May 3, 2021
From The Anarchist Library

Anarchism’s history ‘has been that of a suppressed alternative… forced to subsist in
the shadows of Marxism’ (May 1994, p. 44). This was true up until the Crisis of the Left;
that point at which communist movements found the tide turning against them. This
then opened a space for a revivification of anarchist projects worldwide. As anarchist
anthropologist David Graeber (2004b, p. 330) observed,

[a]narchist or anarchist-inspired movements are growing everywhere; anarchist
principles — autonomy, voluntary association, self-organisation, mutual aid,
direct democracy — have become the basis for organising within the
[Alternative] Globalisation Movement and beyond, taking the place that
Marxism had in the social movements of the Sixties.

Although writing from North America, Graeber’s assertions are not inapplicable to the
Philippines, where, in the Eighties and Nineties, many defectors from the Maoist
insurgency found that their critiques of the CPP-NPA strongly resonated with
anarchism. Since that time, a succession of young Filipin@ activists, wishing to keep
their distance from Maoism’s legacy, have likewise gravitated in an anarchist direction.
Replied one Filipina anarcha-feminist under the sobriquet of ‘Ingrata’ (cited in
Dapithapon 2013, p. 72), when asked in an interview about what anarchism meant to
her personally:

There is no other socio-political theory that I know of that has given equal
weight to the problems of class inequalities, racism, sexism, homophobia and
every form of domination which enslaves humanity than anarchism. It is so
vibrant that the cycle of practice, criticism, validation and innovation does not
cease… Being an anarchist is an ongoing struggle for a society where all
deterrents to genuine human freedom and aspirations like hierarchies,
authority, discrimination are eliminated. But the bonus is you get to live it now!

Referred to herein are four of contemporary anarchism’s core features: its
intersectionality; its opposition to all hierarchies; its commitment to open-ended
process; and its alignment of means and ends, encapsulated in the notion of ‘living it
now.’ As a way of acquainting the uninitiated with anarchism, beyond caricatures of
bomb-throwing nihilists, I will expand on each of these features in respective order.

Firstly, with respect to intersectionality, contemporary anarchism has mostly
dispensed with the kind of Oppression Olympics practiced by the Maoists (whereby
national and class-based oppressions are ranked as more pressing than sexism,
homophobia, environmental destruction, and so on), as well as by the so-called ‘class
war’ anarchists of old. From its roots in working-class struggles, anarchism has since
expanded into ‘a vast umbrella movement, importantly radicalized by feminists,
ecologists, gays and lesbians’ (Kinna 2005, p. 4). As a feminist, Ingrata would have
found that the anarchist movement was generally more receptive to gender issues
than the traditional Left, which may have been what first drew her in.

Second is anarchism’s opposition to all forms of hierarchy. In fact, the very word
‘anarchism’ derives from the Greek for ‘without rulers’ (Graeber 2004a, p. 3). From its
beginnings as a movement opposed to the twin hierarchies of government over the
governed, and capitalists over workers, it has since gone on to counter the hierarchies
of humankind over nature, man over woman, straight over gay, and cis-gendered over
transgendered, among others. While relevant to the previous point about
intersectionality, what I wish to highlight here is the key cleavage between Marxists
and anarchists over the question of power. The former, in their efforts to seize state
power, have usually only sought to substitute ‘new and better hierarchies for old ones’
(May 1994, p. 51). Hence Marx’s (1875) now-infamous proposal for a ‘dictatorship of
the proletariat,’ in which the desire to overthrow a tyrant equates with the desire to
occupy the tyrant’s place. Anarchists, in contrast — in their opposition to state
sovereignty, as well as to forms of authority that, like patriarchy, are diffused
throughout society — aim at ‘getting rid of hierarchic thinking and action altogether’
(May 1994, p. 51).

The third feature to consider is the anarchist commitment to an ongoing process of
experimentation and innovation, the counterpart to which is an opposition to linear,
teleological time. Clearly parting ways with Marxist teleology, the seminal anarchist
agitator, Emma Goldman (1969, p. 63), emphasised as much when writing:

Anarchism is not, as some may suppose, a theory of the future to be realized
through divine inspiration. It is a living force in the affairs of our life, constantly
creating new conditions. The methods of anarchism therefore do not comprise
an iron-clad program to be carried out under all circumstances. Methods must
grow out of the economic needs of each place and clime, and of the intellectual
and temperamental requirements of the individual… Anarchism does not stand
for military drill and uniformity; it does, however, stand for the spirit of revolt,
in whatever form, against everything that hinders human growth.

This leads on to the final feature of contemporary anarchism to be discussed for now:
the emphasis it places on aligning means with ends. This can be understood against
the Marxist habit of putting hierarchical means at the service of anti-hierarchical ends.
The building of a new society, so the argument goes, must wait until after the
revolution; what is important for now is to resist the present order. To the idea of
negating in order to create, anarchists pose the inverse alternative of creating in order
to negate. Traditionally, this was termed ‘building the new within the shell of the old’
(Barclay 1982, p. 143), but is known today by the succincter phrase of ‘prefigurative
politics’ (Gordon 2008, pp. 34–38). ‘[O]ne cannot create freedom through authoritarian
means,’ explains Graeber (2004a, p. 7); ‘as much as possible, one must oneself, in
one’s relations with one’s friends and allies, embody the society one wishes to create.’
By ‘living it now,’ as Ingrata put it — or, by ‘acting as if one is already free’ (Graeber
2009, p. 203) — one subverts the old while simultaneously prefiguring the new. In
practice, this translates into radically-democratic organising practices and a profusion
of counter-institutions.

In contrast to the traditional Left, in which the institution of the political party
predominates, I encountered in Manila’s anarchist milieu an array of countercultural
forms: anarcho-punk collectives, eco-anarchist collectives, a local chapter of ‘Food Not
Bombs’ (see McHenry et al. 2014), alternative media collectives, self-publishing
initiatives, diverse artistic projects, a grassroots think-tank, a cooperative bookstore,
and a community library (or ‘infoshop’ in anarchist parlance). All aspire to ‘cementing
people’s self reliance and developing grassroots networks… based on horizontal, non-
hierarchical co-operation with no need for any government, political parties, NGOs,
[or] businesses (Anonymous 2013, pp. 3–4).

With the stage now set, I will, in the next part of this chapter, trace the ecotone
between Red and Black; the transition in Philippine radical politics, that is, from
revolutionary nationalism to anarchism. In so doing, I will rely more on oral history
interviews than on written texts, since much of what follows is hitherto unwritten
history. I then turn, in the second part, to the notion of the ‘archipelagic
confederation’ (Umali 2006) — a community-of-communities that a section of Filipin@
anarchists is proposing in place of the Philippine nation-state. While contemporary
feminists and environmentalists meld their critiques of nationalism with their critiques
of androcentrism and anthropocentrism respectively, the contribution that anarchists
make to the new cosmopolitan zeitgeist is to throw into the mix their uncompromising
anti-statism. This is crucial for the very reason that, if one is to re-imagine community
beyond the nation-state, one must take issue with both the nationalism and the
statism inherent in that conjunction.

Red to Black

Making contact with the anarchists in Manila was not as straightforward for me as it
was with the environmentalists. Meeting the latter had been made a breeze by the
FAEJI solidarity tour, but getting in with the anarchists took some groundwork. My first
port of call was the now-defunct Manila Indymedia website — part of a global network
of ‘independent media centres’ first sparked out of the Battle of Seattle in 1999, each
functioning as an open publishing platform for the sharing of news, views, events,
photos, and so on. While in the first seven years of its life, the Indymedia network
served as a crucial tool for activists worldwide, it has since been eclipsed by the rise of
social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

At the time of my fieldwork in Manila, however, Indymedia was still very much in use
by local activists. I regularly trawled the newswire for local happenings, taking
particular interest in the stories and reports posted by anarchist groups. I posted
comments in response, introducing myself and my research and inquiring whether or
not it would be possible to meet. I was ignored for several months, but did not take it
personally. Security was (and remains) a real concern for Filipin@ activists, given the
prevalence of political violence in the country. Eventually convinced of the sincerity of
my intentions, Leon — the young Waraynon anarchist introduced in Chapter 7 — got in
touch with me out of the blue to suggest a meeting at UP Diliman.

When the day arrived, Leon showed up over an hour late, bespectacled and short of
breath after having ridden to campus on his bicycle. My impression was of a perceptive
and good-humoured character, and what I imagined would be a short chat over lunch
morphed into a lively, drawn-out drinking session that lasted until well past nightfall.
Our setting was a grungy student bar named Sarah’s, located in Krus na Ligas — a well-
established squatter community across the road from the university. Against the din of
the rain and traffic, our meandering conversation covered ample ground: the state of
the Philippine Left, recent intellectual movements in the Philippines, anarchistic
cultures in the archipelago prior to the Spanish invasion, anarchist theory, French
poststructuralism, the Alternative Globalisation Movement, Leon’s time as a migrant
worker in Japan, my time as a migrant rights organiser in Australia, and so forth.

I also learnt of Leon’s diverse involvements in alternative media, including in zine and
documentary film-making collectives, pirate radio, and the aforementioned Manila
Indymedia. To my surprise, I found out that Perth Indymedia activists back home had
played a pivotal role in helping their Manila counterparts get their own site off the
ground in the early 2000s, providing them with technical support, server space, and
the like, until they had sufficient resources and know-how to run it themselves. Not
only was it a happy coincidence for me, given my Perth-Manila connections, but also a
salient example of the kind of translocal collaboration I have been discussing in this
thesis. International networking aside, Manila Indymedia also made sure to network
locally, becoming, upon its formation, one of a couple of dozen member collectives of
the Metro Manila Anarchist Confederation* (MMAC).

Leon’s political activism was not always as colourful. In a past life, he was a militant
with the Young Socialist League* (YSL), which he was recruited to in the late Nineties
during a campaign against fee hikes at his alma mater. Now inexistent, the YSL was the
youth and students wing of the Alliance for Workers’ Solidarity* (AWS) — an RJ, and
more specifically, Trotskyist, organisation formed out of the great schism of the early
Nineties. Even though the RA-RJ split had taken place before his time, the antagonisms
of the older political generation still defined the environment in which he operated. He
was taught to scorn the RAs for their authoritarianism, but grew tired of the
authoritarianism within his own organisation as well. For this reason, he began
gravitating in an anarchist direction, gradually dropping his YSL commitments in the
early 2000s before making a decisive switch to the MMAC. As Leon recounted:

If we wanted to organize our own local struggles at that time, they would
always say, “Oh, coordinate it with the national committee of the student
sector.” We always had to ask permission; that’s how it works. So yeah,
eventually I got pissed off with this kind of authoritarian tradition, and I saw a
different mode of expressing politics in the [Metro Manila Anarchist
Confederation]… They’re very dynamic; they don’t need to have a party.

Leon’s turn from Marxism to anarchism also involved an embrace of the anational
attitudes to which contemporary anarchism is predisposed. He even declared in one of
our interviews that ‘there is no such thing as “The Philippines,”’ or at least no
primordial national community that pre-existed its forcible creation under the Spanish.

This is only the fast-forwarded version of the Red-Black transition in Philippine radical
politics. To give a fuller account, I will rewind to the political tensions of the Eighties
and early Nineties, and play it through again at regular speed.

The older generation

As already recounted, the dissolution of the CPP in 1993 precipitated a flowering of
feminism, environmentalism, and anarchism in the Philippines, all of which had been
held in check by the Maoists’ hegemony over the Left. Every innovation at this time
was informed, in part, by diagnoses of what went wrong with the Party. The RJs who
found solace in non-Maoist forms of Marxism pinned the blame on Mao’s and Sison’s
distortions of the supposed essence of the Marxist project (MRRC 1993; Nemenzo
1994). Meanwhile, born-again Social Democrats affirmed the ‘parliamentary road’
(Ciria-Cruz 1992) against what they saw as the excesses of revolutionary violence. Both
tendencies, however, remained invested in the nation-state paradigm. My contention
is that those who effected a more fundamental break were not those who quarrelled
over the correctness of one Marxist theorist or another, or who argued for a reformist
rather than revolutionary approach, but those who called into question the very logic
of sovereignty within which all were complicit.

The journal Kasarinlan was the forum for many of these debates, both in the lead-up
to and in the wake of the CPP’s collapse. It was within its pages that an article entitled
‘Re-imagining Philippine revolution’ (Serrano 1994) appeared, perturbing many at the
time. Its author, Isagani Serrano, was very much in the minority amongst his fellow CPP
defectors for his divergent, anti-statist perspective. He critiqued his former party for
being ‘statist through and through,’ challenging, in particular, its tendency ‘to reduce
revolution to the capture of state power’ (Serrano 1994, pp. 80–81). When an RJ
acquaintance commented to me quite seriously one evening, ‘I just hope I’ll still be
alive on the day of the victory,’ he was referring to revolution in this same sense — a
cataclysmic seizure of power so as to bring about an ideal society from the top down.
In contrast, Serrano (1994, p. 81) stressed the need for a social, rather than merely
political, revolution. Where the ‘political revolution’ effects a simple change of
management within the state apparatus, the ‘social revolution’ erodes the state by
‘dispersing power across the social spectrum’ (Serrano 1994, p. 81). Elsewhere, he
explained that a ‘community can come to power without actually taking power. Slowly
you pulverize centralized power by breaking it up and taking control’ (Serrano cited in
Broad & Cavanagh 1993, p. 149).

Serrano re-imagined revolution as a process rather than an event; more an
undercutting than an overthrowing. This is the precise approach taken by present-day
anarchists in their building of counter-institutions and their efforts to cooperativise all
that capitalists would wish privatised and that statists would wish nationalised. Said
Leon, for one, ‘I consider revolution as an everyday struggle — the revolution of
everyday life.’ Although Serrano never professed an affinity for anarchism, his
anarchistic intuitions were palpable.

Serrano was in fact advocating for Popular Democracy, as distinct from the National
Democracy of the Maoists. From this perspective, the true locus of democracy lies, not
in the state, but in civil society (Serrano 1994, p. 75). The ‘Pop Dems’ (as adherents of
this approach were known) began coalescing in the wake of the People Power
Revolution of 1986, when widespread disillusionment with the CPP-NPA first set in. A
tension soon emerged, however, between those Pop Dems who still saw a role for the
state, even if a very minimal one, and those who wanted to do away with it altogether.
While the former current has since been absorbed into electoral formations, the latter
persists in community empowerment initiatives, whether driven by NGOs, POs, or
explicitly anarchist outfits (Törnquist 2002, pp. 48–55).

One NGO inspired by the anti-statist strain of Popular Democracy is the Philippine
Institute for Popular Education* (PIPE), active throughout the country but based in
Manila. Through the FAEJI solidarity tour, I was able to meet one PIPE educator,
formerly an NPA guerrilla, whom I shall call Edwin. In a fascinating talk, Edwin
reflected on how he and his NPA comrades did little to empower the people in whose
interests they were supposedly operating. On the contrary, they actively contributed
to their disempowerment by positioning themselves as leaders and the masses as
mere followers. On this topic, it would be worth citing Edwin at considerable length:

When I was with the Maoist movement… I realized most people would come to
me as the fountainhead of knowledge in the barangay, because I represent the
revolution. So if a couple has a domestic spat, they come to me to settle this
problem — and I was twenty-three years old and single! Given that particular
context I was in, I would say… “All these problems between husbands and
wives are the problems of colonialism and imperialism,” because I had nothing
else to say… [Another] part of our work at the time was going to the small
landlord in each town… and asking them to lower the interest rate of the loans
that the farmers made, or increasing the farmers’ share of the harvest…
Because we were armed, because we were guerrillas, the landlords would be
shaking in fear, because in the rural areas, they wouldn’t have any recourse to
military intervention. We were in power in the area… “Can you increase the
peasants’ share of the crop?” and he would say, “sure, sure.” He’d be really
shaking with fear. And then one of the guys who was in a key position in the
movement at the time wondered about something very crucial. He said “We
are not doing revolutionary work with the peasants… We are doing something
for them, but they are not doing it for themselves… Do we call this
revolutionary work? Why don’t we try asking them to do it?… to talk to the
landlord about changing the sharing patterns?” If only the guerrillas do it,
things can change, but if the people do it, you get different results… Left groups
would talk about empowering people. I keep wondering how that
empowerment happens, or if it’s really happening… Sometime in the late
Eighties, I became an NGO worker. That whole thing I experienced in the NPA
was foremost in my mind whenever I’d do NGO work… I was always asking
myself… “Is it perpetuating dependence?” It’s entirely possible that some sort
of dependency has shifted from one entity to you, as an NGO worker.

At this point, Edwin offered a word of caution for us, as young diasporans getting
involved in Philippine affairs:

I noticed many Fil-Americans who come over… would naturally say, “in the
States, things don’t happen that way. Why don’t you do it this way?” And that
usually produces two kinds of reactions: One is resentment, right? But the
majority reaction is “Oh yeah, he’s right. Why don’t we do it his way?… Things
are better there. They do things better in the States. Ah, I wish we could do
that here.” So what I’m saying is when people have recommendations for how
things should get done — and I’m sure a lot of goodwill is inherent in the
recommendations — one has to be conscious of how it impacts on people’s
consciousness, given the context of dependence… What does [FAEJI] bring into
the community?… Projects and programs and material things? That’s all good,
but try to do something else too — a notion of dialogue, so that you don’t tell
people what to do, but actually try to listen.

Edwin then related this to his own work as a popular educator with PIPE:

It’s a good thing to present an alternative to the current state of affairs, but it’s
also a good thing to help people articulate their discourse on a particular issue.
And then we might help people re-tell the story… Discourses are not static…
People would say: “Ah, mayor so-and-so is a good person… He may be stealing
from the coffers, but he sends my kids to college.” But if there’s less corruption,
it might be possible they could send more kids to college. If we could help
people find such fissures and cracks in their discourses, then I think that’s a
good thing we can do for people… Our community programs in [PIPE] are
basically of an education type, but aside from the usual notion of education,
what we do is try to help people articulate such discourses so that they
themselves could re-tell their discourses in a new way — hopefully. And this is
basically cultural work… cultural-political work. Identifying strong points in
their culture and helping them to find the cracks, so that when they
try to fill them in, the whole discourse changes towards something more

Intrigued, I asked Edwin during question time about how he arrived at his ideas. Were
they solely a product of his experiences, or were there certain theorists that influenced
him as well?

In 1986, we were still good Maoists, loyal Maoists at that time… but we were
already reading [Paulo] Freire. And the senior cadres were discrediting us for
reading Freire… I think after three years, they got tired of us… They simply
severed us and that was the end. After that, some of us started discovering
[György] Lukács and [Antonio] Gramsci… [and the] postmodernist writers. And
then the senior cadres were branding us as anarchist, but we didn’t even know
what anarchism was… So we started reading up on anarchy and anarchism and
realised: “Yeah, we’re anarchists! They’re right!”

Anarchism was fitting, given Edwin’s already-cogent critiques of hierarchical power
relations. His intuitions were echoed by Roberto Garcia (2001, p. 94), another former
NPA soldier who developed anarchistic leanings:

The [National Democratic] revolution thrives in its critique of iniquity and the
hierarchical distribution of wealth, power, and decision-making in society. But
the movement itself is patently hierarchical. The whole party structure is
vertically organized and all major decisions are done at the top.

From the de facto or accidental anarchism of former Maoists, I will turn next to the
adoption of anarchism proper amongst the younger generation.

The younger generation

Owing to the enmities of the older generation, and the fluctuating realignments
resulting therefrom, the Nineties were a bewildering time to be young and radical in
the Philippines. ‘The political Left at that time had these factions,’ recalled Leon. ‘Every
year, there’s like splits going on… Because of this, we got frustrated with how the
authoritarian leftist tradition was affecting us.’ No sooner did Leon find his place in the
YSL, a group formed out of the RA-RJ splits, than it was torn apart by a split of its own,
with a quarter of its members bolting en masse. The dissidents’ point of contention
was that the YSL’s parent organisation, the AWS, should transform itself into a fully-
fledged, Bolshevik-style party; one that would aim at the kind of hegemony over the
Left that the CPP enjoyed in the Seventies and early Eighties. The loyalists, meanwhile,
felt that the group should remain a ‘pre-party formation,’ and that, as Leon narrated it,
a new party ‘should not be formed until we reconsolidate our forces.’ Those who
defected did eventually establish a new revolutionary party, the Partido para sa
Rebolusyong Sosyalista
* (PRS), only to see it disappear just a few years later. While
some in this milieu let their disillusionment get the better of them, others grew eager
for an alternative outside the political culture in which they had been raised. A handful
of them found just such an alternative in anarchism, becoming key players in the
formation of the MMAC at the turn of the millennium.

According to Leon, the rationale behind the MMAC’s founding was as follows: ‘Why
not just build a network of individuals and collectives who will work together through
action, rather than thinking of building a party?’ This was in the wake of the Battle of
Seattle, which demonstrated to the world the power of anarchistic, network-based
forms of organisation. A co-founder of the MMAC whom I corresponded with by e-
mail cited Seattle as a ‘major inspiration.’ He was inspired, too, by the anarchist
federations already in existence in the Philippines: the Davao Anarchist Resistance
Movement in Mindanao and the Far South Resistance Movement in southern Luzon.
The achievement of the MMAC was to bring together diverse, anarchist-inspired
collectives from across Metro Manila — students, punks, adventurers, zinesters,
anarcho-vegans, alternative globalisation activists, and so on — into a common arena
for collaboration.

Leon was still with the YSL when the MMAC came into being, but the more estranged
he grew from his own organisation, the more he contemplated as a viable option for
himself the trail from Red to Black blazed by his former comrades (notwithstanding
their detour through the failed PRS). In time, as touched on earlier, Leon came to
reject the RJs’ self-designation as the ‘Democratic Left’ and their description of their
RA rivals as the ‘Authoritarian Left,’ concluding that both were just authoritarian as
each other. The MMAC appealed for the reason that it took traditional leftists to task
for reproducing the hierarchies of wider society within their own organisations. Leon
was surprised to find informal hierarchies at work within the MMAC as well, but
figured that at least there was a general commitment to mitigate them.

What also drew Leon into the anarchist fold was its culture of conviviality and
creativity, so different to the humourless militancy he was used to:

I was inspired by [the MMAC’s] work, you know? Way back in 1999, before the
Battle of Seattle broke out, they already had their own community space where
different youth, people from different communities, used to converge… They
had these once-a-week skill-sharings — from Food Not Bombs to making zines,
anything DIY. So I was observing their activities and I was kind of “Wow.” That
was it; I decided to join them.

For Leon, the anarchist ethos of ‘living it now’ was an antidote to the life-denying
values demanded by the traditional Left — discipline, sacrifice, and the idea that ‘one
has to be sad in order to be militant’ (Foucault 1972, p. xiii). Leon had sacrificed a lot
for the YSL, dropping out of university in order to become a full-time organiser. Upon
joining the MMAC, however, he decided to resume his studies, this time in art rather
than advertising. Once there was no longer any leftist bureaucracy in the equation,
Leon felt free to pursue more life-affirming endeavours in his activism and studies

Organising without leaders

One major reason for Leon’s turn to anarchism has yet to be discussed; namely, the
dashed hopes following the 2001 uprising that swept then-president Joseph Estrada
from office. Commonly known as ‘EDSA II,’ the follow-up to the first EDSA revolution of
1986, this episode was a turning point in Philippine radical politics — not for its
apparent success, but for its failures. The events of 2001 revealed to Leon, and many
others like him, the ideological bankruptcy of the traditional Left, making anarchism a
compelling alternative. To tell this story, I will begin in the most unlikely of places:
Leon’s surprising connection to renowned historian Benedict Anderson, who, although
most well-known for his writings on Indonesia, has also developed a significant body of
work on the Philippines. Odd though it may seem at present, all will make sense in
good time.

It was over beers at Sarah’s that Benedict Anderson first came up as a topic of
conversation. Leon had yet to get his hands on a copy of Anderson’s latest book, Under three flags (2007), but I had just finished reading it myself and imagined it would be of
great interest to him. I summarised it for Leon as a study of the rich exchange that took
place in 1890s Spain between three sets of people: European anarchists, Cuban
émigrés fighting for Cuban independence, and Filipin@ émigrés fighting for Philippine
independence (or at least for greater autonomy). The treatise concludes with a curious
postscript hinting at parallels between the ‘early globalization’ of the 1890s and the
‘late globalization’ of the current era (Anderson 2007, pp. 3, 234). In it, Anderson
(2007, p. 234) writes:

In January 2004, I was invited to give a preliminary lecture on some of the
themes of this book by the famously radical-nationalist University of the
Philippines, where the influence of (Ilocano) José Maria Sison’s Maoist “new”
Communist Party, founded at the end of 1968, remains quite strong. Arriving
much too early, I filled in time at an open-air campus coffee-stall. A youngster
came by to hand out leaflets to the customers, all of whom casually scrunched
them up and threw them away once he had left. I was about to do the same
when my eye caught the title of the one-page text. “Organize Without
Leaders!” The content proved to be an attack on the hierarchies of the country — boss-ridden party-political, corporate capitalist, and also Maoist Communist –
in the name of “horizontal” organized solidarity. The leaflet was unsigned, but a
website was appended for further enquiries. This was a serendipity too good to
keep to myself. I read it out loud to my audience, and was surprised that almost
everyone seemed taken aback. But when I had finished speaking, many hurried
up to ask for copies… I feel certain that Isabelo would have been enchanted
by the leaflet and rushed to his laptop to explore the website He would have found that this website is linked to
dozens of others of similar stripe around the world. Late Globalization?

Leon could hardly believe it when I relayed this story to him, since the ‘youngster’ with
the leaflets was none other than Leon himself. I was surprised by the coincidence of it
all, and Leon by the fact that Anderson had seen fit to refer to their mundane (though
at once momentous) encounter in his work. Manila Indymedia was only
six months old at that point, so Leon and his comrades were still working hard to
inspire popular participation in the newswire. What better occasion to spread the
word, they figured, than a Benedict Anderson lecture on anarchism and
anticolonialism? Funnily enough, Leon had no idea who the foreigner at the coffee
shop actually was — ‘I saw an old, fat, white guy sitting there,’ he recalled; ‘I didn’t
think he would be care, but I gave him a flyer anyway, just to piss him off’ — until
around an hour later when he saw the same man appear at the front of the lecture hall
to speak.

The relevance here is that the Indymedia flyer in question was adapted from a
statement first distributed by anarchists during the 2001 uprising against Estrada.
Likewise bearing the title of Organize Without Leaders!, it recommended that people
ignore the various political parties that were attempting to capitalise on the
movement, and self-organise instead. While the RAs and RJs dreamt about coming to
power, President Estrada’s more conservative opponents simply wanted him replaced
by another member of the political-economic elite. For the anarchists, in contrast, the
issue was not who was in power, but power itself. They maintained that if the
problems afflicting Philippine society stem from an anti-democratic, hierarchy-ridden
political culture, then solutions must take radically-democratic, non-hierarchical forms — hence their proposal for an archipelagic confederation, which emerged directly out
of the post-Estrada context. For this to make any sense, it will be necessary to examine
EDSA II and its aftermath in greater detail.

As in the first EDSA revolution of 1986, millions of Filipin@s again took to Manila’s
Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in 2001 to demand the resignation of a president whose
rule they no longer found tolerable (see Image 17). Estrada was a charismatic former
movie star who came to power in a landslide election victory just two and a half years
prior. Before long, he revealed himself to be a walking contradiction: a populist
plutocrat who, despite his pro-poor rhetoric, siphoned from the public purse
somewhere in the range of 63–71 million US dollars (Burton 2001, p. 16; Larmer &
Meyer 2001, p. 10). On top of this, he was a chronic gambler and notorious womaniser
who boasted of mistresses and illegitimate children (Spaeth 2001, p. 22). His dubious
moral character made it easy for Manila’s business elites, who had long despised the
president for his anti-elitist posturing and economic mismanagement, to enlist the
Catholic Church in their calls for Estrada to step down. The Left joined in too, once the
extent of Estrada’s graft and corruption came to light. The opposition was hence
composed of seemingly incommensurable forces: ‘both management and organized
labor; the Right and the Left’ (Bello 2001, p. 4).

The movement reached flashpoint in early 2001, such that it began to feel like the
sequel to 1986. Estrada remained defiant, insisting he had the backing of the country’s
poor, but when his cabinet defected and the military withdrew support for his regime,
he had little choice but to resign. Estrada’s departure on January 20, 2001, provoked
spontaneous dancing in the streets, but what came next inspired far less celebration.
In line with constitutional writ, power was handed to the vice-president: US-educated
economist, Gloria Arroyo. The constitution turned out to be a convenient alibi for
corporate elites, since, of all the options put forward by the broad-based opposition, it
was Arroyo whom they felt would best serve their interests (Burton 2001).

Already in late 2000, leftists were fearing that ‘it is the faction of Vice President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo that is pushing the situation in their favour… She can never be part
of the solution as she is in fact equally a part of the problem… [given her record as] a
staunch promoter of the neo-liberal agenda of global capital’ (PARE! Unity Assembly
2000, pp. 1–2). This prognosis proved correct, with Arroyo faithfully serving the
capitalist establishment over her nine-year tenure as president. Her economic policies
and repression of the Left even earnt her comparisons to Margaret Thatcher, with
commentators dubbing her the ‘Iron Lady of Asia’ (Cabacungan, Andrade & Morelos
2011, p. 1). It later came to light that Arroyo was scarcely less corrupt than her
predecessor, having been arrested twice since departing the presidency for electoral
fraud and theft of public funds (Ranoco 2012).

Owing to the dashed hopes of one uprising after another, there is now widespread talk
amongst progressives of a veritable ‘EDSA fatigue’: a disillusionment with the
timeworn revolutionary exercises that merely result in a change of management within
the same structure of power. One acquaintance at UP Diliman captured the mood
when he sighed: ‘We made a revolution, and look what happened: all we got was
Gloria!’ During my fieldwork, several leftist groups were pushing for a new EDSA-style
revolution against Arroyo, but even their own members at times seemed cynical about
the prospect. Dalisay, for instance, lamented to me one rainy afternoon over coffee
that rallies demanding Arroyo’s ouster were dwindling in numbers and lacked a certain
fire. ‘The EDSA strategy isn’t resonating anymore,’ she said. ‘Our rallies feel too much
like a routine.’ I was later reminded of this when encountering Juris’s (2008) argument
that the more that protest events become habituated, the less effective (and affective)
they become.

Like EDSA I, EDSA II ‘resulted in the consolidation rather than the weakening of the
elite’s hold on Philippine politics, governance, and society’ (Akbayan 2005, p. 1) (see
Image 18). Some RJ groups did modify their strategies after the failings of EDSA II,
although not in any fundamental way. Rather than reflect on the limitations of state-
centric, sovereignty-bound politics, the one major lesson that RJs seemed to draw
from the experience was that any future post-revolutionary government would have to
annul the existing constitution and draft its own — this, in order to prevent a simple
transfer of power to the vice president, as with what happened with Arroyo. It was
thus that LNM proposed that in the event of a future presidential ouster, a Transitional
Revolutionary Government (TRG) be installed — in effect, a temporary dictatorship with
the paradoxical aim of bringing about greater democracy. One LNM member group
explained that the proposal for a TRG

is meant to emphasize that the current crisis is a systemic crisis that cannot be
resolved within the confines of the current political system… The biggest
argument for extra-constitutional means is the set of radical reforms that we
want. These reforms cannot be delivered under the constitutional order. The
elite in political institutions cannot be expected to put a check on, much less
lessen, their political power and prerogatives (Akbayan 2005, pp. 1, 4).

This scheme could be read, in part, as an effort to atone for the embarrassment of the
RJ Left’s tactical alliance with the Right during EDSA II. There was also the
embarrassment of the anti-Estrada movement’s well-to-do composition. As Walden
Bello (2001, p. 1) observed, ‘the mass base of this transfer of political power was the
middle class. The lower classes largely sat it out.’

This class fault-line was brought into stark relief by a dramatic backlash of the poor,
triggered by Estrada’s arrest in April 2001 on charges of plunder. Although life had
changed very little for the millions of impoverished Filipin@s who voted for Estrada,
many remained loyal to him for the seeming reason that most other politicians failed
to grant them even a modicum of dignity as he did. Land reform, squatters’ rights,
redistribution of wealth, and other important issues for the poor were neglected
during Estrada’s term, but he did present the illusion that they were being addressed
(Severino 2001, p. 4).

With their champion behind bars, hundreds of thousands of rural and urban poor
descended on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue to stage an uprising of their own: EDSA III
(see Image 19). ‘It appeared to be a mirror image of the anti-Estrada protests, with the
same location for the stage, political banners hanging from the overpass, and even the
same songs,’ wrote Howie Severino (2001, p. 2). The key difference was that there
were ‘no college students or office workers in evidence. This was the so-called masa
[masses]’ (Severino 2001, p. 3). Deeming EDSA II to have been a protest of the rich,
those in attendance sought, not solely to defend Estrada, but also to decry their
marginalisation in a devastatingly unequal society.

No leftist group participated in EDSA III in an official capacity, though many individual
leftists, their curiosity whetted, did head down to watch the surprising turn of events
unfold. There, they witnessed the poor self-organising without them, thereby coming
to an awareness of the rift between the Left and the very people in whose interests it
supposedly operated.

I cannot say what effect EDSA III had on the RAs, since I had very little to do with them
in Manila, but as far as the RJs were concerned, many whom I spoke to felt greatly
humbled by it. EDSA III was swiftly crushed by the new Arroyo regime, but it continues
to serve as a reference point for leftists seeking to lessen the gulf between themselves
and the poor. Edgar and Jorge, for example, now renounce their earlier complicity in
EDSA II, claiming EDSA III to have been the only true uprising of the oppressed. Dalisay
also shared with me that, in light of the events of April 2001, the so-called ‘spontaneity
of the masses’ is now embraced within LNM. This is to say that, rather than the
downtrodden always having to follow the Left’s lead, there is a novel recognition that
it should sometimes happen the other way around.

Leon was still with the RJ Left in early 2001, but when its inadequacies were laid bare
by the upheavals of January and April, he became convinced that the way forward was
with the anarchists. ‘EDSA II,’ remarked Leon,

was actually terrible, you know, because it was an uprising of the middle class
and upper class opposition, so there was no significant change… What
happened to the Left movement is they just followed the political elites… And
then what happened was now; this is the future of those political dealings and
all that. This is what they asked for. From then on, I got involved in the

The Organize Without Leaders! document that anarchists circulated during EDSA II was
a breath of fresh air for Leon, which was why he thought to adapt it for Manila
Indymedia’s purposes a few years later. As mentioned, many of the ideas it contained
were inspired by the Battle of Seattle on the other side of the Pacific, but it also took
on its own unique flavour in light of local political circumstances.

The anarchist critique of the Philippine revolutionary tradition, ‘highly influenced by
red bureaucracy’ (Umali 2006, p. 2), gained significant traction after 2001, when even
the Rejectionists, who had been considered the benign alternative to the Reaffirmists,
were discredited in the eyes of many. Anarchist writer, Bas Umali (2006, p. 1) ventured
that the RJs ‘offer no substantial difference [to the RAs], for they all adhere to the
state and capturing political power.’ It was on this basis that Umali (2006) formulated
his vision of a stateless alternative: the archipelagic confederation.

Archipelagic confederationalism

Given that a majority of Filipin@ activists from across the political spectrum have long
deemed the nation-state as incontrovertible, Umali’s re-imagining of the Philippine
Archipelago along non-nationalist and non-statist lines could be seen as something of a
game-changer. In his own words, the archipelagic confederation would be an
‘alternative anarchist political structure… that connects and interlinks politically and
economically every community in the archipelago… not in a hierarchical or top-down
orientation, but rather… [on the basis of] mutual cooperation, complementarity and
solidarity’ (Umali 2006, pp. 1, 9). Here, a spatial imaginary born of the Philippines’
unique, island-studded geography becomes the locally-specific vehicle for an old
anarchist idea: a ‘federation of free communities’ (Rocker cited in Davis 2014, p. 224)
autonomous from sovereign authority.

My first exposure to archipelagic confederationalism was in conversation with Leon in
2008. Leon, in turn, first learnt of the concept at an anarchist festival two years prior,
where Umali and his fellow delegates from the Anarchist Initiative for Direct
Democracy (AIDD) — a grassroots think-tank comprised of a small but energetic cadre
of dissident intellectuals — delivered a landmark seminar on the political crisis in the
Philippines following EDSA II. Their argument, recounted Leon,

was that Laban ng Masa adheres to the idea of top-down politics. Although
they try to look like they want to make some kind of significant change in
Philippine politics… it’s just about reform. They want to reform the electoral
system through the TRG… They don’t actually believe in grassroots organizing.
They don’t have such a thing, where you have organized political power from
the communities… We believe that the communities, like the slum areas, like
the urban poor communities, have their own way of fulfilling their needs, so we
thought we could build our collective power without depending on a
Transitional Revolutionary Government. So when AIDD brought this critique
and suggested the archipelagic confederation, we thought that “Yeah, it could
be possible”; that we start organizing from below, build up the power from
below, and then eventually disregard the government and the state, you know?
You have your own autonomous assemblies… popular assemblies, instead of a
national government.

The RJs, in drafting the TRG programme, had tried to make amends for their missteps
during EDSA II, but anarchists were unimpressed. While TRG exponents believed
themselves to stand for ‘systemic change and not the mere changing of the
government’ (Akbayan 2005, p. 5), Leon was one with the AIDD when countering that
there can be no systemic change if politics continues to be restricted within the nation-
state apparatus. ‘For me,’ he said, ‘the root cause of the problem is authority itself –
and hierarchy. Even though you have this revolutionary government run by whatever
leftist factions, if hierarchy and authority is present, you don’t resolve anything.’

After several return visits to Manila’s anarchist community during the write-up of this
thesis, I saw that support for the prospective archipelagic confederation continues
strong. Moral support has also come from afar, with Gabriel Kuhn (2010, p. 15), a
writer-activist from Austria who visited Manila in 2006, positing that the Philippines
could play a vital role in bringing much-needed Third World perspectives to the global
anarchist movement: ‘Recent essays published by Bas Umali,’ he said, ‘are just one
proof of this.’

Of course, Umali has not escaped reproach. His critics have come from the Right and
Left and even from within the anarchist milieu itself. As Danny, a scholar-activist with
the AIDD and masters student in philosophy, explained to me in an interview:

I think Bas… he’s trying to stake a claim on how we can localize anarchism, and
as such, I think it’s a good effort… It’s another flower — let it bloom. But a few
anarchist groups took offense in the sense that… the paper was trying to say
that “this is Filipino anarchism,” when I guess what Bas was really trying to say
was “this is a form of anarchism we should think about,” and at that level, I
share that with him… The response was “Why are you trying to organize us?.”..
Many of these anarchist groups fear large formations, and obviously, that
paper was in favour of a network of free communities, which is a large
formation. And, you know, I’ve never had a problem with that, but many of
them do… They feel that it’s a small step towards the loss of their autonomy.
The way I felt was “You know, if you don’t like it, it’s not something we’re
forcing on you.” In fact, the only thing we’re forcing is “Let’s talk about this, and
hopefully something comes out of it… something that’s both yours and ours.”

Such dissension could be taken as testament to the anarchist movement’s vibrancy.
Unlike in the traditional Left, no anarchist would ever expect another to toe a
particular line, since the idea of a formal leadership structure enforcing official tenets
is anathema for anarchists in the first place. Instead, ideas are produced, circulated,
and contested in a much more open and flexible way.

Gordon (2008, p. 6) asserts that the anarchist movement is ‘a setting in which high-
quality political thinking — indeed political theorising — take place’ [italics in original]. At
the same time, though, he emphasises that ‘anarchist literature is not supposed to
look like academic political theory. Much of it appears in self-published, photocopied
and pirated booklets and zines’ (Gordon 2008, p. 9). This was the case with Umali’s
piece on archipelagic confederationalism, which was self-published on an anarchist

Although much of anarchist theory bypasses academia, it should not be seen as any
less important. In fact, it fills a conspicuous gap in the Philippine intellectual landscape,
with ‘embedded intellectuals’ (Bratich 2007) in the academe still very much beholden
to nation-state precepts. ‘Here at the university,’ said Leon during one of our meetings
at UP Diliman, ‘they always propagate the idea of nationalism, without even thinking
that nationalism kills other people.’ The work of critically re-examining the
inheritances of the national liberation era is therefore being left to non-academic
intellectuals like Umali — a de facto postcolonial scholar in a country that, as noted in
Chapter 2, is curiously lacking in postcolonial studies.

Returning momentarily to Benedict Anderson’s Under three flags (2007), a line of
affinity was drawn in that book between the contemporaneous anticolonial
intellectuals José Rizal and José Martí, who agitated against Spain from the Philippines
and Cuba respectively. Today, similar lines of affinity can be drawn between
postcolonial intellectuals in the same two countries. I was surprised to discover, for
instance, the resonances between Bas Umali’s archipelagic imaginary and that of
Cuban writer Antonio Benítez-Rojo (1996). For the latter, the Caribbean is a ‘meta-
archipelago’: a space of immense ‘sociocultural fluidity’ with ‘neither a boundary nor a
center’ (Benítez-Rojo 1996, pp. 3–4). Intruigingly, Benítez-Rojo (1996, p. 4) points to
the archipelagic isomorphism between the Aegean Islands (the ancient Greek name for
which was Archipelagos, this being the very origin of ‘archipelago’ in modern English),
the Caribbean, and the ‘great Malay archipelago’ (inclusive of present-day Philippines,
Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia and Singapore).

As with ideas emanating from the West Indies, Umali (2006) re-imagines the Philippine
Archipelago, if not the wider East Indies, as a centreless mesh of cultures and
communities, held back by being held too tightly together by nationalist and statist
impositions. Taking the trope of the archipelago as my starting point, I will, in the
following sections on xenophilia and translocalism, build on Umali’s work by further
relating it to a range of kindred thinkers, mostly anarchist, who are concerned likewise
with re-inventing community beyond the nation-state.


Xenophilia as a nascent or renascent political value can be understood against the
homophilic impositions it seeks to undo. In the pre-colonial era, the diverse peoples
inhabiting the islands of present-day Philippines submitted to no overarching state nor
conformed to any monolithic, archipelago-wide identity. Only with colonialism were
diverse communities forcibly integrated under a single apparatus of rule (Dagami 2010,
pp. 20–21; Gasera Collective 2010, p. 1). The invention of a homophilic national identity
went hand-in-hand with this process. Although political power has shifted over the
years from Spain to the United States to the Philippine elite, nationalist and statist
logics have remained constant throughout — not only on the part of rulers, but also on
the part of those, like the CPP-NPA, seeking to take their place.

Umali (2006) concedes the importance of nationalism in the Philippine Revolution of
the 1890s, but maintains that to subscribe to nationalism today is to do violence to
alterity and perpetuate the colonial mindset, even in spite of anticolonial intentions. A
similar sentiment comes through in a poem entitled ‘Naming archipelagos,’ in which
Catherine Candano (2007, p. 9) laments the lingering impact of colonialism on the
cultural diversity of the Philippines. With the Spanish invasion came the ‘erosion of the
countless names for surface soils… each granule sinking into sea-bed, and then reborn,
thrust forth — eto [this], an island itself…’ The archipelago, in effect, was reduced to a
single island. What was and remains a multiplicity became discursively naturalised as a
unitary community, with one people and one history. For RJ scholar, Marie Guillermo
(2000), the search for a ‘national bond among diverse communities’ is still ongoing.

Recently, postcolonial theorist Antonis Balasopolous (2008, p. 9) coined the term
‘nesology’ to refer to the ‘discursive production of insularity’ — its prefix deriving from
nesos, the Ancient Greek for ‘island.’ The ‘bounded morphological schema of the
island’ (Balasopoulos 2008, p. 13) becomes the analogue and archetype for the range
of entities customarily seen as discrete and self-contained: the individual, the
academic discipline, and the nation-state amongst them. Breaking from such
anachronisms, Umali’s (2006, p. 2) recasting of the Philippines along archipelagic
rather than nesological lines was a key manoeuvre:

Myriad historical accounts indicate that the bodies of water surrounding
different islands connected rather than separated them from each other, and
that economic, social and political activities of the inhabitants were developed
due to the interconnectedness of their immediate environment… [T]he rich
natural endowments of the archipelago allow diverse cultures to flourish and
develop in heterogeneous ways, yet [remain] connected by mutual

Of note is that the sea is not seen as a barrier, but as a connective tissue crossed by
perpetual flows. Just as Hau’ofa (2008, p. 31) wrote with respect to the South Pacific,
Umali (2006) regards the Philippine Archipelago less as a collection of isolated patches
of land than an interconnected ‘sea of islands,’ each inseparable from the fluid
relationships between them. For Benítez-Rojo (1996, p. 2) too, the Caribbean is
composed, not of stable islands, but of ‘unstable condensations, turbulences,
whirlpools, clumps of bubbles, frayed seaweed, sunken galleons, crashing breakers,
flying fish, seagull squawks, downpours, nighttime phosphorescences, eddies and
pools, uncertain voyages’ (Benítez-Rojo 1996, pp. 2).

In each of these cases, attention shifts from hermetic island space towards the
relational space of the sea. This is apt considering that ethno-linguistic groups in the
Philippines do not map with particular islands, but with particular maritime regions.
For example, the Cebuan@ language is endemic, not just to the island of Cebu, but
also to the eastern portion of Negros and the western portion of Leyte, both of which
face Cebu. Likewise, Waray-Waray is spoken on the island of Samar as well as in
eastern Leyte which faces Samar. Indeed, no culture is an island.

Crucially, the same sea by which languages and cultures disseminate also acts as a
medium for cross-fertilisation across difference. The embrace of difference — in a
word, xenophilia — figures at the heart of archipelagic confederationalism. In contrast
to the nationalist imperative of subordinating diverse communities to a homophilic
unity, the archipelagic confederation would ‘accommodate highly diverse interests,
views, conceptions and identities in a horizontal manner,’ both within and between
localities (Gasera Collective 2010, p. 3). Given that, according to Umali (2006, pp. 7–8),
revolutionary nationalist formations are incapable of attending to the diversity of
peoples and places in the Philippine Archipelago, the solution is for each local
community to govern itself, connected to others in horizontal fashion but free from an
overarching sovereign.

Leon explained it as follows: ‘The progressive movement in the Philippines… is very
much preoccupied with the idea of national liberation. And, for me, I think this is
fascism in the making, because they’re building a nation and a state which is nothing
but a replication, a mirroring of what the imperialists did to them. They’re actually
proto-fascists because they want the idea of nationalism injected into the people, the
archipelagic formation of the Philippines… They want to inject the idea of one whole
something, which basically, for me is — well, it’s kind of irrelevant because, I mean, we
have forty languages, we have different cultures, diverse from one another. And if you
impose nationalism in these very diverse communities, you would kill the diversity and,
worse, you would create some kind of regional conflict or ethnic conflict…

‘If we consider the idea of power from below, organizing without leaders, this is very
much practical in the Philippines because we’re very diverse. So the question of
national identity is not that important anymore. What’s important is how you would
enable solidarity with other cultural groups, with other ethnicities, with other people,
which I think goes way beyond national identity. You become multiple in a sense, you
know? You’re not just you — me as a Waraynon, for example — but you can also be
something else, somebody else, when you have this interaction with other people,
other cultures, and other backgrounds. And from here, evolution is very much present.
You evolve, you learn. The intellectual capacity of these cultures… [becomes]
healthier, because of this idea of diversity… The people are diverse, the cultures are
diverse, and I guess if people from below would organize their own communities, from
there, they could organize a kind of confederation’

‘So we can build solidarity without necessarily being “one” or homogenous?’ I asked.

‘Yes, exactly. It’s not necessary actually… If you talk with others who have a different
background than yours, it doesn’t mean they should be the same as you.’

Having repeatedly heard such sentiments expressed to me in the field, I found I lacked
a word that could adequately encapsulate them. That was before I hit upon
‘xenophilia,’ which seemed an ideal fit. In the excerpt above, Leon was advocating for
intra-xenophilia in particular; that is, for an embrace of the Philippines’ cultural and
ethnic diversity, which homophilic notions of Filipin@ness usually paper over.

What, though, of inter-xenophilia?; of forms of collectivity inclusive of Filipin@s and
non-Filipin@s alike? Not until Leon spent four years in Japan as a migrant worker did
he learn of this second sense of togetherness-in-difference. It should firstly be noted,
though, that his departure from the Philippines was not an entirely voluntary one.
Shaken by the assassination of one of his comrades just a hundred metres away from
where he was standing, he felt it would be best to lay low for a while overseas. His
trauma notwithstanding, he discovered in Japan a ‘solidarity of multitudes that
transcends nationality’ (Gonzaga 2009, p. 11):

It was really kind of a paradigm-shift actually… I felt the real experience of
being a migrant… moving from one place to another, most especially to a place
where the culture is totally different from yours, and how you are able to adapt
and learn from this, and create something new out of it… We were raised to
embrace nationalism, but I was able to broaden my mind and then accept
cultures other than mine, or beyond my own identity, and it made me
something else. I became different… I don’t think very exclusively now; I think
inclusively… Some anarchist groups in the Philippines, they would say “I’m
against nationalism” and all that, but actually, they still have this nationalist
attitude… You can get very exclusive, you know? And you actually dispel other
individuals and people who would have a possible interaction with you… I was
able to hook up with other cultures, like Sri Lankan and Brazilian communities
in Japan, so the idea of nationalism just suddenly dissolved, you know, talking
with other cultures, with other people… You forget the idea of being a Filipino;
you feel like you have this “multi-belongingness” [laughs].

What stands out here is that Leon speaks, not merely of interacting across difference,
but of interactions that themselves give rise to difference. In loving the Other, we
become something other than what we were. To love, therefore, is to become.
319Beyond the embrace of ethnic and cultural diversity, an expanded xenophilia would be
equally as receptive to different genders, sexualities, bodily abilities, and even political
viewpoints. It is pertinent to raise this in relation to anarchism, since, as Gordon (2008,
p. 5) writes, ‘diversity is by itself today a core anarchist value, making the movement’s
goals very open-ended. Diversity leaves little place for notions of revolutionary closure
or for detailed blueprints and designs for a free society.’ This can be contrasted with
the intolerance of divergence often present in traditional leftist institutions. As
Graeber (2004b, p. 329) observes, Marxist and revolutionary nationalist parties tend to
‘organise around some master theoretician, who offers a comprehensive analysis of
the world situation and, often, of human history as a whole. From this one official
truth, an official path of action is prescribed. Anarchist groups, on the other hand,

the need for a diversity of high theoretical perspectives, united only by certain
shared commitments and understandings… [E]veryone agrees from the start on
certain broad principles of unity and purposes for being in the group; but
beyond that they also accept as a matter of course that no one is ever going to
convert another person completely to their point of view, and probably
shouldn’t try; and that therefore discussion should focus on concrete questions
of action, and coming up with a plan that everyone can live with and no one
feels is a fundamental violation of their principles… Just because theories are
incommensurable in certain respects does not mean they cannot [co-]exist or
even reinforce each other, any more than the fact that individuals have unique
and incommensurable views of the world means they cannot become friends,
or lovers, or work on common projects (Graeber 2004a, pp. 8–9).

The anarchists’ valorisation of difference extends to the rainbow alliances that they
frequently involve themselves in, as well as to the future society they wish to create.
Generally speaking, their goal is not to convert the masses of non-believers to
320anarchism as a prerequisite for a better society, but only to encourage communities to
self-organise in ways they see fit — hence the archipelagic confederation. Community
for contemporary anarchists is not a homophilic unity, but a xenophilic multiplicity.


Accompanying the rise of xenophilic values in Philippine anarchism is a translocalist
spatial imaginary, which the trope of the archipelago likewise embodies. Anarchist
translocalisms function in resistance, not solely to the insularity of the nation, but also
to the hierarchy of the state. As raised earlier, contemporary anarchism’s contribution
is to combine cosmopolitan critiques of nationalism with anarchist critiques of statism,
thereby addressing both halves of the nation-state form.

‘The hierarchical nature of the state,’ said Umali (2006, p. 6) ‘inevitably creates
a bureaucracy that concentrates governance and decision-making in a few
representatives, akin to the institutional arrangement of the red bureaucracy.’ The
CPP, to which Umali was referring, is infamously hierarchical, as became clear to me
when, atop an archival copy of one of Sison’s (writing as Liwanag 1992b, p. 1) papers, I
noticed the following edict: ‘This is an internal party document. No Party cadre
receiving a copy can reproduce it without authorization from a higher organ.’ I took it
as a small, though nonetheless indicative, instance of the kind of centralism being
increasingly shunned by the younger generation.

Against the CPP’s legacy, Umali (2006, p. 8) calls for a renewed radical politics that
would allow for ‘active, creative, imaginative and dynamic participation.’ In the
archipelagic confederation, collectives of ‘peasants, fishers, women, youth, indigenous
people, vendors, tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers, homeless, gays, neighborhood
associations, religious groups and other formations’ (Umali 2006, p. 8) would self-
organise at the local level, converging in popular assemblies that would be
horizontally-networked to other such assemblies elsewhere. From Umali’s perspective,
when local communities are able to manage their own affairs, as well as coordinate
between themselves translocally, the need for an overarching sovereign becomes

Without wishing to deny its novelty, Umali’s re-imagining of social space along
archipelagic lines did not take place in a vacuum, since translocalist tendencies have
been present in anarchism more or less from the beginning. The pioneering anarchists,
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin, for example,

stressed the idea of federalism, designed to facilitate relations between
increasingly larger and more widespread groups of people. The initial building
blocks of the federalist plan are the local, “face to face” groups, either
neighbours or persons with common occupational interests — in any case they
have a common mutual interest in working with each other for one or more
ends… In order to facilitate these ends they “federate” with other similar
groups to form a regional federation and in turn regional federations join with
others to form yet a broader federation. In each case the power invested in the
organised group decreases as one ascends the different levels (Barclay 1982, p.

322That a similarly translocalist imaginary persists in contemporary anarchism is
discernible in the following passage from Graeber (2004a, p. 40):

[A]narchist forms of organization would not look anything like a state… [T]hey
would involve an endless variety of communities, associations, networks,
projects, on every conceivable scale, over-lapping and intersecting… Some
would be quite local, others global… [S]ince anarchists are not actually trying to
seize power within any national territory, the process of one system replacing
the other will not take the form of some sudden revolutionary cataclysm… but
will necessarily be gradual, the creation of alternative forms of organization on
a world scale, new forms of communication, new, less alienated ways of
organizing life, which will, eventually, make currently-existing forms of power
seem stupid and beside the point.

Anarchists in the Philippines, as much as those in the US with whom Graeber is most
familiar, are challenging the notion that communities or societies should look like
nation-states — ‘one people, speaking a common language, living within a bounded
territory, acknowledging a common set of legal principles’ (Graeber 2004a, pp. 40–41) — and asserting the possibility of other, less confining forms of collectivity.

On top of translocalisms internal to nation-states are those that traverse national
borders. ‘Transnational connections are important for anarchism,’ writes Kuhn (2010,
p. 13); ‘After all, a key notion of anarchism is its opposition to the nation-state.
Solidarity across borders and the desire to eventually eradicate these borders are
inherent in the anarchist idea.’

Umali’s (2006) insights centred on maritime flows within the Philippine Archipelago,
but history is also replete with flows linking the archipelago to its outside. James
Warren (1981; 2002), for one, has consistently highlighted the historical interlinkages
cutting across the broader Southeast Asian region. The Sulu Sultanate, for instance — at
its peak in the late eighteenth century — brought parts of the Philippine and Indonesian
archipelagos into a single regional polity centred on the Sulu Sea (Warren 1981).
Philippine peoples also maintained trading ties with maritime communities in China
and Indochina. Leon, being well aware of this history, commented in an interview:

It’s really interesting because before Spanish colonization came to the
Philippines’ shores, there was no Philippines, but… there was already
civilization going on. There was already a kind of globalized network at that
time between different cultures… various regions in the Southeast Asian Rim.

Acknowledging that the Philippines has long been a ‘crossroads of cultural traffic’
(Hogan 2006, p. 129) is one way of repudiating the perceived naturalness of the
Philippine national community. Aside from the long-distance dealings of rulers and
merchants, however, the seas were also plied by rebels and subversives. It was this
aspect of maritime history that Filipino anarchist Jong Pairez (2012, pp. 1, 3) drew
inspiration from in his proposal for an online journal of Asian anarchism:

Polynesia and Madagascar, regardless of its opposite-end locations on the map,
culturally share its language and habits with people from Southeast Asia; it’s
the ocean that… provided the link… Metaphorically, I describe the journal as a
balangay or pre-historic wooden boat of maritime Southeast Asia that
transported subversive ideals… ceaselessly escaping the claws of governments,
state and authority… By communicating our local struggles, I believe a
contemporary grassroots brand of anarchism will emerge from the land of our
ancestors who brought down the Khmer empire, the Majapahit, and the
maritime empire of the Sri-vijaya… The journal at the moment is just an idea…
[H]opefully, with the help of our comrades in Indonesia who already have
experience in producing local anti-authoritarian publications like Apokalips and
Jurnal Kontinum, we could actualize the remaking of balangay and sail it again
into the vast oceans of Malacca, Celebes Sea, South China Sea, Pacific Ocean,
and to the corners of Indian Ocean and beyond.

The proposed journal has yet to eventuate, but the proposal itself nonetheless serves
as a valuable text in its own right. What interests me is not the historical factuality or
otherwise of Pairez’s claims, but the way he weaves the raw material of history into a
subversive, future-oriented narrative. Although encouraged by the pre-colonial past,
his aim is not to retrieve a lost golden age, so much as to re-remember history in ways
productive of alternative futures. As Ella Shohat (cited in Hall 1995, p. 251) maintains,
the recuperation of the past need not equate with essentialist romanticism in all cases;
sometimes, what is restored is multiplicity, not a ‘static fetishized phase to be literally
reproduced.’ In Pairez’s (2012) case — as well as in Umali’s (2006) — pre-colonial
cosmopolitanism is recalled only so as to enrich the radical possibilities of present-day
cosmopolitanism. This helps to rob prevailing power arrangements of their air of
inevitability, and renew confidence that things could again be otherwise.

A concrete example of anarchist translocalism is offered by the ad hoc, Asia-Pacific-
wide network that formed in opposition to the G8 summit held in Toyako, Japan in
July 2008. The idea for the network first emerged at Transmission Asia-Pacific,
described on its website as a ‘5-day camp for web developers and video activists about
developing online video distribution for social justice, the environment and media
democracy’ (Transmission 2008, p. 1). The camp took place in the highlands of West
Java in May 2008, with local Indonesian activists joined by delegations from the
Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Australia, and

Among the participants was Leon, who informed me that following a presentation by
Japanese activists organising against the Toyako summit, the campers collectively
resolved to expand their scope beyond online video distribution to also mount
coordinated anti-G8 demonstrations across the region. That the project took on a
translocal flavour was owing, not solely to the participants’ anarchist sensibilities, but
also to their modest financial means: ‘Because most of the Southeast Asian nations are
poor, we cannot go to Japan to protest,’ explained Leon, ‘so what happened is we
decided to just have our own local actions in our respective localities during the actual
G8 summit.’

No prescriptions were issued; the idea was rather that each local group would decide
for itself what its own particular action would look like. At the time of my fieldwork,
the Manila event was still at the brainstorming stage: ‘We’re thinking of throwing a
party as a way of protesting, rather than the grim-and-determined form of protest
with just all these angry people; we’re thinking of music, to just clog the whole traffic
system with people dancing,’ mused Leon. What ended up happening, though, was
quite the opposite: a silent vigil outside the Japanese embassy. Local actions elsewhere
ranged from festive to militant, their differences in no way compromising their
translocal solidarity.

With the kind of translocal networks and nonsovereign globalities being enacted by
anarchists in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, the world itself becomes something of an
archipelago — or better yet, an anarchipelago. All the better to challenge the new
nesology in our midst: the island-continent of supranational sovereignty.

Green-Black solidarity

Having riffed on the radical implications of archipelagic confederationalism, I will
change tack now to highlight its affinities with bioregionalism, the vision of community
outlined in the preceding chapter.

As a first indication of the commonalities, one Filipin@ anarchist group proclaimed: ‘As
anarchists, we are radical ecologists… Human beings are just part of the infinitely
diverse global ecosystem; we are not above it’ (Gasera Collective 2010, pp. 3). Here,
the anarchist critique of social hierarchy is extended to the hierarchy of human beings
over nature. At the time of my fieldwork, rumour had it that a clandestine band of eco-
anarchists were carrying out a campaign of strategic property destruction in northern
Luzon, sabotaging bulldozers and logging trucks in order to prevent the even greater
destruction that would have been wreaked on the region’s rainforests and social
fabric. As much as I was tempted to pursue this lead, I had already committed to
Metropolitan Manila as a fieldsite. My exploration of the Green-Black relationship was,
as a result, largely confined to coffee shop conversations, inquiring into
environmentalists’ perceptions of anarchists, and vice versa.

With respect to the former, Pedro described his organisation’s stance as follows:

The [GFM] in political terms… might be called “semi-anarchist” in the sense
that we share with the anarchists a basic distrust for centralized power… Much
of the Left (communism and socialism), well, they talk of “democratic
centralism,” so in that sense they’re very power-oriented, very center-oriented.
They talk of “centralized planning.” So we are very distrustful when you
concentrate power in a few hands… We believe more in the diffusion of power,
which probably makes us kind of anarchist… but we also, we can accept some
kind of a hierarchy, but not too much.

From the other side of the Green-Black relationship, Leon expressed similarly amicable
sentiments towards his environmentalist allies:

I believe the [GFM], in some way or another, I believe they’re sympathetic to
the anarchist movement… They don’t have a problem with us, with the
[MMAC]. They actually keep in contact with us, and they’re very kind… unlike
with our former leftist friends, when it comes to protest actions in the streets,
when we started to march, all of us wearing black, they started to quell us
down. They want to keep us separated from their group. Well, this is how we
experienced it with our former friends in the Left. They’re very hostile to us.

Listening back to the recording, I noticed that as Leon was speaking these words,
Procul Harum’s ‘A whiter shade of pale’ was playing over the cafe’s stereo. What came
through in the interview was a greener shade of black, which complemented the
blacker shade of green brought to light by Pedro. The trends I was picking up on could
not have been put more tersely than when the Gasera Collective (2010, p. 4) in Manila
declared ‘Green and Black as the new Red’ [italics mine].

Green and Black each demonstrate a favourable view of difference. No longer the
limitation that past activists often deemed it to be, contemporary anarchists and
bioregionalists tend to maintain that diversity (whether cultural, political, biological, or
otherwise) is essential to the vitality and health of a given community, and that to
deny it is to thwart life itself.

Furthermore, both anarchists and bioregionalists imagine a future in which large-scale
social aggregates presided over by a sovereign — not least of all, the imagined
community of the nation-state — are broken up into smaller, self-governed polities,
each at once more democratic and ecologically-sound by virtue of being predicated on
local specificities. It does not follow, however, that each locality must languish in
isolation, since what most activists in the anarchist and bioregionalist camps seek is to
replace the Westphalian ideal of a community of nation-states with a new kind of
world community: ‘a million villages,’ as Bill Mollison (1988, p. ix) likes to put it. A
horizontal network of villages, balancing local autonomy and translocal solidarity
without contradiction, would arguably make redundant national and supranational
sovereignty alike.

Bioregionalism’s emphasis on decentralisation — that is, on democratic decision-
making at the local level, particularly as concerns natural resources — is such that one
author even asserts that it is, in fact, a form of anarchism (Eckersley 1992). Conversely,
anarchism may itself be considered a form of environmentalism, as seems to be
suggested by Goldman (1963, p. 50):

Anarchism, whose roots, as it were, are part of nature’s forces, destroys, not
healthful tissue, but parasitic growths that feed on the life’s essence of society.
It is merely clearing the soil from weeds and sagebrush, that it may eventually
bear healthy fruit.

For Peter Kropotkin (cited in Kinna 2005, p. 8), anarchism similarly promised, against
the ‘artificial’ order of the state, ‘the blossoming of the most beautiful passions.’
Perhaps the recurring use of ecological metaphors by seminal anarchist thinkers is not
simply poetic fancy, but a reflection of a generative, earthbound ontology shared by
Black and Green alike.


To conclude, I will revisit a point first made in the prologue to this chapter; namely,
that the anarchists’ key contribution to today’s cosmopolitan radicalism is their
resolutely anti-statist perspective. I argued that this is vital for the precise reason that
any project aiming to free social relations from the nation-state cannot rely on a
critique of nationalism alone, but must also take aim at the nation-state’s in-built
statism. While some political actors aspire to nations not premised on the state, and
others to states not premised on a single nation, contemporary anarchists aspire to
communities resembling neither nations nor states.

None of this can be understood without reference to the recent past. The twentieth
century saw one revolutionary movement after another (whether communist,
nationalist, or a mix of both) seize the reins of the state, only for each ostensible
victory to be revealed in the end as a failure — at least in certain respects, since the
dictators who assumed power would disagree. Despite Fanon’s forewarnings — ‘[W]e
must find something different… let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states,
institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her’ (Fanon 1961, pp 251,
254) — the postcolonial regimes that came to power throughout Africa and Asia in the
Sixties and Seventies became barely distinguishable in their tyranny from the departed
colonial masters. A change of heads had occurred, but the institutional body of the
state stayed intact.

Gandhi (1998, pp. 120–121) claims that Fanon’s writings ‘are almost prophetic in their
predictions’ about what would happen should anticolonialists continue along the trail
first blazed by imperialists, but seemingly forgets that Fanon would have had, as a
reference point, the nineteenth-century independence movements in Latin America. In
regressing into statism-as-usual once securing self-rule, a precedent was set. Before
Fanon, too, was the Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, who, in 1872, led a breakaway
faction from Karl Marx’s International Workingmen’s Association over the issue of the
state. While Marx believed the state could serve liberatory ends, Bakunin (cited in
Barclay 1982) maintained that Marx’s so-called ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ would
be ‘nothing else but despotic rule over the toiling masses by a new, numerically-small
aristocracy.’ This was the original Red-Black split, of which today’s trends are
recapitulations. If there is now a twenty-first century sequel, it is because Bakunin and
Fanon were proved right about state-centric revolutionary strategies, thereby
prompting new explorations into what it might mean to ‘change the world without
taking power’ (Holloway 2005). I have offered a glimpse into one such exploration in
the Philippines — a unique case, though very much in line with anarchistic resurgences

[1] It should be acknowledged that such caricatures are not without basis, since some anarchists did
partake in bombings and assassinations (then known as ‘propaganda of the deed’) for a brief period in
the 1890s and early 1900s. Graeber (2013, p. 191) claims, however, that anarchism was also ‘the first
modern political movement to (gradually) realize that, as a political strategy, terrorism, even when it is
not directed at innocents, doesn’t work.’ As such, anarchists have overwhelming eschewed violent
methods for the better part of a century now.

[2] Zines (their name abbreviated from ‘magazine’) are self-published booklets reproduced via
photocopier in a do-it-yourself (DIY), and often anti-capitalist, spirit. Their place in alternative culture
was set in train by the anarcho-punk scene of the 1970s (Duncombe 1997).

[3] This translates as: ‘Party for Socialist Revolution.’

[4] Contrary to popular misconceptions, anarchism is not opposed to organisation and order in general,
only to forms of organisation premised on coercive, centralised authority (Heckert 2013, p. 513).
Anarchists stand instead for voluntary, decentralised, and self-regulating relationships between equals,
which they believe constitute a much more ordered way of life — hence the slogan ‘Anarchy is order;
government is civil war,’ attributed to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (cited in Kinna 2005, p. 5).

[5] Anderson turned to the Philippines after being banned from Indonesia by the Suharto dictatorship.
Part of the appeal was the impending dissolution of the Philippines’ own dictatorship in the mid-
Eighties. He recalled that at this time ‘many of my best students at Cornell University were deciding to
work on the Philippines, for political as well as scholarly reasons. I more or less tagged along behind
them’ (Anderson 2003, p. viii). In an e-mail to one of his former students, Patricio Abinales, now a noted
scholar in his own right, Anderson gave a further reason for his interest in the Philippines: ‘I think that
living in America, and having long experienced… the katarantaduhan [‘nonsense’ in Tagalog slang] of
Washington in other places, made me think I should really study the American colony’ (Anderson cited
in Abinales 2003, p. xxvi).

[6] Anderson is referring here to Isabelo de los Reyes — the Philippines’ first self-declared anarchist.
Arrested by Spanish authorities in 1896 for his involvement in the Philippine Revolution, he was sent to
prison in faraway Barcelona, largely in order to isolate him from fellow Filipin@s over whom he held
considerable sway. Not to be isolated from radicals of other nationalities, his Catalan anarchist inmates
so impressed him that, before long, he himself took on an anarchist identity. For de los Reyes (cited in
Anderson 2007, p. 201), anarchism was about ‘the abolition of boundaries; that is, love without any
boundaries, whether geographic or of class distinction… with all of us associating together without any
need of fraudulent taxes or ordinances which trap the unfortunate but leave the real criminals
untouched’ [italics mine]. Returning to Manila, de los Reyes brought with him the first anarchist texts to
reach the Philippines and quickly resumed his militant organising, albeit this time against the new
American regime (Anderson 2007, p. 7).

[7] A form of public transport unique to the Philippines, originally made from decommissioned US army

[8] In the liberal-democratic tradition, by contrast, power increases as one ascends.

[9] The G8 or ‘Group of Eight’ is a forum for cooperation between eight of the world’s largest economies:
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the US, and the European Union. Since the
advent of the Alternative Globalisation Movement, it has been targeted by activists as one
manifestation of the supranational power structure underpinning and promoting global capitalism. Since
the Crash of 2008, the G8 has been trumped in importance by the G20, which, in addition to G8
members, includes major developing world players such as Brazil, China, and India.

[10] Early German anarchist, Gustav Landauer, for instance, wanted each ethnos to govern itself
horizontally, sans an overarching sovereign. As Landauer (cited in Gordon 2008, p. 27) himself phrased
it, ‘I do not proceed in the slightest against the fine fact of the nation… but against the mixing up of the
nation and the state.’ Isabelo de los Reyes of the Philippines was another nineteenth-century anarchist
to espouse a peculiarly anti-statist nationalism. By and large, nationalist sympathies have since been
dropped from anarchism, with contemporary anarchists like Richard Day (2005, p. 178) now given to
celebrating emergent forms of community that, by way of what he calls ‘affinity-based relationships,’
embrace the different and the non-self-similar.

[11] President Evo Morales, for one, has re-christened his country the Plurinational State of Bolivia (see
Gustafson 2009).