What anarchists are learning from the Mexican Cartels

(TFC) – The Anarchist community is a unique one. United in many things, fiercely divided in others. Watching anarchists debate economic systems is enough to shake even the most ardent anarchists to the core. However, a small group of anarchists from various schools of thought has set aside the small differences to come together and advance the cause of statelessness. They are the same individuals responsible for infiltrating and destabilizing the Alt-Right. The group has no name and those associated with it simply use terms like “we”, “us”, and “the group” to describe themselves in conversation. After the success of a few recent campaigns, the group has begun analyzing various non-activist and non-anarchist organizations from around the world to find strategies that could be useful to anarchism.

A study of the Mexican Cartels created a list of five critical non-violent strategies anarchists can adopt.

Plaza: When most of America thinks of the Mexican cartels, they think of drugs. However, the cartels are also involved in gambling, extortion, immigrant smuggling, and even the oil trade. Criminal aspects aside, the diversity of the “plaza” is what piqued the interest of those analyzing it. In anarchist circles, the term “diversity of tactics” is often thrown about. The cartels apply it. The cartels realized that while some crimes would be overlooked by one group of people, they would be heavily condemned by others. Instead of attempting to please all of the people some of the time, their decentralized structure allowed one group to engage in immigrant smuggling while another ran drugs. The two groups, though loosely connected, were different organizations and therefore the actions of one didn’t reflect on the others.

In anarchist circles, groups are quick to say other groups aren’t “real anarchists” or to engage in a call-out culture in which one group openly criticizes another for bad praxis. Those who seek to cultivate a militant image will say feeding the homeless or growing organic vegetables isn’t revolutionary. The success of the cartels leads some to believe this should stop. The militant actions will draw militant anarchists while the do-gooder and self-reliant activities will draw anarchists of a different stripe. The cartels have become so successful because they have their fingers in everything. A successful anarchist movement will be the same way. It will remain decentralized so negative public relations cannot impact other groups, but groups should realize the first step to solidarity is silencing their own criticisms.

Ignore and supplant the state: Anarchists should be theoretically engaging in this anyway, however, the cartels’ ability to actually replace functions of the state gains the loyalty of those who live in the areas they operate. Massive profits allow them to fund schools, infrastructure projects, and so on. Even anarchist groups with access to money, fall far short of being able to build schools. However, they could organize community outings. They could organize on a more regular basis to help the needy. They could also apply the lessons learned from Stay Behind Organizations and infiltrate and co-opt existing non-anarchist organizations to gain access to materials.

Hold territory without holding it: Cartels exercise a great deal of influence over the communities in their areas of operations. Certain towns and cities are known to be under the control of various cartels. The cartels achieve this through violence and corruption. Anarchists can achieve this through non-violent means the same way a Special Forces A-team strives to win the “hearts and minds” of the locals. Solving problems for local citizens can generate goodwill. If those efforts are focused on a hyperlocal level, the resident will begin to see those anarchists as legitimate leaders within the community. Anarchists don’t seek to control much, certainly not territory, but having the support of a local community can help spread the belief in statelessness and help obtain resources for larger endeavors.

Transnational vision: Anarchism much like the narcotics trade is global game. The cartels network internationally. They support the actions of aligned organizations in other nations. They, pardon the phrase, act locally and think globally.

Targeted Recruitment: While much of the above is simply fine tuning, or urging action on, current theory, one particular behavior isn’t practiced by anarchists. It may prove to be the most important. The cartels don’t simply recruit those who approach them. The selectively target individuals based on their position, skill set, or influence level and recruit them. Anarchists should make a concerted effort to target high-profile individuals and recruit them. This could be simply pushing that libertarian talk show host the final steps into anarchism. It could be targeting the social media pages of celebrities and pushing anarchist theory. It could be recruiting the local fire department chief or some other respected member in a small community.