Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anarchy, beginning, communism, indians, introduction, occupy, primitive, whitherburoo
“Thus in the midst of their greatest festivities, though physically thronging together, they live like wild beasts in a deep solitude of spirit and will, scarcely any two being able to agree since each follows his own pleasure and caprice. By reason of all this, providence decrees that, through obstinate factions and desperate civil wars, they shall turn their cities into forests and the forests into dens and lairs of men. . . Hence peoples who have reached this point of premeditated malice, when they receive this last remedy of providence and are thereby stunned and brutalized, are sensible no longer of comforts, delicacies, pleasures and pomp, but only of the sheer necessities of life. And the few survivors in the midst of an abundance of things necessary for life naturally become sociable, and, returning to the primitive simplicity of the first world of peoples, are again religious, truthful and faithful.”
-Vico, Scienza Nuova
1. It comes to pass, at last: this great Leviathan that has swallowed the whole world, now commences its death agony. The mechanical man likened unto the perfected State, with unweeping eyes and unfeeling heart, rusts from its own internal emptiness. The clockwork society breaks down. And the returning ghost towns, like a forgotten malediction, return to gaze mournfully at the passing of the glory of the world. The suburbs, this great gilded prison, agonize as they are left to return to nature, to slowly decay in their false-seeming gentility. The streetlights no longer illuminate the night on the edge of town, but cede way to their precursors, of which they are only the sad imitation, the moon and stars. The roads crumble into gravel, and from thence return to dust that they always were. Like unto like, America “is the nothingness that reduces itself to nothingness”, in the words of Hegel. Such are the heart-rending times the Americans inhabit.
This was the scenic backdrop of Occupy, which was not the beginning of anything new for America, as so many vulgar mediocrities would have us believe, but the faded repetition of its threadbare paltry ideals, and in truth, the pageant of the death agony of the American citizenry. The body politic will not revive: it is a corpse already beginning to putrefy. Who wants to be a part of death? There were those, with their prefabricated void collapsing of its own nullity, who wanted at all costs to stop this historically unprecedented implosion. They complained about rebuilding bridges, redistributing this or that. But look how intolerant their tolerance was: these liberals were openly working with the cops. Look how their spirits have so collapsed, these masterless slaves hate anyone acting manfully against the shameful degradation called American normality. And look how foolish these so-called educated are, who still believe they live in a democracy even while the police are throwing tear gas into their right to assembly, even while their beloved half-black puppet is currently giving the police the legal right to kill anyone. It is no great secret that America is terminally ill: it is clearly already braindead, its ever-feeble heart reduced to an automata of life support machines. One day, the de facto wards of this inhuman vegetable, the bankers and the military-industrial complex, will decide to pull the plug.
Before this predictable ignominious end, there was a message of hope, but not for the Stars and Stripes. The Occupy tents appeared in the heart of the grey steel cities, looking to the careful observer like a thousand Indian tipis had returned to the land they loved so dearly, exactly as they promised to do not so long ago. It had changed so much for the worse, but they still knew it as their own. It was as if they came back when Detroit and its productive apparatus lay shattered on the ground, when green shoots came into the crumbling brick and concrete buildings. When the long awaited wreck and ruin spoken of in the Ghost Dance was becoming so clear. When America was drowning in all the blood of the innocent it had spilled, and choking to death on all its ill-gotten plunder. The Indian spirits were completing their invisible revolution.
In these times, everything is progress towards the end. In America, all is progress towards the great collapse, the shriveling up and withering away of so much accumulated wickedness. Everyone contributes, willingly or no: the military and its totally failed, never-ending wars; the tea party cretins trying to refound their doomed American dream; a general culture spreading mindless saturnalian decadence, as before they danced in Rome even when the Empire was crumbling away; abused and neglected Mother Earth herself, and her beloved children, the ghosts of the Indians passed away in agony who haunt the dim-lit parking lots where nothing ever happens. . . everyone, in truth, longs for the collapse, because feeling and sentiment have retreated inside themselves to construct the world denied to them-all private life has become egoism and loneliness, an ornately gilded abyss. The public life of civic ideals no longer arouses even the scorn of laughter, so much has this passed into generalized derision with the growth of factional intrigues, conspiracies, crimes and murders. The American century is imploding, unmourned and unloved, from its own corruption and venality. Those who can still hear, let them hear.
2. The Americans have lived through a social movement, its ebb and flow, and now sit back and digest what they lived. They had forgotten their bodies, forgot the sting of tear gas and the feel of rocks in the pocket, a trusty stick in the hand, comrades all around. They had forgotten their bodies at the same time as history itself, because America is the most total alienation of humanity from itself.
To our eyes, the most remarkable thing, and most indicative of an alienation of intelligence from the mind, was the poverty of all hitherto-published analyses of Occupy. There was the predictable, hideous liberalism of Hedges and the rest of the peace police, that everyone knows only too well from the so-called antiwar movement. There was abstract graduate student Marxism, which only reflected the abstraction of their own lives. There was Crimethinc which now, having abandoned its previous lifestylism, has decided to become anarcho-insurrectionalist: the evidence of this turnabout is available to anyone who cares to read the back issues, or has some personal experience. But the same lack of principle is equally evident now: much like the spineless jellyfish that goes wherever the sea takes it, Crimethinc has now abandoned the anarchist identity of eating out of the garbage can for the anarchist identity of burning garbage cans. But that the latter is infinitely preferable to the former has nothing to do with an advance of Crimethinc, rather with the great sea tide of revolution of the past few years. One does not worry overmuch, as surely Crimethinc will be washed ashore and left to dry up in the sunshine of critique.
Various articles did remark on the incapacity of average people to connect America’s Occupy to its global contexts. They should have applied this critique to themselves, for how they failed to note how the global wave of revolts associated with Occupy- Cairo, Tunis, Madrid, Athens- were really only the globalization of American-style civil rights protests, and in our country that originated this type of civil rights protest, there was only a feeble imitation of elsewhere. Agamben was surely correct to see in Tiananmen the new face, the new type of revolt for the post-modern era. But it also means that America’s world-historic role to play, reducing everything to a nothingness of political debate, has ended. After all, in countries with more poverty, with more collective traditions, with less Protestant self-control, this same type of protest overthrows governments. At any rate, this means the end of a certain type of existence for the country itself.
What existence was there in America previously? It means very little to say, as the stock phrase would have it, that America was founded on slavery and genocide. So were many other countries. What matters is what is special about the American relation to their specific historical crimes? This, only a serious study of American history, and history in general, could give us. Unfortunately the so-called university intellectuals don’t spend their time reading, and what little they do is certainly not well-directed, just as so few monks at the end of the Middle Ages spent their time praying. Thus so few writers treated Occupy as a manifestation of the American phenomenon of Jacksonian Democracy as analyzed famously by De Tocqueville, or even further back to the troubles and arguments concerning the articles of confederation, the constitution, the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts, etc. To draw a line from these past moments, through the Civil War, the Populist and Progressive movements, to the New Deal, Civil Rights and 60′s, anti-globalization, and to Occupy, in short to treat Occupy in America as a specifically American moment, and Occupy globally as a moment of the globalization of American conditions, was lost on everyone. The growth of ideas of ideal citizen participation in a giant middle class system of representative democracy, with extreme energy but also reserve that rarely spills into violence, and never into revolution- this is the peculiarly American system. This is the system that worked, seemingly infallibly for a period, but now begins to collapse of its own perfection, like a towering house of cards that comes to put too much weight on its base. And in the gaps of the fallen cards new spaces of freedom appear.
But here was also remarkable: not only the feebleness of the previously existing reformist tension of the gigantic middle class, but the lack of any pretense at reform on the part of the politicians.
The Marxists, who only see the world in the night where all cows are black, have nothing to say to Americans other than the sad banalities they offer everywhere else. With this proviso, that here it is even a provincial and helpless variety. The Europeans can join Die Linke or Syriza, the American Marxists can offer only a ghostlike repetition of past failures, and an analysis of the economy in which no one believes anymore, and about which certainly no one cares. Moreover the Americans, with their fierce Protestant individuality, were never and could never have been attracted by Marxism. All the great heroes and traditions of American leftism are explicitly anarchist or anarchistic: Haymarket and May Day, the Wobblies, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Diggers and the counter-culture at large, the Battle of Seattle, the intellectuals of Bookchin, Chomsky, Graeber, etc.
The Americans are not even aware of their own history, perhaps even more so for radicals, and thus the turn of events of Occupy also makes no sense to them. Tom Hayden, in his excellent study The Love of Possession is a Disease With Them, remarked how when he visited the North Vietnamese, they knew more of America’s history than he did. They studied it as one studies an enemy from afar. How more greivous is the error when one does not study an enemy up close? The only branch of the workers’ movement that had some staying power, some cultural resonance and grounding in the U.S. was Anarchism, and that on the West Coast. Which is not to overstate the case: the French wrote that one cannot transpose Greek conditions to France, the land of the period of revolution from 1789 to 1871. How much more so would this be true for the Americans. Yet the Beat poets were aware, and wrote, that in some small way the wobbly spirit had survived to live on in the West. One might attribute this to the cultural dimensions of the restlessness of the frontier spirit, admirably captured by Frederick Jackson Turner, that, having reached the Pacific, turns inward against the newly constituted social order. The frontier only closed in 1890 with the Ghost Dance War, the wobblies were battling shortly thereafter. From thence to the struggles of the Depression, and the counterculture of the 60′s, then to the Battle of Seattle, the green anarchy movement and the student skirmishes of the past few years: only on the West Coast is there a tradition, however small, and only there is there the tiniest acceptance of political violence, as demonstrated in the refusal of Occupy Oakland to condemn property destruction. And if the complaint of the pointlessness of going to Oakland seems to have finally been taken into account on May Day, then so much the better. Berkeley and San Francisco offer better chances and targets, and it makes more sense for white revolutionaries to trash their own neighborhood rather than the visibly dilapidated and impoverished downtown of Oakland.
General analyses of America divide it roughly into a North, South, and West. The West has specific historical conditions that allow a form of Anarchism to exist there in some force, under its own banner. But not so elsewhere. Thus it is simply unreflective to demand that others emulate the West Coast in areas that are, effectively, separate countries, just as in Europe, Spaniards and Greeks can share aspirations as Mediterranean nations with a long history of extreme political violence, but the idea of transposing Greek tactics to Germany or Sweden, for example, makes absolutely no sense. We know from history the former two regions of North and South are so different as to have been separate countries at war for years. They are Sparta and Athens, one a landed aristocracy, the other a city-based democracy. Neither of the two have a tolerance for political violence; but the South for violence in general, yes, whereas for the North, not at all. The South is the bucolic countryside, the North is the urban sprawl of one contiguous ‘megalopolis’ from Boston to Washington. The South has Poe and Faulkner, terror and madness, the brooding over lost wealth; the North Thoreau, Whitman, the spirit of quaker pacifism, Anglophilism, and tolerance.
Finally the South deserves notice because it is the heart of America, America’s America of tiny towns and well-trimmed lawns, contentedness and civic pride. This is because it was the South that won the victories of the revolution, the planter aristocracy giving forth victorious Washington at Yorktown along with Jefferson and other theorists. After all, even the acts of treason to the Union in 1861 are constituted on the basis, the exact blueprint, of 1776, with the calling of state representatives to decide for independence and forming a new government. Hence the South is the cultural heart of America, and no wonder it gives such undue support to the Republican Party and the Army. However now Southern conditions are about to be generalized: only in the South has great wealth been lost in disastrous wars, and on the riverboats that the stock markets come to resemble more and more, and poverty nestled among American masses, and a universal reprobation met its abhorrent behavior. But now all of America has lost its war on terror, the money is drying up, and because of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the general society all of America now deserves to be treated as was the South during Civil Rights, namely, as infamous and uncivilized. Agamben also writes that all societies go bankrupt in their own fashion: the Italians under Berlusconi, the Germans of 1933, etc. America has become spiritually bankrupt, much as MLK warned, and whenever this happens material bankruptcy is not far off in arriving.
Thus the real issue now posed to the Americans is: how to relate to the collapse? The U.S., the land of micro-fascism and molecular capitalism par excellence, is now evaporating, molecule by molecule. There is no austerity plan to protest against because the austerity is already being carried out in the hidden corners of the country. The small town library closes, the post office shuts up for good, the mayor’s office declares bankruptcy. Without as many police the people decide to police themselves, as we read for Vallejo, Ca. Americans are in a more revolutionary situation than they realize: they are in a situation like the end of Rome, where objectively a revolution should have happened long ago, but did not, and now the society is decaying and dying, like a butterfly too weak to shed its chrysalis: the last kernel of loyal citizenry has been wrecked by the War on Terror, they no longer believe in anything but suicide. Just read a newspaper. Graffiti is sprouting up everywhere. There is only a police force that everyone hates, and taxes and debt and no jobs. The society is collapsing in an orgy of its own violence: the violence that constituted the social fabric of the Americans, this blind bloodlust of Custer that so horrified the Indians, is now turning against the social fabric itself. The Hobbesian myth is becoming an unreal reality, for a time, before peace and contentedness return to this shattered, wounded, ancient land. But the Americans are lucky: whereas Rome collapsed into a foreign and inferior superstition of feeble-minded slaves and jaded aristocrats, the Americans fall back on what existed agelessly before their unhappy civilization. Indian simplicity, harmony with nature, collectivism, simple and unadorned love and devotion, guerrilla bravery. . .these are the things to remember. Americans don’t have to worry about a state to smash-they won’t even be at any comparable level of strength for years, they only just now begin a process of decades– they rather have to find something redeeming worth living, to save something from the final suicidal catastrophe of the American death culture.
The whole new world opens up. Communism is first posed, abstractly, in a seeming plenitude: the life lived inside Occupy. Then the real world arrives with its numberless police, and even attempts to squat are dislodged. The question is of such utmost importance: where to nurture communism? It almost poses itself in the sense of Deleuze, of considerations of geophilosophy. If, on the West Coast, where the mountains descend to the sand and cliffs of the blue Pacific, the radicals go “up country”, as it was once called, they will still find old hippies in the countryside who will help them, who lived through the past era of revolution, and will find a life free from the expense and madness of the decaying American cities. In fact the expropriated farm at Berkeley offers the perfect bridge in its location at the end of the city, both to the countryside and to the past history of People’s Park, of American utopian experiments in general. The Americans have their own history of retreating to the land, that runs like a hidden current through their history. If Americans look hard at their own history they will find Utopia trying to emerge on the farm. Even in our general anglophone culture, Occupy the Land was the slogan of the original Diggers of the 1640′s. Or if the comrades in the Northeast go upstate, as happened previously at Oneida and with such stunning success at Woodstock, or even further to the tiny towns of Vermont, the land where Shays lived the rest of his life after his failed rebellion, and where Bookchin and his followers went. Perhaps those from the South can find something in the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia, where John Brown planned to base his apocalyptic guerrilla war, and where the miners have struggled so fruitlessly, and for so long, against such odds. There is no great city to seize in America: just look at the wars with the British, they seized capital city after capital city, the Americans simply moved away. If there are only a few people in the countryside, there are only a few people in the cities worth talking to anyways: most of them are human wrecks of capitalism. If strategically and historically, space in America is almost flat, tending to zero, then go where no space exists: follow the heart, where it manifested in history, where kindness ends distance.
But the main point is to consolidate the gains of Occupy-these gains were very real, invisible only to historical materialists and skeptics- they were the friendships forged in prison and in the skirmish, the new world in the once-lonely hearts of millions of children of suburbia. Occupy, in its American context, means: the thawing of the glacial American sociality, on the route to its final evaporation. When Seattle was smashed again, the whole lost decade of the War on Terror is ended; the perspectives briefly glimpsed in the anti-globalization movement return, at a higher level. There are some days worth decades, and some decades worth days. The War on Terror decade had not the worth of one fine day in May.
In response, the police have begun to designate anarchists in general as public enemy number one. In fact, they are now to be treated as ‘the internal enemy’ of counter-insurgency theory. Thus, it is nowhere a question of repression, in the sad binary model of a power and a people. So many have read Foucault but so few have understood: what is at stake is not just repression but repression and then the creation of a subjectivity to be repressed apart from the general populace. There are no judicial questions (as even in the U.S. entrapment used to be not allowed as evidence before its terminal decadence) but military-strategical questions. The anarchists are to be presented as those trying to perform fantastic and disconnected acts of violence (which ironically will probably backfire and make anarchists even more beloved to all those who want the collapse, just as the majority of the world loved September 11). Even so, one cannot really count on a prevailing nihilism in American life to combat these strategies, as they are factors in play, not a strategy in itself. In fact rather than reaffirming whatever unimportant if not non-existent Anarchist identity existing America, as so many would be tempted to do (and here Crimethinc presents itself in its negative aspect, as the retarded consciousness of U.S. Anarchy in their latest anti-repression pamphlet), one would rather refuse this identity and merge into indistinction. In fact this idea has already been circulating amongst those repressed of the eco-anarchist movement about their aggressive veganism-puritanism, moralism, anti-humanism, etc. Thus it is clear to anyone that anarchists in general will be attacked the way the green anarchists were: but has no one even read what the prior generation of eco-radicals themselves have written? Certainly it’s not theoretical enough for the university Marxists, but other radicals have no excuse not to read what was written by those involved in the eco-scare cases. In any event, the question is not one of solidarity, which is unconditional, but on what basis and to what end. To try to free comrades, to not assume any political identity, or to affirm a feel-good label of extremism on the basis of a forthcoming political movement? A movement of American anarchism exists marginally, and only on the West coast because of cultural factors there: in a certain sense the Americans don’t have to go through the arduous process of evolution and internal critique of Greek Anarchy as documented in the excellent texts of flesh-machine, or rather, they shouldn’t. They don’t have to drive across the distance of a Siberia for a few days of tiny disturbances in a police state city, as in Chicago, or previously, any summit really. They can strike where there are, or go elsewhere for the duration. They don’t even have to wear black. Their extreme backwardness and weakness can become a blessing: they can fight oppression and build new lives without labels, as just humans.
Everyone asks, after the storms of battle, what next? We lost so many friends and lovers to the emptiness that we too, became loveless, and empty. But now there is a chance for building new buildings, for loving new lovers, for filling old emptiness, to end the wandering. In sum, Occupy, for the 1% of those who wanted to radicalize it, centers on resurrecting the counter-culture, with its urban space and its rural space, where anyone with a free heart could move like a fish in the sea. Now we, gasping fish dying of the outside world, have to cobble together our own new sea. Without the silliness, the drugs, the mysticism, the apathy. And this time, to last. Neither to rot in isolation nor to get lost in the normality of the American way of life after a rebellious youth. To escape from the life of student and barista, homeless and stay-at-home. Too many are rotting in the basements of their parental homes or at school. Provide the means for massive societal defection and it will surely come to pass-this is Grogan’s great lesson! In our lonely age of concrete, the guerrillas have to become farmers of the spirit, to plant the forest in which they will move. With the societal implosion, Americans will be forced into a new sociality, a new relationship with themselves and nature. It is already underway, with the market gardens of decaying suburbia springing up everywhere, and weeds and vines taking over the indifferent brick buildings. Those who read the signs, and act resolutely, will be all the better placed to profit from the generalized dissolution.
The Americans are only beginning to learn about sadness. When they have spent all the money and lost all the wars they will have only their own emptiness reflected back at them in their crumbling country with its abandoned factories and rotting monuments. . . but for the Indians, for all those who want the collapse, it is the beginning of the new life, it is the passing away of a world, the negation of the negation of the American way of life.
Escape. Rebuild the counter-culture, commune by commune. What care we of collapse, so long as we find one another? Let America and its glittering emptiness perish- we are for the Indians, we are for primitive, pure communism.
And we are beginning. .