[Pga_europe_process] pga : reader of the conference
ni co lu
nicolu at chutelibre.org
Sat Aug 28 02:42:13 CEST 2004
you'll find in the attached rtf. file and below the various texts that were
included in the reader of the conference, ( waiting for the layouted version
that we might be able to put on the website)
POLITICAL READER OF THE BELGRADE PGA CONFERENCE
INTRODUCTION : you'll find here political texts written by DSM about the
situation and political analysis of the present situation in
post-yougoslavia, as well as a few introduction texts to some of the main
issues of the conference. Have a good reading !
Dear PGA participant,
Welcome to the third Peoples Global Action conference in Europe
In February 1998, movements from all continents met in Geneva to launch a
worldwide coordination of resistances to the global market, a new alliance
of struggle and mutual support called Peoples' Global Action against "Free"
Trade and the World Trade Organisation (PGA). This platform, defined by the
PGA hallmarks, manifesto and organisational principles, is an instrument for
communication and coordination for all those fighting against the
destruction of humanity and the planet by capitalism, and for building
alternatives. These documents have evolved during subsequent conferences, in
particular to take a clearly anti-capitalist (not just anti-neoliberal)
stand, to avoid confusion with right-wing anti-globalisers and to strengthen
the perspective on gender.
So far, PGA's major activity has been coordinating decentralised Global
Action Days around the world to highlight the global resistance of popular
movements to capitalist globalisation. The first Global Action Days, during
the 2nd WTO ministerial conference in Geneva in May 1998 involved tens of
thousands in more than 60 demonstrations and street parties on five
continents. Subsequent Global Action Days have included those against the G8
(June 18/1999), the 3rd WTO summit in Seattle (November 30/1999), the World
Bank meeting in Prague (September 26/2000), the 4th WTO summit in Qatar
(November 2001), etc..
Decentralised mobilisations have in turn inspired ever stronger central
demonstrations. From the first mobilisation in Geneva, direct action was
taken to block the summits, as this was considered the only form of action
that could adequately express the necessity, not to reform, but to destroy
the instruments of capitalist domination.
Groups involved in PGA have also organised Caravans, regional conferences,
workshops and other events in many regions of the world. Since Geneva, PGA
conferences have been held in Bangalore, India (1999), and Cochabamba,
The first European PGA conference took place in the year 2000 in Milan,
Italy, and was hosted by the Italian "Ya Basta!" movement for civil and
social disobedience. The second took place in September, 2002, in the small
city of Leiden, Netherlands, and was hosted by EuroDusnie, an anarchist
collective, which was a European co-convener with the Catalan Movimiento de
Resistencia Global (Global Resistance Movement). Lots of people from across
Europe converged to share analyses and discussions; at least 650 were
officially signed up, and many more just attended. One of the main points of
a conference like this was simply to facilitate face-to- face encounters and
to bring to light, even in the eyes of the participants themselves, the
existence of a common movement and a common state of mind. The conference
was also an opportunity to bring about a common understanding of the forces
and struggles represented there, to consider questions the movement faces in
common, and then to move forward with concrete proposals in response to the
question, "What now?"
For us, activists of DSM! network, as well as for all other friends working
on PGA conference preparation, past few months were a very difficult time.
We have tried to conect our priority- building a local movement and doing
local work- with our work as PGA convenor in Europe. It was not an easy
We wish you all a very productive conference,
DSM! and local convenors of the third PGA conference in Europe
What is DSM!?
DSM - Drugaciji svet je mogus;! is based on pga hallmarks, bringing
together "new anticapitalist" collectives from Post Yugoslavia. We
recognized ourselves immidiately in PGA- not only because many of our
activists were active in pga process before. We think that the convenor
role, the one that we assumed, bears an important signigicance. It is
important , almost as equally, for the global network, and for us locally,
here in the country of "total defeat", were resistance and autonomous
struggles are still colored by the overwhelming influence of the ngo's and
certain 'civil society; organizations. Many of the 'civil society' causes
are noble but many of those speaking on behalf of this causes are not. The
world of civil society in EE is cynical yet selfrighteous, populist yet
undemocratic, and sympathetic yet disempowering arena. To our minds, the
goverment ministers in dark suits appear no more confomist and dogmatic than
the bevy of bleeding hearts wearing support Iraq t shirts. Most of our
activist remain hostile towards the institution of "friendly civil society".
So, the idea of promotiong pga values, inscribed in it's inspiring history,
and it's hallmarks, was a natural choice.
Our hope is that we are going to be able to help to create the first local
organ of the radical anti authoritarian left since a long time, that a mass
of people will be mobilized against the capitalist government. Our role is
recognized in our effort to build concrete links between activists from many
different areas and traditions in Post Yugoslavia. To validate a form of
collectivity, a social movement, free from ideological inhibitions of
statist, organized labor, or the tired dogmas of the traditional left. We
want to be a part of a new form of politics and the nature of that politics
is still under discussion- trying new languages and ideas, in a political
space and set of practices beyond the traditional left. We try to address
"the poors", not other activists; to try to understand the new reality of
Yugoslav poors, living enviroment of the poors, in all 'sites of struggle',
from community to the factory. PGA conference will be a test of our efforts
and also an opportunity to make the best use of them.
Radical left in Eastern Europe also suffers a presence of a few self
caricaturing dogmatic Trotskysts and Stalinists ever on the lookout for new
recruits for the vanguard. There is lot of sectarianism in the air, even on
the side of libertarian left. But there are movements, throughout the
region, who are rooted in communities and with an ideology, if that is the
right word, that springs from the ideas of neighborliness, dignity and life,
movements who proffer winnable demands which they pursue with considerable
imagination and vigor. It is our intention to contribute to eastern european
new radical/ new anticapitalist movement which would develop a class
politics but without getting bogged down in the damp of passionless dogmas
of hitherto existing radical left or bying into class compromise in some
way. Movement with a world-hystoricals sense of itself but focusing on
combat with local enemies. We feel that, with the rise of global new
anticapitalist movement, something precious and powerful is coming into
being. We would like to see pga conference solidify the combativness and
inventivness of Eastern European movements. Providing , also, a new form of
networking inside of the renewed and strengthened Peoples Global Action
We belive that PGA, if it is renewed and enriched with stronger Eastern
European presence, is the most practical tool for the movements in Eastern
Europe to use.
Mail to: drugacijimejl at yahoo.com
Contact phone number: 064 1806964
DSM! and Kosovo problem
The Balkans, the "Wild East of Europe", where the "enlightened states”
have still not completed their "mission civilisatrice", are still the
"powder keg", an "immature society" imbued with ethno-nationalist
animosities that can be explained only by the barbarian history of the
region, etched, in an unusual manner, in the mental outlook of a barbarian
world in the "heart of Europe" (Madeleine Albright). The direct consequence
of this cultural-imperialist view is the ideological desire by the
benevolent international community to impose "multi-ethnicity from above".
Serbian "civil society," a diverse (but class-homogenous) group of
rent-a-intellectuals and NGO’s, fully supports the concept of
"multi-ethnicity from above" as a solution for Kosovo.
The international community and local civil society seem to share the same
kind of repugnance for the "mass" of unenlightened "Balkans," both Serbs and
Albanians, who need to be somehow tamed; generosity calls for a
"multi-ethnic solution" for Kosovo: they must learn how to live together and
they must do so by force.
The Serbian government, a fragile alliance of neo-liberals and nationalists,
waver between two solutions: imposing a model of a "cultural and personal
autonomy” or a collective prayer (the prime minister had for days, at
the peak of the Kosovo unrest, led people in daily prayers in Orthodox
churches, while the less pious torched mosques in Serbia - a spree that they
interrupted to senselessly attack Romanies, themselves refugees from
In his report to Parliament, Prime Minister Kostunica proposed "substantive
autonomy for the Serbian community in Kosovo, partitioning into entities,
that is to say, a Cantonization of Kosovo and Metohija, as well as cultural
and personal autonomy."
That would be a heavy defeat for the Albanian political elite, as they are
now the masters of the situation on the ground because of the bombings. They
are presently positioned to fulfill their "national plan" of eliminating the
other nations in Kosovo - and Serbia and the International community could
soon be faced with a completely new situation. The latest campaign of
violence has most likely beern a sign of impatience to carry out that
"national plan" as soon as possible.
Cantonization, as observed by a renowned Belgrade journalist (himself prone
to the fatalism of “immature society"), "was invented by the Swiss,
because they needed that kind of association in order to unite. In the
Balkans we do just the opposite and reach out for the Swiss scheme to more
easily divide and protect ourselves against one another". But is that truly
Could there possibly be a solution that would not unavoidably imply "ethnic
division" or "multi-ethnicity imposed from above"? Moreover, could there be
a left-libertarian solution founded on the sheer undermining of such
concepts, going from a mutual struggle to mutual aid, through putting
together a mosaic of mutually linked alternative approaches in a new kind of
politics? A solution not based on the ridiculous idea of bringing together
so-called ethnic groups - reproducing the logic of ethnicity- but developing
a plan that is centered around solving essential social problems such as
poverty, education, housing and resisting privatization.
The ethno-nationalism in Kosovo must be surmounted, true enough, but not
through a violent imposition of a multi-ethnic society or by defining new
ethnic border lines, but instead through the alchemy of restructuring
society by doing away with borders and differences through mobilizing the
energies of the social movements. Can ethno-nationalism and imposed
multi-ethnicity retreat when confronted with the organic solidarity that
could possibly be achieved in the conditions of a "participatory society"?
We refer to a project of a gradual transformation founded on the idea of a
"policy from below"- altering politics from the bottom up, shaping society
from below, seeking to overcome statecraft - a top-down system of pseudo
representative governments ultimately based on the state monopoly of
violence -and one that would be reflected in a struggle for the creation of
an inclusive democratic awareness, through different models of alternatives,
participatory social experiments, and a transformation practice that would
win the practical imagination of all peoples in the region.
That alternative differs from the one that is proposed by the Yugoslav "old
Left": Troskyists, Stalinists and anarcho-syndicalists, who mostly talk
about a project of a "socialist federation" - which had been an important
locus in the progressive history of the region. The organized "old left" in
Serbia, exemplified in small activist groups and parties, opposes the
"border solution" in any form. Some of them seem to envision a resurrected
Soviet-style socialist world, while others, without questioning the State,
as a container of political life, talk about a "socialist Balkans."
The alternative approach that we have offered here accentuates the primary
importance of grassroots practices. This utopian program of transformation
would accomplish surmounting and leaving behind for good the separation of
the Albanian and non-Albanian populations, together with the very logic of
borders and ethnic conflict. Some efforts towards this goals are already in
DSM! and the politics of privatization
The capitalist discourse is changing its bullying approach (denying it out
loud), in a metamorphosis which leaves one breathless. The rhetorical
fireworks include the phrases "mutual agreement", "transparency", "ethics"
and - my favourite - "closeness". In order to have the current system appear
in the new velvety outfit, it requires partners - those denying it. Therein
begins the comedy of civil society, the noise and the well tempered rage,
the new mythology of the "citizen-mate" which in the strategy of he
authorities has the aim of simply integrating the deniers.
Such "partnership for social peace", in the Balkans, stands in the service
of maintaining the 'social monologue'. Are you criticizing the neoliberal
economic model of Serbian Ministers? You will be asked to state your point
of view. Are you surprised at the fact of Romania signing of the neocolonial
agreement with the USA? The Minister of the Defense will welcome you and
listen to you carefully. Are you worried because of the poverty in Croatia?
Come to the conference on "reduction of poverty" organized by the
Renewing the system by criticizing it, readiness to co-opt those denying it,
paternalism in the guise of participation - all these aspects of social
control are as old as the system itself.
According to the writing of the sociologist Luc Boltansky the denial which
capitalism was faced with in the seventies, has brought about the creation
of a "new spirit of capitalism aimed at appeasing critique by acknowledging
its appropriateness, or to simply avoid it by not even responding to it."
Social control by way of civil society offers an interaction of different
modes of domination. Authorities can direct fictitious conflicts in which
they let the artificial opponents of their own choice specify social
difficulties that they then together, through dialogues - do not solve, or
even do partly solve -- but at no serious loss for the system.
When the system is in question, of course, the elites oppose the opposition
and advocate change only in a limited manner that will not endanger the
system. From this stems the leaning of "civil society" towards different
variants of reformist thought that tolerates the denial of some of the
aspects of the system, but does not tolerate denying the principle of the
system's existence. In other words, "civil society" strives to change the
rules of the game a bit here and there, but due to its being integrated,
keeps participating in the game submissively.
We would like to argue that going beyond civil society and reformist
organizing that assumes system maintainence is one thing that needs to
happen. The concept of civil society ought to be abandoned for the sake of
the vision of another society that does not rest on class, religious, or
ethnic discrimination. We need a participatory society committed to
authentic "politics from below."
In order to get closer to such a society, it is necessary to "step out of
the game", abandon the system, renounce abstract "social-schmertz" and opt
for "social conflict", for breaking up with traditional social-political
communication and organization. Such a "conflict" would imply getting beyond
endless reliance on typical political parties, hierarchical trade unions,
bureaucratized non-governmental organizations, and following a path towards
new models of association.
It is time, and not only in the Balkans, for a "horizontal social dialogue."
Every vertical social dialogue that history has shown us has turned into a
monologue in which workers first "stay without a say, and then without a
In contrast we need to seek a horizontal social dialogue conducted among all
participants in the social-economic processes - all workers, including those
who are going to lose their jobs, unemployed workers who have already lost
them, refugees and "displaced persons" who have nothing to lose, Romas who
have never had anything, students who cannot afford to go to the university,
farmers, social movement activists, women, and many more.
This horizontal dialogue go could immediately encompass the "minimum common
plan", a social right that would include: request for minimum income,
refutation of privatization as a model, and developing strategies
subordinating profits to preserving non- renewable resources and the real
environment, but it could also seek longer term goals for a whole new
economy. Instead of advoating a productivistic cult of privatization, a
horizontal dialogue would likely lead toward advocating participatory
economic relations, including a different transition which emphasizes
collective initiative and real democracy, and which, in its calculations,
takes into account the price of the suffering and dignity and everything
else more precious than profits.
We think that for the Balkans it is the perfect time for social movements to
try to re-invent - even beyond democracy -- self management, or
participatory management. The 'Yugoslav experience' shouldnt be a
discouragement here. In Yugoslavia there was no private ownership of
productive assets, true, but there was a market system which dramatically
limited economic options and a corporate division of labor that put a ruling
coordinator class above workers in power and income.
So, in actual reality-- in socialist Yugoslavia -- there was no real
self-management, but only a rhetorical reference to it. There was a
phenomenon that Djilas had called a 'New Class' in the polity, which is true
enough for the state, but to get beyond Djilas who was identifying only to a
political bureacuracy, we need to see that we also had a ruling coordinator
class arising from our economys structure. There cannot be participatory
management in a situation where the economy uses markets and corporate
divisions of labor, whatever the state may look like, bureaucratic or not.
The prospect for that kind of model , in today's Balkans is great. An
anti-authoritarian economic system that accomplishes
economic activity to meet needs and fulfill potentials while propelling
solidarity, diversity, equity, and participatory management, with positive
implications as well for other parts of life and society's key domains such
as polity and kinship and culture, gives us a promise of a true
classlessness and a powerfull alternative both to the neoliberal models now
favored in the Balkans, and to the authoritarian systems or coordinator
economies that previously existed in Eastern Europe.
DSM! and the State
Based on the results from 85.5 percent of the polling stations in Serbia,
the extreme right wing Serbian Radical Party won 81 seats in Serbia's
250-seat parliament, according to the Republic Election Commission.
According to the Republic Election Commission, results are as follows:
extremist Serbian Radical Party 27.29 percent (81 seats); liberal
nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia 17.6 percent (52 seats); neoliberal
Democratic Party 12.67 percent (38 seats); neoliberal G17 Plus 11.52 percent
(34 seats); extreme right wing Serbian Renewal Movement - New Serbia 7.81
percent (23 seats); Socialist Party of Serbia ( Slobodan Milosevic) 7.63
percent (22 seats).
It is perfectly clear that this will be a government of
"social disaster", and by no means one of "social salvation". The triumph of the
right is total and absolute, as it is also demonstrated in presidential victory of
the so -called European candidate, neoliberal Boris Tadic.
Serbia does not represent an exception in this connection, as some
international media - probably due to a reflexive anti-Serbian stance dating
back to the NATO aggression on Yugoslavia -- have tried to depict. The
triumph of the right - whether the extreme right or the liberal-conservative
one - represents a phenomenon characteristic of the whole CEE (Central East
Europe) region. The closest example is one of Croatia, where the extremist
HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) has achieved a convincing electoral success.
What is, in reality, the problem?
The answer should be looked for in the statistics. Over 50% of Serbia's
population lives in poverty (according to the Centre for Study of
Alternatives, Belgrade). TV news have become a sort of "social barometer":
reporting on strikes takes up the major part of the news programmes.
A few days ago in Politika Daily, Serbia's best known newspaper, there was a
news item that in some, newly privatised factories, the workers are
discouraged from striking by private security guards using pit bull
Is democracy possible in political and economic atmosphere of neoliberalism?
Is it possible to explain this triumph of the right in the "new European", "
IMF democracies" as being the consequence of an inborn inclination towards
Or, to paraphrase Theodore Adorno, is it today in the Balkans in bad taste
to talk about nationalism if we remain silent about capitalism?
The practice of the Serbo-Montenegrin economic and technocratic elite, which
is in agreement with the advice given by Western economists, is based on the
mistaken assumption that the privatisation and introduction of a
laissez-faire market mechanism will transform the national economy into an
successful one. In the process, the reality of the economic situation, the
social structure and the regional experiences, are totally ignored and
This policy, as can be seen today, has caused a "transition depression" and
has transformed the country into a region for the production of raw
materials by destroying branches of industry. The phenomenon of the "mafia",
which has become generalised through the introduction of the market without
the market institutions, does not represent an excess or exception, but is a
normal outcome of the transition.
Oligarchs have appeared, who transfer funds to Cyprus and to the Seychelles.
Corruption is omnipresent, as are unemployment and poverty. The right is
getting ever stronger. The economy is ruined, and with it, the society, as
well. The economists, who are deep in thought over "gradualist and
shock-therapy methods of transition", all agree that social effects of
change are "mathematically insignificant". In brief, one ideology has
replaced another; this time around the ideology of market fundamentalism.
We would like to refer to a phenomenon which we called the "Belgrade Consensus",
namely the political argument which is composed of three components:
neoliberalism, nationalism, and the politics of the so called civil society
(civilizing the "uncivil one"). The Centre for Cultural Decontamination,
Rex, the Soros Group, AOUM, B92, the Helsinki Committee, and most
non-governmental organisations, are all part of the same nexus that promotes
the values of the so called "civil society", or "open society" (Soros), in
which citizens feel claustrophobic. There is no alternative beyond mutually
dependent nationalist and neoliberal discourse.
In this atmosphere, the people of Serbia are deprived of a genuine
alternative. They are condemned to becoming depoliticised, to the loss of
"political illusions", to a crisis of political activism, and worse still,
being receptive to theses of the populist extremism of the extreme right.
It is truly unbelievable that at this moment of the rise of the extreme
right, whose ascent the government intellectuals lament continuously, these
rent-a-intellectuals do not see the causal links between the World Bank, the
policy of precariousness, and structural adjustment, on the one hand, and
for example, the Radical Party or the fascist groups such as "Obraz" (the
Face), on the other hand. Uncertainty and unemployment feed xenophobic fears
and make possible the blossoming of the new right and introduction of more
subtle state controls from those used by Milosevic, a completely new logic
The absolute triumph of the right is a warning that the left must urgently
formulate a coherent alternative. It is my belief that such an alternative
is impossible to find within the space provided for by political parties or
by parliamentary democracy. We need a new political space- the one of "a
participatory society"- a new language, and new form of emancipatory
politics beyond the civil society- an attempted hegemony of coordinator
class disguising their "historical project of struggling for hegemony,
including by 'civilizing' the 'uncivil(ised)'."
It is essential to turn to alternative, direct democratic cultures of
resistance being created by global movement, to examples of Argentina or
Chiapas, and to all those ideas, which at present are being promoted in S&M
(Serbia and Montenegro) , though still without much success, by political
coalitions such as "DSM!". The slogan of our political formation, written on
walls of Belgrade buildings states: "Another world is possible: farewell to
A letter from the ex/ present PGA convenor in Europe
Dear new/future PGA convenor,
As you may or may not know, at the beggining of the PGA the entire network
structure was to be moved forward by 12 different groups, called "convenors"
, distributed regionally throughout the planet.
Convenors were collectives acting as contact, information, and coordination
points. They co-organise global and regional conferences and used to put out
the calls for Global Days of decentralised Action (GDA), notably on the
occasion of WTO summits. In the first convenors' committee there were 3 from
Latin America, 1 from western europe, 1 from Eastern Europe and 2 from Asia.
At the time of writing, there are sometimes several convenors per region,
especially in Latin America.
Convenors share their workload with other collectives.
The earliest European convenors were "Reclaim the Streets". The role of
European convenors was defined at Leiden as organizers of the European
conference, responsible for making the network visible and dynamic, as well
as maintaining its infrastructures (web site, newsgroups, contact lists) and
contacts with the rest of the planet. At Dijon, it was decided that these
tasks could be shared amongst different collectives interested in committing
to PGA and its structures (with particular reference to infopoints). These
collectives constitute the process group.
And now, we need new convenors for European region.
As you know, PGA is one of the only anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian
convergence spaces. In this sense it is a very necessary exception to the
rule of mass gatherings like the ESF, where the resources of more
bureaucratized groups like trade unions and political parties give them a
dominant influence. It is one of the only spaces to coordinate and plan
European campaigns and actions like now the days of economic disobedience
in solidarity with Argentina, or the campaign around the privatisation of
water. Developing and spreading the more horizontal and interactive
organisation practice of the PGA is an important tool to keep the movement
of movements working, to keep changing and innovating. To keep on being
innovative, to be there where they do not expect us to be, to spread our
ideas across borders and fences.
It is not all that hard to be a convenor.
The convenor is responsible for organising the European PGA conference for
one time. Of course the convenor group has to endorse the hallmarks of the
PGA (see: www.agp.org) and some experience with the PGA network is useful.
Although it is a lot of work, it is vitally important . It can also be an
important process for the local movement, making lots of new contacts and
collective organisational experience.
So, what do you say about becoming our new convenor?
DSM! PGA working group
drugacijimehjl at yahoo.com
Alternatives to capitalism
"[Capitalism] is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is
not just, it is not virtuous-and it doesn't deliver the goods. In short, we dislike
it, and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place,
we are extremely perplexed."
John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)
The question of alternatives is more than an academic question before which we stand
"extremely perplexed": it is the question about the kind of world we want to live in.
But what is capitalism? In our view, capitalism is a system which employs private
ownership and markets. It remunerates property, power, and output, and, as a result,
has produced some of the widest disparities of income and wealth in human history.
The division of labor within capitalism is hierarchical. At its most oppressive,
there is the cut-throat capitalism of "robber barons" with gigantic, unrestrained
corporate power dominating all social choices and options. This is neoliberal vision
of "total capitalism" we live in today.
But every form of capitalism has intrinsic tendencies of private ownership of means
of production, hierarchical corporate divisions of labor, and competitive markets,
violating solidarity, diversity, equity, and self-management.
Is there any alternative to capitalism? We believe that there are many.
Anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, guild socialism, fair trade, radical
redefinition of work, participatory economics, grassroots ecomonics, solidarity
economy, living economy, cooperatives, LETSystems....
The first cycle of the new global uprising- ridiculously labeled as "the
anti-globalization movement"-began with the autonomous municipalities of Chiapas and
came to a head with the asambleas barreales of Buenos Aires, and cities throughout
Argentina. Beginning with the Zapatistas' rejection of the idea of seizing power and
their attempt instead to create a model of democratic self-organization to inspire
the rest of Mexico; their initiation of an international network (People's Global
Action, or PGA) which then put out the calls for days of action against the WTO and
IMF ; and finally, the collapse of the Argentine economy, and the overwhelming
popular uprising which, again, rejected the very idea that one could find a solution
by replacing one set of politicians with another. The slogan of the Argentine
movement was, from the start, "que se vayan todas". Instead of a new government they
created a vast network of alternative institutions, starting with popular assemblies
to govern each urban neighborhood (the only limitation on participation is that one
cannot be employed by a political party), hundreds of occupied, worker-managed
factories, a complex system of "barter" and newfangled alternative currency system
to keep them in operation-in short, an endless variation on the theme of
alternatives to capitalism and variation on the theme of direct democracy. This is
why all the condescending remarks about the movement with no coherent ideology
completely missed the mark. The diversity was a function of the decentralized form
of organization, and this organization was the movement's "ideology" and the
Indeed, many leftist from traditional block have difficulty understanding the global
movement, and network-form of this movement, taken to be a symptom of strength by
anticapitalist activists. Same goes for the concept and practice of self
organization, horizontality, direct democracy, of the exercise of dual power. All
this leads to many alternative visions that go beyond capitalism. The historical
importance of the new anticapitalist part of the global movement is that the
question of alternatives not be separated from the organisational forms of the
movement. The crucial question then becomes: up to what point is it possible today
to conceive alternatives that reflect our organisational practices, our
horizontality and networks? In other words, organisational forms of the movement are
of primary importance: as alternatives that constitutes new forms of cooperation
beyond the capitalist market.
Miroslav Ilic, Grand collective, ex/post Yugoslavia
industrial society :
Here is an introduction of the anti-tech debates proposed by the CUL (comite universitaire de liberation).
Shall we play Rage against the machine?
"The world revolves in silence". As the global economy roars, as the spectacular goes on in politics , as social movements moan
discontinuously. Silently, technical development goes on, spreading the rumour that Progress is taking place. Our ability to produce industrially what we need might allow us to live better than before. We don't spend long laundry hours; we don't walk miles for water? So much time spared to do the rest.
As if [ Progress=for the best]
As if [ Having more time for leisure, of any kind= for the best]
As if [ Working to buy what we need= for the best]
But?seasons are altered, the food's appalling, borders are guarded by biometric identification controls, natural resources are controlled by gigantic companies?so what do we do? Shall we go back to the old
hunters-pickers time, wear masks to perform extatic dances and watch the fauna mate at dawn? Or shall we crash computers down with barbaric shrieks? Or regain the means of production and lapidate firm-owners with their own machine-bolts?
Is the question: what is best between now and before? Is the problem: industrialisation and progress, good or bad?
The answer would be fairly simple: each one of us should decide, it just depends on the point of view. "Yes, but not exactly". Some might say: "without technological advance, we're fucked, and we might be even further behind the USA, and Nescafé is damn good." And other might say: " Can't you see that we're running straight towards an ecological disaster, that the planet is just dying, that the atomic bomb and CO2?.". In fact, the same sort of people often are the ones to switch from the first point of view to the second. Symptom of a deeper problem that must be tackled: you can't refuse or accept technology altogether. The most cynical of
capitalists very well feels that polluting rivers is a problem ; the most ecologically concerned of us finds cars quite practical sometimes, anaesthesia helpful, chemotherapy humanist.
Isn't the question more: what do we desire? What are we heading for? What power do we have?
Over-industrialised worlds, faced with their practices, fear that
technology is harming social relations, draining them down. There lies the concrete problem. It might be that their well-being complex sounds like an insult to CDSDS (Countries Durably Sunk in Deep Shit). But the fact is there: relationships loose their meaning, intimates are turned to ghosts. We have less and less the impression that being there practically makes a difference, that we have some kind of power over our social environment. Feeling stuck in the wheels of a big machine. This is why we'd like to say: "don't follow us, don't do like us?". And we'd get our answer: " We endure everyday hardships, you don't?so fuck off. You colonised us, and now you'd want to show us the way? Again !!"
What do we desire? What power do we have? Plans for autonomy and saving what remains of intimacy. Intimacy as a sphere of freedom of choice, freedom of movement concerning the way we build ourselves and our
friendships. Autonomy as the invention of new forms of being-together, and working with our environment. Plans for countering different logics of state control, power over our lives (biopolitics), consumerism. All this we want for ourselves, as people living in a society that's building itself. Wanting things for others would mean taking power ; but this we do not want, as something too long, too useless. We are building our world. Others might join in, or build their own.
Then, the question with technology is not with or without. It's more: what relation to things, what practices do we want through autonomy? What techniques do we seek to refuse, not because they ruin our happiness, our health, our life, but because they hinder our desires, because they prevent certain forms of expression, because they ruin what we see is living together.
Our autonomy requires self-organisation, self-care. For our society, we want a form of self-institution that confronts the abyss, light as though dancing, without the comfort of an electronic milking-machine. With no other insurance that our personal ability to meet the unforeseen. We are not guided by Mao, nor by an instinct of conservation, nor by the idea of a prodigal and generous nature. Not by mummy either (although?).
Self-organisation means: neither experts nor specialists; techniques that we can share, understand, which are ours and everyone's. No guide means: no technology should be prohibited from the start, because technology is to be chosen according to our desires and our power to decide over it.
The constant ticking of power games, fears being solved in useless functioning, structures constantly planning the norm, urbanism building the "nothing-happened".
One easily feels technology's bipolarity ; it does not belong to us. We've been separated from it from the start. Secluded from what is practically economical, normalising-medical, mechanical power ; police regulations. All these which tend to widen the gap between ourselves and the inventors. Which arise the expectation of new technical stuff coming out. That eventually only develops technology for power relations : what good will bio-nano-technologies do apart from control, broadcast, population adding-and-dividing, human-group management, individual management? Refusing a certain technology is only refusing certain ways-of-life: GPS parental guidance, full-employment, a 2 months addition in our
For anti-industrialism to remain as a relevant issue, we wish to submit these concrete thoughts to the debate:
- Unravel our consumerist-mystical approach to technologies by a precise understanding of the way they work. Learn to do odd jobs, reshape and subvert things.
- Always consider meaning before utilization. Ask: what do I want to do?, before asking: what do I need?
- 3 options towards control technology: 1° Ignore. 2° Subvert. 3° Sabotage. - Reflect on technology using ways-of-life as ultimate criteria.
- Cease to think that industry might have an objective positive side because it produces work and wealth, considering that those types of work and wealth are definitely not what we want. Cease to view society as a large company to be managed.
- If food, clothing and accommodation according to the
industrial-consumerist model eventually harms our freedom, we have to think on the long term on how to build an autonomous counter-world. Using our own methods, techniques and networks.
- Create workshops for sharing theoretical and practical knowledge. - In our behaviours and reactions, seek to give up a machine-like
attitude. Favour spontaneity and risk.
Paris, 14th july 2004,
Comité Universitaire de Libération (C.U.L.) : Association of Students Sedition (A.S.S.)
Gender issue specific debates and decisions
During the pga winter meeting in dijon in march 2003, it was collectively decided to give concrete proposals about gender issue for the next conference.
These proposals were linked partly with reports of sexual harassment during pga linked events, but moreover because of a feeling that the gender issue was too often taken a secondary issue inside pga and anticapitalists movements.
Some people,often involved with the network since quite a long time, felt more than fed up about it and wanted to find practical ways to push a bit more the gender issue both inside anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian movement and in society in general.
Then, during the following steps of the preparation process, some of the proposals previously agreed on (having a day focused on gender issue in the middle of the conference, creating a women only space and letting the possibility for men-only workshops and discussions.) were blocked by some people who thought it was giving too much priority on one issue over others and that it was creating a segregationist politic. After much heated debates, explanations and texts about the reason behind these proposals and behind the block, everything was finally agreed on again.
A personal perspective: Gender is not a side issue, it is the guts of the machine
Before traveling from Australia, I read that there was to be a specific focus on gender at this PGA conference, this above all things was what enticed me to come.
Within my political community in Sydney we have been dealing directly, painfully with issues of sexual violence. Discovering that no matter how liberated or radical we claim our politics to be, patriarchal notions of power are embedded in all our relationships.
We thought the fight was against capitalism and the tyranny of the 'free market', it is also against the tyranny within us. Capitalism threaded thru patriarchy, patriarchy threaded with capitalism, one perpetuating the other in a continuum of unequal power relations, the (il)logic of domination and control.
How many times do I have to hear the tierd old lie that gender issues will be dealt with 'after the revolution' I cant wait any longer, I cant live without fighting for liberation.
Here in Serbia there are stories: The gay pride march in Belgrade has been cancelled because the threat of violence from facist and fundamentalist church groups is too great.
Across the border in Croatia there is a big Pride march, but there is a relationship between freedom of sexual expression and economies. Croatias desire to become a member of the European Economic Community, means that a 'correct' liberal attitude towards queers must be show, it is a strange western colonialism: the trade of capitalist individualism in return for the opening of markets.
Talking with someone about sex trafficking, she is quick to point out the connections between sex trafficking and freedom of movement issues, of peoples inability to cross borders legally and their desperation to find some way to enter the west.
She speaks of the economic situation of women in Serbia; first to lose their jobs, women who cannot so easily abandon their dependants. Sex trafficking is but one aspect of a market in cheap and illegal labour, the exploitation of those who have least opportunities for choice : women and children. How can anyone say gender issues can be separated from alterglobalism?
Here in Serbia there are also great things happening, so many womens initiatives: to establish workers cooperatives, projects for housing and education, actions against militarism.
In one of these organizations a woman speaks of the history of revolutions: That the old concepts are not enough. The conditions of society have shifted so that we must ask our selves again; who are the protagonists and how shall we organize?
If PGA is to be effective as a network we must begin the process of real and radical change in our ways of communication and organizing. Within this is our ability to be inclusive and to have relevance for those who are working towards change. To fight the external 'enemy' is not enough. When we begin to seriously combat the unequal relationships of power within ourselves, our organizations and our methods of organising, then we will begin to pull apart this society and make something new. Gender is not a side issue, it is the guts of the machine.
An Anti-Harassment Action Plan:
How to deal with sexual harassment and rape within our 'liberated' spaces- a proposal for a process
Produced during a gender seminar at the Escanda anarchist commune, Spain.
We would not work with a racist - why work with a rapist? The struggle against sexism is no less important than that against racism and other forms of violating people for who they are. But even in 'our' spaces sexism and sexist behaviour are accepted too easily, and the anti-sexist struggle has not been a political priority. We must change this!
This anti-harassment process can be one part of a broader attempt to make the creation of non-sexist environments a priority: developing clear anti-Sexist principles and procedures which would form an explicit and specifically highlighted part of the organising platforms of events and spaces would show that the matter of sexist behaviour and sexual harassment is being taken seriously. It would also allow other important work to continue during the process of dealing with such events, and cut out a lot of the confusion, fears, and anger that always follow when cases of sexual harassment or rape become public in our spaces. This will make our spaces more open and safe.
The responsibility to create non-Sexist spaces is shared by the whole collective. We want to create an environment where everyone who experiences cases of sexist behaviour or sexual harassment feels empowered to come forth and tell someone about what happened to them and they will always be taken seriously.
Our aim with this proposal is to find ways to deal with sexual harassment and rape in all our spaces. However, the opportunities to have a real process will be different if a case happens within a local scene/subculture, where people know each other and there is time to deal with the questions, or when it happens at a gathering lasting only some days. People will have to adapt this proposal to changing circumstances, but it might be a good idea, at larger gatherings within our spaces, to designate a person or group that anyone can turn to with concerns of sexist behaviour and in case of sexual harassment or rape. It is their responsibility to set these procedures in motion as quickly as possible, and feeding back information about the process to the plenary. This is in order to minimise gossip and misunderstandings about these very emotional issues.
We recognise that it is important to have an open and transparent process so that gendered conflicts are not dealt with behind closed doors, like they have been for so long - however, we must respect the privacy and confidentiality of the victim and find a balance between these two goals.
We have chosen to use gender-neutral language in this proposal, as we realise that anyone can become the victim of sexual harassment (which has led to occasionally awkward language). However, we are fully aware of the fact that the vast majority of victims of harassment are women, and the even greater majority of perpetrators are men.
The proposal below is largely inspired by, and in large parts copied from, the suggestion for an anti-harassment/rape action plan developed by people within the Anti-Fascist Action in Stockholm, Sweden. We have made a few changes, but most of the real work was done in Stockholm - and we want to acknowledge that. Here, then, is a suggestion to use a process for how to deal with cases of sexual harassment or rape in our subculture and spaces - it is a set of suggested tools, not a dogma, it is not the only way to deal with harassment and rape, and others avenues should be explored as well, also outside our spaces. Also, no process for dealing with such issues can be perfect: each way will be a compromise between important ideals such as justice, autonomy, or fairness - this is the balance we propose:
Some suggested steps for us to take in case of sexual harassment and rape without involving state authorities. It is based on the premises that the victim always defines what counts as sexual harassment or rape - and will always be believed.
1.When a person talks about/reports an assault committed against her or him, or when rumours begin spreading that something has happened, the work of putting together groups should start as quickly as possible. A group can consist of two or more persons. While this is process is under way, the perpetrator is not welcome to the organisation's activities and spaces, or, alternatively, the gathering at which the event occurred.
2.Arrange a general meeting/plenary, if the victim wants this. Spread the information and select the groups there. Otherwise, do this in an informal way.
3.Set up a group who talk to the victim. It's good if these are people the victim trusts and who are close to him or her. The goal is to:
Hear what he or she has to say.
Give him or her support.
See whether he or she has any opinions on how the question is being dealt with, if he or she has any demands.
4.Set up a group of people who talk to the perpetrator. It's good if these are people who know and are trusted by him or her, but who can deal with criticising him or her. The goal is to:
Hear his or her version.
Confront the victim with what he or she has said. Get the perpetrator to try to do a 'roll-swap', to go beyond him-/herself and try to understand why the victim experienced it in the way she or he did.
Remember that it may be difficult for someone in our political spaces to publicly admit acts of sexual harassment, so some degree of confidentiality is important here to allow the aggressor to deal with his or her actions. However, in order to limit rumours, it is important to feed information about the process back to the larger collective.
5.The victim's support group and the perpetrator's contact group (and the victim, if he or she wants to be involved) develop a working plan. Should the aggressor be excluded; will the aggressor be allowed to work in fora/contexts outside of the groups where the victim is involved; should the aggressor be allowed to rejoin if he or she works with the problem? The point is to create a basis for the aggressor to understand what has happened, and the goal is that he or she should not do it again. During the process, the support group stays in contact with the victim and tells her or him about what is happening, and follows up on how (s)he is feeling. When the problem is made visible and brought out in the open, the pain can often return, and (s)he needs even more support. The goal is to help the victim to put into words what has happened, and strengthen her or his self-confidence.
6.The support group and the contact group (and the victim, if she or he wants to be involved) judge whether the aggressor is welcome back into the group, or whether the contact with him or her has not produced any results. If it is the case that the aggressor does not want to participate in any process and acts arrogantly, then there is of course no point in keep it up. It is pointless to take away all energy from a political group in order to figure out the attitudes of a sexist if he or she does not willing to cooperate. Then it's better to exclude the perpetrator and rather concentrate on the victim who has been assaulted.
First, one principle of this process should be the recognition that most people can change their sexist behaviour and sexist attitudes, that immediate and final exclusion ("one strike you're out") is not the perfect solution. Reintegration and rehabilitation of the aggressor into our spaces should be the goal. Second, remember that few of us actually have the skills necessary to counsel a rape victim or a rapist. Professional counselling may be a very important route to take.
Global capital, livelihoods and the question of alternatives
Massimo De Angelis
may 2004 -- draft
There is something rotten in the world we live in, and we generally tend to represent this in terms of "horror statistics". Last year for example a British newspaper reported in front page some horror statistics we are growing accustomed to. Here is a sample: "2147, the year when, on current trends, sub-Saharan Africa cab hope to halve the number of people in poverty"; "20,000 children die daily of preventable illness"; "500,000 women a year, one for each minute, die in pregnancy or childbirth"; "13 million children were killed by diarrhoea in the 1990s ? more than all the people lost to armed conflict since the second world war" (Larry Elliott, The Lost Decade, The Guardian, July 9 2003).The article was reporting on the United Nation latest 2003 annual human development report, which mapped increased poverty in more than a quarter of the world's countries through a combination of HIV and Aids, famine, debt, and government policies.
The most rotten thing about the world we live in however is the fact that most of these horrors are utterly unnecessary. There is indeed a second type of horror statistics that unlike the ones we just recalled do not make us recoil in despair. Rather, they make us puzzle for an instant, before we are drawn back into the vortex of our daily busynessthat forces us to close the newspaper and focus on our livelihoods and not that of others, or rigid ideological constructs with easy answers. The horror statistics of the second type point at a hard reality to digest: the major problems of the world, technically speaking, are peanuts. There is no necessitybehind the dying of malnutrition, aids and malaria; there is no necessity for generations of children fighting wars instead of playing and learning the skills of peace. Indeed, these statistics show that these are incredibly cheap problems to deal with: of the type, to abolish malnutrition and major world diseases killing million, what is needed is the same amount of resources we spend in consumption of perfume in Europe. The reader should not jump to conclusion; I am not suggesting that the problems could be deal with simply by giving up deodorants. I am using the metaphor of horror statistics as a way to contextualize what we perceive to be to most terrible problems of social reproduction on the planet. In the face of the 2 plus trillion dollars passing through financial centers in the world every day, these annual billions look really very irrelevant, almost like scratching an itch. Hence, from the perspective of the reproduction of the social body as a whole, scarcity is inexistent, it is a fiction, it is an invention made by economists. The real problem in our world is not lack of resources, but who is getting what, and for what purpose, and how this distribution is protected by the law and the repressive apparatus of the state. If you are a corporation building dams around the world you are entitled to export subsidies and that is OK and "good for the economy". But if you are a third world family displaced by the army who has destroyed your home to make sure that a dam is built in its place and you are knocking at the border of one of the exporting countries, you are treated as a scrounger, you are put in concentration camps or sent back. The real problem is that we live in a social system which depends on pitting livelihoods against each otter. The horrors of the modern world are a direct result of this.
These and many other horrors have intensified under the processes that go under the name of economic globalisation. We are told that a global economy in which free trade and free financial flows roam the world in search for the best profit opportunity is the sure way for all the people in the world to benefit. Privatising and exposing our schools, universities, hospitals, and social services to the forces of global markets is presented as the next key way out of all problems. For many people in the third world, giving up their land and rivers on which their livelihoods depend on so as to make room for new electricity generating dams powering export factories or cash crop is presented as the sure way to success. Some of the global elites also push for the old military way of deepening the integration of people and countries into global markets: look at the corporate carving of Iraq's resources and the plan to turn it into a market society. Who needs long and increasingly media sensitive WTO negotiations, when in principle you can have full investment liberalisation, widespread service privatisation, and financial liberalisation at gunpoint? This, I believe, was the nature of the experiment carried by the American and British administration, an experiment that current events in Iraq seem to increasingly be disappointing.
There is nothing wrong with the increase interdependency among people in the world, what generally goes under the name of globalisation. More people coming closer to each other, better able to share resources, knowledge, ways of doing things, cultural forms, experiences, musical tradition, and so forth, means for many instances to enrich the lives of people and communities, to open up new horizons for creativity, to deepen forms of solidarity and mutual aid. The problem is with the typeof globalisation processes which is instead centred on the extension and deepening of markets in all our lives in the planet. The problem therefore is how this integration is brought about and how this integration operates once it is set in place. It is brought about through what we may call "enclosures", and it operates through what we may call "disciplinary processes". Let us see these in a bit more details, because if we want a new world we have to be clear and sharp on what we do notwant and what we are up against.
Enclosures refer to those strategies promoted by global economic and political elites that "commodify" things. In general commodification is to turn things that are otherwise in use within communities or exchanged as gift among its members or across members of different communities, into things that are bought and sold on the market, commodities. The "things" turned into commodities often represent important resources necessary for communities to reproduce their livelihoods, and their "enclosure" represents at the same time the destruction of those communities and their dependence on markets.
The consolidation, development and deepening of capitalism in our lives heavily depends on enclosures. For example, in England the industrial revolution of the XVIII century would not have been possible without a mass of landless people whose only alternative to reproduce their livelihoods was to work for twelve, fourteen and even sixteen hours for a pitiful wage in stinky, dark, smelly cotton-mills. People in other words had turned their capacity to work, their labour power, into a commodity, and looking for a "job" a normal thing in life. Labour markets have been created out of scratch with the reduction of alternative ways of reproducing livelihoods.
Historically, the alternative was taken away from them by landed aristocracy and other armed thugs that had kick them out of their land and of the land they held in commons in village's communities. In the eyes of these early venture capitalists the common land of the villagers was a necessary resource to graze sheep, whose wool was an increasingly profitable in the Flanders's export markets. For those villagers, the commons was a means to both their livelihoods (collection of woods, wild fruit and games for example) and the axis around which their community was organised.
Enclosures however are not things of the past, but they are always present dangers hanging upon us, a continuous feature of that social system we call capitalism. This is for two reasons. First because people come together in struggles and these can either prevent enclosures of common resources to take place or put a significant degree of resistance to slow it down. Second, because in their many attempts to create new forms of social cooperation and reproduce livelihoods in ways that are independent from competitive pressures of the market, people often succeed in establishing new commons, new way to access resources necessary for their livelihoods which does not pass through the markets and the correspondent rat race. Let us not forget that the "welfare state" that is now being privatised was a concession to past struggles, a "common" they won.
But what a generation can successfully win, the other generation can loose, and what a particular community can succeed in defending, another community can be overwhelmed by force and circumstances. Since capitalist production for profit depends on commodities production, enclosures are always in the arsenal of capitalist strategies, and are only a matter of whether particular elite in a particular time and context think they would be able to force through their particular enclosure strategies.
Today, enclosures, the commodification of resources upon which people depends for their livelihoods, take many names. They may involve the dispossession of thousands of farming communities from land and water resources following international banking funding of dam construction, such as in the case of the dam project in the Narmada valley in India or the Plan Puebla Panama in Latin America. Or it can take the form of cuts in social spending on hospitals, medicines, and schools, or, especially in countries in the south, cuts in food subsidies so as to have money to pay interest on a mounting international debt. In all these cases, cuts, dispossessions and austerity, namely "enclosures", are imposed for the sake of "efficiency," and rationalization and "global competitiveness". Enclosures are therefore any strategy to push people to depend on markets for their livelihood.
Yesterday and today however, people struggle against all types of enclosures, and the struggles are of different type depending on the circumstances. Just as in 1649 few thousands of landless farmers called the "diggers" attempted to reclaim the king's land for themselves and their communities, land that served as hunting ground for the king and loyalty just outside London in St George's hill, so today mass of landless Brazilian farmers occupy fields of rich land owners and grow their crop and build their communities, schools, clinics, commons. Just as yesterday the commoners received the visit of the kings' soldiers burning huts and killing people, so today the police and the army is used around the world to attempt crushing the new commoners standing up for their livelihoods.
By commons are constituted in many other spheres of life. Think of the diverse movements comprising today's global justice and solidarity movement which oppose the attempts to relocate communities to make space for dams; by resisting privatization of public services and basic resources such as water; by creating new commons through occupations of land and the building of communities; by struggling against of intellectual property rights threatening the lives of millions of AIDS patients; by struggling against debt, for its cancellation, by simply downloading and sharing music and software beyond the cash limits imposed by the market. As we will see, the struggles against enclosures create all types of commons, everywhere.
If enclosures pushes people into increasing the degree of their dependence towards markets for the reproduction of their livelihoods, the market attempt to integrate their activities in a system that pits all against all. The increasing intensification of interdependency of our lives in the planet brought by global markets increasingly demand that to reproduce our livelihoods we are more competitive, we are told that there are no alternatives to markets, that in order to further our livelihoods in terms of wages, education, health, we have to be more efficient, more productive, more competitive, and less wasteful. When we look at this system from the perspective of individual people or communities, it looks as if there is a thing out there called "the economy", that demands we conform to it. In conventional wisdom this dominant condition of our lives goes under other names, competition, efficiency, the need of the market, and so on. Whatever the name, the reality is the perception of an external force that forces us in school, factories, fields, and offices to adapt to certain standards or die, to do things in certain ways that beats the competitor or loose our livelihoods, reduce costs or be damned. But "beating the competitor" is also at the same time threatening the livelihoods of other communities we are competing with, to the extent they also depends on markets to reproduce their own livelihoods. The more we depend on money to satisfy our needs and follow our desires, that is the more we need to access markets, the more we are exposed to a vicious circle of dependency that pits livelihoods against each other. Some of us win, and some of us loose, in either case we are both involved in perpetrating the system that keeps us reproducing scarcity when in fact we could celebrate abundance.
What we call "the economy" is actually not so much a list of indicators and monetary measures, but a way for people (for all of us) to relate to each other while reproducing our livelihoods, a mode of relating to each other based on pitting livelihoods against each other. It must be clear here that I do not have anything against competition per se. When I play table football with my friends I aim at winning. But whether I win or loose, I end up to share a drink and a laugh with my loosing or winning friends. Competition in this realm is innocuous, is a practice that might strengthen communities playfulness instead of destroying it. The competition in the economy, whether degree of "imperfection" it is said to have by economists, or whether it is real or only simulated as in increasingly the case in public services, is ultimately a type of competition that finds its very energy in the threat of livelihoods, and in so doing in the continuous social reproduction of scarcity and communities' destruction.
We can now understand what competition has to do with discipline. When rewards and punishments are repeated in a system, norms are created. Take for example those experiments with rats, which show that when rewards (food) and punishment (electrical shocks) are repeated, rats learn to behave in a certain way that is they learn some norms. In this case norms (regularities) are created trough punishment and rewards, stick and carrots. The market operates in a similar way, and their deepening brought about by globalisation intensifies this. You are for example employed by a company competing with others in the global market. Your livelihood depends on how "competitive" this company is, that is how much profit this company gets in relation to others, what its markets shares, etc. However, these indicators of the "health" of the company depends ultimately on you and other co-workers, how much you are earning, and how hard and long you are working, how much creativity goes in the process of making and selling the product produced in relation to the same indicators for the other companies competing in the market. Ultimately in other words, if you are loosing, you have to struggle to catch up, otherwise your livelihoods is threatened (unemployment, cut in wages, etc.). If you are winning, you have to struggle to stay up, otherwise your livelihoods is threatened. With the opening of more and more markets and the restructuring of production into global commodity chains across the globe, large corporations can increasingly pit workers against each other, their livelihoods for example threatened by poorer one joining global production from some parts of the world in which wages are lower, or some other threatened by automation.
But the logic of discipline and competition applies at different scales and in different contexts, not only to companies. Entire cities, regions and countries compete for example to attract capital, and this competition implies again pitting conditions of livelihoods against each others: who will offer better stable political systems (that is systems that do not question enclosures and markets?) Who will provide the most pro-business policies? What regions will offer lower environmental standards (hence less costly for global business) so as to relocate production? The capitalist global economy in other words, put us all to work for global capital and profit, whether you are a farmer whose spring has been polluted by the nearby shrimp aquaculture, or whether you are a woman walking miles to fetch water for her family because all the regional water went to irrigate cash crop, or whether you are a worker producing automobiles that your boss is trying to sell outstripping the competitors, that is the livelihoods of the workers employed by them.
In this ongoing process of rewards and punishments in which we are kept on our toes, there emerge norms of interactions among us all that are not defined directly by ourselves (those who are doing the interaction), but by the blind and abstract mechanism that pits livelihoods against each other. Norms of social production (that is ways of relating to each other) are answer to fundamental questions. Question such as whatshall we produce, howshall we produce it, how much shall we produce it, how long should we spend our lives working to produce that, who shall produce it, namely very concrete questions that define the way we relate to each other because production is always a social act. In capitalist markets these questions are not answered by people themselves taking charge of their lives and the relations among themselves, and thus defining collectively the norms of social production and of their relations to each other. Instead they are defined by an abstract mechanism that we have created (actually states have created at sward and gun point) and that we bow to in the daily practices of our lives, to the extent these practices are linked to capitalist markets. When I say this to people in lectures and seminars, people tends to be both fascinated and worried that I am too abstract. But the fact is that the way we are reproducing our livelihoods in the markets is ruled by an abstraction, a very real abstraction that does not give a damn about feelings, emotions, affects, and conditions of livelihoods.
Through this abstract mechanism, we create and recreate the norms of our interaction without even being aware we are doing precisely this. Out of our rat race with each other, each nodes of production (a factory, an office, a workshop) is a moment in feedback mechanisms. Every node must tune its norms production in relation to existing norms, such as prices and quality of goods. In order for this node to survive, they will have to meet or beat these market norms, sell at a lower price for example. But this implies reducing costs, hence shifting cost to people employed (for example pressure them to accept lower wages or work harder) or to environment and the communities whose livelihoods depends on it. Whatever method employed, by beating the existing market norms, these norms themselves have changed. Others, whose livelihood is now threatened by these new norms, will have now to "adapt or die", and thus in the same way, the mechanism is reproduced endlessly. In this process, global capital can pick the weakest link, give them a job, link it up to the global economy and pit it against us all, in an endless race. It through this continuous mechanism and the enclosures it is premised, that exploitation is maintained, reproduced and extended, that the rich gets richer and the poorer gets poorer.
How do we stop all this? The simple answer is by reducing our dependence on capitalist markets for the reproduction of our livelihoods. Our starting point must be building alternatives on the basis of the struggles that invert the pillar of global capital strategies. These are based on enclosures and norms of interaction that are posed from the outside through disciplinary mechanisms of the market. Our practices must be built on commons and democratic, horizontal and participatory processes of social norm creation, that is the formation of new communities. For them it is enclosure and the discipline of the rat race, for us must be commons and the participatory processes of communities. At this level of generalisation, the answer seems simple. But we cannot respond to capital's abstractions with another all encompassing abstraction. To point at commons and communities is not to close the debate with an ideological answer. The point is to open the debate on how we co-ordinate our livelihoods both locally, regionally and at the planetary level, to shift the plane of the debate and practice of alternatives to a new plateau, one in which we are self-consciously opposed to their way to articulate livelihoods on the planet. In this plateau it depends on the creativity and organisational capabilities of our movements, social networks and communities to come up with concrete answers, grounded on the value of sharing of commons and dignity, respect, democracy of diversity of new communities.
Grounding alternatives: commons and communities
Our struggles should be our starting point, because each struggle always poses some type of alternative. For example: the alternative to working too much is working less; the alternative to poverty is access to the means of existence; the alternative to indignity is dignity; the alternative to building that dam and uprooting communities is not building that dam and leaving communities where they are; the alternative to tomatoes going rotten while transported on the back of an old woman for 20 miles is not GM tomatoes that do not rot, but access to land near home, or a home, or a road and a truck; the alternative to war is no war. We struggle on all these and many other fronts.
How do we put together these alternatives? How do we move from the variety of needs and desires, the many "yeses" that come out from people's struggles in the north and in the south, to their coming together and shaping a new world? I believe we need to start from commons and communities. These have to do with building the power to do things in ways that are alternatives to capitalist markets, in ways that empower the people involved in seizing their/our lives, and to make as much as possible the desired alternatives become real. To frame the discourse of alternatives in terms of commons and communities is not to come up with a program or a manifesto. It is instead to be aware that our struggles for making a new world must be centered on reducingdependency on capitalist markets for our livelihoods, extending the degree in which we become autonomous from competitive capitalist markets, and shaping new social relations involving the reproduction of our livelihoods, that is new communities.
Commons are the shared among communities, of whatever type: common land, common rivers, common language. Struggles for commons are struggles that reclaim what we share, and thus coincide with becoming aware, together, of something we crave for: we reclaim knowledge as common in our fight against intellectual property rights; we reclaim music as commons, in our sharing music files from the internet. We reclaim seeds as commons, and we engage in sharing them among our communities, like the Indian women do in their fight against TNC biotechnologies. We reclaim electricity as commons when as in South Africa, communally connect poor neighborhoods to the recently privatised power grid. We reclaim water as commons as the farmers in Bolivia have done against privatization, as the tribal communities are doing against the enclosure by means of dam construction of the Narmada river.
Politically, a common in other words is a sacrilegious breaking of the market dogma, a collective acting upon the desire for breaking the dogma, the reclaiming of that community space that has been privatized, or the pushing back the realm of the markets as the way to access things that we need.
Commons are forms of directaccess to social wealth, access that is not mediated by competitive market relations. Commons acquire many forms, and their awareness often emerges out of struggles againsttheir enclosures and transformation into commodities. Thus, struggles against intellectual property rights opens up the questions of knowledge as commons. Struggles against privatization of water, education and health, opens the question of water, education and health as commons. Struggles against landlessness open up the question of common land. Struggles against environmental destruction open up the question of environmental commons. In a word, struggles against actual or threatened enclosures open the question of commons.
Commons therefore suggest alternative, non-commodified means to fulfill social needs, e.g. to obtain social wealth and to organise social production. We must not think however that commons are a free for all space. This is indeed what some economists think when they talk about commons in order to privatize, to enclose them. They say that when there are commons resources, what happens is the "tragedy of the commons", that is every individuals try to get as much as possible of those resources for themselves, which will then ultimately destroy the common resource. These authors forget that whenever there is a common, there is also a communityof individuals who define norms, conventions and relations with each other.
If commons are set against commodification, the notion of communities (horizontal, participatory communities) is set against the competitive rat race of global markets. These integrate the lives of people in the world by pitting one against the other, by pitting livelihoods against each another. It is through these competitive struggles that norms of production are created. Communities are instead social networks of mutual aid, solidarity, and practices of human exchange. In this sense, communities are everywhere there are sustaining non-competitive and cooperative relations among human beings, and their potential existence is in every sphere of social action. Communities are already here; think of the community in your school, office, factory. But communities can also be produced, created through coming together in struggles and solidarity networks. In communities we can define our norms of production and of our interaction with each other, instead of by being ruled by it.
Commons are always necessarily created and sustained by communities, i.e. by social networks of mutual aid, solidarity, and practices of human exchange that are not reduced to the market form, that do not pit livelihoods against each other. To make a very simple example, think of you getting food from the family (community) kitchen. Although the relation between the family and the rest of the world is a market relation (the family has bought food from the market), the relation among member of the family is defined by rules that are different from that of the market: you do not pay anybody in getting the yogurt out of the kitchen. Each family has of course its own rules, convention, habits to define access of individual members to food and other family resources in general. Some families have an authoritarian structure, some other are democratic, and so in general, every type of communities sharing resources has different types of communal arrangement to define the norms of interaction among its members. If by accepting markets relations we implicitly accept relations among people that are governed by their being pit against each other (no matter what are our democratic believes), by posing the question of commons, we also pose the question of what types of social relations do we want? What types of communities do we want? And what type of relations among communities do we want? We cannot even raise these questions within the framework of capitalist markets, since the norms of social relations are defined by its abstract mechanism. We can be against racism and patriarchy, but then the market mechanism reproduce clusters of those who have and those who have not divided along gender or racial lines. We can be for human rights, but then the same mechanism produces the dispossessed, the invisible, the "down and out" whose "human rights" are systematically denied. To be for democracy, horizontality, participation and inclusiveness in all of our communities implies to be for everybody being empowered to means of livelihoods.
When we think in terms of commons and community, we are really thinking in terms that are truly alternative to market relations. It is not a question of local versus global. Today, unlike few hundreds years ago, it is possible to develop community networks and commons which are not tied to one place, linked to one locality, as in the old village. Modern Information transport technology allows the development of both community and commons both in local and through trans-local places. Take for example solidarity networks linked to many fair trade activities. Activists in the North go and repeatedly visit struggling communities in the South like the Zapatistas, make bonds with them, help them to sell their coffee in social centers around Europe and the US (not in supermarkets linked to global market circuits and global competition), learn from their ways of life, receive gifts in their friendships, stories and music.
Indeed, these experiences remind us that there is a very important type of human exchange among people, which is quite different from that type of human exchange promoted by the market. I am talking about "gift exchange". Gift exchange is actually very common form of exchange that we seldom are aware of, but is part of our daily life. I am not talking about the over-commercialized Christmas or birthday presents. It is when we give to others demanding nothing in return. We help a friend moving or to fix a bicycle, we give to our neighbors a taste of the product of our kitchen garden, we volunteer in a campaign group, we teach a class to poor children with no access to school. Unlike commodity exchange, in which everything has a well-defined price computed in advance, we cannot compute what we receive in exchange for our gift. Yet, most of the time we will receive something in return. Our friend will one day help us back in something we need; our neighbors will give us a taste of their kitchen garden when their crop blooms, and the children will smile to us in return to our teaching and their communities will share their food and stories with us.
Look at the main difference between market exchange and gift exchange. In market exchange two parties exchange equivalents (commodity versus money) and the very moment the exchange is carried through, the transaction accomplished, the two parties can disappear from each other and forget. Anytime you enter a shop, you might as well not know the people you buy from, nor being interested at all in their lives, not in the lives of those who produced the goods you bought. In gift exchange, people's exchange does not end at one point in time. The gift does not close the relation among the different parties, but it opens it.Where will the gift lead? Well, this depends by the people involved, their characters, whether thy like each other or not, their lives experience, their desires, as well as the context in which they have encountered each other or the time they have at their disposal to nurture their relations. But the point is that in gift exchange, the bottom line is that I give you this to you today, you might give me that tomorrow. What counts here is not exchange of equivalent, but the building of social relations, of a social bond. Thorough repetition of gift over a period of time, people builds social relations, create trust (or mistrust), shape values and create communities. Gift exchange creates patterns of mutual interdependence. Also market exchange does this. However, the mutual interdependence of capitalist markets is governed by a mechanism that imposesthe norms of interaction to individuals. We have called this discipline. In other words, the market sets the price to which each seller has to adapt or die, it sets the rhythms of production and in the course of the process of competition, and these norms become more and more stringent. In gift exchange, the people themselves are the ones that can actively define the norms of their interaction, mutually shape their values, the relations they are comfortable to live in.
In conclusion, we need to think in terms of how commons and communities are already part of pour lives, and how can we extend their role to empower us against the blind forces of the market and to make a world which is just, fair and, especially, human.
ANARCHISM, OR THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
By David Graeber and Andrej Grubacic*
It is becoming increasingly clear that the age of revolutions is not over. It's
becoming equally clear that the global revolutionary movement in the twenty first
century, will be one that traces its origins less to the tradition of Marxism, or
even of socialism narrowly defined, but of anarchism.
Everywhere from Eastern Europe to Argentina, from Seattle to Bombay, anarchist ideas
and principles are generating new radical dreams and visions. Often their exponents
do not call themselves "anarchists". There are a host of other names: autonomism,
anti-authoritarianism, horizontality, Zapatismo, direct democracy... Still,
everywhere one finds the same core principles: decentralization, voluntary
association, mutual aid, the network model, and above all, the rejection of any idea
that the end justifies the means, let alone that the business of a revolutionary is
to seize state power and then begin imposing one's vision at the point of a gun.
Above all, anarchism, as an ethics of practice-the idea of building a new society
"within the shell of the old"-has become the basic inspiration of the "movement of
movements" (of which the authors are a part), which has from the start been less
about seizing state power than about exposing, de-legitimizing and dismantling
mechanisms of rule while winning ever-larger spaces of autonomy and participatory
management within it.
.. There are some obvious reasons for the appeal of anarchist ideas at the beginning
of the 21st century: most obviously, the failures and catastrophes resulting from so
many efforts to overcome capitalism by seizing control of the apparatus of
government in the 20th. Increasing numbers of revolutionaries have begun to
recognize that "the revolution" is not going to come as some great apocalyptic
moment, the storming of some global equivalent of the Winter Palace, but a very long process that has been going on for most of human history (even if it has like most things come to accelerate of late) full of strategies of flight and evasion as much as dramatic confrontations, and which will never-indeed, most anarchist feel, should never-come to a definitive conclusion. It's a little disconcerting, but it offers
one enormous consolation: we do not have to wait until "after the revolution" to
begin to get a glimpse of what genuine freedom might be like. As the Crimethinc
Collective, the greatest propagandists of contemporary American anarchism, put it:
"Freedom only exists in the moment of revolution. And those moments are not as rare
as you think." For an anarchist, in fact, to try to create non-alienated
experiences, true democracy, is an ethical imperative; only by making one's form of
organization in the present at least a rough approximation of how a free society
would actually operate, how everyone, someday, should be able to live, can one
guarantee that we will not cascade back into disaster. Grim joyless revolutionaries
who sacrifice all pleasure to the cause can only produce grim joyless societies.
These changes have been difficult to document because so far anarchist ideas have
received almost no attention in the academy. There are still thousands of academic
Marxists, but almost no academic anarchists. This lag is somewhat difficult to
interpret. In part, no doubt, it's because Marxism has always had a certain affinity
with the academy which anarchism obviously lacked: Marxism was, after all, the only
great social movement that was invented by a Ph.D. Most accounts of the history of
anarchism assume it was basically similar to Marxism: anarchism is presented as the
brainchild of certain 19th century thinkers (Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin...) that
then went on to inspire working-class organizations, became enmeshed in political
struggles, divided into sects... Anarchism, in the standard accounts, usually comes
out as Marxism's poorer cousin, theoretically a bit flat-footed but making up for
brains, perhaps, with passion and sincerity. Really the analogy is strained. The
"founders" of anarchism did not think of themselves as having invented anything
particularly new. The saw its basic principles-mutual aid, voluntary association,
egalitarian decision-making-as as old as humanity. The same goes for the rejection
of the state and of all forms of structural violence, inequality, or domination
(anarchism literally means "without rulers")-even the assumption that all these
forms are somehow related and reinforce each other. None of it was seen as some
startling new doctrine, but a longstanding tendency in the history human thought,
and one that cannot be encompassed by any general theory of ideology. On one level
it is a kind of faith: a belief that most forms of irresponsibility that seem to
make power necessary are in fact the effects of power itself. In practice though it
is a constant questioning, an effort to identify every compulsory or hierarchical
relation in human life, and challenge them to justify themselves, and if they
cannot-which usually turns out to be the case-an effort to limit their power and
thus widen the scope of human liberty. Just as a Sufi might say that Sufism is the
core of truth behind all religions, an anarchist might argue that anarchism is the
urge for freedom behind all political ideologies.
Schools of Marxism always have founders. Just as Marxism sprang from the mind of
Marx, so we have Leninists, Maoists,, Althusserians... (Note how the list starts
with heads of state and grades almost seamlessly into French professors - who, in
turn, can spawn their own sects: Lacanians, Foucauldians....)
Schools of anarchism, in contrast, almost invariably emerge from some kind of
organizational principle or form of practice: Anarcho-Syndicalists and
Anarcho-Communists, Insurrectionists and Platformists, Cooperativists, Councilists,
Individualists, and so on. Anarchists are distinguished by what they do, and how
they organize themselves to go about doing it. And indeed this has always been what
anarchists have spent most of their time thinking and arguing about. They have never
been much interested in the kinds of broad strategic or philosophical questions that
preoccupy Marxists such as Are the peasants a potentially revolutionary class?
(anarchists consider this something for peasants to decide) or what is the nature of
the commodity form? Rather, they tend to argue about what is the truly democratic
way to go about a meeting, at what point organization stops being empowering people
and starts squelching individual freedom. Is "leadership" necessarily a bad thing?
Or, alternately, about the ethics of opposing power: What is direct action? Should
one condemn someone who assassinates a head of state? When is it okay to throw a
Marxism, then, has tended to be a theoretical or analytical discourse about
revolutionary strategy. Anarchism has tended to be an ethical discourse about
revolutionary practice. As a result, where Marxism has produced brilliant theories
of praxis, it's mostly been anarchists who have been working on the praxis itself.
At the moment, there's something of a rupture between generations of anarchism:
between those whose political formation took place in the 60s and 70s-and who often
still have not shaken the sectarian habits of the last century-or simply still
operate in those terms, and younger activists much more informed, among other
elements, by indigenous, feminist, ecological and cultural-criticitical ideas. The
former organize mainly through highly visible Anarchist Federations like the IWA,
NEFAC or IWW. The latter work most prominently in the networks of the global social
movement, networks like Peoples Global Action, which unites anarchist collectives in
Europe and elsewhere with groups ranging from Maori activists in New Zealand,
fisherfolk in Indonesia, or the Canadian postal workers' union (2.). The latter-what
might be loosely referred to as the "small-a anarchists", are by now by far the
majority. But it is sometimes hard to tell, since so many of them do not trumpet
their affinities very loudly. There are many. in fact, who take anarchist principles
of anti-sectarianism and open-endedness so seriously that they refuse to refer to
themselves as 'anarchists' for that very reason (3.).
But the three essentials that run throughout all manifestations of anarchist
ideology are definitely there - anti-statism, anti-capitalism and prefigurative
politics (i.e. modes of organization that consciously resemble the world you want to
create. Or, as an anarchist historian of the revolution in Spain has formulated "an
effort to think of not only the ideas but the facts of the future itself". (4.) This
is present in anything from jamming collectives and on to Indy media, all of which
can be called anarchist in the newer sense.(5.) In some countries, there is only a
very limited degree of confluence between the two coexisting generations, mostly
taking the form of following what each other is doing - but not much more.
One reason is that the new generation is much more interested in developing new
forms of practice than arguing about the finer points of ideology. The most dramatic
among these have been the development of new forms of decision-making process, the
beginnings, at least, of an alternate culture of democracy. The famous North
American spokescouncils, where thousands of activists coordinate large-scale events
by consensus, with no formal leadership structure, are only the most spectacular.
Actually, even calling these forms "new" is a little bit deceptive. One of the main
inspirations for the new generation of anarchists are the Zapatista autonomous
municipalities of Chiapas, based in Tzeltal or Tojolobal-speaking communities who
have been using consensus process for thousands of years-only now adopted by
revolutionaries to ensure that women and younger people have an equal voice. In
North America, "consensus process" emerged more than anything else from the feminist
movement in the '70s, as part of a broad backlash against the macho style of
leadership typical of the '60s New Left. The idea of consensus itself was borrowed
from the Quakers, who again, claim to have been inspired by the Six Nations and
other Native American practices.
Consensus is often misunderstood. One often hears critics claim it would cause
stifling conformity but almost never by anyone who has actually observed consensus
in action, at least, as guided by trained, experienced facilitators (some recent
experiments in Europe, where there is little tradition of such things, have been
somewhat crude). In fact, the operating assumption is that no one could really
convert another completely to their point of view, or probably should. Instead, the
point of consensus process is to allow a group to decide on a common course of
action. Instead of voting proposals up and down, proposals are worked and reworked,
scotched or reinvented, there is a process of compromise and synthesis, until one
ends up with something everyone can live with. When it comes to the final stage,
actually "finding consensus", there are two levels of possible objection: one can
"stand aside", which is to say "I don't like this and won't participate but I
wouldn't stop anyone else from doing it", or "block", which has the effect of a
veto. One can only block if one feels a proposal is in violation of the fundamental
principles or reasons for being of a group. One might say that the function which in
the US constitution is relegated to the courts, of striking down legislative
decisions that violate constitutional principles, is here relegated with anyone with
the courage to actually stand up against the combined will of the group (though of
course there are also ways of challenging unprincipled blocks).
One could go on at length about the elaborate and surprisingly sophisticated methods
that have been developed to ensure all this works; of forms of modified consensus
required for very large groups; of the way consensus itself reinforces the principle
of decentralization by ensuring one doesn't really want to bring proposals before
very large groups unless one has to, of means of ensuring gender equity and
resolving conflict... The point is this is a form of direct democracy which is very
different than the kind we usually associate with the term-or, for that matter, with
the kind of majority-vote system usually employed by European or North American
anarchists of earlier generations, or still employed, say, in middle class urban
Argentine asambleas (though not, significantly, among the more radical piqueteros,
the organized unemployed, who tend to operate by consensus.) With increasing contact
between different movements internationally, the inclusion of indigenous groups and
movements from Africa, Asia, and Oceania with radically different traditions, we are
seeing the beginnings of a new global reconception of what "democracy" should even
mean, one as far as possible from the neoliberal parlaimentarianism currently
promoted by the existing powers of the world.
Again, it is difficult to follow this new spirit of synthesis by reading most
existing anarchist literature, because those who spend most of their energy on
questions of theory, rather than emerging forms of practice, are the most likely to
maintain the old sectarian dichotomizing logic. Modern anarchism is imbued with
countless contradictions. While small-a anarchists are slowly incorporating ideas
and practices learned from indigenous allies into their modes of organizing or
alternative communities, the main trace in the written literature has been the
emergence of a sect of Primitivists, a notoriously contentious crew who call for the
complete abolition of industrial civilization, and, in some cases, even
agriculture.(6.) Still, it is only a matter of time before this older, either/or
logic begins to give way to something more resembling the practice of
What would this new synthesis look like? Some of the outlines can already be
discerned within the movement. It will insist on constantly expanding the focus of
anti-authoritarianism, moving away from class reductionism by trying to grasp the
"totality of domination", that is, to highlight not only the state but also gender
relations, and not only the economy but also cultural relations and ecology,
sexuality, and freedom in every form it can be sought, and each not only through the
sole prism of authority relations, but also informed by richer and more diverse
concepts. This approach does not call for an endless expansion of material
production, or hold that technologies are neutral, but it also doesn't decry
technology per se. Instead, it becomes familiar with and employs diverse types of
technology as appropriate. It not only doesn't decry institutions per se, or
political forms per se, it tries to conceive new institutions and new political
forms for activism and for a new society, including new ways of meeting, new ways of
decision making, new ways of coordinating, along the same lines as it already has
with revitalized affinity groups and spokes structures. And it not only doesn't
decry reforms per se, but struggles to define and win non-reformist reforms,
attentive to people's immediate needs and bettering their lives in the here-and-now
at the same time as moving toward further gains, and eventually, wholesale
And of course theory will have to catch up with practice. To be fully effective,
modern anarchism will have to include at least three levels: activists, people's
organizations, and researchers. The problem at the moment is that anarchist
intellectuals who want to get past old-fashioned, vanguardist habits-the Marxist
sectarian hangover that still haunts so much of the radical intellectual world-are
not quite sure what their role is supposed to be. Anarchism needs to become
reflexive. But how? On one level the answer seems obvious. One should not lecture,
not dictate, not even necessarily think of oneself as a teacher, but must listen,
explore and discover. To tease out and make explicit the tacit logic already
underlying new forms of radical practice. To put oneself at the service of activists
by providing information, or exposing the interests of the dominant elite carefully
hidden behind supposedly objective, authoritative discourses, rather than trying to
impose a new version of the same thing. But at the same time most recognize that
intellectual struggle needs to reaffirm its place. Many are beginning to point out
that one of the basic weaknesses of the anarchist movement today is, with respect to
the time of, say, Kropotkin or Reclus, or Herbert Read, exactly the neglecting of
the symbolic, the visionary, and overlooking of the effectiveness of theory. How to
move from ethnography to utopian visions-ideally, as many utopian visions as
possible? It is hardly a coincidence that some of the greatest recruiters for
anarchism in countries like the United States have been feminist science fiction
writers like Starhawk or Ursula K. LeGuin (8.)
One way this is beginning to happen is as anarchists begin to recuperate the
experience of other social movements with a more developed body of theory, ideas
that come from circles close to, indeed inspired by anarchism. Let's take for
example the idea of participatory economy, which represents an anarchist economist
vision par excellence and which supplements and rectifies anarchist economic
tradition. Parecon theorists argue for the existence of not just two, but three
major classes in advanced capitalism: not only a proletariat and bourgeoisie but a
"coordinator class" whose role is to manage and control the labor of the working
class. This is the class that includes the management hierarchy and the professional
consultants and advisors central to their system of control - as lawyers, key
engineers and accountants, and so on. They maintain their class position because of
their relative monopolization over knowledge, skills, and connections. As a result,
economists and others working in this tradition have been trying to create models of
an economy which would systematically eliminate divisions between physical and
intellectual labor. Now that anarchism has so clearly become the center of
revolutionary creativity, proponents of such models have increasingly been, if not
rallying to the flag, exactly, then at least, emphasizing the degree to which their
ideas are compatible with an anarchist vision. (9..)
Similar things are starting to happen with the development of anarchist political
visions. Now, this is an area where classical anarchism already had a leg up over
classical Marxism, which never developed a theory of political organization at all.
Different schools of anarchism have often advocated very specific forms of social
organization, albeit often markedly at variance with one another. Still, anarchism
as a whole has tended to advance what liberals like to call 'negative freedoms,'
'freedoms from,' rather than substantive 'freedoms to.' Often it has celebrated this
very commitment as evidence of anarchism's pluralism, ideological tolerance, or
creativity. But as a result, there has been a reluctance to go beyond developing
small-scale forms of organization, and a faith that larger, more complicated
structures can be improvised later in the same spirit.
There have been exceptions. Pierre Joseph Proudhon tried to come up with a total
vision of how a libertarian society might operate. (10.) It's generally considered
to have been a failure, but it pointed the way to more developed visions, such as
the North American Social Ecologists's "libertarian municipalism". There's a lively
developing, for instance, on how to balance principles of worker's
control-emphasized by the Parecon folk-and direct democracy, emphasized by the
Social Ecologists.(11..) Still, there are a lot of details still to be filled in:
what are the anarchist's full sets of positive institutional alternatives to
contemporary legislatures, courts, police, and diverse executive agencies? How to
offer a political vision that encompasses legislation, implementation, adjudication,
and enforcement and that shows how each would be effectively accomplished in a
non-authoritarian way-not only provide long-term hope, but to inform immediate
responses to today's electoral, law-making, law enforcement, and court system, and
thus, many strategic choices. Obviously there could never be an anarchist party line
on this, the general feeling among the small-a anarchists at least is that we'll
need many concrete visions. Still, between actual social experiments within
expanding self-managing communities in places like Chiapas and Argentina, and
efforts by anarchist scholar/activists like the newly formed Planetary Alternatives
Network or the Life After Capitalism forums to begin locating and compiling
successful examples of economic and political forms, the work is beginning (12.). It
is clearly a long-term process. But then, the anarchist century has only just begun.
* David Graeber is an assistant professor at Yale University (USA) and a political
activist. Andrej Grubacic is a historian and social critic from Yugoslavia. They are
involved in Planetary Alternatives Network (PAN).
1. This doesn't mean anarchists have to be against theory. It might not need High
Theory, in the sense familiar today. Certainly it will not need one single,
Anarchist High Theory. That would be completely inimical to its spirit. Much better,
we think, something more in the spirit of anarchist decision-making processes:
applied to theory, this would mean accepting the need for a diversity of high
theoretical perspectives, united only by certain shared commitments and
understandings. Rather than based on the need to prove others' fundamental
assumptions wrong, it seeks to find particular projects on which they reinforce each
other. Just because theories are incommensurable in certain respects does not mean
they cannot exist or even reinforce each other, any more than the fact that
individuals have unique and incommensurable views of the world means they cannot
become friends, or lovers, or work on common projects. Even more than High Theory,
what anarchism needs is what might be called low theory: a way of grappling with
those real, immediate questions that emerge from a transformative project.
2. Fore more information about the exciting history of Peoples Global Action we
suggest the book We are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-capitalism,
edited by Notes from Nowhere, London: Verso 2003. See also the PGA web site:
3. Cf. David Graeber, « New Anarchists », New left Review 13, January - February 2002
4. See Diego Abad de Santillan, After the Revolution, New York: Greenberg Publishers
5. For more information on global indymedia project go to : www.indymedia.org
6 ..Cf. Jason McQuinn, "Why I am not a Primitivist", Anarchy : a journal of desire
armed, printemps/été 2001.Cf. le site anarchiste www.arnarchymag.org . Cf. John
Zerzan, Future Primitive & Other Essays, Autonomedia, 1994.
7. Cf. Andrej Grubacic, Towards an Another Anarchism, in : Sen, Jai, Anita Anand,
Arturo Escobar and Peter Waterman, The World Social Forum: Against all Empires, New
Delhi: Viveka 2004.
8. Cf. Starhawk, Webs of Power: Notes from Global Uprising, San Francisco 2002. See
also : www.starhawk.org
9. Albert, Michael, Participatory Economics, Verso, 2003. See also: www.parecon.org
10. Avineri, Shlomo. The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx. London:
Cambridge University Press, 1968
11 .See The Murray Bookchin Reader, edited by Janet Biehl, London: Cassell 1997. See
also the web site of the Institute for Social Ecology : www.social-ecology.org
12. For more information on Life After Capitalism forums go to :
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