photo by SG

Friday, February 22, 2008

Current Events, Ya'll

I've been pondering again the project that Will suggested a couple of months ago, the idea of some sort of collective blog run by anarchists that analyzes geopolitics. Sorta like the Center for Strategic Anarchy, only more analytical. I think this is a really good idea. If you'd wanna participate, get in touch with me, maybe between you, fair reader, Will, and I, we could actually start this.

Of course, this is prompted by the current Kosovo situation, and by what I see as the lack of a coherent analysis of it by the ultra-left. I see Leninists jumping up and down (on both sides, actually) but anarchists don't seem to be paying much attention.

Just before the act of independence, Andrej Grubacic, Balkan-born anarchist historian wrote this, which is at least something to ponder:

...My answer, the only one I can give, to the question if there is going to be another war, between NATO and Serbia, and between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo minorities, is yes. There will be another war. If the "international community", with its army and its colonial apparatus, does not leave Albanians, Serbs and Roma to decide their future for themselves, the war, or, in the least, "localized" violence (and internationally supervised) and another wave of ethnic cleansing of Serbs and Roma, will be inevitable. The only chance for peace in the Balkans is the end of the occupation of the Balkans. In Kosovo as well as in Bosnia. European and American gentlemen, iternational "humanitarian" NGO's, dear concerned members of the international community, please leave. And don't forget to take the BBC journalists with you.

Worth considering. But I wish we had more serious, in depth analysis of these kind of events. Ultimately, an anarchist analysis is not only important to, ya know, anarchists, but also can highlight issues that other analyses of world events don't pay attention to (like power relations, class struggle, state structure, ideology.)

With that in mind, I wanna point fair readers to my new favorite pamphlet, Treason's Class Struggle in Iraq 1987-1991. Very much digging it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Withdrawalist Strategies

I've only been involved in the anarchist movement formally for about a year and a half now. Before I was in a rural area and had no other contacts.

But in my short time, I've become interested in what I see as the two "tensions" of anarchist praxis, which I brought up in the insurrectionary vs syndicalist/platformist thread, of "economic action" and "political action" line. I don't think they are mutually exclusive, of course, but they do reflect theoretical underpinnings.

In examining the "economic action" line, which I find more engaging and powerful, I've spent a lot of time hanging out with the Marxists. Unfortunately, modern anarchist theory just isn't developed with solid critiques of the economy (with the exception of the market anarchists, who have an advanced, if silly and incorrect one). Here some of the work of the extreme left-wing of the communist movement, particularly the Johnson-Forest Tendency in the U.S. (particularly Martin Glaberman) and the Autonomia movement in Italy have proved remarkably useful. But while their critique is powerful, they mostly analyzed capitalist society and class composition in their epoch. What they didn't do was spent a lot of time strategizing on where to go forward.

In searching for an anarchist strategy that privileges economic action, I've come to see an important line emerging. The two authors who present some of the most compelling critiques are the anarchist anthropologist David Graeber and cranky working class intellectual James Herod. Herod's May 2007 book Getting Free takes some of the perspectives offered by Graeber (though he cities one of Graeber's lesser-known pieces instead of his hugely important Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, so it could be a coincidence) on how egalitarian societies have traditionally dealt with authority and turns them into specific suggestions for how to build an anarchist society.

Both of these thinkers' ideas boil down to what I'm calling "withdrawalism." In a few words, withdrawalism picks up on the Autonomist Marxists' notion of the "refusal of work" as a way to combat capitalism and applies it to all of social life. To me, this represents a qualitative advance on the Autonomists' position, which privileged economic struggles by marginal workers and ignored other parts of social life (at least in my limited reading of their works.) Herod calls this process "gutting capitalism," which I think is an apt description.

In the post-industrial societies of the West, anarchist strategy, I argue, cannot be constructed along traditional lines. Unions, and syndicalism broadly, have failed us. (The contradiction of being a dues-paying member of the IWW is not lost on me.) The "summit-hoping" of the white anarchist ghetto is not "breaking the spell," but rather reinscribing racist and classist dynamics and giving the primitivist and post-leftists a platform from which to speak for all anarchists.

To me, withdrawal from capitalist society reflects the newest and most important version of the historical slogan of "the new world inside the old". Organized communities of resistance, which organize along class lines in urban communities, could provide a new way forward for anarchist strategy.

(x-posted from RevLeft)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My newest cliché

"The problem is our mode of civilization, not the civilization-mode!"

I'm lovin' it.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Root of All Evil

I recently ran across a piece of CrimethInc propaganda which discussed patriarchy. It placed the blame of things like "domestic violence, oppressive gender roles, low self esteem" and other effects of patriarchy on "an object that doesn't even exist," namely, the pursuit of female body perfection.

This isn't the first time I've run into this argument (otherwise I wouldn't bother discussing another inane CrimethInc propaganda poster.) Lots of feminist-minded people have told me the same thing.

For me, this account of patriarchy confuses the ends with the means. I'm pretty sure that preferred body images change quite frequently, if viewed from within a historical perspective. The "large chest, skinny waist" woman that this poster apparently refers to has only been an object of cultural adoration very recently, and only then due to the fact that the mass culture industry was developed first in the United States. Does that mean that patriarchal violence doesn't predate 1900? I don't think so.

The obsession with the perfect female body and all its attendant evils comes from a patriarchal system that institutionalizes differences in all social and personal situations between men and women, not the other way around. Putting the blame of all sexist violence narrowly on culture is a profoundly non-materialist misunderstanding of power and systems.