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How I became an anarchist - Nic

Like many comrades, my road to anarchism was a long, circuitous one. A commitment to anarchism, or indeed any philosophy is the culmination of many small internal and external events; disappointments, realisations, books read and people met along the way.

My journey began as a teenager, when I became absorbed with certain questions I had about life; such as why it was that people were born free but seemed to become less and less so as they got older? Why were some people less free than others? Why was power and authority invested in those who seemed the least deserving and the most unwilling to create real social change?

I bothered my parents, teachers and friends with these questions constantly.

I was particularly concerned about the prevalence of social and environmental injustice. I could see it everywhere, yet to my surprise and disappointment, the majority of people I knew barely acknowledged this state of affairs and tolerated it as just the Way Things Are. Eventually, like many idealistic young people I was recruited to join Resistance, the youth chapter of the Socialist Alliance, on a street corner by one of their paper-sellers. Soon I was also standing on street corners around the city, attempting to flog Direct Action, (now Green Left Weekly), to disinterested passers-by. It was hard work but I was thrilled that I had found a group who seemed to have answers to some of my questions.

Unfortunately, I found the meetings a bit of a chore, mainly because they were consumed by discussions that were barely relevant to current social issues. Two themes predominated: which of the two Great Men was the Greatest - Lenin or Trotsky; and, Trotsky, was he Good or Bad? The majority who thought Trotsky was Good, attempted to convince those who thought he was Bad for the sake of ideological accord. Somehow, the urgency to create social change was lost in all this talk and I started to feel that my socialism was just an intellectual bauble. In addition, the structure of the meetings was quite authoritarian and we younger members felt alienated because our contribution was limited.

During this time I picked up a copy of Emma Goldman’s, My Disillusionment in Russia, probably because it reflected my own feelings on the subject. In it, she criticised the Bolsheviks from a non-statist perspective. The Bolsheviks had repeated many of the mistakes of the capitalist social order by creating a hierarchical, centralised communist state. I was impressed by this book and discussed it with some comrades. They conceded that the Bolshevik revolution had failed in its revolutionary aims in Russia, but were at pains to point out that communism had 'succeeded' in Cuba.

They also told me that Emma Goldman was an anarchist and that anarchists were a sloppy, lazy lot who couldn’t organise their way out of a paper bag. Moreover, Goldman was an opponent of the Great Man, Trotsky (gasp)! In spite of this, I was excited that I had found one more way to make sense of the world. Surreptitiously, I continued to read up about anarchism as I fell deeper and deeper into ennui with socialism. Yes, it was boredom that finally drove me from the Resistance League.

For many years afterward, I passively objected to the system by refusing to exercise my ‘right’ to vote but didn’t engage in radical political activism, reasoning that most forms of resistance were ineffectual if not futile. If anyone mentioned politics to me, my eyes would glaze over. Over these years, I barely came into contact with anarchism, largely because anarchists don’t normally stand on street corners and proselytise to the public. The few individuals I met who styled themselves as anarchists were non-affiliated and as disengaged as I was.

Then one day, I was walking down Parramatta Road and a beautiful rainbow appeared over one of the shops, (trumpets blare). I had found Jura, a group of real, live, sweaty anarchists! Just kidding.

On a more serious note however, I want to stress the importance of spaces such as Black Rose Books and Jura for providing physical contact points for those interested to get involved in anarchism and centres to organise from. Without them, anarchist culture will not flourish!

To cut a long story shorter, I found a genuine willingness to engage in social change and to revise old ideological dogmas at Jura, and for that I am grateful.