Since I became an anarchist, November has always been a time for refusal. Refusing to vote, and making a big deal about it, was one of the ways I pushed back against the world. Even before I was an anarchist I was saying no – no to war, no to sweatshop labor, no to social conformity. Personal choices such as refusing to dress a certain way or consume substances were manifestations of a negativity towards the world, a “preference not to” that would later push me towards anarchism.
The Mary Nardini Gang talks about the importance of saying no to an anarchist politics in their introduction to Be Gay Do Crime, and I’m struck by how they connect this outward negativity to the personal and how we sustain ourselves as anarchists in the world.
“Hold onto that moment when you first called yourself an anarchist. Whatever your story, surely it was a refusal, a preference not to, saying “no.” You may not realize it, but this is the first time in your life you set a boundary with a world that attempts to erode your capacity to do so. Find that moment and that affect and hold firmly to it. Whatever else may be taken from you, they cannot take this. Let’s dispense with the tired conversation about the individual and the collective. We need each other and still each of us needs recourse to that intimately personal affect. Can we leave it at that? In the trying times, when we feel alone against the world, we will always have that initiating refusal. If we tend that little candle, we can always find our way, back to each other if necessary. The anarchist tension adapts to whatever comes next.”
As I’ve grown older in my politics, how I engage with the world has changed, and some of those boundaries set with the world have either become more fluid or I’m asserting them in different ways. But refusal and negativity still feel important to me on a basic level. And no, I’m not voting this year either.
So what is your little candle? How important is saying “no” to you as an anarchist, and how has that changed over time?