Kermit Snelson on Thu, 1 Nov 2001 19:57:20 +0100 (CET)

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RE: <nettime> the myth of democracy + christianity

> There is no equating counter globalisation protesters
> (which is, to say the least, a very heterogeneous mix
> of bodies, groups, peoples, organizations, movements,
> etc) with those that would institute some form of
> 'fascistic' rule

I don't think we'll get too far with arguments like "How can <word> be the
same as <different word>?  We're for <nice words> and they're for <ugly
words>."  I'm sure the neoliberals could say the same thing about us. :)

If the argument in my last post can be reduced to a single idea, it's that
words, or "myths," don't matter that much.  Who cares about whether the term
"democracy" has been tainted by past abuse, and why split hairs over which
protestors are "anti" and which are "counter"?  What matters is the impact
that people have on the real world, not the rhetoric that happens to
motivate them.  And if fascists, neoliberals and "counter-globalization"
protestors all commit acts of theory and practice with intent to destroy the
nation-state, then they're all on the same side in any sense that really
matters.  I tried to justify this conclusion by presenting evidence that
many arguments (not to mention acts) in favor of ending the nation-state
have shown structural analogies (and sometimes identities) regardless of
differences in ideological motivation, historical period and rhetoric
employed.  And Ian Andrews presented a lot more evidence of this than I did.

> If the last few years have shown us anything, it is that
> direct action - the act of deploying the body against that
> which you must resist - is back.

OK, this is where the real question lies.  What would happen if institutions
such as the nation-state or trade unions were actually to disappear?  What
if "direct action" were actually to replace the rights, responsibilities and
representation granted by a democratic nation-state to its citizens?  Of
course, everybody expects exactly what they want to see.  Fascists foresee a
paradise free of congenitally evil, stupid and/or ugly people.  The
neoliberal globalists a la Davos foresee, in the words of the classic 1976
US movie "Network", "that perfect world in which there is no war and famine,
oppression and brutality--one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom
all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a
share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all
boredom amused."  And the "counter-globalization" activists foresee some
as-yet-unknown Augustinian rhizomatic paradise of the formerly dispossessed.

Wishful thinking is a matter of psychology, not political science.  But
luckily, history has tested the "direct action" hypothesis many times.  We
don't need to divine what the outcome might be by relying on the speculative
rhapsodies of the metaphysically committed.  The outcome of "direct action"
in the absence of institutions has been, invariably, the dominance and
exploitation of the weak by the better-armed and better-organized.

If you think that's what we already have in the West, just wait.  Follow
Negri's revolutionary advice to do nothing (either loudly or quietly,
doesn't matter) and see what happens.  Institutions such as democratic
nation-states and trade unions were organized to protect the weak, not
exploit them.  They were hardly needed for any other purpose.  That's why
neoliberal globalism is so eager to get rid of them.  And it is surely one
of the great historical moments of simple human credulity that many on the
Left have not only joined neoliberalism in this struggle, but have hugely
enriched the already-bulging coffers of Harvard University in payment for
theory and tactics.  We have finally reached the point in history in which a
supposedly Marxist book, hailed by Left intellectuals as the "Communist
Manifesto for our time," says on page 269 that the American working class is
strong precisely because of its low party and union representation.
Margaret Thatcher and her neo-Reaganite friends in the US Republican Party
must be clinking their champagne glasses.  Their time has finally come.

I'm sorry to bring up Negri again, but I must.  He's the only anti-state
activist I've been able to find who has provided even a slight indication of
what this wonderful post-state, post-institutional society of "direct
action" that he wants us to live and die for is supposed to look like.  And
I don't much like his answer.  Instead of a People composed of citizens,
which is the democratic nation-state model, he wants a self-organizing,
"biopolitical multitude" of anti-state "militants" he calls [p 407] the
Posse.  As in "posse comitatus", a phrase that most Americans associate with
the militia movement, white supremacist colonies in Idaho and the Oklahoma
City bombing.  A century ago Georges Sorel, who certainly must be the
unacknowledged legislator of anarchism, made a similar recommendation.  He
was also helpful with historical examples, throwing in American lynch law,
vigilante justice and Corsican vendettas.  "Absolute democracy in action,"
as Negri [p 410] calls it.  Is this the kind of world we want to live in?
Has anarchy ever been anything else?

Kermit Snelson

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