Occupy and the anarchists

Food Not Bombs illustraion

Some interesting discussions of Occupy and anarchist history lately, as Roland has noted. In a guest post at Roland’s place, TNC writes:

Some including Paul Berman and Michael Kazin identify anarchist elements of OWS such as presenting a living, breathing, counter-modelto capitalism and the utilization of consensus decision-making.

 The notion that you can create a rival community, a new world “within the shell of the old”, a counter-culture, is intrinsic to anarchism. That this must be consensus-driven is much more recent. It is not evident among the various groups that considered themselves anarchist–anarcho-mutualists/collectivists/syndicalists/communists—from the mid-nineteenth century until the Spanish Revolution. All of them felt that voting within their own organizations and groups was just fine.
By the 1960s, elements within the New Left including Students for a Democratic Society and others were experimenting with styles of decision-making that were viewed as more inclusive, participatory and democratic. These themes were also taken up by the Radical Feminist Movement in the 1970s. Certainly by the 1990s consensus organizing was gaining steam primarily though the work of Food Not Bombs (FNB), Earth First! and a few other groups. FNB in particular was effective at distributing inexpensively reproduced literature, including their Handbook, promoting consensus as the only way to order a local chapter:
We make decisions by consensus rather than voting. Voting is a win or lose model in which people are more concerned about the numbers it takes to win a majority than they are in the issue itself. Consensus, on the other hand, is a process of synthesis, bringing together diverse elements and blending them into a decision which is acceptable to the entire group. In essence, it is a qualitative rather than quantitative method of decision-making.
From my experience on the radical left, the influence of consensus decision-making was incredibly negative. The long, drawn-out meetings with no discernable outcome eventually take their toll. People start to drop out.
While Michael Kazin, Paul Berman and others note the attempt by the OWS movement to create a counter society (some have termed the encampments “micro societies”) an important difference between OWS and the classical anarchists is an emphasis on what form the future society would take. All of the utopian socialists going back to St. Simon and Fourier had a model in mind. Never mind how wacky the model was, at least they had something to refer to. This is completely missing from OWS. They say this is “all part of the process”but it is not enough for most of us. We want to know what you want, especially if you claim to represent us (as part of the 99%).

There is an interesting interview with Kazin at The Browser.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement writes a new chapter in the history of American leftism, you’ve published a history of radical movements in the United States titled American Dreamers. Tell me about it.

It chronicles almost 200 years of the American left’s history, interpreting what the left did right and what it did wrong. What it did wrong is better known. The subtitle of the book is “How the Left Changed a Nation”. I emphasise the positive difference it made, focusing on a couple of themes.

One is that the left expanded the meaning of individual freedom. It made sure that people of all races, religions and sexual preferences are, at least in theory, able to enjoy the same opportunities and freedoms as everybody else. The book begins with the abolitionists and goes up until the gay and lesbian movement of the 1970s. The other theme is that the left succeeded in presenting a vision of a more egalitarian and socially responsible society. The left may have had less success in this respect but its success has been considerable nonetheless.

I highlight figures like Henry George and Edward Bellamy, both journalists. Henry George wrote a bestselling economics tract called Progress and Poverty in 1879. He was very popular among the labour unionists. Edward Bellamy was a Christian Socialist who wrote Looking Backward. Published in 1888, it ranks with Uncle Toms Cabin as one of the most influential political novels of the 19th century. Bellamy’s followers were important figures in the populist movement of the 1890s and the Socialist Party in the early 20th century. These figures articulated an anti-corporate platform which continues to be influential even in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

Do you see the DNA of the abolitionists, suffragettes and other leftist forebears in today’s protest?

Yes, in many ways I do. There are different strands. Of course you have civil disobedience, which abolitionists were known for. You have nonviolence and a “beloved community”, which civil rights protesters were known for. And you have a very strong emphasis on the 99% being injured by the 1%, and a critique of American democracy as being corrupted by big money, that began in the late 19th century with people like George and Bellamy.

He goes on to talk about Marx and Engels, about Howard Zinn’s historical vision, and then Students for a Democratic Society, and finally Gene Sharp, who has also been cited as an important influence on the Arab Spring.

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm  Comments (3)  
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Music Mondays: Anarchist fado

Via Sam Geall’s Twitter, here is some rare anarchist fado.

According to the info on YouTube, this is a clip from the documentary Mariza and the Story of Fado.

Here are the lyrics: (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Le Chemin de la Liberte

Via Martin Black, I came across this article.

Part of the "Chemin de la Liberte" in the Pyrenees

Every year, hikers trek the “Chemin de la Liberte” in the Pyrenees, to commemorate the 800 or so Allied airmen and Jewish refugees who risked their lives on a 60km (40 miles) route escaping Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.

“The good escaper,” says a 1944 British military document called Tips for Escapers and Evaders, “is the man who keeps himself fit, cheerful and comfortable.”[...]

Reflect on what it was like, for example, to be shot down over Belgium when you are only 19 years old. Your parachute works – something of a surprise in itself, since you have had only the most rudimentary training – and when you land you find yourself behind enemy lines, with most of Nazi-occupied Europe between you and freedom.

You have to ask someone for help, even though you know they are risking their lives if they give it to you. And if you are lucky and they do not turn you in, there is still the long journey south to negotiate, past German checkpoints and patrols with, at the end of it all, the climb over these massive mountains.

Or think of the Jewish families who attempted the Pyrenees just one step ahead of arrest and deportation to the death camps.

I was told the story of a woman who carried her two-year-old daughter across in November snow. When the child cried in the cold their guide said she should be suffocated because the noise might alert the German patrols.

And what of the French helpers? One local supporter of the Chemin remembered his mother hiding escaping Allied airmen in her mountain bed and breakfast, where she was providing lodgings for German troops at the same time. (more…)

Keep calm, occupy, and have a pint

Let’s start with two snippets from the mainstream media. This morning on Radio 4, DJ Tayler, Orwell biographer, was talking about the Orwellian quest for the perfect pub. You can listen in some parts of the world here, or read about it here.

A roaring open fire. The bartender knows your name. Your pint of draught stout comes in a china cup. Did George Orwell have the recipe for the perfect pub?

Who knows who you might bump into in the perfect pub

… In an article written for the London Evening Standard in 1946, he produced a detailed description of his ideal watering-hole, The Moon Under Water, which “is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights”.

The Guardian has a nice photo gallery of posters from the Occupy movement, with an emphasis on the retro look. Here’s one:

Turning to the alternative, Entdinglichung has a round-up of the latest in German on the Marxist Internet Archive, as part of the on-going project of bringing socialistica to the masses.

He also introduces to a great archival website called Workerscontrol.net, which “aims to be a virtual open library for the collection and access to documentation and theoretical essays on past and current experiences of workers’ control”. Material in a few languages by Cornelius CastoriadisKen Coates & Tony TophamAntonio GramsciKarl KorschRosa LuxemburgErnest MandelPaul MattickAnton PannekoekOtto Rühle, and Leon Trotsky, as well as stuff like “The Universe of Worker-Recovered Companies in Argentina (2002-2008): Continuity and Changes Inside the Movement” and “The South London Women’s Hospital Occupation 1984-85“. Check it out.

But my favourite is this post of old papers, as it has a nice greeting to me, as well as nice newspaper images: (more…)

Music Mondays: Aurelio Martinez

Aurelio Martinez: Tio Sam

Aurelio Martinez, Garifuna musician and activist from Honduras, sings about migrants in the US. The album, Laru Beya, is on Real World, and is a tribute to the late, wonderful Andy Palacio. Part of it was recorded in Senegal, and the title, meaning “On the beach”, refers both to the coastal lives of the Garifuna and to the experience of seeing the coastal forts where Africans were taken out of the continent into New World slavery.

But by the time the Grammy-nominated album Watina was released in 2007 by his Belizean friend Andy Palacio, Aurelio was off the radar. He’d gone into politics – spending four years in the Honduran congress, the first   politician of African descent in the country’s history.

Four years was long enough: “Corruption, discrimination, everywhere. No one was interested in indigenous rights, only in getting rich. And I had no time for music,” he says. “But through music I can reach out to everyone.”

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Orwell v Huxley

From Flavorwire:

Although 1984 and Brave New World are hardly the only great dystopian novels of the 20th century (hi there, Margaret Atwood), George Orwell and Aldous Huxley may well have shaped most English-language readers’ nightmare visions of the future. So it makes sense to contrast Orwell’s world of constant war and government thought control with Huxley’s drug- and entertainment-pacified society. You may have done just that in a high-school paper, but the folks behind the documentary #Kill Switch have created a graphic that examines the ways in which each author’s predictions have come true over the past few years. Click here to see a larger version. [via BlackBook on Tumblr]

Published in: on November 15, 2011 at 11:42 am  Comments (1)  
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Polemics

I enjoyed this post by Alan A at Harry’s Place on the the Stalinist control of  “progressive” political space in Britain. Here’s an extract:

The Guardian’s Wykhamist associate editor, Seumas Milne,  cut his political teeth in the Straight Left faction of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Straight Left were “Tankies”: that is, hardline Stalinist opponents of the liberalising “Eurocommunist” faction within the CPGB. They were called “Tankies” becstdause they (notionally) supported the “liberation” (by tanks) of Hungary and Czechoslovakia from “counterrevolutionaries” in 1956 and 1968. Here’s Milne, demonstrating his lack of repentance:

For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment… Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.

Milne has helped to fill the comment pages of the Guardian with the supporters and representatives of genocidal antisemitic terrorist movements.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is run by Kate Hudson, who is a leading member of the Communist Party of Britain. The CPB is the Stalinist rump of the CPGB, which reconstituted itself after the Eurocommunist wing dissolved the party. CND itself previously contained a Stasi spy, Vic Allen, at its highest level.

Hudson was previously married to the late Redmond O’Neil, Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff, who was an activist in Socialist Action: which is what the Trotskyite International Marxist Group became after it infiltrated the Labour Party. Socialist Action controls the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Kate Allen, the Director of Amnesty International UK… Under her leadership, Amnesty has hosted a series of meetings promoting the delegitimisation and indeed the destruction of Israel, at which prominent anti-Jewish racists have spoken. Moreover, her team at Amnesty includes Elena Dallas the daughter of Tony Cliff: the founder of the Socialist Workers Party,

The Stop the War Coalition is run by Andrew Murray, also of the Communist Party of Britain. He is also the communications officer of the union, Unite. Famously, he is a supporter of North Korea:

“Our Party has already made its basic position of solidarity with Peoples Korea clear”

I could say more, but you get the general idea.

Stalinism watch:

From The Soviet Files: An American ‘Negro Republic’ – the Communist Secession plot; Paul Robeson, Stalinist;

More polemics:

The AWL versus the anarchists; Carl Packman vs Hugo Chavez.

Book notes:

A review (scroll down) of Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain by Dwight Macdonald (New York Review of Books, October 2011)

Unfortunately, like the political causes Macdonald championed—he was long-involved with the anti-Stalinist left and fancied himself an anarchist—history has not been kind to his cherished concept of Midcult. The cultural lines that Macdonald defended have mostly gone the way of the Berlin Wall, replaced by a heterogeneous culture of blended boundaries.

And from Socialist Review: A Rebel’s Guide to Rosa Luxemburg by Sally Campbell, Classic read – Studs Lonigan by James T Farrell.

History notes:

The AWL on the Clyde Workers’ Committee of 1915; Rosa Luxemburg on trade union bureaucracy; Paul Buhle on syndicalism;

From Entdinglichung:

Erklärung des Barrikade-Herausgebers zu den Ermittlungsverfahren wegen Rudolf Rocker, gefunden auf syndikalismus.tk, die Staatsanwaltschaft Münster hat das vom Rechthaber und bürgerlichen Kommunalpolitiker Heiner M. Becker angestrengte Verfahren gegen einen Genossen wegen angeblicher Verletzung Beckerscher Urheberrechte an Rudolf Rocker eingestellt, hier ein Auszug:

„Die Staatsanwaltschaft Münster hat umfängliche Untersuchungen angestellt und das gesamte Umfeld der FAU und der Internet-Plattform „Syndikalismus.tk“ ausgeleuchtet.

Was bleibt? Bösartige Verleumdung, nachweislich falsche Anschuldigungen, unbewiesene Behauptungen – und eine Staatsanwaltschaft, die nun eine dicke Akte über die aktuelle anarchosyndikalistische Szene („Bewegung“) vor sich liegen hat.

Dies hat nun zwar für mich keine weiteren strafrechtlichen Konsequenzen, aber der Schaden für unsere kleine Bewegung ist immens. Aus diesem Grunde verlange ich eine öffentliche Erklärung der FAU Berlin zu diesem Vorgang und die Übernahme sämtlicher Kosten, die durch diese Beschuldigung [strafrechtlich übrigens ebenso relevant lt. §§ 164 und 187 StGB wie eine Verletzung eines angeblichen Urheberrechts] entstanden sind, durch die Verursacher.

Ansonsten bleibt es dabei: weder Heiner M. Becker noch sonstwer hat die Rechte und private Verfügungsgewalt über das literarische und agitatorische Werk von Rudolf Rocker und seiner Frau Milly Wittkop-Rocker!“

bleibt anzumerken, dass die Schriften aller Revolutionäre der revolutionären Bewegung gehören, woran auch das Rumgepupe von angeblichen Eigentümern – ob sie nun Herr Becker oder Pathfinder Press heissen – nichts ändert!

From the US Marxist Humanists:

An assessment of the Arab Spring half a year later, in light of (1) the “clash of barbarisms” between the U.S. and Al Qaeda, (2) Marx’s concept of revolution, and (3) the possibilities for a revolutionary future Read More…

Marx’s writings on slavery, race, and class in relation to capital are examined in light of critics who paint him as a class reductionist with little awareness of or sensitivity to race

A hundred years ago today: Madero presidente

Today in 1911, Francisco Madero took over the presidency of Mexico, marking the victory of the democratic forces over the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, but also the defeat of the proletarian/peasant revolution by the capitalist class.

Listen: La Revolución Mexicana

 

Published in: on November 6, 2011 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Radikale

First, a link to a book review – A Hidden History of National Liberation: Ngo Van’s In the Crossfire, AK Press. Really interesting stuff.

Now, it’s good to have Entdinglichung back, who has this up:

More catching-up on old stuff recently made available online, today it is about stuff from France from groups „beyond“ stalinism and social democracy:

Bataille Socialiste reminds us, that a number of issues of the left-socialist underground journal L’Insurgé which was produced by a group in the Lyon area around Marie-Gabriel Fugère has been made available online by Gallica:

On La Presse Anarchiste:

* Two issues of Organisation Libertaire

* The first La Voix du travail , of the AIT, August 1926

* The first six issues of La Revue Anarchiste, 1929-1930

News stuff from the RaDAR from the vaults of the French section of the Fourth International:

* On the issue of „Trotskyist music, a 1947 songbook of the PCI in Bretagne, including Zimmerwald

* The first 14 issues of La Lutte de classes, the clandestine journal of Groupe communiste 1942-44, the group around Alexander Korner (Barta) which finally evolved into Lutte ouvrière

* From 1973 by the Ligue Communiste about contemporary fdascism and armed para-state units: Les bandes armées du pouvoir – 1 and Les bandes armées du pouvoir – 2

A number of new articles from BILAN on Collectif Smolny

And this:

Zunächst eine „Entschuldigung“, da es rein zeitlich und materiell nicht mehr leistbar ist, wird es in absehbarer Zukunft keine Updates mit dem Titel „Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und weniger radikalen) Linken“ mehr geben, stattdessen werde ich versuchen, mehr Qualität statt Quantität zu bringen und (thematisch mehr fokussiert) einzelne frisch online gestellte Archivalien vorzustellen, hier also drei Lesehinweise zur spanischen Revolution, gefunden aufLibCom:

Workers Against Work: Labor in Paris and Barcelona During the Popular Fronts (1991) von Michael Seidman ist inzwischen auch in deutscher Sprache erschienen (einen Auszug hier), die vollständige englischsprachige Fassung gibt es auf LibCom als pdf- oder html-Fassung

Class, Culture and Conflict in Barcelona, 1898-1937 (2005) von Chris Ealham

The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937-39 (1996) von Agustin Guilamòn

And, below the fold, some recent additions to the Marxist Internet Archive. (more…)

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