The stock-standard announcement (I hope to start blogging a bit more soonish):

imminent rebellion #9 is fresh off the printer! (In fact we’re still high off the ink) Weighing in at a staggering 108 pages, imminent rebellion is making a come back after 3 years of hibernation as an irregular anarchist journal from deep in the South Pacific.

Included in this issue are personal commentaries from some of those arrested as part of the October 15 ‘terrorist’ raids, an overview of the police’s Operation 8, a consideration of police treatment of activists over the last few years, critiques of NGOism, activism and identity politics, and more.

Read online or buy direct from our website: http://www.rebelpress.org.nz

Rebel Press
info@rebelpress.org.nz
PO Box 9263, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand

Rebel Press LogoTomorrow Rebel Press will finally get its own printer — a beautiful A3 black and white printer on an über-cheap service plan (1.9 cents a page, all expenses and servicing included). From this point on, we’ll be able to make books virtually in-house (minus covers) — we can do printing, binding, and guillotining with our own equipment for less than $6 a book plus overheads.

Since the end of last year, our little collective has grown from being mainly just myself to five of us, housed in a little office we’ve got going for cheap. In getting started, our main source of money has come from sales of Val’s book — Against Freedom — which (sadly, but predictably) sold particularly well after she was arrested along with 16 others as part of the October 15th terrorism raids.

Our aim as a collective is to print and publish anarchist or radical material from our region in the South Pacific, and we’ve got a couple of projects underway — the most pressing being the upcoming issue 9 of imminent rebellion. This will for the first time be more like a journal, much longer and in depth than before, and hopefully we can get it into mainstream/idependent bookstores as well as to the usual anarchist points of distribution.

At the moment, we’re binding everything by hand which we’re getting much better at and which I find incredibly satisfying, superseded only by the feel of pulling down the lever of the guillotine to trim the books. (I might put up a how-to guide on binding, at some point).

In using a digital process, and hand-binding the books, we can do very short-run books, and so long as we don’t have enough projects underway to keep busy we may start doing collected readers, or reprints of classics for cheap (along the lines of the Penguin ‘Great Ideas’ series). I reckon if people have ideas for readers or themed anthologies, and are keen to gather together some texts, we’d probably be quite keen to publish them (hint hint).

www.rebelpress.org.nz

I’ve been enjoying watching the New Zealand stock market fall over the last two weeks. It’s been really quite a pleasure to watch the NZX50 drop just a bit more every day, refreshing my browser every so often. And today I had the pleasure to watch the sharemarket plummet by as much as 4% at one point.

In just 3 weeks the NZX50 has dropped almost 600 points, partly as a result of the credit collapse and the price of oil. The latter, of course, will shortly (in the next 5 years) be past the point of return and be rising irrevocably in price, and declining in supply, likely triggering a global recession without end.

To be honest, I can’t wait. It’s gonna be absolutely terrible, of course. And I imagine New Zealand will slip from the margins of first world status to third world, and most of us here will be pretty screwed (cost of food, especially). But the sad thing is, I’d rather that than this perpetual continuation of the status quo, which is at least as destructive. At least a break in the status quo opens up fissures.

I thought I might as well upload my honours project from last year, and let those of you with masochistic tendencies have a read. It’s entitled:

Post-Anarchism and Social War
Post-Structuralism, and the Revival of an Anarchist Subterranean

I’m trying to re-write the thing into a 3,000 word article for imminent rebellion coming out in April, so if you just want the gist maybe wait till then.And don’t point out all the spelling and grammatical mistakes, there are loads – I only had 15 days to do the thing in the end.

Download the PDF.

* * * * *

From the conclusion:

The collapse of the utopian project in the post-World War Two era is widely accepted as a given, as if those that previously fought for the total reorganisation of society had finally given themselves to the lesser task of the more rational and humane management of the status quo (social democracy, the third way, etc.). The failure to see the continuation of a utopian project, or rather a multitude of such projects, is due precisely to a shift in the very conception of revolution and utopia. The very real and substantive difference between Marxism and classical anarchism over the question of the State and power masked the fact that both were really quite similar – as products of Enlightenment thinking – in their foundational assumptions. These assumptions, the a priori that haunts classical anarchism, can be reduced to two key aspects: firstly, a notion of power as transcendent to the social body and originating in the singularity of the State, working in a simple top-down fashion upon the otherwise autonomous organisation of society; secondly, a humanism that posited a human essence that was essentially freedom-desiring, cooperative, that tended towards egalitarian relations and which was suppressed under the ‘yoke’ of the State. Upon these assumptions were built the familiar utopian project. Freedom, the aim of the classical anarchist project, was conceived unproblematically as the absence of power, in which conditions the natural cooperative tendencies of humanity could be unleashed so as to realise, once and for all, the revolutionary society. Revolution, therefore, was the destruction of the State – a cataclysmic rupture and qualitative change with previous social organisation – and was to be conducted by the revolutionary subject embodied in that broad mass in whom lay the seeds of change and are collectively known as the ‘oppressed’. A utopian project conceived such as this – Marxist or anarchist – has indeed largely subsided in the post-World War Two era. But the utopian impulse has not died; rather, it has been eclipsed by a project that bears little superficial resemblance. The singular and totalising conception of revolutionary change of the classical emancipatory theories, the notion of becoming-major to use Deleuze’s formulation, has instead been replaced with a dispersed, decentred and viral becoming-minor of contemporary, second-wave anarchism.

Post-anarchism is a systematic attempt to build an anarchism without the a priori faults of its predecessor, to further deepen the tendencies of contemporary – as opposed to classical – anarchism, and to commit itself to an understanding of the social founded upon an ontology of immanence. In the first instance, power is conceived as decentred and exercised from innumerable points, as immanent and necessary to all interactions, and as constitutive of larger relations of domination. This latter aspect forms the basis for Deleuze’s separation of micro- and macro-politics. These domains don’t correlate simply to the State and society, and nor are they fixed to any particular strata, but rather describe the processes whereby emergent strata are ontologically produced from the complex and non-linear interactions – the micro-politics – of the strata below. Power, therefore, is for the most part bottom-up, where macro-assemblages and large-scale relations of domination are produced in the micro-politics of everyday life. While macro-politics remains important (it is not one or the other, as Deleuze insists, but ‘and, and, and…’), the micro is primary. Moreover, fundamental changes in social relations necessitate a total transformation in the relations of everyday life or else risk, as Foucault warned, simply a reconstitution of the politics of old. This is a non-functionalist conception of macro-politics, where the historical construction of macro-assemblages is not teleological, but arises through the capillary and contingent spread of certain techniques at the expense of others. Crucially, in regards to this discussion, freedom is conceived not as an absence of power but rather a specific organisation of power, one that avoids the asymmetric and frozen relations that characterise conditions of domination, and which seeks the free flowing exercise of power distributed throughout the social terrain. This is not a static state, but instead a becoming, a practice, an ‘ongoing actuality’. In the second instance, post-anarchism views the subject not as transcendent to the forces that act upon the body but as produced by them, as an effect. The ‘oppressed masses’ cease to occupy a pure space of resistance and come instead wholly complicit and produced by the everyday practices of which they are part. The revolutionary subject of post-anarchism, therefore, cannot be founded upon an existing social category that is produced out of relations of domination; its aim, in fact, is for the eventual abolition of those very categories. The revolutionary subject must instead be an orientation, an inclination towards permanent revolt against practices of domination and a tendency towards social experimentation and reorganisation of power relations, aiming always to further maximise conditions of freedom. In a similar vein, the notion of revolution is transformed. Social change must be approached in a fashion concomitant with the operations of power. Cataclysmic, qualitative change is replaced with widespread change in degree, and utopian finality is replaced with an open-ended conception of revolution, as a process never fully realised.

A radical new underpinning such as this necessarily entails a shift in practice, in the conceptions of social change. The classical anarchist project contained within itself three tendencies of resistance: the insurrectionary tendency, the evolutionary tendency, and anarcho-syndicalism. The first was heavily rooted in classical anarchism, representing a purely destructive moment and relying on the egalitarian impulses of the masses. The second, the evolutionary tendency, was its opposite and focused entirely on the constructive moment in the creation of alternative institutions, but in lacking a destructive aspect and often choosing institutional legality, the evolutionary tendency was limited and risked full integration into hegemonic practices. Of the three, anarcho-syndicalism was the most developed, aptly integrating both the destructive and constructive moments, but it was limited by its focus on simply on the condition of work. In addition to an insistence on both the destructive and constructive moments to anarchist practice, and in its opposition to the totality of relations that constitute domination, the post-anarchist project brings a number of insights from its revised view of the social. The politics and transformation of everyday life becomes an essential aspect, both in the reconstitution of macro-political assemblages and equally in the creation of new subjectivities. These transformations must be treated as experiments, and must be conducted not en masse as a singular project, but rather as a multiplicity of small-scale projects, each designed with the aim for their reproduction and spread across the social terrain. Moreover, this is a tactical model of change. In opposition to a singular strategy, a multiplicity of tactics works in accordance with the decentred, bottom-up, and non-linear nature of power, constantly pressing against various practices, transforming some, and creating other relations anew. Contemporary anarchist practices offer many such examples of possible tactics, including the notion of exodus, direct action, and the creation of autonomous spaces. In all, the aim is a prefigurative politics: withdrawing ourselves from practices deemed antithetical to relations of freedom, similarly fighting against and disrupting those of which we are not a part, and seeking out fissures of time and space so as to create new relations with one another and with our material world. This notion of social war, of revolutionary practice without end, is one that seeks not the conquest of power but rather a generalised revolt and the viral adoption of these tactics throughout the social terrain, opening and creating spaces of becoming-minor.

The central question with which we started – ‘What is to be done?’ – remains perhaps only partially answered. Indeed, more concrete answers lie in the substantial and expansive practical work in implementing and experimenting with the multiplicity of tactics and relations that are available in pursuing freedom as an ongoing actuality. Nevertheless, the criticisms of the ‘spectacles of resistance’ made of the anti-globalisation movement ring even stronger in this evaluation. The large anti-summit protests, at least by themselves, make for a weak tactic precisely because they maintain the notion that there exist centres of power to global capitalism, whether in the Group of Eight, the World Trade Organisation, or otherwise. Indeed, in many ways they marked a return to the insurrectionary model with all of its faults. It appears, in fact, that since the decline of the anti-globalisation movement it is to the alternative praxis advocated here that many have turned, and perhaps there is in that some hope.

To my friends enduring the barbarity of prison.

Unconditional Love

A very interesting article — though not without its issues — on the decline of the anti-globalisation movement, the rise of the anti-war movement, and the politics of confrontation/maximal demands versus the united front/minimal demands, from a Canadian perspective (though with many resonances with the South Pacific too): http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/view/2458

United front politics – as they have been constituted by the current anti-war movement – deliberately limit the possibility of developing anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist consciousness. By rigidly limiting its slogan to “stop the war” or “troops out now,” it produces a mass movement that can and will be easily recuperated by social democratic forces and even ruling class elements who believe that particular military initiatives have been tactical mistakes. Meaningful anti-war movements should not focus on trying to formulate a better imperialist foreign-policy.

Despite the logic of the united front, flattening out political demands yields lack of interest as often as it yields conversions to radical politics. However, as the US continues its attempted military remaking of the Middle East, and as the Canadian body count (not to mention the scores of murdered civilians) in Afghanistan continues to rise, it seems inevitable that the sections of the North American anti-war movement that have not forgotten the lessons that stood at the heart of Québec City will come to the conclusion that a positive orientation to direct action, direct democracy, and coherent and explicit anti-capitalism is needed once again.

The resolution to this problem cannot be found in efforts to reestablish the hegemony of the pedagogy of confrontation. We musn’t forget that the innovations of the anti-globalization movement rested on mass mobilizations that had much in common with the logic of united front work. Even the “anti-capitalist” wing of the movement constituted itself around a minimal self-definition aimed at allowing a diversity of “anti-capitalisms” to co-exist and cross-fertilize more or less uncomfortably. Moreover, without implantation in a movement with a minimal mass character, these innovations are like fish out of water. The way forward lies in recognizing, synthesizing and transcending these seemingly antithetical terms on a mass scale.

I’ve been having an ongoing discussion about the the distinction between ‘political’ action, and ‘personal’ or ‘lifestyle’ action with a friend of mine. Lifestylism is considered a political slur amongst anarchist circles, and is almost as bad as petit-bourgeois is considered in Marxist circles. However, I feel the debate around it is really quite ill-thought out.

To be a lifestylist is to, apparently, falsely believe that personal decisions can be political… or something like that. The usage of the word came about in Bookchin’s vitriolic polemic Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An unbridgeable chasm from around 1995, by which point he was well past his prime of writing. From his conclusion (note the insulting use of ‘petit-bourgeois’ – you just know he has Marxist roots!):

Minimally, social anarchism is radically at odds with anarchism focused on lifestyle, neo-Situationist paeans to ecstasy, and the sovereignty of the ever-shriveling petty-bourgeois ego. The two diverge completely in their defining principles – socialism or individualism. Between a committed revolutionary body of ideas and practice, on the one hand, and a vagrant yearning for privatistic ecstasy and self-realization on the other, there can be no commonality. Mere opposition to the state may well unite fascistic lumpens with Stirnerite lumpens, a phenomenon that is not without its historical precedents.

My contention, firstly, is that there should not be an opposition between the ‘personal’ and the ‘political’, and rather that political, indeed all macro social structures, are actually constituted through practices of everyday life. My second contention is that the aim of anarchism shouldn’t be either socialism or individualism, but rather what a number of authors have called communal individualism.

The collapsing of the macro and the micro into a single field of relations and practices has been attempted by a number of theorists: this is Delueze and Guattari’s ‘plane of immanence’ and the ‘abstract machine'; it is Bruno Latour’s ‘flat social’ (a quite conservative social theorist otherwise however); and it is the turn to everyday life of the Situationists, of Lefebvre, and of much of post-structuralism. Put simply, it is the idea that when we talk of ‘the State,’ for example, we are not talking about a concrete thing but rather a conglomeration of social relations that, through their repeated performances of certain key practices and their collective orientation that is, on the whole, the same, they create the notion of the State. The State is therefore not the reified conception that some are prone to, but rather a mass of social practices in which certain key practices (ie. obedience to agents of the State, obedience to the Father) are critical in maintaining the overall illusion. The State is constituted through practices of repression and violence, but similarly through obedience and consent.

What this means is that there is no secondary sphere of political action, nor a sphere that is simply personal, but that relations of everyday life are already political. The distinction between lifestylism and politics ceases to make sense, except for the Statists who consider only those actions within the sphere of the State as political (a claim which makes no sense for those seeking the abolition of the State).

It is obvious what those who make the attack of ‘lifestylism’ are getting at. It is usually a charge of a lack of collective action, or a charge of consumer-oriented change. That it is always up to individuals to change their behaviour is always going to be the reality, but it is also a reality that freeing ourselves from oppressive social relations comes through a mass refusal to perpetuate those relations. This is not a charge against ‘lifestylism’ per se, but rather a distinction of effective action, and one which could easily be levelled against the mass marches that are so fetishised as being political, and which so often fail to count as “mass” at all. Secondly, the critique of consumer-oriented change is similarly valid but not against lifestylism, instead against naive liberal notions that we can buy buy buy our way to a better world.

Secondly, Bookchin sets up a fantastic division between egotistical individualists and social revolutionaries, and of course this is nothing but the classical distinction between individualists and socialist anarchists. The former puts the self above everything else, while the latter instead prioritises the collective. As for me, anarchism only makes sense when it is concerned with the freedom of the individual (what sense does it make to talk of the freedom of collective?), but it is both a negative freedom-from and a positive freedom-to. Certainly, the latter can only be generated through communal action. This is the notion of communal individuality, where the measure of freedom is based on the freedom of the individual, but that this freedom is extended and fostered through communal action. The development of the ego (in the Stirnerite conception of ‘the unique one’, NOT the popular conception) should therefore be of primary concern; that is, the development of selves both willing to defend their freedom, and to extend it further, à la Stirner’s ‘union of egos.’ Any ego freed from the ‘spooks’ in their heads will immediately realise the paralysing and repressive social order with which they are met and that any desire that they may have for ‘privatistic ecstasy’ immediately becomes a social desire aimed at abolishing the conditions that make that desire impossible.

The charge of lifestylism maintains the division between the public and the private spheres, between the personal and the political. I believe instead that the terrain of political action is the terrain of everyday life; there is no secondary or tertiary spheres of politics or ideology. Moreover, the development of selves radically desiring of freedom is essential to any revolutionary project aimed at communal individuality, one that is opposed to the subjugation of the individual to yet another collective spook.

Some comments on “activism” from the article ‘The Arms of Exploitation: On development and technology’ in issue two of A Murder of Crows: For social war and the subversion of daily life (worth a read).

Since [the Interstate 69 Highway project] was merely in the preliminary stages, activity against it lulled. In 2002 though, when the State of Indiana was deciding which route to pick for the I-69, opponents participated in state-sponsored public forums, sent letters to their representatives, and on one occasion presented over 125,000 signatures against the planned route to the governor’s office. Once the official route was picked in January 2003, there was further letter writing, an Earth First! banner-that-failed-to-even-unravel drop, and in late 2004, members of environmental and citizen’s groups gave the new governor anti-I-69 literature in the hopes he would consider their alternative plan. Hilarious.

All of these tactics read straight from the citizen activist’s handbook; it could be any issue, and the list of activities would read the same: letter writing, petitioning, symbolic protests, dialogue with state officials, and of course mandatory whining, begging and grovelling. The types of tactics, promoted by the state, capitalists and micro-politicians, serve to undermine social conflict, to transform it into am easily manageable situation where “the people” work together with “their representatives” to come to an agreement. After all, we’re all on the same team.

In addition, this model presents further problems. Without going into a lengthy critique of activism, it suffices to say that activism is an historical social-construct, meaning that like everything else in this world, it is a product of a particular time period and of particular social relations. Housewives, police, and activists are social categories that serve particular roles in this society. Activists fulfil the role of specialists in social change who intervene in conflicts in order to act as representatives of the people involved and as those who also represent the conflict to the media. It is not a matter of ill-intentions, but rather a matter of social roles. Activists are politicians, albeit on a smaller scale.

Therefore as specialists in the field of social change, it should come as no surprise that activists further specialise in a particular niche, in the same way an academic carves out some obscure area of study in order to make his or herself more valuable. Rather than attacking the social order, activism is a practice that focuses on “solving” various problems and issues that have their roots in the same system that activists work within. Whatever conflict they are involved in, they in turn reduce them to preordained categories that fit perfectly within a framework that is easily digestible for the media and easily defused by the state. Thus in the fight against I-69, various groups were formed to oppose only parts of the plan: its effects on the environment, the “unwise” and “inefficient” use of taxpayer money, its effects of rural residents and so on. These ignore the fundamental causes and overall role of the I-69 extension and play into the hands of politicians who can cater to these partial critiques. They took a diverse area of social conflict and fragmented it into many issues in order to effectively manage the situation. 

 

A few videos from today’s protests at Rostock, Germany, against the upcoming G8 meeting. A lot of arrests apparently, possibly including a friend who went over for the protests.

and a BBC report (for shits and giggles):

The processes used throughout the spying revelations have served to make patently clear the already-existing hierarchies and centralisation within the activist groups involved. The revelation of spying in Peace Action Wellington (PAW) and the Wellington Animal Rights Network (WARN) were discovered early April as a result of the bouncing emails from Thompson and Clark’s office, but it wasn’t until the story broke in the Sunday Star Times that the majority of people in all three groups — PAW, WARN and Save Happy Valley Coalition (SHVC) — finally learned of what had been happening.

The spying was first tentatively discovered by a member of WARN who contacted Nicky Hager. Nicky, sensing a media scoop and yet another boost to his ego, jumped on the issue and asked for secrecy around the issue, to which the WARN member agreed. Nicky contacted a member of SHVC to trawl through their emails only to discover the same bouncing emails but this time from a second spy. Again he cautioned secrecy.

As far as I know, the only other person who was made aware of the spying significantly prior to the story in the SST was from SHVC, on that grounds that they could “help with ideas for how to best push this in the media, how to ensure that it was all handled smoothly and to prep for the confrontation with Ryan and a Sunday Star Times journalist….”

When the story did finally break the two from SHVC attempted to defend their actions, saying:

“In order for research into Thompson & Clark to be done successfully and to blow this story open, we needed to have a significant amount of time. The best way for this to happen, without Somali, Ryan or T&C realising that we knew was for [first person told] to keep it to herself. If word had spread, even if only to a few of our trusted crew, that could have been enough for someone to give Ryan a look or to say something seemingly innocuous that may have tipped him off.”

The email finished on a most paternalistic note: “If you have any issues with the way myself or [the other person] have handled this, we are both more than happy to discuss them with you.”

The initial WARN member involved defended similarly:

“My first instinct when I found the dodgy email from TCIL was ‘How can I use this to cause maximum damage to the bad guys?’ and I did put that before the interests of group democracy (in my group and the others) and I did decide that keeping it secret in order to maximise the damage, outweighed any security risks to PAW and WARN (I’m not in SHV). In hindsight I would have done the same thing (except I would have told someone in PAW)”

When discussed at a Wellington PAW meeting the “someone in PAW” meant someone quite specific who was, it turned out, told a few days before the story broke.

There are a number of issues here. Firstly, all the people ‘in the know’ were already the default leaders of these supposed horizontal groups. These are people who are already in positions of significant power within these groups. The provision of this information to these key leaders, the subsequent hoarding/centralisation of the information, and the decisions they made for other members in their own groups (or for other groups as was the case with PAW) only serve to reinforce their place of power. They assumed that only they could act responsibly with the information, that only they could act so as not to give away clues, and that this was perfectly fine since they were acting in our best interests anyway. In doing so, they have denied other members in these groups and the entirety of PAW to be able to make any decisions of their own.

Secondly, there is a very explicit prioritisation of the media over horizontalism in and among these groups. Nicky wanted his scoop, the others agreed, and group processes — which in the case of SHVC were clearly defined at numerous national hui — were readily discarded. This crude instrumentalism, the dismissal of proper group processes for the sake of the media is a clear rejection of the commitment to ends & means consistency that is a cornerstone to anarchist organising. God help us if the “objective material conditions” warranted worse! It is also a failure to properly understand the efficacy of the media, which is after all only a highly mediated means of information transmission. It has a significant role in the power plays of hegemonic politics, but social revolution — and not merely political reconfiguration — comes through creating new social relationships and organisations. But what good are they if they can be discarded so readily as we have seen?

Finally, the hoarding of this information put a lot of people in positions of unnecessary risk. PAW took part in at least one protest that involved arrests over this time while others outside the group knew we were compromised, and who knows what things were said around these spies that could have been dangerous. Those who knew of the likely infiltration of these groups had an obligation to tell others, but failed to do so.

I am dismayed at the reaction from others in the campaign ranging from “a difficult task. you handled it well.” to “I strongly [...] support the difficult decision [you] had to make which would have gone against the usual unspoken SHV process of transparency and openess – and against the code of friendship with all in SHV.” A difficult decision about what? to deny the opportunity precisely for others to make decisions for themselves?

The discussion on the SHVC email list went on only briefly before it was deferred to this weekend’s national hui. As it turned out, however, both from Happy Valley cancelled their plans to come to the conference.

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