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Against Resignation September 5, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Despair, Occupy Wall Street.
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When I met newly radicalized folks with the Occupy Wall Street movement back in 2011, they were so committed and optimistic. It didn’t last, of course. Tensions grew. Folks got evicted. Folks went to jail. Etc. But oh was it beautiful for a moment there! Remembering the passion makes me wish my heart hadn’t turned to stone. Anarchism needs more fiery idealists and fewer jaded veterans.

Integrated Empire: On(Neo?)Liberal Multiculturalism and State Appropriation of the Dead January 23, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Environmental justice, Feminism, Occupy Wall Street, Queer politics.
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On Sunday I participated in the anti-police-brutality contingent of the local Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. While the fact that the mounted cops were carrying bokken unnerved me, I enjoyed marching with comrades and family members of police shooting victims. The event’s official speakers illustrate in dizzying clarity the ascendant political-affective order of liberal multiculturalism, an ideology prides itself in its inclusion and diversity. I started my escape from the plaza as soon as a colonel from nearby Kirtland Air Force Base began professing eir support for King’s dream; an ROTC band had played and the national anthem was being sung by the time I got out of earshot. The 2013 U.S. military positively embraces King as a symbol of American exceptionalism, with the Air Force going so far as to claim that ey would be proud of the nuclear Global Strike team. As long as each recognized social group gets proportional representation, nukes are cool, right? King would be down with a little fission-fusion posturing.

The situation seems surreal, but governments habitually co-opt the legacies of even vaguely radical figures. For example, were ey to return to life, anarchist-communist Ricardo Flores Magón would be enraged by how the Mexican state and so many historians have invoked eir name for their own ends. Flores Magón considered the Mexican Revolution unfilled and rejected the nominally revolutionary government that emerged in the 1920s. Ey had enough of following to encourage such posthumous incorporation, demonstrating that statists will enlist even anarchist bones when advantageous. Though U.S. official have so far shied away from making dead anarchists into state mascots here, they might do so to anyof us in the future. Beware. (Does this amount to argument for indefinite life extension?)

In all its absurdity, the assertion that King would bask in the atomic glow of the U.S. war machine strikes me as a emblematic of a great spirit of the age. Leon Panetta’s recent decision to let women into combat positions constitutes more of the same. Hey, look, everybody gets to shoot at bad guys now! Inclusive imperialism! Isn’t that wonderful?

WWHellNoI mount a twofold critique liberal multiculturalism. First, liberal dreams disgust me. Were the sweeping proclamations of equality in opportunity ever realized, I would remain ardently opposed. An empire in which folks of all colors, genders, sexual orientations, and so on sit in the war room together remains an empire and needs smashing. Second, this fanfare about diversity comes alongside extreme inequality in the most old-fashioned essentialist terms. As the status quo comes directly out of European colonialism, it’s unclear whether equality could plausible happen without revolution

Is liberal multiculturalism even any good in theory? Taken to its logical conclusion, inclusion strengthens support for the status quo of militarism, capitalism, colonization, and heteropatriarchy by extending the benefits thereof to – as USAF’s Warren Ward writes – “every race, creed, background and religion.” The problem isn’t the system, it’s that some folks get excluded on an irrational basis. The problem isn’t omnipresent coercion, but the unreasonable application of force. King’s sweeping indictments of capitalism and militarism disappear in liberal renditions because they’re incompatible with grand liberal visions of  a just hierarchical society and/or equality in conformity.

The former entails the purification of capitalism, competition, and inequality via the elimination of prejudice. Refusing to serve or hire somewhere because of the color of their skin is irrational and makes the system look bad; you should only discriminate rationally. Fire drunks and troublemakers, not black folks. This analysis ignores the structural role of nonnormative (queered) populations in the actually existing economy. If complete, the dream would either lead to groups excluded and oppressed strictly for their inability or unwillingness to obey, or consensus in favor of bourgeois values – the equality in conformity scenario. Queerness – in its broad sense – gets policed and controlled if not exterminated entirely. The reductionist Enlightenment aesthetic turns human beings into machines, maximizing value for the bosses and those exceptional enough to win their favor or beat them at their own game. That’s the beak expanse I imagine when I hear the song of assimilation. It amounts to distilling oppression into the exploitation of labor and the iron fist of the law.

(In case you think I’m being to overly acerbic, I should note that I’m referring to sort of liberalism practiced by the contemporary U.S. political establishment. At best they see out to future of comfortable little worker bees feeding a gluttonous elite that some eventually join; even that might be too generous.)

Regardless of the merits or horrors of this heterotopia, it’s critical to remember that the liberals aren’t anywhere close to achieving their professed aspirations for a postracial, postgender, LGBT-friendly country. The racial stratification of wealth in the United States, for instance, has increased lately and its magnitude defies dismissal or rationalization. When you scale up to the whole world, the gap become astronomical. White-privileged folks control a vastly disproportionate share of the planet’s nice things. The election of the first black U.S. president has not stopped the mass incarceration of the black community. Straight terror against remains standard and may even be increasing despite the successes of the mainstream LGBT movement. The same goes for patriarchal violence against women. Etc. In the era of It Gets Better, there’s limited evidence in that direction.

If behavior and place in the hierarchy as much as or more than appearance creates traits like whiteness, straightness, and masculinity – and liberalism historically exudes each of these three – then the notion of defeating white supremacy through full integration into the colonial nation-state becomes incoherent. If capitalism can function without a hyperexploited underclass, the species has yet to experience it. I’m not certain liberals will eternally fail to fulfill their dismal ideals, but they’ve got a long and tricky trail to travel.

I recommend rowdy rejection of assimilation into the status quo. We can do so much better. This inauguration protest gives me hope. Here’s to insurrection, outrage, love, sharing, and decolonization.

Rest in peace, Dr. King.

Death to the United States: A Reponse to Dale Carrico November 9, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Occupy Wall Street.
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See here for context.

Voting for a President isn’t properly a matter of voting for a God to worship or a daddy to order you around or blame everything on.

Please tell this to your fellow Democrats.

It was going to be either Obama or Romney. Those were the only two options.

Only because people believe this. In describing political reality, you create political reality.

If everything better short of your ideal is going to be identified with a billy club to your skull — even when it literally isn’t, even when fairer and more supportive makes lives better in ways even your own rhetoric entails you would prefer to the alternative — then your theory has lead you profoundly astray, you will never have anything that matters, you will never help anyone in ways that are legible to the stakeholders in question, your life cannot be meaningful or worthwhile.

The state, whether run by Democrats or Republicans, literally is a billy club to the skull. Guess who was mayor of Chicago at the NATO summit back in May. That’s right, Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama White House Chief of Staff. How about in Los Angeles at the eviction of the local Occupy Wall Street group? Antonio Villaraigosa, another Democrat. Oakland? Jean Quan. Along with Obama, the last two indicate the hollowness of diversity and inclusion under the liberal status quo. I recommend this analysis. As mentioned in another post, I don’t particularly care whether folks vote. However, I do fiercely oppose the insistence on voting and the celebration of oppressors like Obama.

If freedom is experiences only in temporary localized episodes your politics is literally indistinguishable from the most uncritical acquiescent consumer who experiences freedom watching tv or exing on a dancefloor. If action is random acts of vandalism and disruption your politics is literally indistinguishable from the most uncritical inefficacious criminality (which after all is also symptomatic of class/race/patriarchal stratifications and normalized abused but hardly activist for that).

I submit that dancing and criminality do more to improve the world than voting ever has. With that foregrounded, I don’t advocate these things alone but as part of a larger transformative strategy. As Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón wrote, “Revolutionary workers: Cultivate disrespect.” Direct action and disobedience get the goods.

You really seem to want to help, you really seem to care about equity-in-diversity, you really seem smart: you need to get over yourself and help out for real and leave this pseudo-radical anarcho-masturbation techno-transcendentalist nonsense behind.

This ain’t gonna happen. I don’t want to help so much as want to live free alongside my comrades. Mutual aid is the kind of help I practice.

On Boots and the Black Bloc October 9, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Decolonization, Occupy Wall Street.
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See here and here for context.

Throwing a table through a window constitutes effective communication if the intended message was as follows: “Get out of my neighborhood, gentrifiers!” Anarchy based on fear isn’t what I dream of, but terror has immediate practical utility. Whether we’re talking about breaking windows or locking down to disrupt business as usual, the project of material interference involves negative reinforcement: Stop oppressing us or we’ll do things you don’t like. I prefer a strict stance against physically hurting human beings; barring that, I favor inflicting injury only in direct defense of self and others. However, I recognize my preferences as fairly arbitrary. They likely reflect my culturally bourgeois and Baha’i upbringing.

I’m sick to death of trying to appeal the mythical mainstream. That strategy has at least has dubious as history as the tactic of going smashy smashy, given the time folks have devoted to it and the results it’s produced. Like sharing food, sabotage has the inherent advantage of direct action. Even when the symbolism fails, you’ve materially affected the system. In our present context of liberal hegemony and the endless horrors of industrial capitalism, I’m going to celebrate almost any revolt against the nightmarish status quo. If nothing else, let the history books record that some of us cared enough to fight back.

I suspect Boots ain’t lying about how at least many Oakland residents view smashy smashy. The key points for me are that Serious Organizing (TM) should be able to happen regardless and that trying to be respectable doesn’t have a meaningfully better record than insurrection. I don’t see how revolution can happen without the sort of sustained local engagement Boots advocates, but I’m super skeptical of the fetishization of normal everyday folks and working-class people who drive BMWs (that one really took me by surprise). If Serious Organizing (TM) means not offending successful working-class people who do the normative car-house-family thing, that puts me and most of the folks I love out of the picture. I offend and confuse straights by my very presence. Lots of my friends don’t have cars, much less nice cars; some are houseless. Others of us come from comfortable culturally bourgeois families and exemplify downward mobility, so there are lots of contradictory class dynamics going on. But ain’t going to sacrifice myself, my comrades, or my dreams to appeal to genuine [implied straight] working-class people who make more $ than most of us have ever seen. The revolution I seek embraces rather than distances itself from the freaks, outcasts, criminals, queers, and rioters.

To make an analogy, personal experience, shared stories, and mass media all identify the presence of houseless people in the Occupy/(un)Occupy/Decolonize movements as a popular complaint. The iconic [fully imaginary] working-class person fears and despises the houseless from what I’ve seen; that’s the hegemonic discourse, after all. Does that make having houseless folks at our camps and in our movement counter-revolutionary?

Here’s to Dancing and Derailing September 17, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Occupy Wall Street.
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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.