Local anarchists aim to share power

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of The Daily Illini’s series of articles featuring lesser-known political groups in Champaign-Urbana. Today’s story will focus on local anarchists, who promote change through decentralized organization and direct democracy.

An unusual sale will be going on this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Independent Media Center in Urbana.

The prices of food, clothing and services such as haircuts will not be set at an arranged level, nor will they be determined by the free market.

This will be the “Really, Really, Free Market,” where all goods and services will be completely free, and it is one of the local activities supported by the Champaign-Urbana anarchist community as a way to present an alternative to capitalism.

“Anyone who wants to contribute can contribute,” said Susan Song, member of the local anarchist community and sophomore in LAS, who helped organize the event.

The absence of a central authority to run the event is a reflection of the anarchist community as a whole – a community Song said has been off and on in the area for a number of years.

Despite the problems with anarchists’ lack of a central governing body, which can make the community unstable, she said it makes it easier to keep its structure as democratic as possible.

Song has also helped organize other anarchist-based activities on campus.

Last semester, she and Lizzie Johnson, graduate student, formed Radical Education for Autonomous Persons. It is a reading group that meets every Wednesday at 9 p.m. in the Illini Union’s Courtyard Cafe.

There, people read and critique anarchist, radical and mainstream texts, including articles by David Graeber, an anarchist and anthropologist who was a former assistant professor at Yale. They also view films dealing with radical topics, such as “Battle in Seattle,” a dramatization of the 1999 demonstrations in Seattle, Wash., against the World Trade Organization.

“We’re trying to bring an anarchist discourse to the campus,” Song said.

Chris Watson, a resident of the Catholic Worker House in Champaign who has attended some of reading group’s meetings, said he believes in an anti-authoritarian society where decisions are made through a direct democracy and not a representative democracy.

Watson said many of the residents of the Catholic Worker House relate with the ideas of anarchism, which he said often get wrongly portrayed as disorganized and spontaneous.

“It’s re-imagining the society, economy and culture,” Watson said.

Watson has helped organize several “Really, Really, Free Markets” with Song and distributes meals on behalf of Food Not Bombs, a national movement to serve free vegan and vegetarian food.

“We are bridging the gap between campus and other non-campus organizations,” Watson said of working with other anarchist-based organizations.

This Saturday, a couple blocks north of the market, there will be an anarchist soccer game from 12:10 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana. Unlike in other soccer games, it may be more difficult to declare a victory.

“Neither side will become clearly defined nor will certain individuals closely identify with a certain side, and so the notions of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ becomes irrelevant,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

Ben Rothschild, sophomore in LAS and member of the anarchist community, said he identifies with anarchy’s principle of changing things through the mass organization of everyday people.

“It’s about changing things for the better,” he said. “It’s like a philosophy of people organizing independently of the powerful state and corporate interests.”