Occupy This Blog

(a/k/a the return of Shameless Self-promotion Sunday.)

I am stuck in the house more or less all day today with some maddening paperwork to finish by the end of the weekend, and a development workstation that is currently non-operational and (therefore) effectively blocking any serious development work from moving forward. So my own activity is going to be kind of sparse for the moment, while I try to get this clusterfrak sorted out. But it’s Sunday, and if that means anything, it means Shamelessness. So consider this your mic check. What’s going on your end? What have you been up to this week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

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  1. IggyonRG

    Hey Rad Geek,

    (If you remember me, I’m the Iggy who started (and later ended) a pretty successful Uconn Anarchist cafe. I’m now working on a solidarity network for Connecticut’s quiet corner.)

    I spent yesterday occupying Times Square with tens of thousands of others. What a blast! However, I am critical of the “peace fundamentalism” that is growing within Occupy Wall Street as the movement continues to draw in liberals. I look to Europe, where mass movements have cultivated a visible orientation of rising up/smashing hierarchical systems (and not asking for permission), with awe: they’re in so much better position for creating a working class revolution. I hope our movements here in the U.S. are moving that way after such a surprising regeneration of mass action politics. I’ll be heading back next weekend to observe and participate in whatever the decision-makers choose to do.

    So today I’ve been writing in praise of most of the elements of OWS and critiquing others. I’m also responding to criticisms of European street violence, where I’m arguing that as spectators, we should be praising the general confrontational orientation of the resistance and not spending our time harping on the more questionable actions of demonstrators. That critique should occur within the movement. As a class struggle anarchist, the events over the past month are so are the most fascinating and uplifting political resistance I’ve experienced, and I’m encouraged by the emphasis on democratic process when it comes to decision-making and coordination. I have no idea what the future holds, but for the first time, I’m really excited about the future. And how could I not be? We are slowly creating a specter of everyday resistance to hierarchical institutions. Let’s hope we can bring it into our daily lives, workplaces, and communities.

    I’m also having a discussion with other anarchists on my Facebook wall, following a link to a post you made, regarding the advantages and disadvantages of democratic planning versus the “spontaneous order” of the market. As a class struggle anarchist with leanings towards communism (but also someone who is humble about ‘the best anarchist economic order’), I’m worried about the ability to cultivate solidarity and mutual aid within a competitive marketplace: competition among worker-controlled firms undermines solidarity and can lead to destruction of environment. We also critiqued what we felt was a falsely reductionist (and sometimes ahistorical) view of capitalist social relations as per your statement “hierarchies established and maintained by state-perpetrated and state-sanctioned violence.” (Which seems to make the inverse mistake of a lot of vulgar Marxist thought.) I say this because I wonder how you would respond to these criticisms.

    I like your writings!

    • Rad Geek

      Iggy,

      Great to hear from you. Thanks for both the kind words and the criticism! Be sure to drop me a line if you have any links ready to go for the #OWS or other writing you were working on.

      I was wondering if you could point me to the discussion on M!C. My initial reaction, based on your description, is that I’d be inclined to distinguish some different senses in which people can compete — both in the everyday usage of the term, and in the technical economic sense. I think generally that competitive tests are not inherently in conflict with solidarity (or ecological sustainability), but is only brought into conflict with it by other problems in the social and political context. (Some of these are cultural problems, some organizational problems. And a lot of it has to do with the way in which competition is forced into a context of insanely high fixed costs for entry, subsidies to destructive modes of production, and artificial scarcity, due to the conditions enforced by state capitalism.) But I’d like to read more about your concerns before I go too much further, to make sure that I’m really responding to what you’re worried about.

      As for hierarchies established and maintained by state-perpetrated and state-sanctioned violence, I think I’d need to know more about the specifics of the worry to say much of use. But I should say that I don’t think at all the relationship between the hierarchies and the violence is one-way only. The line you quote emphasizes one direction of causation, but it’s intended only to focus attention on that one for the moment, not to erase others from the scene.

      What I’d argue (and do, in some of my material in the book) is that the social and economic hierarchies I’m protesting are intimately and reciprocally related to legalized violence — they as often provide the justification and social strength that the state uses, as well as the direction for it to point its guns, as things go the other way around. Hence the need for a thick conception of anti-statist politics, and the need to organize against all forms of domination. In addition, I don’t think that legalized violence is the only thing that establishes and maintains these hierarchies (some, such as men’s domination over women are in any case older than the law). They all lean on each other and contribute to each other in a number of ways.

      But if the state and legalized violence aren’t part of that picture — and a big one, because they have some very big guns and they kill a lot of people and it makes a big difference to how we are able to see and interact and work together with each other — then I think the picture is going to be seriously distorted, and false. Part of what we are trying to do here is get the State back in to Anarchist discussions about the failure of capitalism, and to get it back in in a serious and historically sensitive way. (I.e., not merely in some form like Well, states back up property claims, and if you have property ownership, then obviously… or Well, the capitalists call the shots and the state provides the bullets or similar, but to say something more particular abouyt why the state backs up some property claims and not others, why they favor some forms of production and burn out others, what interests and priorities and initiatives they have independently of their role as enforcers for the business class, and how they themselves are not just directed by, but really reshape the position and interests that social hierarchs have, etc.) The special attention that we want to draw to one direction of causation (which we think has been too much neglected) is not to suggest that hierarchy just is reducible to the immediate effects of legalized violence, or that there aren’t any links going back in the other direction, or going sideways.

      I don’t know how much that helps. Like I said, I’d be very interested to read the discussion.

  2. Shawn P. Wilbur

    I’ve spent much of this week adding metadata to the Libertarian Labyrinth and processing the material I picked up on a research trip to Seattle last week. On the trip, I finally got a chance to look at the Josiah Warren-inspired discussion of labor for labor exchange in the “Mechanics’ Free Press, and start to wade into the papers from the anarchist colony at Home, WA. It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces in “The Demonstrator:” Jo Labadie, C. L. James, Herman Kuehn, etc. There’s obviously a lot more to work through, so I’ll probably try to make another trip this fall.

    On the Warren front, Crispin Sartwell’s “The Practical Anarchist” is out, and it’s a nice collection.

    And I’m wrestling with an essay, provocatively titled “The Essence of Mutualism,” which ought to finally clarify the origins of the “gift economy of property,” and the relations between mutualism and egoism, as I understand them.

  3. Masha

    Wow. Not at all as impressive as the folks above me. I spent today building a fence on my property line, just to remind this year’s crop of hunters that our land is actually occupied, blogging about feet and home-made body balms, singing the “hobo’s lullabye to baby Yarrow, drinking too much coffee, and trying desperately to plan a discussion of gender-roles inspired by songs and poems that would be both interesting to the people I know up here & productive in someway, without turning into a “lets bash women for not being full time stay at home moms” fest. How to do that, with this group, is difficult, but will definitely require lots of alcohol on my part.

    Glad you at least liked the blog post, and hope all is going well!

· November 2011 ·

  1. IggyonRG

    Sorry for the late reply. It’s been a strange week. For some strange reason I can’t find the Facebook post, but I do believe you addressed the major concerns.

    I’m more sympathetic to market forms that rigidly promote non-hierarchical organization of the workplace. In my eyes, the key separation between Marxists and Anarchists is the latter’s recognition that the struggle is against the entire diffuse network of power relations, not just everything originating from an economic base. But one thing the Marxists got right is that class is one of the dominant organizing principles in each and every instance where class society exists. It is of crucial importance, then, that in a stateless society, we abolish all forms of coercive authority, including class relations and class privilege. So we’re left with worker-run firms to start.

    Now, there’s no reason that competition among worker-controlled firms HAS to create a new set of privileges, but the social and political context has to be highly soliditarian to prevent this from happening. A lack of cooperation among collectives could spell doom for anarchism, and if we fail to inculcate soliditarian values to the extent necessary for sustainable anarchy, then competition for resources, profits, etc. undoubtedly will undermine the work we’ve done. Anarchist democratically-planned economies have their own contexts too in order to be sustainable, but their potential problems are of a different kind. For one, they don’t pit workers against one other in a market system, but instead favor moving toward an ethic where land and the means of production are owned by everyone in society. But putting on my Malatesta hat, I’m sure there will be experimentation and we can figure out which sorts of organizing principles work best for us.

    I agree that that all hierarchies lean on and influence each other. But why does it always seem like ALL writings promote one-way causation, or (when challenged) advocate a too-heavy state-centric approach to capitalism? Is it that they are merely drawing attention to the role that the state plays in influencing class, or that their analysis really DOES place the state at the center of oppression? I don’t think I’m being uncharitable when I say that most of what I read confirms the latter. While there’s plenty of good nuggets in these accounts, I find most ALL writings unsatisfying because of this incessant focus, and I think this state-centrism (which usually glosses over class) leads to a lot of wonky politics. (I’ve found that in conversations these often express themselves in a singular ‘smash the state’ advocacy, withdrawal-only strategies, anti-organizational tendencies, etc.) I believe a more open embrace of the countless intersections between state and capital would serve market anarchists well, as would a more open embrace of socialism — not just socialism in the more obscure contexts in libertarian history, but the socialism of seizing productive assets.

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