Here’s to Dancing and Derailing September 17, 2012Posted 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.