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How to Start a Fire

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An Invitaton

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT:

Our civilization is in collapse.

This collapse is well-documented: philosophers, scientists, politicians, military strategists, economists, and even NASA have begun sounding the alarm for ecological catastrophe, the technological singularity, and the general collapse of life as we know it. The news anchors appear no less panicked than the environmental and survivalist fringe of the past: the Arctic is melting, Japanese teenagers refuse to have sex, a private company wants to build a colony on Mars, Europe is being looted by hooded protestors, and humans may be extinct by the end of the century.

Through all of this, at the precipice of insanity, there are those who are organizing to save mankind by dissolving all civic life into a continuum of warfare. Urbanists work alongside military specialists. SmartGrowthers and green capitalists hope to maintain present levels of exploitation without the parking lots and fossil fuels. Cyberneticians can no longer conceal their imperial fantasies: imagine uploading a criminal mind onto a computer to simulate eternal imprisonment! Think of all of the resources we could save! Holding it all together are the citizens who long for quiet, who will defend this civilization and its false ideas just as so many peasants once fought for Louis XVI, Tsar Nicholas, and a million other dying regimes.

And yet, a global struggle - a tremendous global struggle - has emerged fro this crumbling edifice. An insurrectional wave has washed over every inhabited continent. Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, Greece, Italy, the United States, Libya, Syria, France, Chile, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Bosnia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and beyond. Everywhere people have decided to fight for another way of being - for a life actually worth living. The same techniques appear across the globe and have been refined for local conditions: the occupation of plazas and buildings, flaming barricades, the reappropriation and automatic communization of food and clothing, masked demonstrations, molotov cocktails, street clinics, information hacking and leaks, highway blockades, and strikes. In 2008, we watched in awe as Greece was engulfed in flames. Today, scenes like this are astoundingly normal. We do not expect this scenario to end soon.

In sum, there is a side organized to preserve this civilization through every crisis that signifies its impending collapse, and there is a side getting organized to usher in a very different future from the one in store for us. These two sides, situated on either pole of a collapsing order, are the forces that constitute a global civil war. This conflict cannot be reduced to a debate over who should run the government, nor what sort of government we ought to have. This conflict transcends questions of the economy or social inequality. This conflict has to do with the future of human and non-human life, of what it means to be alive in a time where all social interaction produces computerized information. We have entered a new geological age marked in its emergence by a fantastic tragedy. We must grapple with the real questions of our time: What does it mean to be human in the 21st century? How will we feed ourselves in a desert, in a nuclear wasteland, in the ashes of a city? How do we shut down a metropolis? How do we meet with those trapped in the rural-suburban mess? How do we pursue our desires? With whom do we live - and how? How do we learn? How do we love ourselves and each other? We must be willing to see our situation for what it is and to provide practical answers to these questions. The whole world is at stake.

We would like for each insurrectionary event, witnessed on a global scale, to make itself permanent. We would like to live inside of these phenomena, inside of these communes which feed themselves, clothe themselves, debate, dance together, fight together, grieve together, and expand. A number of obstacles rush to meet us - a number of ready-made answers to the questions we never should have asked, barbed wire at the edges of the path to prevent us from wandering elsewhere. So what now? We’d like to make a break for it, right away, to really be done with it all - but at the end of the day, the force of our “no” depends on the collective power behind it. That power must be built.

Get property. Pirate radio. Build stoves. Learn to cook. Learn Languages. Get arms. Open street carts and businesses. Occupy buildings. Set up cafes. Diners. Restaurants. Pizza shops. Book stores. Permaculture. Mend wounds. Lathes. Giant pots. Orchards. Build friendships. Acquire film equipment and make documentaries. Talk to old comrades. Learn martial arts, Read. Travel. Learn from each other. Write newspapers. Weather the hard times. Loot. Hold regional gatherings. Write internal journals. Refine the art of sabotage. Distribute counter-information. Offset presses. Raw materials and the means of production. Three thousand camping bowls. Survival packs. Organic seeds. Share thoughts, feelings, and practice. Learn history and learn from history. Build tables. Make art. Go to the woods. Summer retreats. Dance parties. Get cars. Steal money. Move close to each other. Start uncontrollable riots.

Over the course of the last four years, we have deliberately and serendipitously begun the process of constituting ourselves as a material, insurrectional force. We have found each other in the parks and the streets, transformed as everything was for those months during Occupy. Although our story finds its origins in chance encounters - high schools, punk shows, art scenes, cafes, bars - we locate the emergence of our collective power in the wave of unrest we have had a hand in shaping. Along the way, we have been inspired by many others who have gotten organized in their own ways: hacker collectives, urban farmers, DIY art spaces, crisis cults, and everyday hustlers.

In this time, we have learned well that the environment we currently inhabit - call it capitalism, civilization, empire, the West - is constructed to prevent the foundation of any real threat to the present system. The political identities offered to us - anarchist, environmentalist, Marxist, socialist - were constructed for a historical moment which has passed. They have not, for decades, equipped themselves with the means to actually fight. We leave behind the baggage that left us weak and burdened but still hold onto what has given us strength. As we have struggled together, as we have grown older, se have been confronted by a number of forces that have threatened, and still threaten, to pull us apart. Against the tendency to drift away, to become lost, to return to the lonely solitude of capitalist normalcy, to become mired with negativity, we have chosen to hold on to one another. This is not merely a theoretical decision, but a lived practice. Having witnessed the fact that every social movement and every struggle ends because of a failure to create the conditions for its survival, we have chosen to create and offensive that can sustain itself.

We must discover in every moment that which puts each of us in touch with our power, with our potential. We must defeat that which separates us from it.

The process of building a force has both already begun and requires infinite new beginnings - beginnings that occur within what is immediately present and available. With this text, we intend to incite the formation of a revolutionary territory across the region. We are writing to answer the question we ask and are asked daily: “But really, what should we be doing?” We have spent too long avoiding and answer, and have found the common responses impoverished. Too often, the people we meet only briefly encounter the possibility of living differently, and are either lost in the compulsion to return to normalcy or mistake an existing political community as the only opportunity to begin. While friendships are crucial to our struggle, we believe wholeheartedly in the capacity of everyone to immediately begin the process of building a revolutionary force from wherever one may stand. It should go without saying that there are no gatekeepers: anyone, anywhere, can and should begin from wherever they are. Immediately.

In what follows, we will present our vision of a possible near future and offer steps toward its realization, from a weak starting position of isolation to a situation of ever-increasing revolutionary force. The vision is one that we have elaborated together over the course of several years - in car rides and late night conversations, in bars and in parks, with comrades from our own city and from across the world. The practical suggestions contained here should be understood as real possibilities, each connected to the next in the coherence of a strategy. We ask that you think of your own life, your own friends, your own inclinations - and consider fully, beyond what is expressed here, the possibility of making a permanent break.

One thing is clear from the start: there’s no way in hell that any of us is going to succeed alone. What is required is something that transcends “me” as individual actor and every way that I’ve been taught to relate to my world, my friends, my self. Hence, the first practical step in a war against the status quo: Find each other.

In truth, the potential insurgents are everywhere. Where the workers movement had factories to meet each other and the strike to reveal the cowards, we have the entire metropolitan space to link up and innumerable methods of subversion to identify who’s who: the riot, theft, the blockade, the occupation. Cafes, restaurants, bars, gyms, universities, community gardens, book stores, reading circles, art galleries, parks, hacker conferences, farmers markets, salons: all of these places are crossed by lines of antagonism, by sides and partisans, conflicts and consequences, which are hidden just beneath the surface of civil discourse. With certain attention, we can become sensible to these antagonisms. For us, this means that potential comrades are lurking in places we wouldn’t ordinarily think to look. In order to compose new rhythms of revolt, we must become attuned to melodies of struggle and passion which exceed or otherwise evade recognition through the sociological and political categories we have been taught.

What is political in friendship emerges when you and I are affected by a similar leaning, when our knowledges and our powers interact and intersect in ways that make us stronger. I am bound to the friend by some experience of election, understanding, or decision that implies that the growth of his power entails the growth of my own. Symmetrically, I am bound to the enemy by election, only this time a disagreement that, in order for my power to grow, implies that I confront him, that I undermine his forces. Certain events make us more than what we are, while others dissolve us, make us less alive. We must become sensible to this reality and run head first toward the former and flee, despite how it may hurt, from the latter.

Initial encounters can give way to ethical-political intensities, but only if relationships are elaborated to that end. The problem isn’t that people do not know the stakes, but rather the general state of separation and neutrality. In our society, people are unified by petty aesthetic commonalities and identities given to them by the economy or the charade of politics. These false unities either constitute limitations that suppress differences, thereby allowing the production of homogenous, directionless forms (mass organizations, revolutionary cadres, political scenes), or they provoke false distinctions, deconstructing the first signs of intensity. Relationships are typically held together by mere common interests - the currency of social clubs, cliques, collectors, Instagram “communities,” and subcultures everywhere. When what is common between us is left at shared interests or aesthetic similarities, our relationships are easily knowable, and therefore easily manageable as they harden into a digestible, safe, and controllable identity.

We will only overcome the limits of superficial subjectivities by elaborating - creating, generalizing, concretizing, and defending - an ethical disposition in the world. An ethic, not a morality: a morality consists in a million little rules about how we ought to live our lives and a thousand hypotheticals for producing them. Morality is what is performed in the courtroom, the classroom, the church, and and as such provides no path to a new way of living. An ethic, not an identity (worker, student, poor, rich, black, woman): identities are always provided to us by a nefarious collusion between democracy and Facebook. In contrast, the ethical question is the question of how I am in the world. Not existentially, but tactically. An elaboration of an ethic is precisely what is prevented by the array of mechanisms and devices that constitute the hostile environment we currently inhabit: the cops and the prison, of course, but also the metro turnstiles, the commodification and privatization of technical knowledge, the management of revolt, the interstate. If any ethic at all is permitted in this world, it is only the epidemic of existential deficiency: the hegemony of a one-dimensional way of life which requires that every idea be divorced from its consequences, that every passion “ends where it begin.” The unification of what we believe with what we do is the basis for any true liberation. When this happens at a party, a concert, a protest, a factory, a grocery store or elsewhere - the police always show up.

We would be remiss to say that all things passionate are equally good - this is the pluralist liberalism which has come to dominate consumer markets and academic circles for the last half century. While the environment we inhabit is coordinated to prevent the emergence of any conflict, the fetishism of conflict alone misses the mark. As we’ve seen in Ukraine, antagonisms against the state can take a multiplicity of forms - and that includes fascists at the barricades. A common disposition - which is to say, the abolition of property and its state - will be the continuity tying together each of our actions; an anarchic refusal of control and reification will be the basis for the proliferation of insurrectional possibilities.

The emotional and affective intensity of our relationships must be manifested into a material consistency. A failure to do so will inevitably result in our being pulled part. Every life decision - where we live and whom we live with, where we get food and how we share it, how we get money and what we do with it - is a question that can be answered differently. What appears initially as an individual duty or responsibility can be understood as an opportunity to increase our collective strength.

At first, what is shared is small and presents itself in fleeting moments: a gourmet meal of stolen food; a few graffiti kids racking paint, sharing the loot, and hitting the town together for a single night; a conspiracy of baristas stealing coffee from the back to share with their friends at home. Over time, get organized to be able to put more in common. Live together. Share meals. Share money. Get everyone on food stamps, build farms, share techniques for theft and resource misallocation. Learn how to cook for two, then four, then twenty, then a thousand. Building a force means that we always search for ways to increase our power together and get organized to actually do it. Skills and specialized knowledges must be looted from the intellectual marketplaces they’re meant for. Herbal remedies, auto-repair, home construction, business accounting, permaculture, programming, and legal work can all be put to use. An established practice of sharing everything with the abandonment of all forms of balanced reciprocity can create a feeling of ease between us that could be dangerous on its own. Ordinarily, these sorts of mutual care and mutual support are never allowed to spread past the formation of a monogamous couple or a nuclear family. As we build our life in common, the need for money and accounting between us should become less practical, less necessary, and generally more absurd. We can share so much more than our Netflix queues.

For this, we need places. Places to meet in, whose addressed can be publicized because they’re not connected to any name, places that can hold the crowd of fifty that won’t fit into a house, places that can hold a thousand who won’t fit inside. Places to get productive in, that have enough room for the supplies necessary to repair the sound cart. Places to print the newspapers, equipped with industrial printers and drawing tables. Places of encounter: a cafe, a restaurant, a pizza shop, a book store, a gym, a bar. Rent space. Better yet, buy buildings, get property. Don’t let rising prices push us further and further from the parts of town we should be in.

To be clear, we do not propose the mere possession of land or crafts to “withdraw” into. We want to build a struggle, an insurrection, which occurs at the level of everyday life and not as a vacation from it, a revolt which could be a pulsing, angular rhythm of small events and breaks, of constant subversion. A communal house in the middle of a small town can be a node of partisan reality or a burden to everyone involved. It will never be enough to simply acquire property, buildings, land. We must become territory by increasing the circulation and density of partisan relations in an area and between places. There’s little sense in obsessing over the morality or “internal dynamics” of such ventures. Avoid exploiting each other and always hold together what this society separates: practice with thought, action with contemplation, thinking with feeling. What becomes a burden can be abandoned. We want more strength and energy with time, not less - so do what moves you.

Together, we must learn how the devices which control us function and develop sciences for uncovering their vulnerabilities. We must share tools for tactical thinking, for strategic vision, for poetic connections. We must understand how our surroundings constrict and divide us, how ideologies keep us docile, as very concrete operations. But we must also learn and share methods of resource accumulation, of scamming, and of insurrectional conspiracy. When strategic employment opportunities arise, they should be ours in a heartbeat. When opportune shipments come in, we should have ways of collecting them - “it fell off the back of a truck. When a riot breaks out, we must know how to spread it and how to crash police communications. When immigration enforcement is about to raid our neighborhoods, we should know how to tip people off and how to help them escape. When a comrade is washed in depression, they should have no doubts that they are loved. The technical nature of these problems must be reckoned with.

In the century before last, the South was zigzagged by a vast conspiracy. A strategic consistency linked teamsters, sharp-shooters, translators, look-outs, saloons, hostels, churches, farms, rumors, and slaves across literally thousands of miles. Partisans of this conspiracy were followed, surveilled, hunted, and repressed. Their ability to transform their lives into a collective practice made hem resilient to these operations. They smuggled a hundred thousand runaways out of slavery. Whether or not not this was an attach on the commercial institutions of the time or the mere construction of alternatives does not concern us here and we doubt it concerned them then. We believe that our current scenario could benefit from adopting this legacy as a historic vantage point to be contextualized and refined.

We will be confronted on all sides by those who wish to fracture our struggle by insisting we seek only to build a new society inside of this one or that we are extremists who are concerned only with destruction. We can do nothing but shrug at the morons who call us nihilists one day and lifestylists the next. We recognize these divisions as a fundamental binary in imperial logic: normal and abnormal, citizen and criminal.

Struggles and antagonisms are normalized when they are forced to articulate themselves as a negotiation with the state, business, or other institutions. This is the purview of activism and social justice movements. The temptation to be sucked into community organizations, on the left or right, is persistent and understandable. What these groups - churches, nonprofits, unions, political parties - offer people is continuity, stability, sometimes money, and always the false pretenses of pragmatism. But the activist approach has always mirrored the structures is supposedly challenges, responding to the forces that divide our lives into separate spheres of work, race, medical aid, marriage rights and so on with piecemeal demands. By conforming to governing discourses, activists have always missed what is really at stake, confusing life for a collection of distinct issues.

On the other hand, and often in reaction to the forces of recuperation, others retreat into the “abnormal” category, allowing themselves to become insulated from society, from its pathetic slogans, from its awful methods of pacification. They allow themselves to become militants. But just as workday traffic is a primary consideration in the planning of interstates - traffic jams are avoided by, say, an addition of new lanes, a carefully regulated speed limit, and tactically placed exists and bridges - political dissidents are accounted for. Government needs a militant subject. No police operation is complete until an organizing cell, a hang, a mafia, a terrorist, or some other criminal subjectivity has been identified and eliminated. By adopting a position inside the debates of government, as the antithesis to their thesis, the violence to their nonviolence, the militants are doomed before they begin. Their fate is already determined - isolation and death. Still, the most pressing threat the militant poses to an insurrection is the specialization of revolt: that millions of people will become assured of their spectator position in the private conflicts between the police and the “rebel forces.”

The normal and the abnormal, the citizen and the the criminal, and every variation of these dichotomies co-substantiate one another - which is to say that neither position offers us a way out. Our strength lies in our ability to affirm neither, and occupy both. We must learn to be visible to the movement and invisible to the State. This is what every drug front does, what every encrypted email does, and what we must learn how to do. A mass of kids willing to riot doesn’t mean shit if they’re not smart enough and fast enough to not get caught and if there’s no money to bail out friends afterward. Similarly, a network of gardens might as well be the aesthetic indicator that the yuppies have moved in if we do not remember what kind of struggle real autonomy entails. What matters isn’t a particular action (medicine, intellectual labor, cooking) or a particular object (printers, spray paint, Mason jars, metal), but how it’s connected to every other object, every other practice - and how we circulate between them. Anything we do and everything we touch can take on a new character when linked up to other practices, spaces, and comrades. Do not allow yourself to be fooled by detractors: just as skills and crafts can serve as distractions, many have lost themselves in alienated cycles of petty vandalism and militant activism. The point is to get on a common path with others and to use whatever means must be used for the purposes of overcoming obstacles - which are everywhere.

The crisis, the disaster, the emergency have become a foundational element of contemporary government. The crisis as reorganization of space, of attention, of people. The crisis as emergency government, as the force of law itself. As many have been forced to learn, crises are named when things are about to be restructured. The state of emergency - the governmental state of anarchy - is the name given to the polarization of the world under the present arrangement of forces: the state versus society. We have seen this in the days following the Boston Marathon bombing when tanks rolled through the streets of an American city looking for a single teenager. Natural disasters, pandemic flus, droughts, power outages, insurrection, and invasion: for the contemporary governmental regime, all of these events are simply times of disorganization to be capitalized on. If this is opportune for our enemies, who seek to return these temporary disturbances into a new, more brutal, more empty normal, then could be doubly opportune for those of us who hope to dissolve this society for good. When crisis comes to the surface, we should push it to its absolute conclusions: every strike, a general strike; every black out, a looting spree; every protest, a riot; every riot, an insurrection; every picket, a permanent blockade. We must make trenches of every crack in society.

What begins on a local scale should be pressed across the boundaries of neighborhoods, towns, cities, and states. Open up lines of communication. Be smart: if comrades in a town an hour away have a printing press, it might make more sense to start a permaculture farm in your city. Instead of duplicating the things a larger “we” can already do, set up networks of resources through which all of us can circulate.

At every turn, the hostile environment we inhabit and the mechanisms that constitute it are ready to prevent us from getting in touch with and building our own power. The counter-insurrectional process occurs at both the profound, nearly invisible level of the production of everyday life and the highly visible level of outright domination. Get organized to overcome everyone one of these obstacles, one by one.

In the attempt to build a revolutionary force, we are struck by the impotence of our own imagination. Upon reflection, our immediate desires can feel as foreign to us as the environment that produces them. We meet our own stagnation and our own frenzy, the two automatic responses to uncertainty. Some withdraw into depression or spectatorship, waiting for others to take the initiative. Others rush to do something, anything, to stave off anxiety or boredom. By beginning with a plan to take on the task of building greater access to our potential, next steps should become more obvious. When they are not so obvious, there is conversation. If that fails, there is always the gamble.

In the attempt to build a life in common, we are confronted immediately by limits imposed by the capitalist economy, of jobs, rent, and unfavorable housing. That comrades and friends are compelled to work is a sign of profound weakness. This is a collective problem that should be treated seriously. Work must be rendered voluntary: a tactical or strategic consideration, a pleasure, not a necessity for survival. Of course, the most pressing expense is nearly always rent. It keeps up working and needlessly vulnerable to the whims of landlords, emergencies, and city planners. Comrades should organize to purchase housing as soon as possible. It’s cheaper than renting and provide us with greater permanence and, therefore, strategic insights to the conflicts around us.

In the attempt to hold on to one another, we come up against our own ignorance - our utter inexperience in building friendships and maintaining them, our utter confusion as to what it means to love one another, our utter weakness when it comes to supporting one another emotionally, spiritually, materially. None of these conditions should cripple us, but if we allow them to define who we are or what we’re doing, they very well may. Each is simply an obstacle which, like all obstacles, exists in order to be overcome.

Inevitably, at moments, we will experience our own weakness. A neighborhood is demolished for a new mixed use complex; a meeting spot gets raided; a movement dies out. The depression that comes as each cycle of struggle closes can only be encountered with the conviction that time itself is on our side. The urgency imposed by the impending collapse of civilization gives us no reason for haste. The fall of Rome took centuries. We must find comfort knowing that we can be a part of an anti-imperial movement that spans generations. History is not the linear progression that it is usually made out to be. Thoughts, ideas, and actions circulate and reappear throughout time, and things you thought would endlessly grow suddenly drop off. Like a garden that dies every winter, the movements and riots will come, provide us with excitement and energy, and then fade off. If we understand ourselves as a force that persists through time, we will survive the depression of a loss not with exhaustion, but with strength. Next time, we will be even more prepared.

Different groups of people cycle through the farms in neighborhoods outside downtown, ready to provide food for thousands of people occupying Woodruff Park. A warehouse on the west side has trucks and teams to drive to abandoned hotels and industrial waste facilities, gathering “raw” material - metal, lumber, kitchen equipment - that can be used to build brick ovens and fix up the new building. A partisan cafe downtown functions as an entry point for visitors and newcomers, as well as a drop-in point for insurgents from around the state, the region, the country, and even the world. The dance club lets people in to blend with the crowd after a rowdy demo while giving them a way to blow off some steam. Pirate radio transmitters broadcast from secret locations outside of the city to spread sedition and heresy into the heart of a great metropolis. University copy machines are hacked for free prints for this weekend’s assembly - the print shop is already running overtime. A friend walks out of the store with a backpack full of goods and a knowing wink. Doctors and herbalists are at hand, equipped to deal with any injuries that might ensue from tonight’s riot, well trained from treating common ailments and injuries. The family lake house is repurposed to sleep a hundred for a summer strategy meeting. Slowly, something is growing.

We need nether words nor promises, but the steady accumulation of small realities.

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/anonymous-how-to-start-a-fire

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Anarchists, Intersectionality, Races, Islamophobia, Etc.

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A Dialogue on the French and Québecois Contexts

Since the publication of Houria Bouteldja’s book, Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous, in spring 2016 (Paris, La Fabrique [Whites, Jews, and Us, MIT Press/Semiotext(e), 2017]), a controversy surrounding the use of the term “race” has emerged inanarchistcircles in France[1]. Those who use such a notion are called “racialist” and likened to racists. This particularly affects the concept of “intersectionality” that comes from the social sciences and has been taken up by activists in order to better articulate our thoughts about different forms of oppression, such as gender, race, and class[2]. Recently, the anarchist group Regard Noir [Black Gaze] (since voluntarily dissolved) published, with the Anarchist Federation, a pamphlet titled Classe, genre, race et anarchisme [Class, Gender, Race and Anarchism], featuring translations of short texts from the The Women’s Caucus of the British AnarchistFederation which help to reflect on the concept – and the phenomenon – of “privileges.”[3]

Grand Angle [Wide Shot], a site for anarchist discussion, wished to propose a conversation amonganarchists and social scientists, to clear up certain misunderstandings and compare the French and Québécois activist and intellectual contexts. Indeed, Francis Dupuis-Déri is or has been active in organizations of an anarchist orientation in the United States, France, and especially Québec. He teaches political science and women's studies at the University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM) and he has written several books, including L’Anarchie Expliquée à mon Père (with Thomas Déri, Montréal, Lux, 2014,forthcoming in English next Fall as Anarchy Explained to My Father from New Star Books) and Les Black Blocs (Montréal, Lux,4thed., 2016, now available in English translation as Who’s Afraid of the Black Blocs?: Anarchy in Action around the World from PM Press). Irène Pereira has been active in variousanarchistorganizations (CNT, Alternative Libertaire) and is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Réfractions. She teaches in the ESPE at the Université de Créteil and participates in the network “Gender, Race, Class” of the Association Française de Sociologie. She has published, among others, Anarchistes (Montreuil, La ville Brule, 2009) and L’Anarchisme dans les Textes (Paris, Textuel, 2011).

Irène Pereira: For my part, I’m really amazed at the development of this controversy in anarchist circles in particular because it equates the Party of the Republic’s Natives [Parti des Indigènes de la République] (PIR) with positions that it doesn’t support, like intersectionality. Indeed, Houria Bouteldja is the author of a text which criticizes the concept of intersectionality [4]. In reality, this text was a response to criticisms of the PIR coming both from Philippe Corcuff [5] and from a collective article written by Malika Amaouche and others [6]. Both contributions, prior to the publication of Houria Boutledja’s controversial book, question the ambiguous positions of PIR on antisemitism and homophobia. So you can see that there is no identity between the fact of supporting PIR and using the sociological concept of “race”: this seems to me a mistake that some French anarchist activists have made for lack of knowledge of all the literature on these topics. Actually, intersectionality is a concept that originated in US black feminism. Furthermore, analyses mostly from the perspective of intersectionality try to deconstruct the categories essentialized by various relations of domination, while “essentialism” is now positively embraced by the PIR [7].

In general, I feel that in all this, besides a reduction to the PIR, there is a lack of knowledge of all of these theories especially on the part of their opponents. Thus, I can read: “For those good people, all of world history can be summarized in two dates: 1492 and 1830. The ‘decolonial’ perspective – the term ‘decolonial,’ moreover, replaces ‘anti-colonialist’ or even ‘revolutionary,’ and inaugurates a permanent, decontextualized political identity – views the history of the world through the prism of the history of Franco-Algerian relations” [8]. The problem is that the decolonial perspective [9] has nothing to do with Franco-Algerian relations because it is the basis for a Latin American school of thought (hence the reference to 1492). Another misconception that is found in anarchist circles is that these theories are postmodern and opposed to a materialist approach. The origins of decolonial thought have more to do with dependency theory and the philosophy of liberation, which are Latin American currents, than with postmodern theories. Similarly, the origins of the theory of intersectionality are to be found in American black feminist currents [10] rather than in postmodernism. Its reception in France has been particularly via the networks of materialist feminism. We find another simplification in a reduction of queer theory to postmodernism as opposed to materialism. But such a conception is clearly questionable in the case of queer of color theory, [11] which has had significant impact on the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM).

Let’s just say that what amazes me is that I feel some anarchists pay attention to the issue when it concerns “whites,” [12] but that they seemed frankly unmoved when, for example, the PIR was making ambiguous statements about homophobia. Moreover, it seems to me that there is a misunderstanding about the concept of “race” as it is used among other concepts in the literature on intersectionality and decolonial thought. Indeed, it is not a biological concept, but a social construction that continues to organize society unequally. This is why some researchers in France prefer to talk of “social relations of racialization [racisation].” It is a reality that, in France, there is a whole revival of sociological work on this issue that has long been relatively taboo. [13] The other source of my amazement at these controversies in France in the anarchist milieu is that since the mid-2000s, French anarchist militant organizations like Alternative Libertaire (AL) [14] or the Coordination des Groupes Anarchistes (CGA) [15] have already been engaged in reflection on these issues, so this is not so new. Finally, when I read foreign literature (in English, Spanish or Portuguese), this (sociological) category of “race” is present in many countries and highlighted precisely by the people who want to fight against racism. Looking at the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement is a good example: it supports an intersectional approach, combining [an awareness of] class, racialization [racisation], gender, queer, and disability [identities]. It’s even in these critical milieus that one can find the seeds of resistance to Donald Trump in the United States today, as demonstrated by the positions of Angela Davis. [16]

In France, for example, the government banned the gathering of ethnic statistics because of their history with the Vichy regime. The notion of “race” is still very marked by the memory of Nazi collaboration. There is a tendency in France to assess every issue by relation to its own national history. However, this history is not necessarily that of immigrant populations that comprise it. For example, Martine Fernandes [17] studied the case of the use of the term “Portuguese race” in rap by Franco-Portuguese immigrants. This usage has at least two distinct references, but have nothing to do with the history of France. The first is the mobilization of the concept of “race” in Chicano (Mexican-American) rap, which served as a model for some Franco-Portuguese rap groups like La Harissa. The second is the history of the concept of race in Portugal during the Salazar dictatorship. Before World War II, the regime points to a Lusitanian origin for the “Portuguese race.” But later, to continue justifying colonization, the regime highlights the fact that the Portuguese would be characterized rather by hybridity [métissage], especially with African populations: this is Luso-Tropicalism. The scheme is thus based on a sort of racialist ideology without racism, which actually serves to mask a real social racism. Today the affirmation of a “Portuguese race” in Franco-Portuguese rap is an affirmation of identity, but is not intended to develop a discourse of Portuguese racial supremacy. It is an affirmation of pride in being Portuguese, a proud reversal of stigma, among young people from the working classes, addressed to working-class immigrant youth. What I find problematic is the difficulty experienced by the majority of French public opinion in getting out of its Franco-centrism and trying to understand the immigrant as other. In this respect, it seems to me that Canada, which presents itself as a multicultural society, has made more of an effort to do so. Thus, research has been undertaken to understand the specific experiences of Portuguese immigrants in Toronto’s Little Portugal.

Francis, can you give us some background, first on how Québec integrates racial issues into legislation (e.g., the issue of “Canadian indigenous peoples” or the issue of ethnic statistics) and secondly, how do Québecois anarchist circles position themselves in relation to the issue of race and notions such as intersectionality?

FrancisDupuis-Déri: To situate the debate about the use of the word “race,” let’s say first of all that I have come to a curious conclusion through my regular comings and goings between Québec and France, there including stays of several months in France: the anarchists in Québec are ultimately very Québecois, and anarchists in France are very French. Aspiring to be an anarchist is not enough to magically escape both our national context, which strongly influences us, and a certain cultural socialization through the family, schools, media, public debates, and even party political rivalries (even if we do not vote…).

I think that anarchists from Québec – I'm generalizing, of course – tend to adopt a conceptual framework which coheres with the official ideology of Canada, namely a respect for differences associated with the policy of multiculturalism. I'm not saying that Canada and Québec are not racist societies, nor that anarchists here are not racist or sexist, but there is a tendency to accept – in principle – the values of multiculturalism and diversity. [18] Similarly, Québecois anarchists tend – I'm generalizing again – to accept the influence of feminism and feminists, who are very energetic and highly institutionalized in Québec (in a province of 8 million inhabitants, there are many more resources for women than in France, hundreds of shelters, day centers, etc.). Moreover, women did much to introduce and disseminate intersectionality in Québec. [19]

As for ethnic statistical data, these do not seem to be a problem in Québec: we are used to the State counting the number of English-speakers, French-speakers, and native people, and providing other categories of “ethnic origin” in the census (over 200 in the 2006 census!). This is part of our official history (like the US), which was obviously racist from the very beginning. However, this information now allows civil society to act to protect rights and fight discrimination by getting a more accurate picture of the reality of specific issues (education, employment, housing, health, etc.).

On the side of the anarchists, the influence of the national context is not the only one, of course, and we must not underestimate the local differences in anarchist networks: historical experience and the force of habit, which tendencies are more or less well-represented, the circulation of certain ideas through songs, books, magazines, or transnational mobilizations, etc. In Québec, the French anarchist network is influenced by the presence of English-speakers in Montréal who come from English-speaking Canada or the United States. These anarchists’ ideas and practices are strongly influenced by radical environmentalism and anti-speciesism, radical queer movements and the antiracist struggles of the African-American community. On the French side, we receive – usually about 5 or 10 years late – ideas about intersectionality, queer, trans and anarcho-indigenism, among others, and we end up (sometimes) integrating them into our thought and practices, usually after arduous struggles. For their part, the French-speaking anarchists of Québec have more contacts with Latin American activist networks. In addition, the circulation of ideas and forces between France and Québec, favored by travel and moving, stimulates reflection on anti-fascism, squats, and autonomous spaces, but also “translations” of the ideas of the Invisible Committee. In terms of revolutionary syndicalism, it draws its inspiration from France (CNT), but even more so from the United States (IWW).

In short, the colonial past which determined that Québec’s linguistic duality is not just a matter of culture and identity. It is also an environment that promotes a circulation and exchange of ideas and practices which, in turn, promotes certain anarchist tendencies (as is well demonstrated, indeed, by many books – mostly in English – on the experience of German, Italian, and Yiddish immigration to North and South America at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries). We are a kind of outpost or colonial trading post through which ideas and experiences pass and exchange with one another. [20] Finally, as I get older, I notice that many more anarchists than before are not only interested in the struggles of indigenous peoples here but managing to form alliances for struggle with indigenous people (I’m thinking of the group Ni Québec, Ni Canada [Neither Québec Nor Canada]). This leads to a reflection on our relationship to the colonization and settlement of the territory. For example, what is an “autonomous space” if it is located on land stolen from indigenous people as part of the process of colonization? How to recognize that we also participate in a colonial dynamic, if we have European origins? For example, you speak of the colonial relationship between France and Algeria. This is very important, of course, still very much a live issue in France and Algeria. But as seen from Québec, we know that France also has a colonial debt to Québec, and even a historical “responsibility” for the impact of European colonization suffered by indigenous people (here we should also speak of the “crimes against humanity” for which the Canadian government, but also those of France and Britain, are responsible).

If anarchists from Québec therefore tend to be “Canadian” (multiculturalist, etc.) it seems to me (I could be wrong) that the anarchists in France have taken on board a republican thought with “universalist” pretenses, i.e., the official ideology of the regime in place (just as, in Québec, anarchists speak the language of multiculturalism). I have heard anarchists in France make statements that would have provoked laughter or cringing in Québec, for example, rejecting the alternation of turns to speak between men and women on the pretext that one would then also have to reserve turns “for Arabs, dwarves, and humpback whales” (a basic republican universalist argument).

I am aware that I’m stepping into a minefield with my speculations (I know that there are also anarchists in France who practice or accept gender-separate feminist organizing [non-mixité féministe], who fight against Islamophobia, etc.). Let me go a bit further, though, and suggest that what I just said is also true to the meaning of words: that is to say, it is not always the same according to time and place. In Québec, the word “community” doesn’t have the same meaning that it has in France; we use it in the associative meaning – “community groups” are social organizations [organismes associatifs] whose mandate is not defined by ethnic or gender identity.

I am also aware that it should be made clear how words that evoke the principles recognized by the State [principes officiels] (multiculturalism, secularism, etc.) are taken up by anarchists and translated into the internal struggles of left and far left circles, to promote this organization or that tendency, to consolidate alliances or, on the contrary, to confirm old rivalries, etc. (as Émeline Fourment has wisely suggested to me). I imagine that the word “race” smells of sulfur for anarchists in France, probably because some were heavily influenced by the official debate on the French Constitution in 2013 to delete the word “race,” and without probably also by the past and present of the French far right and fascism. Now, the word “race” as it appears in texts about intersectionality was proposed by antiracist African-American writers in the triptych “gender, race, class.” This is not new, though. In the 1970s, Angela Davis, a former Black Panther, signed a book (in English and French) Women, Race, & Class. I have never heard of debate about the title of this book, no more than about the book by the (white) French feminist sociologist Colette Guillaumin, titled Sexe, Race et Pratique du Pouvoir [Gender, Race, and the Practice of Power]. Similarly, the Québec feminist Diane Lamoureux, who translated Patricia Hill Collins’ book Black Feminist Thought into French, explains in her preface her choice translation for certain words, such as blanchitude (inspired by négritude) or blanchité [for whiteness], but it doesn’t seem appropriate to her to try to defend having kept the word “race” in the French version.

If one refuses the African-American feminists’ use of the word “race,” then we should also refuse to read Bakunin, since he wrote a book called God and the State. If God does not exist, then speaking of “God” will only confirm believers in their faith! To avoid using the word “God,” let's talk of an “imaginary deified entity.” We would then have the anarchist slogan: “No imaginary deified entities, no masters!”

Sorry for my sarcasm…

I consider that anarchists should be enthusiastic about intersectionality, since it proposes to take seriously and combat all possible systems and forms of domination, oppression, appropriation and exclusion. Is that not also, in principle, what anarchism proposes?

Now, we need words to name the socially and culturally constructed categories, gender, race and… class. Yes, yes: class, too. For many in the 19th century, and probably still today, class is strongly influenced by biology and heredity. It is often considered that wealth is passed down from father to son and poverty from mother to daughter, hence the idea that poor mothers should not have too many children. Inheritance officially and legally consecrates biological influence in the class system, along with the marriages that often take place between members of the same social class, the choice of schools and activities for children, etc. In other words, while class is a social construction, our membership in a class is strongly influenced by our birth.

But saying “class” doesn’t mean that you are defending a biological conception of class, much less defending the capitalist system. Similarly, you can say “gender” or “race” without defending sexism or racism. We can obviously prefer to talk about a “racialized person” or “racialized” to avoid the word “race.” But should the important thing for anarchists be to rebel – in public – against the use of the word “race” in texts written by African-American antiracists, or to mobilize against the racism of “our” States, which today is especially directed against the “Arab” Muslim population? I can’t see how spending our energy countering the use of the word “race” will have much impact on this kind of culturalist racism, in the name of which emergency laws and military invasions are justified that should (in my opinion) horrify anarchists.

But I have said too much: probably you will can say to me that I don’t understand everything about the anarchists in France, and that there are networks which have adopted an intersectional analysis. Why do you think this happens in some networks and not others?

Irène: Before answering your question directly, I would like to join you on the very French-centered nature of the approach in France. For example, I work a lot now on issues of education, which, as we know, have occupied an important place in the history of anarchism. I first got interested in anarchist educational experiments in France during the Belle Epoque, and the Freinet movement in which many anarchist militants are still active. But in this context, I felt some dissatisfaction with the pedagogical approaches in use within the Freinet movement, insufficiently “political” for my taste. So I turned to foreign literature to see what was happening. This is where I found that in the Iberian and English-speaking areas, since the 1980s, there had emerged, following the work of Paulo Freire, a rich pedagogical movement: critical pedagogy. During that time, France had remained totally alien to this fact, while elsewhere teachers committed to social change may be identified by this label of critical pedagogy. But among the ideas that are very present in this movement, I want to mention two. The first is that Freire, due to an educational trip to the US, met black American feminists like bell hooks, and he was convinced that he could not define oppression by class alone, but that gender and race oppression also had to be fought. The second idea, which is very present in critical pedagogy, as well as in feminism, is the importance of the lived experience of oppression.

But I think that the adoption of an intersectional analysis in France is first linked to a certain “positionality” [21] and the social subjective experience of oppression that this has constructed. In fact, even before the concept of intersectionality arrived in France, there was a whole line of research around the sociologist Danièle Kergoat that sought to articulate the social relations of gender and class since the 1970s, but this work led by Kergoat is no stranger to her personal social trajectory. Similarly, in the mid-2000s, the researchers reopening these questions in France, with an interest in black American feminism, such as Elsa Dorlin or Jules Falquet, are persons who have a personal trajectory that leads them to an intersectional position in terms of gender, sexuality, or race. This generation of researchers had an influence on students and activists who have also helped to disseminate these themes within activist circles, especially among anarchists. This is the case with Alternative Libertaire, I suppose with the CGA, or in the transqueerdyke [transpédégouine] community. This positionality is also found in some activist groups like LOCS (Lesbians Of Color) which, because of the purpose of their collective (aid to migrant and refugee lesbians), have developed a de facto intersectional approach.

This dimension is often misunderstood by white, straight, male, cisgender anarchists. They interpret this as the fact that they have no right to speak because of their (biological) nature without understanding that it is their social position that tends to make them blind to certain questions. A number of male anarchists I know think their traditional vision of anarchism sufficient to respond all the problems and they do not realize they can silence others [invisibiliser] and take positions that are harmful to groups of whose problems and difficulties they are not even aware. These are people who have never thought about the subjective experience and the everyday difficulties that can be experienced by a woman, a racialized, homosexual, transgender or disabled person (as there are very interesting social approaches to disability giving rise to a critique of ableism which is part of intersectionality). For example, in an article on queer pedagogy which I translated, the teacher, who stated in her text that she was lesbian, explained how she never alluded to a couple’s life during classes, how one of her fears was that students would ask her directly about it or even to find homophobic graffiti about her in the building. So many fears that heterosexual teachers never experience.

It is quite significant that another point crystallized by the debates in French anarchist circles is the issue of separatism [non-mixité] on the part of racialized people, [22] and sometimes that of separate [non-mixte] anarcha-feminist groups as well. This is a point that seems to me to have an irrational desire for control of a dominant group on a subordinate group. I sometimes conducts feminist self-defense courses. I am often then forced to justify separate organization [la non-mixité]. My male interlocutors, who push me on this point, then show signs of discomfort when I ask them whether they might need to defend themselves against someone putting his hands on their thighs or buttocks, trying to grab them or rub up on them in transit. In a way, though, it is the anarchist movement which, with workers’ autonomy, produced the justification for the idea that is the basis of separate organization [non-mixité]: the oppressed must be able to meet, to talk among themselves, and above all, to decide for themselves without being subject to the domination of their oppressors within their own collective.

Personally, I tend to think that in Québec, the question of gender separatism [non-mixité de sexe] has at least been settled. I assume, from what you said earlier, this must also be the case concerning [the separate organization of] racialized people. Am I wrong?

Francis: It would probably be better to speak directly with the people concerned, because I’m precisely one of those men who was assigned a male identity at birth (cisgender), with white skin, heterosexual, and even middle age and middle class, endowed with a good deal of cultural capital (I am a university professor who publishes books and is invited to speak to the media). In short, I sometimes say I’m an alpha male. It’s probably no coincidence that I was more refractory at first to queer, and more recently to trans movements. It took me many discussions and many readings to get beyond some of the arguments I advanced (in fact: prejudices disguised as arguments) as if these were original and relevant ideas that queer or trans people would have never thought before that I think… But I never had trouble with the separate organization [non-mixité] of others, such as feminists. I always found amazing the virulence of some men who get angry about separatism [non-mixité] as if it were a crime of high treason… From a slightly trivial point of view, I can say I have lots of other things to worry about when I am excluded from an event (a meeting, discussion, demonstration, etc.) as a man with white skin. It’s not so bad. Seriously, I especially think it is fair and legitimate for the subaltern to get together without the presence of the dominant. After all, that’s what union members do in their committees and assemblies, to which bosses and executives are not invited. Finally, I think that even anarchists like to have time to just be with other anarchists, right? This is the idea of anarchist collectives, anarchist publishers, anarchist radio, etc. We not only exclude our enemies, e.g., fascists, from some of our events and activities, but sometimes even anarchists of different tendencies, although we might meet with anarchists of other tendencies at convergences and coalitions.

While I believe that the women’s separatism is better accepted in Québec than in France, it is also routinely challenged, for example, in unions, where the legitimacy of the “women’s committees” is questioned, or in the student movement, where critiques are raised against feminists who propose to organize women-only demonstrations, such as the March 8th, or on the theme of “Take Back the Night” [La Nuit, la Rue, Femmes sans Peur]. I think that separate organization by race is rare in Québec, in mixed networks of the left and far-left, but I’ve never heard anarchists get publicly upset about it, except perhaps on one or two occasions. As part of indigenous mobilizations, such as land occupations with barricades, it is generally understood that the anarchists who join them are auxiliary, that is to say, the initiative and the process of decision-making must remain in the hands of indigenous people. [23] There is a respect for the autonomy of struggles, an understanding of the process of emancipation which is summarized by the slogan: “I don’t need you to set me free, I’ll free myself!” The English-speaking anarchist network distributes several pamphlets, produced by African-American or indigenous networks, which offer ways to better distinguish the positions of the “ally” (who often acts independently to “save” the other, or is limited to a vague expression of solidarity or intermittent and distant support), of the “auxiliary” (who helps on demand, taking on the less valued tasks, but without taking many risks), and the “accomplice” (who agrees to take risks, even alone, by directly confronting other white men, at the risk of losing comrades and friends or offending colleagues).

But I have trouble believing that the situation is so dark in anarchist circles in France: with Islamophobia in power, war in Africa and the Middle East, the emergency laws and the Front National waiting for its chance, is this not a good context to mobilize an intersectional analysis? And as I said, I know many friends in France who have integrated feminism into their anarchism (and vice versa), who rebel against Islamophobia, etc.

Irène: The anarchists are invested in supporting struggles for migrants or in the antifa struggle against the far right and confusionism. But it happens that the joint is difficult between the fight against religious conservatism and the fight against Islamophobia. Anarchist activists were involved against the right-wing and conservative religious networks at the time of “marriage for all” [24] or the “absentee day” against the teaching of gender theory in the schools. Nevertheless, it is interesting to recall that at that time, another controversy about “gender” – an absurd controversy, in my eyes – took place within the anarchist movement. In circles of the radical critique of technology and anti-industrialism, some protested against the notion of gender, [25] seeing in social constructivism an avatar of technological constructivism. Again, for simplicity, we took the part for the whole. Certainly, there are technophilic approaches on the part of Donna Haraway or Paul B. Preciado. Nevertheless, these critiques neglected to note that the deconstruction of gender binarism was initiated by materialist feminist anthropologists studying traditional societies and showing that there were people in those societies who were not assigned to one of the two dominant genders. Similarly, these critiques do not specify that such approaches can be combined with ecofeminist analyses to criticize industrialism. [26]

But as I said, we also find blockage around the concept of Islamophobia. It must be said that in France, generally speaking, a number of media personalities have promulgated the idea that this notion is propaganda coming from Islamist circles. This reduction is nevertheless surprising: in 2016, the increase of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts in France is denounced by the Council of Europe – hardly an Islamist organization. I think it is possible to make an analogy between the attitude of anarchists toward Islamophobia and toward the Dreyfus affair. Some anarchists would not support a Jewish person because of the association between international finance and Judaism that could sometimes be found in the anti-capitalist imaginary of the time. Fortunately, some anarchists of the time saw, beyond the fact that Dreyfus was a military officer from a bourgeois family, that this case concerned a struggle against the injustice produced by the army, an apparatus of the State. In the case of Islamophobia, it is not a matter of supporting a religion but of considering that a person doesn’t have to be physically attacked in the street just because she wears a veil or that a person doesn’t have to suffer discrimination simply because she is Muslim. It doesn’t seem that defending the right to criticize religions means allowing that to legitimize the unjust acts that are perpetrated against religious minorities – whether the person wears a kippa or a Muslim veil. What is interesting in the report of the Council of Europe is that it highlights, in the case of Islamophobia as much as that of anti-Roma prejudice [romophobie], homophobia, and transphobia, that French politicians are helping to trivialize these ideas by their words. In their general critique of the State, anarchists can help by playing a role in the specific critique of state racism: anti-immigrant policies, security and police policies targeting immigrants…

I wondered if, particularly in Québec, anarchist circles were also impacted by similar controversies – the critique of technology vs. gender or atheism vs. Islamophobia – or are these really Franco-French debates?

Francis: Islamophobia is not a term that is problematic for anarchists in Québec, at least to my knowledge. At the Montréal Anarchist Bookfair in 2015, for example, three anarchists presented a workshop entitled “Anti-racist anarchist perspectives against Islamophobia in Québec.” Obviously, one would hope to offer a more encompassing term that doesn’t just mean fear (phobia), but also contempt for and even hatred towards Muslims. But this is the word that is used here in Québec, and it’s the first time I’ve heard this theory that it was invented by Islamists (here are the reactionaries and conservatives prominent who blame this word being used by progressives and PC types to censor them). That said, there are also proponents of “secularism [laïcité]” in Québec, a term mostly used today to better criticize Islam and especially Muslim women wearing headscarves (some are obsessed with them); this is the case even in the feminist movement, e.g., during the Estates General of feminist action and analysis, which lasted two years and were the scene of a rather sharp confrontation between partisans of an intersectional approach (defended, among others, by the Fédération des Femmes du Québec) and the universalist proponents of secularism (defended, among others, by Pour le Droit des Femmes). [27]

The mobilizations for secularism (and against Islam and Muslim women who wear a headscarf) are generally associated with a party which has since disappeared, Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ), which launched a debate about “reasonable accommodation,” and the Parti Québécois (PQ), a sovereignist party that took an identitarian turn in order to gain votes among its opponents, at the expense of a certain tolerance. Both parties have a great responsibility for the tension of the public debate on these issues in Québec. By their public statements and political maneuvers, they opened the way for an uninhibited racism. Our former French colonial status, still strongly influenced by France, did not help matters, since Québec has number of “couriers” who bring us the debates in France over the hijab (e.g., columnist Christian Rioux, from the newspaper Le Devoir, or Mathieu Bock-Côté, who also writes for Le Figaro).

That said, if I may once again make a comparison between the anarchists in France and Québec, I must say I was rather taken aback to hear a French comrade declare during a debate on spirituality and anarchism, in a Paris café, that “as anarchists, we have the right to criticize all religions, even Islam.” This is another rather basic Republican (or even liberal) argument. Of course, anarchists have “the right” to criticize all religions, but is it so important for anarchists right now? Just about everyone agrees and repeats that Islam produces an inhuman barbarity, whether in the guise of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or the Islamic State. Is adding an anarchist voice to the chorus really useful for advancing anarchist values such as solidarity and cosmopolitanism, anti-racism and anti-militarism? What do anarchists gain by raising their voices against Islam, when Islamophobia is the official ideology justifying a permanent war, and when Muslim communities are closely monitored by the police, face systemic discrimination, and suffer verbal and physical attacks in public space (several weeks ago in Québec, a Euro-Québecois attacked a mosque and shot 6 Muslims, wounding several others, including one who has been in a coma).

History, however, teaches us that anarchists have often been the target of racism: Sacco and Vanzetti were not only anarchists, but also Italians, then a kind of European sub-race composed of poor, uneducated and dirty people who could not be assimilated to North America. These Italians were not really “white.” When an Italian anarchist murdered Empress Sissi in Geneva, there were riots against Italian shops and cafés. Similarly to many anarchists of Jewish descent (Emma Goldman and thousands of others), they are presented in North America as individuals who were not only unable to fit in, but whose religious, cultural and political values would endanger social and political stability. At the beginning of the 20th century in the United States, the Immigration Act was also known as the Anarchist Exclusion Act, since it was intended to curb the influence of the anarchists of foreign origin.

That said, in the 1920s and 1930s, anarchists and communists of Jewish origin in Montréal amused themselves by eating ham sandwiches in front of the synagogues as an anti-religious provocation. Okay. But it seems that this kind of action has a different meaning when it’s practiced not by anarchists and communists of Jewish origin, but by anarchists of Catholic origin, for example, because there then is a real risk of playing into antisemitism and fascism (in the 1930s, Québecois fascists smashed the windows of Jewish businesses in Montréal on St-Laurent boulevard). I can’t see myself, as a non-Muslim, going to protest today outside a mosque, considering the international political context; perhaps one should also ask the opinion of anarchist comrades of Muslim origin… if there are any in our networks.

Although the situation is not the same (especially because the jihadists are not anarchists), it seems to me that anarchism’s history can help us to reflect on the current situation. We must take seriously the ideas and principles of anarchism to assert ourselves as anarchists, but we must also know which should prevail in certain circumstances and in different contexts. Anarchists are anticlerical, okay, but also practice anti-racist, internationalist solidarity. Thus, Véronique Hébert, a Atikamekw Métis playwright from Wemotaci, presented a collective performance titled Les Mots Qui n’Existent Pas [The Words That Don’t Exist] at the Montréal Anarchist Theater Festival in 2013, then at the Montréal First Peoples’ Festival. One of the characters explains that anarchy means both freedom from domination and “multiplicity in the face of uniqueness.”

In Montréal, anarchists have been very involved in the defense of Muslims imprisoned by means of a “security certificate” which permits detention without charge (and thus without trial). Anarchists were also involved in the organization of the People’s Commission Forum which denounced, among other things, repressive “security” measures concerning immigration. Anarchists (especially English-speaking and racialized anarchists) participated in the organization of events as part of the debate on “reasonable accommodation.” Anarchists have also mobilized against the attempts of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) to gain a foothold in Montréal. These are just some examples of initiatives involving anarchist solidarity with Muslims who suffer from the effects of Islamophobia every day.

I imagine that such situations are possible in France, but I would also imagine – I am speculating here – that the Islamist attacks against Charlie Hebdo, then at the Bataclan and in Nice, sent shock waves through French anarchist networks, and that there are effects of resonance between the rhetoric of the State and those of some anarchists concerning Islam and secularism [laïcité]. I also think of that very strong official ideology of universalist republicanism, which anarchists can take up without appearing too inconsistent in relation to some anarchist principles. Perhaps all of this makes alliances between white anarchists and Muslims more difficult for you. I also wonder if the weight of anticlericalism is not heavier in anarchist circles in France (maybe it is also a generational issue – the anarchist scene in Québec is quite “young”); the vast majority of anarchists here are atheists, but the anticlerical tradition is less prominent (although the atheism of some anarchists may also undermine their interest in indigenous mobilizations, often marked by a spiritual discourse, especially among women). This is odd, since Québec only secularized belatedly, in the 1960s. But I don’t think the Catholic Church today is as important in Québec as it is in France, as we have seen with the homophobic protests against marriage for all. While France calls itself secular [laïque], the Church in France seems to me far too influential and powerful: it might be a more legitimate target than Islam, for anarchists who are of Muslim origin… But obviously, that is for you to decide.

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More on Grand Angle: see Francis Dupuis-Déri, “Que faire de l’État dans la théorie de l’intersectionnalité? Une réflexion anarchiste.” Date: 04-03-2017 [English version: "Is the State Part of the Matrix of Domination and Intersectionality?: An Anarchist Inquiry,"Anarchist Studies 24.1 (2016): 36-62].

[1] One might mention, among other incidents, the one that took place in Marseille in the bookstore Mille Bâbords which took place in October 2016. See the bookstore’s press release: www.millebabords.org /spip.php?article30041 .

[2] For more information on developments in the theory of intersectionality, one can refer to several issues of journal that can be found on the online platform Cairn: www.cairn.info/ .

[3] The Women’s Caucus of the Anarchist Federation, Classe, Genre, Race & Anarchisme (translation of The Class Struggle Analysis of Privilege), Groupe Regard Noir/Anarchist Federation, 2016, 32 pp. Online: web.archive.org [English: afed.org.uk ].

[4] Houria Boutledja, “Sexe, race, genre: une nouvelle divinité à trois têtes” (December 2015). URL: indigenes-republique.fr .

[5] Philippe Corcuff, “Indigène de la République, pluralité des dominations et convergence des mouvements sociaux [Indigenous of the Republic, plurality of principalities and convergence of social movements]” (July 2015). URL: www.grand-angle-libertaire.net .

[6] Malika Amaouche Yasmine Kateb, and Leah-Nicolas Teboul, “Pour une approche matérialiste de la question raciale. Une réponse aux Indigènes de la République [For a Materialist Approach to the Issue of Race: A Response to the Indigenous of the Republic,” Vacarme 72 (Summer 2015). URL: www.vacarme.org .

[7] Norman Ajari (member of PIR), “Faire vivre son essence” (June 2016). URL: indigenes-republique.fr .

[8] Introduction to La Race Comme si Vous y Étiez [Race, As If That’s What You Were: an anti-“racialist” pamphlet]. URL: forum.anarchiste.free.fr .

[9] Decolonial thought is a Latin American intellectual movement which is comparable to postcolonial studies in the English-speaking world. For more information, see, e.g., issue 62 of Cahiers des Amériques latines: Philosophie de la libération et tournant décolonial (2009). URL: cal.revues.org .

[10] Jules Falquet, “Déclaration du Combahee River Collective [translation: The Combahee River Collective Statement],” Cahiers du CEDREF [Online], No. 14, 2006. URL: cedref.revues.org [original: americanstudies.yale.edu ].

[11] Sophie Noyé, “Pour un féminisme matérialiste et queer [For a Materialist and Queer Feminism].” Contretemps (April 17, 2014). URL: www.contretemps.eu .

[12] The notion of “White [blanc]” and “whiteness [blanchéité]” refers to an entire current of social science research. See, in France, the work of Sylvie Laurent and Thierry Leclère, De quel couleur sont les Blancs? [What Color is White?] Paris: La Découverte, 2013.

[13] Take, for example, a study on racism against black students: www.cafepedagogique.net .

[14] Alternative Libertaire constituted an anti-racism committee specifically to reflect on these issues.

[15] This is a reflection that seems also to have been covered in some texts published by the CGA, such as the text appearing in June 2012: “Pour une révolution anarchaféministe [For an Anarchafeminist Revolution].” URL: [ www.cga.org ].

[16] Angela Davis, “Aucun être humain n’est illégal [No Human Being Is Illegal],” L’Humanité (January 23, 2017). URL: www.humanite.fr .

[17] Martine Fernandes, “‘Miki-le-toss ou comment repérer un guech en quelques leçons’: l’identité ethnique ‘tos’ en France à travers les blogs de jeunes lusodescendants [‘Miki-le-toss’ or How to Spot a ‘Guech’ in a Few Lessons: ‘Tos’ Ethnic Identity in France in the Blogs of French-Portuguese Youth]” Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, vol. 4, no. 2 (2007). URL: epress.lib.uts.edu.au .

[18] For a discussion on the relationship between capitalism and racism in Canadian history, see: Mostafa Henaway, “Pas de capitalisme sans racisme [No Capitalism Without Racism],” Le Devoir (Jan. 3, 2017). URL: www.ledevoir.com .

[19] I think, among others, the work of authors such as Sirma Bilge, Diane Lamoureux (who has just translated Patricia Hill Collins’ book, Black Feminist Thought ), Geneviève Pagé (who has precisely studied feminists’ importation of intersectionality to Québec) and more militant initiatives, such as the Regroupement Québécois des Centres d’Aide et de Lutte contre les Agressions à Caractère Sexuel [Québec Coalition of Centers for Aid and Struggle Against Sexual Assault ] (RQCALACS), who proposed province-level training on intersectionality for its members.

[20] I take this image of the trading post from Jean-Pierre Couture, who suggested it in an analysis of conservative and reactionary networks in Québec, collected in Pascal Durand & Sarah Sindaco (eds.), Le discours “néo-réactionnaire” (Paris: Éditions CNRS, 2015).

[21] A term that refers to the social position a person occupies within social relations.

[22] As illustrated, for example, by this text written in the spring of 2016. URL: www.non-fides.fr .

[23] See, on this, Sarita Ahooja’s text, “Les anarchistes et la lutte pour l’autodétermination des Autochtones [Anarchists and the Struggle for Indigenous Self-Determination],” in Rémi Bellemare-Caron et al. (eds.), Nous sommes ingouvernables. Les anarchistes au Québec aujourd’hui, Montréal, Lux, 2013, pp. 187-202.

[24] Although anarchists and feminists also highlighted the questionable nature of the demand for marriage for all when we should demand the abolition of marriage for all.

[25] Escudero Alexis, La reproduction artificielle de l’humain (Grenoble: Le monde à l’envers, 2014). URL: alexisescudero.wordpress.com/ .

[26] See in this regard: Genre et environnement: Nouvelles menaces, nouvelles analyses au Nord et au Sud, coordinated by Pascale Molinier, Sandra Laugier and Jules Falquet, Cahiers du genre, no. 59 (2015). URL: [https://www.cairn.info/revue-cahiers-du -genre-2015-2.htm].

[27] For an up-close and detailed analysis of this struggle, see the master’s thesis that Marie-Ève Campbell is completing at the political science department at UQAM; see also Caroline Jacquet’s doctoral thesis for the same department.


Retrieved on July 1, 2017 from www.grand-angle-libertaire.net
Translated by Jesse Cohn. Original article: Dupuis-Déri, Francis, and Irène Pereira. “Les libertaires, l’intersectionnalité, les races, l’islamophobie, etc. Dialogue sur les contextes français et québécois.” Grand Angle. 4 Mar. 2017. 1 July 2017. www.grand-angle-libertaire.net.

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/francis-dupuis-deri-and-irene-pe...

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The Four Tenets of Anarcho-Homicidalism

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From VJM Publishing

Anarcho-homicidalism is a radical new philosophy that is rapidly challenging people’s conceptions of what is possible within political space. Despite the tooth-and-claw simplicity of the doctrine, it is not always obvious how one transitions into it from a lifetime of statism. This essay examines four basic precepts.

1. Violence is the basis of self-defence.

In this physical, material world, life is dog-eat-dog to a major extent. Cannibalism is, after all, a fairly recent phenomenon in these very isles, and often the only way you were able to avoid this fate was with counter-violence.

It could even be argued that the very concept of violence perhaps not being fully legitimate is a particularly human invention, and even then not shared by all. As such, the concept of illegitimate violence is far from universal.

A truth frequently denied is that all property rights ultimately come down to the capacity to enforce violence. In our modern societies, there is little more to property rights than being able to bring the Police force to bear on any trespassers.

Therefore, your ability to defend yourself comes down to your ability to inflict violence upon anyone threatening you.

2. You’re allowed to kill anyone trying to enslave you.

If any other person tries to make you into a slave, you have the right to kill them in self-defence. This recognises the fact that anyone who approaches you with a will to enslave you is going to succeed unless deterred.

After all, if you are not allowed (or willing) to kill people trying to enslave you, then you don’t have any rights at all, because you will eventually find yourself unable to assert them.

If a person is not trying to make you into a slave, you don’t have any more right to kill them than you otherwise would (i.e. in the vast majority of cases, doing so would constitute murder).

Therefore, the anarcho-homicidalist only strikes upwards; only ever up the dominance hierarchy. If no-one tries to assert dominance over the anarcho-homicidalist then there is no reason for them to upset the peace.

3. Everyone must decide for themselves who they kill.

Not only does the anarcho-homicidalist never strike downwards, but they also refuse to kill on command. Anarcho-homicidalists do not kill on other people’s orders, because to do so necessarily brings into being a dominance hierarchy.

Note that this gives the anarcho-homicidalist cause to shoot any conscription officer that comes to his house. Conscription is slavery, and if someone else tells you that you have to kill another person who you’ve never met, the anarcho-homicidalist is within their rights to turn the gun on the person giving the orders.

An inescapable consequence of the total application of this tenet would be that no armies could ever be raised to attack anyone else, because anyone being pressed into one would simply kill their conscriptor.

Therefore, nothing like the invasion of Iraq could be possible, because there would be no-one willing to serve in a dominance hierarchy that killed on command.

4. Everyone is 100% responsible for the consequences of their decision to kill.

There is absolutely no guarantee that a person taking anarcho-homicidalist action will be protected from the consequences of having done so.

An anarcho-homicidalist might decide to shoot a government apparatchik who works to enforce some totalitarian horror, but nothing within the tenets of anarcho-homicidalism necessarily protects him from the consequences.

The Police and secret services will still definitely come after anyone who homicides a high-ranking political figure, no matter how fervently the homicidalist believes in their philosophy.

However, a sufficient quantity of anarcho-homicidalists would still be able to form an underground railroad for the sake of protecting any of their own who gave the dominators the full measure.

*

This is an excerpt from Viktor Hellman’s upcoming 'Anarcho-Homicidalist’s Manifesto'.

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The russian revolution of 1917: The Dada counterpoint

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From Autonomies

Dada remains within the framework of European weaknesses; its still shit, but from now on we want to shit in different colours to adorn the zoo of art with the flags of every consulate.

Tristan Tzara, Manifesto of Monsieur Antipyrine

Thought is made in the mouth.

Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto On Feeble Love and Bitter Love

A further contribution to our series on the russian revolutions of 1917 …

For Dada, there was first the primal scream of horror and refusal of a world set out on mass murder in the name of patriotism and civilisation.

Adrift in the lying logorrhea of states, cultural authorities, newspapers, language had ceased to be meaningful in the massacres of the trenches of the First World War; its intentional destruction was now the only means to reveal its masqueraded abuse and corruption. What could “freedom”, “equality” and “fraternity” still mean? What sense remained to “family” and “homeland”, if their defense demanded the killing of so many? And what illusions lay behind “morality” and “law”, “progress” and “science”, “philosophy” and “reason”, when all that they could do was justify the unjustifiable, or remain silent before the barbarity.

From now on it is proven that the purist way to testify to the love of one’s neighbour is in truth to eat him. (1)

The subversion of language would bring in its wake the overthrow of reason, logic, systems, categorisations, all that served to ground societies that could do no better than bring women and men to slaughter each other. The fictions of art and culture would be unveiled; the hierarchies of value and nobility would be undone; the alienated fragmentation of human life into spheres of activities would be overcome; religions, states, authorities of all kinds would be swept away, to make room for life, in all of its intense flows and confluences, its chaos.

To drink from chaos, to have art feed from it, such that it becomes the common and permanent source of enduring creativity, beyond art itself and against the morbidity of administered and exploited existence, was the revolution that Dada offered the world.

Everything had to be demolished. We would begin again after the tabula rasa.

(Marcel Janco, Dada at two Speeds, 1966)

Let each man proclaim: there is a great negative work of destruction to be accomplished. We must sweep and clean. Affirm the cleanliness of the individual after the state of madness, aggressive complete madness of a world abandoned to the hands of bandits, who rend one another and destroy the centuries. Without aim or design, without organization: indomitable madness, decomposition. Those who are strong in words or force will survive, for they are quick in defence, the agility of limbs and sentiments flames on their faceted flanks.

Morality has determined charity and pity, two balls of fat that have grown like elephants, like planets, and are called good. There is nothing good about them. Goodness is lucid, clear and decided, pitiless toward compromise and politics. Morality is an injection of chocolate into the veins of all men. This task is not ordered by a supernatural force but by the trust of idea brokers and grasping academicians. Sentimentality: at the sight of a group of men quarreling and bored, they invented the calendar and the medicament wisdom. With a sticking of labels the battle of the philosophers was set off (mercantilism, scales, meticulous and petty measures) and for the second time it was understood that pity is a sentiment like diarrhoea in relation to the disgust that destroys health, a foul attempt by carrion corpses to compromise the sun. I proclaim the opposition of all cosmic faculties to this gonorrhoea of a putrid sun issued from the factories of philosophical thought, I proclaim bitter struggle with all the weapons of –

DADAIST DISGUST

Every product of disgust capable of becoming a negation of the family is Dada; a protest with the fists of its whole being engaged in destructive action: Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: DADA; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: DADA; of every social hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our valets: DADA: every object, all objects, sentiments, obscurities, apparitions and the precise clash of parallel lines are weapons for the fight: DADA; abolition of memory: Dada; abolition of archaeology: DADA; abolition of prophets: DADA; abolition of the future: DADA; absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the immediate product of spontaneity: DADA; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment: whether it be serious, fearful, timid, ardent, vigorous, determined, enthusiastic; to divest one’s church of eve ry useless cumbersome accessory; to spit out disagreeable or amorous ideas like a luminous waterfall, or coddle them—with the extreme satisfaction that it doesn’t matter in the least – with the same intensity in the thicket of core’s soul pure of insects for blood well-born, and gilded with bodies of archangels. Freedom: DADA DADA DADA, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies:

LIFE.

(Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto 1918)

In early February of 1916, the Cabaret Voltaire, founded by Hugo Ball in Zurich, with Hans Arp, Tristan Tzara, Emmy Hennings, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, became the stage for a performative transgression of poetry, music, dance, theatre, the plastic arts and cinema. Too often characterised as an artistic movement among others, Dada was instead an effort to destroy art, as art, as a separate, “serious” and “noble” activity meant to educate and elevate. In so doing, it equally sought to contest “culture”, “politics”, and finally, “civilisation” itself.

Art is not the most precious manifestation of life. Art does not have the celestial and universal value that people are pleased to accord it. Life is far more interesting. Dada boasts of knowing the correct proportion that should be given to art: with subtle, perfidious methods, Dada introduces it into everyday life. And vice versa.

(Tristan Tzara, Conference on Dada, 1922)

The universal madness of world war could only be challenged by the affirmation of nothing. Any positive affirmation would only be further appropriated and consumed by the ideological engineering of justification. Against truth, absurdity; against order, chaos; against hierarchy and possession, communism; against religion and morality, a-morality; against seriousness, laughter: from all of which Dada would give expression to autonomous, creative forms-of-life.

Dada, on the other hand, wants nothing, nothing,
nothing; it only does something so the public can say:
‘We understand nothing, nothing, nothing.’
The Dadaists are nothing, nothing, nothing, and they
will certainly succeed in nothing, nothing, nothing.

Francis PICABIA

who knows nothing, nothing, nothing.

(Francis Picabia, Dada Manifesto, 1920)

What is dada?
An art? A Philosophy? A Politics?
A fire-insurance-policy?
Or : State Religion?
is dada real Energy?
Or is it Nothing, i.e.
everything?

(Richard Huelsenbeck, Der Dada, Nº 2, 1919)

Marcel Janco, an original member of the Dada group in Zurich, speaks of Lenin’s and other Russian exiles’ appearances at the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916; others, that Tzara lunched with Lenin, and Tzara himself, that he and Lenin played chess.(2) It is tempting to imagine an encounter, even a dialogue, between the two groups. But whatever was shared between them, it did little or nothing to diminish the abyss that separates Dada and the Russian Bolsheviks. That momentary crossing of paths is however temptingly seductive as an occasion to consider anew the Dada revolution, in contrast to the Bolsheviks’ eventual seizure of power after October, 1917.

Some might ask, however, are these two “revolutions” even comparable? Against any presumption that they are, on the grounds that they were both “vanguards”, even if in different domains, or “revolutionary movements”, two questions posed by Hugo Ball in his diary on the 7th of June of 1917 point in a different direction. “Dadaism, as gesture, will it be the counterpoint to Bolshevism? Does it oppose to destruction and the definitive settling of accounts, the completely quixotic, untimely and incomprehensible side of the world? It would be interesting to observe what happens here and there.” (3)

Ball’s questions arose perhaps from an intuitive sensitivity to what can be described as a fundamental and insurmountable ontological difference between Bolshevism and Dada. Where the Russian party promised and sought a definitive settling of accounts in the class struggle of the country, and possibly of the world through violent, global revolution, Dada could imagine no such ambition. For those who animated it, nature, life, human history were all ultimately “meaningless”; that is, whatever patterns or coherence we could discern in them were finally but the projection of our own imaginings, fantasies, desires. Lucidity demanded the recognition of chance and chaos as the reigning “principles” of reality. And therefore, any understanding or knowledge of reality could only be, at best, a schema or framework for rendering human life more intense and radiant, but never true or false. The politics of Bolshevism was a politics of truth, and of the violence necessary to sustain truth. Dada’s politics was, by contrast, an anti-politics, an an-archism that refused and rejected the illusion of any arche, any truth, whether in politics or elsewhere.

Does anyone think he has found a psychic base common to all mankind? The attempt of Jesus and the Bible covers with their broad benevolent wings: shit, animals, days. How can one expect to put order into the chaos that constitutes that infinite and shapeless variation: man?

(Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto 1918)

The criticism then that Dada was a-political is misguided. It assumes a notion of “politics” that Dada openly contested, and thus fails to recognise the possibility of a different kind of politics, of politics as an expression of forms of life, in opposition to the the professionalised and institutionalised activity so commonly taken as politics. So estranged is the latter from life, that Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes proposed that it could be handed over to a machine.

One could even construct a machine to do politics, with a self-modifying, eccentric vein, and thus advantageously substitute the centre of government; being a sort of automatic Machiavelli, this machine would care for the public life of a country with an impressive precision; it would provide for all of the necessary combinations with respect to its health and would impede its senility. (3)

In other words …

What Dada made of politics is known, it suppressed it with the stroke of a pen, ignored it. (5)

If Berlin Dada has been often contrasted with Dada in other cities, for its political engagement, this commitment should not be over-emphasised or misinterpreted. That post-war Berlin was not Zurich or New York is undeniable. This forced from the Berlin group responses to political events, most notably the german revolution of 1918-9, that their fellow Dadaists elsewhere did not have to face directly. For some individual members of the group, this dictated that all art should be secondary to the class struggle (Georges Grosz), or that the artist’s proper place was only to be found in the bosom of the communist party (John Heartfield).

Today I know, together with all of the other founders of Dada, that our only mistake was to have been seriously engaged at all with so-called art. Dada was the breakthrough, taking place with bawling and scornful laughter; it came out of a narrow, overbearing, and overrated milieu, and floating in the air between the classes, knew no responsibility to the general public. We saw then the insane end products of the ruling order of society and burst into laughter. We had not yet seen the system behind this insanity. … The pending revolution brought gradual understanding of this system. There were no more laughing matters, there were more important problems than those of art; if art was still to have a meaning, it had to submit to those problems. In the void in which we found ourselves after overcoming art phraseology, some of us Dadas got lost, mainly those in Switzerland and France, who had experienced the cultural shocks of the last decade more from the newspaper perspective. The rest of us saw the great new task: Tendency Art in the service of the revolutionary cause.

(George Grosz and Wieland Herzfelde, Art Is in Danger, 1925)

The opening words of Richard Huelsenbeck’s Dadaist Manifesto of 1918 bears witness to this felt urgency, as well as to the diversity of the reactions to the german political context of the Berlin group, as well as to the underlying anarchist affinities that so profoundly marked Dada in general.

Art, in its execution and direction, is dependent on the
times in which it lives, and artists are creatures of their
epoch. The highest art will be that whose conscious
content represents the thousand-fold problems of the
day, that which has visibly allowed itself to be torn apart
by the explosions of last week, and which is forever
trying to gather up its limbs after the impact of
yesterday. The best and most extraordinary artists will
be those who at every hour snatch the tatters of their
bodies out of the chaos of life’s cataracts, clutching the
intellectual zeitgeist with bleeding hands and hearts.

(Richard Huelsenbeck, Dadaist Manifesto, 1918)

No political movement or leadership can claim to read away or domesticate the chaos of life. No social or political agent can stand forth as the representative of the objective progress of history, because no such progress exists.

To be a Dadaist might sometimes mean being a businessman
or a politician rather than an artist, or being an artist
only by accident. To be a Dadaist means being thrown around
by events, being against sedimentation; it means sitting for
a moment in a chair, and it means putting your life at
risk. The fabric tears under your hand, you say yes to a
life that strives upward by negation. Say ‘yes’, say ‘no’;
the hocus-pocus of existence fires the nerves of the true
Dadaist. Here he is, lying down, hunting, riding a bicycle,
half Pantagruel, half St. Francis, laughing and laughing.
Down with aesthetic-ethical attitudes!

(Richard Huelsenbeck, Dadaist Manifesto, 1918)

And when Berlin Dada did elaborate an explicitly “political” program, its seriousness could only be married to laughter.

PROGRAM OF ACTION

What is Dadaism and what does it want in Germany?

1. Dada demands:
1) The international revolutionary union of all
creative and intellectual men and women on the basis of
radical Communism.
2) The introduction of progressive unemployment
through comprehensive mechanization of every field of
activity. Only by unemployment does it become possible
for the individual to achieve certainty about the truth of
life and finally become accustomed to experience.
3) The immediate expropriation of property
(socialisation) and the communal feeding of all; further,
the erection of cities of light and gardens that will belong
to society as a whole and prepare man for a state of
freedom.
2. The Central Council demands:
a) Daily meals at public expense of all creative and
intellectual men and women on the Potsdamer Platz,
Berlin;
b) Compulsory adherence of all clergymen and
teachers to the Dadaist articles of faith;
c) The most brutal struggle against all directions of
so-called ‘workers of the spirit’, against their concealed
bourgeoisism, against Expressionism and post-classical
education;
d) The immediate erection of a State Art Centre,
elimination of concepts of property in the new art; the
concept of property is entirely excluded from the supraindividual
movement of Dadaism, which liberates all
mankind;
e) Introduction of the simultaneist poem as a
Communist State Prayer;
f) Requisition of churches for the performance of
sound, simultaneist and Dada poems;
g) Establishment of a Dadaist Advisory Council for
the remodelling of life in every city with over 50,000
inhabitants;
h) Immediate organization of a large-scale Dadaist
propaganda campaign with 150 circuses for the
enlightenment of the proletariat;
i) Submission of all laws and decrees to the Dadaist
Central Council for approval;
j) Immediate regulation of all sexual relations
according to the views of International Dadaism through
establishment of a Dadaist Sexual Centre.

THE DADAIST REVOLUTIONARY CENTRAL COUNCIL.
German Group: Hausmann, Huelsenbeck.
Business Office: Charlottenberg, Kantstrasse 118.
Applications for membership taken at business office.

(Richard Huelsenbeck, Program of Action, 1920)

In 1923, before the first symptoms of a “socialist realism” hostile to Dada and other movements of modern “art”, Theo van Doesburg will author the Manifesto of Proletarian Art, against self-styled “proletarian art”, signed by Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara, along with Kurt Schwitters and Christoph Spengemann, of the “dissident” Merz.

An art that refers to a certain class of people does not exist, and if it were to exist, it would not be important to life.

To those who wish to create proletarian art, we ask: “What is proletarian art?” Is it art made by proletarians themselves? Or art which serves only the proletariat? Or art to arouse proletarian (revolutionary) instincts? Art, made by proletarians, does not exist because the proletarian, when he creates art, no longer remains a proletarian, but becomes an artist. The artist is neither proletarian nor bourgeois, and what he creates belongs neither to the proletariat nor the bourgeoisie, but to all. Art is an intellectual function of man with the purpose of delivering him from the chaos of life (tragedy). Art is free in the use of its means, but bound to its own laws, and only to its own laws, and as soon as the work is a work of art, it is far superior to the class differences of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. If, however, the art should serve exclusively the proletariat, apart from the fact that the proletariat is interested in bourgeois taste, this art would be limited, and as limited as, specifically, bourgeois art. Such an art would not be universal, would not grow out of the sense of global nationality [Weltnationalitätsgefühl], but from individual, social, temporally and spatially limited views. If, then, art should tend to call up proletarian instincts, it basically uses the same means as ecclesiastical or nationalist art. As banal as it sounds in itself, it is basically the same whether someone paints a Red Army with Trotsky at the head or an Imperial Army with Napoleon at the head. For the value of the image as a work of art, it is irrelevant whether proletarian instincts or patriotic feelings are to be aroused. The one thing, like the other, is, from the point of view of art, a fraud.

Art should only awaken the creative powers in man with its own resources, its goal is the mature man, not the proletarian or the citizen. Only small talents can make something of proletarian art (that is, politics in a painted state) because of the lack of culture, since they do not overlook greatness. The artist, however, renounces the special field of social organization.

The art as we want it is neither proletarian nor bourgeois, for it develops forces that are strong enough to influence the whole culture, rather than to be influenced by social conditions.

The proletariat is a condition which must be overcome, the bourgeoisie is a condition which must be overcome. But as the proletarians imitate the Bourgeoiskult with their Proletkult, it is precisely they who support this corrupt civilization of the bourgeoisie, without being conscious of it; to the detriment of art and to the loss of culture.

Through their conservative love for the old, uplifted forms of expression and their incomprehensible dislike for the new art, they keep alive what they want to combat according to their program: bourgeois culture. Thus it is that bourgeois sentimentalism and bourgeois romanticism, despite all the intense efforts of the radical artists to destroy them, still persist and are even cultivated. Communism is as much a bourgeois matter as socialism, namely capitalism in a new form. The bourgeoisie uses the apparatus of communism, which is not an invention of the proletariat but of the bourgeoisie, only as a means of renewal for its own decomposing culture (Russia). Consequently, the proletarian artist struggles neither for art, nor for the future new life, but for the bourgeoisie. Each proletarian work of art is nothing but a poster for the bourgeoisie.

What we are preparing, on the other hand, is the total work of art [Gesamtkunstwerk], which is exalted above all posters, whether they are made for champagne, Dada, or Communist dictatorship.

(Theo van Doesburg, Kurt Schwitters, Hans Arp, Tristan Tzara, Christoph Spengemann, Manifesto of Proletarian Art, 1923)

The language of the Manifesto, in its celebration of art as an autonomous, universal, spiritual and socially redemptive activity, standing above the divisions and conflicts of society, is no longer Dada. And this may have as much to do with the fact that Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara are but the signatories of a document that reflects the confluence of different “art movements”, with very distinct conceptions of their goals, along with the growing fragmentation of Dada groups in Europe and the rapidly changing political context of the time.

To grasp what is at stake in the shift that the Manifesto of Proletarian Art is a witness to, it is fundamental to attend to how Dada saw art, and how it conceived of itself in the sea of artistic vanguards and movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dada testimonials, along with the greater part of the historiography of 20th century art, speaks to us of a Dada art and of Dada as an artistic vanguard. Hugo Ball’s 1916 Dada Manifesto opens with the statement, “Dada is a new tendency in art”. Hans Arp speaks of an “elementary art that would … save mankind from the furious folly of these times”. (6) If Dada was destructive, it was only as an initial gesture, “to destroy the reasonable deceptions of man”. But then only to “recover the natural and unreasonable order”. (7) For Arp, art must be the sublimated and spiritualised expression of nature, and not the mere means of bourgeois, instrumental reason. (8) Art “and the dream represent the preliminary step to the true collectivity of the redemption from all reason”. (9) The criticism of all existing art, Dada’s anti-art, is but a moment in the emergence of a second, “constructive” Dada that laid the bases for all modern art. The moments will solidify, for many, into two Dadas. (10) And the historians will translate memory into orthodoxy, with catalogues, monographs and exhibitions of “Dada Art” as A means of retrospective justification. With time, the domestification of dada as but one more “art movement” becomes the currency of a certain intellectual common sense.

Dada, however, resists domestication.

Drunk with energy, we are spirits come back from the dead to
thrust the trident into heedless flesh. We are streams of
curses in the tropical abundance of vertiginous
vegetation; resin and rain is our sweat, we bleed and
burn with thirst, our blood is our strength. …

We’re a raging wind that rips up the dirty linen of clouds and prayers,
preparing the great spectacle of disaster, fire and decomposition.

(Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto 1918)

This resistance is not born of an untameable art. It emerges instead from Dada peeling back the blood soaked veneer of rationality, order and hierarchy, to thus give partial voice to, provide refracted glimpses of, the inexhaustible torrent of life.

The word DADA symbolises the most primitive
relationship with the surrounding reality; with Dadaism,
a new reality comes into its own. Life appears as a
simultaneous confusion of noises, colours and spiritual
rhythms, which in Dadaist art are captured unmodified
by the sensational screams and fevers of its reckless
everyday psyche and in all its brutal reality. This is the
dividing line that separates Dadaism from all other
artistic directions …

(Richard Huelsenbeck, Dadaist Manifesto, 1918)

Dadaism has, in other words, and to continue to cite Huelsenbeck’s 1918 Dadaist Manifesto, “for the first time, … refused to take an aesthetic attitude towards life”. And this because such an attitude is a lie. Where it promises redemption, it can only bring illusion sustained by creative lethargy, oppression and death. “Art is a pharmaceutical product for idiots”, wrote Francis Picabia in his 1920 Dada Manifesto. In the same text, it is cubism that is his particular target of choice.

Cubism represents a total famine in ideas.
They have cubed primitive art, cubed African sculpture,
cubed violins, cubed guitars, cubed illustrated
newspapers, cubed shit and the profiles of young women,
and now they want to cube money!!!

(Francis Picabia, Dada Manifesto, 1920)

For Tzara, art is “not serious” (Tristan Tzara, Manifesto of Monsieur Antipyrine, 1916). And the general conviction shared by all Dadas was that the art of their time was so compromised and complicitous with a political and social order of deceit, corruption and violence, that it could only be rejected as a whole, along with everything and everyone to which it belonged.

The Dadaist considers it necessary to come out against art, because he has seen through its fraud as a moral safety valve. Perhaps this militant attitude is a last gesture of inculcated honesty, perhaps it merely amuses the Dadaist, perhaps it means nothing at all. But in any case, art (including culture, spirit, athletic club), regarded from a serious point of view, is a large-scale swindle. (11)

Dadaists did create “art objects”: paintings, sculptures, poems, and so on. The International Dada Exhibit of Berlin Dada in 1920 is in this respect paradigmatic.

Yet even in this instance, no single or simple interpretation is warranted. Dada “objects” were often intentionally ephemeral, satirical and self-mocking, understood as interventions (political, cultural, etc.) rather than fixed entities, to be exhibited or sold, and often part of larger performative works (e.g., Janco’s masks for the Cabaret Voltaire) that by their very nature defied preservation. And Dada was first and foremost performative: a series of gestures of rebellion and profanation meant to leave no one passively indifferent.

In parallel, and in an equally radical manner, Marcel Duchamp’s “ready-mades” challenged the very concept and reality of an artistic or aesthetic object. His “Bottle Rack”, “Fountain”, “Bicycle Wheel” simultaneously sacralised everyday objects, while profaning art, leaving in its wake a field of indeterminacy that is neither strictly speaking subjective nor objective, from which all future “art” was forced to contend with.

But then it is no longer the created objects that are important, but the creativity that this field sustains within its folds; a living canvas, a sort of animated tabula rasa from which forms emerge and re-emerge through human agency.

There are people who explain because there are others
who learn. Abolish them and all that’s left is dada.

(Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Bitter Love, 1920)

Dada is chaos from which thousands of systems arise and are entangled again in Dada chaos. Dada is simultaneously the course and the content of all that happens in the universe.

(Richard Huelsenbeck, An Explanation of the Dada Club, 1920)(12)

Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing;
it is the point where yes and no and all oppositions meet,
not solemnly in the castles of human philosophies,
but quite simply on street corners, like dogs and grasshoppers.

(Tristan Tzara, Conference on Dada, 1922)

The field or plane of life of which we are a part is Dada’s nothing or nothingness, or what some have called Dada’s nihilism. But if nihilism it is, the Dadaists embraced it, not to destroy, but to open up the very space of creation.

The destructive gestures of Dada were born of a refusal of illusion elevated to the status of absolute truths. Once the latter are overturned, what shows itself is chance, spontaneity, what reason disparagingly calls chaos and absurdity. Yet what absurdity there is, is so only from the vantage point of reason. And what is reason except the poor, but vain, weaver of systems, doctrines, classifications; the fantasies and delusions of emaciated philosophers, dank moral authorities, putrid “statesmen”, and all of their minions.

In place of all of this, Dada affirms life and the forms of human life that grow out from it.

I destroy the drawers of the brain, and those of social organisation: to sow demoralisation everywhere, and throw heaven’s hand into hell, hell’s eyes into heaven, to reinstate the fertile wheel of a universal circus in the Powers of reality, and the fantasy of every individual.

(Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto 1918)

Dada is not art, if by art is meant a separate sphere of creative activity or reality concerned with beauty. Dada is not a doctrine, orthodox or heterodox. Its manifestos are anti-manifestos.

To launch a manifesto you have to want: A.B.C.
to fulminate against 1, 2, 3.
I write a manifesto and I want nothing, yet I say certain
things, and in principle I am against manifestos, as I am
also against principles.

(Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto 1918)

Dada is not an entity of which one becomes a member through rights of passage, or risks expulsion in rituals of excommunication (against Surrealism). There was never one Dada.

Dada is neither a dogma nor a school, but rather a constellation of individuals and of free facets [of individuals]. (13)

Dada is not a movement, that is, it does not give form to the formless, as with a political movement that animates and moulds a population, by dividing-creating the true people against the false, the traitorous, the suspicious, the impure, or as an artistic movement, producing the true art, making evident the true artists, and defining the true subjects-spectators of art. If it can be called a “movement” at all, it is only in the sense of a movement without an end, a telos; a movement of permanent potentiality to become more than it is, while always being less than what it might be. (14)

Many thought that to invent the name Dada was to invent Dada itself. The matter is deceptive, for it is impossible to define Dada without giving it a name, if the “movement” did not exist except from the moment that it was possible to name it, in that instant it lost its essential quality of a continuous “movement”. (15)

And Dada is not an art movement (against the Situationist criticism of Dada), for what it sought and how it conceived itself, was as a “state of mind” that can be read in every gesture, a way of life. (Richard Huelsenbeck, Dadaist Manifesto, 1918) “What interests a Dadaist”, Tzara said in his 1922 Conference on Dada, “is his own way of living.” Tzara then says: “But here we approach the great secret.” What secret? Elsewhere he answers: “Dada is a quantity of life in transparent, effortless and gyratory transformation.” (Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Bitter Love, 1920) Dada is an endless series of gestures, the fragmentary expression of multifaceted human life as a way of living, transparent to itself because autonomous, effortless because born of its own preference not to command or obey, and in a movement of gyrating transformation because it is not the realisation or actualisation of what is already potentially present, but potentiality acting as potentiality. (16)

In the Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Bitter Love, Tristan Tzara offers instructions for the writing of a Dadaist poem.

TO MAKE A DADAIST POEM
Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose from this newspaper an article of the length you
wish to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next, carefully cut out each of the words that make up
this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Then remove each cutting one after the other in the order
in which they emerge from the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are, an infinitely original author of
charming sensibility, although still unappreciated by the
vulgar herd.

For the Dada poet, or artists, chance is her/his muse; the nothing, the not yet, the pure or absolute potentiality that underlies all creativity. The Dadaist, like the ancient sceptic, suspends affirmations and negations, truth and falsity; suspends themselves between non-being and being, potentiality and actuality. Yet it is precisely from this point of suspension that modes of human being may be shaped.

What appears on the threshold between being and non-being, between the sensible and the intelligible, between word and thing, is not a colourless abyss of nothing, but the radiant opening of the possible. (17)

The threshold experience celebrated by Dada is none other than the experience of freedom, as once defined by Duns Scotus: human freedom is lived by “he who experiences the power of not wanting.” (18) This experience is what the Dadaists sought to articulate and express; it is what the Bolshevik “revolution” covered over in their determination to institutionalise a politics of sovereign truth, that is, to produce a presumably truly “free”, “equal”, “fraternal” society. But it is not truth that sets one free, but rather freedom, a form of life, that renders any truth possible, and simultaneously, always questionable. In this doubt, in this freedom, lies the source of any radical revolution.

(Timothy Garton Ash described the internet as “history’s largest sewer”. The Dadaists would no doubt be happy to find many of their writings amidst this shit, for readers to discover and from where from where we have taken generously, and where we also modestly float about.)

__________

  1. Cited in Henri Béhar and Michel Carassou, Dada – História de uma Subversão. Antigona, 2015, p. 49. (Original Publication: Dada – Histoire d’une subversion. Librarie Arthème Fayard, 2005).
  2. Marc Dachy, Dada et les dadaïsmes. Gallimard, 2011, pp. 84-5.
  3. Cited in Henri Béhar and Michel Carassou, Dada – História de uma Subversão. Antigona, 2015, p. 66.
  4. Cited in Henri Béhar and Michel Carassou, Dada – História de uma Subversão. Antigona, 2015, p. 77.
  5. Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Déjàs jadis. DGE, “10/18”, 1973, p. 185.
  6. Hans Arp, “Dadaland” [1938], in Dadas on Art: Tzara, Arp, Duchamp and Others. Dover, 1971, p. 24.
  7. Ibid., p. 28.
  8. Ibid., pp. 30-1; 28-9.
  9. Ibid., pp. 33-4.
  10. Marcel Janco, “Dada at Two Speeds” [1966], p. 38; Hans Richter, “Dada Art and Anti-Art” [1965], p. 40; Kurt Schwitters, “Merz” [1920], p. 102, in Dadas on Art: Tzara, Arp, Duchamp and Others.
  11. Richard Huelsenbeck, “Dada Forward” [1920], in Dadas on Art: Tzara, Arp, Duchamp and Others, p. 50.
  12. Richard Huelsenbeck, “An Explanation of the Dada Club” [1920], in Dadas on Art: Tzara, Arp, Duchamp and Others, p. 54.
  13. Tristan Tzara, “Authorization”, New York Dada, 1921, p. 2.
  14. Giorgio Agamben, “Movement“.
  15. Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Déjàs jadis. DGE, “10/18”, 1973, p. 12.
  16. Giorgio Agamben, Bartleby ou la création. Circé, 2014.
  17. Ibid., p. 51.
  18. Ibid., p. 66.
    category: 

    Volcano Reclus: The mysterious anarchist volcano of Patagonia

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    From Stalking the Earth (via Noticias & Anarquía)

    Located 25 kilometers [15.5 miles] from Torres del Paine National Park and some 125 kilometers [77.7 miles] northeast of Puerto Natales, on the basin that feeds the glacier Amalia, in the region of Magallanes, stands a mythical volcano. The first record of the volcano, dates to 1879, when the crew of the schooner Alert witnessed its eruption and named it Reclus in honor of the anarchist and celebrated founder of social geography, Élisée Reclus. Afterward, in the early years of the 20th century, the Swedish geologist P. Quense tried to locate the exact location of the eruption. However, they confused it with the hill “Mano de Diablo”.

    In 1987 and thanks to helicopter overflights, the exact location of the volcano was pinpointed, 10 kilometers [6.2 miles] from the hill of Mano de Diablo. Due to climate change accelerated by the development of a devastating capitalism, it’s becoming easier for those that come from Amalia glacier to see the volcano. Still reaching the peak of the volcano requires specialized hiking equipment and it’s important to have other assistance and supports. The few who have visited the summit mention that the place is surrounded by a lush nature with huemules [southern Andean deer] walking the paths that were formed by volcanic rocks expelled from the volcano hundreds of years ago.

    Reclus was known as an indefatigable traveler, lover of the Earth and meticulous observer of all the elements of the landscape, characterizations that are reflected in his fruitful geographical work. He had the opportunity to travel through Chile and dedicated a book to the geography of the region, a work titled “La Jeografía de Chile” [The Geography of Chile]. As an anarchist theorist he developed distinct analytical perspectives in which he defended a society without hierarchies, a social order that for Reclus would come about through the evolution of humanity, with more anarchism everywhere, - and support – an anarchist society could evolve.

    A friend of Mikhail Bakunin and Pëtr Kropotkin, Recluse actively participated in the First International of Workers and in the Revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871. He is also highlighted for being a collaborator with the Modern School of Barcelona [Spain] with Francisco Ferrer i Guardia, with whom he maintained a correspondence, that in order to learn, one must first understand. By this I mean, when reasoning about the inconceivable, we must first start by seeing, and observing. “Above all in geography, it can be convenient to proceed by sight, by direct observation of this Earth that has given birth to us and gives us bread to survive. If I were fortunate enough to be a geography professor for children, without being locked up in the an official or private establishment, perhaps I may not even use the Greek word for geography with them, but instead invite them for long communal walks, happy to learn in their company.”

    The real school, Reclus thought, should be the freedom of nature with its beautiful landscapes to contemplate, with its laws to study, but as well as with its obstacles to overcome. Do not educate the spirit of humans in narrow rooms with barred windows. It is in the joy of bathing in the lakes and the streams of mountains, the walks though glaciers and fields of snow, it’s climbing the high peaks where one can find the genuine motivation and reflection in accordance with a life of freedom. In nature we don’t only learn with an ease what some book could say, but we also have encountered the danger and faced it head on.

    “For Reclus, evolution and revolution are two closely related concepts, that are not contradictory to each other. And to such a point this relationship generates very few times where one can define the limits of one or the other. In his opinion, the simple addition of violence doesn’t mark a difference between the two terms, since he argues that there are both violent evolutions and quiet revolutions. And what establishes the difference between the two is the step, the action, and the development beyond the establishment. According to this view, evolution turns into revolution at the precise moment when it gives rise to that jump, that leap before a new vision, a new situation. And once the process has exhausted itself, normalized, the revolution transforms into evolution. And so it goes, this continuous and eternal movement makes up life itself.

    According to this view, anarchism as a concept of life, should strengthen deep in the eternal process of evolution, revolution, and evolution. Of course, without forgetting that the involuntary processes that Reclus calls negative evolutions and that represent a step back, that is, what is known in politics as counterrevolution.”

    For Élisée Reclus libertarian socialism is made up of a movement for the accession of a society in which there will be no masters nor jailers, neither rich or poor, rather brothers that will have their daily bread, equal rights, a peace and cordial union, not because of obedience to the laws, that are always accompanied by terrible threats, but by a mutual respect of interests for the scientific observation of the natural laws.

    In remembrance of such libertarian perspectives, did the crew of the schooner Alert bestow the name Reclus when they saw fire in what appeared like a volcano as they sailed by in 1879? We don’t know. The documents to which we’ve had access highlight the importance of Reclus as a geographer, however it could also be because of him being known as a diffuser and defender of anarchist ideals. This second option would not be surprising, if we consider that within the shipping industry anarcho-syndicalism has had a great influence since the late 19th century.

    Interesting similarities exist between the activity of the volcano and the thought of Reclus. Volcanoes erupt after long periods of inactivity, which can be compared to building-up an anarchist movement. Throughout many centuries and infinite actions and lessons, men and women have been motivated by the beautiful ideals of love, mutual aid, direct action and horizontality, have consolidated anarchism as one of the most important expressions of societies search for freedom. After centuries of slow evolution, the anarchist movement defined itself by concrete revolutions that marked periods of great social change in modernity, eruptions that have resisted the development of capitalism, movements that perhaps some have incorrectly labeled as spontaneous. Be that as it may, spontaneous doesn’t mean with causality. Nor does it mean to say from one day to the next. Thus, anarchism like volcanoes and their black and red eruptions, hatch the social landscape, forming new ways and moral paths, evolutionary preconfigurations towards total liberation. Like volcanoes, anarchism is organized from below and in union with many distinct forces generate social eruptions that often surprise. However, anarchism, unlike volcanoes doesn’t violently attack the towns with its lava, instead it frightens those who work alongside the misery of oppression and injustice.

    In 2012 the communities near Puerto Natales, the seismic authorities and ONEMI, were alerted due to the seismic activity recorded. It was thought that the volcano Reclus was the origin of these movements. Expeditions and studies were done, which helped learn more about the volcano and surrounding environment. Despite the alarms no apparent lava flows around the volcano have been found and seismic monitoring in the region can’t be directly linked to the volcano. However, nature has warned us of climate change, as the glacier that surrounds volcano Reclus has thawed at a steady rate.

    Volcano Reclus, like the French anarchist geographer, reminds us of the importance of fighting for a life of freedom, where natural environments, territory, water and people resisting capitalism are respected. Just as the workers of the Patagonia Rebelde fought in 1921, just as Matías Catrileo, Luis Marileo and Patricio González fought and gave their lives, among many others. Without a doubt, volcano Reclus will be more visible due to the melting of the glacier Amalia, likewise we hope that the formidable work of the French geographer becomes more visible and studied in accordance with his desired maximum expression of order: anarchy, association without authority.

    N&A


    ***

    see also:

    Élisée Reclus at The Anarchist Library - https://theanarchistlibrary.org/category/author/elisee-reclus

    Reclus at Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89lis%C3%A9e_Reclus

    category: 

    The Anarchist Myth

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    via Maldición Eco-extremista, where you can also find the original Spanish as well as a translation into Italian

    I) Dismantling the myth
    “Anything based on the masses, the herd, carries within itself the seeds of slavery. That crowd, which does not self-determine its values, is unable to define its own life.”
    Everyone has roots, a past from which through different lived experiences you learn, analyze facts and evolve if you have the capacity for it, or else you are stuck in a loop of mediocrity and pathos. Thus, a portion of the individuals (not everyone!) who today form the nihilist and eco-extremist terrorist groups, including those who write this text, come from the “anti-authoritarian” environments of anarchism or radical leftism.
    Having spent in some cases several years within this milieu that is plagued by misery and the miserable, by cowardly hypocrites and moral priests, we know what we are talking about. This is why we think it opportune to present this analysis to clarify why we distance ourselves from the anarchists and their old and obsolete theories. We consider it also important to make clear that NOT ALL people who call themselves anarchists follow the same line of thinking/acting or fit the description that we present. In fact, small circles of anarchists still find affinity with our attitudes, though we know that these are a minority of a minority.
    To begin, some of us began to have contact and approach anarchist ideas precisely because we saw in them an antagonistic alternative to the values of society, values to which we have complete hostility. We believed that within the so-called “anarchist movement” we could form that “free” community to confront a world that we hate. But after years of wandering through the ruins of mediocrity, squats, concerts, parties and countercultural nonsense, participating in “mass struggles”, actions and attacks (in most cases symbolic as well as useless), where we risked a lot to get very little, we have finally realized many things, especially the fraud that is the myth of anarchism, in all of its variations.
    Because we have seen how this “free community” of anarchists reproduces exactly the same values of society or of the system that it claims to fight against, because we have seen the hierarchies of the anarcho-leaders and their followers, the marked roles, the power struggles between different factions or groups, those who speak and those who listen, the attitude of “if you do not agree with my dogma, you are less anarcho or I will just split in your face” and a thousand and one childish idiocies that are not worth mentioning. Anyone who has been in contact with this milieu knows very well of what we speak. Because we have seen that the “movement”, the squats and everything else are just a product of consumerism, of an ideology for sale, a “radical” or countercultural fashion or a degenerate form of leisure for drug addicts that is far from being the real threat to the System that it claims to be and that it is simply a lifestyle totally assimilated and controlled by the system.
    Because we have understood the unrealizable nature of anarchist and leftist programs, the utopian fantasy of a world in harmony is ridiculous to us. We are not interested because, really, who knows how the world will be like in a few years, so why even pretend to have a magic solution and a determined program for the post-revolutionary anarchist world? We had enough of flushing our life down the toilet for nonsense that seems drawn out of teenage dreams. We have developed a more complex analysis of the reality that surrounds us, free of the veils that blind us and the chains of romantic idealism has put us in our place. We got tired of waiting for a “revolution” that will never arrive, and that if it did, we look back at the history and at the behavior of the anarchists (which is a further sample of human nature), perhaps it would be even worse than the world we know today. Because we are tired of putting hopes in popular uprisings but also in the “minority conscience” of the “insurrectionary”, because many times we have heard incendiary and bellicose speeches that were left at mere quackery. Maybe it can be said that we are crazy or lunatics, that our “program” is “kill for the sake of killing until they kill us” … you can say this and a thousand other things but at least we are realistic and above all, honest. Anarchists, regardless of the type (red, red-black, black, eco-anarchist … etc) have one thing very clearly in common: their programs are based on illusions and hopes, and they deform the existing reality to make it fit into their ideological fantasies.
    The basic values ​​and pillars on which anarchy is built do not represent us anymore if they ever did. The humanistic and Christian nature of these values ​​disgust and repel us. Concepts such as mutual support (universal and among strangers), promiscuous and indiscriminate solidarity towards people who we know nothing about, simply because they belong to a particular social stratum such as prisoners, migrants or workers, without stopping to analyze each person for his individual decisions / actions and not simply by the forced category in which he has been placed. The belief that the human being has a “good” nature under certain conditions and is “evil” under others … and best not to speak of the horrendous collectivist vision of life that many (not all) anarchists have and many other things which are, as we have already said, the intrinsic values ​​of anarchism and which irreconcilably separate us from the world of the anarchists.
    If we go deeper into the concepts of “authority,” “hierarchy,” “power,” “domination,” and other concepts that the anarchists claim to fight against, we first find a tremendously hypocritical stance when they themselves have power struggles. In that case, they are in fact, authoritarians and they try to subdue and dominate others who are not like them.
    When anarchists (or anyone else) exercise violence against their enemies, they are imposing their authority over them by the use of force or other means. Even a simple dialectical debate between two opposing positions basically consists of trying to dominate your opponent and impose your way of seeing things.
    On the other hand, it seems to us tremendously hypocritical and utopian to deny the reality of human behavior. Although our position as individualists makes it clear that we do not bow our heads to anyone or need to be told what to do, think or need anyone to make decisions for us, we understand that authority and hierarchical organization are neither “good” nor “bad” but is something that just exists and, regardless if you like it or not, it’s something very natural in the human behavior since time immemorial. Therefore we can lie to ourselves and fall into the hypocrisy of anarchists and “anti-authoritarians” or we can accept the reality and use it in what is convenient for us.
    We understand that at certain moments and situations, a figure of authority or “guides” may be necessary and beneficial. For example, when carrying out actions, robberies, armed assaults or whatever, there are those who have a capacity for self-control and cold blood in times of great tension and danger, as well as experience in similar situations, or they know the area, or have in general one or more abilities that make them more skilled than the rest of the team. Of course, this person will be the most suitable to give the indications of when to strike or retreat. Because in a robbery that lasts 30 seconds, there is no time to convene an assembly in case of an unforeseen event (which often occurs). Not only must there be great coordination and prior preparation of all members to know what role each one plays, but there must be some chain of command in the group under a figure who by his experience and skills managing these delicate situations can react, make difficult decisions quickly, and guide group members with less experience, in order to save himself and the rest of the group and thus succeed in the task at hand.
    Apart from this there must be very well defined roles based on the experience and personal skills of each component of the unit, and yes, again, we clash with anarchist idealism that stands against specialization and roles. We can even agree concerning a sharing of the division of labor in the sense that we see the utility of all members of the group learning a little bit of everything (making explosives, target shooting, driving, vehicle theft, computer file encryption, hand-to-hand combat, disguises … etc) What we cannot ignore is that there are people with specific skills, for example some are better shooters than others, likewise, there will be other individuals who are better able to drive in extreme situations and others who are more familiar with other practices. That is why in actions there must be roles based on the specialization and experience of each individual. This increases the probability of success in action.
    Authority exists in various forms, some are coercive and others not, but obviously the concept of authority within civilization is not something that we can understand as something “positive”.
    For example, the police and other means of artificial regulation of the techno-moral civilization are alien and hostile concepts to us because, on the one hand, the wild already has its own cycles and means of regulation and does not need other means, and on the other hand because these means are made with the purpose of perpetuating the civilized order. The question is how each one of us faces the reality of authority and hierarchy in its various forms, and how these are internalized within the human being. Individualistic extremists do not pay any respect to civilized authority or anyone who stands in their way, only they choose their own path, only they decide what to do outside of the anarchist hypocrisy that pretends to be “horizontal”, “free” and “without god or master”. The individualistic extremist builds their daily reality and their relationships, like everyone else, in a series of defined constructions and roles, including through very natural authoritarian and hierarchical attitudes. The extremist individualist who follows his wild and egoist instinct, using authority when it is necessary for his benefit (for example when taking the lives of his enemies or using force to ensure his survival) and thus not being locked inside the moral cages of ideologies, religions, progressivism and humanism and taking reality as it is, without sugarcoating it to make it easier to swallow. In the end this is more “free”, even more “anarchic” in the purely chaotic sense, than all those “anti-authoritarians” drenched in romantic idealism, prisoners of the mental chains of the stereotype of the politically correct.
    On the other hand, most people (if not everyone) have completely assimilated the present everyday life and do not know, or want, to live another life than this established one, the comfortable one, the easy way. Who is going to convince all those millions who wander the world to establish anarchy? In the eventual case of the disappearance of the state and institutions that regulate the common life, how do you agree with everyone or just avoid killing each other? With pedagogy? Doing assemblies? That blind trust in humanity and in the “good faith” of the people that the anarchists have makes us laugh. In addition to the tremendous arrogance of those who present themselves as a kind of “messiah,” a divine being touched by the grace of “God” who has seen the light, believe themselves to be the absolute truth and have been selected for the important task of “liberating” and teaching the true path of light and truth to the rest of the mortals of that massive entity called “the people”. But the “people” are mere blind slaves and idiots who have been and are deceived and manipulated by evil beings (Capital-state, “power”, the rich … etc) and are not able to make decisions or think for themselves or understand what surrounds them, and of course, they have no responsibility for the functioning of today’s world.
    It is only necessary to observe how the attitudes of domination, the lust for power, the internal fights for being the one who is right or wants to be the boss. Here the authoritarian attitudes or the rotten social values ​​reproduce themselves and move freely within the “anti -authoritarian” movement. For even in history, in the few cases where anarchy was imposed (and we say imposed because it was never consented to without the use of force) within that anarchist program or government there were authorities, bosses, leaders (Durruti, Nestor Makhno … etc.) people whose voice was heard over others and whose opinion was worth more than others, a few who made important decisions and a few who followed and obeyed, so in these experience of history we see that there were organs responsible for “keeping order” etc etc. We see that authority emanates from an assembly, a “revolutionary” committee, a workers’ council, or one or other “horizontal” organizational structure, which does not make it different from that one emanating from a government institution or from the barrel of a gun.
    We have understood that human nature is conflictive, that hierarchy and authority in their variants are concepts deeply rooted in the human being and that there were and there will always be people who have become leaders by skill or by force. And there were and there will always be those who are willing to follow these leaders. There were and there will always be people with a desire for power, a desire to command, to be someone respected or feared and even more people are going to opt for the path of least resistance, which is to bow your head, obey and not get into trouble, rather than complicate your life thinking for yourself. Many don’t mind if there is someone around who makes the decisions for them. And this happens even in anarchic circles, so it is not a charge we level specifically against rotten anarchism, but rather we level the charge against the rottenness of humanity as a whole of which the humanist anarchists and leftists form a part. Ideologies sell the image of prefabricated enemies and that we must fight and sacrifice ourselves for a “superior” alien cause, but we have come to the conclusion that man’s true enemy is man himself.
    Because although there was a time when we thought that the root of all evil was the State / Capital, we later understood that it was more complicated than that, and that the origin of the problem was the complex network of relations of power that is society. After this, we understood that society is the product of Civilization and this in turn of human progress, which is responsible for this regrettable reality. And whether we like it or not, the human being naturally tends toward progress, and the modern human being to the worst kind of progress that exists, that of an anthropocentric vision where everything on earth, from the water, the mountains, the trees, animals, people … everything is reduced to resources or products, benefits, land to conquer or bodies / minds to dominate or domesticate.
    And in this situation, many anarchists (but not all!) not only remain tremendously deficient in making the simple analysis of “State / Capital source of all evil in the world” but they do not even raise a criticism of civilization and Progress, or worse, are tremendously pro-civilization, thinking that changing the form of government, directing resources and means of production, and modifying social / economic organization are enough.
    Finally having arrived at these conclusions based on what has been lived, what “new” world do you expect us to build with this rabble? What new experiences and liberating moments can arise from such rottenness? Nothing can be expected of anarchists, because their faith in humanity blinds them. They are victims of their own idealism and have a romanticized and unrealistic view of the world and the nature of people. Just keep hoping that, especially in the mass society in which we live, the “awakening of consciousness” comes and people “learn” to live in anarchy, even if those in charge of bringing anarchy to the people are these characters. For us, they can waste their entire lives pursuing their utopia.
    Because to conceive of a real experience of authentic, wild, and free life, one would have to look at forms of life or social organization on a very small scale, with few members, tribal or “primitive” forms already lost or almost lost; those far from civilization. Yet not even these were perfect, nor do we consider them as examples to follow, since we do not idealize anything or anyone and we prefer that each seeks and makes his or her own way.
    II)“Black anarchy” and the “new” anarchist urban guerrillas
    “The idols only exist because of Me. It is enough that I stop creating them, so that they disappear: there are no higher powers if I do not raise them and put myself under them”
    While we have generally spoken of anarchy as a movement, we want to dwell more deeply on one of its “variants” which may seem to have certain similarities with individualist extremist tendencies and nihilistic terrorists. We speak of the so-called “anarcho-nihilist” tendencies, “antisocial” anarchism and “black anarchy” and the experiment of the “new” urban anarchist guerrillas.
    To begin, reading the texts and claims of actions of this tendency, we see only the repetition of the same discourse over and over again, a purely identifying discourse based largely on criticizing what other tendencies of anarchy do or do not do, or why anarchos don’t do what I do or laugh at my jokes (this whole business of I being more anarcho than thou because thou dost not follow my dogma, something very common among anarchists as we saw earlier).
    At the same time they need to write a text for everything, often too exaggerated and with words and terminology that get too grandiose compared to the ridiculous “actions” carried out in most cases (sealing a padlock, putting up banners or graffiti tags…)
    The need to convince, to win followers for “their cause” (although some won’t admit it) leads them to make public statements which places them obviously in the focus of attention of snitches and investigations. Just as the communists and social anarchists have their hopes placed on the absolute revolutionary subject (“the people”, “the working class”, etc.), black anarchy hopes that its texts and actions will compel the awakening of consciousness in individuals who are already part of the “movement” or at least their youngest and most energetic part, pushing them into action. Basically, some rely on the masses and others on the “minorities of rebels”, but in the end everything is the same, putting hopes in others to follow you and do the same things as you do, following the anarchist tradition of this kind of “faith” that they deposit in other people. Beyond that, the “black” proposal offers nothing more than to wait for the “contagion” from one day to the next, and it is total nonsense.
    Moreover, the incendiary and warlike discourse of black anarchy does not correspond to reality, where most of these people live within the comfort of the aesthetic pose of the “insurrectional” movement.
    Then we have that famous concept of the “multiformity” of actions, so that according to the theory of “polymorphic action” the anarchist “praxis” can (and should!) combine putting up posters with bombings (as if it is the same thing), doing guerrilla attacks while participating in public and propagandistic movements and actions, speaking, defending and advocating anarchist violence in debates, assemblies and public talks… and so on… but what a bunch of nonsense! This concept of “polymorphic action” seems like something that comes out of the mind of an unconscious or mentally unstable person!
    Anyway, boasting, pretending, spreading rumors and gossiping, being a loudmouth and showing off by telling stories of “battles” even in phone conversations or on social networks such as Facebook (long live the coherence!) are very common things in the circles of “black anarchists”, and just imagine the “reputation” they acquire at having been arrested or imprisoned…
    If we address the concept of actions of the “new” anarchist urban guerrillas, we arrive at the worst part of all.
    First, the strategy, planning and execution of actions are disastrous; the lack of measures,or rather the lack of a security culture and self-preservation instinct is one of the many failures of these groups. The examples to be followed by many of these “revolutionary anarcho-nihilists” are the disastrous guerrilla experiences (leftists or communists in their majority) of the past or present and their historical failures (RAF etc), examples that are not based on a strategic criteria or on the improvement of the effectiveness of armed action, but simply on the basis of a moralistic criterion, of ideological rigidity or of fetishistic admiration. Because in spite of being called “new”, these guerrillas only copy the schemes of the “old” guerrillas in many aspects, perhaps with only theoretical differences.
    Ineptitude, inattentiveness, and irresponsibility are the words that best define these “guerrillas”,, which put them and anyone around them in unnecessary danger. Imprisoned “guerrillas” of the past and present are a disastrous example for a new generation of idiots who fetishistically adore them without stopping to think or make the slightest criticism, or question why guerrilla anarchist groups had a fleeting existence and most of their members ended up imprisoned, dead, on the run, or denying that they ever were guerillas. The example given by these “guerrillas”, their experiences, their words and texts encouraging others to follow in their footsteps and make the same mistakes, leave a new generation of followers ready for prison. On the other hand, the “demand” for “solidarity”, such as attending trials or maintaining contact or direct relationship with the prisoners (visits, mail, phone calls, social networks…), does nothing more than fill in the files of anti-terrorist police investigations. Not to mention the lack of responsibility, on both sides, of those who have direct and continued contact with prisoners when they are carrying out actions or have in mind to do so.
    Martyrdom and self-sacrifice are some of their other “virtues,” claiming responsibility when they are captured, even though there is no evidence to directly incriminate them. This is yet more proof of the stupidity of these “guerrillas”, confusing pride with idiocy. As if they had to face or had any responsibility to “the movement” or to claim some political responsibility for their actions to people who do not even know them, who will not follow their steps and probably in a few years won’t even remember them. Because, besides, even though it seems to us a tremendous absurdity to give our enemies our lives on a silver platter in court, we believe that we must be consistent with the decisions made and face their final consequences. Because one cannot declare oneself against the law, refuse to participate in legal proceedings, refuse to recognize the authority of any judge or prosecutor, or announce that the escape, riot and rebellion are the only options of the “urban guerrilla” prisoner and then expect to gain something from prison privileges, to participate in trials (even if it is pretending), participate in the process, legal defense etc, and even after “refusing to participate in the farce that are trials” and “not expect anything from a system of which we are declared irreconcilable enemies” and then complain because they were left without their prison privileges, or that they were given long sentences or because things did not go as expected. Because it’s only when you are between a rock and a hard place that you show what your convictions are made of, because we know that it is very easy to speak or write texts and be very brave in theory, but in the end, the practical example is what counts. Because we have already seen how when some have been isolated and left alone, with those who in the past supported them turning their backs on them or changing their beliefs, then very quickly they toned-down their discourse; and the initial radicality and aggressiveness disappeared.
    And when we go to the practical example of the “guerrilla” actions of these anarchs, we see many ill-conceived actions, badly executed, with lousy results: lots of risk with little to show for it.
    Attacks that in many cases only resulted in a black spot on some wall. In addition, these actions were rarely intended to directly attack the lives of some of their enemies but only property and almost always the same objectives over and over (banks and ATMs), usually on specific symbolic dates for the “movement” (anniversaries of some police murder, of some revolt of the past, from calls of “solidarity” with this or that cause or prisoner … etc). If someone was injured, texts and communiqués were quickly published asking for forgiveness and implying that it was not their intention to hurt “innocents”. Because despite declaring themselves antisocial, terrorists, eternal enemies of society and other big words, these “terrorists” and “antisocial anarchists” have lots of consideration for society and their fellow citizens.
    In closing, we can say that the “experiment” of the “new” urban guerrillas has only left a lot of prisoners, another still larger group of people under investigation and probably another bunch of future prisoners. All of this is the high price paid for this short-term activity and a ridiculously small amount of damage (in the vast majority of cases), which in economic terms is being recovered in the levied fines. This is the high price paid for bad planning, loose lips, being carried away by emotions and nonsense, and especially for thinking that this is a game. In strategic terms and by doing a cold and common sense analysis, the experiment of the urban guerrillas and the anarchist action groups has been and is an absolute disaster, and there are the facts that prove it.
    We have always been aware that those who immerse themselves in this life, those who choose the path of illegality, of the attack with all its final consequences, have no guarantees of anything, even less of “success” or “victory” but there are many guarantees of ending up dead or imprisoned. But it is one thing to know this reality and assume it acting accordingly, that whatever happens always be cautious, PATIENT and act carefully to keep out of jail or the morgue, to continue attacking more frequently and better; and it is another very different thing is to be a suicidal by sticking one’s head in the mouth of the lion. In this sense we reject and deeply despise that mythological garbage that “prison is a stop in the life of the revolutionary / anarchist / whatever” that has led the imagination of many idiots to believe that incarceration is not “that bad”. Prison, especially with a decades-long sentence for terrorism, is the end, full stop. We no longer live in the Middle Ages, nor are we in the 80’s, modern prisons are practically impossible to escape from. A long or life sentence is not a “stop”, it means that you have screwed up your life, in most cases by making the wrong decisions, and instead of believing these stupid arguments and all that anarcho-nonsense about jail, they should look in the mirror and assume that they screwed up. In our case, we prefer a quick death to a “life” of martyrdom behind bars that in the best of scenarios you end up being released after spending half your life in prison, as human waste, sick and old, that is if they do not kill you while behind bars. We insist, it is one thing to take risks and quite another thing to be suicidal.
    The growing scarcity of both quality and quantity of offensive activity, even in places with a long history of anarchist activity, shows a declining movement, consumed by disputes and internal fights, of what could have been and but wasn’t, or rather an “I want to but I can´t”. Bombings, arson and punctual attacks are nothing more than the last vestiges of something already outdated.
    Those who made of anarchism something more than useless chatter and a pacified and reformist attempt to make social politics, those who gave a chaotic and threatening aspect to anarchy that at certain moments came to represent a headache for governments, are dead or in jail (mostly due to stupidity and childish mistakes). Others changed their positions when they panicked, thinking that they could end up just like their “compas”, or when they perceived that adhering to the “anarcho-social activist” position is less dangerous. Many others continue to adhere to the anarcho-insurrectionary-antisocial-blackblock position that only remains in speech and posturing but nothing or almost nothing to put into practice.
    Who knows, maybe new generations of anarchists will know how to turn this decadence around and take other paths, more dangerous for the existent. We don’t know one way or the other and, contrary to what many people think, we would be glad if this happened since more tension, more attacks, more bombings and fires, assassinations and alterations of normality of any kind; in short, extremist and destructive criminal activity ( of whatever kind) adds chaos and destabilization to a declining civilization.
    We are going to give a clear example of effectiveness in practice: the tendency of eco-extremist terrorism has been active since 2011, when the first ITS began their activities in Mexico. During their 6 years of life, they have expanded to several countries ( Argentina, Brazil and Chile, at the moment, although it has “sympathizers” in various parts of the world) and operates in several Mexican states with a history of dozens of attacks that they have taken responsibility for (from sending parcel-bombs, arson, attacks with guns and knives, placing and detonating explosive devices, assassinations …) plus an unspecified number of attacks that they have not taken responsibility for that have left not only material damages, terror and stupefaction in citizens and authorities alike, but several wounded, mutilated and dead. In the same way, groups and individuals of the nihilistic terrorist tendency have been operating and expanding in various parts of Europe, with a special presence in Italy, and these have have left a trail of incendiary and explosive attacks, spreading their poison to the bowels of the rotten society, and all this without counting acts that they have not taken responsibility for and without taking into account that some of the people who act today encompassed under these trends already carried out attacks years ago for other reasons (similar or not). Until today and as far as we know, not one single person has been arrested or imprisoned under the accusation of being part of any of these groups or of being the author of any of these attacks, in spite of the great notoriety that these tendencies have acquired (and taking into account the systematic cover-up, denial and manipulation of their activities by the media, governments, and the means of anarchic “counter-information”), and having the police and intelligence agencies from several countries trying to find them.
    Meanwhile, “the urban anarchist guerrillas”, the anarchist nihilists of black anarchy and the insurrectionaries of the FAI (or rather of what remains of it, a shadow of what it was) what have they achieved in these years? Nothing but actions of decreasing quality and quantity in a predictably clear decline, as well as a lot of people being imprisoned in long sentences. And in their “history”, not a single death. This is the price paid for following the theoretical / practical line of anarchist armed action as we know it, the mixture of wanting to be a political activist and terrorist guerrilla at the same time, which is clearly suicidal. Again so much lost for so little gained.
    That is why, instead of seeking acceptance or complacency from everyone, growing in numbers or expanding, the priority should be to keep our tendencies incorruptible at any cost, in order to avoid imitators, followers / admirers or to become a circus or a fashion, as has happened with the anarchists. This is not an activity for all audiences, it is only for the best, the most qualified, those who have no qualms about spilling blood (especially other people’s blood) if necessary, it must be closely-knit and distrust everything outside of its immediate circle. The essence that characterizes the tendency must be kept “pure” without degradations, although this implies being few and that few (if anyone) will sympathize with it.
     

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    Bonobo: The Lovemaking, Anarchist Ape

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    From Steemit

    Bonobos are great apes of central Africa. Their home sits in densely lush, swampy areas of the Congo jungle. They are said to be the most peaceful apes on the planet and exhibit little to no violence. They may be the only "anarchist apes" in existence. In this context, anarchist refers to a species that rejects violent domination or ruler-centric hierarchies.

    Bonobo Details and Relationship to Humans

    Scientifically, bonobos are classified as pan paniscus. They are closely linked to chimpanzees or Pan troglodytes. Bonobos were identified as early as 1933, and used to be referred to as "pygmy chimpanzees." Some primatologists think they're the nearest relative to homo sapiens (humans).

    Zoosociety.org claims bonobos are "prototype" humans, and go on to say, "while this controversy is unresolved, it has been established through molecular genetic analysis that the chimpanzee genus, Pan, is the most closely related to humans and shares approximately 98.7% genetic identity" (4). Other scientists find this data inadequate and think that further research is necessary. Wikipedia states this about the bonobo-human relationship: "an alternative philosophy suggests that the term homo sapiens is the misnomer rather, and that humans should be reclassified as pan sapiens" (6).

    Jared Diamond elaborated on the aforesaid concept in his book, The Third Chimpanzee. He argued persuasively that humans share a close relationship with these magnificent apes. His arguments kindled a debate in scientific circles, with some professionals suggesting Bonobo's are indeed humanity's closest kindred spirit.

    giphy (7)

    Bonobos are Considered a Sexually Active, Anarchist Apes

    Bonobos are an endangered species, though. They are poor swimmers. Their native habitat sits near the Congo river. This explains the lack of disbursement among the species. But the most interesting thing about bonobos are their social peculiarities.

    Sexuality plays a key role in the their "social culture." They settle disputes through sexual acts rather than violence, and have a matriarchal or linked hierarchy or social setup. this has led many to call them "Hippie apes,""love monkeys,""anarchy apes," and other such names. An Emory site, "OurInnerApe," makes this claim clear:

    "Some scientists try to keep bonobos on the sidelines, since they fail to fit certain "macho" scenarios of human evolution (which emphasize violence, hunting, and the like), yet bonobos are equally close to us as chimps hence equally relevant" (5).

    This is a video of them in action. It gives many insights about these fascinating creatures, including the notion that they walk upright, make a lot of love, and are peacemaking creatures.

    Bonobos Could be Statist Apes? Their Appetite for Violence is Absent

    However, not all scientists believe that their perfectly peaceful creatures. Some would say they look more like violent statists. Primatologist De Waal warns people not to overly-romanticize the bonobo. Some have noted seeing the bonobos hunt rogue males, kill them, and share the remains (more evidence needed).

    Bonobos main food source is plants and fruit, but they also eat small insects. Sometimes, they hunt and kill small mammals and distribute the flesh peacefully among themselves, although the evidence of this is scattered and pending research. Here's two separate claims about possible violent behavior:

    "Several bonobos gathered around the possessor of the meat and showed interest in the meat on all occasions. Begging behavior was noted on one of the two occasions, but the possessor of the meat ignored it. No sharing of meat was seen on either occasion"

    conversely:

    "Males and females hunt together, and females tended to share their spoils which included the young of two species of monkeys. The discovery casts doubt on claims that social aggression and hunting go hand in hand, Hohmann says. Some anthropologists suggest that in the million or so years that separate bonobos from chimps, bonobos lost their appetite for violence."

    Sue Savage-Rubaugh and Bonobo Intelligence

    Studies of Bonobo intelligence have been exemplified through the work of primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. She has successfully taught one Bonobo named Kanzi several "tricks," including language acquisition and toolmaking. Watch in awe as Kanzi creates a tool to acheive food. Then, although bonobos don't have a larynx and can't speak, they can react to symbolic language.

    Though this seems fascinating, ape language abilities have taken heavy criticism, most notably from cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, and famous linguist Noam Chomsky.

    Wikipedia provides information on their arguments: "Among the reasons for skepticism are the differences in ease with which human beings and apes can learn language, questions as to whether there is a clear beginning and end to the signed gestures, and whether the apes actually understand language or are simply doing a clever trick for a reward"(3).

    Conclusion: The Anarchist Ape

    The activities of bonobos are human-like. The way bonobos behave may have been similar to early human society, especially considering the genetic evidence. In this regard, early human society would have been more anarchistic. It would have involved more lovemaking, peacemaking, and goddess worship.

    The evidence is not 100% clear, but it does suggest that Bonobo's are animals of love who resolve disputes with sex and intimacy instead of violence. These are creatures that have evolved without a propensity for aggression when compared to other great apes. These are animals that humans can ultimately learn from, because they provide the realization of the anarchist dream: that society is possible with little initiatory aggression and more compassionate lovemaking.

    bonobos

    anarchy and love

    References:

    http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/OurInnerApe/faq.html

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/h7145027g60n708l/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ape_language

    http://www.zoosociety.org/Conservation/Bonobo/WhatIs.php

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sue_Savage-Rumbaugh

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo

    http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/OurInnerApe/faq.html

    The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (P.S.) By Jared Diamond

    Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind By Sue Savage-Rumbaugh


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    Anarchism without Anarchy

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    From C4SS by Shawn P. Wilbur

    This piece is the twenty-third essay in the June C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Anarchy and Democracy.” It is written in reply to this contribution by Wayne Price.

    The rampant dictatorial governments in Italy, Spain and Russia, which arouse such envy and longing among the more reactionary and timid parties across the world, are supplying dispossessed ‘democracy’ with a sort of new virginity. Thus we see the creatures of the old regimes, well-accustomed to the wicked art of politics, responsible for repression and massacres of working people, re-emerging – where they do not lack the courage – and presenting themselves as men of progress, seeking to capture the near future in the name of liberation. And, given the situation, they could even succeed.—Errico Malatesta, “Democracy and Anarchy” (March, 1924)

     

    In my lead essay, I approached our topic as if it was a foregone conclusion that anarchism should be understood in terms of the pursuit of anarchy, however lengthy or perhaps even interminable that pursuit might be. But for those who champion a “pure,” “true” or “direct” democracy as the political goal of anarchists, thorny problems are sometimes “solved” by simply setting the concept of anarchy aside and defining anarchism in terms of a certain number of practical reforms to be achieved and a certain range of existing institutions to be abolished.

    Obviously, for an anarchism without anarchy, the considerations would be very different from those I addressed in my opening comments, but could such a construction of anarchism really be considered a revolutionary alternative? I want to consider some of what is at stake here.

    There are, I suppose, precedents for considering anarchy and anarchism as fundamentally separable concepts. After all, anarchists went for something like thirty-five years without a widespread concept of anarch-ism or even much in the way of shared assumptions or terminology, beyond the affirmation of anarchy. The word “anarchism” may actually be first attributable to the lexicographers, who, perhaps assuming that every –ist needs an –ism, seem to have included the term in their dictionaries before any anarchist thought to coin it. Joseph Déjacque appears to have been the first anarchist to use the term anarchism, in 1859—six years after it appeared in the Dictionnaire universel—but it wasn’t until the 1870s that the term caught on widely.

    This means that pioneers like Proudhon and Bakunin really lived, as anarchists—active proponents of anarchy—in a world without anarchism (at least in any explicit sense.) That’s a striking fact, in the context of a period where constructions of that sort were nearly as plentiful as social theorists—or more plentiful, if we count the mass of similar terms coined by figures like Charles Fourier or Stephen Pearl Andrews.

    Indeed, there are details here that it might be helpful to pursue, if only to underline the qualities of that pursuit of anarchy before anarchism, but, without belaboring the point any more, let’s just recognize that the separability of the two concepts is not just a theoretical possibility, but that it was the reality for an important period in the development of what we now think of as anarchism. But I think we also have to recognize that it is a very different matter for anarchism to go without anarchy, as sometimes seems to be the case in the present, than it was for anarchists to go without any form of anarchism in their pursuit of anarchy.

    The question then, is whether or not this notion of an anarchism without anarchy really describes the position of the “democratic anarchists.” Certainly, in Wayne Price’s three essays on the question of anarchism and democracy—and now his response to my initial essay—anarchy is strikingly absent. It is not just absent as a part of Price’s own approach to the question, but it is almost entirely absent, appearing in quotations from me or from Malatesta. My impression is that this is also not simply an accident or oversight.

    Price’s initial contribution to the exchange, “Democracy, Anarchism, & Freedom,” champions democracy as the “rule of the commoners” and defines anarchism as “democracy without the state.” So we are left with an anarchism defined as “stateless rule.” He correctly observes that some of us object to the notion of any form of “rule,” tout court—and I will be happy to count myself among those who reject even the sort of “no rulers, but not no rules” formula that we sometimes encounter in anarchist circles. But perhaps the most striking bit of the essay is Price’s claim that “the aim of anarchism is not to end absolutely all coercion, but to reduce coercion to the barest minimum possible.”

    I suppose that this is an attempt on his part to avoid defining anarchism in terms of impossible, utopian goals. He follows this claim with the observation that “there will never be a perfect society.” But it isn’t clear how the question of a “perfect” society really relates to anarchist aspirations. Presumably, in context, this is a claim about the possibility of ending all coercion, but, if the goal of anarchism is “to reduce coercion to the barest minimum possible,” how would we distinguish, in principle, between the overwhelming majority of coercions, which it is indeed within the aims of anarchism to eliminate, and that “barest minimum” of presumably “democratic” coercions which it is not the aim of anarchism to eliminate? The difference between a barest minimum and zero seems to be negligible, and it isn’t clear why that tiny remainder is not simply attributable to the fact that the world doesn’t always cooperate with even the best of our principles.

    It would seem to me that there really is no way to make aiming for the “barest minimum” a consistent principle, and that imagining we would only have an aim—or ideal, a word that Price is happy to use in the context of democracy—that was always achievable in all regards seems at least a matter of setting our sights a bit low.

    No—honestly—it seems like setting those sights inexplicably, impossibly low. I quite simply find the conception of anarchism as a form of rule impossible to wrap my head around. It seems to me that the (presumably practical) argument here has to be that a non-governmental society is impossible—that anarchy is impossible. But because the rationale for aiming short of anarchy—explicitly as an ideal—seems so uncertain to me, I can only wonder if the other half of the largely unstated argument is that anarchy is also undesirable.

    It seems to be fairly consistently the case that the defense of democracy is tied to claims like the one Price makes that “[a]narchists are not against all social coordination, community decision-making, and protection of the people.” It’s not a particularly bold claim, in part because it’s fairly vague. You could probably find staunch anarchist individualists who could find a sense in which they fully agree. But it seems likely that the interpretations of the phrase the individualist would find friendly to their beliefs might seem dangerously un-coordinated, anti-social—anarchic, in the negative sense of the term—to the defender of democracy.

    There has always been a faction among the anarchists who wrestled with the terminology of anarchy, whether because it seems to indicate dangerous and undesirable things or because it seems to indicate too many things all at once. And there has probably also always been another that is just a little too comfortable with the simultaneously edgy and protean quality of that terminology. If I had to characterize what seem to me the most powerful sorts of anarchist praxis (not a term I’m fond of, but maybe one that is useful in this context), it seems to me that they have remained actively engaged in all that is really anarchic about anarchism. But I suspect that a construction like “anarchist democracy” comes from a different place entirely.

    I’ll admit that I find a position like Price’s difficult to engage constructively. As I understand anarchism, it is an ambitious project, involving a revolutionary change in social principles. I believe that there is a meaningful distinction between relations based in authority and those grounded in anarchy, and that there is a vast range of relations possible within both regimes. I understand that Price’s initial essay could not be expected to address those arguments, nor the rigorous approach I’ve attempted to take towards notions like “self-government,” nor to the specific arguments I’ve drawn from Proudhon’s works. But when the direct response comes in the form of a suggestion that we “leave aside” essentially all of that, followed by the question of whether or not I “really” just agree with the anarchist-democrats, well, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t all a bit infuriating.

    From my perspective, I am not the one who “seems to want to have his cake and eat it too.” I have ideals and expectations, and a clear enough sense of the difficulties facing the anarchist project that I am not expecting the sudden and complete realization of my principles. As a result, I’ve quite explicitly said that the anarchist project will “necessarily confront [us] with failure on a pretty regular basis, particularly in the long and difficult transition from a fundamentally authoritarian, governmentalist society to one that begins to resemble, in practical terms, our political ideals.” That seems more like commitment to the project, even if the cake is a lie, in part because the proposed alternative, “modifying our ideals and retaining some ‘pure’ form of democracy”—and retaining it precisely as a goal and as if it was not in contradiction with anarchist principles—seems “truly untenable.”

    I just can’t find it in me to consider a system in which we take turns (hopefully) coercing one another as a means of “social coordination, community decision-making, and protection of the people” as the goal of anarchism. Of course, I know the anarchist literature well enough that I could easily pull some quotes to suggest that identification, or something even more authoritarian. Consider this, from Bakunin: “I receive and I give—such is human life. Each is a directing authority and each is directed in his turn.” Anarchy is ubiquitous authority—or anarchy is impossible. Or, perhaps, “considerations of what Proudhon and Bakunin really meant,” when addressed with care and consistency, are not easily separable from our discussions.

    I think we all know that a discussion like this is necessarily going to be complicated by long histories of complex, sometimes contradictory or even nearly incoherent rhetorical choices. I would hope that most of us would be concerned with reducing the ambiguities as much as possible. But that’s difficult, and I think there is a lesson there for those who think of the language of democracy as a particularly precious commodity, since it has been the focus of popular aspirations in the past. When we look at works like What is Property? and “God and the State,” we might be forgiven for thinking that they are powerful works of anarchist theory despite the confusing rhetorical flourishes. Of course, for those who do not envision a complete break with the principle of authority, the potential confusions involved with this definition of anarchism as stateless democracy are not so great. But for those of us who do envision such a break, they seem tremendous.

    ———–

    I want to circle back around to the two essays by Malatesta that Price has discussed in his essay “Anarchism as Extreme Democracy.” This is the one place where he does cite Malatesta on anarchy. The context is “Neither Democrats, nor Dictators: Anarchists,” an essay from 1926, in which Malatesta argues that “the so-called democratic system can only be a lie, and one which serves to deceive the mass of the people and keep them docile with an outward show of sovereignty….” He discusses various democratic scenarios, the “worst” of which seems to be the rise of the socialists and anarchists to power, and then ends with the two paragraphs that Price cites in part:

     

    This is why we are neither for a majority nor for a minority government; neither for democracy not for dictatorship.

    We are for the abolition of the gendarme. We are for the freedom of all and for free agreement, which will be there for all when no one has the means to force others, and all are involved in the good running of society. We are for anarchy.

     

    In his essay, Price suggests that Malatesta “mixes up” a critique of “democratic ideology as a rationalization for capitalism and the state” with “a denunciation of the very concept of majority rule.” But how much mix-up can there be, when the goal seems to be circumstances where it is not only true that “all are involved in the good running of society,” but it is also true that “one has the means to force others”?

    In the 1924 essay “Democracy and Anarchy,” Malatesta perhaps throws a little additional light on the title of the later piece, arguing that democrats and dictators are locked, and lock the rest of us, in a vicious circle:

     

    We are not democrats for, among other reasons, democracy sooner or later leads to war and dictatorship. Just as we are not supporters of dictatorships, among other things, because dictatorship arouses a desire for democracy, provokes a return to democracy, and thus tends to perpetuate a vicious circle in which human society oscillates between open and brutal tyranny and a lying freedom.

     

    And it is in this context that one should probably read the quote, from this same essay, with which I chose to open this response. When we are attempting to ground these discussions in current events, the warning here seems like one that we should at least serious consider.

    And, ultimately, it is serious consideration that emerges as the lesson of Malatesta’s essay. He urges “greater precision of language, in the conviction that once the phrases are dissected”—specifically the phrases of the democratic politicians—the comrades “themselves will see how vacuous they are.” Then he ends, as I will, with an interesting passage suggesting a rather different relationship, between society and democracy then we usually see in the works of the anarchist democrats:

     

    Therefore, those who really want ‘government of the people’ in the sense that each can assert his or her own will, ideas and needs, must ensure that no-one, majority or minority, can rule over others; in other words, they must abolish government, meaning any coercive organisation, and replace it with the free organisation of those with common interests and aims.

    This would be very simple if every group and individual could live in isolation and on their own, in their own way, supporting themselves independently of the rest, supplying their own material and moral needs.

    But this is not possible, and if it were, it would not be desirable because it would mean the decline of humanity into barbarism and savagery.

    If they are determined to defend their own autonomy, their own liberty, every individual or group must therefore understand the ties of solidarity that bind them to the rest of humanity, and possess a fairly developed sense of sympathy and love for their fellows, so as to know how voluntarily to make those sacrifices essential to life in a society that brings the greatest possible benefits on every given occasion.

    But above all it must be made impossible for some to impose themselves on, and sponge off, the vast majority by material force.

    Let us abolish the gendarme, the man armed in the service of the despot, and in one way or another we shall reach free agreement, because without such agreement, free or forced, it is not possible to live.

    But even free agreement will always benefit most those who are intellectually and technically prepared. We therefore recommend to our friends and those who truly wish the good of all, to study the most urgent problems, those that will require a practical solution the very day that the people shake off the yoke that oppresses them.


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    An Open Letter Concerning a Witch-Hunt

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    Yesterday morning (Sunday, July 16, 2017), I received two emails from two different sources with a link to a diatribe on a web site called The Conjure House denouncing me because of the publishing house that published my translation of Stirner’s The Unique. Had I not received these emails, I would have known nothing of this, because I choose to have a minimal relationship with the internet. The internet originated in military research. Its functioning makes it an ideal tool for police work: gathering, extracting, combining, twisting and inventing “information” that may have some relations to actual existence or not, but that can cast the appearance of “guilt” on whatever target one chooses. I assume from the start that everything that goes on the internet gets into the hands of cops of one sort or another, so when I do use the internet, I do it with care. After all, I do not want to accidentally incriminate myself, nor to accidentally snitch on someone else, whether to state cops or to the wannabe cops of political correctitude in anarchist circles (both self-incrimination and accidental snitching seem to be frequent occurrences in internet interactions). That is why in this statement, which I am writing so that others who choose to can post or republish this, the only names you will see are Kevin Slaughter, Underworld Amusements, Loompanics (because they are no longer in business), Dr. Bones and my own (at the end of this statement). No other names are relevant to what I have to say and these have already been made public in this situation. I’ll start be putting forth the facts from my perspective:

    I began working on my translation of Stirner’s The Unique and Its Property shortly after finishing my translations of Stirner’s Critics and The Philosophical Reactionaries. After some positive responses to these translations, I felt confident in my ability to do it. I had ideas about who I would like to publish The Unique, but made no agreement until it was pretty much finished. The person through whom I would most have liked to publish it had been having trouble getting money together to do his own projects, and there didn’t seem to be any sign of an end to this lack of funds in sight, so I assumed that was not a possibility. If I didn’t say this directly to him, my apologies to him for my lack of communication. Another anarchist publisher offered, and I considered it seriously (despite whatever differences we may have on certain things, I consider these people friends, and anyone saying otherwise is wrong and doesn’t understand how I relate to people – and besides, it’s the sort of thing NOT to say in public forums – so tales of “bad blood” are tall tales). But I had seen some of their books come out with major problems in layout and the like, and I didn’t want that for this book. Apparently they had planned to have someone else do the layout and printing for this, but I somehow missed that (or forgot it) and that is my fault, and to them I also offer apologies for my unawareness/forgetfulness. But the concern about quality was what made me look for another publisher, even if it was a mistaken concern. I wanted to find a small anarchist press (not either of the bigger anarchist publishers who, in any case, weren’t likely to be willing to print anything I was involved with) with the means to do a book of this size, but I wasn’t aware of any others who had that capacity at that time (much later, I did learn of one other). And had I not missed the fact that the publishers mentioned above had planned to have it put together by on outside printer, I most likely would have gone with them. While pondering over where to publish, a friend of mine – whom I have known since the late 1980s, who had been active in the anarchist zine culture when I met him – gave me a suggestion. He had had a couple of egoist-related books published by Underworld Amusements (UA) and had made me gifts of those books. So I knew that they were well put-together, well-edited and well-printed. At that time, I went to the UA website. What I found that UA published itself were egoist, satanist, pessimist and vintage pornographic books. Their distribution also included anarchist books and some of what I can only call “in-your-face-outsider” books. I did not see a single book in the UA distro that was fascist, white supremacist or any such thing. In fact, their distro reminded me of the theoretical part of the Loompanics distro, a bit darker and more pessimistic, but parallel in many ways. For those unfamiliar with Loompanics, it was a publishing and distribution project started by a market anarchist in 1975 that continued until around 2006. During the 1980s and well into the 1990s, Loompanics helped facilitate a lot of the lively intense debates going on in the anarchist zine scene between different anarchist ideas. The similarity I saw between these projects and the number of anarchist titles UA carried led me to assume I was dealing with someone like the founder of Loompanics, and so I was willing to turn to UA, even though it wasn’t my ideal. My friend connected me with Kevin Slaughter (hereafter, KS) through email. It is true that KS offered some monetary royalties (i.e., a percentage if books sold). Due to circumstances in my life (that are no one else’s business) I cannot get paid in any official, trackable way for anything I do. I informed KS of this. I took KS’s intention as to a desire to have the publishing relationship on a basis of mutuality, so I recommended that he give me books instead. He offered another alternative that would include some money, but this should make it obvious that money was not my motivating factor. People who know me well already know this, because they know that I have been putting out publications for decades funded out of my very low income, and that I give most of them away, operating, to the extent that it actually works out, on mutuality (this is why I never ask my friends to pay for anything: their existence in my life is already a generous gift). UA’s process of preparing the book was well on its way (layout, copy-editing, etc.) when I first heard from someone that KS might have connections with racist, right-wing, etc. movements. The way this message was worded, it seemed like a rumor. I know in the world of the internet and the tendency toward using police methods that the internet encourages, actually directly communicating with an individual about such rumors is considered old-fashioned. But that is what I did. I wrote KS a letter directly asking him about this and making it clear that I did not want to publish with a white supremacist, a white (or any other sort) of nationalist or any sort of bigot. His response was very clear and straightforward, and he said that he was not a white supremacist, a fascist or anything of that sort. Of course, I knew then and I know now that it was possible that he was lying. But someone I have known for nearly 30 years, and who has never been anything but contemptuous of bigots of all sorts, seemed to trust him. His distro, which, I would assume reflects, the sorts of ideas he considers worth sharing with others, as I said, did not seem to include any fascist or racist material (I missed it due to relative ignorance, since, unlike antifa militants< I don’t focus my life around fascism or racism or anything else that disgusts me). In fact, the only thing I had really expected to get much flack for was the vintage pornography on his site which was bound to offend some politically correct puritans. So that is my description of what went on with my decision about who to publish with. I offer my apologies to friends that I did not adequately communicate with about things relating to this, all of that is on me.

    I still think that KS and UA are mainly Loompanics-like, but KS seems to have some friendliness toward certain right-wing and bigoted movements that I find contemptible, just as Dr. Bones seems to have some friendliness toward totalitarian left-wing movements (look at the scarf he wears in his website picture) that I find contemptible. So I am breaking off my long-distance interaction with KS. (I have never, to my knowledge had any contact with Dr. Bones). My anarchic and egoistic ways of encountering my worlds have always been anti-political, and I don’t want to have anything to do with the shit-heap of politics of any sort or anyone who might pull me there, whether intentionally or not. I have told KS that I do not want him to do another edition of the Stirner translation nor to do another book that he offered to do of my material. I have told him not to send me anything more (books, etc.). I have also sent my files for the book to a several friends and publishers to spread as they see fit to encourage “pirate” editions. The break with KS will most likely also make me lose my friend of nearly 30 years, but that is that’s how it goes sometimes.

    However, Dr. Bones and his crypto-stalinist “communist-egoist” henchmen should not get it into their heads that they have won any victory. The Dr. has exposed himself for what he is He clearly gets pleasure witch-hunting like the totalitarians whose symbols he proudly displays. He seems to know he doesn’t have what it takes to take on the state, capitalism, cops, etc., so he decides instead to go for someone he knows makes very little use of the internet, and makes his attack through this medium. So I have to assume he’s a coward as well as a bully. His use of innuendo, distortion, blatant lies (blended with bits of truth), cheap shots (“senility”? really? perhaps the good doctor should worry that some of his politically correct friends will call him out for his agism... I just think its absurdly funny coming from a halfwit) and barely-veiled death threats all fit in with his scarcely-hidden crypto-stalinism (wearing a bandana designed like the flag of the totalitarian marxist regime of the USSR is pretty telling). As I’ve said, the internet is the perfect medium for this sort of witch-hunting campaign, a sort of campaign that also feeds very well into the interests of the authorities. Ultimately, I know this will be a tempest in a teapot. Dr. Bones may choose to call me enemy, I choose to call him nothing but a dim-witted, crypto-stalinist fool (if you want to pass yourself off as an anarchist don’t wear the symbols of a totalitarian state on your face) and be done with him.

    Yesterday, in an email not intended for public viewing (though it apparently got posted on one public site), I said that I was going to drop out of public anarchist projects. I have since decided that would be the wrong way to deal with this. Dr. Bones is a pathetic bully, and I won’t back down before such crap. I have seen certain things happen at anarchist book fairs and similar gatherings that show that the upholders of politically correct moralizing can be violent toward those who don’t conform to their party line. So if I go to such gatherings, it will be with care (and with good friends who’ll have my back). I will continue my other projects, and those with whom I have done projects can decide for themselves whether they are willing to continue to have me be involved with their projects. I know they will let me know (and some already have).

    To end this, a bit of a declaration:
    I have nothing but contempt for all racism and all racists, no matter who they are.... I have nothing but contempt for all nationalism and all nationalists (and these days, that isn’t political correct). I have nothing but contempt for all fascism and all fascists (including the red fascists who hide behind their hammer and sickle).... and I also have nothing but contempt for ALL political systems and those who uphold them: democracy and democrats, republics and republicans, socialism and socialists, communism and communists. And I will add in here, though it is technically not a “political” system: capitalism and capitalists.

    I live my life for myself, creating it as I see fit to the extent of my capabilities. In this sense, I encounter my worlds egoistically. I relate to others as individuals, not in terms of categories (except to the extent that they embrace a categorical identity, whether through proclamation or through their choice of identifying symbols), and I recognize that any freedom that is not a mere abstraction has to rest in individual autonomy. In this sense, I encounter my worlds individualistically. I refuse to be ruled to the extent that I have the strength (and so also to rule, since all rulers are ruled by the system of ruling). In this sense, I encounter my worlds anarchistically. And I have no need for a god in my worlds. So in this sense I encounter my worlds atheistically.

    I don’t have time to waste any more on someone who is either a complete nitwit, utterly unaware of the significance of the symbols he displays and the methods he uses, or, as I strongly suspect, a crypto-stalinist half-wit trying to appear as an anarcho-communist-egoist. Dr. Bones is not a worthy foe, so he gets no more of my time. If I get around to it, I may also write the “declaration of independence from politics”. I promised, but I am done with dealing with an ideological idiot’s shit-slinging.

    Wolfi Landstreicher

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    In Reverence of the World-Eaters

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    From On the Nameless

    “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” – Friedrich Nietzsche | The Gay Science

    Man stands atop the ruins of the world, the Nietzschean prophecy of man become a god unto himself seemingly complete. Wherever modern man looks he sees only himself. Reflected everywhere in the animated corpses of his dead creations living only on the power of his dream-magic. The gods no longer find a place suitable to dwell within the great panoplies of mechanical monstrosities. All around the gods seem to have withdrawn, and the manifold masks of the ineffable torn from the skulls of the gods, their naked bodies dissected and discarded. Everywhere in great pools of blood man sees only his own reflection, and is happy. The vast pantheon, the million faces of the earth laid to waste in the ascension of one arrogant ape. It is true, one could perhaps be forgiven in believing that men have succeeded in defeating the gods and taking the throne of creation for themselves.

    But the gods were and are not dead, and they do not rest in idleness. They persist within the dark places. They ready themselves, they lurk, they hunt, and they haunt from the shadows of the world. They no longer dwell on the earth, and we cannot speak of the gods in the old ways. The great and noble lands which they once presided over have been abandoned, left in ruin as the houses of the gods were ravaged for the self-serving ape. Thus we can no longer think of the gods as the old bringers of life, their only task now much more terrible. The vengeful destruction of a great chaos which has spread under heaven. The great pantheon of the gods become a pantheon of world-eaters. Noble and monstrous. Glorious and terrible. They ready themselves in the darkness, striking from out of the shadows of the world. While the masses of men continue to kneel blindly before their fickle, petty, and self-made idols the gods continue to ready themselves, and wage their endless war. Every earthquake which splits the gray concrete strangling the soft earth, every sea-front town swallowed by the rising seas reminding men of the power of water, every tornado which rips apart the decadent dwellings of the arrogant ape with the fury of air, every sinkhole that opens the jaws of the earth to swallow up the world of men is a victory for the ever-wild gods of the earth.

    Civilized man’s very existence has set him against the gods. His idols, his projects, acts of open war against the gods of the earth. Civilization itself is a state of unending war against the earth. It is a pyrrhic war, no doubt. The gods have existed long before the emergence of man, and will continue to do so long after he has been wiped from the earth by the gods for his arrogance. Man cannot and will not outlast the gods, for the ways of the gods are older than the ways of men, and have been shaped through the eons in blood, stone, fire, air, and water. Despite his perceptions from his position atop the ruins of the world, he remains yet a plaything before the great and cosmic forces of the gods. Men of the past have understood their position before the gods. They knew that their existence was granted by the grace of the gods. Their existence constituted a balance set by the relations between mortals, and the gods, and between the earth and sky.

    I do not suspect that the gods will have us back. We have done too much. Wrought too much madness upon the earth. It seems to me that the wrath of the gods which we have wrought by our foolishness will spare no one. The great violence to befall man is his reckoning for thousands of years of transgressions against the gods. The great catastrophes, the chaos, the violent angels of wild gods are our bloody purification. Do not lament it. Do not pity it. You will not come out alive, but it may help to open ourselves from the arrogance of our modern solipsism and out onto the grand beauty of the world, as some of those before us were able to. To see with old eyes and to recognize our place among the ten thousand things. It is not a vision of hope or comfort. Both are for fools. But there is perhaps a certain salvation in recognizing our own place in this grand theology of the earth. Perhaps the only salvation.

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    Ten Steps To Anarchism

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    From Huffington Post UK - by Carne Ross

    I used to believe in "the system": the political and economic structure of what we might call western democracy and capitalism. I worked for it: for many years, I was a diplomat for my country. I resigned from government over the Iraq war. I began a political journey. I no longer believed in the system I represented. But what would work instead? To my great surprise, I came to think that anarchism is the answer. I never thought I would believe such radical ideas. But now I think it's the only political philosophy that makes sense for today's world, and the crazy ones are those who think that the current system will save us.

    But why, and what is anarchism? These 10 steps can explain:

    1. No one feels they have control over the things that matter to them: locally or nationally, let alone internationally. This frustration helps explain Brexit and Trump and the divisiveness and volatility of politics today.

    2. "Representative" democracy, where the few are elected by the many, is not working. Disillusionment with politics and institutions is high. Many people feel disenfranchised: no one speaks for them. Access to the few in government, the policymakers, is much easier for those who already have power and money.

    3. Modern capitalism allows a tiny few to become grotesquely rich. For most, income and wealth have flat-lined or declined while basic goods, including housing, are more expensive than ever. The majority is becoming worse not better off. The young do not expect to do better than their parents. On the contrary: facing decades of student debt and unaffordable housing, they can expect far less. Cities are being ruined by speculators who buy up housing, often to leave it empty, forcing residents out and gutting communities.

    4. Modern work and life, in my opinion, do not offer meaning. Most work is boring and often repetitive. Material progress is important, but it's not enough (and in any case is increasingly limited to a few). A lot of contemporary culture speaks of a deep hollowness. There is a profound yet unexpressed yearning for something more. Call it purpose, meaning, the things without names that matter most: the things the dying talk about. The hope for something better has withered.

    5. Society is fracturing. The old are isolated. The disabled are left to the inadequate care of state (remember Gandhi: society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable). Other races and immigrants get the blame. Envy and anger predominate. But we need each other. Only relationships give life meaning. Alone we are nothing. Solitary confinement is punishment for a reason.

    6. The need to take back control - agency - is at the heart of this crisis. Rather than discredited politicians, we need to decide the things that matter to us.

    7. This means direct democracy, a return to the earliest practice where Athenian citizens took turns to debate and take decisions for the city. Today, in "participatory" models of democracy, everyone can take part. It's already happening in towns and cities across the world. It works. When everyone gets an equal say, the resulting decisions - on healthcare or schools - are fairer: in one Brazilian city the number of schools quadrupled. Debate and discussion promote understanding - as long as they're practiced face-to-face rather than online. The division and hostility of party politics can be replaced by a new and more tolerant culture of democracy that is created and sustained by its practice. In such forums, we start to see each other as individuals - real people with needs just like our own - not political labels. Corruption will perish when decisions are made in the open.

    8. There cannot be a fair democracy without a fair economy. The wealthy will always get more of a say. The unfettered free market has permitted exploitation of the many by the few. The alternative - government ownership - has been proven to be inefficient and it's no more democratic if a few are taking all the decisions. Instead, cooperatives bake equality into the business model. Everyone who contributes to the business gets a share, and a say. When everyone has a stake, the business thrives and offers its partners more than just a wage: it transforms into a shared enterprise. Cooperatives, particularly when working together across an economy, are as competitive as profit-seeking companies. Think of John Lewis, or Mondragon, Spain's tenth largest company which has helped to transform Spain's Basque region.

    9. It can start small, and build up. It requires effort and action, in contrast to the trivial act of voting over facile slogans every five years. It won't happen unless we build it: democracy is a process, not a utopia. It will take work and learning and patience. New forms of participation - local forums at schools, hospitals or the town - will gain legitimacy, and power, when we show up and speak and listen. Old forms of politics will have to take notice and eventually step aside. Society's tattered bonds will be re-woven.

    10. This is anarchism. It's not chaos, a "war of all against all" or naïve idealism. It promises a deeper order created from the bottom-up not imposed from the top down by government and rules. It's radical democracy - democracy returned to its roots: people taking decisions about the things that matter to them. Rather than a fractious bunch of individuals consuming and competing with one another, we can start to feel like a community again, with shared purpose, reinvigorated by a sense that, at last, change is possible, and it's in our hands, and ours alone.

    Carne Ross is the subject of the forthcoming documentary film, Accidental Anarchist, to be broadcast on BBC4 Storyville on 23 July. A former diplomat who resigned over the Iraq war, Carne founded and runs Independent Diplomat, a non-profit diplomatic advisory group.

    ACCIDENTAL ANARCHIST TRAILER HOPSCOTCH FILMS 17.1.17 from John Archer on Vimeo.

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    An Anarchist FAQ after 21 years

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    From Anarchist Writers

    For reasons too unimportant to discuss here, the 20th anniversary blog for An Anarchist FAQ (AFAQ) ended up on my personal blog rather than AFAQ’s “official” one. Now I correct this by reposting it here as well as taking the opportunity to preface it with a few comments to mark 21 years since AFAQ was officially launched.

    This year, 2017, marks numerous anarchist related anniversaries besides AFAQ’s – most obviously, 100 years since the Russian Revolution (see section A.5.4). Given subsequent events, it is easy to forget that the overthrow of the Tsar was initially – and rightly – viewed as great event by all on the left. As information of the increasing social nature of the revolt – what Voline termed The Unknown Revolution– became better known, the far-left was increasingly enthused by the revolution: workers had formed soviets and were starting to organise unions and factory committees, peasants were taking back the land, and so on. The revolution – as Anarchists alone had argued during the failed revolution of 1905 – was going beyond political reform into a social revolution. Reports of the new, radical and functionally based democracy were avidly read across the Left and especially by Anarchists – it appeared that our vision of social revolution was coming true.

    By the early 1920s, Anarchists had broken with the new regime. Accounts of the dictatorial nature of the Bolsheviks could no longer be ignored – particularly when coming from eye-witnesses like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman as well as the reports of the delegates from syndicalist unions sent to the Second Congress of the Communist International and that of the newly formed Red International of Labour Unions. However, what Berkman termed The Bolshevik Myth held sway in the non-Anarchist left in spite of these facts becoming available. While this myth was slowly eroded as the evils of the regime became harder and harder to ignore, the damage had been done: the liberatory promise of revolution and of socialism became associated with its opposite.

    Anarchists were not surprised that State socialism became a new class system – we had, after all, predicted this from Proudhon and Bakunin onwards. However, this did not stop many on the left believing The Bolshevik Myth and today there are still many grouplets on the left (with impressive names which reflect aspirations rather than reality) which denounce Stalinism while seeking the “genuine” socialism of the Bolsheviks. As part of its goal to be a resource for Anarchists, AFAQ sought to show the links between the regime of Lenin and Trotsky and that of Stalin. It sought to show the ideological roots of the degeneration of the Revolution and to show that the post-hoc explanations first postulated by Trotsky and regurgitated by Leninists to this day were inadequate.

    This was part of the aim of section H (on Marxism) and I think it was successful. Originally, it was going to be much bigger, too big as it turned out. So sections on the Russian Revolution which were originally planned to be in section H (including ones on Kronstadt and the Makhnovists) were moved to an appendix. This appendix, as noted in the 20th anniversary blog, is still incomplete but its most important points have been placed in section H, particularly in section H.6 which summarises why the Russian Revolution failed and, just as importantly, that anarchist warnings were proven correct. It shows how that favourite post-hoc excuse of Marxists – “objective circumstances” – does not explain what happened and how ideological and structural factors are much more significant.

    Ideological, for the politics of the Bolsheviks played a key role. For example: their vision of socialism was impoverished, their analysis of the State was flawed and their vanguardist perspective inherently hierarchical (see section H.5). Some of these ideological positions were unique to the Bolsheviks, many were simply Marxism (or at least social-democratic) as we show (not least, the prejudices in favour of centralisation and economic central-planning).

    Structural, for the prejudices of Bolshevik ideology played their part in the organisations and solutions they favoured. A perspective which assumes centralisation is “proletarian” and inherently “efficient” builds certain types of organisation. These structures, in turn, produce certain forms of social relationships – namely, a division between rulers and ruled. Centralised bodies also produce a bureaucracy around them in order to make decisions and implement them.

    So the interaction of ideology and structure played its part and the “objective circumstances” pushed the embryonic bureaucratic class system in certain ways but they did not create it. In other words, while some kind of new class system was inevitable, the horrors of Stalinism can be said to be the product of the specific factors facing the Russian Revolution. A shorter civil war, for example, may have resulted in a less brutal regime in the 1930s. Note, less brutal – for Lenin’s regime was a bureaucratic State-capitalist party dictatorship and had been within six months of the October Revolution.

    Hopefully, AFAQ has shown that the real turning point of the revolution was not Kronstadt in 1921 but the spring of 1918 when the Bolsheviks made explicit what had always been implicit: that party power was more important than soviet democracy. It also shows that recent research confirms that Berkman and Goldman were right (see my “From Russia with Critique,”Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 69) and are far better guides to understanding what went wrong than turn-coats like Serge (see my “Victor Serge: The Worst of the Anarchists,”Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 61).

    We need to learn the lessons of history rather than seek post-hoc rationalisations which will inevitably lead to a similar outcome in the unlikely event of a Bolshevik-style party gaining popular support as in 1917. I must stress unlikely, for as well as Leninists having little grasp on the actual course of the revolution after October, as discussed in section H.5.12 they also fail to understand that the Bolshevik party in 1917 did not act like modern-day vanguardists think it did. For if it had, as in 1905, then it would have been as counter-productive – when not irrelevant – as modern-day Leninist sects are. This does not mean there was no party bureaucracy – there was, with an obvious negative impact before and after it seized power – but that it was usually ignored by the rank-and-file while being fought by Lenin: it was revolutionary during 1917 in spite of itself, its structures and its perspectives.

    Anarchists, of course, did not need to come up with post-hoc explanations for the failure of the Revolution. Our predictions and warnings were confirmed – the State is not simply an instrument of economic class but has its own interests, nationalisation does not end capitalism but just replaces the boss by the bureaucrat, the State is centralised to ensure minority rule and cannot be used to abolish it, and so on. If Marxism paid anything other than lip-service to the idea of “scientific socialism” then all socialists would be anarchists.

    Talking of Marxism, the first volume of Capital was published 150 years ago, in 1867, twenty years after Marx’s disgraceful diatribe against Proudhon, The Poverty of Philosophy. Looking at both works is interesting, not least because Marx singularly failed in 1867 to apply the methodology he denounced Proudhon for not following in 1847. Instead, he uses the very one he mocked the Frenchman for utilising – namely building an abstract model of capitalism – while also taking up Proudhon’s theory of exploitation he had likewise once ridiculed (see my “The Poverty of (Marx’s) Philosophy”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 70). Ironically, if you ignore the facts and accept The Poverty of Philosophy as a valid critique of Proudhon then you also have to admit it is also a valid critique of Capital, which is not the book he criticised Proudhon for not writing in 1847.

    In many ways, The Poverty of Philosophy is the template of subsequent Marxist polemics on Anarchism (see section H.2 for a critique of the most common claims). It is full of so many distortions that it is nearly impossible to answer them all, not to mention the postulating of some notion – in this case, amongst many others, labour notes and idealism – that are just inventions. Take the latter. As one ex-Marxist academic noted:

    “Despite Marx’s scornful criticism, it is not the case that Proudhon regarded actual social conditions and economic forces as the embodiment of abstract philosophical categories antecedent to social reality. On the contrary, he is at pains to state that the intellectual organisation of social reality in abstract categories is secondary to that reality.” (Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978], vol. 1, p. 205)

    Which raises the obvious question: why did Marx suggest Proudhon was an idealist given that he obviously was not? Then again, this is hardly an isolated case and most Marxists have tended to follow this example when trying to critique anarchism. As informed readers of Marxist polemics against Anarchism will know, the notion of post-truth has existed far longer than most acknowledge.

    Given the level of nonsense in it, it is perhaps understandable why Proudhon did not bother replying – if personal and political events had not made responding difficult, he surely would have thought no one who has read his book would take it seriously. He was right – except that the two volumes of System of Economic Contradictions are not an easy book and few readers of Marx bother to compare him to what Proudhon actually wrote. All in all, the words of scientist (and, obviously, non-anarchist) Richard Dawkins against one of his critics are applicable here:

    “we are in danger of assuming that nobody would dare to be so rude without taking the elementary precaution of being right”. (“In Defence of Selfish Genes,” pp. 556-573, Philosophy, Vol. 56, No. 218, p. 556)

    Given that many Marxists regurgitate previous attacks on anarchism when putting pen to paper, it is not academic or obscure to discuss things like this. The echoes of Marx’s 1847 book are still being heard today and it aids our current activity and theory to understand what was wrong with that critique and subsequent ones. To not know our own history, to not know our own theorists, means being at a disadvantage against those who pretend to do.

    Beyond the dishonesty, Marx’s work is of note for the alternative he sketched to Proudhon’s market socialism – and “sketched” is being generous. It amounts to a few sentences and is rooted in generalising from an example of two workers and two products to an economy of millions of workers and products. Given this, perhaps it is not surprising that the Bolshevik experiment failed so spectacularly – Marx clearly had no notion of the need for gathering, processing and implementing the information required for central planning. He and Engels always presented this process as simple rather than the bureaucratic nightmare it would be.

    It should be said that Marx did make contributions to socialism and the understanding of capitalism. Even Bakunin recognised this and said so, repeatedly. This should not stop us recognising that he built upon an analysis started by others (not least, Proudhon) and that his arguments for practical activity were deeply flawed. Bakunin, not Marx, was right about the fate of “political action” (in reformism) and the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (in tyranny).

    So on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, we can but hope that socialists will reflect on the ideological roots for the failure rather than seek solace in the post-hoc rationalisations began by Trotsky. After all, the Bolsheviks remained true to the vision of a centralised economic system based on nationalisation. As with Marx, workers’ self-management of production did not figure highly (if at all) in Bolshevik visions of “socialism” – unlike anarchists from Proudhon onwards. Similarly, they remained true to the vision of centralised, hierarchical and unitarian political structure even if it were based, nominally, on working class organisations, the soviets (workers councils), rather than the orthodox Marxist position of capturing and transforming the current State (see section H.3.10). As Kropotkin put it:

    “It is therefore essential that to free themselves the masses who produce everything without being allowed to control the consumption of what they produce, find the means which enable them to display their creative forces and to develop themselves new, egalitarian, forms of consumption and of production.

    “The State and national representation cannot find these forms. It is the very life of the consumer and of the producer, his intellect, his organising spirit which must find them and improve them by applying them to the daily needs of life.

    “It is the same for forms of political organisation. In order to free themselves from the exploitation they are subjected to under the supervision of the State, the masses cannot remain under the domination of the forms which prevent the blossoming of popular initiative. These were developed by governments to perpetuate the servitude of the people, to prevent it from letting its creative forceblossom and to develop institutions of egalitarian mutual aid. New forms must be found to serve the opposite goal.” (La Science moderne et l’anarchie [Paris: Stock, 1913], p. 323)

    This means that the Russian experience has confirmed that socialism has to be free – libertarian – or not at all. Sadly, unlike when AFAQ was started 21 years ago, “libertarian” has become increasingly associated with the right in Britain as it has in the United States. This is of obvious concern for all genuine libertarians. I have addressed the history of libertarian in AFAQ and its blog, which – like the revision of non-published appendices – has been somewhat quiet of late. An obvious exception was the posting of 160 years of Libertarian this year to mark the coining of libertaire by Joseph Déjacque. As well as including a new and complete translation of Déjacque’s 1857 “Open Letter” to Proudhon, it covers anarchist use of the term and the right’s attempt to steal the word.

    Suffice to say, the mess which is Wikipedia’s entry on “libertarian” shows how distinct Anarchism is from Liberalism – unsurprisingly, given that Proudhon’s seminal What is Property? and other works are obviously an extended critique of (classical) liberalism. For the right, “liberty” means little more than those with private power being able to restrict the freedom of the rest. What is annoying is that they use the good word “libertarian” to describe this regime of private power. Kropotkin’s words from 1913 are still as relevant now as then:

    “In today’s society, where no one is allowed to use the field, the factory, the instruments of labour, unless he acknowledge himself the inferior, the subject of some Sir – servitude, submission, lack of freedom, the practice of the whip are imposed by the very form of society. By contrast, in a communist society which recognises the right of everyone, on an egalitarian basis, to all the instruments of labour and to all the means of existence that society possesses, the only men on their knees in front of others are those who are by their nature voluntary serfs. Each being equal to everyone else as far as the right to well-being is concerned, he does not have to kneel before the will and arrogance of others and so secures equality in all personal relationships with his co-members.

    “[…] We finally realise now that without communism man will never be able to reach that full development of individuality which is, perhaps, the most powerful desire of every thinking being. It is highly probably that this essential point would have been recognised for some time if we had not always confused individuation– that is to say, the complete development of individuality – with individualism. Now, individualism – it is high time to understand this – is nothing but the Every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost of the bourgeoisie, who believed to find in it the means of freeing himself from society by imposing on workers economic serfdom under the protection of the State” (Op. Cit., pp. 163-5)

    Of course, thanks to Bolshevism, “communism” is usually viewed to mean central-planning (or what Anarchists more accurately call State-capitalism – see section H.3.13) but we should not forget that Kropotkin simply meant distribution according to need rather than deed: which was what Joseph Déjacque had argued for in 1857 against Proudhon’s market socialism (distribution according to the products of labour). Nor should we forget the desire for genuine freedom, for the free association of equals rather than that of master-servants driven by economic necessity, which inspired the coining of the term “libertarian” in 1857 and its subsequent embrace by Anarchists world-wide. Hopefully recounting the origins of the word, showing how and why the propertarians stole it, will make more people refuse to let the right use it – we can only hope that by 40th anniversary of AFAQ they will be called propertarians by all…

    Finally, it is also 175 years from Kropotkin’s birth. I’m glad to note that the all-too-common notion of Kropotkin as “the gentle sage” is being replaced by a more accurate account of his politics. Rather than being one of the best served Anarchist thinkers in terms of their works, only a fraction of his writings is available in English. His articles for French, British and Russian anarchist papers are still mostly unknown and even his final book, the last book published in his lifetime, 1913’s La Science moderne et l’anarchie has never been translated in full (although I have been working to remedy that and next year, 2018, will see AK Press finally publish Modern Science and Anarchy in English translation).

    So our understanding of Kropotkin’s works is to some degree incomplete. Many accounts of his ideas are based on his most general works, which cannot help but skew our understanding of his ideas. In short, his works most focused on the labour movement have not generally been published as pamphlets and when they have (such as the English-language work “Politics and Socialism”) they have rarely been reprinted. These articles help flesh out why Anarchists are against the State, against using it to abolish capitalism, and what our alternative to electioneering is (see section J).

    Rather than oppose the State for idealistic reasons, Anarchist anti-Statism is based on a class analysis of it – the recognition that it exists to impose minority class rule and has developed specific features to do so. This means that utilising the bourgeois State – or a State, like the Bolsheviks, marked by centralisation and unitarian structures – will not create socialism. This is because the modern State is first and foremost a bourgeois structure:

    “the State, with its hierarchy of functionaries and the weight of its historical traditions, could only delay the dawning of a new society freed from monopolies and exploitation […] what means can the State provide to abolish this monopoly that the working class could not find in its own strength and groups? […] what advantages could the State provide for abolishing these same privileges? Could its governmental machine, developed for the creation and upholding of these privileges, now be used to abolish them? Would not the new function require new organs? And these new organs would they not have to be created by the workers themselves, in their unions, their federations, completely outside the State?” (Kropotkin, Op. Cit., pp. 91-2)

    This shows the alternative to social democracy, namely militant labour struggle: what became known as syndicalism – although, as Direct Struggle Against Capital shows, Kropotkin had advocated it in the late 1870s and early 1880s. The notion that there is a fundamental difference between anarchism and syndicalism cannot be supported (see section H.2.8). True, anarchism was initially reformist (Proudhon was opposed to strikes) but modern, revolutionary, anarchism was born in the First International and took a syndicalist position from the start. Kropotkin, like other revolutionary anarchists, took this “Bakuninist” position – although, like Bakunin, he did not think unions by themselves would inevitably be revolutionary and so also saw the need for anarchists to organise as anarchists to influence the class struggle (see section J.3).

    Likewise, we should not become fixated on unions for in 1905 – twelve years before Lenin – Kropotkin saw the possibility of the soviets as a means of fighting capitalism and statism and explicitly linked them to the Paris Commune:

    “the workers’ Council […] had been appointed by the workers themselves – just like the insurrectional Commune of August 10, 1792 – […] This very much reminds us of the Central Committee which preceded the Paris Commune of 1871, and it is certain that workers across the country should organise on this model […] these councils represent the revolutionary strength of the working class. […]

    “This is direct action at work […] Let it not then be said that the workers of the Latin nations, by preaching the general strike and direct action, have taken the wrong path. The Russian working people, by applying these for themselves, have proven that their brothers in the West were perfectly right. […] it is certain that the workers who succeeded in forcing the autocracy to capitulate will also force capitalism to do so. They will do more. They will be able to find forms of communal industrial organisation. But first they must first send packing the hypnotisers [endormeurs] who tell them: ‘Just make the political revolution; it is too early for the social revolution.’ […] and while the socialist theoreticians strove to prove the impossibility of any general strike, they, the workers, began to go through the workshops, putting a stop to work everywhere. […] After a few days, the strike was absolutely general […] It was a whole people going on strike […]

    “A new force was thus established by the strike: the force of the workers asserting themselves for the first time and setting in motion this lever of any revolution – direct action. […] It is equally obvious, furthermore, that the revolution will not be the work of a few months, but of several years. At the very least, what has been accomplished so far proves that this revolution will be of a social nature […] bourgeois elements have already faded behind the two great forces of the peasants and the workers, and the two great means of action have been the general strike and direct action.

    “There is every reason to believe that the workers of the cities will understand the strength conferred by direct action added to the general strike and, imitating in this the peasant rebels, they will likely be led to get their hands on all that is necessary to live and produce. Then they can lay in the cities the initial foundations of the communist commune.” (“L'Action directe et la Grève générale en Russie,” Les Temps Nouveaux, 2 December 1905)

    This, obviously, is echoed in La Science moderne et l’anarchie but it has its origins in the Bakunin and the Federalist wing of the First International, as reflected Kropotkin’s writings on the labour movement from the 1870s onwards (see Direct Struggle Against Capital for a representative selection across the decades) and ably explored by Robert Graham in ‘We Do Not Fear Anarchy  – We Invoke It’: The First International and the Origins of the Anarchist Movement (Oakland/Edinburgh: AK Press, 2015). As Bakunin put it:

    “Workers, no longer count on anyone but yourselves […] Abstain from all participation in bourgeois radicalism and organise outside of it the forces of the proletariat. The basis of that organisation is entirely given: the workshops and the federation of the workshops; the creation of funds for resistance, instruments of struggle against the bourgeoisie, and their federation not just nationally, but internationally. The creation of Chambers of Labour […] the liquidation of the State and of bourgeois society […] Anarchy, that it to say the true, the open popular revolution […] organisation, from top to bottom and from the circumference to the centre” (“Letter to Albert Richard”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review No. 62, p. 18)

    Kropotkin also pointed to the neighbourhood assemblies, or sections, of the Great French Revolution as a form of popular self-organisation which anarchists today could learn from (see chapters XXIV and XXV of The Great French Revolution, both included in Direct Struggle Against Capital). In this way would develop “independent Communes for the territorial groupings, and vast federations of trade unions for groupings bysocial functions– the two interwoven and providing support to each to meet the needs of society”. Added to these are the “groupings bypersonal affinities – groupings without number, infinitely varied, long-lasting or fleeting, emerging according to the needs of the moment for all possible purposes”. These “three kinds of groupings” would ensure “the satisfaction of all social needs: consumption, production and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection against aggression, mutual aid, territorial defence; the satisfaction, finally, of scientific, artistic, literacy, entertainment needs.” (Kropotkin, La Science moderne et l’anarchie, pp. 92-3)

    So Kropotkin is very clear that the link between now and the future is forged in the struggle and so – see section I.2.3– we build the framework of Anarchism by our struggles against Capital, State and other forms of hierarchy (such as patriarchy, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.). Also of note is his comment that the revolution would not take months, but years. This shows that notions of “overnight” revolution habitually flung at anarchists by Marxists – see section I.2.2– are nonsense. As such, we must remember that Anarchism is something for the here-and-now and that we must think in terms of a long-term strategy.

    All of which points to Kropotkin as a realistic revolutionary and advocate of class struggle as the means of creating a better world rather than some sort of “gentle sage” with utopian visions, as some seem to think (see my “Kropotkin: Class Warrior”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review No. 64/5 for a summary). Yet this does not mean we have an “unknown” Kropotkin for his revolutionary class struggle politics were there to be found even in his well-known “general” works if you were prepared to look: sadly, neither the British reformist Anarchists of the post-war period nor the Marxists were going to do that!

    So 21 years on, we have a better notion of the Anarchist tradition than ever before and I hope AFAQ played its part in that. Simplistic accounts – which seem to be based on little more than looking up “Anarchism” in the dictionary – should be harder to produce. It will take a particularly studious ignorance to proclaim Anarchism is just “anti-State” given its actual history as a theory and a movement. Still, we can sadly expect the right and left – for their own reasons – to continue to ignore Anarchism’s socialist core. At least we have resources like AFAQ to show the accuracy of such claims.

    When AFAQ was started, in the early 1990s, neo-liberalism appeared to be triumphant, “socialism” (i.e., Stalinism) had just collapsed and the “great moderation” was proclaimed. Yet the triumphalism could not hide the problems facing society – not least, the ever-increasing inequality as well as ecological crisis. Come the financial crisis of 2007-8 – caused, in part, because the neo-liberal assault on the working class had been too successful – the critique of capitalism and various economic theories developed to defend it AFAQ had summarised proved its usefulness (see section C)

    After a rush to State-intervention – blowing the dust of Keynes and, for a few, even Marx – to stabilise the situation (at least for the few), the rush to austerity (at least for the many) began. AFAQ had summarised (in section C.9.1) why cutting wages would be counter-productive – and so it was. Austerity was proven to be counter-productive, making the situation worse as predicted by anyone who did not worship the holy textbooks of neo-classical or “Austrian” economics – even the most neo-classical Keynesian economist grasped the situation. Yet class interests and its ideologues proved – as would be expected – more significant.

    In the UK, the Tories rushed to inflict austerity onto society and blamed a crisis caused by the elite on welfare provision for the many. Unlike in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, austerity was not imposed upon the government by the heavy hand of the EU but was embraced willingly – so killing off a recovery and stalling the economy for two years. When growth finally returned, austerity was proclaimed vindicated in spite of the critics being proven correct. Worse, it returned to trend growth without the higher growth usually associated with an exit from recession. Still, the utter failure of austerity did not stop Tory politicians in the UK proclaiming its necessity years later – while holding up austerity-struck Greece to warn against the horrors of not imposing austerity. Logic and reality will always come a distant last when defending the powers and the profits of the few. Little has changed since 1846 when Proudhon sarcastically noted:

    “Political economy — that is, proprietary despotism — can never be in the wrong: it must be the proletariat.” (Property is Theft!, p. 187)

    The crisis produced popular resistance, although obviously not enough. Anarchists took part in these struggles against austerity. This caused some commentators problems – why were Anarchists protesting against governments seeking to reduce the State? Yet Anarchism has never been just anti-State (surely “property is theft” shows that?). We are against the State because it defends that property and theft, so using economic crisis to impose austerity is State activity simply as a weapon for the few against the many.

    Anarchists do not side with the State against its subjects. Rather we fight with our fellow workers against attempts by governments to save capitalism by pushing the costs of so doing onto the general population. This does not mean we favour State welfare any more than any other State activity. Welfare, like the State itself, must be abolished from below by the many, not from above by the few seeking to increase their wealth and power (see section J.5.15). Similarly, the alternative to nationalisation (or bailouts) is not privatisation but rather socialisation– workers’ control. As Kropotkin suggested, echoing Proudhon (General Idea of the Revolution, p. 151), there is a lack of imagination and class analysis in State socialism:

    “Well, it is to increase the capital owned by the modern bourgeois States that the radicals and socialists are working today. They did not even bother to discuss – like English co-operators asked me one day – if there were no way to hand over the railways directly to the railway-workers’ trade-unions, to free the enterprise from the yoke of the capitalist, instead of creating a new capitalist, even more dangerous than the bourgeois companies, the State.”  (Op. Cit., p. 325)

    Needless to say, the much more extensive welfare State for the rich should be targeted for reduction and eventual elimination long before anything else is even considered for reform.

    Such popular struggles against privatisation or austerity – against the decisions and actions of the State against its subjects, never forget – will build the confidence and organisations needed to really change things, to really reduce the authority of the State and win improvements in the here-and-now. Indeed, the UK anti-union laws show that our masters know this, know where our real power lies: not in Parliament but in our workplaces and streets. This – direct action and solidarity – is what creates the possibility for revolution.

    Neo-liberalism has singularly failed in terms of the promises it made (“trickle down,” its anti-union arguments, productivity growth has trended down since the 1980s, the private profiteering associated with previously nationalised industries, etc., etc., etc.) – however, it did make the rich richer, its usually unstated goal, and all that can be forgiven and forgotten. However, its limitations are being felt – it is in danger of so hollowing out society that capitalism itself is threatened. This is being reflected in the ballot box. As discussed in section D.1, we may be at one of those points where, thanks to popular discontent and the pressing need to maintain the system, the State is used more to repair the damage that an inherently unstable capitalism inflicts on society than it is used to bolster the property and power of the few.

    Yet we must never forget the nature of the State as an instrument of minority classes and that there are vested interests at work (see section B.2). This means that leaving change to politicians will result in little improvement. We need an anti-parliamentary movement:

    “We see in the incapacity of the statist socialist to understand the true historical problem of socialism a gross error of judgement […] To tell the workers that they will be able to introduce the socialist system whileretaining the machine of the State and only changing the men in power; to prevent, instead of aiding, the mind of the workers progressing towards the search for new forms of life that would be their own – that is in our eyes a historic mistake which borders on the criminal.” (Kropotkin, Op. Cit., pp. 124-5)

    The lesson of both the rise of social democracy at the end of the nineteenth and Bolshevik success in 1917 is that Anarchists need to organise to influence the class struggle, to present a real alternative both in terms of visions of tomorrow and how to win improvements today. The latter is more important in many ways for without that we will never be in a position to create the former: we will be an isolated sect complaining from the side-lines rather a key factor in moving society towards freedom. As 1917 shows, without an effective organised anarchist movement then others will take advantage of the situation – by using ideas and actions previously raised by Anarchists – for non-Anarchist ends.

    The key, then, is to find positive areas to apply anarchist ideas, to encourage those subject to hierarchies to assert themselves and change themselves while changing their conditions. Only the struggle for freedom can make us able to live as free and equal individuals: that means we need be part of social struggle and self-organisation, in other words we need “Anarchy in Action” (see section J). Without that, Anarchy remains a dream – and the powers of State and Capital will continue to crush what little freedom we have. Resistance is fertile – and why direct action is always opposed by the authorities and their ideological shrills.

    In 2017 it is clear we Anarchists have much to do. Time will tell if we are up to the challenge – but one thing is sure, as Kropotkin said only those who do nothing make no mistakes.

    Iain McKay

    An Anarchist FAQ

    http:///www.anarchistfaq.org

    An Anarchist FAQ after 20 years

    It is now 20 years since An Anarchist FAQ (AFAQ) was officially launched and six years since the core of it was completed (version 14.0). It has been published by AK Press as well as translated into numerous languages. It has been quoted and referenced by other works. So it has been a success – although when it was started I had no idea what it would end up like.

    I am particularly happy that AK Press took the time and invested the resources to turn it into a book. Volume 1 of AFAQ (sections A to F plus the appendix on “The Symbols of Anarchy”) was published in 2008 followed by volume 2 (sections H to J, slightly abridged) in 2012. Both volumes are impressive in both size and presentation – they look lovely.

    Since then, though, there has been little done – a revision of an appendix about a laughingly bad Marxist anti-anarchist diatribe (more or less a copy of Hal Draper’s equally bad Two Souls of Socialism). The unfinished appendix on the Russian Revolution remains so and the other appendices need to be revised. I hope to correct this by the 30th anniversary of AFAQ but no promises!

    In my defence, I have been busy. Numerous other articles and reviews have been produced thanks to the work embodied into AFAQ and it has produced two other books: anthologies of Proudhon’s and Kropotkin’s works (Property is Theft! and Direct Struggle Against Capital, respectively). Both came about due to the research AFAQ needed – it showed that the picture we had of both key thinkers was not completely accurate. Both confirm the analysis of AFAQ on the nature of anarchism (i.e., libertarian socialism) and its history. Both would have been helpful in days-past when debating propertarians (right-wing “libertarians”) and Marxists.

    Taking Proudhon, before Property is Theft! very little of his voluminous writings had been translated into English and much of his writings – particularly his journalism and polemics during the 1848 revolution – were unknown. We now have a better idea of his ideas and contribution to anarchism as well as allowing various false, but commonplace, assertions about his ideas to be refuted.[1] Marx’s claim that he advocated “Labour Notes” (i.e., pricing and payment by hours worked) was simply a baseless assertion made in the face of clear evidence in System of Economic Contradictions to the opposite (he advocated generalising “bills of exchange” as many commentators correctly noted).[2]The Poverty of Philosophy is, as Proudhon noted at the time, “the libel of one doctor Marx” and should be dismissed as “a tissue of crudities, slanders, falsifications, and plagiarism.”[3] Sadly, this deeply dishonest work has shaped our perception of Proudhon (even in the anarchist movement) but hopefully the real Proudhon – advocate of self-managed (market) socialism – will become better known.[4]

    It also became clear that those who most loudly proclaimed their allegiance to Proudhon, namely Benjamin Tucker and other (but not all) individualist anarchists, were very selective in what they took from him. Proudhon’s critique of wage-labour and corresponding advocacy of self-management and socialisation were lost on Tucker.[5] Revolutionary anarchism is closer to Proudhon’s ideas than those who claimed his mantle – but this championing of Proudhon by Tucker shaped how many viewed the Frenchman and yet another false image (albeit less false than the one Marx invented) was created.

    Similarly with Kropotkin – while more of his writings were available in English, these were the more general introductions to anarchism and his “day-to-day” journalism in the anarchist press (particularly the French) was unknown. This gave a somewhat skewed impression of his ideas and helped those seeking to portray him as a utopian or reformist (whether Marxists or self-proclaimed anarchists). This was because while the key texts on ends were readily available, the texts on means were less so. This does not excuse those – like the reformist (“liberal”) wing of British anarchism in the 1960s onwards (and who were readily echoed by Marxists) – who portrayed Kropotkin as anything other than the revolutionary, class struggle anarchist he was for even these general works included references to unions, strikes, insurrections and so forth. Moreover, Caroline Cahm’s excellent book Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism, 1872-1886 has shown this aspect of anarchism since 1989 – indeed, Direct Struggle Against Capital owes a great deal to her research in tracking down numerous key articles from Kropotkin’s early journalism.

    These two works also indicate another improvement over the past 20 years – the increase in good quality research on anarchism and anarchists. We have had Emma Goldman’s papers published while AK Press has just started the publication of Errico Malatesta’s Collected Works. Shawn Wilbur continues his sterling work making Proudhon accessible and, moreover, has translated Bakunin’s Collected Works for PM Press. Nestor Makhno’s writings and autobiographies are also available in English. To name just a few amongst a host of excellent histories of movements and individuals.

    All this is very welcome but more is needed – thinkers like Luigi Fabbri need their works available in English and key source materials (such as James Guillaume’s L’internationale: documents et souvenirs) are also in need of translation. Even for figures like Kropotkin, a whole wealth of material in French, Russian and English which remains inaccessible and/or untranslated in archives.[6] However, such research and translation is time and resource consuming and few anarchists have much of either (being working class people in the main, we need to both earn a living and have a social life). Yet compared to where the movement was when AFAQ was started, we have seen significant progress. I hope that my work has helped this in some way. One thing is sure, AFAQ does save a lot of time because it can be referenced when the all-too-often myths about anarchism are raised (yet again!) by Marxists, propertarians and others.

    As with any project, once it was completed I realised how I should have started. What is clear now is that the usual account of anarchism which starts in the distant past before discussing William Godwin and Max Stirner is not right. Regardless of their merits, neither of these people influenced the rise of anarchism as a theory or a movement. Indeed, both were discovered by a fully developed anarchist movement in the 1890s and, ironically, the only impact Stirner had in his lifetime was on Marx and what became Marxism (needless to say, Marx distorted Stirner’s ideas just as much as he did Proudhon’s or Bakunin’s).

    Anarchism developed in the context of the French workers’ movement and so embodied the legacies of the French Revolution (and its “Anarchists”) as well as the critique of liberalism and capitalism current within French radical circles. Proudhon’s seminal What is Property? was not written in a social vacuum nor did his ideas develop without a social and intellectual context. Anarchism, then, was born in the context of the rising labour movement. It flows from the associationist ideas raised by French workers faced with industrialisation – that is, proletarianisation. They rejected the inequalities and hierarchies associated with the rise of capitalism as sought to apply democratic ideas within the workplace and so abolish wage-labour by association.

    This reflected workers during the Great French Revolution about whom one building employer moaned, “by an absurd parody of the government, regard their work as their property, the building site as a Republic of which they are jointly citizens, and believe in consequence that it belongs to them to name their own bosses, their inspectors and arbitrarily to share out the work amongst themselves.”[7] Proudhon echoed this position repeatedly throughout his works:

    “Workers’ Associations are the locus of a new principle and model of production that must replace present-day corporations [...] The principle that prevailed there, in place of that of employers and employees [...] is participation [...] There is mutuality, in fact, when in an industry, all the workers, instead of working for an owner who pays them and keeps their product, work for one another and thereby contribute to a common product from which they share the profit.”[8]

    Workers’ self-management of production by means of associations has been a part of anarchism from the start (from What is Property?: “leaders [...] must be chosen from the workers by the workers themselves”[9]) and any form of “anarchism” which rejects this in favour of factory fascism (wage-labour) is hardly libertarian.

    This means that the all-too-common notion of anarchism being a fusion (confusion!) of “socialism” (presumably Marxism) and liberalism is simply wrong. Anarchism is a school of socialism (“the no-government system of socialism”, to quote Kropotkin[10]) and cut its teeth critiquing liberalism and the class-ridden, unequal and unfree society it was creating. It was then members of this well-defined movement who could look back at the likes of Godwin and popular movements note similarities between their ideas on the state, property, etc. and those which had arisen later and, crucially, independently of them. These pre-1840 thinkers and movements can be better described as anarchistic rather than anarchist as such.

    This analysis of where anarchism comes from is relevant to current events. Take inequality, or more correctly the recognition within mainstream politics and journalism that massive inequality exists and is rising. When AFAQ was started, this was generally denied but now the recognition of reality is at least acknowledged and, often, deplored, by some of the elite (usually politicians seeking votes). The denials of reality could be surreal – I remember reading an edition of the Economist at the turn of the millennium which had editorialised that the 20th century had shown Marx’s predictions of a tiny minority of wealthy capitalists surrounded by a sea of impoverished proletarians to be false while, a few pages elsewhere, had a report on how inequality in America and elsewhere in the West had exploded so resulting in a few very wealthy people and the rest stagnating. The contradiction between ideology (faith) and reality (facts) could not have been more obvious – at least if you weren’t the editors or a true believer in capitalism.

    Perhaps needless to say, the reasons why this has happened have been much discussed but as it has been within a neo-classical framework it has not gotten very far. This is understandable as that ideology was developed precisely to rationalise and justify the inequalities of capitalism and not to explain them (see section C). Taking an anarchist analysis (as first expounded by Proudhon before being taken up by Marx) it is easy to understand why inequality has expounded. As section C.2 indicates, labour is exploited by capital and the former has been weakened over the last four decades by neo-liberalism (not least by increased state regulation of unions) and so workers cannot retain more of the value we produce as the product is monopolised by the owning class and senior management.

    This means, for example, that the exploding wages of CEOs is not an example of “market failure” as some claim but rather an expression of how the capitalist market is meant to work.[11] Which all flows back to where anarchism came from, namely the (French) workers’ movement, and what it was born fighting, namely a rising capitalism and its ideological expression of (classical) liberalism.

    Thus we find John Locke’s just-so story justifying property results “by a tacit and voluntary consent” to “a disproportionate and unequal Possession of the Earth”[12] Yet any agreement between the owners and proletariat would favour the former and once the worker has consented to being under the authority of the wealthy then her labour and its product is no longer hers: “Thus the grass my horse has bit; the Turfs my Servant has cut; and the Ore I have digg’d… become my Property.” The workers’ labour “hath fixed my [the employer’s] property” in both the product and common resources worked upon.[13] Locke’s defence of property as resting on labour becomes the means to derive the worker of the full product of her labour[14]– as intended.

    Compare this with anarchism. Proudhon’s analysis brings him into conflict with Locke and the liberal tradition. Rejecting the notion that master-servant contracts were valid, he dismisses its basis of property in the person in a few words: “To tell a poor man that he has property because he has arms and legs, – that the hunger from which he suffers, and his power to sleep in the open air are his property, – is to play with words, and add insult to injury.” Property, then, is solely material things – land, workplaces, etc. – and their monopolisation results in authoritarian relationships. To “recognise the right of territorial property is to give up labour, since it is to relinquish the means of labour”, which results in the worker having “sold and surrendered his liberty” to the proprietor. This alienation of liberty is the means by which exploitation happens. Whoever “labours becomes a proprietor” of his product but by that Proudhon did “not mean simply (as do our hypocritical economists)” – and Locke – the “proprietor of his allowance, his salary, his wages” but “proprietor of the value which he creates, and by which the master alone profits.” Locke is also clearly the target for Proudhon’s comment that “the horse […] and ox […] produce with us, but are not associated with us; we take their product, but do not share it with them. The animals and workers whom we employ hold the same relation to us.”[15]

    As noted, the rise in inequality is even acknowledged by those who helped create it. Thus we find the Economist[16] admitting that “Liberalism depends on a belief in progress but, for many voters, progress is what happens to other people. While American GDP per person grew by 14% in 2001-15, median wages grew by only 2%.” The journal also states that “liberals also need to restore social mobility and ensure that economic growth translates into rising wages” yet social mobility falling while inequality rises should be unsurprising (it is easier to climb a hill than a mountain) as is the awkward fact that the least “liberal” nations (continental Europe) have higher social mobility than the USA or UK (“liberal” nations). As for increasing wages, the neo-liberal agenda has been to regulate workers and our unions by anti-union laws to stop just that happening which makes a mockery of the claim that “[i]n the 1970s liberals concluded that the embrace of the state had become smothering and oppressive.”[17] It is not hard to conclude that for “liberals” state intervention against workers is just normal – just like defence of capitalist property-rights is not oppressive. Rest assured, their solution to the problems caused by neo-liberalism is yet more neo-liberalism: “a relentless focus on dismantling privilege by battling special interests, exposing incumbent companies to competition and breaking down restrictive practices.” Which was, as discussed in section J.4.2, the rhetoric used to increase state regulation of unions which, in turn, produced all the evils the journal is bemoaning now and which are the opposite outcome to those promised to justify this onslaught on working people and our organisations.

    We should not be surprised. Let us not forget that belief is defined as “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof” (such as Locke’s stories which underlie liberalism in all its forms, particularly propertarianism). Anarchists, however, prefer to study the facts and draw conclusions based on them. The facts of the last few decades clearly support Proudhon’s analysis – rising productivity and level wages show that workers are exploited in production and allows the few to monopolise the gains derived from productivity increases. He also indicated in System of Economic Contradictions how the favoured “solution” of liberalism – more competition – resulted in monopolies (i.e., big companies) which meant that the amount of investment needed to enter the market was an objective barrier which, as well as reducing competition, turned the bulk of the population into wage-workers who have “sold their arms and parted with their liberty” to the few.[18]

    Thus the social question remains fundamentally the same as when Proudhon took pen to paper. As is its answer: to end these social problems means ending master-servant relations within the workplace by means of association and abolishing the state that protects them by means of federalism. An account of anarchism which ignores all this would be a travesty and produce false picture of what anarchism is and what counts as anarchist.[19] Sadly, this false picture still exists in academic and other works – based on little more than if someone calls themselves an anarchist then they are. Few (bar the propertarians who fail to recognise the oxymoronic nature of “anarcho”-capitalism) would tolerate adding Nazism to accounts of socialism based on them having “socialist” in their party name – but even this low bar seems to be considered too high for some when it comes to discussing anarchism!

    AFAQ was started in the early 1990s, just after the collapse of Stalinism (“socialism” or “communism”) and the corresponding triumphalism of neo-liberals. Japanese-style corporate capitalism was in its “lost decade” and neo-liberalism was being accepted as “common-sense” within the leadership of the “official” opposition (the British Labour Party and its equivalents elsewhere). Yet within ten years, we had the bursting of the dot com bubble and a deep crisis in East-Asia. The latter saw economies previously praised by advocates of capitalism as being a heaven of “free-market” policies become, overnight, statist nightmares. Such is the power of ideology.

    Then came the crisis of 2007-8, a crisis caused by neo-liberal policies which – incredible as it may seem – became the means of imposing more of said policies in the name of “Austerity”. The Tories in the UK were particularly good (if that is the right word!) at turning a crisis caused by the 1% and their favoured policies into one apparently caused by New Labour not letting single mothers starve. While the narrative of the crisis turned the facts on their head, they could not stop the policies being implemented dragging out the crisis and turning it into the slowest recovery on record.  So the financial crisis showed the bankruptcy of neo-classical economics in two senses. First, mainstream economists did not predict it (while post-Keynesian economists did). Second, the notion of “expansionary austerity” was tried and proven to be as nonsensical as even the mainstream (“bastard”) Keynesians predicted. This resulted in a downward spiral whenever it was tried – whether Greece or the UK (so confirming section C.9 of AFAQ). However, the critics being proven correct was not considered good enough and so when growth – finally! – returned to the UK, the architects of this harmful policy were proclaimed by the much of mainstream press (including the Financial Times) to have been vindicated! Why? Simply because, as with Milton Friedman (see section C.8), the Tories made the rich richer and skewed state intervention even further towards the few.[20]

    The global economic crisis rolls on – a classic example, as per section C.7, of a crisis caused by labour being too weak. We have seen the “traditional” left ride the wave of protest in many countries and divert it into parliamentarian avenues – were it quickly died. The example of Greece is the classic example with a left-wing anti-austerity party (Syriza) elected only for it to end up imposing even more stringent austerity measures than before. This confirmed our analysis in section J.2 of AFAQ on why anarchists reject electioneering and support direct action. The pressures on left-wing governments from big business and capital, the willingness the state bureaucracy (the civil service, etc.) to frustrate the policies and decisions of popularly elected governments, all played their role even without the years of campaigning for votes which have traditionally watered-down radical parties long before they achieve office (but not real power). Still, we are sure the true-believers will proclaim that next time they will not make the same mistakes as the Social Democrats, the Greens, and now Syriza. And state socialists call anarchists utopians…

    So while proclaiming itself “Scientific Socialism” (an expression, like so much of Marxism, appropriated from Proudhon), it adherents seem wonderfully immune from learning from experience. Marxism continues, albeit in smaller numbers, to put countless numbers off socialism by presenting the cure (socialism) as being worse than the disease (capitalism). This may explain why Marxists so regularly distort anarchist ideas – if Marxism were so robust they would have no need to invent nonsense about anarchism. Yet they do – and section H.2 continues to be of use in replying to them. It may also explain why some Marxists prefer to invoke the Spanish Revolution than the Russian (understandably given how bad Lenin’s regime was!) or seek to associate their ideology with far more appealing forms of socialism (such as syndicalism[21]). Again, AFAQ is there to show the flaws in such attempts – and to show that much of what passes for “Marxism” was first expounded by anarchists[22] but without the authoritarian and metaphysical baggage.

    Anarchists have long critiqued state socialism but on the assumption (sometimes unstated or mentioned in passing) that we were the genuine socialists. The logic is simple enough – the state is a hierarchical body and so based on inequality and so state socialism violated socialist principles (namely, equality) and could not, therefore, produce a socialist society. This was based on empirical evidence which shows that states developed to impose minority rule and the conclusion that, as a result, it cannot be used to end it. As Proudhon argued:

    “And who benefits from this regime of unity? The people? No, the upper classes […] Unity, today and since 1815, is quite simply a form of bourgeois exploitation under the protection of bayonets. Yes, political unity, in the great States, is bourgeois: the positions which it creates, the intrigues which it causes, the influences which it cherishes, all that is bourgeois and goes to the bourgeois.”[23]

    Even if we smash the existing state and replace it with a new one (marked, like all states, by centralisation and hierarchy, even an elected one) then it will just reproduce a new class system (this is a major theme of section H). The centralised, hierarchical, state is “the cornerstone of bourgeois despotism and exploitation”[24] and “nothing resembles a monarchy more than a unitarian republic [république unitaire].”[25] It would be wishful thinking to conclude that an institutional structure so well suited to minority rule could produce a classless society and, as the Bolshevik regime showed (section H.6), we anarchists were proven correct.

    Yet with Leninism and Social-Democracy becoming so dominant, anarchists often stopped calling themselves socialists or communists in order to distance themselves (understandably!) from both. If most people understood “communism” to be the Soviet Union then talking about a libertarian, or free, communism may be confusing. Similarly, if “socialism” meant centralisation and nationalisation (rather than federalism and workers’ self-management) or slowly making capitalism slightly better (rather than replacing it with something better) then it is understandable that some anarchists would drop the term. Simply put the anarchist vision of socialism was at odds with what most people considered it to mean:

    “socialism is... the extinction of poverty, the elimination of capitalism and of wage labour, the transformation of property, the decentralisation of government, the organisation of universal suffrage, the effective and direct sovereignty of the workers, the balance of economic forces, the substitution of the contractual regime for the legal regime, etc., etc.”[26]

    Sadly, some took anti-statism as the defining characteristic of anarchism and forgot the underlying assumption of socialism. AFAQ showed that this was not the case. It also debunked the nonsense of “anarcho”-capitalism (in section F) and subsequent research has shown that the notion of a non-socialist “anarchism” is at odds with the history of anarchism as both a theory and a movement. Even the individualist anarchists – who were the closest to classical liberalism – rejected capitalist property-rights and recognised that capitalism exploited the worker (see section G). Ignoring this Proudhon-influenced analysis and the rough equality its advocate’s expected it to produce results in something very much at odds with their aspirations. However, “anarcho”-capitalists are, as when AFAQ was started, just an annoyance for a few zealots on the internet and some academics funded by propertarian “think-tanks” or wealthy backers does not equate to a movement – particularly given the obvious theoretical contradiction between claiming to be “libertarian” while supporting authoritarian social relationships (namely, private hierarchies – section B.1). As Kropotkin summarised:

    “They understand that, as they live amidst sociable creatures, such as men are, they never would free themselves if they tried to free themselves alone, individually, without taking the others into account. To have the individual free, they must strive to constitute a society of equals, wherein every one would be possessed of equal rights to the treasuries of knowledge and to the immense wealth accumulated by mankind and its civilisation, wherein nobody should be compelled to sell his labour (and consequently, to a certain degree, his personality) to those who intend to exploit him.

    “This is why Anarchy necessarily is Communist, why it was born amidst the international Socialist movement, and why an individualist, if he intends to remain Individualist, cannot be an Anarchist.

    “He who intends to retain for himself the monopoly of any piece of land or property, or any other portion of the social wealth, will be bound to look for some authority which could guarantee to him possession of this piece of land, or this portion of the modern machinery ― so as to enable him to compel others to work for him.

    “Either the individual will join a society of which all the members own, all together, such a territory, such machinery, such roads, and so on, and utilise them for the life of all ― and then he will be a Communist; or he will apply to some sort of authority, placed above society, and obtain from it the right of taking, for his own exclusive and permanent use, such a portion of the territory or the social wealth. And then he will NOT be an Anarchist: he will be an authoritarian.”[27]

    Hopefully academics will do their research and start to exclude “anarcho”-capitalism from accounts of anarchism and start to note how right-wing “libertarians” have twisted the meaning of the word in order to defend various private authoritarian social relationships (not least those associated with property). Sadly, given the quality of most works on anarchism, this hope may be unfilled – but at least AFAQ exists to show those interested what anarchism really stands for.

    Still, there seems to be an improvement within academic circles – perhaps because there has been an increase in anarchist academics? This can be seen by many important works which have increased our understanding of both anarchist thinkers and movements and which have been published, often by AK Press, in cheaper editions. So in terms of serious research, anarchism is being better served than was often the case in the past – myths are being debunked and I hope AFAQ has played its part in that.

    Yet theory without practice is of little use and producing accurate accounts of past anarchists and movements, while important, does not bring anarchy closer. Twenty years is a long time and there is still no sign of the social revolution – although social revolts continue aplenty! Does this mean AFAQ was a waste of time? Far from it! To think that misunderstands what anarchism is – it is not a vision of a “perfect” society but rather a movement aiming to change the world for the better. Sometimes our resistance – like the class struggle it is part of – is small-scale, invisible, securing minor victories or just slowing down the decisions of the powerful (whether the state or the boss). Sometimes our resistance explodes into the public and the revolt becomes newsworthy. Regardless of the size of activity, anarchists work today to make the world a bit more libertarian. As Kropotkin put it:

    “Anarchists are thus forced to work without respite and without delay […]

    “They must reaffirm the main philosophical cornerstones of Anarchy. They must incorporate scientific methods, for these will help to reshape ideas: the myths of history will be debunked, along with those of social economy and philosophy […]

    “They must participate in the daily struggle against oppression and prejudice in order to maintain a spirit of revolt everywhere people feel oppressed and possess the courage to rise up.

    “They must thwart the clever machinations of all those parties who were once allies but who now are hostile, who seek now to divert onto authoritarian paths those movements which were originally spawned in revolt against the oppression of Capital and State.

    “And finally […] they have to find, within the practice of life itself and indeed working through their own experiences, new ways in which social formations can be organised, be they centred on work, community or region, and how these might emerge in a liberated society, freed from the authority of governments and those who would subject us to poverty and hunger.”[28]

    If AFAQ has helped some people to join the struggle, to defend and extend what freedoms we have, to combat inequality in wealth and power, then it has been a worthwhile project even if an anarchist society remains an inspiration rather than a reality. It has brought that society a bit closer by showing the world what anarchism actually is, by debunking myths, by showing that there is an alternative and how the struggles of today create it to some degree.

    For never forget that we create the new world when we resist the old. Even today we have the choice of acting in a libertarian manner or in an authoritarian one: we can organise with our fellow workers to resist the oppression and exploitation of our bosses – or be servile, know our place and grumble over low wages; we can resist the decisions of politicians by organising our communities – or wait quietly for four years to vote for the lesser evil; we can take to the streets in protest at the murderous results of  racism – or just turn the channel and hope you will remain unaffected; we can struggle against patriarchy – or remain quiet; we can fight to ensure everyone can be themselves – or acquiesce to “popular” prejudices; we can encourage co-operative alternatives to wage-labour, landlordism and officialdom – or quietly consume while muttering about being ripped off.

    Choose!

    Iain McKay

    End Notes

    [1] See my “Proudhon on Race and the Civil War: Neither Washington nor Richmond”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 60

    [2] See my “Proudhon’s constituted value and the myth of labour notes”, Anarchist Studies, forthcoming 2017. [now published: “Proudhon’s Constituted Value and the Myth of Labour Notes”, Anarchist Studies, vol. 25, No. 1]

    [3]Correspondance (Paris: Lacroix, 1875) II: 267-8

    [4] See my “Laying the Foundations: Proudhon’s Contribution to Anarchist Economics”, Accumulation of Freedom: Writings on Anarchist Economics (Oakland/Edinburgh/Baltimore: AK Press, 2012), Anthony J. Nocella, Deric Shannon and John Asimakopoulos (Editors), 64-78

    [5] See my “Proudhon, Property and Possession”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 66

    [6] See my Sages and movements: An incomplete Peter Kropotkin bibliography”, Anarchist Studies, Vol. 22 No. 1 and “Kropotkin, Woodcock and Les Temps Nouveaux”, Anarchist Studies, Vol. 23. No. 1)

    [7] quoted by Roger Magraw, A History of the French Working Class (Oxford/Cambridge: Blackwell, 1992) I: 24-25

    [8]Property is Theft! A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Anthology, 616

    [9] Proudhon, Op Cit., 119

    [10]Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings, 46

    [11] See my “Pay Inequality: Where it comes from and what to do about it”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 58

    [12]  John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 302

    [13] Locke, 289

    [14] C. B Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964), 214-5

    [15]Property is Theft!, 95, 106, 117, 114, 129

    [16]“The politics of anger”, The Economist, July 2016

    [17] See my “Poor Adam Smith”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 66

    [18]Property is Theft!, 212

    [19] See my “Anarchism in the 21st Century”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 67

    [20] See my “Boomtime in Poundland: Has Austerity Worked?”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 63

    [21] See my “Another View: Syndicalism, Anarchism and Marxism”, Anarchist Studies, Vol. 20 No. 1 for one example.

    [22] For a summary, see my “Anarchist Theory: Use it or Lose it”, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 57

    [23]La fédération et l'unité en Italie (Paris: E. Dentu, 1862), 27-8

    [24] Proudhon, Op. Cit., 33

    [25] Proudhon, Du principe fédératif (Paris: E. Dentu, 1862), 140

    [26] Proudhon, “Les Confessions d’un révolutionnaire”, Oeuvres complètes de P.-J. Proudhon 9: 306

    [27]“A Few Thoughts on the Essence of Anarchism”, Direct Action Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology, 202-3

    [28]“The Anarchist Principle”, Op Cit., 200

    category: 

    “Eco-extremism and the indiscriminate attack – The Church of ITS Mexico”

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    From 325 by L (UK)

    “And Severino Di Giovanni’s actions were never violent for the sake of it. They were never indiscriminate or striking at anything at all in order to create a tension that would favour power and it’s politics of consolidation. They were always guided by a precise revolutionary reasoning: to strike the centres of power with punitive actions that find their justification in the State’s violence, and which were aimed at pushing the mass towards a revolutionary objective. Di Giovanni always took account of the situation of the mass, even though he was often accused of not having done so” JW & AMB
    Anarchism and Violence
    Severino Di Giovanni in Argentina by Osvaldo Bayer
    Elephant Editions

    I don’t represent any organisation or group, I am writing this from my personal perspective, as nihilist-anarchist of an anti-civilisation insurrectional tendency. I have carried out direct action in defense of the Earth, so the state and society would probably view me as an “Eco-Extremist”, although I’m unconcerned with this term as it’s become a sect-like ideology of the Church. I haven’t written before about the Church of ITS Mexico or the idiot pseudo-nihilist(s) in Italy because over the last few years they clearly became reactionary and more akin to far-right ‘black’ groupscules.

    It has been some years since the Church of ITS Mexico said something like that ‘the FAI doesn’t represent us’, that the ‘CCF doesn’t represent us’… Well I can’t recall anything like that being said by CCF or FAI or anyone else in the first place, so why is the ITS Church still issuing sermons about it now and why have they not embarked on a one-way trip far away from the black anarchy they proclaim is irrelevant and gone off into the nihilising abyss like they said they would, leaving all us anarchist nuns alone?

    It was obvious to foresee what this groupscule and their related neurotic fanclub was going towards – cultish green authoritarianism, paganism, irrationalism and indiscriminate attacks – and haven’t we seen this before? Although the Church of ITS Mexico with its tiny few self-described eco-extremists and pseudo-nihilists like to pose as the most radical and truly anarchistic and chaotic latest trend that is very different and abyssal, far from anything that goes before, they are just another offshoot of an old idea with rotten roots in soil and blood, either that or they just have shit for brains.

    The murders that ITS Mexico has done in their current phase and the words that accompany the actions are those of one of the enemies, no equivication – it doesn’t matter at this point what justifications and philosophical manipulations they use to explain how they became irrationalist fanatics. Those who indiscriminatly attack regular people are authoritarians and would-be dictators, mass killers, and they and their fanclub of sychophants brag and boast as such behind a myriad of regressive ideas.

    Reactionary, nationalist, neo-nazi, racist and pagan networks converging inward autonomously in Europe at least, is nothing new, because for decades we can find their groups dwelling in a spectrum of misanthropic nihilist-right planes of thought, often informed by various degrees of biocentrism, traditionalism, green authoritarianism, anti-humanism, anti-progress etc. It’s easy to find their blogs with old runic indigenous obscurantism, glorification of mass murder, death camps, genocide imagery and glorification of weapons and killing.

    In the UK in the 90’s, a tiny few anarcho-primitivists also flirted with this eco-fascist thinking which had seeped in amongst ‘when animals attack’-type stories and news-clippings about earthquakes and plagues, in the newspaper ‘Green Anarchist’. The idea was that indiscriminate attacks and/or mass killings of people are justified as ‘war against civilisation/society’. There was a split in the newspaper ‘Green Anarchist’ about the topic (‘The Irrationalists’ by Steve Booth). One of the editors left and started an eco-fascist paper. Green Anarchist continued to provide lists of direct actions which were taking place and had articles and reports. The controversy came during an operation by the state against the earth and animal liberation movement which was strong at the time (so-called GANDALF operation). The state spent millions of pounds trying to shut GA down and one of their editors was jailed. Looking back on the text that started the affair it is nothing in comparison to the shit that ITS Mexico have been spewing for the last few years, a hex upon them.

    Indiscriminate killings and attacks only have authoritarian outcomes, the methods are elitist and fundamentally anti-individualist. The acts end up only entrenching power and the existing strategy of the techno-industrial system. It is a very dominant and conditioned human behaviour of mass psychology to harm or kill indiscriminately. It’s what humans do to each other all the time, it gears the machine and it’s certainly not an anti-civilisation act or one that cuts radically to the social system. Each person is just pathologically programmed under the stress of society – by religion and heirarchical orders – socially coded to distrust, hate, abuse and kill others. I want something different; it enlightens me as an anarchist and a nihilist – an individual defending their life and experience of the world. Discrimination of thought, choice and action.

    The last couple of months in UK there have been three spectacular indiscriminate killings: the Manchester suicide bomb against a crowd of mostly (very) young women at an Ariana Grande concert, the London Tower Bridge suicide van and knife attack, both by those inspired by Daesh, who ITS Mexico and their adoring flock seem to idolise and fetishize now, much like the rest of the misanthropic and nihilist-right; and there also was the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed unknown scores of people, arguably a massacre which had an unavoidable class basis and which is a social murder. But who cares, society is the enemy, right? In the ultra-moralising Church of ITS Mexico where they issue regular sermons you don’t have to think about things too much.

    The Church and the sheep have already rejected anti-authoritarianism and ‘liberation’, so such concepts do not illuminate them, by their own admission, opting for a direction where from their friendless epic-loser script they endlessly preside over their dastardly marginalisation of anarchy and the extermination of humanity in the lowly and minor acts they have recently been taking responsibility for.

    Their critique of the anarchist movement is both nothing new and yet deluded with ignorance about many facts and yet they want to use the names of Severino di Giovanni and Mauricio Morales to cover their cowardice. I’m no stranger to criticising civil anarchism but the Church of ITS Mexico have remained so boringly obsessionate in their anti-anarchism discourse that it is obvious that they don’t know when they are banging a dead horse. Their desperate clinging to the anarchist movement – now issuing death threats against anarchists that bother to publically criticise them – is indicative of individuals who, claiming to have shot dead a hiking couple from the bushes and choked a woman to death in a phone box at university, at heart don’t appear to feel they have any power in their own lives and obviously spend too much time on the internet worrying what others think of them whilst taking their pain out on other people. Sounds like quite a few civilised people I know except some don’t see the results of their actions. I mean, haven’t ITS actually killed some people, why are they crying about it on the internet? As the saying goes, they “gotta lot to learn” as a terrorist group. Hearing that ITS apparently got “tired of waiting for 325’s critique” is a sloppy, revealing and highly amusing admission of how much they actually do care about being the subject of dialogue and discussion amongst an (unruly and anarchic) humanity they hate!

    To go back to why I haven’t bothered to write anything before now about ITS recent experiments in serial killerdom, I think just simply I had better things to do and my comrades were debating whether or not it was even worth making any critiques since, we figured, we don’t make critiques of any other random serial killers?! Why would we bother contributing to the fiction that ITS are actors with any validity by commenting on their wanton acts of pointless and sadly untargetted murders? And nor are they anarchists, saying for many years to the anarchist movement internationally that they were not interested, and were even hostile to concepts such as prisoner solidarity, internationalism, anarchist revolution (so leftist!) and so on and to just leave them alone. So we did… And so why are they now chasing after our views and after the opinions of FAI/IRF cells, anarchist-insurrectionalists, blogs of counter-information, etc. when they have been rejecting them for years and years? Why is their fanclub sending us their ridiculous texts and claims? To remind us they exist in anger and frustration? And who cares? I don’t care but the Church of ITS Mexico evidently does care and can’t bear that somehow others have a path seperate to theirs. It shows up their blatant isolationalist narcissism and sociopathic psychosis. Consequences…

    Reading the nationalism, racism and homophobia evident in the recent communiques of ITS, a new pathological, repetitive, singular voice trying to lash out vainly is emerging. I’m sure they will respond with a threatening old testament sermon; or is that an earthquake coming?!

    Although the Church has given many sermons where they pontificate about feeling superior, laughing in fantasy, it’s striking how much they reveal their silly obssessions, psychological loops and regressive traits in public. This key weakness is certainly a sign of the regressive nature of narcissistic authoritarians, who as individuals display, collectively, unintegrated psychologies, lacking in empathic intelligence and emotional centering.

    Maybe in the age of the internet the ITS Church did not know there was a far-right of maladjusted pagan eco-religious fanatics in Europe already? Join and share your savage racialist rituals of purity, blood and black metal records! The Pope of ITS Mexico should issue an immediate elect order to direct the faithful sheep to send their bible of testaments to those web-crazies of the nihilist-right and failing that, ‘New Scientist’ magazine or some such other shit as they seem to be obsessed with, instead of bothering those nasty sectarian anarchist nuns who have excommunicated them. Wouldn’t want you to get upset and send in the inquistion after killing some women.

    After banging their keyboards on anarchists for running around the world ‘intervening’ in every topic under the sun other than killing random individuals in the name of some wacko gods, they offer out an invitation to intervene in Mexico and have it out with them! Why would anyone bother? I certainly shall stay here in my own native indigenous lands and get on with my life. If they feel that strongly, why don’t they come here? We have gangs and murders here too, not just the Queen and Cricket. I think that the ITS in ‘Church of ITS Mexico’ stands for “Idiots Tending toward Stupidity”. Who knew that the Church was so linked to the ‘Mafia’? Pretty hilarious really, as it fits into their displaced wish to project a ‘strong’ or ‘hard image’ ; ‘ruthless’, ‘organised’, ‘murderous’ etc. The reality appears that they have dropped any individualist or nihilist-egoist values, any pretense of ecological struggle and are rather weak, conduct easy (basically cowardly), opportunistic, random and valueless actions and come across like a bunch of wet bananas with a hurting self-obsessed sociopath as leader, blowing their mouths off in public. So what’s new?

    The idiots that we know of in this “Eco-Extremist Mafia” are all wee dafties, like the pseudo-nihilist fool in Italy(1) and this Greek robot of chaos, Archie the Scot(2), who are exactly the same types, socially disfunctional mal-geeks, arseholes basically and losers without a sense of humour, looking to play the bigman. They definity don’t have a sense of humour, but we guess you have to have some ‘human’ values to have a decent sense of ‘humour’ never mind ‘humility’. I mean, some of the actions we just laugh at, you are a joke, Church of ITS Mexico and faithful flock! Even the killings, you are embarassing yourself! Like a shit on a corpse! And you want the names of Severino Di Giovanni and Mauricio Morales to cover your shit?! Fuck off and die! You are a joke!! Ha Ha Ha!

    I shit on your pagan gods!

    Love to all the friends and comrades; imprisoned, out and on the run!

    L

    Notes:

    (1) Psuedo-nihilist serial blogger, collector of doubtful ‘terror’ manuals and writer of complex verbs and words.
    (2) Antisocial evolution, ‘Falcon of Chaos’, ‘Archie’ Archegonos or whatever he’s decided to call himself this week in a ten-thousand word gush of verbal diarreha.

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    Sad

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    From 325 by Eat (Indonesia)

    It is sad to see “them” resorting to such incoherent, deluded, and even ahistorical if not unfactual analysis of contemporary anarchism and its various movements, successes and failures. It is even more sadder that the critique was poorly written. If the FAI never accomplished anything as the critique said, it is because FAI ideas were and are always to be put on trial of practice and its diverse variants. There is no monopoly of narrow individualism in the FAI as far as I comprehend it, as it is just an idea to encourage anarchists to attack with informal and antiorganisationalist forms (even this also is always within a context), because “it” [FAI] doesn’t believe in the binary logic that this critique does. While the critique seemed, at first, to try to dismiss a binary vision of the world it falls on the same mistakes when it doesn’t even know nor understand how they or their moralistic-triumphant-over-others-methods originated and empowered.

    While I was in full support of ITS in attacking technocrats, NGOs, and its effort in deconstructing the western anarchist moralistic-christian tendency, they too fall to the same logic as their so “ideological enemies of gringo” anarchism.

    This world doesn’t revolve around your ancestor, dear friend, and of course you cannot speak nor can understand anything about other gods and ancestors from different parts of the world. You don’t have any ideas or even understand the languages of Gong Solok Dayak of Borneo and their constant struggle against mining. You’ll also never understand my other part of ancestry of proud Northern Minahasan tribes, who, in the Tondano wars beheaded hundreds of Dutch colonials and also the Spanish in the island my great ancestors have lived. It is precisely because of this reason I consider myself as egoist-communist, why? Egoist in Stirnerist empowered me to understand myself and to stripped myself on any kind of values of subjugation and domination… the context of communism is to put the understanding of individuals and others concerning to common interests and needs: such as water and land. But you will never understand this because you already win and every other things are lost. You have achieved your absolute moral values. Congratulations, you have made your “movement” reached its end and ultimate goals. Is that your ancestor teach you about life and living? I am very doubtful, really. I Yayat U Santi.

    Comment:

    … the ‘Anarchist Myth‘, is very painful to read not in terms of grammar but like there’s no point in there except that they were trying to convinced or critique every other tendency that they’re the best one, what the ultimate methods on how we perceived reality are and who we should react to it. Their critique on FAI is not rightly spot on because it seemed they never read the interexchanges of theories, debates, and praxis, especially pieces written by CCF. It is confusing enough to me here to decolonise insurrectionist discourse or antiauthoritarianism in general and the present dynamics of eco-extremism in South America (I hope they don’t represent the general tendency) makes me even more confused if not sad.

    Why? Because I “hope” to see the other forms and unique “movements” stem from un-westernised insurrectionists, their early communiques were sharp … I was amazed, really, about how they’re not shying away from political killing… Now they seem more vague and abstract in the sense that they are abstracting an absolute moral value. It is just the same as the christian belief system but they sell the idea of defending nature and their ancestors (what kind of ancestor they were referring to?). I don’t dismiss their attentat but random killing? I don’t know. I would like to kill … people who were trying to kill me or my loved ones and I don’t care if it is politically correct to do or not as it is only natural. But their apologistic arguments makes me even more confused. I am not trying to defend the FAI because it is impossible to do so, as it is a practical movement, it will be always incoherent as it is not the goals nor end and for sure it is not the answer for all the questions and solutions in life. Such alternatives and claims are absurd and deluded. I am angry but at the same time I was also sad to read about how they [ITS] are progressing.

    Eat

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    Margaret Killjoy’s Fantastic Aesthetic Anarcho-Fun Heresy

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    By Rhyd Wildermuth, via Gods & Radicals

    Olympia is one of those towns subject to a relentless misdirection spell. No magician or witch cast it, though–it arose organically in the alembic of poor urban planning confronting wily land spirits and chthonic forces who will never quite care where you intended to go because they want you to show you something…or someone.

    So my best friend and I were suddenly headed north through downtown Olympia, though we’d meant to go south. For the third time.

    Fuck,” she moaned, trying to steer the van into a turn lane. “Again?”

    It’s like something’s fucking with us,” I started, and then saw a figure crossing the street in front of us. I had no time to finish the sentence. The light was about to change, and the person would be gone.

    HeyI’llberightbackIhavetogosayhitosomeone” I blurted out, jumping out of the van.

    What? Where are you? Okay, I’ll park.

    Among heretics, few words are necessary. When something happens to one, the other just knows. My best friend can stare suddenly down an alley mid-sentence and I don’t need to ask what she is seeing. I can jump out of a van in the middle of traffic and she knows something’s about to happen.

    I ran down the sidewalk, then suddenly slowed, remembering that I looked like a 200 lb shaved-head man chasing a long-haired steam-goth down the street. That looked bad. Besides, my target seemed happily oblivious, lost in thought, so jumping up from behind her like that seemed really rather rude.

    Hey,” I called, really clumsily. “Are you…? We’ve never met but you’re my hero.

    That was the best I could come up with. I don’t really have heroes, let alone get a chance to meet the ones I do have. So I don’t really know how to talk to them, and I’m anyway awkward as fuck. But a few seconds later, my companion was behind me. “Holy fuck, Magpie?

    Of course my companion knew them, too. Among heretics, there are no chance meetings.

    If you’ve never heard of Margaret Killjoy, you’ve probably already encountered her anyway. There are a few humans who do things that make it so that other humans do things which then inspires others to do things. Like grandmothers, but not old enough to have grandchildren so they’re grandmothers to ideas and art and movements and ways of living. Margaret’s one of those people.

    This is supposed to be a review of her new book, and it will be, I promise. But there’s that weird thing where reviewers are supposed to be objective and to disclose any relationship to the author they have, and that’s a really complicated thing to do here because I have to tell you some stories.

    Stories like the one I began with, where I’m driving in a van with my best friend, who’s one of those people who also grandmothers existence into being, and then I see Margaret Killjoy crossing the street and jump out of the van and then my best friend comes up behind us and it turns out they know each other too, hadn’t seen or heard anything of each other for ten years and had been just as inspired by her as I was.

    And there’s other stories, like maybe 15 years ago or more when I was trying to figure out how my anarchism and my Paganism fit together when all the anarchists around me were atheist and all the Pagans around me were bourgeois Wiccans. And then I read the introduction by Alan Moore to Steampunk Magazine (Margaret Killjoy was its editor), and then I realise that there are anarchists and occultists and they’re the same people. But I also realised there were anarchists who are into steampunk, not just into it because it was a cool aesthetic but because…well, because stories.

    And myth.

    And magic.

    Because here’s why Margaret Killjoy was my hero for so fucking long (still is, actually). What she saw about an aesthetic built on fantasy and an alternative vision born of the industrial age is what every really good fantasist, but also every good theorist and mystic, sees: the world not only could have been different, it still can be. And not only can it be, but the certain sorts of people who give way too much time thinking about how it still can be different are the ones who have the potential to make it different.

    Because steampunk ultimately was about what might have happened if all the clockworks and steam engines and airships didn’t go away just because the capitalist industrialists realized they were inefficient. We could still have had machines that made sense, whose workings you could watch, alien as they were to the peasants and townsfolk of Europe and its colonies. You could open up a clock and see how it worked, and because you saw how it worked you could have power over it. You could turn a valve that ran a factory and make the factory stop, or you could rig up your own brazier and basket and ask your geeky seamstress friends to stitch together a big canvas for you and next thing you know? You’re floating over the city with your friends.

    Now? Now everything’s gotta be bought, even steampunk shit. The capitalists ruin everything.

    Steampunk Magazine was an anarcho-anti-capitalist fantasy that felt just as true, just as possible as all the downtowns full of skyscrapers and stores full of credit card machines that ‘actually exist.’ There was something about the way it presented fantasy that made it feel less fantastic while making everything else around you seem like pure fiction. Why couldn’t the Luddites have destroyed the factories and replaced them with clockwork automatons so we all had time to build cool goggles and cobble together houses from machine parts or clothing from scraps, and then adorn it all in gilded Anarchy symbols made with cogs?

    If humans can come up with the internet, Walmart, or nuclear waste, we humans ought to be capable of prettier shit, too.

    That’s what I learned from Margaret Killjoy, back when I was a wee anarchist lad living in a crumbling two-story witch-house, planting sacred trees and hanging runes and sigils made from clock pieces and broken glass from their branches. Everything was possible, everything else was possible, and it could be beautiful and absurd and fantastic and fun and as anarchist as we wanted it to be.

    Towards that end, Margaret put together a pretty awesome book, too. Mythmakers and Lawbreakers, a collection of interviews with and writing about anarchist fiction. For that book Margaret interviewed one of my other heroes, and even cooler got to stand next to that other hero and talk to people:

    see video on Vimeo

    Because Ursula K Le Guin is another one of those people who tell you that it’s possible to have and be something else if you just convince others that they can also do it too, at which point there are enough of you to make that world.

    That’s fiction. But it’s also myth. And more than anything, that’s what magic has always been.

    So, oh. This is supposed to be a book review and not a slobbering fanboy propaganda piece (but it’s that too). Because Margaret’s got a new book out, published by that swanky fantasy publisher TOR.

    The book’s called The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion, and I think you should read it. You should read it if you’re an anarchist or a witch, and definitely if you’re an anarchist and a witch. And also you should read it if you aren’t, because it’s damn good.

    It’s a novella, so I shouldn’t tell you too much about the plot. Except that it’s about squatted land in the middle of nowhere inhabited by people who decided to stop caring about gender or the State or buying and selling, and maybe also decided to summon a land spirit to protect their community against the police and people who might want to take over their utopia. And that goes wrong, just like many other utopias go wrong.

    You get to read about some cops getting gored.

    You get to read what it might be like to live in a world where gender and sexuality isn’t a thing people even think about at all.

    And by reading it you’ll get to see what it might be like to live in a world where people write things like that, things that make you feel like even more things are possible, and that maybe one day we can live in a world where everything that we think of now as fiction becomes more true than what everyone else tells us is real. Because we’re already living in that world, in no small part thanks to Margaret Killjoy’s fantastic aesthetic anarcho-fun heresy.

    The book comes out August 15th, but you can pre-order it from Red Emma’s. While you’re waiting you can read the first chapter here, and also read this short story by Margaret on Tor’s online site.

    And check out everything else Margaret has done–it’s amazing, and maybe you’ll get as inspired as I’ve been.

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    Antinomies of Democracy

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    This piece is the twenty-sixth essay in the June C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Anarchy and Democracy.” It is written in reply to contributions by Nathan Goodman, contributions by Kevin Carson, and Wayne Price.

    I thought I had pretty well had my say on the subject of democracy and anarchy, but comparing the material I’ve written to the contributions I’ve submitted, I see a couple of responses languishing among the drafts. I also find that the real impasse in my exchanges with Wayne Price leaves me considerably less than satisfied. So I want to take a final opportunity to respond to what seems most and least promising in the arguments for “anarchist democracy” and then, in the hopes of making my original position a bit clearer, I want to attempt a Proudhonian defense of what seems defensible in “democratic practices.”

    I.—Principles and Rhetoric in Defense of “Democracy”

    Several contributors to the exchange have made a point of talking about the dangers of overreacting to the language of “democracy” or leaning too heavily on etymology. Those are obviously useful cautions. Most of us are familiar with the quibbles by which authoritarians of various sorts attempt to use etymology against anarchism and expand the envelope of “anarchy” to include their pet archisms. Precisely because those rhetorical maneuvers are so familiar, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a bit of precision and theoretical substance from the advocates of “anarchist democracy.” And those of us who see “democracy,” as we understand it, across a very important divide from anarchy, may perhaps be forgiven for a certain degree of caution and skepticism.

    Clarity in the exchange requires dealing with both matters of principle and matters of rhetoric. If “democracy” and “anarchy” are to represent compatible projects, then it has to be clear how that works—and then it seems necessary to explain why retaining the language of “democracy” to describe anarchic relations is useful. I think that the exchange has demonstrated that it is not particularly easy to do both.

    In “Anarchism as Radical Liberalism,” Nathan Goodman makes an interesting appeal for political and economic systems characterized by “openness.” Using the work of Don Lavoie, he makes a brief but intriguing case for glasnost as the defining quality of a “radicalized democracy.” As I understand what is proposed, it seems this is a path to anarchy of the sort I have rejected in my initial essay, but it seems to be a good-faith proposal. Also the path from “openness” to anarchy seems to have fewer clear obstacles than other nominally “democratic” options. This seems to be a principled position with possibilities worth exploring, but its “democratic” character seems in large part to be an accident of the Cold War context. Goodman even quotes Lavoie as saying: “The Russian word translates better into ‘openness’ than it does into ‘democracy.’”

    I think Kevin Carson ends up in a similar place, though by a somewhat different path. In his lead essay, “On Democracy as a Necessary Anarchist Value,” he quickly dispatches the question of opposing principles by simply equating “democracy” and “anarchy,” going on to emphasize the goal of maximizing human agency. I can certainly agree that at least one of the goals of anarchists should be to maximize individual agency (although, given my emphasis on Proudhon’s theory of collective force, it’s not hard to anticipate the complications I expect), but, even with Carson’s lengthy explanation, I have a hard time making any sense of the impulse to call anarchy “democracy.”

    With his references to David Graeber’s work, I think that Carson provides various pieces of an inclusive narrative according to which “democracy” stands for something that is “as old as history, as human intelligence itself”—and perhaps that something is even somewhat anarchistic in its character. I understand the impulse behind Graeber’s defense of a “democracy” that is not narrowly defined by a Western philosophical canon. But, honestly, Graeber’s rhetoric is not reassuring. When he claims that that “democratic assemblies can be attested in all times and places,” or that “all social systems, even economic systems like capitalism, have always been built on top of a bedrock of actually-existing communism,” I can’t help but think that the keywords have been stretched close to the point of meaninglessness. And it’s not because I think any particular political tradition has a monopoly on useful political concepts and principles. It is rather because my experience is that there are very few well-defined concepts or well-wrought principles that are unchanging over time (let alone stable through translation) and clear without substantial contextualization and unitary in application. The socialism of 1834 and the socialism of 1848, to take one example, were worlds apart. The mutualism of 1865 and the mutualism of 1881 were perhaps just as distinct. But la démocratie in France in 1848 and la Démocratie in the same time and place were also distinct, the various organizations and institutions that invoked the name of one or both were diverse in their values, and the norms of a new chapter of political discourse were being worked out on the fly, often in very close connection with the rapidly changing fortunes of the Second Republic. I don’t know many political terms that have not represented substantially different practices over relatively short periods of time, and it seems to me that the twists and turns of Graeber’s argument testify to the difficulties of claiming “democracy” for this perennial (and possibly anarchistic) something.
    Perhaps because it has not, in general, been thought of as something that one practiced, anarchy seems bright, shiny and clearly defined in contrast with virtually all of these other potential keywords. If there is as much confusion about anarchy in many circles as there is about democracy (or any number of other political concepts), the source of the uncertainty seems different. After all, even the theoretically sophisticated treatments of anarchy tend to differentiate the concept from its popular connotations of chaos and uncertainty by attempting to show what has been considered chaotic and uncertain in a different light. Anarchist thinkers as diverse as Proudhon, Bellegarrigue, Kropotkin and Labadie have all played with the relationships between “anarchy” and “order,” most often suggesting that existing conceptions might be flipped. But a reversal is different from an uncoupling of the two notions and when we say that “anarchy is order” it is order, and not anarchy, that we are asking people to redefine. So it is likely that when we talk about anarchy, most people really know what we’re talking about, but lack our positive feelings about the notion—and our critique of the alternatives—and our optimistic sense of where it all might lead. That poses a particular set of problems for those of us who want to promote anarchy as a political ideal, which I am happy to take on, but I’m not sure what advantage is gained by adding the different set of problems posed by this vague, ubiquitous reconstruction of “democracy.”

    In both of these cases however, while I disagree with the rhetorical framing, I am at least sympathetic to the stated goals. I expect that the societies envisioned are, in both cases, rather distant from my own ideal, but both involve healthy progress in a decidedly libertarian direction. If “democracy” is the best we can do—and even the sorts of democracy proposed here seem pretty far removed at the moment—then these are proposals that seem to glean what is best from democratic tradition (broadly defined).

    I wish I could say the same about my other democratic interlocutor, Wayne Price, but his “Last Response” is not the sort of thing that inspires confidence. I might seem ungrateful to take exception to its agreeable tone. Price begins with what seems to be a mix of conciliation and praise:

    Shawn Wilbur is correct, I think, when he writes, “Price and I have enough in common to have a useful conversation about anarchy and democracy, and that we could start with something very close to a shared political language.” Since I have a great deal of respect for Shawn as an interpreter of Proudhon, let me try to state what may be common in our views:

    Unfortunately, what I actually said was this:

    This ought to mean that Price and I have enough in common to have a useful conversation about anarchy and democracy, and that we could start with something very close to a shared political language. That we obviously have not had a useful conversation requires some explaining…

    And that paragraph was immediately preceded by this one, which explains the “shared political language” in rather different terms than Price’s attempt:

    It seems to me that Price has made his own position clear. He envisions a democracy in which minorities will, in fact, be subject to the decisions of majorities. The silver lining he offers is that the minorities will not be static, so we will not see the same sort of oppression we see in more conventionally hierarchical societies. He seems to see this relationship as just and legitimate, although it is not clear whether he believes there is a political duty to assent to some “will of the people” or whether he believes that there is some more utilitarian justification. What seems clear enough, however, is that this majority rule is not a failure in his mind. Given that apparent fact, it does not seem out of line to attribute to Price some sort of (still not precisely clarified) democratic principle—and one that occupies a place on the political map awfully close to the one I assigned it in my own account.

    It’s hard to know what to make of the rest of Price’s response. He spends a third of it speculating about “whether Shawn is saying that this means that I am not a real anarchist,” lumping himself together with a group of people for whom “radical democracy” does not seem to have a uniform meaning, but not actually responding to my characterization of his position.

    Looking back over his contributions, however, it seems to me that my characterization is fair enough and that, rather than shifting the language of “democracy” onto relations governed by other relations (openness, glasnost, maximizing agency, etc.), Price seems intent on applying the language of “anarchy” to relations that are hierarchical and governmentalist in principle. He is correct, of course, that we both believe that “[a]t times it will be necessary to make collective decisions using democratic procedures,” at least in the short run. But the nature of his response—the mangled quotation, the failure to clarify, etc.—make that “democratic” eventuality seem even more dire to me. This is not, to be just a bit blunt, the sort of interaction you want to have with someone whose pitch is basically “we’ll take turns oppressing each other a little.”

    But let’s not leave things there.

    II.—“Self-Government” and the Principle of Federation

    Let’s acknowledge that the points of agreement and disagreement among the contributors here are complicated. For example, the “democratic practices” that Price seems to approve, and I anticipate with some dread, do not seem to be the characteristic practices of Graeber’s perennial and ubiquitous “democracy,” and it might not be too great a stretch to associate them, in that context, with “failure” in the sense that I have done in my contributions. As the market advocates among us are almost certainly aware, it is a common trope among Graeber-inspired anarchists that people only turn to counting and calculation as a means of organizing themselves when society (characterized in this view by a basis in communism and informal democracy) begins to break down. And that reading seems generally faithful to Graeber’s variety of social anarchism, at the core of which is a faith that people can work things out without recourse to mechanisms like market valuation or vote-taking.

    When we shift our focus away from the questions of vocabulary and rhetoric, our divisions look different. In order to wrap up my contributions to this exchange, I would like to redraw the lines between us in a way that accepts—within clearly defined limits—Wayne Price’s contention that we are in agreement about the practical side of things. Having proposed this new divide, I then want to undertake a limited defense of democratic practices, including voting, in a way that draws on Proudhon’s later works and, in a sense, completes the argument against the democratic principle. This move is not just consistent with the Proudhonian analysis I’ve been making, but is probably required by any very serious application.

    I want to avoid getting too bogged down in the details of Proudhon’s final works, where we can find his own unfinished attempts to reimagine institutions like universal suffrage and constitutionalism in anarchistic terms. Those who are familiar with the approach in Theory of Property will recognize that the recuperation of democracy is the logical complement to the recuperation of property. For those unfamiliar with that work, here is a key passage:

    We have finally understood that the opposition of two absolutes [property, the governmental State]—one of which, alone, would be unpardonably reprehensible and both of which, together, would be rejected, if they worked separately—is the very cornerstone of social economy and public right: but it falls to us to govern it and to make it act according to the laws of logic.

    The “New Theory” of property depends on the recognition “that the reasons [motifs, motives, impetus, justification] for property, and thus its legitimacy, must be sought, not in its principle or its origin, but in its aims.” On the basis of principle, property remains “theft,” absolutist and “unpardonably reprehensible.” But as early as 1842, in the Arguments Presented to the Public Prosecutor Regarding the Right of Property, Proudhon had been exploring the possibility that the equalization of property and the limitation of its scope might allow its effects to be generally neutralized. As he embraced the notion of antimony, and it became clear that this sort of counterbalancing was perhaps the most promising means of at least neutralizing authority, the doors were thrown wide open for the consideration of what other institutions might serve as social counterweights. And it should be no surprise that universal suffrage, constitutionalism and other existing democratic practices were subject to similar attempts at recuperation in Proudhon’s final works.

    But in what sense could such a theory be anarchic or anarchistic? Obviously, this is not the simple anarchy, identified as a perpetual desideratum in The Principle of Federation, but if the effect is indeed to balance and thus neutralize the authoritarian or absolutist elements in various institutions—all of them still considered suspect in principle—then perhaps we have anarchy as a resultant. It may not be immediately obvious how a “governed” opposition becomes the “very cornerstone of social economy and public right,” but it should be very easy for us to identify anarchy with the combined effects of various opposing forces or tendencies. The principle of anarchy is not compromised by the fact that anarchy is inseparable from conflict. Like the principle of authority, it is a response to that fact.

    If any of this seems unfamiliar or outlandish, consider that what Proudhon proposed for “property” was not significantly different from Bakunin’s treatment of “authority” in “God and the State.” In the context of his quite thorough rejection of the principle of authority, the way to avoiding “spurning every [individual] authority” is to treat expertise as a matter of difference between individuals and not of social hierarchy, and then to neutralize the potentially authoritarian effects of that difference by balancing expertise against expertise.

    It would be easy, at this point, to expand the analysis of Proudhon’s final works and trace his own work towards the recuperation of at least certain democratic practices, which we should probably understand as complementary to the recuperation of property. But that would be a long and convoluted tale. Instead, I would simply like to pick out one aspect of Proudhon’s theory—his frequent use of the English term self-government among the synonyms for anarchy—and propose the bare outline how anarchic self-government might function in practice.

    Let’s figure out how we might build a road, or undertake similar projects, using the principle of federation and the sociology of collective force. Readers can then determine whether the distinctions that I have been proposing do or do not actually make a difference. I’ll structure the sketch around four basic observations about social organization:

    The importance of specific decision-making mechanisms or organizational structures to the organization of a free society is almost certainly overestimated. If we are considering building a road, then there are all sorts of technical questions to be answered. We need to know about potential users, routes, construction methods, ecological impacts, etc.—and the answers to all of these questions will significantly narrow the range of possible proposals. We need to make sure that the plans which seem to serve specific local needs can be met with local resources, which will further narrow the possibilities. And in a non-governmental society, there can be no right to coerce individuals in the name of “the People,” nor can there be any obligation for individuals to give way to the will of the majority—and this absence of democratic rights and duties must, I think, be recognized, if the society is to be considered even vaguely anarchistic—so new limitations are likely to appear when individuals feel that their interests are not represented by proposals.

    The simplest sort of self-government, where individuals simply pursue a combination of their own interests—including, of course, their interests as members of various social collectivities—and the knowledge necessary to serve them, will either lead to proposals that are acceptable to all the interested parties or they will encounter some obstacle that this sort of simple self-government appears unable to overcome. This second case is presumably the point at which a vote and the imposition of the will of the majority might seem useful. But what is obvious is that such a resolution does not solve the problem facing this particular polity. This sort of democracy is what happens when the simplest sort of self-government—which is probably not worth calling government at all—breaks down, and it involves relations that seem difficult to reconcile with the notion of self-government.

    But perhaps this very simple self-government revolves around the wrong sort of self.

    The “self” in anarchic self-government is neither simply the human individual, nor “the People,” understood abstractly, but some real social collectivity. The vast majority of Proudhon’s sociological writings actually relate to the analysis of how unity-collectivities, organized social groups with a unified character, emerge and dissolve in society, but what is key for us to note here is that we are not talking about abstract notions like “the People.” Instead, if we are talking about a sort of social self-government, it would seem that the avoidance of exploitation and oppression is going to depend on carefully identifying real collectivities to which various interested parties belong. While “the People” may find their mutual dependence a rather abstract matter, the more precisely we can identify and clarify the workings of specific collectivities, the less chance there should be that purely individual interests undercut negotiations among the members of those collectivities.

    One of the important elements of Proudhon’s sociology is his recognition that collectivities may have different interests than the strictly individual interests of the persons of which they are composed. That means that individuals may find themselves forced to recognize their own interests as complex and perhaps in conflicts, depending on the scale and focus of analysis. This may mean, for example, that there will be hard choices between the direct satisfaction of individual desires and various indirect, social satisfactions. But it should also mean that the more strictly individual sorts of satisfaction cannot be neglected when members are thinking about the health and success of the group. To the extent that real collectivities can be identified, and decisions regarding them limited to the members of those collectivities, negotiations can be structured quite explicitly around the likely trade-offs. To the extent that the health and success of the collectivity depends on lively forms of conflict among the members (and Proudhon made complexity and intensity of internal relations one of the markers of the health—and the freedom—of these entities), then the more conscious all members must be of the need to maintain balance without resorting to some winner-take-all scenario.

    It will, of course, not always be possible to resolve conflict by bringing together a single collectivity. There will be issues that can be resolved through additional fact-finding or compromises within the group, but there will be others that call for the identification of other groups of interested parties, whether in parallel with the existing groups, addressing different sorts of shared interests, at a smaller scale, addressing interests that can be addressed separately from the present context, or on a larger scale, addressing issues shared by the given group and other groups as well. We can already see how this analysis leads to federalism as an organizing principle, but perhaps it is not quite clear how and why these various groups might be constituted.

    The “nucleus” of every unity-collectivity is likely to be a conflict, problem or convergence of interests. One of the consequences of breaking with the governmental principle ought to be the abandonment of the worldview that sees society always present as “the People,” a fundamentally governmental collectivity always present to intervene in the affairs of individual persons. While there might be a few institutions of self-government that enjoy a perpetual existence, anarchists should almost certainly break with the notion that that each individual is obliged to stand as a citizen of some general polity whenever called to account for themselves.

    Instead, the principle of voluntary association and careful attention to real relations of interdependence ought to be our guides. And the rich sort of self-interest we’ve been exploring here ought to serve us well in that regard. To abandon the assumptions of governmentalism and take on the task of self-government is going to be extremely demanding in some cases, so we might expect that individuals will desire to keep their relations simple where they can, coming together to form explicit associations only when circumstances demand it—and then dissolving those association when circumstances allow.

    Where existing relations seem inadequate to meet our needs and desires, then some new form of association is always an option—and with practice hopefully we will learn to take on the complex responsibilities involved. Where existing relations seem to bind us in ways that stand in the way of our needs and desires, we’ll learn to distinguish between those existing associations which simply do not serve and those of a more fundamental, inescapable sort—and hopefully we will grow into those large-scale responsibilities from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Conventions for the use of property, the distribution of revenue and products, the mechanics of exchange, etc. can probably be approached in much the same way we would approach the formation of a new workgroup, the extension of a roadway, the establishment of sustainable waste or stormwater disposal, etc.

    Organization, according to the federative principle, is a process by which we identify—or extricate—specific social “selves,” on the one hand, or establish their involvement in larger-scale collectivities, on the other, and establish the narrow confines within which various “democratic” practices might come into play. If we are organized in anarchistic federations, then we can expect that organization to be not just bottom-up, but very specifically up from the problems, up from the local needs and desires, up from the material constraints, with the larger-scale collectivities only emerging on the basis of converging interests. Beyond the comparatively temporary nature of the federated collectivities, we should probably specify that we are talking about a largely consultative federalism, within which individuals strive to avoid circumstances in which decision among options is likely to become a clear loss for any of the interested parties. If we are forced by circumstances to resort to mechanisms like a majority vote, then we will want to contain the damage as much as possible. But I suspect we will often find that the local decisions that are both sufficiently collective and divisive to require something worth calling “democratic practices,” but also sufficiently serious to push us to confrontations within local groups may find solutions through consultation with other, similar groups. Alternately, if the urgency is not simply local—if, for example, ecological concerns are a factor—they may find themselves “solved,” not by local desires at all, but by consideration of the effects elsewhere.

    Taking these various observations together, it should be clear that I do indeed believe that sometimes we will be required to fall back on familiar sorts of democratic practices, but I hope it is also clear why, in very practical terms, I believe that this will constitute a failure within an anarchist society.

    III.—A Note on Guarantism

    I would be remiss if I did not very briefly return to Proudhon’s Theory of Property and the proposal there, according to which “the opposition of two absolutes,” each objectionable on principle, becomes “the very cornerstone of social economy and public right.” In the previous section I have obviously been attempting to sketch out a federated society in which the balances struck would be between less objectionable and absolute elements, suggesting a fairly well developed sort of anarchy, in the context of which, a complex sort of consensus is the ideal. But, as I’ve suggested, this is a demanding standard and other sorts of balances might be struck. The clues in Proudhon’s late work suggest that perhaps his recuperation of universal suffrage would have functioned in a similar way to his recuperation of domain, and perhaps that it is not simply the anarchistic “citizen-state” that would have functioned as a counterweight to property. My reservations about Proudhon’s late theory of property arise from the fact that domain is potentially a very formidable power within society, but it is at least presented in those works as a largely defensive element. My reservations about democratic practices is that they are much more likely to be invasive and that, in the presence of that potentially invasive power, various defensive counterweights would likely have to be strengthened, if a real balance was to be struck.

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    Book Review: The Day the Country Died — A History of Anarcho Punk 1980–1984

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    From Freedom UK

    There are many great things about Ian Glasper’s The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980–1984. First, it’s convenient and persuasive to be able to read about a number of related bands in the same book. Don’t have to search here and there for information. Second, it’s solid seeing an emphasis just on anarcho punk. Just like nothing can replace holding hard copy of a zine in your hands, nothing can substitute for a substantive book. Third, back in the day, if you were on the fringes of multiple scenes or were really localised, then there was no way to know all these bands. Yeah, you nodded your head, but there’s a difference between knowing names and knowing the sound and history.

    Several decades ago, it was impossible — or very expensive — to find so much of the music covered in this volume. The sounds were limited to those who could find and buy the records, copy them to cassette, and/or live where the records were imported. Now they’re all on YouTube. Read a chapter, then go listen to them. That simple. I’ve heard more bands in the past ten days than I was ever exposed to. For accelerating anarcho punk history, literacy, and relationships, this book is great.

    Plenty of interviews. Lots of pictures. Writing has personality and engagement; good tone, and accessible, like zines from the period — but seasoned with maturity and experience. This is a natural reference text. You can skip around, read about a band here or there, read from front to back, or read by region. Just plain solid work. Has a place in any political punk’s library.

    Most vital point is there is actually a chapter on Oi Polloi! Long my favorite punk band (how can you not love “Boot Down the Door”?). Made the book for me, really. Sure, yes, you can find PDFs of the book online for free. But why not support the press PM Press, and the author. If we don’t support them, then who will?

    Luther Blissett

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    From Inclusion to Resistance

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    From CrimethInc.

    Neither Trump's Trans Ban nor Assimilation, but Total Liberation

    Well-meaning allies and earnest trans activists responded with dismay to Trump’s announcement that transgender people are to be banned from military service once more, recognizing it as a rollback of LGBT inclusion. Behind the scenes, however, some of us reacted with relief: at least we don’t have to worry about being drafted for some rich man’s war. Do we really want to legitimize the US military in return for the forms of legitimacy that are now being taken from us? How does this question sit in the decades-long history of LGBT struggles? And what does it mean that this question is returning to the fore right now?

    To allies: the best way you can support trans people is by ensuring that none of us ever has to join the army in the first place. Help us fight for access to health care, community, camaraderie, self-respect, and options for survival that don’t come at the expense of others’ survival. We shouldn’t have to hire on as mercenaries for the biggest armed gang in the world to get those things.

    To others in the trans community: the best way we can fight for our own liberation and the liberation of all people is to create a world in which the US military does not and cannot exist. When we legitimize the US military, we are legitimizing the very weapons that politicians like Trump will employ against us. The purpose of institutions like the US military is to impose control by means of coercive force; they have always been used against those on the margins of society. Participating in these institutions is no way to achieve self-determination: the stronger they are, the less assured our own freedom will be.

    Liberation, not Assimilation

    As in the same-sex marriage debate, every “right” that we would supposedly gain from the right to serve in the military is either not worth having or something that everyone should have without having to join the army. If you need health care, you shouldn’t have to marry someone to get it; if you need a scholarship to college, you shouldn’t have to pledge to kill people to get it. On both of these issues, mainstream LGBT activists missed the opportunity to talk about the deeper issues that connect all of us—issues that put us in conflict with our rulers, offering the possibility of real social transformation.

    Here’s an example. The Trump Administration began their assault on the late-blooming liberalism of Obama’s trans-inclusive policies by rolling back some of the recommendations regarding bathroom access for transgender students in public schools. The way that students are forced into one of two standardized bathrooms—learning gender difference through this process of sorting and segregation—reproduces in miniature the ways that the school system categorizes, restricts, and shoves everyone down different paths along lines of identity. The wealthy and obedient are shot upwards into a life of advanced degrees and student loan debt, while the rest slip into the pipeline to prison or service work drudgery. Whatever its apologists say, school serves to sort us into a hierarchical society and to train us to accept authority.



    What’s radical about trans students contesting bathroom and gender assignment is the possibilities this opens for all students to contest authority. If we don’t accept their rules regarding which toilets to use, why should we accept the legitimacy of the system that functions as a school-to-prison pipeline? While we support anything that can reduce the misery of trans kids, we also recognize that trans-inclusive bathroom policies are a safety valve intended to divert student resistance and to bolster the legitimacy of a failing public school system. As with marriage and the military, trans liberation in schools isn’t just a question of easing our inclusion into them. It would demand something more like dismantling them altogether.

    It’s strategic for defenders of the status quo to re-center the LGBT rights debate around trans people in the military at this moment. As transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary communities are appearing in mass media and popular consciousness in unprecedented numbers, an optimist might speculate that US gender relations could come up for renegotiation—along with all the institutions they undergird. What better way to protect those relations and institutions than by reducing the scope of the discussion to the most reactionary formulation possible: integration into the military?

    It’s better for both liberals and conservatives that we stop talking about radically reconfiguring health care, sexuality, education, the economy, and numerous other social institutions shot through with patriarchal norms. Those conversations could put anything on the table. If we can keep trans people and their supporters fighting for the “right” to kill America’s enemies abroad, we won’t have to worry as much about them undermining American institutions at home.

    From Liberation to Inclusion

    Let’s look at how gay and lesbian people have related to military exclusion in the past. This history may offer useful insights for transgender people today.

    The first formal gay rights demonstrations in US history took place in the spring of 1965 at the White House, Civil Service Commission, State Department, and the Pentagon. Activists from what was then called the homophile movement picketed and leafleted in protest against the exclusion of homosexuals from federal employment in the armed forces, State Department, and other government bureaucracies.

    Inspired by the civil rights movement, these demonstrations reflected a new “militancy” on the part of a previously timid community. But these genteel pickets neither captured the attention of the homosexuals on whose behalf they were ostensibly organized nor influenced the government to change its policies of exclusion. As the war in Vietnam escalated, protesting to beincluded in the US war machine attracted little sympathy from social movements increasingly fighting to prevent young people from being trapped within it.

    By 1969, younger gays and lesbians inspired by the New Left and youth countercultures were articulating a dramatically different politics around homosexuality and the military. For instance, a gay theater collective in Berkeley staged a performance riffing off of Muhammad Ali’s defiant critique of war, titled, “No Vietnamese Ever Called Me a Queer.” Early Gay Liberation Front groups offered counseling to young men around how to navigate local draft boards in relation to their sexuality. One notorious collective in Oakland parked a van outside an induction center and offered incoming draftees blowjobs, then provided them with photographic evidence of their ineligibility for military service.

    These gay liberationists didn’t aspire to win inclusion for a homosexual minority in established heterosexist institutions within a framework of equality. They saw themselves as the vanguard of a struggle to unlock the capacity for same-sex love possible in all people. They believed that this love could undermine militarism by replacing the fear, hatred, and violence promoted by a patriarchal society with affection, desire, and a recognition of common interests. From late 1969 onwards, gay liberation intertwined critically with the anti-war movement, challenging its sexist and homophobic tendencies while deepening its vision of peace and international solidarity.

    By the mid-1970s, however, internal divisions had isolated most of the gay liberation front groups. Lesbians gravitated towards feminist organizing while gay male activists pursued an increasingly single-issue agenda. Yet the anti-militarist roots of gay liberation remained; when Leonard Matlovich made headlines after coming out as gay and fighting his discharge from the Army, some gays and lesbians offered support, while others condemned the campaign as a betrayal of the ideals of gay liberation. Lesbians flocked to the anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s, while lesbians and gay men took active roles in Latin American solidarity struggles, continuing to link sexual and gender liberation with resistance to militarism.

    However, by the 1990s, the politics of assimilation seemed triumphant. Many fiery young LGBT activists targeted ROTCs on college campuses, but most framed their campaigns as anti-discrimination efforts rather than making common cause with whose who suffered at the hands of the US war machine. By the time gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were allowed to enlist openly, few voices within the mainstream LGBT movement challenged this “progressive” development. With “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed, gay and lesbian liaison units flourishing in urban police departments, and federal non-discrimination statutes in place in most government bureaucracies, the full integration of sexual minorities into the repressive power of the state seemed at hand.

    From Inclusion to Resistance

    Times have changed again. While older gay and lesbian community leaders continue to champion pro-police and pro-military lines, younger queer and trans generations increasingly not only reject but actively resist these politics. Queer and trans millennials have taken active roles in Black Lives Matter, protests against police violence, and anti-deportation resistance. Pride festivals this summer have been wracked with controversy between younger radicals who want to minimize or exclude police and older generations who want to collaborate with law enforcement.

    We see evidence of the radicals’ success in eroding pro-police LGBT politics in the escalating social media campaigns by police intended to position them as protectors and allies of LGBT people. Trump attempted to capitalize on this sentiment after the Pulse massacre, when he attempted to shift the focus away from anti-queer violence towards “radical Islamic terrorism” and the need for an ever more repressive state to target migrants, Muslims, and “bad guys.” Yet substantial queer and trans participation in anti-Trump demonstrations and organizing reflect a widespread rejection of this effort to turn attention towards scapegoats and away from state power.



    As a result, Trump has decided that the LGBT constituency is expendable. It was already essentially lost to him, with the exception of those gay men and a few lesbians who identify more with the interests of capital and the state than with others like themselves. He’ll lose virtually no support from anyone who might have previously favored him for his anti-trans move, and he’ll shore up his support from the far right—the proponents of escalating repression. With his popular legitimacy flagging under Russia scandals and legislative ineffectuality, he hopes to stabilize his power from the top down by consolidating his relationship with the forces that directly carry out coercive violence. We see something similar in Turkey, with Erdogan’s purge of the army paving the way for his seizure of increasingly centralized power—or in Russia, with Putin’s anti-gay laws serving as a bone thrown to the Orthodox Church.

    So perhaps it isn’t useful to understand Trump’s move simply as an instance of transphobia. Trump is merely making calculations about how best to keep the sinking ship of his administration afloat. He is treating us like Muslims, like Mexicans, like any demographic he computes to be vulnerable to scapegoating. At least with Christian conservatives, we can depend on the consistent ideological zealotry; with Trump, all that matters is power. That’s why he visits the CIA headquarters on his first day of office; that’s why he throws trans people under the bus.

    He has grasped something that is becoming more and more apparent around the world, from Egypt to Turkey to Venezuela: governments come and go, but whoever controls the deep state wields the power that determines our daily lives. This state of affairs cannot be remedied by elections, but only by revolution.


    Divide, conquer, and betray.


    And that’s why today, every important social movement begins from a basic opposition to the violence of the state. Whether people are responding to the monotony of pointless work enforced by debt and rising rents, or the constant policing and harassment and surveillance that structure more and more of our lives, or the imposition of destructive development upon the ecosystems we depend on, the result is the same. When our precarious lives become too miserable, we reach a boiling point. Invariably, the flashpoint takes the form of a reaction against police or military control.

    We’ve seen this over and over the past ten years, from Athens to Ankara, from Ferguson to Standing Rock. City, state, and federal police, the National Guard, and US soldiers, not to mention infiltrators and informants, have been instrumental over the past few years in preventing people in the United States from seizing back cities, halting pipelines, and ending state violence. Yet despite the overwhelming force at their disposal, the authorities know as well as we do that force alone won’t hold this regime together forever.

    Transgender people today are at a crossroads. Which side of the barricades will we be on? Will we be letting our commanding officer know which pronoun we prefer them to use as they order us to shoot tear gas canisters at our neighbors? Or will we be joining everyone who hungers for the freedom to determine our lives, our genders, our sexualities, and our futures together, as we see fit, outside the boxes offered to us by enlistment forms and cellblocks?

    The decision is up to us.

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    Caught in the Net

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    From Return Fire, volume #4. Editorial.

    notes from an era of cybernetic delirium

    Autumn 2016

    Back when this article first began coming together, a telling story appeared among the sensationalist reports of the British tabloid papers. A 89-year-old retired art teacher and former Royal Navy electrician, named only as Anne, retired to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland in order to end her life alongside others seeking less-restrictive assisted suicide laws than in their country of origin. Nothing remarkable in itself. What was more noticeable was her comments about what had led her there; namely that she could not keep up with technological-industrial society and found the world as it is today unnavigable and unbearable. “Why do so many people spend their lives sitting in front of a computer or television?” she asked in the feature. “People are becoming more and more remote. We are becoming robots. It is this lack of humanity.”

    No-one on these islands could be confused as to what Annie might be speaking of in these statements. Whether you consider it an exciting advance or perhaps even a necessary evil, it is indisputable that in the “developed” world these days there are few places to find refuge from the many faces of the screen; and, more specifically, from the networks that now bind together these devices and more. And not just in the sphere of communications media as we have previously understood it as limited to, nor to the workplace or home – from airports, country trails, churches, places of organised leisure, the web of signals and interfaces has spread, rather like a virus, throughout almost all corners of the cultures it emerged from or has colonised subsequently.

    These days it's rare to attend a concert where the front row is made up of attentive faces rather than those bathed in the glow behind the camera-phone lens, eagerly consuming the performance through a secondary medium or even perhaps absently recording to peruse at a later date, with no remaining need to be “in the moment” to be able to exchange opinions with our friends about what was truly the highlight of the night. Indeed, often it feels as if the event itself (whatever it may be) is of secondary importance to the flurry of digital activity that crowds around it; from the social media promotion beforehand to the online reviews appearing simultaneously with the evening's running order taking its course. “The most obvious use of Twitter,” according Eric Schmidt while CEO of Google, is in situations where “everybody is watching a play and are busy talking about the play while the play is underway.” Meanwhile, to text message your neighbours instead of dropping around unannounced has become entirely reasonable (finding acceptance even among age-groups who would previously have balked at the idea), more appropriate, more... neighbourly. Computer games, previously thought by some to be found among the lower reaches of detachment from the social realm, have now been ousted from that scale by new depths: watching other people playing computer games becoming a mass spectator sport.

    The writer Daniel Goleman gives us a familiar anecdote. “The little girl's head only came up to her mother's waist as she hugged her mum, and held on fiercely as they rode a ferry to a holiday island. The mother, though, didn't respond to her, or even seem to notice: she was absorbed in her iPad all the while.

    There was a reprise a few minutes later, as I was getting into a shared taxi van with nine female students who that night were journeying to a weekend getaway. Within a minute of taking their seats in the dark van, dim lights flicked on as every one of the women checked an iPhone or tablet. Desultory conversations sputtered along while they texted or scrolled through Facebook. But mostly there was silence.

    The indifference of that mother, and the silence among the students, are symptoms of how technology captures our attention and disrupts our connections. In 2006, the word 'pizzled' entered our lexicon; a combination of puzzled and pissed, it captured the feeling people had when the person they were with whipped out their BlackBerry [mid-conversation] and started talking to someone else. Back then people felt hurt and indignant in such moments.

    Today it's the norm.” Sociological literature has labelled an instance of such a behaviour an 'away'– a gesture which tells another person “I'm not interested in what's going on here and now”, now epidemic in a saturated media environment of continuous partial attention, from the boardroom to the living room. The new digital era is becoming so normalised in the minds of its participants that people born directly into the tech-boom of the 1980's and '90s onward can barely imagine the world another way – and yet there are many who remember a life less clustered by gadgets and some still of them who have not submitted to their embrace. “They say adapt or die. At my age,” stated Annie, “I feel I can’t adapt, because the new age is not an age that I grew up to understand.” That it is probably so easy to write off the complaints of an aged woman and her generation speaks of the callousness that has become so commonplace in industrial society towards its 'spent resources', as age-old respect for and wisdom from elders (that is, those deemed to have earned the title) becomes the scorn of the tech-literate towards the dismay of many of our predecessors at the dizzying pace of techno-acceleration, in a deskilled society less guided by attained and lived human wisdom than externally-implemented machine updates. The assumption is that it is they, as well as their more familiar technologies, that are 'obsolete'– without a place, without a future.

    Yet these observations could elicit the retort that what's at issue is simply mis- or over-use of the options that the digital medium are aligned towards. The tool is what we make of it, we tell ourselves. Here we encounter a classic trap in analysing a technology: focusing on the content (i.e. what information, stories, arguments etc. are conveyed, or what task performed) at the expense of examining the form (i.e. what the physical medium entails) to work out how it influences how we think, feel and act. How in control of the affects of the digital medium are we by choosing what we access through it? Or what, in itself, goes with the territory?

    Each technology carries within it a reflection of the ideology that it was crafted in the context of. What we are experiencing at the moment is a change that is maybe similar in scale and depth to that which heralded the industrial revolution; a paradigm shift in the way that we encounter the world, born from the productivist and capitalising mentality and yet perhaps distinct in many ways from the previous era in terms of how we are conditioned to operate by the tools we use. Some have called this the 'interface revolution'. At the centre of this, reaching even to a physiological level, is the internet. Before moving on to what this might mean for those of the anarchist space (or others) in search of a way out of the dominant culture, we would do well to examine these shifts. In much of the world the Net is no longer felt to be a distinct destination we access in a specific moment through a designated technology, but rather an environment we inhabit permanently, always on, always present, always transmitting and receiving; and despite the degree to which we almost accept it as a part of ourselves, to recall facts or retain social ties, one which simultaneously seems to fade into the background of many people's awareness.

    The Message & The Medium

    I can feel it too. Over the last few years I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping my neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going – so far as I can tell – but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think. I feel it most strongly when I'm reading. I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book or a lengthy article. My mind would get caught up in the twists of the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I'd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. […] Whether I'm online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski. [M]y brain, I realized, wasn't just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it – and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became. Even when I was away from the computer, I yearned to check e-mail, click links, do some Googling. I wanted to be connected.”

    Nicholas Carr

    Until relatively recently, for centuries the dominant Western culture has operated under a prevailing model of linearity, as can be seen in the development of literacy for example: reading meaning pursuing a single body of text, with a priority on contemplation, solitude (in at least a mental sense), and attentiveness. The form which the internet takes, with the simple leaf of a book replaced by the scramble of toolbars, links, hypertext, advertising, automatically-streaming video and so on, is cultivating a shift into a non-linear realm. Today we who are immersed in the online world often don't necessarily read left to right or top to bottom anymore, but skim around the page trying to pick out titbits of 'key' information rather than try to absorb the piece as a whole. It's no secret that by and large the media industries consider that “print is dead”, and the cultural direction is towards any and all publication eventually being virtual. Some researchers have claimed that their studies in topics such as subject, composition and narrative flow show creative writing to have steadily become less imaginative and diverse over the last decades, whereas graphic art for instance has shown an opposite trend as culture becomes even more spectacular and symbol-manipulating.

    Do you remember how you feel when you come away from any prolonged time on the internet? How it feels like you struggle to 'readjust' to the elements of our daily life which remain non-digitalised? Is there even much space between these moments for you anymore, fluttering between phonescreen, tablet, desktop? We could consider the scientific narrative which has come to the fore among neurologists (those who study the brain) about “neuro-plasticity”, as one potential story to consider among others in theorising our situation (obviously with an eye to the limitations, framings and biases inherent in its scientific tradition). Nicholas Carr quotes such a scientist, Michael Merzenich, who “ruminated on the Internet's power to cause not just modest alterations, but fundamental changes in our mental makeup. Noting that “our brain is modified on a substantial scale, physically and functionally, each time we learn a new skill or develop a new ability,” he described the Net as the latest in a series of “modern cultural specializations” that “contemporary humans can spend millions of 'practice' events at [and that] the average human a thousand years ago had absolutely no exposure to.” He concluded that “our brains are massively remodeled by this exposure.” He returned to this theme in a post on his blog in 2008, resorting to capital letters to emphasize his points. “When culture drives changes in the ways that we engage our brains, it creates DIFFERENT brains,” he wrote, noting that our minds “strengthen specific heavily-exercised processes.” While acknowledging that it's now hard to imagine living without the Internet and online tools like the Google search engine, he stressed that “THEIR HEAVY USE HAS NEUROLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES.”

    What we're not doing when we're online also has neurological consequences. Just as neurons that fire together wire together, neurons that don't fire together don't wire together. As the time we spend scanning Web pages crowds out the time we spend reading books, as the time we spend exchanging bite-sized text messages crowds out the time we spend composing sentences and paragraphs, as the time we spend hopping across links crowds out the time we devote to quiet reflection and contemplation, the circuits that support those old intellectual functions and pursuits weaken and begin to break apart. The brain recycles the disused neurons and synapses for other, more pressing work. We gain new skills and perspectives but lose old ones. […] Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts – the faster, the better. John Battelle, a onetime magazine editor and journalism professor who now runs an online advertising syndicate, has described the intellectual frisson he experiences when skittering across Web pages: “When I am performing bricolage in real time over the course of hours, I am 'feeling' my brain light up, I [am] 'feeling' like I'm getting smarter.” Most of us have experienced similar sensations while online. The feelings are intoxicating – so much so that they can distract us from the Net's deeper cognitive consequences.”

    Again, the temptation might be to blame the sheer volume of data which is available to us (the message) for all this – and indeed there's more to be said on this point – yet, again, we can't help but feel that there is something in the form itself (the medium) which pushes in this direction. Would this not be the roboticness, the remoteness to living social contact 'off-screen', which had so distressed Annie? Though in no way terminally ill, she feared ending up in the hospital or the nursing home. Perhaps what left her seeing no way out but a dignified end to a long (and, by her account, proud) life was seeing the world around her slip into delirium faster than herself.

    Digital Dementia

    While dementia is a disease that typically plagues the elderly, a new type of cognitive condition is affecting younger individuals in their early 20s and teens – a disorder known as “digital dementia.” Digital dementia is characterized as the deterioration of brain function as a result of the overuse of digital technology, such as computers, smart phones and Internet use in general, Medical Daily reported. This excess use of technology leads to unbalanced brain development, as heavy users are more likely to overdevelop their left brains, leaving their right brains underdeveloped. The left side of the brain is generally associated with rational thought, numerical computation and fact finding, while the right side of the brain is responsible for more creative skills and emotional thoughts. If the right brain remains under developed in the long term, it can lead to the early onset of dementia. "Ten to 15 percent of those with the mild cognitive disorders develop dementia," said psychiatrist Park Ki-Jeong. Common symptoms of digital dementia include memory problems, shortened attention spans and emotional flattening.”

    New 'Digital Dementia' Plaguing Young Tech Users

    Obviously, it's not as easy as reductionist science [ed. – see ‘A Profound Dis-ease’] would have it to separate one aspect of relative unhealth from another, the “emotional” from the “physical” and so on. But clearly all is not at ease with human well-being in the civilised world, and the symptoms commonly described as “neurological” are increasingly prevalent. One study across the Western world, “focusing on the changing pattern of neurological deaths from 1979 up to 1997, found that dementias were starting 10 years earlier – affecting more people in their 40s and 50s – and that there was a noticeable increase in neurological deaths in people up to the age of 74. [T]he speed and size of the increases in just 20 years points to mainly environmental influences.[1] Here in the U.K., new charities have appeared specifically for young sufferers of dementia and Parkinson's Disease, joining those already responding to surging cancer rates[2].

    Incredibly, it wasn't until 2013 that the authors of the DSM, the official psychiatrist's diagnostic manual, considered 'Internet-Use Disorder' enough of a worldly phenomena to warrant locking up into a discrete, individualising diagnosis for that year's edition (complete with the usual standardising 'solutions'). By around that time, others were estimating 5-10% of internet users to be addicted; as in, “unable to control their use”. In South Korea, home to the world's largest population of internet users, addiction has been recognised across age groups as far back as the '90s. It was there that the term 'digital dementia' was coined, designating a deterioration in cognitive abilities that is more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness. South Korean doctors have since reported a surge among young people who have become so reliant on electronic devices that they can no longer remember everyday details like their phone numbers. By the time the DSM had published their diagnosis, the amount of people aged 10-19 who use their smartphones for more than seven hours every day was close to 20%, with children more likely than adults to suffer “emotional underdevelopment” because their brains are still growing.

    In Korea, as in other Asian countries such as Taiwan, addiction among the young to gaming, social media and virtual realities is recognised as a national health crisis. But from where we are, you needn't travel that far to see the withdrawal symptoms of nervousness, anguish and irritability when kids (and not only) are separated from their devices. As the age-range of “digital natives” grows, their maladies become more recognisable and widespread.

    Generation App

    [Howard Gardner and Katie Davis explore] how young people view themselves and their relationships when smart devices are nearly ubiquitous, social rites happen via text message and the currency of popularity is traded in likes and comments on social-sharing apps. […] Gardner and Davis ask whether modern social networks are larger yet shallower than those of their parents and grandparents[...] The app mindset, they say, motivates youth to seek direct, quick, easy solutions – the kinds of answers an app would provide – and to shy away from questions, whether large or small, when there’s no “app for that.” […] But the external polish often hides deep-seated anxiety, outwardly expressed as a need for approval. In their conversations with camp counselors and teachers, Gardner and Davis were repeatedly told that youth today are risk-averse; the app generation, said one focus group participant, is “scared to death.” ”

    Is There an App for That?

    In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, one primary school has turned to speech and language therapy to try to 'rehabilitate' children three or four years old; who have become dependent on tablets and smartphones. We find that they are less communicative. They prefer their own company,” reported a teacher. When we give them blocks to play with you find them using them as pretend iPads or phones.” The therapist herself recounted it as a general trend throughout the schools I go to.[…] Attention, listening and turn-taking are necessary skills and they just don't have them.”

    Meanwhile, a sizeable chunk of those who have reached youth or adolescence casually report themselves to be pretty much always online through one device or another (or even several simultaneously). However, a good few also report their disenchantment with this “new normal”. Goleman cites one student who observes the loneliness and isolation that goes along with living in a virtual world of tweets, status updates and “posting pictures of my dinner”. He notes that his classmates are losing their ability for conversation, let alone the soul-searching discussions that can enrich the college years. And, he says, “no birthday, concert, hang-out session, or party can be enjoyed without taking the time to distance yourself from what you are doing” to make sure that those in your digital world know instantly how much fun you are having. Many who have interacted with those who have been raised in digital immersion comment on the devastating impact it has had on adventurousness and imagination; how many of today's teens have never been lost (literally or metaphorically), nor seen the point in random walks or other ways of building resilience and independence. By short-cutting the exploratory path to knowledge via discovery, a host of apps and search algorithms diminish engagement with the world and lead to standardised possibilites[3].

    The costs of all this digital engagement surpass the obvious deficit in face-to-face interaction which leaves Generation App unable to pick up on the nuances of non-verbal communication. To return for a moment to the Far East, in some countries there as many as 90% of children are deemed short-sighted (myopic), up from under 20% just a couple of decades before – a significant increase in time spent indoors (and, more than likely, plugged-in) is suspected the cause. In the West, around one person in three is now myopic. A recent survey of children in the U.K. found that a fifth of them didn't play outside at all on an average day, while one in nine hadn't ventured into environments such as parks, forests or beaches for over a year. It was noted that, based on the same study, three-quarters of children in Britain spent less time outside each day than the one hour guideline which the United Nations advises for prisoners [ed. – though, it must be said, this can regularly be denied to inmates in reality]. It's probably unnecessary for us to use up space here detailing all the profound spiritual and psycho-social intelligences undeveloped or engaged with as a consequence [ed. – see ‘The Stories Which Civilisation Holds as Sacred’], besides the more limited “health” ones as commonly recognised.

    We could continue at length about the results of this increase in sedentism; diabetes turning from a rare disease into a pandemic in the industrialised world; the links between WiFi signal exposure and cancer, reduced fertility, decreased ability to concentrate, and disturbed sleep[4]; or the specific deleterious effects of computer-time in general[5], but for the purposes of this essay we'll now turn to a modern sickness of another kind.

    Information Pollution

    “ “The pace of life feels morally dangerous to me,” Richard Ford, the novelist, wrote six years ago. It has only gotten worse since then, complains David M. Levy, a victim of information overload who is also a computer scientist at the University of Washington’s Information School. Levy is all but helpless, he says, when new e-mail arrives. He feels obliged to open it. He is similarly hooked on the news, images and nonsense that spill out of the Internet. He is also a receiver and sometimes a transmitter of “surfer’s voice,” the blanched prattling of someone on the phone while diddling around on the Web. “We are living lives of Web fragments,” he said. “We don’t remember that it is part of our birthright as human beings to have space and silence for our thoughts.” [He admits this affects not just him but,] in his view, most of the developed world.”

    Information Sickness

    It was 1981, long before the internet and the rise of the virtual, never-off, alway-connected world, that the novelist Ted Mooney coined the phrase 'information sickness', and today many of us are not only receivers but often to come degree transmitters of this white noise of data overload. Indeed it has almost become a social expectation in the fast-moving blur of this stage of modernity that we be present in a media environment that more and more becomes'the environment', that we participate in the never ending conversation about nothing, and respond. The weight of blocks of information hurtling towards us like a Tetris game leaves us too little time simply to reflect on what they really mean, while the constancy of paths these interruptions can take to now reach us (being in most Western consumers back-pockets at all times) scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious.

    To bring us back to the question of the message and its medium; Jerry Mander referred in decades passed to his early stance against the television, continuing his attempt to understand “what was happening to the way that we think and understand information in the television age; our minds were being channeled and simplified to match the channeled and simplified physical environment – suburbs, malls, freeways, high-rise buildings – that also characterized that period (and continues to do so today). This effect would take place, I argued, even if the violence and sex shows and the superficial comedies and the game shows were all removed from the medium, because the process of moving edited images rapidly through a passive human brain was so different from active information gathering, whether from books or newspapers or walks in nature. As a result people would become more passive, less able to deal with nuance and complexity, less able to read or create. People would get “dumber,” and have less understanding of world events even within an exploding information environment.

    […] In our society, speed is celebrated as if it were a virtue in itself. And yet as far as most human beings are concerned, the acceleration of the information cycle has only inundated us with an unprecedented amount of data, most of which is unusable in any practical sense. The true result has been an increase in human anxiety, as we try to keep up with the growing stream of information. Our nervous systems experience the acceleration more than our intellects do. […] As information is moved through different channels its character and its content change; political relationships, concepts, and styles change as well. Even the human spirit and human body change. Because of the way television signals are processed in the brain, thought patterns are altered and a unique, new relationship to information is developed: cerebral, out-of-context, passive.”

    Our faculties of memory itself are now significantly shifting to accommodate the online medium. David Brooks commented on it thus: “I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants – silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.” What he here celebrates as a liberation strikes us more as an evacuation, an emptying-out of our imaginative capabilities and an increased dependence on depersonalised machine inputs. “We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools,” one research group at Harvard concluded, “growing into interconnected systems that remember less by knowing information than by knowing where the information can be found.” Some, such as Paul Suderman, identify how the Net “teaches us to think like it does,” arguing that “it's no longer terribly efficient to use our brains to store information.” For those of us who consider that encounters with the unknown – and all the tangents, encounters and experiences that follow – to be a vital part of any process of knowledge-constitution, the 'Googlisation' of increasingly precise search results can only speak of another narrowing, another dumbing-down[6].

    The 'human resource' managers and technocrats are often aware of the destabilising effects of this information-overload for the smooth functioning of capitalist labour; hence studies' recommendation for office workers to take time from computer work or diddling around the 'social networks' between tasks to walk in the park; or even just to retire to a quiet room to look at photographs of 'natural settings', to allow the restorative powers the researchers wish to instrumentalise time to work their efficiency-boosting magic. However, it's far from clear that there are many stable mechanisms as yet to dissuade employees in the gigantic factory this society has become from repetitively losing themselves in the endless, mesmerising buzz of the Net; especially when they are conditioned (if not outright expected) to pursue this dependency outside of the traditional workplace.

    An aforementioned article uses Levy's perspective to assert that “[i]nformation-polluted people need to organize and protect psychic space and quiet time, Levy believes, much as environmentalists organized in the 1960s to protect wetlands and old-growth forests.” The implication of this statement seems explicit; that the defeat of these 'previous' struggles must be not only acknowledged (which, thus far, of course it must) but also accepted, and the survivors must retreat one trench deeper into anthropocentrism [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg11] to defend something identified as a separable, essential human quality. Yet, outside of this reductionist framework, what is the psychic space formed between a digitally-intoxicated breed of humanity and its relations, not with sun-dappled glades, the flash of the deer or our reflection in the brook, but with the myriad screens it has raised between itself and its world?

    Techno-Industrial Enclosure

    Now and in the future, everything must be in its place. Wonder would break a frantically desired monotony, a sorry excuse for life, where the daily humdrum is broken by the ceaseless melodies [ringtones] that resound everywhere (from delirious concerts in non-places like the subway, to the solitary symphonies in the most unexpected places like at night at the top of Stromboli [ed. – a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea near Sicily]). The desire is to know everything – place, time, activities – in order to cry: I am here, I am there, no problem, no worry, nothing unknown; the buried desire for the unknown is utterly dead, replaced by security. Because waiting is no longer part of this life, capital urgently needs space and time to be occupied; and no squandering is allowed, no elaboration of fantasy is tolerated except that of accumulating more; no misunderstanding, no anticipation lived with passion, determined by desire, sought after in itself for the satisfaction it brings.”

    Mobile Prosthesis

    Surely, one of the most ruinous elements of the information-age onslaught has been the hobbling of imagination, on a scale dwarfing the process already previously begun by the loss of our story-telling to TV[7]. What we can increasingly expect the psychic space occupied by many people to be was resonant with an experiment relayed to us via Bellamy Fitzpatrick on The Brilliant podcast. “[The researchers] felt that today's youth, specifically the teenagers in the case of this study, are so used to being stimulated all the time, are so used to being on telecommunications, are not used to sitting with their own thoughts (as crazy as that sounds) – and I would definitely say this applies to a lot of people who are older than this as well – and they wondered whether 'kids today', as the saying goes, could sit and entertain themselves with their own imagination. And it was exciting to me because actually they used that specific word. And so there was a study on 68 teenagers between 12 and 18 who voluntarily spent 8 hours alone without access to any telecommunications (so no internet, no phones, no computer, no TV, no radio) and instead what they were allowed to do during this time were other activities like writing, reading, playing musical instruments, painting, needlework, singing, walking and so on. Out of the 68 only 3 were actually able to go the full 8 hours[...] 3 of the participants described themselves as having suicidal thoughts. 5 had panic attacks. 27 experienced symptoms like nausea, sweating, dizziness, hot flushes and abdominal pain; and everyone described themselves as feeling fear and anxiety. Almost all of them bailed by the second or third hour, and only 10 people were able to go 3 hours before experiencing anxiety. And so I think they didn't quite go there in the article that I read, but it seems pretty obvious to me the symptoms that they're describing are those of physical withdrawal, those that we are used to hear being associated with substances like cocaine or heroin...” Indeed, growing numbers of teens are apparently hoaxing symptoms of so-called Attention Deficit Disorder in order to get prescriptions for attention-heightening stimulants to offset the scatterbrain characteristics of their generation, while their parents seek these drugs and those for narcolepsy as routine 'performance-enhancers' to keep up with their jobs.

    As we have said, the system's engineers are attentive to these problems, and don't hesitate to encourage their 'resources' to grant themselves the occasional 'digital detox': “[i]nitiatives are blossoming that encourage people to disconnect occasionally (one day per week, for a weekend, a month) in order to take note of their dependence on technological objects and re-experience an “authentic” contact with reality. The attempt proves to be futile of course. The pleasant weekend at the seashore with one’s family and without the smartphones is lived primarily as an experience of disconnection; that is, as something immediately thrown forward to the moment of reconnection, when it will be shared on the Internet” (Google Dégage). At the more lucrative end, users of computer technology are invited to retire to designated 'camps' where, as the arrivals to one such place in California were assured, “the most important status we'll be updating will be our happiness”. Rather than any attempted break with the social paradigm that pushes these technologies as necessary, such efforts generally serve to perpetuate their use by making it more 'sustainable'. The 'detox' is the exceptional time, not the grave effects of intensive digital interfacing, and in the last case the retreat destination sees no need to dispense with the relentless Net-jargon such as the “human-powered search engine” of the camp notice board, or the ominous camp slogan: “Disconnect to Reconnect”, take your break then back to work[8].

    Many, many more will never have even considered such a 'disconnection', as perturbing as it is for many people now in the post-industrial heartlands to even have a short trip suggested without their devices in tow. This shift first became so noticeable within our generation's living memory with the advent of the modern leash, the mobile phone. At the time, the authors of 'Mobile Prothesis' analysed how “[t]his great invention isn’t necessary to support a part of the body, but, if anything, a part of the mind. The mobile or cellular phone (this ill-omened name hits the mark so well), this indispensable tool linked to individuals in such a blatantly unhealthy manner, is not just electromagnetic toxicity, nor just a revolution in interpersonal relationships, nor even just a stupid consumerist gadget that fattens the usual pocketbooks as always.

    Above all, it is the replacement of that bit of the unknown that this world still reserves for us, the very small wonders of a sought after solitude, of a journey with oneself, of a time away from known and unknown human beings. The terrifying unknown, inconceivable and unimaginable for those who are afraid of their own life, for those who don’t want to cut themselves off from the cord that links them to the other puppets of this little sham theater even for a moment, for those who want to know and inform others about their life, or more accurately about their own and other people’s physical presence.” Not so many years later, the children of today in many cases have exemplified an acceleration of this trajectory (see the last study mentioned above), and the social trend shows no sign of decreasing[9]. Undoubtedly one of the aggravating factors is the prominence which social networking via online platforms has assumed for even those supposedly on the margins of techno-industrial society. 2005-2008 saw an increase of Facebook users from 5.5 million to 100 million. By the end of 2015, Kevin Tucker recounted that “23% of the entire global population uses Facebook monthly, that’s up from 20.5% at the end of the first quarter of 2015. Short of fire, this is the most widespread and rapidly acquired social change in the history of the human species. That’s fucking insane.” This is far from a uniquely 'First World problem': the Algerian city of Constantine was only one of the more recent from the growing list around the world to open a clinic specifically to counter Facebook addiction, in a country whose users are growing around 10% year-on-year. “In the past,” reflected one writer in 'Points For Further Discussion in the Digital Era', “the idea of abstaining from Friendster or a particular digital social network seemed plausible, to do so simply meant not going on the computer and/or limiting computer use. Computer use largely took place at a specific site, something that we could essentially choose to interact with. In many cases, that is no longer possible. Over the past few years, the Internet has essentially become all pervasive. Through smart phones, the Internet is everywhere. While there are exceptions outside of so-called “industrialized” countries and among those who cannot afford smart phones, for the most part the discussion is more a question of when people will get the capabilities, not if (see for example, all the efforts to get computers to everyone across the world and to enclose the entire world in the web).

    This has all had a real impact on how we relate to each other. Seemingly everything is mediated or interrupted by computer-based communication. There are relatively few private moments left, as shown by the numerous studies that track the phenomena known as “sleep texting” or the numbers of people who admit to checking their phones during sex [ed. – cited in one study as 20% of young adults]. The particular studies matter relatively little, what is important is the way in which this activity has more or less been normalized.”

    Connecting to our earlier theme it would be a mistake to think of platforms as merely facilitating networking activities; instead, the construction of platforms and social practices is mutually constitutive. After going through the social changes wrought by the shift in Western literacy from the habit of reading out-loud and often communally to the habit of reading silently, Carr went into the direction he was already seeing in online culture. “Now that the context of reading is again shifting, from the private page to the communal screen, authors will adapt once more. They will increasingly tailor their work to a milieu that the essayist Caleb Crain describes as “groupiness,” where people read mainly “for the sake of feeling of belonging” rather than for personal enlightenment or amusement. As social concerns override literary ones, writers seem fated to eschew virtuosity and experimentation in favor of a bland but immediately accessible style. Writing will become a means for recording chatter.

    […] A striking example of this process is already on display in Japan. In 2001, young Japanese women began composing stories on their mobile phones, as strings of text messages, and uploading them to a Web site, Maho no i-rando, where other people read and commented on them. The stories expanded into serialized “cell phone novels,” and their popularity grew. Some of the novels found millions of readers online. Publishers took notice, and began to bring out the novels as printed books. By the end of the decade, cell phone novels had come to dominate the country's best-seller lists. The three top-selling Japanese novels in 2007 were all originally written on mobile phones.

    The form of the novels reflects their origins. They are, according to the reporter Norimitsu Onishi, “mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging but containing little of the plotting or character development found in traditional novels.” One of the most popular cell phone novelists, a twenty-one-year-old who goes by the name of Rin, explained to Onishi why young readers are abandoning traditional novels: “They don't read works by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand, their expressions are intentionally wordy, and the stories are not familiar to them.” The popularity of cell phone novels may never extend beyond Japan, a country given to peculiar fads, but the novels nevertheless demonstrate how changes in reading inevitably spur changes in writing.”

    Similarly, the so-called 'social' behaviour conditioned and reproduced on the online networks could be said to be at least in part produced by these means themselves. In this whole internet-social world, where the interactions between humans which have generally been so consequential in the past are relegated to shadow-presences that can be summoned up or banished with a flick of the wrist and a click of the finger, the broadcast becomes the key point, not necessarily the quality or relevance of the content itself. Yet simultaneously, the image created by the user of a social media profile is often intensively combed, with presentation of an identity (or, as we shall see later, a brand) at least as important as ostensible communication needs. The identity models generally conform to pre-existing roles even if from a widening pool of potential uniforms to wear. “The potential employee deletes last night’s drunken party photos to present a serious tone, while the frat boy eagerly shares photos of the previous night’s debauchery. Moreover, depending on the particular social network, the presentations differ. While “compartmentalization” is something we all have done in civilized social contexts for quite some time, the speed and frequency at which it happens is different. The constant maintenance of how we present ourselves results in a compulsive “need” to “check” everything, seeing what is “happening” on “social media” at all times. There is always something better “happening” elsewhere, whether that be the cool event that we didn’t know about or something “happening” entirely in the digital realm. Consequently, the real “event” may not be the one that we are physically at, but the “conversation” that happens online. “Reality” is increasingly redefined as that which is documentable online, and “conversation” is the “discussion” which happens through social media. Something is always happening elsewhere and we are never really present anywhere (while at the same time, we are stuck in a seemingly ahistorical constant present)” (Points for Further...).

    Documentation replaces experience. The self becomes the selfie[10]. Moreover, the celebrated 'connectivity' of the information age seems as often to distance us from one another in real terms as well. Already when acquaintances 'connect' in the virtual world, typed exchanges may even feel more intimate than face-to-face conversations, and thus cause them to disclose things they dare not in actual presence. But the content itself can never be the same, being dis-embodied thus; losing the give-and-take, richness and depth, of real communication. Jason Rodgers perceived as much in the arrival of texting. “Due to the addition of text messaging the cellular communication is trapped between orality and literacy. It has neither the improvisation and open ended nature of spoken language, not the complexity and depth of written language. This contributes to a poverty of language. The exchange is constant, yet nearly meaningless. This poverty of language contributes to a poverty of thought.”[11] The rise of Twitter et al. has only compounded this. Proliferating cameraphones add a visual dimension, and the ascendancy of even the most banal pictures trading currency on Instagram etc. merely spectacularises the fact that every selection and representation is indeed an amputation, the context and specificity shorn. An image can tell a thousand lies, the main one being its own objectivity, it is always a viewpoint from a particular place. The feast for the eye on offer speaks of a dissociation from the depth depicted and the present moment slipping away by the second; yet a dissociation that can pull on our heartstrings in a myriad of predictable, robotic ways.

    The media era is also the era of loneliness,” recognised Jacques Ellul even decades before the ever-present Net fully wove its way into our most intimate 'private' spaces and moments. More than half a century since he wrote on the alienating character of society traversing this technological trajectory, social fragmentation and a concomitant rise in the experience of isolation has travelled hand-in-hand with the arrival of TV, mobile phones, the internet. In 2014, Natalie Gil described loneliness in the U.K. as “a silent plague that is hurting young people most”, in response to studies suggesting that 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed were more likely to feel lonely often, to worry about feeling alone and to feel depressed because of loneliness than the over-55s (who at least have services on the assumption that they will be lonely in modern Western society).

    On the other hand from the 'groupiness'-as-euphoria, without the deeper emotional investment and vulnerability of more complicated, in-person relationships, the increased distance and decreased depth that formulates mediocrity and narcissism[12] also facilitates racist, (hetero-)sexist and classist attacks which probably would no longer be attempted so often in person in certain societies. (Perhaps this is significant in allowing a pressure-valve of sorts in the interior of a democratic pluralism which frowns on such statements when in company but is in fact built on a foundation of racial ideologies, gender hierarchies and social stratification, which it must adept and reproduce to itself exist.) The self-aggrandising cruelty of this commentary is constitutive of shifting and often anonymous strands of domination, parallel with what was highlighted in one of Alex Gorrion's essays. “The new apparatuses of social networking also begin to quantify informal power (the very informal power that has always held primary importance, even and especially in the institutions of formal power, which could not work without it) in “likes”, “friends”, and “followers”. But this version of informal power is not the kind created by protagonists, it is the kind produced by a mill wheel set spinning by a hundred chained bodies each chasing after their own loneliness[...]

    [These are the lost creatures] who fumble around in smug devices looking for love or distraction. They are children who have never learned to read maps or ask for directions, children whose intimate haunts that they never needed to impose on paper in order to navigate have now been thoroughly mapped by the devices they carry with them. The impoverished oral culture that remains has been forced through this new apparatus.” (We could note that these same children will have been conditioned by what the YoungMinds charity in the U.K. describe as an “unprecedented toxic climate children and young people face in a 24/7 online culture where they can never switch off,” citing cases such as the 2012 suicide of 15-year-old Tallulah Wilson[13].)

    Compelled to Communicate

    The cerebral flattening to the preordained schemas of intelligent machines, the homogenization of the cultures of peoples to the new languages of communications and production are the aim of the new imperialist colonialism. Cybernetic universalism, or multimedia communication, is a tool of the systematic and quantitative reorganisation of the new world order, in the sectors of the market, of capital, of the institutional order and of the territorial infrastructure...”

    Pippo Stasi & Karechin Cricorian

    While such apparatuses of power dynamics as we described in the previous section could by now be described as to some degree self-regulating and self-replicating, there is certainly a stake held by some of the more explicit institutions in the capitalist order and the nation-state in the new technological phase industrial society has entered. We will come in short order to the tech-industry giants themselves; but what we are speaking of here runs deeper, taking for granted the involvement of such multinational corporations in an ongoing change of such proportions and far-reaching implications for the future, yet penetrating into a tangled complex of statescraft, scientific research and ideology, and perhaps even technological determinism itself.

    While it can barely be done justice here, in order to frame the topics which follow, the term 'cybernetics' cannot be far behind. “Cybernetics,” defined Lutz Dammbeck on the conceptual level, “is concerned with how the transfer of information functions in machines and living beings. The basis of cybernetics is the assumption that the human nervous system does not reproduce reality, but calculates it. Man [sic] now appears to be no more than an information-processing system... thought is data processing, and the brain is a machine made of flesh. The brain is no longer the place where “ego” and “identity” are mysteriously created through memory and consciousness. It is a machine consisting of switching and controlling circuits, feedback loops, and communication nodes.” In terms of potential ways to understand how this plays out today (and to trace its background), bear with us through a lengthy quote, where the authors of 'Google Dégage' speculate that “at the same time that the new communication technologies were put into place that would not only weave their web over the Earth but form the very texture of the world in which we live, a certain way of thinking and of governing was in the process of winning. Now, the basic principles of this new science of government were framed by the same ones, engineers and scientists, who invented the technical means of its application [and] laid the basis of that “science” that [the mathematician Norbert Wiener] called “cybernetics.” A term that Ampère [ed. – one of the founders of the science of classical electromagnetism], a century before, had had the good idea of defining as the “science of government.” So we’re talking about an art of governing whose formative moments are almost forgotten but whose concepts branched their way underground, feeding into information technology as much as biology, artificial intelligence, management, or the cognitive sciences, at the same time as the cables were strung one after the other over the whole surface of the globe.

    We’re not undergoing, since 2008, an abrupt and unexpected “economic crisis,” we’re only witnessing the slow collapse of political economy as an art of governing. Economics has never been a reality or a science; from its inception in the 17th century, it’s never been anything but an art of governing populations. Scarcity had to be avoided if riots were to be avoided – hence the importance of “grains” – and wealth was to be produced to increase the power of the sovereign. “The surest way for all government is to rely on the interests of men [sic],” said Hamilton [ed. – one of the U.S. 'founding fathers', he established the nation's financial system as well as The New York Post newspaper]. Once the “natural” laws of economy were elucidated, governing meant letting its harmonious mechanism operate freely and moving men by manipulating their interests. Harmony, the predictability of behaviors, a radiant future, an assumed rationality of the actors: all this implied a certain trust, the ability to “give credit.” Now, it’s precisely these tenets of the old governmental practice which management through permanent crisis is pulverizing. We’re not experiencing a “crisis of trust” but the end of trust, which has become superfluous to government. Where control and transparency reign, where the subjects’ behavior is anticipated in real time through the algorithmic processing of a mass of available data about them, there’s no more need to trust them or for them to trust. It’s sufficient that they be sufficiently monitored. As Lenin said, “Trust is good, control is better.”

    The West’s crisis of trust in itself, in its knowledge, in its language, in its reason, in its liberalism, in its subject and the world, actually dates back to the end of the 19th century; it breaks forth in every domain with and around the First World War. Cybernetics developed on that open wound of modernity. It asserted itself as a remedy for the existential and thus governmental crisis of the West. As Norbert Wiener saw it, “We are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet. Yet even in a shipwreck, human decencies and human values do not necessarily vanish, and we must make the most of them. We shall go down, but let it be in a manner to which we may look forward as worthy of our dignity”. Cybernetic government is inherently apocalyptic. Its purpose is to locally impede the spontaneously entropic, chaotic movement of the world and to ensure “enclaves of order,” of stability, and – who knows? – the perpetual self-regulation of systems, through the unrestrained, transparent, and controllable circulation of information. “Communication is the cement of society and those whose work consists in keeping the channels of communication open are the ones on whom the continuance or downfall of our civilization largely depends,” declared Wiener, believing he knew.

    [...] Officially, we continue to be governed by the old dualistic Western paradigm where there is the subject and the world, the individual and society, men and machines, the mind and the body, the living and the nonliving. These are distinctions that are still generally taken to be valid. In reality, cybernetized capitalism does practice an ontology, and hence an anthropology, whose key elements are reserved for its initiates. The rational Western subject, aspiring to master the world and governable thereby, gives way to the cybernetic conception of a being without an interiority, of a selfless self, an emergent, climatic being, constituted by its exteriority, by its relations. A being which, armed with its Apple Watch, comes to understand itself entirely on the basis of external data, the statistics that each of its behaviors generates. A Quantified Self that is willing to monitor, measure, and desperately optimize every one of its gestures and each of its affects. For the most advanced cybernetics, there’s already no longer man and his [sic] environment, but a system-being which is itself part of an ensemble of complex information systems, hubs of autonomic processes – a being that can be better explained by starting from the middle way of Indian Buddhism than from Descartes [ed. – see ’A Profound Dis-ease’]. “For man, being alive means the same thing as participating in a broad global system of communication”, asserted Wiener in 1948.

    Just as political economy produced a 'homo economicus' manageable in the framework of industrial States, cybernetics is producing its own humanity. A transparent humanity, emptied out by the very flows that traverse it, electrified by information, attached to the world by an ever-growing quantity of apparatuses. A humanity that’s inseparable from its technological environment because it is constituted, and thus driven, by that. Such is the object of government now: no longer man or his interests, but his “social environment”. An environment whose model is the smart city [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg31]. Smart because by means of its sensors it produces information whose processing in real time makes self-management possible. And smart because it produces and is produced by smart inhabitants. Political economy reigned over beings by leaving them free to pursue their interest; cybernetics controls them by leaving them free to communicate.”

    In this light, what would our enmeshment in the circuits of the world of the web (and not only) tell us about our propensity to become governable; even (or especially) as we take this access to be evidence of our freedoms, our connections, our selves?

    These are not popular questions to ask in today's climate in the West, let alone hazard answers to. Yet some qualms, if undeveloped as yet, can be perceived in even the popular culture, such as the thoughts of novelist Benjamin Kunkel. “The internet, as its proponents rightly remind us, makes for variety and convenience; it does not force anything on you. Only it turns out it doesn't feel like that at all. We don't feel as if we had freely chosen our online practices. We feel instead that they are habits we have helplessly picked up or that history has enforced, that we are not distributing our attention as we intend or even like to.” More dominant, though, is an enduring belief that these vaunted new technologies not only can be understood as separate from the institutions and ideologies from which they emerged; but that they are in some way inherently 'progressive', liberatory even. Among the ranks of these techno-utopians (or at least among those who consider technologies to be inherently value-free and neutral) can be found not a few staunch critics of capitalist social relations, and maybe even of the State-form itself. Now would seem as appropriate time as ever to turn our weapons on these arguments.

    Updated Illusions

    The truth is that technology magnifies power in general, but the rates of adoption are different. The unorganized, the distributed, the marginal, the dissidents, the powerless, the criminal: they can make use of new technologies faster. And when those groups discovered the Internet, suddenly they had power. But when the already powerful big institutions finally figured out how to harness the Internet for their needs, they had more power to magnify. That’s the difference: the distributed were more nimble and were quicker to make use of their new power, while the institutional were slower but were able to use their power more effectively. So while the Syrian dissidents used Facebook to organize, the Syrian government used Facebook to identify dissidents.”

    Power in the Age of the Feudal Internet

    Never before has such a hoard of data existed on so widely-accessible platforms concerning the aspects of the world today we might consider to be horrors. Rapes, climate-induced flooding [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg15], hostage beheadings, industrial 'disasters'[ed. – see Return Fire vol.1 pg28] and police violence come tumbling out of our news-feeds and video-tubes, circumventing censorship and State borders. And yet never has so little been done relative to the immensity of the dangers we face. On the one hand, some positively see the potential for this visibility to spark revolts against whatever atrocity in question, rebellions of the type that have not been lacking throughout pre-digital history [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg87], if yet to be decisive. On the other hand, others see the mere existence of this 'democractisation of information' as a counter-balance to the excesses of our rulers. Both seem to rest on an assumption which we ourselves do not find to be true: namely, that there is a simple causal relationship between information and action. However, another angle to take would be that uprisings continue to exist despite the prevalence of digital media (including their protagonists' own use of it) not because of it; and that the feast of information famishes our appetite to weaponise and make use of it, to make it our own.

    For example, the online patterns of media consumption seem geared in the opposite direction to reflective engagement. A study some years ago reported that most web pages are viewed for ten seconds or less. Fewer than one in ten page views extended beyond two minutes, and a significant portion of those seemed to involve unattended browser windows left open. And as mentioned above, when the floodgates of information overload are running full-steam, if you don't have time, or make time, to live with that information, to reflect on it, it can simply have a numbing effect, or tend towards imparting pre-packaged options rather than critical thinking. How often do we come across some ostensibly exciting or horrifying case, or convincing or intriguing argument, online; only to promptly forget all about it until we are reminded again while back online? Obviously this isn't the case in every instance, but its regularity should tell us something about how little this 'information' is finding ways to sit in our daily lives, when it is so hard to find time and space to make use of it – and specifically to make use of it with any depth of reflection. Combined with a 'social' life increasingly consisting of remotely exchanging banalities, the result is often individuals sitting alone staring into screens, 'Liking' topics that momentarily engage them or events they may or may not attend, then going to bed. Even when we do meet face to face, it sometimes feels harder to practice our being-together, to develop a tangible sense of encounter and openness not defined by the exigencies of our mediated communications (texts, tweets, comments, etc.).

    The results are visible in many of the modern so-called 'social movements', which often feature highly tech-savvy elements perceived by some to be important or even pivotal aspects of whatever struggle. This affects many on-the-ground activities, from banners and placards made more for the camera than street-level communication, reduction of dialogue between participants and bystanders to that of promoting a specific hashtag, and further 'dumbing-down' of ideas in order to produce text for leaflets that can easily be 'scanned'. Whatever creativity and spontaneity remains in moments of contestation is domesticated on the spot via the reduction of whatever intervention into representational data to be broadcast via the media, however self-published. Again, the platforms themselves alter the way struggles are conceived and received, regardless of the content, and the more dependent movements become on them the less likely they seem to be to criticise them. Kevin Tucker looked back on the beginnings of this shift (in North America at least) in his eyes. “Through the anti-globalization movement and street riots that take root in the late 90s through the 2000s, you saw this element of involvement form into spectator roles. There was a change in focus on taking part in resistance to documenting everything. Suddenly Indymedia [ed. – independent self-publishing platform formed originally to facilitate and communicate action against the World Trade Organisation summit in Seattle, U.S.A., 1999] was the focus. There were certainly pros to it, but at the time it felt like it stole the spotlight a bit. In hindsight, it absolutely did.

    And it made sense in a way, as repression raised[,] the need to document it was important. But in some ways we made the documenting the story, not the means. The spread of the internet was really the necessary piece of the puzzle to make that happen. I’m not sure if you can say it’s coincidental or not, but there’s a mirroring of shifts within the milieu and the culture at large towards a more internet savvy approach to radicalism.”

    What kind of movements are created through such a shift? How are they different from what came before? These were the questions asked by Zeynep Tufekci, after she identified their lack of attention-maintenance and staying power. “The boom and bust cycle of consciousness-raising and resignation may only be a phase in the life of networked social movements. Or, it may be their distinct feature. […] Digital infrastructure may be said to follow a trajectory common to other disruptive technologies. Governments’ initial waves of ignorance and misunderstanding quickly gave way to learning about the medium’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the development of new methods to counter dissent. However, changes to a movement’s capabilities that broaden its ability to coordinate actions or to publicize its cause are real as well. [...] Social media have greatly empowered protesters in three key areas: public attention, evading censorship, and coordination or logistics. Old forms of gate-keeping, which depended on choke point access control to few broadcast outlets, neither work as effectively nor in the same way as they did in the past. Digital technologies provide a means by which many people can reach information that governments would rather deny them. Street protests can be coordinated on the fly. However, this does not mean that social media have exclusively empowered protesters; they have also aided governments and other factions of society by providing them with tools they can also use to their advantage. […] By allowing protesters to scale up quickly, without years of preparation, digital infrastructure acts as a scaffold to movements that mask other weaknesses, especially collective capacities in organizing, decision-making, and general work dynamics that only come through sustained periods of working together.

    […] Hence, digital technologies certainly add to protester capabilities in many dimensions, but this comes with an unexpected trade-off: Digital infrastructure helps undertake functions that would have otherwise [required] long-term organizing which, almost as a side effect, help build organizational capacity to respond to long-term movement requirements. Working together to take care of the logistics of a movement, however tedious, also builds trust and an ability to collaborate effectively. Consequently, many recent movements enter into the most contentious phase, the potential confrontation with authorities, without any prior history of working together or managing pivotal moments under stress.” After looking to the insurgencies of Turkey, 2013 [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg48], and in the so-called Magreb, 2011 onwards [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg87], she used the analogy of the 1963 March on Washington during the U.S. civil rights movement. “Once the march happened, it was no longer just a march of thousands of people, but rather, it signaled to those in power that an organizational capacity could threaten their interests[...] In contrast, the massive Occupy marches that took place globally in over 900 cities on 15 October 2011 dwarfed most historical precedents in terms of size, yet were organized with approximately two weeks’ notice [but] without similar organizational capacity. While this appears a shortcut for protests, it also engenders weaknesses, as these protests do not signal the same level of capacity as previous protests, and do not necessarily pose the same threat to governments and power.”

    Moveover, for those of us less interested in being boxed in and defined by whatever social movements our actions are unavoidably in the context of, it is harder to avoid exactly such an enclosure. Relatedly, the text 'Fighting in the New Terrain' touches on the way that “the internet has transformed anonymity from the province of criminals and anarchists into a feature of everyday communication. Yet unexpectedly, it also fixes political identities and positions in place according to a new logic. The landscape of political discourse is mapped in advance by URLs; it's difficult to produce a mythology of collective power and transformation when every statement is already located in a known constellation. A poster on a wall could have been put up by anyone; it seems to indicate a general sentiment, even if it only represents one person's ideas. A statement on a website, on the other hand, appears in a world permanently segregated into ideological ghettos.” Once more, this finds resonance in 'Point for Further Discussion...': “The rather laughable digital utopianism has proven to be untrue – we haven’t arrived at an equal society as a result of equal access. Even in the best cases of open source tools, their challenge is a drop in the bucket and they can often be just as easily mobilized towards non-liberatory ends. Moreover, the Internet and computer technologies have contributed to a situation of information overload and the fragmentation into a seemingly unlimited number of different identities, making it harder than ever to be seen on the digital networks, arguably the ultimate goal. Added to this, the increasing fragmentation and personalization – enabled through sophisticated forms of behavior and browser tracking – assure that there is no universally accessible network that one can simply have access to, but rather a series of largely closed and overlapping networks. These technologies extend the logic of computers into all realms: success is the documentable and quantifiable number of “friends” or “connections” we have on various sites, future activity, preferences, and “personalization” are predicted by algorithms informed by massive amounts of stored personal data, and everything is ranked and rated.”

    To address those who feel that the mere existence of information in circulation constitutes an effective check on those in power; information is weightless without the will and ability to make something out of it, contrary to the narrative of truth-as-power promoted by, say, the Wikileaks case [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg48]. Video footage taken of the police, as another example, can help them refine their public image by limiting them from doing things that look bad in the representational game of liberal democracy. But that's different than actually enabling people to take action that would change the power differential, and has in some cases been used to strengthen their case for the increasingly-present bodycams they wear, leading to a further intensification of surveillance at points of potential confrontation. These days we are endangered additionally while confronting our enemies by the plethora of mobile filming devices wielded by members of the crowd, most of whom will not be as obliging as those the Mi'kmaq warriors and their allies requested to turn of all such equipment before torching the police cars forcing further extraction prospecting on their territories [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg61].

    Another argument used in favour of utilising digital platforms during social movements, often to the detriment of more embodied communication and encounter, is that whose who don't engage in that way will be 'left behind' the (real or imagined) 'masses' who are attentive to whatever issue in question. That's as may be (though such thinking clearly prioritises quantitative aims, i.e. the amount of people 'reached', over qualitative factors such as the depth of the communication and the solidity of any affinities discovered), yet it would seem a danger in 'catching up' via uncritical engagement is also advancing the evolution of digital media out of our hands. The ubiquitous and mostly either banal or highly-toxic comments sections many websites now host started out as an innovation of the Indymedia network, while the SMS text messaging program developed by the Institute for Applied Autonomy for protests at the Democractic and Republican National Conventions served as a model for Twitter.

    Ironically, given all the talk about the diversity offered by the internet, many anarchists and (other) radicals – even many who reject digital optimism – seem compelled to opt for the convenience of the all-encompassing Facebook et al. in the 'informational mainstream' above autonomous channels. This largely seems to facilitate continuing ghettoisation of radical critiques into just another identity niche online, another status in your profile, and accelerate the further fractioning even within these critiques into a series of silos in which one can be confident they will hear only voices similar to their own[14].

    Rather than bask in the escape from the artificially-narrow debates which have characterised mass media paradigms in the years gone by (in many ways having been the glue that held the democracies of latter modernity together) – which social media indeed moves away from – we would do well to think about how the production of opinions still takes place in this new democratic terrain. As we've seen in past weeks, a candidate can win the U.S. Presidency despite the hostility of almost all mass media nationally, suggesting that social media platforms now command higher influence than these institutions. But of course, rather than signifying any kind of horizontalism or levelling of power, enormous disparities in influence, presence and resources continue to characterise the social network terrain, making it perhaps more accurate to describe as a polycentralisation of these spheres rather than decentralisation. More to the point, the ideology of democratic pluralism which these technological platforms sit comfortably within declares any opinion (liberal, conservative, anarchist, feminist, capitalist) to be equally valid – so long as it remains just that, opinion. Hence the departure from a central stage of social discourse and 'fact production' actually in this case speaks of a further atomisation – these various online niches never need cross one another, people are used to any opinion having a homepage and set framework and thus actual debate and contestation of ideas (i.e. tools, toys or weapons we might take in our hands and actually use) becomes more difficult or ephemeral. Rather than (for the most part) censor online activity, today's and tomorrow's democracy assuages which demographics hold what influence, bring which votes, generates how much advertising revenue and occupies which consumer niche. Alienation has actually deepened in this context: from experience it would seem that the more fertile spaces for building subversive relationships with an inclination to actually act on our conditions in fact come from disputing different ideas about the world and how we might inhabit it. By annulling space that could give rise to such conflicts and hence potential deepening of analysis and affinity, the web leaves us weaker.

    What I hate about the Internet, of course,” identifies Aragorn!, “is that it has quickly moved from a decentralized cacophony of voices, perspectives, and mediums for transmitting different ideas, into a channeled, mediated, controlled, and censored medium replicating most of the media flaws that lead to the popularization of the Internet in the first place. In the context of the anarchist internet this means that the first wave of anarchist controlled internet [sites] have almost entirely disappeared. Anarchist Internet discussion has almost entirely moved to Facebook and/or the ephemeral snapchat, instragram, and twitter contexts.” Sure enough, despite commendable online initiatives (some by him, as well as others) attempting to buck this trend, the atmosphere that accompanies most 'radical' conversational spaces online is one of cynicism, self-policing or total thoughtlessness, with 'winning the argument' by whatever means seemingly taking precedent over all else. “Within a few short years, the internet comment forum transformed into a repressive apparatus,” observed the text 'Robots of Repression', “albeit democratic par excellence. With nearly everyone taking part, internet comment forums created and used within anarchist struggles have become acceptable spaces for the intensification of sectarian divisions based on barely a shadow of critical difference, the proliferation of superficial or aesthetic affinities, snitch-jacketing, rape-jacketing, the publishing of legally endangering information, the compromising of anonymities, the erosion of solidarity and its replacement with flippancy and instant gratification, and a deepening of the culture of TLDR [Too Long; Didn't Read].”

    Even if social network sites and comment boards fail to ensnare us, it's just as easy to allow oneself to become intoxicated by the update stream of the specifically-anarchist online media. Our contemplative and creative ways, which have at times distinguished anti-authoritarian interventions in aspects of social life, succumb to the constant hum of the information exchange (often hyping formulaic and under-contextualised events/actions), and we become much like many other surfers experiencing momentary thrills on their topic of choice. This is perhaps an under-evaluated part of the conceptions of 'anarchisms of action' (often with many exciting qualities, to be sure) which has come to the fore in recent years. Aside from the perfectly evident strength which often comes from recognising hearts in some more-or-less distant part of the world beating to a similar rhythm to our own, it's useful to question what effects the dominant cultural 'groupiness' feelings this inculcates in us too via these mediums can have on our struggles. Maybe never before have we 'performed' on a stage where the 'audience' is so many (and often probably so exclusively) other anarchists, even if none exist locally, rather than primarily inhabitants of whatever social environment we frequent.

    While we recognise that complex factors both cause and result from our actions – as well as accepting the socialised or perhaps even just all-too-human subliminal drive for recognition – and thus feel no need to ascertain 'pure' motives to act, we should be conscious of the potential for such actions to be taken mostly for the sake of being able to participate in a virtual arena by claiming them. Or at least, when this is to the exclusion or detriment of attempts to affect our more daily surroundings and conditions.

    At what point does it become less about spreading signals of solidarity to bolster an actual projectuality, or descriptions of methods used – which all strengthen us in real-world struggle – and more a question of self-gratifying web-games? Clearly this must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, without generalisations, but we think that Antonio Antonacci [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg71] might have meant something of the kind when he said that “[p]ersonally I have several concerns on projectual aims and spectacular propaganda. Even if I recognize that these can have some potential, I also think that they belong to the society of appearance, based on nothing and immersed in a time of hyper-information where the centralization of the will to communicate, or an excess of communication, risks creating confusion and degenerating into exaltation as an end in itself.” This new terrain feels seductive, and doubtless holds some potentials; and anyway, like it or not, it is the wider sea many of us now swim in. In part of their written contribution to a 2013 gathering at the Nadir anarchist space in Thessaloniki, Greece, on the topic of anarchist 'counter-information' structures to disseminate action claims, news and analysis, the administrators of 325.nostate.net argued that “we believe that the information war is a defining operational environment for the anarchist new urban guerilla as much as the metropolis or the border between the urban and rural areas was for revolutionaries of the past.

    […] We want to make it very easy for those who hear of the direct actions via the mainstream media to easily find the communiques and context for the attacks, and for the informal counter-information groups to be able to grow and steadily produce the environment for widespread subversion. The access to information must be turned into a weapon against the system, which relies on its dominance of the media.” Yet later the same paragraph admits that “[n]ot only is the new media environment increasingly self-published, it's able to take in and assimilate all points of view, even realities of attack.” In which ways does this interlace with the aforementioned tendency towards democratic assimilation and ghettoisation? How can we maintain a presence to provide context for actions and such in the digital realm, while minimising the degree to which it is merely assimilated as another 'edgy' aesthetic for a distinct class of viewers, and robbed of its proper repercussions? It would indeed be a wasted opportunity if, when conditions hint at chances to push any uncontrollable situations into a direction amenable to the experimental forms-of-life we want to realise but perhaps also generalise [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg19], the dialogue we were most familiar with was publishing self-promoting texts to each other via the Net.

    Yet increasingly this would seem to be many people's entry-point for what it is that certain types of anarchists do, as well as the bar for participation. This was a point highlighted in one issue of the Aversión paper: “Internet forces you into constant updating and everything is done at a speed well beyond human capabilities. What’s the point in knowing what happens all over the planet in real time? Our ability of intervention within our nearest reality is very limited in itself. Up to which point does this produce the same anxiety deriving from the speed with which, for example, technology and fashion change, thus losing their previous value and meaning? […] Many of us became anarchist by participating in talks, writing letters to prisoners, reading pamphlets, visiting anarchist libraries, subscribing to periodicals from the other side of the planet, discussing with old saboteurs and fighters, etc… But at the moment formation occurs mainly through blogs and social networks. […] It seems that today internet includes many aspects of our existence and profoundly affects human relations, thus contributing to isolation, atomization and alienation.” In other words, as many people now 'learn' their anarchism from Wikipedia, forming their ideas from representations at a degree or few of removal from the actual lived complexities of attempts to live inside them, they are radicalised on a terrain only marginally within our actual influence; the form in some ways contradicts the content. Our question must be; in which ways does the Net open up space and in which does it enclose us? In which does it aid self-creation and inspiration, and which entail mere enlistment, or an online space to mouth off discontent to our own demographic?

    Upon announcing their resignation from maintenance of the online source anarchistnews.org, 'Worker' observed that “[i]t used to be that anarchism (the set of people who use the term) was filled with a bunch of people who did things. Since the rise of the Internet this has become increasingly NOT the case. My greatest disappointment in running anarchistnews.org is that it has witnessed this degradation of interesting activity of anarchists. The Internet does not inform interesting activity, it kills it stillborn. Most new anarchists fear the attention of the broader anarchist community because it almost never comes off as supportive (and when it does it tends to be in the style of NGO shit sandwich [compliment-insult-compliment] rhetorical kindness). The Internet is now at the center of how we communicate with each other and it means our communication is worse than ever.

    While I was not particularly naive about what I should hope for when I started anarchistnews.org I did not realize how powerful the medium of the Internet would become in terms of shaping everything that happened here. It is nearly impossible to start a new DIY website in 2015 and have it noticed beyond your social scene. The big players absolutely dominate what is talked about and I am not motivated to play that part of the modern media game. I find Facebook, Twitter, etc to be absolutely repulsive and, while I use them, I can't support their use and see them as utterly opposed to our project here.” Currently, exactly these corporate platforms are entrusted by a large proportion of general dissidents with the kind of personal information which even the less paranoid among them would never entrust so readily to a national authority. Now we move to the consequences that no radical should be able to treat as a non-issue when internet technologies define so much of our reality: the landslide policing advances they offer.

    Inviting Big Brother In

    Computer systems are not, at their core, technologies of emancipation. They are technologies of control. They were designed as tools for monitoring and influencing human behavior, for controlling what people do and how they do it. As we spend more time online, filling databases with details of our lives and desires, software programs will grow every more capable of discovering and exploiting subtle patterns in our behavior.”

    Nicholas Carr

    As if it needed saying, our enemies are also active in the digital field in many forms. Tellingly, one of the first people to actually be targeted in Spain by the new (and much-protested) 'Public Safety Act', known colloquially as the 'gag law', was a salesman on Tenerife who chastised the police on the mayor's Facebook wall for being “slackers”. Within six hours of hitting 'send', police were knocking on his door, despite his protests that he wasn't a “perroflauta” (hippy/tramp) like those in the social movements the law was presumably drafted against[15]. More direct interventions against the organisational capacity associated with the new technologies include shutting down service to iPhones and the like within a 'protest area' (similarly to when phone signal for a particularly conflictual part of Berlin was cut during the annual May 1st mobilisation of 2010), but often it seems more in the authorities interest to monitor such situations than impose a disruption – hence the appearance in the U.S. of white single-engine planes circling flash-points such as Ferguson [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg76], Baltimore [ed. – see Authorities Finally Confirm Stingray (IMSI) Use in Prison Island – in Scottish Prisons] and most recently Olympia during a brief railway blockade to hinder fracking components reaching North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields in solidarity with the Standing Rock camp [ed. – see Special Hydraulic Fracture]. These are thought to be used by the FBI to suck up all cellular communications within their range, presumably for real-time sorting and analysis. The military are naturally attendant to the implications for warfare in the information age and the increasingly asymmetric conflicts of the present day. In a very tangible sense, this already takes forms such as the three U.S. guided munitions which destroyed an alleged ISIS headquarters less than 24 hours after the division tasked with combing social media picked up someone's bragging selfie within the base and triangulated from there. But, as General Nick Carter proclaims as part of the drive to make the British Army he heads 'smarter', contemporary military formations recognise that “the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent and [new strategy] draws heavily on important lessons from our commitments to operations in Afghanistan amongst others.” Indeed, 'digital warfare' is described as central to British Army operations during this period, with 1,900 extra security and intelligence staff recruited. Two “innovative brigades” consist of regular and reserve troops with expertise in offensive and defensive digital warfare, warriors who don't just carry weapons, but who are also skilled in using social media, and the dark arts of 'psyops'– psychological operations. In this we see the trend towards a blurring of military and policing functions in their 'classical' senses, as part of a trajectory of generalised counter-insurgency[16][ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg12].

    Clearly any use of digital tools becomes at the very least a double-edged sword; as people flee from the aftermath of those lauded 'Facebook revolutions' in the Arab world and beyond, since 2015 the European transnational police force Europol started a fresh partnership with the major social media sites to scan for any suspected agents facilitating this flight, under the supervision of none other than the European Counter-Terrorist Centre. To state the obvious, such platforms are in certain terms a godsend to intelligence agencies compared with the work they would have had to do in days gone by to infiltrate target groups. (Narrowing down which individuals to actually target out of the millions is another matter, but it can't be said that the authorities have had no success in this regard, perhaps as the science of network analysis combines with older intelligence efforts.) It's rare these days for governments to attempt the kind of autocratic internet shutdowns (such as the one that saw the last days of the Mubarak regime in Egypt) during social upheavals – though not unknown, as was the case in the capital of the Democractic Republic of the Congo during 2015 anti-regime clashes – when this so clearly furthers the experience of rupture with daily normality and harms economic activity. Perhaps some tweeking is in order, like the trolling footnoted above or the almost complete absence of news about the Ferguson uprising Tufekci reported on her Facebook feed algorithmically-editied for 'personal relevance' (while there was apparently no other subject on Twitter), but the fact of the matter is that these tools are as apt for re-stabilisation as de-stabilisation. See for example the Twitter mobilisation that brought out the volunteers armed with their brooms to sweep away the aftermath of the 2011 riots in London [ed. – see Return Fire vol.1 pg61], coordinated by CrisisCommons, a “global network of volunteers working together to build and use technology tools to help respond to disasters and improve resiliency and response before a crisis”. The 'self-organisation' facilitated by these technologies is in no way inherently liberatory.

    Ruling parties, corporations and institutions must themselves be adept at playing the social media field, and playing it to their advantage. After those 2011 uprisings across England, the director of its Police Foundation published a piece on the blog of British Telecom (BT). “Moving from a more traditional and stable society to a much faster, consumer-oriented world creates many challenges for the Police. People become disconnected from the communities in which they live and, ultimately, from each other.

    This sense of disconnection leaves people feeling insecure which in turn contributes to fear of crime and anxiety about incivility in public spaces. In a world where the rule of law, equality before the law and respect for rights and freedoms provide the glue for a fragmented society, they become ever more essential in sustaining the principle of policing by consent. If the public trust the police as legitimate authority figures, they are more likely to comply with the law and to engage with their community, coming forward to report concerns and wrongdoing.

    These challenges formed the opening session of the second annual Police Foundation Conference, ‘Police Effectiveness in a Changing World’, which took place at the BT Centre last Wednesday. It was opened by Stuart Hill, Vice President of Central Government and Home Affairs for BT and included a stellar line up of speakers, including Professor Sir Anthony Bottoms [influential criminologist], Shami Chakrabarti [politician and member of the House of Lords], Sara Thornton [then Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police], Nick Herbert [then Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice] and Nick Gargan [then Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary].

    Seldom, if ever, have the police been under such scrutiny – both in a social and a political sense – and it’s widely accepted that they need to protect their operational independence, resisting any political pressure to solve social problems.

    They need to use the power of communications and social media to their advantage, working with these innovations rather than against them. The recent riots highlighted how protesters could use social media to move more freely and speedily than police units so a logical response is for forces to establish a Twitter presence and use the medium to gain the trust and confidence of followers.”[17] After that spell of disorder itself, not a few suspected rioters saw prison as a result of their social media activity (or even just those who glorified and advocated for the like online, receiving sentences of 2-4 years for Facebook posts).

    While the keyboard brazenness of some British insurgents or their admirers from those days perhaps could be partly put down to inexperience and naivety about police monitoring, it is mystifying why many with a greater exposure to criticism of the surveillance State are not more adverse to such exposed platforms. In 2012, the Nadir tech-collective noted the same thing; “having worked for years – and sometimes [earning] a living – with the net and with computers, system administration, programming, cryptography and lots more, Facebook comes as something like a natural enemy. [...] We just hadn't realised that, after all the stress out on the streets and all those lengthy group discussions, many activists seem to have this desire to prattle at length on Facebook about everything and with everyone. We hadn't realised that [the activist] along with everyone else enjoys following the subtle flow of exploitation where it doesn't seem to hurt and, for once, not having to resist. Many people suffer from a bad conscience. While this may lead them to anticipate the fatal consequences of Facebook, it does not seem to translate into action. Is it really ignorance? Just to give a short outline of the problem; by using Facebook, activists do not just make their own communication, their opinion, their 'likes', etc. transparent and available for processing. Instead – and we consider this far more important – they expose structures and individuals who themselves have little or nothing to do with Facebook. Facebook's capability to search the net for relationships, similarities etc. is difficult to comprehend for lay people. The chatter on Facebook reproduces political structures for the authorities and for companies. These can be searched, sorted and aggregated not just in order to obtain precise statements regarding social relations, key people, etc., but also in order to make predictions, from which regularities can be deduced. Next to mobile phones, Facebook is the most subtle, cheapest and best surveillance technology available.

    [...] That is why we see Facebook users as a real danger for our struggles. In particular, activists who publish important information on Facebook (often without knowing what they are doing), which is increasingly used by law enforcement agencies. We could almost go as far as accusing those activists of collaborating. But we're not quite there yet. We still have hope that people will realise that Facebook is a political enemy and that those who use Facebook make it more and more powerful. Activist Facebook users feed the machine and thereby reveal our structures – without any need, without any court orders, without any pressure.” The same year they wrote these words, police based their round-up of Bolivian anarchists, syndicalists and feminists largely on information from Facebook profiles [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg68], and five anarchists were jailed in Spain for 'membership of a terrorist group' based on their involvement on Facebook groups. Continuing from their contribution to the gathering in Thessaloniki, 325.nostate.net underline the “urgent and serious need for the insurrectional groups and individuals to stop using regular corporate services (i.e. Yahoo, FaceBook, Gmail, Hotmail, Wordpress, Blogspot, etc.) and learn about basic computer security. This task is urgent for anarchists in all countries but especially those with significantly repressive regimes. These companies will immediately co-operate with the authorities at the slightest excuse/pressure. This must be replaced as much as possible with movement services and encryption. From as early as 2003, at an anti-prisons gathering in Barcelona, it was confirmed by a lawyer of the movement that the European police and security services were using the internet corporations to identify, spy, track and monitor anarchists using their services. This has enabled Europol and the various state police services access to vast amounts of analysis data concerning location, content, who-talks-to-who etc. Anarchists are being systematically targeted by the security services through the software they rely on for communication/publicity and we should aim to prevent, as much as we possibly can, their ability to disrupt us. The authorities aim to turn our use of the internet into a weapon against us, through IP [ed. – Internal Protocol address, identifying the location, technical details and service provider of an internet connection] tracking and dataveillance, leading to our prosecution – or attempted neutralisation.”

    Already in France, opening 'terrorist internet pages' can get you two years in prison, while in 2013 the administrators of the anarchist web portal non-fides.fr were accused of “public defamation of public officials” and “incitement to the commission of an attack against a person without effect” for spreading a text denouncing the Parisian 'night correspondents'[18]. (Both comrades refused to cooperate or voluntarily appear for hearings, or give fingerprints, DNA and biometric photographs, stating “we know that this affair is only a pretense for the pigs and the courts to further harass us, after having thrown us in prison for some months in 2011 for another affair[19], and after about three years of various almost-uninterrupted legal monitoring, during which we theoretically could not see each other, nor leave the country, and were required to check in with the police every week and pay a ransom of €4,000 to the state. All these measures (that affect us as they have impacted other comrades before us and tens of thousands of people everywhere) aim to break us, by isolating each of us from the other and isolating us both from a movement, but also by breaking dynamics of struggle.”)

    As cited in the anonymous 2011 text 'Desert', “[a]ccording to a UK military mid-term future projection: “By the end of the period [2036] it is likely that the majority of the global population will find it difficult to ‘turn the outside world off.’ ICT [information and communication technology] is likely to be so pervasive that people are permanently connected to a network or two-way data stream with inherent challenges to civil liberties; being disconnected could be considered suspicious.” We are moving to such a future fast. When the French anti-terrorist police invaded the land community in Tarnac in 2008 [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg58] one of the public justifications they gave for suspecting that a terrorist cell was forming was that few on the land had mobiles!

    The agreed convention is that the first step for those who, having planned the future, now wish to bring it about is to make oneself known, make one’s voice heard – speak truth to power. Yet “the listener imposes the terms, not the talker” ['Silence & Beyond']. Much of the low-level contestation that characterises activism, and the limited social spaces that make up counter-cultures, actively mark out areas, and people, in need of potential policing. That’s not to say that all resistance is futile [nor] that we should desist from growing communities in which to live and love; rather that we would be wise to understand that many ‘subversive’ actions – and social relations – increasingly serve the needs of power as well as liberty. The balance of advantage should always be taken into consideration. We need to always ask ourselves the question: To what extent is the planned action or method of social relationship likely to haemorrhage data on potentially resistive identities? With increasingly powerful surveillance states and storms approaching, our responsibility to each other, especially to those as yet unimplicated, grows.”

    This also shines light on one part of the governmental and corporate fervour to encourage people to use the internet. (“[E]ncouraging the disconnected to hop online” was described by one Washington Post journalist as “a national priority.”[20]) The high-selling political book 'The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of Peoples, Nations and Business', authored by Google's (now former) CEO Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen (the director of Google's 'Ideas' division), openly proposes the centrality of the digital sector in a global counter-insurgency strategy against the many threats that haunt their securitarian nightmares. Tech companies, according to them, are in a privileged position to combat 'radicalisation' internationally: they can go where governments cannot, without the impositional legacy of the local State; they can talk to people without diplomatic caution; and they operate in the 'universal' and 'neutral' language of technology. (Moreover, they recognise the pernicious influence their products have on children of all sectors, that kids are the “real demographic breeding ground for terrorist groups”, and that it is the tech industry and not the State who produce video games, social networks and mobile phones. “It is only when we have their attention,” the authors conclude, “that we can hope to win their hearts and minds.”)

    To be sure,” in their words, “there will be people who resist adopting and using technology, people who want nothing to do with virtual profiles, online data systems or smart phones. Yet a government might suspect that people who opt out completely have something to hide and thus are more likely to break laws, and as a counterterrorism measure, that government will build the kind of ‘hidden people’ registry we described earlier. If you don’t have any registered social-networking profiles or mobile subscriptions, and online references to you are unusually hard to find, you might be considered a candidate for such a registry. You might also be subjected to a strict set of new regulations that includes rigorous airport screening or even travel restrictions.” We have already anecdotally heard of the German police arriving on the doorstep of one person's friends after a burglary in the same housing complex, based on the fact they were the only inhabitants without Facebook profiles; did they have something to hide? And let's not forget that the 'The New Digital Age' co-author Jared Cohen is the American government's anti-terrorism adviser who, during upheavals in Iran in 2009 and that regime's censorship of Twitter, directly urged that company to retain its services; or that Google themselves are primary partners of the universal PRISM spying program of the National Security Agency and others.

    Just as important as recognising the machinations of various elites with their generals and bureaucrats are the behaviours inculcated into many more people as a result. Returning to 'Robots of Repression': “In the world at large, comment forums have been seized on by internet news sites to increase reader interest and also to further mold reader opinion. Given that the public has always been an imaginary force used to discipline collective and individual behavior, the opening of a new potential manifestation of a collectivity, on the internet, had to be replaced by a new public. And that public, as all publics, had to be disciplined. In the beginning, this was done by astroturfing: mercenary trolls in the employ of public relations firms or government agencies posting comments that would generate favorable opinions of specific brands and policies, and on a larger scale create a majority disposed to social peace and consumption. Increasingly, astroturfing is being automated as the PR firms and governments that carry it out increase their labor efficiency by turning their opinion workers into the overseers of multiple computer-generated opinion-spreading machines that create the impression of a sycophantic mass hostile to the extremists, favorable to the products, and unquestioning of the tropes and lenses with which the media represent the world.

    As machines condition the workforce with increasingly mechanical behaviors and apparatuses condition their captives to act within the suggested channels, we can surmise that the roboticization of the workforce carrying out the informational and affective labor of the internet forums is of secondary importance to the inculcation of robotic attitudes among the remaining organics. In other words, the horror of the mass production of an imaginary public through internet comments is not to be found in the image of real people being overwhelmed by corporate-employed robots who endanger a prior democratic balance; it is to be found, rather, in the image of real people becoming steadily more like the robots who replaced them, in their own turn making the robots redundant (but no less useful).” The forms of diffuse and anonymous power that abound online can expand pre-existing structures of domination as easily as they can throw disparate groups of people together. As a rather more dystopian twist on the 'global village' effect we were promised that digital communication would bring, the online neighbourhood group NextDoor is notorious in the U.S. city of Oakland for the rampant racial profiling by its white-identified users who encourage each other to call the police (over suspects with little more description than “black” or “wearing a hoodie” being near bus stops, standing in 'shadows', making U-turns, and hanging around outside coffee shops), share tips on how to reach law enforcement, and sometimes even alert cops and security guards about suspicious activity they've only read secondhand from other commenters. In 2014 the Oakland police and NextDoor (who estimate 20% of the city's households use the site) launched a formal citywide partnership, and today police regularly publish alerts, suspect photos and crime statistics on it, and the company is partnered with more than 1,200 government entities – mostly police departments – throughout the U.S.

    New Frontiers of Capitalist Accumulation

    If for nearly thirty years environmentalists, even the most radical among them, have kept almost silent over the computerisation of the world introduced by the microchip, it's because they have failed to grasp the role that it has played in the modernisation of domination. Since they first appeared in the 1950s, the technosciences of IT and communication have constantly been gaining ground. In the most industrialised states, since the end of the 1970s their roll-out has impacted most areas of society. Things really took off with the arrival and multiplication of personal computers, partly as a consequence of massive opposition to “big science”. “Small science for the people” became a reality, on the basis of the rehashed illusions of a previous, particularly Californian, era. By way of robotics, it proved an effective weapon against the revolts which broke out at the end of the 1960s, especially against the long-term Taylorist mechanisation of work [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg28]. It brought about a change in the depth of the behaviour of the dominated classes, particularly in their cognitive behaviour, involving sensitivity, language, memory, imagination, relations with others, as well as their relationship to space and to time. People became accustomed to viewing the world by way of algorithmic logic. Technological power – which is part of, and a representation of, social power – tends to see the human mind as working in the same way as a computer and a focus on forecasting and calculation overshadowed any desire to understand the world. First of all, behind the great IT obsession with “smaller, cheaper and faster”, lurks the “time is money” of our old enemy, Capital. In the period of deep mutations to the system which we are currently experiencing, the gaining of time, at every level, is more important than ever in trying to accrue benefits. And given the central role played by the handling of information in the exercise of modern domination, the increase in the speed of microprocessors and networks, as well as in the mass of data handled, are sources of increased power. The totalitarian utopia of power is no longer Bentham's Panopticon [ed. – see Panopticons Then & Now], the model of prison discipline, but the “global brain” envisaged by Bill Gates [co-founder of Microsoft], the model of control exerted by the network of networks.”

    André Dréan

    Capital has always seemed to need its high priests, its visionaries, those with both ambitions for the direction of the system and the economic, technical and political power to influence it. The big tech elites today hold that function. One of the clear gains this class has achieved in the digital era (while obviously they themselves will in many cases also be victim to it on an individual level) is the extension of the workplace into pretty much all of time and space. It is often expected that employees (or the self-employed) will be available nigh-on 24/7; even though the German Labour Minister admitted to the press that it is “indisputable that there is a connection between permanent availability and psychological diseases”, the norm is still that you answer emails on the train to work, publish blogposts over lunch, field work calls or Skype long after office hours, etc., just to keep up with the pace the tech giants enable. Already in the 1980's some were calling office work the 'electronic assembly line'; now, work has escaped the office as much as the shop-floor, and we all must produce value to be capitalised upon, even without recognising it. “Think about what people are doing on Facebook today,” enthused its chairman Mark Zuckerberg. “They’re keeping up with their friends and family, but they’re also building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand. They’re connecting with the audience that they want to connect to. […] It’s almost a disadvantage if you’re not on it now.”

    The authors of 'The Smartphone Society' recognised as much, without the same enthusiasm. “When we use our phones to text friends and lovers, post comments on Facebook, or scroll through our Twitter feeds, we’re not working – we’re relaxing, we’re having fun, we’re creating. Yet, collectively, through these little acts, we end up producing something unique and valuable: our selves. […] Individuals don’t get paid in wages for creating and maintaining digital selves – they get paid in the satisfaction of participating in rituals, and the control afforded them over their social interactions. They get paid in the feeling of floating in the vast virtual connectivity, even as their hand machines [Chinese term for smartphones] mediate social bonds, helping people imagine togetherness while keeping them separate as distinct productive entities. The voluntary nature of these new rituals does not make them any less important, or less profitable for capital.” This means profound reshuffling of the productive system we are ensnared within, including shifting roles of power-over dynamics (while in no way necessarily an undoing of them in any universal sense). “Today,” according to Alex Gorrion, “affective dedication and creativity are required of all those desolate souls who must inhabit a prison, regardless of their level of relative privilege.

    The forerunner of this dynamic, now repeated at a greater intensity, is the patriarchal system of bribery that allowed any expendable proletarian or peasant man to play at being tyrant, and taste a small dose of the drug that made misery enjoyable. […] While capitalism has always relied on unwaged labor, until now that labor has been provided by patriarchy or colonialism. In the Wikipedia age, the voluntary character of unwaged production is largely different.” So despite Google owning their own attack jet, the force employed by these modern-day conquistadors need not always be so indiscreet, building as it does on the pacification and disciplining achieved so far and continually re-inscribed on the body by those prior drives for accumulation of wealth and power. We'd concur with those who wrote, in 'Deserting the Digital Utopia', that “new corporations like Google are updating the Fordist compromise via free labor and free distribution. Ford offered workers greater participation in capitalism via mass consumption; Google gives everything away for free by making everything into an unpaid job. In offering credit, Ford enabled workers to become consumers by selling their future as well as present labor; Google has dissolved the distinction between production, consumption, and surveillance, making it possible to capitalize on those who may never have anything to spend at all.” Yet compared with accumulation drives such as the attack on European commoning [ed. – see ‘A Profound Dis-ease’], the mechanisation of industrial work [ed. – see Memory as a Weapon; “An Outragous Spirit of Tumult & Riot”], the relegation of a private and 'feminised' sphere for social reproduction, and the occupation and extraction of value from foreign territories, all this has met with relatively little explicit resistance so far. Rather, many celebrate the online worlds they both co-create and inhabit as liberatory, even as it becomes increasingly involuntary when we're obliged to perform digitally for work, eduction and social life. We become both producer and consumer here too, both conduit and captive.

    Until the end of the 20th century,” reads a passage from 'The Internet as New Enclosure', “mass media was essentially unidirectional, with information flowing one way and attention flowing the other. Critics generally focused on this aspect of its structure, charging that it gave a small cabal tremendous influence over society while immobilizing everyone else as spectators. In contrast, underground media championed more participatory and decentralized forms. Participation and decentralization suddenly became mainstream with the arrival of widely accessible digital media. In many ways, the internet offered a liberating and empowering terrain for new modes of communication. Since the basic model was developed by researchers funded by the military rather than the private sector, it was designed to be useful rather than profitable. [...] The networks offered by Facebook aren’t new; what’s new is that they seem external to us. We’ve always had social networks, but no one could use them to sell advertisements– nor were they so easy to map. Now they reappear as something we have to consult. People corresponded with old friends, taught themselves skills, and heard about public events long before email, Google, and Twitter. Of course, these technologies are extremely helpful in a world in which few of us are close with our neighbors or spend more than a few years in any location. The forms assumed by technology and daily life influence each other, making it increasingly unthinkable to uncouple them.

    [...] As our need for and access to information increase beyond the scope of anything we could internalize, information seems to become separate from us. This is suspiciously similar to the forcible separation from the products of their labor that transformed workers into consumers. The information on the internet is not entirely free – computers and internet access cost money, not to mention the electrical and environmental costs of producing these and running servers all around the world. And what if corporations figure out how to charge us more for access to all these technologies once we’ve become totally dependent on them? If they can, not only power and knowledge but even the ability to maintain social ties will be directly contingent on wealth.

    But this could be the wrong thing to watch out for. Old-money conglomerates may not be able to consolidate power in this new terrain after all. The ways capitalism colonizes our lives via digital technologies may not resemble the old forms of colonization.

    Like any pyramid scheme, capitalism has to expand constantly, absorbing new resources and subjects. It already extends across the entire planet; the final war of colonization is being fought at the foot of the Himalayas, the very edge of the world. In theory, it should be about to collapse now that it has run out of horizons. But what if it could go on expanding into us, and these new technologies are like the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María [ed. – ships used by conquistador Christopher Colombus in his first voyage to the Americas] landing on the continent of our own mental processes and social ties?

    In this account, the internet functions as another successive layer of alienation built on the material economy. If a great deal of what is available on the internet is free of charge, this is not just because the process of colonization is not yet complete, but also because the determinant currency in the media is not dollars but attention[21].”

    Despite having worked out how to stay the most dynamic sector of Capital and to continue to profit from enterprises outside of themselves, the tech majors are nonetheless consolidating their fiefdoms. Silicon Valley and the like must constantly harvest the 'cream of the crop' of intellectual capital internationally (programmers, designers, scientists), and it becomes increasingly hard to make a living in the sector without enriching these companies. Independent developers might reach a huge audience through YouTube, for example, thus generating revenue for its owners Google not themselves first, but with the prospect of having to achieve sales into the thousands to recoup costs for the expensive design software: or utilise free or cheap versions, which entail relinquishing personal information and being spied on for the privilege.

    In their narrative, the makers of the 2012 documentary 'Metropolis' redeploy “the maggot man”, a figure from the work of philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, to describe this new vanguard of the capitalist class. “The maggot man is the final human being, consuming up the rest of humanity that has been left for dead. The maggot men are the recuperative arms of virtual capital seeking nourishment, finding resistance and assimilating, appropriating and overwhelming, and at last conquering digitally-nomadic proletarians. Hopelessly mediocre, he sees himself as the pinnacle of human history. The maggot man transforms living energy and labour into electronic replicas of a dead culture's skin, and then crawls inside. Not a cultural stone is left unturned by the maggot. In the spirit of digital capitalism, the maggot man is the machinery of dead labour and virtual value. He is a creative leader of virtual capital, feeding off dead flesh, the last harvester of human senses before their transition from human to cyborg. The maggot man, sick of himself, needs technology. In his future, technology separates from the human species. The human animal breaks off into the networked intelligence of digital technology.” If this latter vision sounds far-fetched, it is but a pale shadow of the rhetoric from the over-heated minds of the futurists who staff these companies up to the highest echelons [ed. – see ‘The Stories Which Civilisation Holds as Sacred’]. Their technocratic ideologies already take shape within the vast 'lights-out' factories which have already been roboticised, shedding their human appendages almost entirely, while those not ejected from some sectors and pushed to the economic margins face the prospect of virtually life-long training and retraining to keep up with the evolution of the machines. There is only a certain threshold such a costly program of human updating is likely to reach. As humans become more disjointed and unreliable – in the ways described early in this essay – and combined with the technological fetishism of our culture, machine control will be justified by the bosses as more reasonable; as if they needed the excuse for choosing workers they don't have to pay.

    The bigger tech companies seem to be endeavoring to not just play loyal stooges to government, but in some cases to try an active hand in the miserable political process itself (besides lobbying). Sure, capitalists have been key players in this field as long as capitalism and democracy have existed, but in some ways this is more blatant. When the leader of the Canadian Green Party was pointedly not invited to a televised debate, Twitter announced that it would shoot and post video responses to moderator questions in near-real time, knowing such platforms to already be central points of political discussion. However, it's already long ago that players from the industry were providing less to-your-face impetus for global affairs, along with more long-standing stalwarts of the capitalist elite: for instance, in the guise of philanthropy. A good example would be Bill Gates, until recently the CEO of Microsoft. “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [ed. – see Return Fire vol.1 pg36] dispenses the large amounts of money all across the world, selectively promoting and facilitating the growth of emerging technologies and cultural trends [and funding] various methods of population control. Not only does the Foundation promote the use and integration of Microsoft computers in the Third World; it is attempting to take control of the global food supply, by forcing countries to grow Monsanto Golden Rice, a genetically-modified crop that is copyrighted and tightly controlled. […] In 2012 a group of Microsoft company leaders met to discuss how Shakespeare's The Tempest would help them make better decisions. The leaders were equated with the colonisers landing on the island. Any problems these leaders might encounter were equated with the dark-skinned native Caliban, and his mother Sycorax, the witch” (Metropolis).

    Hi-Tech Heavens, Hi-Tech Hells

    In the event of non-accidental injuries (including suicide, self mutilation, etc.), I agree that the company has acted properly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, and will not sue the company, bring excessive demands, take drastic actions that would damage the company's reputation or cause trouble that would hurt normal operations.”

    mandatory clause for employees of the FoxConn assembly plants in China

    However much we allow ourselves to be wrapped up in its allures, our inheritance is a world disfigured by the digital on more than an individual level. As these technologies mould and colonise our minds and social interactions, so too must they and their industrial base expand materially, consuming electricity, land and labour. These technologies don't appear from nowhere; rather, they are inseperable from the rest of the techno-industrial capitalist world system which spawned them. They require the gargantuan electricity flows sent arching through pylons that leave destruction in their wake [ed. – see Power Down], and the wireless transmission from routers or phone masts toxifying the species that surround us not just ourselves; and the ephemeral physicality of 'the Cloud' and such takes form in the vast server-farms like those vast plots of cooled hangars industrialising the Oregon high desert, sanctuary no more from the detritus of civilisation. Behind the polished, aseptic exterior of the sleek devices which fill consumers' backpacks in the Global North (and not only, at an ever-fastening rate), lingers the death and misery they wreck mostly in the Global South. As we are reminded by Gianluca Iacovacci [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg71], “[t]he technological race is financed by hi-tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Sony etc., which unscrupulously feed the market with computers, bio-computers and devices, all useless stuff producing imbecility, good for mass control and statistics, responsible for the polluting extraction of minerals used in the fabrication of circuits; the very circuits that at a later stage and in an absurd consumerist cycle will be dismantled with bare hands and the help of acids in China, Ghana, Vietnam and India; even by children whose little hands are particularly fit for the purposes.”

    Key components for the production of modern electronics, besides highly-toxic synthetic chemicals, are a variety of heavy-metals and 'rare-earth' minerals. Coltan is one classic example of the latter that is essential in managing the flow of current in electronic devices. War and deforestation in Central Africa has exterminated precarious species and claimed literally millions of human lives as State and non-State actors vie over territory for their prison-labour mining facilites for this heat-resistant mineral ore. China supplies the world market with the vast majority of 'rare-earth' metals used in phones, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, etc. A substantial portion of the Chinese workforce for extraction, likely to result in cancers and other serious conditions, comes from the occupied territory of Tibet, where the Chinese military forcibly disbands communities and dispatches them to such labour camps. As of 2014, a fifth of the Tibetan population (1.2 million and counting) had died in mines like these.

    Upon surveying the sprawling industrial zone of Bautou, a desolate stain of endless smokestacks, refineries and waste-pools on the plains of Inner Mongolia, a BBC journalist noted that “[i]t's the kind of industrial landscape that America and Europe has largely forgotten – at one time parts of Detroit or Sheffield must have looked and smelled like this. [...] The intriguing thing about both neodymium and cerium is that while they’re called rare earth minerals, they're actually fairly common. Neodymium is no rarer than copper or nickel and quite evenly distributed throughout the world’s crust. While China produces 90% of the global market’s neodymium, only 30% of the world’s deposits are located there. Arguably, what makes it, and cerium, scarce enough to be profitable are the hugely hazardous and toxic process needed to extract them from ore and to refine them into usable products. For example, cerium is extracted by crushing mineral mixtures and dissolving them in sulphuric and nitric acid, and this has to be done on a huge industrial scale, resulting in a vast amount of poisonous waste as a byproduct. It could be argued that China’s dominance of the rare earth market is less about geology and far more about the country’s willingness to take an environmental hit that other nations shy away from.” Yet in a competitive and insatiable capitalist economy, diverse sources are needed, and you can also die by the droves as an indigenous Piaroa worker in the coltan mines south of Inírida in Colombia, while 'rare-earth' prospecting begun for a mine at almost the most westerly point of Europe; near Vigo, on the north Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsular.

    Apple's supply chain links colonies of software engineers with hundreds of component suppliers in North America, Europe, and East Asia – Gorilla Glass from Kentucky, motion coprocessors from the Netherlands, camera chips from Taiwan, and transmit modules from Costa Rica funnel into dozens of assembly plants in China. […] Apple insiders refer to FoxConn’s assembly city in Shenzhen as Mordor – J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth hellhole. As a spate of suicides in 2010 tragically revealed, the moniker is only a slight exaggeration of the factories in which young Chinese workers assemble iPhones” (The Smartphone Society). This specific industrial nightmare grew on the back of the mobile phone alone; thirty years ago, this urban hive of 12 million was a fishing village surrounded by rice paddies. When the iPhone first came out, Apple leader Steve Jobs was said to be so upset that the screen could be scratched more easily than he wanted, he insisted that FoxxCon use new screen coating that turned workers blind. In 2012, over 300 workers at a FoxxCon plant manufacturing X-Box gaming consoles for Microsoft climbed to the roof and threatened to commit mass suicide. Under pressure to clean up Apple's image, FoxxCon addressed a run of suicides on the job – by hanging large nets from the factory building to catch any jumpers.

    Yet to just fetishise these spectacular (and increasingly known) examples, especially within the borders of a nation widely-maligned in the West for labour and environmental policies which are in many ways an attempt to squeeze the centuries-long defilement and proletarianisation which birthed industrialism in Europe into less than a century to catch up, does not address the more general dispossession and stultification. We could consider the depiction given by the narrators of 'Metropolis' of the Microsoft headquarters east of Seattle. “The city of Microsoft is a desert. Its headquarters stretch across one-third of the geographical space of the municipality of Redmond, with 150 campus buildings[...] Employees are given access to their own indoor mall, and circulate every day through the parking lots, restaurants, cubicles and distractions provided by their employer. They are watched every moment of the day and are surrounded by advertisements for the commodities they helped create. This is the army that is digitising the world, turning all life into circuitry, metal and glass. [...] Redmond campus is a hive mind, an apparatus of psychic repression that keeps its often-depressed employees in a long narcosis that destroys their ability to comprehend the limits of the natural world[,] their creativity and psychic energy sucked out and emptied. Everything they create is created for something else. In return for their services they are rewarded with an alienating and insular life, where work is all and all is work. Their individual efforts all contribute to unified products and the objects they create have objectified them in turn. Together they build the hive-mind. Together they strive to create the purest form of information; the digital cloud severed from all constraints [through] which the natural world is networked into the digital one.” In many ways these labyrinths of the hi-tech giants are the new 'company towns' of the 19th and early 20th century: office workers might be offered colourful surroundings, vegan canteen options, free on-site laundry or ice-cream machines, but only to deaden the blow of still being only so many pounds of cubicle-fodder for the bosses.

    In certain cities, around the world, the tech sector does not confine itself to its private compounds; rather, it seeps out to cannibalise and transform whatever it can use to fuel itself onwards. A fairly classic example of this is in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. west coast. “Ironically,” remark the author/s of 'Precarity in Paradise', “it was probably San Francisco’s status as a rough and gritty haven for street culture that made it interesting for the yuppies of Silicon Valley. Over the course of decades, counterculture was turned into cultural capital, and the city became a playground for the employees of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other IT firms.

    This playground, however, is not the typical service sector zone designed to capture the salaries distributed by an adjacent large employer, like the towns of bars and strip clubs that invariably border army bases. Perhaps the most significant element of this new economy is that the playground is first and foremost a productive model. As intelligent and ruthless as the tech sector is, does anyone really think they would ever let their employees stop working? Far from it: the days of punching the clock and going home are over.

    Just as cellphones nefariously increase worker productivity by forcing all of us to be perpetually on call, IT employees are increasingly being centralized in culturally stimulating neighborhoods where they can socialize with other yuppies, display their gadgets, and brainstorm ever newer applications for the latest technologies. They are not always on the clock, but they are intended to take their work home with them. The playgrounds where they frolic, therefore, need to have the infrastructural backing to interface with the new apps that make up a large part of economic production today, and they also need the social and cultural allure that make such apps exciting, both for their designers and their consumers. These can include apps for dating, finding hip restaurants and clubs, and linking people with shared hobbies. A city that doesn’t cater to a wide range of hobbies, that doesn’t have good infrastructure, and that doesn’t boast first rate cuisine and night life won’t be able to attract the brightest young minds necessary for growth in the tech sector, nor will it inspire them to keep producing all around the clock. Just as work and leisure are fused, cultural production, material production, and intellectual production become indistinguishable.”

    Perhaps there are only so many cities that genuinely can meet this standard, but a good many are certainly bidding to make themselves among them. More generally, as the applications of digital networks permeate public and private space, our environment is recast by programmers and engineers, with lines of inclusion and exclusion sometimes more subtle than others. When, amongst other issues, Google supplying dedicated bus routes in the Bay Area to shuttle its employees from residential areas to campus led to landlords along the routes deciding to hike rents 20% and issuing eviction notices, anti-eviction organisers threw up a few blockades of the vehicles. The attitudes encountered, as recounted by an author on the Mismanaging Perception blog, were telling as to the entitled demeanor the companies feed on. “Echoing the slogan of New York City’s former Mayor Ed Koch – “If you can’t afford to live here, mo-o-ove!” – one Google employee yelled from a blockaded bus, “This is a city for the right people who can afford it.” [F]rom Portland, Oregon, to Miami, Florida, the same pattern keeps reappearing. Jobs are relocated to concentrated corporate campuses, while the higher-salaried employers settle in the inner cities, and cities are able to re-establish dominance over the periphery. Google’s control over much of the information flows through which the periphery connects to the center evinces the colonial quality of mass media in the era of hyper-modernism [ed. – see ‘A Profound Dis-ease’]. […] Is not Google Glass[22]precisely the manifestation of the crisis of the intelligibility of urban space[?] Here, two classes, one rich and one poor, can co-exist in the same city while literally living on two utterly different levels of intelligibility. For the rich, the city is comprised of data and information that may provide elite accessibility, while the lower class, which lives outside of the city and works in the service industry, perform the role of automatons, reproducing a city that they, themselves, have no chance of experiencing.[23]

    Without returning to the 'public' vs. 'private' canard raised by too many anti-gentrification efforts[24], 'Precarity in Paradise' turns to the specific niche the Catalan city of Barcelona has found in this arrangement, and what this has meant for its inhabitants. “With increasing success, Barcelona is branding itself as an ideal location for work/play, complementing rather than replacing the existing giants. [T]rade fairs encourage networking among the global delegates of a given industry, allowing them to show off their products and make new contacts. But they are also meant to have an element of fun. No one wants to go to a trade fair in Des Moines. Barcelona is not only a city with pizazz, it is also a site of innovation in IT and other industries. Barcelona is the number one city worldwide in the number of conference delegates it hosts (in fact 40% of visitors who overnight in the city come to town for an international event), and the third ranked city worldwide in the number of international conferences. Its most important fair is the Mobile World Congress, which is the largest cellphone and app trade fair in the world. The Congress is a source of resentment, and in past years it has been targeted by protests or even partially interrupted by riots. Though many people rely on the economic activity associated with the MWC, the jobs generated are temporary and stressful, and the thousands of delegates who attend occupy the city with a grand sense of entitlement. Like any macro-event, the Congress also entails a heavy police presence and extreme security measures, imposed on adjacent neighborhoods and on its own workforce. This year[2015]<em> the police blacklisted at least a dozen people who had already been hired to work the fair. Mostly anarchists, many of those on the blacklist did not have any criminal records, and none of them had been arrested for anything that would present a legitimate security concern for temp workers. Nonetheless, the Catalan police are in charge of security at the Fira, the large complex that hosts the major trade fairs in Barcelona, and they reserve the right to impose whatever conditions they wish.</em>

    To host a trade fair, a city needs a great deal of disposable, precarious labor. The Mobile World Congress employs over twelve thousand people every year, most of them for just over a week, often working them 14 hours a day. The only people who would work in such conditions are those who live month to month and, lacking stable employment, have to take whatever job they can get. With youth employment around 50%, Barcelona has that kind of labor pool.” Whilst this serves as a specific case in which the presence of the tech industry interests are rising influences in the composition of certain centres of capital, the projected reach of that industry's creations is far wider. From architecture, utility placement, new veins of information and energy supply, traffic control and policing or exclusion techniques, the digital sector proposes its various 'solutions' for the impending crises generated in the urban monstrosities of the world: the Smart City[25], the nightmare-fantasy the State and Capital walk hand-in-hand towards. In this light, the further abandonment of subversive or resistant activities in physical and public spaces by radicals who instead privilege the online forms of contestation assumes a new gravity. The challenge appears to be the re-embodiment of the force of willful insurgence which threatens to become ever more ethereal, at the same time as the spaces of our actual lives are gentrified, securitised, further paved-over and digitalised. But how to resist these encroachments in more than discourse alone? What are the precedents, and what is the terrain on which we stand today?

    Chucking Rocks at the Google Bus

    Today someone will wake up, and as every other morning before anything else they will check their Facebook account or some other virtual media [developed] to turn our forms of interaction into mere algorithms used for continuing to feed their capitalist machinery. Today the vast industry has become essentially financial, and the development of technologies is yet another tool of this big monster to establish greater domination. Today their internet, telephone and television will not emit any signal. This morning will be extended several days, in which the enterprise will try to resolve what was caused by this act of sabotage.”

    claim for the arson of a junction box belonging to Telmex [ed. – see Memory as a Weapon; A Shorter History of a Northwest E.L.F. Cell], Mexico City, 05.04.15

    On May 22nd, 1971, a series of explosions rippled through the Special Branch HQ in Tintagel House, the London Metropolitan Police building on the Albert Embankment of the Thames. (The bombing, carried out by the 'Angry Brigade', was coordinated with simultaneous attacks in Paris by other European anarchist groups against a British Rail office, Rolls Royce showroom, and suppliers of Land Rover. It responded, amongst other things, to the arrest and accusation of two men in England with Angry Brigade membership and actions.) One of the blasts in Tintagel House was aimed at the police computer – a 'state of the art' U.K.–designed ICT 1301 mainframe. In their communique taking responsibility for the action, they wrote that: “We are getting closer. We are slowly destroying the long tentacles of the oppressive State machine... secret files in the universities, work study in the factories, the census at home, social security files, computers, TV, Giro, passports, work permits, insurance cards. Bureaucracy and technology [used] to speed up our work, to slow down our minds and actions...” Allegedly, damage was minimal.

    If there's one thing we can be sure of today, it is that to imagine the foci of digital domination to reside in such facilities is no longer the case. Still, it is instructive to see the trajectory of some others who, standing at the same precipice of the technological wave to come, initially utilised the same tactics. The example we'll use of the anti-authoritarian group CLODO ('Committee for the Liquidation and Subversion of Computers', or 'clodo' in French also being a slang word for the homeless) arose from a context of sabotages on company or State properties related with nuclear construction (amongst other targets) with fire or explosions in southern France in the 1970-80's. In the course of the series of actions they claimed over the years, most of them involving torching or otherwise destroying computer centres, they denounced the “domestification” (domestication and mystification) this technology brought and pointing to “the abuse of the quantitative and the reduction to the binary” at its very point of origin, whilst also in cases linking their targets to U.S. imperialism. Their methods and discourse were often playful and informal, and they to this day have never been caught [26].

    Interestingly, they claimed they were actually computer workers themselves, and so “consequently well placed to know the current and future dangers of data processing and telecommunications[27].” (If that's what they actually were, then we must say we prefer their approach to that called for by the famous Wikileaks founder-in-exile Julian Assange's appeal for computer programmers to defend their interests as a class; by analogy, CLODO's aims could be read as abolishing themselves as a class...) In their final communication, the group pledged to gear future actions specifically towards the impending telecommunications explosion (presumably abandoning claims), action which would apparently be less 'spectacular' than the firebombing of the Sperry-Univac computing facility for which they were most famous.

    In the wake of that telecommunications explosion, where the computer proficiency skills to a fairly high levels are – while certaintly not generalised – at least much more common than they used to be, we have seen the phenomenon of hacking increase and diversify. Certainly, it's interesting to notice events like the 'largest cybercrime ever uncovered' which between 2013-2015 saw a Russian-based group use computer viruses to infect networks in more than 100 financial institutions worldwide and spirit away £650million, or the hack which seized and ransomed all the files of judges and the Udine prosecutor's office in Italy. Besides expropriation, there was the case of an attack (of unknown origin) on a German steel mill which managed to inflict serious physical damage to the plant by causing outages after hacking into the mainframe. The increased interconnectivity of many objects and processes would seem vulnerable in this regard. In terms of hacks from a more explicitly 'radical' space, many will have by now heard of the umbrella-group #Anonymous and their exploits; including issuing an ambiguous threatening message the night before the New York Stock Exchange temporarily suspended trading on all securities due to a 'technical issue', and United Airlines briefly grounded all of its flights due to a systemwide failure. Sometimes hacking corresponds to or complements other, 'real-life' interventions, such as 2012 vandalism of the Facebook wall of Egypt Air while anti-deportation activists in Cardiff, Wales, clogged up their phonelines, smashed windows at the U.K. Border Agency office and attempted to block the coach carrying their friend to their 'removal' from reaching the motorway. The year before, anarchist arson of the upper floors of a €200million Rabobank skyscraper in Utrecht, Holland (for the third time over a nine-month period, and while the arms that bank invests in were being used to suppress insurgencies in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Israel, Greece...), also happened simultaneously with a cyber-attack on their website.

    From where we ourselves stand, without much technical knowledge to gauge the impact certain types of electronic disruption would entail, it's hard to tell how effective some of these strikes must be. The ethereal quality that 'cyber-attack' seems to entail is something that perhaps feels reduced to those who have spent the necessary amount of time tinkering with computers; certainly the State seems keen to either severely punish the digital renegades it manages to ensnare [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg72] or to enlist talented hackers to become 'white-hat' assets of governments and corporations. Is there a potential for electronic saboteurs to launch an offensive that seeks to undermine and implode cybernetic governance and the reproduction of computer technologies themselves, rather than simply appropriate these technologies for supposedly 'liberatory' ends, or even just to continue the naive narrative of democratically distributing 'facts' which a 'tyrannical order' would like to conceal from the masses? We'll leave that question to those better qualified to answer it; those with the patience, resources and resilience to subject themselves to even more screen-time than is already prescribed in daily life. For our part, we will turn to a more embodied resistance, and what that might hold.

    If TV shows like 'Black Mirror', novels like Dave Eggers''The Circle' and Holywood films like 'Transcendence' are anything to go by, there is definitely something subliminal in the pop-culture zeitgeist about our imprisonment by digital technologies and an impulse to escape it. (Those who speak too stridently of this outside of the steam-vent of the entertainment industry, however, have yet to be spared the accusations of paranoia or outright insanity which have stigmatised such critics in the past.) Considering this, attacks which could be said to mostly have a symbolic element (from repeated attacks on the Greek headquarters of Microsoft [ed. – see Return Fire vol.1 pg35] to general 'subvertisement' of tech industry propaganda, visible harassment of employees and managers, etc.) perhaps have more resonance than before, to draw out clearer lines of conflict between the digital and its discontents. Just this June, a man was arrested in California after striking a vehicle mapping for Google's StreetView feature with two molotovs, in a rage over its intrusiveness. (Police linked him to two more acts in the days preceding; gunfire breaking glass at that corporation’s Mountain View premises, and torching another StreetView vehicle.) “An enterprise that maps the planet Earth, sending its teams into every street of every one of its towns, cannot have purely commercial aims,” the authors of 'Google Dégage' warn. “One never maps a territory that one doesn't contemplate appropriating.” If only more people recognised this preliminary occupation as such, and responded in kind! How many similar projects might be discovered quietly unfolding in our neighbourhoods were we to investigate, which count on not facing such opposition?

    It's easy to forget that the internet also has a more general physicality to it, and not just in terms of the less accessible nodes like the remote server farms, the under-sea cables linking continents, or even the interchanges known as 'carrier hotels' normally housed in urban facilities of the communications industry. In a district of Porto Alegre, Brazil, the group 'Hostility Against Domination' forced access undetected to the transmissions antennae of NetSul – serving the State, the army and various private companies as well as a fibre-optic network, internet and TV – in May this year and set a destructive fire[28]. Similarly, in the run-up to the opening of the European Central Bank headquarters in Germany [ed. – see Return Fire vol.3 pg10], arson inside the control panel of a pylon near Eschorn by opponents of the bank and its world was enough to cause outages in the data centres of Frankfurt.

    In a world economy highly dependent on high-speed and uninterrupted data-flows, new long-distance private fire-optic lines are thrown up in some places for an advantage of literally milliseconds. It is precisely this digital backbone which the FBI in California is investigating at least 14 anonymous attacks upon since the summer of 2014. Following one such sabotage, where two fibre-optic cables belonging to AT&T (and legally considered a critical piece of the nation's internet infrastructure) were cut in the Bay Area suburb that’s home to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and many high-tech commuters, you could read in the news that “[t]he high-capacity lines, which aren’t much thicker than a pencil, carry vast amounts of data. Everything from phone calls to computer transactions, emails, and even the security camera feeds watching the cables themselves travel down the plastic or glass fibers as pulses of light. The cables are the interstate highways of the information superhighway. The FBI says whoever has been attacking the cables usually opens a underground vault, climbs inside and then cuts through the cables’ protective metal conduit before severing the lines themselves.” (The investigators also said that whoever is responsible may be dressing as telecom maintenance workers or “possess tools consistent with that job role”.) Back on this side of the Atlantic, we could take the example (among others in that country) of the blaze in a data centre of the mobile operator Base which temporarily knocked out their coverage in all of Belgium for 2G, 3G and 4G internet a couple of years ago.

    In terms of otherwise confronting the social processes through which the digital capitalist model is being imposed, we already mentioned the commuter blockades in San Francisco, although the execution and discourse leave much to be desired from our standpoint. When the forms of power we are up against are more ephemeral, opportunities still might not be outside our grasp in some cases, as mentioned once again in 'Robots of Repression': “One possibility opened up by the participatory nature of the internet is the crowdsourcing of repression. “Crowdsourcing” itself is an internet-era neologism reflecting the previously unimaginable phenomenon that has followed riots from London to Toronto: the police publishing thousands of megabites worth of photo and video and calling on the public to help them trace and identify lawbreakers, qualitatively surpassing the predecessor of this phenomenon, the good ole fashioned “Wanted” poster. Of course, to every action a reaction a reaction: this crowdsourcing of repression has already been sabotaged by anarchists spamming police identification efforts, sometimes with the help of computer programs that automatically flood the database with thousands of fake and funny names (the equivalent of ripping down the “Wanted” poster, drawing a moustache on it, or, à la Robin Hood, shooting a freaking arrow through it).”

    Wherever the advance of the cybernetic monstrosity takes its own specific form, different possibilities might exist to undermine it, were we to seek them. In their case, the author/s of 'Precarity in Paradise' assert that “[t]he Catalan government has no hope of projecting Barcelona onto an international IT axis if it cannot control its own population. People, after all, are supposed to be resources, not self-organized beings with their own dreams, an ability to define their own desires and needs, and their own visions of what their neighborhoods should look like. Some Catalans are buying in to the new model of city, studying web design, imagining their own tech startups, or contenting themselves with jobs in hip bars and restaurants. But many residents of Barcelona are not at all happy with the new arrangement, and they are increasingly constituting a force capable of blocking the plans of investors and l’Ajuntament. Trade fair delegates who get spat on and insulted in the streets, or who have their work-vacations interrupted by a student riot or a transport strike, do not come back. Tourists who get robbed, or who can’t find cheap accomodations, look for other destinations. If neighbors collectively resist evictions, the character of their neighborhood can’t be changed as quickly.” All the better if such actors begin to link their struggles to a desire for a more generalised disruption, to a conflict against the environment as it boxes all of our lives into one or another form of metropolitan isolation, without continuing to valorise (a preceding form of) that isolation via lacklustre political groupings such as 'poor people vs. gentrifiers', 'citizens for a more democratic city', etc.

    Provisional Conclusions for Adoption, Amendment or Advancement

    A specific space inhabited by an apparatus – a website, for example – functions as a shell. Even in the absence of management, its very shape suggests a certain use and flow which serve to regenerate it. […] There are many anarchists who have run for the mountains, as it were, ignoring anarchist websites entirely and foregoing all the civilizational wonders of internetland, consigning themselves to discursive forms that are illegible from the lowlands. Through avoidance, they protect themselves from the recuperating trap of trying to resolve the problem, but they also run the risk, historically repeated, of losing a battle fought on a field from which they are absent, ensuring that they will subsequently be overrun and disappeared. Faced with the superficiality of internet communication and its pernicious effect on our own behaviors and networks, what are we to do? I don't offer you a solution to this question. I intend the question itself as a subversion, an invitation to counter the flow of the apparatus that is already leading you along to click on the hypertext that leads to the next article before even reading the middle of this one (because you skimmed, didn't you?) by pondering – at length and unproductively – an invitation to look away, causing your eye muscles to remember distance and focus, to breathe in deeply and remember that you hadn't been, and to remember your back and your shoulders, that should be straight, ready for a fight or a long walk, but are instead hunched, as though under some great load that you must carry with you wherever you go. What are we to do?”

    Robots of Repression

    Once, not so very long ago, it seems like a de facto position for radicals (or even 'counter-cultural' types more generally) was not owning a TV. Now, though the digital medium, there is a screen in almost all of our rooms, if not every pocket. It feels typical for such radicals as much as anyone else to be hooked on the latest series; and for those of us who aren't, how differently do our actual lives play out if the media we avidly consume is anarchist rather than pop-culture? The acceptance is more-or-less apparent that, despite our misgivings, for us too socialising, shopping, politic-ing and finding dates (to the degree all these are currently separable) now happen online. But these forms of activity are not the same as they were; more and more they are shaped into varieties of production of the self, to be sifted into demographics and subject to cybernetic governance. The medium, once again, can determine as much as the content.

    Far be it from us to suggest some type of politics of purity or consumption, miserable like all politics, which only leads to confusion between the choices of those who design, produce and disseminate digital technologies and the rest of us who must navigate the terrain it imposes; a confusion which dampens rebellion[29]. Yet how can we move, without only perpetuating the dynamics we've detailed above? The blogger Ian Erik Smith pondered a similar question about his own online activity. “Like so many others, I feel a compulsion to produce something, to express myself, and to advance a particular point of view. But I also experience a recurrent feeling that the effort is futile and potentially even counterproductive. As if everyone is shouting and my foolish but perhaps natural response is to attempt to shout even louder than the crowd. Nothing can possibly be heard and so, in truth, I’m merely adding to the noise.

    I can generate what is now commonly called “content” – able to produce fodder for a format – and can then, in one way or another, place it into the world. I can make paper copies and stash them into the hidden letter boxes that are to be found in abandoned stone walls or I can stuff them into glass bottles and hurl them into the sea. But more likely, I will deposit whatever I produce into the digital marketplace of ideas where ideas aren’t ideas but are simply content filling a space. At this point, it’s likely that my every move has been anticipated and my purposes already circumvented; my efforts may be effectively channeled to serve purposes that are not my own. By contributing content to the digital realm I am propping up what I wish to tear down and yet throwing a bottle into the sea doesn’t seem promising.

    [...] It doesn’t matter how insightful or well-crafted something is if there isn’t the space for it to be understood, considered, or comprehended. During the writing process one might focus on clarity and precision which are qualitative considerations; but once put into the digital realm it is almost exclusively quantitative considerations that remain relevant. What we want is for our content to be loud enough to silence everyone else; to command space. If not the smartest voice perhaps we can be the loudest voice.

    But are things really this grim?

    Even in the noisiest of spaces we are generally able to make out coherent bits and pieces. Civilization is a homogenizing, totalizing force but it is not yet fully realized, not yet perfect. There remain cracks. There remains space for learning, dialogue, and ultimately resistance. One need only consult his or her own experience and will likely recall numerous times when something significant reached one’s eyes or ears in a most timely way prompting a change in direction.

    In 1964 anarchist and art critic Herbert Read lamented that “the fall of the last civilization will not be heard above the incessant din”. This lament of a past anarchist can be a source of hope for contemporary anarchists who do not see civilization as something to be preserved or mourned but rather thrown off. [...] We should not expect to individually steer the direction of mass society in any direction as though we were generals on a battlefield; instead we should imagine ourselves as mice and rats chewing at the wires… soon there will be flames.” Although we may read much online that we forget again as quickly as we type the captcha for the next page, some things do stick, and finding a way to bring them off-screen into our lives becomes necessary.

    How can we create less-digitalised spaces or moments, ones which make it possible to look into each other's eyes again to voice our desire and joy for a life in hostility to what degrades us? If forms of online activity exist that actually equip people to engage in insurrectionary struggle that can transform our conditions (as some have cited virtual mapping programs doing during recent upheavals in Turkey) while actually undermining our wider dependency on the medium itself by contributing to spaces where potential rebels – and, why not, those they will have to learn to distinguish themselves from in the process – can meet in person, perhaps they are worthwhile to use for our aims. The key would be distinguishing that which creates upheavals in which the kind of surveillance that is possible on the internet is no longer possible on those who are in the struggle because they are acting outside of the field of representation, rather than coalescing new fields easily legible to our enemies. Such a focus would need at its base a recognition that the more dependent a struggle becomes on technologies produced out of its partisans' control, the more vulnerable it would be.

    To combat the digital delirium within our own anarchist circles and beyond, one (deceptively simple) proposition we'll make it that comrades could take turns gathering news, updates, communiques and analysis while others were relieved of the need to trawl the Net for these details, and then share the (printed?) information at regular get-togethers in the flesh. In this way the media in question would find a way to sit back within a more social context rather than a more individuated and passive one, while also allowing a crew to develop real-world affinities and projectual direction off the back of it. Perhaps this face-to-face aspect could (at least potentially?) dilute some of the needless bravado and dehumanising aspects which seem to flourish online. Admittedly concerning a slightly different proposal, the authors of 'We Are All Very Anxious' hit on some likely obstacles such a process would face in societies such as our own. “One major problem will be maintaining regular time commitments in a context of constant time and attentive pressure. The process has a slower pace and a more human scale than is culturally acceptable today. However, the fact that groups offer a respite from daily struggle, and perhaps a quieter style of interacting and listening which relieves attentive pressure, may also be attractive. Participants would need to learn to speak with a self-expressive voice (rather than a neoliberal performance derived from the compulsion to share banal information), and to listen and analyse.” (Another pitfall could be the creation of mere talking-shops to let off steam, were a drive to identify courses of action lacking.)

    Whether by these means or another, it feels true that making sure we find the space to actually talk with a friend or few about whatever topic makes it more real, whether identifying a social dynamic, rescuing a prisoner from the oblivion and forgetfulness repression aims to instill, or highlighting a vulnerability in the system to be exploited.

    Despite the horrific effects which are obviously non-reversible on ourselves and the rest of the biosphere from creating digital gadgets, there is reason to hope that at least some of the haziness that the Net clouds our vision with might be escaped, however temporarily. Carr recounts his experience of an experimental disconnection: “I cancelled my Twitter account, put my Facebook membership on hiatus, and mothballed my blog. I shut down my RSS reader and curtailed my skyping and instant messaging. Most important, I throttled back my e-mail application. It had long been set to check for new messages every minute. I reset it to check only once an hour, and when that still created too much of a distraction, I began keeping the program closed much of the day.

    The dismantling of my online life was far from painless. For months, my synapses howled for their Net fix. I found myself sneaking clicks on the “check for new mail” button. Occasionally, I'd go on a daylong Web binge. But in time the cravings subsided, and I found myself able to type at my keyboard for hours on end or to read through a dense academic paper without my mind wandering. Some old, disused neural circuits were springing back into life, it seemed, and some of the newer, Web-wired ones were quieting down. I started to feel generally calmer and more in control of my thoughts – less like a lab rat pressing a lever and more like, well, a human being. My brain could breathe again.

    My case, I realize, isn't typical. Being self-employed and of a fairly solitary nature, I have the option of disconnecting. Most people today don't. The Web is so essential to their work and social lives that even if they wanted to escape the network they could not.” However, at least within the sphere of our online lives which revolves most around our radicalism (while never cleanly separable), we might be able to address the content which the form contains, to the degree that's possible, aside from minimising our individual screen exposure as described above. One suggestion, in terms of the content which crowds the counter-information networks, would be to prioritise pieces with a notable analytic, 'how-to', poetic or otherwise inspirational content, even (or especially) if it results in a slowed output: if we must contend with the propensity for 'groupiness' the Net seems to hold, we could at least attempt to raise the bar for participation and challenge ourselves more. Doubtless there is a way this transparently-subjective approach could degenerate into elitism; ourselves we certainly don't want an anarchy of the intellectually-athletic or practiced orators alone, but we do want to challenge the assumption that any and all of our anarchist lives should (or even could!) exist online, only feeding the quantitative frenzy. It should go without saying that we ourselves highly value the continuation and revival of print-based, fly-postable or hand-to-hand propaganda, which might offer a more suitable format for the types of content which wouldn't fit so much into what we described above anyway. A question to ask might be; what purpose does it serve to upload whatever in question to the internet, or to what degree does it become the easy option above seeking ways to give it a life we can more easily identify in the streets where we actually live and spend our time?

    Also, in situations where the sources of online dialogue are known to individuals in the offline world, authors could be engaged with face-to-face (confrontationally or not, as the case requires) by those who consider their activity especially toxic, misleading, or a security liability; hence reducing the alienation between what one presents via an online avatar and the very real consequences this has in reality. Lastly, we echo the 325 contribution to the Nadir gathering that “[t]he distribution of “computer security guides” for beginners is really important, like the one produced by the comrades of America ['Anonymity Security'] and it is especially valid for those using electronic means to organise and communicate in the insurrectional tendency facing police surveillance and investigations. It is the same as learning to do anything else in the struggle. Some things are maybe not for everyone, but without reinforcing our struggle, sharing the skills and actually helping out others who ask for/need technical solidarity, we'll allow the enemy to outflank us, because there are too few people with the technical knowledge. The general problems of internet and computer security is part of the general 'problem' of repression; specialisation hierarchy within the movement leads itself to decay and rapid degeneration during episodes of crackdown.” To the degree that whomever of us do engage with the digital sphere, this choice entails responsibilities and dangers, which we would be fools to take lightly.

    These are simply provisional and partial thoughts, yet to be properly hammered-out. So we won't put too much store in the proposals specifically, beyond the urgent need we feel to start more conversations to address the digital delirium we are sliding into. We'll wind down this survey of the thoughts of others and ourselves on the topic by reiterating: using the field of online representation as a means to disrupt the power structures which are preserved and intensified by the ongoing digitalisation of our lives is the only intervention which feels justified on that terrain, and it is far from clear what chances of success such an aspiration has. At best it is making the best of a profound disadvantage we find ourself at; at worst it is a losing battle so long as the techno-industrial structure enabling the Net still stands. Far from the digital utopian illusions on the one hand or a moralistic boycott on the other, our assertion is simply that as the ecological, existential and economic crises deepen in the coming years, it is and will be force in the world off-screen that would leave us more mobility, and allow our ideas to become tangible through lived practice.

    It would seem that, from reports of reported disenchantment with the new digital age among even younger tech-users, to even the unexpected explosion in rediscovery of embedded, embodied presence that was experienced in the Occupy movement from 2011 onwards (despite its practical and conceptual shortcomings, and the unfamiliarity of many digitally-native participants with the complexities of in-the-flesh interactions), there is at least some latent desire for an escape from the Net. While truthfully our own hopes aren't high (nor need they be as a criteria for our struggle for meaning and dignity), we see no need to assume that this spark will necessarily be buried entirely, and that it might yet give us flames to light this long social twilight.

    All this forms a certain sphere, albeit a phenomenologically dominant one, of our predicament as civilised beings in search for a way out of our culture. What we want to dismantle beyond the industrial system itself is the actual way of understanding the world that we've been brought up with; if this can often be done by drawing attention to one particular way it mutilates us. Our greater strength is measured by the degree to which, rather than stopping at different issues, we're able to intertwine them by deepening our critique and continuing the path to liberation. There, on the axis of passion and clarity, intuition and hate. Just as we despise the digital elites not just for their future visions but for the now-global trends into desensitising, depersonalising and deskilling that the computer has brought with it, our perspective reaches beyond civilisation to a way of life without class hierarchies and human-supremacist divisions. Ultimately, our hostility to the digital is but a partial aspect of a wider question of human cultures, what they have been in some cases, what they have in some cases become and what in some cases they could be. It's distressing enough to us that we and many in similar cultures spend the majority of our lives in constructed surroundings that simply mirror the neuroses of the civilised back upon ourselves, at a tremendous cost to the more-than-human and with it everything we hold dear. The further reduction into a virtual world where we experience literally nothing else, for a rising proportion of our waking hours, is simply one pathway of this, and perhaps a logical one for Western literate cultures as investigated by David Abram. “The apparently autonomous, mental dimension originally opened by the alphabet – the ability to interact with our own signs in utter abstraction from our earthly surroundings – has today blossomed into a vast, cognitive realm, a horizonless expanse of virtual interactions and encounters. Our reflective intellects inhabit a global field of information, pondering the latest scenario for the origin of the universe as we absently fork food into our mouths[...] clicking on the computer and slipping into cyberspace in order to network with other bodiless minds, exchanging information about gene sequences and military coups, “conferencing” to solve global environmental problems while oblivious to the moon rising above the rooftops. Our nervous system synapsed to the terminal, we do not notice that the chorus of frogs by the nearby stream has dwindled, this year, to a solitary voice, and that the song sparrows no longer return to the trees.”

    To live differently here and now, whatever the future may bring, defying the embrace of a web of anthropocentrism and ideology we would lose ourselves and our relations to (however 'radical'– 'anti-civilisation' even – its varieties the screen can serve) would entail a process that Robinson Jeffers described as falling in love outwards with the Earth around us. Are we still capable?

    We can think of no better words to end on than those plastered so recently on the streets of Paris, in the anarchist wall-paper 'Blasphegme'.

    We’ve almost forgotten that when we want to talk with someone, we can go to their place and knock on the door. We’ve almost forgotten what it means to communicate in person, with emotions, laughter, or anger that can be read on our faces, in the tone of our voice, or in the trembling of our hands. We’ve almost forgotten that not so long ago these machines weren’t part of our lives, that we weren’t closed into these digital worlds that take more and more control over our days, that people lived, loved, communicated, and kept up to date on the news without these invasive technologies.

    Sometimes in the metro, we feel like intruders, as one of those rare individuals not absorbed by their little screen and headphones, oblivious to the people around them. By folding in on ourselves in this way, we don’t even notice how society is changed by these technologies.

    [...] And if we relearned how to live without these machines? What if we cut the virtual cord and reconnected with each other, weaving complicities in person to fill the void created by our atomisation? We could reconnect with time, space, and each other, everything that the cold interaction with machines has pushed to the background.

    What if we openly blaspheme against the religion of connectivity? What if we storm this much-vaunted technological heaven, but which seems more like a science-fiction nightmare?

    What if we destroy the machines…”

    [1]“What might these environmental features be? In the past 20 years, we have quadrupled our road and air transport, with the inevitable increases in air pollution exposing us to a range of noxious substances; our background radiation has increased with the use of technological devices; there are organophosphates in our food chain. We need to recognise the interactive relationship between these minor irritants that collectively affect human health. We are beginning to acknowledge the human impact on the natural world, but forget that we are part of the natural world, too” (Why Modern Life is Making Dementia in Your 40s More Likely).

    [2]“Dr Denis Henshaw, Professor of Human Radiation Effects at Bristol University, the scientific adviser for Children with Cancer UK, said air pollution was by far the biggest culprit, accounting for around 40 per cent of the rise, but other elements of modern lifestyles are also to blame. Among these are obesity, pesticides and solvents inhaled during pregnancy, circadian rhythm disruption through too much bright light at night, radiation from x-rays and CT scans, smoking during and after pregnancy, magnetic fields from power lines, gadgets in homes, and potentially [sic], radiation from mobile phones. [...] More than 4,000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer every year in Britain, and cancer is the leading cause of death in children aged one to 14” (Modern life is killing our children: Cancer rate in young people up 40 per cent in 16 years).

    [3] This conditioning and reduction is mirrored on an institutional level in an increasingly standardised school system. As one brief example, Carr writes how already in 2009, Edexcel, the largest educational testing firm in England, introduced computer-automated exam testing on essays for language proficiency. “A testing expert told the paper that the computerized evaluation of essays would be a mainstay of education in the future: “The uncertainty is 'when' not 'if.'” How, I wondered, would the Edexcel software discern those rare students who break from the conventions of writing not because they're incompetent but because they have a special spark of brilliance? I knew the answer: it wouldn't. Computers, as Joseph Weizenbaum pointed out, follow rules; they don't make judgements. In place of subjectivity, they give us formula.”

    [4] The established theory of electromagnetic communication between cells, tissues and organs means that WiFi radiation would overlap and interfere, impacting the central nervous system, immune system and protein synthesis. Of course, taking this into account has to be considered as yet another accumulative source next to “radio and TV antennae, radar platforms, high tension wires, military stations and dozens of different electrical household appliances [which] have already been disseminating waves for decades that, even if trifling taken singley, together and with continuous exposure could have effects on the health of living beings” (The Enemy is Quite Visible).

    [5] It's a long time since this was first decried; take for instance Jerry Mander's words published in 1991. “There have been medical reports for many years about complaints such as fatigue, eye strain, migraines, cataracts, and, among pregnant women who use VDTs (video display terminals), miscarriages, birth defects, premature births, and infant deaths. At first it was not believed that computers could have such effects. Recent research, however, has concentrated on computer-related radiation. VDTs generate a range of electromagnetic radiation, from X-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared, to low-frequency (LF), very-low-frequency (VLF), and extra-low-frequency (ELF) wavelengths. At one time it was believed that these low-frequency radiations were incapable of causing harm to human beings, but it has now been shown that people are far more sensitive to any radiation than previously believed, and that causal relationships are beginning to emerge.”

    [6] Another prerequisite of cyber-reality is the imperative to multi-task; which, while leaving us with the impression we are nimble in our mental awareness, leaves us prone to become less deliberative and more likely to rely on conventional ideas and solutions rather than challenging them, hence making it harder to break out of robotic normative circuits. In the words of the Roman philosopher Seneca, “to be everywhere is to be nowhere”.

    [7] Quinn Norton lamented how hard it is today to tell stories in “a world where falling in love, going to war, and filling out tax forms looks the same; it looks like typing.”

    [8] Another managerial response to employee 'wellbeing'– i.e. productivity – that goes in the opposite direction (though part of a much longer historical trend in Western culture), in this case often self-managed, is the Quantified Self movement. Following its slogan – “Self-knowledge through numbers” – adherents quantify their life via recorded or machine-taken data points: blood pressure, heart rate, food consumption, sleep, quality of exercise, as well as the nature and range of social media and real interactions, and adjust themselves accordingly. In an effort to battle the number one enemy of global productivity – “stress-related illness” – a German startup called Soma Analytics pioneered a system to measure the early-warning signs of anxiety and sleep deprivation (nevermind the idea that monitoring stress levels might itself be stress-inducing). Perhaps our thoughts could be forgiven for flying to Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World', the novel where the drug this company gets its name from maintains the World State's command economy. One adherent, Alistair Shepherd, claimed from his office in Google's incubator campus just off 'Silicon Roundabout' at the junction of City Road and Old Street in London that “[w]e like to think of ourselves as special and unique, that a computer cannot tell me who I am, which is wrong because of computer mostly can.” Google famously employs a team of industrial-organisational psychologists, behavioural economists and statisticians who use tools including the annual 'Googlegeist' survey of every employee to experiment with each detail of campus life, from the size of dinner plates to the space between screens.

    [9]“[I]t is nearly impossible for the inhabitants of this closed world to imagine being disconnected from the machinery of artificial life [and] one could truly ask oneself, and justifiably so, what ruinous condition this human species would come to if it were to be definitively deprived of the impulses transmitted by its machinery. So that the improvement of its connective apparatus is for many the most realistic solution: “The only escape for our children: to put on a suit implanted with all the biosensors that Moore’s law has been able to supply us with in order to feel, see and touch virtually, to swallow a good dose of euphoric drugs and to go at the end of each week to the country of their dreams with their favourite star, to a beach from before the sixth extinction [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg17], with their eyes fixed on their visor screens, without a past and without a future.” This is not an excerpt from some homage to the visionary genius of the Philip K. Dick of The Days of Perky Pat; it is the conclusion of a very well documented work (Jacques Blamont, Introduction au siècle des menaces, 2004) written by one of the members of the scientific establishment who, having come to the end of his professional career and settled into retirement, sings like a canary” (Jaime Semprun & René Riesel).

    [10] The author who was first transcribing our notes for this article accidentally typed 'selflie' first time round; we could comment on the irony, regarding the glammed-up and rose-tinted presentation users feel they must give themselves online...

    [11] This in itself being one step further along a trail already blazed by the telecommunications boom decades previously. This was condemned already by Stanley Diamond's 1974 critique (of civilisation more broadly also): “The imperious ring of the telephone [interrupts] all other activities. Its trivial, dissociated and obsessive use reflects both the alienating character of the society that prizes it so highly, and the transnational corporations that profit from it. Thus the telephone as ordinarily used becomes a sign, not of communication, but of the lack of communication, and of the consequent compelling desire to relate to others, but to relate at a distance – and in the mode of frustrated orality.”

    [12] A 2012 study examined the Facebook habits of 294 students, aged between 18 and 65, and measured two "socially disruptive" elements of narcissism – grandiose exhibitionism (GE) and entitlement/exploitativeness (EE). GE includes “'self-absorption, vanity, superiority, and exhibitionistic tendencies” and people who score high on this aspect need to be constantly at the centre of attention. They often say shocking things and inappropriately self-disclose because they cannot stand to be ignored or waste a chance of self-promotion. The EE aspect includes “a sense of deserving respect and a willingness to manipulate and take advantage of others”. The research revealed that the higher someone scored on aspects of GE, the greater the number of friends they had on Facebook, with some amassing more than 800. Those scoring highly on EE and GG were also more likely to accept friend requests from strangers and seek social support, but less likely to provide it...

    [13] It seems unsurprising, if we remember that Facebook itself started life as a site that rated students by their looks, that the digital networks have led to the mixture of insecurity and cyber-bullying that the head of ChildLine described as “the biggest challenge we have ever faced. [T]here is no point in turning off their phone, because the messages will just be there waiting for them.”

    [14] At the very least, even if some conversations do reach a wider and more diverse space on occasion when compared to pre-digital social networks, it doesn't discount the alarming degree to which real embodied association is repeatedly shunned for the supposed 'efficiency' of the Net.

    [15]“The gag law forbids a variety of online content, including video footage like that which is increasingly been used to expose police tactics in the US and which last month showed police beating demonstrators in the Basque country, according to the New York Times. The law also sets hefty fines for a range of offenses involving perceived affronts to the police or unauthorized protests: €600 for insulting a police officer, up to €30,000 for spreading damaging photos of police officers, and €600,000 for taking part in an unauthorized protest outside Parliament and other sensitive locations” (Man calls police ‘slackers’ on Facebook, falls foul of Spain’s new ‘gag law’).

    [16] The less sophisticated end of what this might look like would be the 'Twitterbots' (automated accounts, with one person controlling 25-50 profiles) used during ongoing social revolts in Mexico to spam trending hashtags hostile to the regime – earning them their nickname 'Peña-bots' after the country's president – creating banal trends as a counter-weight, and running smear campaigns against activists and journalists on a weekly basis.

    [17] The choice of venue for the conference in question was by no means arbitrary. BT, the massive telecommunications player who provide IT infrastructure to the British prison system and police while reforming civil life around an insidious digital/wireless grid with government and technocrat cohorts, last year alone also hosted the futuristic multinational technology 'Policing 2020' convergence at BT Tower, as well as being deep in battlefield technology. Even before those most recent widespread U.K. revolts discussed, anarchists burned their utility vehicles in aforementioned Nick Gargan's ward of Avon & Somerset (where in Bristol a BT building had also been attacked and graffitied) during solidarity actions against prison society.

    [18]“ “Night Correspondents” are a sort of citizen-police initiative in France similar to “city ambassadors” in some American cities. They maintain social peace by surveilling and harassing the poor, as well as snitching on crime. Their propaganda encourages residents to report neighbors who play their music too loud or gather in public spaces” (waronsociety.noblogs.org).

    [19] They were caught writing solidaristic graffiti with the 'Arab Spring' insurrections, and imprisoned due to violation of their judicial controls; they were prohibited from seeing one another for earlier charges of explosive/incendiary attack during a campaign of sabotage of banks (among others) in 2008/2009, in solidarity with a prisoner revolt that entirely burned Vincennes, the biggest immigrant detention center in France, in 2008. Something like a hundred ATMs were smashed/burned/blown up or put out of use with acid around that time.

    [20] The Facebook project internet.org aims to broadcast free internet to the poor in remote districts around the world; that is, a version of the internet only able to access 35 specific websites; in first place being Facebook. Facing widespread accusations of censorship, Facebook leader Mark Zuckerburg's smug retort was that “it is always better to have some access than none at all”.

    [21] ed. – Douglas Rushkoff similarly described the precarity of a market system that had already insinuated itself into virtually every territory and beyond every sphere, before even bio-technology was offering a dependable frontier for further expansion (as key as biotech, increasingly paired with nano-science and the like, may be in the future [ed. – see Rebels Behind Bars; Let’s Relaunch the Struggle Against Nocivity]). “But we found a new territory in human attention, in human time. So we started to commodify – to mine – human time for its value. And then the words that started to describe Net development were things like "stickiness", and "eyeball hours". Wired magazine announced that we were living in an "attention economy"; we might have infinite real estate online, but there are only so many "eyeball hours" in a day. So the object of the game now was to extract those eyeball hours from people in terms of their attention. So we end up taking an asynchronist device, like the internet, and turning it into an always-on device like an iPhone; we strap the internet to our bodies, and have the internet interrupt us every time someone does a Facebook update or tweets about us or sends us an email or wants our attention, or an app wants to tell us that something new is going on. And we live in a state of perpetual emergency interruption, that the only people who endured that before this were 911 operators or air-traffic controllers; and they did it for only four hours at a time, and they got drugs for it!”

    [22] A head-mounted wearable-computer with a display in the shape of eyeglasses, where users navigate the Internet via voice commands. Some police departments are especially interested. After provisional introduction in 2013, Google retracted the technology after much criticism over 'privacy' concerns of the headset's camera continually recording and scanning for data, including some public venues banning the glasses and the 'Glassholes' wearing them, and in at least one case a wearer being assaulted and relieved of the glasses for their invasive presence in a San Francisco bar. Tentatively, Google have announced they will advance a revised prototype in 2017 (presumably the headset of which will appear slightly more unobtrusive).

    [23] ed. - Indeed, the first protests in San Francisco against big tech apparently followed a speech by bio-technology entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan in which he decreed that the rest of America was holding Silicon Valley back and it was time to consider secession. Lest this be taken for a joke, a venture-capitalist investor named Tim Draper duly filed a petition to split California into six, with an independent Silicon Valley – putatively the richest state in America – abutting Central California, which would be poorer even than Mississippi.

    [24]Traditionally, activists who confront gentrification, commercialization, and the imposition of social control champion the dichotomy between public space and private space.[…]But some of the anarchists and other anti-capitalists participating in these movements find the dichotomy misleading, presenting people with anartificiallyconstricted choice. Their interventions in the movement against the privatization of healthcare highlight a third option; neither private, nor public, but communal.This trichotomy is at the heart of the analysis presented in the[Catalan]book,'Health in Peril, Bodies in Struggle: From the resistance against the cutbacks to the self-organization of healthcare', itself a product of the anarchist participation in that struggle. The vision contained calls progressives to task for their shortsighted embrace of public healthcare, ignoring the many ways the service prioritizes economic needs over human needs, treating bodies like defective machines, and the ways it is pervaded with a patriarchal practice. Instead of simply reversing the cutbacks, the book argues, we should allow the current spirit of solidarity to transform us and transform the very institution of healthcare, occupying and self-organizing the existing hospitals and clinics, rethinking medicine itself to promote a holistic, ecological, and preventive concept of health, and fully communalizing healthcare, taking it into our own hands rather than entrusting it to the government or to private corporations.The same trichotomy can be applied to the battle for space and the fight for the city. Contrary to democratic mythology, public space does not belong to us, it belongs to the State, and it is a relatively simple matter for the government to turn it over to private administration. In fact, it does not really matter if space is policed by private security guards or by the police themselves; the critical feature is that in neither case does it belong to us, nor are we allowed to directly determine its use, its framing, its construction, or its disappearance.[…]While developing its civic behavior ordinances, passed in 2006, Barcelona hosted ex-mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani, who advised l’Ajuntament[Barcelona's City Hall]on “Broken Window” policing[ed. – see Return Fire vol.1 pg18],“Zero Tolerance,” and cleaning up the city’s image. The “civismo” laws have since spread across Spain, and Giuliani has been cited as a major influence on[then]Barcelona mayor, Xavier Trias.[The civic behavior ordinances]were not in fact a privatization measure, but they heavily restricted people’s access to space all the same. The new laws greatly increased state control over space by instituting or increasing fines for many popular, working-class uses of public space, such as playing music or drinking in the streets, hanging laundry from balconies, graffiti, and so on. Some of these measures directly benefit privatized spaces, for example criminalizing someone drinking on a bench but legitimizing someone drinking at a table a bar has placed on the street (after paying l’Ajuntament for a permit, of course). This just underscores what the now dominant development model of the “public-private partnership” already makes plain: that there is no profound tension between public and private spaces. The two ideals exist on a continuum that is bound by common interests. After all, if you compare the relatively mild urban conflicts generated by the recent privatization of public space with the centuries of enclosure, warfare, mass executions, deportations, evictions, and uprooting that modern states had to go through in order to destroy the vestiges of communal space and to universalize the institution of public space, it becomes clear where the true difference lies. The real question is not: which external power governs the spaces we are forced to spend our lives in? but rather: do we or don’t we have direct control over our vital spaces? That is the logic that constitutes the concept of communal space. Why is this theoretical nuance so important to the battle against gentrification? Because everything that doesn’t kill capitalism makes it stronger. If we squander all this mobilized anger and energy by demanding a mere reversal of the most recent outrages, blocking one specific gentrification plan but continuing to entrust the city to an elite that has different interests at heart, at best we will only forestall a deepening of our misery, just as the social welfare state forestalled revolutionary workers’ movements with a new array ofpublic services [ed. – see Return Fire vol.1 pg48],only to sell those services off once the movements had disintegrated and neoliberalism could emerge” (Precarity in Paradise).

    [25]“L’Ajuntament is still marketing Barcelona as a “Smart City,” a city where the new information technologies are not only developed, but immediately put into practice, boasting the responsiveness, the flexibility, and the willingness to mold the urban terrain and the lives of its inhabitants to interface more compliantly with all the new communications, consumer, transport, networking, and surveillance apps. Both a marketing scheme and a technology growth sector, the Smart City showcases a number of methods for mollifying the plebs, using communications technologies and the novelty they still command to create the illusion of citizen participation (similar to how comments sections were once supposed to revolutionize the news media). One example, mobileID, is a smartphone app that lets citizens securely access government websites, consult the census, copy tax documents, locate polling places on election day, and find where their car has been towed to, as the official Smart City website proudly explains. The Smart City concept has bamboozled the moderate environmentalist crowd, promoting models of rational urban planning that highlight a few feel-good features like electric cars while distracting from the global view of economic growth that is increasingly, and not decreasingly, destructive of the environment. A study published on triplepundit.com (“people, planet, profit”) ranks Barcelona third worldwide for “climate-resilient cities” that “have decided to forge ahead, taking action on climate change and participating in the 21st century.” The analysis of Barcelona’s ecological footprint does not take into account the airplane and cruiseship traffic that bring many visitors to the city, highly toxic computer and cellphone production, nor the major greenhouse gas emissions caused by the internet, on which the city’s economic model relies” (Precarity in Paradise).

    [26] In 1983 the group noted that “[f]or more than three years a security court of the State (may it rest in peace) and several dozen mercenaries have been looking for us: their material resources are sophisticated but pretty insufficient and our last action against the information center of the Haute Garonne municipality must have shown them we know more about them than they know about us!”

    [27]When asked in a mock(self-)interviewwhy they sabotage computers, they respond: “[t]o challenge everyone, programmers and non-programmers, so that we can reflect a little more on this world we live in and which we create, and on the way computerization transforms this society. [...] We are essentially attacking what these tools lead to: files, surveillance by means of badges and cards, instrument of profit maximization for the bosses and ofacceleratedpauperization for those who are rejected... [...] Faced with the tools of those in power, dominated people have always used sabotage or subversion. It's neither retrograde nor novel. Looking at the past, we see only slavery and dehumanization, unless we go back to certain so-called primitive societies.[…]By our actions we have wanted to underline the material nature of the computer-tools on the one hand, and on the other, the destiny of domination which has been conferred on it. Finally, though what we do is primarily propaganda through action, we also know that the damage we cause leads to setbacks and and substantial delays.[...] These actions are only the visible tip of the iceberg! We ourselves and others fight daily in a less ostensible way. With computers, like with the army, police or politics, in fact, like with all privileged instruments of power, errors are the rule, and working them out takes up the majority of programmers' time! We take advantage of this, which undoubtedly costs our employers more than the material damage we cause. We'll only say that the art consists of creating bugs that will only appear later on, little time-bombs. To get back to your question – what could be more ordinary than throwing a match on a package of magnetic tapes? Anybody can do it! The act appears excessive only for those who don't know, or who don't want to know, what most computer systems are used for.”

    [28] This they claimed along with the burning of two items of machinery forcing urban expansion through a forest in the region.

    [29] Perhaps the same confusion reigns amongst those who assert that 'modern humanity' love their gadgets so much that in any potentially-transformative situation the pull of this addiction would bring them straight back to the order capable of supplying them. That's as may be, but do we have any examples to consider? From 'disasters' [ed. – see Return Fire vol.2 pg19] to insurrections, it would seem some moments have the potential to drag us forth into a space of new possibilities and priorities. How stupid would it be to think, despite the systemic disruption and 'practice' we might achieve from causing temporary black-outs in the present, that a more definitive severing of our digital umbilical chord would happen in a void from the general overturning of social relationships?


    Return Fire vol.4 (supplement)
    To read the articles referenced throughout this text in [square brackets], PDFs of Return Fire and related publications can be read, downloaded and printed by searching actforfree.nostate.net for "Return Fire", or emailing returnfire@riseup.net
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    Rethinking Violence: Against Instrumentalism

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    From Miko-Ew by Sokaksin

    I was having a conversation the other day and the topic of bombings came up, much to my excitement I will admit. The conversation eventually wound its way into a discussion on the motivations of bombings and beyond this into a discussion of extremist violence in general. As the conversation unfolded and afterward as the thoughts continued to ferment in my mind I started to see that there is a deeply rooted instrumentalism in our modern attitudes toward violence. How many times have we seen people crying “Why? What was the point of this?” after some shooting, some bombing, etc.? Lamenting the apparent mindlessness of the violence, for it served no conceivable ends. And it seemed to me as I continued to dwell on this point that our deeply rooted instrumentalist perspective is one of the causes of discomfort with regard to the manner in which much of the violence related to eco-extremist action unfolds.

    As noted, there is a great degree of discomfort surrounding acts of violence which are not somehow justified by recourse to some larger progressive aim, message, or context within which the violence is cleansed and made pure, baptized and made suitable to our modern sensibilities. We are afraid of violence which is not enacted in the service of a “higher good.” For example you see this commonly in anarchist circles when they engage in LARPing about their glorious anarchist revolution (still waiting on that, btw). Whenever violence is discussed here it is always with a sense of that oh-so particular hyper-civilized squeamishness and apprehension surrounding violence. And so the vulgarity and depravity of violence is only made “pure and good” in their eyes by recourse to its revolutionary necessity in suppressing counter-revolutionary forces or whatever, in its necessity in ushering in the kingdom of solidarity, equality, and whatever other new anarcho-catchphrase will be realized in the revolution.

    The reason that eco-extremist violence makes people uncomfortable, or one of many, is that in its blatant disregard for “means-and-ends” calculations it is so vehemently anti-instrumental. A very illuminating example was the bombing of the Codelco official (partly because the extremity of the attack is an even more clear expression of the point). Though as an aside, one could easily find numerous examples in any number of communiques which recount their exploits or in the hronologies published in various issues of Regresión Magazine. But to continue: After such a monumental attack ITS did not release some kind of communique demanding that Landerretche step down as the chair of Codelco. ITS did not release some kind of communique demanding some series of policy changes to make Codelco’s rape of the earth a bit more gentle. Rather the attack on Landerretche is the embodiment of an animus delendi unleashed as a response from the dark abysses of the earth itself. In their own words:

    “This attack was not a political act. Politics do not interest us. We are rabidly anti-political individuals. We don’t give a shit about social struggles and their leaders. We shit on the citizenry and the people who are accomplices to the techno-industrial system. We don’t aim to denounce Codelco with this attack. We don’t want them to start using electric trucks or solar panels. We don’t want them to dump slightly less toxic waste. We don’t want them to be socially responsible with regards to the environment. None of that. […] This was an attack of Wild vengeance, in the name of the Earth that dies because of human progress.”– Twenty-First Communique of the Individualists Tending Toward the Wild

    Against this progressive, instrumentalist attitude of violence is the anti-instrumentalist release of violent forces, a form of “total-war” channeling the indiscriminate power and violence of the earth itself. Eco-extremist violence (as I have understood and felt an affinity for it) has always had elements of this embodiment, this shamanistic approach of channeling the spirit world and its primordial energies that sets a primal chaos upon the phantasms men have wrought upon the earth. These acts are the messages of the earth sent on the wings of dark angels to remind men of their smallness before that indomitable and primordial abyss, a confrontation with that ever-present wildness which refuses all of mens machinations with the blast of a bomb and torn flesh. Even in its deployment of violent attack against its enemies eco-extremism continues to situate itself vehemently against modern techno-industrial civilization in all of its forms, down to the very form of war itself.

    It should be noted that I write this as a person who was once, if not opposed, then at least skeptical of the eco-extremist approach to violence. When I first encountered the work of the tendency my reactions were not unlike some of the responses which questioned the efficacy and purpose of the actions which eco-extremists engaged in, even if I found a deep affinity with the spirit which was motivating the actions. At that point I was coming from a much more orthodox Kaczynskian perspective which approached attack from a much more modern, instrumental, militaristic approach. This seems to be the approach/perspective that colors much of our thoughts on “waging war,” on the purpose and aims of violent attack.

    But the eco-extremist position offered and continues to demonstrate a stark counterpoint against our more modern understandings of the place and role of violence and our conceptions of war. The eco-extremist war, unlike that of, say, the more instrumental and militaristic approach of Kaczynski inspired eco-radicals, is the embodiment of a form of primal violence and a state of total-war which mirrors the violence of nature itself. The eco-extremist form of war is a coherent continuation and enactment of their anti-modernism, anti-progressivism, anti-humanism, and the like. Its war spits on the hallowed decrees of law and order which are imposed even on the forms of violence which are seen as acceptable in the eyes of the hyper-civilized. In place of the rules of engagement of men it offers only the natural law, primal violence.

    Sokaksin

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