David Graeber on the Charlie Rose show

Here’s a video of an excellent interview with anarchist anthropologist David Graeber on the Charlie Rose show.

Graeber does a good job of covering some of the ground, and has his head screwed on pretty well about the best aspects of the so-called anti-globalization movement, and a very clear explanation of direct action in theory. Alas, the latter is followed up with a very muddy attempt to apply that category in practice; Graeber is awfully confused if he imagines that there is even an ounce of direct action left in the periodic State-controlled anarcho-parades that now roughly coincide with State capitalism’s elite meet-and-greets. But oh well. The rest of it is quite good.

One of the best parts is his overview of the history of the internationalist radical Left, and how it changed after World War I and the Bolshevik coup d’etat. The old Old Left, pre-1917, was essentially anarchist, and powerful and numerous to a degree that may seem surprising today. Marxist-Leninism came to the forefront only later, in the wake of a world war. They were pretenders and co-opters, who gained their position with bayonets, bombs, and the expropriated wealth of the world’s largest contiguous empire; they sustained their position largely because of some converging cultural and social trends in the Century of Perpetual Warfare, notably the USSR’s ability to act even more brutally and effectively in the Great Game than the old imperial powers. Graeber hopes (as I do) that we are seeing some signs of a return to the atmosphere of turn-of-the-century radicalism, as dissent is less and less identified with taking sides in the deathmatch between rival super-powers, and more and more identified with a struggle by ordinary people against Power as such.

Here’s hoping, anyway.

(Via Brad Spangler 2007-09-27, via Francois Tremblay 2007-09-27.)

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  1. Joel Schlosberg

    “The old Old Left”

    How about calling it the “paleo-left”? ;)

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