Saturday, November 05, 2005

Don't Listen to Corporate Media

Chris Matthews called violent protestors in Argentina "idiotic". He called them idiots for destroying their "own" town. Matthews is not alone in such short-sightedness. Most of the mainstream media portray corporate property as somehow beneficial to the general public. In fact, most Americans would likely agree with this point of view despite reality. That is, we somehow stumble blindly through life believing "our towns" belong to us. However, look closely at what these "idiots" were destroying: multinational banks, Burger King, McDonalds, etc.

The "piqueteros" of Argentina (the large majority of the violent protestors) have been struggling since the dramatic collapse of the Argentine economy in December 2001. Their means of protest became control of the streets and highways with blockades. Through these blockades they have been able to pressure their government to face problems that capitalism and neoliberal institutions have caused. they have forced an otherwise moderate politician in Nestor Kirchner to respond to their pressure. However, these protests also represented an opportunity for the "piqueteros" to step up the pressure with an international audience watching.

To the "piqueteros" the Fourth Summit of the Americas (Mar de Plata, Argentina 11/04-11/06) represents everything that has gone wrong in Argentina and Latin America in a "race to the bottom." Noting the outrage most Latin Americans feel towards the neoliberal plans that emerge from these summits and that has led to widespread increases in poverty, it is not hard to understand these riots. What's more, the property these Argentines are destroying is definitely not theirs. In fact, such property is an affront to the working class around the globe. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon reminds us that "property is theft." So where Chris Matthews sees the breaking of corporate glass as "idiotic", I say it is a necessary step towards recognizing the negative effects of corporate greed. We can only hope that this is the start of an ever-intensifying pressure on the glass-ceiling of capitalism.

14 comments:

John in Montana said...

Amigo,
Looks good. Don't forget to link CAJA. We've got the hammer, the glass is fucking coming down.

troutsky said...

I am a Marxist revolutionary who disagrees on the relative effectivness of this kind of direct action.Property destruction, even corporate, does nothing to educate the people about property relations or the forces of production. Because most of the working class are also property owners the "symbolism"( a dumb way to propogandize anyway) is drowned in the much stronger symbolic message of violence and chaos which is of no benefit to real organizing efforts. Rage is understandable but stupid not in the Chris Mathews sense, but in a tactical sense. piqueteros blockades are strategically much different( and more effective) than Black Bloc window smashing which I feel is an infantile leftism.What do these images (remember this is a Spectacle) reinforce to "most Americans" who"likely agree with this point of view." Would smashing bank windows in Missoula be an effective way to demolish capitalism?

John in Montana said...

Troutsky,
You said,"Property destruction, even corporate, does nothing to educate the people about property relations or the forces of production. Because most of the working class are also property owners the "symbolism"( a dumb way to propogandize anyway) is drowned in the much stronger symbolic message of violence and chaos which is of no benefit to real organizing efforts."
To some extent I disagree. If 10,000 people are protesting and they start destroying property people might take notice and if the media does a good job they can ask the question, why are these people doing those things? Is it because they are pissed that corporations are destroying peoples' lives. I think that it sends a strong message.
Did Fidel and Che save the first structures they took over or did they burn them? I honestly don't remember.
You went on to say that most of the working class are property owners. I disagree. Most of the poor working class even in this country are renting their homes. They are being exploited. Somebody needs to mobillize the poor in this country. Only a matter of time. Like we talked about however, I think it will happen much sooner abroad.
A question for you Troutsky: Do you think from a Marxist perspective that it is beneficial to save these enormous buildings that symbolize corporate greed and exploitation or tear them down and start from scratch? Even if a Marxist revolution were to occur in this country, wouldn't those buildings serve as constant reminders? If I were a Marxist I can't say that I would want to look at them.

Ché Bob said...

troutsky,

You asked: "Would smashing bank windows in Missoula be an effective way to demolish capitalism?"

My short answer is this: YES!

troutsky said...

John, problem #1 is you don't want the media,which is corporate dominated, doing the interpreting of your message for you.#2for a peoples movement to be successful they have to understand it is not just "greedy people"they need to abolish, it is the structures and systems which perpetuate class antagonism.It is property relations ,not the property itself.Most people own property and have a strong identification with "property rights".50% of Americans own stock, are invested in a retirement or pension plan, have small businesses,many own real estate (are making payments,anyway,) etc yet are still working class, are still being exploited.They could not see how the destruction of property is a symbol of their emancipation.(neither can I)Propery destruction in France by rioters will do nothing to alter the relationship of captital to the worker.A general strike ,on the other hand,goes right to the practical heart of capital(profit) and as a powerful symbol of solidarity, builds revolutionary consiousness amongst the masses. Property destruction plays into corporate hands, reinforcing authority,exposing the aspect of revolution which most frightens people (ideological zealotry) and re-enforcing negative stereo-types.It also alienates police and military which revolutionaries need as allies.Why would revolutionaries burn property which will soon be theirs, which they would have to spend precious resources to replace? To me , property itself has no symbolic import, it is not some "evil spirit" we fight against ( a meta -physical view)but unjust material relationships in a historical and dialectical sense. Only to fight counter-revolutionary forces would violence be necessary at all.

Bob, I believe a revolutionary has to understand objective conditions and have the patience to work at organizing and agitating until a "rupture", an opportunity for action ,presents itself.Writing letters from jail explaining why you smashed windows would not seem very effective.I found reading Trotskies History of the Russian Revolution helpful in explaining many dilemnas as well as the history of the Cuban revolution, where relatively few lives were lost or property destroyed.

Ché Bob said...

Troutsky,

Look at the situation in Argentina more practically. Try not to apply it to some fixed and doctrinaire notion of "how socialism works." Socialism's biggest problem, as Chavez is proving, has been its attachment to the inflexible prescriptions of Marx; hence, the failures of every communist country to deliver equality and liberty. The Bolivarian Revolution is special for its willingness to be flexible within Venezuelan social reality. To this point, Chavez has not repeated the mistakes of his predecessors. Similarly, the Argentines are experimenting with their own notions of socialism which they have been wise not to limit to Marxian theory. Argentines are looking in all directions, especially the more definite human trend of libertarian socialism, a.k.a. anarchism.

Practically speaking, the "piqueteros" have been so forceful that they haven't rallied opposition, but quite contrary. Their outrage that has most recently manifested into the violent destruction of property FORCED Kirchner to back away from his desired position of supporting free trade.

The situation in Argentina is such that Kirchner's government cannot afford to ignore the Worker Occupied Factory Movement, the Pareconists, nor the Piqueteros. In fact, Kirchner had originally ordered troops into break up a "worker-occupied factory", but after things got too intense he was forced to remove the troops. While windows were smashing over the weekend, Kirchner didn't dare crack down on the protestors nor did he dare give his support to the FTAA. He remembers all too well how fast the Argentines replaced four presidents in 2002!

On a practical level, these acts have more than served a positive revolutionary purpose. Clearly, not for the small middle class in Argentina, nor the industrialists, nor the international investors, nor the corporate media, but these fellow workers are not willing to wait around for the bourgeoisie to help them out! Honestly, you and I could agree that the Americans are not ready for this kind of violence. The vast majority of Americans can look onto the scenes emerging from Argentina in righteous disgust ignoring their own reality, but these Argentines have discovered the time to resist is now and the forms of resistance had to change.

It is interesting that you brought up the effectiveness of a general strike, since that is exactly what took place in Argentina as a result of the Summit. One of Argentina’s main unions, CTA, called for a general strike as a result of the Summit. You see, Argentines aren't limiting their resistance to one form. They certainly aren't looking for reform as more and more factories are being occupied and reopened under worker control everyday. The violence shows the Argentine government the target of their anger and for honest revolutionaries it beckons our support. I for one feel more compelled to struggle with them.

A former Sandinista recently put it to a group of self-proclaimed revolutionaries in Missoula, MT in the cozy setting of an American home with beer and wine flowing: “You all aren’t ready for revolution, you’re too comfortable. I didn’t have time to prepare for my fight and I certainly wasn’t comfortable how I was living, I had to pick up an AK-47 and fight for my revolution! I fought your country and we won, just to have it taken away from us by your country again. When you are ready to pick up a gun and fight instead of talk, let me know!”

I honestly feel that we, American revolutionaries, are great at talking about how this revolution should go down, and even better at pointing out the flaws of socialist experiments that didn’t last, but we are terrible at taking care of our own business. As Chomsky has pointed out countless times, it’s easy to discuss the crimes and mistakes of others but near impossible for us to look into the mirror and recognize our own. I think a true revolutionary should spend more time assessing their own situation and then doing something to radically alter it, and less time pointing out what they perceive to be mistakes in those brave souls that are in fact resisting. The reason for such inward criticism is that it is likely that the unchecked government of the country within which the majority of us, self-fancied revolutionaries, is the government that is crushing the hopes of millions of brave and deserving souls. Are we too reluctant to do anything that would limit our privileges? Including Internet blogging?

Aprilloper said...

Chris Matthews was the least of the corporate media shills that covered the Argentina demostrations. I found it so true to the corporate script to be almost comical.

The coverage was more telling by the words that weren't said for example: United Fruit, any Oil company name, IMF Debt, WTO regulations, Pinochet, Allende, any mining company name, Plan Columbia, School of the America's, ect., ect.,
or the fact that the US has been engaged in state sponsored terrorism in South America for over 100 years.

The thing that is missing is not why are the people in Argentina demostrating and breaking glass and burning bank, but rather why don't we know why they are?

Free your mind and do something truly revolutionary, CUT THE CABLE, BURN THE DISH, AND READ A NEWSPAPER FROM ANYOTHER COUNTRY ON THE PLANET.

troutsky said...

che bob,aprilloper, you both make excellent points and I am glad there is a discussion on tactics taking place somewhere.I will be backwith a reply.

troutsky said...

I think the "inflexible" nature of Marxism is a false construct, a reaction to Stalinism and strawman used ever since to beat up Marxists.Far from being prescriptive, the body of Marxist thought and critique running through such varied theorists as Adorno,Althusser,Lenin to Lukacs,Sartre to Guevara to Korsch to Benjamin to Gramsci shows nothing if not the incredible space opened up by Marx.Far from "limiting" any analysis, it has served as the bedrock and invites further development.(my project) .The failures of modern movements have resulted less from any "attachment" than from poor analysis of objective conditions (German Social democrats nationalism, rejection of Trotskys'"permanent revolution" etc)

Window smashers (perhaps the "large majority" were piqueteros or had their support,it wouldnt affect tactical value) were not "destroying: multi-national banks, Burger King etc", not symbolically,practically or to any propoganda advantage.I would argue again that it was not the highway blockades or factory occupations THEMSELVES which forced Kirchner to any positions but their tactical value as propaganda, galvanizing the support of the people.Simple property destruction does not have the same effect generally.That is there may be a positive local effect (Im not convinced)but if the goal is international movement building, the macro-negative outwieghs the positive micro.This lack of internationalism (Stalins "socialism in one country") rather than marxist doctrine,is to me far more responsible for the "failures" you mentioned.(plus lots of other factors)Similarly, it was not the window smashing which forced Kirchner not to support FTAA but the slow, patient and difficult work of organizing by many.The violence may have jeoprodized that.Why would you be "more compelled" by spectacle than that difficult work? "The violence shows the Argentine government the target of their anger..." I would argue that trategic action should be designed to "show the government" anything, they already know and don't care, the action should build the highest level of solidarity and opportunity for organizing success among the people.

The former Sandinista knows what he is talking about, we are not ready for revolution.If he thinks we can just pick up AK47s he is naive or uninformed about the location of power.When a segment the Left of the late sixties morphed into the Symbionise Liberation,or the Panthers got involved in shootouts, years of hard work were subverted.( I was there)It is a romantic, metaphysical view that all places are ready for direct action at all times.I am all about reinvigorating praxis but critique of strategy and tactics,even theory, should not be construed as counter-revolutionary.Resistance takes many forms, as you said,and finding a form or process ( I like the Party)for decision making is an important first step.Let's work on it.

Here is a little more Debord: Thus Bakunin found it easy to write that'During the last nine years more than enough ideas for the salvation of the world have been developed in the International(if the world can be saved by ideas) and I defy anyone to come up with a new one.This is the time not for ideas but for action,for deeds." No doubt this attitude preserves the commitment of the truly historical thought of the proletariat to the notion that ideas must become practical, but it leaves the ground of history by assuming that the adequate forms of this transition to practice have already been discovered and are no longer subject to variation." Bakunin also displays a form of rigidness or inflexability.

troutsky said...

that should read"strategic action should NOT be designed".What do you think of the plot by the UN to form ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT? Enjoyed everyones company lat night, my wife LOVES you folks.

John in Montana said...

Troutsky,
you said, "It is property relations, not the property itself. Most people own property and have a strong identification with "property rights" 50% of Americans own stock, are invested in a retirement or pension plan, have small businesses, many own real estate (are making payments,anyway,) etc yet are still working class, are still being exploited."
I have a problem with the idea of owning property. Why should we own land? Isn't that the start of a system whereby I gain more things than you, the beginning of this material rat race. You said most people own property. Should that be qualified to include most people in the U.S.? Even then I would be hard pressed to believe that. There is a lot of poverty even here.

You say it is the systems and structures that perpetuate class antagonism, but doesn't the word property itself seem to infer ownership of something and thus perpetuate class distinction? When is it o.k. for people to own something such as land, and sometimes a lot of it, when others can not. Is there a bright line or rule to follow saying everybody can have only so much land, or everybody must have the same amount or nobody can have any until everybody has it all... I think it is the Zapatistas or maybe Marcos that says, "Everything for everyone, nothing for ourselves." While it doesn't make much sense to pay rent to somebody when you could own your own place, how much is enough. There doesn't seem to be any hard rules to follow as far as the size of the property you can own and still be considered a revolutionary. Can you own property and truly be a revolutionary? Are you required to give it all up, sell it so that the profits can go towards the revolution? If not why? Should we wait for the conditions to present themselves to us before we act or should we create the necessary conditons?

Ché Bob said...

Bertrand Russell said:

“In the popular mind an Anarchist is a person who throws bombs and commits other outrages, either because he is more or less insane, or because he uses the pretense of extreme political opinions as a cloak for criminal proclivities. This view is, of course, in every way inadequate. Some Anarchists believe in throwing bombs, many do not. Men of almost every other shade of opinion believe in throwing bombs in suitable circumstances: for example, the men who threw the bomb at Sarajevo which started the present war were not Anarchists, but nationalists. And those Anarchists who are in favour of bomb-throwing do not in this respect differ on any vital principle from the rest of the community, with the exception of that infinitesimal portion who adopt the Tolstoyan attitude of non-resistance. Anarchists, like Socialists, usually believe in the doctrine of the class war, and if they use bombs, it is as Governments use bombs, for purposes of war: but for every bomb manufactured by an Anarchist, many millions are manufactured by Governments, and for every man killed by Anarchist violence, many millions are killed by the violence of States. We may, therefore, dismiss from our minds the whole question of violence, which plays so large a part in the popular imagination, since it is neither essential nor peculiar to those who adopt the Anarchist position.”

“In Mar del Plata, the People´s Summit culminated in street actions to protest Bush, the FTAA and neoliberalism. As the official Summit began, the actions were kicked-off with 7am march of 40,000 people, heading from the fence to the stadium, where Chavez spoke. After the concert, and the enthusiastic speech where Chavez claimed that Mar del Plata is the grave-site of the FTAA, another march departed from the stadium. Autonomists, anti-imperialists, trostkeyists, and piqueteros gathered in the streets to march towards the fence, which encapsulated the meetings and about eighty blocks of the city. Marching past closed down businesses and tons of graffiti reading “fuera bush!”, this group of over 10,000 people, with colorful signs, and huge banners headed towards the Summit.
As the march approached the fence the police fired tear-gas canisters, and some rubber bullets. Although over 5,000 police were in town for this mobilization the majority were behind the fence. The streets were filled with people expressing their discontent for Bush and all that he stands for. Rocks were thrown through windows of multinational corporate businesses. Cellular phone companies, fast food chains, and banks were targeted as clear symbols of corporate neo-liberal globalization. Banco Galicia, located three blocks from the police line was set on fire with a Molotov cocktail. Elsewhere, other small scale explosives were used to start fires.
The message was clear, ´Bush is not welcome here!´ nor is an economic model that has led this country into crisis. Neoliberalism has failed to reduce poverty, create jobs, improve education, or foster democracy. Many hope that the FTAA will rest in Mar del Plata, and that its tomb will read Defeated by the People.
There were 86 arrests in Mar del Plata. Similar actions took place in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. When an older local couple who owns a small convenient store was asked what they thought of the action they replied, ´Well, the banks had it coming to them.´” (Fischer-Hoffman, “Mar de Plata”, ZNet, 11/11/05).

troutsky said...

John, in regards to property relations it is important to distinguish between individual property,used soley for your own subsistence, your house, garden,car etc and bourgeois property where you rent your house, sell your crops, or use the car as a taxi.Where profit is made, exploitation occurs and class antagonisims arise. A collective approach would have cropland socialized, housing socialized ( it really wouldnt natter if you had a "deed" because you couldnt sell your house.Remember, no market.As for inheritance, that is a tricky one .Marx called for it's abolition,Im not sure how it plays out in Parecon)

In any case,my point about "most people own property" is not so much that they have land or stocks but almost everyone has some property,if only just a sleeping bag,and in trying to get people to see the harm that profit causes, it does little good in my opinion to be associated with advocating the destruction of property, even corporate.I am talking about the beginning stages of organizing, which is where we are in practical terms.

As for me owning land or stocks as a Marxist,it is contradictory but in practical terms there is no revolution to give my accumulated wealth to, in the world in which we must live,"the realm of necessity",I would be less effective as a starving beggar(couldnt get to meetings, couldnt buy pitchers,etc)A Life of Contradiction, that will make a good post.

You are totally right about acting rather than waiting, the question is always what is the strategically and tactically correct action, the one that won't hurt your cause and for this I feel you need a sound theoretical base which provides a methodology for making those decisions.We are on that path,we need to continue.

Che,I use Russels argument with those who protest against the violence of revolution (Like capitalism isnt violent?) but i also know the awesome violent potential of the State ,the force it can bring to bear and I sometimes think these demonstrations just serve as training exercises in crowd control.The "Miami model" was not much different from the Israeli model.While the window breaking may have had a positive galvanizing effect for the Argentine movement, I still think they to need to "think globally" and understand the role we dissenters in the advanced capitalist countries play in the larger picture of the movement for global justice.Im all about direct action, it just needs to be well targeted for maximum effectivness, which the great turnout for marches and demonstration were. Another point about direct action,I know when I am in a demonstration I feel I have a right to be part of the decision making process as to whether we are going to provoke a response which will include gas and pepper spray, rubber bullets and clubbing, arrests etc.and to be given an option to avoid it if I am not in the mood for a beating.

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