Rules of the road

Kasama

On the Shelf

« "I do not recognize myself anymore" | Main | Dare to Struggle: A report from the SDS National Convention »

July 29, 2007

Comments

Chuck Morse

For anyone interested, I recently translated an important article dealing with the anarchists confrontation with power during the Spanish Civil War. It's called "The Revolutionary Institutions: The Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias" and you can find it here: http://www.negations.net/?p=88

Another Roy

Arundathi Roy has some interesting comments on the thesis that communist rebels (today) are just the "flip side of the state" – Chuck, dude, you might learn something.

Click here

Christopher Day

Chuck,

First, I look forward to reading your work.

Second, the Spanish Anarchists were not responsible for Franco's crimes, but their failure to CONSOLIDATE the brief revolution they made cleared the way for Franco's triumph.

In the wake of July 16, the leaders of the CNT most certainly were offered control of the government of Catalonia by the sitting head of that government. If you want cites I can look them up, but this should be non-controversial. (I was using "Barcelona" as shorthand for the areas of anarchist preeminence just as I use "Chiapas" as shorthand for the patchwork of territories in which the Zapatistas reign in the eastern half of the state.

Third, communists have seized power in a variety of ways. Calling them all "coups" ignores the significant popular participation in many of these events. As for the fate of social radicalism, it too is a much more complicated picture of ebbs and flows. The Bolsheviks were the first leaders of a modern state on the planet to legalize homosexuality though it was subsequently outlawed again. The GPCR, whatever else you may think of it, didn't lack for social radicalism. Its tough to maintain the effervesence of the first weeks or months of a revolution in the face of all that comes afterwards. And there's the rub. we don't know what an anarchist revolution would look like after five years because they've never gotten that far. If you don't think the Zapatistas are a little worse for wear after 13 years you aren't paying attention. The Otra is an attempt to restore the radicalism of a project that got mired in constitutional reformism despite all their supposed anti-statism. I hope it succeeds, but I'm real about the obstacles so long as state power remains in the hands of the Mexican bourgeoisie.

Fourth, if your point is that single-minded reliance on state power characteristic of much 20th century socialism is insufficient for the transformation of the economy or society I'm with you. But if you think that it can be dispensed with you are kidding yourself.

Finally, the Zapatistas relationship to Maoism is more complex than you admit. The FLN (who founded the EZLN) were Guevarists of a sort who had internalized a lot of lessons from the experiences of armed groups in the 70s, not least of all those of Lucio Cabanas. I would argue that they had come to conclusions more in keeping with Maoist notions of peoples war than with their focoist/Guevarist roots and that this is why they were more successful in their attempt to launch a group in Chiapas. Similarly, the communities that the EZLN recruited from in the Lacandon Jungle were the same ones who had gone through intensive political education and training at the hands of the unorthodox Maoists of Union del Pueblo and Linea Proletaria and many have argued (I believe correctly) that the the tradition of popular assemblies as practiced by the EZLN today owes at least as much to that experiences (and the earlier work of the liberation theology inspired catechists) as it does to any ancient Mayan traditions.

The break with Maoism that occurred when the communities affiliated with the EZLN was actually more a break with the ultra-democracy practiced by the Maoists (who basically liquidated their own organizations in a spasm of libertarian purism) and an embrace of the necessity the sort of discipline involved in a hierarchical clandestine military organization like the FLN/EZLN. While I think this turn was a necessary one its important to recognize that the qualities that you most admire in the EZLN reflect continuities with the (admittedly unorthodox) variety of Maoism practiced in the Lacandon Jungle and the more "authoritarian" qualities that you prefer to simply ignore are of more recent vintage.

Presumably before he joined the FLN, Marcos wrote his senior thesis which relies heavily on the works of Althusser and, to a lesser extent, the early Badiou. It is on pedagogy and I would argue that the influence of the theory of the Mass Line is as unmistakeable in his thinking then as it remains today.

The Zapatistas most certainly are not Maoists, (which I think is mostly a good thing) but disentangling where their approach converges and diverges with different aspects and tendencies within Maoism is more complicated than a simple statement like yours suggests.

cheers,
Christopher

zerohour

Chris, can you supply a reading list of decent English-language literature on the EZLN?

JB

Minor note: Chris writes, "The Bolsheviks were the first leaders of a modern state on the planet to legalize homosexuality though it was subsequently outlawed again."

Not quite. They abolished the old Tsarist legal codes, with sodomy/homosexuality laws included.

Homosexuality wasn't banned as such until the mid-30s, and then it was coupled with an anti-abortion law, as if to demonstrate clearly how patriarchal and reactionary they were being.

zerohour

JB, you failed to note that the Bolsheviks of the mid-30s were not the same as those of Lenin's time.

JB

That's because I don't particularly care. It was a generation later. And, well, I'm leaving work for the day. I'll check in later.

Chuck Morse

Hi Chris,

I think that your appraisal of anarchist activity in the Spanish Civil War is flawed in several ways.

First, it doesn’t make sense to suggest that the anarchists were responsible for Franco’s triumph in any way. They died by the thousands fighting his forces.

Second, it is simply not true that they were offered control of the Catalan regional government. That never happened. I suspect that you are thinking of the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, which is something different. They were invited to join (and constitute) this, did join it, and did in fact “consolidate” their control over Catalonia in many respects (they controlled most of the militias leaving from the region, controlled the security forces there, etc).

You seem to object to the fact that the anarchists did not seize power in Spain as a whole, but they were never in a position to do so. They could have taken power in Catalonia, had if they wanted to, but that was not a realistic possibility--for reasons of principle and also because the region lacked the resources necessary for arms production (and other key forms of industrial production).

Christopher Day

While the discussions in Spanish are much richer there are many English language books on the Zapatistas that I would recommend for different purposes.

1. Basta! Land & The Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas by George A. Collier and Elizabeth Lowery Quaratiello.

The single best introduction to the social and economic developments that fueled the uprising plus some good historical background.

2. The Chiapas Rebellion, The Struggle for Land and Democracy by Neil Harvey

A study of the major indigenous/campesino social struggles and mobvements in Chiapas going back to the mid-60s.

3. Rebellion in Chiapas, an historical reader by John Womack Jr.

A tendentious introductory essay by Womack while politically problematic is one of the few English-language treatments that gives proper attention to the role of the FLN. Includes a very good collection of documents from the 16th century to the Fifth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (1998).

4. Mayan Lives, Mayan Utopias: The Indigenous Peoples of Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion ed. by Jan Rus et. al.

A very good collection of articles that cover a lot of questions that otherwise get little attention in English language treatments.

5. Ya Basta! Ten Years of the Zapatista Uprising, Writings of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Just what it says it is. A very good selection.

6. The War Against Oblivion: Zapatista Chroncles 1994 - 2000 AND Zapatistas: Making Another World Possible: Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 -- both by John Ross.

Sympathetic leftist journalist gives a thorough narrative of the major events in the course of the Zapatista struggle with useful background info on other political developments in Mexico.

There are a number of other good and interesting titles, but if you want a basic introduction these are a good place to start. The books on the historical background tend to be the more serious, while books on what the Zaps have done since 1994 tend to be more rah-rah. Ross is not an exception to this, but he is also capable of some wry observations and basically saves you from having to read 13 years of Mexican newspapers.

Christopher Day

Chuck,

Do we bear any responsibility for our defeats? The anarchist response seems to be a resounding "No!" with the predictable result that there is so very little serious attempt to LEARN from those defeats.

Defeats and failures are bound to occur in the course of revolutionary struggles. Some of them may well be unavoidable. But the default assumption of everybody who wants to really learn from them should be that they were avoidable or at least partially so. The attitude of communists to their defeats is radically different. The massacre of the Indonesia Communist Party for example has been subjected to intense critical scrutiny. And the blame is placed squarely on the communists not on the "betrayals" of other forces.

If we are going to take responsibility for overthrowing oppression and building a better world then we need to take responsibility when we fail. Anarchism treats its failures like successes to be celebrated because it can't admit its failures without calling into question its treasured abstract principles. In my view principles that consistently fail the test of practice may not be reality-based and should therefore be reconsidered.

Chuck Morse

Yes, Chris, I agree: learning from failures (and successes) is a good thing. However, your comments above indicate that you are misinformed about some of the basics of the Spanish Civil War. For example, you claim that the CNT leadership was “literally offered the keys to the government;” that the CNT was “offered control of the government of Catalonia;” and that anarchist actions “cleared the way for Franco's triumph” and “condemned the people of Spain to 40 years of fascist terror.” Sorry, but every one of those assertions is historically false. Sure... analyzing failure is good, but you need to get your facts straight first.

zerohour

Chris Day says: "Anarchism treats its failures like successes to be celebrated because it can't admit its failures without calling into question its treasured abstract principles." Yes.

The more disingenuous anarchists do this by redefining terms when it suits them. "Revolution" is a continuous process, without victory or failure, "overthrowing the state" means removing their influence from a locality while leaving the overall structure intact.

On the other hand, communists DO fail, they DO take state power.

I read Chuck's piece and, while interesting, still raises questions. Why would the majority of the populace be anti-anarchist after several decades organizing? Why would anarchists not want to "rule over" an antagonistic population, but have no qualms about fighting a war over this population? What should this tell you about anarchist ideology as it relates to the masses?

As Chris said, anarchists need to do the hard work of re-evaluating their thought in light of the harsh realities of their past. Anarchists demand this of Marxists, when will they demand this of themselves?

srogouski

Nothing to do with anarchism vs. Marxism but from above Jed's comment.

LINK

Is this the first time in a debate (on WW2 of all things!) that an (American) Pole stood up to defend the Soviet Union's strategic necessities?

After reading this New York article:

LINK

I've decided to change my last name to an X.

Appalling. You think that of all people the Poles would have learned a lesson about a foreign superpower hosting a torture camp on their soil.

Mohammed was apparently transferred to a specially designated prison for high-value detainees in Poland. Such transfers were so secretive, according to the report by the Council of Europe, that the C.I.A. filed dummy flight plans, indicating that the planes were heading elsewhere. Once Polish air space was entered, the Polish aviation authority would secretly shepherd the flight, leaving no public documentation. The Council of Europe report notes that the Polish authorities would file a one-way flight plan out of the country, creating a false paper trail.

But the most interesting thing about it was this.

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

The one thing I guess you can say about anarchists is that they never left a body of torture/mind control techniques for some future tyrant to use.

srogouski

Bonnie:

srogouski,

Lack of any other group having success over the last 35 years is just an excuse. Their failure should not be the standard by which we judge an organization. The standard has to be their political line and if it is correct or not. An incorrect line leads to incorrect practice and failure to be able to meet the goals that you set.

Fact is that if you are accurately assessing the situation then you should be able to move forward, not backward although it is true that nature and history proceeds in a wave like motion.

Now in talking about democratic centralism, it should not be everyone saying the same thing and acting in the same way. Democratic centralism is supposed to allow for wide and varied debate inside the organization and a great deal of personal freedom in express while at the same time having the unified will to act together when the situation arises. This is not my experience around the RCP as of late. In fact the only open debate as of recent happened OUTSIDE the party when there was the online discussion of the Draft Programme.

I do not think that r. johns comments are one-sided at all. In fact they appear to me to be extremely accurate. However, right now I have to run but I want to address this more later.

I'm not now nor have I ever been a member of the RCP. I have worked with some of their mass organizations like World Can't Wait and I have gone to a lot of their educational events.

For the most part I think they're basically good people who do a lot of good work.

But I guess I'm more of a pragmatist than an actual Marxist. I like to look at the world more like Tolstoy than Lenin. So results/history means more to me in some ways than ideological correctness.

I think we're dealing with two questions.

1.) Morality once Leninists do take power.

2.) Effectiveness of Leninism in this particular climate.

As far as question #1 goes, I'd distinguish between the necessity to seize state power and use force to fight off an invader. The USSR in the early 20s.

But I'm less accepting of Stalinism than Bob Avakian is. I tend to buy Solzhenitsyn's argument (reactionary though he was) that in the 1930s, a lot of the terror was arbitrary, used to create a general climate of fear and obedience.

I'd reject an anarchist critique of Lenin in the early 20s. But I'm unsure whether or not it would inevitably develope into what happened in the 30s.

As far as effectiveness goes. We have to be realistic and admit that any discussion about how to behave "after the revolution" is going to be very detached, abstract, and conducted in a vacuum. If there's ever a communist revolution in the USA, I'm not too sure if the RCP is going to lead it. I'm sure organic leaders will come out of the people who actually do overthrow the state.

But is the RCP (and other Leninist groups) effective at organizing even protest politics in the current climate? To some extent they are. They organize anti-war rallies that have topped half a million people. But to some extent they haven't. They've organized rallies of half a million people that stayed behind the police barricades.

Christopher Day

My facts are straight. My claim that the anarchists bear responsibility for the fascist triumph is a matter of interpretation. As for the offer of state power to the CNT in Catalonia, I promised a citation earlier Chuck. You might recognize the following:

"The leader of the Mozos de Escuadra [autonomous Catalan police] met us at the Generalidad entrance. We were armed to the teeth—rifles, machine-guns, and pistols—and ragged and dirty from all the dust and smoke.
“We’re the CNT and FAI representatives that Companys called,” we told him. “The people with us are our guard.”
He greeted us warmly and led us into the Orange Tree Courtyard. …
… Companys [the President of Catalonia] paused for a moment and then continued slowly:
“But the truth is that you—harshly oppressed until two days ago—defeated the fascist soldiers. And, knowing who and what you are, of course I will speak to you in the most heartfelt terms. You’ve won. Everything is in your hands. If you do not want or need me as President of Catalonia, tell me now, so that I can become another soldier in the war against fascism.
“However, if you think that in this office—which I would have left only if the fascists killed me—I, my party, my name, and my prestige can be useful in the struggle—which has ended in Barcelona, but rages on in the rest of Spain—then you can count on me and my loyalty as a man and politician. I am convinced that a shameful past has died today and genuinely want Catalonia to march in forefront of the most socially advanced nations.”
Companys was speaking with obvious candor. He was a malleable, realistic man, who experienced the tragedy of his people very deeply. They had been saved from secular slavery by the anarchists and he, using the language demanded by the circumstances, took the lead in a uniquely dignified way, something so uncommon among Spanish politicians. Without letting himself be frightened by the revolution, and understanding that it would redefine the boundaries of the possible, he intended to play a central role, as a Catalan who knew that the hour of his country had rung and as a man with extremely advanced ideas who did not fear the most audacious social interventions, which are always expressed in lived reality.
We had gone to listen and could not commit ourselves to anything. It was our organizations that had to make the decisions. We explained this to Companys.
The importance of this historic encounter between Companys and our organizations will never be fully grasped: indeed, Spain’s fate was decided in Catalonia, between libertarian communism, which would have meant anarchist dictatorship, and democracy, which meant collaboration."

THAT seems pretty clear to me.
Companys offered to resign his executive authority and recognized the CNT-FAI’s military domination of the situation. No revolutionary organization has been offered power in more unambiguous terms.

What is most remarkable about this remarkable event is Garcia Oliver's characterization of the options before the anarchists: the establishment of libertarian communism OR collaboration with the bourgeois state. Completely absent from his thinking is the notion that libertarian communism was NOT an immediate option, but rather something that could only be accomplished by passing through a transitional phase in which the considerable actual contradictions of the situation would have to be struggled through. The real question before the CNT wasn't whether to impose libertarian communism by means of an "anarchist dictatorship" but rather whether to use its dominance of the situation to LEAD other forces through a perilous process that might eventually make libertarian communism possible.

Garcia Oliver betrays no theory of revolutionary leadership. Either the majority of the people are already with you or you leave the bourgeois state apparatus in place. But part of winning over the majority is precisely demonstrating in the heat of such a situation the POSSIBILITY to take things to a new level.

It is absolutely true that the majority of Spaniards were against the anarchists. But not all for the same reasons. Some could be won over simply by decisive action. Others would need to be brought along more gradually. And yes some would have to be compelled. But to fail to grasp the highly fluid nature of the situation and to refuse to push it as far as it could go was an abdication of the most elementary responsibility of revolutionaries TO THE FUTURE.

What would it have meant if the CNT had said to Companys: "Yes we accept your offer of resignation and your enlistment as a soldier"? It sure as hell wouldn't have meant libertarian communism the next day, month or year. It wouldn't have meant that they could even dispense with alliances with the other forces that made up the CCAM. Whatit would have meant is that that alliance would be conducted under THEIR leadership and not the leadership of Companys.

off the shoulders

"This is an area where you can't generalize.

Sure Chiapas (and maybe the Ogoni in Nigeria) are one thing.

What happened in Afghanistan? What's happening in the Sudan."

Well srogouski the point should be to create more of the above now shouldn't it. The idea of spreading and dispersing is the name of the game for me and not the opposite.

"Look to your own theory of history. The weight of history militates against any egalitarian or liberating solution."

Sure it does, but creating another hegemonic history is hardly the way to go about it. As I've said slamming the break peddle on 10 000 years of instrumentality is not easy, but for me that is my desire and quite frankly the most logical of goals.

"How can you deal with Islamic fundamentalists or warlords or drug gangs without a state army?"

How can you separate Islamic Fundamentalists or warlords from a statist logic. There are many ways to deal with them besides creating yet another state.

"Now you could say that this is just imperialism in another form. But is it? What would happen to an anarchist feminist collective just outside of Kandahar if they weren't armed?"

Well there are little to know anarcha feminist collectives even in Kandahar. If you want a good example however there is an all woman run villige somewhere in Africa called the Omoja village I believe. This was a villige founded by disposesed and abused women who took power into their own hands on a quite personal level without any state helping them.

"Above you're saying history always works one way. Now you're saying there's no such thing as history."

I said there is not history in the sense of there being a grand narrative or a linear movement. I never said there is no history only that it is contextual. I was making a point to you about how power functions within a specific historical context by comparing the logic of classical liberalist to the socialist brand of things.

"And don't try to say it's "human nature" that works outside of and seperate from history. Human nature means nothing without an interaction with history. "

What I'm saying is that history does not work outside of multiple contexts.

Chuck Morse

Chris, this is a little weird, because the anarchists did exactly what you say they should have done. . . .

But, first, they were never offered control of the Catalan regional government (the Generalidad). Companys offered to resign, but that’s a different thing.

They joined and helped constitute the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, which exercised effective government power in Catalonia until its dissolution (in September, 1936). The anarchists were the dominant force in this body and used its precisely to try to create the conditions in which they could launch more aggressive transformations. They used it in an explicit effort “to take things to a new level” (as you put it).

In other words, the anarchists did exactly what you say they should have done. The revolutionary initiatives were still crushed and Franco seized power, but the anarchists did what you think they should have done. I’m all for criticism of the Spanish anarchists, but you need to be clear about the facts.

Christopher Day

What does Companys' offfer of resignation and his statement that everything is in the CNT-FAI's hands mean? Clearly Garcia Oliver perceived it as an opportunity to establish "an anarchist dictatorship." So even if Companys' offer wasn't to hand over the government it was there for the taking, or at least appeared to be to both Companys and Garcia Oliver.

The central question here is one of taking leadership. The CNT-FAI viewed their role as one of simple collaboration with the other parties within the framework of a bourgeois republic.

Consider the following passage from Garcia Oliver: "Trusting the word and person of a Catalan democrat, we permitted Companys to carry on as President; we agreed to the formation of the militias committee and a distribution of forces within it that was not just–the UGT and the Socialist Party, minorities in Catalonia, received the same number of seats as the triumphant anarchists and CNTistas–but a sacrifice designed to lead the authoritarian parties down the path of faithful collaboration and away from suicidal competitions."

The naivete here is frankly criminal but completely to be expected. The CNT-FAI had a complex task before them of winning over diverse class forces to their leadership in order to defeat the fascists. Nobody thinks this would be easy or that the results would have been guaranteed. But by failing to take state power they said to many potential supporters: "these people are going to get their asses kicked and if I don't want mine kicked I'd better stay on the sidelines or make my peace with the likely future victors." The hope that the CNT held out to the masses was best represented by the occupied factories and fields, but without state power those were subject to return to the original owners at a moments notice. Had they instead secured those gains and repressed those who would reverse them who knows how that example might resonate beyond Catalonia? What we do know is that they instead pursued a strategy of conceding leadership and state power to bourgeois parties, enabling them to regroup and isolate the once dominant CNT-FAI, ultimately ending in a fascist victory.

who likes processed anything?

Didn't Monty P have a song...

SPAIN SPAIN SPAIN SPAIN
SPAIN SPAIN SPAIN SPAIN
SPAINETTY SPAIN, SPAINETTY SPAIN...

Chuck Morse

Chris, if you want to charge any of the Spanish anti-fascists with “criminality” you should to begin with Stalin and his henchmen not the anarchists. I suppose that this would be tough for you, given that Maoists are (by definition) great admirers of Stalin, but the facts are unambiguous.

Nonetheless, I very much want you to make a compelling point, but your confusion about the basic facts undermines your ability to do so.

The anarchists were not “literally offered the keys” to the Catalan regional government (as you claimed), but they could have taken it easily when the conflict erupted. However, whether or not to do so was not a meaningful question for them. The Generalidad was barely more than a symbolic government (it had a small police force, some control over cultural/educational policy, and a disputed ability to tax, but little more); its effective power had disintegrated during the first days of the conflict; and it was the Central Committee of Anti-fascist Militias that exercised real power in the region. Things like the telephone exchange (which they did take) were much more important.

They were never in a position to seize power in Madrid. This was simply not a possibility. They considered stealing the national treasury from Madrid in the fall of 1936 (which would have enabled them to buy their own arms), but they abandoned the idea for reasons that we can get into if you want.

In Catalonia, they did seize the fields and factories and ran the security forces. They also killed all the anti-fascists they could find. All of this was organized through the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias.

So what is your critique exactly? it simply does not make sense to say that they were reluctant to "secure their gains." (They were not.) Do you fault them for not killing the communists? Is that it?

ha!

"Things like the telephone exchange (which they did take) were much more important."

...and we all know how that turned out.

off the shoulders

Chris in terms of Spain I think Chuck is doing a good job setting some facts straight. It would appear that the problem the anarchists had was not a lack of wanting power but the opposite. Beyond that there is a moralistic paternalism to your point on Spain. The idea that anarchists are responsible for 40 years of suffering, puhleeze! The only interest people have in these types of revolutionary situations is to their own personal desires. The fetish of a better tomorrow as Chris opines is yet another fetish of the metaphysical present where one set of agents impose the idea of a better future on a people yet to be. While I don't agree with all of the points "When Insurrections Die" by Gilles Dauvé
cuts through a lot of the nonsense that Chris and others peddle.

http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3909/whenidie/

In terms of Chiapas Chris has made a fetish of the concept of duel power and how to move forward. Do you not consider that perhaps human relationships as such will always be tinged with antagonisms due to different agencies and difference itself? There are profoundly more social questions to the Chiapas Mexico divide such as the divide (racism being a factor) between Mexicans and indigenous peoples as well as a divide between agrarian and modern urban agencies. The former which tend to be bigger on local economic subsistence relationships as well as generally having a more egalitarian character as opposed to the logic of centralization and redistribution which prevails in cities. The fact that the vanguards tend to be "Taylor" made for the latter is not something that people in situations like Chiapas can overlook. You're seeing these antagonisms intensify in China for example where most of the insurrections for the past while have been based on dispossessed agrarians (who Mao was never really a friend of btw).There is also the question of social itself. Do you really believe that what is social has a homogenous relationship? I know this has been made into a pejorative by some rightwing types but society as it is understood in the civilized sense really is an abstraction.

Beyond all of this I'm not interested in the makeup of the Zapatistas, what matters to me is that the mode of revolution that happened should be replicated on a larger level where we end up dispersing our relationships to local and contextual levels as opposed to re-awakening modern rationality under another name. The inhabitants of Chiapas probably made that known to people like Marcos with the latter being compelled to a more decentered view of the world. If there is any quality to the Zaps it’s how far they've moved away from Maoism and toward something more anarchistic and in tune with what the peasants actually wanted. My own view is the Zapatistas still represent a political form of specialization but that is another issue altogether. On the issue of power there has always been clashing power relationships from hunter-gather periods onward, it matters not who has the power but how you use it, whether you are egalitarian and personal in your means or not. If you put the logic of real politik ahead of that then you get what you pay for.

off the shoulders

"Are you equating a store clerk, waitress, bank teller or college professor with Dick Cheney? The problem with the lazy reading of Foucault's dispersal of power is it fails to see how power coalesces into certain forms with varying amounts of influence, with the state being at the pinnacle. It's as absurd as saying that atoms exist while denying the existence of human bodies or planets."

Well it depends on the person now doesn't it. The ideological listoners of Sean Hannities radio show might be a personal match. Beyond that as long as one legitimizes the state in his or her everyday praxis this is usually enough to get anyone in power however you feel about them. Again Cheney is not an automaton on to himself he(as well as any other state figurehead, technocrat and the like) to is part of a quite reciporical social relationship.

"Your examples of Barcelona and Chiapas reflect the problem with the "temporary autonomous zone" approach to anarchism which effectively DOES deny revolution. You say" The latter example [Chiapas - zh] shows how after a state aperatus has been destroyed you can disperse to a localist subisistance based agency." How interesting that you do not state the obvious lesson form the first example, Barcelona in which the anarchists got crushed and Spanish fascism was able to fully consolidate: anarchism cannot face serious opposition. When looking at Chiapas, one should keep the lessons of Spain in mind. Outside of Chiapas, the state very much does exist and as long as it does, Chiapas is under constant threat. Talk about "overthrowing the state" when it's right outside one's door leads to a dangerous and often fatal misunderstanding of the real, not theoretical, relations of power. Whyt the TAZ approach to anarchism will never be taken up by the majority of humanity should be obvious: who can afford to risk their lives for "temporary" liberation? Revolution is a a bloody process [Mao summed it up pretty succinctly] and anyone who undertakes it should not do so without some idea of lasting continuity. But you've already declared the majority so you're already expecting a wholesale rejection. This once again confirms my point about anarchist dogmatism: when theory and reality collide, theory must be preserved. When people reject your way of thinking, they are "the enemy" because your theory must be right."

You miss the point zero, the fact that there is still a state appuratus outside of Chiapas does not negate revolutionary process that was used by the zapatistas. The problem is not the process but the fact that it did not spread and as I have said egalitarian relationships of the sort that I want are easier to astablish in agrarian contexts then they are in urban ones. The point is to bring that idea of locality subsistance and dispersion on as wide a scale possible to include the mexican landscape and perhaps north america and beyond. This is something that is not easy and will not be a accomplished in a single revolutionary event, but the means that stress multiplicity and autonomy are fairly well characterized by the Chiapas revolution.In the last instance of things if things outside of your context don't go your way then what you do on a personal and local level will have to suffice. You accept that people and agencies are different and you live by your desires(if they are teporary so be it) Sucess and failure can only be defined by those particular contexts. What should certainly not be called a failure is how groups like the indigenous peoples in Chiapas put their energy into the hear and now and not some abstract future ideal which may never happen. Quite frankly I find 10 years of Chiapas far more inspiring the 50 years of Cuba.

"Will they be able to continue living by principles of decentralization while resisting the state?"

Living by the principles of decentralization while resisting the state is really the only option. The truth of the matter is there are so-called "taylor" made revolutionaries that do not like the idea of decentralization at all and through some amazing use of drugs believe in a classless modern civilization. Alot of so-called revolutionaries who slag Chiapas as a failure basically have those modern attachments. They are of course not very honest about what the day to day maintanence of that nightmare requires

"Unless the Chiapas rebellion becomes nation-wide, the Mexican state has time on its side. Either way, it's too soon to tell, so why rush it?"

If it becomes nation-wide great, if not the peasants should keep on doing what they are doing and make their own history. Quite franky I suspect for reasons stated above that there will always be reasons to resist even after capital and state are destroyed. Unlike you I am quite honest about the fact that revolutions never end. The point is to keep it personal and real however long it lasts.

Small note to johnny rotten, I'm not in anyway sugesting that the state of Denmark has anything worthwile about it. I'm simply comaring it to the more succesfull imperial countries that have a much higher degree of violence at home and abroad. Hell you think I'm not aware of what happened to Ungdomshuset?

JB

What about the state in the United States?

It's real and it projects reactionary power on a global scale. It has a strong, if minority base of support. It tends to be powerful socially as well as politically.

What forms are suited to obstructing that?

Are there social bases that could be intentionally developed in a conscious, revolutionary direction?

What have different experiences been in this regard, to what general summation?

What activities and willful collective forms are suited to building power to challenge power and acting as broader catalysts?

I don't think the anti-power analysis holds up in the face of determined reaction. Anarchism is a stutter.

Vacillators (who are most people) don't respect moralists or anyone too satisfied with holding a position for its own sake.

Spain may be an interesting touch-stone, but it's worth pointing out that no revolutionary vision of any kind is gaining traction there right now. From what I saw not all so long ago, the anarchists and communists were equally hidebound.

Might be interesting to dig into that with even 1/10th gusto of the which whats and why of 70-some years ago.

srogouski

What about the state in the United States?

It's real and it projects reactionary power on a global scale. It has a strong, if minority base of support. It tends to be powerful socially as well as politically.

What forms are suited to obstructing that?

If I knew that the government would have killed me by now.

On a serious note, it seems to me that there are a few possible crises coming down the road.

1.) The election in 2008. If it turns into another deadlock the way 2000 ways and if there's any whiff of fraud, there could be civil disorder.

2.) The US invades or heavily bombs Iran.

3.) The economy collapses.

The key seems to be to prevent the government and the propaganda industrial complex from muting peoples' reactions, to bring out the underlying contradictions (fuck I'm talking in vague terms just like a Marxist) beneath them.

How do you do that?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Hot Shots