”The train is going over to the other side of the mountain when she stops suddenly…
The train breaks down! And all the toys and animals are sad but the clown cheers everyone up when he sees a train coming by.
A Passenger train, a Freight train, a tired old train all come by but NONE of them would help to pull the little red engine.
Finally, a cheery little blue train comes by and though she doubts if she can, she helps to pull the little red train and the toys and animals over the mountain, starting and ending with the famous lines:
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” and
“I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could…” ( The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper )
The anarchist movement is like the ”Little Engine That Could” . It might still get over the mountain, a black engine billowing metaphorical green smoke from its bio-fuel or hybrid forms of anarchism secret revolutionary cells. Toronto can hardly be regarded as an acid test for resistance.
”I love living in Toronto. But in times of strain, the city takes on the character of an overprivileged wimp, shrieking and sobbing at the merest civic pin-pricks. We saw this in 1999, when the mayor asked for army troops to help battle the sort of snowstorms that Edmonton and Winnipeg seem to get every other week. We saw it again in 2005, when a series of local gangland shootings caused the media to present the city as a sort of Escape from New York wasteland of nihilistic violence — even though we have one of the lowest per-capita rates of violence in the world. And now, a weekend of scattered protests, featuring even more scattered criminal vandalism, has had the same brain-scrambling effect.” ( Jonathan Kay )
Nonetheless, despite the traditionalists ability to defend their position ably, and with eloquence, the times do seem to be changing. Almost one hundred years after the anarchist hey-day , many of their ideas are front and center in terms of globalization, finance and the environment.However, What is most striking is that, in the G20 countries, the movement’s composition closely resembles the elites and elected officials they wish to topple: white and middle class. The rather deep hatreds are manifested by people who, to most appearances, exhibit very few significant differences. It seems to be onehe great contradictions of civilization and one of the great sources of its discontents.
Sigmund Freud, might have been a great sociologist rather that a belabored and bedeviled psychiatrist for the wonderful terms that describes the standoff between those in power and those dressed in black that wish to claim it: ”the narcissism of the small difference” . ….” It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them”. There seems to be little difference between Naomi Klein ranting and venting spleen over Nike marketing when she’s peddling videos and books through similar marketing channels; essentially the trap of what Theodor Adorno, with some justification, called the fallacy of the ”cultural industries” which according to him, as an example, anti-war folk-songs of Joan Baez or Bob Dylan only seem to enhance the likelihood of both war, and the industry of protesting it to continue. The Michael Moore’s and Kleins are like consolation prizes, and bridesmaids for those willing to act much more dangerously. There may be a changing of the guard coming, but ”change you can believe in” , will be a severe test of faith for both believers and atheists alike. This nicely sums up the dynamics of confrontation that has been the recurring theme of these econmoic summits:
”Freud coined the phrase “narcissism of small differences” in a paper titled “The Taboo of Virginity” that he published in 1917. Referring to earlier work by British anthropologist Ernest Crawley, he said that we reserve our most virulent emotions – aggression, hatred, envy – towards those who resemble us the most. We feel threatened not by the Other with whom we have little in common – but by the “nearly-we”, who mirror and reflect us. The “nearly-he” imperils the narcissist’s selfhood and challenges his uniqueness, perfection, and superiority – the fundaments of the narcissist’s sense of self-worth. It provokes in him primitive narcissistic defences and leads him to adopt desperate measures to protect, preserve, and restore his balance. I call it the Gulliver Array of Defence Mechanisms.
The very existence of the “nearly-he” constitutes a narcissistic injury. The narcissist feels humiliated, shamed, and embarrassed not to be special after all – and he reacts with envy and aggression towards this source of frustration. In doing so, he resorts to splitting, projection, and Projective Identification. He attributes to other people personal traits that he dislikes in himself and he forces them to behave in conformity with his expectations. In other words, the narcissist sees in others those parts of himself that he cannot countenance and deny. He forces people around him to become him and to reflect his shameful behaviours, hidden fears, and forbidden wishes.
But how does the narcissist avoid the realisation that what he loudly decries and derides is actually part of him? By exaggerating, or even dreaming up and creatively inventing, differences between his qualities and conduct and other people’s. The more hostile he becomes towards the “nearly-he”, the easier it is to distinguish himself from “the Other”. ( Dr. Sam Vaknin )
This seems to very much explain the vituperative, and biting trash talking between left and right in the United States. The Left may ultimately prevail, but essentially it will be lock-jaw when it comes to meaningful solutions. There will be a lot of disappointment. The Joseph Stiglitz of ”Making GlobalizationWork” fame and Paul Krugman talk the talk of escaping from the growth imperative, reorganizing globalization along the line of greater justice, shrinking global imbalances an other lofty and worthy objectives but; when it comes to walking the walk, even with crutches, it seems wishful, from past models, that these heavy regulators could actually achieve much that is useful. They are preaching incarnations of the desperate economic times of the 1930’s coupled to the political advantages of layering in more and more government in the name of reform and fairness.
Stock market cheats and other sharpers are an easy scapegoat that is politically beneficial for the Left to cover and decorate that flank. The calamity then and now, to a major degree, has been over borrowing, followed by deflation and higher tariffs. Obviously fraud must be discouraged, but in terms of international finance and capital markets, government does have a propensity to proliferate, and in any enforcement context the objective is always to have as much leeway as possible to meddle, harass and litigate, or preferably simply seize and intimidate by executive fiat. The ”placebos” of the Left, unfortunately become Frankenstein monsters, competing with each other for the scalps of the prominent, posturing before the media as proactive public defenders and generally being a redundant nuisance.
”How could it be alright to attack a World Bank meeting, but wrong to attack a high street bank? They are both elements of the same system, just operating on a different scale. How can it be wrong to attack a summit that paves the way for sweatshops, but wrong to attack a company that is directly involved in those same sweatshops? Or to attack a shop that sells sweatshop-made goods? Or sells food produced in equally horrendous conditions?
Getaway train and train wreck for the little black engine. There is some legitimacy to these arguments….. Sure, breaking up a McDonalds isn’t going to stop global capitalism, but neither is breaking up a summit meeting. We don’t accept that damaging property is the same as injuring people – in fact, it’s a pretty sad reflection of our current society that the two are equated – so why is this even being argued about? If a company participates in, or just supports, the oppression of actual, existing people, what’s wrong with breaking their windows? Why should we shed tears for Nike?
Presently we have a long standing and toxic confrontation, and with reference to Freud’s ”Narcissism” theory, the two sides are virtually indistinguishable; some political/economic differences as a form of religion and sectarian discord that symbolizes the narcissism and makes the most of the least discrepancy. This probably explains the frequency of ”Damascus Road Conversions” among radicals who can seamlessly adjust to the corporate world. The Philip Zimbardo mock prison experiments showed the counterculture, when give the power as prison guards, could easily surpass the guards in cruelty and sadism. According to Robert Bartley at the WSJ, Condoleezza Rice and other neo-cons flirted heavily with Trotsky before migrating over to Leo Strauss.
”Who would have predicted that, in less than 30 years after the battle for People’s Park, squares and hippies would together create the Californian Ideology? Who would have thought that such a contradictory mix of technological determinism and libertarian individualism would becoming the hybrid orthodoxy of the information age? And who would have suspected that as technology and freedom were worshipped more and more, it would become less and less possible to say anything sensible about the society in which they were applied? The Californian Ideology derives its popularity from the very ambiguity of its precepts. Over the last few decades, the pioneering work of the community media activists has been largely recuperated by the hi-tech and media industries….” ( Barbrook, Cameron, 1995 )
”On the other hand, what does it actually accomplish? Smashed windows won’t even dent the profits of a multinational, especially not if they can pass the cost on to someone else. Broken windows don’t convince anyone either. If they come at the end of a long campaign, people may understand why a particular shop was attacked, but otherwise it’s just seen as random. (And, in Genoa at least, some of it was completely random) So it comes back to the same question again – are we choosing based on our wish to see an anarchist society? Or are we just blowing off steam?
”With every summit, with every escalation of security, the conditions that made Seattle possible are getting further away. In Seattle it was possible to have large numbers of people taking part in an action that wasn’t especially illegal or confrontational (any more than a Reclaim the Streets or Critical Mass) and yet directly achieved its aims of closing the summit. But now that the barricades have gone up, protestors seem to be left with two alternatives – return to symbolic, peaceful protests, that have no (direct) effect, or move on to very illegal and highly-planned protests that might be directly effective. (And every time summit security is increased, the level of illegality and planning required to breach that security is also increased.)
Alongside this growing problem there is the constant question of the Black Bloc. Its difficult to even define what the Black Bloc is, let alone to decide what part it could play in the summit protests. It may have started out as a purely anarchist grouping (though one which many anarchists avoid) but it’s not a permanent grouping, it’s just something that comes together at protests. Being in the Black Bloc just means being willing to break the law, destroy property, or fight with the police to achieve the aims of the protest. As such, many non-anarchists will happily join the block, to the extent that one of the Black Blocs in Genoa contained a group of Maoists.”
Anarchist terrorism died down, partly because it became clear that ”the propaganda of the deed” was counterproductive, the high profile loss of life and material damage dissipated into the broader declining fortunes of the movement as a whole. When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917, defying both Marxist theory and nearly half a century of Marxist social practice, Revolution gained a base; but it was a Marxist, not an anarchist one.
In the West the depression seemed to raise the hope that the urban industrial workers might revolt, as Marx had said they would. Anarchism had been essentially a protest against the ”hypocrisy” of the liberal democracy in which the parliamentary socialist parties had been seduced and then ensnared, effectively neutering their more pointed attacks, risk of sedition, and potential for malarky into the present form of compromise and horse trading.
But in Central Europe of the 1930’s liberal democracy itself disappeared. In the face of a highly organized and ruthless fascist counterrevolution, it was communist discipline rather than anarchist spontaneity that seemed most needed, as in Spain, where as the Civil War progressed, the anarchists were quickly supplanted by the communists.
Today, the situation seems to draw on a number of antecedents, including the late nineteenth-century. The socialist parties are almost all of the ”law and order” variety. The resurgence of politics of urban brigandage in the form of the Black Bloc and in the romantic spirit and echo of Che Guevera is hardly surprising. There has been no revival of the anarchist policy of assassination, but the slums, ghettos still breed men of the type of Ravachol and Leon Czolgosz, prodded on by modern day Alexander Berkman’s and Bakunin’s. However, the anarchist protest today is more of a middle-class movement. Naomi Klein, though not an anarchist per se. is emblematic of this tendency which tends to reinforce the Charles Dickens doctrine of ”purity of the middle class” ; reformers on the road to a murky form of nirvana on a road paved with intentions that are ostensibly beneficial, and reasonably inclusive, and which leave the basic structure of wages and consumption untouched.Anarchism in this sense is basically a symbol, a brand to be managed; diss on Israel, diss on a bank, etc. Which in terms of mitigating some potentially more serious mistakes, may not be such a bad thing.
Again, the anarchist protest is as much against bureaucracy as it is against capitalism. in a world that seems increasingly to be divided into a minority of technocrats and experts on the one hand and a possibly prosperous but passive majority on the other, the anarchist call for decentralization and participation may well seem more relevant than socialist welfare or outright centralized control of the economy even in its ”capitalist” form as in China. Its an odd period where a juxtaposition can be made with anarchists and Tea Party followers on certain issues.
”We are enemies” Bakunin wrote prophetically, ” not only of religious priests but also of the priests of science”. To those who repudiate the authority of any elite or hierarchy whatever, Bakunin and Proudhon are mentors closer in spirit than is Marx, whether they realize it or not.
”The summits are themselves symbolic acts – opportunities for the powerful to assert their authority, publicise and legitimize their institutions, and reinforce the belief that their way is the only way for the world to run. This means that the protests against the summits are also symbolic actions, no matter how effective they are. In themselves, they don’t change the world, any more than the summits do. But they demonstrate an alternative – they show that you don’t have to leave decisions up to others, that it’s possible for large numbers of people to come together and organize themselves, that direct action and direct democracy are possible.
That is the real point of the summit protests, and that’s what we must remember when we work out how to deal with future summits. Mass democratic participation is not just a tactic to be adopted or discarded – it’s the most important thing about these protests. That’s what’s wrong with, to take one example, some of the plans being circulated for stopping the G8 summit in Alberta. It’s all very well to suggest that groups of anarchists should live in the woods for the month before the summit, planning various acts of sabotage – some of the plans may even be workable. But why bother? What is the possible gain from a tiny group of people adopting tactics that, by their nature, exclude the vast majority of people? It’s not going to stop any decisions being made by the G8, because those decisions will be made anyway, somewhere else if not there. And there is no ‘public relations’ victory to be won – that was won the day the G8 admitted that they had to meet in such an isolated location.”
”Being an anarchist activist shouldn’t mean sitting through endless meetings and paper sales, we also have to seize our freedoms when we can, and if a demonstration can be turned into a party, that’s great. But one demonstration isn’t going to change society, and no matter how good the party is – or how destructive the riot is – as long as capitalism continues all our victories can only be temporary. So we’ve got to keep a balance, making sure our short-term gratification isn’t making our long term goals harder to reach. We’re fighting for the whole world, and not just for a week.
Perhaps the biggest challenge the anti-globalisation movement faces at the moment is to realize that this first round is over, and we’ve won. Summits will never be the same again – instead of open displays of power and confidence, staged in the major cities of the west, the World Bank, WTO, IMF, and G8 have to meet in the Canadian wilderness, or in a repressive state like Qatar. They’ve been forced onto the defensive – they’re the ones that have to justify their existences, and they have to do so from behind lines of barricades and riot cops.
As they’ve withdrawn, we’ve gained in confidence. The world is full of networks of activists, sharing information and working together on a scale few would have dreamed of a few years ago. And these networks have been built democratically, from the ground up. Delegates and spokescouncils, ideas that few had heard of a couple of years ago, are now common currency. Many new groups organize without leaders as a matter of course, and more and more people are questioning the idea that people need rulers at all, whether they call themselves capitalist, socialist, or communist.
”The moralization of profit is an illusion and a fraud. There must be a decisive break with an economic system that has consistently spread ruin and destruction while pretending, amidst constant destitution, to deliver a most hypothetical well-being. Human relations must supersede and cancel out commercial relations. Civil disobedience means disregarding the decisions of a government that embezzles from its citizens to support the embezzlements of financial capitalism. Why pay taxes to the bankster-state, taxes vainly used to try to plug the sinkhole of corruption, when we could allocate them instead to the self-management of free power networks in every local community? The direct democracy of self-managed councils has every right to ignore the decrees of corrupt parliamentary democracy. Civil disobedience towards a state that is plundering us is a right. It is up to us to capitalize on this epochal shift to create communities where desire for life overwhelms the tyranny of money and power. We need concern ourselves neither with government debt, which covers up a massive defrauding of the public interest, nor with that contrivance of profit they call “growth.” From now on, the aim of local communities should be to produce for themselves and by themselves all goods of social value, meeting the needs of all—authentic needs, that is, not needs prefabricated by consumerist propaganda.” ( Raoul Vaneigen )