4 – The rise of the Fake Anarchists

By H-Cat and Pickleteeth 

For over a century, anarchists enjoyed the perks of having a bad reputation. Throughout the 1900s, we were the “bomb-throwing anarchists,” and in 1919, a number of radicals, including Emma Goldman, were forcibly removed from the United States simply for being anarchists. While the political oppression was shitty, it came with a fun bonus: there was no social currency in calling yourself an anarchist, and it was a label capitalist social climbers strived to avoid. Calling yourself an anarchist could cause you to lose your job, get deported, or end up in prison. 

That all changed in 2011, when the mainstream was introduced to anarchism through the Occupy movement, and anarchist academics like David Graeber gained a type of widespread recognition. Capitalism was collapsing (as usual), and suddenly, in a sort of panic, a great deal of public attention began to be directed towards anarchists, as if we had all the answers, as if we’ve found some sort of “secret sauce” to fix society. 

While the shift in the public’s imagination about anarchism has had its benefits (we seem to be getting less FBI raids, which is kind of nice), much of this attention directed towards anarchism has been superficial. Most people who say they’re excited about anarchism didn’t want to give up unearned forms of hierarchy or make the dramatic changes that would entail: ​​​​​​​they simply want to see if “anarchism” can be used as a band-aid so they can continue with business-as-usual. 

This has allowed a strange new trend to arise: a cohort of posers either pretending to be anarchists, or spouting anarchist-ish ideas in efforts to recruit for profoundly shitty projects. This includes the so-called Anarcho-Capitalists or “AnCaps” who falsely claim that anarchism and capitalism can co-exist. This also includes some hella scary white nationalists and extremists who draw upon anti-state rhetoric that sometimes sounds like anarchism as part of their recruiting. 

We ignore these fake anarchists at our peril. Some of them even have an explicit agenda to co-opt the term “anarchist” so that the term comes to mean the same thing that “libertarian” means in the U.S. Because of these attempts at co-optation, it has never been more important to articulate strong anti-racist and anti-capitalist stances within our movements. Anarchism means co-creating a society with autonomy for everyone, and that autonomy is infringed upon when racial capital rears its ugly head. White supremacists, sexists, and those who wish to advance the ecological destruction caused by bitcoin and other forms of capital are not anarchists. They are promoting and expanding unjust forms of hierarchies that erode autonomy and harm the ecology. Anarchism has no place for these types of people.

As you navigate this new strange landscape filled with fake anarchists and posers, here are some individuals and groups to watch out for: 

  • Michael Malice, fake anarchist. Some asshat named Michael Malice has been going around calling himself a “the world’s most prominent anarchist,” but he’s really just some fucking U.S.-style libertarian. Basically, he is trying to do to the term “anarchist” what Murray Rothbard did to “libertarian” in the U.S. If we let him get away with it, anarchist spaces will soon become overrun with Gadsden flag types. Ugh. Seriously, check out the video by Chill Goblin called “Anarcho-capitalism and the TRUTH about Michael Malice.” Link to video: youtu.be/Wen2sMlhyPM 
  • The U.S. white power movement assholes. If someone in your organizing space won’t shut up about Waco or keeps talking about “The Turner Diaries,” you probably have a white supremacist in your mist. In Oakland, we had a couple folks like this try to join some organizing spaces about ten years ago. These types tend to corner and harass people of color, and will quietly drive them from your organizing spaces if you let them hang around. Don’t. There’s an episode of NPR’s Throughline that explores the evolution of the modern white power movement in the U.S., it is a good introduction to a number of white supremacist dog whistles so you can identify them when they show up in your spaces. Here’s the link: https://www.npr.org/2022/06/01/1102394528/the-modern-white-power-movement-2020.
  • Cryptocurrency (aka capitalist ecocide on steroids). Back in 2013 or so, a lot of us were fooled into letting Bitcoin people into our spaces. Many of us thought it was just another form of time-banking, just another experiment in alternative currency. Boy were we wrong! The more you understand the carbon footprint of the blockchain, the more you realize cryptocurrency is a MASSIVE polluter. Seriously, a 2018 scientific article published in Nature found that a single Bitcoin transaction uses more energy than an average single-family home in a year. Also, according to this article, cryptocurrency alone will put our planet over 1.5°C warming if left unchecked. This shit is wildly polluting; the bigger the blockchain gets, the more energy it needs. If we truly cared about the environment, we’d be smashing BitCoin mining rigs alongside pipelines. In some regions, BitCoin miners have even forced the grid to go back to burning coal because of their rapid need for more and more energy. There is nothing anti-capitalist about cryptocurrency, it is simply another form of capital, just like stocks and publicly traded commodities. It simply reinforces forms of pre-existing hierarchies while consuming monstrous amounts of energy. Crypto is also a pyramid scheme, so those who have bought into it find themselves compelled to trick others into buying it. For a clearheaded discussion of alternative currency models that are actually anti-capitalist, check out the “Is Cryptocurrency Good for the Next Economy?” episode of the Next Economy Now podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/dz/podcast/kevin-bayuk-is-cryptocurrency-good-for-the-next-economy/id1074584017 ​
  • The global white supremacist movement. It seems certain spokespeople for the global white supremacist movement have started blending forms of Marxist class analysis into their recruiting language, and at times, this can sound like anarchist rhetoric. Check out the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal podcast episode called “Inside the Global Fight for White Power” to see what we mean. In this episode, there’s an interview with neo-Nazi Matt Heimbach, who co-organized of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. As Heimbach explains his worldview, you’ll be shocked to hear that he has something resembling a class analysis, and even an anti-state “eat the rich” mindset. What’s wild is he and other neo-Nazis like him have folded these things in with racist, antisemitic conspiracy theories. This is literally an OG Nazi approach, and this is why it’s so damn important to resist forms of oppression beyond class oppression. Don’t let your space get co-opted by Nazis! Be sure to keep anti-racist (and anti-sexist!) analyses central to your organizing practice. Check out the podcast here to see what we’re talking about: https://revealnews.org/podcast/inside-global-fight-for-white-power/ 
  • Paleolibertarians (are not Anarcho-primitivists). While many of us are loathe to keep tabs on the libertarian party, it’s probably a good idea to peek over that fence every once in a while to see what stupid shit they are up to. Lately, the libertarian party has turned back the clock and is reviving paleolibertarianism from the 1980s. Parts of their rhetoric has been designed to appeal to some types of anarchists. Watch out for these chucklefucks. To learn more, check out this episode of the Its Going Down podcast: “Will Right-Libertarians Become The New Alt-Right?: A Discussion.” Link:  https://itsgoingdown.org/will-right-libertarians-become-the-new-alt-right-a-discussion/

What real anarchism looks like 

At its core, anarchism is about co-creating a society with autonomy for everyone. It is about ending unjust hierarchies, which means ending racial capital, gendered empire, and colonial ecocide. Perhaps we don’t have all the answers, but we have some tactics we’ve been working on, tactics that are ever-evolving through trial and error. These tactics include direct action, consensus process, DIY, bossless workplaces, and less hierarchical leaderless/leaderful movements. 

As part of the anarcho-syndicalist and co-op movement, we’ve developed strategies to create homes, workplaces, and communities that remove (or strive to remove) patterns that reinforce unearned hierarchy. We resist bullshit forms of authority like the state, cryptocurrency, and the stock market. Sometimes this means engaging in direct actions that disrupt the flow of racial capital, gendered empire, and colonial ecocide. And yeah, sometimes we get hella smashy-smashy on bank windows, pipelines, and confederate monuments. 

We say fuck the police—including the bathroom police. For over a decade here at the Long Haul Infoshop, we’ve made patches you can sew to your jacket that read “Gender Abolitionist.” This patch isn’t against any specific genders, but rather is about resisting non-consensual forms of gendering. 

We take consent very seriously, and are always working to understand how systemic forms of oppression rob people of consent and autonomy. And once we understand systems of oppression, we do everything we can to dismantle them—in our daily lives and in the world at large!

Are there other fake anarchists that should be added to this list? Other groups using anarchist talking points to further anti-anarchist causes? Let us know!