- See : APOC ~versus~ CrimethInc (August 2, 2009) for background | Note : In a comment on the post, Ernesto, one of the individuals I make reference to, has pointed out a few factual errors.
From the Department of More Compelling Arguments for the Enslavement of All White Liberals & Why Isn’t The Left Talking About This?…
APOC is an acronym. APOC is
Asia-Pacific Optical and Wireless Communications Conference Association of Postal Officials of Canada Anarchist / Anti-authoritarian / Autonomous People of Color (see also : APOC, the roof restoration experts provide… products and information for contractors, building owners, facility managers, consultants, and specifiers.)
‘Anarchist People of Color’ has its origins in late 2000, when a ‘People of Color Caucus’ formed within the Anarchist Black Cross Federation. (Note that the ABCF continues to produce an excellent quarterly, available for download from their site.) Then in early 2001 a bloke called Ernesto Aguilar established a site (illegalvoices.org) and email list specifically for the use of anarchist people of colo(u)r, and later that year (October 2001) the Houston ABCF resigned from the ABCF and the ABCF ‘People of Color Caucus’ dissolved itself into APOC. The APOC site died several years later (2006), but before it sailed off into the ether, APOC also organised a coupla conferences in Detroit, Michigan in October 2003 and in Houston, Texas in March 2006. During this period, APOC also organised a number of other, regional conferences, events and projects, published agitprop, and done all the other stuff what forms a routine part of political activism.
APOC had its first shit-storm at its first conference, which pitted the ‘Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers’ (BANCCO) against another mob. (BANCO still exists, apparently.) BANC(C)O was also preceded by a very similar mob known as AANCO — the ‘Anti-Authoritarian Network of Community Organizers’ (see : ‘Poor People’s Survival Movement: Community Organizers Call For A Real War On Poverty’, Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, Black Fist, No.9, 1995). I dunno if there’s been any reconciliation since then, but to the extent that the issues raised were important, and unresolved, they will no doubt arise again at some point in the future.
Following the departure of Ernesto and (it seems) a range of others, APOC was resurrected in June 2007 as illvox. “Illvox.org does not replace illegalvoices.org and is not affiliated with APOC. It is intended to provide access to documents for/by/of this important anti-authoritarian tendency, and to support discussion.” Despite this disavowal, illvox, in re-publishing the contents of illegalvoices — including two ace books, African Anarchism: The History of A Movement by Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey (See Sharp Press, 1997) and Cuban Anarchism: The History of A Movement by Frank Fernández (See Sharp, 2001), as well as scores of useful essays — and re-branding itself ‘Anarchist People of Color (APOC)’ suggests that it — the site, those who maintain it and those associated with it — retains a strong, if informal, relationship to APOC in its original iteration.
Of course, the term ‘APOC’ may be applied to a variety of ventures and, insofar as ‘APOC’ consists of or refers to a network of groups and individuals spanning a country the size of the US, is is impossible to attribute any one action or event to ‘APOC’ as a whole. Further, any action by ‘APOC’ (or claimed on its behalf) raises questions of re-presentation and accountability: questions not peculiar to ‘APOC’ as a political project, but of relevance to any mode of political organisation and social movement, of whatever flavour.
Two recent, controversial actions that a number of APOC participated in were the cheekily-titled ‘Smack A White Boy I’ and ‘Smack A White Boy II: The Sequel’. The first took place in Washington in March 2009, and the sequel played in Pittsburgh last week — to (more) mixed receptions.
Identity Politics and The Politics of Identity
The impromptu screening of SAWB: The Sequel @ the CrimethInc convergence has been described as a skirmish in an ongoing ‘War of Representation’ (see the last of four accounts at About the Controversy at the CrimethInc. Convergence, Twin Cities Indymedia, August 3, 2009). Which comment brings to mind — naturally — the writings of Nancy Fraser, in particular those on the politics of representation and redistribution (see : Rethinking Recognition, New Left Review, No.3, May/June 2000).
…Once the hegemonic grammar of political contestation, the language of distribution is less salient today. The movements that not long ago boldly demanded an equitable share of resources and wealth have not, to be sure, wholly disappeared. But thanks to the sustained neoliberal rhetorical assault on egalitarianism, to the absence of any credible model of ‘feasible socialism’ and to widespread doubts about the viability of state-Keynesian social democracy in the face of globalization, their role has been greatly reduced.
We are facing, then, a new constellation in the grammar of political claims-making—and one that is disturbing on two counts. First, this move from redistribution to recognition is occurring despite—or because of—an acceleration of economic globalization, at a time when an aggressively expanding capitalism is radically exacerbating economic inequality. In this context, questions of recognition are serving less to supplement, complicate and enrich redistributive struggles than to marginalize, eclipse and displace them. I shall call this the problem of displacement. Second, today’s recognition struggles are occurring at a moment of hugely increasing transcultural interaction and communication, when accelerated migration and global media flows are hybridizing and pluralizing cultural forms. Yet the routes such struggles take often serve not to promote respectful interaction within increasingly multicultural contexts, but to drastically simplify and reify group identities. They tend, rather, to encourage separatism, intolerance and chauvinism, patriarchalism and authoritarianism. I shall call this the problem of reification…
Fraser’s arguments have been taken up and responded to at length, but in the present context are germane given that, first, while lamenting the absence of social movements which place questions of the (radical, egalitarian re-)distribution of wealth and power at their centre, Fraser was writing at the time of the birth of a global movement to contest neo-liberalism;* secondly, APOC was born at approximately the same time. Fraser’s essay (and subsequent writings and the general discussion of her ideas which her writing provoked) can also be used to inform discussions of notions of ‘cultural’ — as opposed to ‘economic’ or ‘political’ — ‘appropriation’, another of the crimes for which CrimethInc, the (white) anarchist movement and whites in general come in for criticism/condemnation (hence references to “dread locked white punks”, “traveling college bros” and so on).
- *Or rather, previously, largely subterranean movements in the West began to become more vocal and their activities more frequent and widespread — resistance to ‘neoliberalism’ may also, and more accurately perhaps, be located in those movements in the ‘Third World’ which fought the imposition of ‘Structural Adjustment Programs’ upon their governments and societies during the 1970s and 1980s; the evolution of this resistance is detailed in scores of books not written by me.
Beyond this, it is also useful to view ‘identity’ as something more- or other-than self-proclamation. Rather, ‘identity’ may be understood as having a ‘social’ composition, of arising from complex interactions, both ‘personal’ and ‘political’, involving processes of ‘interpellation’ (Althusser), of ‘performance’ (Butler) and of ‘discourse’ (of course). Secondly, as Uncle Noam noted in his ‘Notes on Anarchism’, ‘A French writer, sympathetic to anarchism, wrote in the 1890s that “anarchism has a broad back, like paper it endures anything” — including, he noted those whose acts are such that “a mortal enemy of anarchism could not have done better”.’ The point is not that the use of Smack by some APOC amounts to much more than a storm in a teacup full of chai; rather, that ‘anarchism’ endures all kindsa crazy stunts, including those which emanate, seemingly, from a misplaced vanguardism. For example…
At the 1985 London Anarchist Bookfair, the very dangerous Ian Bone (Bash the Rich, Tangent Books, 2006, p.178) writes:
Having sold shitloads of Class War with Martin I took the stage at the end of the day. Well, actually, there was already someone on the stage so I had to push them off it first. Unfortunately, that person was Donald Rooum — a veteran comrade I have a lot of respect for going back to his framing by the police for intending to throw a brick at the Queen of Greece in the 1960s. However, it wasn’t really Donald I was shoving off the stage but the old anarchist movement. Drunk as fuck I declared:
You liberals and pacifists have had our movement for too long, now it’s our turn. If we haven’t reduced the place to ruins in five years you can have it back!
Quite why I wanted to reduce the venerable Conway Hall to ruins was unclear. But what the fuck. I might have paraphrased [Durruti], but the point was clear. We were on a fucking roll.
On Class War — which still ekes out an existence, despite being formally ‘dissolved’ in 1997 — see : Intakes: Death of a Paper Tiger… Reflections on Class War, Aufheben, No.6, 1998; Revolution – An Unfinished Business, Organise!, No.47, Winter 1997/1998; Smash Hits, No.2, Spring 1998; Class War is dead.. Long live the Class War (contents of and responses to the ‘final’ issue (No.73) of Class War — the CWF is currently residing at No.96).
Most of the online commentary generated by The Pittsburgh Experiment has in turn generated more heat than light, and given that the issue concerns ‘race’, ‘racism’, ‘whiteness’, ‘white supremacy’ and so on, has naturally attracted trolls like flies to shit (see : BANANAS). It also is no doubt of interest to city officials and the US police/state, especially given the fact that Pittsburgh is soon to host a gathering of the G20. Some references have been made to that phase in the history of US state counter-insurgency known as ‘COINTELPRO’ (1956–1971), and speculation regarding the involvement or encouragement of agents provocateur. There is no evidence of any such government plot, but COINTELPRO is of relevance to the extent that one of its principal aims was to destroy ‘progressive’ social movements, and one of its tactics — reasonably successful, in my view — was to engender animosity among different groups, especially where there was scope for a common/communal articulation of ‘progressive’ politics.
Gentrification (The Flava of the Month)
One of the principal justifications offered by at least one (or possibly more) of the six (seven, eight or more) individuals who participated in the performance piece in Pittsburgh was that the CrimethInc convergence assisted the gentrification of that area of the city in which it took place. This is asserted rather than demonstrated, and appears to rest on a somewhat bizarre understanding of ‘gentrification’, as well as the forces responsible for it. Another rationale for the action refers to the fact that attendance at the CrimethInc convergence was majority white, and took place in a part of Pittsburgh that isn’t. This is further extended into a critique of the political perspectives of CrimethInc as a whole, in particular “CrimethInc has been/is the breeding ground for white anarchists”. This is a problem for APOC, because white anarchists embody white supremacy.
CrimethInc has itself been subjected to various critiques (see, for example, Ken Knabb’s reflections), but one important point to remember is that, like ‘APOC’, CrimethInc resists re-presentation, at least in the sense that CrimethInc may be understood as being an ongoing project involving sometimes disparate elements; further, that the Pittsburgh convergence was open to all. CrimethInc (or rather, those responsible for maintaining a CrimethInc website) have produced a brief statement on The Pittsburgh Experiment here.
‘Anyway’, ‘whatever’ and ‘fuck this shit’ — my apathy has returned, and in conclusion: in April 2008, Harjit Singh Gill wrote In Support of APOC; in May 2008, Aragorn!, battling the torpor that comes from (over-)work, wrote down some of their thoughts on “the new-APOC tendency” in Context. It always comes down to context.
See also :
Our Culture, Our Resistance: People of Color Speak Out on Anarchism, Race, Class and Gender, First edition, published September 11, 2004, edited by Ernesto Aguilar [PDF] | Building a Non-Eurocentric Anarchism in Our Communities: Dialogue with Ashanti Alston | Camillo Berneri – Against the Racist Delirium (Originally published as El Delirio Racista, Ediciones Iman, Buenos Aires, February 1935), Robert Graham’s Anarchism Weblog, September 14, 2008 | Chapter 13: ‘Beyond The Borders’, Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Robert Graham [Forthcoming] | Chapter 10: ‘Anarchist Internationalism and Race, Imperialism, and Gender’, Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (AK Press, 2009) | Non-Western Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context, Jason Adams, 2003 [PDF]…
Anarchism : an ideology for fuckwits, bums & lowlifes : Part the 2nd (June 21, 2009) | White With Fear : Flagging A New Hate (June 11, 2009) | The assault on American Indian tribal relationships… (May 31, 2009) | The Invention of the White Race (May 29, 2009) | Anarchism and Aboriginal sovereignty (June 16, 2008) | Anarchy 102 : Race (April 10, 2007)…
Extra Added Bonus!