Friday, February 25, 2011

End:Civ, a new revolutionary panacea?

This article delves into the development of anti-civilization ideology and critiques it as a potential dead end without the growth of an movement that crosses simple pronouncements. 

 I think that it is recognizable that modern industrial development has been, on a whole, destructive to the environment.  The need then is how to dismantlement harmful industrial technologies and provide a just transition for the workers within those industries.  We need to build solidarity, against sexism, patriarchy, capitalism, and for a new, green world. 

    Originally posted here

End:Civ, a new revolutionary panacea?

Blog posts are the work of individual contributors, reflecting their thoughts, opinions and research.
A lot of the bad publicity for Marxist groups has come as a result of those members who preach Marxist dogma just as Christians preach their gospel. There's no need to study many texts on Marx's writings to realize this current created a lot of red-robed priests telling us “what the great Karl really meant”. It seems as though new ideologists haven't learned from the mistakes of the past, as we're witnessing the dawn of a new generation of “green-robed priests”. This review traces parallels between Marxists' mistakes, and new ideas in anti-civilization discourse; focusing on the aim to propagate an argumentative structure formed from “premises”, the tendency to split and fork into smaller groups, and the "inevitable future" discourse that stresses the importance of acting in an emergency.
Argumentative structure
Maoist movements were delivered sentences by the Little Red Book just as End:Civ (like End Game) is structured around premises for involvement in the anti-civilization movement. These sentences make the anti-civilization movement assume particular answers to questions that need to be addressed collectively-the problem is that accepting the premises from End Game dismisses all the major discussions grassroots organizations must go through in their development and radicalization.
An example is the premise "love does not imply pacifism". Involvement in social movements will force you to have discussions on that topic over and over again, inside groups, because of the obvious importance of having unity over tactics. You have to be open-minded and understand your opponent's points of view if you want to develop arguments that they view as relevant. The movie does help discussion on this topic. However, by stating one opinion as a given premise, it pushes out people who have not yet decided over the issue.
The same problems will arise from the premise "civilization, especially industrial civilization, can never be sustainable". End:Civ tells us we should take this as granted. Meanwhile, we have millions of Canadians giving money to the Canadian Pension Plan (the biggest investor in military equipment suppliers), who could be convinced of the risky nature of their pension system-which could erupt just as in Greece or France. Here, the majority of the population should be rejected by that premise,just because they ignore the risky nature of our economic institutions. Even among those who don't ignore it, a lot of them should also be rejected on behalf of their materialism; because they are refusing to have a firm position on something that can't be proven.
If an ideology takes for granted the answers to major questions deserving to be addressed within our struggles, it takes us away from those movements-puts us above their discussions. It's hard to know what will come of the anti-civilization movement, but Marxism isolated individuals in groups of highly radicalized people, who spoke an hermetic language, who acted on behalf of others, and who were mimicked by following generations...
...that repeated the same mistakes!
Marxists movements in Canada never achieved a critical mass, in a tendency that might be depicted as confusing ideological and personal disagreements. Marxist-Leninists, Trotskyists, Maoists, all ignored each other in their publications. They did so to hide the tensions between groups and pretend that everything was perfect in the communist world, and above all, they were the only solution to capitalism.
In the anti-civilization world, there was a first generation including the likes John Zerzan and Dave Foreman, who supported veganism and the Animal Liberation movement. While End:Civ covers the "environmentalist movement", nothing is said of the ALF, the ELF, Earth First or operation backfire (because of which Rod Coronado, pictured in the movie, has been in jail).
As a refresher, the ALF and ELF were allegedly active in 40 countries, did massive campaigns of animal liberation, attacked power lines, etc., and ended up with a large amount of people in jail after operation backfire, in which the CIA infiltrated a cell. It's useful to explain that the environmentalist movement contains groups that have been co-opted, but ignoring those who have been crushed by the state prevents the movement from connecting with its past.
One conclusion of the West Coast episode of the ALF is that if you want to sustain any kind of direct action movement over time, you need a humongous amount of support and resources. These things take a long time to build. They require a lot of effort and a lot of contacts, sustained over a long period of time...
...but our days are counted!
Just as Marx made the mistake of declaring that capitalism would inevitably fall (more precisely, first in England, and finally in Russia), an End Game premise declares industrial civilization "unsustainable".
Saying "the longer we wait for civilization to crash, the worse life will be after its fall", without addressing head-first the quantity of work there is to do to “smash the state”, can lead to many misconceptions about the nature of this work. The struggle against “civilization” will be won when there are no longer enough believers in the capitalist mode of production to overthrow our thriving post-revolutionary society; not just when the White House or Monsanto's headquarters burn down.
But it gets worse as the "act right now" discourse in End:Civ ignores different streams of struggle to focus only on the one against civilization. Prioritizing struggles has been the main source of failure from the Marxist movements of the past. To "Fuck Patience" here would be to postpone the important work done by other groups until after the revolution, keeping a lot of allies out of the struggle.
Take as an example the 1969 Chicago convention of the Students for a Democratic Society, which fell into disarray after Marxists (formerly the Worker Student Alliance and the Progressive Labour Party) took over; postponing the anti-racist and feminist discussions for "after the revolution". This is why some anarchists tend to separate the anti-civilization movement from anarchism. The anarchist tradition includes large anarcho-syndicalist, anarcho-feminist, anarcho-queer, and anarchist people of colour segments, which emphasize having a movement structured in the same way as the post-revolutionary society. Therefore most anarchists refuse the principle of ideological unity, because all those fighting back deserve to have their voices equally heard.
It is as important to understand the refusal of civilization, as it is to understand the 200 years of resistance that the worldwide population has waged in struggle against the capitalist system, as it is to understand the struggle against patriarchy, heterosexism, homophobia, ableism and all other systems of oppression. The more angles of approach we have, the more likely we are to inflict some damage.

Movements for social justice should try to move beyond such efforts as convincing people to follow “premises” and threatening them with Armageddon without disclosing how previous movements have already experienced the outcomes of such approaches. People defending the land are in an important struggle, but people also face oppression because of their gender (or lack thereof), their skin colour, their heritage, etc., and are also fighting back! People understand the links between patriarchy and capitalism, the similitude of racism and heterosexism... Disregarding these links between different oppressions, between different movements, can turn one valid point of resistance into a dead-end analysis that simply snubs other groups in struggle.

1 comment:

  1. If capitalism is at the root of oppression then why has every non-capitalist civilization that has ever existed been patriarchal, based on domination, slavery, and highly stratified? If capitalism is at the root of our environmental problems why were the previous non-capitalist civilizations still struggling with environmental degradation (fertile crescent was over-farmed, using organic methods might I add)? Civilization is inherently unsustainable, unjust, and clearly pathological.