The result of this ideological latitude is that there are many people out there who adopt the forms of anarchism without pursuing the substance of it -- these are lifestylists, who have nothing to do with the actual anarchist movement. Lifestylists are bourgeois poseurs who aren't interested in class struggle -- maybe I'll talk about them on another site.
Social anarchism, conversely, holds class struggle, and ultimately, social revolution as central to its beliefs. Thus, individuals who desire to be genuine anarchists (e.g., social anarchists) must translate their beliefs into action, or simply be lifestylists.
Finding an outlet for social anarchist beliefs isn't as easy as it is with other "-isms" -- we reject partisan politics and reformism, so, at least in the US, you won't find an anarchist collective in every neighborhood (at least not yet!) You have to make one yourself, in most cases.
It falls to anarchists themselves to reach out in their respective communities to one another to form collectives and voluntary associations. Without this community interaction and integration, anarchy is impossible.
Anarchists pride themselves on relying on their own initiative -- which means that the anarchist has more work to do than your average partisan politico. But we feel that this is more empowering and worthwhile in the long run.
The social anarchist, according to Murray Bookchin, is committed to four basic tenets:
The other thing to remember is that, for anarchists, the organization is secondary to direct action -- we are not out to create a centralized, vanguardist revolution characterized by party organizations -- we are simply relying on organizing as the means of achieving the libertarian society.
What you need to do first is read! You need to get a good understanding of what anarchism means to you, so you can begin to effectively act on your beliefs. Anarchism relies on the conviction of the anarchist, rather than on the efficacy of a party apparatus or on the catchiness of slogans.
To facilitate this process, you might want to get a group of like-minded people together to read and discuss the classic anarchist books. Some teens have created anarchist clubs at their schools as a way of getting fellow travelers of anarchism together.
E-mail is a very useful tool for anarchists, if they have it -- for example, I put together a flyer attacking Borders' firing of Miriam Fried, which I e-mailed to a comrade out west, per his request. He then produced the flyer on his own and leafletted in his area, while I leafletted in my own. Prior to e-mail, such a speedy direct action would be almost impossible. But watch out with file transfers -- computer viruses travel very readily via e-mail file transfers!
You should begin producing pamphlets and leaflets -- and distribute them in your community as a way of passing along the ideas. But be careful! Always try to produce well-edited pieces, as the quality of your leaflets will reflect on you -- a poorly-edited piece will thwart your efforts!
Once you've started doing that, then you may want to join one of the existing anarchist organizations to meet more anarchists and share ideas and gain experience.
Again, there is no formula for how to do things -- the important thing is to do something.
You'll encounter more experienced anarchists who'll offer good ideas -- but remember not to blindly follow anyone, anarchist or not -- use your own best judgment.
There are various anarchist organizations out there, each pursuing different paths toward creating social revolution. Here are a handful of prominent ones:
There are a number of anarchist publishing collectives out there, too. They are excellent sources of information for any local group. Some, like AK Press, will send you publications monthly if you pay them a flat fee (ask about becoming a Friend of AK Press for more information) -- that's a great way to build up your library of anarchistic literature. Here are a few of these publishing collectives:
Note that the goal of the anarchist is to develop resources within your respective community and foment social revolution -- not to simply be a functionary of a national or international organization. Use any of the above as springboards for direct action in your community -- as resources for your continued development as an anarchist.
Additionally, the anarchist is distinguished from the activist in that you are pursuing an overall strategy -- the creation of a libertarian society, instead of focusing on a single issue.
Once you gain the experience you need in organizing, you can go about creating your own collective in your community -- and that's the most important step of all; to be successful, the anarchist collective must attract, mobilize, and educate the workers in your community for there to ever be social revolution.
Remember that each member of your collective has different abilities and aptitudes -- they each have something to contribute to the collective.
Two things I believe are very important:
Depending on the nature of the direct actions you carry out, you may want to limit your group to no more than 10 to 15 members -- if you find your group growing beyond that, you may want to vote to create an autonomous splinter group.
This serves to encourage decentralization and will make it harder for the authorities to smash your organization by: 1) increasing the number of groups they have to monitor, which makes their counter-revolutionary efforts less effective; 2) making it more likely that the members in your group are good comrades whom you trust, and not infiltrators.
It also decreases the chance of a hierarchical elite controlling the group and will allow the group's members to communicate better with one another -- when groups get too large, it becomes difficult to get everyone together, much less to get them to agree on courses of action!
Where anarchist groups are concerned, smaller is better -- the organization is a means to an end, not the end unto itself. We must be forever on our guard against the tendency for bureaucratic elites to form within organizations.
The key is for the disparate groups in your community to be in touch with each other, without following identical agendas. Good communication between groups is vital for coordinating direct actions.
One offshoot of the modern collective is the infoshop -- an anarchist collective whose purpose is to disseminate anarchist propaganda and serve as a community empowerment locus. Ideally the infoshop seeks to facilitate social revolution by educating the community's workers about anarchism. There is debate within the movement as to whether or not infoshops are actually effective in this regard.
My personal opinion is that community development must occur before an infoshop is created, rather than the other way around -- otherwise there's the risk that the infoshop will be marginalized and/or ignored by the community around it.
Ideally, an infoshop should be a natural step in the process of community empowerment, rather than something arbitrarily thrown into a community in the absence of demand for it. If people would rather be home watching TV than frequenting your infoshop, you're doing something wrong!
Another important thing to note is that your anarchist group needn't be solely a smoothly running propaganda machine -- you can also have fun! As a community resource, you can have all sorts of activities there -- anything that gets people together will do. The difference between this sort of activity and a social club is that it is always clear that this is an anarchist event, with all that entails -- if your group simply meets to hang out or have fun, in the absence of direct action, then you're off the track!
There is no one magic formula to apply with regard to your anarchist group, except that the true anarchist must be an active one -- active in fomenting social revolution through class struggle. Otherwise, you'll simply lapse into lifestylism, which ultimately strengthens capitalism by sapping strength from the movement.
The decentralization and informality of anarchist organizing is ultimately an asset, particularly with regard to the authorities -- in traditional (that is, vanguardist) radical organizations, police can simply lock up the leaders or bust up the organization to stop them; however, with anarchist organizing, there are no leaders -- everyone is doing their part. Moreover, the movement is decentralized, making it much harder for authorities to infiltrate and destroy it.
And the police will try to do that, particularly if you are successful in the community. Beware of agent provocateurs whose purpose is to thwart and destroy your efforts by exacerbating group rivalries and trying to get your group to undertake actions that will result in its destruction or which will allow the corporate media opportunities to slander the movement. Always be careful of whom you let into your collective, but do not let this very real security concern make you paranoid!
If you have the financial means, or if your collective has grown strong enough, you may consider forming a cooperative -- a worker-owned and -controlled company that provides some needed service in your community. Be sure to research this carefully, and make sure you have enough community support for it. But this can be a satisfying way to put your ideas into daily practice.
Anything worthwhile requires enormous effort to achieve. As the anarchist vision is the most worthwhile in its goals -- the libertarian society -- it follows that it will require a huge amount of work from a large number of people. Indeed, most of society will have to support anarchism for social revolution to be possible.
Anarchism offers the truest, most satisfying way to social justice; if enough of us work together in our respective communities, fighting social atomization and mobilizing and organizing the workers, anarchy will be realized in our lifetimes!