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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):

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.

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.

I am confused as to what theorists of the State (liberals, social-democrats, your sundry right-wingers, etc.) think when they see scenes such as those presently occurring in East Timor. In particular, how do they justify the use of police and heavy militarisation with their notions of the consensual democratic State?

Currently, there are 1,100+ ANZAC troops in East Timor enforcing democracy and guarding the elections – only the second since East Timor gained a formal political independence in 1999. Fighting has been escalating in the run-up to today’s election – understandable when the elections will ensure one of the various East Timorese factions is soon to have the apparatus of the State behind it.

Several lessons are made all-too-clear when I see proto-States like East Timor being developed and democracy imposed. The first is the most obvious and yet neglected fact of any State: its foundation and maintenance through violence. Perhaps it is because the origins of the systems of hegemony that operate in New Zealand and in most of the West are long-forgotton, or perhaps it is because the the myths of necessity or social consensus with regards to the State are so strong that this most obvious point goes unmentioned. But in East Timor we can see it ever so clearly: political and economic hegemony requires the suppression of various interests and practices that operate in opposition to its logic, and when legitimacy isn’t enough to gain this consent/suppression (as with most Western States) then force is required.

It also brings to mind the most recent Fijian coup. To guarantee the success of coup, the army needed only to seize the weapons cache of the still-loyal police force. From this point, the Fijian State ceased to be able to operate effectively at all.

But perhaps what I find should be so baffling to theorists of the State is that in East Timor we have “democracy” being crafted and enforced through the use of military. How on Earth to liberals et. al. entertain notions of the democratic State as some form of consensual social organisation when we see here in the most naked form the latent violence of democracy? In these situations it becomes most clear the role of voting as a means of legitimisation of the political and economic hegemony of the State-to-be. Elections must be guarded at all costs as the bastion of this legitimisation, and all other arenas of political/anti-political action must be shutdown, through violence if necessary.

This is not to suggest that democracy should instead be crafted through some sort of non-violent means. Democracy, even if it really were the rule of the majority over the minority – which it is not – always, in the last instance, relies on the State form in some measure to impose those decisions of the majority and suppress those of the minority that are in opposition to this (and most often the minority over the majority).

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hippy nonsense aside, I’m back at uni and haven’t had much time to write (or do much of anything else). I’m going to write a few things in the near future but they are going to be hopelessly intellectual, so apologies in advance.

I think I could be the most youngest cynical old man, but here’s another rant against a protest action.

This time it’s the Howard demo that happened tonight in Wellington, which saw three of my friends get arrested, and quite a few others hurt. I didn’t think the demo was a very good idea: I said to the organisers that I believed it was a continuation of the ‘scattergun tactics’ that have characterised anarchist organising for the last 10 years (at least), and just as importantly the protest could only ever be a glorified ‘bearing witness to power’.

Scattergun tactics: It seems most anarchists and radical-ish activists spend almost their entire time organising protests against whatever pops up within their reach: whether it be new government policies, visiting PMs, or the latest war. Obviously these need to be opposed, but the form this has taken over the last 10 years is a small group of people jumping from one site of opposition to another, always in opposition to something, never ever having time to to build, to construct alternatives or to organise something that might actually get bigger. Instead, it’s just continual opposition to whatever shit gets thrown at us or others. And yet another disconnected and ad-hoc protest just falls in line with this trend. This is not a strategy to win.

Bearing witness to power: And what did we even expect from this Howard demo? To yell at him loud enough that he would change his mind? That, even if we had been successful, expect a disruption of his dinner plans to change the policies of the Australian State? Obviously not. It was to ‘show our opposition’, to have it on record that we oppose his policies.

One also has to wonder about the psychology of such situations: does the presence of such numbers of police make us feel as though we’re important? a threat? Does getting us arrested make us feel like we’ve sacrificed something for the cause?

It’s also terribly liberal in many ways. As if opposing a person makes any difference when he’s merely an actor within a social system that is propped up by relations in everyday life, not those at the top. It’s quite ironic how much attention anarchists give those in power — far more than the average joe.

We need to be far more strategic, systematic and, above all, constructive, because changing a social system isn’t going to happen from instances of spectacular opposition (just as it isn’t going to happen from political revolutions), but from thoroughgoing social revolution.

Anyway, the filth can go fuck themselves. Bad tactics aside they have no right to fucking exist.

Yes, I’m in a grump.

Bush PuppetAllow me a brief clarification:

There are many who prioritise “creative” resistance, but do so by confusing creative with artistic.

Protests that involve the making of puppets, colourful banners, street theatre or pinata are artistic, but they are not creative. Indeed, these protests are wholly predictable, with a set of rituals and roles just like most other protests.

Creative refers those those things “relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas”. In relation to protests, this would describe scenarios that involve new or innovative tactics, thus offering the hope of getting passed hurdles that have previously been stumbling blocks.

And now back to our normal programme.

MonopolyBeing the psychopathic sick fuck that I am, I thought it would be amusing to design a social system that would be the most delightfully tortuous way of life I can imagine. These are the top 10 traumatising rules I came up with for my social system that I think I will call, oh I don’t know, shall we say capitalism.

  1. Those who work the hardest and in the most treacherous conditions will also be forced to live in the most poverty, and those who perform the safest jobs with the least exertion will have access to unparalleled riches.
  2. Legions of the poor will live in prisons and still others will be systematically executed in death chambers. The rich will freely travel the globe.
  3. There’ll be enough food to feed everyone in the world, but a large portion of this food will be destroyed, some will have access to more food than they can eat and the rest will starve to death by the thousands each day.
  4. The poorest will fight and die in wars of no interest to them, and the richest will never hear a gunshot yet reap the rewards.
  5. People will be forced onto the street to freeze to death while empty apartments will be defended from would-be squatters.
  6. People will be forced to endure great hunger and simultaneously be forced to marvel at the sight of tasty delights out-of-reach behind thin glass windows.
  7. New automated production technologies will promise workers untold riches but then turn on them and force them into unemployment.
  8. People will either be unemployed, poor and unable to find enough work, or employed and working themselves into an early grave. There shall be no in-betweenness.
  9. The richest will destroy the planet, but the poorest will starve and die as a result.
  10. If you don’t like these rules then its straight to jail. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200.

Seriously – what sort of fucked up world treats these things as natural, inevitable, invisible?

Hearing about the death of Stanley Waipouri has made me pretty upset. It seems quite likely now that he died at the hands of straight-but-not-so-straight men who sought to re-establish their heterosexuality through the ultimate act of killing a sexual deviant. At his funeral a friend recalled that he “had a thing for straight men”, which could get him into trouble.

This is the most extreme form of compulsory heterosexuality that, I assure you, is particularly widespread in New Zealand. It ranges from the psychological oppression of the moralists, those that would attack you verbally, social isolation growing up and in school, the media, etc., to the more physical oppression of bullying, being beaten, shoved and tripped up in school hallways, chased down urban streets at night, and in the worst cases killed.

I remember how the only guy at my high school to come out, in 4th form, was abused and beaten and quickly forced to drop out. This was a lesson for me. I learnt not only to behave as if I were straight for fear of this abuse, but I also learnt, just like every straight boy at that school, to police other people’s sexuality for instances of anything remotely deviant.

The story of Jeff Whittington, especially, was the first and most terrifying instance of violence against gays I remember, and taught me the risk of being gay in a straight society. He was murdered only a couple of km from where I am right now, in fact, on the 8th May 1999. Jeff, who apparently looked a bit too gay, was picked up by two guys at a local petrol station under the pretext of giving him a ride home. Instead, they drove him to a secluded area and proceeded to punch him and kick him in the head, stomping on his head at least once. They later went home and bragged that they had “fucked up a faggot and left him for dead” and that “the faggot was bleeding out of places I have never seen before”. Jeff later died in hospital from brain swelling and perforations to his bowel. His attackers thought he was 20 (and thus it was OK?) but when they later learned he was only 14 years old they turned themselves in.

This is one of the more extreme cases, but I can think of at least five murders since that have been motivated by sexuality and literally hundreds of instances of unreported low-level violence that happens everyday. This is the violence of compulsory heterosexuality.

We’ve been joking about it for a while now: the different power blocs in the Wellington and national activist scene, the different levels of social power individuals and blocs have. It’s kinda funny, but also extremely worrying, especially considering the anarchist commitment to horizontal structures is being undermined by these developments.

In her classic 1970s article The Tyranny of Structurelessness, Jo Freeman argued that the near-total lack of structure in the early consciousness-raising feminist groups she was involved in allowed for informal leadership and hierarchies to develop among, for example, those heavily involved in organising, or those with social power on the outside of the group, or even just among close groups of friends.

Freeman proposed as a remedy (!) not the abolition of this leadership and power, but rather its formalisation within “democratic” structures of power. Of course, to anarchists this is unacceptable and not a solution in any sense whatsoever. Instead, we have since attempted to create processes that actively undermine informal power: clear and open lines of communication within groups, clearly structured consensus procedures, equalisation of talking time at meetings, rotation of jobs (eg. media spokes), sharing of skills, etc.

In the groups I’m involved in, informal power, as far as I can tell, is arising in at least two main ways. The first, and most dangerous, is the blatant bypassing of group process: media releases are written and approved by only a few, meetings between close friends are bypassing open group meetings, quiet and shy people in meetings aren’t being encouraged to speak, people’s opinions are being ignored by central group members and consensus processes are being smudged. These are just a few examples, but they are also the most easily fixed, and this must be done.

The far more difficult informal power is the social power that exists within the anarchist and activist community in Wellington and across Aoteaoroa. This is the power of influential people, influential tight-knit groups of friends (“power-blocs”), sociable people versus unsociable people, people with university degrees, charismatic people, etc. And this can’t be fixed with careful processes: the activist community is not a coherent organisation, there are not and cannot be clear boundaries of membership, groups of friends can’t be forced to hang out less and charisma is not something one can learn or unlearn.

It seems, as far as I can tell, the only way to deal with this latter instance of informal power is to blatantly and explicitly acknowledge it. We need to blatantly acknowledge the power blocs, the charismatic people, those whose intellects gain them respect (or fear), those who are sociable and have their fingers in many pies. And once we blatantly acknowledge this, perhaps we can more clearly combat it. This can’t easily be a formal process by the nature of the amorphous activist community, but it could become a conscious ethic. There are also formal things that can help: the Magnetic Fridge Diary is a good one, and open and constant reports of activities could also help.

I feel something needs to be done soon. I’d hate to see the sort of power-mongering and ego building of the old NZ left — the likes of Matt McCarten, CORSO, Arena etc. — repeating itself amongst the anarchist and anti-Power left of today. And I’m serious about this last bit. I know that recently I have been feeling more and more competitive with other activists to get my day in the sun, stroke my ego, and its not healthy — it’ll tear our community apart if we’re not careful.

I’m currently trying to write an article on male homosexuality and resistance, and it’s not going very well. But in the meantime I thought I’d write on an instance on heteronormativity within the anarchist scene here in Wellington that really quite pissed me, and made me realise my isolation in the scene when it comes to queer male issues.

The A-Men is a group for anarchist men to discuss issues of masculinity, feminism, and their relation to women. It’s a good idea and I’m glad its happening. They recently held a consent workshop to discuss issues of sex, consent and rape. A few days before one of the guys part of this group decided to let me know that it’d be quite heterosexist… it was nice of him to consider me but in reality it was a mere afterthought. You know, “I spose we better let the token gay boy know this might not be very useful to him”. The rest of the group had given absolutely no thought to the fact that the workshop was going to be entirely about boy-girl sexual relations with no space for boy-boy relations.

In the end I didn’t go: I really didn’t want to have to struggle to be heard amongst those guys, especially since it would probably have been quite disruptive to something which is after all a really necessary move on their parts. But a couple gay anarchists did go. They quickly learnt that it was solely about boy-girl relations, with no consideration for any other sort of relationship. The workshop organisers insisted that it is the boy’s responsibility to ask for consent, and when it was asked how boy-boy consent should work they apparently shrugged it off as not worth considering.

They had no idea of the issues in boy-boy relations, which obviously include consent, but more importantly probably to those within the anarchist community would be issues of rape. In many urban gay scenes, rape is prolific and often laughed off. We’re assumed to be so hungry for sex, with such demanding sexual appetites, that surely we must welcome rape as just another opportunity to get off. A workshop covering homosexual relations would surely then also have to deal with defence against rape, but the organisers had absolutely no clue this was even an issue.

I wouldn’t have minded if this was advertised as a workshop on heterosexual consent for men, but it wasn’t. It was assumed it was heterosexual by default, with only having to make a partial disclaimer to me in person. Homosexual relations were ignored, sidelined and totally not understood.