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(en) The New Formulation Vol.2, #2 - Appropriating “Another World” - Book Review by Sureyyya Evren

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 12 Sep 2004 09:13:25 +0200 (CEST)


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When I wrote David Graeber(1) and informed him that our new
collection of essays in Turkish is being published under the title
Another World is Possible(2)—including a translation of his article
“The Globalization Movement,” which later became “The
New Anarchists”(3)—he noted that many books, in many
different languages, are being published with the same title. Graeber
is correct, and this should probably be seen as a form of written
solidarity and linguistic internationalism from the global/local
movements that are now emerging onto the political scene in so
many parts of the world.

The movement we are talking about is known as the
anti-globalization movement, the global justice movement, the global
democracy movement (as David McNally prefers(4)), or global/local
movements. There may be other alternatives I forget here and maybe
it is enough when we simply say The Movement (even if we actually
mean movements). I suspect that our difficulty naming ourselves is a
reaction to the existing naming strategies used by those in power
(especially the corporate media) and it shows the serious need to use
more flexible categories while defining ourselves than the old, stiff
categories that easily create manichaeistic divisions. The slogan
“Another World is Possible” always express the idea that we
do not want to name the world we are struggling; that we just know
that we don’t want the same old world, that we know what we
oppose. As the Zapatista encuentros declared earlier, we are
organizing “against neo-liberalism and global capitalism.” We
are anti-capitalist, anti-militarist, anti-globalization, anti-WTO,
anti-IMF, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-hierarchical, anti-statist,
anti-sweatshop, anti-x. The most anti- generation in modern political
history is in the streets...

So, here we have three books that want to engage these anti-s and to
some extent change and even manipulate the Movement. They are
The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography of Opposition,
edited by Joel Schalit, Another World is Possible: Globalization and
Anti-Capitalism by David McNally, and From ACT Up to the WTO:
Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization,
edited by Benjamin Sheppard and Ronald Hayduk.

When I said “even manipulate” I especially had in mind The
Anti-Capitalism Reader (ACR). At first, ACR looks like a solid
anti-market book that is trying to grapple with today’s capitalism
in its many aspects (from culture and economics to the public sphere
and anti-capitalist movements). The index includes essays with
appealing titles and there at least three “stars” in the
anthology: Naomi Klein’s famous article on Zapatistas and
Marcos—”The Unknown Icon”—is republished here
and there are interviews with Slavoj Zizek and Antonio Negri. Some
time ago, one of my friends told me that he got a book on
“anti-capitalism” (it was ACR) and asked my opinion about
translating and publishing it in Turkish. I just looked at titles and
flipped through the pages and, without reading it, said “Sure,
looks like a rich book on the anti-globalization movement.” What
a mistake! What a lesson for me! When I actually read ACR, I saw
that it is an authoritarian, sectarian, orthodox marxist attempt to
appropriate the anti-globalization movement. I called my friend early
in the morning with severe feelings of guilt and told him what the
book is really like. If it is going to be translated to Turkish it should be
done by some Marxist party or group, who reject the decentralized
character of the Movement in principle: I would be the last person to
contributes to this.

Two types of pieces characterize ACR; essays addressed to sectarian
Marxist readers that debate what to do with the new
anti-authoritarian movement and essays written to teach
anti-globalization activists how to stop being members of the
anti-globalization movement and start being socialist party pawns (or,
to put it differently, essays teaching the Movement how to stop being
itself and turn into a campaign for parliamentary elections). The
authors in ACR do not understand what the movement is and do not
try to listen to it. Instead, like the corporate media, they only see
symbols, and prefer to manipulate.

But they are not, as Zizek notes, so stupid as to represent themselves
as they truly are.(5) So many titles are misleading. Paul
Thomas’s essay “What News from Genoa? Varieties of
Anti-Capitalist Experience” does not intend to explain or discuss
varieties of anti-capitalist experience (in Genoa, for example).
Instead, he praises Marx and Marxism and tries to prove that Marx
was the father of all revolutionary sons (ACR shelters in some sexism
too, I will note later) with entertaining phrases like “There is a
patterning to the galaxy, with Marxism as its lode star.”(6) This
essay should really be titled “The Real Origin of Genoa and other
Anti-Capitalist Experiences is Marx and No One and Nothing
Else.”

John Brady’s essay “The Public Sphere in the Era of
Anti-Capitalism” criticizes the Movement for overemphasizing
the public sphere as a political arena and, instead, proposes
“political parties, parliament, and the state administration.”(7)
He is unhappy that the radical democratic Left’s energy has been
focused on the public sphere and civil society so much and that
efforts to mobilize within the electoral arena are increasingly
dismissed. For Brady, the parliamentary road is “the path
anti-capitalist left must follow.”(8) Unbelievably, he writes
without hesitation that “after all, in modern democracies the will
of the people is expressed most directly through elections.”(9)
This makes you feel like, “what am I reading?” Brady
seriously has no idea what has been going on since Seattle and what
the radical Left has been doing (or maybe he is just making fun of
us).

And Scott Schaffer’s “From Bunny Rabbits to Barricades:
Strategies of Anti-Capitalist Resistance” is not about strategies of
anti-capitalist resistance. Schaffer believes that the newest phase of
anti-market struggles lack a “practical politics” and thus he
proposes strategies. (What a misunderstanding! The “newest
phase of anti-market struggles” is actually based on organizing
with “practical politics” and even the ideology of the
movement lies in its way of organizing.) The title should be
“Strategies for Anti-Capitalist Resistance” because, instead of
finding out and discussing strategies that are used in the
anti-capitalist resistance, he only wants to make suggestions.

In fact, the name of the book is completely misleading. It should have
been called As Marx Described It—as one of the contributors of
ACR, Charlie Bertsch, says to Henwood during an interview.(10)

Among the committed Leninists in ACR, Doug Henwood seems a
little more critical and sometimes tries to understand what’s
going on. And he also provides a good example of how Marxist
intellectuals write to other Marxist intellectuals. You should read the
passages in which he refers to activists as “kids,” which
they—Marxists intellectuals—can shape efficaciously. (Just to
note: a tendency towards gerontocracy reveals itself often in ACR. For
example, speaking of activists, Henwood states that “the kids are
grateful to hear a coherent analysis of how the parts of the system fit
together”(11) or “I think it often tends to be juvenile in
practice. A lot of it is an infantile ‘NO!’ translated into
political philosophy.”(12) Likewise, John Brady says, “After
all, the mobilization against global capital is still in its
infancy.”(13) While these quotations do not prove anything in
themselves, they suggest a perspective.) Although Henwood knows
that activists have had little tolerance for similar takeover attempts, he
is still hopeful for Marxism. “It seems like it would be far more
efficacious for marxist intellectuals to talk with the protesters, to
engage them in conversation with some modesty, perhaps even a
touch of awe.”(14)

Talking about anarchists as the “other,” Henwood and
Bertsch are interested in “them” and “their ideology.”
Henwood was struck by the anarchists’ organizational model,
which combined incredible flexibility with great discipline, and the
spirit of it, which combined great seriousness and fun. Henwood
found anarchist protests “erotic.”(15) (Similarly, in Turkey
and perhaps other parts of the world too, the corporate media often
refers to news stories and events with lots of pain, blood, and scandal
as “sexy.”) He tries to make fun of anarchism, but he is also
afraid of its successes (which he witnessed). This is a typical
orthodox Marxist, defensive reaction.

His interview with Zizek begins with a question like “what we are
going to do with this growing anarchist influence?” Zizek is no
doubt a good writer and an exceptional thinker and it is always a
pleasure to read his analyses, even if you do not agree. He is a good
interdisciplinary thinker who combines an analysis of popular culture,
academic debates, and political demands in a brilliant way. The last
book I read by him was, The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David
Lynch’s Lost Highway, which is a good example of his
style—skilful interpretations that you can admire even if you
don’t embrace them.

But he seems uninformed if not ignorant when the subject comes to
anarchism, particularly when he says “For me, the tragedy of
anarchism is that you end up having an authoritarian secret society
trying to achieve anarchist goals.”(16) On the contrary, this looks
like the tragedy of the far-away, intellectual-observer. This statement
provides only one insight: the Great Zizek writes brilliantly on
September 11th but he is not really interested in the anti-globalization
movement and actual political struggles and doesn’t spend much
time trying to understand what emerged in Seattle and after. He even
claims that there is always “one person (in the anarchist groups),
accepted by some unwritten rules as the secret master.”(17)

Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-capitalism
The other marxist book we have here is David McNally’s
Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-capitalism, which
is a very basic book for the most part. McNally, who is full of good
intentions and a New Leftist of the old generation, wants to show the
path to the new generation. But why? To appropriate? I don’t
want to cast blame: his Marxist but non-sectarian view looked very
genuine to me.

To a great extent Another World is Possible (AWP) is like a
long-pamphlet explaining why capitalism is bad, why the big
companies are bad, and why we should change them. Despite the
McNally’s obvious good intentions, there are serious orthodoxy
problems in the book, like economic determinism. We can take
racism as an example. McNally gives false or insufficient information
about the creation of the concept of race. Of course it is always a good
starting point to note that the concept “race” was created and
fabricated, but it was not created by rich white Americans to divide
the poor whites from poor people of color in eighteenth century
America (even though rich whites did use racism to divide poor
whites from poor people of color).(18) Such simplifications and
economic determinism just do not help. On the other hand, why
doesn’t McNally interpret, for example Robert Bernasconi’s
works on race and racism in continental philosophy? And race and
racism in the Locke’s work—whose philosophy is very
important for the United States and slavery—and Kant and Hegel
and the Enlightenment are not insignificant issues.

But this basic book, with many disputable assertions, is much better
than the ACR because McNally really is interested in the Movement,
and is trying to understand, theorize, and improve it. Clearly he put a
lot of work into this book, and he devotes many pages to detailed
discussions of important movement actions around the globe. While
it was an unlucky experience to read ACR, reading AWP makes you
reflect on the global history of protests and contemporary strategies.
The barrier that prevents him from entering the “soul” of the
movement probably lies in his belief in centralized politics. He quotes
a slogan from a May Day 2001 banner in London: “Overthrow
capitalism–and replace it with something nicer!” and notes
that “the designer of this banner has humorously called for
replacing capitalism with ‘something nicer’–without any
attempt to name what that might be. That ‘something nicer’
needs a name. Social movements will not develop if they refuse to
name and define alternative possibilities.”(19)

This is where AWP falls apart: this slogan has the same logic as the
slogan “Another World is Possible” and the authors of both
probably have a vision of social alternatives. But what they are trying
to do is to send a message to other anti-capitalists who are working
for these alternatives. Both express a strong emphasis on direct
action, because they are not utopian and because they intend to
change the present. And “Another World” is not a world you
will see before you die; it is an ideal. That’s why banner writers
do not name their alternatives, but instead name their desire to create
them through alternative forms of organizing against capitalism.

In any case, as I said before, I do not want to be too negative about
McNally. He is surely a committed activist, a writer with a strong
global revolutionary perspective, and AWP is full of insights.
Although I don’t agree with many of his points of view, I felt
grateful for his book.

Politicizing Differences Together
One last point I want to make about ACR, which relates with Shepard
and Hayduk’s work, has to do with Annalee Newitz’s essay
“Peace, Love, Linux: When the Open Source Movement Got in
Bed with Capitalism.” This is an example of another misleading
title in ACR, which actually hides the homophobia of the author.
Newitz’s essay focuses on proving that open source and free
software folks are in reality true perverts, queers, S/M or kinky fetish
fans, how they make collections of lesbian fisting videos, etc. Of
course Newitz also mention the relation between free/open source
software and the market, but this is not the main subject of the essay.
It is obvious that Newitz does not like these “queer and
polyamarous communities” and starts the last paragraph with this
meaningful sentence “open sexuality is no alternative to
capitalism.”(20)

Time to talk about From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest
Community Building in the Era of Globalization (ACTUP/WTO),
edited by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk. This book is
certainly written from inside the Movement and reflects its soul
entirely. As Eric Rofes states in the introduction, it is an attempt at
“creating a new literature for a new era of community
organizing.”(21)

Shepard and Hayduk defend the idea that Act Up (the AIDS Coalition
to Unleash Power) played a central role in the rings of actions that led
to Seattle. Although they exaggerate a little bit at times, particularly
when they claim and/or imply that Seattle was born from ACT UP,
exaggeration is inevitable in all arts and I suppose that they do this on
purpose, in a carnavalesque spirit.

As Shepard remarks; Seattle was not one movement but the result of
many. And ACTUP/WTO contains many essential studies and first
hand accounts of how these movements organized. Considering that
the ideology of the Movement lies in its way of organizing, this book
on practical politics is key for those who want to study its meaning. It
is a movement which is “decentralized, based on coordination
rather than unification, deriving its strength and vitality from the
autonomy and self-determination of its component parts,” as
Leslie Kaufman writes.(22)

ACTUP/WTO explores forms of direct action and the role they have
played. It presents a history of movements following and developing
similar methods, offers a historical look at the spokescouncils and
affinity groups, advances anti-sectarian organizing principles, and of
course provides many, many examples and direct narratives.
Starhawk’s “How we really shut down the WTO” draws
an accurate picture. As she states: “our model of power was
decentralized, and leadership was invested in the group as a whole.
People were empowered to make their own decisions, and the
centralized structures were for coordination, not control.”(23)

Queering the global/local movements
ACTUP/WTO makes the reader navigate through organizing
processes of WHAM, Reclaim the Streets, the Lesbian Avengers,
among others. They are queering the political powerfully in this
volume and show the central role of community organizing in detail.
They carry their focus to the Zapatistas and explore hacktivism (their
discussions with Electronic Disturbance Theater member, Ricardo
Dominguez, are especially rich). Ana Nogueira’s article on
“the birth and promise of Indymedia revolution” shows how
alternative media worked in the Movement and helped it improve.
Saying more about the articles here would require many more details
about many specific actions and organizations covered in the book,
which are all the part of the Movement.

Even though ACTUP/WTO is surely not a “white” book, and
raises many topics about race and race conflicts, it does focus a little
too much on American movements. But why not? Someone could
argue that it is not necessary for every book to cover the entire world.
However, I am sure that Seattle has roots in many parts of the world,
and McNally was very good when he was searching for them.

Anyway, ACTUP/WTO presents a lot of helpful information and
valuable perspectives for a revolutionary transformation of politics and
everyday life. Now, this is the book that I would like to help translate.

“Another World” is and has always been a very flexible
category, especially when compared to concepts advanced by earlier
revolutionary movements. And this is not a critique: I feel like this is
what we need right now: more flexible categories and open structures
instead of closed ones. Italo Calvino could be the writer of the
moment. His Six Memos for the Next Millennium is a book on
literature but the main concepts are at work in the Movement too:
lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and
consistency.

For a Politics as a broader network…

Endnotes:

1. Graeber teaches at Yale University and writes for a variety of
movement publications. He is the author of Toward an
Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own
Dreams (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001) and an active
member of the anti-globalization movement.

2. Another World Is Possible, ed. Sureyyya Evren & Rahmi G.
Ogdul (Istanbul: Studyo Imge Books, 2002). This book is on the
anti-globalization movements and related theories. The first part
explores what we call “preliminary events”; Los Angeles
1992, Indonesia 1998, and the Zapatistas. After this part, in my piece
“Third Anarchist Boom,” I focus on three periods of world
anarchism: from the beginning to 1938; after 1968; and then after
Seattle 1999, and argue that these three eras have three different
characters and try to figure out the character of the last era. Also
included are excerpts from Internet news, magazine articles, first
hand witness accounts of actions, analyses, and reports on parallel
protests and events from Turkey; ranging from anti-globalization
protests, anti-war protests, the gay and lesbian movement, and
anti-Sacrifice Ritual actions. There are also related theoretical articles
on feminism, body, space, potlatch, translations of interviews with
key figures like Michael Hardt, José Bové, and Todd May and
related articles on the new situation from Turkish writers such as
Yasar Cabuklu, Erden Kosova, Isik Erguden, Rahmi G. Ogdul, and
myself.

3. David Graeber, “The New Anarchists,” New Left
Review 13, January–February 2002,
http://www.newleftreview.net/NLR24704.shtml.

4. See “Note On Terminology,” where McNally writes
“[This is] my preferred term for the so-called anti-globalization
movement, as it emphasizes the commitment of activists to global
justice.” David McNally, Another World is Possible: Globalization
and Anti-Capitalism (Winnipeg, Manitoba: Arbeiter Ring Publishing,
2002), 7.

5. Slavoj Zizek cited in Doug Henwood, “Interview with Slavoj
Zizek,” in The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography
of Opposition, ed. Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic Books, 2002), 80.

6. Paul Thomas, “What News from Genoa? Varieties of
Anti-Capitalist Experience,” in The Anti-Capitalism Reader:
Imagining a Geography of Opposition, ed. Joel Schalit (New York:
Akashic Books, 2002), 54.

7. John Brady, “The Public Sphere in the Era of
Anti-Capitalism,” in The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a
Geography of Opposition, ed. Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic
Books, 2002), 62.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid., 63.

10. Charlie Bertsch, “Interview with Doug Henwood,” in
The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography of Opposition,
ed. Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic Books, 2002), 169.

11. Doug Henwood, “Interview with Slavoj Zizek,” in The
Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography of Opposition, ed.
Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic Books, 2002), 44.

12. Doug Henwood cited in Charlie Bertsch, “Interview with
Doug Henwood,” in The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a
Geography of Opposition, ed. Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic
Books, 2002), 161.

13. John Brady, “The Public Sphere in the Era of
Anti-Capitalism,” in The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a
Geography of Opposition, ed. Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic
Books, 2002), 60.

14. Doug Henwood, “Interview with Slavoj Zizek,” in The
Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography of Opposition, ed.
Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic Books, 2002), 45.

15. Doug Henwood cited in Charlie Bertsch, “Interview with
Doug Henwood,” in The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a
Geography of Opposition, ed. Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic
Books, 2002), 161.

16. Slavoj Zizek cited in Doug Henwood, “Interview with
Slavoj Zizek,” in The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a
Geography of Opposition, ed. Joel Schalit (New York: Akashic
Books, 2002), 72.

17. Ibid., 73.

18. For example, McNally writes “and so, as bondage became
associated with Africans in eighteenth-century America, the concept
of race was created.” David McNally, Another World is Possible:
Globalization and Anti-Capitalism (Winnipeg, Manitoba: Arbeiter
Ring Publishing, 2002), 113.

19. David McNally, Another World is Possible: Globalization and
Anti-Capitalism, 235.

20. Ibid., 249.

21. Eric Rofes, introduction to From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban
Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization, ed.
Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk (New York: Verso, 2002), X.

22. Leslie Kaufman, “A short history of radical renewal,” in
From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building
in the Era of Globalization, ed. Benjamin Shepard and Ronald
Hayduk (New York: Verso, 2002), 40.

23. Starhawk, “How we really shut down the WTO,” in
From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building
in the Era of Globalization, ed. Benjamin Shepard and Ronald
Hayduk (New York: Verso, 2002), 53.
================================
* [Ed. Note: an antiauthoritarian initiative of the Anarchist studies
Institute.]


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