ppi.033-re-2: theoretical and tactical problem for the anarchist movement

1998-05-29

Richard Moore

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 ppi.033-re-2: theoretical and tactical problem for the anarchist movement
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rkm

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To: •••@••.•••
From: •••@••.••• (Richard K. Moore)
Subject: Re: aac-theoretical and tactical problem for the anarchist movement

I had written:
  >>The PGA approach seems to be essentially an anarchist approach, and in my
>>conversation with Sergio I learned much that was valuable about how the
>>anarchist approach has had considerable success in Brazil, India, and
 >>elsewhere in the over-exploited world, and I was forced to rethink my own
  >>ideas about revolutionary strategy.   This process continues.

5/24/98, Richard Singer responded:
  >Please fill us in on these developments.  I understand that there
 >are very interesting cooperatives in India that make Mondragon look like
 >Nike.  (Well, not really, but they've gone well beyond Mondragon --
  >especially one in southern India, though I can't remember the name.)

Sergio and I spoke at a general level.  He was saying that in the
long-colonized countries of `the south' people have evolved ways of
resisting, ways of maintaining their ways of life, that do not focus on
participation in the formal political process or the state apparatus, but
which emphasize building their own infrastructures, communities, etc.  At
least that's how I understood what he was saying.

His point was that in those countries resistance to globalization is simply
a continuation of the long-standing resistance to colonialism, and that the
south is therefore `ahead of' the `north' in its anti-globalization
activism.  He said that in his own political education he learns from two
sources: the intellectuals of the north (Chomsky, Martin Kohr, etc etc etc)
and from the mass movements of the south.  Of the two he finds in the south
a deeper political wisdom, one based on generations of experience and
tactics-refinement.

I _sincerely hope I'm not misrepresenting Sergio, but this is my best
candid summary of our conversation.

Given the misrepresentations that I've seen in subsequent PGA (Peoples
Global Action) press releases, I am now seeking independent verification of
Sergio's `south analysis', but for the time being I'm willing to accept it
as highly plausible.

The problem I'm having with PGA's agenda, and this is a serious problem of
strategy, is that they _seem to think the southern model can be imported
and applied in the north, and that seems to be the intent of the street
actions that PGA has been emphasizing, and the sensationalist press
releases.

But the southern model simply doesn't fit in the north.  In the south you
had centries of foreign domination, with relatively tiny local elites also
a highly visible part of the `oppressors', and hence you have, evidently, a
`majority civil society infrastructure' which is already oriented against
capital exploitation and which can be used as the basis of a national
revolutionary strategy.  One can talk there about `ignoring the state', and
building power in a new way from the bottom up.  This would seem to me to
be the classic definition of anarchism.

In the north the social and political dynamics during the colonial era have
been quite different.  Peasant-based farming has been largely replaced by
commercial agribusiness, the overwhelming majority of people receive their
income from wage-paying jobs, the societies are highly urbanized and depend
for basic survival on complex water-sytems, electrical grids, long-distance
trucking, etc -- there just isn't the fabric of a bottom-up self-sufficient
civil society which operates independent of the state and capitalist
infrastructures.

In large parts of India and Brazil, if the international capitalist system
were to collapse, people could go on living as they have been.  In the
north if the capitalist system were to suddenly collapse (ie, a Great
Depression) there would be mass starvation and chaos.  Rather than taking
to the streets to `seize the state', people in the north would be hoping
and praying that the Army could get it together to bring food and water to
the cities.  There would be a resurgance of _support for a centralized
state, at least in the cities, which is where the majority of people live.

Everywhere people are trying to apply models without first analyzing the
very unique circumstances of globalization in 1998, and how it manifests
itself in different places, and how it has profoundly transformed the
pre-1945 dyamics at every level of geopolitics and politics.

rkm:
  >>The nation state, what it is, what it means, how and why it is changing --
 >>this is in fact the central issue in our modern dynamics.  To be more
>>precise, the _matrix of `nation state', `capitalist elite', and `popular
>>consciousness' are _together the central triad of issues.
>>
>>This is one area where I've made a breakthrough in historical understanding
>>that I've seen no one else articulate, even Chomsky, and I'll be more than
 >>happy to be proved wrong on this last point, "pride of discovery" is not
  >>the issue here.

R Singer:
  >Chomsky has been discussing the globalization of capital as long as
 >anyone.  I have no time to go citing references at the moment, but he has
>made it clear that capital has been functioning on an international level,
>deliberately undermining the nation-state structure... removing whatever
>connection this control might have to the
>influence of (very limited) democracy.  This is precisely why he has made
>calls (which have been somewhat controversial among anarchists) to
 >strengthen the power of nation-state governments in areas that at least
  >ostensibly serve the public sector.

My analysis and Chomsky's have fundamental differences.  There is certainly
overlap, and the `globalization of capital', taken broadly, has been a
topic of discussion ever since Marx.  One of the critical observations in
my analsysis is that a radical shift occurred all-at-once in 1945, not in
an evolutionary way -- that is, the breaking of the centuries old bond of
capital to the strong nation state.  With this observation one can see that
globalization is a _qualitatively new mode of capitalism.  Chomsky has
observed the consequences of this broken bond, but has he articulated
precisely why, how, and when it came about?

Marx predicited that _some kind of globalization was bound to happen _some
day, he gave us fair warning, and many thanks to his brilliance, but his
call for a `global proletarian revolution' offers little in the way of
specific strategies or tactics that can be useful to us today, and in fact
the whole idea of a `proletarian revolution' in the north is a model which
just doesn't fit.

Another of my critical observations is that capital's abandonment of the
strong northern nation state led inexorably to a breaking of the implicit
partnership, the functional collaboration, between capital and popular
interests.  This radically changes the dynamics of politics in the north.

The Social Democrats (in Europe) and the Democratic Party (in the US)
represented a brokering of popular and capital interests, a working out of
the terms of the `partnership'.  This arrangement _seemed to provide a
modicum of democracy, but it can perhaps be better understood as a
co-option of democracy.  Democracy should be about _power being vested in
the people, instead under social-democracy we've allowed capital to have
the _power (especially in foreign policy and economic sectors) and have
satisfied ourselves with an _economic `payoff'.

Now that the elite have decided to stop sharing the economic spoils with
northern populations, the last vestiges of even a co-opted democracy have
been discarded, and the fact that we have for centuries actually been
living in an _oligarchy is becoming apparent to more and more people.

Chomsky doesn't seem to realize this, or else he wouldn't be calling for
people to "strengthen the power of nation-state governments in areas that
at least ostensibly serve the public sector".  This is a call to revive the
social-democrat program; this is no longer possible because capital is no
longer playing that game.  Chomsky's analysis is therefore
counter-productive as a guide to sound revolutionary strategy.  The devil,
as they say, is indeed in the details.  The details are all important and
too many would-be `changers of the system' are so eager to `do something'
that their energies are being applied in ways that only contributes to the
maintenance of the current regime, or even worse, help push it toward
fascism.

In their breaking of the social-democrat contract, their abandonment of
northern populations, capital has made the decision to colonize _all of us,
north and south alike.  In this sense the north is being southernized, and
it is fair for PGA to look to the south for resistance models.  But PGA is
taking the wrong lessons from their `peek at the south'; they are trying to
import wholesale strategies which don't fit with the politics of the north
and which don't fit with the societal infrastructures of the north.  For
this reason PGA, as well as Chomsky, are doing more harm than good when it
comes down to the specifics of effective revolutionary strategy in the
north.  Imho.

What has become true in the north, as has been true in the south for
centuries, is that the _majority of the population is now being blatantly
suppressed and exploited.  But this majority in the north lives mostly in
cities and is dependent on complex infrastructures for survival.  Shutting
down the system and living off your community's indigeneous vegees, so to
speak, just can't work in the north.  A peaceful transition is necessary to
avoid mass starvation and chaos, and in fact a peaceful transition is
necessary to avoid fascism, because fascism would be the result in the
north if chaos arose.

Not only is a peaceful transition _necessary, but fortunately it is now
also _feasible.  It has become feasible (only since 1980) _because the
middle class, so to speak, has been openly abandoned.  The very _bane of
globalization provides the _seeds of a peaceful revolutionary transition to
genuine bottom-up democracy.

R Singer:
  >...Also a point that I have seen made before in a number of
 >places...  But you should note that the nation-state is still used as a
>device when it serves the convenience of capital.  The control exerted by
>nation-states has also been strengthened in ways where it might prevent
>radical movements (including labor-based ones) from becoming international.
>For instance, there has been stricter enforcement of nationalist immigration
>laws, and laws have been passed to make it easier to ban people in the U.S.
 >from participating in or funding subversive "foreign" movements (cleverly
  >disguised as "anti-terrorist" laws).

I have often noted this, in several articles which can be found at:
        http://www.iol.ie/~rkmoore/cyberjournal

In New Dawn magazine, I'm currently publishing a series of articles called
"The Police State Conspiracy, an Indictment".  What I point out in these
articles is that the nation state itself is not being abandoned, but rather
the `strong' nation state is being abandoned.  Again, the critical
distinctions are in the details, and these distinctions make _worlds of
difference in the informing of strategy.

What is happening to the northern nation state is that it is being
transformed into the southern model of the nation state.  And what is the
model in the south?  It is suppression of the population, by military force
when necessary, and a devotion of the state apparatus to the support of
international capital and its unregulated exploitation of national
resources, both human and material.

It is no accident that the northern nation state is being transformed in
this way, and it is no evolutionary development.  It is the conscious plan
of the capital elite, who launched their well-funded and well-planned
neoliberal project with simultaneous coups over US and UK politics using
Reagan and Thatcher as their fronts.


R Singer:
  >If you haven't read it yet, I would strongly recommend Benjamin
 >Barber's _Jihad vs. McWorld_, which deals with the problems of global
>corporate hegemony and reactionary ethnic and nationalist fervor, and
 >discusses how these supposedly opposing approaches actually feed off one
  >another.

That's what I'm trying to explain, that knee-jerk reactions to the symptoms
of globaliztion are in most cases counter-productive: they strengthen the
global regime rather than undermine it.  Whole nations and special-interest
groups within nations are clamoring like lemmings over the cliff of
divisiveness, and the corporate mass-media is systematically doing
everything it can to promote such divisiveness, with its bashing of
Muslims, of immigrants, of inner-city dwellers, of militias, of liberals,
of conservatives, etc.  (Who in the end isn't `bashed' by the media?  Who
is there left as an `average viewer' that the mass-media message is
supposedly being addressed to?)

We _all are being led to think of `our own little group' as being the only
one that really has integrity and is really for justice and democracy.
Militia's think there's a `liberal establishment' that is the enemy, and
that establishement includes nearly everone but themselves.  On anarchist
lists it is precisely _anarchism which is seen as the one and true light,
just as in Christian circles only the `blood of the lamb' can save
humanity.

We need to find ways to unite.  Instead of wishing everyone were an
anarchist, how about thinking in terms of how the anarchist perspective can
_contribute to a broader coalition strategy?  All of the 'isms need to step
back and realize that either we all stand together, or we all will be
dominated, and divide-and-conquer is the oldest elite strategy in the book.


solidarity!
rkm
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