Against friendship – Part I

Herein we will begin to argue against the revolutionary importance of friendship. Will not argue that friendship isn’t a fine and wonderful thing for daily life, for the eating of brunch, or the consumption of beverages. This is all well and good, do what one will, live your life.


What we will argue against is the way in which the affinity group model that has been abandoned generally (although not universally) in anarchist circles has instead migrated into an unconscious way of life. This migration has caused the conflation of social circles (aka groups of friends) with sharing political values (aka the party) with the result that anarchists (and the ASC who predate on our energy) have become countercultural against their better instincts.

To put this into different terms, the conflation of friendship with politics, if it is caused by conscious agency, is done so either by those who prefer to “just hang out” but also want to believe that they and their friends are conscious social agents OR by those who have a specific political project and want to keep it relevant by having it also be a place where social needs can be met.

If the conflation is not conscious, as in, it merely reflects the spectating nature that radicals have over their own lives, then it goes a long way towards explaining the increasing isolation of radical groupuscles. Our lifeways cannot be attractive outside our capacity to grow our social cliques beyond themselves. It is not that we are not desirable, it is that we are choosing the wrong way to communicate that desirability. Being sexy rebels isn’t nearly enough to affect the kind of attraction we would need to confound even the MSM view of us as dangerous outsiders.

Of course this is not some backhanded way to form or reform some type of anarchist political party. I am asking a question I don’t have the answer to.

Indeed I am suspicious about the way in which this friend-comrade indistinction has occurred. Sure, I can point to a reaction against the new left or organizationalism or the desirability of true affinity or the writing of Tiqqun, but the lack of experimentation after Occupy is suspicious. This is the time to change up, not fall back to pattern. Relying on the cool kids to decide what comes next has obviously had limited returns (unless you’re a cool kid and your goals are limited to, by definition, individual social rewards). Perhaps it is time to stop being coy and declare a goal or two.

11 thoughts on “Against friendship – Part I”

  1. What does “MSM” stand for? I am referring to your use of it when you say: “Being sexy rebels isn’t nearly enough to affect the kind of attraction we would need to confound even the MSM view of us as dangerous outsiders.”

  2. This conversation needs to happen everywhere right now before we lose even more possibility. Will we be weak and dismantled in the next year when the crisis really hits?

    How did we get to this point? Is it really just us or is there any possibility that something nefarious might be happening? Is this going on all across the United States?

  3. I think there was a lot of theory and tactical suggestions that lead this way though. The new generation even had the previous generation of pseudo IAs and other informalists touting friendship crews as the way forward. Affinity was always something much different, it is about shared perspectives on ideas, strategy, tactics. I’m not saying everyone has to be a platformist but you can see why folks bend the stick that far in relation to such developments. Though I must say This even effects the pro organizational milieu. I think it is an American thing.

  4. I should mention the title is “3 Ways Organizing with Friends Can lead to Failure”

  5. Although I’m more out of the movement then at this point, I may have some few comments after near 40 years at this. Time doesn’t permit a full comment at this time.

    So, right quick, the matter of organizing friends AND with friends can be a bit complex. Certainly not black and white, IMHO.

    The positive oft times are that your back is usually covered…except as folks go through their own changes.And there are folks that I thought were friends,as they evolved in their own directions have thrown one under the bus.

    Sometimes its hard to be really critical with a friend. When they are screwing up (sometimes big time), one sorta dances around a bit more of a direct approach in telling them the sharp reality of their action(s).

    When your friends F-up, you oft time gets tarnished with their F-up, as if you own others actions or opinions.
    Additionally, you are assumed to have the same politics, perspectives or temperment as your friends. You are taken as a political clone of your friends…for better and worse.

    Sometimes friendship blinds one to political or personal disagreements. Allows for factionalism and opininated views.Closes one off to the view that maybe your friends could be wrong about something. Reflective defensiveness.

    Let me end this ramble by suggesting that balance, balance and more balance helps keep an even keel and perspective in organizing, carrying stuff out and in coming to balanced approach and conclusion in doing solid political, shopfloor, organizational work.

  6. “… those who have a specific political project and want to keep it relevant by having it also be a place where social needs can be met.” If this were to read “… have a specific politics and want…” I think it would work nicely as a description of how i measure up in this equation.
    Given the expanse of absence that seems particular to the Midwest, friendship hasn’t been much of an opportunity for misdirection, stalling departure, or ghettoisation. Or at least not an Anarchist ghetto; living in a capitalist ghetto has left me with diffuse affinities.
    A political project is not an option. Friends are not an option. Unless friendship is invented, because in my isolation it seems better to abort necessity’s invention of “imaginary (terrible) communities”. Mine are more anti- politics of a place, where the same people who are friends are enemies are neighbors are snitches are criminals are desperate are disparate.

  7. “Perhaps it is time to stop being coy and declare a goal or two.”

    Yes, perhaps. I’ve been wanting you to do this for years, Aragorn. Declare some goals!

  8. I don’t if this is really the point of the piece but I’ve always been very suspicious of affinity group models of organising because it reproduces the exclusivity and cliquishness that has very damaging psychological effects on those not part of the social group. When the point of organising is to bring people together for a political goal, how can excluding people because they’re not cool enough be justified?

    I remember reading some direct action guide and I got really pissed off when it recommended just getting together with your friends and doing something. So if you’re not part of an already existing social group (which will most likely be based on similar tastes and fashions) you can’t do radical politics?

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