Wednesday, January 6, 2016
GENOCIDE, THE BRITISH DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT British Colonials Starved to Death 60 million-plus Indians, But, Why? by Ramtanu Maitra
The chronic want of food and water, the lack of sanitation and medical help, the neglect of means of communication, the poverty of educational provision, the all-pervading spirit of depression that I have myself seen to prevail in our villages after over a hundred years of British rule make me despair of its beneficence. — Rabindranath Tagore
If the history of British rule in India were to be condensed to a single fact, it is this: there was no increase in India’s per-capita income from 1757 to 1947.
Churchill, explaining why he defended the stockpiling of food within Britain, while millions died of starvation in Bengal, told his private secretary that “the Hindus were a foul race, protected by their mere pullulation from the doom that is their due.”
During its 190 years of looting and pillaging, the Indian Subcontininent as a whole underwent at least two dozen major famines, which collectively killed millions of Indians throughout the length and breadth of the land. How many millions succumbed to the famines cannot be fully ascertained. However, colonial rulers’ official numbers indicate it could be 60 million deaths. In reality, it could be significantly higher.
British colonial analysts cited droughts as the cause of fallen agricultural production that led to these famines, but that is a lie. British rulers, fighting wars in Europe and elsewhere, and colonizing parts of Africa, were exporting grains from India to keep up their colonial conquests—while famines were raging. People in the famineaffected areas, resembling skeletons covered by skin only, were wandering around, huddling in corners and dying by the millions. The Satanic nature of these British rulers cannot be overstated.
A Systematic Depopulation Policy
Although no accurate census figure is available, in the year 1750 India’s population was close to 155 million. At the time British colonial rule ended in 1947, undivided India’s population reached close to 390 million. In other words, during these 190 years of colonial looting and organized famines, India’s population rose by 240 million. Since 1947, during the next 68-year period, Indian Subcontininent’s population, including those of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, has grown to close to 1.6 billion. Thus, despite poverty and economic depravity in the post-independent Indian Subcontininent, during those 68 years population has grown by almost 1.2 billion.
Records show that during the post-independence period, the Subcontininent has undergone drought conditions in parts of the land from time to time, but there was no famine, although thousands still die in the Subcontininent annually due to the lack of adequate amount of food, a poor food distribution system, and lack of sufficient nourishment. It is also to be noted that before the British colonials’ jackboots got firmly planted in India, famines had occurred but with much less frequency—maybe once in a century.
There was indeed no reason for these famines to occur They occurred only because The Empire engineered them, intending to strengthen the Empire by ruthless looting and adoption of an unstated policy to depopulate India. This, they believed would bring down the Empire’s cost of sustaining India.
Take, for instance, the case of Bengal, which is in the eastern part of the Subcontininent where the British East India Company (HEIC, Honorable East India Company, according to Elizabeth I’s charter) had first planted its jackboots in 1757. The rapacious looters, under the leadership of Robert Clive—a degenerate and opium addict, who blew his brains out in 1774 in the London Berkley Square residence he had procured with the benefits of his looting—got control of what is now West Bengal, Bangladesh, Bihar, and Odisha (earlier, Orissa), in 1765. At the time, historical records indicate India represented close to 25% of the world’s GDP, second only to China, while Britain had a paltry 2%. Bengal was the richest of the Indian provinces.
Following his securing control of Bengal by ousting the Nawab in a devious battle at Plassey (Palashi), Clive placed a puppet on the throne, paid him off, and negotiated an agreement with him for the HEIC to become the sole tax collector, while leaving the nominal responsibility for government to his puppet. That arrangement lasted for a century, as more and more Indian states were bankrupted to facilitate future famines. The tax money went into British coffers, while millions were starved to death in Bengal and Bihar.
Clive, who was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1768 and whose statue stands near the British Empire’s evil center, Whitehall, near the Cabinet War Room, had this to say in his defense when the British Parliament, playing “fair,” accused him of looting and other abuses in India:
Consider the situation which the Victory of Plassey had placed on me. A great Prince was dependent upon my pleasure; an opulent city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles; I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either hand with gold and jewels! By God, Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation.
However, Clive was not the only murderous British colonial ruler. The British Empire had sent one butcher after another to India, all of whom engineered looting and its consequent depopulation.
By 1770, when the first great famine occurred in Bengal, the province had been looted to the core. What followed was sheer horror. Here is how John Fiske in his American Philosopher in the Unseen World depicted the Bengal famine:
All through the stifling summer of 1770 the people went on dying. The husbandmen sold their cattle; they sold their implements of agriculture; they devoured their seed-grain; they sold their sons and daughters, till at length no buyer of children could be found; they ate the leaves of trees and the grass of the field. . . . The streets were blocked up with promiscuous heaps of the dying and dead. Interment could not do its work quick enough; even the dogs and jackals, the public scavengers of the East, became unable to accomplish their revolting work, and the multitude of mangled and festering corpses at length threatened the existence of the citizens…. 
Was there any reason for the famine to occur? Not if the British had not wanted it. Bengal, then, as now, harvested three crops a year. It is located in the delta of the Gangetic plain where water is more than plentiful. Even if drought occurs, it does not destroy all three crops. Moreover, as was prevalent during the Moghul days, and in earlier time, the surplus grain was stored to tide the population over if there were one or two bad crops.
But the looting of grains carried out by Clive, and his gang of bandits and killers, drained grain from Bengal and resulted in 10 million deaths in the great famine, eliminating one-third of Bengal’s population.
It should be noted that Britain’s much-touted industrial revolution began in 1770, the very same year people were dying all over Bengal. The Boston Tea Party that triggered the American Revolution had taken place in 1773. The Boston Tea Party made the Empire realize that its days in America were numbered, and led Britain to concentrate even more on organizing the looting of India.
Why Famines Became So Prevalent During the British Raj Days
The prime reason why these devastating famines took place at a regular intervals, and were allowed to continue for years, was the British Empire’s policy of depopulating its colonies. If these famines had not occurred, India’s population would have reached a billion people long before the Twentieth Century arrived. That, the British Empire saw as a disaster.
To begin with, a larger Indian population would mean larger consumption by the locals, and deprive the British Raj to a greater amount of loot. The logical way to deal with the problem was to develop India’s agricultural infrastructure. But that would not only force Britain to spend more money to run its colonial and bestial empire; it would also develop a healthy population which could rise up to get rid of the abomination called the British Raj. These massive famines also succeeded in weakening the social structure and backbone of the Indians, making rebellions against the colonial forces less likely. In order to perpetuate famines, and thus depopulate the “heathen” and “dark” Indians, the British imperialists launched a systematic propaganda campaign. They propped up the fraudster Parson Thomas Malthus and promoted his non-scientific gobbledygook, “The Essay on Population.” There he claimed:
This natural inequality of the two powers of population and of production in the earth, and that great law of our nature which must constantly keep their effects equal, form the great difficulty that to me appears insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society. All other arguments are of slight and subordinate consideration in comparison of this. I see no way by which man can escape from the weight of this law which pervades all animated nature.
Although Malthus was ordained in the Anglican Church, British Empire made him a paid “economist” of the British East India Company, which, with the charter from Queen Elizabeth I under its belt, monopolized trade in Asia, colonizing vast tracts of the continent using its well-armed militia fighting under the English flag of St. George.
Malthus was picked up at the Haileybury and Imperial Service College, which was also the recruiting ground of some of the worst colonial criminals. This college was where the makers of British Empire’s murderous policies in India were trained. Some prominent alumni of Haileybury include Sir John Lawrence (Viceroy of India from 1864-68) and Sir Richard Temple (Lt. Governor of Bengal and later, Governor of Bombay presidency).
While Parson Malthus was putting forward his sinister “scientific theory” to justify depopulation as a natural and necessary process, The British Empire collected a whole bunch of other “economists” who wrote about the necessity of free trade. Free trade played a major role in pushing through the Empire’s genocidal depopulation of India, through the British Raj’s efforts. In fact, free trade is the other side of the Malthus’ population-control coin.
By the time the great famine of 1876 arrived, Britain had already built some railroads in India. The railroads, which were touted as institutional safeguards against famines, were instead used by merchants to ship grain inventories from outlying drought-stricken districts to central depots for hoarding. In addition, free traders’ opposition to price control ushered in a frenzy of grain speculation. As a result, capital was raised to import grains from drought-stricken areas, and further the calamity. The rise of price of grain was spectacularly rapid, and grain was taken from where it was most needed, to be stored in warehouses until the prices rose even higher.
The British Raj knew or should have known. Even if the British rulers did not openly encourage this process, they were fully aware of it, and they were perfectly comfortable in promoting free trade at the expense of millions of lives. This is how Mike Davis described what happened:
The rise [of prices] was so extraordinary, and the available supply, as compared with well-known requirements, so scanty that merchants and dealers, hopeful of enormous future gains, appeared determined to hold their stocks for some indefinite time and not to part with the article which was becoming of such unwonted value. It was apparent to the Government that facilities for moving grain by the rail were rapidly raising prices everywhere, and that the activity of apparent importation and railway transit, did not indicate any addition to the food stocks of the Presidency . …retail trade up-country was almost at a standstill. Either prices were asked which were beyond the means of the multitude to pay, or shops remained entirely closed.
At the time, Lord Lytton, a favorite poet of Queen Victoria who is known as a “butcher” to many Indians, was the Viceroy. He wholeheartedly opposed all efforts to stockpile grain to feed the famine-stricken population because that would interfere with market forces. In the autumn of 1876, while the monsoon crop was withering in the fields of southern India, Lytton was absorbed in organizing the immense Imperial Assemblage in Delhi to proclaim Victoria Empress of India.
How did Lytton justify this? He was an avowed admirer and follower of Adam Smith. Author Mike Davis writes that Smith
a century earlier in The Wealth of Nations had asserted (vis-à-vis the terrible Bengal droughtfamine of 1770) that famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconvenience of dearth, Lytton was implementing what Smith had taught him and other believers of free trade. Smith’s injunction against state attempts to regulate the price of grain during the 1770 famine had been taught for years in the East India Company’s famous college at Haileybury.
Lytton issued strict orders that “there is to be no interference of any kind on the part of Government with the object of reducing the price of food,” and “in his letters home to the India Office and to politicians of both parties, he denounced ‘humanitarian hysterics’.” By official diktat, India, like Ireland before it, had become a Utilitarian laboratory where millions of lives were gambled, pursuant to dogmatic faith in omnipotent markets overcoming the “inconvenience of dearth.”
The Great Famines
Depicting the two dozen famines that killed more than 60 million Indians would require a lot of space, so I limit myself here to those that killed more than one million:
The Bengal Famine of 1770: This catastrophicfamine occurred between 1769 and 1773, and affected the lower Gangetic plain of India. The territory, then ruled by the British East India Company, included modern West Bengal, Bangladesh, and parts of Assam, Orissa, Bihar, and Jharkhand. The famine is supposed to have caused the deaths of an estimated 10 million people, approximately one-third of the population at the time.
The Chalisa Famine of 1783-84: The Chalisa famine affected many parts of North India, especially the Delhi territories, present-day Uttar Pradesh, Eastern Punjab, Rajputana (now named, Rajasthan), and Kashmir, then all ruled by different Indian rulers. The Chalisa was preceded by a famine in the previous year, 1782-83, in South India, including Madras City (now named Chennai) and surrounding areas (under British East India Company rule), and in the extended Kingdom of Mysore. Together, these two famines had taken at least 11 million lives, reports indicate.
The Doji Bara Famine (or Skull Famine) of 1791- 92: This famine caused widespread mortality in Hyderabad, Southern Maratha Kingdom, Deccan, Gujarat, and Marwar (also called Jodhpur region in Rajasthan). The British policy of diverting food to Europe, of pricing the remaining grain out of reach of native Indians, and adopting agriculture policy that destroyed food production, was responsible for this one. The British had surplus supplies of grain, which was not distributed to the very people that had grown it. As a result, about 11 million died between 1789-92 of starvation and accompanying epidemics that followed.
The Upper Doab Famine of 1860-61: The 1860-61 famine occurred in the British-controlled Ganga-Yamuna Doab (two waters, or two rivers) area engulfing large parts of Rohilkhand and Ayodhya, and the Delhi and Hissar divisions of the then-Punjab. Eastern part of the princely state of Rajputana. According to “official” British reports, about two million people were killed by this famine.
The Orissa Famine of 1866: Although it affected Orissa the most, this famine affected India’s east coast along the Bay of Bengal stretching down south to Madras, covering a vast area. One million died, according to the British “official” version.
The Rajputana famine of 1869: The Rajputana famine of 1869 affected an area of close to 300,000 square miles which belonged mostly to the princely states and the British territory of Ajmer. This famine, according to “official” British claim, killed 1.5 million.
The Great Famine of 1876-78: This famine killed untold numbers of Indians in the southern part and raged for about four years. It affected Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad and Bombay (now called, Mumbai). The famine also subsequently visited Central Province (now called, Madhya Pradesh) and parts of undivided Punjab. The death toll from this famine was in the range of 5.5 million people. Some other figures indicate the number of deaths could be as high as 11 million.
Indian famine of 1896-97 and 1899-1900: This one affected Madras, Bombay, Deccan, Bengal, United Provinces (now called, Uttar Pradesh), Central Provinces, Northern and eastern Rajputana, parts of Central India, and Hyderabad: six million reportedly died in British territory during these two famines. The number of deaths occurred in the princely states is not known.
The Bengal Famine of 1943-44: This Churchill-orchestrated famine in Bengal in 1943-1944 killed an estimated 3.5 to 5 million people.
Relief Camps, or Concentration camps
There were several policy-arrows which Adolf Hitler might have borrowed from the British quiver to kill millions, but one that he borrowed for certain in setting up his death camps, was how the British ran the camps to provide “relief” to the starving millions. Anyone who entered these relief camps, did not exit alive.
Take the actions of Viceroy Lytton’s deputy, Richard Temple, another Haileybury product imbued with the doctrine of depopulation as the necessary means to keep the Empire strong and vigorous. Temple was under orders from Lytton to make sure there was no “unnecessary” expenditure on relief works.
According to some analysts, Temple’s camps were not very different from Nazi concentration camps. People already half-dead from starvation had to walk hundreds of miles to reach these relief camps. Additionally, he instituted a food ration for starving people working in the camps, which was less than that was given to the inmates of Nazi concentration camps.
The British refused to provide adequate relief for famine victims on the grounds that this would encourage indolence. Sir Richard Temple, who was selected to organize famine relief efforts in 1877, set the food allotment for starving Indians at 16 ounces of rice per day—less than the diet for inmates at the Buchenwald concentration camp for the Jews in Hitler’s Germany. British disinclination to respond with urgency and vigor to food deficits resulted in a succession of about two dozen appalling famines during the British occupation of India. These swept away tens of millions of people. The frequency of famine showed a disconcerting increase in the nineteenth century.
It was deliberate then, and it’s deliberate now.
1. Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World, London, Verso Books, 2001.
2. Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II, New York: Basic Books.
3. Davis, op. cit.
6. Bhatia, B.M., Famines in India, A Study in Some Aspects of the Economic History of India, 1860-1945, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1963.
Dr Ramtanu Maitra
A specialist on South Asian Affairs who operates out of Washington D.C. Ramtanu Maitra specialises on strategic and infrastructural developmental studies with the focus on South Asia.
He holds a Masters Degree in Structural Engineering and was working as a Senior Project Engineer with the Nuclear Power Services, Secaucus, NJ.
Ramtanu Maitra participated in developing a document, India: An agro-industrial superpower by 2020, in 1981.
He established and published a quarterly journal, Fusion Asia, on science, technology, energy and economics from New Delhi for more than 10 years (1984-1994).
He wrote and published the first feature report on India’s high-energy physics program based in PRL, Ahmedabad. Prepared and published a detailed report on Ganges River Valley Development that was presented at an international conference inaugurated by the late president of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan, then Minister for Planning.
He participated on behalf of Fusion Asia on a feasibility study that also involved the Mitsubishi Research Institute (Tokyo) and the Thai Citizen Forum. Presented papers at a number of international conferences on strategic infrastructures in Bogota, Colombia, Tokyo, Japan, Kolkata, Indore, Madurai, Indore, New Delhi, among other Indian cities.
In 1994, Shri Maitra established New Delhi bureau for Asia Times, a Bangkok-based news daily published simultaneously from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and New York.
Presently, he conducts research, analysis, writing on international economic and strategic developments for publications internationally, including: Foresight (Japan); Aakrosh, Agni, Indian Defense and Technology (India); Asia Times Online (Hong Kong); and Executive Intelligence Review (USA).
http://www.sasfor.com/about.html Ramtanu Maitra is a regular columnist with the Executive Intelligence Review (EIR), a news weekly published from Washington DC. He writes columns for Asia Times of Hong Kong, Frontier Post of Peshawar and some other newspapers in Asia on South Asian political economy and Asian security. He has written on terrorism in a number of publications in the United States and India.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.
There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.
It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.
On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare, the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.
This description is, of course, a caricature taken to extremes. Nevertheless, the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation.
Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it’s known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other.
Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett has aptly described as the “infantilisation of the workers”. Adults display childish outbursts of temper and are jealous about trivialities (“She got a new office chair and I didn’t”), tell white lies, resort to deceit, delight in the downfall of others and cherish petty feelings of revenge. This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults.
More important, though, is the serious damage to people’s self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel to Lacan have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being “Who needs me?” For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one.
Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.
A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.
The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.
Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?
There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.
Monday, September 7, 2015
In May this year, Corporate Watch researchers travelled to Turkey and Kurdistan to investigate the companies supplying military equipment to the Turkish police and army. We talked to a range of groups from a variety of different movements and campaigns
Below is the transcript of our interview with three members of the anarchist group Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet (DAF, or Revolutionary Anarchist Action) in Istanbul during May 2015. DAF are involved in solidarity with the Kurdish struggle, the Rojava revolution and against ISIS' attack on Kobane, and have taken action against Turkish state repression and corporate abuse. They are attempting to establish alternatives to the current system through self-organisation, mutual aid and co-operatives.
The interview was carried out in the run-up to the Turkish elections, and touches on the election campaign by the HDP, the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party. Soon after the interview took place, the HDP passed the threshold of 10% of the total vote needed to enter the Turkish parliament.
The DAF members – who all preferred to remain anonymous – began the interview by talking about the history of anarchism in the region:
DAF: We want to underline the relationship between the freedom struggle at the end of Ottoman times and the freedom struggles of Kurdistan.
In Ottoman times anarchists organised workers' struggle in the main cities: Saloniki, Izmir, Istanbul and Cairo. For example [the Italian anarchist, Errico] Malatesta was involved in organizing industrial workers in Cairo. The freedom struggles of Armenia, Bulgaria and Greece had connections with anarchist groups. Alexander Atabekian, an important person in the Armenian freedom struggle, was an anarchist, translating leaflets into Armenian and distributing them. He was a friend of [the Russian anarchist, Peter] Kropotkin and distributed Kropotkin’s anarchist leaflets.
We are talking about this as we want to underline the importance of freedom struggles and to compare this to the importance of support for the Kurdish struggle.
Corporate Watch: What happened to anarchists after the Ottoman period?
DAF: Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, at the end of the 19th century, Sultan Abdul Hamid II repressed the actions of anarchists in Turkey. He knew what anarchists were and took a special interest in them. He killed or deported anarchists and set up a special intelligence agency for this purpose.
Anarchists responded by carrying out attacks on the Yildiz Sarayi palace and with explosions at the Ottoman bank in Saloniki.
The government of the Ottoman Empire didn’t end at the Turkish republic. The fez has gone since but the system is still the same.
At the beginning of the [Kemalist] Turkish state [in 1923] many anarchists and other radicals were forced to emigrate or were killed. The CHP, Mustafa Kemal's party, didn’t allow any opposition and there were massacres of Kurds.
From 1923 to 1980 there was not a big anarchist movement in Turkey due to the popularity of the socialist movements and the repression of the state.
The wave of revolutions from the 1960s to the '80s affected these lands too. These were the active years of the social movements. During this period, there were revolutionary anti-imperialist movements caused by the Vietnam war, youth organizations, occupations of universities and increasing struggle of workers. These movements were Marxist-Leninist or Maoist, there were no anarchist movements.
In 1970 there was a long workers' struggle. Millions of workers walked over a hundred kilometres from Kocaeli to Istanbul. Factories were closed and all the workers were on the streets.
CW: Was there any awareness of anarchism in Turkey at all at this time?
DAF: During these years many books were translated into Turkish from European radicalism but only five books about anarchism were translated, three of which were talking about anarchism in order to criticize it.
But in Ottoman times there had been many articles on anarchism in the newspapers. For example, one of the three editors of the İştirak newspaper was an anarchist. The paper published [Russian anarchist, Mikhail] Bakunin’s essays as well as articles on anarcho-syndicalism.
The first anarchist magazine was published in 1989. After this many magazines were published focusing on anarchism from different perspectives; for example, post structuralism, ecology, etc.
The common theme was that they were written for a small intellectual audience. The language of these magazines was too far away from the people. Most of those involved were connected with the universities or academia. Or they were ex-socialists affected by the fall of the Soviet Union, which was a big disappointment for many socialists. That’s why they began to call themselves anarchists, but we don’t think that this is a good way to approach anarchism, as a critique of socialism.
Between 2000 to 2005 people came together to talk about anarchism in Istanbul and began to ask: “how can we fight?”. At this time we guess that there were 50-100 anarchists living in Turkey and outside.
CW: Can you explain how DAF organises now?
DAF: Now we get 500 anarchists turning up for Mayday in Istanbul. We are in touch with anarchists in Antalya, Eskişehir, Amed, Ankara and İzmir. Meydan [DAF's newspaper] goes to between 15 and 20 cities. We have a newspaper bureau in Amed, distributing newspapers all over Kurdistan. Until now, it is in Turkish but maybe one day, if we can afford it, we will publish it in Kurdish. We send Meydan to prisons too. We have a comrade in İzmir in prison and we send copies to over 15 prisoners.
A few months ago there was a ban on radical publications in prisons. We participated in demos outside prisons and we managed to make pressure about this and now newspapers are allowed to go into prisons again.
The main issue for DAF is to organise anarchism within society. We try to socialize anarchism with struggle on the streets. This is what we give importance to. For nearly nine years we have been doing this.
On an ideological level we have a holistic perspective. We don’t have a hierarchical perspective on struggles. We think workers' struggle is important but not more important than the Kurdish struggle or women’s struggles or ecological struggles.
Capitalism tries to divide these struggles. If the enemy is attacking us in a holistic way we have to approach it in a holistic way.
Anarchy has a bad meaning for most people in society. It has a link with terrorism and bombs. We want to legitimize anarchism by linking it to making arguments for struggles against companies and for ecology. Sometimes we try to focus on the links between the state, companies and ecological damages, like the thing that Corporate Watch does.
We like to present anarchy as an organised struggle. We have shown people on the streets the organised approach to anarchism.
From 1989 to 2000 anarchism was about image. About wearing black, piercings and Mohicans. This is what people saw. After 2000, people started to see anarchists who were part of women’s struggles and workers' struggles.
We are not taking anarchism from Europe as an imitation. Other anarchists have approached anarchism as an imitation of US or European anarchism or as an underground culture. If we want to make anarchist a social movement, it must change.
DAF’s collectives are Anarchist Youth, Anarchist Women, 26A cafe, Patika ecological collective and high school anarchist action (LAF). These self-organisations work together but have their own decision-making processes.
Anarchist Youth makes connections between young workers and university students and their struggles. Anarchist Women focuses on patriarchy and violence to women. For example, a woman was murdered by a man and set on fire last February. On 25 November there were big protests against violence against women.
LAF criticises education and schooling in itself and tries to socialize this way of thinking in high schools. LAF also looks at ecological and feminist issues, including when young women are murdered by their husbands.
PATIKA ecological collective protests against hydro electric dams in the Black Sea region or Hasankey [where the Ilisu dam is being built]. Sometimes there is fighting to prevent these plants from being built.
26A Café is a self organization focusing on anti-capitalist economy. Cafes were opened in 2009 in Taksim and 2011 in Kadıköy [both in Istanbul]. The cafes are run by volunteers. They are aimed at creating an economic model in the place where oppressed people are living. It’s important to show people concrete examples of an anarchist economy, without bosses or capitalist aims. We talk to people about why we don’t sell the big capitalist brands like Coca Cola. Of course the products we sell have a relation to capitalism but things like Coke are symbols of capitalism. We want to progress away from not-consuming and move towards alternative economies and ways of producing.
Another self organisation, PAY-DA - 'Sharing and solidarity' - has a building in Kadıköy, which is used for meetings and producing the Meydan newspaper. PAY-DA gives meals to people three times a day. It’s open to anarchists and comrades. The aim of PAY-DA is to become a cooperative, open to everybody. We try to create a bond which also involves the producers in the villages. We aim to have links with these producers and show them another economic model. We try to evolve these economic relations away from money relations. The producers are suffering from the capitalist economy. We are in the first steps of this cooperative and we are looking for producers to work with.
All of these projects are related to DAF's ideology. This model has a connection with Malatesta’s binary model of organization.
These are anarchist organizations but sometimes people who aren't anarchists join these struggles because they know ecological or women's struggles, and then at the end they will learn about anarchism. It’s an evolving process.
As DAF we are trying to organise our lives. This is the only way that we can touch the people who are oppressed by capitalism.
There is also the Conscientious Objectors' Association, which is organised with other groups, not just anarchists. Our involvement in this has a relation with our perspective on Kurdistan. We organize anti-militarist action in Turkey outside of military bases on 15 May, conscientious objector's day. In Turkey the military is related to state culture. If you don’t do your military duty, you won’t find a job and it's difficult to find someone to marry because they ask if you’ve been to the army. If you have been to the army, you’re a 'man'. People see the state as the 'Fatherland'. On your CV they ask whether you did military service. 'Every Turk is born a soldier' is a popular slogan in Turkey.
CW: Is Kemalism [the ideology associated with Mustafa Kemal] as strong a force as it used to be?
DAF: Kemalism is still a force in schools but the AKP has changed this somewhat. The AKP has a new approach to nationalism focused on the Ottoman Empire. It emphasises Turkey's 'Ottoman roots'. But Erdoğan still says that we are 'one nation, one state, one flag and one religion.'. There is still talk about Mustafa Kemal but not as much as before. Now you cannot criticize Erdoğan or Atatürk [the name used for Kemal by Turkish nationalists]. It’s the law not to criticize Atatürk and the unwritten rule not to criticize Erdoğan. The media follows these rules.
CW: Can you talk about your perspective on the Kurdish freedom struggle?
Kurdish freedom struggles didn’t start with Rojava. Kurdish people have had struggles for hundreds of years against the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish state.
Since the start of DAF we have seen Kurdistan as important for propaganda and education.
Our perspective relates to people’s freedom struggles. The idea that people can create federations without nations, states and empires. The Turkish state says the issue is a Kurdish problem, but for us it is not a Kurdish problem, it’s an issue of Turkish policies of assimilation. It’s obvious that since the first years of the Turkish republic the assimilation of Kurdish people has not stopped. We can see this from the last Roboski massacre [of 34 Kurdish cross-border traders by Turkish F16s on 28 December 2011] by the state during the 'peace process'. We can see this in the denial of Kurdish identity or the repeated massacres. Making people assimilate to be a Turk and making the propaganda of nationalism.
The AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] say they have opened Kurdish TV channels, allowed Kurdish language and that we are all brothers and sisters, but on the other hand we had the Roboski massacre which occurred during their government. In 2006 there was government pressure on Erdoğan at a high level. Erdoğan said that women and children would be punished who go against Turkish policies. Over 30 children were murdered by police and army.
The words change but the political agenda continues, just under a new government. We do not call ourselves Turkish. We come from many ethnic origins and Kurdish is one of them. Our involvement in conscientious objection is part of this perspective. We want to talk to people to prevent people from going to the army to kill their brothers and sisters.
After the 2000s there has been an ideological change in the Kurdish freedom struggle. The Kurdish organizations no longer call themselves Marxist-Leninist and Öcalan has written a lot about democratic confederalism. This is important, but our relation to Kurdish people is on the streets.
CW: Can you talk about DAF's work in solidarity with people in Rojava?
In July 2012 at the start of the Rojava revolution, people began saying that it was a stateless movement. We have been in solidarity from the first day of the revolution. Three cantons have declared their revolution in a stateless way. We try to observe and get more information. This is not an anarchist revolution but it is a social revolution declared by the people themselves.
Rojava is a third front for Syria against Assad, ISIS and other Islamic groups. But these are not the only groups that the revolution is faced with. The Turkish republic is giving support for ISIS from its borders. The national intelligence agency of the Turkish republic appears to be giving weapons to ISIS and other Islamic groups. Kurdish people declared the revolution under these circumstances.
After the ISIS attack on Kobane began [in 2014] we went to Suruç. We waited at the border as Turkish forces were attacking people crossing. When people wanted to cross the border to or from Kobane they were shot. We stayed there to provide protection.
In October, people gathered near Suruç, and broke through the border. Turkish tanks shot gas over the border at them.
From 6 to 8 October there were Kobane solidarity demonstrations across Turkey. Kader Ortakya, a Turkish socialist supporter of Kobane, was shot dead trying to cross the border.
We helped people. Some people crossed the border from Kobane and had no shelter. We prepared tents, food and clothes for them. Sometimes soldiers came to the villages with tear gas and water cannons and we had to move. Some people came through the border searching for their families and we helped them. Other people came, wanting to cross the border and fight and we helped them. We wore clothing that said we were from DAF on it.
The YPG and YPJ ['People's Protection Units' of Rojava, the YPJ is a women's militia] pushed ISIS back day by day. Mıştenur hill was very important for Kobane. After the hill was taken by the YPG and YPJ some people wanted to return to Kobane. When they went back their houses had been destroyed by ISIS. Some houses were mined and some people have been killed by the mines. The mines need to be cleared, but by who and how? People need new houses and help. We have had conferences and talked about how to help Kobane. There was a conference two weeks ago in Amed.
CW: What is your position on the elections?
DAF: We do not believe in parliamentary democracy. We believe in direct democracy. We do not support the HDP in the election, but we have links in solidarity with them on the streets.
Emma Goldman said that if elections changed anything they would be illegal. There are good people in the HDP who say good things, but we think that the government can’t be good because the election system isn’t equal.
In Rojava they do not call it an anarchist revolution, but theres no government, no state and no hierarchy, so we believe in it and have solidarity with it.
Can you tell us about the bombing in Suruç [we asked this final question by email weeks after the original interview
Over 30 young people who wanted to take part in reconstruction of Kobane were killed by an ISIS attack. This attack was clearly organised by the Turkish State. They did not even do anything to stop it although they got the information of the attack one mounth before. Moreover, after the explosion the Turkish State has attacked Rojava and made operations against political organisations in Turkey. Now there are many operations and political pressures on anarchists and socialists and Kurdish organisations. They are using the explosion as a reason to make this political repression on both the domestic and international levels.
We have lost our 33 comrades, friends who struggled for the Rojava Revolution against the state's repression, denial and politics of massacre. There are people who are killed by state, ISIS and other powers. But our resistance won't stop, our struggle will continue, as always in history.
Two interviews—one offering general background on the struggle in Kobanê, the other delving into analytical detail about the geopolitical implications.
Resources on the Rojava Revolution—A broad selection of coverage and reference material
An Interview with Revolutionary Anarchist Action (DAF) on Kobanê: “We are Kawa against Dehaks”—Another interview with the DAF
DAF Facebook page
Revolution Will Win in Kobanê!—a DAF report from Boydê Village on the Syrian border during the first month of the struggle in Kobanê
Rojava’s Communes and Councils—An overview of how the structures of direct democracy function in revolutionary Rojava
The Experiment of West Kurdistan Has Proved that People Can Make Changes—A report by a member of the Kurdistan Anarchists Forum who spent two weeks in Syrian Kurdistan
Bookchin, Öcalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy—On the relationship between the former anarchist Murray Bookchin and Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK
The Kurdish Question: Through the lens of Anarchist Resistance in the Heart of the Ottoman Empire 1880–1923—A deep background on anarchism in the region
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
It feels increasingly difficult to tell the difference between—on one hand—being old, sick, and defeated, and—on the other hand—living in a time-&-place that is itself senile, tired, and defeated. Sometimes I think it’s just me—but then I find that some younger, healthier people seem to be undergoing similar sensations of ennui, despair, and impotent anger. Maybe it’s not just me.
A friend of mine attributed the turn to disillusion with “everything”, including old-fashioned radical/activist positions, to disappointment over the present political regime in the US, which was somehow expected to usher in a turn away from the reactionary decades since the 1980s, or even a “progress” toward some sort of democratic socialism. Although I myself didn’t share this optimism (I always assume that anyone who even wants to be President of the US must be a psychopathic murderer) I can see that “youth” suffered a powerful disillusionment at the utter failure of Liberalism to turn the tide against Capitalism Triumphalism. The disillusion gave rise to OCCUPY and the failure of OCCUPY led to a move toward sheer negation.
However I think this merely political analysis of the “new nothing” may be too two-dimensional to do justice to the extent to which all hope of “change” has died under Kognitive Kapital and the technopathocracy. Despite my remnant hippy flower- power sentiments I too feel this “terminal” condition (as Nietzsche called it), which I express by saying, only half- jokingly, that we have at last reached the Future, and that the truly horrible truth of the End of the World is that it doesn’t end.
One big J.G. Ballard/Philip K. Dick shopping mall from now till eternity, basically.
This IS the future—how do you like it so far? Life in the Ruins: not so bad for the bourgeoisie, the loyal servants of the One Percent. Air-conditioned ruins! No Ragnarok, no Rapture, no dramatic closure: just an endless re-run of reality TV cop shows. 2012 has come and gone, and we’re still in debt to some faceless bank, still chained to our screens.
Most people—in order to live at all—seem to need around themselves a penumbra of “illusion” (to quote Nietzsche again):— that the world is just rolling along as usual, some good days some bad, but in essence no different now than in 10000 BC or 1492 AD or next year. Some even need to believe in Progress, that the Future will solve all our problems, and even that life is much better for us now than for (say) people in the 5th century AD. We live longer thanx to Modern Science—of course our extra years are largely spent as “medical objects”—sick and worn out but kept ticking by Machines & Pills that spin huge profits for a few megacorporations & insurance companies. Nation of Struldbugs.
True, we’re suffocating in the mire generated by our rule of sick machines under the Numisphere of Money. At least ten times as much money now exists than it would take to buy the whole world—and yet species are vanishing space itself is vanishing, icecaps melting, air and water grown toxic, culture grown toxic, landscape sacrificed to fracking and megamalls, noise-fascism, etc, etc. But Science will cure all that ills that Science has created—in the Future (in the “long run”, when we’re all dead, as Lord Keynes put it); so meanwhile we’ll carry on consuming the world and shitting it out as waste—because it’s convenient & efficient & profitable to do so, and because we like it.
Well, this is all a bunch of whiney left-liberal cliches, no? Heard it before a million times. Yawn. How boring, how infantile, how useless. Even if it were all true... what can we do about it? If our Anointed Leaders can’t or won’t stop it, who will? God? Satan? The “People”?”
All the fashionable “solutions” to the “crisis”, from electronic democracy to revolutionary violence, from locavorism to solar- powered dingbats, from financial market regulation to the General Strike—all of them, however ridiculous or sublime, depend on one preliminary radical change—a seismic shift in human consciousness. Without such a change all the hope of reform is futile. And if such a change were somehow to occur, no “reform” would be necessary. The world would simply change. The whales would be saved. War no more. And so on.
What force could (even in theory) bring about such a shift? Religion? In 6,000 years of organized religion matters have only gotten worse. Psychedelic drugs in the reservoirs? The Mayan calendar? Nostalgia? Terror?
If catastrophic disaster is now inevitable, perhaps the “Survival- ist” scenario will ensue, and a few brave millions will create a green utopia in the smoking waste. But won’t Capitalism find a way to profit even from the End of the World? Some would claim that it’s doing so already. The true catastrophe may be the final apotheosis of commodity fetishism.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this paradise of power tools and back-up alarms is all we’ve got & all we’re going to get. Capitalism can deal with global warming—it can sell water- wings and disaster insurance. So it’s all over, let’s say—but we’ve still got television & Twitter. Childhood’s End—i.e. the child as ultimate consumer, eager for the brand. Terrorism or home shopping network—take yr pick (democracy means choice).
Since the death of the Historical Movement of the Social in 1989 (last gasp of the hideous “short” XXth century that started in 1914) the only “alternative” to Capitalist Neo-Liberal totalitarianism that seems to have emerged is religious neo-fascism. I understand why someone would want to be a violent fundamentalist bigot—I even sympathize—but just because I feel sorry for lepers doesn’t mean I want to be one.
When I attempt to retain some shreds of my former antipessimism I fantasize that History may not be over, that some sort ofPopulist Green Social Democracy might yet emerge to challenge the obscene smugness of“Money Interests”—something along the lines of 1970s Scandinavian monarcho-socialism—which in retrospect now looks the most humane form of the State ever to have emerged from the putrid suck-hole of Civilization. (Think of Amsterdam in its hey-day.) Of course as an anarchist I’d still have to oppose it—but at least I’d have the luxury of believing that, in such a situation, anarchy might actually stand some chance of success. Even if such a movement were to emerge, however, we can rest damn-well assured it won’t happen in the USA. Or anywhere in the ghost-realm of dead Marxism, either. Maybe Scotland!
It would seem quite pointless to wait around for such a rebirth of the Social. Years ago many radicals gave up all hope of The Revolution, and the few who still adhere to it remind me of religious fanatics. It might be soothing to lapse into such doctrinaire revolutionism, just as it might be soothing to sink into mystical religion—but for me at least both options have lost their savor. Again, I sympathize with those true believers (although not so much when they lapse into authoritarian leftism or fascism)— nevertheless, frankly, I’m too depressed to embrace their Illusions.
If the End-Time scenario sketched above be considered actually true, what alternatives might exist besides suicidal despair? After much thought I’ve come up with three basic strategies.
1) Passive Escapism. Keep your head down, don’t make waves. Capitalism permits all sorts of “life-styles” (I hate that word)—just pick one & try to enjoy it. You’re even allowed to live as a dirt farmer without electricity & infernal combustion, like a sort of secular Amish refusnik. Well, maybe not. But at least you could flirt with such a life. “Smoke Pot, Eat Chicken, Drink Tea,” as we used to say in the 60s in the Moorish Church of America, our psychedelic cult. Hope they don’t catch you. Fit yourself into some Permitted Category such as Neo-Hippy or even Anabaptist.
2) Active Escapism. In this scenario you attempt to create the optimal conditions for the emergence of Autonomous Zones, whether temprorary, periodic or even (semi)permanent. In 1984 when I first coined the term Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ)
I envisioned it as a complent to The Revolution—although I was already, to be truthful, tired of waiting for a moment that seemed to have failed in 1968. The TAZ would give a taste or premonition of real liberties: in effect you would attempt to live as if the Revolution had already occurred, so as not to die without ever having experienced “free freedom” (as Rimbaud called it, liberte libre). Create your own pirate utopia.
Of course the TAZ can be as brief & simple as a really good dinner party, but the true autonomist will want to maximize the potential for longer & deeper experiences of authentic lived life. Almost inevitably this will involve crime, so it’s necessary to think like a criminal, not a victim. A “Johnson” as Burroughs used to say—not a “mark”. How else can one live (and live well) without Work. Work, the curse of the thinking class. Wage slavery. If you’re lucky enough to be a successful artist, you can perhaps achieve relative autonomy without breaking any obvious laws (except the laws of good taste, perhaps). Or you could inherit a million. (More than a million would be a curse.) Forget revolutionary morality—the question is, can you afford your taste of freedom? For most of us, crime will be not only a pleasure but a necessity. The old anarcho-Illegalists showed the way: individual expropriation. Getting caught of course spoils the whole thing—but risk is an aspect of self-authenticity.
One scenario I’ve imagined for active Escapism would be to move to a remote rural area along with several hundred other libertarian social- ists—enough to take over the local government (municipal or even county) and elect or control the sheriffs & judges, the parent/teacher association, volunteer fire department and even the water authority. Fund the venture with cultivation of illegal phantastice and carry on a discreet trade. Organize as a “Union of Egoists” for mutual benefit & ecstatic plea- sures—perhaps under the guise of “communes” or even monasteries, who cares. Enjoy it as long as it lasts.
I know for a fact that this plan is being worked on in several places in America—but of course I’m not going to say where.
Another possible model for individual escapists might be the nomadic adventurer. Given that the whole world seems to be turning into a giant parking lot or social network, I don’t know if this option remains open, but I suspect that it might. The trick would be to travel in places where tourists don’t—if such places still exist—and to involve oneself in fascinating and dangerous situations. For example if I were young and healthy I’d’ve gone to France to take part in the TAZ that grew around resistance to the new airport—or to Greece—or Mexico—wherever the perverse spirit of rebellion crops up. The problem here is of course funding. (Sending back statues stuffed with hash is no longer a good idea.) How to pay for yr life of adventure? Love will find a way. It doesn’t matter so much if one agrees with the ideals of Tahrir Square or Zucotti Park—the point is just to be there.
3. Revenge. I call it Zarathustra’s Revenge because as Nietzsche said, revenge may be second rate but it’s not nothing. One might enjoy the satisfaction of terrifying the bastards for at least a few moments. Formerly I advocated “Poetic Terrorism” rather than actual violence, the idea being that art could be wielded as a weapon. Now I’ve rather come to doubt it. But perhaps weapons might be wielded as art. From the sledgehammer of the Luddites to the black bomb of the attentat, destruction could serve as a form of creativity, for its own sake, or for purely aesthetic reasons, without any illusions about revolution. Oscar Wilde meets the acte gratuit: a dandyism of despair.
What troubles me about this idea is that it seems impossible to distinguish here between the action of post-leftist anarcho-nihil- ists and the action of post-rightist neo-traditionalist reactionaries. For that matter, a bomb may as well be detonated by fundamentalist fanatics—what difference would it make to the victims or the “innocent bystanders”? Blowing up a nanotechnology lab—why shouldn’t this be the act of a desperate monarchist as easily as that of a Nietzschean anarchist?
In a recent book by Tiqqun (Theory of Bloom), it was fascinating to come suddenly across the constellation of Nietzsche, Rene Guenon, Julius Evola, et al. as examples of a sharp and just critique of the Bloom syndrome—i.e., of progress-as-illusion. Of course the “beyond left and right” position has two sides—one approaching from the left, the other from the right. The European New Right (Alain de Benoist & his gang) are big admirers of Guy Debord, for a similar reason (his critique, not his proposals).
The post-left can now appreciate Traditionalism as a reaction against modernity just as the neo-traditionalists can appreciate Situationism. But this doesn’t mean that post-anarchist anarchists are identical with post-fascism fascists!
I’m reminded of the situation in fin-de-siecle France that gave rise to the strange alliance between anarchists and monarchists; for example the Cerce Proudhon. This surreal conjunction came about for two reasons: a) both factions hated liberal democracy, and b) the monarchists had money. The marriage gave birth to weird progeny, such as Georges Sorel. And Mussolini famously began his career as an Individualist anarchist!
Another link between left & right could be analyzed as a kind of existentialism; once again Nietzsche is the founding parent here, I think. On the left there were thinkers like Gide or Camus. On the right, that illuminated villain Baron Julius Evola used to tell his little ultra-right groupus- cules in Rome to attack the Modern World—even though the restoraton of tradition was a hopeless dream—if only as an act of magical self-creation. Being trumps essence. One must cherish no attachment to mere results. Surely Tiqqun’s advocacy of the “perfect Surrealist act” (firing a revolver at random into a crowd of “innocent by-standers”) partakes of this form of action- as-despair. (Incidentally I have to confess that this is the sort of thing that has always—to my regret—prevented my embraing Surrealism: it’s just too cruel. I don’t admire de Sade, either.)
Of course, as we know, the problem with the Traditionalists is that they were never traditional enough. They looked back at a lost civilization as their “goal” (religion, mysticism, monarchism, arts-&-crafts, etc.) whereas they should have realized that the real tradition is the “primordial anarchy” of the Stone Age, tribalism, hunting/gathering, animism—what I call the Neanderthal Liberation Front. Paul Goodman used the term “Neolithic Conservatism” to describe his brand of anarchism—but “Paleolithic Reaction” might be more appropriate!
The other major problem with the Traditionalist Right is that the entire emotional tone of the movement is rooted in self-repression. Here a rough Reichean analysis suffices to demonstrate that the authoritarian body reflects a damaged soul, and that only anarchy is compatible with real self-realization.
The European New Right that arose in the 90s still carries on its propaganda—and these chaps are not just vulgar nationalist chauvenist anti-semitic homophobic thugs—they’re intellectuals & artists. I think they’re evil, but that doesn’t mean I find them boring. Or even wrong on certain points. They also hate the nanotechnologists!
Although I attempted to set off a few bombs back in the 1960s (against the war in Vietnam) I’m glad, on the whole, that they failed to detonate (technology was never my metier). It saves me from wondering if I would’ve experienced “moral qualms”. Instead I chose the path of the propagandist and remained an activist in anarchist media from 1984 to about 2004. I collaborated with the Autonomedia publishing collective, the IWW, the John Henry Mack- ay Society (Left Stirnerites) and the old NYC Libertarian Book Club (founded by comrades of Emma Goldman, some of whom I knew, & who are now all dead). I had a radio show on WBAI (Pacifica) for 18 years. I lectured all over Europe and East Europe in the 90s. I had a very nice time, thank you. But anarchism seems even farther off now than it looked in 1984, or indeed in 1958, when I first became an anarchist by reading George Harriman’s Krazy Kat. Well, being an existentialist means you never have to say you’re sorry.
In the last few years in anarchist circles there’s appeared a trend “back” to Stirner/Nietzsche Individualism—because after all, who can take revolutionary anarcho- communism or syndicalism seriously anymore? Since I’ve adhered to this Individualist position for decades (although tempered by admiration for Charles Fourier and certain “spiritual anarchists” like Gustave Landauer) I naturally find this trend agreeable.
“Green anarchists” & AntiCivilization Neo-primitivists seem (some of them) to be moving toward a new pole of attraction, nihilism. Perhaps neo-nihilism would serve as a better label, since this tendency is not simply replicating the nihilism of the Russian narodniks or the French attentatists of circa 1890 to 1912, however much the new nihilists look to the old ones as precursors. I share their critique—in fact I think I’ve been mirroring it to a large extent in this essay: creative despair, let’s call it. What I do not understand however is their proposal—if any. “What is to be done?” was originally a nihilist slogan, after all, before Lenin appropriated it. I presume that my option #1, passive escape, would not suit the agenda. As for Active Escapism, to use the suffix “ism” implies some form not only of ideology but also some action. What is the logical outcome of this train of thought?
As an animist I experience the world (outside Civilization) as essentially sentient. The death of God means the rebirth of the gods, as Nietzsche implied in his last “mad” letters from Turin— the resurrection of the great god PAN—chaos, Eros, Gaia, & Old Night, as Hesiod put it—Ontological anarchy, Desire, Life itself, & the Darkness of revolt & negation—all seem to me as real as they need to be.
I still adhere to a certain kind of spiritual anarchism—but only as heresy and paganism, not as orthodoxy and monotheism. I have great respect for Dorothy Day—her writing influenced me in the 60s—and Ivan Illich, whom I knew personally—but in the end I cannot deal with the cognitive dissonance between anarchism and the Pope! Nevertheless I can believe in the re-paganaziation of monotheism. I hold to this pagan tradition because I sense the universe as alive, not as “dead matter.” As a life-long psychedelicist I have always thought that matter & spirit are identical, and that this fact alone legitimizes what Theory calls “desire”.
From this p.o.v. the phrase “revolution of everyday life” still seems to have some validity—if only in terms of the second proposal, Active Escapism or the TAZ. As for the third possibility— Zarathustra’s Revenge—this seems like a possible path for the new nihilism, at least from a philosophical perspective. But since I am unable personally to advocate it, I leave the question open.
But here—I think—is the point at which I both meet with & diverge from the new nihilism. I too seem to believe that Predatory Capitalism has won and that no revolution is possible in the classical sense of that term. But somehow I can’t bring myself to be “against everything.” Within the Temporary Autonomous Zone there still seems to persist the possiblity of “authentic life,” if only for a moment— and if this position amounts to mere Escapism, then let us become Houdini. The new surge of interest in Individualism is obviously a response to the Death of the Social. But does the new nihilism imply the death even of the individual and the “union of egoists” or Nietzschean free spirits? On my good days, I like to think not.
No matter which of the three paths one takes (or others I can’t yet imagine) it seems to me that the essential thing is not to collapse into mere apathy. Depression we may have to accept, impotent rage we may have to accept, revolutionary pessimism we may have to accept. But as e.e. cummings (anarchist poet) said, there is some shit we will not take, lest we simply become the enemy by default. Can’t go on, must go on. Cultivate rosebuds, even selfish pleasures, as long as a few birds & flowers still remain. Even love may not be impossible...
SOURCE: The Anvil Review http://theanvilreview.org/
for further inquiry follow the comments here: http://anarchistnews.org/content/new-nihilism and here: http://www.anarchistnews.org/content/new-nihilism-forum-topic-comment-section
a comment at the essay by Emile:
THE FOURTH OPTION NOT MENTIONED BY WILSON
i kind of like this author's [peter lamborn wilson’s] writing style with its nuance of coolness and humour, and have the feeling that it's been on anarchistnews.org before (it was evidently written in july, 2014).
meanwhile, my gut reaction is rejection of this boring and repeated insistence that change in the world is something we are going to see. 'here it comes, folks, ... things are starting to move in the right direction, ... we're on our way now, ... put your shoulder behind it and we'll take it the full hundred yards down to touchdown.
surely this impression that we have to see change happening is our ego talking. how about "life is what happens to us while we're busy making other plans" [john lennon]. what about that sort of change? ... where we're blind-sided by it?
are we not too much the puppet of our own intention? "i want this to happen and it is not happening,... here' comes my childhood-tantrum".
there are quite a few references to nietzsche here, but none to ‘amor fati’, love of fate;
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it. -- Nietzsche, 'Ecce Homo'
it is only a cheap form of anti-authorianism that rejects all imposition of authority except one’s own. “this revolution or transition has to start happening now, damn it, or i am going to have to give up on this world”.
in true anarchist style, nietzsche sees the world in terms of a ceaseless, goal-less Becoming, as in the ‘transforming relational activity continuum of modern physics’;
“And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income …” –Nietzsche, ‘The Will to Power’, 1067
Such a world is not in the state of ‘becoming’ in the sense of working its way towards a goal outside of it, in which case, it’s current state would be deficient relative to that goal, kind of like a sinful world that is in the process of being redeemed.
no doubt, most of us are not keen on even ‘trying on’ this amor fati because we don’t want to ‘get comfortable’ with ‘not caring’ whether anything changes in the way we want to see it change. we don’t want to lose our Atman individuality and dissolve into pure Brahman holeness.
But, maybe its possible to be ‘both at the same time’ so it could be interesting to follow along with Nietzsche and see what he’s up to with the Amor fati thing, per this guided tour by ulfers and cohen;
“Amor fati is the embrace of the world that is as it is—eternally Becoming—not as it “should” be, for there is no “should,” no imperative that it be, or be transformed into, something other than it is. Put differently, Amor fati is the embrace of a world that is an implicate order of freedom and necessity: of freedom in that it is free from any “should” that would judge it to be deficient, and from any goal that “should” be attained, and of necessity because the lack of a goal to be achieved allows the world its “must,” its having to be what it is, not what it is made by an authority beyond the perimeters of the world.
... In other words, fate, as Nietzsche interprets it, is the emblem of his insight that there is nothing—nihil—outside the transitoriness of the world of eternal Becoming. Fate, then, is the name for a totally immanent, perpetually transitory world that is not subject to the finality of a goal outside of it, the achievement of which would redeem the “guiltiness” of Becoming. Amor fati is the embrace of the world that is as it is—eternally Becoming—not as it “should” be, for there is no “should,” no imperative that it be, or be transformed into, something other than it is. Put differently, Amor fati is the embrace of a world that is an implicate order of freedom and necessity: of freedom in that it is free from any “should” that would judge it to be deficient, and from any goal that “should” be attained, and of necessity because the lack of a goal to be achieved allows the world its “must,” its having to be what it is, not what it is made by an authority beyond the perimeters of the world.
In particular, it can be said that Nietzsche’s appeal to love of fate is the consequence of his thesis of the “death of God,” love of a supreme center of the value of Being that guaranteed meaning to a meaningless world of Becoming—the authority beyond the limits of the world. The fate of Amor fati “frees” us, then, to a world of radical immanence, a world beyond the dualism of immanence and transcendence. Nietzsche characterizes this world as whole in the sense of an interconnectedness or web-like structure Nietzsche describes as Verhängnis (literally a “hanging together”), a word that also means “fate.” Given that the world of interconnectedness (Verhängnis) is its own fate (Verhängnis), it is beyond any outside determinism because there is no outside to the whole. Given a radically holistic world, there is no outside to its Verhängnis, and thus we must be what we are: Verhängnis. As Nietzsche puts it succinctly: “One is necessary, one is a piece of fatefulness [Verhängnis], one belongs to the whole, one is the whole.” -- Friedrich Ulfers and Mark Daniel Cohen. Nietzsche's Amor Fati – The Embracing of an Undecided Fate. Poiesis – A Journal of the Arts and Communication. 2002. (English)
whether or not we can ‘get into it’, there is this suggestion here that everything finds its meaning and value in everything else in a relational web-structure. this is a shift from where we are when we are impatient for change to start rolling out in the direction we want it to. because that has to be coming from our ego, and our confidence that we know what’s good for the world and we want to help ‘bring it on’. but in a ‘web-of-life’ situation, we are the pushing and pulling we are situationally included in. we are the evolving world. we are the agents of transformation.
meanwhile, we tend to think of ourselves as little ants who can’t make a mark on world change unless we can band together and have a whole lot of ants pulling or pushing together in the same direction. and if that’s no happening then we feel like giving up on changing the world, and when that happens, its like the world is drifting along without us and is impervious to our attempts to change it.
this is the nihilism that nietzsche warns about. it comes from ‘the death of God’ in a simple sense of leaving the world and life ‘meaningless’ since there is nothing above it all to give it meaning. however, the death of a source of meaning that lies beyond the world of becoming could mean that the ‘meaning’ or ‘value’ is inside the world in the evolutionary web-of-life itself. in this case, whatever is unfolding is unfolding the way it must.
so, ... we go [in our understanding of ourselves] from being an ant amongst ants who need to band together to construct a future state of the world that we know is a ‘good’ state, ... to abandoning the notion that the world needs to go to some state that is improved over where it is and understanding ourselves as being co-evolver of the world, ... then we are never ‘out of the game’ and never rendered ‘useless’. instead of seeing ourselves as ‘doers of deeds’ that must somehow make a mark on the world, we see ourselves ‘as the world’, as agent of transformation flow features in the fluid world.
nietzsche was on the same wavelength as emerson on this;
“Whilst a necessity so great caused the man to exist, his health and erectness consist in the fidelity with which he transmits influences from the vast and universal to the point on which his genius can act. The ends are momentary: they are vents for the current of inward life which increases as it is spent. A man’s wisdom is to know that all ends are momentary, that the best end must be superseded by a better. But there is a mischievous tendency in him to transfer his thought from the life to the ends, to quit his agency and rest in his acts: the tools run away with the workman, the human with the divine.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘The Method of Nature’
dealing with the frustration of our ego in this way, is not amongst the options given by wilson, but it clearly seems to be one that was actually exercised by nietzsche, who felt that the sort of change he was looking for; i.e. the tranvaluation of all values, ... was a couple of centuries away which would be punctuated by a bad bout of nihilism before we had cultivated the amor fati antidote.
it’s not that this transition isn’t possible. indigenous anarchist infants are brought up with this web-of-life worldview foundation. but the challenge in getting back into it after being raised a Western civilized kid, is enormous. while it is more difficult than the three options that wilson mentioned, it is not impossible and it is therefore worth mentioning it as a fourth (and preferred) option.