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(en) US, Review: Rethinking Crimethinc

Date Mon, 04 Sep 2006 09:56:32 +0300


"Your politics are bourgeois as fuck" -- There are two ways out of capitalism,
revolution or death. Anybody who tells you otherwise is simply wrong. The US based
sub-cultural cult "Crimethinc" (CWC) who mix anarchism with bohemian drop-out
lifestyles and vague anti-civilisation sentiment would have you believe that
capitalism is something from which you can merely remove yourself by quitting work,
eating from bins and doing whatever "feels good". They carry on the legacy of prize-
idiot Abbie Hoffman, printing books and zines which fetishise scams, petty crime
and useless activist/punk sub-cultural activity like food not bombs, squatting, etc.
They are anarchists by name only with little relevance to the rest of the anarchist
milieu and no class analysis, let's venture into their secret underground "anarchy club".

Crimethinc claims to not exist in a failed attempt at being both
mysterious and poetic, we'll have to start by stating that it does exist,
it has a few addresses, a number of books in print and an online shop
as well as a number of websites. It is a loose organization which
represents a variety of political views a mish-mash of post-leftism,
situationism, primitivism and all those "introducing.." philosophy
books you don't tell people you read. Anyone can publish under the
name or create content using their logo and each "agent" or group
operates individually. There is no formal structure, membership or
decision making process. One has to wonder whether it's as
decentralised as they claim to be, while the hundreds of kids who
post on the forum have as much legitimate claim to call themselves
part of crimethinc there are really only a vanguard of 20 people
maybe less who have had the pleasure of being published under the
CWC title and who run the entire show. Calling yourself a
crimethincer allows you the illusion that you're a part of something
much grander though, when you're a bored suburban teenager that's
very important and the well designed publications and impassioned
prose in their texts makes for a very inspiring read. The problem is
that once you analyse them critically you quickly realise they're
barely saying anything at all.

Many aspects of crimethinc reference the Situationist Internationale
and a large chunk of their ideas are based around the Situationist
concept "the transformation of everyday life". The Situationists were
heavily influenced by Marx and CWC are heavily influenced by
American consumer culture it would seem. The call to transform
everyday is a call to smash the current exploitative system, to
participate in the class struggle, an ongoing historical conflict
between the proletariat and the ruling class. Crimethinc substitute
this class struggle with a teenage individualistic rebellion based on
having fun now. Shoplifting, dumpster diving, quitting work are all
put forward as revolutionary ways to live outside the system but
amount to nothing more than a parasitic way of life which depends
on capitalism without providing any real challenge. The arrogance of
middle class kids (just like the hippies) supposing to change by world
by roughing it as "poor" people for a few years is captured perfectly
in the quote on the back cover of their book evasion.

"Poverty, unemployment, homelessness - if you're not having fun,
you're not doing it right!"

Condescending, privileged, middle class crap. The only people who
could think that poverty is in any way fun are wealthy kids playing at
being poor for a few years, the daily reality of poverty,
unemployment and homelessness for the average person is very
serious and something anarchists should always organise against
rather than mock.

The reality of the situation is that you can't boycott your way out of
capitalism, dropping out of the system is never going to bring it
down if anything you just re-enforce the system by recuperating
people’s alienation and desire for revolution by selling them a
new lifestyle under the same system. Capitalism is a system of
coercion and control, we don’t work to support the system, we
work because we need food and shelter and healthcare and the only
way to get that under capitalism is with money. The only way we can
get money is by selling our labour - the alternative is to rot,
that’s Capitalism. I don't want to feed my kids out of a dumpster
or have to scam free healthcare if I get cancer, it's not appealing or
practical. There's nothing revolutionary about using your white,
middle-class, western privilege to remove yourself from the system
at the expense of those who remain trapped in it. None of us are free
until we all are.

This idolisation of the grifter and scam as a somehow revolutionary
tactic has led their followers, and they are followers they certainly
don't have much say in the running of the sites and the shop, the
informal organisational structure "we're all crimethinc" enforces
this, to be mostly bored teenage boys. A quick browse around
crimethinc.net will show you this. The more worrying aspect is the
"us against the world" mindset many of these youths have. Many
view people who work regular jobs as an enemy complicit in the
capitalist system, a system they don't fully understand and which
crimethinc’s literature never fully explains. They have an
embarrassingly liberal interpretation of capital and the struggle
against it,

"By your 'support the working class' logic, I guess y'all should feel
guilty every time ya boycott any megacrop like Wal-Mart - after all,
they've got "working class" clerks workin' there too" – DizzIE

In this quote from a row over a scam to rob tourists (or
neo-colonialists as some bizarrely called them), a crimethincer
shows up the dangerous lack of understanding of class struggle.
Boycotts of multinationals, much like drop-out lifestyles, will do
little to bring about the fall of Capitalism which is a social
relationship based on wage labour. I do not wish to deny them their
right to be drop-outs and live out of bins so long as they realise they
will change nothing by living like this. An inflated sense of self
importance has convinced them that their chosen path is righteous
and all others are brainwashed by the system or are revolutionary
beauraucrats.

One of crimethinc’s more recent publications "recipes for
disaster:an anarchist cookbook", is indicative of the massive
problems with them. The book is a somewhat interesting list of
pranks, scams and activist information. Proclaimed as the follow up
to "Days of war, Nights of love" this book has many serious
shortcomings. Recipes (little more than DIY guides) range from how
to organise a black bloc to gynecology, Squatting, and “how to
make a bicycle into a record player”. An eclectic mix of
information, most of which is crap the rest of which is useless
without political understanding. This is meant to be the practice
where "days of war" was the theory but unfortunately DOW had no
real theory beyond drop out and do what feels good. Organising a
black bloc out of a handbook without any understanding of the social
conditions which necessitate mass militant anarchist direct action is
not just dangerous it's counter-productive to our entire movement.
The book shies away from serious revolutionary information like
how to organise a union in your workplace, how to organise at
school, how to make contact and work with communities in
struggle, how to break out of the activist ghetto, how to set up a
social centre, how to provide prisoner support or how to support
asylum seekers etc. All the activities amount to little more than
activist busy-work, something to waste your time with while being a
"drop-out", ease your social conscience and not have to do any hard
work or compromise yourself by working with people who are
complicit in the system. The Antifascist Action guide is well
meaning but pathetic, it amounts to a bunch of kids masking up and
getting their rocks off by confronting the cops before running off
again. This is a common element throughout, these things are listed
because they are exciting and dangerous and make you "feel good",
not because they are effective forms of revolutionary organising.

Ramor Ryans review of Days of War.. is spot on and does not really
need expanding on. DOW is massively plagirised, full of inaccurate
and offensive accounts of radical history and tends to define things in
very basic terms like good and bad without any solid ideas backing
up most of their claims.

"Text, ideas, and graphics are borrowed and pilfered from the
Stoke-Newington fanzine Vague, British graphic artist Clifford
Harper, French situationist Raoul Vaneigem and indeed, the whole
of the Situationist pantheon. They sack the archives of radical
sub-culture to compound a falsehood, the basic premise of this
book, that it is an instrument for “total liberation.” In reality,
CrimethInc’s vision seldom rises above that of a suburban kid
rebelling against authority. Mired in the punk rock and crusty
sub-culture, the practical application of all this revolutionary theory
is apparently realized by forming a band, fucking in a park, going
vegan or—oh my God now we’re really fucking doing
it!—giving out phony free tickets to the local cinema.9 It soon
becomes clear that the real crime here is the way they plunder some
of the finest and most invigorating ideas from the end of the 20th
century, and render them dull and inchoate." – Ramor Ryan

When thousands of french students recently occupied their
universities and trashed their cities in opposition to the introduction
of the CPE law one crimethincer had this to say about the organised
students;

"When I looked at the situation in France, I often thought that they
were not enough dumpster divers collectives!"

What purpose or relevance this person thinks a dumpster diving
collective would have served to a mass radical movement beyond
getting some old sandwiches which could be looted anyway is
beyond me. When mass struggles emerge crimethincers are of
course thin on the ground, mass struggle means working with
squares and allowing workers to be part of their revolutionary
subculture, which just wont do. The book “Anarchy in the age of
dinosaurs” published under Crimethinc by the Furious George
collective (who each deserve a bullet for crimes against anarchism)
is short and poorly written arguing against the idea of mass
organisation and for “chaos” and “butterfly wings”,
apparently.

“"Folk Anarchy is the name we have given to the arrow aimed at
the heart of every dinosaur. We are replacing the mass movement
with a scrappy multitude of mutineers, gypsies, sprawling shanties,
thieves in the knight and mad scientists”

The lack of any critical analysis and focus on spontaneity are serious
shortcomings for crimethinc which lead me to believe they do not
believe in revolution and are quite possibly happy to be the kids
living on the "edge" of Capitalism, a system whose excess supports
their drop-out lifestyles anyway. This would explain why crimethinc
have no theory for revolution, how to build to overthrow this system
and how to make sure that once we do we hold on to our gains, how
to organise a post-revolutionary world so that we don't repeat the
failures of the CNT and other historical precedents. A spontaneous
revolution leaves the working class no means to defend itself from
reactionaries and state socialists. Crimethinc call for a revolution in
everyday lifestyles and not life, they seek to define a subculture of
individualists who care only about themselves and those immediately
around them. A revolution of restless and spoiled middle class
Americans that is contemptuous of workers and organised
anarchists because in them they see the greatest threat to their
bourgeois lifestyles.

The supposedly self-critical analysis in crimethinc’s 10 year
report never touched on their failures as listed here. Perhaps this is
something these kids will address now and hopefully other
anarchists will add to the debate. I spent a few years uncritically
spewing out empty crimethinc rhetoric and wasting time with their
ineffective tactics and don’t wish to see another generation
fooled. I would urge all comrades to seriously consider the easy
solutions being peddled by CWC. The world can’t wait while
serious revolutionaries are side-tracked by poor ideas and poorer
tactics.

“Our demands most moderate are – We only want the
earth!”
- James Connolly
===================================
Copied from anarkismo.net
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