Monday, March 22, 2010

PCWC Roots: Wolfi Landstreicher

There's a lot of interesting things going on in Phoenix these days. Things are in flux. Our faith in our theories is being reinforced. The recent libertarian revolt against racist right wing legislator Russell Pearce has been a validation on many levels, not least of all the proposition that fight back against the racist anti-immigrant order can come from more than the boring, reformist left. Many people greeted PCWC's interventions and approaches to the libertarian right with deep skepticism (to say the least).

But, after a solid year of engagement (with some flirtation around the anti-NSM and other actions), it's nice to see the libertarians rise up in force and stick to their values, calling out Pearce for the racist fascist he is, and seeing through the bullshit. This is an amazing development, especially for an overwhelmingly white movement. For them to recognize that the controls on movement proposed by Pearce for local bogeyman "illegal immigrants" will generalize beyond their supposed intended target is a breakthrough of gigantic proportions. It's a step against whiteness, whether that movement sees it as such or not. And putting whiteness in crisis is a vital step towards opening up opportunities for the broader attack against the miserable domination of Capital and the State.

I won't write too much more about this now. Things are still in motion, but I can't help but remark on it because it's so momentous. If this angle of attack can spread, let's say, to eVerify and other interventions into the lives of those who seek to self-organize against the power of the system of domination, we will be well on our way to generalizing the struggle. It feels like a major validation of PCWC's theory of "Fractures & Fissures". Where you find a contradiction, you find an opportunity.

I suppose I'm thinking about theory a lot lately not just because we've been seeing the results of our applications of theory onto the terrain of struggle, but also because PCWC's rather "eclectic" collection of theoretical influences has come up a few times recently.

During our time with the Greeks, here and in the Bay, I know I was inspired by just how much the anti-ideological view we take towards anarchy was reflected back at us in their attitudes and politics. It felt very sympatico, even if we came from different national contexts. I was really amazed by their ability to remain entirely open-minded when it came to learning about the political situation here in the US. Reading their book "We Are An Image From The Future", just released by AK Press, is an inspiration to say the least. If all goes well, PCWC hopes to accept their invitation to visit Greece this summer to describe the situation here in the US.

It's true that PCWC takes its influences from a varied range of anarchist theory and opinion. We were lucky to come into organized anarchism during a time when a lot of new ideas were being tossed about, competing and debating. We are race traitor and individualist. Anarchist-communist and anti-tech. We are class war and social war. We are insurrectionist and fanatical.

So, being inclined at the moment towards theory, I suppose it was a stroke of good luck that Ardent Press put out Wolfi Landstreicher's collection of his writings for "Willful Disobedience" in time for the SF anarchist book fair. Even though I think I have all the issues he put out under that title, I snatched it up as soon as I saw it. Wolfi, both through WD and his collective project "Killing King Abacus" was a tremendous influence on us coming up.

Re-reading the book this weekend, I was reminded of just how much of an affect it had on me. Having come into anarchy from a pretty individualist perspective to begin with, but at the same time having to reconcile that with the race traitor politics I was exploring -- in particular its view of strategy -- Wolfi's writings helped me a great deal to realize that my own revolt against this vampiric system was the only place to start in terms of finding common ground with others in struggle.

What I mean is, anarchy is not a moral trip, and it isn't a monkish project of self-sacrifice either. I want to overthrow this system because of what it does to me every day. One must first and foremost be motivated by one's own liberation. Otherwise, it's no different than bullshit liberalism. I'm no one's savior except my own. But revolution is not an act of navel gazing. We win by fighting together, side by side. True solidarity comes, then, from finding commonalities with the struggles of others, and recognizing that one's liberation is inextricably tied into the the liberation of others.

Beyond that, Wolfi's idea of "projectual living" appealed to me greatly. While many of the race traitor theorists I was interacting with were very Marxist influenced in terms of their view of revolutionary struggle, I really found objectionable their resistance to the everyday fight we must engage in just to live with anything approaching dignity in this system. There were no perfect times to struggle. We must fight now. Every day is a new battle, even if the enemy remains the same. Our lives are projects towards the overthrow of this rotten order. As I do in (anti-)politics, so I do in my life. I fight for room to breathe. I attack the system at every opportunity because it seeks to strangle me. Even if much of our lives in this society are an accommodation if we are lucky, we must to the best of our ability stand in opposition -- to strike back -- every moment that we can.

At the same time, the building of massive formal organizations was unappealing to me. Seeing the way the Bring the Ruckus (race traitor) collective operated here in town proved to me the disingenuous nature of cadre organization and the many ways that formal organizing substituted defending the party line for true relations of affinity. Because, they believed, the organization would bring the revolution, the organization must be defended at all costs. Even if they were anarchists in theory, in practice, while in the organization they acted like authoritarians. I didn't want to build the organization. It was Wolfi's writings that helped to inform me in those struggles against BTR and their machinations, and to light the way towards a much more natural and effective form of organizing. -- one that PCWC practices today.

So, it's on that note that I both recommend that people pick up Wolfi's book and check out the many writings from those days that are available online. With the spring weather making outdoors bearable again, I've been spending the last few days sitting under the tree in the garden with a cold beer getting re-acquainted with an old friend. I highly recommend those folks who find PCWC's politics appealing do the same.

You can find many of the articles from Willful Disobedience at this link. And order Wolfi's book from Ardent Press here.


Joel Olson said...

"Seeing the way the Bring the Ruckus (race traitor) collective operated here in town proved to me the disingenuous nature of cadre organization and the many ways that formal organizing substituted defending the party line for true relations of affinity. Because, they believes, the organization would bring the revolution, the organization must be defended at all costs. Even if they were anarchists in theory, in practice, while in the organization they acted like authoritarians."

The notion that Ruckus acts like authoritarians or that we fail to build "true relations of affinity" are charges that are simply too rich to reply to, PI, but one point you make above is just a flat-out error: Ruckus never, ever argued that "the organization" would bring the revolution. We have always argued the exact _opposite_: revolutionaries don't make revolutions, the working class does. Revolutionaries (from BTR to PCWC) are inevitably more conservative than the working class in tumultuous times, and we constantly seek to recognize this in our own political work. We make this point in many articles on our website: . Some cadre organizations do believe that they will lead the revolution, but we're not one of them.

Feel free to disagree with our politics, PI, but please have the courtesy to critique what we actually believe. And if there's any confusion, it's not like you can't talk to us.

Phoenix Insurgent said...

First off, glad you're reading the blog.

With regards to your objection, I see how that statement may leave some space for interpretation. In this part of the post, which is really kind of an aside, I am characterizing the attitude and the actions of BTR. Perhaps it would be better phrased with the conditional "in effect" preceding it. It's just a blog post, though. Not even an article. I'm surprised to see it elicit such a response.

It's funny how the pieces I write, even when they are picked up and widely circulated within the BTR circle, elicit no feedback whatsoever. But make an offhand criticism and this is what happens... It's interesting anyhow.

However, I have surely seen BTR act in defense of the cadre and membership over principle many times. Indeed, BTR is building kind of a rep for that kind of thing quite independent of my own criticisms. But if this tendency goes against BTR's stated goals, then the organization has a problem reconciling its theory with its action because it amounts to the same thing.

I have seen, whether in copwatch, the anti-war organizing back in the day or the more recent attempt to secretly and quite deviously insert BTR members into the local hip hop scene in town, a pattern of dishonest organizing. And, for sure, BTR is often late to the game, perhaps a carry over from the race traitor days when you yourself pointed out the total failure of RT folks to see the anti-glob stuff coming or to participate with it in any meaningful way. In a similar way, you all have been quite late to the game with regards to the situation with immigration in town. Toss in some alienating organizing strategies and a generally elitist attitude amongst many of the members and this is what you get.

To be fair, I don't see it from you, Joel, but I do see it from many members of BTR and the organization generally. This, I would think, should be an entirely uncontroversial point and the problem, in my opinion, stems first and foremost from BTR's method of organizing.

Nevertheless, I think you know that despite our differences with BTR (which are primarily organizational), PCWC continues to boost those elements of your ideas and those of BTR that we think are good. And we steer traffic to your site from our own sidebar here. And, of course, we have offered support to various members at various times. Unfortunately, I do not see anything in the cadre model of organizing that has value, even if your group has some good people in it.

Indeed, you'd be surprised how often we have to explain to people that despite our affinity for race traitor and other similar ideas, we are not BTR. Of course, to us the differences may seem obvious, but to many outsiders the affiliation is a quite negative one. I say that not because I think that you necessarily even think that's bad, just to say that the cadre style of organizing certainly turns a lot of people off, not leastwise those who are in groups in which BTR members are, often secretly, present.

In the end, that's the real problem with this style of organizing and it's what led me to make that comment. If BTR claims not to believe that it will bring the revolution, it's practice suggests something quite different. Inherent in the cadre model is a distrust that I find very offensive. Though you may say that BTR won't lead the rev, it does seem like BTR can't even trust the people in the front groups it starts to have their own organizations free from cadre influence. In my opinion, at least BTR should have the honesty to manipulate in the open. This is problematic to say the least.