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<nettime> left of center digest [marszewski, tillett on VV on WEF]
nettime's_(anti)?thetical_synthesizer on Thu, 31 Jan 2002 06:44:27 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> left of center digest [marszewski, tillett on VV on WEF]


ed marszewski <ed {AT} lumpen.com>
     Keepers of the Flame.. Anarchists Light a New Way for Dissent in NYC
"wade tillett" <wade {AT} thefrictioninstitute.org>
     wartime stratagem: cut out the middle

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 03:24:40 -0600
Subject: Keepers of the Flame.. Anarchists Light a New Way for Dissent in NYC
From: ed marszewski <ed {AT} lumpen.com>

There has been litle written about the anti-WEF activities in NYC.   The
old/new Left in the USA has been neutered since 9-11. This piece highlights
the role of the anarchist community in becoming the new "center" for the
movement. It's a refereshing look at events about to happen..


<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0205/kaplan.php>

As Moderate Groups Turn Down the Heat, Anarchists Light a New Way for
Dissent
Keepers of the Flame
by Esther Kaplan

he arrived in the U.S. From India with her parents when she was just a
little kid‹long before she took the name Warcry or started protesting
institutions like the World Economic Forum. It was 1976, the bicentennial,
and right off her dad bought her a small American flag. She says he saw
America as a land of promise, but she watched him work hard as a researcher
every day of his life only to die young. "I don't want to live my whole life
for the system," she says. At college in the Bay Area, she read Emma Goldman
for the first time, and "it was like someone threw open a window in my
brain. Fresh air rushed in and I never went back." She got her direct action
chops tree-sitting in old growth forests‹and then came Seattle, and the
chance to take on the "corporate death machine" itself.

In an activist video about that now famous protest against the World Trade
Organization, there's a shot of Warcry, a black scarf masking all but her
radiant eyes, shouting giddily, "I always wanted to be part of a
revolution!" Yet this same Warcry has kept that little flag all these years,
and still feels an affinity for her dad's struggles and hopes. "The American
dream is dead," she says. "But there are certain American ideals‹freedom of
speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to dissent‹these are things I believe
in and would like to make real."


That zeal, matched by the passions of thousands of like-minded young
radicals, will be on full display in New York City this week, as activists
raucously confront the World Economic Forum, whose thousands of global
elites will gather at the Waldorf-Astoria. This outpouring will get a boost
from the recent resurgence of anarchism after years relegated to the oral
history dustbin. 

The cries of the anarchists may echo loudly in this post-9-11 world. In a
climate where dissent has been called un-American, and the Patriot Act has
granted the government new powers to eavesdrop, arrest, and detain, many of
the global justice movement's more mainstream players have decided to lie
low. The Sierra Club has completely bowed out, while at the fair trade
outfit Global Exchange, says cofounder Kevin Danaher, "we are still dusting
ourselves off" from the blow of 9-11. The group will conduct only teach-ins.
The AFL-CIO had hoped to march, but was denied a permit.

So the anarchists and direct action types like Warcry have been left to lead
the charge. Not only have they assembled the samba bands, but also, for the
first time, the anti-capitalists even negotiated a permit for a march, the
only legal one this week. To a great extent, what happens at the WEF
showdown‹the size and energy and confrontational tone‹depends on them.
While the whole world wasn't watching, anarchists have spent their time
between demos getting organized.

If you had wandered into the InterGalactic Anarchist Convention last Sunday,
in the Chashama Theater just off of the New Times Square, you'd have passed
a tableful of Barricada back issues, including the one featuring "The Black
Bloc in Genoa: An Affinity Group's Account"; stacks of literature on animal
rights and labor exploitation in the global south; free copies of To
Arms!!!, with its ecumenical listing of WEF protests and a handy lesson on
wheat-pasting, published by the CrimethInc Ex-Workers Collective. You might
also have been invited down to the basement for a vegan meal fashioned from
supermarket throwaways, or happened upon a few dozen sweatshirted activists
in low-slung pants and rumpled hair talking protest.

Perhaps none of this would have surprised you. But most striking, if you
listened in, would have been the gently earnest tone of the debates, and the
palpable humility of the participants. That night, a twentysomething hippie
sitting cross-legged on the floor offered up a defense of nonviolence that
could have come out of SNCC's civil rights playbook‹"We draw out the
inherent violence of the police"‹while a rosy-faced teenager decried what he
called "militant pacifism" and an older woman drew a distinction between
damaging property (OK, since property doesn't feel pain) and injuring people
(unacceptable). Everyone spoke briefly and passionately and stopped to
really listen, and speakers reflected on how much they had to learn. At a
larger meeting, facilitators set aside just five or 10 minutes for each
agenda item‹as if to schedule in a half hour was too presumptuous‹extending
the time only after seeing enough fluttering fingers (a sign of consensus).
Sunday night's impromptu conversation ended only when Lena, 28, one of the
conference organizers, quietly mentioned that the evening panelists had
arrived, and would it be all right for them to take the microphone?
The textured disagreements that aired out that weekend‹sandwiched between
lectures on Afghanistan, Argentina, and "Why WEF Is Evil"‹hardly call to
mind the anarchism we have read about in the two years since Seattle.
It was there that America discovered anarchism for the first time since
Sacco and Vanzetti‹in the intimidating form of the masked militants of the
black bloc. "Street rage," blared The New York Times; "nightmare of
protests," declared NBC Nightly News, as everyone from the Rainforest Action
Network to the president rushed to separate the good protesters from the
bad. Rainforest head Randy Hayes said the vandalism hurt the movement, while
direct action trainer John Sellers, head of the Ruckus Society, called it
"inexcusable." Last year's protests in Genoa inspired more variations on the
theme: The black bloc'ers were "barbarians at a castle's gates . . . whose
modus operandi is to infiltrate more moderate groups and launch attacks,"
reported Newsweek. And as WEF delegates began to arrive at ground zero, even
a Village Voice reporter regurgitated whole the police assertion that black
bloc'ers are "Al Qaeda-like."

This groupthink has not only obscured the true nature of the protest
violence‹since the police have been by far the most aggressive perpetrators,
from the pepper spray and nightsticks of Seattle to the fatal bullets of
Genoa‹but also made invisible a significant new development: The anarchist
fringe is fast becoming the movement's center.

Decades of Republican assaults on the basic functions of government, capped
by a presidential election decided by dirty tricks and partisan courts
rather than by popular will, have plowed the soil for a generational
politics that is suspicious of political power. No Logo author Naomi Klein
has long argued that the global justice movement has an inherently anarchist
feel. But as the months have rolled by since Seattle, more and more
activists, with little fanfare, have come to explicitly identify as
anarchists, and anarchist-minded collectives are on the rise.

There are now more than 175 Food Not Bombs chapters, at least 60 Independent
Media Centers (the newest of which are mostly in the global south), nearly a
dozen People's Law Collectives, countless troupes of puppetistas, and
several new medic teams, including one cofounded by anti-capitalist EMS
worker James Creedon, who assisted with the World Trade Center rescue. And
starting with the Quebec free-trade protests last spring, the radical wing
of the movement has consolidated its troops under the banner of the
Anti-Capitalist Convergence. All of these formations will provide crucial
infrastructure for the protests ahead.

The movement is widely perceived as anti-intellectual, but sales are up at
Oakland's AK Press, which publishes more than 80 anarchist titles, including
a new English translation of Daniel Guérin's classic anthology of anarchism,
No Gods No Masters; and students are flocking to Vermont's Institute for
Social Ecology, where they study the anarchist works of Murray Bookchin and,
according to instructor Brooke Lehman, 29, "spend the summer talking about
how we might realize our vision of direct democracy and freedom."
Unlike modern-day social reformers, who want Nike to let inspectors into
their factories or the World Bank to forgive some debt, anarchists
explicitly oppose capitalism itself. They don't attack the International
Monetary Fund or the WEF just because their policies exploit the poor, but
because their power is illegitimate. They envision an egalitarian society
without nation states, where wealth and power have been redistributed, and
they take great pains to model their institutions in this vein, with
autonomous, interconnected structures and consensus-based decision making.
UC Santa Cruz professor Barbara Epstein, an expert on direct action, senses
that anarchism has now become "the pole that everyone revolves around," much
as Marxism was in the '60s. In other words, even young activists who don't
identify as anarchists have to position themselves in relation to its
values. 

The reformist perspective is likely to retreat further with groups like the
Sierra Club absent from WEF week and the AFL-CIO presence reduced from a
march to a rally. Danaher says Global Exchange will focus instead on the
alternative World Social Forum in Brazil. Shooting more from the hip, Public
Citizen staffer Mike Dolan, an architect of Seattle, says his group has not
yet endorsed the one permitted march because the sponsor, Another World Is
Possible, "can't guarantee that the event will be nonviolent, and that the
movement won't be marred by vandalism." At press time, Drop the Debt, Earth
First!, Rainforest Action Network, and the Ruckus Society had all not signed
onto the march, either.

With these significant players sitting it out‹or penned in by overzealous
police‹who's left to distribute schedules, run listservs, host
spokescouncils, paint banners, and coordinate legal and medical support,
food, and housing? The anarchists are making do.

The Anti-Capitalist set tends to be far more mixed by background than, say,
the middle-class student movement, and no deep pockets are keeping them
afloat now. Their genius is in making use of the wealth all around
them‹whether human resources or capitalism's leavings‹despite a lack of cash
or access to traditional forms of power.

At a party last week for the political comic book World War III at Theater
for a New City, an interview with InterGalactic conference organizer Lena
turned into a group discussion‹as so many interviews with anarchists seem
to, the collective impulse is so strong‹about the joys of mutual aid. "It's
about finding out who needs what and filling in the blanks," says Lena, who
incidentally is the daughter of a construction worker and has supported
herself since age 16. Her friends Jenna, 22, a slender Asian woman; and
Kevin, 23, Jenna's lanky white partner, are indeed itinerant activists,
floating from community to community in what they see as a profoundly
American hobo tradition. They live off bartering and networks, not checks
from Mom. "I appreciate anarchists so much," says Jenna, "because I've never
gone to a demo and not found housing or food." Kevin recalls showing up in
Houston, hearing about a collective anarchist household, and bunking there
for a month and a half while he engaged in prisoner support. The two just
returned from a trip to a punk show in Gainesville, Florida, that morphed
into a month of work on a community farm.

The idea is that the resources to live, and the chance to do good, are out
there for the taking‹it's an economy of opportunity, not scarcity, an ethos
that extends to their analysis of global poverty. Ben, 21, an NYU dropout
who now cooks food each week for the homeless denizens of Tompkins Square
Park through Food Not Bombs, says anarchism's egalitarianism helps attract
youth who are new to politics of any kind. "Some of the drunkest kids I've
ever seen are now going to Food Not Bombs meetings and taking
responsibility," he says. "Once they find a place where they're not on the
bottom rung, where they can take initiative, they do it. They start out
listening to a Subhuman song and they end up reading Noam Chomsky." Come to
think of it, he later adds, that's pretty much how it happened for him,
too‹catching punk shows at ABC No Rio, noticing the Food Not Bombs shopping
cart, and slowly waking up to the fact that poverty and hunger are not
natural. As the conversation breaks up around midnight, the kids head out to
dumpster dive, to supply food for their own kitchens and the anarchists
camping out at Cabo Rojo in the Bronx, to save that community garden from
the bulldozer. 

After spending any significant amount of time around the nonhierarchical,
collective sensibilities of these anti-capitalists, you can begin to feel
your entire life is corrupted by absurd power imbalances, your apartment
overrun by excess goods. Ben mentions that Food Not Bombs had a serious
discussion about collecting more plastic forks from fast food places so they
could put savings from the cost of purchasing them toward the WEF legal
defense fund. David Graeber, 40, a Yale professor and Anti-Capitalist
Convergence cofounder, says the network would probably spend no more than a
couple thousand on the WEF protests, all earned through passing the hat.
Which is not to say this movement is ascetic. Lena and her friends use words
like joy and beauty as often as some long-ago editor of Mother Earth. Jenna
rhapsodizes about how anarchists constantly create space for poetry jams,
musical performance, and art; Ben giggles as he recounts a black bloc
contingent at a Boston biotech protest, led by a man in a bunny suit
carrying a sign that read "The Violent Fringe." This week, as the NYPD
practices cracking heads at Shea Stadium, the puppetistas are madly
rehearsing a street tango corps and a line of Radical Rockettes, assembling
a samba band, and building papier mâché globes painted with images of
better, possible worlds.

In debates over the sustainability of the global justice movement, the
anarchists are mostly chalked up as a problem. But their spirit of cultural
celebration, combined with an elaborate web of small, accessible collective
endeavors, has clearly provided activists with skills, support structures,
and points of entry.

Of course there's still that nagging question of violence, as important to
the movement as to the media, because, as Danaher of Global Exchange says,
"The test of any tactic is whether it builds the movement. And you don't
attract people to a movement that looks dangerous and messy." But there were
plenty of half-a-million-strong peaceful marches in Washington, D.C., over
the past decade that raised nary an eyebrow, while Seattle galvanized a
generation. 

Watching some old footage from that watershed event, Warcry shakes her head
at the depth of the people's discontent. "To be honest, what the left has
done since the '60s hasn't been that successful, and we can't afford to
embrace tactics that don't work," she says. "I don't think Seattle would be
on the map if it weren't for the catalyzing level of rage that was made
visible through property destruction." She calls window-smashing "the
transformation of the psychogeographic landscape" and points out that it's
far more strategic than most people think‹with specific corporate targets,
such as sweatshop operators like Nike‹and getting more strategic as the
years progress. Besides that, as Public Citizen's Dolan emphasizes, whether
people get injured in New York this week is mostly up to the police.
When pushed, most of the Anti-Capitalist crew recognize that the people of
this city‹including its uniformed officers‹are still recovering from the
trauma of 9-11. Though it's hard to find an anarchist who doesn't fiercely
defend the right to destroy certain kinds of property, placing vandalism of
McDonald's in the respected tradition of the Boston Tea Party, most are also
cautious that the movement itself not get too attached to this, or any
other, particular tactic. "No one's talking property destruction right now
in New York City," says Graeber, a sometime black bloc'er, "though a certain
level of urban redecoration is appropriate. No one's going to abjure spray
paint." 

No one's promising that there won't be a black bloc, either. Warcry recalls
joining the bloc at previous protests, the sense of anonymity, collectivity,
of people you don't even know having your back, of "glimpsing the
possibility of a world where they don't have total and absolute control," of
feeling that viscerally. Her tribe is the one that's not intimidated by the
new Patriot Act, that hasn't lost sight of challenging corporate
exploitation even while there's a war on.
 
Warcry, as always, speaks from the heart. "We want to save the life of this
planet," she says. "We can't afford to sit this one out." 

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From: "wade tillett" <wade {AT} thefrictioninstitute.org>
Subject: wartime stratagem: cut out the middle
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 17:32:05 -0600

Look at the opposition of words taken from a recent Village Voice
article (out-take below):

The mainstream, the reformists, the unions, the nonviolent

(separated from)

the radicals, the anarchists, the direct action types, the violent
(vandalizers), the revolutionaries (implied).



A binary has been inherently set-up in the preparations for the nyc
wef protests. There is an actual division that is occuring WITHIN the
preparations for the protest. The radicals are separated from the
reformists. That is, a saturation of radicals free from reformists has
been encouraged and established. Perhaps this will aid in the painting
of all protesters as a unified group of terrorists that cannot be
appeased. The middle, the left, the neoliberal element, the bridges to
the mainstream have been cut off.

I am not lamenting the absence of the neoliberal factions. I am simply
saying that, consciously or unconsciously, an explosive situation is
being encouraged through and by not only painting the protestors as
radicals, but by actually facilitating a division within the
protestors between the reformers and the radicals. In other words, the
empire's stratagem is one of divide and conquer: Divide into two
factions: one for appropriation, one to conquer. Divide the radicals
from the reformers, incite the radicals, portray their violence and
crush them, appearing justified. Appropriate the reformers with petty
facades of moral righteousness and minimal concessions, and further
colonize the world with this newly acquired and appropriated moral
justification.




...
from the VILLAGE VOICE :

...
The cries of the anarchists may echo loudly in this
post-9-11 world. In a climate where dissent has been
called un-American, and the Patriot Act has granted
the government new powers to eavesdrop, arrest, and
detain, many of the global justice movement's more
mainstream players have decided to lie low. The Sierra
Club has completely bowed out, while at the fair trade
outfit Global Exchange, says cofounder Kevin Danaher,
"we are still dusting ourselves off" from the blow of
9-11. The group will conduct only teach-ins. The
AFL-CIO had hoped to march, but was denied a permit.

So the anarchists and direct action types like Warcry
have been left to lead the charge....


The reformist perspective is likely to retreat further
with groups like the Sierra Club absent from WEF week
and the AFL-CIO presence reduced from a march to a
rally. Danaher says Global Exchange will focus instead
on the alternative World Social Forum in Brazil.
Shooting more from the hip, Public Citizen staffer
Mike Dolan, an architect of Seattle, says his group
has not yet endorsed the one permitted march because
the sponsor, Another World Is Possible, "can't
guarantee that the event will be nonviolent, and that
the movement won't be marred by vandalism." At press
time, Drop the Debt, Earth First!, Rainforest Action
Network, and the Ruckus Society had all not signed
onto the march, either.

With these significant players sitting it out-or
penned in by overzealous police-who's left to
distribute schedules, run listservs, host
spokescouncils, paint banners, and coordinate legal
and medical support, food, and housing? The anarchists
are making do....
...

As Moderate Groups Turn Down the Heat, Anarchists
Light a New Way for Dissent
Keepers of the Flame
by Esther Kaplan
Week of January 30 - February 5, 2002

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