Why I’m Not a Collectivist Anarchist

In anarchist realms there are numerous subgroups. Two of the most well-known subgroups are collectivists and individualists. Although describing all of the nuances of the two groups would take ages their main divergence point is whether they focus on society or individuals. As societies are made up of individuals I tend to align with the individualist camp. But there is another reason I don’t align with the collectivist camp, the drama tends to run very high in their meetings. I believe drama is inherent in any collectivist movement because those movements rely on organization, collective action, solidarity, and other group strategies. These strategies require each person to be mostly committed to the group, which can cause major issues when the group decides to do something you don’t want to do.

I’ve been to a few collectivist anarchist meetings. Compared to the meetings I have with my individualist anarchist friends, which usually involved beers at a local watering hole, the collectivist meetings were pretty dramatic (also the meetings lacked booze as those meetings were declared “sober spaces”, which may have been 90 percent of the problem). A recent meeting of anarcho-syndicalists at Portland State University, although more severe than any of the collectivist meetings I’ve attended, does give a good idea of what tends to happen:

A meeting of Anarcho-Syndicalists devolved into chaos at Portland State University last week. The “Law & Disorder” conference presented by the Students of Unity was disrupted by protesters complaining about “survivor trauma” and the “patriarchal society” which is “prioritizing powerful white men.”

In my experience what usually happens at these meetings is a general assembly is arranged to make decisions related to the group. Everybody presents their pet issues and tries to convince the collective to agree on fighting for that issue. This usually devolves into a battle of wills as one or two members of the collective don’t want to fight for the issue. The winner is determined by the side that is most charismatic (which is a relative term when the meeting devolves into yelling and sometimes crying) because the group will eventually decided to vote for or against it simply to move on with things (this usually happens after an hour or more of debate). Oftentimes the following weeks will involve a great deal of animosity between those for and against the issue, which breeds more drama. And it’s not uncommon for that animosity to become an outright feud, which really cranks up the drama level.

Our individualist meetings tend to be much more laid back. Somebody presents an idea and those who want to join him do and those who don’t don’t. It’s a far more comfortable atmosphere for somebody like me who only enjoys watching drama, not participating in it.

In closing I do want to clarify that I’m not trying to insult my collectivist brethren with this post. Collectivism simply isn’t for me but if it’s your thing more power to you. And if you have a collectivist group that manages to get things done without a ton of drama that’s great. This post is based solely on my experience and a video of an experience that mirrors mine.