Done In From Within: An Intemperate Review by John Zerzan
by John Zerzan
All the leftist parties in the West took sides in the four-year industrial slaughterhouse of World War I. Leading anarchist Peter Kropotkin also supported it.
Emma Goldman was deported to Russia in 1919 and remained there until 1921. She was a partisan of the Bolsheviks' take-over of the revolution even after Lenin told her he had no intention of altering his policy of murdering and imprisoning anarchists. It was not until Lenin and Trotsky massacred the insurgent sailors and anarchists of the Kronstadt naval base in 1921 that she finally broke with the red fascist Bolsheviks.
Writers sympathetic to Goldman refer to her disillusionment with Soviet rule, but tend to gloss over her outright complicity.
In 1936, popular front governments came to power in France and Spain. These leftists regimes reinforced industrial work discipline just as much as their predecessors. An indispensable book on the subject is Michael Seidman's Workers Against Work: Labor in Paris and Barcelona During the Popular Fronts (1991). The nationally supervised efforts of output and productivity were fully endorsed by the anarcho-syndicalists, who were all about mass production, like the other left-wing elements. This partnership was further cemented in Spain when the anarcho-syndicalist union, CNT, joined the government.
Skipping forward to 1999-2001, we come to the so-called Anti-Globalization movement. So-called because few of its participants questioned globalization itself, or indicted the globally integrated web of civilization. The movement was kicked off in 1999 with an anarchist riot in Eugene, Oregon and then, more significantly, in Seattle near the end of the year. A World Trade Organization summit was prevented from happening, and some of downtown Seattle was trashed. Globalization summits in Quebec City, Prague, and Genoa in 2000 and 2001 attracted large and vigorous protests. 300,000 took to the streets of Genoa in July 2001, and a young anarchist was killed by police. A major clash, and very revealing.
At one point the police forces attacked the large Black Bloc contingent, dividing it into two parts and driving much of it down toward the beach area, which was a home base for many of the protestors. World Social Forum people, Chomsky-type leftists, did their best to bar the gate to the beach, so that the radicals were trapped by the police assault. The WSF organization later slandered the courageous Black Bloc fighters as agents provocateurs.
The Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico drew much-deserved interest and support. Its famous Sub-Commandante Marcos declared that he had been a leftist urban intellectual but had come to see indigeneity as the heart of liberatory politics: respect for the land, for community. But the EZLN's Sixth Declaration of the Lacondon Jungle changed all that in 2005. It called for a new political party and launched the "Other Campaign" in 2006. The new policy was for "good governance councils," a new national constitution, citizenship, and the EZLN was soon running a candidate for president of Mexico. So much for indigeneity! And a strange (not so strange, sadly) silence then descended with this turn to the Left on the part of anarchists and others.
The 2011-2012 Occupy movement was a reformist social justice phenomenon, led by progressives like David Graeber. Lacking any radical orientation, it was largely ignored by anarchists. Its most militant expression was Occupy Oakland, which managed a one-day closure of the Port of Oakland.
De-occupy or de-colonize would have been at least the first step in a radical direction, but this was explicitly refused in favor of a vote celebrating "the legacy of the Left." Pathetic, and characteristic of the liberal-left nature of Occupy.
2016-2017 saw massive resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Thousands joined the Sioux and had supporters world-wide, as skirmishes and standoffs took place for several months, even through a bitter high prairie winter. Undefeated by military force, the effort to prevent the pipeline was rather suddenly ended by order of the Sioux chiefdom. This critical, fatal development was largely ignored.
So often, the failure comes from within, a more or less "fifth column" phenomenon. Often the undermining comes from the Left, and the lesson has yet to be fully learned, it seems.