We are running a little late but, as you can probably imagine, finding a place to hold an anarchist theory conference isn’t as easy as it used to be. In our case it is as much about aging as it is about the horrorshow of land pricing but either way we now have a venue. The Omni Commons will be hosting the 2017 Berkeley Anarchist Students of Theory, And Research, & Development conference.
The event will be held 10am-5pm, September 17th. We look forward to seeing you all there.
Infanticide: The Greatest Evil Stephanie
Despite all the critiques anarchists have of society and the Western ideal of the nuclear family, children remain a sacred cow for those who wish to build a new society in the shell of the old. But there are as many reasons for infanticide as there are methods and we aren’t the only species to practice it. It is anything but a black and white issue, yet for most people it is the most, heinous crime a person can commit, so much so that it has historically been used to condemn entire groups. In this day and age, the myth of maternal instinct means mothers who kill their children are pathologized. In an anarchist utopia, would infanticide still exist? Could it be accepted or even facilitated? Is this an instance where anarchists’ penchant for what is moral and good clouds our thinking over issues this complex and problematic? This is a very broad topic so we will try to narrow our focus by looking at three different scenarios that lead women to decide to murder their offspring. 11:10 –12:10
Setting Fire to the Spirit: Insurrectionary Violence, Class Struggle, and the Beautiful Idea Daniel
Society is a prison. We are each subjected on a daily basis to the litany of institutionalized violence characteristic of a variety of social institutions; constraining, disciplining, annihilating our bodies and dreams. Against this oppressive assault, many anarchists have long utilized revolutionary violence and illegalism in their struggle for freedom and against the institutions that dominated their lives. The individuals and groups who have utilized these tactics of direct action have faced brutal repression on the part of the state and near-universal condemnation from the media and public. And for every anarchist unwilling to let social laws and mores limit their insurgent desires, ten self-professed “radicals” have also made a habit of condemning those who engage in forms of revolt which either conflict with their preferred moral code or cannot be controlled and guided to their liking. If we truly want to live without gods or masters , it is crucial that we give no credence to the moral codes and forms of political engagement which are designed to pacify and restrain us, and that we create a space where a diversity of tactics (including those deemed “terroristic” or “criminal” by society) is seen as critical to class struggle.
In this presentation we will explore the practices of revolutionary violence and illegalism and the historical response to them both by forces of authority and by other radicals, with a focus on exploring different conceptions of ethics and anarchism and the ways they impact our struggles. In the process, we will examine the stories of a few of the bold anarchists who have made unmediated insurrectionary attack a key part of their lives and the varying ways they conceived of the beautiful idea. We will also look at revolutionary violence today and the response to it both inside and outside the anarchist milieu, while we attempt to define a new modality of insurrectionary practice which exists outside dogmatic moralities and ideologies and allows anarchists to more effectively attack and destroy that which seeks to capture and subjugate our lives and desires. 11:10 — 12:10
Rewilding Sanctuary: Returning Home John
I’ve found a good area for this, with a small population of humans and lots of forest service land immediately around. It is not ridiculously far from the bay area. Steps: 1. making the necessary money happen. 2. getting to know the people already there, 3. restoring the forest on the land we buy, where needed to the healthy condition it was in before the clueless whites took it over. 4. developing the infrastructure needed for as little dependence on money income as possible. 5. over time, regenerating the normal (hunger-gatherer permacuturalist) human life. I’ll provide brief handouts related to these steps. (This workshop is highly theoretical, until the necessary money shows up.) 10:00 – 11:00
Dancing With the Devil Shawn
How do we account for the notion of evil in an anarchist context? One approach we be to examine the translations and transformations of familiar Judeo-Christian accounts in the anarchist literature. There is, after all, a familiar trope in that portrays the anarchist as, in some sense, “doing the devil’s work.” Proudhon had his infamous “hymn to Satan” and Bakunin recognized Satan as “the first freethinker.” These are allusions with a certain romantic appeal, as well as some rhetorical power in the battle against forms of authority that all too often seek to ground themselve in divine sanction. They have, of course, also been a source of criticism, since it is a simple move to interpret them as merely a pious inversion of elements from a familiar, manichaean tale. It is, I think, fair to say that some of the criticism has hit its mark, but certainly not in every instance.
The symbolic narrative being referenced is fairly simple. In it most basic form, God, the active principle of creation and source of moral law, is opposed by Satan, the “adversary” or that which resists divine authority. Mapped onto the realm of governmental authority, anarchy assumes the role of the adversary, playing Satan to the God of Church, State, Capital, etc.
Translated or transformed as into anti-authoritarian forms, things arguably become quite a bit more complex. There are conceptions of anarchism that place anarchy in the God-role, as well as those that give it an unabashedly devilish place in the story. There are those that attempt to be done with these divine or infernal elements, and those that retain them, only to put them to decidedly subversive, heretic uses. And some of the most interesting, complex treatments of these conventional elements are arguably to be found in the “classical” pioneers of the anarchist tradition (who have often been dismissed as bound to a manichaean dynamic.)
I would like to propose a presentation outlining a range of possible transformations of this theological narrative into anarchist terms, including the possibilities for situating “evil” in each of them, followed by some exploration of how these accounts might be used as lenses to clarify some concepts more at home in anarchists discourse, such as “anarchy” itself. As a working hypothesis, I would suggest that, while authoritarian, legislative understandings of “evil,” and morality in general, seem foreign to anarchist thought, the radical conception of anarchy we find in early anarchist writings still confronts even the most pragmatic, rational approaches to anarchism with something that we should perhaps consider our own “problem of evil.” 3:20–4:30
Virtuous Tricksters: Mortal Sins in Anarchism and Why We Might Want Wickedness Soren & Dominique
Evil and Good are always defined by the other, meaningless without contrast. If Good is righteous action and morality, then Evil might be approximate to chaotic determinism. If Good is the spirit, then Evil must be the earth, or matter. If Good is humanity, then Evil is the nightmare of the unhuman. If we, as anarchists/etc., are to step away from the structures of codified morality, how can we begin to position ourselves in a liminal space between Good and Evil? How do we embody and subvert both? Our workshop will include an interactive ethics game, as well as discussion. 1:00 — 2:00
Morality, Ideology: what does it mean to be beyond good and evil? Leona
This will not be a discussion about which is the correct word to describe a value system. It will be an exploration of what it means to operate in the world in a way that challenges normal (or any) understandings of good and bad. Metaethics, people, do you even? 2:10 — 3:10
The Serpent, Eve, and Adam–or–The Garden Party Lew
To be touched on: gnosticism, Thelema, Eden, Atlantis, the devil’s party, the party of life, the invisible party, Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, Plato’s noble lie, science fiction, the asteroid belt, a defense of goody goody anarchism, more. The following fiction will be cited: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, Maddaddam, All Over Creation, The Fifth Sacred Thing. 2:10 — 3:10
Social exclusion is the greatest evil Aragorn
This is a basic conversation that, if successful, will question a basic anarchist principle and point a way torward thinking about how to form pods of human activity in a possible, viable future. We will discuss what is social, society, and at what numerical breaks are different kinds of organizations possible and impossible. Mostly we’d like to talk about exclusion as a consequence of how this society is ordered but also how utopia planning is largely a reactionary and conservative process. We are against it. 10:00–11:00
Evil, Banality and Inhumanity Michael
Evil? You mean like demons? Spirits? The Devil? While these aspects of a distant time still speak to us, fascism, racism and inequality seem to speak a little louder. When horror and inhumanity no longer have spiritual aspects to them, they still remain only with a change in justification: the very word “God” appears the most these days on the dollar bill, today’s most important deities. In this workshop, we will discuss the rising tide of social, cultural and political polarization that has given new life to racism, authoritarianism, decline and confusion. It will close with a Q&A and open discussion. 1:00 — 2:00
Reversing Polarities Gabriel
As an Anarcho-Satanist, I envision a reversal of the polarity of biblical mythological symbolism- seeing Satan as the “good,” liberated rebel, and seeing God as an “evil,” authoritarian, fascistic dictator.
By reversing the traditions moral polarity of these symbols, we demonstrate that they are reversible and not affixed to an absolute foundation of binary morality.
Many anarchist authors, such as Bakunin, Proudhon, and Godwin utilized such a reinterpretation of Satanic symbolism. Especially noteworthy is Bakunin’s reference to Satan as “the eternal rebel, the first freethinker, and the emancipator of worlds”. As an organization, The Church of Satan Anarchist works to synthesize Satanic symbolism and metaphor with anarchist values and principals.
In many ways, the State acts as a surrogate or lieutenant sovereign for the assumed abrahamic deity. The State leans heavily upon the authority of a supposedly “good” God in presidential speeches, oaths to office, flag pledges, “manifest destiny”, printed currency, the swearing-in of witnesses in courts of law, etc. The hierarchical authority of the State is informed by the hierarchical authority of religious institutions which predate modern statecraft, and so by envisioning God as an “evil” character, the State is similarly implicated as “evil”. 3:20–4:30