Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Bakunin, Oaxaca, & Hoodie-Clad Slingshotists

. . . Bakunin figures into Oaxaca in the same way that he figures into the 1997 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) pepper-spray rumpus at UBC, the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, and the pitched battle between rioters and Italian police at the July 2001 Group of Eight summit in Genoa that resulted in the death of 23-year-old Italian anarchist Carlo Giuliani.

That's my take, from my Chronicles column today. Mark Leier, a fine thinker and writer, goes a tremendous distance in making sense of it all for us in his great new book.

The way I put it, Bakunin figures into all this because the vanguardists involved in these violent showdowns—and there have been dozens of such donny­brooks in recent years, large and small—are in many ways the ideological heirs of Bakunin. But it is not as though all the activists who vainly court such excitements have been reading too much Bakunin, Leier told me the other day. If anything, they’ve been reading far too little of him.

One thing Leier argues is that it is in the violent “propaganda of the deed” that hoodie-wearing, slingshot-firing activists err by a tragic misreading of Bakunin, and the emergence of identity politics and other postmodernist currents would not have made Bakunin any happier. For one thing, Bakunin was no violence-fetishist. For another, Bakunin would never have abandoned the working class as the primary agent of social change, and he certainly wouldn’t have gone looking for more “revolutionary” substitutes for it.


Blogger BostonAarchist said...

Dear Terry,
ive never done this blogging thing so bear with me. I liked your article and am glad you were able to bring Bakunin into modern events. However, I disagree with your dismissal of the movement in Oaxaca. I should get this out of the way before I start: I am myself an anarchist, more of the Kropotkin than Bakunin variety, but i agree with the anti-authority, pro-community power sentiment of most anarchist writers.
That said, the movement in Oaxaca from the onset has rejected violence. Like Bakunin, they do not feel that property distruction is necesarily violent, but by sheer numbers and determination they have built their movement for popular assemblies on the principles of non-violence. Indeed, it was the state government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz who instigated the violence when he sent the police and hellicopters to burn down the peoples tent encampment. To this, the people organize to defend themselves, driving the police and politicians out of Oaxaca City. It was the state, the PRI (ortiz's party) that since June sent cowardly carivans of pickup-trucks to shoot up unarmed people at the barricades in Oaxaca, killing over 20 (including Brad Will). It was also the state, under orders of president Vicente Fox, that sent over 5,000 federel riot police into Oaxaca City on October 29th, arresting and beating the people. The people of Oaxaca responded to this invasion by painting their hands white and turning out onto the streets in numbers reaching over 400,000. It is only when attacked--attacked by guns, batons, helicopters, tanks etc--that the people of Oaxaca have responded with violence. They have used homemade weapons and sheer determination to prevent the police from occupying the people's radio station, and from taking control of Oaxaca city.
Now we anarchists can not, under any circumstances, take credit for Oaxaca. There are large anarchist groups participating in the Popular Assemblies of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), and while APPO may run on principles extremely close to what Bakunin and Kropotkin and Goldman proffed (open democratic meetings, no politicians or authority, etc) the majority of the people in APPO are not anarchists and would never profess to be such. It is also important to note that many have been influenced by the father of the Mexican Revolution, Ricardo Flores Magon, who also happened to be an anarchist, but I thik that this anti-authoritarian style of organizing comes more out of indigenous traditions that any political philisophy crafted by dead European men.
That said, the movement in Oaxaca is the most important and most inspirational revolt that has occured in recent history, based completely on direct democracy, peace, and equality. I urge any and all interested people to check out the informatio that APPO and their supporters have been publishing before beleiving the corporate media's hype about armed, masked geurilla's in the streets of Oaxaca.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Louis Proyect said...

You are a complete rightwing idiot.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Proyject - you are a Stalinist hack.

3:48 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Comrade Will:

Thanks for addressing Proyect in precisely correct terminology. I'll be raising a glass to you presently.

Boston Anarchist:

Thanks very much for your well-considered and informative response.

I should say straight out that it was certainly not my intention to be dismissive of "the movement in Oaxaca," and I agree wholeheartedly that it would be plain wrong to deny credit for the inspiring aspects of the events there (is uprising too strong a word?) to the indigenous effort. I wouldn't consider its anarchist tendency (is there really anything wrong in putting that way?) to be solely an outside influence, either. Oaxaca has a long tradition of what we might call "anarchist" politics going back at least to Magon (as you point out), who as I understand it was at least to some extent a student of Bakunin.

It's been years since I was in Oaxaca and I certainly don't claim any great knowledge about APPO's internal tensions, but I think it would be wrong to dismiss the dissension within the teachers' union about the direction this has taken, and the fact that APPO itself has had to take pains to force the slingshot brigade to back off; APPO leaders have made fairly clear public denunciations of certain elements that seem to court violence as a virtue.

Anyway, my column was mainly about Bakunin, Leier's book, and Leier's take on things. But if you'd like to post here some links that might provide some helpful background about Oaxaca, by all means do.

Thanks again.

p.s. if you want a really interesting web blog you should have a look here:

5:30 PM  
Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

Louis why ??,you are usually better than that.There are many things about some of Terry's views I have a problem with.The way he puts them some times I have to scratch my head,e.g the way he dismisses every current"left" group and action while expressing his admiration of the "left"of old...
But he does make a few points,what else explains the flurry of rebuttals etc when ever he posts to the "Tyee"
I would love to see a debate between you two.Both with lots to say both prone to ego once in a while(insert smile)but I have always said writing is an act of ego.

6:13 PM  
Blogger BostonAarchist said...

Sources from Oaxaca:
This is the best one (if you can speak spanish) as its directly from APPO:

another spanish language:

For english speakers, theres a couple good links. Heres a study group with a bunch of reporters from and currently in Oaxaca:

This is another good one:

heres a new source that writes a lot on Oaxaca:

Oaxaca indepenent media:

And for an anarchist prospective, Infoshop news often has Oaxaca updates.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Louis Proyect said...

Buchholz, Glavin is not worth wasting time with. The Eustonians are about to go into the dustbin of history now that the neoconservative host that they had a parasitic relationship to is moribund. They were like fleas attached to a rat.

7:12 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Oh dear. The neoconservatives are vanishing. Whatever shall I do?

Anyway. . . BostonAnarchist:

Thanks yet again. Will follow those up and pass them along.


7:38 PM  
Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

Terry said:"p.s. if you want a really interesting web blog you should have a look here:
yikes,you can not really mean that.

7:45 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

I certainly do, Dirk. It's from the standpoint of the proles, it's smart, and its often quite funny.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Dirk Buchholz:

You cheeky git.

12:07 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

With the hindsight of more than a century since Bakunin’s death, it is no easier to imagine a global civilization organized along the lines of a volunteer fire department.

I'd think of it more organized along the lines of Wikipedia, or an Open Source software project. And in those terms, it becomes more imaginable.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

Will said;"Dirk Buchholz:

You cheeky git."
cheeky?you ain't seen cheeky yet.My new blog is under construction
it comes with a "ACME Bullshit Meter"

4:07 PM  

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