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Here’s to Dancing and Derailing September 17, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Occupy Wall Street.

But for those Occupiers who fancy that Occupy is instead an embryonic alternative society, it appears that parochialism and selective filtering has mislead yet another cohort of would-be radicals into fancying that the edifications to be found on dance floors and in public festivals can be sustained indefinitely and scaled nationally, even planetarily. Those who seek in Occupy yet another hammer to smash the state, were they to manage to make their facile misconstrual of the phenomenon in which they are caught up the prevalent understanding of it, would only manage to derail the actually indispensable part Occupy is actually playing and can — and must, in my view — continue to play in the ongoing democratization of the state.

Today, on the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, Dale Carrico pens the above the passage against anarchism. It’s a timely reminder that democratic socialists share neither our analysis nor our dreams. In this critique, I use Dale’s piece as a point of departure to promote exactly what ey opposes. I argue that reformism has at least as credible a claim to failure as anarchism. Everything appears bleak, but smashing state holds highers odds of transforming the world than reform and also happens to be exponentially more fun.

To begin, the prison-industrial complex and war machine attest to the utter failure of reformism in the United States. Despite all the earnest progressives who have been working within the system for decades, the state continues to kidnapped, torture, and incarcerate hundreds of thousands for growing or possessing the wrong species of plant. This stands irreconcilably at odds with empathy as well as the principles of freedom and justice.

To name but one more example, the U.S. government has forcibly relocated over a million people since Barack Obama took office, most simply because they happened to born outside of an arbitrary line in the sand. Even if you accept authority in theory – which I vehemently do not – exercising such organized and mechanical violence against human bodies on such  flimsy bases constitutes a heartbreaking and infuriating outrage. If reformism cannot even end these horrors, why bother? Given the numbers already involved in long-term campaigns to improve the state, why should we expect that incorporating ourselves into the process will meaningfully change anything? Liberalism has failed over and over again to end even the worst sorts of institutionalized violence despite considerable participation from arguably well-meaning people. Don’t let Dale convince you it’ll be different after you jump on board.

More ominously, Dale’s insistence on the necessity of the state enhances its legitimacy and thus power. The anarchist critique identifies bureaucratic coercion and the mentality of obedience as a key source of oppression. Progressive statist discourse risks furthering the most nightmarish aspects of modernity – dehumanization, dependency, alienation, self-discipline – in its calls for reform. Saying we absolutely need the same institution that torments me and my comrades on a daily basis as well as murders folks like Abdul-Rahmanal-Awlaki leaves us with no way out. By funneling our fierce passions into the void of electoral democracy and pathologizing autonomy, statist logic justifies these atrocities and all but assures their indefinite reiteration.

Dale’s statism contradicts eir profession of both nonviolence and pluralism. As any political theorist will tell you, the state relies on a monopoly on violence for its very existence. This feature of state power likewise permits only limited pluralism. Under the logic of authority, any actor not subdued, tamed, and domesticated presents a threat. While Dale asserts that “[n]o one ideal will prevail over the diversity of our peers,” the state demands submission to a singular ideal. This project has yet to conclude – the state’s monopoly on violence remains incomplete – but the goal is definitional. Anyone who materially defies the dominance of the U.S. government faces a prompt armed response. This nation-state is neither democratic, nonviolent, nor consensual.

I wish the best to anyone who seeks to improve existing social arrangements without exalting the status quo and the state. Reformism as part of an ambitious revolutionary program comes  much recommended. I can work with reformists who don’t come after me. However, as Dale piece shows, many do or will. We disagree on the fundamental level and at best can form temporary coalitions toward short-term shared aims.

While I honor the courageous folks on the streets in New York today, I have little investment in the Occupy movement per se. If it’s middle-class campaign to reclaim the American dream and elect Democrats, I don’t want any part of it. I value Occupy Wall Street to the extent that it furthers local and global struggles against state, capital, and heteropatriarchy. Let’s (un)Occupy and Decolonize. I send so much revolutionary love to my comrades wherever you are. ♥ Embrace your desires, don’t discipline them. Instead of visions of respectability and attracting the mythical mainstream, I imagine intense insurgency, communal criminality, and portentous promiscuity.

We’ll dance on the ruins on reformism before this is all over.



1. Dale Carrico - September 17, 2012

Jerking off alone in an empty room won’t free a single person from the prison-industrial complex, it won’t end the racist war on drugs, it won’t end war profiteering, it won’t help wanted queer lifeways to legibility and liveability in a world of intolerance. Every actually serious person who says “let’s!” decolonize and “let’s!” make nonviolent revolution knows that what this means on the ground is engaging in the endless heartbreak and frustration of actual stakeholder politics to reform this country in the direction of such outcomes. You think it is radical to embrace desire while refusing discipline? Are you a child of two? You think it is “ominous” that I want to democratize governance to ensure actually equitable recourse to accountable law, to provide a more substantial welfare to render everyday relations actually nonduressed? Your response is to wave a wand and pretend you can willfully disinvent stakeholder impasses and inertial incumbency? You are completely deluded, and proud of it, you are completely useless, and proud of it. Dance all you want to, Summer, dance till you drop, congratulate yourself on your superior radicalism even if only your own reflection in the mirror is acceptable company to the so-called purity of your so-called idealism. Unreliable allies are a dime a dozen. One more makes little difference.

Summerspeaker - September 18, 2012

Happily, I’m part of the global anarchist movement and far from alone. Living in the Bay Area, you know we exist. A hundred radical queers took the streets and smashed up a Bank of America in Oakland two weeks ago. I was just hanging out with a visiting comrade from NYC the other day, and before that, one from LA and one from Melbourne, Australia. We are everywhere. We don’t agree about everything – sometimes not even much – but we share opposition to the electoral politics you advocate. Expect to see more and more of us.

Dale Carrico - September 18, 2012

Dance parties are neither sustainable nor scalable, not enough to address our shared problems or reconcile our stakeholder differences. And wishing won’t make it so. And pretending otherwise is just denialism, not radicalism. And this “we are everywhere” “we’re coming to get you” stuff is nice smack talk but I live in the neighborhood, Summer, I’ve been doing queer and feminist and antiwar and antiracist and environmental activism and teaching for years, and I have congenially swum in the same political currents as you do for more than a quarter century, and there’s not much you’ve got up your sleeve I don’t already know about. Politics is a long reformist slog in the face of awful resistance and well-meaning ignorance and inertial institutions and it is compromised, and costly, and heartbreaking and still well worth it. And yes there is also joy and dancing, thankfully, but that’s not all there is and if it were we wouldn’t get anywhere. I know you think it is supremely revolutionary to deny that, and declare the sea is made of lemonade when it isn’t, and obviously I am not going to convince you otherwise. But what I say is true nonetheless, and I say it so you will remember it later when you need to. Anarchy is finally for dupes and egomaniacs and fluffers. But you are young and you should have your fun, I suppose, and think you are a titan and all the rest. Do it up.

Summerspeaker - September 18, 2012

I suspect you realize I’m not advocating only dance parties. I recommend transforming social and economic relations via direct action. While smashing has utility under the current circumstances, I’d prefer to take and use instead.

As far as card tricks go, we’re each thoroughly familiar with the other. I know all about the pursuit of respectability and authority. I chased that phantasm for years myself; I could do it again with ease if I so desired. Tired stereotypes of youthful exuberance mean little here. In my case, as with a number of my comrades, I’m becoming more insurrectionist and impatient with age.

2. Dale Carrico - September 18, 2012

By the way, it isn’t really that hard to vote (or even phone bank or even run for office if your district is comparably progressive) IN ADDITION to protesting and making art and reading party politics for filth. People died for the right to vote and people whose politics you surely revile are fighting to disenfranchise people from voting right before your eyes. Electoral politics isn’t everything, it isn’t even enough, but it is something and to disdain a tool for nothing is a terrible thing, to disdain slightly better over much worse is fine in a philosophical discussion but since actual lives can be ruined or ended between slightly better over much worse disdaining taking a part in that among so many other struggles is a truly ugly thing in my view, scarcely compensated by the beauty of the ideals you share with your like minded dance partners.

Summerspeaker - September 18, 2012

I have limited objections to participating in the electoral process as long as it’s not exalted or presented as necessary. I’m personally registered with La Raza Unida party, which is a socialist party locally. I’ve traditionally voted in presidential elections but may well not this year. If I do, it sure won’t be for Obama or Romney.

People died for all sorts of things, including autonomy from the U.S. nation-state and anarchist communism. Whatever you do, you potentially insult the dead.

3. Dale Carrico - September 18, 2012

I don’t know if you think I am “exalting” voting or not when I point out that disdaining existing tools to help accomplish outcomes one claims to cherish doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense. I don’t happen to think the word “exalt” fits such a situation, but your mileage may vary, as usual. For the rest, my point was not to complain that the dead feel insulted by our disdain since I don’t think they do, my point was that you are missing the point of their sacrifice and that you should know better.

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