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After Genoa--Reform or Revolution? part 2

This is the second installment of a paper by Max Kolskegg. The first section has now been archived in the 'analysis and polemic' section and may be accessed here. Max writes....:

Those Anarchists!

Although the New World Order is presented as a harmonious cross of
Democracy and the Market, its underlying reality is quite the
reverse. An accurate characterization would be something along the
lines of State-Imposed Corporate Oligarchy (SICKO), that is,
tyrannical rule of a tiny elite maintained by the brutal physical
force of states and the total penetration of psychological control
mechanisms. Genoa and its aftermath provide a clear and succinct
snapshot of its operations: ruthless crackdown on dissent,
pathological application of torture, and a continuous blitz of
defamation and denunciation, while behind the scenes the state
planners develop new levels of integration and surveillance to
suppress future resistance. Now let's ask ourselves again, what
exactly do we hope to achieve by pleading with the sickos to let up
on us a bit? One image says it all: helpless people at the Diaz
school raid, raising their empty hands in signal of total submission,
yelling "pacifist, pacifist" as their skulls were mercilessly cracked
open by the Fascist foot-soldiers of capitalism.

Anarchists have been warning us about the state for a long time,
and trying, rather ineffectively, to keep it at bay. In the past they
tended to focus on it almost exclusively, as the hypertrophied form
of social hierarchy and institutional coercion. But nowadays many
anarchists are savvy to the context in which states operate, and
recognize with Marx that the state's modern role includes more than
simple suppression of rebellion. Under the conditions of modern
capitalism the state is the principal organ for planning capitalism's
predations, both against people and the planet, where all capitalists
have common interest and the goal is maximal exploitation, as well as
the ever-present tendency of the different private concentrations of
capital to devour one another wherever possible, a process that
requires some overarching control if the "anarchy of capital" (Marx's
term) is not to result in imbalances and undermine the profitability
of capital as a whole and the security of its rule.

The nation-state is the dominant form historically, but we may be
witnessing the growth of new supranational states at present, such
as, potentially, the World Trade Organization. It looks like the
obvious candidate for this distinctive role, the United Nations,
can't serve this function on behalf of capital, as it no doubt would
be willing to do, because its structure permits too much sunlight.
The new supranational state(s) will be highly secretive. Their task
is not an easy one. Global coordination of capital will have to find
a way to control the excessive ambitions of individual capitals and
regional blocs which are in a condition of perpetual competition. The
largest multinational corporations, despite their far-flung
operations, still, for historical reasons, maintain strong ties to
their nations of origin and have supported regional planning efforts
(NAFTA, the FTAA, the European Union, etc.) to increase the physical
territory over which they can maintain uncontested control.
Unfortunately this raises the competition to the regional level as
well, with the development of contending blocs, mainly the Americas
(under the domination of the United States), Europe (with Germany in
the driver's seat), and East Asia (where Japan seems to have an edge
over China). This breakup of the globe into regional factions was
accurately foreseen by George Orwell in *Nineteen Eighty-Four*.

The reformists in the "anti-globalization" movement are, whether
they admit it or recognize it or not, statists. The solutions they
propose and the reforms they seek all presuppose an increase in the
interventions of states into social life. They operate with a false
analysis of the state as essentially distinct from and potentially
opposed to corporations and capital. But in fact the state, in all
its modern forms, is a *function* of capitalism. This is perfectly
obvious with sickos like George W. Bush or Silvio Berlusconi, but is
no less true of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Fidel
Castro, Lionel Jospin or Hugo Chavez. Right or Left, the heads of
state are dedicated to capital heart and soul. It's not like these
individuals have a choice; they merely supervise the inherent
functions of the state, above all the maximizing of profit. All over
the world, wherever a leftist party is in power, it is assiduously
enforcing the "structural adjustments" (what an Orwellian term!) of
the IMF or World Bank. In this regard the historical Left has been a
racket every bit as criminal as the Right. Only the anarchists and a
few genuinely revolutionary currents of Marxians have held out
against the state as the only possible form of social power. The
revolution we need, which will actually solve the problems we face
rather than intensify them, must be one in which capitalism in all
its forms, including states of all types, is destroyed.

Revolutionary anarchists and Marxians envision social power
exercised through a wide variety of local social forms (such as
general assemblies of people living together in a neighborhood, or
workplace assemblies or councils of people working together on a
specific project of social production), organized horizontally rather
than hierarchically into larger citywide, regional (even
bioregional), or larger groupings. They propose forms of direct
democracy to replace the bogus representational "democracy" so
beloved of statists. To protect themselves from domination and
exploitation people need to keep power in their own hands. When
evenly distributed in this way power loses its power of coercion,
while retaining its power of constructive application to all the many
tasks and problems of our planetary life.

The Movement Didn't Start in Seattle

Because of the narrow range of political discourse permitted by
capitalism these radical, genuine solutions just don't get a hearing.
The whole subject is taboo. The corporate control of the mass media
exercises an overwhelming suppressive influence on the free
expression of ideas. Schools and universities train students to
conform, not to think critically. Perhaps most crucially, we are
conditioned from the cradle to accept capitalism as it presents
itself, the pinnacle of human freedom. So, for most people who, for
whatever reason, remain unable to buy into the big lie completely, it
is extremely difficult to break out of the mystifications maintained
by Left and Right alike. They can't see past the screen of what is
deemed "possible" to what is actually *necessary*. And the special
irony is that what is necessary is indeed *possible*.

Repeatedly in human history people have organized themselves to
throw off the yoke of domination by exploitative classes or states.
The history of our struggles for lives of equality and fellowship
simply isn't taught in schools or shown in Hollywood movies. But
numerous examples exist of successful resistance to predation and
plunder from above or abroad. Some of the more notable and recent
periods and places of real freedom were the Paris Commune of 1871;
the early years of the Russian Revolution before the Bolsheviks
eliminated all internal opposition (especially in the Ukraine where
Makhno's anarchist army fought off the Reds, the Germans, and the
Whites simultaneously, in Kronstadt, and among the Greens of the
Tambov forests); revolutionary Morelos liberated by Emiliano Zapata's
indigenous irregulars; and Catalonia and Aragon in 1936-37 where
workers organized to defend themselves against the Spanish colonial
army led by the fascist Franco, and proceeded to run factories and
farms without bosses, priests and in many places, money. In all these
cases people took the opportunities presented to them by an
unpredictable, sudden decrease in the repressive forces maintained by
the state, due to conditions of a wider war. Paris proclaimed its
liberty as the Germans under Bismarck were conquering the rest of
France. The Russian Revolution broke out as the Tsar's armies bogged
down on the eastern front in World War I. Zapata's successful
years-long liberation of Morelos and surrounding areas south of
Mexico City was possible because the Mexican army had its hands full
elsewhere. And the Spanish Civil War provided the opening for an
anarchist-inspired society to flower into existence for a
considerable length of time. Why was this so, and do we have to wait
and hope for war to present us our chance?

States have always had to rely on their armies, police, prisons
and work camps to keep revolution at bay. Until the 20th Century,
they didn't have much other than religion as a form of psychological
control. Most countries through the 19th Century had largely peasant
(or "family farm") populations engaged in the straightforward process
of producing their own sustenance and other material needs without
engaging in the mystifications of wage work. Peasants or small
farmers, or city workers recently displaced from their lands, have a
very clear understanding of the role of capitalism and the state in
seeking to rob them of what independence they possess, and have had
an ineradicable predilection to resist. They have generally existed
as intransigent, unpersuadable populations. When, unexpectedly, the
power of states to keep them down has declined (usually because of
the outbreak of war), people have frequently organized themselves
rapidly into genuinely liberated areas. The states then have had to
crush them when they could return to business as usual; the salient
feature of these "reactions" has been their extraordinary savagery,
followed by silence. But with the recent development, especially
since World War II, of sophisticated mind-control techniques such as
radio, television, and other forms of the mass media, and the steady
penetration worldwide of enclosures and the stripping of peasants and
farmers from their lands, the dynamic of resistance has changed.

We're Mad As Hell and We're Not Going to Take It Anymore

The events of May and June, 1968 in France show that war is not a
necessary precondition for the power and authority of the state and
capital to crumble and dissolve. There wasn't even a recession.
People, led first by students, then factory workers, and finally as a
mass, just woke up to the empty misery of their lives and said all
together, "We've had enough!" For two months the country was
paralyzed; DeGaulle and his racket were laughed at and ignored, and
even the Communist Party was exposed as the prop of property. People
set up barricades in cities all over France; held massive general
assemblies to decide how to proceed; and began to talk to one another
in ways previously unthinkable. It all happened as the taboos against
analysis and discussion of the capitalist nightmare fell away. The
sleepers awoke in the light of a new day and saw the hideous true
face of their master, who, like the Wizard of Oz, was desperately
pulling levers and belching smoke, intoning over and over "Pay no
attention to that man behind the curtain." And, eventually, it
worked; the smoke and fog, the mirrors and mystifications gathered
around so thickly that people lost their way and returned to docile
obedience and mutterings under the breath.

A very similar process of awakening is now underway, only instead
of France the entire world is in ferment. Capitalism and the state
are undergoing the anguish of delegitimation across the planet. As
the profit crisis of capitalism has deepened since the seventies, the
rate of exploitation has been raised cruelly worldwide. The misery of
the late sixties pales in comparison to the situation we face today.
Our backs are to the wall everywhere, and we're fighting back, or
starting to, everywhere as well. And the illusions the Capital-State
requires, the fetishes of authority, hierarchy, patriarchy, money,
market, and servility are collapsing all over the globe. A
revolutionary current is gathering and growing stronger despite the
obstacles and barriers repeatedly erected to stem it.

This is not the time to put our energies into microscopic
piecemeal reforms. The capitalist class and its servants running the
repressive apparatus have wagered everything on one last desperate
attempt to construct an indestructible fortress of domination, and
they're losing their gamble. Our chance is now. We have little time
to prevent global ecological devastation and preserve a world worth
living in. It's time to raise the cry again, "We've had enough!"
Neither slave nor master!


After 9/11: On War and Revolution

After the catastrophic loss of life in New York City and
Washington DC on September 11, we are told, "nothing will ever be the
same". The media say this over and over, ostensibly to suggest that
once and for all the naïve innocence of America has been
shattered by an evil previously beyond its imagining. Now unhappily
the country must detour for a long while from the happy, normal paths
of life it treasures, and "rid the world of evil doers". The subtext
here, and the real news, is the assault now to be unleashed on
privacy and political expression. Nothing will ever be the same in
the new police state being erected before our eyes.

The overwhelming carnage and the instantaneous assault of the US
government and the corporate media on the social psyche have
disoriented many people. In a time of intense crisis, however, it is
more important than ever to think clearly. We can compound the damage
and greatly aid our enemies if we lose our nerve or our ability to
adapt to changing circumstances. We have to be realistic, we have to
understand our situation and the forces we are up against. A good
first question to ask is who are the beneficiaries and who the
victims of the attacks in New York City and Washington DC?

The beneficiaries seem very few and the victims potentially
numberless. The Bush administration and the US state obviously
benefit tremendously, as does Sharon's regime in Israel and
Palestine. Both of these states are now freer than before to attack,
kill, arrest, imprison and torture anyone they want to, without let
or hindrance, or even criticism. (An obvious and plausible inference
is that the attack on September 11 was a Mossad operation, employing
"holy warriors" of the Islamic Jihad or related groups as they have
in numerous such operations in the past, and enabled by some secret
arm of the Bush apparatus. Many unexplained facts fit into such a

Among the losers, beyond the Palestinians, the Afghans and Muslims
in the US, are the "anti-globalization" and anti-capitalist
activists, so recently setting a global agenda, having survived the
fascists of Genoa and emerged stronger than ever, ready to press
forward in DC at the end of September. Already movement activists are
being branded "terrorists" by government officials and media
mouthpieces, in preparation for a no-holds-barred war to "rid the
world of the evil" of political dissent and action. As Starhawk so
accurately said shortly after Genoa, they will be coming for us
individually in the night. Starhawk, in her very real wisdom, for
which we must be thankful, saw further and sooner than most. But now
the truth she expressed is plain for all to see. Behind their
barricades the Sickos in Genoa put the final touches on their
battleplan. War is our future.

But now remember something else. As indicated above, war has been
the opportunity for genuine social revolution repeatedly down through
history. When states wage war, unexpected things happen: all bets are
off. As the violent state crackdown in Genoa showed, and the massive
preparations for "global war" against an unstated enemy now prove,
our masters are desperate and ready to risk all. We simply need to
prove to them what poor gamblers they are. Don't lose your nerve, and
keep your wits about you.

Further Reading

On the events in Genoa: articles by Starhawk and Lorenzo Komboa
Ervin are posted at genoaresistance.org.

On reformism vs revolution: Paul Mattick, "Reform and Revolution",
chapter in *Marxism: Last Refuge of the Bourgeosie?*

On the historical beginnings of capitalism: Ellen Meiksins Wood,
*The Origin of Capitalism*; "History or Technological Determinism?",
chapter in *Democracy Against Capitalism*

On social character: the work of Erich Fromm, especially *Escape
From Freedom* and *The Sane Society*; Fredy Perlman, "The Reproduction
of Daily Life"; Eugene Victor Wolfenstein, *Psychoanalytic-Marxism:

On Marx's critique of capitalism and utopian vision: *Capital*,
vol. 1; *The Grundrisse*; Maximilien Rubel, *Rubel on Karl Marx*

On state capitalism: Adam Buick and John Crump, *State Capitalism:
the Wages System Under New Management*; Paul Mattick, "Bolshevism and
Stalinism", in *Anti-Bolshevik Communism*

On the state: Peter Kropotkin, "The State: its Historic Role", in
P. A. Kropotkin, *Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution*,
Martin A. Miller, ed.; Randolph Bourne, "The State", in *The Radical
Will: Selected Writings 1911-1918*, ed. by Olaf Hansen

On the Paris Commune: Stewart Edwards, *The Paris Commune 1871*;
Eugene Schulkind, ed., *The Paris Commune of 1871*

On the Russian Revolution: Voline, *The Unknown Revolution
1917-1921*; Israel Getzler, *Kronstadt 1917-1921*; Peter Arshinov,
*History of the Makhnovist Movement 1918-1921*; Oliver Radkey, *The
Unknown Civil War in Soviet Russia: a Study of the Green Movement in
the Tambov Region,1920-1921*

On Zapata and Morelos: John Womack, *Zapata and the Mexican
Revolution*; Samuel Brunk, *Emiliano Zapata*

On the Spanish Revolution: George Orwell, *Homage to Catalonia*;
Vernon Richards, *Lessons of the Spanish Revolution*; Gaston Leval,
*Collectives in the Spanish Revolution*; Jose Peirats, *Anarchists in
the Spanish Revolution*

On France, May-June 1968: R. Gregoire and F. Perlman,
"Worker-Student Action Committees, France May '68"; Murray Bookchin,
"The May-June Events in France" in *Post-Scarcity Anarchism*; Vladimir
Fisera, *Writing on the Wall*; Andrew Feenberg and Jim Freedman, *When
Poetry Ruled the Streets*

On war and capitalism: Paul Mattick, "The United States and
Indochina", in Root & Branch, ed., *Root & Branch: the Rise of
the Workers' Movements*