Ian Alan Paul on Sun, 5 Aug 2018 04:19:01 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> What does Trump get right?

"As far as I can see, that's the case because a generation of Americans gave Occupy a try and found out that yes, a great many things were wrong with the way the US political economy works, and that no, you cannot change those things by talking with a human mic in a public square. By this I do not disparage the Occupy movement in any way. I congratulate its participants for becoming much much more effective in a very short time. They changed themselves on those public squares."

From my perspective this is absolutely central. Many criticized Occupy for being a "movement without demands," but I think that this critique missed the point entirely. What we see happening in the Democratic party today (via the work of DSA and other orgs) is a consequence of the cycle of struggles that occupy carried forward (largely by anarchists), and not the other way around. I think to look at what's going on today in the Democratic party as being the result of occupiers who are more effective is to erase and perhaps even purposefully remain ignorant of the conditions that produced such possibilities in the first place. We are in a position in the U.S. now where socialism is a legible politics again precisely because of all of those "unrealistic anarchists," and I would argue that even though we've seen these small shifts in our favor, now is not the time to cease being unrealistic but rather to push it to an even more extreme degree.

We need more movements that, as Michael Hardt has described it, allow us to become monstrous, to become something different and unrecognizable, to become truly transformed, and from there things will follow. The point is not that the human microphones cannot challenge state power, but rather that state power must reckon with what is beyond its organization.


On Sat, Aug 4, 2018, 16:13 Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift@gmail.com> wrote:
On Sat, Aug 4, 2018 at 4:38 PM, Ian Alan Paul <ianalanpaul@gmail.com> wrote:

We all should prefer that the Democrats win in November for obvious reasons, but to curb our political horizon to their party (or even to the need for a political/hegemonic/cultural force that aims to influence their party) is entirely inadequate for the situation we find ourselves in.

I'd wager that what is clearer than ever is not that we need to "grow up" and "get realistic" by returning to state politics after the supposed failure of the antiglobalization movement, occupy, 15-M, arab spring, etc., but instead that we must continue to push further into the crisis and continue to develop our capacities that necessarily precede and exceed state politics.

Hello Ian. Thanks for engaging in this debate. It's important. We gotta hash this stuff out.

On one level my answer is, yes of course. There are many horizons beyond the Democratic Party. And no way the state is going to change if people don't push it, work around it, exceed it, and make inevitable at least some of the directions that it must pursue. But at the same time, leaving the state the way it is today is basically signing one's own death sentence. The idea that all change comes from below is regrettably false. Look at the last four decades. Powerful forces across various class levels changed society in depth, that was called neoliberalism, its history has been extensively writtten and the results surround us all across the world. The anarchist doctrine that people should just do their own thing and the state will eventually become irrelevant has proven to be wrong. Although I would not reduce anarchism to that sole doctrine.

In one of my posts I said that in the US, and to some extent, even beyond this country's borders, the Democratic Party currently represents our only hope of salvation. A strong word. It's the case because some things can only be addressed at the state level. Climate change is one of them. Pressure from civil society forced the last administration to take the first necessary steps, even as many major corporations around the world began to transform their business plans to fit new regulatory environments. Then other forces took over the American state. This is an extremely threatening situation. It can only be confronted at the level of state power. To that extent, alas, your wager is not a good one.

That said, I put most of my own efforts into working from below, on the margins, or in what is classically called called civil society. I protest, I engage in community activism, I work with various groups and NGOs. In my experience, few people who do these things suffer any illusions about the state, at whatever level. They do not think an electoral victory will solve every problem, nor do they think you can just turn your back on electoral politics. That's social complexity.

To "grow up" is not to become the unconscious tool of an alien power. It is to exercise the kind of autonomy that human beings actually have. That autonomy is real, but its effective expressions are limited by constraints of scale. A small group can transform its affects, belief systems and modes of behavior relatively rapidly. It can then act in surprising ways. This has been the great discovery of leftist anarchism, to which I personally owe a lot. However, even after the enthusiasm of giant street protests involving hundreds of thousands of participants, I sometimes found myself alone, faced with the imperturbable structures of the capitalist city, which continued to govern the lives of millions of people without any visible consequences from the actions that had just unfolded. A very, very wierd feeling. It works like that because an extensive set of institutional arrangements not only guarantees control, but has established itself in the hearts and minds of the city's inhabitants as the only available form of security, prosperity and justice.

You want to change the city? Eventually you have to change that set of institutions, and the mentalities that go with it. For that you will need to create or transform an organization. Your organization will have to rival with and overcome other organizations. It will then have to confront other organizations at a larger scale. A capitalist city, and a fortiori, a capitalist state, is full of organizations that have gone through this process. They are lamentably effective at what they do.

Today it is possible to introduce the idea of socialism into a national-scale organization. What a rare chance in the USA! As far as I can see, that's the case because a generation of Americans gave Occupy a try and found out that yes, a great many things were wrong with the way the US political economy works, and that no, you cannot change those things by talking with a human mic in a public square. By this I do not disparage the Occupy movement in any way. I congratulate its participants for becoming much much more effective in a very short time. They changed themselves on those public squares.

Michael Goldhaber - to whom I offer an apology for wierdly addressing him as David in my last post, sorry about that - Michael thinks that the concept of socialism, and the corresponding idea that the Democratic Party needs a powerful internal critique, is just too risky a thing to engage with at this late date. I understand his position. The next election is unbelievably important because this is surely the last decade in which any attempt to mitigate climate change will be possible, and that means that a durable Trumpian shift at the level of the national state will condemn everyone on Earth to an increasingly nasty future. However, I don't think the Dems can win without an internal critique, and I think the presently available political ideas at national scale are insufficient to face a whole spectrum of major problems that have accumulated for decades. So I think the risk has to be taken, and that yesterday's social democrats and tomorrow's socialists should find a way to work together and to convince enough other sectors of the population that US policies on climate can be reversed in the next few years, *along with* the political economy that has led to extreme inequality *and* the cultural heritage that has supported the unbearable violence of racism. (By the way, a possible presidential candiadate, Elizabeth Warren, is getting closer and closer to this position.) It seriously looks like the next few years is all we have to achieve this, and the current form of top-down populist neofascism can fill those years with idiocy, almost entirely and at all scales.

So yeah, we should vote Democratic and bring new idas and practices into effect at the scale of the state, without ceasing other engagements. I would really encourage the anarchist sector to go along with this particular ride, while continuing to practice its tremendously inventive forms of feeling, believing and acting, which have a lot to offer to the rest of the world. The capacity to go on trying to become simultaneously more autonomous and more engaged, under the very difficult conditions that some people have been exposed to for hundreds of years already, is something that I recognize and admire and support in all the movements you participate in and write about.

solidarity is a good word, Brian
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