On April 22, ZNet posted a lecture Robin Hahnel was invited to deliver on April 10, 2010 at a Conference celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Confederacion de Trabajadores, CNT, in Barcelona, Spain. The title of the Presentation was “Anarchist Planning for Twenty-first Century Economies: A Proposal.” Chris Spannos asked Robin Hahnel to respond to the following questions about the lecture, which concern whether or not participatory planning can really solve several important problems.
Spannos 1: First, you say that consumer councils and producer councils vote on the proposals of other councils - that they vote them up or down. I don't understand what that means. Surely each council doesn't vote yea or nay on tens or hundreds of thousands of producer proposals and on millions of consumer proposals, as that's impossible. But if it doesn't mean that, then what does it mean?
Hahnel 1: First of all, in a participatory economy the only people who vote on individual consumption proposals are other members of a person’s neighborhood consumption council – and presumably neighborhood councils will elect committees to review proposals from members and people will only serve on this committee from time to time. Individual consumers do not participate in the participatory planning procedure any more than individual workers do. Worker councils and neighborhood consumption councils, and federations of consumer councils participate in the participatory planning procedure by making “self-activity” proposals for their entire council or federation, and voting “yea” or “nay” on other council and federation “self-activity” proposals.
"In the early 1920's, capitalism realized that it could no longer maintain it's exploitation of human labor if it didn't also colonize everything that exists beyond the strict sphere of production. Faced with the socialist challenge, it had to socialize too. So it needed to create its culture, its entertainment, its medicine, its urbanism, its sentimental education and its own moores, and be prepared to perpetually renovate these."
-Tiqqun "Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Jeune-Fille"
When anarchists speak of "Social War" we aren't just renaming the "Class War" of years past, wherein the struggles against capitalism were carried out by the proletariat seeking to overthrow the bourgeoisie and destroy class society, what we are speaking about is the colonization of capital into all forms of modern life and the need to seek out and attack it in every sphere within which it exists. Social war means constant conflict (in varying degrees of intensity) with all aspects of life inside our post-industrial desert. It means both the destruction of all commodified forms of life and the creation and dissemination of new, non-recuperable life-ways.
Void Network: Dear David Graeber, good afternoon from Exarchia area, Athens Greece. Here there are some questions that you might try to answer, so we can publish them in the pre b-fest Babylonia issue.
So, How can you define the antiauthoritarian movement and attitude of today? Do you think that we are facing a major turning point that somehow is showing the limits, of ideology in contradiction with an antiauthauritarian view, free from ideological obstacles?
D.G.: If by "ideology" you mean the idea that one needs to establish a global analysis before taking action (which inevitably leads to the assumption that an intellectual vanguard must necessarily play leadership role in any popular political movement) then I think, yes, we do see a gradual movement away from that. Much of my last ten years of intellectual life has been trying to think about ways in which intellectuals can play a useful role without descending into ideologists. There are no obvious answers though. I think we have come to a broad consensus about the fact that a diversity of perspectives, even incommensurable perspectives, is not a problem but actually a resource for our movements - since if the operative question is not "how do we define the situation" but "how shall we act together to further our common goals?" - that is, if it's practical problem-solving, then obviously a group of people with diverse perspectives will have more useful insights and ideas than a group of people who all think exactly the same. This is an important breakthrough. But it still leaves some questions unanswered: you can't just start, as John Holloway says, with "the scream", the instinctive feeling that capitalism isn't right, and then move to action - the very fact that you identify "capitalism" as the problem means there is some shared analysis, or else, there'd be no reason for us not to be working with fascists, nationalists, sexists, or for that matter the capitalists themselves. No one has quite resolved all of these questions but my impression is we've made a lot of progress - much more, in fact, in the last ten years than in whole fifty years previous to that.
[ecumenicalism + intellectual life = ideology with splinters of confusion]
On September 17th, 2008, Barcelona-based anticapitalist Enric Duran announced that he had expropriated 492,000 euros. For several years, Duran took out loans that he never intended to pay back and donated all of the money to social movements constructing alternatives to capitalism. This announcement came with the publication of 200,000 free newspapers called Crisi (Catalan for “Crisis”), with an article explaining Duran’s action, and other pieces offering a systemic critique of the current financial and ecological crises. The action got the attention of tens of thousands of everyday people as well as major media outlets, who soon dubbed Duran the “Robin Hood of the Banks.” Duran left the country to avoid prosecution. The group that published the newspapers formed Podem Viure Sense Capitalisme (We Can Live With Out Capitalism) and began region-wide organizing through their website, http://podem.cat, bringing together debtors, squatters, alternative economy networks, environmentalists, and everyday people to build a large-scale alternative to capitalism.
Duran returned to Spain six months after the announcement to participate in the release of another publication. On March 17th, 300,000 copies of Podem (We Can) were distributed across Spain in Catalan as well as Spanish. Duran announced the publication during a student protest at the University of Barcelona, and was soon after arrested by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan regional police on charges of "ongoing fraud” that were brought against Duran by 6 of the 39 financial entities he took money from. He spent two months in jail. He is currently free on bail, having had his passport seized and required to present himself before a judge once a week. None of the charges have been formally brought to trial.
Since then, Duran has been organizing with the We Can campaign. Focused on networking and the distribution of information about alternatives to capitalism, We Can connects with thousands of people participating in alternative economy projects. Many use the group’s website, which includes a “Debtors’ Community” where people get practical advice on how to avoid paying their debts. Duran has published a book, Insumisión a la banca (Disobeying the Banks), the proceeds from which go to We Can, and continues to give talks and participate in national networks on degrowth and alternative currencies.
It's been quite interesting to see the reactionary right go haywire over the recent call to "crash the tea parties". Reading their blogs, one can literally track the echo chamber effect in real time. One wing nut on the information superhighway characterizes the anarchists without proof as stooges for the Feds (the standard accusation from these folks) and before you know it the next kook is citing the first kook as proof.
For the Truthers in the movement in particular, the standard frame through which they see the world goes like this: the CIA/Feds manipulate movements that aren't "awake" (a term that refers to everyone outside that wing of the Tea Party movement). This skepticism of movements stems in part from their inherently conservative nature. They distrust peoples movements that tend to lead to generally progressive results. Naturally, then, in their eyes such movements must be run by outside paymasters. They are composed of poor fools who don't know they are being used (at best) if not outright paid thugs. Throw in a healthy dose of internets and capital letters and -- boom! -- the anarchists have transformed into a front for the CIA! Infoshop is an organization run by the NWO! Reality be damned!
If the Tea Party people could slow their roll for a minute, I think they would find a lot to learn from this exercise in self-delusion. But for them the ideology, so drenched in American patriotic mythology, trumps the reality. Because of this, a "teachable moment", so to say, is unlikely. So, instead, let's think about what we as anarchists can learn from the call and the reaction.
The illustrious dave id of Indybay wrote a nice review of their event at the BASTARD conference (that’s the Berkeley Anarchist Students of Theory and Research and Development, in case you were wondering). And he also provided an audio link to their entire hour-and-fifteen-minute talk, which you can listen to below. It seemed to be an amazing and inspiring experience for everyone who attended, so I highly recommend giving it a listen.
If you missed the talk and/or are blown away by the audio link below, don’t despair. The “We Are an Image from the Future Tour” has about three dozen more events planned for cities around the country…with more to be added. You can check out their schedule here.
Harold Pinter (He already said it on February 2003)
In the historical point we are now the contradiction of capital is increasingly becoming clear worldwide. Proletarians around the world are in turmoil while their own reproduction becomes more and more difficult. As it is already difficult for the proletarians to continue their lives, it is capital itself as a relation of exploitation which is in reproduction crisis. The current struggles of the proletarians are the expression of the current form of this relation of exploitation.
From a small 10-foot plot of truly public space between MacArthur Park and the street, the smell of slightly overripe fruit sweating in the sun emerges every Sunday morning. Young and old residents of the community stand together in the piercing midday Los Angeles sun, beads of sweat pricking their temples and children scrambling underfoot. Each person sets two squash, four potatoes, four cucumbers, a bunch of grapes, and so on into a succession of nearly 200 overstuffed cardboard boxes. Around 2pm, a line of people of every age and color, begins to form. They wait patiently to receive their boxes of donated excess fruits and vegetables, bag of rice and beans, whole wheat bread, and a fruit pie. The volunteers and the needy are often one and the same. After the flurry of activity from handing out food, everyone finds a place on the shady hill near the sidewalk. They examine the bounty and swap amongst themselves, a second redistribution among neighbors.
This food program is the soul of an anarchist organization known as the Revolutionary Autonomous Communities. It has been occurring for nearly two years around MacArthur Park. Self-sustainability is the watchword for this organization. Enabling poor or underserved communities of color to support themselves through simple acts of mutual aid, like food redistribution (rather than relying on charity) is its primary motivation.
Similarly engaged in self-support strategies, a growing group of young artists meets monthly at the California Institute for the Arts in Valencia, CA gathering for forum discussions, guest lectures, and to plan collective actions dedicated to social justice issues. Known as the Artists for Social Justice, several members recently participated in a one-night performance entitled “Free Free Market” in Chinatown focusing on aesthetic exchange and participation as an alternative to the object-driven art market. One gave voice lessons from the rooftop of the small strip mall location, drawing diners out of their restaurants and passersby off the sidewalk. Others wrote letters on demand - greetings to friends, thank you notes, expressions of love. Another gave away small objects he had begged, borrowed, and stolen - trinkets that were imbued with narrative and the possibility of further exchange. These artists, many newly embarking on careers in a fraught art world, have banded together in a non-hierarchical collective to explore alternative opportunities closely connected to real socio-political issues.
It’s been a numbing few months of social disaster, from the earthquakes that hit Haiti and Chile, to the carnival of capitalism that tried to sweep Canada’s human rights record on indigenous peoples under the opening ceremonies carpet of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, to the U.S. health reform debates, to the new settlements in Jerusalem, and so on.
I always look to a variety of sources to provide explanations, analysis, and sources of courage for the world we live in. But anarchism—I always end up back with you.
Compare the USAID’s emergency relief system to the self-management of Haitian distribution and rebuilding efforts reported in Al Jazeera’s Faultlines coverage. Compare the behavior of corporate NGOs on climate change (critiqued brilliantly in Johann Hari’s piece in the Nation this month) to the grassroots anti–Tar Sands campaign coordinated by the Indigenous Environmental Network. Compare the despicable self-interest of big labor during the economic crisis to the revolutionary organizing of Miami-based Take Back the Land. These stories show the deep links between the ability of people to govern their own lives and the capacity for a triumphant, dignified politics.
In light of these stories, and all the others you share with us at gatherings, conferences, in grant applications, and while tabling at bookfairs, we wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that the IAS board is proud to support your work—your writing, organizing, and courage—because these acts of resistance are victories.
The threat of an impending climate crisis has rightly dominated the headlines over recent years – unabated carbon emissions, alongside peak oil, are leading us to a bleak, even apocalyptic scenario. In addition to this we are experiencing a crisis of neoliberalism, where the restructuring of capital is finding ways to exploit (and hence worsen) the ecological collapse it has fomented. Both in the UK and worldwide, we have seen the emergence of movements aiming to tackle climate change. These movements embody a politics that appears to cross the political spectrum, but in fact all gravitate around a single apolitical space, or as Steven has termed it, a “post-political space.”
As the UN prepared to meet for the COP15 in Copenhagen, we found our movements in a state of political crisis. Dominated by methodologies that rely on an emerging carbon consensus as the basis of their (a)politics, movements such as the Camp for Climate Action find themselves powerless to engage with the decentered problem of climate change. There is an urgent need to reassess climate change in terms of power and productive relations, and to move beyond the single-issue environmentalism that has isolated climate change as the preserve of a specialist eco-activist vanguard.