Peter Gelderloos on the Changing Terrain of Revolt

From IGD

On this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we again speak with Peter Gelderloos, author of Anarchy Works, How Non-Violence Protects the State, and Worshiping Power. We cover a lot of ground in our discussion, talking about the recent riots Catalonia, the new wave of revolts against austerity and State repression, the Trump impeachment crisis, climate change, and global conflicts and economic instability.

During our conversation, Peter also addresses the fall of US hegemony on the world stage, the increasingly decentralized nature of modern resistance movements, common themes among newly emerging struggles, and the growth of groups such as Extinction Rebellion.

If you’re looking for far-reaching and hard hitting anarchist analysis of the current situation – this is it and we hope that it offers the start of a dialog on what could possibly lay just on the horizon.

More Info: Peter Gelderloos on Twitter, Anarchy Works, and Worshiping Power.

There are 26 Comments

The mass vs atomization rhetoric has some narrative potential there.
Yes, I don't think reifying those concepts makes it into the realm of analysis.
He also mentions polarization, acknowledges rhetoric of civil war from right and left fringe of mainstream.
He acknowledges that since mainstream politics is now more horizontal cuz of cybernetics and neoliberalism,
even mainstream popular/populist manifestations of politics and unrest will be more decentralized and horizontal and rowdier.

So all these revolts we're seeing are just the new ballot boxes. To put it like that is to put extremely cynically and to overstate the point (there's also nothing new about it). Clearly there's opportunities (and might have little choice at times but) in engaging in them. But if we just get caught up in following along the movement of the crowds, it won't by itself somehow manifest in what you'd like to see. So don't just add fuel to the fire of these revolts that are spreading and sit back, you need to find the openings to do what you want, and strike your foes when they're vulnerable because they can quickly reconstitute themselves and consolidate power and become even stronger in the reaction, with help of the reinvigorated masses.

I agree with most of this, but I find the comments about Extinction Rebellion ill-informed. Here in Brooklyn, there was no environmental politics to speak of before Extinction Rebellion emerged. We are facing an environmental catastrophe, so to the extent that Extinction Rebellion is doing something about it, this is a good thing. Certainly, environmental NGO's haven't succeeded at all, so any new fixture on the activist scene is to be welcomed. And Extinction Rebellion has embraced more confrontational tactics which has not been the case up to now. I would think an anarchist would embrace such tactics, and indeed there are local anarchists involved in Extinction Rebellion here in New York. Should Extinction Rebellion extend links to other environmental struggles? I don't think anyone in the group would disagree with this idea, but this interview seems to smear Extinction Rebellion based on its supposed lack of knowledge about other struggles which aren't mentioned. To be sure, I agree that at the local level, Extinction Rebellion is comprised of whites who are well-off, and more effort should be made to reach out to minorities. There's a lot of hand-wringing here which goes back to Bernie in 2016, and sometimes minorities are off doing their own thing: this cuts both ways. At any rate, I just think one should have a little bit more insider knowledge about what is happening on the ground with Extinction Rebellion rather than taking such a dismissive and holier than thou attitude, unless Gelderloos would like to enlighten us on how to solve the climate emergency in very practical, tactical and specific terms.

I've always thought that large but somewhat grassroots liberal activist movements like XR open up new spaces that anarchists should move in, somewhat visibly, armed with their standard critiques of capitalist reformism. That's how new people are likely to encounter the anarchist position in a meaningful way.

That's not what has historically worked for anarchism. Anarchism is at it's best when there is an emergent discourse that has a structural or parallel set of interests to the big @. XR is not that. It's a technocratic trojan horse.

hey ziggles, it seems like you could demonstrate some intellectual integrity by at least acknowledging that we've discussed this dozens of times already, yah fukin do-nothing blowhard keyboard warrior, you ;)

That's what his approach turns into. What you want to do is make the disaffected forces within capitalism nation state(liberals conservatives progs others) come to you.

SOT arrives at ER protest with a placard reading.

Did you jerks even listen to that gelderloos podcast recently? He says it better than I could. Interesting ruptures in the social peace often start from much less interesting framings for reform. My sign says - AT LEAST I PUT PANTS ON THIS MORNING?!

But then again, if you're only interested in rationalizations for doing fuck-all, sticking to your old-elastic underpants cuz you didn't do laundry again, there's plenty of brick walls out there for me to smash my head on!

I listened to the interview and agreed with a fair amount of his points. I think he gets a bit tropey in his talking points mentioning long standing concepts and assumptions that I have recently got around to critiquing but overall I like the guy.

The thing about ruptures coming from reform is that usually these are repressive and depressive political and economic contexts that don't exist in the more preferential parts of the world as far as living defined living standards and political freedom go. Places like Hong Kong and Catalonia are fuses that could be set off by not so radical demands. I'm not against trying to infect the disaffacted but you have to pick where to plant your propaganda. Something like XR and climate strike discourse is just a waste of time.

To that last sentence, what about all the new people who will be realizing that they got their time wasted? hmmm?

The results of climate change will most likely be mixed with benefits and some areas and decline and exodus in others. It is hardly the world ending 'extinction' event that some people think it is. Climate as such is not a driver of terrestrial death.

Activism of any kind should NOT be welcomed. It's a 20th century relic that does not work anymore. Environmental politics are not needed. What is needed is post-environmental ecological orientation. All environmental discourse ever was was a cover for energy substitution and technocratic managerial fixes to adjust to a fossil fuel energy return decline. It's no accident that green this and green that took off after the early 70s oil shocks and it was always primarily technocrats that drove the solutions. The anarchist element was always more interested in the ecological orientational aspect of green ideology.

Yes, those regions above the 45th north and south parallels will benefit from global warming with greater diversity and span of vegetation/crop varieties and hospitable living conditions requirinģ less energy use.
Ha, its so hilarious how the XR obsessives are only focussing on a small sentimental window of politicized liberal/leftist scaremongering, and its ironic, especially for the leftists, that these major natural events are the only occasions throughout known històry where a major social reshuffling has occured, sometimes not for the better politically. DON'T GO CRYING TO YOUR POLITICAL MASTERS, (boohoohoo)GROW SOME BREEDING SACKS AND REGARD THESE EXTINCTIONS AS STEPPING STONE EVENTS TO GAINING A MORE SECURE TENURE UPON YOUR OWN INDIVIDUAL AÙTONOMY!!

"To be sure, I agree that at the local level, Extinction Rebellion is comprised of whites who are well-off, and more effort should be made to reach out to minorities." To be sure I dismiss my wife. I don't really include her in my life. I don't take her seriously but, you know, I do love her!

XR also support capitalism. Yes, I emailed XR and I was told it to be the case.

Read Cory Morningstar's work at The Art of Annihilation for more info as to where fits in. Also, listen to their podcasts. How can ANY anarchist takes these people seriously??? XR are capitalists are the movement is being used to drain the time and energy of anyone who is against capitalism, mineral extraction and so on.

Can you point to a link where it says XR is officially capitalist? Honestly this sounds like very holier than thou. Again, there was little to no environmental activism in New York before XR emerged, including anarchist environmental activism. Maybe you are just sensitive because XR has managed to attract other types of people like families and children, whereas the anarchist sub-culture is strictly leather-clad twenty somethings hanging out in their various scenes, not conducting any road blocks and ranking on those who are more combative than they are.

what you say is undeniable,
but so is this:
a single successful ALF or ELF action got more results than all of ER put together right now, and with so much less people and resources

In just a few months, XR has gotten the cities of London and NY to declare climate emergencies. I'm not even sure what ALF or ELF actually are, let alone what they have achieved. Please enlighten me.

Earth Liberation Front/Animal Liberation Front. They are decentralized networks of autonomous cells that have caused many many millions of dollars in targeted attacks on corporations since the mid-1990s. While I am not very drawn to XR, I am curious what the other anon would claim the ALF/ELF have accomplished with their activity. It is definitely impressive in the scale of damage done, but to me it is also a story about how you can go fucking hard and not get anywhere.

well, i wasn’t there, but the documentary i saw about ELF (
mentioned the slaughterhouse that was tuning a river red with blood and making it all foul and pestilent and ELF stopped it. ALF has liberated countless animals.
i don’t know if the wikpedias are any good, maybe someone has better links or oral history/living memory

"declaring climate emergencies" vs targeted, actual property destruction and animal liberation. hmmm....
obviously it depends on one's objectives, but the latter is both far more DIRECT action (as in, core anarchist principle?) and much more appealing to me. but for reformists, no doubt having a city declare a climate emergency would be far more appealing and in line with their objectives.

what does it mean for a city to declare a climate emergency when in cities are in effect a root cause of ecocide, and more than ready to take on the role of emergency managers of climate catastrophe?

i personally think the "climate emergency" is the perfect way to rid this rock of the scourge that caused it. it sucks that so many other forms of life have to suffer as well. but the planet will be just fine. just another blip on the geological timeline.

I support animal liberation. But my sense is that XR has had a bigger impact, in a shorter period of time, than these smaller anarchist groups. As I recall, Gelderloos actually says in this interview that XR is "going backward." Huh? What does he actually propose, and what are his models of tangible success? Also, as I say there are already ACTUAL ANARCHISTS in XR, so who is Gelderloos actually talking to?

no u

who r u talking to?

i ain’t seen no nrx’s i mean xr around here.
local enviro activists here are nonviolent too, but more effective due to being very focused on specific causes and issues, like a specific animal habitat, beach, or forest etc. sure, it’s not enough. everyone can jump in and try! have fun!

peter makes his points in his books, read em if ur interested. speaking coherently on radio is hard. i think he speaks great, but program was already overly long as it was for him to cram summaries of his books and essays. the next upcoming book be about climate shenanigans so you might be looking forward to read that and get angry at it. radio op serves to promote it.

Every morning, anarchists should say the following word and repeat it like a mantra throughout the day: PERMAFROST. If this thaws, it is game over. The fact that I have never even heard of ALF or ELF, and I'm an anarchist myself, speaks volumes. We need to get some traction in the public domain, and XR has done a pretty good job of that. Gelderloos' first book wasn't bad, though the grammar and sentence structure was totally off, making me wonder if anyone had bothered to edit. If his next book is about attacking climate change activists from an armchair and holier-than-thou perspective, then I think he should actually talk to some of them first, or alternatively do some on the ground reporting from Brooklyn.

Nikolas, I totally agree with most of what you're saying. You're running in to the keyboard warrior set who will sit at home and sneer until other people have done 90% of the work for them. Some of them will never get up from the keyboard until the electrical grid goes down BUUUT … you haven't heard of ALF and ELF because you need to learn/read a bit about anarchism from more than 5 years ago lol

It's worth doing! Lots to learn, yes?

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