More about this so-called thinking.

Carrying on from my last post… I might as well begin sloppy. “The United States is a country that doesn’t know itself, nor others.” – opening line to an imaginary essay Last week I began listening to the most recent episode of This Is Hell. In the episode, Anna-Lisa Cox discusses some of the themes […]
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I’ve been thinking about..

I’ve had the urge to begin writing again, but I’m pulled in many directions and haven’t landed on any solid point to begin from. One essay would begin, “The United States is a country that doesn’t know itself, nor others.” Another would tell the story of the tensions between Existentialism, Marxism (including the Situationist International), […]
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I do not want to go there

but recognize how they did
A reportback on a trip to Libertopia

This is an attempt at a friendly reportback. Of course it’ll be filled with my usual scorn and antipathy but I will attempt to point it in the direction of the larger things and not the other things, like people.

Here is the start. I am in an awkward situation for an anti-capitalist. My primary project is a publishing project that sells commodities. I usually describe myself as an anti-capitalist but my project is, by my measure, a capitalist one. It buys and sells commodities. My anti-capitalism also associates me with a couple hundred different ideologies that I hold a very slender ground with, like Maoism or social ecology. Factor in that I am looking for opportunities to grow beyond The Milieu and have just published the Billionaire’s Bible and finding an event where I could meet some other kinds of anarchists was intriguing.

Enter the Libertopia Festival. An event of “All Things Peaceful and Voluntary,” whatever in the hell that means. But let’s look closer at their ideas…

Libertopia

Join us on our mission to create a worldwide movement of individuals dedicated to the ideal of voluntary societies premised upon mutual respect for each person’s dignity and sovereignty.

and…

Libertopia 2018 will feature familiar exploration tracks, including:
Foundations of a Free Society
Entrepreneurship, Wealth Building, and Investing
How to Live Free in an Unfree World
Relationships
Culture of Liberty
Health and Happiness
Along with new exploration tracks:
Cryptopia
Let’s Build Libertopia
Raising Children
Voluntaryism
Start-up Societies and Seasteading
Bitcoin and Blockchains

and finally

We are also proud to announce that our headline event at Libertopia this year will be the Birth of a Free Nation. Witness an Apache tribe sign their new constitution marking the beginning of their journey to creating the first blockchain-based, Voluntaryist, sovereign nation.

Decoding the Rhetoric

Similar to an anarchist gathering (which I assume most readers will have attended or at least read about) the gap between what’s being said/promised and what is being delivered is jarring. We say something like “we intend to liberate desire and smash the state and capitalism” and deliver stale bagels and a queer dance party that gets suppressed in minutes after a series of lectures by dudes who dude. Whereas they claim a movement, and put on an event in which the presenters and tablers outnumber the audience at least 2:1. Libertopia featured 80 speakers and about a 20 vendors (most of whom were also speakers) and I never saw more than 100 people there the entire weekend. The math here is bleak, if your goal is a movement, or even just an audience of people interested in new ideas. Or it’s simple: while there may not be an audience for the ideas of Libertopia there is a high degree of involvement from the perspective of effort per person.

The rhetoric in the first quote (“join us in our mission…”) has just begun though. The authors also desire an “ideal of voluntary societies premised upon mutual respect for each person’s dignity and sovereignty,” code for individualist non-violent social change by way of market forces. which is adorable. Sovereignty is a particularly interesting turn of phrase here. It is an obvious nod to the Sovereign Citizen Movement and the soft claim that sovereigns aren’t answerable to the state but instead to common law (private land ownership is protected by the local sheriff, the new highest law of the land).

This is one of the few places where the distinction between these “right” anarchists and the rest of us can be exposed. Most of the rest of us understand sovereignty in the context of revolutionary theory. A sovereign is one who has the power to create a condition (or state of exception in the Schmitt formation of the term, which was in reaction to Benjamin’s concept of revolutionary violence). For the Libertopians 1. there is a law of the land, 2. it’s probably the sheriff (and the Constitution), and 3. a total transformation of our social world is unnecessary and undesired.

Their “exploration tracks” are an interesting examination into the priorities and biases of the Libertopians. While I wasn’t able to see many of the workshops, our table was planted right in front of the main stage (one out of four venues for presentations) so it’s safe to say I saw the highlights.

The primary delusion suffered by the Libertopians is their funny definition of capitalism. I want to give this a bit more room to breathe but suffice it to say that over the weekend I heard the term wealth, entrepreneurship, and even corporatism more than the term capitalism. The aesthetic of the event was at least 50% identical to a Friday night at the Marina (a famously bridge-and-tunnel, bro-centric, VC funded neighborhood in San Francisco) so there clearly is a something-so-close-to-capitalism vibe going on here that anyone who wasn’t a Libertopian wouldn’t notice it.

Fundamentally what I saw was Money, Bitcoin, Old Timers, Health, and something-like-DIY. Most of the money workshops were in the small rooms and consisted of speakers pitching their small business solutions (to about a dozen people each). The bitcoin people are the dominant species at Libertopia. They provide modern answers to a tendency that can feel out of date (ie rhetoric that feels 18th century and Constitutional). They drip VC funding (one vendor had bitcon ATM machines on site), optimism, and disruption (ie crime and black markets). The old timers were from the libertarian scene prior to the Internet. Some of these people can be found on C4SS. They resemble the ranters of the anarchist world who show up consistently to rail about workers movements, and how it used to be, to an audience of 2-3 enthusiasts and a dozen bored people who are simultaneously staring at their phones. There was a health crowd, representing an interesting direction for this audience. It tended to be the main topic for female-bodied people to speak about (and even dominated), and was clearly nothing like the tweedy economic discussions. (Note: it only cost $25 a day to attend the daily yoga sessions!) Finally, there were the DIY folks: the most natural allies between us and the anarchist right, but more on that later.

It is worth mentioning the nod that Libertopia has given natives. This is hard because it is a real engagement but not mappable for most anarchist types. Race was generally not mentioned at all during the weekend and so this strange ceremony that launched a new nation (!!!) really did come off more like a spaceship landing than something to take seriously but you should check out the link to see what you think http://www.camnnation.org/about/camn-constitution/.

Obviously I could go on about this–at length–but I’ll just say two things. I met the speaker/leader/Chief of this project and came away nervous. The constitution linked proposes as its first law that “All people live to pursue gain” which is a real head scratcher. I’m not sure I agree it’s true but perhaps I do if you define gain in an existential sense rather than material. But then the author makes this point “The Chiricahua Apache Mimbreno Nde Nation accepts these First and Second Laws as incontrovertible and as scientifically identified fundamental constants of nature.” and I’m totally lost. If I were forced to have an opinion about this it would be that it is harmless wingnuttery but maybe I’m the one who is out of step and missing something important.

Suffice it to say the themes covered at Libertopia were interesting to me as not entirely different from what I see at an anarchist gathering but more utopian (culture of liberty), practical (DIY, bitcoin, etc), and bizarre (bitcoin, Apache nation thing).

Capitalism & Representation

I don’t want to full rant on these people and this event. I met a few truly open-minded people, which I will say isn’t that common at anarchist events. I had a few great conversations and quite a few good ones. Many of the people in attendance laughed at the same things you and I would (eg All things Peaceful and Voluntary). At least fifty percent of the people weren’t capable of seeing our table, but that’s identical to the anarchist world. The difference is that in anarchyland I can see the performative non-seeing (whether related to post-left, Aragorn!, or Atassa) but here it was unclear whether it was about books, capitalism, or our more-or-less punk aesthetic (less than 10% of this crowd had this).

I do want to touch on a couple things before I wrap this up. One, I believe this was a very initial foray into this milieu. I don’t exactly understand the distinctions between the Libertarians, the market anarchists, the voluntaryests, the agorists, and the Libertopians. Perhaps it doesn’t matter but I am a sorting, grouping, conflict-friendly person and that’s how I understand and organize. It wasn’t exactly a beneficial event for LBC but perhaps it can be a worthwhile experience over time. Two, of course the event was primarily male (75%) and white representing (90%). The best conversation I had over the weekend was with an outlier but it wasn’t about race or gender (although these topics were mentioned). These people are normal in a way we criticize in the anarchist space but we don’t exactly criticize from a position of direct experience or particular enlightenment.

Three, capitalism… While I’d like to be gentle to an approach that strives to be voluntary and peaceful I don’t think describing exchange in this world (ie Capitalism) as either are fair to the words. I am not up for writing a big essay about the difference between possession and ownership, violence by consent, and what the role of police are in society but if I did you’d hear a big fuck you to all of the people described at the bottom of this page https://libertopia.org/festival/.
They are not the reason to give this event or these people a chance. Those who are, are the small, failed entrepreneurs, freaks, fellow travelers, and people who confused Ron Paul with something real. I don’t blame people for confusing the market with power (because it largely is). I blame anarchists for not having better tools for articulating why the (imaginary) market isn’t the same thing as freedom.

More another time as the topic of why the Libertopians identify so closely with the forces (and personalities) that dominate them and create the very conditions they are against…

Final note, many of the main stage speakers are very aware of video format. Much of Libertopia was played for the livestream audience. As a result there was a serious percentage that had spray tans, name brand expensive clothing, and permanent fake smiles. It was eerie.

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The Situationist International and Sartre

Situation (Sartre) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia One of the first times in which Jean-Paul Sartre discussed the concept of situation (French: situation) was in his 1943 Being and Nothingness, where he famously said that there is freedom only in a situation, and there is a situation only through freedom… There can be a free […]
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Les Temps Modernes

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Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Ecological Framework

[stub]
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Existentialist Anarchism

[stub] *Anarchist Essentialists and Anarchist Existentialists* – Sartre’s Self-Identification as an Anarchist – Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason as an Anarchist Social Theory – Sartre’s notion of the Situation in Being and Nothingness and the Situationist International – Camus’ Endorsements of Anarcho-Syndicalism in the Rebel – Intersubjectivity in Existential Phenomenology – Intercoropreality in Maurice Merleau-Ponty […]
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Is Max Stirner’s Ego Cartesian?

[stub]
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Foucault’s Existentialist Roots

[stub]
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Here is an old essay

Reproduced from the 2014 BASTARD conference on Social war. Obviously short and sweet.

Why Social War is a bad way to practice anarchy

If I were to be generous I would say that social war is a nice term in search of meaning. At best I have experienced it as a way to dress up like a soldier and act like the lines of conflict are as simple as they are for class war (but you know, social) and at worst its a way to dress up and punch bystanders to a march. Which is another way to say this is that my experience of self identified social war and social warriors is that it is a two part lie.

War

What is war good for? Absolutely nothing!

We either can accept the premise that war is always the war of the state or that we would somehow wage war differently but what is our evidence for such a claim? I don’t believe we have any, as any so-called people’s war has been just as arbitrary and capricious about who it has killed as wars of commerce and state. As a matter of fact the primary problem that I have with any definition of war itself is that it is an abstract way to describe something that is not abstract at all, the death and dismemberment of any body that happens to get in its way.

Abstraction, pro or con whatever, tends to be the way in which rational people justify to themselves how to annihilate disagreeable others. How to use algebra to subtract people, ideas, or dialogue.

Which is not to confuse war with conflict. I think that my issue with social war isn’t that I have a conflict with conflict per se or de jure, quite the opposite. My issue is that I don’t think there is any way to frame something calling itself war as anything other than war. War means the destruction of opposition as a precursor to victory (which is the goal).

Of course, In typical anarchist fashion social war has all the moral authority of being impossible. So configured as to obscure the totalizing nature of its impersonal nature by the asymmetry of our current conflict configuration. Just because we have no chance of winning today doesn’t mean there aren’t future generals among us figuring out how to divvy up the spoils, name roads and bridges after themselves, or even to weep alligator tears in the style of Smedly Butler. Every conflict began as an impossibility in the minds of its conspirators.

But to put an entirely different spin on this I want to assert that war itself isn’t merely a problem related to the excesses of industrialism and WWII thinking. Instead I would say that the aspiration of victory in win/loss terms, of monopolizing violence over a terrain or a people, of politics by the barrel of a gun is participation in statist logic. The term war is indistinguishable with this logic. It cannot be reclaimed and I ask the question of all the presenters today, why would we even want it?

It seems to me that the strongest argument FOR war, social or not, is as a palliative to the other failed approach to war thinking; class war. By all measures convincing the vast population of humans that they are being fucked over by an economic system that determines their access to resources by a fixed competition seems like it should have been a sure fire way to align them against the organizers of the game but it didn’t work. The analysis of the failures of class-based analysis by stating that it isn’t universal enough seems like pretty weak sauce. The failure is that we can’t think our way out of a geological formation and that is what the current social order is. When abstractions become fixed over time and take on what we would call in other situations “reified aspects” it isn’t an improvement to switch out marxist flavored abstractions with the mealy mouthed abstractions of pop sociology, psychology, and metaphysics.

What is social about social war?

It is often said in radical circles that humans are a social animal and that is a fair statement. Something about communication seems to be central to self awareness and language in particular is how identity formation is constructed. Isolation seems like a distinctive form of torture, whether in explicit prisons or in the work-a-day life of isolation by proximity that is the hallmark of the modern IKEA lifestyle. If isolation is hell then its opposite must be heaven?

Not even close to true. The social aspects of social war seem to follow the same mediocre direction that the mass politics associated with class oriented politics which is in the fascination with mass. Social bodies are confused with socialibility and social life confused with participation in distinct organizations.

If we accept the premise that human nature is social, which I’ll do as long as we recognize a future asterisk to develop, we should be very concerned with the next step of the conversation because it will involve defining social in an abstract way. It isn’t an evening with close friends but a meeting with butcher paper, an agenda, and rhetoric about the 99%, defending the Bay, or our self-understanding as the precariot. In other words, we are back to class-based false unity using pop terminology in an attempt to modernize our position. Social war ends up reflecting social scenes rather than the socialibility of the dinner party or a plot to kill a motherfucker.

Genocide

Just to wrap up, there is a little matter of genocide. We don’t live in an action movie where once we figure out how to win the next battle the credits will roll and we’ll all live happily ever after. Instead, war thinking will necessitate our next victory to be the first in an unending series of battles to determine the fate of the future of humanity. The new thinking, after WWII, is that we can wrap up total victory by way of annihilating the forces of state and capital but this is deeply naïve. There is no version of this story that would not require the equivalent destruction of millions if not billions of deaths in service of our better-than-what-came-before holy war. Social warriors do not desire the genocide of any particular people, and would probably be offended at the implication BUT would probably accept that the total destruction of bad ideas is worth doing and would like us to all join in the dice roll where the implications of what comes after isn’t just unclear but clearly war thinking and social in all the shallow, vapid, ways this entails today.

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Episode editorial 7 – Cooperation

On our minds this week

This week in the politics of geopolitics and interesting division was exposed. As anarchists we should think on this division as it is of concern to us too. This divide is characterized as globalism (or neo-liberalism) or nationalist (aka protectionist). Many authoritarians land on the globalist/neo-liberal side of this split arguing that diversity, climate change, and free trade are somehow friendlier to a position hostile to the State than racism, hostility to scientific consensus, and trade sanctions.

This week we reflect on the fact that the divisions between statists are not our divisions. If a revolution against big power were to occur it would be safe to say we’d have a global perpective in our heads but our locality in our daily lives. We’d be deeply ambivalent about anything that looked like trade. And our diversity argument would look entirely different than they do today.

On mind this week is a pox on the house of the Nation and the house of the neo-liberal. We can safely stand on neither side of this stupid fight, we have stupid fights of our own.

 

Editorial – Cooperation

It used to be taht the anarchist space was small. It was possible to know everyone. It was possbile for one event to host most of the anarchists at once. The Battle of Seattle grew the number of anarchists exponentially, The War in Irag, and the Internet has done it a few times more. One of the confusions about this rapid growth is the assumption that just because we are thousands instead of hundreds that we are all on the same team.

That is not how teams work. Teams work because it feels special to be on one. One feels like a privelaged few and not a faceless horde. The reasons affinity groups plus is still a primary organizational technique for anarchists is because we know each other as special individuals and not abstractions. If you subscribe to the form of anarchism that says that we should remain anonymous in most situations your social circles, the people you work with, will be necessarily small.

Like many other topics, the Internet has changed this. Many anarchists now have a far larger vaguley social circle than they ever did before. Personal intimacy is laregely gone but there is a larger sense that you have fellow travelers. This has meant that rather than anarchism in north america being mostly red, mostly friendship circles, and most intimate it has become mostly positional (red, green, insurrectional, transhumanist, etc), mostly around allying around positions, and mostly impersonal. It is far easier to insult strangers who don’t share your positions today because you don’t need them for a future action or as a friend.

There has to be something positive about this change. Perhaps one of those things is we are now bigger than cliques. We are now bigger than one big mans personal agenda or personal problems. Perhaps it means we can start trying to do more than one thing at once. Perhaps being ninjas at every highly publicized event isn’t a requirement for entry in our secret club. Perhaps you don’t need to read every book written by bearded men in the 19th century. Perhaps we can begin a set of conversations about how each of us, how each type of personality and skillset can add to a complex social environment that shares a love of the Beautiful Idea and respects others who do the same. Perhaps that respect can mean something more than the Internet is capable of demonstrating. I know that for me, the projects of this large group of people, striving for the Beautiful Idea always interest me, even if I disagree with them.

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Episode editorial 6 – Associative Crimes

on our minds

On our minds this weekend is the shadow of a new horrorshow of violence and war cast by the US Administration over the country of Syria. Six years into a Civil War that finally seemed like it was winding down there is word of another Sarin gas attack by Assad and now a military intervention by the US Military.

As anarchists we unconditionally oppose war. We do not deny that it occurs and that in its footprints lay destruction and possibility. The Syrian Civil War, in particular, has opened the very real possibility of a anti-authoritarian socialism in the form of a liberated Kurdistan. But that is a footnote to the thousands of deaths caused by this Civil War.

Our hearts go out to these people and our fury is reserved to all the heads of state, and their minions, that wage war on human life for nothing other than political gamesmanship and a sick value system that believes that the only way to defend human life is to destroy human life.

 

editorial

Editorial – Associative Crimes

The past few weeks has brought an interesting conversation to the anarchist space. There are many ways this conversation has played out, as about specific individuals behavior, as to whether or not fascist entryism is occuring, or as a sectarian attack about, or considering, a particular political tendency being susceptible to manipulation. The details herein are extremely tedious and boring. The question is not. Here is how I read this question. Is it possible that a generational shift is occuring that escapes our capacity of understanding? Moreover is this change happening so fast that we as individuals, in the flux of this transition, are incapable of seeing, knowing, or controlling it as it occurs?

One of the challenges that anarchists face, when somone outside the milieu inquires, is that we both identify power in its excesses while having a vague attitude towards eliminating power. We desire an end to power but recognize that end would involve great horrors, in the form of the destruction of the state by way of its infrastructure and of violence towards human lives dependend on that same infra. We are expressing a anti/political position that entails a thousand unforseen consequences, most of which are probably authoritarianish and possibly horrible. The tension between political reality, as in how things work in the real world, and a dreamy desire for an anti-authoritarian world is real and any anarchist that denies it is either lying or hasn’t thought about it long enough.

In the old days (prior to the word anarchism-as-a-political-position) this topic fell under the auspices of the kind of sacrifices one had to make for the securities one received from the nation state. If one wanted health care, national security, and some care for the elderly and whatnot one had to accept, as part of a faustian deal, a type of contract usually called a social contract. Today we live on shifting sands. We cannot argue that there is any contract in place. We cannot count on health care or that we will be cared for as we grow old. We can only count on change. On flux.

Anarchism can be described as a simple position. It is a desire to live in, and work for, a world without the state or capitalistic exchange relations. But anarchists are not historical artifacts. We recognize that the world is changing and want to be part of that change. This means associating with what is here and now and not just a set of static first principles. Social media and the capacity to argue about everything, all the time, has meant that it is very easy for an author or an essay to associate things, taht are not otherwise similar, easily and to spread that false association broadly.

Name calling is confusing. On the one hand it is very useful to have conceptual tools (ie names) to understand people, positions, and our place therin. On the otherhand one has to have great trust in another person to trust that the way they use language, and names, is the same as yours. As an anarchist I want to trust other anarchists but also as an anarchist I have to realize that words and the gamesmanship around them is a kind of power relationship I want to be an active actor in and not just the subject to someones superior political savvy.

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Editorial episode 5 – A Failure to Communicate

on our minds

This weekend is April First. Obviously anarchist do not have a sense of humor and anyone who would say we do is a dirty liar but it sure would be nice if we did. We could see our project, the total transformation of daily life, as a hysterical absurdity. We could see our comrades as human (all too human) beings and not revolutionary robots set to kill, kill, kill. Like most things, the Internet has coopted and killed the devilish pranks of April Fools day but let’s hope our own little silly pranks are read in the spirit they were intended and not in the spirit of indignant poops.

 

editorial

A failure to communicate

We’ll talk about our friend Shawn Wilburs blog post about this topic later but suffice it to say that I agree broadly with his description of some anarchists willful failure to communicate but I perhaps am less interested in being as fair minded as Shawn is.

Anarchism has changed in the nearly thirty years I’ve been involved in it. And obviously by the time I became part of this tradition borne of the beautiful idea it had changed several times prior. By the time I took part in it anarchism was starting to grow beyond the anarchism of Crass and punk rock politics. It was starting to federate and look towards greener pastures than subculture and youthful zeal. Murray Bookchin was still alive and, unbeknownst to me at the time, was kind of a big deal.

I share most of the post-left criticisms of Murray and, in particular, on re-reading Social Anarchism vs Lifestyle anarchism find it to be a uniquely corrosive document in terms of attempting to communicate but I do think it is useful on this topic, both as a model of how not to do it, and as a template some have used ever since to win an unwinnable fight and to say a piece about some imagined Other.

And of course I will say the same things, maybe worse about the writing of Bob Black who has always used communication as a cudgel.

The point here is that we have chosen to balkanize anarchism. We, on occassion, have pretended we are all on the same team and write wide-eyed innocent essays misunderstanding how other factions could have ever come to the positions they have and how our faction wouldn’t do anything like that at all. I’ve mostly seen those who refer to internecine conflicts put on the defensive as if they have to explain why an underemployed social anarchist professor and a traveling antisocial anarchist rewilder could possibly ever disagree.

This pretending is also the source of our failure to communicate because it is in the interest of some to own the conversation. It is in the interest of some to emphasize the qualities of civil discourse while minimizing the passions of the shout. Some people get to speak at bookfairs, even though they have nothing to say, and are going to blame the republicans for our unique moment rather than clearly build something small that could grow with people we know. We’d rather pretend we were never in subculture, for fear to not be seen as a serious adult. We’d rather fail than be seen trying. We’d rather only communicate in cliques and to crowds we know already agree with us than communicate dangerous ideas that might not be popular.

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Episode editorial 4 – Projects

on our minds

On our minds this weekend: The possibility of bookfairs!

This weeks podcast is being recorded a little early because the time when I’d normally be recording I’ll be spending at the Orange County anarchist bookfair. This evening is holding down it’s third annual event and this year the guest speakers include Dana Ward of the Anarchy Archives, Alexander Reed Ross of the EF! Newswire, and Zoé Samudzi “On a Black Feminist Anarchism”

What is the possibility of bookfairs? Well, they aren’t going to be the cause of the revolution but they are places where people can meet with anarchists and talk about anarchist ideas without fear of being arrested. They often are events where anarchists dress to impress and do everything in their power to show off their good side. They are often places where you can eat cheaply, find inexpensive anarchist artifact, books, and t-shirts. They are often funny, and the more you know the funnier they are.

What is the possibility of bookfairs? Perhaps this is as far as we go. This is all we are capable of. smashing windows when we are grumpy and selling books to each other when we are calm. The bookfair has become yet another aspect of north american anarchism to fight over. Some claim that anarchists that devote energy to bookfairs, like your esteemed commentator, are somehow less hardcore than those on the street. And it is easy to see anarchists as an anachronism, dedicating energy to books, arguably an anachronistic way to transmit information in a time when images tell a thousand words and I don’t even have enough time in my day to check my instagram feed.

What is the possibility of bookfairs? It is best stated as the opportunity to meet strangers in a conflict free area. To glare at anarcho-liberals under the Southern Ca sky. and to introduce new, up and coming, anarchists to the depth of material they will need to be proficient at quoting from. I love talking about anarchism with people who dont have ideological preconceptions about which is why I still go.

editorial

Anarchist projects

There are several different types of anarchists and it can be challenging to keep them straight. The kind of anarchists that anarchist news tends to devote energy towards are anarchists that work on projects. This is a different type than one that works on organizations or one that just hangs out in a scene. A projectual anarchist organizes their time in terms of bite-sized projects that may be oriented around a bigger project but just as often have value for their own sake.

Often time our anarchist news is a series of different people advertising their new project, be it a new literature distrobution, or a new video project, and inviting others, perhaps strangers or close comrades to join. There is no central committee driving these different projects and often times is can seem like they are temporary, emphasize outreach more than practical or revolutionary goals, and a little embarassing. But that embarrment is important. My first zine was a embarassing. It was called kill your parents and told a story against the existent order, represented by parents, from the perspective of a child. Showing it to people taught be the value of expressing an opinion, especially a hostile and silly one. It gave me a lot of the feedback I needed to do future projects, ones that were decidedly less silly.

Feeling out the texture of doing projects anon vs under your nom de plume or your actual name is another aspect central to how to practice an anarchist politics. There is a strong anarchist current that says that the only anarchist activity has no name, no identity, and may even have to speak for itself. This is a hard line in an environement like we have in teh US that is so saturated with social media and where self-representation is considered a hobby for most young people. Another position is on the opposite side of the spectrum. The only ethical behavior is stating your position with an open face and by your name. Thereby you can be held accountable for what you say and can develop relationships with others who feel the way you do. Short term and discrete anarchist projects are a great way to test out these different ideas about how to do identity, responsibility, and anarchist practice.

This week i was struck by how our anarchist news cycle could be a copy of one a few years or even a decade ago. New media projects, calls for support to distant lands and people, attacks on the existing order, and debates about tactics. Many people might see this as a bad thing. I do not. I see new friends testing out their strength, old timers experimenting with their mediums, and getting better, and the width and breadth of anarchist imagination. These are the things I want my life to be full of, attack, communication, disagreement, and solidarity.

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Editorial episode 3 – Waves of anarchy

on our minds

On our minds this weekend: The possibility of infoshops!

In the 1990s the US attempted to emulate the infoshop movement of Europe. Over the next decade dozens of places to read, discuss, and meet opened and closed. The logistics of keeping radical space open in big and small cities, the exhaustion of being unpaid providers of socials services, and the internet have changed what it means to have space and meet face to face. Our infoshops today have to answer different questions than before.

The Base in Brooklyn NY has quite a few listing for direct action training including first aid, several different kinds of fighting (both self-defense, gender determined, and others). This evolution of the traditional infoshop towards a more specifically direct action training center is greatly encouraging and appreciated.

editorial

One of the stories I like to tell is about the first and second wave of anarchism. The first is the glorious story about a Beautiful Idea that involved the conscious acts of the working class striving together towards a better world that died on teh fields of Catalon in 1937. The second wave was an attempt to be realistic by demanding the impossible and was seen on the streets of Paris & Chicago in 68 and in Northern Italy in the following years.

If one were to quantify these two stories as I am now one could say that the first wave of anarchism envisioned a revolution that could save the human race. The second wave aspired to something akin to an insurrection, still a grand re-evaluation of the way we lived, but perhaps the scale of a city or town and not the whole of society.

This week these two anarchisms were confronted with a new vision of anarchism. One we’ve seen glimpses of in both of the first but that I’d like to evaluate on its own terms. In some ways this new kind of anarchist practice is a return to DIY or do-it-yourself politics with an anarchistic gloss. In some ways it exemplifies the kind of prefigurative politics associated with Bookchin and his contemporaries. Finally it represents a fascinating threat against internet shit talkers and do-nothingists…

I present you the Portland Anarchist Road Care group

The concept is simple. Portland Oregon has shitty roads and the state is, at the very least, slow to do anything about it. Direct Action means do the things that directly impact your life regardless of their legality or whether specialists dominate the terrain. Quikrete is inexpensive (about $15) commercial grade black top repair (also called asphalt cold patch). From the pictures on their facebook group they used little more than a jackhammer with an attachment to tamp down the asphalt. They dressed in bloc, took some pictures of themselves, and wrote their communique.

“Successful preliminary action today. We patched 5 potholes on SE Salmon, between 37th and 39th. We will observe them over the following days and weeks to see how lasting our patches are.”

Beyond the social media storm about this action is a host of interesting anarchist conversations. Before getting to them it is worth saying that this is the perfect anarchist moment. Soon there will be interviews, exposes, and more details about PARC but for now we only have their simplist of statements about themselves.

“Because we believe in building community solutions to the issues we face, outside of the state. Because society portrays anarchists as only breaking windows and blocking roads. Because when faced with anarchism as a political theory, statest often ask “But who will fix the roads.” Because the city of Portland refuses to adequately repair roads in a timely manner.

We are Portland Anarchist Road Care. We believe in community oriented direct action. We believe the state cares more about funding a militarized police force to suppress free speech than caring for and repairing the roads.

The city of Portland has shown gross negligence in its inadequate preventative care through this winter’s storms, and through its slow repair of potholes as weather has improved. Daily, this negligence is an active danger to cyclists and causes damage to people’s automobiles, and an increased risk of collision and bodily injury.

Portland Anarchist Road Care aims to mobilize crews throughout our city, in our neighborhoods, to patch our streets, build community, and continue to find solutions to community problems outside of the state.”

For whatever other criticm I, or anyone else, makes of their action they have made the anarchist case simply and clearly here. More importantly they have demonstrated a nearly perfect insurrectionary action. They could never repair another pothole again and this project could be considered a success because they demonstrated how easy it is for nearly anyone to fix their own potholes.

Up to now I’ve been quite reticent to consider that the second wave of anarchism, what could be called the post-revolutionary wave, or even the insurrectionary wave, may be receeding. I’m still not quite there but the idea of anarchists using insurrectionary methods to create a group that does community repaired potholes seems like a first step towards something new. Clearly I don’t care two bits for the PARC project on its face but anarchists that no longer think and talk big and instead put on some boots and do something that mostly isn’t for their own benefit but is. I don’t know what to think about that.

Sure this is a small and furtive effort but, among other things, this action challenges our preconceptions about whether our project should be entirely negative. Even if they did a shitty job in repairing their local road they made as good as an effort as food not bombs makes at feeding people, the black bloc does at being heard by the body politic, or anarchist theorists do at being heard telling people to demand freedom. What is creative about PARC isn’t their answer to the age old question about who will fix the roads but the fact that they took the punchline and made it theirs. Filling five potholes is a more serious intervention into the question of contemporary anarchist practice than 1000 comments on anarchist news.

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Editorial episode 2 – Radical Notions

On our minds

On our minds this weekend: http://nativenationsrise.org/ Native Nations March in WDC

Because the hardest lessons have to be learned over and over again yesterday the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and grassroots Indigenous leaders marched in prayer and action on WDC from the Army Corp of Engineers to Layafette Square

The Native Nations Rise march was organized by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Native Organizers Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network to support the Standing Rock fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and raise awareness to other indigenous issues. Thanks to the participation of protesters the march generated headlines and raised the spirits of Native activists and their allies. “Water is life, and we’re going to fight for what’s rightfully ours,” said Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Aaron Payment. “We’re going to keep bringing information so that they’re going to have to do something. We’re going to remind them of their trust responsibilities, and our treaty rights to protect our natural resources, and sacred sites.

https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/

editorial

A central question to having a radical notion about the world and the world you would prefer to live in is who are you in that world and in that notion. This is especially true because this world, the world, doesn’t allow you a lot of flexibility in who you get to be and you capacity to have notions of your own.

The internet has been an interesting intervention in this question because, while in some ways it doesn’t mean a thing, for most people the internet has been taken at face value. Here is a place where you get to define yourself from a blank slate. Are you a black masked rioter? Are you a person with an integrated plan about every aspect of how society should be organized? Are your ideas more important than how they get put into practice?

There are several different anarchist approaches to this question about how to put radical notions into practice as many as there are different ideas about how to test those ideas first. The part of this I’d like to focus on this week is whether these different perspectives have different amounts of merit based on whose mouth they come out of, rather than the ideas themselves.

Last week we discussed a critique of the Black Bloc that attempted to place it within the measure of privilege politics. While clearly the author had the liberal bias of statist politics their question of whether it is possible to show support for a community while anonymous is interesting. Their extra dig that white bodies will take measure to prevent their own arrest, while possibly leaving colored bodies to be arrested, is also interesting. What does solidarity look like if you aren’t interested in, and are in fact hostile to, the state that does the measuring?

I don’t want these editorials to just ask probing questions so I’ll answer mine from the last paragraph. I don’t think it is possible for the Black Bloc (full well knowing it isn’t a singular thing) to show solidairty for a group while remaining separate from that group. I don’t think that is usually the goal of the individual members of the BB either. I think they, in the hypothetical scenario the original critic is implying, are showing the limited solidarity that outsiders are capable of showing when something terrible happens to people you feel empathy towards but nothing more substantial than that. I also don’t think the criticism that outsiders can only show outsider levels of support is particularly fair or interesting. There are many other flavors of people, who are perhaps not as performative as BB, that are also outsiders showing empathy but little else. I rarely hear BB express a moralistic superiority over those other empathy-showers. I hear plenty of moralism against those who do not perform empathy at empathy-events but that is a topic for antoher time.

The rule of thumb that I think is missing from the liberal state apologist critic is that one should not judge others by ones own criteria. If one thinks that solidarity should look like getting arrested and judges those who do not get arrested one has drawn a clear line around the type of solidarity they are interested in. The critic is correct that “those with privilege” are not going to magically shed it becasue of /their/ criteria but there are plenty of examples of privilege being shed. Those stories are interesting but are, mostly, not because of politics as much as the individual stories of how politics get translating into lived human experiences. Usually that is not by judgment, shame, or acrimony.

For my own part the part of the critic’s attitude that I agree with to be the same as the central question of radical notions. The world does not allow one a lot of flexibility in participating in it. This means we have to create our own ways of being radical, and of having notions of acting in the world. Sometimes that looks like finding people who we find attractive and doing what they do. Sometimes it looks like something else entirely.

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Editorial episode 1 – anarchyland

The anews podcast

I recently started a podcast for anarchistnews.org. I felt as though anarchism was getting a short shrift from the current podcasts. It needed something that wasn’t so microscopically focused. Each week this podcast reads from anarchist activity from around the globe and editorialize on topical anarchist themes. On my podcast I’m sharing those editorial musings. Enjoy.

On our minds

On our minds this weekend – This podcast is based in the East Bay of the Broader Bay Area which means we have a broad and energetic anarchist scene that mostly despises one another. This weekend our thoughts are with the anarchist people who are going to confront the March for Trump and so-called Proud Boys demo that is happening in Berkeley. Many people are comparing this event to the Milo event that happened at UC Berkeley in the beginning of Feb. We hope everyone stays safe and free.

editorial

I just came back from seeing movie LaLaLand and it reminded me of a number of things that are worth repeating. The musical is the most approachable of movie forms because it involves music as a central character and usually tells the universal story of love.

The movie spoke to me, as it probably would speak to most of you, as the story that love feels pretty damn good. Especially in the beginning when love is full of hope and potential, versus a love ten years later which, while fine, is not so general. Its not for everyone. It is something specific between the two of you. Love ten years in is more about whether you are in fact happy with the things you have built. Are you happy with kids, mortgages, and the 30 more years ahead of what you than what you have behind.

This pertains to anarchy and anarchism because this world, of music, love, and barely recognizable unreality, is the same as the world of the movie musical. Anarchy is the beautiful idea because it does not necessarily concern itself with the mundane facts of a future economic order. It doesn’t have to concern oneself with traffic jams and the price of milk because it does concern itself with a world, that we have to create to experience. It is autonomous which means that terms like ought, supposed to, and “you need to” do not exist. Anarchism is about conceiving of exactly those thing you and your people want to concern themselves with and nothing else.

Speaking for this podcast we concern ourselves with anarchyland, a world where what we and our friends do matter. Where imagination counts for more than politics, history, or guilt. A world where we engage in this world, of capitalism, the state, and white supremacy with hostility or not at all. And because we care for each other we tend to prefer less engagement with the things we hate rather than more. The content of the podcast will reflect these biases.

Onward to this week in anarchist news.

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The 2016 Presidential Election

The 2016 presidential electoral process has inspired many writers to examine the social-psychological factors of the US population’s candidate affinities. To this day, some of the best analysis has taken up the challenge of comprehending the appeal of Donald Trump. Unfortunately, even the best analysis is performed within the parameters of popular social-psychology. That is […]
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Fascism

This text finds itself more relevant to my life this week than it has in years. From Foucault’s introduction to Anti-Oedipus.

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Whence the three adversaries confronted by Anti-Oedipus. Three adversaries who do not have the same strength, who represent varying degrees of danger, and whom the book combats in different ways:

  1. The political ascetics, the sad militant, the terrorists of theory, those who would preserve the pure order of politics and political discourse. Bureaucrats of the revolution and civil servants of Truth.
  2. The poor technicians of desire — psychoanalysts and semiologists of every sign and symptom — who would subjugate the multiplicity of desire to the twofold law of structure and lack.
  3. Last but not least, the major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism (whereas Anti-Oedipus’ opposition to the others is more of a tactical engagement). And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini — which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively — but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.

I would say that Anti-Oedipus (may its authors forgive me) is a book of ethics, the first book of ethics to be written in France in quite a long time (perhaps that explains why its success was not limited to a particular “readership”: being anti-oedipal has become a life style, a way of thinking and living). How does one keep from being fascist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant? How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in our behavior? The Christian moralists sought out the traces of the flesh lodged deep within the soul. Deleuze and Guattari, for their part, pursue the slightest traces of fascism in the body.

Paying a modest tribute to Saint Francis de Sales, one might say that Anti-Oedipus is an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life.

This art of living counter to all forms of fascism, whether already present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential principles which I would summarize as follows if I were to make this great book into a manual or guide for everyday life:

  • Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.
  • Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.
  • Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.
  • Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.
  • Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.
  • Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.
  • Do not become enamored of power.

It could even be said that Deleuze and Guattari care so little for power that they have tried to neutralize the effects of power linked to their own discourse. Hence the games and snares scattered throughout the book, rendering its translation a feat of real prowess. But thse are not the familiar traps of rhetoric; the latter work to sway the reader without his being aware of the manipulation, and ultimately win him over against his will. The traps of Anti-Oedipus are those of humor: so many invitations to let oneself be put out, to take one’s leave of the text and slam the door shut. The book often leads one to believe it is all fun and games, when something essential is taking place, something of extreme seriousness: the tracking down of all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everday lives.

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What I hate about the Internet and what it means for the future of Anarchism

In another life I work with technology for a living. This means I keep up to date on Internet technologies and the theories that inform them. I just scanned a solid article from new TOR board member and security researcher Bruce Schneier and the power struggle between the feudal internet and those of us who are working for distributed power (by many other names). While Bruce’s goal isn’t necessarily mine, I do think that considering the modern anarchist project one of deliberately distributing power (and working for this distribution) isn’t far off the mark.

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What I hate about the Internet, of course, is that it has quickly moved from a decentralized cacophony of voices, perspectives, and mediums for transmitting different ideas, into a channeled, mediated, controlled, and censored medium replicating most of the media flaws that lead to the popularization of the Internet in the first place. In the context of the anarchist internet this means that the first wave of anarchist controlled internet1 have almost entirely disappeared. Anarchist Internet discussion has almost entirely moved to Facebook and/or the ephemeral snapchat, instragram, and twitter contexts2.

Real life has politically split with the Internet to limited affect. In the activist version of real life (that in my past life as a post-situationist I would call the double abstracted life of the spectacular present) this means issuing communiques on the Internet (with the most secure https and the most blurred of faces) but never discussing strategy or criticism (outside the clique). In the diy version of real life this means rooms with fewer and fewer people talking from the basis of less and less knowledge. Abandoning the internet, as smart as it is from one set of assumptions, has as its major downside a lack of interconnectedness. This fabric of relationships is the one thing I would point to as the most necessary thing to any vision of a future world that isn’t dictated by the feudal concerns of state, capital, and centralized power.

In a different context I am entirely on the side of real life. The meaningful relationships I want to build with individuals lives there. I live there. But that is only one part of what I do with my time. Another part, that of a publisher, propagandist, and curious monkey, lives on the internet. To the extent to which I continue to want to entertain and be entertained I think the feudal internet has to be fought but this seems like such a desperate and lonely fight. Returning to Schneier’s essay here is a nice way to think about the problem.

The truth is that technology magnifies power in general, but the rates of adoption are different. The unorganized, the distributed, the marginal, the dissidents, the powerless, the criminal: they can make use of new technologies faster. And when those groups discovered the Internet, suddenly they had power. But when the already powerful big institutions finally figured out how to harness the Internet for their needs, they had more power to magnify. That’s the difference: the distributed were more nimble and were quicker to make use of their new power, while the institutional were slower but were able to use their power more effectively. So while the Syrian dissidents used Facebook to organize, the Syrian government used Facebook to identify dissidents.

Now I’m not exactly sure I agree that we (the unorganized, marginal, and dissidents) should race to get ahead on tech like quantum computing or VR or whatever. But I am quite sure that whatever innovation happens here (by the unorganized, marginal, and dissident) has to do what it is going to do quickly (and probably in such an uncompromising and vicious of a way as to be entirely disagreeable to most of the unorganized, marginal, and dissident) so as to not lose to the logic of big institutions. The internet wasn’t destroyed the day amazon went live but it took years for us to realize how big of an impact that day was and some of us haven’t learned it yet.

1 spunk, radio4all, indymedia, infoshop, etc
2 Astute readers (and trolls) will notice that I am not mentioning my own sites/work here. Love or hate my projects but you have to admit they are self-organized and not financed or profitable.

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