The Oscar-nominated film No starring Gael Garcia Bernal claims to tell the story of the only dictator ever to be voted out power: General Pinochet of Chile. It’s visually striking and for a politically-themed film the story is unusual: it focuses on the details of the television advertising campaign in favour of a "No" to Pinochet vote in the referendum of the early 1980s. It’s worth watching in itself but here I want to write about what it says about political campaigning (do I need to put a Spoiler Alert here because I’ll give away the ending if I say that Pinochet is no longer in power?)
They take the negative "No" and turn it into the positive "No more!" and further than that, they reject the "this guy is a bastard" approach to the odious, mass-murdering crook. Testimony of abuses, torture and everyday misery are sidelined in favour of making people feel positive. I got to thinking how I’ve always hated the phrase "class struggle" to describe my politics. Accurate as it is, necessary qualifier that it is, still it takes two words with unpleasant associations and bolts them together to conjure images of school bullying or failure to fit in(*).
Why would anyone want to get behind that? (**)
Anarchism’s emphasis on freedom and individual / collective liberty is a much better selling point. Everyone loves Freedom (***), to the point where that word is fought over and captured by those who take it from us. "Free markets" and "freedom of choice" are parodies of real life under consumer capitalism. Every bampot right-wing "libertarian" who wants the "freedom" to own wage-slaves. Every CBI gobshite that cuts workers’ protection in the name of "freedom from red tape." We should be jealously defending it from them and emphasising it more in our activities.
Freedom is ours, it’s always been the anarchist thing. And it goes beyond shallow individualism. We want freedom from work, freedom from want and freedom from toil. I can’t be free to be my best self if I’m in a community that’s stunted by need, racism, or sexism. No-one is free until we all are free.
That’s real economic freedom: anarchist communism.
(*) is it just me? You make your own associations then.
(**) even before we get into "anarchist" with all its mad-bomber baggage…
(***) Yeah, OK. Not everybody.