Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content


Working for The Man Add to ...

Do anarchists have day jobs?

This question may have come to mind last week after the arrest of Environment Canada worker Jeff Monaghan, who was accused of leaking details of the Conservative government's Eco-Action Plan.

The 27-year-old had a job in the media monitoring section of Environment Canada, but is also a member of a band called The Suicide Pilots - who appear on a compilation called Rock Against Harper - and part of a collective that runs Exile Infoshop, an anarchist bookstore in downtown Ottawa.

But anarchism, as a political philosophy, rejects the existence of compulsory government.

So who do you work for if you don't believe in central authority?

Erik Stewart, a Toronto anarchist, said that reconciling his politics and his paycheques is sometimes difficult. A computer programmer, Mr. Stewart is currently doing freelance work while writing comic books.

"It's a grating issue," he said of regular employment. "We like to feel the work we're doing is somehow contributing to the world. I kind of feel like the work I'm doing is doing just the opposite, like putting software together for an advertisement selling oil. It's exactly what I don't want to happen, but I need the money."

Of the other anarchists he knows, he said many are university professors, while others do odd jobs or work for activist organizations like GlobalAware.

"People tend to get nine-to-five jobs, but they also tend not to keep them," he said. "It's pretty common I think to get a crappy job that pays well and then quit after a while."

But Denis Rancourt, a University of Ottawa physics professor who is a supporter of Exile Infoshop, said political philosophy and nine-to-five work do not conflict.

"I'm a university professor, I'm tenured, I've been here for 21 years and I consider myself an anarchist," he said.

In his mind, anarchism is the "ideal extreme of democracy, where people decide everything." But that does not mean people who aspire or adhere to those principals should ignore the reality of the North American economy.

"How many people don't like how their work is organized? Therefore morally, should they not take those jobs?" he said. "You have to be involved in the democratic process."

Michael Kelemen, a Toronto headhunter, says that political convictions - no matter what they are - can often be an asset in the working world.

"If anarchism as your political affiliation reflects strong independence of character, that guy's going to be a good person to hire because you want to avoid group think," he said. "You need people who aren't yes men, who've got guts to stand on their own even if they're contrarian."

Another self-identified anarchist, 33-year-old Jon Schledewitz, of the Winnipeg Anarchist Black Cross Federation, said he worked at a newspaper, but started his own studio after being laid off.

"Working on my own is more in line with not just my politics, but my lifestyle," he said. "I like to spend less time working than I do enjoying myself. It's hard though."

To make ends meet, he has worked in a photo development lab and in a pharmaceutical warehouse, where he packed boxes.

Anarchism for him is less a philosophical cause than a way of life, he said.

"I think it's almost an issue of I get bored really easily," he said.

"It's not so much a political ideology that will save the world, it's just lets have some fun."

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @SiriAgrell


Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular