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When anarchism goes pop


"GTFO: Get the Fuck Out!" This request directed at the hated political elites through a number of videos connected to the recent Anonymous Million Mask March mobilisation on November 5, 2013, condenses in the bluntest of ways the zeitgeist of contemporary radical politics, whose manifestations have already been seen in the like of the indignados and Occupy.

What is peculiar in this and similar messages is not simply their antagonistic attitude and sarcastic tone, but the way in which they aim to captivate broad sectors of the population, making use of tropes originating from popular culture and digital culture (the two increasingly becoming indistiguishable). Such messages point to the rise of a new political culture at the point of confluence of a broadly defined anarchist (or leftist libertarian) defiance towards the State and the populist ambition of addressing the entirety of “the people”, regardless of their specific occupations and political beliefs. The result of this re-mixing is a complex and contradictory emerging ideology that can best be named as “anarcho-populism”.


Anarcho-populism (not intended in a pejorative sense) stands to indicate the uncanny marriage between anarchism and progressive populism at a time of widespread economic and political crisis. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007-08 anti-government messages of the “GTFO” type are not targeted any more at a small bunch of militant anarchists. Rather they are aimed at large, potentially majoritarian sectors of the population, increasingly disgruntled with a State that is taking more and more the semblance of an obnoxious Leviathan preoccupied with buttressing collapsing banks and spying on citizens, rather than defending any notion of the common good.


Examples of the rise of anarcho-populism are all around us. Just look at Occupy's claim to represent the 99% coupled with the indignados’ slogan “they don’t represent me” or at Russell Brand's recent apologia for anarchism on BBC Newsnight. What we see in these cultural expressions is a form of anarchism that does not content itself with preaching to the already converted and to the activist ghetto, but which involves an appeal to the “common people” and against the elites both economic and political, of the type that we traditionally associated with populism. What we witness is the rise of anarcho-populism as “anarchism goes pop” or Mikhail Bakunin meets Russell Brand – this is the rise of an anarchism that does not disdain using lolcats to get its message across.

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