The Dissolution of the Anarchist Milieu

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 09/08/2009 - 2:46pm.

While given no reason not to remain optimistic about the advancement of the anarchist political project in North America, we must conclude that such a task can only be accomplished by the dissolution of the anarchist milieu. To quote our French comrades...

"Far more dreadful are social milieus, with their supple texture, their gossip, and their informal hierarchies. Flee all milieus. Each and every milieu is orientated towards the neutralization of some truth. Literary circles exist to smother the clarity of writing. Anarchist milieus to blunt the directness of direct action. Scientific milieus to withhold the implications of their research from the majority of people today. Sport milieus to contain in their gyms the various forms of life they should create. Particularly to be avoided are the cultural and activist circles. They are the old people's homes where all revolutionary desires traditionally go to die. The task of cultural circles is to spot nascent intensities and to explain away the sense of whatever it is you're doing, while the task of activist circles is to sap your energy for doing it. Activist milieus spread their diffuse web throughout the French territory, and are encountered on the path of every revolutionary development. They offer nothing but the story of their many defeats and the bitterness these have produced. Their exhaustion has made them incapable of seizing the possibilities of the present. Besides, to nurture their wretched passivity they talk far too much and this makes them unreliable when it comes to the police. Just as it's useless to expect anything from them, it's stupid to be disappointed by their sclerosis. It's best to just abandon this dead weight."

How will such a dissolution occur? We hope to seek an answer to this dilemma.

"Social War"

Those who preach "social war" are seldom the ones who practice it. Their declarations of war, "social" or otherwise, seldom echo outside the cramped quarters of their incestuous social scene. If the concept of social war is to be greeted with anything but ridicule, every social forum must be viewed as terrain, in a quite literal sense. However, even before the battle lines are drawn, our "social warriors" concede virtually all social territory. In doing so, they are social surrenderers. Their flag appears black, yet it is in fact white.

Thus, with contentiousness towards tact and prudence, we must inject our rallying cry into every social encounter…not just punk, hip-hop, and metal shows, but yard sales, barbershops, cervecerías, Civil War reenactments, Black Muslim mosques, Unitarian-Universalist churches, skate parks, county fairs, motorcycle clubs, surf meets, sports leagues, poker and D&D tables, family reunions, town-council meetings, 4th of July barbecues…why not? Decades ago, in the Deep South, the social war was waged on the bus. What ended as a bus boycott, as a campaign by the mediators and professional activists to win this or that legal right, began as a spontaneous urge to halt the gears of daily life, to confront the oppressor immediately and directly, to seize terrain in a genuine social war.

"Food Not Bombs"

The catch-phrase "Food Not Bombs" epitomizes our dysfunction. Neither our dutiful social activists, nor our nihilist-insurrectionist posturers, can conceive of the network of un-centralized, autonomous food programs that we've created in the US as a tactic of war, a strategic advantage, a military campaign, as the Black Panthers and so many others once did. Even the majority of anarchists, who reject the false dichotomy between "food" and "bombs", usually fail to view these two facets of live as one and the same, usually fail to view the division between the two as totally false.

In naming our soup kitchens "food not bombs", (or any other name which, in the future, may become synonymous with our efforts) we announce our presence, declare our positions to the enemy. We've allowed the marketing strategies of chain-restaurants to pollute and colonize our thinking. We dream of a "Food Not Bombs" on every corner instead of a Pizza Hut or Starbucks.

Such dreams must be shattered. Our social fronts must remain anonymous, clandestine. Our food programs must not exist merely to serve the impoverished, to allow them to survive another day of exploitation. We must call upon the tradition of the Witches' Sabbat (which was, at one point, so feared by the European ruling-class, that public feasts were entirely outlawed) in recognizing the ritual of public meals as a ritual of social binding, of weaving together once-isolated strands.

Our signs must simply read "free food" - our discussions of revolt and rebellion reserved for our table conversation.

Leaderless Resistance and Our Labels

In the US, we have a good habit of taking the principles of leaderless resistance to heart. However, we also suffer from anal-retentive attachment to the labels given to our leaderless resistance, even after they are long discredited and worn out past any conceivable practical usefulness. The history of phrases such as "Black Bloc" and "Anti-Racist Action" are a testament to this. Some labels, such as "ELF", still strike fear into our enemies, growing in psychological power with every use like a snowball rolling down a cliff. Others have become a laughing stock, and must be discarded like ballast on a hot-air balloon.

The capitalists know the right moment to adjust their public image - American International Group CEO Edward Liddy remarked quite frankly that "the AIG name is so thoroughly wounded and disgraced that we're probably going to have to change it". (a statement that, in the wake of recent events, applies also to anarchist brandnames such as "APOC" and "Crimethinc".)

Wal-Mart recently gave themselves a face-lift, stocking their shelves with "organics", replacing cheap linoleum and florescent lights with natural lighting and wood panels, painting their once-sterile walls a warm golden color, altering their logo from stark lettering and an impetuous smiley-face to a soft, lower-case font and an ambiguous asterisk, saturating the airwaves with statements regarding their company's compassionate position on outsourcing and universal healthcare. Yet Wal-Mart is still Wal-Mart. And we anarchists would still be anarchists if we recognized the failure of the self-image we have projected onto the public over the last decade.

Activism as Addiction

Recent events have affirmed our long-held perception that much of our well-meaning comrades' actions are governed not by tactical expediency but a desire for emotional gratification. We have felt the pressure to alleviate the constant nag of guilt, to respond in full to the obvious urgency of the global political crisis, to earn status amongst activist circles as one who is "committed to the cause", "dedicated" and "hardcore", to ensure our legacy as class warriors. We know from first-hand experience that this pressure builds up, like unreleased sexual tension.

Robert Crumb once remarked that the male psyche is divided into two phases: pre-orgasm and post-orgasm. So too is the activist psyche divided, between the moments before our poorly-planned poorly-rationalized actions are carried out, and the moments after. The adrenaline rush we experience is the climatic thrill we've sought. But afterward, the same sense of shame and lethargy kicks in as we imagine is felt when Crumb the Catholic finishes ejaculating to pornography.

APOC/Crimethinc and Seinfeld

Our first-hand participation in "activist" thrill-seeking behavior infuriated our parents (partly the response we were seeking, obviously) yet merely amused our grandparents. One grandfather remarked upon accounts of our shenanigans; "it made me laugh, it sounded like an episode of Seinfeld".

These words echoed through our mind as we heard the recent news from Pittsburgh. The event in its totality; the convergence, the disruption, the response…it was all so Seinfeldian. like an episode of Seinfeld, we couldn't help but laugh uncontrollably despite the obvious banality of what's being presented. Like an episode of Seinfeld, we couldn't help, as we looked on and laughed, but feel a jetting sense of anxiety, anxiety over the crippling neurosis prevailing in the social nuances of the modern era. Like an episode of Seinfeld, our laughter was our only way of coping with the stress and trauma. Like an episode of Seinfeld, even the most restrained and sophisticated-sounding analysis of the situation must eschew the pretense of grandiose, poetic, sweeping denunciations of our society's great evils, in favor of a focus on the petty, banal subtleties of our daily interactions in this metropolitan hell.

Like an episode of Seinfeld, we wanted to forget it, but as we struggled at night to calm ourselves into a deep sound sleep, we couldn't stop our mind from playing it over and over in our heads.

The Rupture…

What we witnessed in Pittsburgh was the violent rupture, the birth-pangs of a catastrophic disintegration of the anarchist social milieu in the US, the painful realization that our current counterculture is nothing more than a nerdy subculture with little capability of relating to the outside world, the sinking feeling of discovering that our actions up until this point have been under the control of our most dangerous emotional desires.

Yes, after years of being taught to "liberate our desires", we've learned the painful way that many of our desires, when realized, strengthen our enemy's position. Had Frodo Baggins liberated his desire, we the reader would have beheld his mind fully conquered by the sway of Sauron, his body transformed into a diseased husk of its former-self, like Gollum, slobbering and whimpering in a heap of self-pity and unfocused hatred.

Like Frodo, we cannot turn back. We cannot look back even for a second as we toss the ring into the cracks of doom. Bookchinism, White Guilt, and Post-Left Nihilism are no longer viable options for us, we can never return to them, lest we suffer the same fate as Lot's Wife. We've seen the movement manifested as as a historical reenactment, as a workplace diversity-training seminar, as a Halo tournament. We want something else, even if it's not "the movement" anymore…

How to Proceed….

The skills we need to survive in the years ahead will not be learned at a 15-minute workshop. Our most meaningful alliances will not be forged with strangers at conferences, strangers who will jet away from our lives once the weekend's done. Our victory over the pervasiveness of patriarchy and imperialism will not be won with p.o.c. caucuses or consent workshops, but with our constant refusal to allow the social foundations of industrial capitalism to operate on any level.

Gelderloosian anti-pacifism, which finds its home in every senseless violent outburst, from al-Q©©idah attacks to the popularity of violent video games, is a strategic playbook we can no longer cling to. Banging our heads against the walls of our cells has proven only to give us brain damage.

Bookchin's "unbridgeable chasm", cleansed of its industrial, modernist, and anti-individualist bias, can only be interpreted as a generational chasm, a chasm our parents, the Baby Boomers, began digging years ago, and which we continue to dig to this day. However, with the mounds of dirt we have unearthed, we may instead finally bury the gargoyles of the recent past; the "anti-capitalist" apologia for all things capitalist, the stilted, inorganic, patronizing quality of our attempts at inter-ethnic interactions, the naïveté, the unbridled hedonism…

The real tragedy of the 1960s was not what our enemies destroyed, (which can always be rebuilt) but what we allowed to flourish. The hippies dropped acid, whereas we must only "drop" that which truly heals us. The hippies sought to "freak out" the "squares", whereas we must seek to blend in. The hippies studied the Beatles, whereas we must study classical literature. The hippies worshiped Discordia, whereas we must worship Athena, Demeter, and Artemis. The hippies practiced free love. We must practice tough love.

We must forget the "Facebook" model of social organizing - of patting ourselves on the shoulder over the hundreds of loosely-knit social connections we've made, fair weather allies we've won. As a comedian once remarked, those hundreds of Facebook friends are never going to show up to help you move….we must abandon all pretense of compromising with the "local" and "green" capitalists, the NGOs, the social-activist bureaucracies - we know what we need, and it isn't what they want.

Every hour we waste building up their projects is an hour that could be spent creating the conditions of communism, building an adult anarchist resistance in the US. We are already adults, but our society has tricked us into believing we are children. Our adult lives start now.

In Short...

In short, we have been lied to all these years about what will happen if we create an immediate functioning alternative to the capitalist mode of life. We've been told by the Leninists and other professional activists that this would lead to the total alienation of our efforts from the masses. However, after careful analysis and self-reflection, we must conclude that "the masses" is a prison that holds the individual members it is comprised of, a prison that we ourselves are no less a part of…the only difference is that we are the prisoners that have chosen to lash out. While this difference is crucial, we must not view it as a position of moral or ethical superiority, but rather a practical consideration. That we wish to separate ourselves from "the masses" is perfectly normal and healthy, it's only a matter of how many of our comrades, our friends and neighbors, our families, those we love, how many we can smuggle with us in our attempt to tunnel out of this utterly psychotic mass-society.

September 8, 2009 - posted at ShiftShapers.GNN

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 09/08/2009 - 2:46pm.