April 15th 2014 – Six Theses on Anxiety

From We Are All Very Anxious

wur5xf0kicztvex3tubs

Six Theses on Anxiety and Why It is Effectively Preventing Militancy, and One Possible Strategy for Overcoming It 1
Reposted with the kind permission of the Institute for Precarious Consciousness

1: Each phase of capitalism has its own dominant reactive affect. 2
Each phase of capitalism has a particular affect which holds it together. This is not a static situation. The prevalence of a particular dominant affect 3 is sustainable only until strategies of resistance able to break down this particular affect and /or its social sources are formulated. Hence, capitalism constantly comes into crisis and recomposes around newly dominant affects.
One aspect of every phase’s dominant affect is that it is a public secret, something that everyone knows, but nobody admits, or talks about. As long as the dominant affect is a public secret, it remains effective, and strategies against it will not emerge.
Public secrets are typically personalised. The problem is only visible at an individual, psychological level; the social causes of the problem are concealed. Each phase blames the system’s victims for the suffering that the system causes. And it portrays a fundamental part of its functional logic as a contingent and localised problem.
In the modern era (until the post-war settlement), the dominant affect was misery. In the nineteenth century, the dominant narrative was that capitalism leads to general enrichment. The public secret of this narrative was the misery of the working class. The exposure of this misery was carried out by revolutionaries. The first wave of modern social movements in the nineteenth century was a machine for fighting misery. Tactics such as strikes, wage struggles, political organisation, mutual aid, co-operatives and strike funds were effective ways to defeat the power of misery by ensuring a certain social minimum. Some of these strategies still work when fighting misery.
When misery stopped working as a control strategy, capitalism switched to boredom. In the mid twentieth century, the dominant public narrative was that the standard of living – which widened access to consumption, healthcare and education – was rising. Everyone in the rich countries was happy, and the poor countries were on their way to development. The public secret was that everyone was bored. This was an effect of the Fordist system which was prevalent until the 1980s – a system based on full-time jobs for life, guaranteed welfare, mass consumerism, mass culture, and the co-optation of the labour movement which had been built to fight misery. Job security and welfare provision reduced anxiety and misery, but jobs were boring, made up of simple, repetitive tasks. Mid-century capitalism gave everything needed for survival, but no opportunities for life; it was a system based on force-feeding survival to saturation point.
Of course, not all workers under Fordism actually had stable jobs or security – but this was the core model of work, around which the larger system was arranged. There were really three deals in this phase, with the B-worker deal – boredom for security – being the most exemplary of the Fordism-boredom conjuncture. Today, the B-worker deal has largely been eliminated, leaving a gulf between the A- and C-workers (the consumer society insiders, and the autonomy and insecurity of the most marginal).

2: Contemporary resistance is born of the 1960s wave, in response to the dominant affect of boredom.
If each stage of the dominant system has a dominant affect, then each stage of resistance needs strategies to defeat or dissolve this affect. If the first wave of social movements were a machine for fighting misery, the second wave (of the 1960s-70s, or more broadly (and thinly) 1960s-90s) were a machine for fighting boredom. This is the wave of which our own movements were born, which continues to inflect most of our theories and practices.
Most tactics of this era were/are ways to escape the work-consume-die cycle. The Situationists pioneered a whole series of tactics directed against boredom, declaring that “We do not want a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation is bought by accepting the risk of dying of boredom”. Autonomia fought boredom by refusing work, both within work (using sabotage and go-slows) and against it (slacking off and dropping out). These protest forms were associated with a wider social process of countercultural exodus from the dominant forms of boring work and boring social roles.
In the feminist movement, the “housewife malaise” was theorised as systemic in the 1960s. Later, further dissatisfactions were revealed through consciousness raising, and the texts and actions (from “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm” to the Redstockings abortion speak-out) which stemmed from it. Similar tendencies can be seen in the Theatre of the Oppressed, critical pedagogy, the main direct-action styles (carnivalesque, militant, and pacifist), and in movements as late as the 1990s, such as the free party movement, Reclaim the Streets, DIY culture, and hacker culture.
The mid-century reorientation from misery to boredom was crucial to the emergence of a new wave of revolt. We are the tail end of this wave. Just as the tactics of the first wave still work when fighting misery, so the tactics of the second wave still work when fighting boredom. The difficulty is that we are less often facing boredom as the main enemy. This is why militant resistance is caught in its current impasse.

3: Capitalism has largely absorbed the struggle against boredom.
There has been a partial recuperation of the struggle against boredom. Capitalism pursued the exodus into spaces beyond work, creating the social factory – a field in which the whole society is organised like a workplace. Precarity is used to force people back to work within an expanded field of labour now including the whole of the social factory.
Many instances of this pursuit can be enumerated. Companies have adopted flattened management models inciting employees to not only manage, but invest their souls in, their work. Consumer society now provides a wider range of niche products and constant distraction which is not determined by mass tastes to the same degree as before. New products, such as video-games and social media, involve heightened levels of active individual involvement and desocialised stimulation. Workplace experiences are diversified by means of micro-differentials and performance management, as well as the multiplication of casual and semi-self-employed work situations on the margins of capitalism. Capitalism has encouraged the growth of mediatised secondary identities – the self portrayed through social media, visible consumption, and lifelong learning – which have to be obsessively maintained. Various forms of resistance of the earlier period have been recuperated, or revived in captured form once the original is extinguished: for instance, the corporate nightclub and music festival replace the rave.

4: In contemporary capitalism, the dominant reactive affect is anxiety.
Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious. Anxiety has spread from its previous localised locations (such as sexuality) to the whole of the social field. All forms of intensity, self-expression, emotional connection, immediacy, and enjoyment are now laced with anxiety. It has become the linchpin of subordination.
One major part of the social underpinning of anxiety is the multi-faceted omnipresent web of surveillance. The NSA, CCTV, performance management reviews, the Job Centre, the privileges system in the prisons, the constant examination and classification of the youngest schoolchildren. But this obvious web is only the outer carapace. We need to think about the ways in which a neoliberal idea of success inculcates these surveillance mechanisms inside the subjectivities and life-stories of most of the population.
We need to think about how people’s deliberate and ostensibly voluntary self-exposure, through social media, visible consumption and choice of positions within the field of opinions, also assumes a performance in the field of the perpetual gaze of virtual others. We need to think about the ways in which this gaze inflects how we find, measure and know one another, as co-actors in an infinitely watched perpetual performance. Our success in this performance in turn affects everything from our ability to access human warmth to our ability to access means of subsistence, not just in the form of the wage but also in the form of credit. Outsides to the field of mediatised surveillance are increasingly closed off, as public space is bureaucratised and privatised, and a widening range of human activity is criminalised on the grounds of risk, security, nuisance, quality of life, or anti-social behaviour.
In this increasingly securitised and visible field, we are commanded to communicate. The incommunicable is excluded. Since everyone is disposable, the system holds the threat of forcibly delinking anyone at any time, in a context where alternatives are foreclosed in advance, so that forcible delinking entails desocialisation – leading to an absurd non-choice between desocialised inclusion and desocialised exclusion. This threat is manifested in small ways in today’s disciplinary practices – from “time-outs” and Internet bans, to firings and benefit sanctions – culminating in the draconian forms of solitary confinement found in prisons. Such regimes are the zero degree of control-by-anxiety: the breakdown of all the coordinates of connectedness in a setting of constant danger, in order to produce a collapse of personality.
The present dominant affect of anxiety is also known as precarity. Precarity is a type of insecurity which treats people as disposable so as to impose control. Precarity differs from misery in that the necessities of life are not simply absent. They are available, but withheld conditionally.
Precarity leads to generalised hopelessness; a constant bodily excitation without release. Growing proportions of young people are living at home. Substantial portions of the population – over 10% in the UK – are taking antidepressants. The birth rate is declining, as insecurity makes people reluctant to start families. In Japan, millions of young people never leave their homes (the hikikomori), while others literally work themselves to death on an epidemic scale. Surveys reveal half the population of the UK are experiencing income insecurity. Economically, aspects of the system of anxiety include “lean” production, financialisation and resultant debt slavery, rapid communication and financial outflows, and the globalisation of production. Workplaces like call centres are increasingly common, where everyone watches themselves, tries to maintain the required “service orientation,” and is constantly subject to re-testing and potential failure both by quantitative requirements on numbers of calls, and a process which denies most workers a stable job (they have to work six months to even receive a job, as opposed to a learning place). Image management means that the gap between the official rules and what really happens is greater than ever. And the post-911 climate channels this widespread anxiety into global politics.

5: Anxiety is a public secret.
Excessive anxiety and stress are a public secret. When discussed at all, they are understood as individual psychological problems, often blamed on faulty thought patterns or poor adaptation.
Indeed, the dominant public narrative suggests that we need more stress, so as to keep us “safe” (through securitisation) and “competitive” (through performance management). Each moral panic, each new crackdown or new round of repressive laws, adds to the cumulative weight of anxiety and stress arising from general over-regulation. Real, human insecurity is channelled into fuelling securitisation. This is a vicious circle, because securitisation increases the very conditions (disposability, surveillance, intensive regulation) which cause the initial anxiety. In effect, the security of the Homeland is used as a vicarious substitute for security of the Self. Again, this has precedents: the use of national greatness as vicarious compensation for misery, and the use of global war as a channel for frustration arising from boredom.
Anxiety is also channelled downwards. People’s lack of control over their lives leads to an obsessive struggle to reclaim control by micro-managing whatever one can control. Parental management techniques, for example, are advertised as ways to reduce parents’ anxiety by providing a definite script they can follow. On a wider, social level, latent anxieties arising from precarity fuel obsessive projects of social regulation and social control. This latent anxiety is increasingly projected onto minorities.
Anxiety is personalised in a number of ways – from New Right discourses blaming the poor for poverty, to contemporary therapies which treat anxiety as a neurological imbalance or a dysfunctional thinking style. A hundred varieties of “management” discourse – time management, anger management, parental management, self-branding, gamification – offer anxious subjects an illusion of control in return for ever-greater conformity to the capitalist model of subjectivity. And many more discourses of scapegoating and criminalisation treat precarity as a matter of personal deviance, irresponsibility, or pathological self-exclusion. Many of these discourses seek to maintain the superstructure of Fordism (nationalism, social integration) without its infrastructure (a national economy, welfare, jobs for all). Doctrines of individual responsibility are central to this backlash, reinforcing vulnerability and disposability. Then there’s the self-esteem industry, the massive outpouring of media telling people how to achieve success through positive thinking – as if the sources of anxiety and frustration are simply illusory. These are indicative of the tendency to privatise problems, both those relating to work, and those relating to psychology.
Earlier we argued that people have to be socially isolated in order for a public secret to work. This is true of the current situation, in which authentic communication is increasingly rare. Communication is more pervasive than ever, but increasingly, communication happens only through paths mediated by the system. Hence, in many ways, people are prevented from actually communicating, even while the system demands that everyone be connected and communicable. People both conform to the demand to communicate rather than expressing themselves, and self-censor within mediated spaces. Similarly, affective labour does not alleviate anxiety; it compounds workers’ suffering while simply distracting consumers (researchers have found that requirements on workers to feign happiness actually cause serious health problems).
The volume of communication is irrelevant. The recomposition – reconnection – of liberatory social forces will not happen unless there are channels through which the public secret itself can be spoken. In this sense, people are fundamentally more alone than ever. It is difficult for most people (including many radicals) to acknowledge the reality of what they experience and feel. Something has to be quantified or mediated (broadcast virtually), or, for us, to be already recognised as political, to be validated as real. The public secret does not meet these criteria, and so it remains invisible.

6: Current tactics and theories aren’t working. We need new tactics and theories to combat anxiety.
During periods of mobilisation and effective social change, people feel a sense of empowerment, the ability to express themselves, a sense of authenticity and de-repression or dis-alienation which can act as an effective treatment for depression and psychological problems; a kind of peak experience. It is what sustains political activity.
Such experiences have become far rarer in recent years.
We might here focus on two related developments: pre-emption, and punishment by process. Pre-emptive tactics are those which stop protests before they start, or before they can achieve anything. Kettling, mass arrests, stop-and-search, lockdowns, house raids and pre-emptive arrests are examples of these kinds of tactics. Punishment by process entails keeping people in a situation of fear, pain, or vulnerability through the abuse of procedures designed for other purposes – such as keeping people on pre-charge or pre-trial bail conditions which disrupt their everyday activity, using no-fly and border-stop lists to harass known dissidents, carrying out violent dawn raids, needlessly putting people’s photographs in the press, arresting people on suspicion (sometimes in accord with quotas), using pain-compliance holds, or quietly making known that someone is under surveillance. Once fear of state interference is instilled, it is reinforced by the web of visible surveillance that is gridded across public space, and which acts as strategically placed triggers of trauma and anxiety.
Anecdotal evidence has provided many horror stories about the effects of such tactics – people left a nervous wreck after years awaiting a trial on charges for which they were acquitted, committing suicide after months out of touch with their friends and family, or afraid to go out after incidents of abuse. The effects are just as real as if the state was killing or disappearing people, but they are rendered largely invisible. In addition, many radicals are also on the receiving end of precarious employment and punitive benefit regimes. We are failing to escape the generalised production of anxiety.
If the first wave provided a machine for fighting misery, and the second wave a machine for fighting boredom, what we now need is a machine for fighting anxiety – and this is something we do not yet have. If we see from within anxiety, we haven’t yet performed the “reversal of perspective” as the Situationists called it – seeing from the standpoint of desire instead of power. Today’s main forms of resistance still arise from the struggle against boredom, and, since boredom’s replacement by anxiety, have ceased to be effective.
Current militant resistance does not and cannot combat anxiety. It often involves deliberate exposure to high-anxiety situations. Insurrectionists overcome anxiety by turning negative affects into anger, and acting on this anger through a projectile affect of attack. In many ways, this provides an alternative to anxiety. However, it is difficult for people to pass from anxiety to anger, and it is easy for people to be pushed back the other way, due to trauma. We’ve noticed a certain tendency for insurrectionists to refuse to take seriously the existence of psychological barriers to militant action. Their response tends to be, “Just do it!” But anxiety is a real, material force – not simply a spook. To be sure, its sources are often rooted in spooks, but the question of overcoming the grip of a spook is rarely as simple as consciously rejecting it. There’s a whole series of psychological blockages underlying the spook’s illusory power, which is ultimately an effect of reactive affect. Saying “Just do it” is like saying to someone with a broken leg, “Just walk!”
The situation feels hopeless and inescapable, but it isn’t. It feels this way because of effects of precarity – constant over-stress, the contraction of time into an eternal present, the vulnerability of each separated (or systemically mediated) individual, the system’s dominance of all aspects of social space. Structurally, the system is vulnerable. The reliance on anxiety is a desperate measure, used in the absence of stronger forms of conformity. The system’s attempt to keep running by keeping people feeling powerless leaves it open to sudden ruptures, outbreaks of revolt. So how do we get to the point where we stop feeling powerless?

7: A new style of precarity-focused consciousness raising is needed.
In order to formulate new responses to anxiety, we need to return to the drawing board. We need to construct a new set of knowledges and theories from the bottom up. To this end, we need to crease a profusion of discussions which produce dense intersections between experiences of the current situation and theories of transformation. We need to start such processes throughout the excluded and oppressed strata – but there is no reason we shouldn’t start with ourselves.
In exploring the possibilities for such a practice, the Institute has looked into previous cases of similar practices. From an examination of accounts of feminist consciousness raising in the 1960s/70s, we have summarised the following central features:
Producing new grounded theory relating to experience. We need to reconnect with our experiences now – rather than theories from past phases. The idea here is that our own perceptions of our situation are blocked or cramped by dominant assumptions, and need to be made explicit. The focus should be on those experiences which relate to the public secret. These experiences need to be recounted and pooled — firstly within groups, and then publicly.
Recognising the reality, and the systemic nature, of our experiences. The validation of our experiences’ reality of experiences is an important part of this. We need to affirm that our pain is really pain, that what we see and feel is real, and that our problems are not only personal. Sometimes this entails bringing up experiences we have discounted or repressed. Sometimes it entails challenging the personalisation of problems.
Transformation of emotions. People are paralysed by unnameable emotions, and a general sense of feeling like shit. These emotions need to be transformed into a sense of injustice, a type of anger which is less resentful and more focused, a move towards self-expression, and a reactivation of resistance.
Creating or expressing voice. The culture of silence surrounding the public secret needs to be overthrown. Existing assumptions need to be denaturalised and challenged, and cops in the head expelled. The exercise of voice moves the reference of truth and reality from the system to the speaker, contributing to the reversal of perspective – seeing the world through one’s own perspective and desires, rather than the system’s. The weaving together of different experiences and stories is an important way of reclaiming voice. The process is an articulation as well as an expression.
Constructing a disalienated space. Social separation is reduced by the existence of such a space. The space provides critical distance on one’s life, and a kind of emotional safety net to attempt transformations, dissolving fears. This should not simply be a self-help measure, used to sustain existing activities, but instead, a space for reconstructing a radical perspective.
Analysing and theorising structural sources based on similarities in experience. The point is not simply to recount experiences but to transform and restructure them through their theorisation. Participants change the dominant meaning of their experience by mapping it with different assumptions. This is often done by finding patterns in experiences which are related to liberatory theory, and seeing personal problems and small injustices as symptoms of wider structural problems. It leads to a new perspective, a vocabulary of motives; an anti-anti-political horizon.
The goal is to produce the click — the moment at which the structural source of problems suddenly makes sense in relation to experiences. This click is which focuses and transforms anger. Greater understanding may in turn relieve psychological pressures, and make it easier to respond with anger instead of depression or anxiety. It might even be possible to encourage people into such groups by promoting them as a form of self-help — even though they reject the adjustment orientation of therapeutic and self-esteem building processes.
The result is a kind of affinity group, but oriented to perspective and analysis, rather than action. It should be widely recognised, however, that this new awareness needs to turn into some kind of action; otherwise it is just frustratingly introspective.
This strategy will help our practice in a number of ways. Firstly, these groups can provide a pool of potential accomplices. Secondly, they can prime people for future moments of revolt. Thirdly, they create the potential to shift the general field of so-called public opinion in ways which create an easier context for action. Groups would also function as a life-support system and as a space to step back from immersion in the present. They would provide a kind of fluency in radical and dissident concepts which most people lack today.
Anxiety is reinforced by the fact that it is never clear what “the market” wants from us, that the demand for conformity is connected to a vague set of criteria which cannot be established in advance. Even the most conformist people are disposable nowadays, as new technologies of management or production are introduced. One of the functions of small-group discussions and consciousness raising is to construct a perspective from which one can interpret the situation
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 problem is the complexity of experiences. Personal experiences are intensely differentiated by the nuanced discriminations built into the semiocapitalist code. This makes the analytical part of the process particularly important.
Above all, the process should establish new propositions about the sources of anxiety. These propositions can form a basis for new forms of struggle, new tactics, and the revival of active force from its current repression: a machine for fighting anxiety.
Footnotes
1. The discussion here is not fully relevant to the global South. The specific condition of the South is that dominant capitalist social forms are layered onto earlier stages of capitalism or pre-capitalist systems, rather than displacing them entirely. Struggles along the axes of misery and boredom are therefore more effective in the South. The South has experienced a particular variety of precarity distinct from earlier periods: the massive forced delinking of huge swathes of the world from global capitalism (especially in Africa), and the correspondingly massive growth of the informal sector, which now eclipses the formal sector almost everywhere. The informal sector provides fertile terrain for autonomous politics, as is clear from cases such as the city of El Alto (a self-organised city of shanty-towns which is central to social movements in Bolivia), the Zapatista revolt (leading to autonomous indigenous communities in Chiapas), and movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo (an autonomous movement of informal settlement residents in South Africa). However, it is often subject to a kind of collectivised precarity, as the state might (for instance) bulldoze shanty-towns, dispossess street traders, or crack down on illicit activities – and periodically does so. Revealingly, it was the self-immolation of a street trader subject to this kind of state dispossession which triggered the revolt in Sidi Bouzid, which later expanded into the Arab Spring. Massive unrest for similar reasons is also becoming increasingly common in China. It is also common for this sector to be dominated by hierarchical gangs or by the networked wings of authoritarian parties (such as the Muslim Brotherhood).
2. Affect: emotion, bodily disposition, way of relating
3. When using the term dominant affect, this is not to say that this is the only reactive affect in operation. The new dominant affect can relate dynamically with other affects: a call-centre worker is bored and miserably paid, but anxiety is what keeps her/him in this condition, preventing the use of old strategies such as unionisation, sabotage and dropping out.
Related articles

→ We Are All Very Anxious
→ March Round-up
→ Accelerate this: Leeds Plan C discusses the Accelerationist Manifesto
→ Plan C MCR: Do You Remember The Future?
→ France: ‘We want sex, not gender’ (note on the alarming rise of the ‘gender theory’ resistance front and their neo-fascist chums)

March 18th – Political Naïveté or what are we to do about Maoism

We will reading and discussing anarchist politics in the context of other political tendencies.

From Aragorn! blog


One of the reasons that anarchism has become a popular political perspective is because in many contexts (for instance mass mobilizations or broad direct action campaigns) we seem open, friendly, and nonsectarian. This is in great contrast to visible (and visibly) Marxist or Leftist organizations, which either seem like newspaper-selling robots or ancient thorny creatures entirely out of touch with the ambivalence of the modern political atmosphere. Anarchists seem to get that ambivalence and contest it with hope and enthusiasm rather than finger-wagging.

The public face of anarchism tends towards approachability and youth: kids being pepper sprayed, the general assemblies of the occupy movement, and drum circles. These are the images of the past five years that stand in contrast to the image of anarchists as athletic black clad window breakers. Both are true (or as true as an image can be) and both demonstrate why a criticism of anarchists continues to be that (even at our best) we are politically naïve.

Of course very few window breakers believe that breaking windows means much beyond the scope of an insurance form or a janitorial task, but that is beside the point. What matters is that the politics of no demands makes the impossible task of intelligent political discourse in America even more complicated (by assuming that discourse is a Pyhrric act). To put the issue differently, the dialectical binary of both engaging in the social, dialogic, compromising act of public politics while asserting that there is no request of those-in-power worth stating or compromising on isn’t possible. It is cake-and-eat-it thinking that is exactly why Anarchists must do what Anarchist must do1.

This rejection of how the game is played while participating in it hasn’t shown itself to be a long term strategy– impossible never is. For lessons on playing the game we have to turn to the winners of politics and revolution: neoliberalists, sure, but also statist Marxists, reactionaries (from racist populists to nationalist Know Nothings or their descendants in the Tea Party), and what remnants exist of the old and new Left. Just to make the point crystal clear I’ll restate it. On the one hand you have the ridiculous non- or even anti-strategy of anarchist political theater that cannot achieve the impossible goal of everything for everybody forever. On the other hand you have realpolitik: the pragmatic application of power in the political sphere. This simplistic dualism is why most intelligent people abandon politics altogether and retreat to NIMBYism (at best) or the quiet solitude of screaming at a television screen as the only expression of engagement with the outside world.

In this light, a discussion about maoism might seem outrageous and it is! Maoism isn’t a relevant political tendency or movement in America. It isn’t leading guerrilla forces in the hills, it has no leaders-in-waiting just outside the border (unless you count Avakian which you should in no way do), but it isn’t further from the mainstream of American political thought than Anarchism is (anarchist big tent populists to the contrary) and is arguably much closer (in an often cited example, the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan, is a former Maoist). More pointedly, Maoism and Anarchism have been cross-pollinating for decades. Our task here is to shine a light on that history and challenge what benefits anarchists have garnered from this little-discussed pollination.

A defense of anarchism

One may pause here to consider the goal of defending anarchism against Maoism (or any other ideology of the left). Why bother? Isn’t anarchism exactly as irrelevant as these other 19th century ideas? Yes and no. If you are talking about the fights within the First International about what form the revolutionary party will take (secret or public), or the composition of the most advanced working class groups (craftsmen or factory), than yes, absolutely. Even if you are talking about the integrated partisans of the Spanish Civil War, then the term has declined into the merely historical. Of interest perhaps, primarily because of the optimism and ferocity of it’s partisans, but really a demonstration of a good liberal university education and not much else.

If, on the other hand, anarchism is the term used to describe an open-ended theory that will not, cannot, be set in stone until the day of days, because it isn’t named after a man, because it is named after negation, because it is impossible, then no. In its hostile negative anarchism is a well suited expression of our time.

As anarchism is the theory that we are the ones who directly engage with life, not representatives (whether politicians, NGOs, or community leaders), not systems of control (statistical, bureaucratic, or functional), and not specialists in freedom (authors, etc), then we embrace it. We doubly embrace it if somehow this engagement with life also means the absolute destruction of the system-as-it-is but we know that this destruction–whether called revolution, evolution, or communization–is not guaranteed or even likely in our lifetime. This means that our theory interfaces with the reality of politics and other people every day but without the burden of the correct revolutionary ideology that has in no way been more successful than anarchism, just more bloody.

A little history

I’ll leave it to others to do an accurate and deep review of the history of Maoism in the US since the end of the Vietnam War and how it has melted into the firmament of Cultural Studies programs and the counter-cultural left (by way of Refuse and Resist, No Business As Usual, the October 22 Coalition Against Police Brutality, Not In Our Name, the World Can’t Wait, etc). My task is to show that there is a weave of relationships rather than to make something functional out of that weave. In the Bay Area the vigor of Maoism as a viable political ideology is entirely due to two factors: the Black Panther Party and the RCP.

While the depth of Maoist politics in the BPP is largely locked up in unreported meetings and allegations that the BPP did a bang up business selling Little Red Books in the late 60s, the Maoist trappings of the BPP aren’t in question. We have to contend with the BPP (a relatively small and historical group) currently almost entirely because of their representation in movies and visual media. The BPP continue to be among the most cited predecessors of modern political movements. We all have an image seared into our mind of ourselves, as radicals, engaging with the straight world (whether in the halls of the Legislature or the streets of our towns) wearing visually striking attire, with weapons over our shoulders. Obviously the direct action work (from neighborhood armed defense to feeding and schooling the kids) of the BPP is beyond reproach (if the history of such is to be believed) but this is an entirely different topic than the ideas of The Party per se or the stories of the heroes of the BPP. This is the story of grassroots organizing by any other name; this name just has a solid mythology surrounding it.

It is worth mentioning that I don’t in fact have strong feelings about the BPP. The social and political atmosphere that they derive from are so entirely different than ours that I am in no way qualified to make categorical statements about them. They are a historical artifact that can be, and is, debated as such, but by-and-large this debate isn’t an anarchist one (either in name, sentiment, or aesthetic). For many people, recognizing the significance of the BPP (as in the differences between the perceived work of the BPP and the work of radical politics today) is a necessary part of political development. Recognizing the differences between the work of the BPP in the 60s and our work today is how we determine our own project, and that has nothing to do with political ideologies.

The RCP can be more cleanly dealt with. No caveats need apply to this hack organization that should be utterly reviled by any anarchist. Moreover the concept that building up the theory or personality of Bob Avakian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Communist_Party,_USA#Activities) as important, revolutionary, or even notable is entirely preposterous .

That said, the practice of rebranding oneself, of spinning up front groups as quickly as new single issues come to the fore, is obviously a smart and pernicious idea. It allows a political organization to control its messaging, gating new members through specific interests rather than through an entire, decades-long political program. It provides a way to show rather than to talk (which is a significant anarchist weakness). It builds relationships through “common struggle” rather than through debate, coercion, or brow-beating. While the result is still the same, this multi-form and layered approach to inculcating new members is persuasive and confusing, exactly the goal of groups that do it.

Mentioning these two groups isn’t intended to say that the influence of Maoist ideas, or those of other historical political traditions, can be constrained by these two data points. Modern Maoist thought has become much more diffuse than either of these historic reference points would lead one to believe. We’ll get into examples later but when people used to use terms like Imperialism, Revolution, and the Party, they now use terms like gentrification, insurrection, and organization: softer, less disagreeable terms that reflect our time. The point is that political approaches have evolved from specific times and places, and that to understand that genealogy is necessary to defend ourselves from taking these approaches at face value.

A little about ideas

The reason that anarchists should study and reflect on Maoism, in particular, is because (in the words of MIM, an RCP split that dissolved a few years ago) “Maoism and real anarchism have the same long-run goals.” (Avakian has said similar things in his critiques of anarchism). MIM (and other explicit Maoists) believe that the only fundamental difference between their perspective and that of anarchists is that Maoists have a plan to implement this shared goal, so their revolutionary program is authentic rather than anarchists’ expression of bourgeois ideology. Right ideas + leadership = revolutionary moral authority?

We live in a post-party era, where the traditional left–whether of unions or alphabet groups–has largely disappeared, and the terrain of anarchistic political discourse cannot be dismissed with the typical anarchist wave of the hand and a decry against “authoritarianism.” By and large, everyone (activists, Occupy, organizers) is willing to say they are anti-authoritarian. The rub is to describe exactly what that means.

The most common place where this discussion is happening couldn’t be older, or more historical. It surrounds the concept of the National Question and how one or another perspective has a solution to it. This concept has its origin in Stalin’s working definition of a nation: “a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up, manifested in a common culture.” The Maoist revision includes an addendum that “internal colonies” of nations, exist within the belly of countries like the US (or in the rings of French cities). In either case the National Question is a way to frame the issue of how to organize the shock troops of the next social unrest and how to articulate the program of what the fight is about.

In a useful recent exchange about this between two Maoist groups (the Fire Next Time Committee and Signalfire), here is a summary from Signalfire:

To sum up our stance…it is sufficient to say one step forward, two steps back. In attempting to deal with the real problematic of the ‘people of color’ discourse and identity politics, it seeks to establish an analysis of race coupled with an analysis of class. In doing so, rather than producing an adequate critique and substantive class analysis, the author simply gives us generalities which interrogated at a basic level are superficial and useless in satisfying the need for a real class analysis of the United States.

Rather than seeking truth from facts, it telescopes the particularity of experiences into universalities,and simply doesn’t have an analysis of class that actually corresponds with the existing class structure. It has rather engaged in another sort of “identity politics” of a Brown/Yellow guilt type in relationship to Black oppression, centering it as a fulcrum for the articulation of white supremacist ideology and class structure.

 

Obviously the National Question still looms large for Maoists and this terminology should be familiar to anyone who is active in big city radical politics. Understanding these two paragraphs is sufficient to function well in the Bay Area political scene.

 

To draw the linkage between Mao-eque approaches and anarchist thinking we should talk a little bit about Imperialism, Colonialism, and Gentrification. Obviously, according to a dictionary definition, these three things occur. Colonialism leads to Imperialism (or is it the other way around) and from within Empire the shifting of the economic landscape takes on a similar character that is described as Gentrification. These are descriptive terms to the economic, political, and social character of where we live and how we got here.

 

What they are not are vectors. They don’t trace a line from some historical moment (for example, of primitive purity) on through our current horrorshow into a dystopia/utopia. Descriptors are often confused for causes and this is nowhere more clear than from political perspectives that Have Answers, answers that can be argued for, that are believed to be only capable of winning if others are convinced, and finally, ones that create a logical whole, something coherent (as if this world is coherent).

 

While many anarchists are convinced by this logical procedural thinking, anyone who is opposed to authoritarianism should break with this trajectory when it comes to a history of Imperialism or Colonialism (or even gentrification) that doesn’t see the state as a necessary part of the genealogy. A monopoly on violence is entirely necessary to invade, control, and genocide a people. It is only to the extent to which capitalism has taken on this monopoly (if it has) that it has taken center stage as the villain for communists and anti-authoritarians.

 

For anarchists these questions are much simpler. As soon as monopolistic impulses are discovered the hackles of most anarchists are raised. This means that party discipline or even toeing an ideological line tends to be impossible in most anarchist circles. If you accept the Leninist/Blanquist (vanguard/small cadre) model of revolution then anarchists make poor cadre (but so does everyone else!).

Race

Where does this leave us in terms of the most American of all questions: what about race? How is it separable and inseparable from the National Question as framed by Communists in general, and Maoists in particular? Simply put, it leaves us nowhere. The history of racism generally, and slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, etc in particular, is an integrated part of the story of Imperial America. As residents, and as victims, of that place we should feel obligated to understand that story but we have no power to change it. Revolutionary aspirations to the contrary we cannot manage, dictate, or smash our way out of it, but we also don’t have to own it.

 

Privilege theory places agency on those who have privilege. If one is determined to hold together a pluralist democratic society this kind of thinking is absolutely necessary but what if you don’t? What if you are hostile to the conceptual framework that holds together a society of 300 million people (which you can do even while recognizing that this framework is the structure that society itself is built on)?

 

Respecting the self-determination of a group of people, from an anarchist perspective, should look a lot less like listening to the leaders or elders of a group you aren’t a part of, than like finding common cause against those that constrain self-determination in the first place. Primarily this is the state but it’s also the economic relationships that subjugate all of us. Respect doesn’t mean friendship or agreeing. It means recognition, boundaries, and qualified solidarity.

 

One common hostility I have towards many anarchists is the general attitude I find that anarchists tend to be for good things and against bad things. It is a kind of modified kindergarten attitude that makes sure everyone sees each other for the good-intentioned beautiful snowflakes that they are, rather than doing much with all that intention and beauty. At its worst, this attitude makes discussions about personal, emotional issues intolerable, because everybody has to demonstrate to everybody else that they, in fact, are paragons of multi-racial purity. But in fact, everybody, without exception, are bigoted, prejudiced, close-minded idiots. Getting this essential truth out early allows the eventual name-calling of racist, sexist, transphobe, kyriarchiest to be framed appropriately.

We are against bad things, therefore we are also against ourselves.

 

The Wisdom of Fools

As long as anarchists do not inform ourselves about the myriad of forces that seek to intentionally confuse their project for an anarchist one, we will continue to be fooled by them. More problematically, and over a long enough timeline, this confusion becomes reality. “Anti-authoritarian” becomes a soft way to obscure that you are a Maoist whose “revolutionary program” is what makes you a true anti-antiauthoritarian. “Anti-Imperialist” becomes a way to describe hostility to American foreign policy and not an adherent of the three worlds theory of Maoism. “Decolonization” becomes code for an urban aspiration for an impossible culture instead of a problematic term relating to everything from native resistance to resource extraction, the dismantling of older Empires, or a project of the United Nations.

 

Perhaps it is too late, at least in the US, at least for my lifetime. We are a culture that has abandoned not just reading but critical thinking on the whole. Watching language morph into its opposite used to be something associated with the totalitarianism of the USSR or Newspeak of Orwell’s fictional universe. Debord’s spectacle updated this dialectical perversion by demonstrating how capitalism has buttressed the monopoly of violence that used to be a prerequisite for this violence to language. Our meme-tastic, utterly superficial engagement with even political questions like how to live, how to do it together, and who am I in relationship to others, seems to show that pointing to Maoists as a political problem is about as useful as talking about aliens and pyramid power. Anarchy as conflict with the existing order, both state and capital and also the its conceptual framework, is an infinite endeavor.

 

Hesitations aside I know that someone out there will hear me. They will recognize a political pedigree in the rhetoric of some local blowhard and will be tempted to stand alone in a room, point a finger, and shout J’accuse! I would warn you against this line of thinking. If the post-left has anything to teach us it is that being right, and informing others of it, isn’t nearly enough. It may be preferable to maintain the affect of the happy fool, the politically naïve, while tilling the soil for the seeds to feed those who will engage in the challenges of how to engage (as anarchists) with politicians. Decrying their badness polarizes the point too early in the relationship. Timing means recognizing that the first moment one understands a situation isn’t the moment to act. Anarchy means attack and attack means patience.

 

 
Links related to text

  1. MD On What Anarchists Can Say
  2. Tyranny of Structureless & Anarchist Response
  3. Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM)
  4. Van Jones
  5. More about VJ
  6. Reflections on STORM
  7. Context
  8. More Context
  9. Finance
  10. Roger White’s essay
  11. 10 Theses
  12. Response to 10 Theses
  13. National Question
  14. Recent commentary on NQ
  15. Unpacking the Knapsack

For 3/11: MIM Theory #8: Anarchist Ideal vs. Communist Revolution

Reading for next week is from the MIM Theory journal. For context I left in “What is MIM?”, Introduction, some of the ‘ads’ and iconography.

MIM_Theory_8_AnarchistIdealCommunistRevolution

Reading:

  1. Pitfalls of French Anarchism: May 1968
  2. MIM”s Anarchist Wind: Resisting the Wind Within
  3. Fifth Estate Hates MIM
  4. Review: Fifth Estate
  5. Review: Rage Against The Machine
  6. Review: Maximum Rock & Roll
  7. Review: Panther Advanced National Liberation
  8. EXTRA CREDIT: Politics of Denunciation by Kristian Williams

THIS IS WHAT RESPONSIBILITY LOOKS LIKE! The Means & Ends loop is secured!

 

January 21 – The Parthian Shot by Voyer

The Parthian Shot1

Jean-Pierre Voyer

But the essential of religion lies elsewhere. Religion belongs primarily to the realm of action. Beliefs are not fundamentally knowledge to enrich our minds; their principal function is to give rise to acts.”

Emile Durkheim, The Religious Problem and the Duality of Human Nature (1913)

mDJA8j4

Commerce is the only worldwide revolutionary movement—and proves it daily. President Bush summons the free world. He agrees completely with my view: truly a world is under attack and not just the U.S.A., and in so doing he acknowledges the existence of another world. Cover up that world, which I can’t endure to look on2—and if you can’t cover it up, then destroy it. Let’s invade Iraq.  Why mess around with all the riff-raff, given our megatons and especially our tactical nuclear weapons, so-far unused… How tempting. The world has become a film by Stanley Kubrick, and Iraq one by Tarantino.

There is democracy in Spain, isn’t there? So why aren’t the Spanish people issuing death sentences against the strategists who got them into this mess? Were those strategists expecting to go on defying the Arab nation with impunity, a nation humiliated for the past four centuries? Now, after so many centuries, we are witnessing the first victories of this old conquering nation. Further, since the official truth holds that Spain is a democracy, then, accordingly, aren’t the people sovereign, the Sovereign, proper noun? The Arabs aren’t fooled: unlike ordinary anarchists or Basque separatists, they don’t assassinate mere figureheads or puppet ministers (which would only delight everyone—obviously not the aim of these Arabs. They aim to displease and they accept responsibility for their wickedness. So praise them in this world of good-thinking people, where even the bad dare present themselves as good and respectable.) No, they attack the real sovereign, or the one so proclaimed by all the newspapers, radios and televisions of the Western world. The critique these Arabs apply is ad hominem (and also, alas, ad personam), for they take literally the openly stated claims of the free world. Among the sovereign people are some who are innocent (in the sense of simpleminded) and who wonder why Arabs are attacking the civilians of a country where peace reigns. But that country is making war on Iraq. How stupid to find those attacks surprising, given the loyalty of the Arabs who, like Hitler, clearly announce way in advance what they are going to do, and when the moment comes, they do it. They take no one by surprise (not even President Bush, so they say), from a strategic viewpoint that is. But they reserve the right of tactical surprise. That is all that they have, and what the U.S. does not.

Today, the Arab-Muslim nation is the world nation. Petit Robert Dictionary: “Nation: A human group, generally quite large (indeed!), characterized by the consciousness of its unity and a willingness to live together.” Precisely. According to V.S. Naipaul, non-Arab converts to Islam strive to be more Arab than the Arabs. They soon will be more Arab than Muslim.

What is the assassination of one archduke good for if not to trigger a world war among world powers? As for the archduke, there are plenty more fish in the sea. But to trigger a worldwide civil war, it’s preferable to assassinate civilians en masse. The State of the United States is intent on being the defender of the civilians of the free world, which means that free-world civilians are no longer able to defend themselves on their own, that they are not free, while Arab civilians can attack them with or without the complicity of pro-Muslim states or even the C.I.A. Arab civilians still have what free-world civilians have lost. The latter are now nothing more than human resources—a well-suited, cynical, but not very Kantian expression—Stalin still had the politeness to say “the most precious capital.” Consequently they are dealt with “en masse” and, obviously, not solely by their assassins. Mass man is treated everywhere and always as mass man. So there he is, held hostage to suffer for the sinister pranks of the strategists. When strategists goof, human resources go “poof”. Popu is forever being shit upon.3 Every day the television heaps insults upon him—why not? Poor Anders, who died in despair, observed as early as 1956 that this world conforms to the images it produces (matrix theory not in the mathematical sense but as in die casting).4 This very world induces the desire to bomb it. Arabs, even strict Muslims, go to see disaster films too. I regret that Anders did not live to see this splendor, to see his theory confirmed on a global scale. Further, since President Bush is a Texan, it’s more effective to wastehis free (as in free-range) cattle than to attack his person. A rancher’s cattle is sacred! But most of all it makes him look bad before the world cartel of cattle ranchers. What kind of a cowboy lets his cattle get wasted by outlaws? Arabs attacking human resources: an abominable crime. But the Arabs are not the only ones attacking them and, above all, it is not they who created them. They are innocent of that crime, which is much worse than their own. The point is that they do not want to become human resources themselves. How can they say that to be finally understood? As the Situationists used to say, in a world where submission is universal and glorified, freedom is necessarily criminal. What do those Arabs want to do? The greatest harm to the greatest number. But that’s exactly what the free world does to those who live in it, and the opposite of the official truth proclaimed by the English ideologues of the 18th century: the greatest good for the greatest number. The greatest harm for a human being is to be reduced to the state of a human resource.

Only a renewed “spirit of conquest”—the spirit that has always moved Islam (with a long dormancy period suited to its growing embitterment)—is today capable of standing up to the only worldwide revolutionary movement: commerce. Islam is therefore the only worldwide counter-revolutionary movement. It’s the re-reconquista. Consequently, Islam’s spirit of re-conquest is the only spirit of resistance today—this is sad to say, but true. The Arab-Muslims are neither “Negroes” nor Serbs5; they have the means to defend themselves, or at least to take cruel revenge. They are not innocent. They can do almost as much harm as their adversaries. In short, the “good people”6 reproach the Arabs for being able to defend themselves. What impertinence, don’t you agree? The Arabs are the redskins of the world. Will they end up the same way? Will mediocrity triumph over genius again? Victor Hugo was pessimistic because Waterloo was not the definitive victory of mediocrity over genius. Napoleon is no more, but Bin Laden is. Once again mediocrity has to worry about its future. Bush is bent on being done with the Muslims; he wants to inculcate those obscurants with a little commercial civilization—call it commerce at gunpoint or the rip-off of Arabia. There’s one hitch though: Arab or non-Arab, there are 1.5 billion of them. Will the hold-up of the century fail? “God exhausts the schemes of the deniers7; they lavish their resources to cut off the path to God (70 billion dollars already!). Let them lavish, for afterwards they will feel only bitterness, and worse, will be defeated.”

Naipaul reproaches the Muslims for having only faith and no technology. But at least they have faith, and they know marvelously well how to hijack for their own ends the technology that they could not invent. (They still have some problems with SIMM chips; they won’t make that mistake again.) One thing escapes Naipaul: Muslims constitute an international nation; they can strike whenever and wherever they want, which is something the Serbs cannot do no matter how strong their fervor. Under those conditions faith proves to be a formidable weapon. The Muslims are hopeless at taking out patents but exceedingly strong at wreaking vengeance on a world scale. A century ago Arab ferociousness was a literary cliché in the works of Balzac (Lost Illusions) or Flaubert (Madame Bovary). If the herds of human resources were not scandalously innocent, i.e., strictly incapable of doing harm, innocent due not to virtue but to inability, — La Rochefoucauld addressed that issue: “One cannot call someone good who lacks the ability to do harm.” — if they were not eternal minors, incompetent in the sense of Roman law; indeed if they were not like cattle (yet even cattle are capable of vengeance via the pranks of the prion),8 then that spirit of re-conquest would not be necessary; it would not even be possible.

The Arabs have truly struck the guilty ones—guilty of servitude. If the Arabs do not say, in their brutal style, how contemptible the conditions of life are for the herds of human resources, who will? In this self-celebratory world, a world where praise is an industry, who will say it? What are the Muslims’ five daily prayers in comparison to the permanent auto-celebration—day in and day out, over the air and in the press—of this perfect world, so democratic, so free, so beautiful? Muslims submit to their god out of love or respect. In the free world, human resources are bribed into submission. In the free world, it is not the faithful who pray to their god but God himself who hustles them for cash. An entire caste is assigned to that task. In the free world, God is an industry. Die, bastards. If the Arabs hold the free world in contempt, it’s because it’s contemptible. At last some men have the means to say so, loud and clear, at the risk of their lives.

The problem is not with the Arabs, it is with the free world. The problem with this world is precisely that, being peopled by prisoners, it alone is free. Engels observed the same thing about England in 1840. The ineptitude, cynicism, vulgarity, money-grubbing, pettiness and brutality of this world is a permanent insult to humankind before being an insult to Allah. That is why the Arabs gave this world a lesson in generosity (“altruistic suicide” according to Emile Durkheim), as well as a lesson about the world. Today any American hayseed knows where Mecca and Madrid are, which was not the case a little while ago. The United States: a big island. A New York friend of mine describes his country in two words: myth and lies, which means that, for Americans, history no longer exists nor will it ever again exist. America forever. Myth and lies: those two words also fit well with the free world. The crime is enormous because the free world is an enormous, permanent insult to the human race, with its big, fat socialists dining in the finest Parisian restaurants and its stern, impeccably dressed WASPs attending countless board meetings. This world will not rest until it turns every man into a boor (kâfir in Arabic, translated by Berque as a “denier”): For God, the vilest of animals are the deniers, because they do not believe. “You who believe, if you encounter the deniers in battle formation, do not turn your backs to them.” And … it will grow (the world or the punishment, we don’t know yet), it will grow and grow … because it’s Spanish.9

So it is precisely because of the strength and perfection of U.S. weapons that only civilians can do what those Arab civilians are doing. A state that would do likewise would be immediately annihilated, something Kadhafi clearly understands. A world has begun to resist and, what is remarkable, has done so for purely human, i.e., spiritual, reasons. Spirit is with them. I suppose that the “Muslims of France” and elsewhere will agree to begin “a radical critique of their view of the world” when the herds of human resources begin their own radical critique of their view of the world, which in their case is not their view at all but their masters’, one they get from Le Monde and the New York Times. All that human resources know how to do is obey, complain, moan, vote (for Charybdis or Scylla),10 moralize, and rant and rave against Le Pen—that convenient scarecrow. As during the time of the Turkish occupation and the Haidouks,11 when the master is at his balcony and lets his chechia 12 fall into the courtyard, startling the human resources, the rollerbladers fall on their faces and the married queers go limp. Long live the Haidouks, those terrible bandits! Gentlemen Human Resources, you, who feel complete solidarity with one another because you are totally separate from one another (cf. Marx and Durkheim), shoot first! Criticize yourselves first! Visibly, the Muslims—and not just the Arabs—shit on “your” democracy, which is only your masters’ democracy, the buddy democracy, the democracy of rogues and rollerbladers, a democracy of lofty moral standards and a single motto: “If I catch you, I’ll screw you” (stricto sensu in Iraq). I, too, shit upon it. That, by the way, is the only thing I share with the Arabs, other than faith, obviously. Simply put, our religions differ but our faith is the same. There are many religions but only one faith, because there is only one object of faith, whatever name you give it. That object has many names and, in fact, the only thing we know about it is its names. They all have the same meaning. They are synonyms. On the other hand, as the insightful Tocqueville pointed out, how can you ask a religion that interferes in politics to be open and tolerant? One might as well have asked the Christian State of the King of Prussia in the time of Marx—a state that meddled in religion, in religious politics, and gave a religious character to political matters—to be open and tolerant. We know what followed: Bismarck, a fist of iron in an iron glove, German unity, coal, steel, war (then, the encore, a new fist of iron in a new iron glove, mixed with madness and Keynesian ministers). The spirit of conquest, right? It’s fortunate that a world based on mass prostitution should fare so poorly. There would be no morality if it were to fare well.

Because people often leave school these days unable to read (they were taught to “sight read”), to preclude any misunderstanding I want to make clear that when I attack married gays it’s not the gays I’m attacking but bourgeois marriage, the most ridiculous institution there is, paired in this case with aggressive militancy and presented as the pearl of the Occident. Gay marriage: what a huge step forward for freedom and humanity. In demanding the right to bourgeois marriage gays repudiate themselves (supposedly “proud” but evidently ashamed of not being like everyone else, they make their shame official. That’s really the last straw: militant conformism, have your cake and eat it too. “Mommy, help!”13), and they offend the memory of Alan Turing, who was atrociously martyred by English bourgeois prejudice. Let it be known too that I am for the legalization of marijuana and of bestiality, but also for the formal prohibition, upon penalty of death, of roller-skating by anyone older than twelve. Why such a draconian punishment? Because public safety is at stake. Everyone knows how prickly the Arabs are, so we must avoid doing anything that may irritate them. They might bomb Paris Plage14 (I don’t mean Le Touquet, that charming village that, in addition to charm, possesses an airport where one can land a plane normally if one has learned how to land). Furthermore, it would be counterproductive to lead them to believe that they’re dealing with children, though it’s too late now, they already know. Bush Junior never grew up. He wants to play with and break his tactical nuclear toys no matter what. Why didn’t his daddy finish the job ten years ago and deliver the Iraqis from their terrible, jocular dictator? Because he feared an alliance between the Shiites of Iraq and the Shiites of Iran. Frustrated by all that, the C.I.A. (always up to no good) laid a trap for the poor Iraqi Shiites, as we all know. I hope the Shiites will make their so-called liberators pay dearly for that. Ten years ago the Sunnis were rich, moderate, respectable, bourgeois, westernized. But nobody was paying attention to the Wahabites (who are behind the Saudi fortune) and particularly to the Salafists. In those ten years the Sunnis thoroughly earned their bad reputation, equaling that of their Shiite enemy brothers. Praise them. Bad reputations are the consequence of having displeased the C.I.A. and the president of the United States. The American leaders are trying to use in Iraq the same methods (myth and lies) that they’ve used so successfully with their own human resources “at home.” Iraq has no human resources, but it still has men. The United States is a desert—not Iraq, at least not yet.

I swear by the time, most surely man is in loss, except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.”

1 La Flèche du Parthe, first posted on Le Site de Jean-Pierre Voyer http://perso.wanadoo.fr/leuven/ under “Le Knock-blot de Mr Ripley” in March of 2004.

2 Molière’s Le Tartuffe: “Cover up that bosom, which I can’t endure to look on. Things like that offend our souls, and fill our minds with sinful thoughts.”

 

3 Popu: Céline’s neologism in his pamphlet Mea Culpa, written on his return from Russia, to refer to “the people” (in French: population, populace, populo).

4 Günther Anders (1902-1992), philosopher and essayist, author of Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen (“The Obsolescence of Mankind”). Cf. Le Site de Jean-Pierre Voyer : « Debord est un homme que je corrige toujours » ; also the Web page of Harold Marcuse http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/anders.htm.

5 Meaning that the Arab-Muslims are not in a state of submission, contrary to the other two groups. (The original French term, nègres, is translated here as “Negroes”, the term also used by Malcolm X and other black rebels to refer to blacks, and people of color in general, in a state of submission.)

6 Bush’s “good people of America” with a play on words: gens bons (good people) and jambon (ham).

7 Those who deny, who do not believe (“les dénégateurs”)

8 The infectious agent in mad cow disease

9La Périchole by Jacques Offenbach: « Il grandira car il est Espagnol. »

10 Sailors navigating the narrow Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy fell victim to either of two sea monsters: Charybdis on one side or Scylla on the other.

11 Courageous resistance fighters in the Bulgarian people’s struggle for freedom from their Ottoman oppressors, 15th-18th centuries.

12 A distant cousin of the European beret, from Andalusian times.

13 « Allô maman, bobo », song by Alain Souchon about a sad young man with very low self-esteem.

14 Paris Plage: Name of both the well-known beach in Normandy near the town of Le Touquet and, only recently, of the banks of the Seine in Paris during the summer months when they are off-limits to automobiles.

The 2014 BASTARD Conference

Celebrating a new day!

The BASTARD (Berkeley Anarchist Students of Theory And Research & Development) conference promotes the understanding that there are multiple valid approaches to anarchism, each of which has points that are worth examining. Come and share your approach. Participate in a commerce-free event with other anarchists who are interested in the theory and philosophy of where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going.

The theme (always loose) of this year is Social War. Some differing voices:

“It can be anything anarchists want it to be.”

“Social war is a concept taken from Foucault that sounds cool and definitely lends itself to grandiose rhetoric, but has little to do with what we are actually trying to accomplish.”

“Social war is this process of doing something. It is our concerted effort to rupture the ever-present deadliness of the social peace.”

“Social War may be one of the few forms of refusal that all anarchists can agree upon and pursue. And that pursuit, of the concrete activities of the Social War, will ideally be done in an aggressive and principled manner.”

This year we are reaching outside of our normal BASTARD organizing routine, and meeting on sundays at the long haul, so all of you who have been wanting to help organize the most exciting commerce-free anarchist theory conference in the US (but don’t have time on tuesday nights), we’re here for you!

Meetings will start on January 11 at 12 noon, at 3124 Shattuck Ave in Berkeley (very near Ashby BART); bring ideas about speakers, workshops, art, opening and closing events.