What is organic radicalism?
Organic radicalism is a political philosophy which stands in direct opposition to industrial capitalism. Like anarchism it combines a fundamental critique of contemporary society with an alternative basis on which society could, and preferably should, be organised. As the term “radicalism” implies, it also embraces the need for pro-active engagement in the world in order to try to bring about the far-reaching social changes which it prescribes.
Organic radicalism is based on the idea of a living community, Ferdinand Tonnies’ Gemeinschaft, as opposed to the Gesellschaft of the capitalist state. We see this social organism as consisting of horizontal relationships and exchanges between free human beings, rather than on sterile hierarchy. It is a grass-roots, bottom-up, approach. In this vision of solidarity, interdependence, co-operation and mutual aid, the state and all kinds of fixed authority appear as obstructions to the harmonious workings of Gemeinschaft. Our radicalism is also organic because it is sourced from the idea of nature. The co-operative community it favours is regarded as natural, while state and commercial structures are seen as artificial. Human beings are also understood to be part of nature, to belong to the natural world, in their own, specifically human, manner. We reject the industrial capitalist view of nature as something to be exploited, commercialised, dominated or relegated to second place behind an imagined human priority. For us, humankind’s interests cannot be separated from the wider interests of the natural world, because we are nothing other than an extension of that world. We reject notions of economic growth or technological advance as any kind of worthwhile basis for society and propose instead a world founded on the healthy values of respect for nature and other creatures; simple but joyful living; an appreciation of inner and outer beauty; a sense of communal responsibility and belonging.
Orgrad is radical because it proposes fundamental change to society. Although inspired by some elements of our pre-industrial past, our vision is forward-looking. The drift to destruction is not inevitable – another future is possible if we can free our minds to imagine it. Orgrad is radical because it appreciates that the capitalist system has always done all in its power to destroy that vision of a non-capitalist world. We have no illusions about the difficulty in popularising such a vision, let alone realising it. We have no faith in the phoney “democratic” structures of capitalist society and therefore accept that other means will be needed to bring down the industrial capitalist system. We do not shy away from endorsing a full diversity of tactics. The term “radicalism” also dovetails with the term “organic” in that it refers to the root of the issues at stake. Organic radicalism is a challenge to the deepest assumptions of capitalism: it seeks to undermine and destroy the capitalist system, rather than to simply reform certain aspects of it. It recognises that ending industrialism (which is merely the physical manifestation of capitalism) is an urgent necessity for all life in this world.
Is organic radicalism a kind of anarchism?
Organic radicalism has the same relation to anarchism as anarchism has to socialism. Anarchism’s roots are in socialism, it is intrinsically socialist and yet it is more than socialism. It found its own name to differentiate itself from other forms of socialism (statist, reformist, etc), which had dominated understanding of the term. Organic radicalism is therefore both anarchist and socialist – and something else, of its own.
So what are its differences with anarchism?
Organic radicalism is an evolution of anarchism. From our perspective, contemporary anarchism does not go far enough in its opposition to industrial capitalism. In the same way as other leftists can become stuck within the broader capitalist mindset, merely seeking greater equality, individual freedom or self-management within the context of capitalism and the state, so do too many anarchists base their vision of the future on the industrial society created by and for capitalism. Orgrad also proposes a holistic world-view, based on organic belonging to community, species and nature, which is considered unacceptable by many contemporary anarchists, due to the influence of modern ideologies appropriate to capitalism. To be clear, orgrad has no interest at all in the dead-end narcissism of ultra-liberal identity politics.
Isn’t that just green anarchism?
It is green anarchism, but not just that! We don’t like the idea of narrowing our field of interest into a sub-section of a specific ideology. Instead we prefer to open it out by using two words with less closely defined meaning. That way, we can spend our time communicating our ideas to the world as a whole rather than squabbling with comrades about who has the correct interpretation of an existing label and who has the most right to use it. We don’t want to tread on anyone’s sensitive ideological toes, so we are taking a small step to one side where we have room to move freely.
Is organic radicalism anti-fascist?
Yes, very much so. Organic radicalism regards fascism as a particularly ugly offshoot of industrial capitalism. Organic radicalism is a left-wing, internationalist, humanist, universalist, anti-racist, anti-state, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, anti-authoritarian ideology. An anti-fascist ideology.
Are you anti-individualist?
No. We are against consumerist-style individualism, which is a false individualism. An authentic individualism is one which allows everyone to freely express themselves and fulfil their own inner potential. Part of each individual identity is our belonging to the wider community, to the human species, to nature and to the universe. Authentic self-expression includes these non-individualistic aspects of our being, in the form of empathy, co-operation, altruism, a sense of justice and so on. The individual is the actual means by which collective interests can be addressed, because a human community consists entirely of individual human beings. A society cannot be free if its individual members are not free. An individual cannot be truly free within an unfree society.
There is a very wide range of thinkers in your list, many of whom come from very different philosophical backgrounds. How do you reconcile those differences? Is there one thread of thinking which is most important to you?
Organic radicalism is essentially a synthesis of all that diversity of thought. It is also a synthesis that is self-conscious of being a synthesis: that is to say, its synthetic nature forms part of its methodology and purpose. Orgrad is based on the understanding that this kind of ideological synthesis is needed in order to renew the possibility of a dynamic and coherent critique of industrial capitalism. The differences in individual perspectives represent a strength, rather than a weakness. Different shapes and sizes of ideological stone are needed to build the various parts of the overall structure. None are intrinsically more important than the others, although some do occupy a more pivotal role, connecting different elements of the philosophy.