Below are six samples of the response of the authoritarian left to last weekend’s G20 protest. For the record, like, and to be critiqued in good time…
1) Bob Gould, ALP, November 21:
Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment was a funny movie, but 100 Morgans running around is a political pain in the neck.
The old movie, Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, starring a very young Vanessa Redgrave, is one of my personal all-time favourite movies. The penultimate scene, with the whole world chasing Morgan in his monkey suit all over London, is very funny indeed.
One Morgan is okay, but a hundred or so southern-hemisphere Black Bloc wannabes trashing police vehicles at an otherwise peaceful but relatively small Melbourne demonstration, in the current reactionary Australian political climate, is something essentially quite different to Morgan’s monkey suit.
The essential question [?] is the fact that these irresponsible political adventurers disguise their faces. I agree strongly with Mick Armstrong’s post on this matter on Leftwrites [below], and I defer to his knowledge, based on his investigation as to who these people were. The very act of people from outside a city invading a demonstration in another city with the clear intention of launching a semi-military attack on the cops, with their faces covered, irrespective of the consequences for the rest of the demonstrators, is a calculated political act directed against the bulk of the demonstrators.
People with covered faces who attack the cops, unless they are rather unlucky and their covering falls off, are very dangerous to everybody else at the demonstrations, and quite possibly include fascists and agents provocateur… real agents provocateur certainly do exist, and organised contingents with covered faces clearly facilitate the [activities] of real agents provocateur…
…There is also, obviously, a new set of factors. I attended some demonstrations in Sydney over the past couple of years, several of which had the rubric of closing down some capitalist institutions such as the stock exchange. Despite declaring to myself that, at 67, I wasn’t going to get too close to the physical action, of course I did, and was the one greybeard among many young people squeezed by police horses around the corner from the Market St building, which was effectively closed for a few hours by the demonstration.
I had strategic misgivings about rhetoric on closing down the city with small forces, but those protests went off without too much difficulty. A striking feature of those protests was the appearance of a new breed, at least in Sydney, of obviously specially trained crowd control police wearing distinct blue or grey uniforms, physically as tough as nails, and drawn up in semi-military formation.
To people round about I described them as pit-bull terriers, which raised a bit of a laugh. Incidentally, for no reason that I could fathom, they all seemed to be pretty short. I tried to chiak [?] them a bit, but they weren’t having any, and remained grim-faced and hostile.
These cops weren’t obvious at the protests against the recent Lebanon invasion, which seemed to be policed by more or less ordinary coppers. At the first of those protests there was a very large police presence compared with the size of the protest.
I gave a bit of cheek to one of the commanders in front of his underlings, about why they needed so many coppers for a small protest. He was stony faced, and refused to respond except in monosyllables, but the ordinary coppers around him were cracking little grins. I don’t doubt that some police are hostile to “people of Middle Eastern appearance”, indigenous Australians and others, partly out of prejudice and partly because of the day-to-day contradictions of policing in some areas.
None of these realities seem to me a sound reason for ignoring the contradictions among the police, and instead treating them as a homogenous reactionary mass. Politically, what does that achieve?
Ha ha ha — nice one Bob. But as far as I’m concerned, the truly “essential question” is: was Bob’s choice of filmic revery a coy reference to my own good self? Aside from that, I’m sure that Mick appreciates Bob’s endorsement of his ‘investigative’ skills for — as far as I’m aware — nobody else does.
Like Mick, Bob makes a number of other claims which are, in the end, more akin to slander than analysis, though their shared hostility towards “black bloc wannabes” invading Melbourne is, in Bob’s case at least, hypocritical, at best. (Maybe next we’ll be treated to exhortations for such foreign no-goodniks to ‘Go back to Russia’?) Then again, at least Bob, unlike Mick, has the excuse that he wasn’t actually present.
Finally, the ‘new factors’ Bob discerns as being most germane to a discussion of the activities of the ‘paramilitary’ ‘Arterial Bloc’ — invading towns, trashing cop cars, endangering innocent civilians and acting as a pole of attraction for fascists and agents provocateurs — are neither new, nor particularly relevant. The militarisation of the police, for example, has been well-documented elsewhere, and its history extends well beyond the May Day events in Sydney in 2001/2 that Bob refers to in his post.
- …So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!
2) Jonathon Collerson, International Socialist Organisation (Melbourne), November 24:
‘Our enemies are Paul Wolfowitz and Peter Costello, not Akim Sari’
1. The G20 is part of the global offensive responsible for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sustaining world poverty, undermining labour rights and accelerating climate change. The immense harm their policies inflict on our planet and its people put cosmetic damage to one police truck at the 18 November StopG20 rally in Melbourne in perspective. These criminals — and their media allies — attempt to hide their culpability by creating hysteria about protester violence. Their aim is to discredit all militant protest action and, by extension, the legitimate concerns expressed by demonstrators. Criminalising protest will be an important weapon for the Howard Government in convincing the public of the need for an extraordinary state of security at next year’s APEC summit in Sydney. Responding to this is a major challenge for the Left.
2. Unfortunately, certain organisations –- particularly Socialist Alternative and the Democratic Socialist Perspective -– have completely misunderstood the challenge, lining up with the state and the corporate media to publicly denounce Arterial Bloc. In formal terms, the argument made by these groups –- that mass mobilisation is the most effective form of collective action -– is correct. However, they have elevated this principle to a dogma, meaning they have missed the key issue in this debate, which is the Right’s attack on militant protest in general. The first task of socialists is to take a side. In the present situation, a number of groups have taken the wrong side and reinforced the arguments of the media and the state.
3. At the same time, the StopG20 rally demonstrates that the autonomist or decentralised organising tactic is not the way forward. The largest part of last Saturday’s rally lacked direction at the critical moment when we massed at police barricades on Little Collins and Russell Streets. The real possibility of mass civil disobedience was abandoned in the street with neither the socialist Left, the autonomists, or anyone else taking it up. The vacuum was filled by the fragmented actions of autonomist groups, including Arterial Bloc. Our criticism is not their use of direct, militant action. It is that their politics exclude the need to organise mass collective action. They focused instead on organising relatively small groups of experienced activists to confront the police. The scarves and overalls symbolise this exclusion. Breaching police exclusion zones in Genoa or blockading the World Economic Forum in Melbourne are highlights of the anti-capitalist movement. But the way to turn situations like last Saturday’s rally into this is to involve the greatest number in mass democratic decision-making and arguing for this sort of militant, direct collective action. If 3000 protesters had breached the barricades we would not be concerned with minor damage to one police truck.
4. Even with the debate over tactics, the G20 mobilisation was a real step forward for the social movements in Australia. The mood on the rally was positive, confident and militant. It was diverse and the numbers exceeded the organisers’ expectations. It is to the credit of all the groups and individuals making up the StopG20 committee that such a broad ensemble came together to express a radical critique of the systemic roots of war, poverty and climate change. In this way the G20 protest was in the tradition of the great anti-capitalist mobilisations that began seven years ago in Seattle. As we turn our attention to building a massive mobilisation for the APEC summit, it is vital that we do not exclude, isolate or denounce any part of this movement. Disagreements over strategy and tactics should be dealt with by discussion and debate within the movement, not by one part of the movement publicly denouncing the actions of another part. We need to organise in a democratic and inclusive way and seek to win a consensus for mass, militant collective action.
3) Paddy and Shannon, Socialist Action Group and Solidarity, November 21:
Statement on the G20 demonstrations
The recent G20 protests in Melbourne posed some political questions that are now being explored by different sections of the left. Firstly, and quite immediately[,] is the question of how to relate to the confrontations with police. Second[ly]… the political isolation of the anti-G20 demonstrations from the ongoing campaign work of the activists involved.
Confrontations with police
The fact of the matter is that right now our comrades are being grabbed off the street by undercover thugs. The Victorian Police Commissioner has “vowed to hunt down protestors” and set up a Task Force including the AFP and “other Federal Agencies” to identify and arrest activists involved in the riot. Police have told press about a list of 200 names of suspects associated with the protest who could be arrested. At least one man arrested has not been granted bail. A number of activists have been stopped and searched at the airport attempting to leave Melbourne. One man not even associated with the demonstration was detained by undercovers, tied and beaten in an unmarked van before being released. A small demonstration at the Melbourne Museum on Sunday was baton charged, leaving a woman hospitalised.
It is vital in these circumstances that the left speak out against this repression and help defend those targeted. Many have been involved quite centrally in environment, student and anti-war movements. Comrades need to feel supported to continue being active with or without charge. Moves to increase state power need to be resisted. In the climate of the recent “anti-terror” legislation, there is a real move to curtail democratic rights to dissent and we have to confront this. Arguments about the nature of what happened here are secondary: we support the right of people to protest even when we may disagree with the tactics that they employ.
Contrary to some reports posted in the media and on some leftwing websites, participants in the “violence” were not all “from overseas”, but were overwhelmingly Australian activists, including large contingents from Melbourne. It should go without saying that, on top of this, we encourage people from overseas to join us in protest and defend their right to do so. The response by sections of the left has been shameful. Deploying the racist rhetoric of the media about foreign agitators and ‘mindless violence’ is helping the police to isolate, divide and victimise. It is also undermining attempts to build a radical analysis of how the demonstrations could have been more effective.
The real violence
Over the course of the afternoon, more than 500 people left the main demonstration to either participate in or support pushes on police lines. Much of this action, such as removing barricades and forcing police retreat towards the Hyatt, was inspiring in the context of a showing of police force that kept the warmongers of the G20 miles away from the protestors.
We know well the arguments about the real source of violence. We know that the people sitting in the Hyatt are responsible for the 650,000 dead in Iraq, the bombing currently happening in Palestine, deaths in the Australian workplace, Aboriginal deaths in custody.
We know well that the police are not kind, nor that they were acting with any kind of restraint on Saturday. We know that the police were there to protect the killers sitting behind the doors. Whether or not we think that the actions taken by the “Arterial Bloc” were the way to confront this power – we know that it exists, and that fundamentally this is what needs to be challenged.
Tactics on the day of the G20 demonstrations
People from many radical political tendencies either joined or supported the “arterial bloc”. The action was certainly not confined to the ‘hardcore anarchists’, as the media would have it. With a lack of leadership coming from the other elements of the demonstration, the “Arterial Bloc” led a large section of the demonstration in direct action. This leadership, whilst inspiring in the context of the demonstration, had some serious weaknesses.
The attire of the bloc, dressed in masks and white suits[,] and their secretive practice on the day[,] did little to encourage broader sections of the rally to participate in direct action. Most importantly, not enough effort was made to communicate either to the movement or the media the politics that justify confrontation with police lines at such summit meetings, contributing to the political isolation which is now being exploited by the state.
There was no real attempt to lead the direct action on a mass or explicitly political basis. At no point before, after or during the demonstration did the bloc communicate to the mass of people at the demonstrat[ion] or to the spokescouncils about the reasoning behind their actions. The “Arterial Bloc” gave direction to the mood of the demonstration, but it wasn’t willing to take the political responsibility for doing the hard work that is necessary to make these actions more effective and with a real, broad base in the demonstration.
Leadership from the organised left
The fact remains however that no other section of the demonstration seemed to be offering any kind of political lead… Following directly from this, the other tendencies were unable and even unwilling to engage with what was a (perhaps surprisingly) militant mood on the day. There was no attempt from any other section of the demonstration to argue for or organise any kind of direct action against the conference.
Liz Thompson said on the Leftwrites blog that ‘It was almost farcical that I was chosen to speak on behalf of StopG20 at the rally – so little political discussion seemed to occur that I was unclear exactly who everyone was.’ The lack of political analysis and coherence coming from those involved in planning the day meant that many people – including those involved in or supporting the actions of the “Arterial Bloc” – felt a sense of frustration that their actions were not more effective, more targeted or more widely supported. There clearly needed to be an attempt [to] cohere and direct the militant mood of the demonstration.
The relationship between summit demonstrations and social movements
The results of the lack of leadership and the isolation of the demonstration on the whole are demonstrated clearly by the actions of the contingent from the Sydney Uni left. They believed the G20 meeting called for more than a simple protest outside the conference and, arriving quite late in town and with little organisation, saw supporting “Arterial Bloc” as the best way to do this. But the fact that Sydney Uni, which this year has successfully defended its SRC from VSU, was represented in comparatively big, militant numbers also points some way to the kind of activism that can strengthen strong ranks at the summits.
Stop G20 was built in an extremely abstract fashion, disconnected from social struggles challenging the Howard Government. While the platform at the opening rally featured some good speakers from different movements; a member of the TCFUA, a Muslim cleric, an indigenous activist to name a few; this seemed forced and unrepresentative of the crowd. Perhaps most stark was that in a city with the most active and combative working-class movement in the country there [were] no union banners.
This is a far cry from S11, with its 20,000 people. Off the back of the struggle over the MUA, a success at Jabiluka, the defeat of VSU legislation through mass action and in the context of a growing global anti-capitalist movement, it made sense for activists from strong broadly-based movements to take their struggle to the World Economic Forum. However, even during and out of S11[,] many on the left have demonstrated a tendency to focus too squarely on building the radical “event” of the summit.
The political climate today is substantially different to the time of S11, granted. But the basics are no different. These demonstrations can politicise people, and they can act as the catalyst for ramping up campaigns against Howard. But that will only come to fruition if the demonstrations are built on a solid political basis, from the campaigns and networks where we are active day-to-day.
We need to use these demonstrations to strengthen and generalise the analysis and organisation of our movements. To effectively challenge APEC next year in Sydney we will need ten times this week’s numbers. This will not come however through “building APEC” in the abstract. We need to rebuild the student movement, bringing thousands into confrontation with neo-liberal reforms on campus. We need an anti-war movement which can grow and effectively respond to the barrage of racism and militarism coming so consistently from the Howard Government. We need to build rank-and-file strength in our unions and support growing instances of strike action against the IR reforms.
When we come to APEC it needs to be with wide layers of people in these movements who we work with consistently and have convinced of a more generalised opposition to capitalist globalisation. A connection to the campaigns would make discussions about tactics on demonstrations real and grounded in a more thorough assessment of the political situation, rather than an abstract question. APEC itself needs to be a demonstration that can politicise and harden up these networks.
4) Margarita Windisch, Socialist Alliance / Democratic Socialist Perspective, November 19:
Margarita Windisch, Socialist Alliance candidate for Footscray who spoke at the Stop G20 protest on behalf of the Stop the War Coalition, condemned Sunday’s media coverage of the protest which [focused] on the actions of a small group of masked individuals, who were separate from the protest.
“Over three thousand people took part in a peaceful rally, march and street festival,” she said, “Placards, banners and a platform of 7 speakers gave a powerful message condemning the role of the G20 in promoting policies that cause horrific poverty and threaten the world with ecological catastrophe. Unfortunately this message was lost in coverage that portrayed the protesters as mindless vandals.”
She stressed that the white-clad, masked individuals were separate from the protesters towards whom they had displayed “a surly and hostile attitude.”
She added that their actions were “self-indulgent and parasitic in that for the sake of some macho fantasies, they enabled those who do not want our message to get across to portray us as mindless idiots.”
Windisch was particularly annoyed with a commercial TV news report that had footage of her urging protesters to take their message to the streets and then cut to scenes of the masked people brawling with police.
“We did take our message to the streets,” she said, “We had a vibrant, militant but peaceful march which ended with a peaceful street festival next to the barricades that the police had set up near the Grand Hyatt. There were no clashes on the march or at our festival. The clashes shown on TV had nothing to do with us or our protest and involved people whose identity we don’t know.”
Letter to The Age:
Contrary to claims made by Michael Burd in his letter to The Age (Monday November 20) not a single Socialist Alliance member was involved in the senseless violence that took place on Saturday. Neither did the people in white overalls who perpetrated these irresponsible acts carry Socialist Alliance banners. As a matter of fact these people hate socialists. It is also important to point out that this group of people calling themselves ‘the arterial block’ were not involved in the organising of the actual demonstration – they acted separately and outside the rally and march. Socialist Alliance helped organise the StopG20 rally and was proudly present alongside many other organisations and individuals. It is disappointing that the media focused on a tiny group of individuals who had no political message instead of showing the wonderful 3000 strong crowd which was entirely peaceful.
5) Mick Armstrong, Socialist Alternative, November 19:
I was one of the organisers of the G20 demo from the [Melbourne?] Stop the War Coalition and I am also in Socialist Alternative.
The anarchist crazies involved in the ultra-violence were in no serious sense part of the demo. Just like their black bloc mates in Europe they simply exploited the demo for their own purposes.
Right throughout the lead-up to the demo they made clear their hostility to and contempt [for] other protestors. On the day they did all they could to disrupt the demonstration and were hostile, abusive, threatening [and] ultra-sectarian towards people on the demo.
Australia[,] fortunately[,] has not previously been blighted by the sort of black bloc anarchist activities which [have] had such a disastrous impact on demonstrations in Europe. These people are simply provocateurs that open up protests to police repression. In Europe their ranks have been riddled by police agents and fascists.
What gave them a certain critical mass at the G20 was the presence of considerable numbers of anarchists from overseas. One of our members from New Zealand said he recognised at least 40 NZ anarchists. He knew at least 20 of them by name. There were also a considerable number of black [bloc] anarchists from Europe. We know of people from Sweden, Germany and England. These people are like football hooligans who travel the world looking for violence.
On top of that there were also a considerable number of anarchists from interstate.
Because of the behaviour of these provocateurs the media [and…] the law and order brigade are having a field day.
The left should offer no comfort to these crazies. We should do whatever we can to isolate them. They are wreckers. If they grow in Australia it will simply make it harder to build future protests and movements.
Easily the stupidest and most provocative response, Armstrong’s mirrors that of the Australian political establishment: from repeated references to anarchist ‘crazies’, to absurd characterisations of what occurred as ‘ultra-violence’, to (bizarre) allegations of ‘foreign agitators’ secretly masterminding proceedings. Worse yet, Armstrong even claims that he has it on good authority that there were 40 anarchists from Aotearoa/New Zealand present at the demonstration, 20 of whom his Kiwi comrade could actually name — a prospect which will no doubt bring joy to the Victoria Police taskforce (Police vow to find G20 ‘thugs’, Sydney Morning Herald/AAP, November 19) dedicated to hunting down the ‘crazies’ and ‘thugs’ responsible for the awful carnage of “The Battle of Collins Street” (Gary Tippet, Mark Russell and Chantal Rumble[!], The Age, November 19). (And let’s not forget the (non-existent) Swedish, German and English football hooligans!)
Still, like Armstrong’s fraudulent claims regarding the supposed activities and composition of black blocs at demos in Europe (of which, more later), such profound ‘insights’ into the G20 demo should be taken with a grain of salt, and Armstrong’s ‘crazed’, ‘sectarian’ outburst should probably not be taken too seriously: though its resemblance to the rantings and ravings of a right-wing editorialist after one too many beers does not exactly inspire confidence in his critical faculties…
(A recapitulation of Armstrong’s view — minus his absurd claims and concentrating on establishing a clearer political line — is available here.)
6) The Socialist Party, November 19:
Over 3,000 demonstrators attended the main protest against the G20 in Melbourne on Saturday. The demonstration began at the State Library to hear a series of speeches and then marched through the city centre towards the Grand Hyatt Hotel where the G20 summit was being held.
Whilst the press coverage of the event was overwhelmingly negative the gathering at the State Library and the march were both peaceful and vibrant in character. Unfortunately due to the behavior of a small group of mostly anarchists, the media pounced on images of protesters in white jump suits smashing police vans and engaging in minor clashes with police.
The Socialist Party distances itself from this behavior. Our opinion is that this behavior does not take us forward in the struggle. In fact it takes us back as it plays into the hands of the ruling class and the media. The capitalist press will almost never give us favorable coverage but the footage that these fringe groups gave the press yesterday was a right wing editor’s dream.
These actions repel the mass of ordinary people still yet to be convinced [of what? Presumably “that it is the capitalist system that breeds poverty and it is in fact capitalism that needs to be made history”] and play into the hands of the state, justifying their security budget and anti-democratic laws; provoking sympathy for the police; and diverting attention away from the issues of world poverty and the system that creates it.
Treasurer Peter Costello could barely contain himself as he denounced the protesters as ‘crazy’. “Who knows what drives these people” he said. Other right wing commentators argued that the protesters were driven by hate and anger, not politics.
Due to the lack of trade union involvement in the anti globalisation movement the nature of these protests is very loose and lacked proper leadership and direction. It is a disgrace that the G20 forum was not even commented on by the trade union leadership. The policies that this forum pushes will have dire consequences for working people even in the advanced capitalist world.
The G20 delegates would not just [have] used this meeting to discuss the oil crisis and the World Bank but this would have been an opportunity for them to discuss all aspect[s] of their neo-liberal agenda including further privatisations, free trade, and IR laws.
Apart from the negative effects of the clashes, we should take inspiration from the fact that thousands of people turned out for a demonstration that was clearly against the capitalist system. Also[,] whilst on a much lower level[,] 15,000 young people came out on the Friday night to the ‘Make Poverty History’ concert. It is this layer that we need to convince that it is the capitalist system that breeds poverty and it is in fact capitalism that needs to be made history.
If you already agree that capitalism is a system that does not serve the needs of the majority of the people, and that we need to change the system[,] [t]he next question needs to be ‘which forces in society are going to do that’.
The Socialist Party believes that working people are the most powerful force in society. If workers don’t work society grinds to a halt. Therefore we try to draw in these powerful layers into the struggle against the system. Small actions by handfuls of individuals can never be a replacement for mass working class organisation and action.
The task for the anti globalisation movement is not to alienate working people from the struggle against the system but to find ways of drawing them in. This is the task the Socialist Party will take on in the next period.
Chiak possibly = ‘Cheek.’
I was cheeky too but I managed to get a couple of smiles, though I don’t know if it was a ‘ha ha smile’ or a ‘i am going to baton you for being a smart alec later smile’.
Thanks for the clarification, Doctor. I must confess that I’m unfamiliar with the dialect employed by members of the subcultural milieu associated with Sydney-based sixty-something socialist small-businessmen.
…especially those in the second-hand goods sector.
People from Sydney are outside agitators and shouldn’t be allowed to come to Melbourne.
The thought occurs that perhaps the people on the Left toeing Christine’s line that the trubblemakers were from outside Melbourne are just trying to deflect police attention away from Melbourne activists.
Jeeeeeesus Christ the Marxists have totally missed the point. Again. Well done guys! Youre *still* irrelevant! As a ridgy-didge anarchist who happens to think anarchism is a form of socialism, I can safely say that I love socialism, just not its shitty Marxist variety.
When I read:
The only thought which came to mind was \”And the moon is made of green cheese\”. How infantile and shallow.
1/ Iraq… sorry… the REAL source is the conflict between the Ummayyads and Abassids and it started around the time of the last of the supposed first four rightly-guided Caliphs in Islam. The USA is just a bit player. If they left tomorrow this conflict would continue as one side struggled for ascendency over the other (Sunni/Shia).
2/ Palestinian bombings. Nope… Wrong there also. Look more at Article 11 of the Hamas charter \”Palestine is an Islamic Waqf\”. That explains the Hamas situation. But the non-Hamas Palestinians, well that goes back to Genesis 12 (end of the book), but relates to Ishmael and Isaac and Esau and Jacob. Primarily Ishmael. It also relates to the status of Jerusalem. Do some digging, ask this (of Palestinians): \”If you were given land of equal value and productivity in another place but East Jerusalem (and the Temple Mount) remained an eternal part of Israel, would you accept the new land\”? The answer would be… NOOO… because the real crux of this situation is as much religious as it is territorial.
3/ Deaths in the Australian workplace: Huh? Errr… amazing stuff. I could understand this if there was an overt policy of minimising safety but OHS is actually there to prevent this. Seems like just picking something out of the air to \’BLAME\’ on the evil capitalist pigdogs.
4/ G20… Aboriginal deaths in custody? (Have you seen your therapist lately?) Nope… that is caused by a number of factors.
a) Evil racist police (some);
b) Cultural factors (absence of hope; fear);
OK. Your remedial education is now over until the next outlandish statement is made and I\’m needed back here to sort you out.
A small but — nevertheless — CRUCIAL point: I DIDN’T ACTUALLY WRITE THE PASSAGE YOU CRITIQUE! As the quotation makes clear, it was written by “Paddy and Shannon, Socialist Action Group and Solidarity [on] November 21”.
A small but — nevertheless — CRUCIAL point: I DIDN’T ACTUALLY WRITE THE PASSAGE YOU CRITIQUE! As the quotation makes clear, it was written by “Paddy and Shannon, Socialist Action Group and Solidarity [on] November 21”.
Feel free to write them if you wish.
And before embarking on any future courses in remedial education:
LEARN TO SPELL.
Thankyou Andy. I was not meaning to criticize you personally — in fact I don\’t think I mentioned you did I? And thanks for reminding me that when I went to Aspendale Tech I did fitting and turning, rather than going to Mordy High where all the humanities stream went.
I\’ll address this question to you though — are you really an \’anarchist\’? I never \’get\’ that idea, because put two anarchists in the same place and you either have one killing the other or they agree to certain \’rules\’ of human interaction… right? As soon as you have \’rules\’ you no longer have anarchy… or am I missing something?
It never ceases to amaze me the incredible volumes of stuff leftists/socialists write about issues they think are solvable by natural human beings. They think a \’system\’ will fix all the ills of the world, totally forgetting or [being] simply in denial that the weakest link is \”us\”.
I get the impression that once people have immersed themselves in a political ideology and surround themselves with feathery human down picked up from various places, they have an intellectually comfy nest in which to nurture their ideological eggs. Then… along comes a cuckoo. Hmmm.
I find myself more attracted to \’new humans = workable system\’ no matter what (within limits) that system is, either right or left.
Have you seen this before: \”If any man will follow me…\”
See if you can complete that.
This is my blog. Me, Andy. The slack bastard. Not Phil’s, and not Shannon’s. When you write “Your remedial education is now over until the next outlandish statement is made and I’m needed back here to sort you out” and ask “Have you seen your therapist lately?” whom are you addressing? Me, obviously.
Q. Am I “really” an anarchist?
A. Are the police corrupt?
Q. “Put two anarchists in the same place and you either have one killing the other or they agree to certain ’rules’ of human interaction… right”?
A. Did Carlton win this yr’s premiership?
Q. “As soon as you have ’rules’ you no longer have anarchy… or am I missing something”?
A. Does the Pope shit in the woods?
It’s obvious that you don’t “get” anarchism. My suggestion is that you read something about it. Here’s a basic introduction to the concept of ‘anarchy’:
A.1.1 What does “anarchy” mean?
The word “anarchy” is from the Greek, prefix an- (or a), meaning “not”, “the want of”, “the absence of”, or “the lack of”, plus -archos, meaning “a ruler”, “director”, “chief”, “person in charge”, or “authority”. Or, as Peter Kropotkin put it, Anarchy comes from the Greek words meaning “contrary to authority”. [Anarchism, p. 284]
While the Greek words anarchos and anarchia are often taken to mean “having no government” or “being without a government” as can be seen, the strict, original meaning of anarchism was not simply “no government”. “An-archy” means “without a ruler”, or more generally, “without authority”, and it is in this sense that anarchists have continually used the word. For example, we find Kropotkin arguing that anarchism “attacks not only capital, but also the main sources of the power of capitalism: law, authority, and the State”. [Op. Cit., p. 150] For anarchists, anarchy means “not necessarily absence of order, as is generally supposed, but an absence of rule”. [Benjamin Tucker, Instead of a Book, p. 13] Hence David Weick’s excellent summary:
“Anarchism can be understood as the generic social and political idea that expresses negation of all power, sovereignty, domination, and hierarchical division, and a will to their dissolution … Anarchism is therefore more than anti-statism … [even if] government (the state) … is, appropriately, the central focus of anarchist critique”. [Reinventing Anarchy, p. 139]
For this reason, rather than being purely anti-government or anti-state, anarchism is primarily *a movement against hierarchy*. Why? Because hierarchy is the organisational structure that embodies authority. Since the state is the “highest” form of hierarchy, anarchists are, by definition, anti-state; but this is not a sufficient definition of anarchism. This means that real anarchists are opposed to all forms of hierarchical organisation, not only the state. In the words of Brian Morris:
“The term anarchy comes from the Greek, and essentially means ‘no ruler.’ Anarchists are people who reject all forms of government or coercive authority, all forms of hierarchy and domination. They are therefore opposed to what the Mexican anarchist Flores Magon called the ‘sombre trinity’ — state, capital and the church. Anarchists are thus opposed to both capitalism and to the state, as well as to all forms of religious authority. But anarchists also seek to establish or bring about by varying means, a condition of anarchy, that is, a decentralised society without coercive institutions, a society organised through a federation of voluntary associations.” [“Anthropology and Anarchism”, pp. 35-41, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, no. 45, p. 38]
A.1.2 What does “anarchism” mean?
To quote Peter Kropotkin, Anarchism is “the no-government system of socialism”. [Anarchism, p. 46] In other words, “the abolition of exploitation and oppression of man by man, that is the abolition of private property [i.e. capitalism] and government”. [Errico Malatesta, Towards Anarchism,”, p. 75]
Anarchism, therefore, is a political theory that aims to create a society which is without political, economic or social hierarchies. Anarchists maintain that anarchy, the absence of rulers, is a viable form of social system and so work for the maximisation of individual liberty and social equality. They see the goals of liberty and equality as mutually self-supporting. Or, in Bakunin’s famous dictum:
“We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.” [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 269]
The history of human society proves this point. Liberty without equality is only liberty for the powerful, and equality without liberty is impossible and a justification for slavery.
Anarchism as a modern social movement has its origins in 1800s Europe, but the struggle for ‘anarchy’ is probably as old as humanity itself (perhaps 100,000 years). The Yanqui anthropologist David Graeber has recently written a short text which explores this idea in relation to the field of anthropology, while Harold Barclay has also explored this topic in his book ‘People Without Government’. A review of Graeber:
Anthropology Against the State:
A Review of David Graeber’s Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology
If there is any question thrown at organizers within the various tendrils of the global justice movement intended to make our efforts appear utopian and unrealizable, it would have to be “I understand what you’re against, but what are you for?” The implicit idea being that there is no reason to believe that another world is possible in more than a rhetorical sense, or at least not examples to prove such is possible. Frequently those of us who dream of a liberated world without a market or state structures turn to anthropology for inspiration from the thousands of years of human history where such didn’t exist. Anthropologists, worried about being accused of romanticizing populations, have generally responded to these inquiries with a confused silence.
In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology Yale based [note: Graeber was turfed out of Yale on the basis of his anarchist activism] anthropologist and political activist David Graeber asks, “what if that wasn’t the case?” Drawing from the rich history of ethnographic materials and anthropological records as well as critical theory and current practices within the global justice movement, Graeber demonstrates that there is an endless variety of revolutionary political and social organization to draw from. Rejecting both the Hobbesian fable of the “war of all against all” and the blatant forms of racism and Eurocentrism used to argue that so called “primitive” societies have no bearing on and are completely removed from the world we live in, Graeber explores the endless variety of political and organization which have existed throughout the world. From the Tsimhety of northwest Madagascar to Amazonian tribes, what emerges are the dynamics of struggle and contention, of insurrection and resistance that have existed not just through the past two hundred years of European history but arguably since the dawn of human existence.
The anthropological cannon, from James Frazer to Pierre Clastres, once removed from its arcane status as obscure purely academic knowledge, brims with ideas and examples of social organization that could be of use to organizers seeking for alternatives practices. Organizers and radical theorists have long drawn from anthropology to find useful ideas for their work, from the Situationist’s usage of the potlatch of the Kwakiutl to current practices of consensus, which have existed through numerous indigenous societies throughout the world, long before activists began to employ them for spokescouncils. Anarchism in this light is revealed not to be a political philosophy invented by a particular set of bearded European males sometime in the 1800s, but rather the practices of voluntary association, cooperation, and egalitarian social arrangements pervading societies worldwide.
Similarly Graeber connects currents of thought within autonomist traditions, such as the ideas of exodus and counterpower, to social structures within indigenous societies that operate in very much a similar manner. Particularly interesting is his exploration of the idea of ethnogenesis, or how enduring political projects and communities sediment and come to be recognized as ethnic categories. One can see such both in communities that formed in Madagascar as well as in the nomadic tribes formed in the United States by the mixing of escaped slaves, indentured European servants, and Native American populations.
The greatest flaw of the book is that Graeber is throwing out so many ideas and concepts at such a dizzying pace that he never really has time to delve into any of them at great depth. But perhaps that’s half the point. Drawing from the practice of ethnography in an attempt to reformulate radical intellectual practice, he argues that the task is to draw and tease out the hidden symbolic and pragmatic aspects of what people are doing and to give such information back as gifts. By beginning to draw out the liberatory possibilities contained within anthropology Graeber sets out not to define and delimit exactly what an anarchist anthropology is, but to point in some of the possible directions that those of us struggling for a better world could take such knowledge.
Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, published by Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004. It can be downloaded for free here:
Harold Barclay, People Without Government:
As for more general observations on human nature and the possibilities of a free society, Ken Knabb writes:
Chapter 1: Some Facts of Life
“We can comprehend this world only by contesting it as a whole … The root of the prevailing lack of imagination cannot be grasped unless one is able to imagine what is lacking, that is, what is missing, hidden, forbidden, and yet possible, in modern life.”
*Utopia or bust*
Never in history has there been such a glaring contrast between what could be and what actually exists.
It’s hardly necessary to go into all the problems in the world today — most of them are widely known, and to dwell on them usually does little more than dull us to their reality. But even if we are “stoic enough to endure the misfortunes of others”, the present social deterioration ultimately impinges on us all. Those who don’t face direct physical repression still have to face the mental repressions imposed by an increasingly mean, stressful, ignorant and ugly world. Those who escape economic poverty cannot escape the general impoverishment of life.
And even life at this pitiful level cannot continue for long. The ravaging of the planet by the global development of capitalism has brought us to the point where humanity may become extinct within a few decades.
Yet this same development has [arguably] made it possible to abolish the system of hierarchy and exploitation that was previously based on material scarcity and to inaugurate a new, genuinely liberated form of society.
Plunging from one disaster to another on its way to mass insanity and ecological apocalypse, this system has developed a momentum that is out of control, even by its supposed masters. As we approach a world in which we [sic] won’t be able to leave our fortified ghettoes without armed guards, or even go outdoors without applying sunscreen lest we get skin cancer, it’s hard to take seriously those who advise us to beg for a few reforms.
What is needed, I believe, is a worldwide participatory-democracy revolution that would abolish both capitalism and the state. This is admittedly a big order, but I’m afraid that nothing less can get to the root of our problems. It may seem absurd to talk about revolution; but all the alternatives assume the continuation of the present system, which is even more absurd…
*Some common objections*
It’s often said that a stateless society might work if everyone were angels, but due to the perversity of human nature some hierarchy is necessary to keep people in line. It would be truer to say that if everyone were angels the present system might work tolerably well (bureaucrats would function honestly, capitalists would refrain from socially harmful ventures even if they were profitable). It is precisely because people are not angels that it’s necessary to eliminate the setup that enables some of them to become very efficient devils. Lock a hundred people in a small room with only one air hole and they will claw each other to death to get to it. Let them out and they may manifest a rather different nature. As one of the May 1968 graffiti put it, “Man is neither Rousseau’s noble savage nor the Church’s depraved sinner. He is violent when oppressed, gentle when free.”
Others contend that, whatever the ultimate causes may be, people are now so screwed up that they need to be psychologically or spiritually healed before they can even conceive of creating a liberated society. In his later years Wilhelm Reich came to feel that an “emotional plague” was so firmly embedded in the population that it would take generations of healthily raised children before people would become capable of a libertarian social transformation; and that meanwhile one should avoid confronting the system head-on since this would stir up a hornet’s nest of ignorant popular reaction.
Irrational popular tendencies do sometimes call for discretion. But powerful though they may be, they are not irresistible forces. They contain their own contradictions. Clinging to some absolute authority is not necessarily a sign of faith in authority; it may be a desperate attempt to overcome one’s increasing doubts (the convulsive tightening of a slipping grip). People who join gangs or reactionary groups, or who get caught up in religious cults or patriotic hysteria, are also seeking a sense of liberation, connection, purpose, participation, empowerment. As Reich himself showed, fascism gives a particularly vigorous and dramatic expression to these basic aspirations, which is why it often has a deeper appeal than the vacillations, compromises and hypocrisies of liberalism and leftism.
In the long run the only way to defeat reaction is to present more forthright expressions of these aspirations, and more authentic opportunities to fulfill them. When basic issues are forced into the open, irrationalities that flourished under the cover of psychological repression tend to be weakened, like disease germs exposed to sunlight and fresh air. In any case, even if we don’t prevail, there is at least some satisfaction in fighting for what we really believe, rather than being defeated in a posture of hesitancy and hypocrisy.
There are limits on how far one can liberate oneself (or raise liberated children) within a sick society. But if Reich was right to note that psychologically repressed people are less capable of envisioning social liberation, he failed to realize how much the process of social revolt can be psychologically liberating. (French psychiatrists are said to have complained about a significant drop in the number of their customers in the aftermath of May 1968!)
The notion of total democracy raises the specter of a “tyranny of the majority.” Majorities can be ignorant and bigoted, there’s no getting around it. The only real solution is to confront and attempt to overcome that ignorance and bigotry. Keeping the masses in the dark (relying on liberal judges to protect civil liberties or liberal legislators to sneak through progressive reforms) only leads to popular backlashes when sensitive issues eventually do come to the surface.
Examined more closely, however, most instances of majority oppression of minorities turn out to be due not to majority rule, but to disguised minority rule in which the ruling elite plays on whatever racial or cultural antagonisms there may be in order to turn the exploited masses’ frustrations against each other. When people get real power over their own lives they will have more interesting things to do than to persecute minorities.
So many potential abuses or disasters are evoked at any suggestion of a nonhierarchical society that it would be impossible to answer them all. People who resignedly accept a system that condemns millions of their fellow human beings to death every year in wars and famines, and millions of others to prison and torture, suddenly let their imagination and their indignation run wild at the thought that in a self-managed society there might be some abuses, some violence or coercion or injustice, or even merely some temporary inconvenience. They forget that it is not up to a new social system to solve all our problems; it merely has to deal with them better than the present system does — not a very big order.
If history followed the complacent opinions of official commentators, there would never have been any revolutions. In any given situation there are always plenty of ideologists ready to declare that no radical change is possible. If the economy is functioning well, they will claim that revolution depends on economic crises; if there is an economic crisis, others will just as confidently declare that revolution is impossible because people are too busy worrying about making ends meet. The former types, surprised by the May 1968 revolt, tried to retrospectively uncover the invisible crisis that their ideology insists must have been there. The latter contend that the situationist perspective has been refuted by the worsened economic conditions since that time.
Actually, the situationists simply noted that the widespread achievement of capitalist abundance had demonstrated that guaranteed survival was no substitute for real life. The periodic ups and downs of the economy have no bearing on that conclusion. The fact that a few people at the top have recently managed to siphon off a yet larger portion of the social wealth, driving increasing numbers of people into the streets and terrorizing the rest of the population lest they succumb to the same fate, makes the feasibility of a postscarcity society less evident; but the material prerequisites are still present.
The economic crises held up as evidence that we need to “lower our expectations” are actually caused by over-production and lack of work. The ultimate absurdity of the present system is that unemployment is seen as a problem, with potentially labor-saving technologies being directed toward creating new jobs to replace the old ones they render unnecessary. The problem is not that so many people don’t have jobs, but that so many people still do. We need to raise our expectations, not lower them…
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
you believe in god? i mean i just read this whole page for some reason and it got interesting at the end… but god? i didnt see that coming!
But the prayer is sound advice I reckons.
Build an anarchist society, and see how far behind it gets over time. There is simply no progression in anarchy.
I knew we’d find some common ground eventually Tony: you’re stupid.
As the trial approaches I haven’t forgotten at all being dumped on after the g20 by those clowns. As communities themselves reclaim their right to protest, the recent Anti Racism action by Indian students (as an example) proves that the authoritarian left in Australia have made themselves redundant as activists & agitators for social change.
Just the kinda thing I would expect a crazy violent foreigner to say. You are a wrecker, Ana, and I offer you no comfort — not even a woolly jumper.
Now: forward to Marxist revolution!
Pingback: ФРАГМЕНТЫ АНАРХИСТСКОЙ АНТРОПОЛОГИИ » Commons/Спільне