Working Within The System comix

In Friday’s Boondocks re-run, Huey Freeman learns a valuable lesson that certain fearless railroading rEVOLutionaries should have figured out a long time ago.

Huey: Huey Freeman, fearless revolutionary, prepares for his next mission of liberation!

Huey: Disguised as a mild-mannered census enumerator, Huey heads off to acquire sensitive information on the enemy.

Huey: Later, that information will be used to strike the final great blow to the evil system of….

Huey: Oh, forget it. There’s no way for a revolutionary to justify a government job.

Caesar: But it was a fine attempt ….

Happy Dead Prez Day.

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  1. Anon73

    Given that your desired social system does not exist, and given that some states may or may not be closer to that system in various ways, could you justify supporting some state over another in some circumstances? E.g. if you support labor organizing you could move to Venezuela to head the local IWW, or if you support democracy you could go to East Timor and help their fledgling government, or if you support free speech in China you could move to Taiwan and write for a newspaper there, etc.

  2. Rad Geek

    Anon73,

    A lot depends on what you mean by supporting and helping. If you mean working for them or giving them material assistance, I’d say, no, you shouldn’t do that. Better states are still states, and they still necessarily engage in violence against innocent people in order to establish and sustain themselves. Working for their benefit, or materially cooperating with them (beyond cases where you offer momentary, one-off help to efforts by them to do something that everyone has a right to do, e.g. rescue a kitten from a tree or prosecute a genuine violent criminal) strikes me as a foolish thing for an anarchist to do. Depending on the breaks, it may not only be foolish, but may require you to become directly complicit in evil in order to keep your job.

    If you mean something more like saying nice things about them, or offering rhetorical support to them in their conflicts with other states, there’s more room for leeway, insofar as rhetorical support doesn’t necessarily involve active participation or an ongoing collaborative relationship. But I think there are reasons of strategy and honesty not to invest much time in that kind of pursuit. Political games tend to be a quagmire for those who attempt to intervene in them in any sustained way, and trying to support one state against another very often ends up creating blind spots about the evils of your favorite. If your goal is to help the East Timorese government as against the Indonesian empire, then it often begins to seem impolitic to say anything bad against the East Timorese government. That kind of partisanship has already led too many anarchists to function effectively as Left-wing statists (cf. Noam Chomsky), or to simply stop being anarchists at all (cf. Victor Serge). It’s especially dangerous because the more embattled the state, the more these considerations tend to suck you in — even though states are typically the most repressive, and most in need of honest criticism, when they are embattled.

    On a tangentially related topic, cf GT 2008-01-22: Who usurps the usurpers?

    Incidentally, as far as your concrete suggestions go, I think that the best thing that you could do for labor organizing in Venezuela is to join efforts that actively criticize and resist the Chávez regime’s efforts to co-opt and control workers’ movements. Besides their increasing boldness in employing openly repressive means against their enemies, the Venezuelan government is also pushing hard on a number of pseudo-populist state socialist measures that will directly increase state control over labor and move towards further political co-optation and regimentation of labor struggles. (Cf., for example, the government’s efforts to highjack the factory-reclamation and autogestión movements, once they became popular enough in Argentina and elsewhere to pose a serious threat of a grassroots alternative to state socialism. In the name of helping workers, Chávez and his gang have been pushing hard for government programs that expropriate factories from the capitalist boss, make a big show of turning it over to the management of the workers — and then retain a 51% ownership share for the State. If it catches on, this kind of bogus socialism will do just as much for the cause of worker ownership of the means of production as the Wagner Act did for the cause of militant industrial unionism. Or, rather, just as much as it did to that cause.

    Generally speaking, one of the times to be the most suspicious of government actions is when they are trying the hardest to look like they’re your friend. Political patronage always comes with political control as the chaser.

· March 2008 ·

  1. Discussed at francoistremblay.wordpress.com

    Taking a government job? « Check Your Premises:

    […] to Rad Geek’s People Daily. Posted by Francois Tremblay Filed in […]

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