Monthly Archives: August 2009

Answering Martin’s Questions Regarding Anarchism

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CNT-Poster

H/t to Martin for tagging me on this. I added a question (A), How were you introduced to anarchism?

(A) How were you introduced to anarchism?

I was introduced to anarchism in my teens through the punk-rock and hardcore punk music scene. While my understanding of anarchism was neither deep nor broad, the anti-authoritarian and DIY elements really appealed to me. Here is a little classic anarcho-punk:

When I got a bit older (20s) I started reading some of the classical anarchist authors and texts after volunteering at an anarchist press that will remain nameless; “Bakunin on Anarchism” (translated by Sam Dolgoff), Kropotkin’s “The Conquest of Bread,” Rudolf Rocker’s “Anarcho-Syndicalism,” Abel Paz’s “Durruti: The People Armed,” Murray Bookchin’s “The Spanish Anarchists” and loads of stuff by Paul Avrich including “Anarchist Portraits,” “Anarchist Voices,” “Sacco and Vanzetti,” and “The Haymarket Tragedy.”

1. What exactly do you mean by anarchism (which key ideas and thinkers are important to you)?

In its most simple formulation, libertarian socialism i.e. socialism that allows for a maximum of individual liberty. As Bakunin wrote, “Liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice and Socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.”

Back in my anarchist days I moved from an anarcho-syndicalist or anarcho-communist perspective to a much more individualist or mutualist position. It’s strange that my personal progression was the inverse of the historical development of anarchism as an ideology i.e from a form of mutualism influenced by Proudhon to Bakunin’s anarcho-collectivism to Kropotkin’s anarcho-communism.

As to which key ideas and thinkers are important to me, today I have moved rather far from my anarcho-roots. But back in the day I liked Benjamin Tucker and the American individualists, Errico Malatesta (anarcho-communist), Rudolf Rocker (anarcho-syndicalist), and especially Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and Ricardo Mella who advocated what they termed anarchismo sin adjetivos (anarchism without adjectives). These two authors found that anarchists shared more in common then all their hyphenated forms seemed to indicate.

I still have a lot of affinity for Carlo Tresca, who was able to work with anarchists, the syndicalists in the IWW and more mainstream trade-unionists. Like Mella, he was a bridge-builder between a variety of different leftwing movements and political perspectives. He was also a fierce opponent of Stalinists, fascists and the mob.

But the anarchists I felt I had the most in common with were people like Dolgoff or the working-class anarchist immigrants Avrich interviewed in “Anarchist Voices”. These people were activists and not traditional intellectuals. Their stories, their families, their struggles, their language, spoke to me and I found a lot of inspiration reading about their lives.

Sadly, I have found that anarchists in the U.S. have lost much of their willingness to actively fight against totalitarian socialism. Sure, they’ll diss the commies in their newspapers and journals. But when it comes to rallies and demonstrations, the anarchists and Stalinists, Maoists and other totalitarian socialists march side-by-side. In Tresca’s day, the anarchists would be fighting these scum in the streets, factories and neighborhoods. I have written a little about this here and here.

CNT-tram

2. Does the anarchist experiment in the Spanish Republic have any relevance today (and if so what), or is the continuing fascination with it simply rose-tinted leftist nostalgia?

Allowing my remnant of anarchist influence to show through, I prefer to refer to the Spanish Revolution. The main relevance of that event is anarchists and other liberty-minded individuals should never, ever, trust the communists. Even if that means working with liberals, non-radicals and—dare I say it—other advocates of capitalism.

As to the rose-tinted nostalgia, it is incredibly strong among anarchists. As I have mentioned elsewhere, CNT militants certainly resisted Communist attempts at destroying the anarchist collectives. But, at the same time, the anarchists also implemented pro-capitalist methods themselves.

These methods including tying wages to productivity, the implementation of the piece-rate system, harsh punitive measures for slackers, even forced collectivization which most anarchists fail to admit.

As Seidman writes, “A dispassionate examination of the charges and countercharges leads to the conclusion that both anarchist and Communists were correct. The former used illegal coercion to initiate collectives, and the latter used it to destroy them.” (126) (Michael Seidman “Republic of Egos: A Social History of the Spanish Civil War“. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002).

I highly recommend Seidman’s book as he does not have an ideological axe to grind and is trying to humanize our understanding of the conflict. Seidman argues for most Spaniards, the ideological struggles mattered less than day-to-day survival. What did they do? How did they survive? These are the questions Seidman seeks to answer, not which side had the proper ideological line. For most Spaniards, consumption was the primary consideration, not class-struggle.

Where we are today, I think the example of the Mondragon Cooperatives is more relevant than the Spanish anarchist collectives.

primitivists

3. What exactly would it mean to implement anarchist ideas in a twenty-first century, globalised economy and polity – and would it even be possible or practicable?

That depends on what sort of anarchist you ask. The anarcho-primitivists have different ideas than the anarcho-insurrectionists who have different ideas than the anarcho-syndicalists who have different ideas than the anarcho-communists.

Possible, no.

Practicable, no.

In the end, anarchism is a utopian ideology. In my teens and twenties, utopianism had a lot of appeal for me. Today, I find that when utopian ideals are implemented they lead to dystopian realities. In other words, Hobbes was right. Human beings need the State in order to have what we know as civilization. That does not mean we should refrain from being vigilant against the encroachment of the State in our personal lives but we should recognize the benefits the State provides to us as individuals, families, etc.

I also think it is important to point out that some of the most important anarchist thinkers were intensely anti-Semitic. I am thinking specifically of Bakunin and Proudhon. This usually is swept under the rug by anarchists, including Jewish anarchists. Jewish Marxists do the same thing with Marx.

Upcoming Events in NYC: The United States and The Cold War September Seminars

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[Maybe I'll see you at John Earl Haynes' presentation?]

***The United States and The Cold War September Seminars***

To RSVP or to receive a copy of the paper please email, zk3@nyu.edu

Thursday, September 17, 2009*
Dana Frank, University of California, Santa Cruz
“The AFL-CIO’s Cold War in Honduras: The First Years of Intervention, 1954-59″
5:30 – 7:00pm (with reception to follow)
*
Thursday, September 25, 2009*
John Earl Haynes, Library of Congress,
“Alexander Vassiliev’s Notebooks and the Documentation of Soviet Intelligence
Activities in the United States during the Stalin Era”
Special Start Time: 5:00 – 6:300pm (with reception to follow)

*
Tamiment Library Book Talk*

To RSVP please email zk3@nyu.edu
*
Wednesday, September 23, 2009*
Nelson N. Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara
“The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business”
6:00pm- 7:30pm (with reception to follow)

Tamiment Library
70 Washington Square South , 10th Floor
(between LaGuardia and Greene Streets)

Sunday Links

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You may have noticed things have been rather slow around here lately. No excuses on my part. I’ve just been enjoying the end of the summer with my wife and son. Too bad the beaches are closed this weekend due to Hurricane Bill. But it gives me an opportunity to send out some CVs and do some reading.

Airforce Amazons: “Yale Surrenders

Contentions: “The Problem is Qaddafi Not Megrahi

Engage covers the Blood Libel in Sweden

Adam Holland on those loony Paulistas

Long War Journal: “Senior al Qaeda Leader Leaves Pakistan, Directs Iraq Operations from Syria

Modernity Blog on Gilad Atzmon (see above)

Small Wars Journal on Social Media and Critical Thinking

John Bolton in Standpoint on “The Post-American Presidency

Tablet has a piece by James Kirchick on Robert Novak, Judaism and Israel

Ahmadinejad Picks Terrorist for Defense Minister of Iran

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Interpol revealed that Ahmad Vahidi, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s pick for Defense Minister, is wanted by the agency for his role in the bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. The terrorist attack left 85 people dead and wounded more than 300.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly expressed his concern over the impending appointment but he avoided “a question as to whether the U.S. authorities might arrest Vahidi, if he was approved as defense minister and he tried to come to the United States on U.N. business” (VOA).

Roni Sofer (Ynet) writes:

[T]he Argentinean Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the appointment, calling it an affront to Argentine justice and the victims of the terrorist attack on the Jewish community center.

The statement further read that news of the nomination was received with grave concern in Argentina.

Tehran brushed aside the criticism as part of a “Zionist plot”, as Ahmadinejad press adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr wondered why the Argentineans didn’t bring up the matter in the past.

Momento 24 (Argentina) notes:

“It is not surprising, if  the information is confirmed, this appointment, since this is a regime that does not surrender for trial the suspects of the terrorist attack,” said the head of the AMIA, Guillermo Borger.

He also warned that the Iranian regime protects the suspects and appointed them as public officiasls, but never before in a very important role with minister rank.

Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill Frees Lockerbie Terrorist

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lockerbie pan am

כל מי שנעשה רחמן במקום אכזרי
סוף שנעשה אכזרי במקום רחמן
All who are made to be compassionate in the place of the cruel
In the end are made to be cruel in the place of the compassionate
–Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16

This is certainly the case with the brain-dead Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill who has allowed convicted Libyan terrorist Abdelbaset al-Megrahi free on “compassionate grounds.”

So now the scumbag will spend his remaining days in Libya surrounded by friends and family. A more fitting end would have been tossing him out of an airplane two miles above Tripoli. I know that sounds harsh but this man is a mass murderer and deserves a fate far harsher than the one he will receive in Libya.

Does minister MacAskill think this reflects well on the Scottish system of justice? The predominant viewpoint from the U.S. is the U.K. is increasingly sewing the seeds of its destruction with these sorts of decisions.

Rant over…

Read More:

Official Website of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103

Connecticut Post:

“Heartsick” is how the mother of a Shelton victim of the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, described her feelings on the possibility that the Libyan terrorist convicted of that attack could be released early from prison on compassionate grounds.

“What pains me the most is that he will get a chance to say goodbye to his family and that’s not something we got to do,” said Jane Davis, whose daughter, Shannon, a 19-year old Syracuse University student, was among those killed when the plane exploded and slammed into the ground in Scotland just days before Christmas in 1988.

Daily Mail:

Whether or not Abdelbaset Al Megrahi is released on ‘compassionate’ grounds, let us be under no illusion. This has nothing to do with compassion – and everything to do with cynical political horse trading and the rehabilitation of the murderous tyrant Colonel Muammar Gaddafi…

This is Blair paying back Gaddafi, one more sign that the mad monster is being welcomed back to the fold of diplomatic respectability.

Why does Gaddafi deserve such a gift? Because Blair considers his most prized foreign policy ‘success’ to be that of bringing the dictator in from the cold – in a deal which saw Gaddafi renounce his attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and his sponsorship of terrorism.

Gaddafi’s rehabilitation is a murky story of oil, guns, terror and backroom trading.

It is no coincidence that, around the time Blair was negotiating a deal to allow Libyan convicts held in Britain to serve out their time in their home country, Libya awarded a £450million oil development contract to British company BP.

In 2008, on his vainglorious global farewell tour as Prime Minister, Blair made great play of going to see Gaddafi. The meeting in a tent was like two grotesque and ageing rock stars bidding

each other their adieus. Blair was presented with a camel saddle as a present, which was soon discreetly sold.

BP executives were soon joined in Libya by those from Royal Dutch, who were also after oil contracts, and BAE Systems, keen to re-equip its armed forces. The initial £450million BP deal could be worth £13billion, if the oil and gas are as extensive as is claimed.

Boycott Scotland:

The government of the United Kingdom has washed its hands of the entire affair, allowing the Scottish government total freedom in taking this perfidious action against the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103.

The actions of the Scottish government are inexcusable. A man who is responsible for the mass murder of 270 innocent civilians must be held accountable for such a cold blooded and ruthless act. Freeing a terrorist in order to further ties with the tyrannical Libyan regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi and to further the commercial interests of British Petroleum in that region is repulsive and sickening.

Unless the Scottish government rescinds this decision to release al-Megrahi, and if the British Parliament continues to avoid intervening in the matter, we urge all Americans to protest this action by boycotting the United Kingdom and Scotland in full. Don’t travel to Scotland or do business there (or in the United Kingdom in general) and don’t buy any British or Scottish products.

While I do not agree with the call to boycott English or Scottish products, I certainly understand the sentiment. Why do I disagree with the boycott? Because most Scots and British are just as offended by the justice minister’s stupid and insenstive decision as we are here in the states. When you see the townspeople of Lockerbie lined up to jeer and curse as al-Megrahi was escorted by the police to the airport, you should know this is the case. They should not pay for the sins of minister MacAskill or the crimes of al-Megrahi.

Storm King Art Center

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This place is amazing:

Storm King Art Center is a museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature. Five hundred acres of landscaped lawns, fields and woodlands provide the site for postwar sculptures by internationally renowned artists. At Storm King, the exhibition space is defined by sky and land. Unencumbered by walls, the subtly created flow of space is punctuated by modern sculpture. The grounds are surrounded by the undulating profiles of the Hudson Highlands, a dramatic panorama integral to the viewing experience. The sculptures are affected by changes in light and weather, so no two visits are the same.

I have wanted to go for a while now but it is a bit of a drive from the city. It was so hot! Spring and Fall may be a better time to visit.

Here are some pics:

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[Pyramidian by Mark di Suvero]

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[Gui and Knobs by Alexander Calder]

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[Black Flag by Calder]

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[The Arch by Calder]

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[City on the High Mountain by Louise Nevelson]

Summer Days: More Grillin’, More Chillin’

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We went to Long Beach on Friday. It was so great to get out of the city for the day with my wife, son and bro-in-law. There is something about swimming in the ocean which is so much nicer than a chlorinated pool.

We had a little seafood bbq today at our place. Made a shrimp cocktail and grilled up some ahi tuna steaks in a teriyaki marinade and some lobsters with butter sauce.

Here are the lobsters:

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The sauce for these is very simple: butter, parsley, white wine and hot sauce.

A nice summery tune:

[Harlem River Drive, "Harlem River Drive Theme"]