STUCK IN THE MUD OF IDEOLOGY:
A Response to "Stick It to the Manarchy"
From the first word of "Stick It to the Manarchy", it is obvious that we are not dealing with a critique, but with an ideological construction with a not so hidden agenda. This word is a neologism under which the authors place a variety of different attitudes and behaviors that are actually separate and individual. The term "manarchy", like the term "feminazi", clarifies nothing and is nothing more than an ideological evasion of the necessity of critique, carefully avoiding the examination and analysis of specific matters that is necessary to move our struggle forward, because this would bring up too many difficult questions; better to construct an artificial concept through which to view everything, because then we'll always have an answer, an explanation that proves that what makes us uncomfortable is always wrong. Such a pathetic way to go about justifying one's fearful avoidance of revolution.
The Rock Bloc Collective (RBC) then go on to define "manarchy" in such a way that no self-respecting anarchist could possibly support it, and yet write about it throughout the article as if it were an ideology that certain anarchists put forth. This projection of a non-existent ideological mindset onto a disparate group of individuals, attitudes and behaviors guarantees that"”no matter what legitimate basis there may be for some of their complaints"”the RBC will be unable to carry out a real and usable critique. Rather they will filter everything through their ideological construction and leave us with a ridiculous whine that comes across as an attempt to denigrate an uncompromising revolt that they are not prepared to carry out. Why not rather say what their limits are and act on that? Intelligent anarchists carry out their revolt in accordance with their capabilities and do not judge those whose capabilities differ. But there is a bottom line: in the methods of carrying out their struggle, anarchists do not compromise or negotiate with the ruling order. This is what distinguishes anarchists from liberals, reformists, socialists and communists. It is the basic anarchist principle that the ends for which one struggles already exist in the means by which one carries out one's struggle.
Here, we can begin to understand the meaning of the concept of "no compromise". Of course, "within a capitalist system, we all must compromise" (emphasis added). That is precisely why in the context of struggle and revolt, where compromise is not compulsory, we would do well to hold onto that shred of dignity that is left to us and refuse to petition, compromise or negotiate with the ruling order. When I say "no compromise" this is precisely what I mean: in a world in which my life is perpetually compromised by social conditions beyond my control, I will not compromise my attempts to overturn those conditions by negotiating with or petitioning the state or the ruling class. In this way, I retain some dignity, some self-determination and some genuine life at least in the realm of my struggle against this order. And this uncompromising struggle is the only way to achieve our ends against an enemy so much greater than us. It is important to realize that the refusal of compromise is a negative proposition"”that is, a proposal of what not to do if we wish to maintain our anarchist principles"”not an affirmative program of what to do. Therefore, anarchists in all sorts of economic, social and physical conditions can and do refuse compromise while carrying out the sorts of actions which their capabilities, situations and propensities allow. The refusal of compromise in one's struggle is not a dogma, but a decision, more specifically a decision to exercise self-determination in the one area in which we can in this society"”that of the struggle to destroy it.
Sadly the ideological blinders through which the RBC view these matters makes their attempts at critiquing specific situations fail, because these matters are turned into supports for their ideological constructions. Thus, a possibly tactically unwise attempt to break through a barricade in Boston during the presidential debates there is not examined in terms of tactics, analyses of the situation or principles, but is simply labeled "tough" and spoken of in terms of the alleged more-radical-than-thou attitudes of those involved in the action. It is necessary for the RBC to speculate in this fashion in order to make the situation fit into their conception of "manarchy". This speculation about the underlying feelings behind other people's actions and words continues in the so-called critique of the man at the Black Bloc meeting who said: "If you're not willing to take a hit...and you're not willing to go to jail, don't march with the Black Bloc." While the situation in which he found himself isolated, confronting cops, certainly raises a lot of questions both tactically and in terms of principles, these are not questions of toughness or machismo; they are about communication among individuals in affinity groups and in larger groups, about real solidarity in the midst of a concrete situation of revolt, about having it together to have each other's backs when we choose to take to the streets in these repressive times (and at all times for that matter). To blame the man who found himself deserted in the face of the cops for feeling deserted and to accuse him of machismo is a classic case of blaming the victim. His statement is not divisive nor an attempt to declare who can and can't be in the Black Bloc; it is a realistic expression of the risk involved: if a person takes part in a Black Bloc, she is risking being beaten or imprisoned. To deny this or try to hide it is irresponsible. In fact, this is true not just of the Black Bloc, but of any form of participation in a demonstration, particularly in the present repressive atmosphere. The RBC's implication that openly saying such things is macho or elitist is not convincing. It seems to have little to do with fighting machismo and a lot to do with not wanting to face the reality of the increasingly repressive situation in which we are struggling.
The members of the RBC tell us that they are "all white and coming from economically privileged backgrounds". (This latter is reinforced by their obvious enrollment in a small, private college.) This may explain their arrogant presumption in declaring what the feelings and attitudes that underlie other people's actions are and in setting the limits of possible action for those less advantaged than them. It most certainly explains their view of radical activity and revolution as essentially a form of psychotherapy. They refer to direct action and the Black Bloc as a tactic for empowerment" and speak of " working to build a world where people are empowered and loving." (emphases added). This is all very nice, but 12-step groups talk about the same ideals and present no threat whatsoever to the present world. As I see it, revolutionary direct action is a means toward the destruction of the present world of domination and exploitation. And my aim is to build a world in which no one can be dominated or exploited, because the practise of uncompromising, self-determined revolt has made everyone indomitable and uncontrollable. Asking permission, negotiating, compromising with our rulers cannot bring this end about. So the refusal of compromise is not about self-sacrifice. It is the very opposite: taking back one's life as far as one is capable and acting to accomplish one's aims and to destroy the world that stands in the way of our self-determined existence against all odds.
Unlike the members of RBC, I am nor from an "economically privileged background". My parents were working class, and throughout my adult life I have been, by the standards of the state, quite poor"”though my preference for freedom from a job has had something to do with this, I have also pursued this preference without having wealthy parents or a trust fund to on. Contrary to the thoughts of these four well-to-do college students, those of us who are "economically disadvantaged" don't fret over not having money for a lawyer. The threat of arrest is a normal part of our lives, because some level of illegality is bound to be part of our lives to supplement our incomes"”and since the cops, in fact, do not treat us so well, arrest is likely enough sooner or later. In such a context, why would I or others of my class be more afraid in our revolt for a fullness of life than we are in our activities for survival? Why would we hold back? The truth is that it is generally the more privileged"”like those in RBC"”who call for compromise, who get the permits, negotiate with the pigs and play all the nauseating reformist games that guarantee the continuance of the world of domination and exploitation, the world that fucks me over (yes, this is personal). Why? Because they have something to lose if this world falls, and they have the means within the present society to build " a space that is empowering, accepting, inclusive, accessible, communicative and community oriented." People in my position"”near the bottom of American society"”cannot afford to do this. Our only choice, if we wish to live full and intense lives is, in fact, to rise up against this world"”and that does mean risking (though certainly trying to avoid) prison or worse"”just as so many of our survival tactics do. When you're at the bottom, illegality and prison are not an abstract question. They are part of your reality.
The RBC talk of solidarity. Whatever their "economic privilege", they also suffer from the alienation and emptiness of life in this society. For this reason, I can recognize their potential as sincere comrades in the struggle to destroy the social order, but that potential can only be realized in uncompromising revolt against all domination and exploitation. I have known solidarity precisely in terms of who will have my back when I take the risks necessary for taking back my life. Those from economically privileged backgrounds, those who actually have a place in this world as it is, have a choice in this matter. When they use gender issues and abstract conceptions of solidarity as an excuse to back away from real revolt, they are in fact choosing to refuse solidarity to those of us who will not back down, because the fullness we demand from life depends on it. It is obvious that when push comes to shove, the RBC cannot be trusted to have my back.
A critique of the Black Bloc is, indeed, in order, but "Stick it to the Manarchy" fails completely as a critique of anything. The subject of their critique is merely an ideological construct in their own heads, a moral high ground on which they stand to condemn those immersed in a struggle for their lives. With existence becoming ever more miserable and precarious, I consider it irresponsible for those anarchists who are not themselves prepared for total revolt against this world to argue for pacification. This world needs to be demolished. When do we begin?
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