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Reposted from Indymedia UK.
by David Graeber
The biggest problem facing direct action movements is that we don’t know how to handle victory.
This might seem an odd thing to say because of a lot of us haven’t been feeling particularly victorious of late. Most anarchists today feel the global justice movement was kind of a blip: inspiring, certainly, while it lasted, but not a movement that succeeded either in putting down lasting organizational roots or transforming the contours of power in the world. The anti-war movement was even more frustrating, since anarchists and anarchist tactics were largely marginalized. The war will end, of course, but that’s just because wars always do. No one is feeling they contributed much to it.
I want to suggest an alternative interpretation. Let me lay out three initial propositions here:
1) Odd though it may seem, the ruling classes live in fear of us. They appear to still be haunted by the possibility that, if average Americans really get wind of what they’re up to, they might all end up hanging from trees. It know it seems implausible but it’s hard to come up with any other explanation for the way they go into panic mode the moment there is any sign of mass mobilization, and especially mass direct action, and usually try to distract attention by starting some kind of war.
2) In a way this panic is justified. Mass direct action—especially when organized on democratic lines—is incredibly effective. Over the last thirty years in America, there have been only two instances of mass action of this sort: the anti-nuclear movement in the late ‘70s, and the so called “anti-globalization” movement from roughly 1999-2001. In each case, the movement’s main political goals were reached far more quickly than almost anyone involved imagined possible.
3) The real problem such movements face is that they always get taken by surprise by the speed of their initial success. We are never prepared for victory. It throws us into confusion. We start fighting each other. The ratcheting of repression and appeals to nationalism that inevitably accompanies some new round of war mobilization then plays into the hands of authoritarians on every side of the political spectrum. As a result, by the time the full impact of our initial victory becomes clear, we’re usually too busy feeling like failures to even notice it. Read the rest of this entry »
“We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party”
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
2004 South End Press
This is a great history of the Black Panther Party, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s early life, and even a great overview of the history of black resistance movements from the first slave rebellions – which he says the BPP fits into as an integral piece.
Mumia does a great job explaining the origins and philosophies of the party, as well as covering its history succinctly but in a sweeping way that other books have failed to do. There is a chapter on women in the party, which is of mixed quality, but other chapters, like the ones on COINTELPRO and snitches in the party, are absolutely vital.
Don’t miss the pictures of young Mumia working in the BPP (at age 14…)
“Bakunin on Anarchy”
1972 A.A. Knopf
Collection of some of Bakunin’s most important writings and essays. Having not really read much Bakunin before, I’m a little disappointed, I must say. Not for what he says, but what he doesn’t.
He tended to repeat his own ideas a lot, which are of course valid (the state must be destroyed, not reformed; revolution must be decentralized and spontaneous by the masses of people, not handed down by a privileged elite), but also simplistic and formulaic. Overall, Bakunin’s writings are not very useful in contexts beyond the theoretical and philosophical, and you can take them more as guiding and grounding principles rather than any kind of program for revolutionary action.
Then again, there’s some important stuff here, especially about Bakunin’s relationship with Marx and other socialists of his day, the nature of the First International being especially interesting. Recommended but not by much.
See this awesome Graph-Presentation.
Originally published in the Wall Street Journal.
Boom Cuts U.S. Clout,
Revives Middle East;
Dark Days for Detroit
By NEIL KING JR. , CHIP CUMMINS and RUSSELL GOLD
The surging price of oil, from just over $10 a barrel a decade ago to $100 yesterday, is altering the wealth and influence of nations and industries around the world.
These power shifts will only widen if prices keep climbing, as many analysts predict. Costly oil already is forcing sweeping changes in the airline and auto sectors. It is intensifying the politics of climate change and adding urgency to the search both for fresh sources of crude and for oil alternatives once deemed fringe.
The long oil-price boom is posing wrenching challenges for the world’s poorest nations, while enriching and emboldening producers in the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela. Their increasing muscle has a flip side: a decline of U.S. clout in many parts of the world.
Steep gasoline prices also threaten America’s long love affair with the automobile, while putting strains on many lower-income people outside big cities, who must spend an increasing share of their budgets just on fuel to get to work. Read the rest of this entry »