Archive for the ‘Solutions’ Category

Feb03

Socialism or Barbarism

Christmas Day Tragedy Reveals Necessity of Adequate Social Service Programs

Originally posted by DGP on Medium, January 5th, 2017

Tricia McCauley, a well known D.C. area stage performer, was attacked and murdered by a homeless, mentally ill man on Christmas day in our nation’s capital. The circumstances of her death were very tragic but not, as has been claimed, senseless or unforeseeable as we will explore later on.

As we work to make sure this never happens again, we must reject the simplistic and reductionist notion that the solution to crime is more police, more jails, and an expansion of an already deeply flawed and inequitable justice system.

Many of us know people like Tricia McCauley. Her outgoing personality endeared her to almost everyone she met. A theater colleague describes her:

While we in the theatre community initially knew her as a brilliant performer, often with her creative family at Washington Stage Guild, Tricia was also a teacher, a health coach, and an urban farmer. In her valedictorian speech at her herbal medicine graduate ceremony, she referred to herself as a “plant translator. My deepest joy is introducing plants to people.” Whether it was a recommendation of a detox juice recipe or a list of edible flowers, Tricia made it her personal mission to develop relationships among her friends — human ones and floral ones…

[Content warning: physical violence resulting in death, sexual assault.]

Tricia McCauley spent most of Christmas Day preparing food for an annual holiday party, and in the early evening she departed for the party with her signature dishes in tow. At some point along the way she was accosted by Adrian Duane Johnson, a 29 year old homeless man with a history of mental illness and arrests for petty thefts and misdemeanors. McCauley’s battered body was discovered several days later stuffed into the rear section of her Toyota Scion, her legs bound, her body exhibiting signs of blunt force and sexual trauma. She had been strangled. Johnson’s statements to law enforcement after being arrested were bizarre and unhinged. He claimed the 115 lbs, 5’4 McCauley, a woman traveling alone at night, offered him a ride. He also insisted they engaged in consensual sex after which she became “emotional” and hung herself in the car, but not before telling him that he could have all of her belongings.

Violence against women is epidemic in our society and across the world, and it was the main factor in this situation. Yet we must also acknowledge the equally important role policy makers have played in setting the stage for this particular chain of events and similar tragedies. Tricia McCauley was murdered in the capital city of the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, a country that prides itself on being the “land of opportunity,” — and yet many people living in the capital languish in poverty. In nearby towns and cities like Baltimore the situation is even more desperate. The affluent and the dispossessed exist side by side in almost Dickensian fashion with D.C. enduring a homelessness rate that is twice the national average.

No one likes poverty, no one likes seeing homeless people sleeping on the streets, and yet it seems that many are resigned to the status quo because they believe they will never be directly affected. Tricia McCauley was a victim of this status quo, and one way of honoring her memory is to work much harder towards ending the disparities that inevitably lead to social pathology.

Her facebook page reveals her to be someone who leaned strongly to the left end of the political spectrum. Several of her public posts show she was a strong believer in racial and economic justice, a fact that makes the circumstances of her death especially tragic. She was also conscious of her position as a white person living in the gentrifying majority Black Bloomingdale neighborhood of north-central Washington D.C.

Considering the type of person she was, we can be fairly sure she would not have wanted her tragic death to be used as an excuse for more intensive dismemberment and policing of Black communities, more jails, and more oppression.

In light of the fact that her attacker was homeless let us examine some statistics. A recent study concluded that providing shelter for those enduring homelessness is cheaper than leaving them to languish on the streets. According to the study, providing housing did more than save the city money:

The tenants also spent 84 percent fewer days in jail, with a 78 percent drop in arrests. The reduction is largely due to a decrease in crimes related to homelessness, such as trespassing, loitering, public urination, begging and public consumption of alcohol, according to Caroline Chambre, director of the Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks, the main force behind Moore Place.

The connection between stability and low crime can no longer be overlooked. According to Prison Legal News, affordable housing reduces crime and improves public safety:

Despite the strong correlation between increased spending on supportive housing and reduced correctional spending, “jurisdictions continue to spend more on corrections than on housing” by a wide margin. “An increase in spending on housing is associated with a decrease in violent crime at the national level and a decrease in incarceration rates at the state level,” according to JPI. “An increase in spending on housing and community development paired with a decrease in spending on corrections is associated with both lower crime rates and lower prison incarceration rates.”

As countries like Finland and India explore and prepare to implement basic income programs to ensure their citizens can meet essential needs, here in the U.S. we face the prospect of more draconian cuts to social services with one of the most right-wing Congressional and Presidential administrations in decades. For the most part the millionaires on Capitol Hill are insulated from the effects of their slash and burn policies; they live in gated communities with security men; they are chauffeured, provided with carefully crafted itineraries, insulated from the consequences of their cruelty. Unlike Tricia McCauley, the upper echelon decision makers are usually sheltered from all but the most carefully managed of interactions with the dispossessed and the downtrodden who, like the Morlocks in H. G. Well’s The Time Machine, occasionally emerge from the murky depths of their oppression.

One of the rare exceptions to the above mentioned dynamic occurred in 1981 when a young man suffering from schizophrenia shot newly elected president Ronald Reagan in an attempt to impress actress Jodi Foster. It was an extremely ironic turn of events considering Reagan’s track record of shutting down state services, institutions and programs for the mentally ill while governor of California. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey connects the dots between Reagan’s policies and on the ground events in his 2013 article ‘Ronald Reagan’s shameful legacy: Violence, the homeless, mental illness’:

California was the first state to witness not only an increase in homelessness associated with deinstitutionalization but also an increase in incarceration and episodes of violence. Of all the omens of deinstitutionalization’s failure on exhibit in 1970s California, the most frightening were homicides and other episodes of violence committed by mentally ill individuals who were not being treated.

– 1970: John Frazier, responding to the voice of God, killed a prominent surgeon and his wife, two young sons, and secretary. Frazier’s mother and wife had sought unsuccessfully to have him hospitalized.
– 1972: Herbert Mullin, responding to auditory hallucinations, killed 13 people over 3 months. He had been hospitalized three times but released without further treatment.
– 1973: Charles Soper killed his wife, three children, and himself 2 weeks after having been discharged from a state hospital.
– 1973: Edmund Kemper killed his mother and her friend and was charged with killing six others. Eight years earlier, he had killed his grandparents because “he tired of their company,” but at age 21 years had been released from the state hospital without further treatment.
– 1977: Edward Allaway, believing that people were trying to hurt him, killed seven people at Cal State Fullerton. Five years earlier, he had been hospitalized for paranoid schizophrenia but released without further treatment.

According to Dr. Torrey’s article (which includes excerpts from his book ‘American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System’), there is a direct chain of causation between Reagan’s decisions and the violence and mayhem that was later unleashed on society. He also notes that sentiments linking psychiatry to Communism likely influenced Reagan’s decisions both as governor and later as president.

Whether we’re considering homelessness, mental health treatment, or mitigating poverty, we must understand that the resources to solve these problems exist. The problem is with a system that will absolutely not allow a sustainable and equitable distribution of resources for the betterment of the entire community. Instead, many people are left to fend for themselves; many wallow in misery, madness and resentment.

The phrase “socialism or barbarism” made popular by Polish-German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg is more relevant today than ever before. She herself was also a victim of violence, shot in the head and dumped in a river by her political enemies. She wrote:

Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” . . . Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. . . . Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration — a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war.

The war she speaks of is not only the war that imperialist countries wage against their victims overseas. The social war is in full effect and has been for quite some time, and many of us are losing. Some of the first victims of this war were the indigenous people of this continent and the enslaved Africans brought here in chains. Tricia McCauley is one of the latest casualties of this ongoing war, though an unintended one to be sure.

How many wonderful and talented people have we lost to the insanity of our current system? If the status quo continues there will be many more Tricia McCauley’s, many more Tamir Rice’s, many more Sandra Bland’s. As we see literal white supremacists taking up residence in the White House it bears asking what will it take for people to overthrow this system and demand something better.

If we learn to live side by side with oppression and inequality then what we’re saying is that we are OK with occasionally losing good people. The best way to honor Tricia McCauley’s memory is to work towards abolishing a cruel system that creates an endless cycle of perpetrators and victims. Revolution and socialism now!

                                    Tricia McCauley
Feb03

A History Lesson

What a 1943 Protest Against the Nazis Teaches Us About Organizing to Defeat Trump’s Agenda

Originally posted by DGP on Medium, November 11, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump is bringing along with him a Senate and Congress dominated by Republican majorities with strong proto-fascist elements. Many people are understandably distraught considering the threats to immigrants, LGBT people, Muslims, women’s reproductive rights, and the implications for poor and marginalized Black communities. Yet while it’s true we are facing an incredibly difficult and dangerous situation, we should not succumb to resignation and despair. History shows us that even the most nefarious and brutal regimes can be successfully defied.

In early 1943 a group of unarmed German women organized what has come to be known as the Rosenstrasse protest. It was Nazi Germany’s only successful protest movement to stop the expulsion and murder of Jewish people, namely their husbands and sons who had been arrested and slated for deportation. The Rosenstrasse protest strongly contradicts those who claim that there was nothing privileged German citizens could have done to stop Nazi atrocities. It reveals to us who live in a much more free and open society that the barriers to defending the threatened and marginalized are mostly in our minds. It also reveals the power that can be unleashed when the personal becomes political.

The protest, overwhelming led by women, was extraordinary, but before we examine it we should view it in context. After the passing of the 1935 Nuremburg Laws, marriage between “Aryans” (referred to here as non-Jewish) and Jews was prohibited and referred to as “race defilement”. Privileged Germans who entered into a sexual relationship with a person categorized as Jewish faced arrest and possible confinement in a concentration camp. Those who were already married to Jews at the time of the passing of the Nuremburg laws were subjected to intense pressure to divorce their spouses. Some did, but many did not. It is difficult to overstate how extreme anti-Jewish propaganda became after the passing of the Nuremburg Laws, yet this atmosphere of intense antisemitism had actually begun in 1933 when Hitler officially took power. Those who chose to remain married to their Jewish spouses did so despite the threat of social exclusion and increased Gestapo (secret police) scrutiny. The situation for those in “mixed marriages” deteriorated rapidly after the beginning of WWII. Some couples were stripped of their property and even their homes and were forced to move into “Jew houses,” a kind of miniature ghetto. Those “mixed” couples without baptized Christian children were especially vulnerable to harassment by the Gestapo; Jewish people in “mixed” marriages not privileged by having Christian children were forced to wear the yellow star and display it on their place of residence.

By late 1941 the first round-ups and deportations of German Jews had begun, yet those married to non-Jews were exempt — at least until February of 1943 when Nazi leaders decided once and for all to rid the capital city of Berlin of all of its Jewish residents. 10,000 people were arrested including around 2,000 men who were in “mixed” marriages or the product of those marriages. They were separated from the others and held in abandoned factory buildings at Rosenstrasse 2–4. When the wives and mothers of these men discovered where they were being detained, they went to the buildings and demanded their release. They came in small groups at first, but the crowd soon grew to hundreds and then, as some historians claim, into the thousands. As the crowd grew larger and more vocal, guards were sent out to set up machine guns which were pointed at the crowd. Despite threats of arrest and murder, protesters remained in the freezing cold both day and night for a full week until finally the government gave in to their demands and released the detainees.

Memorial commemorating the Rosenstrasse protest on the street where it took place

At the time of the Rosentrasse protest the Nazi regime was still very powerful. The regime held a stranglehold grip on the German public by way of the Gestapo and an extensive network of civilian informants, yet like all states it was very nervous about civil unrest. The thousands of non-Jewish women and their social and familial connections posed a threat to order; the international media had become aware of the protest, and there was a danger that it could spread to other German cities and towns. Hitler could not spare soldiers from two war fronts to contain domestic civil unrest. Also, a messy situation in the capital city of Berlin would have made the regime seem weak. The men being held at Rosenstrasse were released and allowed to return home, but the 8,000 other Jewish people who had been rounded up were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where most of them were murdered.

Yet the protest may have saved more than just the lives of these 2,000 men. According to historian Nathan Stoltzfus, by the end of the war there were 13,217 registered Jewish people living in Germany. 12,987 of these were married to non-Jews. We can see that around 98% of German Jews who survived the war did so because of the protection offered by intermarriage. Had the Rosenstrasse protest never happened, the action in Berlin would very likely have become official policy and the “mixed” marriages across the rest of the country would have been broken up and the Jewish partners sent to their deaths. The protest in Berlin may have also saved the life of Victor Klemperer, the renowned Dresden professor married to a non-Jew. His shocking and mesmerizing diaries chronicle his life under the Nazis and his escape from the Dresden bombing, and we very likely have the Rosenstrasse protest to thank for the fact that his writings are available to the world today.

So, what lessons can we learn from the Rosenstrasse protest and how can we apply them to our current situation, whether it’s fighting proto-fascism in the U.S., France, the UK, or wherever else the far-right is attempting to consolidate its power? First, we should recognize how the Rosenstrasse protesters were able to leverage their privilege as valued “Aryan” citizens. Understanding how a racial hierarchy functions is the first step towards using it to our advantage along the path to eventual abolition. Here in the U.S., despite the fact that our country is very clearly founded upon white supremacy, genocide, and exclusion of ethnic minorities, there are still far too many people in denial or committed to downplaying the implications of this. White people are valued more in this society, and for this reason white people must put themselves on the front lines of any protests against Trump or the policies of the right wing proto-fascist government. People who are already marginalized and usually targeted should not be the ones forced to risk their safety and livelihoods. The white-dominated mainstream media is also more likely to cover a protest or an action if white people are involved, and white privilege gives allies and conspirators access to places and resources denied to most people of color. Of course the eventual goal should be to abolish the racial caste system, but in the mean time whiteness should be used strategically and not merely maligned or bemoaned.

Perhaps most importantly, the Rosenstrasse protest shows us that effective resistance is born from emotional connections and empathy. To face the machine guns and the threats of one of the most vicious regimes to ever grace the Earth took more than courage, it took an understanding that the endangered person cast as “the other” was in fact not disposable, not murder-able, not inferior, and worth fighting for. We must prioritize and cultivate institutions and social and cultural programs that foster humanism and the recognition of the inherent worth of all people regardless of ethnicity, gender or socio-economic status. Our art, our politics, our praxis, and our activism must foster the development of the kind of empathetic connections that will remove the artificial barriers between “us” and “them”. Once these barriers are removed and apathy defeated, it will be much easier to convince people to make sacrifices for those targeted by state violence.

The Rosenstrasse protest reminds us of the strategic importance of time and place. Instead of marching through the streets or congregating at the Reichstag, the protesters made the logical choice of gathering at the actual place where the injustice was happening. Once there, they kept the pressure on consistently over days until their demands were met.

The fact that the women who gathered at Rosenstrasse were unarmed is also an important point to consider. In this case, nonviolence worked precisely because there were no other options and because a nonviolent approach was the most strategic. However, we should remember that the Nazis were ultimately defeated by both the Russian and U.S. military and armed partisans who worked to rescue civilians and undermine the effectiveness of the Wehrmacht.

Lastly, while the protest may have been nonviolent, it was not necessarily peaceful, as this quote from Nathan Stoltzfus shows:

The square, according to one witness, “was crammed with people, and the demanding, accusing cries of the women rose above the noise of the traffic like passionate avowals of a love strengthened by the bitterness of life.” One woman described her feeling as a protester on the street as one of incredible solidarity with those sharing her fate. Normally people were afraid to show dissent, fearing denunciation, but on the street they knew they were among friends, because they were risking death together. A Gestapo man who no doubt would have heartlessly done his part to deport the Jews imprisoned in the Rosenstraße was so impressed by the people on the streets that, holding up his hands in a victory clasp of solidarity with a Jew about to be released, he pronounced proudly: “You will be released, your relatives protested for you. That is German loyalty.”

“One day the situation in front of the collecting center came to a head,” a witness reported. “The SS trained machine guns on us: ‘If you don’t go now, we’ll shoot.’ But by now we couldn’t care less. We screamed ‘you murderers!’ and everything else. We bellowed. We thought that now, at last, we would be shot. Behind the machine guns a man shouted something; maybe he gave a command. I didn’t hear it, it was drowned out. But then they cleared out and the only sound was silence. That was the day it was so cold that the tears froze on my face.”

Sep27

Question Conventional Wisdom

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Rapidly melting Arctic ice means less access to food and the inability to nurture offspring. The emaciated and possibly near-death female bear shown on the left is in stark contrast to the one on the right. The bear on the right is healthy and able to nurture young; she is still relatively untouched by the forces of civilization.

In the context of this photo, the one who is civilized (or changed/affected by civilization) is the one who has seen their life dramatically altered thanks to the human desire to burn massive amounts of fossil fuels despite knowing how harmful CO2 is to the environment. And yes, we’ve known how harmful CO2 is since at least the 1970’s.

According to conventional wisdom, the more civilized you are, the better off you are. Those who are uncivilized, or less civilized, are considered to be the less fortunate, those to be pitied. This is what we’re taught, but is this actually true? Has civilization been a net loss or gain for the natural world and human societies?

This is how Christopher Columbus described the Taino people he encountered after his initial “discovery” of the Americas:

…. They are an affectionate people, free from avarice and agreeable to everything. I certify to Your Highnesses that in all the world I do not believe there is a better people or a better country. They love their neighbors as themselves, and they have the softest and gentlest voices and are always smiling…

Keep in mind that these people and their society were defacto considered barbarous and backwards. Yet they were described by Columbus and others as living in a state of near-bliss. They certainly don’t sound like the average person in either today’s very civilized society, or the so-called civilized society of 16th century Europe, do they?

Civilization as we know it has been marketed as the only logical way to live, but we sometimes forget that it has historically been introduced to human populations at the tip of a sword or at the barrel of a gun. The choice, if we can call it that, is almost always the same: conform or die. For non-human animals, the civilization process is even worse because their presence is often a hindrance to human expansion – either a hindrance or of no concern at all. Those animals that are deemed useful to humans are domesticated. The rest are of little concern. More in this in forthcoming posts.

Conventional wisdom is killing the planet. We must begin to look more critically at concepts and assumptions we usually take for granted. Conventional wisdom must be challenged if we plan on saving what’s left of the natural world.

Photo credits:
http://tinyurl.com/qhfamnx
http://tinyurl.com/ofghe4n

Sep17

A Moral Response to the Pope’s Message

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Audio of the ‘Climate, Jobs, Justice: A Moral Response to the Pope’s Urgent Message’ event hosted by the Philadelphia Friends Center

Part I – Forum

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Part II – Audience questions & comments

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From the event’s facebook page:

6:00pm: “A Just Transition” forum with compelling calls to action from community, faith, labor, and health leaders:
-Rabbi Julie Greenberg — Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir–Heart of the City and POWER
-Anthony Giancatarino — Center for Social Inclusion
-Clifton Bennett — Veterans for Clean Air, Sierra Club PA
-Gary Lytle – Sierra Club Pennsylvania
-Susan Saxe — Green Justice Philly
-John Braxton, Co-President Emeritus of Faculty and Staff Federation of Community College of Philadelphia
-Jennifer Hombach – 350 Philadelphia

7:30pm: Inspiring procession from Friends Center through downtown Philadelphia followed by a night vigil at LOVE Park.
-Rev Alison Cornish – PA Interfaith Power and Light
-Sergeant Gerald Brown – Veterans for Clean Air, Sierra Club PA

>>Co-sponsored by:
*350 Philadelphia
*Citizens’ Climate Lobby-Philadelphia Chapter
*Green Justice Philly
*PennEnvironment
*Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light – Philadelphia Chapter
*Physicians for Social Responsibility – Philadelphia
*Sierra Club Southeast PA Beyond Coal Campaign
*Shalom Center

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Jul20

Apache Stronghold in Philly

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Audio of Wendsler Nosie’s talk at the Arch Street Methodist Church on 7/19/15. With an intro by supporters and Jim Kenney, our future mayor.

Part 1

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Background info from the facebook event page:

In early February, dozens of Apache people walked 45 miles together for three days from the San Carlos community to the sacred site of Oak Flat. With support from the San Carlos Apache community and other activists in the region, a brave group of spiritual resistance leaders have held ground at Oak Flat since February, organized as the Apache Stronghold and vowing not to leave until the mine proposal is cancelled. The struggle for Oak Flat has been embraced by hundreds of American Indian nations and has become a symbol for the fight to protect all sacred sites. The Apache Stronghold caravan is leading this effort and is organizing an historic protest at the nations capitol on July 21-22.

“They declared war on our religion, we must stand in unity and fight to the very end, for this is a holy war.” Wendsler Nosie Sr. , long time opponent of Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Councilman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

To reach the Apache Stronghold Convoy to Washington D.C. on the road call 480-721-7918. Please leave a message if no answers, someone will get back to you asap.

For more information on why the Apache Stronghold has traveled across the country to Washington D.C., check out the following info:

Peltier Support for Apache Stronghold

From Times Square to the Capitol, Apache Protestors Fight U.S. Land Swap with Mining Company

Find more info on the Apache Stronghold facebook page

Apr17

Jake Conroy @ The Base in NYC

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This event was sponsored by the NYC Anarchist Black Cross and the National Lawyer’s Guild. Click here for more info on the SHAC 7 case.

Part 1

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Synopsis from the facebook event page:

Jake Conroy is a long-time activist, designer, and writer based in San Francisco, California. As a co-founder of Ocean Defense International, he helped lead the first ever disruption of a whale hunt in US coastal waters, putting himself between the hunter and the hunted. He also helped build the foundation of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA (SHAC USA), one of the most successful grassroots animal rights campaigns in history. Due to his involvement with SHAC USA, he was a co-defendant in the SHAC7 case and was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison. Jake is currently working at an international environmental non-profit campaigning against corporate polluters. He can also be found speaking around the US, and working on the projects he helped co-found— Bite Back magazine, the Animal Defense League – San Francisco, and the blog Plant Based on a Budget.

Jake will speak about his involvement in SHAC USA and the repression they experienced from the US government and corporate investigators, as well by the Bureau of Prisons while incarcerated. He will discuss being the target of a multi-agency terrorism investigation, learning he was on a high-profile prisoners list, and navigating living a life branded as a terrorist in post-9/11 society.

Apr05

Let’s Disappear

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The following is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of The Invisible Committee‘s upcoming book,’To Our Friends’, scheduled for release later this month. To read the full chapter, click here

Since the catastrophic defeat of the 1970’s, the moral question of radicality has gradually replaced the strategic question of revolution. That is, revolution has suffered the same fate as everything else in those decades: it has been privatized. It has become an opportunity for personal validation, with radicality as the standard of evaluation. “Revolutionary” acts are no longer appraised in terms of the situation in which they are embedded, the possibilities they open up or close. What happens instead is that a form is extracted from each one of them. A particular sabotage, occurring at a particular moment, for a particular reason, becomes simply a sabotage. And the sabotage quietly takes its place among certified revolutionary practices on a scale where throwing a Molotov cocktail ranks higher than throwing rocks, but lower than kneecapping, which itself is not worth as much as a bomb. The problem is that no form of action is revolutionary in itself: sabotage has also been practiced by reformists and by Nazis. A movement’s degree of “violence” is not indicative of its revolutionary determination. The “radicality” of a demonstration isn’t measured by the number of shop windows broken. Or if it is, then the “radicality” criterion should be left to those in the habit of measuring political phenomena and ranking them on their skeletal moral scale. Anyone who begins to frequent radical milieus is immediately struck by the gap between their discourse and their practice, between their ambitions and their isolation. It seems as if they were dedicated to a kind of constant self-incapacitation. One soon understands that they’re not engaged in constructing a real revolutionary force, but in a quest for radicality that is sufficient in itself— and is played out equally well on the terrain of direct action, feminism or ecology. The petty terror that reigns there and makes everyone so stiff is not that of the Bolshevik Party. It’s more like that of fashion, that terror which no one exerts in person, but which affects everyone alike. In these milieus, one is afraid of not being radical anymore, just as elsewhere one fears not being fashionable, cool or hip. It doesn’t take much to spoil a reputation. One avoids going to the root of things in favor of a superficial consumption of theories, demos, and relations. The fierce competition between groups and inside them causes them to periodically implode. But there’s always fresh, young, and abused flesh to make up for the departure of the exhausted, the damaged, the disgusted, and the emptied-out. An a posteriori bewilderment overtakes the person who’s deserted these circles: how can anyone submit to such a mutilating pressure for such enigmatic stakes? It’s approximately the same kind of bewilderment that must take hold of any overworked ex-manager turned baker when he looks back on his previous life. The isolation of these milieus is structural: between them and the world they’ve interposed radicality as a standard. They don’t perceive phenomena anymore, just their measure. At a certain point in the autophagy, some will compete for most radical by critiquing the milieu itself, which won’t make the slightest dent in its structure. “It seems to us that what really reduces our freedom,” wrote Malatesta, “and makes intiative impossible, is disempowering isolation.” This being the case, that a fraction of the anarchists declare themselves “nihilists” is only logical: nihilism is the incapacity to believe in what one does believe in—in our context, revolution. Besides, there are no nihilists, there are only powerless individuals.

The radical defining himself as a producer of actions and discourses has ended up fabricating a purely quantitative idea of revolution—as a kind of crisis of overproduction of acts of individual revolt. “Let’s not lose sight of the fact,” wrote É- mile Henry back then already, “that revolution will not be the resultant of all these particular revolts.” History is there to contradict that thesis: whether it’s the French, Russian, or Tunisian revolution, in every instance revolution results from the shock encounter between a particular act—the storming of a prison, a military defeat, the suicide of a mobile fruit vendor—and the general situation, and not the arithmetical addition of separate acts of revolt. Meanwhile, that absurd definition of revolution is doing its foreseeable damage: one wears oneself out in an activism that leads nowhere, one devotes oneself to a dreadful cult of performance where it’s a matter of actualizing one’s radical identity at every moment, here and now— in a demo, in love, or in discourse. This lasts for a time—the time of a burnout, depression, or repression. And one hasn’t changed anything.

A gesture is revolutionary not by its own content but by the sequence of effects it engenders. The situation is what determines the meaning of the act, not the intention of its authors. Sun Tzu said that “victory must be demanded of the situation.” Every situation is composite, traversed by lines of force, tensions, explicit or latent conflicts. Engaging with the war that is present, acting strategically, requires that we start from an openness to the situation, that we understand its inner dynamic, the relations of force that configure it, the polarities that give it its dynamism. An action is revolutionary or not depending on the meaning it acquires from contact with the world. Throwing a rock is never just “rock-throwing.” It can freeze a situation or set off an intifada. The idea that a struggle can be “radicalized” by injecting a whole passel of allegedly radical practices and discourses into it is the politics of an extraterrestrial. A movement lives only through a series of shifts that it effects over time. So at every moment there is a certain distance between its present state and its potential. If it stops developing, if it leaves its potential unrealized, it dies. A decisive act is one that is a notch ahead of the movement’s state, and which, breaking with the status quo, gives it access to its own potential. This act can be that of occupying, smashing, attacking, or simply speaking truthfully. The state of the movement is what decides. A thing is revolutionary that actually causes revolutions. While this can only be determined after the event, a certain sensitivity to the situation plus a dose of historical knowledge helps one intuit the matter.

Let’s leave the radicality worry to the depressives, the Young-Girls, and the losers, then. The real question for revolutionaries is how to make the lively powers in which one participates increase, how to nurture the revolutionizing developments so as to arrive finally at a revolutionary situation. All those who draw satisfaction from dogmatically contrasting “radicals” with “citizens,” “active rebels” with the passive population, place obstacles in the path of such developments. On this point, they anticipate the work of the police. In the current period, tact should be considered the cardinal revolutionary virtue, and not abstract radicality—and by “tact” we mean the art of nurturing revolutionizing developments.