"Your dead language of love
Hey I don’t mind breaking Starbucks windows cause it is more fun
Hey I can envision more radical times
Not just standing silently around" - The (International) Noise Conspiracy
Today I had wanted to experience again the liberating rage I felt at J20, and instead, was silently led around Manhattan in a protest directed by police and pacifists. Both of these forces and what they represent, beyond a doubt, should be connected to the ideology of the capitalist state. In fact, after hearing organizers of the protest use phrases such as "photo-op," I had a bit of an epiphany in regard to the value of passive "symbolic attacks" or "consciousness raising" as a tactic. Namely, I realized that it has absolutely no value for the proletarian's, our, aims.
Somewhat unfortunately and awkwardly, this hit me at around the point when I would have had my fifteen minutes of fame. As the BBC television anchor went to interview me, she made sure my face would hit the sun. Of course, when one is in a situation where you're surrounded by cops, lighting is a key issue for understanding its reality, and for seeing my purposely hidden face. Finally, when she asked me if I'd like to tell her why I was here, I just said "no," and she turned away calling me an asshole. I chose to not be a spokesperson for the proletarian resistance, which needn't bring awareness over illusory news. No, I would not like to pick through a spectacular grab bag of causes to inform white intellectuals watching the BBC that other white intellectuals really care about the class struggle. If I did something like that, for the "idealistic" symbolic task of raising awareness, I'm not sure if I could sleep at night because I offended the very people I stand up for in real life just because I would have participated in such a contradicting media. If you think that its good for people around the world to see resistance, you're wrong, basically because you're looking at it from the wrong angle. Instead, we should be saying, it is good for people around the world to be resisting. Attitudes are changed through books and ideas, whispers on the street and personal epiphanies, and the ideals these moments bring shouldn't be invalidated by a fifteen millisecond clip of a "call to resistance" that's spliced inbetween exploitive commercials for coke. If I were oppressed and needing or doing actual resistance in another country and saw this, I would just laugh, as all actions done by radicals in the U.S., with a few exceptions, are jokes. We can afford to protest, and without anything, they have the bravery to face their problems without symbolism.
Symbolic attack, from my limited knowledge, can best be associated currently with Jean Baudrillard who popularized this form following the new graffiti language of May 1968. However, Baudrillard turned his situationist and Maoist-based symbolic attack into a capitalist supporting postmodernism, where, insanely, this new radical language could also be seen in Vegas. Today, I merely saw it in Times Square, but instead of the semiotics of graffiti slogans and meme billboards, I saw it in the actions of protesters. Along with pacifism being equated with the state, I'd like to imagine that civil disobedience is but a factor of capitalist ideology. In all honesty, we must recognize that if we think that holding coffins to be arrested or burning flags is revolutionary, we might as well consider ourselves capitalists or at least adherents to the ideas it would like spread. If you'd like to raise awareness and things such as this, you should do it in the form of education, food not bombs, d.i.y. libraries or labor organizing, instead of posing on the streets of a city whose people only care about image and capital, which can also be, two important factors of commodity fetishism. I've begun to wonder if radicals have become an image just as capital has, and more than this, they equate the material with image. Could it be that radicals are marketable commodities able to be manipulated? Is the impression of radical proletarians that we’ve succumbed to commodification? Also, in watching people do civil disobedience, I wondered how much money the state saved in keeping potential radicals off the street for doing something that didn't even harm their system. Furthermore, I wondered about the repercussions of such an image if raised into the consciousness of masses. We would start believing in a completely false abstraction, as civil disobedience would equate representation with action. We would be protesting slaves, still, but this time thinking that protesting breaks chains. Did we even occupy a recruiting station today? Absolutely not, because in the logic of civil disobedience and pacifism, actually performing an action is the same thing as symbolic gestures in front of their windows. If anything, Baudrillard was at least right in expecting the radical left to turn postmodern, as we seem to no longer even be able to face reality, especially when considering the passive actions of civil disobedience. Nations are created first, based on ideas and praxis, but the flags, images, and representations must come second. We need action to come first before our symbols, and we must never equate revolutionary praxis for symbolic attacks unless we wish to rather ineffectively spread our message.
However, I have been turning this critique on myself, an anti-authoritarian passively participating in these contradictions. I can't really say why I went today, I suppose as I said early, I expected a confrontation like J20. The anarchist picnic was certainly fun, but it was certainly not exciting, or productive, just walking around under the all-seeing eye of the police. I wish I had the right thing to tell all these great people, give the right path of action to give direction to the young, passionate, brilliant and kind anarchists I met today, but I don’t. Earth Liberation Front shows promise in cutting the synthetic root of capitalism off, and thus all of it, and the red anarchists and black bloc sound good, but they probably know this. More importantly, there's no certainty that these basically "theoretically sound" direct actions will defeat capitalism. However, none of this could have happened today. In fact, by its very definition, no effective action against capitalism can be performed in a protest. Perhaps the RNC and J20 were so successful, or seemed so, because a protest finally had some capitalist object to rage against and confront directly, "we want to disrupt the convention/inauguration." There was some goal, albeit small, to hinder the contradictory representations of democracy in capitalism, e.g., the republican bureaucrats. Today, however, there was no object to be raged against. Not only was the Mayor's private property blocked off, but we were trying to stop a war that isn't even going on in this country and has absolutely nothing to do with New York. You could blame it on September 11, I'll blame it on global capitalism as it exists everywhere and its unending class war. We should have went back to D.C. and confronted the heart of the system as such, but could this ever be something more than a demonstration? On the other hand, us unruly, anxious radicals wishing for something more, need to ask ourselves how many windows can we break or cars can we blow up until we realize that they're just replaced and the worker still enters the factory or managerial building under the same, unharmed, ruling class power?
Although I think it's more than safe to say that the radical left has lost all sense of direction, I don't think it’s safe to bring to the forefront the correct theoretical and practical, as well as effective, way to defeat capitalism. In this country, the capitalist king, neither direct action, labor organizing, violence, or civil disobedience seem to work. Thus, it becomes plausible to imagine that no resistance to capitalism will work in the world, ever, and this is an unacceptable prediction based on our failures in history. In this uncertainty, for solace, I turn to the passage of one of my favorite authors, Guy Debord, which, denouncing the absolute uncertainty of capitalism, proposes proletarians follow their critical, emotional truth to produce its desires and demands of mutual aid, direct democracy, and the dictatorship of the proletariat, “the self-emancipation of our time is an emancipation from the material bases of inverted truth. This ‘historic mission of establishing truth in the world’ can be carried out neither by the isolated individual nor by atomized and manipulated masses, but only and always by the class that is able to dissolve all classes by reducing all power to the de-alienating form of realized democracy — to councils in which practical theory verifies itself and surveys its own actions. This is possible only when individuals are ‘directly linked to universal history’ and dialogue arms itself to impose its own conditions.”