: Ayn Rand was a big proponent of individual rights. But her philosophy of Objectivism when applied to political policies leads to nothing less than Corporate tyranny and individual freedom for only a very small percentage of the population. If she had been serious about individual liberty she would have wanted it for everyone. She would have wanted all things that keep people from being their own to be abolished, not just the oppressive structures that come from the state.

Individualist-Solidarism, I believe, is the core principle of Libertarian Socialism and it’s what has drawn me to this particular ideology.

But how exactly do we create a world where everyone gets to be their own person? Well, that’s an issue you can’t really answer in one post. Not that I claim to have all these answers. But I sure will continue to bring up these questions and look for ways to help liberate both myself and others.

A World Tour of Books: The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea)

The first thing that intrigued me about this novel when I saw it in the bookstore was its titel. Being a vegetarian myself, I felt compelled to pick it up and after reading the synopsis I knew I had to give it a read.

The topic of vegetarianism is briefly touched upon in this novel but isn’t really the main theme. Through the story of Yeong-hye, a housewife in a traditional Korean marriage, Han Kang examines the potential consequences of a person rebelling against conventions.

When the homely and quiet Yeong-hye one day decides to stop eating meat, she is met with staunch opposition from the people in her life. Her parents, husband and even her sister all try to persuade her to give up her new diet. The situation soon turns into a power struggle which is about much more than just what Yeong-hye wants and doesn’t want to eat.

How much can a person take? What does it do to a person to not fully own herself but to be restricted by tradition and the opinions of others? What happens when someone finally breaks or rebels? These are some of the questions asked in this Man Booker prize winning novel which will leave you feeling shocked, moved and disturbed.

A new ID and a brighter future

I haven’t posted a life update in a while so here comes one.

The first big thing that’s happened is that I’m now officially legally male. Along with the change from a F to a M on my IDs and passport, I’ve also been given a new social security number because of this silly Swedish law that says men and women must have different kinds of SSNs. It makes the process of changing legal gender a bit more complicated than it needs to be. A new SSN means a completely different legal identity and that creates trouble for a lot of trans people. Just to name one example: you can be denied a bank loan if you haven’t lived in the country under the same identity for more than three years.

The second big think that’s happened is that I’m soon going to start a course to become a certified accounting clerk. I’ve actually worked as one in the past but as I’m mostly self-taught and don’t have an official education I’ve had a hard time finding work in the field. After this course I will hopefully one day be able to leave the janitor job I currently have and which I probably shouldn’t even be doing since I have such bad joint problems.

My long-term goal is to be self-employed in my own accounting bureau or to start a cooperative one. Either way, I think it’s important for workers to own their own means of production. That’s the socialist in me, I can’t help it.

Which brings me to the third big change: my political activism. I’ve had a strong interest in politics for a long time but have only been politically active since becoming a libertarian socialist. After being a hardcore individualist (and really kind of a douche) for years, I’ve now realised how isolated I was all this time. Ironically, going outside of myself to help others has help me find myself in a way solely pursuing my own individual freedom never could. I have made many connections and doors have opened for me which I never dreamed possible. Solidarity among workers really is a great liberator.

Between political rallies and planning my future career, I still find time to write. The last part of my fantasy trilogy is about 70% done. I’ve also recently decided to make all my books free. Bringing money into it kind of ruined a lot of the fun and put a certain pressure on me to write something people would be willing to buy rather than simply write from my heart. It feels like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders and right now I don’t much care if I ever make another cent from writing.

I have been slacking a bit when it comes to reading but I’m still working on reading a book from every country in the world. At the moment I’m reading a fascinating novel from South Korea and will be posting a review in the coming week.