Submitted by Entdinglichung on September 3, 2020

very sad

https://twitter.com/nikadubrovsky/status/1301504647769792512

Yesterday the best person in a world, my husband and my friend [email protected]
died in a hospital in Venice.

Working Class …

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes this is terrible news. Condolences to everyone who knew him

sabot

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Damn, condolences. Any idea how he died?

Noah Fence

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Last I heard of him was around six(?) weeks ago when listening to the terrible radio show host Nehal on Five Live. I can’t even remember what he was invited on to talk about but was introduced as Professor David Graeber and went on to speak without interruption for maybe six or seven minutes, brilliantly exposing capitalism and liberal democracy for the nonsense that it is. He made absolute fucking mincemeat of it! It really made my day!
I don’t go in for the usual unbalanced emotional outpourings that generally follow a well known persons death, and I wasn’t exactly entranced by his politics but he sure seemed like a good guy and I feel pretty sad at his passing.

adri

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Condolences, might not have have agreed with him entirely as Noah points out (called me a marxist ideologue a couple days ago!) but this is some sad and shocking news. Graeber was kind of like a Chomsky figure from how I look at it, and I'm sure got a lot of people into radical politics. RIP.

Black Badger

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i disagreed with almost all his positions and analyses (especially about the origins of capitalism and the state, but also about Rojava), but at least he didn't make anarchism (much) stupider or less relevant -- unlike some other public intellectuals i can think of (but if he really did invent the awful false populist "we are the 99%" slogan, then that's another eye-roll moment). it's particularly shitty that he was younger than i am

Hieronymous

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

zugzwang

Graeber was kind of like a Chomsky figure from how I look at it, and I'm sure got a lot of people into radical politics. RIP.

Wholeheartedly agree with that statement. I know some young comrades who read him and it furthered their process of radicalization. But it necessitated going beyond his many limitations.

I had run-ins with him over the years -- mainly on listservs -- where despite his membership in the IWW, he didn't understand a class struggle perspective. On one of those listservs, around the time of the 77-day Ssangyong Motors factory occupation in 2009, someone accused him of being an activist-celebrity jet setter because he went to Pyeongtaek to watch the events from outside the police lines. He defended himself with a pretty credible biography, tracing his working class roots. It allowed me to understand that he constantly brandished his academic credentials as a way of compensating for his class-based feelings of inferiority. I ended up being a little more sympathetic with his motivation for going to see the struggle in South Korea first-hand. Also, he's a tiny bit older than me -- but much, much too young to die. RIP.

Battlescarred

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Agree with all of the comments above, and would like to add that despite all of his limitations, and his Rah-Rah- Rah -Rojava position, he explicitly displayed an anarchist outlook, when he didn't have to and which didn't further his career in academia.

Black Badger

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

As a friend just pointed out this morning, Graeber's cheerleading for the Rojava "Revolution" very likely contributed to the deaths of non-Kurdish anarchists who were naive enough to believe the glowing reports likening Rojava to Barcelona. In this respect, his praises of the Kurdish struggle were not merely naive, but actually pernicious.

Hieronymous

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

[quote=New York Times]Dr. Graeber became involved in British politics last year, supporting the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the general election as “a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world.”[/quote]

From an obit. Can he honestly be called an anarchist or even a radical?

Black Badger

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

JFC...

wojtek

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Social democracy lite is radical nowadays.

adri

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, as mentioned, he didn't seem all that receptive to me arguing against foregrounding Bezos and wealth inequality, which I think goes hand in hand with a type of social democratic politics of boycotting companies and elevating "small/local/co-operative/organic businesses" as somehow superior and non-exploitative, as well as seeing individual billionaires and wealth inequality as the source of all social ills, rather than capitalist social relations. Anyway big capitalist eat little capitalist is just the centralization tendency within capitalism, and no entrepreneur starts out with the objective of satisfying needs but rather to profit and which competition makes a necessity.

This type of social democratic thinking seems common among his followers, maybe because he rarely pushed back against it and encouraged it. The Corbyn thing and his endorsement of their Labour Party manifesto all seem to speak to that; I personally wouldn't associate with the Novara crowd either. The "we are the 99%" slogan (which is currently getting attention), dividing people up based on wealth rather than the capital-labor relation, is also mystifying and opens the door to social democratic politics, as this article critiques. I haven't read the book, but there are some reviews of his Debt: The First 5000 Years on here, some of which he responded to.

As a tangent it seems there's kind of a love triangle between the left and right of capital (which is probably not that useful of a distinction admittedly) over "small businesses." The first have affection for them because of the sense of self-satisfaction that they're not directly supporting the "villainous Bezos," and the second because they act as a useful prop whenever they want to disguise policies benefiting larger corporations and wealthy people, or stamp out social unrest by appealing to "poor suffering small business owners," etc.

Noah Fence

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

[quote=New York Times]Dr. Graeber became involved in British politics last year, supporting the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the general election as “a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world.”

From an obit. Can he honestly be called an anarchist or even a radical?[/quote]

It’s pretty mystifying how he could do such an excellent job of exposing the sham of parliamentary politics in the interview I mentioned AND signal boost Corbyn. Mystifying but not uncommon unfortunately, anarcho-liberals are everywhere these days. Ffs.

R Totale

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

[quote=New York Times]Dr. Graeber became involved in British politics last year, supporting the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the general election as “a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world.”

From an obit. Can he honestly be called an anarchist or even a radical?[/quote]
I'm not sure what the point of this is. Yes, at some points in his life he acted in some ways contrary to anarchism - as did Bakunin, and Kropotkin, and Lucy Parsons, and Stuart Christie. He also always described himself as an anarchist, and spent his life and work arguing and organising for anarchism - not always the interpretation of anarchism that I or anyone on this site would favour, but one that was clearly within the broad historical anarchist tradition. Yes, he was a contradictory anarchist, but who isn't?

Black Badger

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i agree with you R Totale, that we all are forced to deal with contradictions, most of which are not exactly voluntary; notable examples including paying taxes, driving/riding on roads, paying rent or a mortgage, and using the military-industrial medium that is the internet.

however, there are certain public actions that some self-described radicals and anarchists engage in that are voluntary, and that put them so far outside the standard acceptable contradictions that they must be noted and discussed publicly by those with an understanding of history and a sense of integrity.

for example, it's one thing to vote in elections (whether municipal, state-wide, or federal) and not mention anything to anyone about your abject acquiescence to -- and complicity in the furtherance of -- the harmful illusions about participatory democracy, but if a radical or anarchist does so, he/she/they should probably not divulge that information -- let alone offer it as a strategic blow against the state!

but it's another thing altogether to campaign publicly for candidates whose political and class allegiances are beyond anything possibly beneficial to oppressed and exploited people; it's particularly hideous for someone who isn't qualified to vote in a particular election to hold out some demented idea that the candidate represents what Graeber said Corbyn represented. it shows a complete lack of understanding of internal Labour Party politics over the past 50 years (if not longer) and was a total negation and failure of Graeber's self-proclaimed position as a public intellectual/activist whose alleged desire is to see and participate in the destruction of capitalism and the state

pointing this out has nothing to do with enforcing some (mostly) arbitrary boundaries of acceptable anarchist practice according to a couple of outliers; anti-parliamentarianism is a foundational principle of anarchism. hold your nose and vote for whichever candidate you think might lessen the burdens you face, but don't pretend that urging others (anarchist or not) to follow your example can do anything to further an anarchist agenda
when Graeber (or any other electoral anarchist) was doing this he wasn't being "a contradictory anarchist"; he wasn't being any kind of anarchist at all, a status that might or might not have been temporary

R Totale

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, if you look at it in terms of "anarchist as a verb rather than a noun or adjective" or whatever, which I think is a sensible lens to use, I'm happy to agree that Graeber was not doing anarchism when he endorsed Corbyn. I just don't think it's useful to talk as if that means there was nothing radical or anarchist about his life or work, especially when the likes of Kropotkin also publicly shat the bed in an equally dramatic fashion.

Hieronymous

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I was deeply saddened when I heard the news that Graeber had died. My personal connection with him was weak, almost non-existent, with many degrees of separation; he was a comrade-of-comrades-of-comrades-of-mine. I disagreed with so many of his positions, but had had e-mail exchanges with him that were both comradely and hostile. But we're the same generation, nearly the same age, and he was simply too young to die.

But as radicals, we're critically thinking human beings. This shit irks me:

[quote=The Guardian]Late last year, Graeber fell out with the Guardian, tweeting that he would never write for the paper again after its treatment of the then Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, during the general election campaign. In particular he defended Corbyn against the charge that he was antisemitic. “If you look at the people who have left the party over antisemitism,” he told an interviewer, “most of them weren’t Jewish and a lot of the people who still remain close to Jeremy Corbyn are Jewish. It’s absurd.”[/quote]

Black Badger

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale, i didn't say or imply that there was nothing anarchist or radical about Graeber's life or work; i said quite explicitly that during the time that he was shilling for Corbyn (and also, as Hieronymous cites, petulantly falling out with the famously anti-anarchist newspaper the Guardian), he was not an anarchist

i would say exactly the same thing about the anarchist formerly known as prince, dear old Kropotkin; when he publicly endorsed the imperialist war against the German Empire in the Manifesto of the Sixteen, he had stepped outside the realm of anarchist politics -- as Malatesta and Goldman and many others correctly pointed out in no uncertain terms

but i would never say that "Mutual Aid" or "Factories, Fields, and Workshops" are not anarchist texts because of a lapse of anarchist judgment by their author

adri

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I haven't read all of it, but it seems he also expresses support for Universal Basic Income in his Bullshit Jobs book, despite, as he mentions in the book, being an anarchist who's "suspicious of policy":

Myself, I find such games particularly pernicious because I’d prefer not to have policy elites around at all. I’m personally an anarchist, which means that, not only do I look forward to a day sometime in the future when governments, corporations, and the rest will be looked at as historical curiosities in the same way as we now look at the Spanish Inquisition or nomadic invasions, but I prefer solutions to immediate problems that do not give more power to governments or corporations, but rather, give people the means to manage their own affairs. [...] It follows that when faced with a social problem my impulse is not to imagine myself in charge, and ponder what sort of solutions I would then impose, but to look for a movement already out there, already trying to address the problem and create its own solutions. [...] I’ve only been able to identify one solution currently being promoted by social movements, that would reduce rather than increase the size and intrusiveness of government. That’s Universal Basic Income.

If the goal is the transformation of capitalist society, then endorsing Corbyn and UBI certainly seem antithetical to anything transformative or anti-capitalist, and more like reforming capitalism. It's also ignoring capitalism's systemic issues/contradictions which complicate stuff like UBI and creating a welfare state, specifically that they refer back to production for profit (among the other critiques of UBI and reforming capitalism).

The "bullshit job" observation/thesis itself is saying nothing new imo (not that he ever claims that to my knowledge; I also reject his definition of bullshit work, which seems to refer only to the more overtly bullshit jobs). If something is profitable or if a market can be created for that something then it will be pursued, irrespective of whatever is being produced or whatever "negative externalities." Vehicle manufacturing and its related industries are all something I'd most definitely regard as pointless and socially harmful work. Under capitalism, however (and where people are forced to own vehicles, at least in the States), environmentally and existentially harmful bullshit/work provide jobs and wages (!), and of course profit, and so such production continues and is defended on those grounds.

Noah Fence

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It seems that being an anarchist and being a liberal are not mutually exclusive in current thought. This makes no sense to me but it’s so common that it has to be acknowledged. I don’t know what happened to it but an obvious manifestation of this was the launch of the libertarian socialist caucus of the Labour Party last year.
I guess many people come to anarchism via the liberal left social justice route. Maybe they struggle to let go of some of their old ideas? I know I have to be conscious of my tendency to look at things through the often rather silly perspective of my anarcho punk youth.
Add to this the fact that we are all immersed in the culture of capitalist liberal democracy, bombarded from all sides with reinforcements of how we should deal with society’s inequities and witness to countless examples of it, be it voting, petitions, charity or whatever, maybe it isn’t that surprising that many advocate actions and support people/groups that hold positions entirely contrary to their declared position as an anti capitalist or anarchist.
Honestly though, this is my most forgiving spin on this - mostly my reaction to any advocacy of any sort of liberal praxis or signal boosting of figures of false hope such as Corbyn is one of total exasperation. This phenomenon never ceases to appall me - every time I witness it, and that is very frequently, my hope for a mass movement of the working class dwindles a little more.

R Totale

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Freedom obituary here, from someone involved with Occupied London back when that was a thing: https://freedomnews.org.uk/david-graeber-1961-2020-an-anarchist-and-anthropological-farewell-to-a-sudden-thinker/

On the other stuff, fwiw I think I'm pretty much in agreement with what Black Badger says above. I realise this is a bit chicken-and-egg, but I suppose it's worth understanding these mistakes or confusions, or whatever you want to call them, in the context of the lack of a mass, active, anarchist/communist movement. I think there are loads* of people who would be happy to be in the 1930s CNT if that was an option, but it isn't; so we we have to try and find a way in between armchair irrelevance on one hand and blindly tail-ending whatever's popular on the other. I'm happy to agree that Graeber got the answer to that wrong, but I also don't think it's quite so easy to say what the right answer is - should revolutionaries be involved with ACORN? Unite Community? Become USDAW or GMB reps? Idk, in general when someone makes that kind of break with anarchist principles I think it's more useful to try and think about the ways that decision was a result of the pressures and problems that also apply to and affect us, rather than just going "well, that guy was wrong, nothing to do with us."

*um, for a certain value of "loads", I suppose

Noah Fence

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think there are loads* of people who would be happy to be in the 1930s CNT if that was an option, but it isn't; so we we have to try and find a way in between armchair irrelevance on one hand and blindly tail-ending whatever's popular on the other.

The question is though, why isn’t there a radical union or any sort of large, effective, grass roots group or movement. I’d say it’s largely because the liberal ruling class and the hordes of one dimensional and myopic lackeys, and that includes the anarchists, socialists, communists etc that see it as prudent to advocate for the lesser of two evils and all that old tosh, have diverted and fire blanketed the desire for self determination of the working class as well as syphoning off all the energy that we might have for pursuing it with their empty promises and false hopes. When are we gonna wake up? ANY engagement with bourgeois politics helps perpetuate this self castration of working class power, and even worse is the shaming of those who refuse to have anything to do with this farce with accusations of privilege and even racism, transphobia etc. Every time we signal boost for a particular faction or member of the ruling class or shame a member of our own, we strengthen their power and weaken the power of our own class.

wojtek

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The success of IWGB suggests trade union affiliation with and hopes in the Labour Party are a barrier. Hippies are proving to be more antagonistic.

R Totale

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

A collection of his writings here: https://cominsitu.wordpress.com/2020/09/06/david-graeber-1961-2020/

wojtek

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

In 2018, we were working on a book to support the ZAD after the evictions following the victory against the airport. We asked you to write the preface. Via telegram from the Rojava border you replied, saying you could not write because you were smuggling drones into the Autonomous region, which gave us all so much hope about living without the state.

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/09/05/david-graeber-1961-2020/

Red Marriott

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale

I think there are loads* of people who would be happy to be in the 1930s CNT if that was an option, but it isn't; so we we have to try and find a way in between armchair irrelevance on one hand and blindly tail-ending whatever's popular on the other.
Noah Fence

The question is though, why isn’t there a radical union or any sort of large, effective, grass roots group or movement. I’d say it’s largely because the liberal ruling class and the hordes of one dimensional and myopic lackeys, and that includes the anarchists, socialists, communists etc that see it as prudent to advocate for the lesser of two evils and all that old tosh, have diverted and fire blanketed the desire for self determination of the working class as well as syphoning off all the energy that we might have for pursuing it with their empty promises and false hopes. When are we gonna wake up? ANY engagement with bourgeois politics helps perpetuate this self castration of working class power, and even worse is the shaming of those who refuse to have anything to do with this farce with accusations of privilege and even racism, transphobia etc. Every time we signal boost for a particular faction or member of the ruling class or shame a member of our own, we strengthen their power and weaken the power of our own class.

The readiness to capitulate to parliamentary reformism has some effect but its hardly like the choices of largely marginalised radicals has much influence or visibility either way for the working class. It's a capitulation borne of desperation, a massive defeat of class struggle here for three decades.

In a time where the left’s influence is so marginal the faults of its policies and programmes can’t explain a lack of struggle. It’s not as if the working class is having its native revolutionary energy straining at the leash repeatedly dispersed by reformist leftism; if the working class is seen as capable of self-determination it has to be seen to have some responsibility for where it is at present; it is never solely determined by external forces. If it has no responsibility for its present condition where is the possibility of an agency that can self-determine? The abstract constituency we call ‘the working class’ is concretely composed of individuals and collectives with a margin of choices. It’s never the case that working class weakness is due to it’s not having had the right ideological offer from the left.

The period of defeat of w/c struggle over the past 30+ years is unprecedented and there is much to worry about over where it’s leading. It seems that, as the working class has lost its powers and fragmented, its self-awareness of its collective potential has been largely lost. ‘Working class identity’ is a problematic double-edged sword - but a minimum requirement for understanding the function of this society is recognition of its class nature and that this determines one’s conditions of existence in this society. If you don’t see class division as crucial you won’t see the importance of acting as a class for class interests.

But, for many, other identities have replaced class as ones that deliver a primary collective sense of belonging; particularly race and nation. Older organisational models emerged from different historical situations, from different cultures. Those cultures were based largely on groups of workers that shared locations and workplaces – often for a working lifetime over several generations. The self-identity with one’s trade, workplace and related local communities was the primary defining collective identity in those lives and their strongholds.

Now that’s all gone, we’re deep in the shite and desperate solutions that seem to promise at least some improvement unsurprisingly sometimes gain traction. But we live in an age of incredible self-delusion and ‘post-truth’, examples of which can be found in political behaviour and beliefs expressed on and offline constantly; where people seek a comforting narrative and facts that refute it become irrelevant.

When Thatcher was asked what she regarded as her greatest achievement she replied, "Tony Blair". The general ever-rightward shift in politics has shifted what is considered radical and realistic rightwards with it.

R Totale

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Excellent post, I would fully agree with all that.

asn

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"The readiness to capitulate to parliamentary reformism has some effect but its hardly like the choices of largely marginalised radicals has much influence or visibility either way for the working class. It's a capitulation borne of desperation, a massive defeat of class struggle here for three decades."

If you are able to develop outside the job organisation - obviously involving various leftists - assisting militant networks in strategic sectors - via putting out workplace papers etc you can re-energise these militants and help them get over various obstacles to their activity - in this way out manoeuvre the corporate union bureaucracies and defeat various attacks of the bosses and slow the tempo of the employer offensive. Its in this context that strike waves can develop leading potentially mass breakaways from the corporate unions and turning the tide. In Sydney Australia here in Sept 1999 the restructuring of the City Rail Station network for privatisation was defeated and would have been an important back drop and interwoven by many threads and the role of outside the job organisation with the beginnings of strike wave type movement in March 2004 involving train drivers taking direct action involving work to rule and won a victory eg bonuses.
In other historical phases you have this sort of thing eg a strike movement focusing on Turin Italy in 1943, an important back drop was the Nazi defeat of Stalingrad - but again you had this interaction of outside the job organisation involving competing leftist groups - the most prominent being the Italian Communist Party facilitating the initiation of the strike wave movement. The Italian CP underground paper was well distroed throughout Italy and played a key role in the affair peddling the lie that a major wildcat strike had started in the largest factory in Italy in Turin - it never happened but industrial action occurred at a couple of little known factories in the city. This took place under fascism a lot worse situation - than you have in the UK, Australia and the Anglo World today!!! See Tim Mason's collection of Essays 'Fascism and the Working Class' on Libcom.
Certainly this sort of organisation and interaction and strategic focus and associated long term work over decades by leftists isn't occurring much these days in the Anglo World. The reasons would be the social base of many leftist groups - amongst sectors of the middle class - workers with high levels of autonomy in their work and students connected with the university milieu and higher education set up - seeing capitalism through hierarchies of oppression rather than the class struggle, the influence of identity politics - courtesy of the Deep State as a reaction to the late 60s early 70s worker and student radicalisation/upsurge eg the CIA's 'Operation Chaos' and the Bourgeois Cultural, Media and Education Set up, and the impact of the Stalinist Legacy on leftist groups and the overall impact of all these factors is the sect phenomena - the leftist micro pseudo church'family/social club phenomena. Many of these groups taking a rightward shift and being drawn into the tentacles of the formerly social democratic set up eg British Labour Party, ALP in Australia etc and the corporate unions eg helping the union bosses with their ploys and so helping out the employer offensive and neo-liberalism. Also some in these groups would have the fantasy that the turning of the tide against the employer offensive lies in some purely spontaneous action by workers when we urgently need outside the job organisation intensively helping on the job organisation.

asn

1 year 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also another key factor is the role of the corporate media and its absolute predominance in much of the Anglo World - blotting out workers victories in the class struggle or distorting what occurred just focusing on the union bosses. In the events and others in NSW mentioned in my previous post this has occurred. Whilst much of the fringe and leftist media particularly connected with the Trot groups would play along with it. Particularly as they lack the industrial contacts. All this plays into the low morale amongst workers and the leftist milieu. However it is by putting out workplace papers you are starting the process which can lead to an alternative revolutionary workers mass media. In the context of mass breakaways from the corporate unions in the context major strike waves and transitional step toward a new syndicalist oriented union confederation - the basis would exist to launch mass circulation publications and other media facets.
In the heyday of international syndicalism such as in Latin America and Spain etc, the most widely read papers where the papers put out or associated with these syndicalist movements. If you have the industrial strength and mass base - you can occupy and put under workers control TV, Radio stations etc. The new mass syndicalist mass media will be forged in the furnace of these major cataclysmic eruptions in the class struggle and the complex birth of new mass workers economic combative organisations, not some exotic left subcultural paper garnished with identity politics put out by middle class leftist activoids incrementally getting bigger via newsagent sales etc.

wojtek

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Corbyn at the end of this claims that Graeber saw the anarchist tradition of empowerment in Labour's policy proposals.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?ab_channel=NovaraMedia&v=PZlXJ3YqkMA

Lucky Black Cat

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Some thoughts on the debate over whether David Graeber qualified as an anarchist: I think the more important question is whether the totality of his actions balanced out to serve anarchist goals. I believe they did and I'm sad he's gone.

He articulated anarchist ideas in a way that made them sound totally unradical, down to Earth, and common sense. Which I believe they are. Anarchism in my opinion is not a radical (as in extremist) ideology. Capitalism and its all-devouring violence, the state and its vampiric concentration of power, are extreme, and anarchism is just the simple and modest response saying that, no, this is not a life fit for human beings! No, we need not be doomed to compete or submit or to sell pieces of our lives to others to survive! We can live together in freedom and mutual aid, all for one and one for all, and we'll all be happier this way.

It's hard to get our ideas across without sounding scary or incomprehensible or naively utopian or just plain boring, and David Graeber was a natural at avoiding these pitfalls. When we lost David we lost a great asset. :(

Lucky Black Cat

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also, does anyone else think the Three Musketeers slogan "All for one and one for all" would make a good anarchist slogan alongside the classic "No Gods, No Masters"?

bastarx

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

David Graeber with his early and incessant propagandising for the Rojava "Revolution" lured impressionable comrades to their deaths in a grubby imperialist war. Whatever else he may have done that is unforgiveable.

Nymphalis Antiopa

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's hard to get our ideas across without sounding scary or incomprehensible or naively utopian or just plain boring, and David Graeber was a natural at avoiding these pitfalls.

If over-simplifying things ever changed anything they'd make it illegal.

Changing the world IS scary, but not trying to change it is scarier.
Developing an intricate understanding often seems incomprehensible to those who can't make the effort to comprehend.
The possible creation of a "utopia" beyond commodity relations DOES sound utopian to those who don't want to make the effort to understand the irrational dystopia of the system.
None of this is boring or plain, but ...If over-simplifying things means sending naive utopians to their death in Rojava and Graebner managed to not sound scary or incomprehensible or naively utopian or just plain boring to get people to go there, I would have preferred he HAD sounded scary or incomprehensible or naively utopian or just plain boring.

R Totale

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

bastarx

David Graeber with his early and incessant propagandising for the Rojava "Revolution" lured impressionable comrades to their deaths in a grubby imperialist war. Whatever else he may have done that is unforgiveable.

I mean, whether you think it's forgiveable or not is a bit irrelevant now, I don't think he's likely to apologise for it either way.

Black Badger

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

bastarx wrote:
David Graeber with his early and incessant propagandising for the Rojava "Revolution" lured impressionable comrades to their deaths in a grubby imperialist war. Whatever else he may have done that is unforgiveable.

I mean, whether you think it's forgiveable or not is a bit irrelevant now, I don't think he's likely to apologise for it either way.

perhaps the more proper term would be "irredeemable"? as in, David Graeber with his early and incessant propagandising for the Rojava "Revolution" lured impressionable comrades to their deaths in a grubby imperialist war. Whatever else he may have done this legacy is irredeemable.

Noah Fence

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, there’s certainly some snooty ass bullshit appeared in this thread since I last look. Ffs.

Nymphalis Antiopa

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

there’s certainly some snooty ass bullshit appeared in this thread

Specifically what " snooty ass bullshit"? Elaborate, please.

Noah Fence

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Nymphalis Antiopa

there’s certainly some snooty ass bullshit appeared in this thread

Specifically what " snooty ass bullshit"? Elaborate, please.

Actually, I’ve thought about this and I’m happy to retract my statement.
Clearly, pointing out that DG making legions of idealistic idiots turn into anarcho-lemmings flinging themselves off a (not)revolutionary(enough) cliff with what can only be described as gay abandon through his mode of communication is not in the least bit snobby, and it’s entirely appropriate, nay, mandatory, that we should look down our noses at him. Indeed, considering this it’s pretty obvious that simple and understandable methods of communication and modes of speech are counter revolutionary and should not be countenanced at any price! Appropriate measures must be taken to eliminate such ghastly crimes of communication from the movement.
Speaking of which, I’m prevented from elaborating further right now as I have to go and measure Martin Wright and Ian Bone for their lampposts - their gor blimey accents by no means excuse their abominable determination not to use a hundred words where ten will suffice!

bastarx

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Black Badger

bastarx wrote:
David Graeber with his early and incessant propagandising for the Rojava "Revolution" lured impressionable comrades to their deaths in a grubby imperialist war. Whatever else he may have done that is unforgiveable.

I mean, whether you think it's forgiveable or not is a bit irrelevant now, I don't think he's likely to apologise for it either way.

perhaps the more proper term would be "irredeemable"? as in, David Graeber with his early and incessant propagandising for the Rojava "Revolution" lured impressionable comrades to their deaths in a grubby imperialist war. Whatever else he may have done this legacy is irredeemable.

Yes, much better.

Nymphalis Antiopa

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Noah Sarkie:

I have to go and measure Martin Wright and Ian Bone for their lampposts - their gor blimey accents by no means excuse their abominable determination not to use a hundred words where ten will suffice!

Both were members of the populist "Class War Federation" whose publications included texts supporting the IRA, leading members of which then went on to collaborate with the bourgeois state. And Class War went into electoral politics. 2 examples of over-simplification to a populist "message" mentality contradicted by a counter-revolutionary practice. See "Death of a paper tiger: reflections on Class War" - https://libcom.org/library/paper-tiger-class-war-aufheben-6 - "...opportunisms included their adoption of archaic cockney slang - denouncing swanky toffs etc - the sub-Chas 'n' Dave mockney style betraying the London-centrism of the 'national' paper. Logically, to be really populist, they should have done other regional dialect issues of the paper - perhaps an 'ee by gum' Yorkshire issue or 'De Cluss War' in Jamaican patois to be truly patronising?"

Some things are simple, some not. Whilst being unnecessarily complex may well be "snooty ass" and even "bullshit", making a principle of over-simplification is opportunist and populist bullshit, and always entails trying to win people over in a political manner rather than work out what are obstacles to the development of struggles towards self-emancipation.

Noah Fence

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Some things are simple, some not. Whilst being unnecessarily complex may well be "snooty ass" and even "bullshit", making a principle of over-simplification is opportunist and populist bullshit, and always entails trying to win people over in a political manner rather than work out what are obstacles to the development of struggles towards self-emancipation.

Very simply, and very well put, and you have my total agreement. However, as little regard as I have for the politics of DG, I dispute the claim that he was guilty of cynical populist bullshit, and I resent the characterisation of comrades of western origin that have participated in Rojava as utopian numpties as well as calling bullshit on the idea that the Rojva revolution is nothing more than the imperialist exploitation of said numpties. The biggest crock of bollocks of the lot is that DG was responsible for the death of the comrades so condescendingly described as utopian. That’s a pretty heavy slight on the man himself, but it’s truly cringeworthy in its level of disdain for those who have died out there.

wojtek

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also, does anyone else think the Three Musketeers slogan "All for one and one for all" would make a good anarchist slogan alongside the classic "No Gods, No Masters"?

I imagine it sounds more appealing/sophisticated in French.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=M7Nj1UqdZTA

Black Badger

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Noah, was Graeber not a booster of populism when he coalesced various sentiments and slogans into "We Are the 99%"? isn't false unity across class lines/interests one of the defining characteristics of populism? if so, then that slogan exemplifies -- indeed, almost epitomizes -- the most idiotic aspects of populism; cops, landlords, managers, technocrats, politicians, insurance brokers, and even most bankers are all necessarily included in that "99%."

even if we ignore DG's substandard anthropology (in terms of his ahistorical view of the discipline and his questionable ethics as an ethnographer that resulted in his enormous and tedious "Direct Action"), his intellectually dubious (if not entirely absurd and false) equation of democracy with anarchism, his shilling for Corbyn (and his constant efforts at tarting up electoralism more generally), and his cringeworthy "just like Barcelona in 1936" support for the Rojava "revolution" (regardless of whether or not he can be described as directly or indirectly responsible for getting non-Kurdish fighters killed), he would still be a scoundrel for (uncynically?) promoting populism.

Nymphalis Antiopa

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Re. Noah Fence's post above:

What is "truly cringeworthy" is encouraging people to fight and die on the basis of the "crock of bollocks" that Rojava = Spain 1936. DG was the most renowned and, as far as I've seen, the first to make this comparison. Those from abroad attracted by the anarchist attributes who died out there were naive or, if not, truly into the obnoxious poolitics of the PKK and Ocalan, and so not at all "anarchist" in any meaningful sense of the term. For the latter I have "disdain", for the former a kind of sadness mixed with disgust for DG's politics on this issue.

PS
I have not said that the only aspect of what happened in Rojava was "nothing more than ... imperialist exploitation" . Others have said this, but I'd say it was more complex than that from what I've heard. But going into a war zone without checking out various critical bits of information about it and taking DG or others' word for it is most definitely "naive", to say the least.

Noah Fence

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

As I’ve said several times in this thread, I have no regard for the politics of DG. My comment was aimed at the snobby tone of some of the posts and the wholesale declaration of valuelessness to what is happening in Rojava. It particularly irked me to see such a reductive characterisation of the participants in the Rojava movement.
I won’t argue about anything else you’ve said about him as I either agree or don’t know anything about the things you mention.
Scoundrel though? A splendid term though it may be, I don’t think it’s a fitting one for DG. Seems to me he was a pretty decent fellow who’s politics were a right fucking mess with little or no evidence of ill intent to be levelled against him.
Interesting that he said the thing about Barcelona - as a result of this thread I checked out a few interviews with him and in one he was describing Rojava and said it was no Barcelona and that it couldn’t be called anarchism. Like I say though, his politics were truly all over the place, so such a contradiction is hardly a surprise.

Noah Fence

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But going into a war zone without checking out various critical bits of information about it and taking DG or others' word for it is most definitely "naive", to say the least.

Once again I agree, but that this is the case is quite an assumption.

R Totale

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, I don't think it's helpful to characterise David Graeber as some kind of a pied piper leading the poor innocent kiddies to their deaths. I could be wrong, but I don't think many international volunteers are coming back from Rojava and writing Dulce et Decorum Est about how Graeber tricked them. Obviously, that doesn't mean that you have to agree with their decisions, you can have disdain for them, that's fine. But I don't think it adds much to our understanding of anything to talk as though they have no agency of their own and were just manipulated into it by people who said that Rojava was good.

Noah Fence

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well said! Are you offering lessons in how to make comments without being a sarcastic asshole? If so I might sign up for a course!

Hieronymous

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale

I could be wrong, but I don't think many international volunteers are coming back from Rojava and writing Dulce et Decorum Est about how Graeber tricked them.

I personally think you're mistaken. Some didn't live to regret it. Northern California anarchist and Wobbly, Michael Israel, was a friend of some former prolific libcom posters, who knew him well and said he naively went to Rojava believing he was defending a revolution. I mourn his death, but blame fools like Graeber for disingenously advertising what was happening there. Graeber's not alive to take responsibility, but some people died having taken him at his word -- believing that it was like Barcelona in 1936. I was on a couple listservs with Graeber and was one of several constantly pushing back against his exaggerated bullshit, often leading to flame wars. In that sense, Graeber was an activist-celebrity jet setter who could have a weekend revolutionary tourist adventure in places like Rojava, then be back at the professor's podium on Monday morning. Working class kids like Michael Israel didn't have that luxury and paid for it with their lives.

bastarx

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If nothing else Graeber and Ocalan's example shows how easy it is for nationalist rackets to lure the less critical anarchists into supporting them by mouthing the right platitudes.

jospanner

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

you're all a bunch of fucking twats

adri

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well I for one think ideas matter, and as much as I don't like speaking for the deceased, I think even if Graeber might not have agreed with criticisms raised against him here, he would still rather have people be critical. Also I'd note that Graeber's cheerleading for Rojava obviously doesn't mean he "directly murdered" anyone, but, as others say, put those ideas out there that led to people going to Rojava.

Noah Fence

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jospanner

you're all a bunch of fucking twats

I can’t speak for everyone else but certainly, in reference to myself, you’ve demonstrated a marked ability for getting to the heart of the matter. Precisely what lead you to this conclusion though? Anything specific or is it just a general observation?

Hieronymous

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

zugzwang

Well I for one think ideas matter, and as much as I don't like speaking for the deceased, I think even if Graeber might not have agreed with criticisms raised against him here, he would still rather have people be critical. Also I'd note that Graeber's cheerleading for Rojava obviously doesn't mean he "directly murdered" anyone, but, as others say, put those ideas out there that led to people going to Rojava.

All Trumpian name-calling smears aside, let's look at valid critiques of the revolutionary cheerleaders for Rojava. One of the most critical is "Rojava: reality and rhetoric" by Gilles Dauvé and T.L. (thanks to C., the left communist comrade who reminded me of this text). I didn't save the listserv exchanges my comrades and I had with Graeber, but he definitely encouraged others to go to Rojava and "join the revolution." The implication being that you've accrued so many frequent-flier miles going to anti-globalization summits/protests, so just use them to jump on a plane.

Here are the more revelant parts of Dauvé and T.L.'s critque of Graeber's ideology of a revolution led by classless angels:

Never judge a book or national liberation from its cover. On the ground, PKK cadres will support a landowner or a boss because he has influence in the area. They will also defend strikes or organise protests if it helps them rally the local people. Here they will side with rigid forms of religion, and there with tolerance. Today they will appear as traditionalists, tomorrow as modernists. This is politics: the PKK upholds what increases its power base. In the days when it claimed to be part of world socialism, it had no time for heretics like Pannekoek or Mattick, and went for successful Marxism-Leninism. When it espouses libertarianism, it does not take after Makhno, and prefers an acceptable version, probably the most moderate of all today, the Bookchin doctrine, that spices 19th century municipal socialism with self-administration and ecology.

Quite a sensible choice. The PKK has had to scale down its ambitions and confederal municipalism is the only political ideology available to a party that has to make do with States and borders because it cannot hope to create its own State with its own borders, which would mean forcefully redrawing the boundaries of at least two neighbouring countries. Making a virtue of necessity, the PKK has ditched “class” and “party” references, and promotes self-management, co-operation, communalism (not communism), anti-productivism and gender. David Graeber was rejoicing over the fact that in Kurdistan people might now be reading Judith Butler. A spot-on remark. Deconstruction of the political subject (i.e. of the proletariat as an historical agent), prioritisation of identities, class replaced by gender… the PKK has doubtlessly swapped Marxism for postmodernism.

Here's theire critique of the role of the state's repressive forces, where to negate the cops we become the pigs:

Power to the people?
Daily life is determined by production relations: as we have just seen, Rojavan self-managed communes and grassroots bodies are under the sway of business big and small.

“When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers”, Oscar Wilde wrote. Rojava fulfils the dream of the step-by-step popular empowerment theorists. J. Holloway’s Change the world without taking power seems to materialise in Syrian Kurdistan. Society is supposed to be transformed from the bottom by a variety of gradual changes which will render the top helpless and harmless until it falls off or disappears. Therefore Rojavan police is not police, it can only be a non-police, an anti-police. Writes D. Graeber :

Graeber

“Ultimately - and this is key - the security forces are answerable to the bottom-up structures and not to the top-down ones. One of the first places we visited was a police academy (..). Everyone had to take courses in non-violent conflict resolution and feminist theory before they were allowed to touch a gun. The co-directors explained to us their ultimate aim was to give everyone in the country six weeks of police training, so that ultimately, they could eliminate police.”

The point is not to make fun of such sheer naivety, but to realise what it is built on : the belief that there is nothing to fear from former or new repression forces in Rojava, because real power lies with the people at grassroots level, in the communes and the local committees, so whatever government officials may do, whatever political manoeuvring wannabe leaders might engage in, we are the police.

Please read the full Dauvé and T.L. critique, "Rojava: reality and rhetoric," here on libcom.

wojtek

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If the meekness of Corbynism is anything to go by, the left need more

fucking twats

R Totale

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

I personally think you're mistaken. Some didn't live to regret it. Northern California anarchist and Wobbly, Michael Israel, was a friend of some former prolific libcom posters, who knew him well and said he naively went to Rojava believing he was defending a revolution. I mourn his death, but blame fools like Graeber for disingenously advertising what was happening there. Graeber's not alive to take responsibility, but some people died having taken him at his word -- believing that it was like Barcelona in 1936. I was on a couple listservs with Graeber and was one of several constantly pushing back against his exaggerated bullshit, often leading to flame wars. In that sense, Graeber was an activist-celebrity jet setter who could have a weekend revolutionary tourist adventure in places like Rojava, then be back at the professor's podium on Monday morning. Working class kids like Michael Israel didn't have that luxury and paid for it with their lives.

OK, I can see where you're coming from here. For context, the main two people I think of when the subject of international volunteers come up are Anna Campbell and the recently deceased Josh. We can't speak for the dead, and we can't say what conclusions they might have arrived at if they'd continued living, but we can look at the positions they expressed while they were alive. Both of them may or may not have been naive or ill-informed at the time they left to go out there, but by the time that Josh came home, and by the time that Anna requested a transfer to the Afrin front, they'd both spent a considerable amount of time out there, so I don't we can describe them as being naive, ill-informed or whatever. That isn't to say that you have to agree with their decisions, but that's a matter of a value judgement - "what's worth risking your life for?" - not one of them being naive and ill-informed, and certainly not one of us knowing more about Rojava than they do. I stand by my point that I'm not aware of any of the surviving international volunteers coming away writing "My Disillusionment in Rojava", and from what I know about Anna Campbell, it certainly doesn't sound like her experiences while there had led her to become more critical of the project.

Hieronymous

All Trumpian name-calling smears aside, let's look at valid critiques of the revolutionary cheerleaders for Rojava. One of the most critical is "Rojava: reality and rhetoric" by Gilles Dauvé and T.L. (thanks to C., the left communist comrade who reminded me of this text)...

Please read the full Dauvé and T.L. critique, "Rojava: reality and rhetoric," here on libcom.

I think that's an excellent critique, as is the alternate version that just appeared as "Kurdistan?" - it's been a while now, but I seem to remember both versions had some good bits that don't appear in the other. However, this is one of the points that I remember being most impressed by at the time:

A call to arms
It is small wonder some individuals and groups always prone to denouncing the military-industrial complex should now call for arming Rojava against ISIS, if we remember that in 1999, at the time of the Kosovo war, a few anarchists supported NATO bombings on Serbia… to prevent genocide.

Where and who are these weapons to come from? The average proletarian has no spare assault rifle or grenade to secretly smuggle to Kurdistan. Should he or she get in touch with international arm dealers? Or shall we expect the Western powers to supply Rojava with adequate weaponry? Deliveries have started on a modest scale. Should we pressure the US, France and Britain to do more? With what means? Libertarian demos do not resonate as far as the White House. And at what political price for the askers? Nobody contemplates organising new International Brigades, though ISIS already have theirs.

So, when voices call for military support to help Rojava face the jihadist onslaught, what exactly are they talking about? Either it is empty talk, or it can only mean asking for more Western air strikes. How and where? Bombs and missiles will rarely fall on a column of jihadist vehicles in the desert, and more often on a neighbourhood held by the jihadists, with inevitable “collateral damage”. There is no such thing as clean surgical strikes. According to the Pentagon, coalition strikes killed 6,000 ISIS fighters between September 2014 and January 2015. Some day we will know how many Kurdish civilians died at the same time.

Mass slaughter is obviously not what those who call for “Arms for the Kurdish resistance” really want. So it is empty talk. An attitude. That’s perhaps the worst part of the story: that in the Middle East an effort at self-organisation and self-defence, genuine but unable to transcend itself because of hostile circumstances, should serve in Europe and north America as a pretext for mobilisations and slogans that nobody seriously expects to be acted upon.

Clearly, that part of the critique has not aged well. What Dauve described as "the worst part of the story" is no longer true. Do we criticise those that went and fought, and those who encouraged them to do it, on the grounds that they demonstrated precisely the sincerity that Dauve said they were lacking? Or, even if we might disagree with their decision, can we accept that there are people who might see "an effort at self-organisation and self-defence, genuine but unable to transcend itself because of hostile circumstances" as being worth taking risks to defend, even if it isn't and wasn't Barcelona '36?

I am definitely a fucking twat though, that part is spot on.

Nymphalis Antiopa

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

you're all a bunch of fucking twats

Personally I'd love to be a twat fucking, so this is probably a compliment, unless jospanner is so 19th century-prudish that s/he thinks women's genitals fucking is something to be disapproved of.

Kate Sharpley

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Octavio Alberola has written a tribute to him

in the posthumous tributes, there have been frequent references – more or less well-meaning – to his anarchist activism and his conception of anarchism. Although it needs to be highlighted that he did not enjoy being classified as an “anarchist anthropologist” because, in his view, anarchism is a practice rather than an identity: “anarchism is a matter of doing, not of being”. This notion of anarchism prompted him to be an activist for alternative movements, later for Occupy Wall Street and latterly for Rojava, as he thought these movements wide open to anarchism in their praxis and their struggle against inequality and domination. Increasingly, that struggle is driven by ethical and humane precepts and less and less by ideological tenets. Not just because of the machinery of persuasion and coercion widely mobilized – over the past thirty years – to win the ideological war and impose the system by force, but also because the current mode of production is based on consumerist “moral” principles (the right to consume) rather than economic ones and because the objects of desire are always imagined objects. Hence the increasing importance of the imagination in the fight against the capitalist system.

On all of the above grounds, this approach to anarchism strikes me as not merely pertinent and highly relevant but, besides its being the mind-set of David Graeber and fully consonant with his activist militancy, I see it as a logical approach consistent with anarchism’s origins and valid in all times and circumstances.

https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/6t1hcx