David Graeber's lament

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 21 11:53:48 MST 2002

David Graeber wrote:
>	Kewl!
>	You know you're getting somewhere when Marxist
>sectarian types write articles just to attack you.
>	But I realize now that you are right. When my
>dad dropped out of school and menial jobs to go fight
>in Spain, he was simply being silly and unrealistic.
>I will no longer be inspired by his example. When my mom
>imperilled her job as a seamstress to do organizing in
>the '30s and risk arrest or blacklisting, she was also
>being an idiot. The revolution will only be achieved
>by marching along in protest pits with signs. That's
>the only technique that's ever been successful in the
>past, isn't it?
>	David

David, when your father risked death in Spain and your mom risked arrest in
CIO organizing drives, they were involved with an entirely different kind
of enterprise than spray-painting a Starbucks window. They were part of a
mass movement that made decisions democratically and on life-or-death
matters. If a "black block" type had shown up at a textile workers picket
line in the 1930s to unilaterally initiate a rock-throwing incident, the
workers would have known how to deal with him.

Black block arrests, to the contrary, have more to do with a kind of
fetishization of tactics. Have you seen the website associated with Alex
Callinicos's people in the USA, called "left-turn"?
(http://www.left-turn.org/) Although I have little use for state-capitalism
or the kind of opportunism that led the IST'ers to tail end the black block
in Genoa, they do seem to be waking up to reality. What's notable is that
some of the left-turn people seem to be independent anarchists who are just
fed up with the kind of infantile ultraleftism you espouse, not very
becoming for a 40 year old man, y'know.

For example, you can find an Open Letter by Ben Grosscup and Doyle, two
self-described "revolutionary social anarchists", who write the following:

>>Regrettably, the development of the black bloc in North America has
reflected this trend. Instead of being a name for a set of tactics to
resist police brutality at street demonstrations, "black bloc" has become
an entity unto itself. It has taken on an entire subculture, persona, and a
host of culturally specific no-no's (like engaging in popular culture or
eating a hamburger). By definition there are no official leaders of the
black bloc. There is no official organization that makes black blocs show
up at demonstrations. However, in the minds of many who see and participate
in black blocs, anti-authoritarian beliefs and militant action have become
inseparable. In many anarchist circles today, one is not accepted as
sufficiently revolutionary without proper black attire, knowledge of
jargon, and in particularly awful cases, whether or not the person is a
young white male. These trend make anti-authoritarianism morph from a
coherent (not dogmatic) set of ideas, accessible and applicable to people
of all different backgrounds, to a small and even parochial sub-culture
that, despite talk of "diversity of tactics," embraces narrow and even
predictable means of resistance (dressing in black, acting anonymously,
organizing in affinity groups, engaging cops in street battles, etc.).
Furthermore, because it is becoming an entity instead of a tactic, there is
no room to critically question whether a black bloc at a demonstration is a
good idea or not. Some activists see militant action as the most
revolutionary tactic possible and therefore good. However, there is no such
thing as a revolutionary tactic. Revolution is a strategic process marked
by decisive moments of confrontation with powerful elites and the
development of counter structures that empower people to make decisions
about their lives and meet community needs.<<

Louis Proyect
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