At a September 14th symposium on the Chilean anti-terrorism law, the lawyer Julio Cortes pointed out that the frequent use of the law despite the absence of any real terrorism in Chile illuminates its fundamentally political, persecutorial character. Historically, terrorism was first used by the new bourgeois state against the old order. Only later did the phenomenon of terrorism from below emerge.
September 11th in Chile is an interesting day. While much of the rest of the world follows the US-driven discourse of the War on Terror, Chileans remember the state terrorism at work in the 1973 military coup by General Pinochet against the socialist president, Salvador Allende. Ultimately thousands of political opponents of the new regime would be tortured, disappeared, or executed. Once the dictatorship transferred seamlessly into democracy, with many of the same people remaining in power, and without revoking any of the neoliberal economic changes violently forced through by the dictatorship and under the direction of economists trained at the University of Chicago, people began commemorating September 11th with massive protest marches. The marches typically go from the city center to the General Cemetery, where there is a memorial to the victims of the regime, and where the day usually ends in heavy rioting against the police. At night, in the poorer neighborhoods, which received the brunt of state terrorism under Pinochet and continue to be the prime targets for pólice violence under democracy, people traditionally set up burning barricades and fight the carabineros and military special forces that come to antagonize them.
“To provide for the permanence of life of the population of each nation of humanity that inhabits the planet Earth is the primary and essential function of politics.”
-- Enrique Dussel 
“The bourgeoisie live on like specters threatening doom.”
-- Theodor W. Adorno 
It would unfortunately not be entirely absurd to claim climate change to be the greatest social problem of the twenty-first century. Short of the historical development and proliferation of nuclear weapons, nothing else seems to pose such a dire threat to human welfare as do the projected consequences of climate change; a recent report released by The Lancet,  for example, claims it to constitute the greatest threat to human health in this century. The dialectics of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the global climate and the greenhouse effect—which itself dialectically has allowed for the emergence and evolution of life on Earth for nearly four billion years—represents a problematic that, in Dussel’s view, joins the mass persistence of global material poverty in constituting the final limit to the age of modernity, the capitalist mode of production, and political liberalism.
There is little doubt today that we are living in apocalyptic times. From mega-selling Christian “end times” novels on the right, to the neoprimitivist nihilism that has captivated so much of the antiauthoritarian left, people across the political spectrum seem to be anticipating the end of the world. Predictions of “peak oil” have inspired important efforts at community-centered renewal, but also encouraged the revival of gun-hoarding survivalism. A 2009 Hollywood disaster epic elaborated the myth, falsely attributed to Mayan peoples, that the world will end in 2012. A cable TV series featured detailed computer animations purporting to show exactly how the world’s most iconic structures would eventually crumble and collapse if people ceased to maintain essential infrastructure. Numerous literary genres have embraced the apocalyptic mood, from Jared Diamond’s detailed histories in Collapse, to Margaret Atwood’s current dystopian trilogy, which began with the darkly satiric biotech nightmare, Oryx and Crake.
The prevalence of apocalyptic images is not at all limited to literature and popular culture. Disaster scenarios stemming from the accelerating global climate crisis look more severe with every new study of the effects of the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. Steadily rising levels of drought, wildfires and floods have been recorded on all the earth’s continents, and people in the tropics and subtropics already face difficulty growing enough food due to increasingly unstable weather patterns. Studies predict mass-scale migrations of people desperate to escape the worst consequences of widespread climate disruptions. And the diplomatic failure of the 2009 UN climate talks in Copenhagen raised the profile of several new studies forecasting the dire consequences of temperature increases that may exceed 15 degrees in the Arctic and in parts of Africa. Bill McKibben’s latest book, Eaarth, elaborates the view that we are now living on a far more turbulent planet, one that is already strikingly different from the one most of us grew up on.
How the G20 demonstrations in Pittsburgh prefigured new models of resistance in North America
Over the last decade, we have experienced the collapse and disintegration of broad-based resistance movements within the United States. The antiglobalization movement largely dissolved in the tides of repression following the emergence of post 9/11 security apparatuses. Soon after, the antiwar movement preceding the invasion of Iraq that had animated social machines across the globe crumbled under the weight of its failure to prevent the war.
The collapse of economic and political models which have defined the first breaths of the 21st century have been accompanied by this collapse of our capacity to be antagonistic and act against such systems. Two basic models continue to be activated by antiauthoritarians and anticapitalists in the U.S. despite this – that of the organizational model (which draws its structure from the collectives of civil-war Spain) and that of the summit protest (which pulls largely from the autonomous movements of the 1980s and 1990s). As capitalism stumbles and stutters and its structures globalize and transform, the radical left has continued to operate within these same failed models which have become increasingly ineffective.
Anarchist political theory is perhaps one of the most neglected traditions in contemporary political science. In a world created by the existence of the state, this makes sense. Nonetheless, thinking beyond the state paradigm is essential. Here we explore a work by one of the most influential anarchist thinkers, Peter Kropotkin, looking at the argument presented in Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal, in terms of its sweeping rejection of capitalism and state. We examine interpretations of Kropotkin’s argument by notable poststructuralist anarchists—postanarchists, for short—Saul Newman, Todd May, and Uri Gordon. We also consider Ruth Kinna’s attempt to revise Kropotkin, in light of the postanarchist critique, and conclude with a brief commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of Kropotkin’s argument and its interpretations.
Institute for Anarchist Studies Summer 2010 Newsletter
Announcing Our Grant Awards for Summer 2010
Updates on IAS Grant Projects
Announcing the Second Title in the Anarchist Intervention Book Series
Perspectives on Anarchist Theory: Recent and Next Issues
Renewing the Anarchist Tradition Conference, Rethought for 2010
IAS at the U.S. Social Forum
IAS Meets Twitter
And Finally, If You Love Us, Send Us a Donation!
Announcing Our Grant Awards for Summer 2010
As always, the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) board is pleased to announce our latest grant awards; as always, it was also a tough decision, involving many hours of dialogue and debate to narrow it down to our four grant recipients. The board would like to publicly thank everyone who applied, and of course heartily congratulate Kolya Abramsky, Emma Dixon, James Generic, and the Rosehip Medic Collective on their IAS grant awards. We hope to publish their finished pieces in the online and/or print versions of our journal, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, in the near future. And now, here’s a glimpse at the four projects, each of which received $500 to assist in the writing process:
Are you at risk? “At risk of what?” you may ask, but the specifics are hazy. Tsunami. Eviction. Influenza. Does it really matter? Disaster threatens—any disaster will do: “Risk has become an intellectual and political web across which thread many strands of discourse related to the slow crisis of modernity and industrial society.”1 A discursive web of risk sensitivities enshrouds the term. “Systemic risk is an issue that requires fuller understanding;”2 but understanding is complicated by proliferate use. An examination of radicals calls me.
China experienced a tide of anarchist activity in the May Fourth era. Particularly in the early part of the 1920s, many young people were so inspired by anarchist political critiques and cultural and social insights that they began publishing their own radical journals. Although many of these publications lasted only an issue or two and their content was largely derivative of existing writings, they proliferated in the universities and large cities across China. Though many of these publications are lost, there have been a few attempts to document them. These journals form part of the story of anarchism's development in China and demonstrate its relevance to modern China. They tell us much about what aspects of anarchism were most attractive to Chinese intellectuals and to what extent anarchism influenced China's political climate in spite of the growing communist hegemony of the period's politics.
From Revolution by the Book
As we’ve mentioned on this blog before, AK Press was one of ten collectives that sponsored an anarchist workshop track at the US Social Forum (A New World from Below). This also included a convergence space where NWFB held a shindig celebrating anarchist authors, editors, and publishers. The lovely folks at the defenestrator recorded it (well, they recorded the talks, not the drinking and partying and such). Go here and scroll to the bottom of the page (though you might want to stop along the way and listen to one of their many interviews) .
The event featured:
Benjamin Holtzman, editor of SICK: A Collaborative Zine on Physical Illness (Microcosm Publishing, 2010)
Cindy Milstein, author of Anarchism and Its Aspirations (AK Press, 2010)
Jeff Conant, author of A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency (AK Press, 2010)
Jordan Flaherty, author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena 6 (Haymarket, 2010)
Josh MacPhee, editor of Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today (PM Press, 2009)
Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, authors of Firebrands: Portraits from the Americas (Microcosm Publishing, 2010)
Seth Tobocman, author and artist of Understanding the Crash (Soft Skull, 2010)
Team Colors Collective, editors of and contributors to Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States (AK Press, 2010)
Turbulence Collective, authors of What Would It Mean to Win? (PM Press, 2010)
From Revolution by the Book
The ever-fascinating David Graeber made an appearance on the Authority Smashing Hour’s show. He was supposed to share the bill with Uri Gordon, but Uri had technical difficulties, so it’s a full hour of David talking about two of his AK Press books (Possibilities and Direct Action), his forthcoming book on Melville House Press, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and lots more. The ASH site seems to be under renovation, but you can find the interview here (it’s the one that happened on July 15, 2010).
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