Posts Tagged ‘Revolution’

There is a lot of talk about politics and revolution in my neck of the woods these days. The “Maple Spring” seems to still be underway, a little more quiet since most students have gotten jobs for the summer, but people are still fighting for change and trying to make sure that their voices do not disappear. I find it all really interesting, I mean, we have all had this political awakening in our lives, for me it was punk rock and the anti-globalization movement of the early 2000s. Lately I have had more and more discussions about this student uprising, the occupy movement, sovereignty, and even the economic crisis happening in Europe as the Union slowly crumbles as countries are not able to survive in a system that was supposed to only bring prosperity. People seem to be waking up, and getting their political chops if you will; debates flare up in some unlikely places and I must admit that I love to egg people on or just reject anything that is suggested to me (thanks punk rock for making me want to say fuck everything!). I have been told by a lot of people that I am too radical in my views, that I should instead follow certain politicians who are clearly taken advantage of an opportunity to get votes from people who want a victory at any price, that by switching the person in charge all should fall into place.

First of all, why not? Why not demand the impossible? Why do we insist in trying to find solutions in a broken system that is clearly not working and is not planning on being fixed anytime soon. I am sick of the famous, different face same system bullshit, people want revolution than let’s do just that! This is what I am loving about the global insurgence; Occupy might be losing momentum, the “cares rouges” have also, but that does not mean that this is not a good time to start a true revolution, one where each individual can be a part of without necessarily claiming to belong to a certain group or ideology! Let’s take the power away from the few that control the majority, one insurrection that is really inspiring me right now is what is happening with the student movement in Mexico. What is being dubbed as the “Mexican Spring” is a student movement that is not fighting solely tuition hikes like most student movements in the past, they are fighting for achieving media democracy. They are demanding that media be democratized and de-corporatized, their goal is to knock out one of the core pillars, corporate television, that props up the corrupt political class. All these stories and discussions that I have been having have made me reflect on what my political position actually is, if someone were to ask me on the street what my political position was I would answer “-“.

After reflection and a lot of thought, I am a philosophy student by trade so I seriously dig that shit, thinking rules! So my answer would be: Existentialist anarchism with an Individualist anarchism tendency. I am sure some of you might be scratching your heads trying to figure it out, let me show you why this totally screams me! Those of you who know me well, probably already get it, but here is my best attempt to put my politics in a box! I believe that existentialism forms a philosophical ground for anarchism, there is a close like between the existentialists’ stress on the individual, free choice, and more responsibility and the main tenets of anarchism. My main influences, or the people who helped me shape my political vision are Nietzsche, Kafka, and Camus (of course!); I owe these philosophers a great debt of gratitude in helping open my mind and the opportunity to work out different questions that I had swimming around my head.  So let me explain what I find that they all brought to the mess that is my political position. Before we dive into the existentialists, let me briefly explain the Individualist tendency.

Individualist anarchism refers to the tradition of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasizes the individual and his or her will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems. It is not a single philosophy but refers to a group of individualistic philosophies that can sometimes come into conflict. They can all pretty much agree that the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny. As we can see, existential anarchism is very close to this base, it is logical that I would believe in both these schools of thought.

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the first philosophers considered fundamental to the existentialist movement, even though the movement only existed after his death, which is also when his works became known. While alive, Nietzsche was frequently associated with anarchist movements and proved influential for many anarchist thinkers, in spite of the fact that in this writings he seems to have a negative view of anarchists. This was the result of a popular association during this period between his ideas and those of Max Stirner (another very well-known anarchist thinker , known for his idea that advocates concrete individual existence, or egoism, against most commonly accepted social institutions—including the notion of State, property as a right, natural rights in general, and the very notion of society—which he considers mere spooks or essences in the mind). Nietzsche’s Übermensch was representative of the freedom of people to define the nature of their own existence, as well as the desire for a new human who was neither master nor slave. Nietzsche idealized individual invents his or her values and creates the very terms under which they excel, all the while taking no regard for God, the State, or the social behaviour of herds. Nietzsche was thus able to show the clear commonality between anarchists and existentialists, and thus his draw from both movements.

Franz Kafka attended meetings of a Czech anarchist, anti-militarist and anti-clerical organization and who ofter cite the influence of anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin during these various meetings. Kafka’s work is most often about surreal and alienated characters who struggle with hopelessness and absurdity, themes that are cornerstones to existentialism, and at the same time presented critiques of the authoritarian family (Metamorphosis) and bureaucracy (The Trial), which he had strong views as institutions. Family life was a battleground, he viewed parents as persecutors, and that all they wanted to do is drag one down to them, back to the old days from which one longs to be become free and escape. This view of the family is said to have been influenced by Otto Gross, and Austrian anarchist and psychoanalyst, who blended Nietzsche and Stirner with Freud in developing his own libertarian form of psychology, one that stated that the human potential was frustrated by the authoritarian family. Kafka would also define capitalism as a bureaucracy as a system of relations of dependence where everything is arranged hierarchically and everything is in chains; in the end the chains of tortured humanity are made of the official papers of ministries.

Camus did reject the term existentialist, but he is considered to be an integral part of the existentialist movement. He concerned his works with facing what he called the absurd and how we should act to rebel against absurdity by living and opening up the road to freedom without transcendent reality. He was associated with the French anarchist movement, he was introduced to the Anarchist Student Circle as a sympathiser familiar with anarachist thought. He wrote for anarchist publications like Le Libertaire, La revolution Proletarienne and Solidaridad Obrera, he also stood with the anarchists when they expressed support for the uprising of the 1953 in East Germany. He would also become allied with the anarchists in 1956, in support of the workers’ uprising in Poland and then a year later with the Hugarian Revolution.

It is clear that the most substantial expression of his existentialist and anarchist positions are in his work The Rebel. For Camus, as for Nietzsche, rebellion should not delve into nihilism, and as Stirner would say, it should be distinct from revolution. It is not a lonely act, and does not destroy human solidarity but affirms the common nature of human beings. The experience of the absurd, that suffering is individual, but when it moves to rebellion, it is aware of being collective. The first step of the individual is to recognize that he or she shares such alienation with all human beings. Rebellion thus takes the individual out of isolation :”I rebel, therefore we exist”. At the end of the book Camus celebrates the anti-authoritarian spirit of history and comes out in favour of anarcho-syndicalism as the only real alternative: “Trade-unionism, like the commune, is the negation, to the benefit of reality, of abstract and bureaucratic centralism.”

I know that it is a lot to chew, but seeing that this notion of the anti-authoritarian struggle has been around for a long time and keep shifting and changing with time; all I know is that thanks to these dudes I have a much more convicted perspective and have taken what they have taught me and I have continued the evolution of these thoughts to help me make sense of this world and to give it some meaning. I still strongly believe that governement is a system of violence and oppression; it insures to oppress women with it suppression of their rights, maintains a systematic racist policy that insures that all minorities are denied their rights, that wages a war on its poor and ensuring that their is no possibility of advancement for them to better their lives, that enforces its imperialist goals abroad with capitalism and war. The list could go on, but I think that I might actually leave the last words to Chumbawamba (yes its the band from the ninetees with “I Get Knocked Down”, but they were actually a cool punk band with good things to say in the eighties…):

“Capitalism and Imperialism are dirty words. So our leaders and their advertising agencies fished around and stole a couple of words from here and there. Words like ‘Freedom’, and ‘Truth’… and thereon used them to describe every aspect of their unfree, dishonest government. The principles which the American state stands for have nothing to do with “freedom and democracy for theirs” – the US system and its European lap-dogs stand for the murder, oppression and exploitation of both its own citizens and people elsewhere.
Don’t forget it.” – Chumbawamba

Read Full Post »

I know that I am a little late writing about the rioting that has been happening in London the past few days following the death of a young black man in one of the poorest neighbourhoods. I find that there is a lot that needs to be examined if we are to truly understand why this happened and what was the real cause, we can also ask ourselves if rioting is really a political act. I find that since the rioting has started and continued, maybe we have lost sight of many factors. I find that the media has spun this into a story of looting and the meaninglessness of these actions, which I can see, but do not find, is entirely true. I also believe that this is a sign of things to come, more and more the poor and disenfranchised will rise up against an unjust and totalitarian regime that is oppressing them. If there are no real changes in these systems that protect the interests of the rich and marginalize the poor, we will live more and more events like this. Let’s start at the beginning of these riots and try to make sense of all of this.

Since the coalition has come to power there has been dozens of protests happening in London; multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital. Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment. A black or Asian youth is 7 times more likely to be searched by police in the London area, the stop and search has created great discontent among minorities, and rightfully so.

Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear. Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett stated that in countries where there is less of a gap between the rich and the poor, a country that is not so unequal, there is less crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, and mental illness. We can maybe agree to a certain degree that the system in England is broken (just like the US and Canada of course, I am not saying that we are better off) and we have to unsure that real change happens if we are to solve these problems, of course, capitalism is a great part of the problem also.

But, can rioting be revolutionary? I saw in an Adbusters article a good point on the debate that occurred between Michel Foucault and French Maoists in 1971 about the difference between the Maoists wish for a “people’s court” to judge the police in contrast to Foucault’s position of unconstrained brutal “popular justice”. Foucault, the history buff that he is, brings the example of the French Revolution and the September Massacres of 1792 where a thousand people were murdered by revolutionaries. For Foucault, this is what “popular justice” looks like and even the “moral ideology” that finds these illegal outbursts repellant “must be submitted to the scrutiny of the most rigorous criticism”. The Maoists believe that the people’s outrage and fury should be channeled into appropriate party structures. This debate does show how we imagine revolutionary change to take place. Will the revolution be an uncontrollable insurrection, like the examples of looting in London, or will we fear the mob and work on the side of power and the status quo?

So when does a riot become a revolution? Do the youth have to wear Black Block wear and shout Anarchists slogans? Must they be well-read, to be able to explain their ideas on the same level as Alain Badiou, Giorgi Agamben, and Antonio Negri? Is this the only way for people to recognize the flashmobs as the highest form of networked insurrection? Micah White believes that when the revolution comes, the ones that have been waiting too long will be the ones that miss it. They are too accustomed to looking in the wrong direction, waiting for the wrong words, the wrong actors, or the wrong kinds of political deeds. This is a revolutionary moment, it may happen in ways that the left may not like. There is a strong possibility of violence, even though we want nonviolence, and there will most definitely be pillaging, although we prefer a peaceful transfer of wealth. We are quick to condemn the looting and riots, are we to set up an approved structure of dissent? Why are we denying riots as a political act? Foucault stated “It is from the point of view of property that there are thieves and stealing”, we view looting as theft and don’t even consider it to be a political act. This is an outburst of “popular justice” against a corrupt and corrupting capitalist system, instead we listen to the views of the system that we are trying to overthrow.

The London riots are not as picturesque as maybe how we imagined the revolution to be, but the left as always said: “Revolution is not a dinner party, nor an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly, we like it or not, what an insurrection might look like if the forces of capitalism do not peacefully, voluntarily relinquish their stranglehold.”

I find that we must take some time to really look at what is happening, this is not a black and white issue. Also, a last thought to why maybe the looting could make sense, this is just a quick remark and don’t claim to be on official source on this. Wouldn’t it make sense that the poor and marginalized, who have lived a life of never being able to afford the stuff they are told to buy by the capitalist system, would take this as a good opportunity to finally accumulate the goods they have been denied for so long… I also do not think that cutting access to Twitter and Blackberry messenger will do much good (the people will still organize), if anything, it will demonstrate how our governments try to control all aspects of our lives. Let’s also not forget the West’s condemnation of Egypt and others when they blocked social medias to the masses that were taking to the streets. Also, this is not an isolated event, also when the people are clearly out-numbering the police, we know that this will not just go away.  I find that this is what happens when youth are bored and filled with inexplicable anger towards a system that oppresses and denies any opportunities in life (most of these people will never be able to buy a home, to find a secure form of income, etc.), riots are an option for change when someone has nothing to lose…


Read Full Post »