Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Saturday, 31 October 2020
What Antifa Is, What It Isnt, and Why It Matters
Now Playing: Anarchism and Antifa - Read on the connections
What Antifa Is, What It Isn’t, and Why It Matters
To understand why Antifa has become a popular bogeyman for some public officials, it is critical to understand what the group is, what it isn't, and why it matters.
Reposted here - http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2020/10/439599.shtml
As senior citizen Martin Gugino was lying in his hospital bed, suffering from a subdural hematoma, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to suggest that Gugino "could be an ANTIFA provocateur."
One day earlier, two Buffalo, New York, police officers shoved Gugino, leaving him bleeding from his ear. What led the president to believe that Gugino — a 75-year-old and lifelong peace activist — was a member of Antifa, a highly decentralized movement of anti-racists who seek to combat neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and far-right extremists whom Antifa's followers consider "fascist"?
A week and a half before the incident involving Gugino, in the midst of the protests convulsing the country after the murder of George Floyd, Trump announced on Twitter that "The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization."
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General William Barr claimed that so-called far-left extremists groups were to blame for the violence at the demonstrations, accusing Antifa of "domestic terrorism" while presenting no evidence. A recent review of those individuals arrested on federal charges shows no links to Antifa. While this finding may change as investigations progress, the lack of an Antifa "terrorism" connection comes as little surprise to terrorism analysts who have been tracking domestic terrorism threats, including neo-Nazi groups such as the Atomwaffen Division and the Rise Above Movement.
So, why are the Trump administration and the attorney general so obsessed with Antifa?
The Antifa label has become a political cudgel wielded by politicians who are more intent on demonizing political opponents and framing terrorism as a partisan issue than on countering the most dangerous groups operating on U.S. soil. After all, Atomwaffen has murdered several American citizens and had its members arrested with bomb-making materials, while Antifa has smashed store windows and engaged in street brawls.
To understand why Antifa has become a popular bogeyman for some public officials, it is critical to understand what the group is, what it isn't, and why it matters.
To do so, we draw on interviews that one of us conducted with a handful of activists who identified themselves as anti-fascists or anarchists, along with studies and documents written by activists and supporters. Given Antifa's atomized, amorphous structure, our respondents' comments should not be interpreted as representing the anti-fascist or anarchist position. In fact, there is no single anti-fascist or anarchist position — a point that was made to us early on by a long-time activist who identifies as an anarchist anti-racist:
One thing I want to be clear on is when I'm speaking it's never from a position, like, "This is the anarchist platform." Anarchism allows for absolute personal freedom ... There's no anarchist spokesperson who's gonna be like, "This is the anarchist platform on this issue," because it's so broad.
What Is Antifa?
Contrary to how it is often portrayed in the media, Antifa — short for anti-fascist — is not a single organization. Rather, it is a loose network of groups and individuals who coordinate their anti-racist activism on an ad hoc basis in different areas both within and outside the United States.
Antifa has no centralized leadership structure or formalized membership. In the United States, some anti-fascist groups share ideas by participating in the Torch Network, which evolved out of the old Anti-Racist Action Network. But, neither the Torch Network nor popular anarchist websites such as It's Going Down and CrimethInc. exert any command and control over local activists. Instead, like-minded supporters coordinate autonomously — typically in small, tight-knit groups — with other activists they know and trust. Internal decision-making is based on group consensus and direct democracy. Activists communicate face to face and through social media and encrypted apps like Signal. These and other operational security practices are meant to protect activists from unwanted attention by the police and white supremacists.
Such secrecy complicates efforts to estimate the size of the Antifa movement in the United States. Just as supporters do not become "card-carrying" members, local groups do not publicize their numbers. In some cities — such as Berkeley, California, and Portland, Oregon — local chapters are active and well organized. Nationally, however, the movement is small and dispersed. According to Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, a historical and comparative study of the movement based on his interviews with 61 anti-fascists in North America and Europe, Antifa has about "five to 15 members" in most American cities where it operates. Given the movement's small size, Bray is skeptical about Antifa's ability to direct the nation-wide protests against police brutality and systemic racism that have erupted across the United States in recent weeks:
If antifa on its own could orchestrate a national campaign of burning down police stations and burning down malls, they would have done it years ago ... They agree with these kinds of actions. But the number of people involved is so small.
Despite the small size of the Antifa movement, its members do not follow a single ideology. Anti-fascists express political beliefs commonly associated with the far-left end of the political spectrum. Such beliefs include different varieties of anarchism, communism, and socialism. Historically, anti-fascism has been associated with the larger anarchist movement. More recently, many key organizers behind the Anti-Racist Action Network and other groups have drawn on anarchist ideas in coordinating their activism. Even today, many anti-fascists follow anarchist principles.
Such overlap makes it difficult to distinguish anarchism from anti-fascism. Yet, they are not identical. One important difference can be found between their views on the state. Anarchists believe that governments throughout the world repress their citizens through authoritarian laws, institutions, and practices. For human beings to be truly free, they maintain, existing governments must be replaced by local, voluntary associations that organize social and economic life through direct democracy and mutual aid.
Many anti-fascists do not share such strong anti-statist views, even if they are deeply skeptical of law enforcement and security agencies. Anti-racists who identify with Antifa would like to see major police reforms, but they do not necessarily wish to abolish all government institutions. Nor do they share anarchists' faith in running contemporary societies and economies entirely through local voluntary associations and networks. These "liberal anti-fascists" want to combat white supremacism using the institutions of democratic states and societies, including progressive political parties and independent news media. They downplay ideology and focus on their practical mission: stopping white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other racists from organizing and propagating their views in public. As one activist explained to us in an interview, "Anyone ... who is against Nazis or against fascism is anti-fascist. Many, many people are anti-fascists." In other words, Antifa is as complex and diverse as the like-minded individuals who coordinate in small local groups under its collective banner.
Finally, anti-fascists do not practice a single protest tactic. Activists' "repertoires of contention" include a mix of violent and non-violent practices. As Bray describes in his book, parts of which read like a "how-to" manual on anti-fascist activism, supporters create websites, write articles, post videos, distribute leaflets, and organize public events. They expose and intimidate white supremacists by "doxxing" them, publishing their private information on the Internet in order to embarrass them, build support against them, and — whenever possible — get them fired from their jobs. At protests, some anti-racists, taking a page from their anarchist counterparts, form "black blocs," especially when they expect to scuffle with the police or confront white supremacists. In these formations, protestors wear black clothes and masks to create a more intimidating presence and make it harder for the police to identify individuals for arrest and prosecution.
In the United States, anti-racists have organized under the Antifa banner for over a decade. The oldest existing American anti-racist group, Rose City Antifa, was founded in Portland in 2007 after local anti-racists shut down Hammerfest, the skinhead music festival. However, the larger movement traces its lineage — and name — back to anti-fascist groups that battled Adolf Hitler's Brownshirts in Germany, Benito Mussolini's Blackshirts in Italy, and fascist groups in other European countries in the 1930s. Fifty years later, the movement experienced a resurgence as punk music fans and other anti-racists fought to counter the neo-Nazi skinhead movement in Europe and the United States.
An important feature of the anti-fascist movement's history remains relevant today. Antifa exists in symbiosis with the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other racists it confronts. The movement's presence and level of activism tend to rise and fall with the fortunes of its far-right opponents. The rise of the white nationalist "alt-right" movement and the election of Trump in 2016 energized anti-fascists in the United States.
In the year after Trump's election, Antifa's activism spiked.
First came the violent demonstrations immediately before and during Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Alongside larger, mostly peaceful protests, an anti-fascist black bloc smashed storefront windows, vandalized ATMs, and set a limousine on fire. The following month, Antifa activists and other protesters spray-painted graffiti, broke windows, and threw Molotov cocktails during a demonstration at the University of California, Berkeley, to prevent the alt-right provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, from speaking. Then, in August 2017, anti-fascists fought white supremacists and neo-Nazis at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which ended in tragedy when a white supremacist drove his car into a group of anti-racist protesters, killing one and injuring more than 30 others.
The intensity of these "direct actions" reflects many Antifa supporters' belief that Trump is a fascist demagogue who threatens the existence of America's pluralistic, multi-racial democracy. This factor helps explain why such Antifa supporters are so quick to label the president's "Make America Great Again" supporters as fascists — and why Trump is so quick to label Antifa as a terrorist organization.
Antifa's Views on Violence
Much of Antifa's activism relies on non-violent tactics such as community organizing, letter-writing campaigns, and doxxing. But, some supporters — especially those who hold anarchist views — also engage in physical violence. This approach includes spontaneous violence against property and the physical assault of people, like "punching a Nazi in the face," which happened to another alt-right figure, Richard Spencer, during the Trump inauguration protests.
Antifa activists believe that violence and confrontation are necessary to prevent white supremacists and other "fash" from organizing public events where they could spread their beliefs and recruit new supporters. They also believe it works, citing examples like Spencer's announcement that "Antifa is winning" after activists fought his supporters during a speech he gave in March 2018 at Michigan State University. Lamenting anti-fascists' willingness "to go further than anyone else ... [with] violence, intimidating, and general nastiness," Spencer announced that he was suspending his public speaking engagements at public universities.
Anti-fascists celebrate such announcements as proof that they are taking the "fun out of fascism." And, they dismiss critics' concerns that they are blocking Spencer's and other opponents' right to free speech by countering that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are not interested in free speech. Instead, they are interested in accumulating power in order to build a white ethno-state. The only way to prevent the rise of fascism, anti-fascists insist, is to stop white supremacists from spreading their views — by force if necessary. "The point ... is not to give them a platform," explains another Antifa activist. "You don't give fascism a platform because once you give it a platform, it becomes normalized ... Sometimes you have to use direct action to stop it because protesting, signs, yelling is not going to do anything. You have to make them afraid."
Is Antifa a Terrorist Organization?
Given its use of violent tactics and desire to scare white nationalists, should Antifa be labeled a terrorist organization? Consistent with the U.S. State Department's definition of terrorism, does Antifa engage in premeditated violence against specific targets in order to coerce or terrorize a wider audience, typically a government or society, in pursuit of some political goal?
The short answer is "No." As we have discussed, Antifa is not a single organization. If Antifa is not an organization, then it cannot be a terrorist organization — nor would designating it as one have much effect. In accordance with the movement's lack of centralized authority, there is no single Antifa position regarding political violence. For every Antifa activist or group that supports violence, others do not, seeing it as counter-productive and even illegitimate. "Not all Antifa groups are pro-violence," explains an Antifa activist we interviewed. He elaborated:
A lot of times these groups get labeled as gangs or terrorists. Terrorism. It's so easy to throw that word around. Say that word and then all of a sudden that person, that group, that movement is now demonized in the public's eyes because they are supposedly creating terror.
Of course, individuals and groups that lack centralization and formal organization can and do carry out terrorist attacks. One historical example is particularly relevant to our discussion. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, violent anarchists, acting alone and in small groups, carried out terrorist bombings and assassinations in Europe and the United States. While most activists in the larger anarchist movement did not engage in political violence — and some of the terrorists labelled "anarchists" were not, in fact, anarchists — this "first wave" of modern terrorism sealed anarchism's association with terrorism in the public mind. One legacy of this association concerns facile attempts to demonize anarchists and anti-fascists as terrorists without considering the facts involved in specific incidents. Rather than simply labeling Antifa as a "terrorist organization" to score points with certain constituencies, a better approach might be to consider whether individuals and small groups have conducted terrorism in the name of Antifa.
Contemporary anti-fascists clearly seek to intimidate their "fascist" adversaries by doxxing them and physically confronting them at protests. However, shoving white nationalists to the ground, punching them in the face, or hitting them with sticks does not constitute the level of violence typically associated with terrorism. If it does, then we must ask whether the targets of these efforts, who often give as violently as they get, are also engaged in terrorism.
These physical confrontations are better understood as spontaneous clashes between Antifa supporters and their white supremacist rivals, including the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois. When they spiral out of control, these brawls can quickly deteriorate into melees or riots. But, these incidents are not pre-planned terrorist attacks instigated by one actor against another. Nor do these clashes spark fear and dread in a wider audience beyond the immediate victims of the violence. Trump and his supporters do not likely feel "terrorized" by these street clashes. In fact, the president has willingly exploited this low-level violence to rally his supporters and raise funds for his re-election campaign.
However, not all anti-fascist violence is limited to batons and fisticuffs. On occasion, Antifa supporters have escalated their violence — particularly in Europe, where anarchists and anti-fascists tend to be more aggressive. In Greece, supporters from the local anti-fascist movement shot and killed two members from the far-right Golden Dawn party in retaliation against the murder of a popular anti-fascist rapper.
Fortunately, the Antifa movement in the United States has been less violent than its European counterpart. Yet, there are examples of American anti-fascists escalating their violence beyond shoving and fistfights. Last July, Willem Van Spronsen attacked an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Tacoma, Washington, with a rifle and incendiary devices. Before he could cause much damage, the 68-year-old man was shot and killed by the police. After his death, a manifesto was posted in Van Spronsen's name on It's Going Down and other anarchist websites. In his manifesto, Van Spronsen identified himself as an Antifa supporter ("I am antifa"), railed against the Trump administration's policy of detaining illegal immigrants ("fascist hooligans preying on vulnerable people in our streets"), and called for violent resistance against the government ("I strongly encourage comrades and incoming comrades to arm themselves. We are now responsible for defending people from the predatory state").
These examples illustrate how Antifa's violence could escalate to terrorism or guerrilla warfare if it is channeled into a more organized, sustained, and bloody campaign. If anti-fascists started bombing buildings with explosives or gunning down Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees and white supremacists in the streets, it would make sense to consider such incidents terrorism. But that's not what we are seeing — at least so far. Though sucker-punching someone in the face is certainly violent, it's not terrorism.
Interestingly, any push to terrorism among Antifa supporters would likely be met by opposition from within the movement. Many activists who accept the moral necessity of violence against what they see as an inherently violent "fascist" state balk at the prospect of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians. A veteran anarchist and Antifa supporter, whom we interviewed, drew a sharp distinction between legitimate and illegitimate violence:
There's extremists that think, "Okay, if I go bomb something, that's legitimate." That to me is insane because it doesn't accomplish anything and it always harms innocent people ... You want to use violence to push back against violence being perpetrated against you. So the more the state pushes against you, you have the right to push back.
When asked to clarify what sort of extremists he had in mind, he mentioned the so-called "Cleveland Five," who reportedly plotted to blow up a bridge in Detroit during the Occupy movement. While noting that the plot itself was "pushed" along by the FBI's use of a confidential informant, our interviewee stressed that, had the bombing succeeded, the resulting violence would have been unacceptable: "That's not legitimate. That's not smart. That's not valid ... wanting violence for violence's sake is evil."
It is hard to imagine this and other activists remaining enthusiastic anti-fascists if the movement were to engage in widespread, indiscriminate violence against their fellow citizens. Escalating to such violence would likely weaken Antifa as erstwhile supporters decide the movement has gone too far. Yet, short of this violent trajectory, it is hard to imagine classifying Antifa — with any degree of accuracy — as a terrorist organization.
Why Does It Matter?
Few believe that Trump will actually move forward with designating Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization. For starters, there have been few recorded incidents of actual violence linked to the movement aside from vandalism and fistfights. By that metric, any neighborhood gang would similarly qualify as a domestic terrorism threat. Though the United States does not have a domestic terrorism law, there is an underlying statute that the president could use to sanction Antifa. Trump could conceivably create a new executive order to designate Antifa as a domestic terrorist group, which has never happened before in the history of the country. However, if Trump is serious about designating a domestic terrorist group for the first time, there is a litany of groups, as previously mentioned, that would make more sense than Antifa.
In all likelihood, just as he did after threatening to designate Mexican drug-trafficking cartels as terrorist organizations in November 2019, Trump will relent on Antifa as the protests ebb and the movement becomes a less controversial issue for his base ahead of the November 2020 presidential election.
Meanwhile, Trump's suggestion that Martin Gugino, the Catholic social justice advocate from Buffalo, is an Antifa activist has been linked to Russian disinformation. Yet even more concerning than the president tweeting conspiracy theories that could have their origins in Russian disinformation campaigns is his continued politicization of terrorism.
Trump damages the legitimacy of American democracy when he insists that his political opponents are terrorists when they are not. However distasteful Antifa's activism is, spontaneous street brawls are not the same as terrorism. Today the president willingly applies this label to Antifa. What is to prevent him from doing the same in the future to other activist groups that protest against him and his supporters, such as Black Lives Matter?
Policymakers must decide which terrorism threats are the most serious and, carefully prioritize them for designation based on facts — not politics. In the case of Antifa, the facts suggest that anti-fascism is not a clear and present terrorist threat in the United States, no matter how much the president may wish otherwise.
Michael Kenney is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Colin P. Clarke is a senior research fellow at The Soufan Center and an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:14 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 31 October 2020 1:16 PM PDT
Monday, 1 June 2015
Now Playing: 5 Reasons Why Anarchy Would Be an Improvement in Human Governance
5 Reasons Why Anarchy Would Be an Improvement in Human Governance
By Gary ‘Z’ McGee
“Give a man a gun and he’ll rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he’ll rob the world.”–Unknown
Give people just a little bit of knowledge and courage and they will track down those greedy-ass bankers and hold them accountable. All we need is just a little courageous anarchy. The problem, the crux, the fly in the ointment: most people are not courageous enough, and most people don’t want to learn anything that attacks their all-too-precious worldview. Yes, the very worldview that is keeping people indebted to an immoral, unhealthy, unsustainable, unjust system of human governance, is precisely the worldview that the majority of people are clinging to. Indeed, most people, even though they would probably say otherwise, would rather be kissed with a lie than slapped with the truth. They would rather deny facts that tarnish their worldview than reject the deceit that upholds it. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Healthy human evolution requires authentic vigilance. It requires a consistent upheaval of the status quo. This requires proactive human beings who are willing to be authentically vigilant and consistently rebellious. It requires courageous interdependent individuals who dare to recondition the status-quo-junky original condition. It turns out that the wisdom gained from anarchy is precisely the ability to distinguish between sacrifice that is transformative and healthy from mere suffering caused by the state that we’ve allowed because we were too cowardly or too unimaginative to think of a healthier way to live. Like Stefan Molyneux said, “Never, ever underestimate the degree to which people will scatter themselves into a deep fog in order to avoid seeing the basic realities of their own cages. The strongest lock on the prison is always avoidance, not force.”
Here are five reasons why anarchy will improve human governance and thereby cultivate a healthy human evolution.
1.) It Has Inherent Checks and Balances
“Failure shows us the way –by showing us what isn’t the way.” –Ryan Holiday
This one alone is reason enough to give anarchy a try again. The other four are just icing on the cake. I say “again” because human beings lived in hunter-gatherer groups that were characterized by what anthropologists call Fierce Egalitarian Anarchy. They not only shared things, they demanded that things be shared: meat, shelter, and protection… this was simply the best way to mitigate risk in a survival context in a world with limited resources.
Fierce egalitarianism and primal politics (tribal anarchy) worked exceptionally well for the human race for 95% of our existence on this planet. Indeed, it’s one of the only reasons why we’ve survived as long as we have.
In an amazing game theory study by Duéñez-Guzmán-Sadedin on the topic of police corruption, they concluded that once a police system becomes entrenched, nothing can stop it from eventually becoming corrupt, with the result being a population of gullible sheep and hypocritical overlords. But they didn’t stop the study there. They decided to tweak it ever so slightly. In the words of Suzanne Sadedin: “The results were startling. By making a few alterations to the composition of the justice system, corrupt societies could be made to transition to a state called ‘righteousness’. In righteous societies, police were not a separate, elite order. They were everybody. When virtually all of society stood ready to defend the common good, corruption didn’t pay. Similarly, as it turns out, social norms in hunter-gatherer societies are enforced by the whole group rather than any specially empowered individuals.”
This is a critical aspect of anarchy: that everyone is free to be as moral, or as amoral, as they need to be in order to maintain a healthy cosmic, ecological, and social order. Freedom is primary. Health is secondary. Understanding how everything is connected is third. And immorality is not tolerated.
The monumental problem with our Statist society is that we are not taught to be as moral or as amoral as we need to be in order to maintain a healthy cosmic, ecological, and social order. In fact, statism purposefully forces whatever the state decrees to be healthy, as healthy, whether or not it is actually healthy according to cosmic law. This creates an exorbitant amount of problems.
2.) It Would Nullify Debt Slavery and Eliminate Poverty
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in a society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” –Frederic Bastiat
How does our legal system authorize plunder? It allows banks to create fiat money out of thin air and then charge interest on it, which keeps the poor wallowing in poverty, and entrenches the rich in corruptible power structures based upon immoderate wealth.
How does our moral code glorify plunder? It pushes militarization, creates profit prisons, creates “war heroes” out of violent psychopaths, and makes war itself a profitable endeavor. It puts profit over people, equity over equality, transforms elections into auctions, and creates a fundamentally unsustainable and unhealthy money first, human heart second, mentality. Like Naseem Nicholas Taleb said, “Those who do not think that employment is systematic slavery are either blind or employed.”
How does anarchy flip the tables on the authorization and glorification of plunder? It prevents plunder from ever becoming possible because anarchy-based modes of governance are engineered in such a way that groups never get to the point of concentrated centers of power. The monopolization of power never gets to the point to where it becomes corrupt, because of controlled leveling mechanisms such as reverse dominance and wealth expiation. Like Jim Dodge said, “Anarchy doesn’t mean out of control; it means out of their control.” Whoever “they” may be: monopolizing corporations, overreaching governments, tyrants.
Self-aware critical thinker beware: political propaganda, especially in regards to war, money, government, and law, are designed to keep you conditioned and brainwashed into believing whoever is in power is being moral and just with their power. But as George Orwell warned, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance to solidity to pure wind.”
Have no illusions: within the current systems of human governance, poverty is a business. Profits are made on the labor of the poor, the consumption of the poor, and the debt of the poor. Anarchy is a system of human governance built to lift people out of poverty and into freedom. It gives people hope for a more balanced future of human prosperity. Like Raymond Williams advised, “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.”
3.) It Would Be Eco-Morally and Ecologically Healthier and More Sustainable
“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” –Alexandra K.Trenfor
Authority tells you what to see, and therefore must be questioned. Authority is telling you that it’s okay to live immoderate, over-indulgent, violent, ecocidal lifestyles. It’s not okay, because it is fundamentally unhealthy and leads to unsustainable devolution. In a system of human governance that is systematically transforming livingry into weaponry, it is the supreme duty of all healthy, moral, compassionate, eco-conscious, indeed anarchist, people to question authority to the nth degree.
Such audacious questioning has the potential to create robust eco-centric communities based upon permaculture, wellness, creativity, and a sacred economy that takes the interconnectedness of all things into deep consideration. It incentivizes individuals who value human flourishing, environmental flourishing, permaculture, sustainable building, alternative education, and nature-based wellness.
The cornerstone of anarchist modes of human governance is the deep understanding of the interdependence of all living things. As Nikola Tesla proclaimed, “Every living being is an engine geared to the wheelwork of the universe. Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surroundings, the sphere of external influence extends to infinite distance.”
An anarchist society divorced from the oppressive Big Brother bitch-slap of Statism, reveals a society that is capable of preserving the moral Golden Mean and the middle-way, as opposed to the immoral, suffocating greed of state politics. It will uncover a society that exemplifies the Golden Ratio of nature, as opposed to the state’s expropriation of nature and nature-based cultures.
4.) It Would Result in the Expiation of Power and Wealth Through an Ethics of Reciprocity
“A freedom that is interested only in denying freedom must be denied.” –Simone De Beauvoir
The ultimate leveling mechanism inherent within anarchist modes of human governance is the ethics of reciprocity combined with the expiation of power.
Anthropologist Christopher Boehm has proposed a social theory that anarchist, egalitarian hunter-gatherers maintained equality through a leveling mechanism he calls Reverse Dominance: a social system of checks and balances that maintains egalitarian ethos while preventing a dominance hierarchy from forming. Reverse dominance hierarchies are broken down into four different leveling mechanisms: public opinion, ridicule, disobedience, and ostracism. These mechanisms work because human beings are social creatures and hugely influenced by peer pressure and social acceptance.
Anarchist modes of human governance are largely based upon shame as a regulatory method. Within such a society individuals are socially, morally, and ecologically compelled to expiate their power and reciprocate wealth because the alternative is the risk of shaming, ridicule, and/or ostracism. Like A.C. Grayling explained it, “The first task is to win something; the second, to banish the feeling that has been won; otherwise it is a burden.” In order for power and wealth not to become a psychological burden within anarchist systems, the powerful and the wealthy must be able to expiate and reciprocate their power and wealth, lest people become oppressed, and entire systems become corrupt.
But this does NOT mean that skill, courage, intelligence and perseverance are not rewarded. Anarchy does not imply socialism. Ours is a cultural problem. We’ve been raised to believe in the false ideal of greed. We’ve been conditioned to own. Our culture has become ego-centric, as opposed to eco-centric. It has become ownership-based, as opposed to relationship-based.
But prestige and merit can still be highly strived for values within an anarchist society that practices expiation of wealth and the ethics of reciprocity.
As I wrote in Breaking out of a Broken System, “Eco-moralism tames capitalism through holistic checks and balances. Ego-moralism jumpstarts communism through proactive citizenry. What we’re left with is a healthy anarchism with an egalitarian ethos which is less about capital and one-upmanship and more about respect for what is borrowed. It is less about ownership and more about relationships. It is ethical, spiritual, and diverse; as opposed to egotistical, religious, and homogenized by nationalism. Eco-moralism helps us pierce through the smoke and mirrors of hyper-reality and into the way reality actually is: interconnected and interdependent. Ego-moralism helps us become more motivated by revealing that our egos are actually tools towards leveraging a healthy balance between cosmos and psyche.”
Anarchists are crazy enough to think they can change the world, which is precisely why they will.
5.) It Would Create Compassionate, Humble, but Courageous Leadership
“To really understand something is to be liberated from it. Dedicating one’s self to a great cause, taking responsibility, and gaining self-knowledge is the essence of being human. A predatory capitalist’s greatest enemy, and humanity’s greatest ally, is the self-educated individual who has read, understood, delays their gratification, and walks around with their eyes wide open.” –The Four Horsemen, documentary
Anarchist modes of human governance create precisely the type of self-educated, autodidactic individual that predatory capitalist’s and pacifist socialist’s fear. As Louis G. Herman wrote, “When individuals try to balance self-interest with a consideration of the bigger picture, they discover, as Socrates did, that deep self-interest actually includes concern for the good of the whole.” An individual (ego) acting on the good of the whole (eco) is a force of nature first, a person second, which provides them the phenomenal power of standing on the shoulders of giants while also wearing a wide array of masks of self-mastery.
If we can combine fierce egalitarian primal politics along with the type of progressive self-interested people who are capable of considering the bigger interdependent picture, then we have a recipe for a healthy, prestigious anarchic leadership. We have a blueprint for authentically venerated and wise leadership that has the potential to transform the currently unlivable human world into a livable one. Like MLK Jr. said, “The hope of a secure livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood. The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and spiritual freedom have always been nonconformists. In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist.”
Indeed, it is typically the nonconformist who is the one testing the outer limits of the human imagination: stretching comfort zones, shattering mental paradigms, and flattening status quo boxes that those hooked on conformity so desperately try to think outside of. As Henry David Thoreau said, in true anarchist leadership form, “I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
© 2015 Waking Times. Republished with permission. For permission to re-print this article contact email@example.com, or the respective author.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 4:35 PM PDT
Thursday, 6 December 2012
Anarchists and Dual Power - Thoughts from the Anarchist Library
Now Playing: Active Revolution: Anarchist, Grassroots Duel Power
Part I: Anarchist, Grassroots Dual Power
Dual Power Defined
The term “Dual Power” has been used in several ways since it was first coined. The following definition builds on the previous meanings of Dual Power, most importantly by articulating the equal and necessary relationship between counter-power and counter-institutions. In the original definition, dual power referred to the creation of an alternative, liberatory power to exist alongside and eventually overcome state/capitalist power.
Dual power theorizes a distinct and oppositional relationship between the forces of the state/capitalism and the revolutionary forces of oppressed people. The two can never be peacefully reconciled.
With the theory of dual power is a dual strategy of public resistance to oppression (counter-power) and building cooperative alternatives (counter-institutions). Public resistance to oppression encompasses all of the direct action and protest movements that fight authoritarianism, capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the other institutionalized oppressions. Building cooperative alternatives recreates the social and economic relationships of society to replace competitive with cooperative structures.
It is critical that these two general modes of action do not become isolated within a given movement. Counter-power and counter-institutional organizations must be in relationship to each other. The value of reconnecting counter-institutional organizations with explicitly oppositional counter-power organizations is a safeguard against the former’s tendency to become less radical over time. As counter-power organizations are reconnected to their base, they ground their political analysis in the concrete experience of counter-institutions — mitigating against the potential political “distance” between their rhetoric and the consciousness of their families, fellow workers and neighbors.
Dual power does not imply a dual set of principles, and therefore processes — one for public resistance and other for building cooperative alternatives. The process used for both strategic directions has the same set of principles at its root. The anarchist principles of direct democracy, cooperation and mutual aid have practical implications which inform the dual power strategies for revolution.
Direct democracy means that people accept the right and responsibility to participate in the decisions which affect their lives.
Cooperation means that our social and economic structure is egalitarian, that we cooperate instead of compete to fulfill our needs and desires.
Mutual aid means that we share our resources between individuals and groups toward universal need and desire fulfillment.
These principles lend us the foundation for creating inclusive, anti-authoritarian relationships as we work in grassroots organizations. Regardless of the strategic direction within dual power that is being pursued, we will follow the same process — building relationships, organizing these relationships into groups, and moving these groups toward collective action.
We organize in order to build power with others — power that gives us the opportunity to participate in the decisions which affect our lives. It is in the conscious construction and use of this power that we find true democracy.
Part II: Defining a Process for Revolutionary Social Change
Liberation is the struggle to be fully present, to have the ability to act — to become powerful, relevant and therefore historical. Liberation through action is one of the ways in which people experience such self-actualizing transformation. Of course, liberation can also take place through other means — chief among these are popular education, cultural work and identity-based activity.
But, in our complex and oppressive society, a holistic strategy for liberation must be multi-faceted and geared toward some measure of action.
Once we get beyond this general agreement on the centrality of action to liberation, the debate on the specifics of action begins. There is a clear distinction between the three most common forms of action in the United States — activism, advocacy and organizing. Their effectiveness as strategies for change is at the heart of this essay. First, a summary of each strategy.
Activism — An activist is a person who is responsible to a defined issue and who helps address that issue through mobilizing a base of people to take collective action. Activists are accountable to themselves as moral actors on a specific issue. Democratic structures are a utilitarian consequence of activities designed to win on the defined issue (my definition).
Advocacy — An advocate is a person who is responsible to a defined issue and who helps address that issue through collective action that uses the instruments of democracy to establish and implement laws and policies that will create a just and equitable society (Advocacy Institute).
Organizing — An organizer is a person who is responsible to a defined constituency and who helps build that constituency through leadership development, collective action and the development of democratic structures (National Organizers Alliance).
To clarify, power is simply the ability to act — and it can be used over or with others. As anarchists, power with others forms the core of our belief system. In each of the above strategies, power is gained through collective action — how each uses that power begins to illuminate considerable differences. The democratic structures created to focus that power also shed light on these differences.
Relationships form the foundation of all collective action. The intentionality of those relationships determines if your primary commitment is to your constituency or to the issue around which a constituency is built.
People participate in collective action because they have a self-interest in doing so. Self-interest is a middle ground between selfishness and self-sacrifice, determined most practically by the activities in which people spend their time, energy and money. Self-interest is the activity of the individual in relation to others. It is in the self-interest of people to participate in social change because such activities resonate with a need or desire within themselves. Thus, people choose issues or organizations because something about them is in their self-interest.
In addition to a shared commitment to collective action — power, relationships and self-interest are all critical elements that the three strategies of action have in common. The differences emerge in the use of power, the degree of intentionality placed on relationship-building, and the emphasis on issue or organization as the point of connection between people.
1. Use of Power
Activists and advocates use power primarily to win on issues. Given that power is currently derived from two sources — people and money — activists and advocates try to mobilize a quantity of each to affect change. More often than not this means mobilizing a lot of people, and a little bit of money. These two strategies differ in that advocacy is explicitly about altering the relations of power in the established institutions of society, while activism doesn’t necessarily place its faith in the perfectibility of American democratic institutions.
Advocates make a serious error in not differentiating power over others and power with others. They try to negotiate for a change in the relations of power between oppressor and oppressed, failing to understand that these two conceptions of power cannot be peacefully reconciled. Advocates end up negotiating to share power over others, and in doing so find themselves transformed.
No longer are they building power with others, but power for others — which is just a lighter shade of power over others. The struggle between these two types of power is a zero sum game — as one wins, the other loses. Only power with others is limitless; power over others always implies a finite amount of power.
Activism’s power is derived first from its ability to affect change on issues and secondly on the potential force for change embodied in organized people. Organizing uses power differently — by first building an organization. For organizers, issues are a means to an end (the development of peoples’ capacity to affect change). Organizers’ use of power with others to alter the relations of power over others inherent in government or capitalist corporations forces such authoritarian groups into a debilitating contradiction. Opening such contradictions creates room for change. Authoritarian institutions may well react with violence to preserve power over others, or these contradictions may result in real social change. Liberation and revolution take place as relationships change from authoritarian to egalitarian.
Too often organizers and their organizations fall prey to the same negative transformation as advocates — in negotiation to alter the relations of power they begin to build power for others rather than power with others. The authoritarian government and capitalist system are frighteningly seductive. They promise to change incrementally, and then slowly lull organizers, advocates and activists into a reformist sleep. However, the strength of organizing lies in the deliberate construction of a constituency that holds itself, its organization and its organizers publicly accountable. A commitment to relationships rather than issues is key to public accountability, and to insuring a lasting dedication to building power with others.
All action has the potential to be liberatory. However, it is the degree of intentionality placed on relationship-building that determines the quality of the learning that takes place. Organizers differentiate between public and private relationships. Public relationships are those in which there is an agreement between people to act and reflect together in the process of social change. Organizers cultivate deliberate public relationships and bring people together in situations that foster relationship-building among those taking action. Intentional reflection upon action is key to maximizing learning. In organizing, people recognize relationships — not issues — as the foundation of their organizations.
Activism and advocacy use relationships as a means to an end — victory on an issue. Relationships are an end in themselves for organizers. This element of the debate centers on the question of constituency. The constituency of activism is other activists and potential activists, motivated through their individual moral commitments to a given issue. Advocates have no primary constituency. The constituency of an organizer is the universe of people who are potential members of a given organization with a defined geographical area or non-geographical base (through affinity or identity).
3. Issue vs. Organization
Relationships are built between people; only through abstraction can we say that people have relationships with institutions or issues. There is an inherent contradiction in activism’s attempts to mobilize people around an issue, given that issues are conceptual while people actually exist. People are not in relationship with issues — they can only be in relationship with other people.
Organizations provide the context for public relationships. As anarchists we build organizations based on the ‘power with others’, non-hierarchical model. We believe in organization — how much and in what form are the debatable points. But, as anarchists, we know that organization is necessary as a vehicle for collective action.
Multiple dynamic relationships (organizations) are the product of an organizer’s work. For activists, organizations are a utilitarian consequence of their work on a given issue. And for advocates they are a utilitarian tool used to negotiate for power. Organizers trust in the ability of people to define their own issues, a faith that rests in the knowledge that maximizing the quantity and quality of relationships produces dynamic organizations and therefore dynamic change. Advocates synthesize issues from a dialogue between people and dominant institutions, and they struggle for practical changes to the “system.” Activists engage in continuous analysis of issues, producing clear and poignant agendas for social change — and then rally people around those agendas.
The problem of “distance” is primarily one of both activism and advocacy. People who spend a great deal of time developing an issue have a tendency to create an analysis that is significantly different than that of most other people. As the distance increases between the depth of understanding between an activist or advocate and that of other people, we find increasing polarization. Such distance can breed a vicious cycle of isolation.
4. Revolutionary Social Change
Perhaps the greatest difference between these three strategies of action is in their ability over to time to create revolutionary change. In the final analysis — primary commitment to an issue is in contradiction to a primary commitment to power with others. The faith of anarchists lies in the ability of people to govern themselves — on holding power with others. This faith implies a staggering level of trust in others, and a monumental commitment on a personal level to participate publicly in social change. Activism and advocacy have no such trust in others — their faith is in their analysis of, and moral commitment to, an issue. By putting their faith in an issue they are removing their faith from people. Relationships do not form the basis for their action, and therefore they cannot be said to have a primary commitment to power with others. Of the three strategies of action, only organizing has a primary commitment to people — to power with others — and to anarchism.
The modern anarchist conception of dual power encourages us to build liberatory institutions while we fight the oppression of the dominant system. Activism and organizing exist in both arenas, while advocacy exists only in the latter.
There is room to construct and practice a fresh revolutionary organizing process that is relevant to our current historical context. Aspects of such a revolutionary program would certainly incorporate radical social service, counter-institutional economic development, counter-power, educational and cultural dimensions. To maximize our effectiveness, it is important to define our strategy for action clearly across the range of possible activities and organizations.
As a model approach, organizing offers a starting point for a strategic social change process. Advocacy, as a contradictory and liberal strategy, may be necessary in order to keep the system from degenerating at a faster pace but it is insufficient for anarchists interested in revolutionary change. Activism is flawed by its insistence on elevating issues over relationships and its tendency to use organization and people as means to an end.
Organizing begins when we make a commitment to develop the capacity of ourselves and those people with whom we work to affect change. The intensity of conscious action and reflection is the engine that drives organizers to build relationships, construct dynamic organizations, and move those relationships into collective action. As anarchists we must learn the theory and practice of organizing if we are truly committed to revolutionary change.
5. Organizing Theory/Organizing Skills
A holistic framework of effective organizing (through community, labor or issue-based organizations) must include some conception of relationships, self-interest, power, and organization. Again, relationships are the means with which we communicate and regulate our social existence. Relationships are always political, and as such are the foundation of all conceptions of power. Self-interest is the self in relationship to others, and signifies our political bonds and individual priorities for how we spend our time, energy and money. Power is simply the ability to act, and can be used as either power with others or power over others. Organizations are social constructs with which power is exercised.
The skills of effective organizing are all geared toward building relationships, organizing those relationships into groups and moving those groups into collective action. One-on-one meetings are structured conversations that allow each person to share their experiences toward identifying their individual and mutual self-interests. These meetings may be scheduled, or they may take place going door-to-door, house-to-house, or over the phone. A network of one-on-one relationships can be increased exponentially by asking people to hold “house meetings” where people invite their own networks (family, friends, neighbors or co-workers). Through this process we can identify people who are potential leaders — people with a sense of humor, a vision of a better world, a willingness to work with others, and a desire to learn and grow in the context of action. As relationships are built between leaders, organizations are formed which can move into action on collectively defined issues.
This is the critical point — it doesn’t matter what issue people choose to work on. And we shouldn’t steer people in a direction that we think is better or more radical. Organizing is not about identifying an issue and rallying or mobilizing people around it. Organizing is about building organizations that can wield collective power. Action may begin as reform to the existing system, and that is OK. We cannot expect people to take radical action if they have not yet given up on the “system.” It is our job to encourage action in many forms, and to reflect upon that action in order to learn from it. We must trust that such action and reflection will radicalize people over time.
Finally, how do we organize non-anarchists, or more seriously, people with different class, race, cultural backgrounds from ourselves, or do we? We must begin by locating ourselves in the complex matrix of oppression. What is your identity, in what ways do you experience oppression? In this way we can identify the social networks in which we either have relationships, or because of our identity could readily form relationships.
Then we must ask ourselves — where do we want to have an impact? In what communities can we identify a constituency for our organizing efforts? Do we have a common identity with these identified communities? If not, why do we consider them a possible constituency?
It is very important to identify the constituency in which we want to have an impact before we identify issues that we will work on. To do otherwise takes us backward, and initiates an authoritarian process in which we are dictating issues to a constituency.
Getting back to the question — is it wrong for an organizer to define a constituency that is not a part of their history or identity? Should we concentrate on organizing within our own communities? I cannot answer these questions for you — I simply don’t have the answers. But, I do know that they are critical and must be resolved before an organizing or popular education project may begin.
6. Active Participation by Anarchists in Community, Education, Labor and Issue-based Organizations
It is not a concession to liberalism, nor a descent into reformism, for revolutionaries to participate actively in organizations that are not explicitly radical. Neither are we their vanguard. The only realistic way to build a mass movement is to work directly with oppressed people — in essence, we are transformed as we transform others.
We join existing organizations to build our skills in the realm of political action. Through immersion in grassroots struggles we develop an understanding of the process of radicalization — beginning where people are at, using dialogue and research to build our collective analysis, taking action, and reflecting upon that action in an ongoing circular process.
There are some hard learned truths in these ideas. First, your vision of a better world is incomplete and impotent without the participation of grassroots people in its construction.
Second, you cannot impose your ideas, however radical you think they are and however backward you think others’ beliefs are, without compromising anarchist principles. So then, how do we move forward?
Participation in existing organizations allows us to gain experience in political action. We can then use this experience to create new organizations that are based more closely on anarchist principles, but which are still dedicated to a grassroots base. But, you should not presume that you are ready to start a grassroots organization without having a clear idea on how to build and sustain such a group. That is why I encourage you to learn from the many models of organizing and education that are currently operating in the world before you strike out on your own.
Part III: Concrete Directions for Dual Power
1. Current Anarchist Forms of Organization
Anarchists have used a wide array of organizational forms and strategies of action in the past one hundred and fifty years.
Collectives: Cadre organizations (or closed collectives) and open collectives closely resonate with an activist strategy. Infoshops, for example, operate as open collectives. As activist groups, they tend to coalesce around an issue — in this case anarchism itself. Most infoshops of the 1990s who attempted to move beyond the limitations of activism were hampered by theoretical and practical barriers. The Beehive (Washington, DC), Emma Center (Minneapolis, MN)and the A-Zone’s (Chicago, IL) attempts at anti-gentrification organizing have been intermittent and rarely effective. Issues and analysis must be developed in conjunction with the people affected by those given issues, or the separation between people and analysis leads to vanguardist distance. You cannot be an ally without first choosing the method of alliance — what is your relationship to the people affected by an issue, and how will your organizational form contribute to effective work on that issue? These are central questions for anarchists operating on a local level and who are interested in grassroots struggle.
Worker/Consumer Cooperatives: Worker cooperatives are a special category of closed collectives — as consumer cooperatives are of open collectives. As needs-based organizations, they combine elements of activist and organizing strategies. It is critical for grassroots cooperatives to commit themselves to organizing’s participatory model of action, but it is also vital that they are allowed the space to try out new ideas. With a careful eye to the issue of distance, cooperatives are an effective means of organization.
Mass-based Organizations: Mass-based organizations, like the IWW, have the potential to be influential elements of a popular revolutionary movement. There is no effective way to build a mass-based organization except through organizing. A cursory reading of history shows mass-based organizations growing as movements spring up in response to injustice — and then they fade away when justice is met. This conception of history ignores the countless years of work that go into every “spontaneous” movement. Spain had a revolutionary anarchist movement in 1936 because of the incredible organizing that began there in the 1860s.
Intermediary Organizations: Organizations that directly encourage the creation and development of the above forms of organization are necessary adjuncts to a holistic conception of revolutionary organizing. In an anarchist model, intermediary organizations are most effective in the form of a confederation. Intermediaries can provide:
Dialogue and Action — as a political formation, counter-institutional and counter-power organizations would come together to engage in revolutionary praxis (action and reflection).
Training — on the basics of organizing, facilitation, issue analysis, direct action techniques, organizational, issue and membership development, etc.
Technical Assistance — participatory research on issues, access to technology, technical knowledge on the “how-tos” of things like forming economic or housing cooperatives (where to get money, how to get started, etc.).
Financial Assistance — grassroots fundraising, grant writing, and the investigation and implementation of resource pools.
The point is that anarchists must think strategically about their forms of organization and strategies of action within a particular historical context. We must make conscious and informed decisions about the prospects for effective revolutionary social change that are either enhanced or limited by our choices of organization and action.
2. Becoming More Radical and More Grassroots
More than fifteen years of modern anarchist gatherings, conferences and events haven’t led to a coherent anarchist movement — on a continental, regional or local level. This is significant because other groups of people, similarly collected together on the basis of political or issue affinity have developed a higher degree of movement organization. Why? First, anarchists have tended to form organizations that are not integrated with a grassroots base and, second, anarchists have not built effective intermediary organizations.
The lack of a grassroots base is the result of an anti-mass conception of organization among anarchists. Favoring collectives, anarchists have constructed insular groups that are simply not relevant to the lives of their families, neighbors and co-workers. While collective organization is useful under certain conditions, it is not conducive to building a movement, which implies a much higher level of mass participation. Learning organizing and popular education theories and skills is the answer for anarchists interested in building a broad-based and diverse movement.
Additionally, North American anarchists have not developed intermediary organizations to connect locally organized radical groups with each other, and then to regional/national/continental networks. Anarchists seem hellbent on remaining a collection of individual people and their individual groups due to a reluctance to be accountable to a wider constituency through engaging in the process of strategic organizing and popular education. Simply arguing for a network (locally or continentally), presumably for communication and mutual aid, also hasn’t taken off despite numerous tries. And in the case of the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation, it did work for almost a decade, but at the expense of losing the local organizations. This does not have to be the case.
We need to develop massive resources of our own — social and economic — if we want to make similarly massive changes in society. Our forms of organization must infect and transform society away from competition, capitalism and oppression.
The challenge is to initiate broad-based organizing and popular education to build both counter-power and counter-institutional organizations and to construct intermediary confederations to connect them. We must stop trying to build a movement of anarchists and instead fight for an anarchistic movement.
Although we welcome the author’s insights and analysis around dual power and grassroots organizing, we reject his final conclusion which claims that anarchists must “stop trying to build a movement of anarchists, and instead fight for an anarchistic movement.” Those of us from NEFAC would argue that both are equally necessary.
We do not believe that an activist strategy based solely on anarchist methods of organizing (self-organization, mutual aid, solidarity and direct action) will inevitably lead us any closer towards anarchism. Such a strategy, on its own, only serves to provide a radical veneer and egalitarian legitimacy for liberal-reformist or authoritarian activist trends.
A successful revolution will require that anarchist ideas become the leading ideas within the social movements and popular struggles of the working class. This will not happen spontaneously. We believe that, if only to wage the battle of ideas, anarchist organizations are necessary. The purpose of such organizations, for us, is to connect local grassroots activism to a larger strategy of social revolution; to create an organizational pole for anarchists to develop theory and practice, share skills and experiences, and agitate for explicitly anarchist demands (in opposition to liberal-reformist or authoritarian trends) within our activism.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 10:55 PM PST
Newer | Latest | Older