When we hear the word anarchy, we are accustomed to think of the absence of all order, a state of chaos, destruction and general collapse. Hence the idea of "anarchism," of a set of political and social beliefs focused around the concept "anarchy" seems at best absurd and at worst dangerous and violent. This is as good a place as any to begin the discussion of anarchism.
Submitted by GustavLandauer on Fri, 08/17/2007 - 7:38pm
A friend of mine at the store asked me to write a little about what it means to be "anarchist," which I promptly agreed to without hesitation. I've realized though that this is a pretty weighty thing to attempt, for a variety of reasons. There are many strands of thought and practice that might be associated as "anarchist" and there is no real party line to unify them. To some extent that's the point, but there's little point in just asserting a term without content.
I'm Aimy... a collective member at Monkeywrench books. I volunteer here because I believe there should be more free public spaces for people to use. I'm also interested in independent media, diy ethic, and awesomeness.
Testing the blog function of our sweet new website... :-)
Mainstream media and politics give us two options when considering the debacle of the Iraq invasion. Maintain the occupation until certain US determined benchmarks are achieved; or immediate withdrawal, letting the country fall into chaos.
Speaking as someone who has participated in anti-war efforts in the past and who opposes the occupation, I must admit, these two choices both fill me with dread and regret. I want the occupation to end immediately, no question. But I also feel ashamed that my home nation has destroyed Iraq, and has allowed and fueled a civil war, and I hesitate to say we should leave rather than repair the damage caused by our government.
I think many people in America feel this way. I wonder if this has hindered the anti-war movement in some part, this lack of resolution as to a course of action to fight for.
I saw a documentary last night that gave me much more resolution, and I encourage everyone to see it. It's called "Face to Face," and it's about the Iraqi labor movement. It was put on by CAMEO, the UT-based anti-war group, and Texas Labor Against the War.
Hussein banned labor unions in the public sector- oil, utilities, etc.-which comprised about 80% of the Iraqi workforce. This ban was kept in place by the Bushies for most unions. Labor unions in Iraq have few legal protections, and occupying forces (American and British) have been used to break strikes and intimidate picketers.
Despite this repression of nonviolent, democratic assembly, labor organizers have struggled tirelessly to safeguard and improve the lives of Iraqi workers. The occupying armies persecute them. Sectarian militias attack and assassinate them. Even in this climate, Iraqi unions have hundreds of thousands of members and have been at the forefront of opposing the privatization of Iraq's of and infrastructure.
It isn't widely known in America, but the Bushies have taken the occupation as a chance to raid Iraqi public assets and give them to foreign corporations. The chief example of this is the oil law, which the Bush administration is pressuring the Iraq parliament to accept. This law is opposed across Iraqi society, and mainstream American press coverage doesn't actually present the reason why.
The oil law will open up 2/3 of Iraq oil to foreign ownership.
This is the culminating point of the "war for oil." If this bill passes, then it means this entire war really will just be an excuse to occupy and rob another nation.
The unions in Iraq have spearheaded opposition to this bill, and enjoy wide popular support, particularly in the south. They have also prevented outright privatization of factories to Halliburton subsidiaries through pickets and sit-down strikes.
The unions in Iraq are devoted members of the resistance, but they are nonviolent and nonsectarian. They want the occupation to end, immediately. And they speak for major and growing swaths of Iraqi society. Workers have organized throughout Iraqi industry, they have organized among oil workers, and they are organizing unemployed workers (Iraq's unemployment rate is over 50%). They are also forging ties with American and British labor movements. "Face to Face" shows one of their tours meeting with American union members, activists and leaders.
Their chief liaison in the US is the organization US Labor Against the War, an excellent source of information on the Iraqi labor movement and on the ground politics there. I am impressed with USLAW because of the actual ties they're building between Iraqis and Americans. There are locals all over the country now, including a new one just started in Texas. (You don't have to be a union member to join or participate with Texas Labor Against the War.)
If you want to support a third option, against the occupation and also against sectarian violence in Iraq, then start working with US Labor Against the War and support the Iraq labor unions.
*Petition from Avaaz.org (founded by Moveon.org) opposing privatization of Iraq's oil to foreign corporations
Submitted by GustavLandauer on Wed, 07/04/2007 - 1:05pm
First, an event endorsement:
Anti-War July 4th
Picnic hosted by the UT anti-war group, free food and speakers. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
I spent a long time trying to write something appropriate for this holiday, and all I could come up with was a long confused soliloquy not worth printing. Patriotic holidays like this make my soul shift around too much.
What has this nation become? Our twice-elected leaders endorse torture and military occupation for plunder. Our business leaders have committed themselves to cold-blooded greed, and bleeding every last cent they can from working people around the world, even and especially if it means cooperating with dictators and anti-democratic regimes. Our culture has become a wasteland, petty and pornographic, guided by shallow excess and consumerism based on mountains of debt.
When I think of America on this holiday, the first images that come streaming into consciousness are SUV sale advetisements covered with American flags. Or any sale for that matter. I wonder if this is what it all ultimately boils down to. And I also see the images from photographs, of Iraqi children with their arms burned off from our bombing campaigns, of bodies heaped up at El Mozote in El Salvador back in the 80s. Or those torture pictures of Iraq, of men being brutalized next to smiling folks I could have met in a bar. Is this what it is, is this what it means to be American? That at the end of the day we're just gangsters of the world, a shabby-coated pseudo-empire?
But I also see people burn their lives out trying to fight the evils that govern this society, and I see the warmth of people bound in conviviality and community, ad I wonder if there's a place in America for that too, that righteousness and that brotherly love. At the back and base of everything, when the world seems so corrupt you just wake up disgusted with everything (including yourself for being a part of it), beneath it all this lingering feeling, this spark of hope that you catch every now and then through someone else's eyes; that you see in the strength and spirit of heroic men and women who fight and fight and never stop despite the world bearing down upon them.
So this is what I feel now on this Fourth of July, waves of corruption mixed with powerful pulses of hope. On that note, some pure words to leave you with:
"Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes
Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-- Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-- And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. I am the worker sold to the machine. I am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-- Hungry yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers! I am the man who never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That's made America the land it has become. O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas In search of what I meant to be my home-- For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore, And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea, And torn from Black Africa's strand I came To build a "homeland of the free."
Who said the free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay? For all the dreams we've dreamed And all the songs we've sung And all the hopes we've held And all the flags we've hung, The millions who have nothing for our pay-- Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again-- The land that never has been yet-- And yet must be--the land where every man is free. The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME-- Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-- The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, We must take back our land again, America!
O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath-- America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain-- All, all the stretch of these great green states-- And make America again!
French philosophy sparks ridiculous levels of argument and attack in the American academic world. I'm always kind of amazed by it, because I study it and yet have never felt the urge to draw battle lines. Most philosophy people can't stand it or don't think it deserves to exist, and it tends to live in other departments besides philosophy proper.
Honestly, I think most of this is because people don't understand what it is, where it's coming from, what problems it's trying to address, or its internal logic and arguments whatsoever. Part of this is just problems in translation, part of it is a bit deeper.
So if you happen to be interested in philosophy and know anything about pomo philosophy, read this:
This is the best summary of recent French philosophy I've ever seen.
Which is unfortunate because the author pisses me off bigtime elsewhere. But it's very good and relatively clear. Orients French philosophy in terms of the legacy of Descartes, i.e. how to conceive of subjectivity. He defines two major currents. On the one hand the vitalist current, begun by Bergson and eventually taken up by Sartre, Deleuze, Foucault ultimately, etc., based on the phenomenal experience of time and movement, organized towards creating some idea of freedom. On the other hand, a mathematical current focused on articulating the experiences of subjective life in terms of organized, mathematical processes governed ultimately by laws of human existence that can be discovered and quantified. Here we'd find folks like Levi-Strauss, Althusser, and other structuralists, who attempt to discover the laws that produce meaning and value in the world.
In all of them there is a deep consideration of the basic moments of subjective life in a style totally alien to American ideas about scientificity and power. They take this from the cue of German phenomenology, mostly from Husserl and Heidegger. He doesn't mention the American part of course, but I think it's interesting- there's a deep "naturalism" in American intellectual life. It's a weird mix of technological materialism, complacency owing to long-term integration into Power, and populist anti-intellectualism. I'm never sure how to consider it. They're deeply imbedded in American life, and they each present their own possibilities and problems.
The technological materialism leads to an often healthy pragmatism, a comfortable consideration of new ideas, processes, techniques and values, as long as they work "well". Such a cultural environment is perfect for allowing material sciences and technical innovation to flourish. But it also leads to a grim naturalism, an implicit belief that whatever the world happens to be is the only way it could be, and that any problems in the world are incidental and not structural; hence it creates a sort of technological utopianism, typified by engineers who try to solve any problem by throwing concrete, steel, and management software at it.
The integration with Power is a difficult thing to consider, but it just seems that since America hasn't had a seismic shift in power organization since the Civil War, except during WWII (and that just sort of intensified shifts instead of absolutely replacing power structures) intellectual culture isn't divided internally very strongly. There was a period of possible rupture represented by communists, but it didn't quite work out. Public education was generalized, cheap university education was generalized, and the actual overt barriers to individual advancement decreased. At the same time American intellectual and organizational life is characterized by the smooth flow of working class acceptance into it- i.e., people will do what they are supposed to do and not complain about it or question it, as long as they are paid fairly and left alone otherwise. I don't know, it's a vague thing for me, worth researching at some point.
The populist anti-intellectualism is equally strange. On the negative side, it keeps people from actually trying to think about the bullshit around them all the time, and promotes escapism and sensuous distraction instead of actually addressing profound problems. On the other hand, it is tied to popular mistrust of Power. And ambiguously, it means that people trust their experiences and impressions more than they trust the claims of an intellectual authority, regardless of their argument or credentials. Maybe that's why our society has become so consumerist and basically pornographic- it's very easy to engineer experiences that appeal to very very basic types of desire, namely fear, insecurity and lust.
Anyway, great piece from a major French philosopher. For the logicians and scientists out there, check out his larger works, he uses lots of math.
Submitted by GustavLandauer on Sun, 06/24/2007 - 3:22pm
I'm a volunteer and collective member at Monkeywrench Books. I'm a newby to Austin, lived here about a year and a half.
I work at Monkeywrench because I've wanted to work at an anarchist* bookstore since I was 15, and when I moved here I discovered that much to my pleasant surprise, a great one was right down the road. Also, volunteering in a radical bookstore/community space keep my mind and soul feeling free and clean. If that sounds odd, I can't really explain it, but I'm sure most folks have something similar.
I'm going to use this weblog to talk about my main passions, namely philosophy (esp. the French kind) and radical politics. I like to use weblogs as thought journals because I always lose physical journals. I remember one very good one I kept faithfully for months, lost for all time when I went drunk swimming at a friend's pool at 3am and waterlogged the damn thing.