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Monday, September 01 2014 @ 11:18 PM CDT

David Graeber: The Shock of Victory

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The biggest problem facing direct action movements is that we don’t know how to handle victory.

This might seem an odd thing to say because of a lot of us haven’t been feeling particularly victorious of late. Most anarchists today feel the global justice movement was kind of a blip: inspiring, certainly, while it lasted, but not a movement that succeeded either in putting down lasting organizational roots or transforming the contours of power in the world. The anti-war movement was even more frustrating, since anarchists and anarchist tactics were largely marginalized. The war will end, of course, but that’s just because wars always do. No one is feeling they contributed much to it.

THE SHOCK OF VICTORY

by David Graeber

The biggest problem facing direct action movements is that we don’t know how to handle victory.

This might seem an odd thing to say because of a lot of us haven’t been feeling particularly victorious of late. Most anarchists today feel the global justice movement was kind of a blip: inspiring, certainly, while it lasted, but not a movement that succeeded either in putting down lasting organizational roots or transforming the contours of power in the world. The anti-war movement was even more frustrating, since anarchists and anarchist tactics were largely marginalized. The war will end, of course, but that’s just because wars always do. No one is feeling they contributed much to it.

I want to suggest an alternative interpretation. Let me lay out three initial propositions here:

1) Odd though it may seem, the ruling classes live in fear of us. They appear to still be haunted by the possibility that, if average Americans really get wind of what they’re up to, they might all end up hanging from trees. It know it seems implausible but it’s hard to come up with any other explanation for the way they go into panic mode the moment there is any sign of mass mobilization, and especially mass direct action, and usually try to distract attention by starting some kind of war.

2) In a way this panic is justified. Mass direct action—especially when organized on democratic lines—is incredibly effective. Over the last thirty years in America, there have been only two instances of mass action of this sort: the anti-nuclear movement in the late ‘70s, and the so called “anti-globalization” movement from roughly 1999-2001. In each case, the movement’s main political goals were reached far more quickly than almost anyone involved imagined possible.

3) The real problem such movements face is that they always get taken by surprise by the speed of their initial success. We are never prepared for victory. It throws us into confusion. We start fighting each other. The ratcheting of repression and appeals to nationalism that inevitably accompanies some new round of war mobilization then plays into the hands of authoritarians on every side of the political spectrum. As a result, by the time the full impact of our initial victory becomes clear, we’re usually too busy feeling like failures to even notice it.

Let me take the two most prominent examples case by case:

I: THE ANTI-NUCLEAR MOVEMENT

The anti-nuclear movement of the late ‘70s marked the first appearance in North America of what we now consider standard anarchist tactics and forms of organization: mass actions, affinity groups, spokescouncils, consensus process, jail solidarity, the very principle of decentralized direct democracy. It was all somewhat primitive, compared to now, and there were significant differences—notably a much stricter, Gandhian-style conceptions of non-violence—but all the elements were there and it was the first time they had come together as a package. For two years, the movement grew with amazing speed and showed every sign of becoming a nation-wide phenomenon. Then almost as quickly, it distintegrated.

It all began when, in 1974, some veteran peaceniks turned organic farmers in New England successfully blocked construction of a proposed nuclear power plant in Montague, Massachusetts. In 1976, they joined with other New England activists, inspired by the success of a year-long plant occupation in Germany, to create the Clamshell Alliance. Clamshell’s immediate goal was to stop construction of a proposed nuclear power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire. While the alliance never ended up managing an occupation so much as a series of dramatic mass-arrests, combined with jail solidarity, their actions—involving, at peak, tens of thousands of people organized on directly democratic lines—succeeded in throwing the very idea of nuclear power into question in a way it had never been before. Similar coalitions began springing up across the country: the Palmetto alliance in South Carolina, Oystershell in Maryland, Sunflower in Kansas, and most famous of all, the Abalone Alliance in California, reacting originally to a completely insane plan to build a nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon, almost directly on top of a major geographic fault line.

Clamshell first three mass actions, in 1976 and 1977, were wildly successful. But it soon fell into crisis over questions of democratic process. In May 1978, a newly created Coordinating Committee violated process to accept a last-minute government offer for a three-day legal rally at Seabrook instead of a planned fourth occupation (the excuse was reluctance to alienate the surrounding community). Acrimonious debates began about consensus and community relations, which then expanded to the role of non-violence (even cutting through fences, or defensive measures like gas masks, had originally been forbidden), gender bias, and so on. By 1979 the alliance split into two contending, and increasingly ineffective, factions, and after many delays, the Seabrook plant (or half of it anyway) did go into operation. The Abalone Alliance lasted longer, until 1985, in part because its strong core of anarcha-feminists, but in the end, Diablo Canyon too got its license and went into operation in December 1988.

On the surface this doesn’t sound too inspiring. But what was the movement really trying to achieve? It might helpful here to map out its full range of goals:

1) Short-Term Goals: to block construction of the particular nuclear plant in question (Seabrook, Diablo Canyon…)

2) Medium-Term Goals: to block construction of all new nuclear plants, delegitimize the very idea of nuclear power and begin moving towards conservation and green power, and legitimate new forms of non-violent resistance and feminist-inspired direct democracy

3) Long-Term Goals: (at least for the more radical elements) smash the state and destroy capitalism

If so the results are clear. Short-term goals were almost never reached. Despite numerous tactical victories (delays, utility company bankruptcies, legal injunctions) the plants that became the focus of mass action all ultimately went on line. Governments simply cannot allow themselves to be seen to lose in such a battle. Long-term goals were also obviously not obtained. But one reason they weren’t is that the medium-term goals were all reached almost immediately. The actions did delegitimize the very idea of nuclear power—raising public awareness to the point that when Three Mile Island melted down in 1979, it doomed the industry forever. While plans for Seabrook and Diablo Canyon might not have been cancelled, just about every other then-pending plan to build a nuclear reactor was, and no new ones have been proposed for a quarter century. There was indeed a more towards conservation, green power, and a legitimizing of new democratic organizing techniques. All this happened much more quickly than anyone had really anticipated.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see most of the subsequent problems emerged directly from the very speed of the movement’s success. Radicals had hoped to make links between the nuclear industry and the very nature of the capitalist system that created it. As it turns out, the capitalist system proved more than willing to jettison the nuclear industry the moment it became a liability. Once giant utility companies began claiming they too wanted to promote green energy, effectively inviting what we’d now call the NGO types to a space at the table, there was an enormous temptation to jump ship. Especially because many of them only allied with more radical groups so as to win themselves a place at the table to begin with.

The inevitable result was a series of heated strategic debates. But it’s impossible to understand this though without first understanding that strategic debates, within directly democratic movements, are rarely conducted as such. They almost always take the form of debates about something else. Take for instance the question of capitalism. Anti-capitalists are usually more than happy to discuss their position on the subject. Liberals on the other hand really don’t like to have to say “actually, I am in favor of maintaining capitalism”, so whenever possible, they try to change the subject. So debates that are actually about whether to directly challenge capitalism usually end up getting argued out as if they were short-term debates about tactics and non-violence. Authoritarian socialists or others who are suspicious of democracy itself don’t like to make that an issue either, and prefer to discuss the need to create the broadest possible coalitions. Those who do like democracy but feel a group is taking the wrong strategic direction often find it much more effective to challenge its decision-making process than to challenge its actual decisions.

There is another factor here that is even less remarked, but I think equally important. Everyone knows that faced with a broad and potentially revolutionary coalition, any governments’ first move will be to try to split in it. Making concessions to placate the moderates while selectively criminalizing the radicals—this is Art of Governance 101. The US government, though, is in possession of a global empire constantly mobilized for war, and this gives it another option that most governments do not. Those running it can, pretty much any time they like, decide to ratchet up the level of violence overseas. This has proved a remarkably effective way to defuse social movements founded around domestic concerns. It seems no coincidence that the civil rights movement was followed by major political concessions and a rapid escalation of the war in Vietnam; that the anti-nuclear movement was followed by the abandonment of nuclear power and a ramping up of the Cold War, with Star Wars programs and proxy wars in Afghanistan and Central America; that the Global Justice Movement was followed by the collapse the Washington consensus and the War on Terror. As a result early SDS had to put aside its early emphasis on participatory democracy to become a mere anti-war movement; the anti-nuclear movement morphed into a nuclear freeze movement; the horizontal structures of DAN and PGA gave way to top-down mass organizations like ANSWER and UFPJ. From the point of view of government the military solution does have its risks. The whole thing can blow up in one’s face, as it did in Vietnam (hence the obsession, at least since the first Gulf War to design a war that was effectively protest-proof.) There is also always a small risk some miscalculation will accidentally trigger a nuclear Armageddon and destroy the planet. But these are risks politicians faced with civil unrest appear to have normally been more than willing to take—if only because directly democratic movements genuinely scare them, while anti-war movements are their preferred adversary. States are, after all, ultimately forms of violence. For them, changing the argument to one about violence is taking things back to their home turf, what they really prefer to talk about. Organizations designed either to wage, or to oppose, wars will always tend to be more hierarchically organized than those designed with almost anything else in mind. This is certainly what happened in the case of the anti-nuclear movement. While the anti-war mobilizations of the ‘80s turned out far larger numbers than Clamshell or Abalone ever had, but it also marked a return to marching along with signs, permitted rallies, and abandoning experiments with new forms of direct democracy.

II: THE GLOBAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT

I’ll assume our gentle reader is broadly familiar with the actions at Seattle, IMF-World Bank blockades six months later in Washington at A16, and so on.

In the US, the movement flared up so quickly and dramatically even the media could not completely dismiss it. It also quickly started eating itself. Direct Action Networks were founded in almost every major city in America. While some of these (notably Seattle and L.A. DAN) were reformist, anti-corporate, and fans of strict non-violence codes, most (like New York and Chicago DAN) were overwhelmingly anarchist and anti-capitalist, and dedicated to diversity of tactics. Other cities (Montreal, Washington D.C.) created even more explicitly anarchist Anti-Capitalist Convergences. The anti-corporate DANs dissolved almost immediately, but very few lasted more than a couple years. There were endless and bitter debates: about non-violence, about summit-hopping, about racism and privilege issues, about the viability of the network model. Then there was 9/11, followed by a huge increase up of the level of repression and resultant paranoia, and the panicked flight of almost all our former allies among unions and NGOs. By Miami, in 2003, it seemed like we’d been put to rout, and a paralysis swept over the movement from which we’ve only recently started to recover.

September 11th was such a weird event, such a catastrophe, that it makes it almost impossible for us to perceive anything else around it. In its immediate aftermath, almost all of the structures created in the globalization movement collapsed. But one reason it was so easy for them to collapse was—not just that war seemed such an immediately more pressing concern—but that once again, in most of our immediate objectives, we’d already, unexpectedly, won.

Myself, I joined NYC DAN right around the time of A16. At the time DAN as a whole saw itself as a group with two major objectives. One was to help coordinate the North American wing of a vast global movement against neoliberalism, and what was then called the Washington Consensus, to destroy the hegemony of neoliberal ideas, stop all the new big trade agreements (WTO, FTAA), and to discredit and eventually destroy organizations like the IMF. The other was to disseminate a (very much anarchist-inspired) model of direct democracy: decentralized, affinity-group structures, consensus process, to replace old-fashioned activist organizing styles with their steering committees and ideological squabbles. At the time we sometimes called it “contaminationism”, the idea that all people really needed was to be exposed to the experience of direct action and direct democracy, and they would want to start imitating it all by themselves. There was a general feeling that we weren’t trying to build a permanent structure; DAN was just a means to this end. When it had served its purpose, several founding members explained to me, there would be no further need for it. On the other hand these were pretty ambitious goals, so we also assumed even if we did attain them, it would probably take at least a decade.

As it turned out it took about a year and a half.

Obviously we failed to spark a social revolution. But one reason we never got to the point of inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to rise up was, again, that we achieved our other goals so quickly. Take the question of organization. While the anti-war coalitions still operate, as anti-war coalitions always do, as top-down popular front groups, almost every small-scale radical group that isn’t dominated by Marxist sectarians of some sort or another—and this includes anything from organizations of Syrian immigrants in Montreal or community gardens in Detroit—now operate on largely anarchist principles. They might not know it. But contaminationism worked. Alternately, take the domain of ideas. The Washington consensus lies in ruins. So much so it’s hard no to remember what public discourse in this country was even like before Seattle. Rarely have the media and political classes been so completely unanimous about anything. That “free trade”, “free markets”, and no-holds-barred supercharged capitalism was the only possible direction for human history, the only possible solution for any problem was so completely assumed that anyone who cast doubt on the proposition was treated as literally insane. Global justice activists, when they first forced themselves into the attention of CNN or Newsweek, were immediately written off as reactionary lunatics. A year or two later, CNN and Newsweek were saying we’d won the argument.

Usually when I make this point in front of anarchist crowds someone immediately objects: “well, sure, the rhetoric has changed, but the policies remain the same.”

This is true in a manner of speaking. That is to say, it’s true that we didn’t destroy capitalism. But we (taking the “we” here as the horizontalist, direct-action oriented wing of the planetary movement against neoliberalism) did arguably deal it a bigger blow in just two years than anyone since, say, the Russian Revolution.

Let me take this point by point

·FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS. All the ambitious free trade treaties planned since 1998 have failed, The MAI was routed; the FTAA, focus of the actions in Quebec City and Miami, stopped dead in its tracks. Most of us remember the 2003 FTAA summit mainly for introducing the “Miami model” of extreme police repression even against obviously non-violent civil resistance. It was that. But we forget this was more than anything the enraged flailings of a pack of extremely sore losers—Miami was the meeting where the FTAA was definitively killed. Now no one is even talking about broad, ambitious treaties on that scale. The US is reduced to pushing for minor country-to-country trade pacts with traditional allies like South Korea and Peru, or at best deals like CAFTA, uniting its remaining client states in Central America, and it’s not even clear it will manage to pull off that.

·THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION. After the catastrophe (for them) in Seattle, organizers moved the next meeting to the Persian Gulf island of Doha, apparently deciding they would rather run the risk of being blown up by Osama bin Laden than having to face another DAN blockade. For six years they hammered away at the “Doha round”. The problem was that, emboldened by the protest movement Southern governments began insisting they would no longer agree open their borders to agricultural imports from rich countries unless those rich countries at least stopped pouring billions of dollars of subsidies at their own farmers, thus ensuring Southern farmers couldn’t possibly compete. Since the US in particular had no intention of itself making any of the sort of sacrifices it demanded of the rest of the world, all deals were off. In July 2006, Pierre Lamy, head of the WTO, declared the Doha round dead and at this point no one is even talking about another WTO negotiation for at least two years—at which point the organization might very possibly not exist.

·THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND AND WORLD BANK. This is the most amazing story of all. The IMF is rapidly approaching bankruptcy, and it is a direct result of the worldwide mobilization against them. To put the matter bluntly: we destroyed it. The World Bank is not doing all that much better. But by the time the full effects were felt, we weren’t even paying attention.

This last story is worth telling in some detail, so let me leave the indented section here for a moment and continue in the main text:

The IMF was always the arch-villain of the struggle. It is the most powerful, most arrogant, most pitiless instrument through which neoliberal policies have, for the last 25 years been imposed on the poorer countries of the global South, basically, by manipulating debt. In exchange for emergency refinancing, the IMF would demand “structural adjustment programs” that forced massive cuts in health, education, price supports on food, and endless privatization schemes that allowed foreign capitalists to buy up local resources at firesale prices. Structural adjustment never somehow worked to get countries back on their feet economically, but that just meant they remained in crisis, and the solution was always to insist on yet another round of structural adjustment.

The IMF had another, less celebrated, role: of global enforcer. It was their job to ensure that no country (no matter how poor) could ever be allowed to default on loans to Western bankers (no matter how foolish). Even if a banker were to offer a corrupt dictator a billion dollar loan, and that dictator placed it directly in his Swiss bank account and fled the country, the IMF would ensure billion dollars (plus generous interest) would have to be extracted from his former victims. If a country did default, for any reason, the IMF could impose a credit boycott whose economic effects were roughly comparable to that of a nuclear bomb. (All this flies in the face of even elementary economic theory, whereby those lending money are supposed to be accepting a certain degree of risk, but in the world of international politics, economic laws are only held to be binding on the poor.) This role was their downfall.

What happened was that Argentina defaulted and got away with it. In the ‘90s, Argentina had been the IMF’s star pupil in Latin America—they had literally privatized every public facility except the customs bureau. Then in 2002, the economy crashed. The immediate results we all know: battles in the streets, popular assemblies, the overthrow of three governments in one month, road blockades, occupied factories… “Horizontalism”—broadly anarchist principles—were at the core of popular resistance. The political class was so completely discredited that politicians were obliged to put on wigs and phony mustaches to be able to eat in restaurants without being physically attacked. When Nestor Kirchner, a moderate social democrat, took power in 2003, he knew he had to do something dramatic in order to get most of the population even to accept even the idea of having a government, let alone his own. So he did. He did, in fact, the one thing no one in that position is ever supposed to do. He defaulted on Argentina’s foreign debt.

Actually Kirchner was quite clever about it. He did not default on his IMF loans. He defaulted on Argentina’s private debt, announcing that for all outstanding loans, he would only pay 25 cents on the dollar. Citibank and Chase of course went to the IMF, their accustomed enforcer, to demand punishment. But for the first time in its history, the IMF balked. First of all, with Argentina’s economy already in ruins, even the economic equivalent of a nuclear bomb would do little more than make the rubble bounce. Second of all, just about everyone was aware it was the IMF’s disastrous advice that set the stage for Argentina’s crash in the first place. Third and most decisively, this was at the very height of the impact of the global justice movement: the IMF was already the most hated institution on the planet, and willfully destroying what little remained of the Argentine middle class would have been pushing things just a little bit too far.

So Argentina was allowed to get away with it. After that, everything changed. Brazil and Argentina together arranged to pay back their outstanding debt to the IMF itself. With a little help from Chavez, so did the rest of the continent. In 2003, Latin American IMF debt stood at $49 billion. Now it’s $694 million. To put that in perspective: that’s a decline of 98.6%. For every thousand dollars owed four years ago, Latin America now owes fourteen bucks. Asia followed. China and India now both have no outstanding debt to the IMF and refuse to take out new loans. The boycott now includes Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and pretty much every other significant regional economy. Also Russia. The Fund is reduced to lording it over the economies of Africa, and maybe some parts of the Middle East and former Soviet sphere (basically those without oil). As a result its revenues have plummeted by 80% in four years. In the irony of all possible ironies, it’s increasingly looking like the IMF will go bankrupt if they can’t find someone willing to bail them out. Neither is it clear there’s anyone particularly wants to. With its reputation as fiscal enforcer in tatters, the IMF no longer serves any obvious purpose even for capitalists. There’s been a number of proposals at recent G8 meetings to make up a new mission for the organization—a kind of international bankruptcy court, perhaps—but all ended up getting torpedoed for one reason or another. Even if the IMF does survive, it has already been reduced to a cardboard cut-out of its former self.

The World Bank, which early on took on the role of good cop, is in somewhat better shape. But emphasis here must be placed on the word “somewhat”—as in, its revenue has only fallen by 60%, not 80%, and there are few actual boycotts. On the other hand the Bank is currently being kept alive largely by the fact India and China are still willing to deal with it, and both sides know that, so it is no longer in much of a position to dictate terms.

Obviously, all of this does not mean all the monsters have been slain. In Latin America, neoliberalism might be on the run, but China and India are carrying out devastating “reforms” within their own countries, European social protections are under attack, and most of Africa, despite much hypocritical posturing on the part of the Bonos and rich countries of the world, is still locked in debt, and now also facing a new colonization by China. The US, its economic power retreating in most of the world, is frantically trying to redouble its grip over Mexico and Central America. We’re not living in utopia. But we already knew that. The question is why we never noticed our victories.

Olivier de Marcellus, a PGA activist from Switzerland, points to one reason: whenever some element of the capitalist system takes a hit, whether it’s the nuclear industry or the IMF, some leftist journal will start explaining to us that really, this is all part of their plan—or maybe, an effect of the inexorable working out of the internal contradictions of capital, but certainly, nothing for which we ourselves are in any way responsible. Even more important, perhaps, is our reluctance to even say the word “we”. The Argentine default, wasn’t that really engineered by Nestor Kirchner? What does he have to do with the globalization movement? I mean, it’s not as if his hands were forced by thousands of citizens were rising up, smashing banks, and replacing the government with popular assemblies coordinated by the IMC. Or, well, okay, maybe it was. Well, in that case, those citizens were People of Color in the Global South. How can “we” take responsibility for their actions? Never mind that they mostly saw themselves as part of the same global justice movement as us, espoused similar ideas, wore similar clothes, used similar tactics, in many cases even belonged to the same confederacies or organizations. Saying “we” here would imply the primal sin of speaking for others.

Myself, I think it’s reasonable for a global movement to consider its accomplishments in global terms. These are not inconsiderable. Yet just as with the anti-nuclear movement, they were almost all focused on the middle term. Let me map out a similar hierarchy of goals:

1) Short-Term Goals: blockade and shut down particular summit meetings (IMF, WTO, G8, etc)

2) Medium-Term Goals: destroy the “Washington Consensus” around neoliberalism, block all new trade pacts, delegitimize and ultimately shut down institutions like the WTO, IMF, and World Bank; disseminate new models of direct democracy.

3) Long-Term Goals: (at least for the more radical elements) smash the state and destroy capitalism.

Here again, we find the same pattern. After the miracle of Seattle, short term—tactical—goals were rarely achieved. But this was mainly because faced with such a movement, governments tend to dig in their heels and make it a matter of principle that they shouldn’t be. This was usually considered much more important, in fact, than the success of the summit in question. Most activists do not seem to be aware that in a lot of cases—the 2001 and 2002 IMF and World Bank meetings for example—police ended up enforcing security arrangements so elaborate that they came very close to shutting down the meetings themselves; ensuring that many events were cancelled, the ceremonies were ruined, and nobody really had a chance to talk to each other. But the point was not whether trade officials got to meet or not. The point was that the protestors could not be seen to win.

Here, too, the medium term goals were achieved so quickly that it actually made the longer-term goals more difficult. NGOs, labor unions, authoritarian Marxists, and similar allies jumped ship almost immediately; strategic debates ensued, but they were carried out, as always, indirectly, as arguments about race, privilege, tactics, almost anything but as actual strategic debates. Here, too, everything was made infinitely more difficult by the state’s recourse to war.

It is hard, as I mentioned, for anarchists to take much direct responsibility for the inevitable end of the war in Iraq, or even to the very bloody nose the empire has already acquired there. But a case could well be made for indirect responsibility. Since the ‘60s, and the catastrophe of Vietnam, the US government has not abandoned its policy of answering any threat of democratic mass mobilizing by a return to war. But it has to be much more careful. Essentially, they have to design wars to be protest-proof. There is very good reason to believe that the first Gulf War was explicitly designed with this in mind. The approach taken to the invasion of Iraq—the insistence on a smaller, high-tech army, the extreme reliance on indiscriminate firepower, even against civilians, to protect against any Vietnam-like levels of American casualties—appears to have been developed, again, more with a mind to heading off any potential peace movement at home than one focused on military effectiveness. This, anyway, would help explain why the most powerful army in the world has ended up being tied down and even defeated by an almost unimaginably ragtag group of guerillas with negligible access to outside safe-areas, funding, or military support. As in the trade summits, they are so obsessed with ensuring forces of civil resistance cannot be seen to win the battle at home that they would prefer to lose the actual war.

PERSPECTIVES (WITH A BRIEF RETURN TO ‘30s SPAIN)

How, then, to cope with the perils of victory? I can’t claim to have any simple answers. Really I wrote this essay more to start a conversation, to put the problem on the table—to inspire a strategic debate.

Still, some implications are pretty obvious. The next time we plan a major action campaign, I think we would do well to at least take into account the possibility that we might obtain our mid-range strategic goals very quickly, and that when that happens, many of our allies will fall away. We have to recognize strategic debates for what they are, even when they seem to be about something else. Take one famous example: arguments about property destruction after Seattle. Most of these, I think, were really arguments about capitalism. Those who decried window-breaking did so mainly because they wished to appeal to middle-class consumers to move towards global-exchange style green consumerism, to ally with labor bureaucracies and social democrats abroad. This was not a path designed to create a direct confrontation with capitalism, and most of those who urged us to take this route were at least skeptical about the possibility that capitalism could ever really be defeated at all. Those who did break windows didn’t care if they were offending suburban homeowners, because they didn’t see them as a potential element in a revolutionary anti-capitalist coalition. They were trying, in effect, to hijack the media to send a message that the system was vulnerable—hoping to inspire similar insurrectionary acts on the part of those who might considering entering a genuinely revolutionary alliance; alienated teenagers, oppressed people of color, rank-and-file laborers impatient with union bureaucrats, the homeless, the criminalized, the radically discontent. If a militant anti-capitalist movement was to begin, in America, it would have to start with people like these: people who don’t need to be convinced that the system is rotten, only, that there’s something they can do about it. And at any rate, even if it were possible to have an anti-capitalist revolution without gun-battles in the streets—which most of us are hoping it is, since let’s face it, if we come up against the US army, we will lose—there’s no possible way we could have an anti-capitalist revolution while at the same time scrupulously respecting property rights.

The latter actually leads to an interesting question. What would it mean to win, not just our medium-term goals, but our long term ones? At the moment no one is even clear how that would come about, for the very reason none of us have much faith remaining in “the” revolution in the old 19th or 20th century sense of the term. After all, the total view of revolution, that there will be a single mass insurrection or general strike and then all walls will come tumbling down, is entirely premised on the old fantasy of capturing the state. That’s the only way victory could possibly be that absolute and complete—at least, if we are speaking of a whole country or meaningful territory.

In way of illustration, consider this: what would it have actually meant for the Spanish anarchists to have actually “won” 1937? It’s amazing how rarely we ask ourselves such questions. We just imagine it would have been something like the Russian Revolution, which began in a similar way, with the melting away of the old army, the spontaneous creation of workers’ soviets. But that was in the major cities. The Russian Revolution was followed by years of civil war in which the Red Army gradually imposed the new state’s control on every part of the old Russian Empire, whether the communities in question wanted it or not. Let us imagine that anarchist militias in Spain had routed the fascist army, which then completely dissolved, and kicked the socialist Republican Government out of its offices in Barcelona and Madrid. That would certainly have been victory by anybody’s standards. But what would have happened next? Would they have established Spain as a non-Republic, an anti-state existing within the exact same international borders? Would they have imposed a regime of popular councils in every singe village and municipality in the territory of what had formerly been Spain? How exactly? We have to bear in mind here that were there many villages towns, even regions of Spain where anarchists were almost non-existent. In some just about the entire population was made up of conservative Catholics or monarchists; in others (say, the Basque country) there was a militant and well-organized working class, but one that was overwhelmingly socialist or communist. Even at the height of revolutionary fervor, most of these would stay true to their old values and ideas. If the victorious FAI attempted to exterminate them all—a task which would have required killing millions of people—or chase them out of the country, or forcibly relocate them into anarchist communities, or send them off to reeducation camps—they would not only have been guilty of world-class atrocities, they would have had to give up on being anarchists. Democratic organizations simply cannot commit atrocities on that systematic scale: for that, you’d need Communist or Fascist-style top-down organization, since you can’t actually get thousands of human beings to systematically massacre helpless women and children and old people, destroy communities, or chase families from their ancestral homes unless they can at least say they were only following orders. There appear to have been only two possible solutions to the problem.

1) Let the Republic continue as de facto government, controlled by the socialists, let them impose government control the right-wing majority areas, and get some kind of deal out of them that they would leave the anarchist-majority cities, towns, and villages alone to organize themselves as they wish to, and hope that they kept the deal (this might be considered the “good luck” option)

2) Declare that everyone was to form their own local popular assemblies, and let them decide on their own mode of self-organization.

The latter seems the more fitting with anarchist principles, but the results wouldn’t have likely been too much different. After all, if the inhabitants of, say, Bilbao overwhelmingly desired to create a local government, how exactly would one have stopped them? Municipalities where the church or landlords still commanded popular support would presumably put the same old right-wing authorities in charge; socialist or communist municipalities would put socialist or communist party bureaucrats in charge; Right and Left statists would then each form rival confederations that, even though they controlled only a fraction of the former Spanish territory, would each declare themselves the legitimate government of Spain. Foreign governments would recognize one or the other—since none would be willing to exchange ambassadors with a non-government like the FAI, even assuming the FAI wished to exchange ambassadors with them, which it wouldn’t. In other words the actual shooting war might end, but the political struggle would continue, and large parts of Spain would presumably end up looking like contemporary Chiapas, with each district or community divided between anarchist and anti-anarchist factions. Ultimate victory would have to be a long and arduous process. The only way to really win over the statist enclaves would be win over their children, which could be accomplished by creating an obviously freer, more pleasurable, more beautiful, secure, relaxed, fulfilling life in the stateless sections. Foreign capitalist powers, on the other hand, even if they did not intervene militarily, would do everything possible to head off the notorious “threat of a good example” by economic boycotts and subversion, and pouring resources into the statist zones. In the end, everything would probably depend on the degree to which anarchist victories in Spain inspired similar insurrections elsewhere.

The real point of the imaginative exercise is just to point out that there are no clean breaks in history. The flip-side of the old idea of the clean break, the one moment when the state falls and capitalism is defeated, is that anything short of that is not really a victory at all. If capitalism is left standing, if it begins to market your once-subversive ideas, it shows that the capitalists really won. You’ve lost; you’ve been coopted. To me this is absurd. Can we say that feminism lost, that it achieved nothing, just because corporate culture felt obliged to pay lip service to condemning sexism and capitalist firms began marketing feminist books, movies, and other products? Of course not: unless you’ve managed to destroy capitalism and patriarchy in one fell blow, this is one of the clearest signs that you’ve gotten somewhere. Presumably any effective road to revolution will involve endless moments of cooptation, endless victorious campaigns, endless little insurrectionary moments or moments of flight and covert autonomy. I hesitate to even speculate what it might really be like. But to start in that direction, the first thing we need to do is to recognize that we do, in fact, win some. Actually, recently, we’ve been winning quite a lot. The question is how to break the cycle of exaltation and despair and come up with some strategic visions (the more the merrier) about these victories build on each other, to create a cumulative movement towards a new society.

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David Graeber: The Shock of Victory | 86 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 02:19 AM CDT

This article will appear in the forthcoming fifth issue of Rolling Thunder
(http://www.crimethinc.com/rt/), along with other material approaching
the question of victory and defeat.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Admin on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 10:40 AM CDT
This is an excellent piece by Graeber which touches on some serious issues that affect contemporary anarchism. It's long been my opinion that the mood of defeatism held by anarchists is more damaging to us than any amount of police and state repression. Self-defeating attitudes cause people to become inactive, to focus on sectarianism and to pull punches.

I think that the primary source of the self-defeating attitudes come from leftists that anarchists hang out with, along with certain kinds of anarchists who have internalized leftist ways of looking at the world. One of the main topics lately that has caused friction between myself and people on the LBO-talk discussion list involves the leftist cynicism about social change and their pessimism about the number of leftists out there. The leftists also are stuck in this rut of pre-determination, which causes them to believe that certain historical conditions have to exist before they can be moved to organize anything. They see radicalism as being cause by historical conditions, where I argue that radicals go out and make history, like we did in the post-Seattle movement. The leftists look at Seattle and argue that a liberal President has to be in power again for the conditions to be favorable for another Seattle movement. I tell them that this is nonsense, because the post-Seattle movement didn't happen because a bunch of us looked at Bill Clinton and decided that the time was ripe to have some anti-capitalist riots.

We also pay too much attention to the naysayers among our own ranks, who always downplay and dismiss all of our victories. I suspect that this has had an effect on the younger generation of anarchists, who started off with the heady days of Seattle, only to see the current quiet period in anarchism. For a person like myself, I'm tremendously optimistic, because I became an anarchist in 1985, when the movement was truly small and marginalized. Even though the movement is "quiet" these days, there is a growing number of anarchists in small towns and cities around the U.S. Anarchists still make the news, much more so than our competitors on the left.

As I tell friends and comrades, I like to "win" and I appreciate the many victories I've been part of as an anarchist and activist. Some of these victories include:

* The anti-divestment movement, which helped bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa
* The Central America solidarity movement, which didn't end Reagan's covert wars, but which constrained that regime from doing worse things
* The micropower radio movement, which in the 1990s put dozens of pirate radio stations on the air and forced the FCC to create a new tier of lower power community stations.
* the queer rights movement, which has won many things since the 1980s
* the post-Seattle movement, whose successes and victories are well-documented. Also responsible for an upsurge of interest in anarchism, something I doubted that I would see in my lifetime
* the infoshops movement, which has opened dozens of infoshops, bookstores and community spaces around the world
* alternative media, which includes influential magazines, Indymedia, and websites like Infoshop.org (which currently gets over 110,000 visitors each month).
* the free software/open source movement. It boggles my mind that we can use software and operating systems that are free, cooperatively developed and generally free of corporate control.
* the end of copyright and intellectual property. This is mostly the result of technological changes, but I'm also astounded by this revolution. Large portions of the younger generations think that copyright is a joke.

Being a sunny optimist on a stormy, rainy morning.

Chuck
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 01:25 PM CDT

Bush and Cheney are still in office; torture is widely practiced and called
legal and justified by those who perpetrate it; none of Bush/Cheney's
cohorts are in jail (not to mention swinging from trees); the US military
is still in Iraq and Afghanistan and may soon be in Iran, too; the election
"results" of 2006 have proved to have been completely illusionary; all of
the Democratic candidates with any possibility of getting elected are pro-
occupation, pro-war and pro-Big Business; global warming and pollution
proceeds at an ever-quickening pace; all kinds of products from WTO
member state China are being recalled for containing lead; New Orleans
is still under water; snitches and FBI plants helped put away several
ALF/ELF radicals; etc etc etc.

If this is Graeber's idea of victory, I'd hate to see his idea of defeat.

There is a big difference between optimism and self-congratulary self-
deception.
Victory always creates backlash - that doesn't mean defeat.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 04:22 PM CDT
Bill Not Bored sez:
Bush and Cheney... torture... Bush/Cheney's cohorts... Iraq and Afghanistan... election "results" of 2006... Democratic candidates... global warming and pollution... WTO member state China... New Orleans... snitches and FBI plants... etc etc etc.

If this is Graeber's idea of victory, I'd hate to see his idea of defeat.

There is a big difference between optimism and self-congratulary self-deception.

Graeber's article was about the victories of the global justice movement against the neoliberal agenda pursued by the IMF, World Bank, and WTO. Your examples of ongoing catastrophes consist almost entirely of the products of the latest war(s), which Graeber already points out is what the US government manufactures when it's threatened by the actual successes of mass direct-democracy movements.

The failure of the anti-war movement has already been addressed, and it doesn't count, since that was not the focus of the article. Nor does the failure of anarchists to get Democrats to be more anti-war -- that is not the goal of anarchist organizing (and if it was, then we're in serious trouble). No one could have predicted New Orleans, and besides you totally ignore the significant role played by anarchists and anarchist-inspired organizing in the aftermath of Katrina -- there were flaws to be sure, but they certainly did a far better job helping people than the fucking government. And as for snitches, yes that sucks and it weakens any movement, but it's not a defeat, because there are far more people who refuse to cooperate with the authorities.

Graeber's article is not "self-congratulary self-deception". It's an honest and balanced assessment of some of the victories and losses of anarchist and anarchistic organizing against neoliberalism. It helps to know what the hell you're talking about and to be optimistic and confident, which is what the article's tone is. If you'd rather he gripe about absolutely everything that's bad in the world that the anarchist movement hasn't destroyed, then the griping would never stop. And that would be very Boring indeed, not to mention so goddam off-putting that most people who otherwise would join the movement would wind up writing the whole thing off as too overwhelming to even bother trying.

Good day to you, Sir.

the shock of naivete
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 05:17 PM CDT

The war "doesn't count"?! How out of touch are you? Sheesh.

Yes, Graeber certainly did say something like "the US government
manufactures [war] when it's threatened by the actual successes of
mass direct-democracy movements," but unfortunately it is hardcore
stupid and as I mentioned, self-congratulatory. The people who later
became part of the George W. Bush administration had been plotting
war against Iraq ever since the end of the first war against that poor
country, about eight years *before* Seattle. The plan to re-create the
"imperial presidency" goes back even further, to Cheney and Rumsfield
tenure in the Ford Administration circa 1975.

There is a giant hole in Graeber's theory: if the Bush Administration is
now conducting CIA actions against Iran to prepare for yet another
"shock and awe" attack, then there must be some sort of mass direct-
democracy movement going on right now, right? But there is no such
thing. Invading Iran, just like the invasion of Iraq is about 1) the oil, 2)
strengthening the presidency to the point of authoritarianism and 3)
Israel's security. Besides, if the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan were
about "distracting attention," why wasn't Graeber et al chanting "No
blood for a distraction!" instead of "No blood for oil"?

These are problems with the American State and because they concern
the State, anarchists should be focusing on the State because that's
what makes them different from Leftists, who are preoccupied with
corporations, commodities, etc etc etc. Indeed too many people in the
"global justice movement" want to reform the State so that it can fight
against neoliberalism! And that's not anarchism, at all: that's pseudo-
anarchism.

A good expression of this critique of the "global justice movement" is the
http://www.notbored.org/citizenism.html Contribution to a
Critique of Citizenism, which -- uninformed as I am about what I'm
talking about -- I somehow managed to translate from the French and
provide footnotes to. It shows in part that anarchists have become
"distracted" by such movements and no longer focus on what no one
but anarchists will.

Neoliberalism is not the enemy: it is merely a manifestation of the
enemy. For example. Milton Freedman is not a "neoliberal," and he is
just as much a part of the capitalist enemy as John Maynard Keynes.






Boneheaded hyper-dogmatism
Authored by: Admin on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 09:12 PM CDT
Wow. It's incredibly bone-headed and stupid to argue that anarchists shouldn't involve themselves in the anti-globalization fight against neo-liberalism.

My jaw is just dropping over here.

Anarchists have made most of their gains in recent years by being involved and spearheading the anti-globalization movements. We have shown many people that our anarchism is a relevant and practical alternative to capitalism and the state. Through our active engagement in the movement, we have put our politics into practice. The alternative to this is to sit on our hands like leftists and wait for some favorable historical condition to happen.

I agree very much with you that anarchists should focus more on fighting the state. I've been saying this for years. But one practical way we do this is through the anti-capitalist movement.

Jesus christ, talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Chuck
WTF?
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 10:05 PM CDT
"Wow. It's incredibly bone-headed and stupid to argue that anarchists
shouldn't involve themselves in the anti-globalization fight against neo-
liberalism."

Sure is, but no one said anything of the kind! I certainly didn't and yet
you've threaded this insulting remark under my comment. It seems to me
that here you have set up a straw man and then triumphantly (and
insultingly) pulled it down. Please read my comments carefully and you will
see what I actually said. Thank you.
WTF?
Authored by: talonx on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 11:55 AM CDT
And I quote...

"Neoliberalism is not the enemy: it is merely a manifestation of the enemy" - bill not bored

What you said, and this was chuck's point, is that we don't need to fight neoliberalism because if we fight the state and capitalism we engage neoliberals anyway. And chuck can correct me if I am wrong here...but, I think chuck was saying that we can't just use one strategy of opisition to solve all our problems. I think chuck was saying we have to fight these seperat aspects per there contexts, develop many strategies, so on and so forth. What it seems like you are saying bill is that we don't need to do that. You may not have written as clearly as you meant to because that is what comes across in what you said.

WTF?
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 12:54 PM CDT

Chuck's straw man:

"anarchists shouldn't involve themselves in the anti-globalization fight
against neo-liberalism."

My original remark:
"Neoliberalism is not the enemy: it is merely a manifestation of the
enemy"

People who know how to read will see that these are not the same
things. The first is prohibitive (should not involve themselves at all),
while the second is directed (should get to the root of the problem).

"Neo-liberalism" does not encapsulate all of capitalism. As I mentioned
in a point that no one has seen fit to answer, there is a large segment
of capitalism that is also anti-neo-liberal: George Soros (on the "left")
and Milton Freeman (on the "right"). To limit one's attack to only neo-
liberalism is not radical in any sense of the word.

Furthermore, there are many "citizenists" who are against "globalization"
and "neo-liberalism" but they want to strengthen the State so it can
bring these two phenomena "under control." Several of the actors
involved in the Seattle movement were "citizenists," and anarchists do
themselves a disservice by not clearly distinguishing themselves from
these actors. Because anarchists want to abolish the State, not
strengthen or "reform" it.

Finally, to exclude the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan (and Iran and
Syria) from "globalization" is untenable. "Globalization" does not simply
refer to the globalization of a certain form of corporate capitalism, but
also to the globalization of Amerikkka's military-industrial empire.That's
why its called "military-industrial": the two cannot be separated. And if
we do not separate them, and bring them both to account, we clearly
see that the anti-capitalist movement is being routed at the global level.
A few localized setbacks are trivial in comparison.
WTF?
Authored by: CaseyFord on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 06:39 PM CDT
"Finally, to exclude the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan (and Iran and Syria) from "globalization" is untenable. "Globalization" does not simply refer to the globalization of a certain form of corporate capitalism, but also to the globalization of Amerikkka's military-industrial empire.That's why its called "military-industrial": the two cannot be separated. And if we do not separate them, and bring them both to account, we clearly see that the anti-capitalist movement is being routed at the global level. A few localized setbacks are trivial in comparison."

That's damn foolish. Talk about straw-men, no one is separating corporate globalization and military imperialism. What is being separated is the movements against them, which were and are very, very different. It's worth noting however, that the "globalization" that so-called "global justice," "anti-globalization" and "anti-capitalist" activists were fighting was indeed, the economic side of the beast we face--capitalism. They were focused on the quiet violence that destroys lives with the stroke of a pen, rather than a shot from a gun. You can't complain that the anti-globalization movement is failing in Iraq because a different movement was attacking that aspect of the beast.

Also, even if you don't want to go as far as to say that we are winning, you can't say that the state and capitalism is either. The empire is barely sustaining itself. It is clearly losing in Iraq and Afghanistan (despite a weak antiwar movement at home), to the point that open wars against Syria and especially Iran are impossible. As David Graeber explained in the article, the financial institutions that have been fucking up countries world over are in retreat and dying.
short-term memory loss
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 07:02 PM CDT

Casey Ford says:

"no one is separating corporate globalization and military imperialism."

I was responding to this (maybe you missed it?)

Authored by: WeedyLiver on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 02:22 PM

"The failure of the anti-war movement has already been addressed, and
it doesn't count, since that was not the focus of the article."

It doesn't count, not the focus of the article: that's called separating the
two.
short-term memory loss
Authored by: CaseyFord on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 03:36 AM CDT
Yes, separating the movements against them, not the concepts themselves. No one is claiming that war and capitalism are unrelated, just that different movements focus on different aspects of the system, and further that this article is focused on one of those focused movements. Are you mixing up an analysis of the system and an analysis of social movements fighting it.
WTF?
Authored by: talonx on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 03:05 AM CDT
!!!Chuck's straw man:

"anarchists shouldn't involve themselves in the anti-globalization fight against neo-liberalism."!!!

!!!Bill's vague statements concerning neolibs:

"Neoliberalism is not the enemy: it is merely a manifestation of the enemy"!!!

Anyway your clarification that your version meant "get to root of problem" is not clearly held within your statement. It's one possible interpretation, and you needed to clarify, which you did, so good!

Also, concerning your claim that nobody is addressing non-neolibs. I certainly think you are looking to take pot shots at g-man at this point. The article concerns globalization and anti-nuclear movements, not libertarians, your point about citizenists is pretty much understood by everyone here, I would venture, INCLUDING DAVID G. At this point you very clearly are building a strawmen.

G-man says:
we lose alot but we win alot too.
Bill not bored says:
what about citizenists!
the shock of naivete
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 11:13 PM CDT
I said GOOD DAY!
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 05:17 PM CDT

The point is, fundamentally, that our resistance plays a major part in history, in determining the moves of our enemies. Once we recognize this, we can be more strategic--and perhaps more motivated. We're a long way from winning, but we're actually contenders in a fight, not spectators--at least when we choose to be--and that's an important thing to understand.

Bill is perhaps the most boring commentator I've seen on infoshop.org lately. I appreciate his translations, but I wish he'd keep his utterly superficial and facile "critiques" of present-day anarchists to himself.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 05:30 PM CDT

"We're a long way from winning, but we're actually contenders in a fight,
not spectators--at least when we choose to be--and that's an important
thing to understand."

Good point: only it's not the point that Graeber makes: he thinks we are
winning, as if the anti-capitalist movement was like a soccer game. I
can understand why some people need to be told they are "winning": it
keeps them in the game. But since this is actually war, "we" need to
know good honest assessments of our situation, and right now "we" are
not "winning": we are getting our asses kicked.

"Bill is perhaps the most boring commentator I've seen on infoshop.org
lately. I appreciate his translations, but I wish he'd keep his utterly
superficial and facile 'critiques' of present-day anarchists to himself."

Well, of course, you're never going to see your wish come true (actually,
that is a good comment on Graeber's text: he *wishes* we were
"winning"). If you "appeciate" more than the simple fact that I translate
essays from the French, and actually appreciate the content of those
essays, you might find yourself less bored by me personally. Whatever,
dude. Wishing I'd go away so that you could continue to congratulate
yourself on how well you are doing without any "untimely" interruptions:
this only shows how "superficial and facile" your self-congratulation really
is.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: talonx on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 11:58 AM CDT
OK

I appreciate bill's comment, but I must disagree. I don't think G-man has said we are winning, but, he has said we have one battles in important ways. We are certainly losing on some fronts, what G-man is doing is pointing out that we need to be equally critical and observant of both our wins and losses. Unobserved both can do us in.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: davidgraeber on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 04:57 PM CDT
Thanks. Yes. Just wanted to say you and biofilo got it exactly right. I
never said anything one way or another about whether we are "winning"
overall - in fact, it had not even occurred to me to think about a grand
overall picture in such terms (though I appreciate Chuck's thoughts in
this regard - he's been around longer than I so he has a longer term
perspective on how much the movement has grown). I did want, as
biofilo noted, to point out that we do affect the course of history and
that the other side is very much afraid of us, and as you noted, to point
out that we do win victories in specific campaigns, more often and more
thoroughly than we think, and we might do well to think about this and
also be better prepared to deal with the consequences of victory in
medium-term goals because we tend to be thrown for a loop when it
happens.

It's kind of sad that on infoshop, which is in many ways an ideal forum
for the kind of strategic conversations I was trying to provoke and
encourage here, almost the entire discussion ended up being dominated
by one vitriolic poster who didn't seem capable of even figuring out what
the piece was about, let alone engaging with any of the specific points it
made. I mean honestly! I am left wondering if Mr. "Not Bored" even
read the piece. How can any intelligent person read that piece all the
way through and conclude that I have declared overall victory for the
movement, or have reduced the entire anti-capitalist struggle to a soccer
game where we can monitor the score? Nothing I said in there even
suggested I believed anything of the sort. I kept talking about medium-
term goals in specific campaigns. Yet one loud, belligerent, and frankly
in this case at least rather stupid person decides that's what it's about
and all resulting discussion ends up revolving around fashioning a
response to him.

Sigh.

I would myself be interested in what people think about the broader
strategic questions. How do we build directly democratic, direct action-
oriented campaigns that don't fall apart when they reach their mid-range
goals and actually build on one another?
David
I'd like to see your responses to these points
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 05:49 PM CDT

Graeber:

You wanted to start a strategic debate and I contributed to it. Don't like that I disagree you you? Too bad: that's what a debate is: conflicting opinions, not just everyone chiming in to say "I agree," and "me, too."

I did indeed read your essay all the way through. You have failed address yourself to the following remarks I made. I repeat them here verbatim so they are easy for you to find:

Yes, Graeber certainly did say something like "the US government manufactures [war] when it's threatened by the actual successes of mass direct-democracy movements," but unfortunately it is hardcore stupid and as I mentioned, self-congratulatory. The people who laterbecame part of the George W. Bush administration had been plotting war against Iraq ever since the end of the first war against that poor country, about eight years *before* Seattle. The plan to re-create the "imperial presidency" goes back even further, to Cheney and Rumsfield tenure in the Ford Administration circa 1975.

There is a giant hole in Graeber's theory: if the Bush Administration is now conducting CIA actions against Iran to prepare for yet another "shock and awe" attack, then there must be some sort of mass direct- democracy movement going on right now, right? But there is no such thing. Invading Iran, just like the invasion of Iraq is about 1) the oil, 2) strengthening the presidency to the point of authoritarianism and 3) Israel's security. Besides, if the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan were about "distracting attention," why wasn't Graeber et al chanting "No blood for a distraction!" instead of "No blood for oil"?

These are problems with the American State and because they concern the State, anarchists should be focusing on the State because that's what makes them different from Leftists, who are preoccupied with corporations, commodities, etc etc etc. Indeed too many people in the "global justice movement" want to reform the State so that it can fight against neoliberalism! And that's not anarchism, at all: that's pseudo-anarchism.

A good expression of this critique of the "global justice movement" is the Contribution to a Critique of Citizenism which -- uninformed as I am about what I'm talking about -- I somehow managed to translate from the French and provide footnotes to. It shows in part that anarchists have become "distracted" by such movements and no longer focus on what no one but anarchists will.

Neoliberalism is not the enemy: it is merely a manifestation of the enemy. For example. Milton Freedman is not a "neoliberal," and he is just as much a part of the capitalist enemy as John Maynard Keynes.

why on earth should I respond to you when you can't even read?
Authored by: davidgraeber on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 07:39 PM CDT
well if you read it all the way through, Bill, you're a remarkably poor
reader, since all you seemed to get out of it was the impression I was
claiming that "we" are "winning" in some grand overall strugge (which
struggle - against capitalism? against the state? the class struggle in
general? I don't even know), despite the fact that I had obviously
argued no such thing. What's more you continued to aggressively insist
that's what I had said, even when some posters tried to gently point out
some of my actual arguments.

if I were you I'd be genuinely embarrassed - you've made a total fool of
yourself, turning what could have been a useful discussion into a vitriolic
rant about an argument that the author never even made. But anyway
what I was mainly concerned with was the fact that it served so
effectively to steer debate away from any of the issues that actually
were raised in the article. For this reason I see no reason to encourage
you to continue this so I will ignore any further posts you make to this
forum.
why on earth should I respond to you when you can't even read?
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 08:03 PM CDT
and so, other than weak insults and a pompous, holier-than-thou
attitude (so well-suited to academic "discourse"), Dr. Graeber has no
response whatsoever to my criticism (repeated twice, ignored each
time) of his preposterous and very self-serving idea that the wars
against Afghanistan and Iraq were started to "distract" attention away
from the "anti-globalization" movement!

It would appear that his arrogant refusal to respond is not a matter of
taste or decorum (hurumph), but a simple inability to directly face and
answer someone who dares to point out how and why he is wrong.

I can imagine what it would be like if this was Nanterre in 1966: Dr.
Graeber onstage, pontificating at his podium, while I and other Enrages
pelt him with tomatoes . . .

why on earth should I respond to you when you can't even read?
Authored by: Admin on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 10:18 PM CDT
David is right, Bill. You need to cool it and let other people have a say in this thread. I'll do the same, which I've had to do be default this weekend because I have more important priorities.

Chuck
why on earth should I respond to you when you can't even read?
Authored by: davidgraeber on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 06:34 AM CDT
yes, it's kind of sad, really, especially his inability to notice which way the
audience's tomatoes are actually flying (and hence need to revert to
fantasies set in the distant past), or why, if an author writes something
on the need to preserve natural resources, and you write an angry reply
starting "how dare you write what you did about the preservation of our
natural racehorses - what's natural about racehorses anyway?" - that
author might not find it worth his while to engage in further exchange.

On a more interesting note - it's a good question the degree to which
the neoliberal project is still standing. (This apart from the bizarre
conclusion on the part of that one other poster that, if we set out to
destroy the IMF, WTO, FTAA, etc, it is somehow irresponsible of us to
feel we have been in any way successful if we do, in fact, end up
destroying the IMF, WTO, FTAA, etc.) For me, the neoliberal project
was a kind of reverse Stalinism, an assumption that there is only one
way forward in human history and there's a scientific elite that
understands it and therefore it must be imposed on the masses whether
they like it or not by a vast coercive bureaucracy staffed by "experts"
trained in this science, because whatever massive damage it does in the
present, someday, we're not quite sure when, it will all lead to a
paradise of peace and prosperity. The result was this weird double-think
where you create the world's first global bureaucratic administration, and
then claim you are doing it to encourage an ideology of extreme
individualism. What we did was go after the flagship institutions of this
new bureaucracy, to expose and de-legitimate them, and this worked
very well. But of course the bureaucracy is still there. And the ideology is
no longer the only game in town, as it was in say, 1997, but obviously it
has very strong institutional roots. It's an interesting question whether
neoliberalism is simply regrouping in a somewhat more apparently
palatable form, or whether the ruling classes - being divided as never
before - are stumbling towards an entirely different strategy of rule.
nice little club, guys!
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 10:51 AM CDT

well you guys have got a nice little club here, seems pretty exclusive
though, only people who say "You're right" and "I agree" get in, everyone
else (it appears clear) is intentionally misunderstood, condescended to,
maligned, summarily dismissed . . . . But I have complete confidence that
the people who understood my objections straight away and didn't need to
have them explained over and over again will draw the same lessons from
this sad display of closing ranks that I have.

I now I must away: the tomatoes are ripe for picking.
elementary logic
Authored by: davidgraeber on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 11:22 AM CDT
actually, it strikes me it might be helpful, Chuck, to include with the log-
in page a basic quizz on elementary logic, which would-be posters will
have to pass in order to be able to post. Anyway it would radically
improve the quality of debate. For example, Bill might be interested to
know - since at least in practice he doesn't seem to be aware - that
while a common example of syllogistic logic might proceed as follows

All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Therefore, Socrates is mortal

a common example of a logic fallacy is:

All apes are mortal
Socrates is mortal
Therefore, Socrates is an ape

In his claim that my argument (that periods of democratic mobilization
in the US tend to be followed by the government ratcheting up militarism
overseas) can be proved wrong by the fact that the government is now
ratcheting up threats against Iran despite the lack of mass mobilization,
he is effectively arguing that since Socrates is not an ape, we have
therefore proved that apes are not mortal.
David
towards an actual discussion instead of shit flinging
Authored by: Patrokolos on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 02:36 PM CDT
While I do not agree with Bill comments concerning this article I see where he is coming from and I feel he has been mistreated and unfairly ridiculed.

Arguably there have been victories on specific campaigns. However, overall the world is still in pretty dismal shape and I'm not sure how important reaching medium-term goals are. Do I struggle against the IMF/World Bank to achieve short-term goals or do I struggle against it because I see it as a possible avenue to attack the misery of our social constructions? Bill was addressing this question, I think, when talking about whether or not neoliberalism was a distraction. Sorry if the very idea that there may be a tactical error, or a different weakness in the structure that could be exploited, makes some jaws drop.

Graeber was correct concerning Bill's idea of a "huge hole." Just because Graeber argued that wars are used as a distraction does not mean that all wars are a result of that need for distraction. However, Graeber did not address the statement that the government has been planning these wars eight years before the Seattle actions.

I disagree with Bill's statements because he is addressing side issues within the article, not the actual issue it attempts to raise. It is clear to me that anarchists are not winning the fight for a new world. This article was not about winning that fight though; it was about how we always fail to "smash the state and destroy capitalism" because we always achieve the medium-term goals and the nonradicals we are associated with are satisfied. We hit the state or capitalism and it flexes, giving a little, but does not break. We must find ways to go beyond it and push through.

I do not think that the biggest problem facing anarchists is that we "don't know how to handle victory" but this may be the biggest problem with "direct action movements." The biggest problem facing anarchists is that the "direct action movements" are addressing specific issues and are willing to compromise. The problem is that "direct action movements" are not composed of anarchists.
towards an actual discussion instead of shit flinging
Authored by: CaseyFord on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 03:44 PM CDT
I think what the author was just saying tho is that Bill is pissed about arguments that the author didn't make. It's kind like if David had written that the black bloc won at some particular action (like this coming weekend in DC) and then Bill got pissed and started talking about how much the black bloc tactic sucks because they lost at these other actions, and then other people got pissed at Bill because they think the black bloc is a good tactic and that it did well at some of those events.
towards an actual discussion instead of shit flinging
Authored by: Patrokolos on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 04:47 PM CDT
<i> I think what the author was just saying tho is that Bill is pissed about arguments that the author didn't make. </I></br></br>That is what i meant by Bill addressing "side issues" that arose from his reading of the article, not the actual points of discussion that the article was raising. Perhaps that was not clear.
towards an actual discussion instead of shit flinging
Authored by: davidgraeber on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 04:02 PM CDT
>However, Graeber did not address the statement that the government
>has been planning these wars eight years before the Seattle actions.

my reply would be that the government plans all sorts of things. Only a
small proportion of those plans does it actually end up carrying out.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Admin on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 06:11 PM CDT
Thanks, Bill, for giving example of the self-defeating attitude that paralyzes our movement more effectively than any police repression can do. Perhaps I've been remiss in not speaking out more vocally on this topic over the years, but I think that anarchists and radicals are their own worst enemies. I worry more about what people like you say, than what the police and the state are doing to us. When radicals go around screaming hysterically about how bad things are, this just demoralizes and paralyzes everybody. And your take on the situation isn't even balanced. You reject Graeber totally. That's ridiculous.

I find myself rolling my eyes constantly these days when liberals, progressives and anarchists whine about how the Bush regime is "fascist" and how that prevents us from doing anything. What a bunch of bullshit! Those of us living in the United States enjoy incredible amount of freedom and political space to take radical actions. Infoshop News is constantly filled with stories of anarchists who are out there doing shit, like the peeps in Pittsburgh who are doing anti-war organizing, or our friends in New York City who have been setting an example in supporting our comrades who are in prison or face trials.

The Bush government is not a fascist regime. There is widespread opposition to the Bush administration. Their regime has *not* enacted fascist policies against the people. There are no death squads doing bad things to activists and union organizers. There are many things that suck about the Bush regime, but I see little difference between Bush II and Clinton, Reagan, or Nixon. I was just telling somebody this afternoon how being a radical under Reagan sucked more than being an anarchist today. At least today we enjoy a larger and growing movement of radicals in this country.

But if you can't see any of our victories, then you will always be negative about our movements. I worry more about toxic attitudes held by radicals than I worry about state repression.

Chuck0
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 06:41 PM CDT

"Thanks, Bill, for giving example of the self-defeating attitude that
paralyzes our movement more effectively than any police repression can
do."

I will take the risk of responding to you directly. I have found that if I do
not take the right tone wih you in such responses, you delete the
response. So here goes. . . .

It is incorrect to designate my rejection of Graeber's loopy self-
congratulation as "self-defeating." It may be pessimistic or sober, but it
is not "self-defeating." Like you, I have spent the last quarter century
working hard in the anti-capitalist movement. There have been many
provisional successes, but the overall direction since the 1970s is
definitely downwards. And here I refer to society as a whole, not our
little "community" of anti-capitalists.

"I worry more about what people like you say, than what the police and
the state are doing to us. When radicals go around screaming
hysterically about how bad things are, this just demoralizes and
paralyzes everybody."

I'm sorry you feel this way. Pessimistic or sober or even self-defeating
critique isn't as bad as being infiltrated by an FBI informant and agent
provocateur like Anna. Or using the "War on Terrorism" to torture and
kill, to repeal habeas corpus and tosteal tens of billions of dollars from
the public treasury.

You must remember that al of this -- me, you, Graeber -- society at
large knows nothing of us, or if it does, we (especially me) are jut
marginal types, wingnuts etc. They don't care about us and whether we
are optimistic or pessimistic about the possibilities of social revolution: all
they care about is gas prices, the price of bread milk and cheese,
whether Briney or Paris of Lindsay are in rehab again. Don't delude
yourself about the effectiveness of what we do.

"I find myself rolling my eyes constantly these days when liberals,
progressives and anarchists whine about how the Bush regime is 'fascist'
and how that prevents us from doing anything. What a bunch of bullshit!
Those of us living in the United States enjoy incredible amount of
freedom and political space to take radical actions."

Two things:

1) true, it's not 1939, it's still only 1933, but fascism is still on the rise
here in Amerikkka.

2) the very fact that we do enjoy freedom and space, and yet the mass
of Amerikkkans are still not up in arms about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran etc
etc shows that we are not winning: Bush and Cheney are. The lambs
remain silent, so matter how loud we scream about the slaughter.

"Infoshop News is constantly filled with stories of anarchists who are out
there doing shit, like the peeps in Pittsburgh who are doing anti-war
organizing, or our friends in New York City who have been setting an
example in supporting our comrades who are in prison or face trials."

True, but "doing shit" is just not the same as "winning." Read
Clausewitz: winning a battle is not the same as winning the war. We
fight, we win a battle once and a while, but we are losing. We need
face that, not deny it. We need to face it, and make ourselves more
effective.

"The Bush government is not a fascist regime. There is widespread
opposition to the Bush administration. Their regime has *not* enacted
fascist policies against the people."

The PATRIOT Act and The Military Commission Act are certainly fascistic
documents: their provisions (and the many provisions of the various
Executive Directives) simply haven't been put into action yet. Under
Bush/Cheney, habeas corpus has been repealed and the Democrats
can't restore it. You may not think that this is fascist: OK, but it is a
reversal of 700 years of struggle and it is a terrible defeat.

"There are no death squads doing bad things to activists and union
organizers."

Two words for you: Garry Webb.

"But if you can't see any of our victories, then you will always be
negative about our movements."

A binary opposition, a limited choice: there are third and fourth options
you do not mention: being pessimistic or sober is not being negative,
especially when it comes from who, like you, is out on the street, not
just sitting behind a computer screen.

Bill
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 07:15 PM CDT

Bill, if you really give a damn about this struggle you so insistently claim
we're losing, why don't you use this space to put forward approaches
you think are effective, rather than bickering over how bad things are?
You're hardly engaging with the text here, certainly not with the subtlety
and attention it deserves--it seems like you're just spraying friendly fire
every which way.

This whole discussion is pretty subjective. There are several ways to
define victory. I find that when I'm involved in projects that connect me
to many others and have some good momentum, I feel a lot better
about our prospects than when I'm isolated and stagnant. Hence, I'd
argue for us to focus on being engaged, here and now, with a critical
eye on what the recent results of such engagements have been, as
Graeber suggests.

I don't have time to go on, but I can't resist quoting Nietzsche--not just
about this particular discussion, but about the entire corner of the
anarchist milieu that considers bickering a high art:

"My friend, you have talked yourself hoarse."

"Then I stand refuted."
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 07:21 PM CDT
"Bill, if you really give a damn about this struggle you so insistently claim
we're losing, why don't you use this space to put forward approaches
you think are effective, rather than bickering over how bad things are?"

But I do. Have done so for years. Do your homework.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Admin on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 07:38 PM CDT
Bill writes:

"It is incorrect to designate my rejection of Graeber's loopy self-
congratulation as "self-defeating." It may be pessimistic or sober, but its not "self-defeating."

When the dominant discourse in the movement is pessimistic or "sober," then my characterization of that discourse as self-defeating is accurate. As many people know, negative talk is far more likely to be voices and published than anything like what Graeber says above. The Internet only compounds this problem, because anonymity encourages people to be negative, hostile, incivil, disparaging, and despairing. I feel guilty that I haven't devoted more time in recent years to articulating the more positive side of American radical and anarchist politics. Too much of the discourse among radicals has been self-defeating and demoralizing. This talk prevents people from seeing the victories we have accomplished and the fact that we can accomplish more by taking more action.

"Like you, I have spent the last quarter century working hard in the anti-capitalist movement. There have been many provisional successes, but the overall direction since the 1970s is definitely downwards. And here I refer to society as a whole, not our little "community" of anti-capitalists."

This is absolutely out of whack with reality. You sound like you've never heard of Seattle or all of the victories won by the anti-capitalist movements around the world. Yeah, capitalism is a pretty large beast, but we've been able to draw blood via some real victories. I find that to be encouraging. The overall direction since the 1970s has been positive for the anti-capitalist side. That doesn't mean that the war is over, but it's absolutely foolish to diminish what we've accomplished.

"I'm sorry you feel this way. Pessimistic or sober or even self-defeating critique isn't as bad as being infiltrated by an FBI informant and agent provocateur like Anna. Or using the "War on Terrorism" to torture and kill, to repeal habeas corpus and tosteal tens of billions of dollars from the public treasury."

Your attitude on this is quite ahistorical. The government has always used informants to infiltrate radical movements. I wouldn't take the situation with Eric McDavid and the others to be some kind of special indication that things are going worse for us. They aren't. These cases demonstrate the extent to which the other side fears us. Have you ever heard of the FBI placing informants into the RCP or ISO? They don't bother, because those groups are truly insignificant. If it wasn't so tragic for a few individuals, the fact that the FBI infiltrated several Crimethinc gatherings is comical. The FBI engaged in an entrapment conspiracy in order to fuck over this handful of activists. This is a far cry from the FBI campaign against radicals in the 1960s and 70s. The FBI had their hands full back then. We'd be better off if more of us were active, instead of sitting on our hands.

"You must remember that al of this -- me, you, Graeber -- society at large knows nothing of us, or if it does, we (especially me) are jut marginal types, wingnuts etc. They don't care about us and whether we are optimistic or pessimistic about the possibilities of social revolution: all they care about is gas prices, the price of bread milk and cheese, whether Briney or Paris of Lindsay are in rehab again. Don't delude yourself about the effectiveness of what we do."

I believe that Britny is currently in rehab and Jess won Rock of Love. Kansas beat Baylor today and it looks like the Diamondbacks are in a tough spot in the baseball playoffs.

We are still marginal to a big extent, but I think that many radicals stupidly underestimate our true numbers. I'm constantly reminded that there are lots of radicals out there by all of the new people who come by our infoshop wanting to get involved. I remember when the anarchist movement was far more marginal back in the 1980s. We are far less marginal these days, almost to an exponential degree.

"Two things:"

"1) true, it's not 1939, it's still only 1933, but fascism is still on the rise here in Amerikkka."

America is not a fascist country. It sucks big time, but it's ludicrous to act like its a fascist country. Yeah, I'm down with exposing how bad the U.S. is getting, but I don't see the need to dismiss or minimize the victories that radicals have achieved in recent decades.

"2) the very fact that we do enjoy freedom and space, and yet the mass of Amerikkkans are still not up in arms about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran etc etc shows that we are not winning: Bush and Cheney are. The lambs remain silent, so matter how loud we scream about the slaughter."

Neither Graeber or I have said that we are winning when it comes to opposing the Iraq War. I think that it's pretty clear that the anti-war movement screwed up royally, mostly because of internal decisions, like how many anti-war activists continue to march behind ANSWER like a bunch of dumb sheep. On the other hand, there is a silver lining in that there are many anti-war groups out there. Most Americans oppose the war. The media has had a significant effect in helping people see the light about the war.

"True, but "doing shit" is just not the same as "winning." Read
Clausewitz: winning a battle is not the same as winning the war. We fight, we win a battle once and a while, but we are losing. We need face that, not deny it. We need to face it, and make ourselves more effective."

My point wasn't that the Pittsburgh people are winning, rather that they are doing something when many anarchists, radicals and progressives have convinced themselves that nothing can be done.

A war does consist of victories. We haven't won the war yet, but I'm very happy and inspired by our victories.

"The PATRIOT Act and The Military Commission Act are certainly fascistic documents: their provisions (and the many provisions of the various Executive Directives) simply haven't been put into action yet. Under Bush/Cheney, habeas corpus has been repealed and the Democrats can't restore it. You may not think that this is fascist: OK, but it is a reversal of 700 years of struggle and it is a terrible defeat."

It's not fascist, because it hasn't been put into effect on a mass scale. These policies have been pursued by wannabe fascists, but most of them understand that there are limits to those policies in the U.S. The fact that many average Americans have organically come to oppose these policies shows that there is plenty of anti-fascist sentiment among average Americans. That means that we have plenty of political space to do radical organizing and actions.

"There are no death squads doing bad things to activists and union organizers."

"Two words for you: Garry Webb."

Gary Webb killed himself. There were no death squads involved. In fact, there are thousand of independent journalists and bloggers out there operating without any repression from the U.S. government.

"A binary opposition, a limited choice: there are third and fourth options you do not mention: being pessimistic or sober is not being negative, especially when it comes from who, like you, is out on the street, not just sitting behind a computer screen."

Pessimism, by its very definition, is negative.

I'm out on the streets all the time. That's why the newswire here doesn't get updated as much as it should be.

The optimist anarchist,

Chuck
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: lawrence on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 08:12 PM CDT
First of all, the so-called evidence that Webb committed suicide came from the coroner's office, which is an arm of the state. Why would they say anything different? Any coroner's report, like any government report (the 9/11 Commission Report for example) should be looked at with maximum suspicion by anyone proclaiming herself to be anti-state. We know they lie routinely; why would anyone think that they are telling the truth this time?

Second, any discussion of victories and defeats needs to take into consideration duration and reversibility. How long did it take for the Vietnam war to end (for example)? How much of the US military defeat was due to fighting a protracted asymmetrical armed conflict with an enemy with virtually unlimited personnel willing to engage in this asymmetrical conflict? How much was due to the erosion of military discipline among US ground soldiers? How much of that erosion was due to the protests on the streets of the US? Was the military defeat of the US the end of that war? How well, since 1975, has the Vietnamese economy been integrated into neoliberal globalism. I would argue that the Vietnamese ultimately lost that war since they are clearly on the road to becoming yet another client neo-neo-colony of the WTO-dominated regime of global exploitation.

How irreversible were the events in France in May '68? The victories that we anti-statists have witnessed, taken part in, and promoted have been few and far between if we take into consideration their staying power. Self-organized moments of direct contestation with the state and its agents are deliriously exciting, but people eventually get tired, worn down by inertia and the channeling of certain forms of struggle into mainstream politics (representation, electoralism, single-issue campaigns that seem easier to "win" etc). Sustained anti-capitalist and anti-statist projects of direct decision making are difficult to count on more than one hand.

I have to agree with Bill that we are losing this war, even if there are occasional victories of self-organized contestations. One important thing to remember is that those experiences can be cumulative, making each successive moment more likely. Some kind of continuity needs to be fostered and nurtured. Part of my annoyance with the way the self-organized struggles in Argentina are discussed is precisely this lack of a sense of continuity; folks talk about this new thing called "horizontalism" as if the forms and mechanisms of it are distinct from the ways that the exploited, the poor, proles, peasants etc have organized themselves from the time of the Paris Commune.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Admin on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 12:27 AM CDT
Yes, we should be skeptical about what state agencies say about radicals, but I suspect that Webb probably committed suicide. Even if the state was involved on some level, Webb's case is the exception. There are many radical journalists out there writing and reporting on the machinations of the U.S. state.

I agree that it is important to analyze the full picture when we look at the effectiveness of any long term social movement. But I also think that it's important for us to frame the big picture in a way that leads to an outcome favorable to our goals. There may be lots of gray areas when it comes to the anti-globalization movement, but I think that we can publicly frame it as a success, or even a victory. I think that the most pernicious thing that anarchists do to themselves is to overestimate the bad things and to ignore the positive.

I agree with you about the use of words like "horizontalism." It's actually an interesting word, but people use it ahistorically and wipe out the history of similar movements. Maybe this word is an example of what I call "Michael Albertism", which could be defined as an effort to de-radicalize terms and use newspeak to redfine radical ideas. Thus, horizontalism replaces anarchism. Paraecon replaces anarchism, cooperative economics and anti-capitalism.

There are perfectly good words which already describe these subjects. Horizontalism is more useful as another way to describe egalitarian social relations. Hell, why not just use egalitarianism?

Chuck
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: lampheads on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 11:34 AM CDT
This is a bit off topic, but I don
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: lawrence on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 11:42 PM CDT
Sure there are "many radical journalists out there writing and reporting on the machinations of the U.S. state" but the attention they get from the state depends on how close they get to whatever passes as truth. If most of these journalists report on the former School of the Americas or the ways that Blackwater, or Halliburton, or Wackenhut play fast and loose with the Constitution, who among the ruling class really cares? They are pretty much untouchable. But get some real information backed with documented evidence about how the CIA created the crack epidemic by channeling funds back and forth to the Contras, then there might be some embarrassment to the state. With the private mercenaries, there's plenty of plausible deniability--lots of distance between the company executives and the people in the shadow government. Then there's the case of Danny Cassolaro...

That you say "it's important for us to frame the big picture in a way that leads to an outcome favorable to our goals" makes exactly the point of self-congratulatory delusion. Framing events in order to make them seem like victories (when they are not) is manipulative to the point of propagandizing. The anti-globalization movement hasn't stopped or slowed down the agenda of the neoliberals. The efforts of anti-globalizers has merely induced the neoliberals to alter their programs, to be more sneaky. There have been moments of direct contestation to be sure, but the overall agenda of the WTO/IMF continues unabated. How can that be considered a success--to say nothing of it being a victory.

It may be true that many anarchists do not focus enough on the positives, but that's because the better informed of us tend to be pretty critical, even cynical if we've been around long enough. The point that I brought up about irreversibility and/or duration of the experiments that get labeled as successes has apparently gone unnoticed.

I like your neologism of michaelalbertism, but I'd spell it like that.

And the point isn't that we need to foist a familiar vocabulary of anarchism on recent movements, but that we bring to them an understanding of the history of similar moments of radical self-organization.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: Admin on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 01:20 AM CDT

Sure there are "many radical journalists out there writing and reporting on the machinations of the U.S. state" but the attention they get from the state depends on how close they get to whatever passes as truth. If most of these journalists report on the former School of the Americas or the ways that Blackwater, or Halliburton, or Wackenhut play fast and loose with the Constitution, who among the ruling class really cares?

I read Webb's book and am mostly familiar with his life and work. It's plausible that the government was involved with his suicide, given the subject nature of his work, but I doubt it. It violates Occam's Razor. Why would the government bother to rub him out when he had been effectively marginalized and was off the radar? The state doesn't react to investigative stuff dug up by other radical journalists. On the other hand, the state can be very irrational sometimes when it comes to picking out those which it sees as a threat. The state's overreaction to ELF and the animal rights movement is a good example of this irrationality. I can see why the state was trying to demonize ELF in the 1990s in order to build up activists as the next terrorist threat, but these days they have real terrorists to scare people with.

That you say "it's important for us to frame the big picture in a way that leads to an outcome favorable to our goals" makes exactly the point of self-congratulatory delusion. Framing events in order to make them seem like victories (when they are not) is manipulative to the point of propagandizing. The anti-globalization movement hasn't stopped or slowed down the agenda of the neoliberals. The efforts of anti-globalizers has merely induced the neoliberals to alter their programs, to be more sneaky. There have been moments of direct contestation to be sure, but the overall agenda of the WTO/IMF continues unabated. How can that be considered a success--to say nothing of it being a victory.

I wasn't talking about making up some kind of postive propagandizing. I firmly believe that the anti-globalization movement is a success among many victories and successes. I've made my thoughts on this clear in other posts to this thread. I'm intimately familiar with the movement and the neoliberals, so I think that an excellent case can be made for victories by anarchists on this front

You can be honest and critical about what we've accomplished--critical does include positive assessments--but I think that the responsibility for the radical is to emphasize the positive in order to incite, provoke, and inspire people to engage in further social change. Emphasizing the postive is no more manipulative than harping on the negatives. Anarchism (and radical activism) seems to be dominated now by people who are cynical and who cut down anybody who tries to talk about the positive. Just look at the hostile attacks Graeber has been the target of in this thread.

I also think that any anarchist leader or organizer should understand that part of the job involves putting on a positive face. Yeah, we all have our self-doubts and cynical days, but if you put that forward all the time, you aren't exactly going to inspire people to change things for the positive.

It may be true that many anarchists do not focus enough on the positives, but that's because the better informed of us tend to be pretty critical, even cynical if we've been around long enough. The point that I brought up about irreversibility and/or duration of the experiments that get labeled as successes has apparently gone unnoticed.

Those of us who tend to be positive are pretty well informed. I'm well aware of the full picture when it comes to these subjects. But my conclusion is that there are positives and successes that we don't talk about and celebrate. We could just dwell on the hopelessness of the struggle, but I read plenty of that dismal crap on the leftist LBO list. Those dingbats won't raise a finger until they've lined up all of their "historical conditions" ducks in a row.

I think that an important part of anarchism is its critical attitude towards the state and other powerful institutions. Much of that attitude includes important cynicism, hostility, ridicule and nihilism. Anarchists are pretty good at tearing down, but we too frequently turn our sharp critical tools on each other. I'd like to see more anarchists like myself, who incorporate the negative and positive into their analysis and practice.

I like your neologism of michaelalbertism, but I'd spell it like that.

Murray Bookchin is another example. He invented social ecology, or at least heavily promoted it and became the face of it, because he was uncomfortable with anarchism. I lump social ecology and paraecon in the same boat. Invented political theories by guys with big egos who didn't want to deal with the baggage of anarchism.

And the point isn't that we need to foist a familiar vocabulary of anarchism on recent movements, but that we bring to them an understanding of the history of similar moments of radical self-organization.

Right.

Chuck

Another victory!
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 08:13 PM CDT

OK, Chuck: you're right. You and Graeber and the whole Seattle & Spain,
Spain & Seatle "movement" are winning. Anyone who says you are not
winning is "negative," "out of whack with reality," etc etc.

See: you've convinced me: yet another victory!
Another victory!
Authored by: Admin on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 09:05 PM CDT
I'm convinced that we are winning. I haven't changed that assessment over the past 6 years. What I really need to focus more on is explaining to people why we are winning and why it's important to press ahead. What I'd like to see is an anarchist movement that is sober about the challenges and understands that we have had our victories along with our defeats.

Chuck
Another victory!
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 07:54 AM CDT
I think we're absolutely winning, but it's not happening in the streets in my opinion. And it may not even have the term "anarchism" attributed to it at all.
If this is victory. . . .
Authored by: CaseyFord on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 01:17 AM CDT
"My point wasn't that the Pittsburgh people are winning, rather that they are doing something when many anarchists, radicals and progressives have convinced themselves that nothing can be done."

Pittsburgh is totally winning.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Patrokolos on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 09:02 PM CDT
Let me preface this by saying it is an actual question that I would like answered to better understand the text.

In the second section (II: The Global Justice Movement), in the paragraph beginning "Obviously we failed..." Graeber writes

almost every small-scale radical group that isn
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: CaseyFord on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 10:16 PM CDT
Robert's Rules of order is used by the wobs i believe.
roberts rules of order eats my rectum
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 13 2007 @ 11:06 PM CDT

Many IWW branches are dominated by boring Marxists. Many, many, many boring Marxists, nearly all who insist that Roberts Rules of Order (or, the offshoot which some branches employ called Rusty's Rules of Order) is far superior to consensus-based decision-making.

I think there'll always be a tension between anarchists and authoritarians in the IWW. Till the end of fuckin' time. It's, uh, human nature... or something.

Not to be fatalistic or anything. And not to suggest that anarchists and Marxists can't get along, and certainly not to suggest that the IWW isn't worth the trouble. It most certainly is, especially for anarchists wanting to do labor and even community organizing. For as boring as the Marxists in the IWW can be at times, and as shitty as Roberts or Rusty's Rules of Order can be to a consensus-loving anarchist, the Marxists of the IWW are probably the least annoying, least boring, and most anarcho-friendly Marxists you'll find on the American Left (except for the ones who viciously and openly hate on anarchists and/or anarchism, in which case Why the hell are they in the IWW?)

And not to theorize endlessly on The Internets. Stop dilly-dallying! Go forth and organize!

roberts rules of order eats my rectum
Authored by: Admin on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 12:15 AM CDT
The IWW would probably be a more dynamic organization if it adopted some variety of consensus decision-making. A Wobbly consensus method would probably drive out some of the more annoying authoritarians. Roberts Rules of Order, as I understand it, was invented by a military person. Plenty of anarchists have correctly criticized Roberts as being an authoritarian form of decision-making, thus being antithetical to anarchist practice.

It would be good to see all anarchist groups using some form of consensus or something similar. Consensus is used by thousands of groups, organizations and businesses around the world. The recent enceuntro in northern Mexico, which included hundreds of indigenous people from around the hemisphere, used consensus decision-making.

I know it's not always easy to use consensus in small groups, but we should strive to use anarchist practices as much as possible.

Chuck
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: crudo on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 09:15 PM CDT
Old anarchists never die, they just argue on infoshop...

Thanks for Rolling Thunder for printing this, especially since that means I can read it in hard copy and not on the internet.

Also, for those that are interested, you can read Rolling Thunder #1 now in PDF format, because issue number one has sold out.

http://www.crimethinc.com/rt/rolling_thunder_1.pdf
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: HPWombat on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 02:59 AM CDT
This is completely off topic and my appologies to the good discussion going on here.

For those that don't know, anti-politics.net is down, but it should be up again soon. Please consider using <a href="http://forums.infoshop.org/viewforum.php?f=9&amp;sid=5c0184371bc7ffe10a5a2f4825d03fc1">Anarchism and Poststructuralism</a> at forums.infoshop.org. It is a forum I administer that inspired the spoon collective discussions and can focus on most any of the relevant discussions that anti-politics.net. Its a great forum to discuss and get new people to enter discussion. Sorry for the interruption.

---
http://midwest.azone.org

David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: HPWombat on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 03:05 AM CDT
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Admin on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 10:06 AM CDT
That link really should be:
http://forums.infoshop.org/viewforum.php?f=9

The rest of the URL that you posted is stuff that identifies your session at the forums.
The sacred and profane in anarchism: or compromise and emergence
Authored by: talonx on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 05:25 AM CDT
Ok, now that all the irrelevance is out of the way.

I have long felt that as societies grow (not necessarily in particular directions) institutions and structures combine, morph, congeal, seperate and generally are pretty unstable. One of the things we have seen differentiating our period of history from the past has always seemed to be, increased stability in some structures and institutions. Further, some institutions are directly manipulated to evolve in particular ways (like governments to some degree the market etc).

Up until very recently, perhaps 2-300 years ago, most of this institutional direction and fixation was achieved , it seems, with arbitrary concerns in mind (beliefs concerning non-reality: supernatural concerns, non causal belief oriented systems, blah blah). However, even with arbitrary concerns in mind the fixation of some institutions seems to have led to greater peace, harmony,...and hegemony. I don't see these things as ultimately a product of civilization just the one we inhabit. This being stated it becomes clear that what we really need to do is find a way to grab hold of systemic fixational mechanisms (things like public opinion, resource power, etc) without exerting hegemonic control.

The compromise here doesn't have to be the marxist one, vangaurds, rules of "natural" hierarchy, no no non of that bullshit. The compromise here, for me anyways, is acknowledging that we within our limited roles as citizens within the political landscapes we inhabit seem to have been granted the right to superficially manipulate things. For instance, taxes in general don't change much (stay calm this is only an example) but often times we elect officials based on how they think taxation should be distributed (superficial from the governments perspective).

This is were emergence comes into play.

In the case of tax law we have a change in code that seems superficial from the US governments perspective, however, as it turns out, at the societal level it very fundementally can determine how well off people are and what kinds of resources they have access to.

What I would like to see, is more anarchists looking for these domains that the government deems superficial, education about those domains (distrib by A), and action concerning those domains.

At this point some are gonna say, "oh he is talking liberal reformist nonsense". NO, what I am saying is that their are very clear avenues of state dismantlement which the government deems legetimate because government isn't organized in a way which allows it to see the complex danger that would confront it via these domains. These avenues of change should be used, can be used. And, when they are used we work most effectively.

This is kind of a dumpster-diving-syndicalism. Use their trash to fuel our fires, certainly we ultimately may want to get rid of certain taxes (if not all taxes) all together, but that shouldn't prevent us from attempting to manipulate law. This is not reform this is inside out dismantlement.

Peace.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: generaluser on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 11:38 AM CDT
I'm really surprised at how the anti-nuclear movement is painted as this totally non-violent gandhi-worshipping peace parade. That certainly may have been the mainstream of the movement, but especially given that this article is supposed to talk about anarchist involvement, I'm surprised at the apparent lack of research which would have included the involvement of many insurrectionary anarchists in the 80's that involved blowing up nuclear pylons and tearing down powerlines connecting nuclear power plants. This is surely significant, yet left out. You can read old issues of Bonnano's zine "Insurrection" (from '88 and '89) to see accounts of these activites.

In general though, I don't think anarchists claim victories too little, but rather too much. I think actions are claimed as "victories" way too often without even thinking about what victory and failure mean in a larger context. What makes a protest a victory? If some reform is achived? What were the goals? I'm kind of surprised this article will appear in Rolling Thunder as I'm used to CrimethInc. usually taking a much more unique and interesting take on issues like this. The article on failure in the fifth Harbinger is an excellent amazing example. Claiming victory too much makes it lose its meaning and just isn't that accurate. Artificially keeping people's spirits up by continually claiming false victories isn't the best course. I think accepting failures WITHOUT it dragging you down too much and having the courage to go on, while seeing individual actions not so much as victories (with some exception) but rather as part of a larger whole that may lead to or build momentum for something bigger and better. I also think that sitting around talking about this shit can be kind of mind-numbing. After reading this article, am I supposed to all of sudden believe the world is so much better than I believed because things I thought were failures were actually victories? Thereby legitimating my lack of action and passive stance as somehow contributing to a victory that just seemed to have been reified by looking at recent history in a different light? Let's do more honesty and less kidding ourselves, while staying optimistic and have courage to keep going, get aquainted with failure and accept it, but always know that possibilities are POSSIBLE, anything is possible, so it can be done and you can be part of it being done. This is real optimism, a real driving force of change and passionate rage, not false victories.

And by the way, let's stop being so uptight about things people do and fucking dispense of nonviolence already, k? Diversity of tactics or NOTHING!
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: davidgraeber on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 12:57 PM CDT
a couple responses:

* as for the anti-nuclear movement, I said pretty explicitly I was talking
about the movement in the US. I wasn't aware of anyone blowing up
pylons in the US (as opposed to in Europe) - though I suppose I could
be wrong. Though I suppose one could argue the movement can't be
seen except in a global context. Also, why is blowing up a pylon violent -
that is, unless it's done in such a way as to blow up people, too? Are
you accepting the bourgeois definition of "violence" as including
unauthorized damage to private property? I might direct you here to the
famous N30 Black Bloc communique.

* the main thrust of the essay was that we find it difficult to achieve our
long-term goals because we often achieve our medium-term goals so
quickly. It's kind of obvious this is not saying we are totally victorious,
since the problem is - as I repeatedly stated - that we _don't_ build up
the movement that would be required to achieve our long-term goals as
a result. It's kind of curious that so many people can't seem to engage
with this question, but instead turn this into a question of "are we
winning?" or "are we not?" Obviously we win some. For example many
of us set out to destroy the IMF. It seems like we were successful.
Most of us however are not even aware that we were successful. I
wanted first of all, to point out that we had, and second of all, to
encourage people to think about how it is we didn't even notice, and
how that reflects on real problems that make more important long-term
victories more difficult to achieve.

* last I checked "diversity of tactics" meant, um, a diverse assortment
of tactics. Are you suggesting that it means non-violent tactics are no
longer to be allowed at all, but only violent ones? Or maybe that any use
of the word "non-violent" is now to be considered somehow offensive?
Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I rather like the N30 statement referred to
above. Anyway, my own position is clear enough: there are gradations
of degrees of force that are employed by both sides in any conflict,
neither side ever uses all the force at its disposal, and this is especially
true nowadays when we are dealing with a US government that could
blow up the entire planet a hundred times over if they really wanted to.
Anti-authoritarians are never going to be able to win a no-holds-barred
military show-down with the government. If we come up against the US
army, we'll lose. When anarchists or other anti-authoritarian
revolutionaries win, historically, it's almost invariably because enough of
the cops or soldiers sent against them refuse to shoot at them, or
refuse to show up at all. That's the important question for me - what
sort of tactics will make this more likely to happen - not boring moralistic
ones about "violence" and "non-violence" which mostly miss the point
entirely. This is partly what I was trying to get at in the piece when I
observed that arguments about property destruction were really
arguments about capitalism. I don't want to fall into the same pointless
side-show argument over and over again. It doesn't go anywhere.
Calling someone out for violating principles of "non-violence" and calling
someone out for using the word "non-violent" at all are two sides of the
same crude moralistic coin. We need a language and analysis that's
more sophisticated.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Admin on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 03:44 PM CDT
General user writes:
"I think actions are claimed as "victories" way too often without even thinking about what victory and failure mean in a larger context. What makes a protest a victory?"

I agree with you when it comes to people declaring "victory" over specific protests, but that's different than the overall victories and successes we've had with bigger campaigns and movements. These successes don't get celebrated or even acknowledged. I'm always astounded when I read something by an anarchist who dismisses the post-Seattle movement. Any person who can't see the huge success the post-Seattle movement was for us is obviously operating from a deep negative, cynical space.

David brings up some really important points in this essay and subsequent comments, points that anarchists should be discussing in depth. We do have problems transitioning from successful campaigns to something more solid and long-lasting. I remember that during the heady days of the post-Seattle movement, I was worried that we wouldn't be in a position to build upon what we were doing at that time. When 9/11 happened and our big D.C. protests got called off, we quickly saw what happens when the groundwork hasn't been laid for a more long-lasting movement. Perhaps I'm being overly pessimistic here, but we had a situation where thousands of people were interested in anarchism and they didn't have anything to plug into.

Chuck
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: corporatecrimina on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 11:09 PM CDT
I think Graeber makes it pretty clear that he's not advocating a strict non-violence code that shuns property destruction. Nor is he shying away from the issue when he says, "...there
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: MagonistaRevolt on Wednesday, February 13 2008 @ 02:35 PM CST
slaying the italic dragon
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: MagonistaRevolt on Wednesday, February 13 2008 @ 02:36 PM CST
fixing the italic problem again
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Admin on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 11:56 AM CDT
What I'd like to see is more anarchist conferences that focus on discussing strategy. A strategy-oriented conference would give people some time to meet face-to-face to talk about these issues in depth. Most anarchist conferences are too disjointed by workshops to allow any kind of long in-depth discussion about strategy and goals.

Anybody want to come to Kansas City in '08 for such a conference?

Chuck
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Patrokolos on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 02:11 PM CDT
If you are into strategic discussions you should check out/support and promote: The Center for Strategic Anarchy
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: corporatecrimina on Monday, October 15 2007 @ 03:03 PM CDT
There is going to be an Anarchist Organizing conference in Chicago this upcoming April. It won't be exclusively about strategy, but I would expect it to be a major theme.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 03:37 AM CDT
Discussing stragety inevitably requires accepting criticisms from people like Bill Not Bored. If his criticisms of a given discussion were treated the same way during a stragetic meeting, I think nothing useful would come out of it.

In the end I agree with his sentiments.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 03:55 AM CDT
I have no desire to reply to other things in the article, but I wanted to make one point clear here. :)

"2) Medium-Term Goals: to block construction of all new nuclear plants, delegitimize the very idea of nuclear power and begin moving towards conservation and green power, and legitimate new forms of non-violent resistance and feminist-inspired direct democracy

[...]

The actions did delegitimize the very idea of nuclear power raising public awareness to the point that when Three Mile Island melted down in 1979, it doomed the industry forever."

I've been studying power for a decade now. And the statistics are clear, nuclear, worldwide and even in the USA, still trends along with power consumption and coal usage. You look at DOE energy statistics and the trend is really obvious. It didn't "stop nuclear power," it merely kept it from taking over coal as the primary energy producer. Nuclear power in those times was going to be the great harbringer of cheap energy. However, the markets were happy to have nuclear power take a back seat (as I said it hasn't "stopped," as new nuclear plants are still being built, it just takes a long time). Because it was *profitable* for coal and gas plants to continue on their rampage. This is clearly an example of something in the interests of activists also being in the interests of the capitalist market. If coal plants had to take the back seat because of a new energy source, then billions if not trillions of dollars would've been 'lost' over time as those plants festered and coal stayed in the ground.

So if something is in the interest of capitalists, I feel that it's completely silly to actually give them what they want. Nuclear power would've "failed" on its own simply because of the cost of depolyment. But it still manages to grow at a steady, but slow rate, while being heavily subsidized by the state.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 05:36 AM CDT
"Why"(?) wrote:
It didn't "stop nuclear power,"...
You quoted a string of words that Graeber didn't even use in his article. What he said was that one of the medium-term goals of the anti-nuke movement was to "delegitimize the very idea of nuclear power". The short-term goals of stopping the construction of specific power plants failed, but the goal of deligitimizing nukes in the public's eye worked. They might build new nuclear power plants, but people by and large are definitely not enthusiastic about them.

Also, if you wanted to make an argument that capitalism took advantage of the anti-nuke movement by investing in other forms of energy that were more profitable (in your words: "an example of something in the interests of activists also being in the interests of the capitalist market"), you could easily have mentioned how they've been (in Graeber's words) "moving towards conservation and green power", since that's (1) enormously profitable for capitalists and (2) serves as a much better example of capitalist opportunism merged with co-optation of activists' desires. Nevertheless, it would have been a pretty boring tangent, 'cause it's like Duh - capitalists want to make money off things -- really?!

Oh, and then there's the part where you say:

So if something is in the interest of capitalists, I feel that it's completely silly to actually give them what they want.
Haven't you ever done anything, ever, that a capitalist can make money off of? I'll bet you a million dollars that you will do at least 5 things within the next year that some capitalist somewhere will profit from. Or, are you the One that is so pure and holy and beyond the reproach you have for others?

And while I'm at it, let me knock this one down, too:

"Discussing stragety [sic] inevitably requires accepting criticisms from people like Bill Not Bored. If his criticisms of a given discussion were treated the same way during a stragetic [again, sic] meeting, I think nothing useful would come out of it."
Um... Bull. Shit. [sic to death of your lame arguments] ... Nothing good came of Bill Not Bored's flimsy criticisms, and nothing good is coming of yours, since (in my humble opinion) both of you presented rather idiotic and pointless blather masquerading as intelligent debate. If you or Bill Not Bored were in a stra-te-gic meeting, you'd probably just be ignored.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 07:32 AM CDT
"The short-term goals of stopping the construction of specific power plants failed, but the goal of deligitimizing nukes in the public's eye worked."

Oh, OK, so we're talking about the public percepction of nuclear power. Fine, yes, they fearmongered people into disliking nuclear power except for places like France. But that wasn't the big thing stopping nuclear power, look at history, the Non-Poliferation Treaty went to great extents to do it, and this was needed because as an exploitive first world state you don't want third world countries having access to nuclear technology (since it allows for one to make nukes and then be on an interesting playing field as far as policy is concerened). So not only did they "back down" making nuclear power plants, they prevented the third world from having it, too.

I'm still amused by supposedly intelligent Americans protesting the launching a space probe that has so little nuclear material in it that it's essentially irrelevant.

"They might build new nuclear power plants, but people by and large are definitely not enthusiastic about them."

Erm. Yes, of course they're not, but "peoples enthusiam" is irrelevant. The state is going to build a power plant as the need arises (be it a nuclear power plant, a hydroelectric power plant or some varient thereof), and if you look at the statistics in the USA that is *exactly what is happening.* There is no "slow down" of nuclear power, it continues as demand is met. The only difference is that it did not take over coal as a power source as it was purported to do back when practically every country was throwing billions of dollars at the problem (thus, really, making the issue not marketable anyway). Coal still won, which is precisely what the capitalists wanted, because nuclear at the time was too expensive and not an ideal energy source in an environment where fossil fuels are magnitudes cheaper. In places like France and Japan which lack fossil sources nuclear wins the day. And if you were to go to France and protest nuclear power plants I assure you that they won't be fearmongered into cowering down and saying "oh no 80% of our power is evil!!"

So you just ignored what I said and picked at one niggly pedantic word. I say "stop" I should've said "hinder." Boo hoo.

"you could easily have mentioned how they've been (in Graeber's words) "moving towards conservation and green power", since that's (1) enormously profitable for capitalists and (2) serves as a much better example of capitalist opportunism merged with co-optation of activists' desires."

Read my blog "Live Earth a Smashing Success for Green Capitalism." I have for quite awhile been writing about this issue, and I get flamed for it but what can I do. I've noted the consumerist aspect of activist circles for awhile. But we were talking about a more specific example, that is, the "success" of activists "deligitmizing nuclear power," when all they did was prevented it from taking over coal power (which was already cheaper and more profitable for capitalists anyway). So I had no desire to reiterate something I've been saying for awhile.

"Haven't you ever done anything, ever, that a capitalist can make money off of? I'll bet you a million dollars that you will do at least 5 things within the next year that some capitalist somewhere will profit from."

Of course I have. But I don't sit back and say I was an activist and my activism actually resulted in harming fucking capitalism when I do it! Harming capitalism, fucking it up, is not an easy task. It can profit from destruction just as much as it can from building. It is such a pervasive entity that we really really do need to look at a given situation before we come to the conclusion that our actions were successful at harming capitalism. But it seems here that in this instance the intention wasn't to harm capitalism, but rather to harm nuclear power, or at least that's what it seems you're arguing. That's fine. But as I pointed out it didn't work. Nuclear power wins the day in places where it is strategicly beneficial to utilize it. Places without local abundances of fossil or hydrolocial resources.

"Nothing good came of Bill Not Bored's flimsy criticisms, and nothing good is coming of yours, since (in my humble opinion) both of you presented rather idiotic and pointless blather masquerading as intelligent debate. If you or Bill Not Bored were in a stra-te-gic meeting, you'd probably just be ignored."

Ad homs are all you people have been throwing at Bill Not Bored, so you only helped prove my point when you direct them at me. If we really were expressing "idiotic and pointless blather" then it would've been incredibly easy to ignore both of us, but people attached to Bill Not Bored, albeit without being substantive. I say the word "stop" instead of "hinder" and you pick at it like a vulture.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: davidgraeber on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 08:43 AM CDT
actually, my responses to Bill's attacks on my "loopy self-congratulation"
were:

1) that he was attacking me for a statement that I had obviously
never made (that "we" are "winning" in some grand overall struggle)
2) that his supposed refutation of my observation about the US
government tends to use war as a way of undermining internal
democratic mobilization employed fallacious logic

in what way were these ad hominems? An ad hominem is when you
divert attention to someone's arguments by attacking their personal
character instead. My comments addressed Bill's arguments (stating
that the first was irrelevant, and the second logically incoherent). About
his personal character apart from his arguments I know nothing at all.
David
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 10:22 AM CDT
Did you forget the part where you called him a "loud, belligerent, and frankly in this case at least rather stupid person"? Among many other insults you and others threw at him? C'mon, be honest here guys, you didn't like what he was saying so it pissed you off.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: davidgraeber on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 11:35 AM CDT
yes, but you know for what it's worth that's not an ad hominem because
I was simply describing his arguments and style of argument. If
someone makes arguments in a belligerent style it's not "ad hominem"
to say they are doing so. If someone makes stupid arguments it's not
an ad hominem to say that "in this case, at least" they are acting
stupid. It might be rude, but lord knows Mr. "Not Bored" is the one who
introduced the extreme rudeness element, not me. Sorry. If you write
something saying "I think in certain campaigns we've won our middle
range goals so quickly it's impeded our ability to win our long-range
ones", and someone jumps in and starts screaming "how can you be
such an idiot as to believe we are winning the overall war against
capitalist imperialism!!!!" you are kind of asking for such treatment. If
you are going to attack someone in a rude, arrogant, and superior
fashion, you should at least get your basic facts and logic right, or
people _will_ point it out, and probably in an equally impolite fashion. To
complain about their doing so seems downright bizarre. It's like
someone runs in and tries to punch me, misses, slips on a banana peel
and falls on his face, and you're complaining that I'm laughing at him.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 10:27 AM CDT
BTW, I don't get this whole discussion about "winning" myself. You wrote at the conclusion of your article, "Actually, recently, we&#8217;ve been winning quite a lot."

Which I might agree with on different issues (not the ones you write about).

Bill Not Bored! merely responded to that statement with their misgivings within the movement. It then devolved into this, gosh, 50 reply discussion about winning or not. Geez.

Anyway, I'm done responding (though I might stealthily respond a few months from now as I've done that before because I just can't help it when I get unnecessarily flamed). ;P
stop nuclear power
Authored by: davidgraeber on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 11:44 AM CDT
No he didn't. That statement clearly says that we've been winning "quite
a lot" _of specific campaigns_ - not that we are winning some grand
overall war against capital, as should be obvious from the repeated
statements throughout the article that (a) we are destroying the state
and capitalism, and (b) we don't even have a clear vision of how we
would. Taking one phrase out a context that _could_ be read in one way
and saying that he was responding to that one phrase and not to the
article as a whole is just childish. Even you must know that's not really
true.

As for the nuclear industry: well, if that's what you want to think, fine. It
is my understanding, from friends who were part of the Abalone
Alliance, for instance, that PG&E was planning over 50 new nuclear
plants when the Diablo Canyon campaign began. Every one except
Diablo Canyon was cancelled. But sure, if you prefer: nothing we do
makes any difference. Let's all just go home and feel superior to each
other for successfully proving just how hopelessly fucked we all are and
that will make things much better.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: davidgraeber on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 11:46 AM CDT
oops - the statement above "we are destroying the state and capitalism"
should obviously be "we are NOT destroying the state and capitalism"

sorry. typo
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 01:13 PM CDT
Since you didn't flame me I felt I should respond. You said:

"But to start in that direction, the first thing we need to do is to recognize that we do, in fact, win some. Actually, recently, we&#8217;ve been winning quite a lot."

This does not read as "winning specific campaigns," it reads as "we are winning a lot of campaigns." Because you say, at first, that we "win some," but then go on to say we've been "winning a lot." Do you see what I'm saying? A lot implies that our successes are more than 'some' and may even imply to some that it is the majority of our attempts. Anyway, would you consider this a reformist, as opposed to a revolutionary, position to have? Picking here and there at the state and hoping that one day all of our changes will make it collapse? I'm a revolutionary and I don't ascribe to those views. And I'm certainly more pessimistic about these things than most. Though I don't think that warrents saying I don't think certain actions cannot work, merely that those actions are not for me.

Anyway, the Abalone Alliance pwned PG&E, no doubt. And that was a great success for that movement. But there are 70 operational nuclear power plants in the country, perhaps the goal of 50 power plants was met after all, although not by PG&E (the cost of the Diablo Canyon plant was incredibly insane). The mindset back then was that nuclear power would *replace* coal power, not *supplant* coal power. But clearly that was economically infeasible (although not in France which has almost no fossil resources). So if you go to the second energy link I posted, you can see a chart showing total energy use, and total nuclear energy use, and it is clear that it is supplanting coal and other energy sources, as time goes on. There was never any realistic hope of nuclear just taking over coal overnight, coal is dang cheap. But within 20 years coal will be taking the back seat no doubt.

Pointing this out by no means devalues the actions those people took. Nor does it encourage a defeatist position that nothing can be done. It merely points out the success rate in a reasoned manner, nothing more, nothing less. You take with it what you will. If some people take from it that they shouldn't act, that is just fine, as not everyone should have to act. Likewise if people take from it a change of tactics, then that's great too!

To respond to the ad hom thing, I think that the first couple of responses to Bill Not Bored calling him stupid gave him every right to become belligerent, though I think if he was smart he wouldn't let stuff like that get to him.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: davidgraeber on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 01:23 PM CDT
I see what you're saying but it's absurd. Yes, I said we've been winning
a lot of campaigns - though I also specified (over and over again) this is
in terms of middle-range and not long-range goals, and that in fact we
have the problem that our very success in achieving middle-range goals
often seems to impede our ability to successfully challenge the state and
capitalism in the long term. This is obviously not the same as saying "we
are winning" in the long-term campaign against the state and capitalism
and if someone loudly declares that's what I was saying, it's hard to
conclude anything other than that they either had read the piece with no
comprehension whatsoever, or they had decided for some reason to
willfully misrepresent its contents. Basically what you are doing is making
up desperate excuses for self-evidently stupid and obnoxious behavior.
But enough of that. That conversation contributed absolutely nothing to
anything so I shouldn't be keeping it alive - my bad. I will no longer talk
about Bill Brown and from now on confine myself to topics that might be
of some actual interest.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 01:40 PM CDT
Do you really think that the meat of his comments were about whether or not you said we were "winning"? It seems that wasn't the brunt of his comments at all yet that's what people decided to focus on. Call this observation "absurd" if you will. But whatever, we can let it die.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: davidgraeber on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 02:21 PM CDT
this was Bill's first response to the piece:

>Bush and Cheney are still in office; torture is widely practiced and
called
>legal and justified by those who perpetrate it; none of Bush/Cheney's
>cohorts are in jail (not to mention swinging from trees); the US military
>is still in Iraq and Afghanistan and may soon be in Iran, too; the
election
>"results" of 2006 have proved to have been completely illusionary; all
of
>the Democratic candidates with any possibility of getting elected are
pro-
>occupation, pro-war and pro-Big Business; global warming and pollution
>proceeds at an ever-quickening pace; all kinds of products from WTO
>member state China are being recalled for containing lead; New
Orleans
>is still under water; snitches and FBI plants helped put away several
>ALF/ELF radicals; etc etc etc.

>If this is Graeber's idea of victory, I'd hate to see his idea of defeat.

then, when biofilo pointed out that wasn't my point, saying (accurately
enough) that I was pointing out, among other things:

>"We're a long way from winning, but we're actually contenders in a
fight,
>not spectators--at least when we choose to be--and that's an
important
>thing to understand."

he replied

>Good point: only it's not the point that Graeber makes: he thinks we
are
>winning, as if the anti-capitalist movement was like a soccer game

look, just give it up. The guy misread the piece completely and insisted
we all debate an issue that he invented even as he argued that it was
stupid. Thus he effectively prevented discussion of almost anything
actually in the text. Now let's stop - I shouldn't even be posting this, I
said I wouldn't, but I really find it tiresome to watch all this weaseling -
let's talk about something interesting for a change
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 10:30 AM CDT
BTW, WeedLiver, here's a site with the statistics I talked about: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/nuc_generation/nugen_small.jpg

Click on Graphs: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/nuclear.html

It's been steady for the past 3 decades. There's no doubt about that. So just because "perceptions were changed" means squat, which is what I was arguing.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Admin on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 12:59 PM CDT
I forgot to mention the grassroots campaigns against nuclear power as another victory for our movement. Anarchists were also involved in that movement so we can add that to our list of successes. Some of the older activists involved with the anti-globalization movement cut their teeth on the anti-nuke campaigns of the 1970. So, in addition to halting the construction of nuke plants, those campaigns also trained activists who went on to be involved in other movements.

There is a move afoot to start building nuke plants again. It looks like we'll have to re-educate the public once again about why building nuclear plants are a bad idea. Perhaps anarchists can add some extra analysis about the dangers of centralized, government-controlled industries.

Chuck
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Why on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 01:26 PM CDT
Just so you know, many nuclear power plants have just been retrofitted or additions have been made rather than "building new ones" over the years. According to wikipedia it looks like a lot of them have gone through this process (which also increases electrical output). Nuclear power is pretty scalable, so they just add another boiler and steam tower, pow, double the output.
stop nuclear power
Authored by: Admin on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 03:26 PM CDT
It doesn't surprise me that current nuke plants have been upgraded. I would assume that this is the case, because energy companies are always upgrading and improving their facilities (for the most part).

But the anti-nuke movement had a significant effect in stopping the nuclear power industry from building more plants. This was a significant victory for grassroots activists and I'll bet that the ruling class and the power industry are still smarting from losing that battle.

Chuck
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: corporatecrimina on Tuesday, October 16 2007 @ 10:54 PM CDT
Overall, I really appreciated the essay and the way I read it, Graeber's saying that we often deliver blows to institutions of power without knocking them out. I think he raiese a question that hasn't really been discussed.

What do we as anarchists do when we are part of movements that achieve our medium-term goals? We often share common cause with liberals when we mobilize around particularly egregious manifestations of capitalism and state power. How do we organize in a mutually beneficial way without losing momentum once the do-gooders bail or letting them co-opt the the movement to steer it into counter-productive ends? (Which I would argue happened when the more radical, grassroots anti-war movement of 2003 turned into the Kerry campaign of 2004.)

David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: HPWombat on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 12:11 AM CDT
Overall, I really appreciated the essay and the way I read it, Graeber's saying that we often deliver blows to institutions of power without knocking them out. I think he raiese a question that hasn't really been discussed.

What do we as anarchists do when we are part of movements that achieve our medium-term goals? We often share common cause with liberals when we mobilize around particularly egregious manifestations of capitalism and state power. How do we organize in a mutually beneficial way without losing momentum once the do-gooders bail or letting them co-opt the the movement to steer it into counter-productive ends? (Which I would argue happened when the more radical, grassroots anti-war movement of 2003 turned into the Kerry campaign of 2004.)

Well this is where the question is. I think that we may of held onto some legitimacy, especially those anarchists that chose not to vote (especially among two billionaires...wtf!). Our actions also generated some legitimacy and I think that is where Graeber was trying to go. It wasn't that we are winning a war, but we are winning the ability to be heard above the drone of the mass media and affect people's perceptions of us and what we are about.

However, it must be said that gaining legitimacy doesn't mean a win either. What is the cost of that legitimacy? What did we lose or what are we refusing to do if this legitimacy was won without an anarchist engagement in practicing anarchy? Did activists win or did anarchists? I'll look over the article again, it is definately a good read because it does say a lot and it also speaks of how we are practicing. I'll probably find a more critical position later, but I do agree with Bill that our practice hardly breaks past a citizenist approach, but I don't think this should be seen as a horrible thing, just a neutral thing, its how we normally are. I also don't think Graeber is suggesting we just remain normal, but rather speaking positively of it.

On a side note, anti-politics.net/forum is back up.

---
http://midwest.azone.org
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: freeboot on Monday, October 22 2007 @ 11:46 AM CDT
Comrades,
Enough with the pettiness and quibbling over qualitative assessments over
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 22 2007 @ 10:39 PM CDT
I really liked reading this article, especially at a time when it seems like more anarchists are returning to the discussion of how mass action fits into anarchist struggle. It seemed like we drew inward a lot after 9/11 and dismissed mass action too much.

I'm wondering now with the conventions coming up what our short term, medium term and long term goals are there? How can we use this article to maybe help pre-empt these problems of quickly achieving our goals and not knowing what do next?

To get the ball rolling, here are the goals I have been hearing

short-term: shut down or at least significantly disrupt conventions to show vulnerability of the state and mass discontent and illegitimacy of the two-party system

medium term: this is honestly the part where I haven't heard anything clearly stated. I usually hear something like "to inspire and ignite a return to a more horizontal, participatory and diverse form of resistance that will lead to effectively stopping the war"

long term: smash the state and destroy capitalism

What is our medium term goal? Since it is election and party-based it seems more lofty than the destroying the IMF/World Bank because logically wouldn't a target like the two-party system mean we want to ultimately take that down? But that's the long term goal? Ok too many questions, I'll leave it at that.
David Graeber: The Shock of Victory
Authored by: Petros on Monday, May 06 2013 @ 09:30 AM CDT

There is general problem of 'The day after', which has recently been addressed in "The Anarcho-Positivist Perspective" as a call for more constructive actions _besides_ protest and traditional activist approach.