The Importance of Communication (Re-)Learned: ALL-oNE goes to the 6th NYC Anarchist Bookfair!

ALL-oNE Logo

ALL-oNE Logo

 

Sorry for the extremely late posting of this but I was waiting for an editor to come look it over but in the end he just never found the time so I’m just gonna post it now. Hope you enjoy!

(As always Julia has posted her write-up before me but I, as always, recommend reading it of course!)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve last posted anything but I usually hold off until we either has some big announcement to make (and that the thing that’s being announced is pretty stable) or until we’ve gone to some sort of event. In this case it was of course the annual anarchist book fair that takes place every April. Though it’s unorthodox in comparison to other posts I do just want to briefly talk about the trip down only because it was interesting and related to anarchism. Conversely the ride back up wasn’t too eventful in regards to anarchist theory and practice so I shall not talk as much (if at all) about that.

The Ride Down

Thankfully we made okay time considering everything that was going on (constant changes in logistics, money concerns and so on) but the important part (at least for me) was a few practical problems Jack brought up that I just want to take the time to bring up and then talk about how we responded and elaborate on a response of my own.

They were:

1. Would it be better to take a corporate job than starve on the streets if those were your only optios?

2. What would you do (as an anarchist) if a foreign army invaded?

3.  What’s the next best tactic towards achieving freedom?

1. For the first answer the general consensus was that yes, it is better to take a corporate job over starving in the street (say, working for a company like Halliburton or something of that sort). You could still give the money that wasn’t going to yourself to the cause of freedom. I also made the (I think worthwhile) point that if you are in a situation like near-poverty or starving in the street I doubt you have such bargaining power that you’d be able to even get a job like that. So the whole situation seems unlikely in my eyes but even if it somehow did happen I definitely would say take it and not only take it but try to put that money that you make to yourself and other counter-powers that will weaken the corporations.

For example try to organize a fighting union or something to undermine the corporation within itself if you somehow can. If all else fails then just try to enjoy the job as much as you can until you can get one less…corporatized. Obviously it sucks that you’re helping a war-company or a corporation in general make profits when they’re a state-guaranteed (more or less) privileged entity over others but practicality comes with and sometimes before theory.

2. This one was a little bit less organized but more or less came down to us (“us” being those who are in the car and answering the question) saying we’d either organize our own defense networks or organizations that were independent of the state or getting there.

Personally I don’t mind either option. I think I’d prefer to high-tail it if things got too messy but if the independent organizations actually could be set up and linked together when needed then I’d support the cause for independence. I’m not a huge fan of war of course as an anarchist but such an emergency case would probably override such an idea anyways. And though running away might seem counter-productive it might be possible set up our own independent associations and so on away from the warfare while the state tries to deal with the foreign menace. I sincerely doubt it could deal with both at the same time. But that’s just a brief sketching of some answers so I’m not saying they’re air-tight or anything.

3. See here, here, here and here.

With the exception of the third question I think it becomes a little clearer that theory and practice are really intertwined and shouldn’t be tried to separate. Separating one from the other typically results in either the corporate job not being taken or it being taken but not being made the best of. Or in the second case one side actually chosen or ill-prepared tactics done out and so on.

Anyways Jack raised some important questions that, as he says, ALL ALLies should be able to answer.

NYC Anarchist Bookfair

The 6th Annual NYC Anarchist Bookfair (Day 1)

We got there around 1 PM effectively making Jack and I miss Occupation and Direct Action vs. Electoralism which is one of the talks we were especially interested in. But it didn’t matter too much as we soon got re-acquainted with the area and started searching around for good books and the ALL table of course. I quickly scoured the book fair area pretty fast and had caught up with Darian Worden of NJ-ALL but not before I got in a few situations that I’ll have to learn from.

The first was a recurring problem: Aren’t you guys just anarcho-capitalists? Are you guys anarcho-capitalists? Oh, yeah market anarchism…so anarcho-capitalism basically right?

To be fair this “recurring” problem only happened twice or so but each time it happened I couldn’t help but think that most people at the book fair probably thought the same. Just like at Liberty Forum where we might’ve been thought as “dirty socialists” by the libertarians who were there. But is this a problem of left-libertarianism and if so how do we deal with it?

Well it is a problem and it isn’t.

First off it’s an obvious “problem” how libertarianism could be seen as a justifiable framework to further leftist values or end goals. Especially due to the seemingly incompatible ideas and values that come out of the libertarian camp such as apologetics for corporations or the “wealth producers” and so on. Nevertheless I see left-libertarianism as an ideological and practice-driven concept that either will uproot the commonly believed framework libertarians have or drastically change it in ways that are more productive towards leftist values and goals. How it does this (briefly explained anyways) has been laid out (in my opinion) by Gary Chartier here and here and of course in a much bigger way in Markets Not Capitalism (the PDF can be found here) so I’m not gonna try to duplicate what has already been done elsewhere. Suffice it to say I think the knowledge is out there for people who truly want to understand left-libertarianism to at least some degree or another. But that just brings me to how it’s not exactly the fault of left-libertarians.

There are people who just don’t want to know any better. They want to live in their own preconceptions of what “left” and what “libertarianism” means and that fusing such “liberal” and “conservative” ideas is an oxymoronic at best and at worst a sort of entryism into one camp or another. These sorts of people are people who I don’t know if they can be reasoned with. It’s certainly worth a shot and we shouldn’t discredit them or anything solely based on this opinion but it certainly is a bit tougher to tell someone that what they’re thinking about simply isn’t relevant.

In this case the charge of “anarcho-capitalism” relies on a whole bunch of assumptions which may or may not be warranted depending on terms, context and so on. So for myself left-libertarianism is not anarcho-capitalism because left-lbiertarians have no love for the word capitalism (you can see this in MNC) and this is either etymologically speaking or in general (at least for me). Left-libertarians reject the fact that markets must somehow be intrinsically about capital or just one thing. Really the only thing freed markets have to be about is ensuring the free relations and exchange among individuals. Bosses needn’t necessarily apply.

The whole “what is capitalism?” debate is overplayed and I don’t dare rehash the whole thing but really the crux of this all is: What do ALLies tell people who walk up to their table or see our shirts and so on and say, “What are you an X?”

Because even if it’s not an anarcho-capitalist it might just as well be a “dirty socialist” or a “mutualist” or a “centrist” (because I said we’re “between” anarchist communism and capitalism…which is a false dichotomy anyways but I hadn’t thought of that at the time) so what do we say?

First off try to see where they’re coming from. Let’s take the anarchist communist and what they’re saying: “So what are you an anarcho-capitalist?”

So basically the whole fallacy they’re coming from is conflating capitalism and markets. This is actually the perfect mistake because there’s a whole book entitled to dispelling this conflation. So you can do the obvious thing and just recommend the book or (what’s more likely) you’ll have to just mention it as an aside (and probably mention there’s a free online version too) and get into some conversation with them. What do you do in the conversation then?

Try to be clear and concise. This’ll be difficult but it might be best to just say something like,

“No I’m not but I can see why you’d think that. I, as a left-libertarian think that markets are a perfectly reasonable way to have individuals self-manage themselves and freely and mutually beneficially cooperate with others if they choose to and that this is an inherently anti-capitalist way of doing things if done right. This is because historically systems that have been called capitalism and have acted in capital’s best interest as opposed to the consumer, the worker, the environment. But if we flip this on its head and have a market place with no state, less of an emphasis on thing-worship, carelessness of context and community organizing around the concepts of mutual-aid, direct action, dual power and other tactics and conceptual frameworks then the market just might have the chance to be the best anti-capitalist vehicle we can get.”

Maybe something like that. But even that’s just off the top of my head and will only beg more questions but then I’m only trying to give my ALLies a strong lead-in rather than an entire conversation. The term “free market anti-capitalist” is also perhaps a pretty good title to give oneself and is (as Markets Not Capitalism as a title was intended to be) obviously provocative but with good reasons and intentions behind it.

Unfortunately the few times it was brought up I was unsure how to answer off the top of my head in a sufficient manner and Darian ended up taking the lead the first time around anyways and the second as it turned out. So I did’t get to stretch my ideological legs much in this department this time around. Still, communication is an important topic.

Before I left for the first talk that I was gonna see with Jack another libertarian actually came over to the table and struck up a conversation with me. It was more or less the same type conversation I was jut talking about except this time it was the opposite: an anarcho-capitalist trying to make the claim that there really wasn’t any real difference between the left-libertarian position and the anarcho-capitalist one. I won’t get into the conservation but I’ll just say that in cases like this we must first start by separating anarchism from capitalism and what either term might or should mean, etc. Why they’re incompatible in one sense or another and how we as LLs differ from popular anarcho-capitalist foundational beliefs and expectations for a better society.

Consensus Decision Making Workshop

Consensus Decision Making Workshop

On to the first talk which was: Consensus Decision-Making: A Workshop on Technique and Trouble-Shooting

Jack and I attended this event and I was pretty excited to learn about consensus decision making and how to put into practice. There was a formal introduction to everyone around the table that was there and then we began by talking about the basics of what consensus decision making was, how it operated, a few popular misconceptions and correct perceptions. This section was informative enough and I took some decent notes which has them saying that consensus decision making is about:

Dialogue between equals

A rapport

More about collaboration than compromise

If we want to achieve a more democratic society our means must reflect those ends and that’s where consensus decision making comes in

Getting the essence of the group out of a dialogue

Another big part of consensus is listening and really having similar interests to the people in the group and want to achieve something at least similar to what they want to get out of things. To do this a lot of listening is necessary to make sure we’re all on the same page in the group.

The certain roles of a given consensus based group are as follows:

 

Timekeeper (Self-explanatory)

Vibes-keeper (Makes sure everyone is doing alright and feels comfortable)

Scribe (Takes notes for the group)

Note-taker (Takes notes for themselves to be or not be shared with the group later on)

Facilitator (Moderator, keeps a “stack” or a list of the people who want to speak so to keep things more organized)

There are different signals as well:

The “twinkle” (silly name I know…) is waving your fingers upwards to show approval (disapproval is downwards waving of the fingers)

After doing some troubleshoot with a variety of different situations we came together again to determine why people do this to begin with, here’s the answers we came up with:

– Politically structured empathy

– Equal power, voices

– Most democratic

-Builds ownership, accountability

– Means reflect ends (as mentioned before)

-Everyone has a part of the truth

There were a few other parts of the process too that were brought up:

Openness and honesty

Having “check in”s and “check out”s with the people in the group.

A few things to keep in mind like WAIT and WATT (Why am I talking and Why are they talking)

There’s also a “non-stacked” way of doing things called a “popcorn” style in which everyone puts things in the conversation by just speaking up which is another way to organize such meetings.

Finally, an interesting thing to remember or emphasize is that breaks should be taken and that the process shouldn’t be dull or boring. Play games, divert yourselves from the conversation and make some jokes or something if the process gets too tedious. Or else you can merely break the process down into more manageable bits if that doesn’t help. There are many paths to take.

So that was a lot of what I got out of the talk, there’s a lot more to it than this and if you’re interested you can email the people who put it together at centerforwhatspossible@gmail.com for questions.

The Anarchist Roots of #OWS

The Anarchist Roots of #OWS

I want to move on to the second (and last as it turned out) talk that Jack and I (and this time around the rest of the group too) attended Occupy Wall Street’s Anarchist Roots: How Nonhierarchical Values Became the Principles for a Mass Movement 

We got in it a bit late due to some of us wanting to take a break, meet back up and catch up and so on so we missed a little bit of it. And on top of that both Jack and I were so tired we may or may not have nodded off once or twice! But all was well in the end and one of the most interesting questions I thought the panel brought up was also probably the most obvious: Should we occupy again? Will it happen? Should it happen? Is it inevitable? And so on.

Most people on the panel didn’t think it’d happen. They reasoned that the protest of #OWS had already really happened and now that people had learned the dangers of centralizing movements in one place decentralization among networked and federalized autonomous groups was probably for the best. But each speaker made it clear that they were only speaking for themselves and that anything could happen. Some of them seemed like they’d be interested in participating and others seemed more indifferent or seemed to have a more “let’s wait and see” sort of approach if it did happen.

So while the panel seemed a bit mixed on it (this is based on my recollection from over a week ago with notes so take what I just said with a grain of salt…) I want to briefly talk about my view on this.

Some comrades of mine said it best very recently that the best thing about #OWS was the fact that there was no easy label to put on it or everything involved (or at least more than other protests anyways). It was a new sort of protest (at least in my lifetime and to my knowledge of the lifetime I’ve lived thus far…) that had never taken place before and was allowing all people to come in with their own favorite issues. Thus conversation had to happen and people wouldn’t just walk up (at least not as much) and say, “Hey aren’t you just a…”. I think that’s a great environment.

But sadly (and happily!) I must say that I think #OWS has (for the most part) fizzled out. I haven’t done any deep analysis, or talked to many people about this or even paid attention to what’s going on with #OWS these days but that’s pretty much why I’m saying this. Because if there was something to be paying attention to I’d have heard about it. The few times stuff has happened I’ve heard about it and paid a little attention to it but nothing major. And basically at the panel discussion my thoughts were more or less confirmed that it’s split up into several working groups and these groups all come together when necessary. So it seems like (to me anyways) #OWS has done it’s job in settling the stage for further activism in the future. And that’s a good thing in my opinion.

I took a few shots of the ALL table when we returned which you can see

Finally after this talk and getting a bit refreshed we spent about an hour coming up where to go (a group of 10 in total I believe) and we hung out for the remainder of the night with the groups splitting up into two different apartment buildings with ALLys in New Jersey. I fell asleep not long after watching the movie Office Space for the first time and being reminded how the workplace can seem just as authoritarian as states can be at times.

The next day wasn’t too eventful, just a fun day of some food, catching up some more, organizing, networking but no talks. David Graeber didn’t end up showing so Julia and I ended up hanging out in the park until we were picked up and ALL headed home.

Concluding Thoughts

One of the most important things for me this time around was definitely communication and how we can communicate things better. With Porcfest 2012 and consequently the next AltExpo coming up the lessons of Liberty Forum and now the NYC Anarchist Bookfair should be remembered and taken into consideration. How we want to display ourselves, engage with ours, how we represent ourselves, what literature we put out, what we say in defense of “left-libertarianism” and more ALL should be taken into consideration as much as possible.

In the coming months more events should be happening and when they do you can be sure I’ll try to get out some write-ups on them!

-Nick

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