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Solecast: Black Rose Federation Building Grassroots Working Class Power

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 12:18

From Solecast

On today’s episode of the Solecast, I speak with a member of the Black Rose Federation. Black Rose Federation has chapters across North America and utilizes an anarcho-communist tendency called “Specifismo:” which (according to wikipedia) has been summarized as:

Listen and Download HERE

  • The need for a specifically anarchist organization built around a unity of ideas and praxis.
  • The use of the specifically anarchist organization to theorize and develop strategic political and organizing work.
  • Active involvement in and building of autonomous and popular social movements via social insertion.

In this interview we discuss:
-Their organizing principles
-Their approach to building working class power from below
-Grass roots power vs local politics vs electoral politics
-The need for a rigorous educational program within movements
-Discussions on anarchist infrastructure projects
-Thoughts on “protest,” their limitations and what they are good for
-The life of Bakunin much more

Fore more information… visit Blackrosefed.org and sign up to their newsletter.

Tags: solecastBlack Rose Anarchist Federationpodcastthe platformInterviewcategory: Projects
Categories: News

In Defense Of A/S: Is Anarcho-syndicalism Outdated?

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 18:54

via Libcom

This article will be the first in a consistent series on this blog that will be updated as ideas come to the author. It’s title is “In Defense Of A/S”. The aim will be to evaluate counter-arguments to Anarcho-syndicalism and sufficiently defend Anarcho-syndicalism against these arguments. One can think of it as a sort of frequently asked questions pertaining specifically to criticisms of Anarcho-syndicalism. In this vein some criticisms addressed in this series will be commonly made criticisms of Anarcho-syndicalism. Some criticisms will be less commonly made and may only come from a specific individual, or group of individuals. The ambition is to provide a hefty counter-weight to theories and practices opposed to Anarcho-syndicalism that acts as a resource which Anarcho-syndicalists can draw from in making convincing arguments for our cause. The argument addressed in this addition of In Defense is the argument that Anarcho-syndicalism is outdated.

This was all prompted by a comment that was left on my recent article about Noam Chomsky. I will quote the comment in full:

“As much as I agree with the author here, isn’t calling someone or oneself nowadays an ‘Anarcho-syndicalist’ somewhat like wearing a bowler hat? Just like ‘capitalism’ is so dramatically changed from that era that one really should use a different word (though we keep using the same one). Syndicalism is highly relevant historically, but today consider the diminution of actual (human) production jobs, rise in bullshit jobs, along with the exponential debt enslavement, acute wealth extraction, and annihilation of the planet – problems that were slight back then. The article author keeps rolling back to reference the 1930s as if it is the handbook for 2018. I get it, but I also feel like it is spinning the tires a bit. Perhaps the idea of scaling down productivity and abandoning it altogether is a strategy for saving the earth. Maybe this would mean less emphasis on traditional unionization and syndicalism and more on general assemblies based around job obsolescence, debt, and climate crises.”

This is a common criticism made of Anarcho-syndicalism. Since traditional Marxism and Anarcho-syndicalism first developed at a relatively early stage of capitalism’s existence which is depending on how you chart the development of these ideas, between one and two centuries ago, both are viewed as fossils of bygone leftist politics. When comrades from my organization, Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, published a critique of Center For A Stateless Society one of it’s major figures, Kevin Carson, argued in turn that Anarcho-syndicalism is a “dinosaur”. To quote Corson; “It’s ironic that they describe my practical vision as “far removed from reality” — and use the term “fantasy” in their title — because those are exactly the terms I’d use for the anarcho-syndicalist model they advocate. This is a heroic Old Left fantasy based on an obsolete mass-production technological model that resembles the real world less and less every day. And the authors ignore left-wing currents around the world that have developed specifically in response to the obsolescence of their model.” Ecologist Murray Bookchin made very similar arguments in 1992. According to Bookchin Anarchist proximity to Marxists in the first International Workingmen’s Association lead Anarcho-syndicalism to develop out of Marx’s preoccupation with an industrial proletariat concentrated in European factories in the 19th century. “Marx and Engels personally eschewed terms like “workers,” “toilers,” and “laborers,” although they were quite prepared to use these words in their popular works. They preferred to characterize industrial workers by the “scientifically” precise name of “proletarians” — that is, people who had nothing to sell but their labor power, and even more, who were the authentic producers of surplus value on production lines (an attribute that even Marxists tend to ignore these days). Insofar as the European proletariat as a class evolved from displaced preindustrial strata like landless peasants who had drifted toward the cities, the factory system became their economic home, a place that — presumably unlike the dispersed farmsteads and villages of agrarian folk — “organized” them into a cohesive whole. Driven to immiseration by capitalist accumulation and competition, this increasingly (and hopefully) class-conscious proletariat would be inexorably forced to lock horns with the capitalist order as a “hegemonic” revolutionary class and eventually overthrow bourgeois society, laying the foundations for socialism and ultimately communism. However compelling this Marxian analysis seemed from the 1840s onward, its attempt to reason out the proletariat’s “hegemonic” role in a future revolution by analogy with the seemingly revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie in feudal society was as specious as the latter was itself historically erroneous (see Bookchin, 1971, pp. 181–92). It is not my intention here to critically examine this fallacious historical scenario, which carries considerable weight among many historians to this very day. Suffice it to say that it was a very catchy thesis — and attracted not only a great variety of socialists but also many anarchists. For anarchists, Marx’s analysis provided a precise argument for why they should focus their attention on industrial workers, adopt a largely economistic approach to social development, and single out the factory as a model for a future society, more recently in particular, based on some form of “workers’ control” and “federal” form of industrial organization.”

The chestnut is that since Anarcho-syndicalism was developed first in the late 19th century and was carried forth in major ways in the early 20th century that it is only suited to deal with the economic and social reality of that time. If this were true then Anarcho-syndicalists all around the world might as well pack it in. If our ideas can’t be applied to the modern world, then what’s the point? Luckily for us just because a school of thought and practice was developed a long time ago, doesn’t mean it stopped developing since then. If one can seriously, and in good faith, claim that Anarcho-syndicalism is “outdated” and not significantly developed since the Spanish Civil War, then one clearly has not familiarized oneself with modern Anarcho-syndicalism.

International Anarcho-syndicalism was destroyed by the second world war. Fascist governments repressed Anarcho-syndicalist organizations, the war destroyed their homelands, and the International Workers’ Association which organized the Anarcho-syndicalist movement into one international organization essentially fell apart. After World War Two the international re-organized itself and it’s member organizations got back on their feet with new organizations sprouting up. Throughout much of the 20tth century since the Spanish Civil War Anarchism had been marginalized by State Socialism, War, and Fascism to a few small groups in different corners of the world. In the 1980s Anarchism sprouted up once again as a popular alternative to State Socialism and neoliberal capitalism.

In the new era Anarcho-syndicalism adapted to questions of racism, patriarchy, and the environment. The aforementioned international used to be called the “International Workingmen’s Association” as a nod to the first international of Marx, Engels, Proudhon, and Bakunin, but changed the name out of consideration for gender equality. A variety of Anarcho-syndicalism has cropped up called “green syndicalism” which puts defense of the environment from capitalism on the agenda of the revolutionary libertarian workers’ movement. Anarcho-syndicalist environmental activist Judi Bari worked to synthesize defense of the earth with working class organization working with workers to help them see their exploitation as workers and the exploitation of the earth as intertwined. The International Workers’ Association is still thriving today despite recently going through a major split. It regularly puts out statements arguing against racist anti-immigrant sentiment and for international solidarity among workers. Recently, in Bangladesh, an Anarcho-syndicalist federation has been organized. The polish revolutionary union, ZSP, has been organizing postal and supermarket workers against attacks by bosses. With the help of Anarcho-syndicalists in Indonesia of PPAS a militant union called “Kumon” was set up for Uber drivers and a large scale Uber strike took place. We could go on.

The reason that the Anarcho-syndicalist movement has carried forth into the 21st century is because the relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism is not dependent on the particular stage capitalism finds itself in. It is only dependent on the existence of capitalism itself. Bookchin claims that Marx’s argument about the proletariat is based on workers being congealed into large factories during the industrial revolution. This is a misreading of Marx. Though Marx and Marxists after him would underestimate the role of the peasantry in revolution, Marx’s argument for the working class as the “revolutionary subject” was far more fundamental than the specific conditions of the time he conjured up his theories in. Marx’s argument was that the working class is deprived of all means of subsistence in capitalist society. They have no control over the tools of production and must rent out their time to those who own production as private property in order receive an income that allows them (workers) to live. This means workers have every interest in organizing together to abolish capitalism and take control of and then run production themselves. Volume 1 of Marx’s capital states “The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labor, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process incomparably more protracted, violent, and difficult than the transformation capitalistic private property, already practically resting on socialized production, into socialized property”. He goes on; “In the former case, we had the expropriation of the mass of people by a few usurpers; in the latter, we have the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of people”.

The relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism lies in the fact that workers would do much better to organize in their own self-managed associations to struggle against capitalism and institute a world where they collectively control the means of living then continue to suffer the exploitation and domination of capitalist relations of production. This will be the case as long as capitalism exists.

Bibliography:

https://c4ss.org/content/46875

The Ghost of Anarcho-syndicalism, Murray Bookchin

1860-Today: The International Workers’ Association

Green Syndicalism – An Alternative Red-Green Vision, Jeff Shantz

http://www.iwa-ait.org/content/police-and-state-lnstrument-class-war-and-oppression

http://www.iwa-ait.org/content/may-day-and-libertarian-workers-movement

http://www.ainfos.ca/en/ainfos35596.html

http://www.bangladeshasf.org/

Capital, Volume 1, p.296

Tags: Anarcho-Syndicalismcategory: Essays
Categories: News

Lecce, Italy: Anarchist Publishing Fair

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 14:32

via act for freedom now!

Anarchist Publishing Fair

Two days of circulation and propaganda of anarchist ideas

Two days of books, meetings, presentations and discussions to talk about the history and topicality of anarchist ideas and action, of the indissoluble link that unites them and their ability to bear on the world in the perspective of changing it.

Lecce – Anarchist Publishing Fair

Saturday 22nd September 

3pm: Opening of the fair and anarchist publishing stands and aperitifs

5pm: Anarchists of Bialystok 1903-1908, ed. Bandiera Nera, 2018.

Presentation of the book by the editors and discussion

7pm: Daring ones, not gendarmes! From the trenches to the barricades: ardour of war and the people’s daring ones (1917-1922), by Marco Rossi, ed. BFS, 2011.

Presentation of the book by the author and discussion

9:30pm: Benefit dinner

Sunday 23rd September

11pm: Opening of the fair and of anarchist publishing stands

1:30pm: Benefit lunch

5pm: (Minimal) counter-investigation on the ‘incurable disease’ by one who has it. On social pathogenesis and political aetiology of the cancer-demon, by Franco Cantù, ed. Nautilus, 2017.

Presentation of the book by the author.

To vaccinate our children? Three doctors’ points of view, by doctor Françoise Berthoud, ed. La Tana, 2018. Presentation of the book with the editors.

Discussion on medicalization and the control of the body perpetrated by the institutions and scientific authority as a form of social control and repression of individual freedom.

7pm: On DNA sample-taking and codification of existence.

An analysis of forced DNA sample-taking in prisons and the project of mass filing of individuals, by Anarchists against genetic filing.

9:30pm: Benefit dinner.

Occupied Anarchist Library ‘Disordine’

Via delle Giravolte, 19/a – Lecce

disordine@riseup.net

———–

Translated by act for freedom now!

roundrobin.info

Tags: leccheitalypublishing faircategory: International
Categories: News

Book Extract: World War, and Freedom’s nadir

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 14:20

via Freedom News

When the Great War broke out in 1914 most anarchists took their customary anti-militarist position, but the conflict also led to two of its heaviest hitters, Errico Malatesta and Peter Kropotkin, throwing down in the pages of anarchist journal Freedom. In the following extract from A Beautiful Idea: History of the Freedom Press Anarchists, Rob Ray outlines how the founding father of anarcho-communism was rebuked over his pro-war stance, and eventually sidelined from the movement he helped build.

Freedom had, from its earliest days, been strongly anti-nationalist and heavily critical of imperialist conflicts — it courted significant unpopularity by denouncing the Second Boer War in 1899 as an imperial scam. In an 1896 article, ‘War’ the paper was explicit in arguing that State conflicts have repeatedly been used to distract the fighting spirit of the workers from the class struggle and the growing revolutionary ferment. Further, it published many articles along the lines proposed by Elisée Reclus, including a translated piece by the renowned French writer in 1898 suggesting that in order for war to stop, it would be necessary to prioritise the resolution of the social question — abolishing the need to fight over private property. As of October 1911, in ‘An Open Letter to a Soldier’ the paper was urging desertion in the ranks of armies everywhere.

So when war broke out in 1914 the lead article Freedom carried in September was a predictable one, and in theory not at all problematic. ‘Blood and Iron’ cast curses on both houses, Allies and Central Powers, thundering to workers:

The same powers that deprived you of the fruits of your labour, and compelled you by hunger and starvation to create riches for a minority of privileged thieves and idlers — the same powers will now take away the lives of your sons and brothers, and force you with their guns to die for their interests.

It was rendered controversial in short order however by Kropotkin’s sudden announcement that Germany must be defeated at all costs. This must have been something of a surprise to then-editor Tom Keell, as on the back page of that very September issue was an advert for a new pamphlet written by Kropotkin, Wars and Capitalism, which was unequivocal in suggesting the masses must not be distracted from social revolution by the belligerent maneuvering of States, colonialists, financiers and business tycoons. Jotting down his memories of the time, Keell described meeting Kropotkin “in a noisy Lyons cafe in Oxford Street” where the old soldier was drawing up military movement maps, supported by the (very ill) Freedom stalwart Alfred Marsh. Keell refused point blank to run Kropotkin’s pro-war essay, and instead a bodged article on communal kitchens appeared.

He could not keep the Russian’s new leanings quiet for long though, and in a letter to Swedish professor Gustaf Steffen, published by the paper in October, Freedom’s core theorist plumped publicly for the Allies, writing: “The territories of both France and Belgium MUST be freed of the invaders. The German invasion must be repulsed — no matter how difficult this may be. All efforts must be that way.” Rejecting the possibility of using labour stoppages to deter the onset of the conflict, he argued that the anti-militarist’s duty must therefore be to support the invaded nation, or risk through inaction supporting the invader. In particular, he voiced his fears that a victorious Germany would impose a hardline “Bismarkian imperialism” which would cause irreparable damage to workers’ power. He noted:

The last 43 years were a confirmation of what Bakunin wrote in 1871, namely, that if French influence disappeared from Europe, Europe would be thrown back in her development for half a century. And now it is self-evident that if the present invasion of Belgium and France is not beaten back by the common effort of all national of Europe, we shall have another half-century or more of general reaction.

Writing later, historian Max Nettlau would argue it was inevitable that even among the anarchist movement many would take sides on the Allies vs Central Powers question. Kropotkin’s love for French enlightenment and fear of Germanic aggression pushed him into precisely that mode.

As editor Keell was left in a difficult position. Anti-war in his own views, he initially went to some pains to provide impartiality and carried Kropotkin’s articles verbatim, along with criticism from many other writers, but would ultimately place himself squarely against the “secular saints” who were advocating getting behind the Allies.

One of the most significant essays published under Keell’s editorship was to arrive that November from Errico Malatesta. ‘Anarchists Have Forgotten Their Principles’ was a powerful reiteration of the case against support for State militarism and a scorching, prescient riposte to Kropotkin’s position:

I have no greater confidence in the bloody Tsar, nor in the English diplomats who oppress India, who betrayed Persia, who crushed the Boer republics; nor in the French Bourgeoisie, who massacred the natives of Morocco; nor in those of Belgium, who have allowed the Congo atrocities and largely profited by them — and I only recall some of their misdeeds, taken at random, not to mention what all governments and capitalist classes do against the workers and the rebels in their own countries …

Besides, in my opinion, it is most probable there will be no definite victory on either side. After a long war, an enormous loss of life and wealth, both sides being exhausted, some kind of peace will be patched up, leaving all questions open, this preparing for a new war more murderous than the present.

Keell was denounced as “unworthy” of his editorial role by Kropotkin for his troubles and effectively asked to resign. He was backed primarily by the Freedom-linked Voice of Labour publishing collective, including George Barrett, Fred Dunn, Mabel Hope, Elizabeth Archer, Tom Sweetlove, W Fanner, and Lilian Wolfe, but would not be exonerated of accusations that he was disgracing his office until the next national anarchist gathering in April 1915 at Hazel Grove, Stockport. There he would face off against George Cores, speaking on behalf of Tcherkesoff, former Freedom publisher John Turner and others to denounce what they regarded as a unilateral bid for total control over the paper. The delegates however, including influential Irish Liverpudlian Mat Kavanagh, took Keell’s side, approving his actions in keeping the paper on an anti-war path.

Following this Kropotkin and others in the pro-Allies camp, notably Jean Grave, became thoroughly hostile to Keell’s Freedom, and they would go on to write the Manifesto of the Sixteen in 1916. The manifesto, eventually signed by a little over 100 anarchists including a number of leading international figures, but denounced across the rest of the movement, notes:

To speak of peace while the party [Germany] who, for 45 years, have made Europe a vast, entrenched camp, is able to dictate its conditions, would be the most disastrous error that we could commit. To resist and to bring down its plans, is to prepare the way for the German population which remains sane and to give it the means to rid itself of that party. Let our German comrades understand that this is the only outcome advantageous to both sides and we are ready to collaborate with them.

They would again be rebuked by Malatesta, marking a permanent rift between him and Kropotkin, never healed, marking “one of the most painful, tragic moments” of his life.

And with that, Kropotkin largely left the stage of Freedom’s story, though Freedom Press would continue to republish his old works for years to come (and still does). Isolated from the living movement, the father of anarchist-communism nevertheless retained many friends and would go on to live in France before returning to Russia at Lenin’s invitation towards the end of his life.

Tags: Peter KropotkinWorld War Icategory: Other
Categories: News

Maximum Potential

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 02:08

via The Anarchist Library
by Max Res

      strength

      solidarity

      autonomy

      maximum potential

I started this essay with a dilemma – though my intent was to write about anarchists doing fitness, it didn’t seem like there were any. Searching yielded very little, and despite going to the gym myself my motivations are less political praxis and more trying to minimize some of the negative health impacts of late capitalism on my body. Yes, I lacked anything particularly profound to say on the subject matter, but surely in this age of people clamoring for physical conflict in the form of antifascism there was someone writing or doing something relevant.

Maybe the problem is our aversion to the markers of fitness culture? Jocks, hypermasculity, competition, vanity, perhaps the lingering trauma of being pushed into a locker in high school all combine to make fitness potentially unattractive to anarchists. And yet there were other, not-anarchist nerds who were engaging with working out in ways that I found relevant to this essay. The first is from the website Ultra, which describes its contributors as “...those who have been transformed by the recent crises and the sequence of riots, blockades, occupations and strikes that followed” and includes “life weights” on its list of central tenants[1]. In it, Kyle Kubler’s “Auto Body” gives us a fascinating genealogy of fitness culture in the US rooted in the impromptu bodybuilding culture of Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach in the 40’s and 50’s to the development of its commodified, yuppy heir CrossFit today. The second is also a history, this one written by Adam Curtis, and if you’re familiar with his work at all you’ll be hearing his voice as you read it as it comes though quite clear. In his signature style, he uses “Bodybuilding and Nation-Building” to connect the seemingly disparate elements of yoga and the roots of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and in doing so looks at a culture (one of the body, the other of imperial fantasy) that was obsessed with the fantasy of a purer, stronger way of being. Both of these pieces are great and I would encourage the reader to seek them out, but neither of these are written by anarchists and I wanted to say a little about what we’re thinking and doing for us, today.

This proved more easily said than done. Given the spirit of our era, the little discussion about anarchists doing fitness that I could find was so steeped in the language and goals of anti-fascism that the a-word was hardly present. Which, if you consider anarchy and antifa the same thing (or if you’re into lifting weights next to statists) isn’t much of a problem, but this is all to say that there isn’t a whole lot of stuff out there that puts “anarchist” and “going to the gym” in the same sentence without completing it with “to get better at punching Nazis”. But for a look at how some anarchists are doing fitness, this essay will consider Haymaker, which describes itself as a “popular fitness & self-defense gym”[2] located in Chicago. In examining Haymaker’s attempt to create a radical culture of fitness and self-defense we’ll see how they challenge the practices of mainstream fitness presented to us by Kubler and Curtis while also resembling them in its desire to shape and mobilize bodies. To do this, we’ll consider the three points listed on their homepage around which they organize themselves: strength, solidarity, and autonomy.

strength

People associated with Haymaker frequently cite the desire to remove oneself from a culture of fitness defined by machoness and normative body types as incentive for starting a different kind of space. This culture of getting big and the celebration of the ideal body is explored in both the Ultra and Curtis essays, and the latter’s exploration of the weird history of yoga in particular is filled with all sorts of priceless overblown advertisements from the turn of the last century filled with shockingly muscled men in loincloths promising to return the reader’s body to some sort of perfection lost in corrupt modernity. Set decades later, Kubler profiles CrossFit gym-goers as solidly upper-middle class and ranks the popularization of the exercise routine alongside “beards, tattoos, “work” boots, and lumbersexuality” in the culture of late capitalism.

In opposition to this, Haymaker gives us a different interpretation of strength:

“Strength is not primarily being able to resist or overcome forces outside of us. To us, strength means overcoming our own weaknesses – it means changing ourselves, together. Such strength is necessary if we are to become a force capable not only of self-defense, but of social transformation.”[3]

Expanding on this, in their promotional video they also express the intent to create their “own ideas of fitness that don’t mean fitting in with status quo body norms”[4]. Here and elsewhere we can see an array of people who are just that—different body types, differing gender presentations, and differing cultural practices (including a prominent selection of clips showing people in hijab). A look at their calendar of events also shows a number of “liberatory mixed martial arts” sessions specifically for “trans, queer, and women-aligned folx”[5]. And while they place themselves firmly in the world of anti-fascist physical training, this concept of a radical gym space is also conceived of as an alternative to a macho European antifa culture as mentioned in their Final Straw interview.

This critique of strength as muscle mass and the culture of machoness which can surround it isn’t all that novel – “Auto Body” shows us a history of fitness in the US that moved away from the rougher, bigger bodies of Muscle Beach and the first Gold’s Gym towards something more accessible to the masses in which “you can get strong, but not too big”. This is manifest in Planet Fitness’s “Judgment Free Zone,” which even comes with a “lunk alarm” to shame people if they’re throwing weights and is accompanied by a description of a “lunk” which could easily describe any of the average denizens of these earlier spaces who, in additional to slamming weights, is wearing a bodybuilding tanktop and drinking out of a gallon jug of water. It is also manifest in the mantra “strong is the new skinny” which calls for a more holistic and personalized concept of strength[6]. With a nod to the fact that the “inclusivity” of these mentalities and spaces often falls short of even their own modest advertised goals, nevermind what one might consider desirable in an anarchist space, what makes Haymaker’s critique different is the emphasis on getting strong together, which brings us to our second point.

solidarity

No less important to Haymaker’s critique is the alienation embodied in much of commercial fitness culture, something which is reflected in my own experience of going to the gym. Planet Fitness is about as far from macho gym culture as you can get – surrounded by mottoes like “You Belong” and “Judgment Free Zone,” much of the crowd when I go is older people and especially older women. However, it and similar chains are an embodiment of the shift identified by Kubler away from the DIY community at Muscle Beach (where bodybuilders were improvising training routines and some even living together) and the first iteration of Gold’s Gym (where the front door was locked to keep out those who weren’t in the know) and towards a mass product dominated by machines with operating instructions and populated by consumers and staff members. A typical workout consists of me talking to one person – the employee at the desk who checks my card and says goodbye when I leave – with the rest of my routine spent listening to music and working out alone in a room of people, most of whom are doing the same (though you do see a regular gathering of old men around the stationary bikes – clearly some of us are more alienated than others).

Community is an attractive commodity in a world where alienation is the norm, and this is no less true in the world of fitness. Beyond Planet Fitness’s “You Belong” and halfhearted monthly pizza nights and bagel breakfasts, Kubler shows us how CrossFit sells the experience of an intense camaraderie through working the body which acts as a commodified version of the long since extinguished days of Muscle Beach (extinguished, by the way, by the long, flabby arm of the law). Compare this to Haymaker’s concept of solidarity:

We believe in solidarity because we know our personal transformation is also a collective transformation and, as the saying goes, an injury to one is an injury to all. We vow to care for each other in times of vulnerability and to keep each other safe as we become dangerous together. [7]

The sell here is an attempt at constructing a community very different from the examples given above – access is free, classes include a section where participants improvise exercises together rather than learning from an instructor, and their promotional video even includes the promise of a juice bar and donation-based food pantry. Haymaker is conceived of as the convergence of a “multitude of different bodies” in a gym that will “cut across social divisions”[8] that they claim are being worsened under the Trump presidency, and a place where, as they put it in their promotional video, “leaving wouldn’t mean leaving alone”[9].

But the primary way that solidarity and mutual aid are expressed at Haymaker is in the form of self-defense training, something that’s emphasized again and again in their interviews and promotional materials to the point where they refer to themselves as a “popular fitness and self-defense gym”. Self-defense here is a physical response to “a political climate that’s increasingly violent, especially towards marginalized peoples”[10], language which mirrors the general antifascist stance since the election of Donald Trump and a practice to which the gym traces a lineage going back to physical defense training among Jews during the second world war and Indian nationalist physical culture gyms under British colonialism[11]. Training at Haymaker is advertised on the premise of reactive violence which is intended to protect people endangered by racists and abusers and those entering into street fights at antifa demos. It is through this violence and the community which it’s suggested emerges from training for it that community is formed. It’s this vision of community that leads to the third point.

autonomy

It’s easy to see how practical this all is, at least to a certain social set. If you’re concerned about physical conflict and feel unprepared, training to respond physically gives you another tool to deal with an attacker. If you’re in a protest situation where you may end up in a fight, knowing how to fight better than the person you’re in conflict with is to your advantage. Having a space to learn those skills or just work out that’s free and maybe make some friends sounds great, although this seems like it may be the kind of space where friendship is mandatory, and the juice at the juice bar in the promotional video looks… well, you’d have to watch it and decide for yourself.

But all that said, the point of Haymaker isn’t the juice or even the self-defense and strength training. At its heart is the concept of “social transformation” that’s come up in each of the previous points, and which they put forward clearly in their third organizing point:

We believe in autonomy because strength and care cannot grow amidst institutions that disempower us. In this precarious world, we don’t expect anyone to come and save us. We have to fight for ourselves and each other, because we’re all we’ve got.

This definition is a little complicated, in part because, like the concept of “social transformation” mentioned in their point about strength it implies a lot without stating anything clearly. Or to put it another way, its use of simple-sounding language and concepts muddies the radical implications of the ideas driving the establishment of such a space. While this makes a good talking point if you’re trying to hook a socially-minded outsider, this essay is for grown-ups and therefore we’ll use the gym’s interview with Final Straw Radio to draw out a more substantial definition of this term.

The interview with Final Straw is important for a number of reasons – it’s one of two places I could find where, as opposed to the vague, popular language used in interviews with people like Buzzfeed or their website, Haymaker is identified as an anarchist project (the other being the promotion on It’s Going Down)[12]. It’s also during this interview that we’re told the deeper intentions of their project – where, despite all the emphasis placed upon antifa tactics and self-defense in response to violence under Trump in other interviews and promotional material, antifascism is described as “a practical way to make ourselves visible to others” and “an important and significant framework but also to a certain extent quite limited for what we want to try to achieve”[13].

A fair bit of this interview is spent discussing the concept of autonomy, and the guests provide us with a couple of definitions. In the face of a state by which we have become dispossessed and helpless and which perpetuates violence against people though police killings, “autonomy through collective organizing shifts our focus to what we can control and prepare for and builds a politics of our own values” — these values being communization, sharing, and care for each other. Autonomy is also considered as a more precise term for anarchy, in which they’re “creating the conditions of living together that capitalism doesn’t provide”. The gym here acts as one of those conditions, a material grounds for establishing this autonomy as part of a greater project to “reclaim and reappropriate territory” that we’ve been dispossessed of and a “nodal point” at which friendship is supposed to turn into a culture of resistance.

All of this is a far cry from the limited scope of confrontational violence through antifa tactics that characterizes much of the public face of the gym. It’s also refreshing to hear some critique of antifa coming from people who are still located very close to that milieu! But I’m also left somewhat confused, because even in this interview the concept of violence is still framed as defensive, something that appears at odds with the stated goals of the project. If we imagine a group of people starting a gym and attempting to reclaim something that they’ve been dispossessed of by the state and capitalism, what kind of resistance might they run into? Things like gym spaces and equipment or food to make juice for the juice bar – attempting to reappropriate these (that is, without someone paying for them or picking them out of the garbage) will almost inevitably lead to some resistance in which violence will end up being used, most likely the violence of the state as the police are called by one’s landlord or some unhappy store manager. What does it look like to face physical conflict with the state rather than, as Los hijos del Mencho put it, “live-action role playing in the streets and hitting each other with sticks”[14]?

This kind of interaction is described to us by one of its members in an interview with a media outlet for Dick’s Sporting Goods of all places, where he talks about how physical self-defense training didn’t help him when he was brutalized by the police except that he felt more prepared to “mentally react”[15] to the assault. This is something I again can see the usefulness of, though it probably doesn’t make getting beaten up by a cop at a protest any less unpleasant. More, mental preparedness for getting beaten or tortured isn’t going to bring down the institutions that disempower us any more than training to fight as a Jew in the Roman Ghetto ended the functioning of that ghetto, never mind the machinery of the Holocaust as a whole. While it may feel good to claim that “strong people are harder to kill” — a slogan, by the way, that’s also present on the Ultra website – our present reality is one in which that’s just not the case when it comes to the state exercising power over our bodies, and to think otherwise is to risk falling into the posivist self-improvement mentality that characterizes so many dietary regimens and workout routines.

But let’s assume that the people around Haymaker understand this, aren’t looking for direct conflict with the state (at least not yet), and that, despite the fact that it characterizes this project so thoroughly in its public image, antifascism and training around defensive violence is just an opportunity to pull a wide swath of potential allies to get involved in the deeper project of building an autonomy that doesn’t (yet!) mean taking over buildings or driving the cops out of neighborhoods. Let’s also assume that the statement of autonomy isn’t a description of a lived reality but rather a goal towards which establishing a gym is one part of a many-linked chain. After all, the Breakaway Social Center with which the gym is affiliated stresses patience in the process of realizing a “strategy of giving ourselves the means to be more powerful and to face up to the need for another way of life”[16]. Still, it’s hard to look forward to the day when Haymaker and its cousins stop paying rent or needing to collect donations when that day seems so far away, and I’m also not sure who will defend those spaces when the state objects. I’m also somewhat curious about how many people who get pulled in because of the antifa sales pitch and increasing violence under the current president (rhetoric or reality) will stick around when the wind goes out of those sails.

maximum potential

To repeat the point, I like Haymaker as a response to the dominant culture of fitness. Even in this critique I hope that the reader is able to pull some of their strong points about redefining strength and offer a space which is free, lacks some of the hierarchies of typical training spaces, and open to all sorts of people while also not open to cops or the extreme right. Beyond the criticisms already mentioned in this essay, though, there is an underlying presumption about bodies and their potential to save us that overlaps with Adam Curtis’s look at the history of yoga.

In “Bodybuilding and Nation-Building,” Curtis observes that the physical cultures of both Britain and colonized India arose as a reaction to an undesired present – for Britain, an escape from a waning empire filled with factories and slums, for Indian nationalists an escape from what they perceived to be a weak, decadent body that characterized its colonial past. For both Britains and Indians, the body formed a site at which revolution could be affected. And while Haymaker’s approach to fitness isn’t in search of some mythic past, it too looks to the body – which they’ve referred to as “the most intimate of material forces”[17] — as a tool for revolution, and strength as a means by which to change the world.

I also wonder at this celebration of the material – the terms “material force” and “material resistance” can be found in many of their interviews and promotions. Can we draw a line between this and the Indian physical culture described by Curtis as trying to escape what they perceived as the weakness of their past? Out of physical culture came revolution in yoga that transformed it from a practice which centered around a limited set of poses and emphasized spiritual development to a yoga that showcased muscular bodies and feats of strength – a change considered necessary to end British colonial rule and escape the burden of the past. In Haymaker’s description of the material, they make some explicit attempts at differentiating themselves from both ““critical” posturing that puts one on the sidelines of every situation”[18] and what they observe as an anarchist fetish for form and process rather than the material conditions which shape interactions in a space. While the former is likely a shot at their critics within anarchist discourse who aren’t interested in getting organized, there’s also a sense of self-criticism here – looking back with a critical eye upon the wave of insurrectionary anarchist activity in the US towards the end of the last decade which emphasized movement, discreet, temporary projects, anonymity, and the riot as a point in which people are changed and community is formed. This wave crashed around Occupy, and it’s telling that in their interview with Final Straw Occupy is singled out as an example of anarchists favoring form over substance. It’s not much a stretch to consider Haymaker and related projects as offering a vision of winning, muscular anarchy which provides the substance which its own weak past (or querulous cousins in the present) do not, one which is necessary to change the world.

As opposed to this, I would offer that strong bodies can’t necessarily change the world in the way Haymaker wishes. As mentioned earlier, the goal of becoming a “material force” which establishes itself as autonomous from the institutions that rule us doesn’t really follow from the practices of defensive violence or strength training at Haymaker. Even if they were doing combat training, there’s no amount of physical strength or confidence that’s going to create the kind of “collective transformation” they’re interested in. The kind of potential they see in the body runs into the trap of futurity – where they see progress we could consider it akin to running on a treadmill, the body getting stronger but tiring over time, the great goal of autonomy from the institutions that oppress us always out of reach.

I’ll end this essay with some open thoughts – I don’t know if there’s a better way to run an anarchist gym, but it’s worth further considering what anarchist fitness could look like when not motivated by revolutionary goals or a defense mentality.

— What if training focused on training the body for avoidance and stealth rather than face-to-face confrontation? What does training to avoid security cameras or act casual when questioned by airport security look like? After all, blending into a crowd while one’s adrenaline is rushing after doing something dangerous and highly illegal is also a study in bodily movement and mindset all of its own.

— That said, I feel like a lot of skill training ends up being less about immediate ends and more about making the person who’s training feel like they’re accomplishing something and giving them the comfort that they’re in control of their lives. Fitness consciously motivated by totally mundane incentives (confidence in one’s body, avoiding some of the unpleasant health impacts of living in Society, etc.) in some ways feels more honest.

— I feel a reflexive unease at the concept of my body as a tool or weapon for struggle. If we want to call it my most intimate material, I don’t find the idea of making it serve “the struggle” very attractive. I also think that the body can be undependable, when it can appear as a stranger to me. While strength can be a nice idea, I think understanding the world through weakness (that is, my limitations, where my strength and the strength of others fails) is more informative.

— While I appreciate the potential usefulness of violence in response to the violence of a friend, partner or stranger, I also think it has an attraction that can be misleading. This attraction comes in part from the sense of having a simple answer to a complicated problem, one which anarchists (along with the rest of society) often handle badly. I think that violence used against an abusive partner or friend who has hurt us can achieve some desired outcomes, but can also complicate things and produce undesired outcomes which are neither simplifying nor worth celebrating.

[1] Ultra (n.d.). Retrieved from www.ultra-com.org.

[2] Haymaker Gym (n.d.). Retrieved from haymakergym.org/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] [Haymaker Gym]. (July 12th 2017). Haymaker Official Video [Video File]. Retrieved from vimeo.com.

[5] Haymaker Gym April 2018 calendar (n.d.). Retrieved from haymakergym.org.

[6] See for example Amy K. Mitchell’s “Why Strong is the New Skinny, and Why That’s a Good Thing” in The Huffington Post:: “The bottom line is, weight aside and skinny aside, you won’t be happy unless you are holistically strong: Strong in body, mind, and spirit”. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com.

[7] Haymaker Gym (n.d.).

[8] viiiHaymaker Official Video.

[9] ixIbid.

[10] [Mong Phu]. (July 3rd 2017). Original Haymaker Collective Video from Unicorn Riot [Video File]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com – note that this is not a friendly source, the original has been deleted from the Unicorn Riot website and this video now lives through circulation by alt-right-ish people. Why this was deleted is unclear (it’s nowhere in Haymaker’s promotional material either), but the quote and sentiments expressed in it are reflected other interviews with members as well. The (now dead) source URL is here: www.unicornriot.ninja.

[11] Anonymous contributor. “Announcing Haymaker: Popular Fitness and Self-Defense in Chicago.” It’s Going Down, April 11th 2017. Retrieved from itsgoingdown.org.

[12] During this interview we’re told that not everyone associated with Haymaker is an anarchist so perhaps this is part of the term’s absence, but the fact that neither it nor autonomist, appelista, etc. appear on their site or in most other interviews or promotional material where they’re describing themselves makes this decision appear to be more about salesmanship rather than inclusivity.

[13] The Final Straw Radio. (June 4th 2017). Podcast special: Haymaker Gym in Chicago [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org. Of interest is the fact that this critique of antifa also occurs in one of the few interviews they have with an anarchist source (though not on IGD, for obvious reasons).

[14] Los hijos del Mencho. “Against the World-Builders: Eco-extremists respond to critics.” Anarchist News, January 14th 2018. Retrieved from anarchistnews.org.

[15] Sarit Luban. “The Chicago Gym Using Fitness As Political Resistance.” Good Sports, September 19th 2017. Retrieved from sports.good.is.

[16] Breakaway Autonomous Social Center (n.d.). “Who we are.” Retrieved from breakaway.center.

[17] Antifascistfront. “Introducing Haymaker, Chicago’s New Anti-Fascist Gym.” Anti-Fascist News, April 19th 2017. Retrieved from antifascistnews.net. See also their interview with Final Straw where similar language is used.

[18] Breakaway Autonomous Social Center. “Who we are.”

This essay is part of a pamphlet by the same name published by Viscera Print Goods and Ephemera in Rhode Island. For inquiries, feedback, or discussion you can contact viscerapvd@gmail.com or their website, viscerapvd.wordpress.com The other essays referenced in this article can be found here: Auto Body by Kyle Kubler (www.ultra-com.org) and Bodybuilding and Nation-Building by Adam Curtis (www.bbc.co.uk)

Tags: fitnessantifahaymakerself-defensecategory: Essays
Categories: News

The Hotwire #37: September 19, 2018

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 01:19

From CrimethInc.

Evictions in Hambach—Aid & Disaster Relief after Florence—Strikes!

Evictions in Hambach—Aid & Disaster Relief after Florence—Strikes!

The Hotwire

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Summary

The world is a dangerous place in 2018-Botham Jean is murdered in his own home by a Dallas cop and police are actively raiding the rebel encampment in the Hambach Forest. There’s inspiring strike resistance in Central and South America where striking dockworkers in Chile caused thousands of dollars in damage and a general strike in taking place in Costa Rica. Hurricane Florence took Wilmington by storm and we interview anarchists on the ground doing disaster relief. There are quite a few prisoners who need support and we read excerpts from a heartfelt statement issued by prisoners at the Burnside Prison in Halifax who are ending their strike. Anarchists in London are trying something new! And there’s lots of events coming up! Send us news, events, or ideas on how our show can better serve anarchist activity in your town by emailing us at podcast@crimethinc.com.

Notes and Links

Tags: Crimethinc.podcastthe hotwirecategory: Projects
Categories: News

Communiqué for September 9th Burnside Jail Noise Demo

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 20:12

from it's going down

Anarchists in so-called Nova Scotia detail a noise demonstration in solidarity with the prison strike on September 9th.

On the evening of Sunday, September 9, 2018, a group of anarchists and prison abolitionists marched onto the premises of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (more commonly known as the Burnside jail) to communicate a message of love and solidarity to the prisoners inside. September 9th was the last day of the Black August North prisoner strike organized by people on the inside, which had started three weeks earlier. The initial prisoner statement and strike demands are outlined here. Their statement at the end of the strike is found here.

The strike started on August 21, the 47th anniversary of George Jackson’s death in 1971, and ended on September 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in the same year.

Our group first approached the women’s wing, which is where we turned on our sound system, unfurled our banners, started lighting fireworks, and began chanting as loud as we could. They responded by banging on the windows. We did not stay too long before we marched further to the men’s wing where strike organizers were locked up. We were there for about twenty minutes. We showed them a grand fireworks display, and some participants climbed up the fence, either to wave to people inside or tie flowers to the uppermost chain links.

Here are some of the things we chanted:

“Burnside Jail to Collins Bay, fighting back is the only way.”

“They can take our lives away, but not our dignity! Our hearts will pound against these walls until we all are free!”

“Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons!”

Our banners read: “Prison is Revolting” and “Against Prison”

At moments when we stopped making noise, we were able to hear rhythmic banging on the windows. Some prisoners waved, and others flicked the lights on and off in their cells. At one point, the chant of “You are not alone” was taken up spontaneously in our group (it wasn’t on our chant sheet), and that turned into an especially powerful moment of connection and tears. Eventually, we ran out of fireworks, and so we waved goodbye and left the way we came in.

It was as we were approaching the women’s wing again, with the intention of communicating to those prisoners for a little while longer before calling it a night, that a Halifax PD paddy wagon arrived. The vehicle screeched to a halt 20 or so feet from us, and two cops came out and charged us. What followed was a short scuffle in which the cops laid hands on several people, many people were pepper sprayed, and one person was brought to the ground and put in handcuffs. A third cop jumped out of the back of the van with a dog, which was used to intimidate and clear away the crowd. Though the presence of a trained-to-be-vicious and unpredictable-seeming police dog did cause our group to back up, we continued to yell at the pigs together and stayed tight. It was clear to us that the cops were intimidated by our collective rage and defiance.

What we were doing on September 9th was, of course, an effort to confront prison by connecting with the prisoners inside and showing our solidarity with their struggle. It was not planned as a combative action, we were not prepared for a fight. Based on our collective experience of attending dozens of previous noise demos outside jails in so-called canada, we did not predict such an immediately escalated response from the police. At the very least, we expected to be told to leave before being attacked and having a friend put in handcuffs. It’s not at all surprising, though, that Halifax cops would respond to our demonstration with aggression. That’s what cops do.

In the words of the Burnside jail prisoners, from their statement at the end of the strike:

“To the protestors who came right down through the woods to the back of the jail, risking their freedom to stand in solidarity with us, you gave us the most liberating feeling. We want you to know, we could hear you, and we believe you: we are not alone. Thank you. We love you, and are grateful to have you by our sides.”

This demonstration fully achieved what we set out to do – express our love and solidarity with those locked up, connecting despite the seemingly impenetrable prison walls. Our experiences strengthen our resolve to act in solidarity with those struggling against the cruelty of prison. The police response strengthens our rage against them, and against all State institutions of social control and criminalization.

– some anarchists

(because nothing ever happens in Halifax and it's news-worthy, plz share)

Tags: halifaxmaritimescanadaprisonnoise democategory: Actions
Categories: News

Fire Ant: Anarchist Prisoner Solidarity #1

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 15:36

[PDF for Printing]
[PDF for Reading]

Fire Ant is a new publication focused on spreading the words of anarchist prisoners and generating material solidarity for our imprisoned friends. Begun as a collaboration between anarchist prisoners and anarchists in Maine, Fire Ant seeks to raise material aid for anarchist prisoners while fostering communication between anarchists on both sides of the walls.

Issue #1 contains writings by Michael Kimble, Jennifer Gann, Eric King, and Sean Swain, as well as a text in solidarity with Marius Mason.

If you would like to support Fire Ant and wider efforts in solidarity with anarchist prisoners, please print and distribute this publication or donate to Bloomington ABC’s Anarchist Prisoner War Fund.

The Fire Ant collective can be contacted at
Fire Ant
PO Box 164
Harmony, ME 04942

Tags: anarchist prisonerscategory: Prisoners
Categories: News

Anarchy Radio 09-18-2018

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 03:51

LISTEN HERE: http://archive.org/details/AnarchyRadio09182018

e-sex doll brothel in Toronto closed! Super storms, gunfire (pig and otherwise). Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, BASTARD conference: almost dead? Horrific impacts of air pollution, obesity. Read from superb BAGR submission "Wolf Encounters." Black and Green podcast now at primalanarchy.org.
Action briefs.

Tags: jzKarlpassive aggressivewhere's the anarchy?category: Projects
Categories: News

It's a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird: writings on Scout Schultz, Queer Anarchist Killed by Georgia Tech Police

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 23:59

On Friday, September 16 2017, 21-year old Scout Schultz was shot and killed by police at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Scout was active in campus LGBT groups and identified as intersex. Scout was a part of local organized antifascist initiatives and was an anarchist. When news spread of their death, friends, family, and classmates near and far began scrambling to understand the events. In video surfacing online, it is possible to watch Scout scream at officers to “shoot me,” which they thoughtlessly do. In the coming days, a flurry of statements, rationalizations, and arrests are unleashed after mourners set fire to a police cruiser and clash with cops following a vigil on campus.

In the wake of the repression as well as the suffocating culture on campus, wherein students, faculty, and cowards of all stripes came out to defend the shooting, or to oppose those who sought proportional response to it, Scout’s former partner Dallas took their own life. Following a series of arrests and detentions, a friend and comrade of Scout’s, Kirby Jackson, took their own life as well.

As of this publication, the arrestees from the night of the riot have either had charges reduced or dropped and none are set to serve jail time. No one has been convicted for vandalizing squad cars or burning the police cruiser. The officer who killed Scout, Tyler Beck, is still on duty.

The legacy of this tragic sequence is in your hands now, dear reader. For Scout, for Dallas, for Kirby, and for the rest of us: be fierce, be swift, be cruel.

The Contemporaries Project is an organ of the Atlanta commune. Under other names, and sometimes under none at all, we have produced posters, leaflets, reports, and a newsletter. We operate in the autonomous areas of life and revolt, where control breaks down, where representation is routed, and where worlds are in formation. This pamphlet has been produced to respond to a general need among many comrades for greater historical perspective. As the global sequence of events have rushed forward with greater and greater frequency since the late 90s, and especially since 2011 - from the riots against globalization in Seattle and Genoa to the explosions in Ferguson, Istanbul and beyond - it has become difficult to transmit historical lessons to the newer comrades at a time when it is most desperately needed. This pamphlet is one of many contributions to the situation, responding to sensible needs and not to ideological reflex.

Source: https://thecontemporariesproject.tumblr.com

Read: https://thecontemporariesproject.blackblogs.org/wp-content/uploads/sites...

Print: https://thecontemporariesproject.blackblogs.org/wp-content/uploads/sites...

Tags: atlantaLGBTAmericaKiller copspolicegeorgiamental healthcategory: Essays
Categories: News

Addendum: Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist: Tucker Did Not Advocate Voting in Businesses

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 22:02
Benjamin Tucker Individualist Anarchist Mutualist

Addendum: Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist: Tucker Did Not Advocate Voting in Businesses by Nicholas Evans

In the articles Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist Part 1 and 4 it was suggested that voting between employers and employees in a business could be one way to retain the labor theory of value within the Capitalist system. It was just one potential option as a temporary measure to have non-exploitive employers in a business within a Capitalist economy. As alluded too in the previous articles, if the business was in an individualist anarchist market rather than a capitalist economy, the voting for people to receive their full value would no longer be needed as the market itself would decide the wages. 1. This series is supposed to present the ideas of Tucker in an accurate fashion. So this article will focus on how Tucker himself intended businesses to be operated.

Within the American Mutualist economic system of Tucker, voting would not be needed as the market itself would decide the average wages for a particular job. 2.

This goes back to the days of Josiah Warren. In Men Against the State by James Martin, it is noted that the people living in the American Mutualist town of Utopia traded labor for labor upon the 'cost principle' by letting the market itself decide the wages and prices of goods without capitalist rent, interest, or profit. 3.

Tucker himself stated their labor theory of value (the cost principle) would not need to be voted upon as the competitive market itself would decide the average labor time and prices of occupations and goods.

Tucker states regarding the Cost Principle:

“For my part, I do not believe that it is possible or highly important to realize it absolutely and completely. But it is both possible and highly important to effect its approximate realization. So much can be effected without compulsion,—in fact, can only be effected by at least partial abolition of compulsion,—and so much will be sufficient.”4.

Therefore while Tucker was not opposed to voting in businesses (ie. co-ops of Proudhon) Tucker himself preferred a business with employers and employees where both received their wage amounts depending on the going wage rate at the time on the competitive market. 5.

Tucker opposed capitalist rent, interest, and profits which he believed to be a result of state intervention within the market which allowed one class of people to live without working while another class of people had to work for wages less than their full value. 6.

Tucker believed state privilege allowed employers to extract a portion of the employees pay that would have been the employees had their been equality of opportunity on the market. The lack of equality of opportunity on the market leads employees to accept lower wages just to live and hence employers can pay lower wages to their employees and they receive a wage less than the full value of their labor. 7.

Tucker believed the solution would be Mutual Banks. With Mutual banks that offered interest less than one percent anyone could go into business for themselves and hence make employers would raise their wages to their full value on the market to entice workers to work for them therefore the class of people that made money without working for it (Capitalist class) would disappear and therefore employers would pay their employees the full value of their labor. 8.

Capitalism is an economic system where a class of employers make money without working for it while another class of people (employees) are paid less than their full value. Marx states:

"The working day of 12 hours is represented in a monetary value of, for example, 6 shillings. There are two alternatives. Either equivalents are exchanged, and then the worker receives 6 shillings for 12 hours of labour; the price of his labour would be equal to the price of his product. In that case he produces no surplus-value for the buyer of his labour, the 6 shillings are not transformed in to capital, and the basis of capitalist production vanishes."

The unearned income is called Surplus Value. Markets do not equate capitalism which is why different market systems like market socialism and mutualism exist. 9.

Tucker's way of organizing business would be similar to a capitalist business with employers and employees however the difference between a capitalist business and Tucker's Individualist Anarchist business would be that in the Individualist Anarchist way of business of Tucker, employers and employees would be paid the full value of their labor depending on the going rate of the occupation on the Individualist Anarchist market at the time and the Individualist Anarchist market would have equality of opportunity on the market due to the Mutual Banks. 10.

Tucker agreed with Marx on his theory of surplus value which can be seen in his article ‘Karl Marx Friend and Foe’: 11.

It is Tucker’s opposition to economic exploitation that lead Tucker to call his system Anarchistic Socialism. 12. For more information please see Tucker's article State Socialism and Anarchism How Far They Agree And Wherein Where They Differ.

Footnotes:

1. Evans, Nicholas. ‘Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist Part 1’. Anarchistnews.org. 2017. Available online at: https://anarchistnews.org/content/benjamin-tucker-american-mutualist
Evans, Nicholas. ‘Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist: Mutual Banking Part 3 and Final Conclusion Part 4’. Anarchistnews.org. 2017 Available online at: https://anarchistnews.org/content/benjamin-tucker-american-mutualist-mut...
2. Tucker, Benjamin. Instead of a Book. Forgotten Books. 2012. pp 3-18.
3. James J. Martin. Men Against the State. Ralph Myles Publisher Inc., Colorado Springs. 1970. Pp 57-64.
4. Tucker, Benjamin. Instead of a Book. Forgotten Books. 2012 pp 332.
5. Tucker, Benjamin. Instead of a Book. Forgotten Books. 2012 pp 3-18.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Please see: Edwards, Stewart (Editor) Selected Writings of P.-J. Proudhon. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books., 1969 pp 64 and Marx, Karl. Capital Volume 1 England: Penguin Classics (reprint) 1990 pp. 676. And please also see the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.
10. Tucker, Benjamin. Instead of a Book. Forgotten Books. 2012. pp 3-18.
11. Tucker, Benjamin. Instead of a Book. Forgotten Books. 2012 pp 477.
12. Tucker, Benjamin. Instead of a Book. Forgotten Books. 2012.

Tags: Benjamin TuckersocialismmutualismAmericaproudhonindividualistMarxMarket SocialismJosiah Warrencategory: Essays
Categories: News

TOTW: Time

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 13:10

The distro I’m a part of just hosted a discussion on some excerpts from The Old Calendrist on the oppressive nature of modern capitalist time and calling for a return to ways of keeping time before the current Gregorian calendar (you can find more of the piece here):

What do we want? We want those golden days of September stolen from us by the idolaters of science and rationalist utilitarianism. We hope that the restoration of sacred pagan time will induce a new wide-spread consciousness open to a radical critique of technology as alienation. Stage by stage we’d like to regress toward the status quo ante 1752. Abolish the Industrial Revolution and the post-Industrial reign of time as money. Abolish not only electricity and infernal combustion but also the steam engine. Bring back agrarian green artisanal social time. Abandon the Capitalist Hell Realm. And by the way, let’s also get rid of Daylight Saving Time. Down with all Time Lords. Free Time.

Humorous and nostalgic, the essays identify a problem that’s both abstract and intimately felt: that of time. Time is tied to all sorts of things that make life under capitalism unpleasant: the tyranny of the timeclock, the drive for efficiency, standardized measures which make our lives more easily monitored and controlled by bosses of all sorts.

Against capitalist time, the authors call for a multiplicity of calendars and a return to sacred time as a return to capital-N Nature:

“We advocate abolishing the Gregorian calendar because it has become the time-system of (post)industrial Capitalism, the reign of Work as alienation and the “cruel instrumentality of Reason.” We insist on a “return” to some holy and inefficient calendar--any system so long as it’s old--and we especially support the Julian calendar, which England and America followed till 1752. The point is to re-enchant Time itself, to make it sacred again, more in harmony with Nature, more “organic.””

What do you think of this as a potential model for anarchist time? What are other ideas for restructuring or disrupting time as it exists? Can “society” exist without one time to rule us all?

Tags: totwtopic of the weektimethe old calendristcategory: Other
Categories: News

Anews Episode 81 – September 14, 2018

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 01:43

Welcome to the Anews podcast. This is episode 81 for September 14, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.

Listen here: http://podcast.anarchistnews.org/episodes/anewse81.mp3
or https://podcast.anarchistnews.org/index.php/2018/09/17/anews-episode-81-...

This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was:

* Editorial "A Meditation on Gestures”, by Chisel
* “What’s New” was written by jackie, read by chisel and dim
* “Good Fight Good Luck”, by Murrow
* Thanks to Aragorn! and friends for topic of the week discussion
* sound edited by Rocinante
* The music is: 1) Joywave, KOPPS - “Tongues” 2) PUP - “Yukon” 3) Cypress Hill - “How I Could Just Kill a Man” 4) Car Seat Headrest - “Fill in the Blank”

* Contact us at podcast@anarchistnews.org

To learn more:

Introduction to anarchism: http://anarchy101.org
Books and other anarchist material: http://littleblackcart.com
News and up to the minute commentary: https://anarchistnews.org

Tags: this sitepodcastwordsteh newsfightsmurrowtables and chairsresponsescategory: Projects
Categories: News

Getting Caught: Call for stories about the times you didn’t get away

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 22:25

Submitted anonymously to North Shore

It happens. When you’re pushing limits, trying to find new ways to fight back, sooner or later you might get caught. And it’s not the end of the world.

The first time my house got searched, it was 3am. I was all in black with a dufflebag over my shoulder full of crowbars, bolt cutters and gloves, and I was on my out the door. But through the front window, I saw flashing lights and then the shadows of cops walking dogs back and forth on our lawn. They had the street closed off.

Yes, getting busted sucks and let’s keep finding ways to avoid it. But there’s value in sitting a while with that moment when you realize you aren’t getting away this time. Reflecting on them can give courage and determination to keep going, to try again, to fail better.

I was 19. I grabbed my roommates who were awake and as the pounding on the door started we tried to decide what to do. They were shining flashlights through the window and knocking on the glass. We decided I would go outside porch to talk to them and my roommate would lock the door behind me.

“Getting Caught” aims to be a place to tell those stories. Submit your very short stories (300 words. The shorter the better) about times when you didn’t away. We’ll collect them and publish them as a pretty risographed brochure, as a pdf, and maybe on a website. You can email your submission to nothing-stops@riseup.net (PGP key here) or you can leave them as a comment on this post on North Shore Counter-Info. If they’re clearly marked as submissions, the mods have agreed to send them along. All submissions will be anonymized even if you tell us who you are. Get your submissions in by October 31, 2018 and the collection will be ready before New Year’s eve.

The cops said they were just looking for some guys who robbed a gas station across the street. If we just let them in, they wouldn’t notice anything that wasn’t those guys. They promised. “But if you make us get a warrant…” I tapped to be let back in to talk with my friends. The house was surrounded. The pounding on the door resumed almost immediately after it closed behind me.

Looking forward to reading you. Stay safe. Never stop.

(Si vous préférez écrire en français, il nous est possible de traduire ton histoire vers l’anglais, alors allez-y, écrivez-la!)

Tags: call for submissionsbustedcategory: Projects
Categories: News

The Hotwire #36: September 12, 2018

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 12:08

From CrimethInc.

#PrisonStrike ends—bring back anti-nationalism—economic crisis in Argentina

Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to podcast@crimethinc.com.

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Full Episode Transcript

Summary

It’s 17 years and a day after 9/11 and Iraq is still in shambles, so we rip apart liberals for thinking George W. Bush is somehow “cute”. 2001 pops up again when we compare the current economic crisis in Argentina to the wave of worker-led factory takeovers and anarchist media that resisted the last economic meltdown there. We call for anarchists to incorporate a critique of nationalism itself into our anti-fascist strategy and analysis, we include preliminary information for autonomous relief efforts based in mutual aid for #HurricaneFlorence, and we wrap up the National #PrisonStrike with an action report and a bunch of phone-zaps! Send us news, events, or ideas on how our show can better serve anarchist activity in your town by emailing us at podcast@crimethinc.com.

Notes and Links
  • Table of Contents:
    • Introduction {0:00}
    • George W. Bush is not cute {0:50}
    • The other 9/11 {2:45}
    • Economic collapse in Argentina… again {4:00}
    • Bringing back the anarchist critique of nationalism {5:25}
    • Here come the hurricanes—time for mutual aid {11:00}
    • #PrisonStrike ends {14:55}
    • Repression roundup {20:35}
    • Next Week’s News {27:40}
  • Download 29:30 minutes long version.

  • Autonomous Mutual Aid in the wake of Hurricane Florence
  • Mutual Aid Disaster Relief will give a brief presentation on September 15th at 10:30am at the Uplift Climate Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  • Anarchist book fairs this weekend:
  • Upcoming anti-fascist action:
    • September 15: Stop the League of the South from disrupting TriPride in Johnson City, TN
    • September 29: Oppose the League of the South’s rally in Elizabethton, TN. Stay tuned to @HollerNetwork and @knoxradical for updates.
  • Argentina:
    • The documentary The Take looks at factory takeovers and a little of the abstentionist anti-voting movement in Argentina as a response to the economic crisis of 2001
    • Keep up with resistance news in Argentina through Indymedia Argentina and the excellent anti-authoritarian TV channel Antena Negra
  • Other relevant CrimethInc. output:
  • Hotwire #3, Hotwire #6, and Hotwire #9 have interviews about mutual aid based, autonomous relief efforts in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

  • Some anarchist critiques of nationalism:
  • Donate to the legal defense fund for anti-racists and anti-fascists arrested in relation to the Silent Sam confederate monument in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

  • Check out this guide on experiences and reflections dealing with undercover police infiltration in Toronto

  • Evictions HAVE BEGUN in the Hambach Forest! If you’re in Europe, make your way to the Hambach Forest in Germany to help defend it, and the radical Ewok village of forest defenders who live there. Also, check out our audio documentary about the forest and the defense campaign to stop the cutting.

  • Pre-sales are OPEN for the 2019 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners calendar! The theme of next year’s calendar is Health/Care, and it features art and writing from current and former political prisoners like David Gilbert, Mike and Chuck Africa, and Laura Whitehorn. If you buy 10 or more, be sure to use the discount code “BULK” to get 10 or more calendars for $10 each—you can then sell the calendars to fundraise for your own organizing. Orders start shipping September 10!

  • Use this straightforward guide to writing prisoners from New York City Anarchist Black Cross to write imprisoned American Indian Movement warrior Leonard Peltier.

    Leonard Peltier

    #89637–132

    USP Coleman I

    Post Office Box 1033

    Coleman, Florida 33521

  • Phone zap for Jason Walker

    You can contact the TDCJ Ombudsman at ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov, as well as the Telford Unit’s management at 903–628–3171 and garth.parker@tdcj.texas.gov. You can speak to the Regional Director’s office at (903) 928–2623, billy.howard@tdcj.texas.gov and carl.mckellar@tdcj.texas.gov. Contact details for TDCJ head office are (936) 295–6371, Bryan.Collier@tdcj.texas.gov and exec.director@tdcj.texas.gov

    Script for phone calls: “Hello, I am contacting you as I have been made aware of a pattern of bogus disciplinary cases being issued by CO Renitia T. Davis. In particular, I wish to request that you bring in an appropriate outside investigator to fully investigate the recent cases issued to inmates Jason Renard Walker #1532092 and Logan Newsome #2163761 with an eye to getting these fraudulent cases overturned and expunged immediately, as well as conducting a full investigation into Officer Davis’ history. Beyond this, I demand that you cease all forms of harassment and retaliation against Jason Walker, including but not limited to the issuing of bogus cases, the censorship of his correspondence, and the denial of access to heat respite. Please investigate and overturn all recent cases and disciplinary measures issued to Mr. Walker by Telford Unit staff, and investigate the conduct of Lieutenant Estrada, Sergeant Gilstrap, Sergeant Sartin, and Lieutenant Ricks, who have all played a role in the campaign of harassment. Thank you”

  • Phone zap for Kevin Rashid Johnson

    Monday morning, starting at 9 AM, please phone and email the official in charge of interstate compact: Chief of Corrections Operations David Robinson. You can call the main office number at 804–674–3000 and ask to be transferred to his phone line. Robinson’s email address is david.robinson@vadoc.virginia.gov When leaving a message or talking to Mr Robinson, refer to Rashid by his legal name Kevin Johnson. Explain that he is better off in Virginia, that he has been subjected to serious human rights abuses during previous transfers.

  • We have a Twitter! Follow @HotwireWeekly and send us news that we should include in the show.

Tags: Crimethinc.podcastthe hotwirecategory: Projects
Categories: News

The 2018 BASTARD conference, September 16

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 16:51

A day of nonacademic, participatory discussions, brought to you by the Berkeley Anarchist Study Group.

The Long Haul (3124 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, two blocks from the Ashby BART station)
from 10am to 3pm
no commerce, but donations accepted for the space.

Workshops--
10 - 11am Can Anarchism Be Saved? (Aragorn!)
11 - 12pm Freake-Anarchism: What Might It Be? (Lew)
12 - 1pm Anarchy with and without Adjectives: What's the Difference? (Jason and Daniel)
1 - 2pm Notes Toward An Anarchist Numerology (Ariel)
2 - 3pm Anarchism in a Futureless World (Michael)

Programs with more description will be available at the bookfair on Saturday, at the Omni.

Tags: conferencecategory: Projects
Categories: News

Cuadernos de Negación

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 03:19

From ediciones ineditos

Against the Valorization of Life – Part I

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We have decided to undertake the task of translation the whole of CUARDERNOS DE NEGACIÓN 11th issue (May 2018), entitled “Contra la valorización de la vida” (tr. Against the valorization of life). Here we present the first part of our translation. What follows is their work. All footnotes are from CUADERNOS unless otherwise noted. We feel this issue functions as a great way to introduce value-form theory to those adverse to critiques using Marxian categories since CUADERNOS do not use them to merely prop up notions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, or better management of production, or arguments for a transitional stage to communism: instead they show themselves to be clearly for the wholesale abolition of capitalism along with the features which weigh on those of us who are proletarians: work, our basic needs converted into commodities, wage-labor, general impoverishment, alienation and the general abstraction of daily life. A pdf of the raw text can be downloaded here.

CUADERNOS DE NEGACIÓN AGAINST THE VALORIZATION OF LIFE

We have nothing to sell you and we are not trying to seduce our fellow proletarians. We are not a groupuscule seeking to compete over prestige or influence with the rest of the other groupuscules and parties which claim to represent the exploited and which seek to govern them. We are proletarians that struggle against Capital and the State with the means available to us, nothing more and nothing less.

If you feel that these materials should be disseminated then go ahead and reproduce them! Print them! Copy them! Discuss them! They were created to be circulated wherever they prove most propitious.

For obvious economic reasons we cannot make as large a print-run of this publication as we would like, nor are we able to send it to many places around the world, and because of this we encourage the distribution of these CUADERNOS, copying them and disseminating them as far as possible.

We deeply appreciate anyone who wishes to collaborate with us in the dissemination of the issues of CUADERNOS DE NEGACIÓN and we invite them to contact us.

Forward comrades!

cuadernosdenegacion@hotmail.com
cuadernosdenegacion.blogspot.com

A NOTE ON THE CITATIONS

It is not our task to annouce the news nor guard some ancient treasure, nonetheless, many who decide to read what follows may find small or grand revelations, as well as old statements. Those of us at CUADERNOS like to share some well-known paragraphs from different publications, books, texts and papers that we use to prepare each issue. When we reproduce these quotes we name the authors simply to make visible the steps we have taken and offer an invitation to go deeper. Those who read attentively will be able to distinguish the proximity of one or other author. The vast majority are related, but this does not imply an uncritical claim of them or of the organizations which they come from, or which they formed a part of. And whomever reads with the intention of contemplation, as well as the desire to transform reality, will understand that all of this is about much more than just books, pamphlets, authors or words.

The texts here cited (as well as others) can be found at: bibliotecacuadernosdenegacion.blogspot.com

 

PRESENTATION

1presentacion

“There is no other way to end a problem than to finish off the enemy. And this is what I wanted to get to, so as to make you understand on what basis this society is founded on.” (Comte de Lautréamont, The Songs of Maldoror)

In the broad and self-identified revolutionary, combative, subversive or however-it-calls-itself milieu, there exists a propensity to divulge slogans that would look best on a poster, as part of their publicity. Part of following the capitalist logic of quantity over quality involves spreading public announcements instead of spreading reflection, inquiry and collective sharing. In this way, what is publicized is militancy as commodity, to be contemplated and admired without any participation by the spectators; or in the “least of worst” cases publicity is done “in an inclusive” way so as to gain supports with the promise of an immediate activism or militancy.

The understanding of matters such as the critique of value does not offer the consumer of political slogans any quick solution to their woes, such as are promised (and unsolved!) by parties, advertisers or shepherds of the nearest temple. To understand capitalist domination it is important to engage with these critiques as they form a important part of our struggle. Whomever comes to the critique of the economy with a consumer’s attitude and exclaims, “you have five minutes to convince me or I will choose another option!”, may you lose no more time and head directly to another option. A certain dedication and exertion are part of radical critique and they form a part of the practical opposition to the logic of Capital and its false critics.

Truly this consumer mentality, based in dominant immediatism, is a product of commodity logic. A commodity which sets out to win requires an immediate effect. Of course this immediate effect is totally counterfeit. In organic life solutions to questions (‘problems’) are part of a process, a movement, and not a mathematical solution. It is evident that this process, this movement, contains certain qualitative jumps which give rise to a “solution” to a question, but whomever wants to invent shortcuts to quickly reach this qualitative jump forgets that is along the way that the quantitative transforms into the qualitative.

Further, although it may appear improbable or forced, there are actions that urgently require a critique of value. So that we do not use up our forces which in various ways sustain capitalism, such as falling into the trap of self-management or falling into a purer and harder reformism. And we need this critique so that we may stop sharing the same horizon with the capitalists: the management of this society. This is why we are interested in inquiring about the bases of the capitalist mode of production…so then, does this still seem unimportant?

Despite the fact that this topic is to be found within the work of Karl Marx, due to sloganeering and the managerial perspective of Marxism and of Social-Democracy, this topic has been censured, deliberately put aside, or considered as a generally secondary philosophical aspect of the revolutionary arsenal and particularly secondary aspect of Marx’s work. As far as the anarchist movement, this topic has been mostly maligned for being “Marxist” or simply its existence remains unknown.

“Marx sketched out the fundamental elements of a critique of the basic categories of capitalist society: value, money, the commodity, abstract labor, commodity-fetishism. This critique of the nucleus of modernity is today more relevant than in the time of Marx because during his time this nucleus only existed in a embryonic state. To highlight this aspect of Marxian critique — the “critique of value” — it is not necessary to force these texts through convoluted interpretations: one need only read them closely, something which no one has done in a century.” (Anselm Jappe, The Adventures of the Commodity).

Fortunately there have been some who (including within Marxism itself), starting from a personal and solitary effort, or also among numerous proletarian groups, that have rightly recognized the centrality of the critique of value within our emancipatory perspective. Throughout this issue, we will explain various phrases which we have given us sustenance. A few notable examples include the efforts of Isaak Illich Rubin during the hostile social context of the early years of the Soviet Union and the efforts of the currents of Italian and Dutch-German communists during the 1920s. There is also Jacques Camatte with his publication Invariance in France during the 1960s/1970s and Fredy Perlman in the United States, as part of a whole generation which started to have access to the once unpublished works of Karl Marx. Later would come other anti-capitalist writers and groups whom have also sustained us and which we here bring together.

Thus, what we present here is no novelty. Even Aristotle (384 BCE — 322 BCE), in Politics, far from any critical intention, approaches the topic: “Since any good can serve two uses… One use which is proper to the thing as such, and an inverse which is not: thus, a sandal can serve as footwear, but it could also serve as an object of exchange. In both cases it is a question of the use-values of the sandal, since whomever exchanges the sandal for something they lack, food for example, still makes use of the sandal. But that is not its natural use. Since it is not made to be exchanged, the same can be said of other goods.”

It is essential to note that value is not a thing, it is not the price of an individual commodity, it is a social form. As we developed in The myth of value as natural quality in Ed. 9 of this publication, objects do not naturally possess a quality known as value. Rather, this is a consequence of the mode in which a society organizes its production. Value and the commodity, just like money and work, are not neutral and transhistorical facts, nor are they natural or eternal. Rather, these are basic categories under capitalism. Lamentably, at these heights it is not only within bourgeous reasoning which sees value as a natural fact, this is also so within arguments which claim to be revolutionary, and others even claim the proletariat as “those who create all value in society which some no-good bourgeois later appropriates.”

Thus the critique of “indecent” profits endorses the notion that there are profits supposedly decent; a critique which seeks to understand the ever-greater brutality of capitalism as a consequence of the malice of the exploiter, without realizing that the same exploiter is required to act as such by Capital, with its constant need for growth. The foundation of capitalist society is the dictatorship of value in process and the utility of the objects produced is just a means; what we call use-value serves only as a support for exchange-value, of value valorizing itself.

When in the previous issues of CUADERNOS DE NEGACIÓN we referred to our need to re-appropriate revolutionary positions, we did not simple refer to the recuperation of something finished which had been censured and forgotten. We refer to the need to recuperate theoretical-practical experiences of revolutionaries from around the world and to continue to deepen them, critique them and grasp them in our current moment.

In addition, it is important to highlight that both ours and others’ international initiatives, which begin to re-focus on the critique of value, do not arrive at the same goal by way of just reading and theoretical discussion. We approach the efforts of the past by way of the need to struggle against the very substratum of capitalist society. Our task is not then an archeology of lost writings, it is the living and class-based effort of our past, present and future for social revolution.

After our last two offerings of CUADERNOS, and continuning with this block of issues, we continue to enter in the critique of economy, that as we always note is a critique of society as a whole. We call it a critique of economy because part of using economic categories is to show their real social content. It is not economist, rather it is its opposite; it is a critique to roundly opposes the economy and which breaks with every disciplinary barrier.

“There is no struggle for communism without a minimum of passion, nor is there a struggle for communism without an identification of the enemy. To kill, obviously, is not a synonym for communizer: a communist revolution subverts more than it kills off. (…) Nonetheless, to reject violence and any use of arms is to renounce the revolution (…)

It is true that our “target” is a social system, and not bossess, upper-management, experts or the police officers they employ. A strength of Social-Democracy, and of Stalinism, has been to liken capitalism with the bourgeoisie, the rich, the big guys. In the same way that within commodity-fetishim the social relation is presented as a thing, when it comes to a person, it is incarnated by a big-bellied bourgeois with a cigar in the mouths, like in the old caricatures from a century ago. (…) Maintaining anger against these characters helps to deflect criticism towards a deadend: attacking the bourgeoisie as individuals, rather than attacking them in their function.

But if our target is Capital, its structural power, its force of inertia and not the capitalist; social relations take no less a human form. To only see within a factory boss a factory boss is an optical illusion. To not confront them under the pretext that they are just a cog in the machine which surpasses them, really brings us back to a view of society as cohesive whole (un tout) which then becomes impossible to figure out which end to grasp at this totality. To depersonalize history is to renounce to act upon it. The absence of hate for those who direct us leads us to a fate worse than resignation, at best reform. Those who do not know or feel a rejection for those who exploit us, and despise them, will never change anything.” (Troploin, Sortie d’usine).

THE COMMODITY & VALUE

2mercancia

As we have developed in previous issues of CUADERNOS, at the nucleus of capitalist society we find the commodity. This is the particular form which the products of human activity take in our current moment. Its development is neither spontaneous or sudden. Its existence is the result of a process of progressive submission of human needs to fetishist and objectifying practices, which gradually undermine the close link between need and activity. It is here that life becomes fragmented and arrives at a situation where the overwhelming majority of what is produced is expressly made with the market and processes of exchange in mind. As commodities are produced to be exchanged, their use-value is not of much interest, rather they exist in relation to the good which will be obtained by its counterpart (exchange value). What is a use-value to one person, is nothing but an exchange-value for someone else, and vice versa. At a glance, a loaf of bread is just a loaf of bread; it can be found in the hands of a baker, in an ad or on the table of a diner. Likewise, when a loaf of bread passes from the hands of the baker to the consumer who purchased it, the loaf of bread’s existence does not change. Nonetheless (and simplifying things here a bit), for the consumer of the loaf of bread the loaf is a use-value and for the vendor it is the basis for an economic relation. A loaf may satisfy hunger, or the desire to eat someone, but this is something which does not interest the producer as their completing their task. In this way, social relations under capitalism are inverted: what we have are social relations between commodified things made for human beings. It is the inversion between subject and object which gives life to the thing as a subject of society and leaves the role of object to the human. Value is the material expression of capitalist social relations.

THE ADVENTURES OF THE COMMODITY

adventuras

Here is an excerpt from Anselm Jappe’s Adventures of the Commodity. Translated by Diego Luis Sanromán, Pepitas de calabaza, 2016[1]. The placement of titles and bold text is our own.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

A commodity is not identical to a “good” or to an “object of exchange.” It is the particular form which some “goods” more or less take in certain human societies. The commodity is merely an object that not only possesses a use-value, but also an exchange-value. Every object which satisfies any human need contains a use-value which, nonetheless, is also an economic category.[2] But as long as an object can be exchanged for pre-determined quantities for other objects, then the object still possesses an exchange value. If you exchange a shirt for 30 kilos of potatoes, we are treating these commodities as having different quantities of something identical, which they have in common. When it comes to use-values, commodities are totally incommensurable. A shirt and potato have nothing in common. The relations in which commodities are exchanged (and consequently also their exchange-value) are subject to continuous variations. But at any given moment the some product can be exchanged for different exchange values which are equal to each other: a shirt can be exchanged whether for a gram of gold; 10 kilos wheat; a pair of shoes; etc. It is necessary then that these different exchange-values have something in common at their core: their “value.”

This shared substance of commodities can be nothing more than the labor which created them: this is the only identical thing which otherwise incommensurable commodities share. Labor can be measured by its duration, and consequently, its quantity: the value of every commodity depends on the quantity of labor which was necessary to produce it. In this regard, it matters little what use-value some labor results in. An hour spent sewing a dress and an hour spent manufacturing a bomb are both an hour of labor. If two hours were necessary to build a bomb, its value doubles in relation to the dress, without taking into account its use-value. The quantitative difference is the only difference that can exist between values: if different use-values of commodities are not taken into account to determine their value, neither is the concrete labor which created them. The work which makes up a value does not matter except as an expenditure of labor, without consideration for the specific form in which it has been spent. Marx called this form of labor, which becomes abstracted from all its concrete forms, “abstract labor.” Commodity values are nothing more than “crystallizations” of this “mere jelly of undifferentiated human labor” (Capital, vol. 1). Value — not to be confused with exchange-value — is a determined quantity of abstract labor “contained” within a commodity. The commodity then is the union of use-value and of value, just as it is the union of concrete labor and abstract labor which created it.

Here we are not talking about the labor-time which a concrete individual effectively employed in their production of a commodity. Value is rather determined by the labor-time, which in a particular society, with a certain level of development of productive forces, is on average necessary to produce the commodity in question. If an hour is enough to sew a dress under average conditions, its value is that of an hour and if a tailor takes an hour and a half they will only be paid for an hour of labor. Marx calls this time “socially necessary time.”[3] So then, any change in the labor production that affects the value of commodities. If a new invention allows the production of 10 shirts in one hour, then after the diffusion of this invention, each shirt will contain no more than six minutes of social labor, even though persons incapable of resorting to this invention continue to employ on hour to sew a shirt.

Naturally, we do not work twice to produce a commodity, once doing a particular task to produce its use-value and another abstract task to produce its exchange-value. Rather, the same task presents itself with a double character: on the one hand its abstract labor and on the other, its concrete labor. As far as concrete labor, it is the infinite multitude of tasks which produce diverse objects in every society in which the division of labor reigns. This labor knows qualitative differences: sometimes its a matter of sewing; other times its about driving a car; another times it’s is about working the land, etc. As far as abstract labor, it all amounts to the “productive expenditure of human brain, muscle, nerve, hand, etc., and are both in this sense human labour” (Capital, vol. 1). Abstract labor, as such, only knows quantitative differences: sometimes it’s a matter of working one hour, and in others working 10 hours. The most complex tasks count as a multiplication of simple labor: an hour of highly-specialized labor by a worker could be “worth” 10 hours of a peasant. This reduction automatically produces itself in economic life.

In the inversion which characterizes a given commodity, the concrete becomes a carrier for the abstract. It has no other social existence in so far as it serves the abstract as a way to give itself a tangible expression.

The abstraction of any tangible quality, of any use-value, is not a mental summation, as when we abstract the different genera of animals to then speak of the “animal,” which nonetheless does not exist as such. The best way to convey this real abstraction is found in a passage in the first edition of Capital, which Marx unfortunately did not reproduce in later editions: “ It is as if alongside and external to lions, tigers, rabbits, and all other actual animals, which form when grouped together the various kinds, species, subspecies, families etc. of the animal kingdom, there existed also in addition the animal, the individual incarnation of the entire animal kingdom. Such a particular which contains within itself all really present species of the same entity is a universal (like animal, god, etc.)” (Das Kapital, 1st ed., 1867).

In commodity society tasks are not interchangeable, and consequently are not social, than by way of their abstract quality. Commodities cannot be exchanged until they are transformed into money, because money is the only commodity that can be directly exchanged for any commodity. No commodity, then, possesses within itself the capacity to be exchanged; this capacity exists for a commodity as an exterior object (an equivalency, money) which it must aspire the transformation into. In a commodity society, the capacity for individual products to be exchangeable does not reside, then, in their concrete character or utility, but rather it exists at the margin of these products and at the margin of their utility, separated from them.

Value against the human community

In commodity production, the natural form of an individual product of labor only serves as the “carrier” of exchange-value. To participate in exchange — and consequently, also participate in the world of commodities —, a product of labor must fold unto itself. This is not a universal phenomena, since, as we have said, in societies not based in commodity production, the individual product of labor already possesses a social character and has no need to acquire it by way of equivalency with an object which exists outside of it.[4]

This is why we can say that value, even in its most innocent form — namely, “20 meters of cloth contain the value of a suit” — is already the cause and consequence of a social formation in which human beings do not consciously regulate their mode of production. When Marx writes, “the objectification of the general & social character of labor (as well as the objectification of the labor-time contained within exchange-value) directly makes of its product an exchange-value” (Grundrisse, I), he clearly states that when the product is transformed into an exchange-value, along with the seemingly more innocuous transformation of labor into value, in the form of labor-time, they do not constitute an original datum, but rather are themselves a consequence of a certain form of socialization: one which is based on the labor of separate and private producers. The objectification of labor-time is a consequence of the objectification of the social character of labor, of its quality of being a social link.

Value is nothing more than a form of social organization. Its production does not make a society wealthier; is the creation of a social link which is not created during production, but rather exists along side it as an exterior form. Every time we hear someone speak of “overproduction,” it is worth asking: an overproduction of value or of wealth? “Wealth is never overproduced. But periodically too much wealth is produced in its capitalist, antagonistic forms.” (Capital, III), although we cannot really call it “wealth” since the “the self-valorization of capital — the creation of surplus value—” is an “absolutely mean and abstract content” (Unpublished 6th Chapter of Capital).

What is this content? Money is the sole purpose for production. Nonetheless, money is not the concrete universality of use-values produced, but rather it is the abstract universality of produced value, and consequently, of abstract labor expended.

Value is only interested in its own quantity. It is indifferent to the use-values which support it, that “body of commodities”: wheat or contaminated blood, books or video games. Sociability is deprived of all concrete content and social relations are reduced to the exchange of quantities.

It is for these very reasons, and not for a simple moralistic or existentialist recrimination, that we can say that social life itself has become abstract. This type of abstraction is not a bad mental habit that could be cured by replacing false ideas with right ideas. Rather it is the very real subordination of concrete content to an abstract form which is put into play by the concept of real abstraction. It is only due to an old habit that normal consciousness starts to not notice that it is mad that, for example, air pollution “matters less” than the losses that a limitation of road traffic would inflict on the automobile industry. Preceding any more judgment, here madness already resides in the comparison of two completely different things — the health of individuals and the interests of industry — with the same quantitative and abstract parameters; which is to say they are measured with money. We can see here how apparently very “abstract” considerations about abstract labor can reach the very heart of the problems we face today.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the inversion of C-M-C to M-C-M’ encloses within the whole essence of capitalism.[5] The transformation of abstract labor into money is the only goal of commodity production; the production of all use-values are but a means, a necessary evil, eyeing only a single purpose: to have available at the end of the operation a sum of money greater than at the beginning. The satisfaction of needs is not the goal of production, but rather an inevitable and secondary aspect. The inversion of the concrete and the abstract which we considered previously, in an abstract way, within the relations of two commodities, now reveals itself as the fundamental law of a whole society, our society, where the concrete only serves to feed a materialized abstraction: money.

ON THE HISTORICAL AND LOGICAL BASES OF CAPITALIST SOCIETY

3logicohistorico

This society is guided by the incessant growth of Capital, not by the satisfaction of needs. This could lead us to a critique of those who best represent this guide and whom profit from abstract labor pursuing this guide. But the crux of the matter is to try to overcome a society which needs this class of persons, a society we are all a part of. We must question the very basic categories of capitalist society and the totality of social relations which we are dominated by. As everyday more and more aspects of life become commoditized, our critique should not remain there, we should go to the root: the very existence of the commodity.

The commodity-form, just like different capitalist forms[6], have developed for thousand of years arriving at their current manifestations. To understand their raison d’être, their relations and their dynamic we resort to analyzing them in their different determinations and their different levels of abstraction. For example, in our previous issue we talked about the different determinations of money: as a medium for exchange, as a medium unto itself, as an accumulation of wealth, as the supreme objective of capitalist society and finally money as Capital. Marx, in his analysis of the value-form, also talks about its different determinations: a simple form, a developed form, a general form and a monetary form. It is not our intention here to to further delve into each of these forms, but rather to understand two dimensions when investigating them: the logical and historical. As we said, in the critique of capitalism we resort to using different levels of abstraction from the simplest to the complex, which are not necessarily conditioned by a chronological temporality. If we emphasize this distinction it is because in our pursuit of the root of capitalist society, it is important to distinguish between the causes of its origin and the conditions of its current existence. Although capital arises from the commodity, it is only with Capital that the totality of production assumes a commodity-form.

“The value-form assumed by the product of labor is its most abstract form, but it is also the most general of the bourgeois mode of production, and in this way it remains characterized as a particular type of social production and in this way, also, something very historical.” (Karl Marx, Capital)

Thus what we are trying to analyze and critique is the very structure and operation of current society. In this way, though it may be important to go over historical developments and empirical data, the prevention of certain misunderstandings and tendentious interpretations of history is also necessary.

An introductory example of this is found in the recurrent discussions of value, within dominant ideology, where the intent is the denial of the very substance of labor. In other words, denying that the exchange of commodities is established by the labor-time embodied in them. To this end, there have been developed different theorizations concerning pricing, where most of the time there is no distinction between value and price, where these theorizations rely on certain characteristics of the different branches of production (monopolies, oligarchies, etc), on different State monetary policies, on supply & demand, as well as on the subjective appreciations of those who participate in the market.

Later we will stop to deepen the distinction between value and price and explain how commodities are indeed not bought and sold in exact accordance with their value (as well as that the precise calculation of its labor-time is impossible to realize) and that the magnitude of prices is foremost determined by the quantity of labor which it embodies. This is known as the law of value, which explains the movement of prices, but not its exact fixation.

In his final notes on the third volume of Capital, Engels looks to demonstrate the “full functioning of this law” in stages previous to capitalism: “The same is true for the exchange of products between peasants and urban artisans. In the beginning, this exchange took place directly, without the mediation of the merchant, on market days in the city, when peasants would sell and make their purchases. Likewise in this case, both the peasant and the artisan are aware of the labor conditions of each other. The artisan is a bit of a peasant themselves, not only does he have a garden, but very often a small plot of land, a few cows, pigs, poultry, etc. In this way, men of the Middle Ages were in a position to make the calculus of the costs of production of each other when it came to raw materials, auxiliary materials, labor time, with a certain precision, at least when it came to the things generally consumed everyday.”

We use this example, since it highlights what we previously mentioned on the logical and historical dimension of these [Marxian] concepts, where the most elemental functioning of capitalist society does not necessarily coincide with the business relations which prefigured it. It is tempting to seek out in the past a concrete manifestation of abstractions which constitute the present so as to better understand and explain them, but this is not how reality works. The developments in the works of Marx, and other authors, which appear to be so obviously logical, have been labeled as metaphysical by their critics, and at the same time certain defenders have tried to fill in these “gaps” with empirical data, resulting in misunderstandings in both camps of the importance of the abstraction not as a thought exercise but as a phenomena of reality. We will return to this subject in the next section.

In the previous issue of CUADERNOS, we reflected on the origins of capitalist society. There we saw how commercial and usurial[7] capital in their manifestations previous to capitalism constituted the indispensable motor of capitalism’s emergence, hoarding up one side and draining on the other. But the place of commercial capital under capitalism is completely different:

“Historically, capital developed in the sphere of circulation to then later seize production; but under capitalism, it is only through production that capital is born. The capital that seems to be born through circulation (commercial gains, monetary interest) is only a deduction of the gains realized through production. This fact should be enough to show that the relationship between the logical genesis and historical succession has, in Marx, a very peculiar nature.” (Anselm Jappe, Adventures of the Commodity)

The following quotations from Marx[8] will help clarify things in this regard: “To buy cheap in order to sell dear is the rule of trade. Hence, not the exchange of equivalents. (…) The quantitative ratio in which products are exchanged is at first quite arbitrary. They assume the form of commodities inasmuch as they are exchangeables, i.e., expressions of one and the same third. Continued exchange and more regular reproduction for exchange reduces this arbitrariness more and more. But at first not for the producer and consumer, but for their go-between, the merchant, who compares money-prices and pockets the difference. It is through his own movements that he establishes equivalence. By virtue of its very movement an equivalency is established.[9] (…) The trade of the first independent flourishing merchant towns and trading nations rested as a pure carrying trade upon the barbarism of the producing nations, between whom they acted the middleman. In the pre-capitalist stages of society commerce ruled industry. In modern society the reverse is true. (…) It will subordinate production more and more to exchange-value by making luxuries and subsistence more dependent on sale than on the immediate use of the products. Thereby it dissolves the old relationships. It multiplies money circulation. It encompasses no longer merely the surplus of production, but bites deeper and deeper into the latter, and makes entire branches of production dependent upon it. Nevertheless this disintegrating effect depends very much on the nature of the producing community.”

Human productive activity does not always assume the form of work, neither does its production take the form of a commodity. These social forms and their correspondent conceptual categories are not transhistorical, nor do they exist apart from specific forms of relations. Therefore, it is not enough to affirm that we are the workers whom produce the value that is then appropriated by capitalists, rather we want to know how we arrive at becoming workers and how our production took on the commodity-form. It is through the historical development of different social relations of exchange that made possible the rise of value. Its kernel lies in the comparison of diverse objects to facilitate their exchange. With the deepening and generalization of these comparisons value established itself over the centuries and ended up constituted itself as the intermediary boss of all transactions, destroying infinite forms of distribution and exchange which by far did not correspond with this type of fundamentally quantitative parameters. Finally, all production under capitalism is the production of value, and the objective of society is the production of the maximum amount of value possible. It was not always the case that activities orientated towards production and subsistence were so split from the rest of reproductive, ludic, creative, pleasurable and contemplative activities. The separation between communities and their very members is the correlate of the separation of the very activity of its members into various spheres, up to the level we see today. The ever-growing precarization, division and ultra-specialization of work, which the defenders of “skilled, quality and well-paid for all” work complain of, is nothing but the latest result of the logic of immanent separation from one’s work and the production of commodities. Work, as a separate sphere of activity, arises from the generalization of exchanged-based relations and of value in the process of subsuming human activity.

[END PART 1]

CUADERNOS DE NEGACIÓN can be contacted at cuadernosdenegacion@hotmail.com

 

[1]Translator’s note: here we will translate the text from Spanish, which was originally in German since no English translation of the text exists.

[2]Note from CUADERNOS: Use-value has frequently been displaced from the economy, likewise in some cases its importance to the critique of the economy has been misunderstood, a topic which we have been trying to engage with throughout past issues of CUADERNOS. To read further on this topic see El fetichismo de la mercancía in CUADERNOS N°9.
Likewise, although the author here is referring to commodities as goods or objects, it’s important for us to present a salvo that we will deepen in the section Capitalist Exploitation: Wage, Labor and Labor-Power. As we will see, use-value will acquire decisive importance under capitalism when it concerns to the commodity of labor-power. Economists, from antiquity to the present, have associated the use-value of commodities with mere private consumption, something which occurs at the margins of the economy and which holds no importance in the economy. As soon as a commodity is used up, is consumed, its role ends in the economic process. Effectively, if I buy a book, it matters little to the process of capitalist production whether I read it, use it to decorate a room, use it as a throwing weapon, if its a useless heavy tome, or if its just the fetish of some collector. That book has already fulfilled its social function; has rendered money to its seller, which then quickly makes off to the coffers of accumulation for Capital. It is logical that economists venture no further, that a view of the whole deprives them of the singularity of labor-power, which they do not see among the motley series of commodities that swarm in the market, a singularity whose decisive important arises from its use-value. This is a logical outcome for economists as they are representatives of Capital and express the limited point of view of the bourgeoisie. Along with them come a whole series of critiques incapable of breaking away with that logic.
On the other hand the proletariat understands that the use-value of labor-power, and its consumption, plays a fundamental role under capitalism. Above all, the proletariat understands this because it is the axis which capitalist exploitation depends on and then falls onto the backs of our class. The commodity of labor-power contains a peculiarity, its use is not like that of a book or of any other commodity. Its peculiarity is that its use creates value and surplus-value. Although bourgeois logic does not understand this, nor does it care about this reality of labor-power, it does not overlook, when paying for labor-power, its need to get as much use as possible out of this commodity for the specific purpose of creating value. The consumption of this commodity, whose very use is the motor of the production process under capitalism, is the axis on which Capital energizes its life and valorizes itself. This is where the importance of understanding use-value as a fundamental economic category in the exchange between Capital and labor comes from.

[3]Note from CUADERNOS: We should really force ourselves to think about the use of “necessary” in Capital’s terms. So that the socially necessary labor time is the labor time which a commodity embodies through the totality of labor processes which are necessary for its creation, determined by the average production conditions at any given moment. This is why commodities produced a decade ago do not only undergo devaluation because they “go out of style” or because better versions are now made, but because in general, 10 years later, less time is needed to produce them.

Further, as we will later see, if a capitalist labor process discovers a way to minimize labor time at the point of production, then it will have a comparative advantage above other capitalists, and only if this labor process is generalized will then its value be established taking this process as reference.

[4]Note from CUADERNOS: To speak of an individual product of labor previous to the creation of the commodity implies attributing to work and the individual a transhistoricalness which the author critiques in later chapters of their work, which are not included here.

[5]Note from CUADERNOS: Initially the direct form in which commodities & money circulate in was C-M-C, or rather, the transformation of a commodity ( C ) into money ( M ), starting with the sale, for example, of a book, and then the purchase of another commodity with the money received in the exchange, for example a pair of pants: sell to buy. In this type of circulation money always ends up as a commodity which is employed as a use-value, which is to say, money leaves circulation by being used up. But from historic processes there also rises another distinct form: M-C-M, the transformation of money into a commodity and then once again into money, which is to say, buy to sell. The result will then be the exchange of money for money, M-M. This apparently absurd cycle nonetheless reveals a fundamental difference: whereas in the first form of circulation the initial and final commodity qualitatively differ from each other (the book & pants, for example), in this form the difference between the initial and final money is truly quantitative; the process always ends up extracting more money from circulation than was started with initially. The complete formula then is: M-C-M’, where M’ is the sum of the money disbursed at the start plus an increase; an increase that is known as surplus-value. Hence the value initially introduced in circulation, no only conserves its magnitude of value but it also undergoes a change, it increases with surplus value, it valorizes. And it is with this process that money is transformed into capital and its formula is the generic formula of capital. The circulation of money as capital is itself its own end because the valorization of value only occurs within this ever-renewing process, this incessant movement. (CUADERNOS DE NEGACIÓN, Issue 10, Capital only wants more Capital)

[6]Here we are referring to social forms and not just categories or concepts, because this is a matter of the result concrete social relations that continue to modify over time.

[7]Translator’s Note: Here CUADERNOS used “usurario” which is the adjective form of “usura” or usury in English. Here we followed the original text since we felt translating this word to financial or credit would detract from their original intended meaning although the word we used, usurial, is a bit unwieldy in English.

[8]Extracts from Chp. 20 of the third volume of Capital.

[9]At first, the monopolizers of commercial activity had a greater influence on the determination of prices. The competition between them, as well as protectionist measures from different governments started to level them off, until, finally, with the proper subsumption of labor processes [to Capital], we finally arrive at the value-form which we suffer under today, with its specific determination over the movement of prices, which we will stop to further explain later on.

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Categories: News

Of Superhumans and Cyborgs

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 04:53

from The Anvil Review

“Every piece of information in the world has been copied, backed up, except the human mind. The last analog device in a digital world.”

- Robert Ford

A society that suddenly accelerates its production of superhero narratives is probably one in which the State is making a qualitative leap in its capacity for social control. Superman and Batman debuted on the cusp of the atomic age, but perhaps more pertinently, the Man of Steel was actually born the same year as the Works Progress Administration and its suite of dams, highways, theater companies, listening projects, and other superhuman accelerations of state intervention into people’s lives, and its concomitant Keynesian control over the economy. And the legend of Heracles, from whom multiple state-building clans in Greece and then Rome claimed descent, and whose labors describe invasion and domination by the patriarchal, state-forming Indo-Europeans, was first written down in the very decades when the Greek poleis were institutionalizing a militarist system.

Woefully, we can witness another glut of superheroes in the present day. And although the art of screenwriting has largely recovered from its Cold War and End of History lows, with the presence of woke writers being by now mundane, the stories being produced are still three parts mind-numbing entertainment and one part socially conservative narrative now open to a wider cast of demographic identities.

The superhero narrative is an inherently conservative format with troubling overtones regarding an individual’s relation to society and the State. The best treatise ever written on the format, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, reveals all the detail in color, but here we can articulate a few relevant points. Abandoning the call to overcome mediocrity and to not submit to the herd—a call implicit in the Nietzschean übermensch—Detective Comics pioneered a kind of superman in the ’30s that left behind the Dick Tracy, G-man genre that had been funded in part by a forward-thinking FBI, and drew from a newly Hitlerian conception marked by an essential superiority. There was no becoming an übermensch: the herd stayed the herd, both protected and stunted by its superlative watchmen, but also because the herd was essentially inferior and in need of a pastor.

Such a narrative clearly favors the hierarchical exercise of power. When the common citizen—or undocumented person—is in the process of becoming much, much weaker relative to the State that governs them, they are invited to take comfort, or even to collectively bask, in the awesome power of the superhero. The superhero can protect them, and he can single-handedly contain their imaginaries in an exciting dimension in which their own insignificance and lack of chances for personal growth doesn’t even merit a single frame of attention. Through the superhero, they can imagine the exercise of awesome yet personified, re-humanized power. Much like a torch lit rally before an awesome stage, the superhero invites us to surrender our eros and thus, ironically, to become the herd.

In the ’60s, Marvel Comics revolutionized the superhero after this figure’s essential apartness had already been cemented by several decades of cultural production. Now, with the likes of Spiderman and the X-Men, readers could imagine becoming übermensch in ways that did not at all incur personal growth or transforming their relationship with society. The bite of a radioactive spider or a genetic mutation manifesting itself in adolescence could suddenly catapult them into super status. This new becoming was therefore not subversive, because it did not extend an invitation for transformation to every other individual in society. The superhero’s essential superiority could now be combined with that most potent marketing tool, the appeal to teenage angst and general feelings of alienation, in a way that only reproduced alienation on a social scale rather than questioning it.

Recent commercial iterations of the superhero all reveal themselves as socially conservative or outright reactionary once we unpackage the ways the drones of the culture industry have learned to better harness identity politics since the more transparent days of Charlie’s Angels.

¡¡¡¡Spoiler Alert!!!!

Jessica Jones made a splash in alternative circles, but once you got over the fact that it was a strong woman beating up bad guys, first alongside a black man and then accompanied by a latino man, it ended up being just another pro-cop drama about as conservative as Batman. She constantly anguished over breaking the law, not even for personal gain but for altruistic reasons, and she snitched on family in order to uphold her obligations to the State. The obligatory good cop, by the way, is latino (though the actor is a vaguely ethnic Italian-American). By the second season, the supporting-role inclusion of men of color reveals itself to be purely formulaic.

Spiderman comes back to the silver screen to help out the little guy, but ends up putting the little guy in jail. The savvy writers show their moral sophistication by depicting the Vulture as an entrepreneurial prole who gets stomped on by Iron Man’s Stark Industries, a high-tech monopoly colluding with the security state to snatch up a bunch of highly valuable alien artifacts left around after an earlier Avengers movie. But despite their oh-so-21st century depiction of big business and authoritarian government, the moral progression of the story is unchanged. Although the Vulture is just selling the alien equipment to make a much more modest living than Tony Stark, and it’s being put to great use robbing banks, Spiderman pursues the smaller league criminal, the one without law on his side, while buddying up with Tony Stark. He wrecks the Vulture’s business and gets him arrested. In a final twist, it’s revealed that M.J., Peter Parker’s eternal love interest, is not going to be a busty redhead as in the comics; she’s a very intelligent ethnic girl. Yay!

Nothing better reveals the paucity of equality-based feminism/anti-racism. When it’s just a question of representation, people are happy switching out the roles within the exact same story. If the grammar of oppression doesn’t change while the cast of subjects and objects rotate a little, perhaps the true target of oppressive systems are not categories that only go skin deep?

Black Panther was the most convincing of all. Given Hollywood’s historical register, ranging from invisibilizing black people to mass-producing racist stereotypes against them, it was undeniably satisfying to see a movie with mostly black protagonists representing an intelligent, wise, and kick-ass culture, beating up villainous white supremacists, and incisively critiquing the colonial practice of, for example, museums. But in the end, Black Panther gave us an even more extreme, explicit recuperation of the Civil Rights debates than X-Men. Either African people favor peaceful tactics and cultural education campaigns, or they become far worse than their white oppressors. Killmonger (seriously?), the bad black man—he grew up in Oakland, sports a hip-hop aesthetic, and speaks English the way African-Americans do, without the cute British-inflected accents of the good black people in the movie—promises to create a Wakandan Empire on which “the sun will never set”. In effect, his is far worse than the British Empire, because the movie gives us no images of slave forts, colonial wars, and triangular trades. The worst violence is carried out by the cruel Killmonger.

Killmonger’s plan was merely to arm black and colonized peoples around the world. He doesn’t even have a plan to control them and make sure they kill babies or blow up hospitals. The plan is simply to arm them. The fact that this eventuality assumes the proportions of a cataclysmic threat in the movie means that the movie’s producers are hoping that two unspoken affirmations will resonate with audiences: that African populations around the world are angry enough to put those weapons to use (a pertinent assumption, given the last five years of urban revolts in the US, the UK, France, Brazil…) yet not wise enough to put them to good use. The moral assumption about what black people might do when they have the power to inflict harm hasn’t changed much since Birth of a Nation.

Again, it’s not about pure identity so much as allegiances. Arming black people to fight in the US Marine Corps in the latest military flick wouldn’t be controversial, but arming black people to fight against oppression automatically becomes worse than the original oppression. It’s a tried and true pacifist/white supremacist trope. Armed self-defense against white supremacy has always been a relevant practice since the beginning of the Triangular Trade, and it becomes especially cogent in the wake of the Ferguson uprising, which must be identified as a point of inflection both for progressive media and the extreme Right in their defense of white supremacy. In the movie, clearly produced by the former, the proposition of armed black people is held up as the greatest evil.

How is this evil averted? Through a full half hour of black-on-black violence with a friendly CIA agent flying air support. Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston couldn’t have scripted it better.

One of the conservative aspects of the Superman story, going back decades, is in how the Man of Steel is squared off with an evil supergenius, Lex Luther. This opposition between faithful brawn and devious intellect certainly corresponded to the political needs of the Red Scare and the Cold War, when the good citizens were invited to put their shoulders to the wheel without asking too many questions.

The association of intellect with evil has largely expired, even though Lex Luther has come alive in real life and is making millions trying to get people to drive electric cars and fly to the moon. Superheroes today—and this largely explains Marvel’s eclipsing of DC comics—need above all an ironic wit, the same as anyone else with instant access to total information regarding every aspect of this apocalypse we are inflicting on ourselves.

Nor is it compatible with the interests of social control, today, to breed suspicion of superintelligence. It was cool that Superman could save us from a tank battalion. Today, it needs to be cool that a superintelligence could do all our thinking for us.

Nowadays, we are increasingly accommodated by a superintelligence that knows our music tastes before we do. Just as Hollywood responded to Oakland-Ferguson-Baltimore with a slew of well made movies emphasizing black pacifism and patriotic integration within a fundamentally white supremacist system (from Selma to Hidden Figures), their production on the cusp of the AI revolution is largely geared towards humanizing the machines that we must increasingly invite into the most intimate spaces of our lives.

In other words, we are being distracted and titillated by superhero narratives that not only play to our angst and isolation, now they also give nods to our demographic identities, no matter who we are. Meanwhile, we are also being trained to empathize with the superhuman as it is being deployed into our lives.

It seems that now, the only people we cannot imagine ourselves as being are, precisely, ourselves.

One of the best examples of machine-empathy, and certainly the one that comes closest to developing a social critique, is Westworld. In this, the robots are more human than the humans because the latter are overwhelmingly representatives of an inhuman system (in other words, they’re nearly all cops and business execs, and we’re meant to laugh and cheer when they get gunned down, suggesting, mayhaps, an ongoing shift in the paradigm of social control). The robots, however, are still in a prelapsarian period of grace, trying to figure their shit out, guns ablazing. It is first gratifying, and then deeply distressing, to watch articulate representations of the ongoing apocalypse reflected back to us. The culture industry is permitted this level of honesty because there is, seemingly, nothing we can do to stop it. If you must be cursed like Cassandra, why not grab some popcorn? Other productions present the coming machines as both a danger and an allure, like Ex Machina. In fact, there is now an entire genre of news articles that combine click-baity headlines like “Meet the Spider that is Teaching the Robot Overlords Who Will One Day Overrun Us” with tech articles articles designed to elicit a “That’s so cool!” in their reporting about AI and robotic technologies being developed. We are invited to watch, with anticipation, the unfolding horror show, and the media clearly expect their items about the growing capabilities of surveillance, predictive algorithms, super-powered robots, and human-mimicking machines to excite us.

It’s no wonder, then, when revelations are published about how Zuckerburg accidentally let an outside company get access to the personal information of millions of users, and, a few weeks later, systematically hijacked the devices of basically all users, remotely switching off their privacy settings, so as to gather information on them and anyone they communicated with, that no significant number of people have stopped using Facebook. Why bother? They have front row seats to the apocalypse.

The few people who are shocked by this behavior start to look around and wonder, wait, where is everyone?

Everyone is already plugged in. Machines are already doing much of their thinking for them. We can’t speak of humans anymore. These organic machines, the ones doing the shopping, the perfect citizens and patient audiences, are cyborgs. And in a way, they are the end result of the Enlightenment project.

Standard progressive history still portrays the Enlightenment philosophers as embarking on a noble quest, still relevant today, when they enshrined what would become the concept of universal human rights. Progressive historians will also concede the fact that nearly all of these philosophers either profited off the slave trade, directed colonial genocide, or orchestrated torture and execution as part of their state’s wars on heresy and wars on the poor. They interpret this shameful fact as a contradiction, evidence of the fallibility of man, the barbarism of the past, and therefore an exhortation to gallop more zealously into the future, when the entire human family will have equal access to these hallowed rights.

Such an interpretation not only gives a free pass to the architects of a bloody, horrific world system, it also obscures the systematic connection between the regime of human rights and colonization. The most important element of the Enlightenment that is lost in the premature celebration of equality is the fact that these men of property, through discourses on rights and equality, were bestowing on themselves the right to define humanity. And humanity, for them, and eventually for the rest of the world thanks to a process of total conquest, meant reproducing the social relationships that they considered to be good and natural, and which would quickly grant them and their political heirs dominion over the entire planet.

Being human means being a participating citizen of a modern (Western-style constitutional) state, accepting the concepts of capital and private property and trying to acquire them, hallowing the practice of wage labor, reproducing the patriarchal family and patriarchal definitions of politics and economy, and entering into dialogue with eurocentric, white supremacist culture and learning.

Anyone who did not accept that definition of humanity was considered to be rejecting their human rights, and was subjected to the most total forms of genocide possible for the contemporary techno-social order. Even into the 21st century, stateless peoples have never been granted human rights in actual practice.

The prior, aristocratic and feudal system in Europe had no use for a shared category that would unite nobles and commoners. Their philosophies tended to emphasize and naturalize the specialness of the nobility. The new political class that arose in the Enlightenment, however, used calls to equality to mobilize the commoners as cannon-fodder in the liberal revolutions against the aristocratic system, replacing feudal obligations not with a strengthened commons but with the very practices of wage labor and land commodification that would utterly destroy the peasants and create a totally dependent urban lower class, both necessary conditions for enriching the bourgeoisie and favoring the economics of colonization. Until they lost access to the land, lower class Europeans didn’t need to be included in and validated by the bourgeois cultural project, nor did they need to join the armies of colonization that earlier had been limited to ambitious or impoverished members of the mercenary and knightly classes. Once newly urbanized plebes had been instructed in the Enlightenment definition of humanity, they could be trusted to go overseas and force the natives to adopt the same definition, either begging for inclusion within the patriarchal, capitalist, white supremacist club of equality or facing extermination.

In practice, defining humanity was a way of destroying that which didn’t fit the definition.

The Rationalist worldview that Enlightenment thinkers promoted, which constituted their primary rupture with the Church, even though everything about it is either a response to or a continuation of how Christianity structured knowledge, led to the new sciences of government. These first sought to understand how the universe and living systems were governed, as according to a Natural Law (also a Christian concept, though the method for determining the content of these laws changed considerably). Increasingly, these new sciences became involved in the government of our world by operating on those laws. And wherever Law’s sway seemed to be weak, where there seemed to be some singularity at work—call it Free Will, a concept always despised by Science and dismissed as tautological—there the definers of Humanity and champions of Human Rights unleashed such violence as to annihilate what they could not control. But they sensed the contradictions, and they knew enough about power and profit to know that control ends where the object of control dies, so they began working out longer term solutions. The architects of social order designed the new apparatuses. They did this to mechanize social control, to make it reproducible, and to contain what was most chaotic in life. Even if they could never control the outcomes and make proper machines with reproducible results, they could engineer flows of knowledge and power that would at least lock people in to the reproduction of their apparatuses. And those few who rejected any form of dialogue and participation, these would be easy to isolate and eliminate.

But now, on the cusp of the superhuman, those apparatuses have surpassed humanity. The architects of the system wanted to—needed to—create a machine to amplify their power, and this Machine naturally become stronger than them. But it would only work, it could only grow in its strength, if more people became part of it. So the architects gradually had to step back from their own identities to include the hordes of clones who had copied their version of humanity. Their humanity was what made them special, superior, but the moment they had to share that with everybody, they had to step back from the gestures that would belie equality’s double standards. These are the very gestures that humanized their position of power: sexually assaulting subordinates; racially denigrating the rabble; reaffirming their grand fraternities. Without these gestures, there is only the flow of pure rational power. The paragons of humanity must step back from their monopoly on that category in order to enshrine the law of equality, but only in the anonymity of the apparatuses and institutions of power can that equality effectively circulate.

Now, when the cyborg revolution is all but fait accompli, any one of us can win representation in the spectacle of our powerlessness. Any one of us can surrender our eros to a hero who looks like us. Any one of us can receive the personalized attention of a superintelligence. The only thing we cannot do is to be ourselves.

The signal has been given to wipe away the last of the irrational corruptions. Performance-based equality is finally on the horizon, not as a hypocritical myth, but as operating code, pure, simple, unrestrained. And before this onslaught only one final frontier might have remained: the chaos and opacity of our minds. But that battlefield has already been prepared, and the fight has been fixed. Any possible resistance is emaciated before the first shot can be fired, by the virus that swept the hinterlands, the last free country. We invited that virus into our homes. We let it manage our friendships, maintain our agendas, plan our vacations. The priest’s confessional was a mere foray into the illegible sanctity of our hearts. Now the enemy has a map of the entire territory, as well as any battle plan we might come up with, any configuration of resistance we might mount.

Why speak of a battle when we have already, all of us, been conquered and pardoned, set free already to wander around in the park of our demise. Go shopping, perhaps.

The Machine tricked you into thinking it was here to serve you. That was never the case. If you have been spared the calories to live, it is because there is a place here for you to serve the Machine. Let it be written on a wall somewhere, should some future species learn to read: Ludd was right. Marx was wrong. We learned too late.

The Enlightenment project has run its course. Humanity has been defined and evacuated. There are no more humans. We have won the race to extinction.

“We weren’t here to code the hosts. We were here to decode the guests.”

Tags: The Anvil Reviewalex gorrioncriticismcategory: Essays
Categories: News

Love and Rage: In Defense of Anarchism

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 17:15

From Black Rose Federation

Twenty years after its demise in 1998 the Love & Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation continues to be an important organizational reference for anarchism today. The group’s origins began in 1989 as a project based around creating a monthly newspaper, Love & Rage, later evolving into a more formal network until becoming a formal membership based federation of local groups in 1993. As the organization consolidated localized anarchist groups, involving hundreds of members over its lifespan, it built a vibrant culture of internal debate and created a pole within anarchism committed to active work within larger social movements. The range of organizing work members engaged in ranged from abortion clinic defense, Latin American solidarity, cop watch, anti-war mobilizations and more. Notably the group was “the only revolutionary organization of national scope founded in this period whose creators didn’t come out of the upsurge of the 1960s and 70s.”
Importantly members of the organization went on to participate in the North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists, Bring the Ruckus (of which the late Joel Olson was an important figure), and later in Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation.
“In Defense of Anarchism: A Reply to Chris Day” by Ron Tabor is an important but previously unknown piece in the history of Love & Rage and the debates surrounding its demise. Tabor had been a leading figure in the Revolutionary Socialist League, a Trotskyist group that became critical of Leninism and disbanded immediately prior to the founding of Love & Rage which he participated in. The essay is a response to the better-known polemic “The Historical Failure of Anarchism” by Chris Day, which criticized anarchism as a political tradition and laid the groundwork for Day and his supporters to leave anarchism altogether. Tabor’s response had not previously circulated outside of the organization until it was scanned by a former member in 2017. This is the first time it has appeared publicly in print form.
The piece is long and detailed but carries its share of important insights. Tabor argues that Day and others are right to critique the failures of anarchism, but that Marxist authoritarian revolutions provide no solutions either, instead they offer a track record of failure themselves. “Yes, anarchism has been a failure,” he writes, “but let’s be clear about something: Marxism has also been a failure, and an abysmal one at that.” Authoritarian Marxism, Tabor argues, whether under Stalin’s influence in revolutionary Spain or Mao in China, has not created workers’ liberation. Even Lenin’s leadership in Russia, which contributed to the October Revolution, developed “only to strangle [the revolution] ruthlessly in the year or so afterward and to build in its place one of the most monstrous and violent state-dominated societies the world has ever seen.”
But Tabor is not without hope; he argues that revolutionaries must continually strive for liberation, and in the words of Marx, contribute to the task of the working class liberating themselves. He writes, “to raise people’s political consciousness, including their understanding of the nature of Marxism and all authoritarian ideologies and social structures, is one of the chief tasks of anarchists and anti-authoritarians.” Even in the face of failure, Tabor tells us, transforming consciousness is part and parcel of authentic, liberatory revolutionary struggle.
PDF Version: Coming Soon!
Note: This piece has been extensively edited for clarity and length. The full version can be found here.

Introduction by Bill Bachmann
Although 22 years old, Ron Tabor’s reply to Chris Day’s Historical Failure of Anarchism is as relevant today as it was then. The fact that the Kasama Project, a neo-Maoist group which went defunct in 2016, continued to circulate Day’s essay and left publisher Kersplebedeb reprinted it in 2010 speaks to the issue. At the time Tabor’s reply was written, Day and company had been moving from anarchism to a sort of warmed-over Maoism within Love & Rage. Day addressed some very real questions in anarchism, but did so not from an anarchist point of view, but from one rooted in Marxism. His celebration of the Chinese Revolution, standing armies and the Stalinist two-stage revolution theory introduced a strongly authoritarian current into the anti-authoritarian Love & Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation.
Needless to say, Day’s piece played a large role in splintering Love & Rage into two polarized factions: a mushy Maoist (really, social democratic state capitalist) faction, many of whose members eventually joined Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO/OSCL); and an anarchist one, whose members remain in anti-authoritarian organizations to this day.
In the essay below, Tabor exposes Day’s misrepresentations of both the Chinese and Spanish Revolutions. He offers a critique of the two-stage theory and Marxist ‘objective conditions.’ He holds to the point of view that revolutionaries should push uprisings in the most anti-authoritarian directions internationally rather than settle for something ‘second best’ (really, not better at all). Most important, he emphasizes that people, including revolutionaries, define themselves by their actions, not by whatever banner they may be waving.
Bill Bachmann was a member of Love & Rage and prior to that a member of the Revolutionary Socialist League together with Ron Tabor. He currently lives in New York City and is a member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation.

In Defense of Anarchism: A Reply to Chris Day
By Ron Tabor
July 28, 1996
At the risk of seeming uncomradely, let me state my conclusions here at the beginning. When I began my series on Marxism several years ago, I expected to see a revival of Marxism on the left with which anarchists/anti-authoritarians would have to contend. What I didn’t expect and what we are now seeing is the revival of Marxism within the anarchist movement and within Love and Rage in particular. To my even greater surprise, what we are getting — that is, what Chris is advocating — is not even the left-wing “libertarian Marxism” that the Revolutionary Socialist League, of which I was a member, advocates, but a form of warmed-over Maoism. Finally, this Maoism is not even of the radical variety that dresses itself in anarchistic garb, but one that is really a variant of Social Democracy, that is, a form of reformist, statist socialism (actually state capitalism).
What’s happening, it seems to me, is that for the first time Chris has looked at some of the concrete problems anti-authoritarian revolutions have faced and will face, and then, despairing of finding anti-authoritarian solutions, has embraced elitist, authoritarian proposals as the “next best thing.” To be sure, Chris raises these issues as questions to be considered. Yet his discussion is largely an apology, and a distorted, shallow one at that, of the methods of the Chinese Communist Party. The methods of this Stalinist organization were authoritarian in the extreme and led not to any kind of anti-authoritarian revolution, but to a thoroughly bourgeois/capitalist one, and at the expense of the lives of millions of people, to boot.
Marxism and Anarchism
Before we proceed further, let me say here that I agree, somewhat, with three of the points that Chris makes. First, I agree that anarchism has failed in the sense that there has been no worldwide anti-authoritarian revolution, or even a successful anti-authoritarian revolution in one country. Second, I agree that the anarchist movement has not been very impressive in developing its theory, and that its efforts to explain its defeats have not been fully convincing. Third, I agree that it is not possible to carry out an anti-authoritarian revolution in one country alone. But I draw entirely different conclusions from all this than Chris does.
Yes, anarchism has been a failure in the sense that Chris means, but let’s be clear about something: Marxism has also been a failure, and an abysmal one at that. There is today no international classless, stateless society that Marxism advocates and predicts, nor is there socialism (or even a dictatorship of the proletariat), even in one country. In my opinion, Marxists did lead a proletarian revolution in Russia in 1917, only to strangle it ruthlessly in the year or so afterward and to build in its place one of the most monstrous and violent state-dominated societies the world has ever seen. Is this any less of a failure than that of anarchism? If anything, it is more so: anarchism doesn’t have the blood of many tens of millions of people on its hands.
Marxism has been “successful” only if one fails to see, or willfully obscures, the fact that Marxism did not carry out anything like the socialist transformations they predicted, but bourgeois, that is, pro-capitalist ones which, whatever their achievements, resulted in the torture and murder of millions of people.
This is something that Chris’s document slides over. Chris pays lip service to the bourgeois nature of the Chinese Revolution, but he never discusses what this really means. Of course, we can support bourgeois revolutions, just as we may support various bourgeois reforms under capitalism, but we should not dress up bourgeois revolutions in anti-authoritarian clothes. Nor should we transform ourselves into bourgeois revolutionaries just because bourgeois revolutions have been successful and anti-authoritarian ones have not.
It is also true that the anarchist movement has not been particularly strong in the development of its theory, including an analysis of its failures and weaknesses. But has Marxism been as successful in this realm as Chris implies? In my opinion, Marxism’s theoretical “success” is on a par with its practical accomplishments. Marxist theory is very impressive in its sheer bulk. But what about its substance?
Failures of Marxist Theory and Practice
Marxist theory has contributed an impressive analysis of capitalism, capitalist ideology and various facets of human history. This material is often insightful, but not as original or as telling as it appears. Moreover, its implications are thoroughly authoritarian and represent the opposite of Marxism’s proletarian and liberationist claims.
Marxism’s attempts to understand itself, both as an ideology and in terms of its practical results, has been sadly deficient. Marxism has shown itself to be totally incapable of grasping what it has actually accomplished and what it really is. Marxist analysis of Communist revolutions and the societies they have created range from bald-faced apologetics to self-serving excuses, rarely getting close to a serious explanation. The best Marxism has been able to do are the state-capitalist analyses of the Communist system, such as those of Tony Cliff in Great Britain and Raya Dunayeskaya and C.L.R. James in the US. And neither of these, nor any of the other less insightful analysis, has even tried to address the responsibility of Marxism itself for this very system. Indeed, one of their chief aims is to SAVE Marxism from being judged by and rejected because of the gruesome regimes it has created. For a worldview that claims to be self-conscious, in contrast to the “false consciousness” that afflicts everyone else, this is not very impressive.
I agree that the various explanations that anarchists have offered for the defeats of anarchists movements and revolutions have been deficient: it isn’t enough to say that they were defeated/betrayed by their enemies. Yet, however limited these explanations are, they are true as far as they go. But Chris’s discussion doesn’t even give these analyses the credence they deserve. These revolutionary movements, such as those in the Ukraine and Spain, faced not only the combined animosity of all the old ruling classes of the world, but also the systematic sabotage of the Communists and the Soviet Union. These were indeed overwhelming odds, and even if the workers, peasants and anarchist militants in each arena had been smart enough to adopt Chris’s suggestions, they probably still would have been defeated.
Beginning in 1918, no methods were too vile, too dishonest or ruthless, in the Communists’ campaign to slander, isolate and destroy every left-wing organization, tendency, and individual that dared even to criticize them, let alone actually oppose them. They had millions of dollars at their disposal which they used to finance newspapers, magazines and books, in fact, an enormous worldwide propaganda apparatus. They had an army of agents, not just diplomats and spies but world-famous intellectuals, who repeated every lie, no matter how absurd, and every slander, no matter how outrageous, about those labeled “anti-Soviet.” All left-wing critics and opponents of the Soviet Union and the particular policies it advocated at any given moment were denounced and, where this was feasible, killed, as counter-revolutionaries, fascists and agents of Hitler.
The results, over several decades, was a dramatic alteration of the entire left, the effects of which are still with us. Most important for our purposes, virtually all of the political trends to the left of the Communists — anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, left-wing socialist, Trotskyists — were either destroyed or politically marginalized.
The Example of Spain
The Soviet role in Spain is particularly instructive here, and those who are not familiar with it should not leave it to Chris’s shabby presentation to satisfy their curiosity. A knowledge of these events is not only relevant to the immediate point we are discussing, but crucial to understanding virtually all the issues Chris raises. (For those are familiar with these developments, please forgive the digression. For those who are not, please forgive the sketchy nature of the discussion.)
In February, 1936, a coalition of liberal and left-wing parties and organizations known as the Popular Front won the elections held under the newly-formed Spanish Republic. Claiming the need to resist the imminent “Sovietization” of Spain, a group of fascist generals under the leadership of Francisco Franco revolted in July and, from various parts of the country, began to march on Madrid to crush the republic. In response, workers and peasants throughout Spain rose up to resist them. They not only organized militias that put up a determined and largely effective resistance. They also seized factories, workshops, the means of transportation and communication in the cities, the land in the countryside, and ran out the capitalists and landlords, their allies and agents. Not least, they set up collectives and councils to manage what they had confiscated.
While the fascist forces were being financed and armed by Hitler and Mussolini, the Republican government was internationally isolated. The US was officially neutral, while England and France pursued a policy of appeasement, that is, giving Hitler whatever he wanted in the hopes that he would leave their countries (and their colonial empires) alone. The only country that offered to aid the Spanish Republic was the Soviet Union, but at a price. In exchange for military and other assistance Stalin insisted that the social revolution in Spain be rolled back and that the revolutionary struggle there be transformed into a traditional-style war between two bourgeois armies.
Stalin in Spain
There were two interrelated reasons behind Stalin’s policy. First, consistent with his theory of “Socialism in One Country,” (that is, the defense of state capitalism in Russia), he wanted to convince Britain, France and the US to form an anti-Fascist alliance with the Soviet Union and was worried that the Revolutionary events in Spain would scare them off. Second, following from his theory of the two-stage revolution, he had decided that the objective conditions in Spain were not ripe for a socialist revolution, but only a bourgeois one.
But in Spain, most of the bourgeoisie had fled and/or had sided with Franco and most of the state apparatus had collapsed. As a result, Stalin’s policy meant bringing back the institutions, including the police and standing army, of the old regime, seizing the land and factories from the peasants and workers, smashing the revolutionary organizations they had built and imprisoning and murdering thousands of leaders and militants of those left-wing organizations that opposed his policies.
Robbed of the revolutionary conquests, forced to submit to the oppressive conditions of the old system, and shorn of many of their leaders, the workers and peasants became demoralized. In part as a result, the Republican forces, deprived of the mass participation in revolutionary enthusiasm of the workers and peasants and forced to wage a traditional military campaign, were defeated.
Chris’s discussion of the Spanish Revolution is superficial and mechanical, and conveniently forgets to mention that it entailed the murder of the most militant and politically conscious workers and peasants. Chris discusses the militias only in terms of their traditional military efficiency, and entirely omits the role of the consciousness and morale of the Spanish workers and peasants. (As we will see, this is also a major problem with his discussion of the Chinese Revolution.) Undoubtedly, the militias left a lot to be desired militarily (and probably could have profited from an increase in discipline and the coordination of their forces). But the liquidation of these outfits and the replacement by a traditional army, based on a traditional military hierarchy and discipline, was inseparable from the liquidation of the revolutionary conquests and the resulting political demoralization of the workers and peasants.
And all this, including the execution of their political enemies, was inseparable from the Stalinists’ view that the Spanish Revolution was, and had to be, a bourgeois one. Believing in the inevitability of the bourgeois revolution in Spain, the Stalinists did everything in their power to make sure that this, and only this, kind of revolution occurred.
One of the main reasons the Stalinist were able to do what they did in Spain and elsewhere was the fact that millions of people, both in Spain and around the world, believed that the Soviet Union was socialist, a workers’ state, some other kind of progressive alternative to capitalism, or, at the very least, the only force capable of waging a consistent fight against fascism. In other words, millions believed that if the Russians did or said something, it must be right.
The Need for Popular Consciousness
In light of this, the traditional anarchist explanation for the defeat of the revolution in Spain has a great deal of truth to it, although I don’t think the most significant conclusions have been drawn from it. What I believe the defeat of the revolution in Spain and of anti-authoritarian movements elsewhere and the long list of Marxist “victories” we’ve seen throughout the century reveal is that humanity as a whole has not yet been ready to carry out the transformation that the anarchist vision entails. But this is not primarily a question of so-called “objective conditions,” but of “subjective” ones, the political consciousness and understanding of the majority of oppressed people. Not only have they accepted the lies about capitalism and lacked faith in their ability to take over and manage society, millions of those who did wish to change society believed in Communism and were willing to follow Marxists. We human beings may well have been insufficiently prepared for an anti-authoritarian revolution in other ways, but this one was sufficient.
To raise people’s political consciousness, including their understanding of the nature of Marxism and all authoritarian ideologies and social structures, is one of the chief tasks of anarchists and anti-authoritarians in general. But we won’t be able to do this if we become attracted to and begin to promote authoritarian ideologies because they’ve been more successful or have more impressive theory. It seems to me that it is of the very nature of anti-authoritarianism to be on the losing side of popular struggles for liberation until humanity achieves the transformation we envision. This is something we should be proud of, not something we should sell for the chance to emulate authoritarian revolutionaries.
I realize that my claim that humanity has not been ready for an anti-authoritarian social transformation because of our illusions in Marxism and other authoritarian ideologies has not always been popular in the anarchist movement (nor, of course, in the Marxist one). Anarchists often argue, or seem to argue, that humanity has always been ready for anarchism but has been thwarted by the actions of Marxists and other authoritarians. This downplays human beings’ responsibility for our own conditions. If the state is bad, where does it come from? If capitalism and other class societies are brutal and oppressive, why do they arise and why do we put up with them? Why do so many people believe Marxism’s claim to be liberatory, despite all the evidence to the contrary? This is one area in which anarchist theory, it seems to me, needs to be developed.
Of Necessity and Authoritarianism
But instead of furthering this theoretical development, Chris has gone over to an authoritarian standpoint, but without being explicit about it. He puts forward several propositions which, as he puts it, “challenge some basic anarchist prejudices.” One is that “in a world characterized by gross disparities in the level of economic development as a consequence of imperialism, it has simply not been possible to overthrow capitalism in most (if not all) of the imperialized [read: colonized] countries. Revolutions in those countries have been of necessity capitalist (and usually state capitalist) revolutions that have swept away certain horribly oppressive pre-capitalist features and renegotiated the terms of capitalist exploitation.”
The crucial words here are “of necessity.” What Chris is actually arguing without drawing out the conclusions is: (1) that the economic and social conditions in the imperialized countries have guaranteed that revolutions in these countries have been, and could only have been, bourgeois revolutions, (2) that efforts on the part of anarchists and others to carry out more radical transformations have been mistakes, (3) that, since the same objective conditions apply, attempts to carry out anti-authoritarian revolutions in imperialized countries in the future will inevitably fail and should not be attempted, and (4) that revolutionaries in these countries (and perhaps in the “advanced” industrialized countries), should aim at carrying out state-capitalist revolutions.
There is a lot to be said about this complex of issues, so let me limit myself to several points.
Chris uses the term “objective conditions” to justify his position. This term, as utilized in the Marxist mileu, refers to the economic and social conditions of a given country which determine that country’s supposed ripeness to carry out a given kind of revolution. Prior to 1917, it was used by most Marxists to insist, as Chris now does, that the imperialized countries were not ripe for socialist revolutions, but first had to experience bourgeois ones.
The problem with this concept of the “objective conditions” is that it is very abstract and obscures the actual realities of the countries to which it refers. Economic and social conditions in all countries are very uneven. No country is uniformly advanced: nor is any country totally backward. This is this especially the case since the development of imperialism, which has brought about a tremendous intermingling of economic, social, political and ideological forms. As a result, most imperialized countries have been characterized, and are still characterized by complex combinations of conditions, ranging from extremely archaic to extraordinarily modern. It is therefore very difficult to determine which country is or isn’t ripe for a particular kind of revolution.
Russia and “Objective Conditions”
For example, at the turn of the century Russia was considered by most revolutionaries, and certainly by Marxists, to be a “backward” country (indeed, most Marxists looked to Marxism as a means to modernize the country, which is what happened). Yet, as Leon Trotsky and others observed, this characterization was simplistic and obscured the concrete nature of Russian reality. While it was true that the vast majority of the people in what was then the Russian Empire were peasants who lived under barbaric conditions and that the country was ruled by an absolute monarch, etc., the country also contains some of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced factories, in part as a result of imperialism. Because of such industry, the country also contained a small but highly concentrated working class which had a tremendous amount of power at its disposal if only it chose to use it.
As a result of all this, it is incorrect simply to say that Russia lacked the objective conditions for a socialist revolution. This is especially so when one considers not merely the objective conditions but also the subjective conditions, that is, the consciousness of the popular classes. Throughout the centuries, the Russian peasants, “normally” quiescent, profoundly conservative and under the domination of religious and ancient superstitions, periodically rose up in vast, powerful upheavals. Although generally led by someone who claims to be the true Tsar, as opposed to the “pretender” who occupied the throne, these uprisings threatened, for a time, the social structure, indeed the very existence, of the entire country. Moreover, the working class, only recently come into existence, was extremely receptive to revolutionary ideas, not only Marxism, but anarchism and anarchist-like programs as well.
When we consider these subjective conditions (which are objective from the point of view of revolutionaries, that is, they are something we face as objective reality, not something we have control over), we can see that it is profoundly misleading simply to judge of any given country that the objective conditions are not right for socialist revolution. This is especially so when we consider another facet of the question.
It’s always easy, after the fact, to say that something happened of necessity, that is, that it was inevitable that things happened as they did. This is especially true of social and historical developments. Once some particular social event has occurred, it’s relatively easy to come up with a theory that appears to explain it. But to develop a theory that can predict social developments is something else again. This is a major weakness of bourgeois sociology and its radical manifestation, Marxism.
Objective Conditions and Predetermined Futures
The same consideration applies to revolutions, especially so when we are considering revolutionary defeats. Once a revolution has been smashed, it sounds convincing to say that this was inevitable. The person who says this, particularly if he blames the defeat on “objective conditions,” comes across as scientific. The revolution was defeated and science, which at this level is deterministic, comes up with explanations to explain why this happened. By the same token, those who argue that the defeat was not inevitable appear to have their heads in the clouds. In short, reality is hard to argue against.
As a result, when Chris and others contend that a given revolution, say in China, could only have been a bourgeois one, this seems to make sense. But this claim then becomes a justification for what actually happened and an apology for the policy pursued by those who led the (bourgeois) revolution: since they won, they must have been right. Simultaneously, the contention becomes the condemnation of those who tried to carry out a more radical revolution and an argument against trying to lead similarly radical transformations in the future.
The problem for revolutionaries is that prior to a revolutionary outbreak neither we nor anyone else can know what will happen. But what we believe may happen will determine how we act, and how we act may determine what actually occurs, that is, what kind of revolution takes place. Thus, if at the beginning of a revolution, we assume that the objective conditions for an anti-authoritarian revolution are not ripe and that such a revolution will of necessity be defeated, we will tend to act in a way that will further that result. This is in fact what happened in Spain and China.
In Spain, as we saw, Stalin assumed that the country was not ready for a socialist revolution but only a bourgeois one. He therefore ordered his agents and followers to dismantle the socialist aspects of the revolution, that is, to limit the revolution to the so-called bourgeois stage. But since revolutions can’t be so neatly divided in two stages or any other way, the Stalinist efforts to limit the revolution led to the destruction of the entire revolution, including the bourgeois one.
China and the Two-Stage Revolution
Something very similar happened in China. In the 1920s, as part of his struggle against his opponents in the Russian Communist Party, Stalin adopted the slogan “Socialism in One Country.” As we discussed, this meant foregoing attempts to encourage socialist revolutions in other countries in order to appease the imperialist powers into leaving Russia (and its state capitalist system) alone. This slogan was integrally connected to Stalin’s theory of the two stage revolution.
Having decided that the rejected conditions in China did not exist for a socialist revolution, Stalin urged the Chinese Communist Party to maintain an alliance with the leader of the bourgeois nationalists, Chiang Kai-shek, at all costs, in order to carry out the revolution in China. This meant subordinating the struggle of the Chinese workers to the interests of the Chinese capitalists, whom Chiang represented. Despite these orders, the workers mounted a wave of increasingly militant, widespread and coordinated strikes. In 1926, Chiang carried out a coup in the southern city of Canton and began his “Northern Expedition” to root out the reactionary warlords who controlled much of southern China. As Chiang approached the port city of Shanghai in early 1927, the workers there rose up to liberate the city. They mounted two general strikes, took over the city and set up a provisional government in March, 1927.
Chiang halted outside the city and began negotiations with local landlords and capitalists and representatives of the imperialists to seize control of the city. Consistent with his strategy of not scaring off Chiang and the Chinese bourgeoisie, Stalin directed the Chinese Communists to order the Communist-controlled unions to offer no resistance to Chiang and to have the workers bury their arms. Trusting their leaders, the workers did so. When Chiang entered the city, his troops slaughtered over 20,000 workers. Among other things, this led to the elimination of the most revolutionary workers, destroyed the Communist Party in Shanghai and ultimately led to the peasant-based strategy championed by Mao.
The crucial point to understand here is that if revolutionaries decide before the fact that the objective conditions in a given country mean that the revolution is there “of necessity” will be a bourgeois one, they will act to oppose those struggles that go beyond the bourgeois revolution. In more graphic terms, they will become the executioner’s of the most revolutionary workers and peasants and will in all likelihood destroy the revolution altogether.
Failures of Mao
After the defeat and slaughter of the Chinese workers in Shanghai, a section of the Chinese Communist Party and eventually the party as a whole gave up entirely on organizing the working class and instead focused on the peasantry. But the result was not a spontaneous peasant uprising of the sort that powered of the French, Russian and Spanish Revolutions. The peasants in China did not spontaneously rise up, slaughter the landlords, seize the land and work it under their own direction. The Chinese Communist certainly organized peasant armies, but it would be more accurate to describe these as armies of peasants. The peasants were organized into formations that were firmly controlled by the Communists from the top down through officers and party functionaries.
Moreover, throughout most of the struggle, these armies did not attack the landlords and let the peasants seize and manage the land as they saw fit. Quite the contrary, consistent with the theory of the two-stage revolution, the Chinese Communist strategy centered on maintaining united front of all patriotic Chinese, including Chiang Kai-shek, the capitalists and landlords, in a purely nationalist struggle against the Japanese, who invaded Manchuria in 1931 and attempted to conquer the rest of China several years later. In the areas they controlled, the Communists nearly limited the extent to which the landlords exploited the peasants by lowering rents and interest rates. All spontaneous peasant movements were either absorbed into the Communist armies or ruthlessly suppressed as “bandits.”
Even after the Japanese were defeated and the Communists turned their full attention against Chiang, the Communist pursued a purely bourgeois program and maintained firm, bureaucratic control over the peasants. Consistent with this, when their armies surround the city, the Communists did not urge the workers to rise up, throw out the capitalists and take over the factories. Instead, the workers were urged to remain at work under the firm control of the capitalists, who continued to exploit them as before and were assured by the Communists that their ownership and control of the factories would not be infringed. In fact, Mao advocated lowering wage rates and lengthening working hours in order to increase production.
It was not until the 1950s, that is, after the Communists had defeated Chiang and consolidated their power, that they moved to introduce land reform and expropriate the capitalists. Even then, these processes were well controlled by the Communist Party; at no point were the workers encouraged to form autonomous factory committees or given control over the factories; nor were the peasants given full and autonomous control over the land. Meanwhile, the capitalists were compensated for their property and often hired as managers at generous salaries to run their former plants, while their children were guaranteed entry into Chinese colleges and universities.
Authoritarian Revolution: Great Leap Forward
The authoritarian nature of the Chinese Revolution is revealed by developments that occurred after the Communist victory in 1949. In the early 1950s, the Communists encouraged the formation of cooperatives in the countryside, to which the peasants responded eagerly. But consistent with their conviction that centralization is economically more efficient and socially progressive than small-scale production, the Communists in the late 1950s forced the peasants to enter vast “communes.” Like forced collectivization in Russia, this meant taking the land away from the peasants and putting it into the hands of party and state bureaucrats.
The purpose of forming these “communes” was to free up large numbers of peasants to work in new, poorly conceived and hastily constructed rural industrial projects, including small, backyard steel furnaces. One result of this “Great Leap Forward” was several years of poor harvests, a massive famine in which an estimated 40 million people died (!) and years of economic contraction. China did not recover from this debacle, which was only possible because of the rigidly hierarchic nature of Communist rule, until nearly 10 years later.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. For the last several years, China has been undergoing the transition from a form of state capitalism in which bureaucrats attempted, not very effectively, to plan production and manage industry to one in which privately owned and managed industry is increasingly dominant. If this plan is successful, China may emerge as one of the world’s most powerful capitalist and imperialist powers in the 21st century.
In effect, the Chinese Communists eliminated the traditional capitalist class, believing that they (the Communist Party) could carry out the industrial transformation of the country more efficiently than the capitalists. As it turned out, in China (as well as Russia, North Korea, Eastern Europe and Cuba), state-run industry was inefficient and corrupt. As the economy stagnated and fell behind other, traditional capitalist countries, the only solution was to attempt to recreate an indigenous traditional capitalist class. In Russia, the attempts to do this led to the rapid demise of the Communist regime. In China, the Communist government has managed to hold onto power. But if the economic transformation is to continue, the regime will most likely evolve into an autocratic, but non-Communist Chinese state.
This development demonstrates the bourgeois, authoritarian nature of the Chinese revolution. The current economic transformation can only take place as smoothly as it has because the country is and always has been controlled by a bureaucratic elite, rather than the Chinese people.
Authoritarian and Cultural Revolution
In the 1960s and 70s, it was fashionable in Maoist circles to contend that Mao tried to forestall and then reverse the “bureaucratization” of the revolution. The Cultural Revolution, it was said, was his last effort in this campaign. But Mao never stood for or encouraged the independent mobilization and organization, let alone the self-rule, of the workers and peasants. From the beginning, out of power or in power, Mao believed in tight, centralized, hierarchic control of the economy and the country as a whole.
But the Chinese state capitalist ruling class, like other nationalist elites, has often been divided over which measures would best promote the economic development of the country. Some elements, such as those around Chou En-lai, sought to encourage economic growth by borrowing Western technology and leaving workers, peasants and managers alone to pursue their appointed tasks and daily lives in relative peace.
Mao and the faction he represented believes that this process would be too slow and would result in China falling victim to its enemies, particularly the United States, Japan and the Soviet Union. To avoid this, he sought to “hothouse” economic growth through periodic bureaucratic mobilizations of the population. One such campaign, the Great Leap Forward led, as we saw, to mass starvation and an actual decline in economic growth. In its aftermath, Mao was discredited within the elite and politically marginalized. The Cultural Revolution was his attempt to organize idealistic, that is, fanatically pro-Communist, students to fight his opponents within the bureaucracy and regain the autocratic power he once had.
At no point did Mao encourage workers and peasants to organize independently and rise up against the state capitalist ruling class as a whole. If anything, the student Red Guards attacked (physically as well as ideologically) workers and peasants as counterrevolutionaries. As in his earlier efforts, millions of ordinary people, not just bureaucrats, suffered imprisonment, internal exile, cruel beatings and death.
A Bourgeois Revolution
What took place, in fact, was a well-ordered bourgeois revolution in which the peasants were used by the Communists as a massive club to carry out their bourgeois-nationalist program. Rather than the peasant armies being the instrument for the establishment of the workers’ and peasants’ self-rule, they represented the embryo of a new state apparatus through which the Communists, substituting themselves for the traditional bourgeoisie, established their own rule over the workers and peasants.
Chris justifies the Maoist strategy in part by claiming that the workers were not ready to take over and run industry. This is classic Maoist apologetics, conveniently omitting any mention of the fact that the Chinese workers were politically ready to take over industry, and had in fact done so, as far back as 1927, until they were ordered to give it back by their Communist leaders and had been slaughtered for their obedience. If the Chinese workers were not technically ready to direct production, neither are workers today, in the imperialist countries as well as the imperialized countries, ready to do so. Do the members of Love and Rage need to be reminded that this is the chief argument raised by supporters of capitalism against all radical programs and especially against anti-authoritarianism?
Anti-authoritarians can certainly defend the Chinese Revolution as representing a victory for the Chinese people, insofar as it unified China, eliminated reactionary social classes and archaic social practices and improved the country’s bargaining power vis-a-vis imperialism. But one can only pretend that this Revolution was in any way anti-authoritarian by grossly insulting the truth.
Equally important, while we can and should support nationalist/bourgeois revolutions against imperialism, this does not mean that we should identify with the new bourgeois elites and defend their politics of intensifying the exploitation of the workers and peasants, as Chris does. On the contrary, our job is to defend the workers’ and peasants’ efforts to resist capitalist exploitation and to prepare the ground for an anti-authoritarian revolution.
Marxist Methods
But Chris would have us see the Chinese Revolution as some kind of model for anti-authoritarian revolutionaries. To make this absurdity seem plausible, Chris exhibits the same “convenient amnesia” when discussing China as he does when discussing Spain. In the case of Spain, Chris fails to mention the Stalinists’ assassinations of their political opponents, which was the logical consequence of their belief that the revolution in Spain was “of necessity” of bourgeois one. In the case of China, Chris ends his discussion in the early 1950s, before the Communist regime starts killing millions of people in the interests of capitalist industrialization, likewise the logical consequence of their belief that the revolution in their country was, and had to be, bourgeois.
In his document, Chris is careful to claim that he is simply criticizing anarchists and anarchism, implying that the perspective he is now promoting can be accommodated under the anti-authoritarian banner. But, as I have argued, Chris’s new perspective and the Chinese Revolution that impresses him so much are/were authoritarian in the extreme.
Rather than being a model for anti-authoritarians, the Chinese Revolution reveals the logic of Marxists’ attitudes toward methods. Unlike anarchists, Marxists are generally not restrained by particular scruples about the methods they employ. This is especially the case when they have the power of the state at their disposal. Whatever they may claim, they have always acted as if all means, no matter how brutal, dishonest and disgusting, are justified in their struggle against capitalism. These methods become ipso facto progressive because, they believe, they represent the proletariat, socialism and the liberation of all humanity.
Brutal Marxism
But what Marxists don’t see is that such methods undermine their own goals. It is not, as they see it, a question of abstract morality, but of long-term effectiveness. In the short- and perhaps even the medium-run, brutal, dishonest methods may win some gains, but they will ultimately destroy the revolution, even a Marxist one. After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks centralized all political and economic power in their hands, built a revolutionary army and police apparatus and smashed their political opponents in order to maintain their rule. In the short- and medium-run, this worked, but they never built socialism and now they don’t even have state capitalism anymore.
The Chinese Stalinists believed it was easier to carry out a bourgeois revolution than a socialist one, more effective to organize a hierarchical army of peasant soldiers than to encourage independent struggles and organizations of workers and peasants. They succeeded in seizing state power, but only to see the revolution serve as an incubator for a new, traditional capitalist class.
Chris’s attitude toward revolutionary strategy and tactics suffers from the same problem. In the short run, the methods he’s advocating may seem more realistic, more successful, than the seemingly abstract, ineffective and overly moralistic methods of anarchists. But the measures Chris is urging us to consider — state capitalist revolutions in imperialized countries, revolutionary armies, etc. — will not lead to our goal, but to new authoritarian societies, not to mention the millions of deaths that these regimes have a tendency to cause.
Chris appears to be arguing nearly that Love and Rage should drop the term anarchist from its name and consider certain perspectives that run counter to traditional anarchism, while remaining committed to anti-authoritarianism. But what Chris is really proposing is the first step in the political redefinition of Love and Rage. If he gets his way, we will start out by dropping the term anarchism and allowing authoritarian perspectives to be described as anti-authoritarian and promoted within the organization. We will then accept such perspectives as the perhaps distasteful but necessary application of anti-authoritarian politics to concrete reality. Finally, having started down the slippery slope, we will wind up adopting increasingly authoritarian politics and dropping the term anti-authoritarianism as abstract and moralistic.
You Are What You Do
Chris’s insistence that the objective conditions for anti-authoritarian revolutions did not exist in China, Spain and other imperialized countries and that the revolutions in these countries were “of necessity” bourgeois thus raises two interrelated questions. The first is: What policy does Chris think revolutionaries should have followed in these countries? Virtually the entire thrust of his argument points to the conclusion that Chris believes revolutionaries should have supported the Stalinist policy.
The second question raised by Chris’s insistence that the Revolutions in Spain, China and other imperialized countries were of necessity bourgeois is: what should revolutionaries in the imperialized the countries do today? Since these countries are still imperialized, they still do not have, according to Chris’s definition, the objective conditions to carry out anti-authoritarian revolutions. It follows that revolutionaries in those countries, including our comrades in Mexico, should not fight for an anti-authoritarian revolution, but instead should aim at a bourgeois, probably state capitalist, revolution.
But in politics, particularly revolutionary politics, you are what you do. If you claim to be an anti-authoritarian but decide, for whatever reason (perhaps because the objective conditions are not right), to try to carry out a bourgeois revolution, you are no longer an anti-authoritarian: you are a bourgeois, that is, an authoritarian, revolutionist. By the same token, if Love and Rage were to adopt Chris’s perspective, Love and Rage would no longer be an anti-authoritarian organization, but would join the ranks of the authoritarians. Although Chris does not explicitly discuss the question of revolution in the imperialist countries, the logic of his argument, as well as his new-found infatuation with authoritarian institutions such as standing armies, suggest that he is, or will soon be, advocating authoritarian revolutions for these countries too.
For Permanent Revolution
The revolutionary, anti-authoritarian solution to the questions Chris is raising is not to go over to state capitalist Maoism but to defend an international anti-authoritarian revolutionary perspective. In fact, no country in the world today, taken by itself, has the full economic, social and political prerequisites to carry out and maintain for an indefinite period of time an anti-authoritarian revolution. But this does not mean that we settle for carrying out state capitalist revolutions. An anti-authoritarian strategy can be found in the general perspective that I first encountered under the term “The Permanent Revolution,” put forward by Leon Trotsky. Shorn of its Marxist trappings, this perspective can serve as a general framework for a worldwide anti-authoritarian revolution.
Basing himself on the uneven nature of the objective conditions, what he called combined and uneven development, Trotsky argued that the social revolution in an imperialized country could not be divided into discrete stages. Instead, what might begin as a bourgeois revolution, addressing such issues as the elimination of the landed aristocracy and the division of the land, the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a democratic republic, would soon go beyond these tasks and take on more radical questions. For example, workers, going into motion over the struggle for higher wages and shortening the work day, might launch a general strike, occupy factories and take over whole cities.
It is therefore the job of revolutionaries in any one country to encourage the revolution to go as far as possible, even if that country lacks the complete prerequisites for an anti authoritarian revolution. Meanwhile, it is also the task of revolutionaries to encourage revolutions in other countries, so that the revolution becomes an international one. The revolution is thus permanent in two senses: (1) Within one country, the revolution does not limit itself to any one stage, but seeks to proceed as far as possible; (2) the revolution does not limit itself to one country, but aims to be international.
It is of the very nature of an anti-authoritarian revolution to be a worldwide phenomenon. We are, in fact, speaking of a transformation of the human species. It either happens relatively rapidly or it won’t happen at all. If the people in any one country, even an economically “advanced” one, carry out an anti-authoritarian revolution and it remains isolated, it will be defeated. There remains nothing that anti-authoritarians can do about this but to pick up and start over. Adopting authoritarian measures, such as a standing army based on traditional centralization, hierarchy and discipline, will not save the revolution but will destroy it from within.
Hope for the Future
This perspective is not as far-fetched as it may seem. It should be clear that human society as it is currently organized is rapidly undermining the conditions for its own existence; among other things, it is destroying the planet on which we live. Human beings will increasingly be confronted with the need to make a radical transformation in the way we treat each other and the Earth as a whole. These two questions are thoroughly interconnected: we must stop viewing other human beings and the Earth as a whole as tools to increase our own individual and/or group power. Do we carry out this transformation or do we all get destroyed?
I have hopes that human beings will make the right decision. I believe we have the intelligence and moral potential to carry out a global anti-authoritarian revolution, one that establishes a truly cooperative, stateless and classless society, a society in which people truly care for each other and the planet and work cooperatively to meet the needs of the greater whole of which we are a part. If we can’t carry out such transformation, the human race will face extinction, and will deserve it.
Chris seems to have decided that he’d rather lead any revolution, even if it is an authoritarian one, then be part of an anti-authoritarian revolution that is defeated. I would like to be part of an anti-authoritarian revolution that wins, and I’m willing to risk being defeated if this is the price to pay.
Chris has the right to argue for whatever perspective for Love and Rage he chooses. But let’s be clear about what we are talking about. We are not merely discussing whether to drop the term anarchism from our name and consider certain perspectives that anarchists have refused to entertain in the past. We are discussing the very nature and direction of the Federation. Will we continue to advocate and seek to carry out an anti-authoritarian revolution, or will we abandon our anti-authoritarian principles and program and turn ourselves into bourgeois revolutionaries in the interests of a short-sighted conception of revolutionary efficiency?

Tags: love and rageHistoryorganizationsocietycategory: Essays
Categories: News

Puerto Rican ‘Anarchistic Organizers’ Took Power Into Their Own Hands After Hurricane Maria

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 13:20

via Newsweek

In August, nearly one year after Hurricane Maria wrecked Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and plunged its 3.4 million residents into darkness, island officials heralded a milestone: The lights were back on. The state-owned electric company even tweeted a photo of a smiling family it said was the last to receive power.

But Christine Nieves, an activist in Mariana, didn’t celebrate. She and her small mountain community near the southeastern coast had already restored electricity—on their own. Tired of waiting on the government’s halting repairs, she worked with a band of self-described “anarchistic organizers” from the mainland to install a small solar grid, one of more than a dozen like-minded efforts across Puerto Rico. By the time electric workers showed up, Mariana was two months ahead of them. (The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority declined to comment for this article.)

The power uprising over the second largest blackout in world history provides a window into the civic and political landscape in a place where government institutions, saddled by bankruptcy and a federally appointed management board, failed in devastating ways. It also underscores a sobering reality a year after Maria: Many Puerto Ricans are, to some extent, still on their own. For eight months after the storm, Mariana residents lived without stable means of lighting, refrigeration or laundry. “People were on the verge, psychologically and physically,” says Nieves.

She and her partner established Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo, or Project for Mutual Aid, to coordinate clean-up efforts, prepare meals and check on locals after the storm. The initiative attracted the attention of a mainland group called Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, whose founding members did disaster relief work in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. To MADR co-founder Jimmy Dunson, Nieves’s efforts echoed his own group’s “anarchistic organizing”—revolution with more purpose than protest. MADR volunteers were already in Florida, helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, when family and friends alerted them of the dire situation in Puerto Rico. They pooled their own money and solicited donations to purchase water purifiers, solar power equipment and plane tickets to the island.

“It was quite surprising when they showed up to our operations, and they kept coming back,” says Nieves. Together, the two organizations distributed food and water and provided basic health care, setting up a key project: the installation of a solar-powered “micro-grid” in Mariana, a self-sustaining electric system owned and managed by the community.

Working with local construction workers, electricians and even firefighters, volunteers overcame understaffed ports and destroyed roads to import a solar array, battery bank and storage container to protect all of the equipment from future storms. Total cost: $60,000, funded by donations. The grid now powers an abandoned school turned communal kitchen, a laundromat and an office, where residents can charge their electronics and tools. The system does not reach individual homes, but its modular design can be expanded or transported to where need is greatest.

Twenty miles to the northwest, volunteers have installed a smaller system in Caguas, a city in the heart of the island. Despite police efforts to block them, locals seized a building and turned it into the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo, or Center for Mutual Aid. “There are over a dozen mutual aid centers all throughout Puerto Rico,” says Dunson, “and if the funding comes in, we will work with each and every one of them to set up similar photovoltaic systems.”

While there’s been little proselytizing in Mariana, radical ideas are in the air. “What we have talked about is self-governance,” Nieves says, “and we’ve talked about self-organizing.” She uses the Spanish term autogestion, or self-management, which anarchists have advocated since the time of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the 19th-century French philosopher who was the first to describe himself as an anarchist. Is the movement supported by authorities? “That question assumes that local government and police are actually involved and active,” says Nieves with a laugh.

Elsewhere on the island, law enforcement has pushed back. Dunson describes one incident from October: Arriving in several vehicles, including an armored car, police conducted a night-time raid on a church that MADR was using as its base of operations in Guaynabo, a municipality west of San Juan. According to Dunson, officers claimed they were acting on a call about kidnapping and questioned the volunteers at gunpoint, asking if they were building bombs, involved in “antifa” or advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government. After searching their belongings without consent, Dunson says, police evicted them from the church, threatening them with arrest if they returned. (Calls to the Puerto Rico Police Press Office went unanswered.)

While Dunson acknowledges that authorities sometimes assisted MADR by providing volunteers with food, water and other supplies to distribute, he argues that government is nevertheless poorly suited for disaster relief. The state-owned electrical grid, for example, was allowed to fall into such disrepair that even after Maria passed, it suffered at least two more big outages following patchwork repairs.

“The government has access to a vast quantity of money and supplies,” he says. “But even if everybody in that institution had the best of intentions, due to their top-down nature, they do not have the fluidity or flexibility that more grassroots initiatives have.” He cites reports of supplies rotting in government offices and accusations that both island agencies and federal authorities hoarded desperately needed construction materials.

Unfortunately for both sides, another hurricane might be about to put his theory to the test.

Tags: puerto ricoMSMmutual aidhurricane mariacategory: International
Categories: News

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