Jan 31, 2007

Pedagogy of Confrontation

by reddboy

The Growing Pains editorial and the Sketchy Thoughts response to it are welcome treatments of important issues. I want to make a few comments on one aspect; the editorial’s treatment of the pedagogy of confrontation. Other important points such as the impact of 9/11 on left attitudes and the trajectory of “united front” politics will be left for later.

My points of reference are the Seattle WTO action and the anti-war movement in this country, rather than Quebec City and an oppositional movement in a semi-reluctant ally of the aggressor. However, I think in this case the similarities between the U.S. and Canadian experiences are more instructive than the differences.

It’s certainly true that a revolutionary “sense of possibility”, developed dramatically at the end of the last century. It’s also true that it has rapidly “dissipated” over the past five years and the boundaries and limits that it challenged have been rebuilt. Was this a process of illusion and self deception coming back to earth, or were real possibilities lost because they weren’t fully recognized and adequately protected? If the latter, there are limitations and errors that can be addressed. If the former, maybe we deserve the movement we currently have. I know that both explanations might be true to some extent, but I lean toward the second and assume the authors of both documents do also.

One central theme of “Growing Pains” is the dichotomy between the “pedagogy of confrontation” and the “united front” a dichotomy which it argues must be transcended in a viable revolutionary strategy. This needs to be a lot clearer. On this general point, and on a number of the more specific ones, I agree with the Sketchy Thoughts response.

This rough quote from the editorial describes main features of the pedagogy of confrontation as it developed in the anti-globalization movement.

“…this potent mix…encouraged the anti-globalization movement to develop a series of innovations that transformed, if only briefly, the whole paradigm of struggle…the following three stand out as most significant. First, the movement embraced and reframed disruptive direct action tactics. Second, it placed emphasis on direct democracy in the organization of spokes-councils and affinity groups. Finally, it developed the ability to name the enemy – global capitalism – directly.”

I would like to say a bit about each of the three elements with respect to the Seattle Demonstration.

While “thousands of activists (did) work together…(to shut) down a major city”, it didn’t happen in the way suggested by the editorial. The process was hardly one where the “movement” simply “embraced…disruptive tactics”. These tactics developed through a new organizational form, the Black Bloc, which had estimates, goals, and arguments which are spelled out, for example, in the “Acme Collective’s” analysis of the Seattle experience. The Black Bloc initiated a set of combative actions that were off the printed menu. This provided tactical options that liberated a tremendous amount of political energy, surprising almost everyone, probably including the Eugene anarchists who were central to this initial Black Bloc. The Seattle Black Bloc challenged the existing anti-globalization movement structure as much as it challenged capitalism, the WTO meeting, and the Seattle police.

The major impact of the official structure was its contribution to the complacency and lack of preparation by the Seattle and King County police. Another important contribution, equally unintended, was that hundreds of militants around the country, many from anti-fascist struggles, had no clue that Seattle would break new ground and stayed home – to their everlasting regret.

In the months following Seattle the official movement made a grudging, gradual, and superficial accommodation to tactical militance, by institutionalizing the “diversity of tactics”. I think that Sketchy Thought’s view that this was largely an attempt by apparatchniks to reassert some control over the popular base of the movement is right on point. This leads to the issue of “direct democracy in organization, spokes-councils, affinity groups” etc. In my experience what was most striking about this was its lack of substance, a problem this is indicated in the editorial, (It was) “…a movement in flux with little in the way of defined structure or overall means for democratic and accountable coordination”.

In most of the larger actions the lack of “accountable coordination” was as true for the Black Bloc as it was for the overall structure. Ad hoc Black Bloc groupings that typically didn’t know the streets, much less the people who lived on them - indeed, often only small circles even knew each other – could not develop and implement effective street tactics. Black Blocs were increasingly caught between better police preparation and a dynamic in which escalating militance seemed to be the way to avoid becoming a parody of Seattle. It was a recipe for a crash. In a way 9/11 was fortuitous. Without this dramatic change in circumstances, who knows what the next large international action after Genoa might have entailed.

Let me return to the third innovation mentioned in the editorial; “Finally, it (anti-globalization movement) developed the ability to name the enemy – global capitalism – directly.” This is true and important, but it is not enough, over even a relatively short period of time. The crucial task is to understand the enemy once it is identified. In Seattle, trade union officials that are not even social democrats were naming the enemy at the same time as they attempted to limit the militance of the confrontations and inoculate their members from the radicals.

I would argue, admittedly well after the fact, that the Seattle action caught capitalism in a difficult transition to a new framework of command and discipline for a global system that couldn’t be left to market forces. To use Negri’s awkward terminology, it was at a crucial point in the transition from imperialism to empire, a point when the ruling class project was still under debate and popular oppositions had not encountered the fault lines of the not so liberatory anti imperialism and nationalism with which we are now familiar.

The potentials that were manifest at Seattle seemed to make further analysis superfluous, but it wasn’t. What passed for analysis in the heat of the moment developed into a growing obstacle to the movement. To refer again to the Seattle Black Bloc’s Acme Statement, its conception of capitalism contained two estimates; first, in response to the charge of provoking repression, it argues:

“(We are already)…living in a police state.”

Second, the Acme Statement asserts:

“…private property and by extension capitalism cannot be reformed or mitigated.”

Developments since 9/11, give both estimates an Alice in Wonderland character. Repression has increased exponentially, while maintaining and even extending its popular legitimacy. Much of the remaining left has merged with sections of the ruling class to pursue the most questionable reforms and they will certainly achieve a certain flawed success. If there had been a framework for discussion after Seattle – or even a clearer feeling that such discussion was in order, there is no reason that the expanded potentials couldn’t have been placed in the context of a more realistic appreciation of the future struggle.

As I understand it, the pedagogy of confrontation involves more than tactical militance and exemplary action. It involves the understanding that people can learn lessons about what is needed and what collective potentials exist from struggles that break with usual ways of thinking and acting – particularly when this involves a clear confrontation with power and authority. We have a lot of history and experience that supports this possibility - but that also demonstrates that it is not inevitable, not automatic, not stable, and can turn into its opposite.

I don’t understand the logic of combining the pedagogy of confrontation with the overwhelmingly reformist, gradualist and usually manipulative united front perspective, with its even larger history of becoming what it starts out to change. That’s not a synthesis that I’m going to buy into. I agree with Sketchy Thoughts that there is no reason to maintain that a genuinely radical approach must prove itself on the anti war terrain or that it can only do this through merging with an approach that is genuinely not radical.

Jan 27, 2007

Sketchy Thoughts on UTA's, Growing Pains

...It is worth remembering that the pedagogy of confrontation does not need to take the specific forms it did during the anti-globalization moment in order to remain true to the idea that people will be moved to action once it is demonstrated that action is both possible and effective. While direct action may have flowered between 1997 and 2001, it was a pretty monocultural crop, tame indeed (at least here in the metropoles) by the standards of the 20s/30s or the 60s/70s. For the most part “violence” was aimed strictly at property, and where cops were occasionally targeted (i.e. in Quebec City) this was marginal and still overwhelmingly in self-defense. Throughout most of white North America the frontiers of illegal confrontation were being pushed by anti-fascist youth and radical environmentalists more than by summit hoppers or most community organizers. This is neither compliment nor complaint, just my clearest recollection.

read more @ ST

Twilight of the Heart

from, Growing Pains,
Editorial from Upping the Anti issue 3

Writing our most recent histories seems to bring to mind the reliable touchstones of literature. Let us say, then, that it was the best of times – and the worst of times. A little over five years ago, our world was turned upside down. All it took was two events: Québec City and September 11.

But is this tragedy or farce?

...In political terms, five years can seem like an eternity. And sometimes it’s difficult to reckon with the enormity of the changes that can transpire in the time it takes to recover from the shock of a violently transformed geopolitical landscape. Taking stock of the left today, we must admit that some of the assumptions under which we operated when we began this journal need to be revisited. The “anti-capitalist” movements that were ascendant in 2001 have now for the most part faded away. And while some of the groups that arose during this time remain, they are the exception rather than the rule. As a whole, the radical left – where it is still visible – seems to have responded to the new terrain by focusing on single-issue initiatives.

Without a doubt, the work done by activists in these fields is commendable, but it is hard to deny that the sense of possibility that existed five years ago has now largely dissipated. And yet, it was from this very sense of possibility – expressed concretely by a nascent movement grappling with theory and practice on an increasingly mass level– that we hoped to draw inspiration for these pages. As it turns out, we can neither breathe life into nor be inspired by a corpse. What we can do is make sure that its death was not in vain. The cadaver is calling. And so we turn to the work of autopsy.

Aryan Jihad? New Directions for the Aryan Nations

The following was forwarded to threewayfight from a former contributor to the ARA Research Bulletin and author of the article The Southern Poverty Law Center "Bad Jackets" Anarchists.

It's been awhile since I paid attention to the Aryan nations. Some interesting stuff here!

They're pushing away from the "race hate" (yeah, right), which is probably just the usual ploy to play "pro-white" and get less flack/relegated to the fringes. I doubt they'll clamp down on anyone in the org pushing racial hostilities, after all. But they're also pursuing a more third position approach, toning down the race war and pushing for a more all-encompassing anti-government stance. Lines like "This is the same ‘System’ that not only oppresses Aryans but is also responsible for oppressing all persons of whatever race or nationality who oppose the erroneous, Judaic-based authority which is the premise for System-rule" seem to open the door to them collaborating with non-white resistance movements, as long as they're anti-Jew. And using the term "jihad" is a big step all by itself, especially given the current world situation! And with "ALLAHU AKBAR!" on their website, they're practically begging to make alliances with anti-US, anti-Semitic jihadist Muslims.

Note also that the anti-government rhetoric has some specific anti-capitalist sentiments: "... the hollow and empty life of a consumer-slave which is the default mode of existence in the present so-called ‘Western democratic states’."

Check out their new motto too: "Violence Solves Everything!"

-P. Milstein


"Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight
in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live." -Adolf Hitler

About Aryan Nations

Kindred, WAKE UP, join the Aryan Nations in our fight against this evil, jewish menace... Don't delay, JOIN Today! Together we can reach the masses with the Truth exposing jewry as Satan' kid's and the Children of Darkness they are! Send in your Membership Application TODAY!
A Brief History: The Legacy of Aryan Nations

Aryan Nations came into being in the year 1974 from the efforts of our founder, the late Pastor Richard G. Butler. Aryan Nations was originally formed as the political wing of the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian; the latter organization being formed by the late Rev. Wesley Swift, one of the foremost proponents of the Aryan Identity message during the past century.

On a twenty-acre compound in Hayden Lake, deep in the forests of Northern Idaho, Pastor Butler began laying the foundations for an organization that would go on to become a major source of inspiration for thousands of National Socialists, Identity believers, survivalists and all White men and women who held pride in their genetic legacy as Aryans and who held within themselves the fanatical desire to strive for the territorial imperative of a future Homeland for White Aryans on the North American continent.

With an operating Church, meeting halls and outdoor facilities that became home to the annual Aryan Nations World Congress, the Aryan Nations soon became the prime nerve-center for the Aryan movement in the occupied
United States.

Aryan Nations vigorous printing projects served (amongst other tasks) to cause the widespread dissemination of Aryan literature to incarcerated individuals - thus fomenting the radicalization of a large sector of White prisoners - much to the chagrin of the advocates of Zionist social control.

Aryan Nations also gained the widespread attention of the world during the early nineteen-eighties when several members of the Aryan Nations and Robert J. Matthews went on to form "The Order"- a group that conducted practical acts of economic sabotage, assassination and other forms of covert direct action against the tyrannical and anti-Aryan Zionist system.

Aryan Nations became the focus of world attention again when - via a refused request to become informants for federal intelligence agencies working against the Aryan Nations - the Weaver family in the nearby town of
Naples, Idaho suffered the tragedy that has become known as "The Siege at Ruby Ridge". The story need not be repeated here, yet those who do not know about this incident are recommended to study it as it has - and will continue to be - a flashpoint for many Aryan activists for many years to come.

In an erroneous lawsuit brought against the Aryan Nations by anti-Aryan forces, the organization lost the
Hayden Lake compound and became more decentralized in nature. The Zionists soon realized that this was not to their benefit as it caused a great backlash with many leaderless members of the Aryan Nations taking action into their own hands after the diaspora from the Hayden Lake compound.

Aryan Nations World Headquarters was transferred to a ten-acre compound in rural
Potter County, Pennsylvania, which was host to the 2002 Aryan Nations World Congress. During this time, soon before his death, Pastor Butler appointed Pastor Ray Redfeairn as National Director of the organization - the latter being an individual of cunning mind, violent tendencies and radical outlook who aided in the evolution of the Aryan Nations worldview as the organization moved into a future which was very different than that perhaps originally envisioned by the Aryan activists of past generations.

Aryan Jihad: The Present

Through diverse peregrinations and the wisdom that comes with age, the Aryan Nations has both taken a harder stance in regards to the means and methods by which our goals can reach fruition and have developed certain strategies which are more in tune with realism, as opposed to idealism.

Neither being inspired nor proud of the stagnation of the racialist movement in general, the Aryan Nations began taking strategic steps in a direction that would lead the organization into hitherto unexplored vistas in regards to our worldview and the implementation of that worldview.

In line with the facts of the geopolitical situation today, the Aryan Nations has come to the conclusion that the stereotypical "race hate" line of thought that has been so cherished (and so useless) within the “movement” is no longer viable - and as such, it is a line of thought that will no longer be perpetuated within this organization.

The goal of the establishment of a White Aryan homeland on the North American continent has not and shall not change. We believe that the Aryan folk deserve the right to a sovereign existence and racial self-determination within a territorial area characterized by our own laws, culture and customs. This is in line with the “Blood and Soil” concept of Third Reich-era National Socialists and follows the logic that for a people to survive (as a distinct racial and cultural group) they must have their own land so that their own ways can be furthered amongst their own folk - to the exclusion of alternate ways of life within that specific geographic territory.

But before this can occur, however, it is prerequisite and indeed necessary that “the System” be disrupted and broken down. This is the same “System” that not only oppresses Aryans but is also responsible for oppressing all persons of whatever race or nationality who oppose the erroneous, Judaic-based authority which is the premise for System-rule.

It is our intention to see Judaic-influenced society and governmental infrastructures to be pushed into a state of perpetual revolution: as is understood, no infrastructure can survive a state of perpetual revolution - and that is entirely the point in regards to the future of the current “System”- A System which denies the basic human rights of millions of people across the globe and which specifically wages war against those individuals and groups who represent a spiritual-based, numinous way of living - and as such is the exact antithesis in competition to the hollow and empty life of a consumer-slave which is the default mode of existence in the present so-called “Western democratic states”.

We know that there are far better alternative ways of living - and far more intelligent, reasonable and cultured means of society - which can be made real upon this earth for our people and for all people.

Where we differ from our predecessors is that we realize that it takes a cold-blooded, pragmatic and realist viewpoint to enact the changes which will be necessary to achieve our goals. As such we see - for the immediate future - a period where the spread of subversion and the aid of all forms which are a liability and are inimical in nature to the current Judaic-tyrannical state of affairs should be our principal aim.

We have encapsulated the quintessence of this work in two words: Aryan Jihad.

Worldwide Kristallnacht: The Future

Fanaticism, ruthlessness and consistency must be the character traits of those who wish to join with us in the Aryan Nations. We are not interested - nor do we intend to become - a petty debate club nor are we interested in the kind of problem-oriented futility which characterizes many of the non-mainstream political groups in
North America.

The future will be decided by those who embrace evolution and continue to take - again and again - the disciplined steps needed to evolve themselves as individuals - as this microcosmic change shall be the precursor for the execution of macrocosmic change that will not simply be comparable but rather surpass that which has been achieved on an individual level.

It shall only be these individuals who will be willing - and capable - to change the world in a significant way... To redress the imbalance caused by the Jew and their hubristic sycophants and restore this earth to a state of cosmic harmony.

If this change we speak of should herald a descent into Anarchy then we say “so be it” with no regret or apology - for Anarchy is much preferable - and more capable - of causing the break-up of the current so-called “superpowers” into smaller nation-states - than is the domesticated societal situation existent at present.

And it shall be in the smoldering ashes of the downfall of the current System wherein shall be born the seeds for a new global society in which Aryan homelands shall again be a reality; that is, if we have the tenacity, dedication and intelligence necessary to make it a reality.

For those who are brave enough, defiant enough and strong enough to evolve - to cull their own selves of the anti-evolutionary religions, thought processes and politics of the past - and then to cull their planet of all that which stands in the way of our goal of perpetual revolution for our enemies (which equals the spark of life for our people) then we invite you - and challenge you - to join our struggle.

Jan 19, 2007

Bash the Fash - Anti-fascist recollections, 1984-1993

This is literally a no-punches pulled account of militant group Anti Fascist Action’s fight against fascism in Britain by a grassroots anarchist member of AFA. Highly recommended.

It is important, not because he makes any pretence at being a leading light but because the many small (or not so small) contributions such people make are key to the success that AFA achieved.

Written with honesty and a sense of humour, the tale of challenging the fascists for control of the streets – and winning – never descends to political cliché or reads like a pools forecast.

Bash The Fash: Anti-fascist recollections 1984-93By K. Bullstreet
online version of publication

Jan 1, 2007

democratic centralism, State ideology and the suppression of the revolutionary potentials: a response to Burningman

the following was forwarded on to threewayfight from contributor, reddboy.

RX, before you get that gleam in your eye because Goff invokes the hot button anarchist topics of hierarchy and authoritarianism, look at his political alternative and the perceived reality he thinks it provides an alternative to. I didn’t like what Goff had to say about dumb neocons and I don’t like what he has to say about the “alien” politics of neo-commies, a category in which I belong.

Considering Goff’s response to my discussion of his earlier writings, I’m not going to put much energy into this one. He would probably disagree, but I think that his position emerges as a variant of the Facing Reality current which typically poses the revolutionary people (classes) in opposition to counter revolutionary vanguards. This position certainly has appeal to anarchists and STO also leaned towards it at times, e.g., in aspects of the Race Traitor development. I’m also finding that Negri’s current conceptions of “multitude” and “unmediated” opposition to “empire” have a similar trajectory. While this view contains some insights, it grossly underestimates the importance, both positive and negative, of ideology and purposive organized action.

More than the Goff paper, I’m interested in the discussion that developed around it on this and the Red Flag sites. Not knowing where everybody is coming from causes some problems, but I’ll chance a few initial comments:

“Burningman” rather casually caricatures the argument of Settlers and takes no account of the major changes to it in Night Vision. The Night Vision grouping is quite able to defend its historical and current positions if it chooses to do so. STO shared a substantial agreement about historical facts and current reality with that tendency but disagreed about the proper strategic response. It is rather remarkable that “burningman”, who appears to be knowledgeable, dismisses these positions as only held by “white” leftists. While we did not agree with “Settlers” and the “Myth of the White Proletariat”, we worked with a number of Black, Mexican, and Puerto Rican groups and movements that had substantial agreement with it. It is a perspective that had, and will continue to have an immediate attraction to many radicals who don’t happen to be white men.

I see myself as both a Marxist and a Leninist, but not as a Marxist Leninist. Marxism-Leninism is Soviet state ideology, a doctrinal orthodoxy that substituted for critical thinking and collective praxis and sanctioned them whenever and wherever they emerged. One of the initial actions of ‘official’ Marxism Leninism was the deliberate suppression of inconvenient parts of both Marx – the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and the Grundrisse – and Lenin – The Philosophical Notebooks and the last writings on bureaucracy, nationalism and party organization. A self-described Marxist Leninist is typically a party member who has not read Marx or Lenin except in predigested doses supporting some particular line. Not that different from those anarchists who reject Marx and Lenin as “authoritarians” without reading the primary literature, considering the relevant history, and confronting the strategic problems of their own practice.

A number of contributors to this discussion see some significance to adding another “M” after the “ML”. I’m not sure just what’s up with this. Mao made some important contributions. I liked some of them that were challenges to Soviet orthodoxy – that is challenges to what passed as ML. What parts of ML would these ‘M’ advocates retain? I suspect and fear that a major one is the particular Stalinist conception of the nature and role of the vanguard party and of its “democratic centralist” operating principle. This, of course, is what Goff specifically rejects and I think he is right to do so.

I spent a well over a decade in a democratic centralist party until I was expelled for factionalism. The experience didn’t convince me that revolutionary cadre organization is either unnecessary or impossible. It didn’t lead me to question the need for disciplined organizations that hold individual members and minority tendencies responsible to collective decisions. It absolutely did convince me that the conception of democratic centralism, initiated at the Soviet 10th Party Congress and codified in the party section of Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism, is reactionary to the core. Further, it led me to conclude that this mistaken view of revolutionary organization is closely related to even more basic mistakes about the revolutionary process.

So I question “burningman’s” assertion that: “There is also no doubt that the Marxist Leninist party is the single most important “movement technology” ever developed.” Actually, if we take this cute polemical formulation the way “burningman” wants us to – that historical experience shows that ML parties are vital ingredients to successful social revolutions - there is actually a very strong basis for “doubt”.

As working class socialist parties developed in the Second International they typically played a conservative role. Revolutionary tendencies and individuals; e.g., the IWW, Rosa Luxembourg, Lenin in 1905, Gramsci in 1919, looked to other organizational developments besides the party; workers councils, soviets, revolutionary unions, for a more appropriate “movement technology” to achieve social revolution. Since ML parties and International formations have emerged, in more cases than not they have played a quite similar conservative role - suppressing revolutionary potentials in favor of other objectives, some of which can only be described as corrupt.

I know that “burningman” will question whether these were genuine ML parties – perhaps because they are short one ‘M’. But I assume that the Bolshevik Party during 1917 would meet his standards. There is no doubt whatsoever that if it had functioned according to the typical ML concepts of democratic centralism, the October insurrection would not have happened. The Chinese revolution would not have happened, if the Chinese Communist Party had followed the policies of the Comintern and Cominform, which was, after all, the international party leadership. The same essential truth holds for the Yugoslav revolution. This ML party ‘movement technology’ was basically irrelevant to major national liberation transformations from Algeria through Cuba and central Africa, except for noteworthy examples where it was aligned effectively against them.

The appropriate function of revolutionary party organization is to organize revolutionaries, not to be priests or professors to the working class. With or without parties, masses and classes make history. Whether they make revolution depends on the extent they manage to think and act autonomously. Party organization has certainly proven to be a formidable obstacle to this goal. My hope and belief is that it can also be an important assist– but that essentially remains to be proven.

I looked at the Iranian piece that ‘burningman’ proposes as a place to begin a discussion of neofascism. It looked pretty good to me although it doesn’t approach the question as we have and doesn’t cover many of the questions that we have emphasized. It deals with the necessity of developing a clear revolutionary alternative to both the Islamic Regime and the global capitalist structure. This critiques the various forms of “Front” politics, anti imperialist or anti-fascist, that blur the complexity of the contradictions in favor of one or another essentially opportunist accommodation. I mean to look at it more carefully to see whether it retains elements of a classical Maoist stage strategy.