- Update (August 12, 2009) : More Convergence Accounts, CrimethInc, August 8, 2009: “Here are four more accounts from people of color who experienced the disruption at the end of the CrimethInc. convergence in Pittsburgh. Further discussion of the convergence will appear here shortly…”
There’s a hella lotta stuff I wanna blog about, and will. (And in fact have: 1,966 posts, to be exact, generating 9,894 comments in reply — not all of them mine! — and over 1,300,000 spam goddamn.) But, being an anarchist (to be precise: believing ‘anarchism’ to be the political philosophy with which I feel the closest affinity), a leftist trainspotter, and devoting considerable time and energy to blogging about issues to do with race, (anti-)racism and (anti-)fascism, I feel compelled (and not only by my ZOG controllers) to blog some more about APOC ~versus~ CrimethInc.
To begin with, my previous post on the subject has generated very little in the way of dialogue (apart from an appreciative note by Aragorn!, an emotional one from Dr. Cam, and some useful fact-checking by Ernesto). “Will it be ever thus?” (“Ungracious wretches!”) Much of the remainder of the online commentary on the incident — @ anarchistnews.org, infoshop.org, various IndyMedia sites, blogs, email lists and so on — has been painful to read. Having considered the question ‘Why is this the case?’, it seems to me that there are at least three main reasons.
First, and most obviously, i can has trolls.
Secondly, and more importantly, anarchism (not only in North America, but perhaps especially so, and for various reasons), remains, in general, the domain of yoof. Further to this, there is a divide between the ‘yoof’ what are ‘active’, and the generally older (former) yoofs what are engaged in ‘serious’ forms of political analysis and social research; the production of forms of knowledge useful, perhaps even critical, to dismantling those forms of authority and expressions of power identified as being the primary obstacles to the realisation of anarchy.
In this context, a number of individuals have made the point that the kinds of cultural norms and practices which constitute ‘contemporary anarchism’ in North America (and not only there), including a reluctance to engage in open-ended, critical inquiry, tends to alienate many, who frequently find other, more welcoming — but not necessarily ‘safer’ — social spaces and political projects in which to explore and to enact their ideas.
Thirdly, because anarchism is a label, and not a warranty.
One, slightly odd development has been the extension of the practical critique on display in Pittsburgh to ‘Food Not Bombs’. According to one (and perhaps more) APOC, FNB is, like CrimethInc, “a white supremacist movement” (sic). This written, and as yet not practical, assault on FNB appears to be even more tendentious — even slightly unhinged — than the attempted eviction of CrimethInc (see : kilwaii.blogspot.com/). On another level, however, it is, in fact, its logical extension. That is, ‘race’, ‘whiteness’ and ‘white supremacy’ are viewed as being the product of moral failures, not history.
Like CrimethInc, there are criticisms to be made of FNB, some of which emanate from members of the hundreds of FNB collectives themselves. In any case, the criticisms being advanced by one (and perhaps more) APOC, being of little substance, do not require any serious response; a response which would, in any case, be best made by those involved in its activities.
Some might ask ‘Why do I bother?’ (I sure fucking do), and what interest is it of mine to pay any attention to the rather odd activities of ‘anarchists’ of one sort (or another) on the other side of the world. Certainly, the same criticism has been levelled with regards my interest in a range of other subjects, from documenting some of the similarly odd — but fascinating — antics of the far left and the far right in Australia; fascism and anti-fascist struggle in Russia; and the triumphant march of the Collingwood football club to ultimate victory in September.
For what it’s worth, and leaving to one side the fact that such incidents at least have the virtue of raising a number of interesting questions regarding the intersection of race and class in the United States — and the anarchist understanding of such matters — the fact is that in terms of the maintenance of global capitalism, the United States is at the heart of Empire. Given also that race (or racial segmentation) continues to form one of the fault lines upon which US society is built — and even, some argue, constitutes its principal social contradiction — how radical movements in the US tackle such questions is of enormous significance. (If I were a Marxist, I might declare it to be a question of ‘world-historical’ importance: I’m not and I don’t.)
To end: ‘Smack A White Boy: The Sequel’ may be considered to have been an ill-conceived stunt, performed by a small number of non-local Pittsburgh APOC, reflective of an impoverished analysis and — irrespective of whatever degree of personal satisfaction was obtained by those who participated — on the whole, counter-productive in terms of challenging either gentrification in (the East End of) Pittsburgh or ‘white privilege’ in the North American anarchist movement or the United States in general. Secondly, the action is the responsibility of those who took part in it: not ‘APOC’ as a whole. Thirdly, the action has the virtue of forcing other APOC to clarify their views. Fourthly, it exposes (or helps to further expose) the political tensions inherent in the APOC project, especially in regards to issues of racial or ethnic nationalism. Finally, while it is alleged that ‘CrimethInc’ and ‘Food Not Bombs’ are ‘white supremacist’ institutions, the real white supremacists, such as those belonging to fascist groupuscules such as BANANAS, are laughing.
And so they should.
See also : 6 years ago, I was there! but I’m not there now, A Philosophy of Migration, August 5, 2009 | Re: APOC Slap a White Boy Action Against Crimethinc, Joaquin Cienfuegos, August 5, 2009
o n e
The Reproduction of Everyday Life
The everyday practical activity of [Americans] reproduces, or perpetuates, [America]. This reproduction is not merely physical, but social as well. Through their daily activities [Americans] do not merely reproduce a group of human beings; they reproduce [America], namely a particular social form within which this group of human beings performs specific activities in a specific manner. The specific activities of [Americans] are not the outcome of “natural” characteristics of the individuals who perform them, the way the production of honey is an outcome of the “nature” of a bee. The daily life enacted and perpetuated by [Americans] is a specific social response to particular material and historical conditions.
The everyday activity of slaves reproduces slavery. Through their daily activities, slaves do not merely reproduce themselves and their masters physically; they also reproduce the instruments with which the master represses them, and their own habits of submission to the master’s authority. To men who live in a slave society, the master-slave relation seems like a natural and eternal relation. However, men are not born masters or slaves. Slavery is a specific social form, and men submit to it only in very particular material and historical conditions.
The practical everyday activity of wage-workers reproduces wage labor and capital. Through their daily activities, “modern” men, like tribesmen and slaves, reproduce the inhabitants, the social relations and the ideas of their society; they reproduce the social form of daily life. Like the tribe and the slave system, the capitalist system is neither the natural nor the final form of human society; like the earlier social forms, capitalism is a specific response to material and historical conditions.
Unlike earlier forms of social activity, everyday life in capitalist society systematically transforms the material conditions to which capitalism originally responded. Some of the material limits to human activity come gradually under human control. At a high level of industrialization, practical activity creates its own material conditions as well as its social form. Thus the subject of analysis is not only how practical activity in capitalist society reproduces capitalist society, but also how this activity itself eliminates the material conditions to which capitalism is a response…
t w o
A Question Of Privilege
Willful Disobedience, Vol.2, No.8
A flawed, but interesting and provocative perspective on an oft-cited notion, published some 10 or so years ago…
One hears a lot of talk about privilege in anarchist circles these days. “Male privilege”, “white-skin privilege”, “first-world privilege” and similar phrases come up regularly in discussion, but with no real analysis to back them up, as if everyone should understand exactly what is meant. And, indeed, it is not so difficult to figure out what is meant by these phrases. Their clear implication is that if the oppression and exploitation one suffers in this society is not as intense as that which another suffers, then one is privileged relative to that other person. But such a conception of privilege is useless from an anarchist and revolutionary perspective. It only has meaning in relation to the reformist concept of equality before the law, which is always equality of exploitation and oppression. For those of us who have no interest in rights, but rather want the freedom to determine our own lives and so find the only equality worth pursuing to be equality of access to all that is necessary for determining the conditions of our existence—that is, for those of us for whom the destruction of the social order and the revolutionary transformation of reality are the essential first steps toward making our lives our own—a very different concept of privilege must be developed.
We live in a class society. This has been true since the accumulation of wealth and power into a few hands gave rise to the state and capital. The few who rule determine the conditions under which everyone exists, institutionalizing social relations that maintain and expand their control over wealth and power. The ruling class structures these relations in such a way that the survival of the exploited classes depends upon their continued participation in the reproduction of these relationships, thus guaranteeing the continuation of class society. Thus, it can be said that the ruling class structures social relationships in such a way that the continued reproduction of society will always privilege the ruling class and its needs. In any class society—thus, in any society in which the state and the economy exist—only the ruling class can be truly said to have privilege.
But the ruling class does not impose itself upon a passive populace. The history of class society is always the history of class struggle, the history of the exploited trying to take their lives and the social conditions under which they exist back in order to determine them for themselves. Thus, it is in the interest of the ruling class to structure social relations in such a way as to create divisions within the exploited classes that cloud their understanding of the nature of their struggle and of their enemy. The ruling class accomplishes this through various institutions, identities and ideologies such as nation, race, gender, occupation, sexual preference and so on. It is not hard to see how the ruling class uses these structures for its ends. It grants people in specific social categories particular “privileges” defined in terms of that category. But being granted a privilege by those who define your life on their terms is not the same thing as having privilege. This becomes especially clear when anyone who is not of the ruling class steps out of line. Their so-called privileges can quickly disappear.
Furthermore, these “privileges” granted by the ruling order to people in certain social categories among the exploited actually do amount to nothing more than a lessening of the intensity of exploitation and oppression experienced by these people relative to others. Thus, men are less likely to be sexually harassed and assaulted than women and tend to receive greater compensation for the same level of exploitation at the job. White people are less likely to be harassed by cops or to be charged with felonies for victimless crimes and sentenced to years in prison than non-white people and find it easier to get a job. Heterosexuals generally do not have to worry about being beaten or ostracized because of their sexual preference. The list could go on, but I think the point is clear. All of these so-called privileges are nothing more than a minimal easing of the conditions of exploitation experienced by people in these specific social categories. They are intended to convince these people that they have more in common with their exploiters than with those not granted the same “privileges” and to convince the others that their real enemy is not the ruling class, but rather those granted a less intense level of exploitation.
In this light, moralistic calls to recognize one’s own privilege and give it up are meaningless. They serve no purpose in the creation of a revolutionary project aimed at the destruction of all rule. As we have seen, the so-called privileges enumerated in the mea culpas of guilt ridden radicals are really nothing more than means for constructing social identities that serve the ruling class by producing artificial divisions among those they exploit. So if we want to move the revolutionary project of destroying all rule and privilege forward, then our task is not to give up some phantom privilege that has never really been our own, but to expose and move beyond the artificial identities that smother our individuality and cripple us in our battle against the ruling order. Since only the ruling class truly has privilege, the destruction of privilege will only occur when we destroy all rule.
t h r e e
‘Notes on Nationalism’
…The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles. Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own antisemitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness. In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one’s own mind.
Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should — in which, for example, the Spanish Armada was a success or the Russian Revolution was crushed in 1918 — and he will transfer fragments of this world to the history books whenever possible. Much of the propagandist writing of our time amounts to plain forgery. Material facts are suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed from their context and doctored so as to change their meaning. Events which it is felt ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied(6). In 1927 Chiang Kai Shek boiled hundreds of Communists alive, and yet within ten years he had become one of the heroes of the Left. The re-alignment of world politics had brought him into the anti-Fascist camp, and so it was felt that the boiling of the Communists ‘didn’t count’, or perhaps had not happened. The primary aim of propaganda is, of course, to influence contemporary opinion, but those who rewrite history do probably believe with part of their minds that they are actually thrusting facts into the past. When one considers the elaborate forgeries that have been committed in order to show that Trotsky did not play a valuable part in the Russian civil war, it is difficult to feel that the people responsible are merely lying. More probably they feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly.
Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events. For example, it is impossible to calculate within millions, perhaps even tens of millions, the number of deaths caused by the present war. The calamities that are constantly being reported — battles, massacres, famines, revolutions — tend to inspire in the average person a feeling of unreality. One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. What were the rights and wrongs of the Warsaw rising of August 1944? Is it true about the German gas ovens in Poland? Who was really to blame for the Bengal famine? Probably the truth is discoverable, but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in almost any newspaper that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or failing to form an opinion. The general uncertainty as to what is really happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs. Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied. Moreover, although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him. All nationalist controversy is at the debating-society level. It is always entirely inconclusive, since each contestant invariably believes himself to have won the victory. Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world…