Some of these points are particular to Active Resistance, others are applicable to scene activities and ways of thinking generally.
brochure and other literature does not make it easy to get a grip on AR. It's written in a buzzword vocabulary, a stylized institutional language (like Pentagonese) which no one speaks. Maybe it's because of spurious ideas about connections between language and thought, or language and institutions. In any case, the effect of this Radspeak is to establish a tighter "narrative" making discussion more ingrown and exclusive, the most obvious example being a somewhat obsessive and poorly argued focus on "collectives".
- I started out being sympathetic to the idea of timing AR with the Democratic Convention, but I eventually had second thoughts. Protest is by its nature reactive, and I think this confused the general attempt to be forward-looking. The convention format has merit, which would have been better explored in relative seclusion.
The Spirit of '68 idea was more or less nostalgic. The state of the world was different thirty years ago; there was a war raging, for one thing. There was an existing social movement, not a hypothetical one. People came to Chicago in 1968 because of a high current of political activity that configured their actions, which were not above criticism in any case. The Florida ABC speaker's open call for rioting at the Not on the Guest List march was a throwback to the worst aspect of gratuitous Yippieism.
- There is something incongruous about a continent-wide gathering intent on building a movement of localist or decentralist power. Bioregionalism has been a textbook example of this. If decentralism is the way forward, why are large gatherings made up of individuals instead of delegates from regions, localities, and organizations? Or, if movements have to start in a centralized form, how valuable is the decentralist principle? The challenge is not to centralize or decentralize, but to match levels of organization with the levels at which issues present themselves.
The cutting edge, or maybe fringe, of political science seems to be that nation-states eventually must relinquish power both to international and to local levels of organization. Issues increasingly make themselves felt at those two levels, and those are the contours we should follow. So what issues do we see, and where? Do we really need to discuss non-monogamy or puppet-making on a continental basis? My growing sense is that the big gatherings, as presently conceived and executed, are of little value. I think they serve about the same purpose as church revivals.
- When it comes to produced goods and services, my experience is that anarchist scenesters do not understand the difference between "free" and "socialized". Roughly a quarter of people attending paid nothing in support of the event. The organizers' official position was that those needing "waivers" would be considered on an "as-available" basis. In practice they just left the gates open and sucked up the bills themselves. They were either unable, or more likely unwilling, to uphold their own stated policy.
Organizationally, AR reproduced the classic anarchist-gathering mixture of heroism and parasitism, which seems to be more pronounced the larger the event. Clue: it is not the way to a classless society.
- I had hoped that an event which was "about outcomes" would do the followup and evaluation booklet that it intended. These notes you are reading were duly sent to the AZone for incorporation into that booklet, which never appeared. Nor were they published on the web with other AZone reports.
My past experience with writing critical reviews is that they are invisible. Once, years ago, I managed to evoke a single frantic denial. The scene is non-cognizant of principled critique and prefers simple blow-by-blow tactical and logistical reviews, or fuzzy emotionalism. Outside of small meetings, it has never answered a basic movement-building question of how to handle dissent. In calling for pieces that were "an articulation of the unspoken consensus", AR seemed explicitly to refuse that question.