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(en) Canada, (A&S*) Upping the Anti #2 - LETTERS TO THE EDITORS: “Anonymous Worker”, Danielle Gauld and David Gilbert

Date Sun, 18 Dec 2005 11:57:18 +0200

UTA 2: Letter to the Editors "Letter from David Gilbert"
Submitted by ant on December 17, 2005 - 5:36pm. A&S News Wire
| UTA #2
Congratulations to the editorial crew for an excellent first issue of
Upping the Anti, which I found relevant and stimulating. I especially
liked the editorial which argued for theory in a very unpretentious,
on point way. And from that perspective, you provided a valuable set
of writings. The two roundtables really engaged me, especially the
one on organization since I myself am in a state of flux or limbo
between my old commitment to democratic centralism, which failed,
and my feeling that the anarchist alternatives are inadequate.

The other articles were good too – relevant without being too
long or convoluted. (Only the two book reviews seemed a little too
abstract). There are just two comments I want to make about some
differences of agreement I have. Gary Kinsman, on page 45,
discusses the changes of the 1960s and 1970s in a way that I think
separates North American capitalism much too much from
imperialism. In fact, it was a challenge from national liberation
movements that most pushed forward the crisis in this era, and it
was on the Third World that the most ruthless measures (structural
adjustment programs) to recoup surplus value were imposed.

Secondly, Selma James is right to stress how much nation, race,
gender, etc. are class. But I feel that she still concedes too much to
traditional (white, male) Marxism because in order to argue the
importance of those struggles she feels she has to equate them with
class. In truth, they overlap with and form class to a large degree but
aren’t completely coterminous. For example, certain class
alliances are valid parts of national liberation struggles. To me, we
also have to critique the reduction of capitalist “relations of
production” to wage labor. The occupation of whole countries as
well as work to reproduce labor power are both very much central
relations of production for imperialism.

Good going on Upping the Anti, and I hope you get some engaging
dialogues going.

David Gilbert

Dannemora, NY

UTA 2: Letter to the Editors "Again on the three "anti's"
Submitted by ant on December 17, 2005 - 5:35pm. A&S News Wire
| UTA #2
The editorial of the first issue of your journal put much needed
words to things I’ve long felt in not quite articulate ways. It
helped clarify the roots of and to historically situate our current
impasse, the challenges ahead, and what steps might be taken in
addressing them. As one of the “radical social workers” you
described, I am very grateful for this, because I am, for several
reasons, at a personal impasse very similar to the larger one you

As my critique has sharpened, the number of moments in which I
see liberatory possibilities has atrophied. This is at least in part due
to, as stated in your editorial, a sense that our activism consists
mainly of frantically jumping from tactic to tactic without spaces to
develop strategy and a systematic, integrative critique of capitalism,
imperialism and oppression that we can use to build our movements
in effective ways. Additionally, when we actually do create such
spaces we must constantly struggle against the tendencies to look at
issues solely on a systemic level (neglecting issues of process and
internal dynamics) or solely on a personal or interpersonal level
(neglecting the systemic).

Secondly, as the organizations I work with have lost touch with
larger social movement contexts and have had to fight to maintain
services in the face of funding cutbacks and cooptation by the state,
frontline and advocacy work has increasingly felt like trying to put
band-aids onto gushing wounds. My energy is consumed with
struggles to simply keep doors open, to help people find basic
resources, and to bring up issues of oppression, colonialism,
neoliberalism and so on in increasingly depoliticized and often even
hostile internal environments. I can rarely find opportunities to
examine the bigger picture or think strategically.

This all speaks to the need for balance in all we do: balancing
strategy with tactics, harm reduction with resistance and
dialogue/debate, addressing internal dynamics in our movements
with external critique/activism and so on.

There is one specific topic around which I feel we very much need
spaces of collective strategizing to explore: whenever we speak to
any of the three “antis,” whether through articles or
workshops or even informal discussions in mainstream,
semi-politicized or radical spaces alike, the most vehement level of
resistance comes up when we implicate ourselves and those with
whom we are in dialogue. However, confronting privilege and
complicity is absolutely crucial to the historical moment of struggle
we are currently in.

In a way, social justice work is still empowering, but in a deeper, less
immediately gratifying and affirming way than organizing solely
around one’s victimization and exploitation by a clearly defined
and identifiable enemy. We have more difficult questions than
simply to ask than how can we overthrow our common oppressor.

Rather, in anti-oppression work we are asking ourselves, how do we
enact privilege(s) in our daily interactions, who do our privilege(s)
marginalize, how can we learn to better recognize our privilege(s)
and ameliorate their effects? In anti-capitalist work we must ask how
we oppose a system from within and to which we lend our energy
and consent in myriad of everyday ways? And in anti-imperialist
work we must ask what it means to organize for social justice on
stolen land in movements in which Aboriginal people are still all but
invisible? How can we build solidarity that takes into account our
privileged location in a global system that funnels resources in our
direction, resources we in turn use in the course of our lives and
activism, despite our knowledge of the cost at which they are

Many people want clear questions and answers, clear rights and
wrongs, clear us’s and them’s, and we as “anti”
communities cannot offer that anymore, if we ever could. We cannot
offer the thrill of uncritical unity or the rush of collective
self-righteousness or the simplicity of defining ourselves as good
guys struggling against evil villains, as the hegemonic powers and
global right do by enforcing the dominant mentality. Therefore, one
of the most important questions we must ask ourselves is, where
from here? Thanks for getting the conversation started.

Danielle Gauld

Vancouver, BC
* A&S - Autonomy & Solidarity is an anticapitalist antiauthoritarian
revolutionary network in Canada.
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