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Subtitle: How Anti-Civ Anarchy Became the Most Controversial Position
Green Anarchy & Red Anarchy: The Divide
Green anarchy, regardless of the offshoot, is a philosophy, a critique, and a lifeway that emphasizes the most pronounced anarchist principles. Green anarchists are ready and willing to dismantle all structures of domination, starting with a deep-rooted analysis of ecology, which means the relationship between all living things and the physical environment we all depend on to survive.
I'm going to examine the origins and gradual evolution of green anarchy, explore how these ideas are perceived by people on the outside looking in, and try to understand why green anarchy is so detested by a contingent of bullheaded leftists who, more and more, have been slandering us as "eco-fascists".
Green anarchists take the critique of authority as far as it will go – not stubbornly stopping at government and capital as many anarchists will do, but going further to tackle all the hierarchical implications of work, industry, agriculture, patriarchy, society, gender norms, high technology, numbers, language, time and more. It casts a wide net to identify and dissect all the forms of oppression that spawn from the global industrial-agricultural-patriarchal-domesticating system we're forced to live under.
The contemporary forms of green anarchy: "anti-civ", "green nihilism" and even the more PR-friendly but frustratingly wishy-washy "post-civ" have the same foundations and principles as anarcho-primitivism, but that label has largely been discarded by contemporary anarchists because of the racist implications of white Western philosophers referring to diverse indigenous lifestyles as "primitive".
I used to call myself post-civ when in the company of leftists, because, like a lot of green anarchists, I fell into the trap of trying to water down my anti-civ views to placate the scolding leftists that have long declared themselves the arbiters of sound anarchist theory.
For years, reds have stood up on a pedestal loudly shaming, othering and smearing anyone who isn't as enthusiastically devoted to the continued "progress" of the factory, the mine, the battery farm, the university campus, the cubicle (and other prisons) as they are.
It's natural to not want to be grouped in with a villainous, problematic, dangerous element – and that's what anti-civ anarchy is largely presented as by certain vocal elements within the left. An irredeemable bogeyman so frightening that it can't be allowed a voice, just in case the sound of it corrupts some impressionable child who doesn't know any better and is then turned away from the centralization, coercion, ecological plunder and imperialism that is inherent with industrial life.
Red organizers have tried to forbid green anarchists from tabling at anarchist book-fairs, overturned their tables when they showed up anyway, tried to confiscate their anti-civ literature, yelled abuse at them, spat at them, pepper-sprayed them, sucker-punched them. Reds frothing at the mouth at the sight of green anarchists would almost be amusing if it weren't becoming so damaging to our health and physical safety. They've convinced themselves we're evil scum who want to seize their insulin, burn down their workplaces and corn fields and, most ridiculously, omnicide the human species. They believe all this because of bald-faced lies they themselves made up to discredit anti-civ anarchy.
There's a concerted effort on behalf of the left to project all the authoritarian constructs inherent with leftism onto anti-civ anarchy, which wants nothing to do with leftism or its towering pile of deadly and ecosystem-destroying failures.
While humans and other animals suffer and die in staggering numbers all around us from the immediate effects of global industrial civilization, a lot of leftists will swear up and down that anti-civ anarchists are a mortal threat to the continued survival of humanity. That we're a clear and present danger to civilized people's freedom.
Let's try to unwrap why this is.
First, I should explain what ("dark") green anarchy is and what it isn't. Green anarchists theorize that generations of sedentary social stratification has led to human domestication, in the same way dogs have been gradually domesticated from wild wolves. Just like with dogs, this domesticating process has had a cumulative detrimental effect on our physical and mental health and the way we interact with each other and our environment.
It's proposed by green anarchists that a sustained “rewilding” process could act to curtail this domestication and restore the health of not only ourselves, but the balance of our ecosystems. Some of the proposed ways to achieve this include regenerative land management techniques and the restoration of our social bonds with the biosphere.
These correlative bonds we had with our habitat for almost our entire existence as a species have become deeply fractured due to the various alienating processes that brought about our domestication. Until the bonds are repaired and the planet's ecology is restored, we'll continue to experience the dreadful effects of social and ecological collapse, as well as the continued processes of coercion and domination that are so ingrained in industrial mass-society.
Green anarchy addresses both social and environmental factors and understands that the two are interlinked in a holistic manner. If an ecosystem is broken, the people who live within it will continue to deteriorate until a healthy ecology is restored.
Like all anarchists, we challenge all systems of authority and seek voluntary, mutually-beneficial relationships with our neighbors in self-sustaining communities. The thing that most sets green anarchists apart from other tendencies is our dedication to extending our critique of domination to all life, not simply human life. We study anthropology and history to understand the origins of civilization and all the systems of domination that formed around it.
The philosophy of green anarchy is informed by the writings and lifeways of transcendentalists (Thoreau), bioregionalists (Reclus), situationists (Debord), spiritual anarchists (Tolstoy, Laozi, Brydum), anarcho-naturists (Gravelle, Zisly, Montseny), indigenous-anarchists (Zig Zag, Indigenous Action, Tawinikay), green nihilists (Langer, anonymous, Flower Bomb, Abara, de Acosta, Aragorn!), anti-civs (Landstreicher, Fitzpatrick, Elany, Seaweed, Return Fire) and anarcho-primitivists (Moore, Zerzan, Perlman, Tucker, AbdelRahim).
These interrelated philosophies together form a strong critique of social hierarchy, work, extractivism, social alienation, domestication, social stratification, technocracy, patriarchy, the division of labor / specialization, ableism, imperialism, institutional violence, desertification, mass society, ecocide and all the other forms of authority brought about by the civilization that envelopes the whole planet.
There are those who are not willing to widen their critique of authority to most of these things, yet insist on identifying as ("bright") green or eco-anarchists. These people are simply pushing insipid, greenwashed Marxism like Murray Bookchin made a career of doing for decades. Anyone working to convince us the disastrous industrial system that's become so pervasive in our lives and driven so much of the planet's life to extinction can be gently reshaped into a peaceful, ecological people's utopia has little understanding of what it means to be "green" and doesn't reject hierarchy in any real way.
Green anarchy embodies an unapologetic critique of all forms of authority. "Solar-punk", "social ecology", "post-scarcity anarchism" and related attempts to appropriate the green label from anti-civs have no real desire to address the devastating consequences of the debilitating industrial system that rules us. Their wistful notions that "green" technology such as solar cells, undefined "clean energy", modular computing, 3D printers and electric vehicles will solve this unprecedented crisis are incredibly shortsighted.
They fail to understand just how destructive and polluting those high technologies are to extract from the earth, manufacture and transport. They always fail to address the mountains of toxic waste that's produced during these processes and dumped in some third world peasant's backyard. All these high-tech goods require global supply chains, extractivism, imperialism and laborer-exploitation because they're made up of rare minerals and other resources that can only be sourced in certain parts of the world.
The manufacturing processes for microchips and silicon are so advanced that they require centralized mega-factories that cost an absolute fortune to set up and run, which is why there are only 2 or 3 companies in the world with the required infrastructure.
The microchip manufacturing process involves hundreds of steps and depends on advanced robots pushing tiny particles around massive fabrication facilities. The "clean rooms" inside these facilities require tightly controlled conditions with zero contamination from dust, humidity, heat or dirt. If one tiny impurity enters the system, an entire batch will be ruined, costing a fortune and months of wasted preparation. You're not going to have local neighborhood microchip factories like these solarpunks seem to imagine.
Reading an incredibly shallow and uninformed text like The Solarpunk Manifesto is an exercise in frustration for anyone who has thought seriously about all the consequences of mass-production and what it takes to maintain an industrial city. It reads like a child's proposal for saving the world. Look at some of these points:
Solarpunk recognizes the historical influence politics and science fiction have had on each other.
Solarpunk recognizes science fiction as not just entertainment but as a form of activism.
The visual aesthetics of Solarpunk are open and evolving. As it stands, it is a mash-up of the following: 1800s age-of-sail/frontier living (but with more bicycles). Creative reuse of existing infrastructure (sometimes post-apocalyptic, sometimes present-weird). Appropriate technology. Art Nouveau. Hayao Miyazaki. Jugaad-style innovation from the non-Western world. High-tech backends with simple, elegant outputs.
In Solarpunk we've pulled back just in time to stop the slow destruction of our planet. We've learned to use science wisely, for the betterment of our life conditions as part of our planet.
It's just silly. A style guide for drawing pretty art and writing fiction with a certain aesthetic. It's a fun and creative pastime, sure, but it doesn't engage in any real way with the ongoing global ecocide beyond proposing "green tech" and without ever attempting to explain how, "sustainable civilization".
The more "serious" philosophies like Bookchin's social ecology and post-scarcity anarchism essentially make the same naive assumptions and proposals as solar-punk, but use bigger words to do it, while also repeatedly tarnishing anti-civs for not having faith in futurist science, technological progress, democracy and workerism. (I've written about Bookchin's greenwashed prescriptions in a previous essay, so I won't rehash that here.)
The left's reductive utopian thinking: insisting on dear leader's step-by-step plan for constructing a utopian worker-society has never led anywhere good.
It's naive and damaging to imagine Leviathan can be tamed and reformed into serving the interests of free people. Industrial civilization will never allow left-wing-technocrats to curtail its constant expansion. The idea that the system can be reformed into compliance is a complete misunderstanding of power-hierarchy, and more perversely, a willful disregarding of the morbid reality we live everyday. Leviathan has stolen both the present and the future from under us and it's not going to suddenly play nice because some oblivious Bookchinites say they can make it do their bidding. Prescribing a supposed lesser-evil form of industrialism to solve the devastation wrought on us by the industrial age is tragically inept. Leviathan will roll over gullible solar-industrialists and their "green" cities without skipping a beat.
The tireless drive of Leviathan to dominate absolutely everything everywhere and leave nothing but sand in its wake cannot be under-estimated. Marxists completely fail to reckon with the coercion – domestication – alienation – domination – ecocide cycle that's inherent in industrial civilization. If someone told them capitalism could be reformed to benefit workers, they'd laugh in their face, but somehow they're convinced Leviathan would be rendered docile and servile if workers possessed more democracy in the workplace. They insist Leviathan's sprawling cities can be made to peacefully co-exist with the wilds... The wilds that need to be stripped bare and burned to a crisp every record-hot summer to maintain those cities. And all they need to do it? Leftists in positions of power.
It's patently absurd, and yet they've never questioned it because their entire ideological worldview depends on the glory of the moral leftist worker-organizer who can do no wrong. They offer the same distorted solution to every problem: Just give workers democracy and everything will be okay. Because voter bodies would never use democracy to vote the future away to preserve their privileges. Coal miners would never vote to keep the mines open. Farm workers would never vote to use pesticides to make their jobs easier. Factory workers would never vote to outsource their industrial waste somewhere out of sight. (Note: Heavy use of sarcasm)
Unlike "anarcho-transhumanism" – which took a pre-existing authoritarian-aligned school of thought from rich white Silicon Valley executives and tried to fuse it with anarchy (with admittedly amusing results), there is no authoritarian primitivism. It's always been an anarchist school of thought, envisioned by anarchists for anarchists as a critique of civilization and an associated living practice going all the way back to Thoreau, Tolstoy and Reclus, long before it was first given a name in the 1980s.
The Origins of Anti-Civ Anarchy & Other Ecological Movements
Ever since Thoreau dropped out of society to live in the woods and documented his experience in a diary, anti-civilizational anarchy has been a strong current within the anarchist milieu. Living in balance with nature. Practicing simple, sustainable survival skills in order to live without depending on systems of authority. Deconstructing the inherently alienating properties of industrial civilization. Unlearning all the bad habits urban life has indoctrinated us with...
These were long-held anarchist principles and it's only recently, thanks to self-avowed anti-anarchist crusaders like Murray Bookchin that these ideas have been tarnished as "lifestylist" and "reactionary". There's been a decades-long smear campaign led by anarcho-transhumanists, post-scarcity anarchists and other reds to equate anti-civ anarchy with "eco-fascism" and cast all anti-civs as transphobic, ableist, genocidal, wheelchair-stealing supervillains who work in the shadows to bring about the cruel destruction of everything civilized people hold dear.
Green anarchy in its successive forms, from transcendentalism to primitivism, to the current trends of green-nihilism and indigenous anarchism, has always, always rejected all authority, oppression and domination. It's always been the anarchist school of thought most ready to pick apart every social institution to identify its limitations and its hierarchical inevitabilities, while other anarchist tendencies have willfully ignored all manner of social hierarchies when people decided those hierarchies were beneficial to furthering their reductive ideological prescriptions to build bigger, better societies with cushy manufacturing jobs for everyone. The supposed divinity of "progress" has consumed the left since the dawn of the industrial age.
Elisée Reclus summed it up well in 1905:
"Progress," in the strictest sense of the word, is meaningless, for the world is infinite, and in its unlimited vastness, one is always as distant from the beginning as from the end. The movement of society ultimately reduces to the movements of the individuals who are its constitutive elements. In view of this fact, we must ask what progress in itself can be determined for each of these beings whose total life span from birth to death is only a few years. Is it no more than that of a spark of light glancing off a pebble and vanishing instantly into the cold air? [...]
The missionaries who encounter magnificent savages moving about freely in their nakedness believe that they will bring them "progress" by giving them dresses and shirts, shoes and hats, catechisms and Bibles, and by teaching them to chant psalms in English or Latin. And what triumphant songs in honor of progress have not been sung at the opening ceremonies of all the industrial plants with their adjoining taverns and hospitals! Certainly, industry brought real progress in its wake, but it is important to analyze scrupulously the details of this great evolution! The wretched populations of Lancashire and Silesia demonstrate that their histories were not a record of unadulterated progress. It is not enough to change one's circumstances and enter a new class in order to acquire a greater share of happiness. There are now millions of industrial workers, seamstresses, and servants who tearfully remember the thatched cottages of their childhoods, the outdoor dances under the ancestral tree, and the evening visits around the hearth. And what kind of "progress" is it for the people of Cameroon and of Togo to have henceforth the honor of being protected by the German flag, or for the Algerian Arabs to drink aperitifs and express themselves elegantly in Parisian slang?
In the spirit of Tao, Green anarchy goes further than merely critiquing material structures of domestication and domination, it also critiques our conceptions of what the world is, how we place ourselves in it, the purpose of self, and indeed the very idea of a fixed reality.
The way we conceive of the world and of our existence on a metaphysical level is as important to the green anarchist tradition as our understanding of the manufactured systems erected to domesticate us. These systems restrain both body and mind, in order to maintain the constant forward march of civilization, keeping Leviathan fat and powerful and everything else in a state of perpetual spiritual starvation.
Without a keen understanding of the self, the constraining "logic" of progress will forever linger in our minds, and blunt all the provocative, stimulating possibilities we could be exploring, hindering us from living a life of joy rather than the tragic loop of suffering and sacrifice we eternalize in service of Leviathan's monstrous appetite.
Only by breaking down the imposing walls of domestication within our minds can we hope to truly progress beyond our compulsion to feed the gluttonous serpent.
There's a strong argument to be made that anti-civ is the most anti-authority of all the anarchist schools of thought, even going as far as critiquing language for its inherent alienation and propensity for hierarchy-building – something that anyone with disabilities that cause communication struggles, or with a "common" accent that marks them as poor for life would appreciate.
This has a lot to do with why leftists are so quick to fear-monger and bad-jacket anarchists when we have anti-civ ideas. The realization that green anarchists will go much, much further than they ever will in questioning all the structures of domination that subjugate us must be incredibly threatening for people who crow about how "radical" and enlightened they are to anyone who will listen… So radical that they've read everything David Graeber and Murray Bookchin ever wrote and will parrot their academic heroes soothing tall-tales at every opportunity. If only the world could be as simple as they've conceived it in their manifestos. If only the workers owning the means of production would create a worldwide ecological utopia, and all other forms of authority would evaporate when they met that singular goal. Then they wouldn't need to attack green anarchy and burn our books to prevent anyone from thinking beyond their ideal-workplace fantasy.
A lot of the anger about anti-civ anarchy demonstrably isn't actually about anti-civ anarchists at all, but at unrelated groups like "Individuals Tending Towards the Wild" (ITS) and "Deep Green Resistance" (DGR). Reds associate these anti-anarchist groups with anti-civ anarchy for reasons only known to them.
ITS is a Mexican terrorist group that may or may not be responsible for indiscriminate bombings and murders done in the name of "eco-extremism" and vengeance for the continuing deterioration of the planet's ecosystems. Among the attacks people identifying with ITS have claimed responsibility for are bombings of anarchist events and squats. Some of the random murders they've claimed in their communiques later turned out to have been committed by people with no connection to ITS, casting doubt on the veracity of their claims. For example, murder victim Berlin Osorio’s boyfriend was arrested and tried for her murder after an ITS communique tried to take credit for it. Regardless, they've written long tirades rejecting anarchism and celebrated bombing anarchist spaces. Equating this group with green anarchy doesn't make a lick of sense.
DGR is a proudly trans-exclusionary millenarian organization that prescribes hierarchical vanguardism (in the form of a board of directors), submission to dear leader and reactionary moralism as the solution for the destruction of the environment.
Anarcho-primitivists John Zerzan, Kevin Tucker and others have long criticized DGR's rigid hierarchy, their institutional transphobia, their cultish code of conduct that penalizes members for breaking with their rules (which include things as vague as "disloyalty", lack of "commitment, courage or integrity"), their incredibly flawed historical understanding of revolution and radical history, and the cult of personality that surrounds the organization's leaders Keith and Jensen. DGR really embodies all the worst instincts of the historic authoritarian left, and equating this cultish top-down organization with any of the staunchly anti-left, anti-civ anarchist tendencies is as ridiculous as blaming Kropotkin for Hitler or Mussolini's views simply because they were all big promoters of the progress of industrial society.
The DGR organization with its dogmatic manifestos that outline how the leaders of its vanguard will govern and punish its lesser members is what you get when the left tries to tackle environmentalism. It really couldn't be any further removed from the principles of green anarchy. So, when the left claims anti-civs are transphobic because of the views of DGR's creepy TERF board of directors, they're really attacking the left's zealous organizationalism, the left's attempts at world-building, the left's insistence on an ideological sameness among its members, and the left's stringent codes of laws rather than anything green anarchy is responsible for.
Leftists striving to govern "the people" is the reason organizations like DGR are able to do harm. An institutionalized, structural bigotry written in stone for all members of a political organization to internalize and obey is far more dangerous than any isolated latent bigotry an anti-organizationalist (like a green anarchist) might hold. Bigotry is far more destructive when it has organized, systemic power behind it.
It's very telling that leftists can't or won't separate authoritarian environmental organizations that are organized according to leftist principles from the various anti-organizational green anarchist tendencies. Ancoms are constantly insisting they're the only real communists, the only real leftists, the only real libertarians and the only real democrats, but when it comes to green anarchists, apparently we're all a bunch of eco-fascists.
Eco-fascists, Eco-extremists, DGR, ITS and so on don't claim to be anarchists, primitivists or any variation of the two. The same goes for Ted Kaczynski, the former Unabomber, who doesn't claim to be an anarchist and in fact frequently lambasts anarchy and anarcho-primitivism for not being authoritarian like him. He calls anarcho-primitivism "a romanticized vision" and rejects it for being too socially progressive.
For some reason this man, who, if you've read his more recent writings, seems to most closely align with some form of class-reductionist Maoism, has been painted as the patron saint of anti-civ anarchy by people who clearly have no familiarity with his (actually very vanguardist and governmentalist) politics. While it's true some anti-civ anarchists have been influenced by a select few of his better ideas, that shouldn't be enough to weigh us down with all his bad ones.
That being said, there are certainly some shit green anarchists out there just like there are some shit red anarchists, orange anarchists, and so on. Anarchy shouldn't ever be confused with some of the people who lay claim to the label, or we would all have to abandon the anarchist philosophy because of anarcho-capitalists. There are even some generally good anarchists who still maintain some bad ideas, like certain aging anprims who haven't managed to move past the old "noble savage" trope.
There are also some unknowledgeable people who choose to identify with green anarchy without having much of an understanding of what anarchy entails. Some of these people, feeling alienated by industrial society, were drawn to vague anti-industrial politics (usually due to Kaczynski) and now loosely identify as green anarchists, without having read enough about anarchy to realize how completely unforgiving it is when it comes to hierarchy, domination and oppression. They narrowly focus in on the anti-civ aspect of anarchy, which really has very little use without the broader anti-authority aspects. Just like baby red anarchists, baby green anarchists will soon either switch to a less demanding philosophy when realizing how high the learning curve is, or will in time develop into decent anarchists.
The reason properly-informed green anarchists don't aim to construct a program to force our principles on the world is because we fully believe in anarchy. Coercing people to live the way we live would instantly disqualify us from being anarchists.
Most of the smears against green anarchists seem to come from the discomfort provoked by the random violence committed by Kaczynski and ITS and the transphobia of DGR, even though all three have vocally denounced green anarchy on multiple occasions. The idea that hierarchical organizations and terrorists who vocally oppose green anarchy somehow represent green anarchy is absurdly disingenuous, even for the left.
It really needs to be said again and again and again until it sinks in to the collective consciousness: Anti-civ anarchy is a critical framework. It is not a political program for building a new world order. It is not a plan to build a global gatherer-hunter society or to force any way of life on anyone. It's a useful lens we can apply to problems that are then tackled on a case-by-case basis by the people most affected by them. It is not a system for ordering reductive prescriptions on everything, everyone, everywhere.
There’s always the danger — as witnessed recently in Fifth Estate, for example — where hostile commentators can twist your words so that it looks as if you are constructing a primitivist ideology and setting up a primitivist political movement, even when you state exactly the contrary.
We're not going to seize anyone's insulin, break their wheelchair or ban them from playing video games. The reason this slanderous myth is so pervasive among leftists is because leftists assume every school of thought is like their own – a program to force an ideological blueprint for the organization of people on the world – a rigid and unchanging manifesto that claims to have all the answers to all our conundrums. They don't seem able to conceive of a non-prescriptive worldview because their worldview so revolves around a long-dead German (or Russian) man's promise to solve all the planet's problems with his immortal communist science.
While the left revolves around a few learned men manufacturing systems and rules for others to live by, anti-civ has no such ambitions. The majority of the criticisms leftists have about green anarchy are them projecting their own grand ambitions for the ordering of society onto anti-civ anarchists. They're unwilling to break out of their ever-shrinking ideological bubble to understand the difference between a critical framework and a political program. They can't fathom of a philosophy that isn't yet another tired prescription for world-building and people-management. This becomes extremely clear when the first thing reds ask us when they hear we're green anarchists is almost always: "So, what does your utopia look like?" This binary way of thinking makes it near-impossible to communicate our ideas to them without them making a hundred false assumptions fed to them by their own ideological brainworms.
The fierce cognitive dissonance that erupts in leftists when green anarchists are willing to poke holes in all the hierarchical systems they aren't willing to dismantle betrays their smallminded thinking. They simply lack the imagination to think outside the suffocating concrete box they've constructed for themselves.
While much of the fallacious green-scare leftists have stirred up comes from them confusing green anarchy for authoritarian environmentalist movements, as well as the rampant badjacketing Bookchin unleashed against green anarchists to help prop up his greenwashed political program, there's also a green anarchist tendency that seems to only exist because of that same green-scare: Post-civ anarchy.
This tendency, while being anarchist and anti-civ, still manages to feed the big lie that other forms of green anarchy are deviant and bigoted ideas that we need to loudly castigate and distance ourselves from at every opportunity. It repeats that tiresome myth that primitivism is a political program to remake society in the image of indigenous gatherer-hunters and subsistence farmers, the same way communism is a program to remake society in the image of the collectively-owned factory worker.
These are the points Margaret Killjoy makes in setting post-civ apart from anarcho-primitivism. Let's go through them one by one and I'll demonstrate how they're little more than strawmen, and show that post-civ is really no different than anarcho-primitivism in substance or practice, and the attempt to distance green anarchy from its roots necessitates buying into the smears disseminated by transhumanists, Marxists and others who fetishize the idea of liberation through the progression of industrial civilization.
We're Not Primitivists. It is neither possible, nor desirable, to return to a pre-civilized state of being. Most of the groundwork of anti-civilization thought — important work, mind you — has been laid down by primitivists. Primitivists believe, by and large, that humanity would be better served by returning to a pre-civilized way of life. This is not a view that we share.
Anprims don't actually believe it's possible or desirable to "return to a pre-civilized state of being'" so from the get-go Killjoy is building a coercive strawman.
The definitive explainer for anarcho-primitivism and green anarchy in general still remains "A Primitivist Primer" by the late John Moore (who was my creative writing professor when I was an international student in England in the early 00s, coincidentally). Everyone who wants to understand the anti-civ philosophy should read this text, because it will quickly dispel the myths being put out into the world by fearful blockheads.
From A Primitivist Primer:
The aim is not to replicate or return to the primitive, merely to see the primitive as a source of inspiration, as exemplifying forms of anarchy. For anarcho-primitivists, civilization is the overarching context within which the multiplicity of power relations develop. Some basic power relations are present in primitive societies — and this is one reason why anarcho-primitivists do not seek to replicate these societies — but it is in civilization that power relations become pervasive and entrenched in practically all aspects of human life and human relations with the biosphere.[...]
The fact is that anarcho-primitivism is not a power-seeking ideology. It doesn't seek to capture the State, take over factories, win converts, create political organizations, or order people about. Instead, it wants people to become free individuals living in free communities which are interdependent with one another and with the biosphere they inhabit. It wants, then, a total transformation, a transformation of identity, ways of life, ways of being, and ways of communicating. This means that the tried and tested means of power-seeking ideologies just aren't relevant to the anarcho-primitivist project, which seeks to abolish all forms of power. So new forms of action and being, forms appropriate to and commensurate with the anarcho-primitivist project, need to be developed. This is an ongoing process and so there's no easy answer to the question: What is to be done? At present, many agree that communities of resistance are an important element in the anarcho-primitivist project. The word 'community' is bandied about these days in all kinds of absurd ways (e.g., the business community), precisely because most genuine communities have been destroyed by Capital and the State. Some think that if traditional communities, frequently sources of resistance to power, have been destroyed, then the creation of communities of resistance — communities formed by individuals with resistance as their common focus — are a way to recreate bases for action. An old anarchist idea is that the new world must be created within the shell of the old. This means that when civilization collapses — through its own volition, through our efforts, or a combination of the two — there will be an alternative waiting to take its place. This is really necessary as, in the absence of positive alternatives, the social disruption caused by collapse could easily create the psychological insecurity and social vacuum in which fascism and other totalitarian dictatorships could flourish. For the present writer, this means that anarcho-primitivists need to develop communities of resistance — microcosms (as much as they can be) of the future to come — both in cities and outside. These need to act as bases for action (particularly direct action), but also as sites for the creation of new ways of thinking, behaving, communicating, being, and so on, as well as new sets of ethics — in short, a whole new liberatory culture. They need to become places where people can discover their true desires and pleasures, and through the good old anarchist idea of the exemplary deed, show others by example that alternative ways of life are possible. However, there are many other possibilities that need exploring. The kind of world envisaged by anarcho-primitivism is one unprecedented in human experience in terms of the degree and types of freedom anticipated ... so there can't be any limits on the forms of resistance and insurgency that might develop. The kind of vast transformations envisaged will need all kinds of innovative thought and activity.
So, primitivism is not an attempt to turn back the clock to the stone age as Killjoy asserts, it's rather taking action to set up alternate, sustainable and thriving ways of life for the purposes of prefiguration. It's looking forward to create forms of resistance, setting up living refuges parallel to industrial society to house free people, and putting together the infrastructure anarchists need to thrive within the shell of a rapidly collapsing civilization. The anti-civ philosophy is a guide we can use to prepare ourselves for the deluge of natural disasters, pandemics, famines and droughts this decaying civilization will continue to rain down on us and give us the fortitude to help each other not only survive these catastrophes, but prosper in the ruins of the old world as it decays all around us.
Rather than being an action to return society to the past, it's a concerted effort to look to the future and create sobering, but necessary mechanisms to cope with the continuing decay of civilization. Civilization will continue to collapse due to its universally unsustainable, destructive, non-regenerative properties. It's not helpful to ignore or deny this simple reality just because it threatens the reductive idea leftists have of technological progress and democracy being the solution to everything.
Killjoy then claims:
Primitivists reject technology. We just reject the inappropriate use of technology. Now, to be fair, that's almost all of the uses of technology we see in the civilized world. But our issue with most primitivist theory is one of babies and bathwater. Sure, most technologies are being put to rather evil uses — whether warfare or simple ecocide — but that doesn't make technology ("The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes.") inherently evil. It just means that we need to completely re-imagine how we interact with machines, with tools, even with science. We need to determine whether something is useful and sustainable, rather than judging things purely on their economic or military value.
A related text that was presumably authored by Killjoy under a pseudonym goes into more detail about the post-civ view of technology:
Another absurd proposition that primitivists stand behind is that tools and technology are inherently oppressive, and we should therefore abandon them. While many tools and technologies can be applied in oppressive ways, there is nothing ingrained in tools or the development of technologies that makes them oppressive.
It seems especially foolish for primitivists to argue this position when the society they advocate returning to is replete with tools and technology. Spears, bows and arrows, stone axes, obsidian knives, cordage, hand drill fires, pottery, totem carving, body modification and jewelry, basketry, hide tanning — these are all tools and technologies employed by primitive societies. Primitivists advocate learning these skills as a part of “rewilding” ourselves and our world, and yet they continue to denounce tools and technology. Seems a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?
These points are the most obtuse of all because they're completely misrepresenting the anarcho-primitivist definition of technology and the distinction often made between high and low technology. Anprims don't reject any of the things listed in the above quote. It's pure strawman to pretend otherwise.
From A Primitivist Primer again, which I'll again stress everyone should read in its entirety:
John Zerzan defines technology as 'the ensemble of division of labor/ production/ industrialism and its impact on us and on nature. Technology is the sum of mediations between us and the natural world and the sum of those separations mediating us from each other. It is all the drudgery and toxicity required to produce and reproduce the stage of hyper-alienation we languish in. It is the texture and the form of domination at any given stage of hierarchy and domination.' Opposition to technology thus plays an important role in anarcho-primitivist practice. However, Fredy Perlman says that 'technology is nothing but the Leviathan's armory,' its 'claws and fangs.' Anarcho-primitivists are thus opposed to technology, but there is some debate over how central technology is to domination in civilization. A distinction should be drawn between tools (or implements) and technology. Perlman shows that primitive peoples develop all kinds of tools and implements, but not technologies: 'The material objects, the canes and canoes, the digging sticks and walls, were things a single individual could make, or they were things, like a wall, that required the cooperation of many on a single occasion .... Most of the implements are ancient, and the [material] surpluses [these implements supposedly made possible] have been ripe since the first dawn, but they did not give rise to impersonal institutions. People, living beings, give rise to both.' Tools are creations on a localised, small-scale, the products of either individuals or small groups on specific occasions. As such, they do not give rise to systems of control and coercion. Technology, on the other hand, is the product of large-scale interlocking systems of extraction, production, distribution and consumption, and such systems gain their own momentum and dynamic. As such, they demand structures of control and obedience on a mass scale — what Perlman calls impersonal institutions.
As you can see, anprims have no qualms with what Killjoy would call "useful and sustainable", i.e. items that don't require "large-scale interlocking systems of extraction, production, distribution and consumption". Killjoy even admits to rejecting "almost all of the uses of technology we see in the civilized world", so what post-civs propose is really exactly the same as what anprims propose... Tools that can be produced locally, without hierarchy/control/coercion/obedience and without the centralized extractive, imperialist, resource-pillaging supply chains required to run industrial society. This is not defined as technology by anprims. Locally produced, sustainable tools that improve our lives without destroying our biosphere are fully embraced by anarcho-primitivist philosophers, just as they are by Killjoy's post-civ manifesto. If you prefer, it's the difference between low-tech (useful, sustainable) and high-tech (alienating, destructive).
Primitivists reject agriculture. We simply reject monoculture, which is abhorrent and centralizing, destroys regional autonomy, forces globalization on the world, and leads to horrific practices like slash-and-burn farming. We also reject other stupid ideas of how to feed humanity, like setting 6 billion people loose in the woods to hunt and gather. By and large, post-civ folks embrace permaculture: agricultural systems designed from the outset to be sustainable in whatever given area they are developed.
Again, they're strawmanning anprim philosophy by claiming anprims want to force 6 billion people to be hunter gatherers. Anprims are not trying to enforce an inflexible, collectivist, authoritarian social program on anyone, let alone the entire planet. Anprims are simply engaged in an expansive criticism of industrial society, while exploring all the possible alternatives to it and experimenting with those alternatives in their own lives. These alternatives being discussed almost always include producing food in some manner due to the simple reality that there's very little wilderness left in the world to forage from. All the anti-civs I know grow the majority of their food and supplement their diets with some foraged food – which isn't abundant enough to live on exclusively due to the march of climate change, the rise in wildfires, and agricultural-industrial land clearing.
Anprims especially talk very favorably of the long history of indigenous peoples deliberately attending rainforests to encourage the proliferation of useful and nourishing plants, which is an example of horticulture that isn't extractive, non-renewable, destructive. Anprims fully embrace the re-establishment of Earth's food forests, which will require a concerted human effort to replant and cultivate.
This is how Zerzan describes agriculture:
1: Agriculture is the will to power over nature, the materialization of alienated humanity's desire to subdue and control the natural world; 2: Agriculture inevitably destroys the balance of nature, leaving biological degradation and ecological ruin in its wake; 3: Agriculture is "the beginning of work and production," generating an increasingly standardized, confined and repressive culture; and 4: Agriculture leads inevitably to the rise of civilization.
What's being described here is precisely what Killjoy calls 'monoculture'. Killjoy then borrows a non-anarchist phrase (permaculture), without defining it, but permaculture and food forests are incredibly similar concepts.
Permaculture is an approach to land management and settlement design that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It includes a set of design principles derived using whole-systems thinking. It applies these principles in fields such as regenerative agriculture, town planning, rewilding, and community resilience.
A food forest (or forest garden) is a garden that mimics the structures of a natural forest, with multiple layers of plants stacked vertically to increase overall production.
As you can see, food forests and permaculture are closely related concepts with the only real difference being that permaculture is a copyrighted brand used to generate profit by a handful of affluent white settlers who write guides, teach courses and sell "permaculture certificates" to the public while also fully embodying white male "guru culture".
Food forests, for all intents and purposes are simply the free and open source version of the proprietary, for-profit, needlessly-complicated permaculture program, without the misogynistic, capitalistic personality cult permaculture is bogged down with.
Killjoy goes on:
Primitivists have done a good job of exploring the problems of civilization, and for this we commend them. But, on the whole, their critique is un-nuanced.
Strong words, considering anarcho-primitivists have written troves and troves of theory that deconstructs every form of authority that arises from the industrial world, while post-civ is nothing more than 3 short blog posts filled with strawman attacks seemingly informed by silly memes made by leftists on Reddit and Twitter.
Leftists flood anarchist spaces with these anti-"primmie" memes, most famously the "return to monke" one, to further their green-scare program, which allows them to continue pushing their 19th century workerist prescriptions to the catastrophic 21st century problems (successive ecological and social collapse) that those prescriptions have helped lead us to.
What's more, the societal structure they envision, tribalism, can be socially conservative: what many tribes lacked in codified law they made up for with rigid "customs," and one generation is born into the near-exact way of life as their predecessors.
Again, anarcho-primitivism's willingness to explore and analyze various indigenous tribes and bands both living and dead, and engage with these cultures to outline how they differ from the industrial model and how they avoided destroying their natural environment is not the same as an intention to enforce an ideological program on people. It's not a world-building exercise, it's not a government, it's not a set of customs or an attempt to impose a tribal system on the world. There's nothing wrong with learning from indigenous cultures and adapting their methods in your own life - especially the anarchistic ones.
She also falls into the trap of talking about indigenous peoples in the past tense, as if these lifeways are extinct – when indigenous cultures continue to thrive all over the world. A white settler presenting diverse indigenous peoples as "conservative" in order to dismiss and sneer at them is concerning, but it's especially frustrating to see an anarchist mar indigenous peoples for being born into the same way of life enjoyed by their predecessors.
Is Killjoy under the impression life in whatever dreary USA suburb she inhabits is unique from her parents dreary suburban existence? If life under the crumbling industrial order has so much potential for freedom compared to a life in the wilds, why is she post-civ? Why not embrace civilization and all the freedoms, experiences and opportunities for growth it supposedly offers?
We cannot, en masse, return to a pre-civilized way of life. And honestly, most of us don't want to. We refuse a blanket rejection of everything that civilization has brought us. We need to look forward, not backwards.
Killjoy is embracing anarcho-primitivism as it's described by all the notable anprims of the 20th century and the anti-civs of today, while rejecting an imaginary perversion of anarcho-primitivism built by leftist internet trolls. She wraps up with this line:
We are not primitivists.
That's fine and dandy, I'm also a green anarchist that doesn't identify as a primitivist, but Killjoy really hasn't explained how post-civ differs in any substantial way from anarcho-primitivism. The only possible divergences from primitivism I can identify in their post-civ explainer are:
They propose proprietary 'permaculture' courses created by white settlers in Australia instead of the indigenous food forests permaculture was inspired by, and –
They say they're open to theoretical sustainable, non-extractive, non-polluting "technologies" that are really no different than the locally-produced, life-improving tools anprims readily embrace in theory and in practice.
Killjoy is simply using different language than primitivists to obfuscate the reality that post-civs are as critical of destructive technologies which rely on global supply chains as any garden-variety primitivist is. None of the points Killjoy makes to set post-civ apart from primitivism stand up to any kind of scrutiny.
The attempt to rebrand anti-civ to post-civ so it can escape its completely unearned reputation has only helped feed the big lie that anti-civ anarchy is an omnicidal, ableist, transphobic, fascist death-cult that needs to be struggled against and no-platformed by an endless stream of performative anti-fascist Twitter activists. It only serves to fuel the left's green-scare.
The Rise of Antifa Gang
The last ingredient in the left's multi-faceted green scare campaign comes from the gradual co-option of anarchy by liberal "anti-fascist activists" who have no real understanding of anarchy but glue themselves to anarchist discourse nonetheless. The most famous case of this is the man who will now forever be known as Special Agent Alexander Reid Ross. A prolific writer for liberal websites (e.g. The Daily Beast) and a staunch anti-primitivist voice, Ross dedicated years of his life to associating green anarchy and ecological views in general with white supremacy and fascism.
In his trite, disinformation-filled essays about "the fascist creep", he drew a straight line from ecological movements to white supremacy, claiming they were one and the same.
He's spent a lot of energy looking for fascism under every rock while working to cancel all his ideological enemies – often by inventing malicious lies and strained half-truths to wrongly associate them with fascism. This has, of course, only resulted in a sustained diminishing of the anti-fascist tradition as these liberal activists hijack what was once a fiercely radical practice to target various anarchists and anti-imperialists who don't fall in line with their left-liberal program.
For a long time, Ross had great success stirring up anti-green sentiment in anarchist and socialist spaces. That all came to a halt recently, when he was outed as being on the payroll of far-right billionaire (and dare I say, fascist) Charles Koch… Yes, really.
Ross is a "senior researcher" in a team that also includes the former heads of CIA and DHS departments, former cops and Republican politicians. This "think tank", the "Network Contagion Research Institute", is directly payrolled by Charles Koch's foundation and similar far-right, deep-state entities working to further the advance of industrialism, capitalism and imperialism. Ross now seems to be in hiding as leftist publications scrub his disinformation-filled articles from their archives and issue apologies for publishing them in the first place.
Another leftist personality seemingly working from the COINTELPRO playbook is Ross's good friend William Gillis, an anarcho-transhumanist Twitter personality who has written similar scathing screeds against green anarchy and recently tried (and failed) to mount a vicious whispering campaign against indigenous, nihilist and anti-civ anarchist Aragorn! (I should mention that Aragorn! published my book when no red anarchist publisher would even talk to me).
Just a few months after Aragorn! tragically died, Gillis tried to claim he was a serial rapist, and as "evidence" presented an old interview where Aragorn! said he slept around when he was a teenager. Fortunately, no one took the bait and Gillis slithered away back to the safety of his Twitter feed.
These reactionary left-liberals in anarchist garb are unfortunately all too welcome in most anarchist spaces and they dedicate countless hours to mounting toxic struggle sessions against their ideological enemies – who are often green, indigenous, black and anti-left anarchists.
Though these green-scare crusaders are almost exclusively white North American men with high paying jobs in academia or the tech sector, they work tirelessly to harness the identity of actually marginalized people to use as weapons in their tedious war against anyone who has strayed from the threadbare leftist program.
They present themselves as morally pure knights in shining armor, sent by Murray's ghost to cleanse anarchist spaces of the evil green menace – to preserve the forward-momentum of Western-civilization – to safeguard progress, democracy and the Western way of life.
Their sworn mission statement is to save poor, innocent marginalized people from the cold, cruel clutches of green anarchy. But their allegiance to this performative social justice dance crumbles to pieces when they react to the indigenous ways of life that are such an integral part of the green anarchist philosophy. They speak of indigenous lifeways with barely restrained disgust. To them, anything and anyone that isn't wholly dedicated to preserving the industrial monolith is dirty, backwards, savage.
Their tireless struggle to punish and purge anyone who dares think beyond the realm of ponderous and feeble leftist solutions is the biggest hindrance to the development of the beautiful idea.
The left insists on controlling all radical discourse so their prescriptions and programs and self-destructive domineering behaviors are never challenged, allowing no alternatives to Marx and Kropotkin's 19th century industrialist idealism.
Pushing us all into dark, damp rooms – the walls lined with moldy little red books, they lock the door and barricade it. The left works so hard to hold us down, to shackle us with their stale 19th century nostalgia because they know – they know this is the only place they have power over us. This dark room with the peeling red walls that only they have the key to.
Decades after killing it, Leviathan continues to hungrily feed on this fat, rotting carcass. The sooner anarchists completely detach ourselves from the festering remains of the left, the sooner we can stop being weighed down by the virulently irrational superstitions that are the basis for their reactionary green-scare campaigns.
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