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'Lifestylism' as a false and violent category: identity, friendship, politics. First notes.

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si
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Oct 7 2006 16:24
'Lifestylism' as a false and violent category: identity, friendship, politics. First notes.

I came to this scene late. The implosion of anti-capitalism was still reverbrating 2 years ago as I took my first steps onto the streets of London, a somewhat naive, sectarian left-Trotskyist of no particular party. As it happened, with the foundation first of ULU Anti-authoritarians and then the Gower Street social centre, the milieu into which I fell was the 'lifestylist' split from that movement. Ironically, I had very nearly chosen to go to Essex University; there's little doubt that had I done so I would have ended up in CAG, on the other side of this grotesque divide.

But chance made its choice for me. So the people I met & in whose presence my politics advanced were people written off here as activists. Not that my politics came closer to theirs; in fact over these years I have gradually accumulated the basis for a wide-ranging critique of activism, as such. But I remain friends with many of those inscribed here as 'lifestylists' and in them I find vast areas of roughness, tension; the violent reduction of these people to a simple epithet continues to repulse me.

Recently John. wrote something to the effect that "even the lifestylists today give class a cursory nod", and that libcom had probably had something to do with that. Certainly it has been a factor, but I see no reason that the move couldn't be related to a critique organically generated within this group artifically constructed as one leg of a dichotomy. For instance, I have been consistent in arguing against activist conceptions of the world, morality/seperate action etc for the last years: not to claim to have had a significant impact or anything, but there are others who have pursued or developed the same critique, and not just because of Libcom.

Not that I want to shit on Libcom. Although I have always conceived of class as central reading these forums has faceted my view here and there, and the library has been of a huge amount of use in my continuing self-education. And furthermore insofar as the critique has been seperable from the invective I have agreed with a great deal of the critique of the world, whatever my differences on organisation etc.

Despite my self-identity as a free communist, and excluding a brief and glorious period when the events in France lit up my life and this website, I have never been able to feel Libcom as my own. And that is something I regret, because the ideas of the people involved are often intelligent, difficult and stimulating.

Je sais pas. I have been meaning to write something like this for a while. Not a call for anti-sectarianism but for an end to the dogmatic and churlish habit of ridiculing as lifestylists people who, on slightly closer inspection, could turn out to be people who for all their flaws and illusions are committed, intelligent and passionate, interested, interesting. Potential allies?

Of course this split has disfigured both sides, most clearly in their relationship to each other. I have cringed at the flames from both sides. But simultaneously there are tensions I would like to explore in future within both sides: the negation of lifestylism is an absolute refusal of self-organisation qua communists for our own interests and desires, of communist community, except where it can be safely expressed (what - morally?) in the virtual world*; while conversely the negation of workerism continues to result, in many sectors, in post-classist and moral visions of activity and strategy.

Too much; going too fast, now. I haven't said everything I want to but this post is too long already. Let's go for a bit of Aristotelian dialectic eh?

cheers,

Si.

*"1. Construct communities constitutive of values, values constitutive of community." - Bataille, Programme relative to Acephale.

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Tacks
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Oct 16 2006 22:32

i don't think this would have been a very good thread anyway, all things considered grin

alright there paris? wink

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Oct 17 2006 00:55

I try to remember that lifestylists maybe be on the journey to being more effective comrads and try to do what I can to try to nudge folx that way.

It's definately something I stuggle with though.

Sometimes I get so frustrated with people I don't see as being comitted to the fight. I feel like those involved in grassroots organising have to shoulder a massive burden and it gives me a feeling like "it's not fair!"

I think to a large extent it is a failing of the anarchist "movement" that we are unable to convince people who are close to being on side to really join the fight. It's something we need to work on some more.

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EdmontonWobbly
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Oct 17 2006 02:36

What's violent about assigning a title to a broad trend you identify in order to critique it and distance yourself from it? I mean you can't deny that a broad segment of the anarchist movement tries to substitute personal lifestyle choices for libertarian organisations with a formal program and membership acting out libertarian principles. That is all lifestylism is, I see nothing violent about calling a spade a spade.

bastarx
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Oct 17 2006 03:12

Maybe they just don't like your organisations. I don't and I'm not a fucking lifestylist.

Pete

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Oct 17 2006 03:53

A wee bit touchy are we?

I didn't realise this was about you. Frankly I don't care whether or not you are a 'fucking lifestylist', I'm interested in criticising the ideas not the individuals that may or may not espouse them.

Jason Cortez
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Oct 17 2006 09:28
Peter wrote:
Maybe they just don't like your organisations. I don't and I'm not a fucking lifestylist.

Pete

Liar.

Dave Smith
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Oct 17 2006 09:53

what the fuck is a lifestylist, I dont realy care anyway

bastarx
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Oct 17 2006 12:07
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
A wee bit touchy are we?

I sure am cos I'm fucking sick of this organisational fetishism that I see here again and again. Your example was:

Quote:
I mean you can't deny that a broad segment of the anarchist movement tries to substitute personal lifestyle choices for libertarian organisations with a formal program and membership acting out libertarian principles.

If you changed 'libertarian organisations' to 'class struggle' I'd probably agree with you. But the class struggle is not the property of 'libertarian organisations' most of which would actually line up on the wrong side when it came to the crunch given their attachment to unionism and nationalism.

Sacrificing your life to a futile leftist sect is just as much lifestylism as living in a squat, but it's way less interesting.

Pete

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Oct 17 2006 12:22

Good post si, I think we should beyond the fragments and look at the validity of each others actions. The organised currents are growing but we arent bursting, and our message isnt eaxactly hitting the mainstream.

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Rob Ray
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Oct 17 2006 12:46

What that he has the worst tagline in the history of taglines?

Peter seriously sort out your accusations, organisational anarchists are almost certainly not even in the majority supporting nationalist wars, and I haven’t yet met one who has been pro-union unless you’re specifically talking syndicalism (and as a syndicalist, I object to being labelled as a lifestylism basher. Tbh I don’t mind them one way or the other, good luck if it works etc). In the case of most libcommers, I doubt you’ll find stronger critiques of either than have been seen on the threads here.

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Oct 17 2006 13:05

Just to say I appreciate the si made a really long post that he obviously spent time and thought on, but I mean who really slags off lifestlyists any more? Who do they bother any more? I haven't met a particularly political lifestlyist in what 2-3 years that I can remember.

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Rob Ray
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Oct 17 2006 13:10

Jack in ‘it isn’t all about lifestylism’ shocker wink.

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Oct 17 2006 13:27

I suppose that this is a stupid question, but what is this lifestylist/activist distinction? I mean, my ideology affects both my lifestyle and the activities I join and initiate. So what am I?

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Oct 17 2006 14:22

I agree with Revol I wouldn't consider squatting lifestylism at all, in fact the people I saw using the squatters resource centre in Brittain surprised me in how not counter cultural they are. I would say an example of 'lifestylism' is the discussion I got into with one anarchist who said he didn't want to take a job as a bicycle courier because he would have to deliver plane tickets and passports and he didn't believe in air travel.

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Oct 17 2006 15:10
revol68 wrote:
Living in a squatis not de facto lifestylism Peter, it becomes lifestylist when you mistake it for a revolutionary act. You have a point about organisational fetishism but let's be clear, most of these groups have atleast an acknowledgement that any real "political act" requires mass collective action and a recognition of the class nature of society.

I know we're meant to be having a spat or something, but thats a really good post.

Just to add to the chorus - peter what, as they say, the fuck? Most libertarian organisations would line up behind a nationalist war? which ones are we thinking of here?

aside from that peter, bear in mind th OP is about resolving what it sees as a pointless rift, not accentuationg/articulating it smile

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Oct 17 2006 15:31

chortle chortle...

er.. i mean, stop that stay on topic.

(fuckit, he's not... is he?!)

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Oct 17 2006 15:33
tojiah wrote:
I suppose that this is a stupid question, but what is this lifestylist/activist distinction? I mean, my ideology affects both my lifestyle and the activities I join and initiate. So what am I?

Not a stupid question but one which has been covered many times on these forums. Try the search box in top right or maybe just browse through this thought forum as the search isnt too great right now.

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 17 2006 18:22
Peter wrote:
If you changed 'libertarian organisations' to 'class struggle' I'd probably agree with you. But the class struggle is not the property of 'libertarian organisations' most of which would actually line up on the wrong side when it came to the crunch given their attachment to unionism and nationalism.

So wait...you polemicise against the class organising politically, and then chastise it for not shaking off unionism and nationalism (as if the EW could be accused of that)? neutral

Is that the left communist dialectic tying you in knots or are you just drunk?

Quote:
Sacrificing your life to a futile leftist sect is just as much lifestylism as living in a squat, but it's way less interesting.

Depends on how much fun you consider ketamines and mouldy bread I suppose.

I guess you're right in principle, but it depends on how define a "futile leftist sect". Does it include small political organisations with ridiculous levels of theoretical and tactical unity who serve as the binary flipside to leftism?

If nothing else, I respect your propensity for self-flagellation. wink

bastarx
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Oct 18 2006 03:17
Saii wrote:
Peter seriously sort out your accusations, organisational anarchists are almost certainly not even in the majority supporting nationalist wars, and I haven’t yet met one who has been pro-union unless you’re specifically talking syndicalism (and as a syndicalist, I object to being labelled as a lifestylism basher. Tbh I don’t mind them one way or the other, good luck if it works etc). In the case of most libcommers, I doubt you’ll find stronger critiques of either than have been seen on the threads here.

Well I'd say NEFAC and the WSM are at best ambiguous on national liberation and of course the syndicalist groups are pro-union. So of the organised anglophone groups I can think of off the top of my head that only excludes the AF.

What I originally objected to and has now been largely lost in a bunch of insults directed against me was EW's stupid attempt to define lifestylists as people who refuse to join organisations.

Pete

bastarx
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Oct 18 2006 03:26
revol68 wrote:
if Pete thinks some organised anarchist groups are bad for nationalism and unions he could try talking to some more of his workmates, or are they all Dauve reading diva's?

I mean I share his concerns about organisational fetishism but his ultra leftism is pretty crude.

I knew one post of Revol's about me was the most I could hope for without an insult.

Of course most of my workmates are pro-union and nationalistic. But none of them claim to be revolutionaries AFAIK.

Pete

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Oct 18 2006 03:33

Calling me stupid and then complaining about people being insulting is a little contradictory dontcha think?

Anyways my point is that 'lifestylism' is the idea that people think that social change comes through individual personal change and not through mass concerted action and I'll stand by that. Wanna put forward a counter point?
There is no doubt that some groups form to advocate for these ideas but they are usuallu very informal and not particularly well organised. Sorry if you think thats insulting, its not my intention I'm just calling 'em as I see 'em.

Also NEFAC is opposed to national liberation struggles:

Quote:
We do not support the ideology of national liberation movements, which claims that there are common interests held between the working class and the native ruling class in the face of foreign domination. Although we support working class struggles against political and economic imperialism, racism, genocide and colonization, we are opposed to the creation of a new ruling class. We believe that the defeat of imperialism will only come about through a social revolution waged against both the imperialists and the local ruling class....

Lifted that from their aims and principles, but hell why do we really need facts anyways. We all know they'll be on the wrong side of the barricades 'cause they are on the wrong side of a debate.

bastarx
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Oct 18 2006 03:46
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Calling me stupid and then complaining about people being insulting is a little contradictory dontcha think?

I didn't call you stupid, I said you defined something stupidly. Stupidity exceeds the boundaries of the category 'stupid people'.

Quote:
Anyways my point is that 'lifestylism' is the idea that people think that social change comes through individual personal change and not through mass concerted action and I'll stand by that. Wanna put forward a counter point?

No cos I agree with that. But that's not what you originally said or at least not what I understood you to say. You seemed to be privileging the actually existing 'libertarian organisations' as the bearers of mass concerted action. Whatever we think of formal organisations it should be clear that they rarely have much to do with initiating mass concerted action such as that against the CPE earlier this year.

Quote:
Also NEFAC is opposed to national liberation struggles:

Quote:
We do not support the ideology of national liberation movements, which claims that there are common interests held between the working class and the native ruling class in the face of foreign domination. Although we support working class struggles against political and economic imperialism, racism, genocide and colonization, we are opposed to the creation of a new ruling class. We believe that the defeat of imperialism will only come about through a social revolution waged against both the imperialists and the local ruling class....

Lifted that from their aims and principles, but hell why do we really need facts anyways.

So you don't recall the recentish debate about Wayne Price's writing on Iraq? High-minded aims and principles don't mean much if leading members can publicly contravene them.

Quote:
We all know they'll be on the wrong side of the barricades 'cause they are on the wrong side of a debate.

When it comes to the crunch they'll have to decide whether they're pro-union or pro-proletarian revolt because the unions are surely against revolt.

Pete

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Oct 18 2006 04:24

Hi peeps

Just a real quickie!! As it is 0512!! Good to see this thread hasn't degenerated too much!! wink

Peter you were a bit scarily aggressive at first! eek Glad you are all measured again now. You are normally so reasonable. cool

Saii Ooh but you were a bit mean to Pete about his tagline. Anyone who quotes a bit of Wilde is just fine by me. The guy was a genius all right.

Libcom has always been pretty good in its level of debate. And the intellectual cock-waving is, in general, even more reduced now. So that is good. cool

Love

LW X

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Oct 18 2006 04:51

Yes I do recall Wayne Price's article and the discussion. I also remember it being mentioned that it was a piece by one member and not endorsed by the federation and it in fact being rather controversial. Regardless of how important you think Dr. Price's opinions are to NEFAC their aims and principles were ratified by a congress and his article was merely his own opion.

I'm privileging existing organisations because they are actually trying to set something up. Waiting for the ideal organisation to come along is all fine and good but actually setting up an organisation is a lot of hard work and usually involves making mistakes something a lot more useful than making a fetish of revolts on the other side of the planet.

Also I actually think that 'mass concerted action' is something quite different than a generalised revolt. This isn't to say that what happened in France wasn't amazing, it was, but there were clear limits to what could be accomplished. A revolution isn't just a matter of overthrowing the existing order, its also making sure that everyone doesn't starve and the reaction doesn't simply kill you.

As for unions being surely against revolt I think that depends on the union and the revolt in question.

bastarx
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Oct 18 2006 11:33
Lone Wolf wrote:
Peter you were a bit scarily aggressive at first! eek Glad you are all measured again now. You are normally so reasonable. cool

Thanks Lone Wolf but I'm surprised that I come across as reasonable to you. I do tend to be pretty aggro regarding unions and nationalism.

cheers
Pete

bastarx
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Oct 18 2006 11:38
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Yes I do recall Wayne Price's article and the discussion. I also remember it being mentioned that it was a piece by one member and not endorsed by the federation and it in fact being rather controversial. Regardless of how important you think Dr. Price's opinions are to NEFAC their aims and principles were ratified by a congress and his article was merely his own opion.

So nationalism's just another minor issue that members of an organisation can disagree with the policy on? Seriously how can a group that claims some sort of theoretical unity allow Price to remain in the organisation.

Quote:
I'm privileging existing organisations because they are actually trying to set something up. Waiting for the ideal organisation to come along is all fine and good but actually setting up an organisation is a lot of hard work and usually involves making mistakes something a lot more useful than making a fetish of revolts on the other side of the planet.

That boring old saw, "at least they're doing something", who cares if its rubbish eh?

Quote:
As for unions being surely against revolt I think that depends on the union and the revolt in question.

Right, so which union has played a positive role in which recent mass struggle?

Pete

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Oct 18 2006 12:59
Peter wrote:
Right, so which union has played a positive role in which recent mass struggle?

CNT in Puerto Real, 1987?

(Of course you could say that they weren't acting like a union then as they were a minority grouping, but still, they are union.)

Mike Harman
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Oct 18 2006 17:11
revol68 wrote:
Regarding Wayne Price, well I don't agree with his shit, but that's up to NEFAC to deal with, then again I tend to fetishise internal democracy tongue, and really comes down to what NEFAC see's it's role as, but I don't think it is very fair of Pete to denounce them on the basis Wayne Price, especially when he is constantly giving off about the dangers of organisational fetishism.

I dunno. If a well known member of an organisation is on record as saying stuff that's completely against its aims and principles over and over again, then I think it's the responsibility of the organisation to deal with that one way or the other. All organisations are up for criticism, saying it's an "internal" matter for "NEFAC to deal with" seems out of character for you, I think you just like disagreeing with Peter wink

I've not seen anyone from NEFAC strongly criticise Wayne Price yet (not that they haven't, but I haven't seen it), unlike the very public discussions several groups that "Gentle Revolutionary" joined had with him where his disagreements were brought into the open and criticised. Similary, Class War managed to expel a well-known renegade member recently as well.

It's also fair to point out that EW's post could be read as conflating class struggle and organisation, lifestylism and anti-organisation. The lines are drawn like that sometimes, sometimes not. We have big organised groups like Dissent (however short-lived), or even stuff like AdBusters or Ruckus in the US. FFS Crimethinc do pretty well on the publishing/web front in terms of how "organised" they are. It's what they organise to do that matters.

It's not whether people are organised into formal groups or not, it's what they actually say and do. We can all agree that there are plenty of formal groups, class struggle or not, that are useless or worse.

As to not "waiting for the perfect group to come along" - how far does that go? If there's no anarchist/communist group to join, should we join the SWP? The Labour Party? Better than sniping from the sidelines isn't it? Or can we agree that many groups are counter-productive or on the wrong side, and should be shunned - and that anything, including doing absolutely nothing at all, is better than bolstering their membership numbers, dues income and activist base out of some sense of duty. It's then down to discussion as to where particular groups fall and what form groups should take if at all.

Feighnt
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Oct 18 2006 23:33

i had thought the term "lifestylism" was coined by Bookchin... i'd always looked at it as a case of people who claim to be Anarchists, who are really just looking to play around. playing around can be cool at times, but if the whole driving force of your so-called "anarchism" is to look counter-cultural and do silly things whilst hooting and hollering about how anarchist you are, then it tends to suggest you barely give a shit about socialism, class war, etc etc. it's not to say that everyone who is active and organized isnt a life-stylist, or, alternately, that everyone who is not active and not organized *is* a lifestylist (and i think EW directly said that in one of his posts, no?)... it's a matter of, "is my Anarchism based on the vision of a classless, stateless, thoroughly democratic (etc) society," or "do i want to have a bunch of fun and look all cool and stuff, and therefore attach myself to Anarchism and pay lip-service to it"? the latter, of course, is lifestylism.

and, sure, there'll be grey areas, and sometimes it'll be difficult to pin someone down one way or another (it can sometimes be hard to figure out if someone acting in a really melon-headed way is actually sincere about their beliefs or not), but there are grey areas in practically everything...

lem
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Oct 19 2006 03:18

I have a beard and have never taken part in any meaningful action. Does that make me a lifestylist. Lol, its kinda like a lifestyle, having a beard this thick and healthy.