getting over subculture

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smg
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Aug 8 2009 14:20
getting over subculture

Anyone have any ideas and/or tips for getting over the North American Anarchist/Activist subcultures? I already have a job and wash regularly.

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Steven.
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Aug 8 2009 20:33

Just ignore it?

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smg
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Aug 8 2009 21:26

That would require ignoring 90+% of the so called radicals in this part of the world but it might be worth it in the long run.

banpen
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Aug 9 2009 01:34

i definately think theres a lot of potential within subculturalists after you explain that lifestylism is a ghetto in terms of organising for social change; to be able to create a comfy individualistic, moralistic lifestyle/subculture within capitalism is a (largely white) privilege. I find a lot of people get stuck in subculture because they're interested in anarchism, but then get drawn down the wrong path so to speak (crimethinc arguably being the most widely propagated material). Spreading class struggle anarchist material is one way to help.

I think there's always going to be some sort of subculture attached to anti-capitalism; its important to explain that although (sub)culture is powerful and empowering on an individual level, it's actually reactionary in some respects in that it tells people that they should individually be eating out of bins/saving water by not showering/recycling etc to solve issues that are structural in nature.

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Juan Conatz
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Aug 9 2009 08:38

forget it

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Aug 9 2009 18:39

Banpen, I dont think telling folks that they are living in a ghetto is going to help very much. Most of the subcultural anarchists I know are very happy to keep on living in that ghetto since the real world, the world outside the magical confines of punk houses, requires working and interacting with non-anarchists and non-punks on a daily basis.

I'm less interested in converting a bunch of crusties and more focused on escaping from it myself. I'm sure I'm not the only one reading libcom who at one point was completely engrossed in an insular and irrelevant subculture.

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Aug 9 2009 18:54

well, i'd say you were well on your way to leaving it behind if you've already got a job and good personal hygiene. just get rid of any residual signs like having dreadlocks (unless you're black in which case you probably don't look like an idiot with them wink )
you've not made it clear what exactly you're trying to escape - in what ways are you still involved with it? if it's the people you hang out with then try asking your workmates/people you meet at whatever other places you go to for a pint sometime, and building a different group of friends that isn't politics-based? or if it's the politics you're currently around all the time that bothers you then try finding out what the various class-based political groups in your area are up to, just ask to meet them for a drink or somethin, and see whether what they're doing interests/affects you? maybe do both

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Aug 9 2009 21:45

Mate, try and do some organizing with "normies." I spent much of my teenage years doing activisty stuff--Food Not Bombs, convention demos, and the like--and it wasn't until I got involved in organizing with non-self-proclaimed radicals that my politics had a chance to grow beyond the subcultural ghetto.

Practically, talk to you co-workers to see if there's any potential for organizing there. Also, you may wantt to look into some of the openly class struggle organizations. Depending on what's going on there in Halifax, you could look into the IWW (there's some really solid Canadian Wobs) or perhaps the WSA.

banpen
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Aug 10 2009 00:18

Out of interest, has anyone here had any success in 'converting' lyfestylists through inviting them to anarchist organisations?

smg - although I wasn't in the exact same situation, it helped me to go onto bigger and better things wink

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Aug 10 2009 09:12

Well personally, no, but I do know a guy that used to be the ultimate summit hopper and once he got into the IWW* (I don't know if he was invited or not) he changed his ways.

*I know, not specifically anarchist, but openly class struggle.

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Aug 10 2009 09:22

Also, I think someone with some graphic design skills ought to make a "Chick Tract" for Lifestylists. In true Chick style, our Lifestylist will be visited by the Spirit of Durutti. Durutti will present him/her with a vision of a their death. It will be a dirty squat with primmos and Crimethinc kids in painful, withering agony from eating dumpstered food that gave them fatal food poisoning. Upon learing of his/her fate, the lifestylist repents and finds the class struggle. In the final page we see our protagonist, no longer mangy and dreaded, but instead carrying the red-and-black as he leads the glorious proletarian revolution. That would be fucking amazing.

Ina
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Aug 10 2009 15:34

Ahh I can totally sympathize with you smg!

did you check if maybe there is an anarchist list-serv in your area? rise up lists may have one.

Now although they are generally teeming with that lifestylist crimethinc BS, I actually recently critiqued some lifestylist action after just being sick of that list-serv, on the list-serv, and ended up coming into contact with a few others who were also tired of it and more class-struggle based anarchists which was quite a pleasant surprise!

So you could try that or just simply put something out there on it asking for some class-based anarchists and hopefully there will be a few lurking around.

Best of Luck

Angelus Novus
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Aug 14 2009 13:20

As my homeboy Yoshomon once stated on this very forum, nothing is more "subcultural" than political activism. I'm not even talking about the loony sects, either. The entire "activist" left, from John Pilger/George Monbiot/Z Magazine types all the way to radicals like Libcom, SolFed, and Anarchist Federation, is one giant subculture split into further miniature subcultures.

The lifestylists are just more open about their completely marginal status in society. The politicos, on the other hand, like to pretend that they're just plain folks.

Boris Badenov
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Aug 14 2009 18:25

so basically anyone who does anything is being subcultural. What's the culture then like, Angelus? Can you share the secret of keeping it real plz?

Angelus Novus
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Aug 14 2009 19:31
Vlad336 wrote:
so basically anyone who does anything is being subcultural.

Interesting how you manage to extrapolate that from what I said.

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Can you share the secret of keeping it real plz?

Who said anything about "keeping it real"? Authenticity is just another affectation.

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Aug 14 2009 19:46

Novus, are you suggesting that everyone who has an anti-capitalist analysis is subcultural inherently? Or that an anti-capitalist analysis often leads to the development of isolating subcultures?

I think that revolutionary political consciousness often leads to isolation and the development of subcultures incapable of destroying or even challenging capital (especially during reactionary/counter-revolutionary periods) and the state but I don't think that it has to be that way.

Angelus Novus
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Aug 14 2009 20:13

I think the "left" as it exists today is largely a subculture, and I mean that as non-judgmentally as possible. It might be distinguished from something like Crimethinc or whatever in the sense that groups like the IWW might envision their audience as being "workers" or whatever, but in terms of their actual position in society they're indistinguishable. And really, it's not like groups like Crimethinc don't also want to reach the widest possible audience as well.

In Germany, people within the radical left milieu actually refer to it -- without any trace of irony -- as "the scene". And of course "the scene" has its own bars and cafes, its book stores, its "autonomous" social centers, etc. If that's not a subculture, what is?

Boris Badenov
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Aug 14 2009 20:37
Angelus Novus wrote:

Who said anything about "keeping it real"? Authenticity is just another affectation.

yeah I know, which is exactly why it makes no sense to denounce solfed and Af for lack of said authenticity.

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I think the "left" as it exists today is largely a subculture, and I mean that as non-judgmentally as possible. It might be distinguished from something like Crimethinc or whatever in the sense that groups like the IWW might envision their audience as being "workers" or whatever, but in terms of their actual position in society they're indistinguishable. And really, it's not like groups like Crimethinc don't also want to reach the widest possible audience as well.

so basically anyone who
1. isn't completely apathetic about politics and all that shite
2. isn't more or less supportive of liberal democracy
is a subcultural leftie who should get a life? not putting words in your mouth, but that's what it sounds like to me.

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Aug 14 2009 20:45

i think the thing about subculture is it's about identity. now even within our local of a tiny organisation (solfed), we've got a reasonable spread of ages, gender, musical and fashion tastes and whatever other cultural signifiers you want to pick. our sole commonality is our political views and our economic position. that's not to say class struggle politics can't be a subculture in the way crimethinc is, but it's not inherently so. it's also not to say there isn't any subcultural dynamic at all - e.g. see me jack and jenni exchanging insults on libcommunity - but that doesn't define the group.

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Aug 14 2009 20:55

Funny how AN's claim that "the entire 'activist' left ... is one giant subculture split into further miniature subcultures" gets interpreted as claiming that "anyone who does anything is being subcultural" and that "everyone who has an anti-capitalist awareness is subcultural inherently". Since when does leftist activism = anti-capitalist awareness? I would think a genuine anti-capitalist awareness (I guess there are varying degrees of such awareness) would lead to a rejection and critique of leftist activism. Are people here really unaware of the pro-revolutionary (or anti-capitalist, if you prefer) critique of leftist activism, such as Andrew Flood's "Give Up Activism"? Not to say that either I or AN are in full agreement with Flood's text. I'm sure there are other critiques of leftist activism out there somewhere. Dauve must have something, but I can't think of anything specific by him at the moment.

Boris Badenov
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Aug 14 2009 21:00

I think the idea that what defines a subculture as opposed to a culture is numbers is really dodgy. Even when anarchism was a genuine mass movement back in the day, it was still regarded as a terrorist subculture by the bourgeois press. Basing your evaluation of contemporary radicalism on popular perceptions of the left is pretty misguided (and it's not like the left isn't a massive failure, but not because it is "subcultural").

Boris Badenov
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Aug 14 2009 21:03

waslax, I'm not defending leftist activism, but from what I gather AN is saying that all left politics (in the most inclusive sense of the term) are subcultural and irrelevant.
You are talking about an revolutionary critique of leftist activism, and I subscribe to such a critique, but 1) I don't think groups like solfed and AF are about leftist actvism as I understand it and 2) this critique is ironically pretty ultra-left in the scheme of things (and therefore "subcultural")

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Aug 14 2009 21:07
Joseph Kay wrote:
i think the thing about subculture is it's about identity. now even within our local of a tiny organisation (solfed), we've got a reasonable spread of [...] gender[...]

when I actually go to meetings grin

Quote:
it's also not to say there isn't any subcultural dynamic at all - e.g. see me jack and jenni exchanging insults on libcommunity - but that doesn't define the group.

I don't think this is a 'subcultural dynamic' anyway. there's actually relatively few jokes in libcommunity that i wouldn't share with my non-political friends.

alphafunction
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Aug 14 2009 21:11

Sam Moss's observations upon this seem quite relevant:

"this difference between our organization and others is only an ideological difference, and reflects no corresponding material difference. In practice we are actually likc all the other groups. Like them, we function outside the spheres of production, where the class struggle is fought; like them, we are isolated from the large mass of workers. We differ only in ideology from all the other groups, but then it is only in ideology on which all the other groups differ. Practicallythere is no difference between all groups. And if we were to follow the suggestion of our critics and "deepen the class struggle," our "Leninistic" character would become quite evident. Let us for assume, for example, that it is possible for us as an independent group to organize the workers of some industrial area. The fact that they have not moved of their own accord without our aid means that they are dependent upon us for their initiative. By supplying the initiative, we are taking it out of their hands. If they discover that we are capable of giving them the initial impulse, they will depend on us for the subsequent impulses, and we shall soon find ourselves leading them step by step. Thus, they who advocate that we "intensify" the class war are not merely ignoring the objective conditions that make such an act questionable, but are advocating also our leadership over the masses. Of course, they may argue that, realizing the evils of such a course , we can guard against them. But this argument is again on an ideological level. Practically, we shall be compelled to adjust ourselves to circumstances. Thus it becomes obvious that by such a practice we would function like a Leninist group, and could at best produce only the results of Leninism. However, the impotence of the existing Leninist groups shows the improbability of the success of even such a course, and points once more to the obsolescence of small revolutionary groups in regards to real proletarian needs, a condition perhaps forecasting the approaching day when it shall be objectively impossible for any small group to assume leadership of the masses only to be forced in the end to exploit them to its own needs. The working class alone can wage the revolutionary struggle even as it is today waging alone the non-revolutionary struggle, and the reason that the rebellious class conscious workers band into groups outside the spheres of the real class struggle is only that there is as yet no revolutionary movement within them. Their existence as groups, therefore, reflects, not a situation for revolution, but rather a non-revolutionary situation. When the revolution does come, their numbers will he submerged within it, not as functioning organizations, but as individual workers."

"why, then, realizing the futility of the act, do you band together into groups? The answer is simply that the act serves a personal need. It is inevitable that men sharing a common feeling of rebellion against a society that lives by exploitation and war should seek out their own kind in society, and in whatever weapons fall to their command. Unable to rebel against the system with the rest of the population, they will oppose it alone. The fact that they engage in such action however futile it may appear establishes the basis for the prediction that when the large masses, reacting to the compulsives of the objectively revolutionary situation, feel similarly affected, they too will band together out of the same urgency and they too will use whatever weapons fall to their disposal. When they do so, they will not rise from ideological factors, but from necessity, and their ideologies will only reflect the necessities then, as do their current bourgeois ideologies reflect the necessity today."

http://libcom.org/library/impotence-of-revolutionary-group-international-council-correspondence-moss

Moss's recognition that 'we band together into groups' because 'the act serves a personal need.' (striking in a text of the thirties rather than the sixties) applies to 'leninists', 'libertarian communists' 'lifestylists' and 'value-form critics' No reason not to do it. However self-reflection on this tends to undermine the self-importance most of this scenes have of themselves.

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Aug 14 2009 21:37

Vlad, yeah, I wasn't necessarily agreeing with AN lumping SF, AF, even Libcom, in with the activist left. I'm not familiar enough with those groups and their activities, not living in the UK. And, yes, it is true that the critique is essentially ultra-left (I suppose the Situationists should also be referenced in relation to it, they critiqued 'militantism'), and so could be alleged to be just as 'subcultural', I guess. I don't really like the term "subcultural", don't use it, not entirely clear on what different people mean by it, although some uses of it are clearer than others.

dave c
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Aug 15 2009 04:37

The author of "Give up Activism" is Andrew X: http://www.geocities.com/kk_abacus/ioaa/guactivism.html. The piece appeared in the radical ecological journal Do or Die! Andrew Flood is in the WSM.

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Aug 15 2009 09:20

Actually, the article "Give Up Activism" first appeared in a pamphlet called Reflections on J18 that was put out as a critical reevaluation of the "global day of action" on June 18, 1999 and how the demo in London was brilliantly able outflank the cops. I remember seeing the banner headlines in the Financial Times the next day saying "Capitalism Under Attack," and the paper had photos and accounts of the LIFFE building getting trashed in the City.

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Aug 15 2009 12:43

Concerning the Sam Moss piece, in the past I've just assumed Moss's critique of revolutionary organizations was applicable to anarchist/activist subcultures, but is this really the case? The anarchist and activist scenes Ive been part of (or visited) have been entrenched in the punk (and/or some sort of post-punk) subculture. However, Moss is writing about organizations (scenes, communities) that I imagine to be very different than contemporary anarcho-communities with so much of their identity based on consuming specific music, wearing certain clothes and living a certain way; I guess we could call this some sort of (sub)cultural orthodoxy. Did the political organization Moss is critiquing have this same sort of orthodoxy? Member's of revolutionary organization X tend to wear pink tracksuits, listen to calypso, etc; and thus exist in an insular bubble separate from the rest of the world.

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Aug 16 2009 10:21
waslax wrote:
Funny how AN's claim that "the entire 'activist' left ... is one giant subculture split into further miniature subcultures" gets interpreted as claiming that "anyone who does anything is being subcultural" and that "everyone who has an anti-capitalist awareness is subcultural inherently". Since when does leftist activism = anti-capitalist awareness? I would think a genuine anti-capitalist awareness (I guess there are varying degrees of such awareness) would lead to a rejection and critique of leftist activism. Are people here really unaware of the pro-revolutionary (or anti-capitalist, if you prefer) critique of leftist activism, such as Andrew Flood's "Give Up Activism"? Not to say that either I or AN are in full agreement with Flood's text.

If it's possible to have an anti-capitalist awareness and act on it without falling into leftist activism (which I agree with), but the current praxis of AFed and SolFed does count as leftist activism, then what would non-leftist non-activist activity look like? And don't just say "workers' councils" or whatever, I'm interested in what you specifically think that revolutionaries (or pro-revolutionaries, if that's your favoured jargon) should be doing here and now.

asn
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Aug 16 2009 11:56

If it's possible to have an anti-capitalist awareness and act on it without falling into leftist activism (which I agree with), but the current praxis of AFed and SolFed does count as leftist activism, then what would non-leftist non-activist activity look like?
- see article on our web site "anarcho-syndicalism: catalyst for workers self organisation" in the archive section of our web site www.rebelworker.org - for precisely what non leftist activism looks like which in contrast to what moss has to say - has stimulated and assisted militant workers self activity in a tough situation - another example is the case of the NSW BLF in the early 1970's - and late 1960's - union officials and other communist militants encouraged the grass roots to launch their own green bans - see also review of "Green Bans/Red Union" in the archive section of our web site
- many from AFed and SolFed and other groups attended - the so called "anarchist movement organising" conference in the uk recently and were presumably involved in some of the appalling antics which went on there such as at the final plenary session - very much stalinesque leftsubcultural stuff - the applauding of rabid identity politics display -so you have fairly objective evidence of many of these being very much part of the left subculture - the problem is they are trapped in a sort of hall of mirrors - most leftist groups waving a's in circles and waving red/black flags and waving red flags getting up to this stuff or seeing no problem with it - so these self marginalising antics are a sort of orthodoxy within the subculture -it also fits in with the "guilt tripping and oppression mongering" of the self proclaimed leftists - for a discussion of this milieu/socal layer see "report on the workers control conference by P.Seigl " in the archive section of our website and militant workers being alienated by this bizarre stuff and associated "leftist sects/cults"

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Aug 16 2009 15:06
Quote:
many from AFed and SolFed and other groups attended - the so called "anarchist movement organising" conference in the uk recently and were presumably involved in some of the appalling antics which went on there such as at the final plenary session - very much stalinesque leftsubcultural stuff - the applauding of rabid identity politics display -so you have fairly objective evidence of many of these being very much part of the left subculture - the problem is they are trapped in a sort of hall of mirrors - most leftist groups waving a's in circles and waving red/black flags and waving red flags getting up to this stuff or seeing no problem with it - so these self marginalising antics are a sort of orthodoxy within the subculture -it also fits in with the "guilt tripping and oppression mongering" of the self proclaimed leftists - for a discussion of this milieu/socal layer see "report on the workers control conference by P.Seigl " in the archive section of our website and militant workers being alienated by this bizarre stuff and associated "leftist sects/cults"

What no Pretence (http://nopretence.wordpress.com./) tried to raise is the blatant sexism that frustratingly perpetually scars the anarchist and the wider broader left milieu. I was present when no Pretence intervened at the anarchist movement conference and as a black anarchist ,who and has frequently experienced racism within the left milieu (especially Trade Unions), I was left wondering exactly what should one do without resorting to "guilt tripping and oppression mongering"?