Elections, Power, and the DSA: The Failure of the Left in Power 1

A left-anarchist discusses the limitations of social democracy. Listen here.
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Illustration of Ocasio-Cortez flanked by DSA fist and image of crowd of workers with firsts united into one large first.

The discussion itself was very good, although I found the intro monologue to be something of a turn off in the sense that it sounded like a barrage of buzzwords and catchphrases (kind of like reciting the Apostles’ Creed in church). The point the guy being interviewed seemed to be making was “We should use grassroots direct action rather than electoral politics to A) get more free ice cream days and B ) oppose things leftists don’t like.” For instance, at one point he actually praises Nixon for creating the EPA and OSHA (“More centralized state bureaucracies! Yay! Vivia de Anarchia!”). He seems to be mostly regurgitating what David Graeber called “small ‘a’ anarchism” or “social movement anarchism.” In fact, he sounds a lot like what my anarchist friends and I would have been talking about 25-30 years ago.

I don’t think his point of view is “wrong” in the same sense that I don’t necessarily think Alexander Reid Ross’ “anarcho-MSNBC” perspective is “wrong” in the sense that it’s fine to have an anarchist tendency that’s merely about opposing Trump, the “far right” or official enemies of the US like Russia or Syria like Reid-Ross’ crowd, and it’s not “wrong” to have anarchist tendencies that are just about “social movement left-activism” like these “DSA anarchists” or whatever they are. But I view anarchist philosophy and politics as much bigger than all that.

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Turning Cynicism into Optimism 1

A review of Disaster Fitness: Make Your Demons Do the Work, by Ann Sterzinger and Ann Hedonia.

Disaster Fitness: Make Your Demons Do the Work by [Sterzinger, Ann, Hedonia, Ann]

By Keith Preston

I confess to having never been a fan of so-called “self-help” books. Mostly, these kinds of works have always struck me as having goofy titles and charlatans for authors, and nothing of any real value. Some years ago, I was involved with a company where my division head used to hand out copies of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, a quasi-Christian work written in 1952, for Christ’s sake (no pun intended). It was a book my supervisor seemed to think was vitally important for his staff members to read. The same guy used to hand out copies of books by Joel Osteen (WTF?). Most self-help books are based to some degree on the model that Peale made a fortune from in the mid-twentieth century. Just throw out a lot of cheery-sounding sloganeering, combined with some quasi-Christian or quasi-Buddhist or hippie New Age nonsense, plus some basic common sense ideas that everyone over the age of fifteen ought to be able to figure out anyway. Do all this while claiming to possess some special path to financial success, spiritual enlightenment, and good health, and you’ve got an instant best-seller so long as you’re willing to pay for advertising space in the National Enquirer.

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Political Naïveté (or what are we to do about Maoism) 4

By Aragorn

Anarchist Library

One of the reasons that anarchism has become a popular political perspective is because in many contexts (for instance mass mobilizations or broad direct action campaigns) we seem open, friendly, and nonsectarian. This is in great contrast to visible (and visibly) Marxist or Leftist organizations, which either seem like newspaper-selling robots or ancient thorny creatures entirely out of touch with the ambivalence of the modern political atmosphere. Anarchists seem to get that ambivalence and contest it with hope and enthusiasm rather than finger-wagging.

The public face of anarchism tends towards approachability and youth: kids being pepper-sprayed, the general assemblies of the occupy movement, and drum circles. These are the images of the past five years that stand in contrast to the image of anarchists as athletic black clad window breakers. Both are true (or as true as an image can be) and both demonstrate why a criticism of anarchists continues to be that (even at our best) we are politically naïve.

Of course very few window breakers believe that breaking windows means much beyond the scope of an insurance form or a janitorial task, but that is beside the point. What matters is that the politics of no demands makes the impossible task of intelligent political discourse in America even more complicated (by assuming that discourse is a Pyhrric act). To put the issue differently, the dialectical binary of both engaging in the social, dialogic, compromising act of public politics while asserting that there is no request of those-in-power worth stating or compromising on isn’t possible. It is cake-and-eat-it thinking that is exactly why Anarchists must do what Anarchist must do[1].

This rejection of how the game is played while participating in it hasn’t shown itself to be a long term strategy– impossible never is. For lessons on playing the game we have to turn to the winners of politics and revolution: neoliberalists, sure, but also statist Marxists, reactionaries (from racist populists to nationalist Know Nothings or their descendants in the Tea Party), and what remnants exist of the old and new Left. Just to make the point crystal clear I’ll restate it. On the one hand you have the ridiculous non- or even anti-strategy of anarchist political theater that cannot achieve the impossible goal of everything for everybody forever. On the other hand you have realpolitik: the pragmatic application of power in the political sphere. This simplistic dualism is why most intelligent people abandon politics altogether and retreat to NIMBYism (at best) or the quiet solitude of screaming at a television screen as the only expression of engagement with the outside world.

In this light, a discussion about maoism might seem outrageous and it is! Maoism isn’t a relevant political tendency or movement in America. It isn’t leading guerrilla forces in the hills, it has no leaders-in-waiting just outside the border (unless you count Avakian which you should in no way do), but it isn’t further from the mainstream of American political thought than Anarchism is (anarchist big tent populists to the contrary) and is arguably much closer (in an often cited example, the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan, is a former Maoist). More pointedly, Maoism and Anarchism have been cross-pollinating for decades. Our task here is to shine a light on that history and challenge what benefits anarchists have garnered from this little-discussed pollination.

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Anarcho-Coalitionism? 1

The meme below was recently posted on Facebook with the following comments by a proponent of “anarcho-coalitionism”:

#AnarchoCoalitionism is militant panarchy. It’s the only way forward. The elites LIKE the masses fighting amongst each other, and that doesn’t change, no matter how “woke” you are. You are not an island, and neither am I. Wanna win? Be #AnarchoCoalitionist.

Shake some hands. Find some agreements. You don’t have to compromise to move forward. But working with many you called “enemies” is going to be a first step.

And to anyone who sees this, feel free to use the banner pic.

They call it a banner for a reason, and the more people flying it, the more obvious it will be that we are coming, we are many, and we are not going away.

Image may contain: text

I responded with the following comments:

I’ve been thinking and writing about these kinds of ideas for years. I think the first problem is that there are too few anarchists at present for anarchism to exercise any real impact on the wider society, so anarchists tend to spend a lot of time in their own ideological enclaves fighting with each other. A second problem is that many anarchists of the hyphenated varieties are essentially the hyphens first and anarchists second. So the first goal probably needs to be to grow the number of anarchists of whatever kind, period.

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What’s the Point of this Pan-Anarchist Revolution Thing, Anyway? 12

A reader on Facebook offers the following comments, and asks the following questions.

I’m not so sure how realistic sustained statelessness is without severe technological regression and economic collapse, but the obvious answer is that the vast majority of people would rather bask in the lazy comforts of delegated responsibility than take on the burdens and risks of freedom. The mantle of anarchism is often taken up as an immature pose that is rationalized after the fact, usually quite badly, before being discarded with age for whatever underlying tribal affiliation existed in the first place. It’s a knee-jerk rebellion against constraints on the self, for good or ill, and a justification for engaging in unreasonable or criminal behaviors whose motives are ultimately more personal than political.

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The Bankruptcy of the American Left 2

Kudos to Chris Hedges. This is as good an analysis as I would ever expect from someone on the Left. This is a fairly straightforward Marxist analysis within a social democratic ideological framework. But he knows who the real enemy is.

By Chris Hedges

Truthdig

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The Alt-Right is Gay 5

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Gay.

One thing about European New Right philosophy that I think is right is that America is a completely separate culture and civilization from Europe even if it is a derivitive in many ways. Interestingly, North American New Righters try to be more European culturally and intellectually even if many of them are Americans by birth and citizenship. That said, as the demographic change continues and whites become just another minority I don’t see how white nationalists will not become even weirder to most Americans or not be a right wing version of the creepy cross dressing homo plastic surgery freaks of leftist identity politics groups with their own bizarre subcultures and idiosyncracies. I am just not convinced that a high brow, intellectual, racialist counter culture is going to achieve intellectual hegemony in US cultural institutions and then trickle down from the Alternative Bourgeoisie to the white masses to forma zee Eudapean Amedikin Etno Homozexuelle State.

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