The "clash within the Muslim world"

Phyllis Bennis at Znet:
The political framework of this “Global War on Terror” has tweaked the idea of a “clash of civilizations” to refer to something slightly different. Now the Bush administration speaks not of that clash between civilizations, but rather a clash within a civilization – specifically within the Muslim world. It is a “clash,” administration officials warn, in which “we” must prevail. This has shaped the latest version of how the U.S. proposes to understand the Arab world, the Middle East, the Islamic countries – as a clash between “moderates” and “extremists.” Those people, governments, countries, dictators, militias whom “we” define as “moderate” support U.S. efforts towards control and domination of their country/region/world. The “extremists” are those who resist such efforts.

Cartoon Kate

Cartoons by Kate Evans...

The bombings in Madrid

The end of the Spanish army participation in the "global war" was coming, the governing Partido Popular (PP) soon after it lost the elections...

Maggie Schmitt, 2004:

Around the rest of Europe and the US the hypothesis that the bombings were produced by Al Qaeda was circulating since midday: here in Madrid the media has treated that hypothesis as a "subversive campaign" and suppressed it entirely. The government has called for a massive demonstration under the slogan "With the victims, For the Constitution, Against Terrorism." "For the Constitution," you must understand, is to say 'for the centralized state', perhaps even 'for the present government': the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was a compromise made to facilitate the transition from Francoism, but which left many (from the Left and from the autonomous regions) extremely dissatisfied. It continues to be a point of tension. Thus the demonstration proposed is a means of gathering up all the pain and fear and anger and confusion of the people and soldering this into a national consensus of support for the PP, a ban on any criticism. Three days before elections.

Now as I troll through newspapers all around the world, the hypothesis that Al Qaeda is responsible for the attacks seems more and more generally confirmed. Still the Spanish news insists on ETA. Who knows? As was the case with September 11th, to the degree that I don't have any access to the truth or any criteria for judging what is true and what is not in this case, what is important to think about is not so much 'who did it' as 'what are the consequences.' On the level of immediate consequences, many people from social movements breathed a sigh of relief to hear that Al Qaeda claimed the bombings: at least about that we have something to say. At least about that we can intervene, we can respond with things like: "This is the fault of the government that got us involved in a global war despite the opposition of 90% of the population." Or we can denounce them for having assumed it was ETA. Or we can group around the migrants' organizations, which will no doubt find themselves bombarded by a new intensified islamophobic criminalization.

War reporter Robert Fisk retired

He has related war too much to the concept of anarchy because war is a lot about power and domination, but this is a video worth showing.


The US Military Expenditure

9/11 and the culture of fear

Cindy Milstein, 2003:
The period of a transparent politics-from-below that interlinked a multiplicity of uprisings from the Zapatistas to Genoa in a global movement against capitalism seemed to disappear with New York’s twin towers. Certainly, the nonhierarchical forms of organization that defined the “anti-globalization” movement lingered — from consultas and spokescouncils to a do-it-yourself infrastructure of media, medics, and legal aid — but now only among anti-authoritarian leftists, who had introduced such utopian notions in the first place. In the post-September 11 culture of fear, liberal social justice activists and orthodox Marxists alike raced away from the grassroots practices that had become normative at the mass direct actions of the recent past.

The anti-war movement in North America

Naomi Klein in Socialist review about her new book “The Shock Doctrine” and the movement against the war in Iraq:

I'm not really in a position to comment on the anti-war movement in Britain. But one problem with the anti-war movement in North America was the fear of seeming unpatriotic after 9/11. It really distorted the honesty of the movement.
It used slogans and iconography which were designed in response to this fear. The economic analysis was dropped because it was seen as divisive. I wrote the book because we need to be drawing the connections between the violence and the economic system it serves, and even if it means that there are fewer people out for demonstrations it would be a more sustainable movement.
We don't want activism that is just a short blast and then followed by disillusionment.


German Greens : the transition to professionalism

Janet Biehl (1993):

Almost as soon as die Grünen entered the federal apparatus, the defining democratic impulses of the movement were brought into question and even abandoned by many of the Bundestag delegates themselves. Those who became generally committed to exercising parliamentary power came to be known as "realos"; those who defended the original values, in turn, generally came to be known as "fundis" and later regrouped as the left within the movement; this also encompassed Greens who accepted the use of the parliamentary apparatus to publicize and dramatize their program. It was the realos who now rejected the principles of Green extraparliamentary grassroots-democratic radicalism and adapted to the conventional framework of the parliamentary establishment. Otto Schily, a lawyer who in the 1970s had been a flamboyant, defense attorney for the members of the Baader Meinhof terrorist group, now basked in the limelight as a Bundestag deputy and did as much as he could to professionalize die Grünen and eliminate rotation. (He later left the Greens and joined the Social Democratic Party.) Two former leaders of the "Spontis" (or Revolutionary Struggle, anarchistic street revolutionaries from Frankfurt in the 1970s) ―Joschka Fischer and Daniel ("the Red") Cohn-Bendit― entered the party after it had achieved a measure of success and became media darlings and joined Schily in arguing that Greens should be able to hold parliamentary offices in the conventional way. Together these realos attempted to professionalize the Greens into an environmentalist and pragmatist party that would be comfortable within in the existing system rather than remain a collectivist "non-party party" that would challenge it.

More about the early Greens in Europe...


Social ecology and humanism

What was social ecology according to Murray Bookchin? How did it relate to humanism and "deep ecology"?

Morally, it is avowedly humanistic in the high Renaissance meaning of the word, not the degraded meaning of humanism that has been imparted by Foreman, Ehrenfeld, a salad of academic deep ecologists, and the like. Humanism from its inception has meant a shift in vision from the skies to the earth, from superstition to reason, from deities to people---who are no less products of natural evolution than grizzly bears and whales. Social ecology rejects a "biocentrism" that essentially denies or degrades the uniqueness of human beings, human subjectivity, rationality, aesthetic sensibility, and the ethical potentiality of this extraordinary species. By the same token, it rejects an "anthropocentrism" that confers on the privileged few the right to plunder the world of life, including women, the young, the poor, and the underprivileged. Indeed, it opposes "centrism" of any kind as a new word for hierarchy and domination---be it that of nature by a mystical "man" or the domination of people by an equally mystical "nature." It firmly denies that nature is a scenic view that mountain men like Foreman survey from a peak in Nevada or a picture window that spoiled Yuppies place in their ticky-tacky country homes. To social ecology, nature is natural evolution, not a cosmic arrangement of beings frozen in a moment of eternity to be abjectly revered, adored, and worshiped like the gods and goddesses that priests and priestesses place above us in a realm of supernature that subverts the naturalistic integrity of an authentic ecology. Natural evolution is nature in the very real sense that it is composed of atoms, molecules that have evolved into amino acids, proteins, unicellular organisms, genetic codes, invertebrates and vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, primates, and human beings---all in a cumulative thrust toward ever greater complexity, ever greater subjectivity, and finally ever-greater mind with a capacity for conceptual thought, symbolic communication of the most sophisticated kinds, and self-consciousness in which natural evolution knows itself purposively and willfully.

From Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology:
A Challenge for the Ecology Movement

by Murray Bookchin


What is anarchism?

Authentic anarchism is about some good ideas, but (unfortunately) also is apolitical and power phobic. The first anarchist was the 19th century thinker Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, he had differing intellectual periods in his life, some more interesting than others. The most interesting period was at the end of his life, when he laid the foundations for communalism, while advocating a federation of communes that would replace the concept of the Nation-State. But he was only very much interested in a negation of the existing economic (capitalist) institutions, and so, he never managed to develop very interesting alternatives for States and capitalism.
Anarchism then was, and still is, quite individualistic. There has been a tendency within anarchism that has tried to get rid of that situation, to get anarchism more organized, moral and rational, it's called social anarchism. Unfortunately, social anarchists have failed : anarchism experiences one of its most badly organized periods in history. Social anarchists try to overthrow coercive and exploitative social relationships, and are often so impatient that they start behaving in an irrational, flippant way.
So the gap between social and individualist anarchism has become quite bridgeable. Social anarchists try to replace exploitation with egalitarian, self-managed, and cooperative society forms. They want to obtain more liberties, even freedom. But while trying to achieve freedom, they often get disappointed, because these times are reactionary, not times at all in which we can achieve (social) freedom. So anarchists often look for scapegoats, that can be Socialists or Greens or former anarchists. Anarchists do not easily understand why anarchism is doing so bad, and remains so much unpopular.
The primary concern of the classical libertarian socialists and anarchists was negation, an opposition to the States and capitalism. They were against politics, they did not understand that politics was something else than statecraft. And so, they were not much interested in alternative, communal politics. They liked alternative economics, but they were thinking of power and politics as things that were bad. They did not want political empowerment, so they remained quite powerless.

And this only changed when revolutionary syndicalism got more influential wthin the libertarian part of the Left, about a century ago. The organized anarchists were opposing power but achieved empowerment, because they were advocating workers' assemblies, factory occupations and social revolutions. And before the rise of fascism, revolutionary syndicalism was quite succesful, a dream so many people liked to believe in, a fairy tale. This kind of syndicalism was about involvement in trade unions, mutual aid, and decentralization of decision making. In Spain, revolutionary syndicalism became so influential that it led to a Spanish revolution in the thirties.
Later, the social anarchist critique widened into a more generalized condemnation of domination and hierarchy : libertarian socialists like Murray Bookchin not only opposed classism but often also criticized patriarchy and racism. Many people within the Left realized what racism could lead to, they had experienced the World War holocaust and the victories of fascism. Bookchin also opposed the devastation of non-human nature and was a forerunner in making ecology and libertarian municipalism vital themes for the neo-libertarian left.
But anarchists did not always appreciate all of this renewing of the anarchist tradition. Many anarchists wanted anarchism to remain old-style or individualistic. And so, Bookchin and some other influential left-libertarian thinkers or activists left the anarchist movement, or were never willing to participate in it. Anarchism then further degenerated.


Ulrike Meinhof. A biography

In november 2007, a book will appear about Ulrike Meinhof and her involvement with the Rote Armee Fraktion: “Ulrike Meinhof. Die Biografie”. Jutta Ditfurth is the writer. Before, she has written much about ecofascism, the German Greens and left-wing theory. I mentioned some time ago that this book had already appeared in 2005, but I was wrong.
I got a letter from Jutta Ditfurth. Apparently, Wikipedia was not correct. "Ulrike Meinhof. The Biography" has not appeared yet. Jutta wrote to me that it "will be in its first edition on german market on about the 20th of november (latest), Publisher is: Ullstein Buchverlage, Berlin"
Thanks for letting us know Jutta! And good luck with your book.


A memoir of Cathy Wilkerson

Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman.

"In the 1960’s Cathy Wilkerson, a white, middle-class girl from Connecticut, became a member of the Weather Underground and famously blew up a Greenwich village townhouse. In this thoughtful memoir, she wrestles with the legacy of the movement; the absence of women’s voices then and in the retelling; the incompetence and the egos; the hundreds of bombs detonated in protest. In searching for new paradigms for change, Wilkerson asserts with brave humanity and confessional honesty an assessment of her past."


Murray breaks with anarchism

In Norwegian, as in other European languages, the word municipalism is translated as an equivalent of “communalism.” Our Norwegian comrades therefore easily called themselves “communalists.” In 1994 Murray had referred to communalism as “the democratic dimension of anarchism”; his next, inevitable step was to separate communalism from anarchism. The Norwegians gave him the political and psychological support he needed in order to make the break with the ideology that had been his home for forty years.

From “Bookchin Breaks with Anarchism”. A new excellent text at, written by Janet Biehl, explaining the development of the ideas of Murray Bookchin, who died in 2006.

Janet Biehl : “I realized after Murray died that some people didn't realize that late in life he'd broken with anarchism, or if they did, they didn't understand the reasons. I saw what happened during the late 1980s and 1990s, and how the break unfolded, so in this article I recount what I observed.”

INDIGENOUS ANARCHISM IN BOLIVIA - An Interview with Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui

The South American nation of Bolivia has filled the headlines of the global press with its fight against water privatization, struggle for nationalization of gas, non-compliance with free trade policies, and the 2005 election of the continent’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales. These struggles are rooted in the long history of indigenous resistance to colonialism and imperialism in Bolivia. In an interview conducted during her recent stay in Pittsburgh. subaltern theorist Aymara sociologist and historian Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui discussed Bolivian anarchism, the health benefits of the coca plant and the cocaleros' (coca growers) fight for sovereignty. Rivera Cusicanqu is a founder of the Taller de Historia Oral Andina (Workshop on Andean Oral History) and author of Oppressed But Not Defeated: Peasant Struggles Among the Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia, 1910-1980 (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 1987). She was born in 1949 in La Paz.


Mexico’s “Democratic” Transition: Impunity and Counterinsurgency

A text by John Gibler

Almost a year after President Felipe Calderon took office, “democracy” in Mexico continues its study of the theater of the absurd. As Calderon gives speeches on the rule of law, police and soldiers attack social movements, drug-trafficking gangsters murder with impunity killing 1,951 people since January, and femicides continue in Ciudad Juarez and spread to other states. Roughly 50 million people are dropping deeper into the wreckage of hunger and exclusion. The true design of the political class may be deciphered by juxtaposing Fortune magazine’s announcement that Mexican monopolist Carlos Slim, with an estimated wealth of $59 billion, is now the richest man in the world with the tales of impunity and counterinsurgency in two of Mexico’s most marginalized states, Oaxaca and Chiapas.
The divisions in Oaxaca could not be starker, or more revealing. As the Oaxaca Peoples’ Popular Assembly (APPO) spent the late spring months preparing a cultural festival, the state government was preparing to crack skulls. Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz hired a North Korean Tae Kwon Do champion, Kim Myong Chong, to come to Oaxaca to train the state police in submission techniques using a four-foot long wooden staff.


The Left in Norway gets bad electoral results

Norway’s Socialist Left Party (SV) was the clear loser in the local and county council elections of september. The Party, which was a coalition partner in the country’s centre-left government, saw its support falling nationally from 12.3 per cent at the 2003 election to only 6.1 per cent.
In Oslo, communalists participated in the municipal elections, but received very poor media coverage... so the electoral results were also very disappointing (not even 200 votes).
Demokratisk Alternativ for Oslo :
“The goal of our participation was not to get a seat in city-hall, but rather to present a program for a different Oslo.”

Some facts from the electoral campaign of Demalt for Oslo:
In March through April Demokratisk Alternativ (Demalt) gathered more than 900 signatures to be able to participate in the elections. “In total our activists talked to more than 2000 individuals during the signature-campaign.”
Demokratisk Alternativ handed out several thousand leaflets and about 1000 programs in the streets of Oslo, during the campaign in August and September.
Despite poor media coverage during the actual campaign, Demokratisk Alternativ got some coverage in important newspapers and radios some months earlier.

You can find the program of Demalt for Oslo (in English) here.