This text is a classic critique of “activism” written in the wake of the June 18, 1999 actions against capitalism and the emerging politics of anti-capitalist/anti-globalization protest. Despite its age, it provides important insights into the way in which many radicals and anarchists adopt the role and identity of the “activist”. As a consequence, they adopt the forms of “activism” uncritically. In so doing, the text argues that radicals cut themselves off from the population, marginalize their struggles, conceive of themselves as experts, and engage on a symbolic and ineffective terrain.
This zine also includes a postscript to the original text in which the authors engage with feedback that they received to the original text, further clarifying and expanding on their original ideas.
This remains a thought-provoking text that offers important reflections on radical practice. Unfortunately, many of the attitudes and practices in the text remain features of contemporary anarchist and radical activity.
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Excerpt from Give Up Activism
By ‘an activist mentality’ what I mean is that people think of themselves primarily as activists and as belonging to some wider community of activists. The activist identifies with what they do and thinks of it as their role in life, like a job or career. In the same way some people will identify with their job as a doctor or a teacher, and instead of it being something they just happen to be doing, it becomes an essential part of their self-image.
The activist is a specialist or an expert in social change. To think of yourself as being an activist means to think of yourself as being somehow privileged or more advanced than others in your appreciation of the need for social change, in the knowledge of how to achieve it and as leading or being in the forefront of the practical struggle to create this change.