A pained reaction to a wanker

    Of any two options, choose the third.

    If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish Him.

Some bloke called Jef was in Melbourne last November to attend the 2006 Australian Skeptics Convention. When not confronted by the quizzical stares of other convention-goers, Jef imagined attempting to have A Socratic dialogue with an anarchist (November 22, 2006). Sharp as a razor, Jef notes that as well as his own skeptical self “Many others were in Melbourne as well. All were there for a good time — especially the anarchists engaging in running skirmishes with the police”. In a back-handed compliment to the organisers of the Skeptics Convention, “The anarchists were having a great time” reckons Jef, as “they appeared to be angry, and the press described them as such, but they were only feigning anger while experiencing joy”. Odd that a skeptic should also be a mind-reader, but stranger things have happened (I guess). As a stick-in-the-mud, Jef “decided to spoil a young woman anarchist’s fun by expressing sincere interest in their agenda.”

Ho ho ho.

Jef: I see you want to abolish capitalism.
She: Yes.
Jef: I’m very interested and perhaps I might join your group — but I need to know more about your program. How do you propose to abolish capitalism?
She: By revolution.
Jef: That’s interesting, how will you organise yourselves to bring about such a revolution?
She: Well, when we have enough like-minded people, we can organise ourselves to subvert capitalist institutions by undermining them from within.

He: Rudi Dutschke‘s brain-child, The Long March Through The Institutions, as well as being a) a favourite hobby-horse of right-wing critics of socialistical gub’mint and b) largely discredited, is a distinctly un-anarchist proposition… Unless, perhaps, the ‘fun-filled young woman anarchist’ who is the unfortunate subject of Jef’s peculiar line of questioning is in some way referring to the notion of prefigurative politics.

As for the concept of The Long March, according to George Katsiaficas:

Entering the Bundestag as a committed but loyal opposition corresponded to a strategy dubbed the “long march through the institutions” in the 1960s by Rudi Dutschke [1940–1979]. According to this idea, when possible, a revolutionary movement should introduce its values and ideas within established political forms, thereby reaching millions of people and setting in motion new possibilities for change. The continuing process of reforms unleashed by this strategy is supposed to encourage popular participation and to raise consciousness and expectations. If the existing institutions can be shown to be incapable of creating, in this case, an ecologically viable society, then many people might be persuaded of the need for a whole new system with reasonable economic and political policies (or at least of the need to vote Green).

It should be noted that socialist student leader Rudi’s grand strategy for radically transforming German society developed after an assassination attempt, outside his apartment on April 11, 1968, by a RiGhT-wInG-nUt: a house-painter named Josef Bachmann. Bachmann called Dutschke a “filthy communist swine” before shooting him three times, and was supposedly inspired by reading Deutsche National Zeitung, a neo-Nazi periodical, “a cutting from which is later found on his person, proclaiming ‘Stop Dutschke Now!’.” (Note further, that “After the attempted assassination in 1968, Rudi and his family went to the United Kingdom in the hope that he could recuperate there. He was accepted at Cambridge University to finish his degree in 1969, but in 1971 the Tory government under Edward Heath expelled him and his family as an “undesirable alien” who had engaged in ‘subversive activity’.”)

An emotional meeting is held at the Technical University and the blame laid to rest on the shoulders of the right-wing Springer press. From the university the students march on the Springer building in Kochstr. chanting ‘Springer out of Berlin! Bild fired the gun too!’

Ulrike Meinhof, who’s at the SDS centre, drives her konkret colleague [Stefan] Aust [now editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel] to the Springer compound. When they arrive at the compound gates a student comes up to them and says more cars are needed to stop the Springer trucks getting out. Ulrike isn’t too keen on her car being part of a barricade, but Aust tells her to park it on the pavement, so it will still be part of the barricade but won’t block the road. However, the police still make sure the trucks get through and Meinhof is one of those charged with using force. Aust then comes to Ulrike’s assistance once again by managing to prove that her car wasn’t causing an obstruction.

During the Springer siege molotovs used to set trucks alight are supplied by one Peter Urbach, who is later revealed to be an agent-provocateur in the employ of the government. In the same weekend a student and a press photographer are killed in vicious street-fighting in Munich; and Bommi Baumann is arrested for slashing tyres and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. The Meinhof column in the May konkret is entitled ‘From Protest to Resistance’.

televisionaries: the red army faction story : 1963-1993 (tom vague, 1994)

Speaking of Bommi, here are his thoughts on Rudi:

At the time of the attempt on Rudi, I was completely immersed in the political scene and saw myself as a political activist, very consciously, and considered revolution an alternative…

At Easter, I had known Rudi from SDS and just about everywhere. Rudi was different from the students. I was often with him at the university cafeteria, where we’d sit around at a table — it was cheaper than anywhere else — and shoot the breeze, or later, watch his child. I always had a good relationship with Rudi. He was a really amazing guy.

Rudi’s talks were always pretty abstract, and not everyone understood him — at least, I didn’t — but if you just talked to him, he was a perfectly normal human being, natural, just like everyone else; and really, that’s the most important thing. But he had the power — you could see it right away: that man was no bookworm or rhetoric spouter, he was really on top of his thing. If you saw him upstairs in the SDS office, in his apartment, he always cleaned up and took care of things. With that guy, you knew he wouldn’t lie to you.

That’s an important thing, too: it’s why a lot of workers didn’t get involved with the student movement. Instinctively you can see that that’s actually the guy at the top you’re always having trouble with. It’s that healthy mistrust. And that mistrust is still rooted — it’s actually the last bit of class consciousness that’s still intact in the workers. That they didn’t get involved in the student thing, in this APO [extra-parliamentary] number, is really a question of class consciousness.

The German working class has been sold out by everybody, be they socialists or mad Hitler. Everyone came and just shit on them, all the way through, from red to black, from Communists to Nazis. It just didn’t happen like this in any country like it did in Germany, so there’s good reason why they’re not getting involved anymore.

But with Rudi, a guy like that, you noticed right away, he’s all right, he’ll go through fire with you. He won’t just split when things get heavy. With the other students, I checked the thing out for myself, emotionally: ‘how will he act in another situation?’

Today when I think about how I saw people, emotionally or instinctively, everything is verified. There was a certain kind of arrogance with many of these students. So the mistrust was justified. I just listened at first, and checked it out, because first of all, I had to think myself into these things, into these processes. I never had much to say there.

— Bommi Baumann, Wie Alles Anfing [How it all began], translated by Helene Ellenbogen and Wayne Parker, Pulp Press, Munich / Vancouver, 1975 / 1977.

Where were we? Oh yeah…

Jef: It seems to me that you are on dangerous ground here. Once you start organising yourselves then you will need leaders, processes for makng decisions, allocation of roles by a central authority, punishment of those who don’t accept that central authority… won’t your organisation turn into a sort of proto-state within a state?
She: We can avoid that by keeping to a collectivist agenda.

He: Obviously, for Jef, organisation implies hierarchy: organisation, by very definition, requires hierarchy.

Anarchists, among others, disagree. In addition, anarchists maintain that non-hierarchical relationships should be generalised. In other words, anarchists wish to create an-archy: a society without rulers (or, by definition, a class of ruled subjects).

At least, such is one ideological expression of a movement ‘of movements’ which has its roots in nineteenth century Europe, one which Jef sees — or thinks he sees — in action at G20. The idea that anarchists have somehow failed to consider the considerable obstacles practical questions of social organisation place on this particular road to freedom is false. Moreover, anarchist thought is historical and materialist; but not in the same sense as Marxism or other doctrines are. Historical in the sense that it is informed by (and has helped to shape) the history of human society; and materialist in the sense that… well, Wetzel describes a kind of “minimal materialism” thusly:

…the idea that class structure, based on power relations between groups of people in social production, is the most fundamental or basic structuring in society. The class structure is the basic structure of control over social production, the basic economic structure, according to minimal materialism. This structure is supposed to be the background against which everything else about society is to be explained or understood…

As KJ Kenafick, in Marxism, Freedom And The State (“Dedicated to the memory of JW (Chummy) Fleming who, for nearly sixty years upheld the cause of freedom at the Yarra Bank Open Air Forum, Melbourne, Australia”; Freedom Press, London, 1984 [1950]) wrote:

It is obvious of course that Marxism and Bakuninism despite these differences have much in common and Bakunin himself has not failed to point this out in the pages that follow. Both systems were founded on the idea of Historical Materialism, both accepted the class struggle, both were Socialist in the sense of being opposed to private property in the means of production. They differed in that Bakuninism refused to accept the State under any circumstances whatever, that it rejected Party politics or Parliamentary action, and that it was founded on the principle of liberty as against that of authority: and indeed, it is this spirit of liberty (not Individualism) that distinguishes Bakunin, and in the light of which his criticisms of Marx and Marxism must be read. He had the true instinct that no man can be really emancipated except by himself.

And speaking of men with sound political instincts:

Jef: I may still be interested in joining your group. Assuming you are successful, and as you start to develop into a proto-state, I can form a core group of real anarchists dedicated to overturning your pseudo-anarchist but actually fascist proto-state. Of course, I must be ever-watchful that a more radical subversive group doesn’t develop within my group in order to overthrow us.
She: That’s bullshit, you’re just stirring.

He: That is bullshit. But Jef’s just taking his own daft argument to its logical extreme. (And by doing so, probably owing more to Aristotle than to Plato.) Strictly speaking, it makes sense if one accepts his initial proposition, and firm but irrational belief that Organisation is Man’s (/A Young Woman Anarchist‘s) Original Sin. Jef’s stirring, but it’s a very old pot.

Finally, to pretend to be able to speak about anarchism without being able at the same time to recognise one of its central political strategies — the rejection of state power — suggests little, if any, serious analysis. But then, we already knew that — making Jef not only an ignorant fool, but a painful one at that.

Jef: No I’m not, honestly… just one last question, are those Nike trainers you’re wearing? Hey everybody, look, she’s wearing Nike trainers, she’s a capitalist stooge and maybe a police plant… look out, she’s got a camera, she’s taking pictures of us… come and see the violence inherent in the system… come and see the violence inherent in the system… I’m being repressed!

He: Whatever mate. By the way, nice cardigan.

Jef: Of course, this isn’t really a Socratic dialogue. Socrates allowed his respondents to develop extended responses to his finely judged questions. As they responded to Socrates they developed insights into the anomalies in their position, and their perceptions inexorably moved towards more truthiness. All I did was amuse myself, and the cretin I was talking to was incapable of insight.

Of course, this isn’t really a skeptic: more of a pompous arsehole, really. And Socrates’ dialogues — to be precise, Plato’s imaginative reconstructions of Socrates’ philosophy via the use of Socratic discourse — probably functioned more simply in order to demonstrate what a clever-toga he was.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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2 Responses to A pained reaction to a wanker

  1. arthur f says:

    That’s the problem with skeptics. They are always taking themselves too seriously and don’t have a sense of humour, unlike anarchists…

  2. @ndy says:

    Q. How many Dadaists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A. Bathtub full of power tools.

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