With Trump attacking âanarchist jurisdictions,â a scholar of anarchism discusses the use and misuse of the A-word.
Joshua Keating, September 29, 2020
Anarchism is having a momentâor at least the word is. President Donald Trump spent much of the summer blaming violence at protests around the country on âradical-left anarchists.â His election rival, Joe Biden, has made clear that while he supports peaceful protests, he strongly opposes âanarchistsâ as well. Some of Trumpâs critics have suggested that with his disregard for the norms and institutions of American politics, heâs the real anarchist. The A-word got its most dubious usage in September when Trump released a directive to federal agencies instructing them to find ways to withhold funding for designated âanarchist jurisdictionsâ like the cities of Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and New York. The memo blamed Democratic city governments for allowing âanarchy, violence, and destruction in Americaâs cities.â
The designation was immediately met with scorn and ridiculeâthe three cities are among the safest in the nation, for one thing. But perhaps because of recent state failures, there is something of an anarchist spirit in the air.
In response to the pandemic, âmutual aidâ groupsâa term originated by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkinâtook off in cities throughout the world to deliver services to those in need. Activists in Seattle maintained a police-free âautonomous zoneâ for several weeks. Leaderless protest movements are on the rise, while once-radical ideas for limiting the stateâs power, like defunding police forces and abolishing prisons, are gaining mainstream acceptance.