Why we should listen to anarchists in the age of Trump

Why we should listen to anarchists in the age of Trump: story here


Also of note: “Listen, Anarchist!” by David Harvey

Springer responds to Harvey. Here is another response to Harvey on another matter.


Harvey is ultimately an authoritarian in favor of final solutions, or statism anyway:


The rule, here, seems to be that all forms of social organization are possible except that of the state…For most anarchists and many non-anarchists, opposition to and rejection of the state and of the hierarchical institutions that support and surround it (like parliamentary democracy and political parties) is a non-negotiable ideological position. …to view the state as a structure set up from the very first in the image of hierarchical domination, exploitation and human repression, and therefore unreformable. I disagree with that view. … My own simplified view is that the state is a ramshackle set of institutions existing at a variety of geographical scales that internalize a lot of contradictions, some of which can potentially be exploited for emancipatory rather than obfuscatory or repressive ends (its role in public health provision has been crucial to increasing life expectancy for example), even as for the most part it is about hierarchical control, the enforcement of class divisions and conformities and the repression (violent when necessary) of non-capitalistic liberatory human aspirations. Monopoly power within the judiciary (and the protection of private property), over money and the means of exchange and over the means of violence, policing and repression, are its only coherent functions essential to the perpetuation of capital while everything else is sort of optional in relation to the powers of different interest groups (with capitalists and nationalists by far the most influential). But the state has and continues to have a critical role to play in the provision of large-scale physical and social infrastructures. Any revolutionary (or insurrectionary) movement has to reckon with the problem of how to provide such infrastructures. Society (no matter whether capitalist or not) needs to be reproduced and the state has a key role in doing that. In recent times the state has become more and more a tool of capital and far less amenable to any kind of democratic control (other than the crude democracy of money power). This has led to the rising radical demand for direct democracy (which I would support). Yet even now there are still enough examples of the progressive uses of state power for emancipatory ends (for example, in Latin America in recent years) to not give up on the state as a terrain of engagement and struggle for progressive forces of a left wing persuasion…. A “government is an ensemble of institutions designed to deal with the problems of consociational life in an orderly and hopefully fair manner.” Opposition to the state must not carry over to opposition to government: “The libertarian opposition to law, not to speak of government as such, has been as silly as the image of a snake swallowing its tail” (2014: 13).


He continues:


autonomy (no matter of what particular sort) is an “impossibility” in and of itself. It is theoretically and relationally defined solely by that which it seeks to be autonomous from. There is, therefore, nothing to stop “capital, the state and discourses of development continuously seeking to ‘recuperate’ autonomy and make it work for their own purposes” (2010: 26)…“all authority is illegitimate” (itself an authoritative statement that stands self-condemned as illegitimate), supposedly leads us to the anarchist heaven…The standard anarchist response is that rules and exclusions are ok provided they are freely entered into. The myth here is that there is some sort of absolute freedom that exists outside of some mechanisms of exclusion and even, sorry to say, domination. The dialectic of freedom and domination cannot be so easily set aside in human affairs (see Harvey, 2014: Chapter 14)…You don’t have to be either an anarchist or a Marxist to attempt to create a personal and social world which has meaning and within which it is possible to live in a relatively unalienated way. …There are two broad lines of critique of the conventional anarchist position in Ealham’s account that are relevant to my argument. Firstly there is the failure to shape and mobilize political power into a sufficiently effective configuration to press home a revolutionary transformation in society as a whole. If, as seems to be the case, the world cannot be changed without taking power then what is the point of a movement that refuses to build and take that power? Secondly, there is an inability to stretch the vision of political activism from local to far broader geographical scales at which the planning of major infrastructures and the management of environmental conditions and long distance trade relations becomes a collective responsibility for millions of people. Who will manage the transport and communications network is the question. The anarchist town planners (including Bookchin) understood this problem but their work is largely ignored within the anarchist movement. These dimensions define terrains upon which anarchists but not Marxists are fearful of operating (which is not to say the Marxists have no failures to their credit). And it is here that the whole history of anarchist influences in centralized urban planning deserves to be resurrected. This is a complicated topic that I cannot possibly probe into more deeply here. But this is clearly the most obvious point where anarchist concerns for the qualities of daily life and Marxist perspectives on global capital flows and the construction of physical infrastructures through long-term investments could come together with constructive results…. I personally don’t trust continuous insurrections that spring spontaneously from self-activity, which are thought of as “a means without end” and predicated on the idea that “we cannot liberate each other, we can only liberate ourselves” (Springer, 2014: 262-263). Self- liberation through insurrection is all well and good but what about everyone else?…The anarchist and autonomista reluctance to take and consolidate power is rooted, I suspect, in the concept of the “free individual” upon which much anarchist and autonomista thinking rests. …the result is an awkward overlap at times (which exists in both Marx and Proudhon) in which the critique incorporates and mirrors far too much of that which it criticizes…which organizational forms are truly anarchist as opposed to just convenient for any form of hegemonic power (including that of the anarchists). … Consensus decision making, [Springer] says, “threatens to abolish society as such.” Simple majority voting suffices. There must also be a “serious commitment” to a “formal constitution and appropriate by-laws” because “without a democratically formulated and approved institutional framework whose members and leaders can be held accountable, clearly articulated standards of responsibility cease to exist…..Freedom from authoritarianism can best be assured only by the clear, concise and detailed allocation of power, not by pretensions that power and leadership are forms of “rule” or by libertarian metaphors that conceal their reality” (2014: 27). All of this looks to me like a reconstruction of a certain kind of state (but this may be nothing more than semantics)…the evidence is clear that we need organizational forms that go beyond those within which many anarchists and autonomistas now confine themselves if we are to reinvent democracy while pursuing a coherent anti-capitalist politics. … The mobilization of political power is essential and the state cannot be neglected as a potential site for radicalization. On all these points I beg to differ with many of my autonomist and anarchist colleagues.


Elsewhere Harvey writes:


the neoliberal ethic of intense possessive individualism, and its cognate of political withdrawal from collective forms of action, becomes the template for human socialization… Neoliberalism has also created new systems of governance that integrate state and corporate interests, and through the application of money power, it has ensured that the disbursement of the surplus through the state apparatus favours corporate capital and the upper classes in shaping the urban process. Raising the proportion of the surplus held by the state will only have a positive impact if the state itself is brought back under democratic control…focuses on the question of who commands the necessary connection between urbanization and surplus production and use. The democratization of that right, and the construction of a broad social movement to enforce its will is imperative if the dispossessed are to take back the control which they have for so long been denied, and if they are to institute new modes of urbanization. source


Can a state survive unmolested under democratic control, or deliver a democracy without tyranny or hypocrisy? It seems a total failure from the outset as a state, government, or collective exist partly, if not entirely, as a means to disallow dissent or protest by those that wish to breech any master sovereign for autonomy, as that breech destroys state, governments, and collectives, places where autonomy has borders.




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