The Scale of Capitalism and Resistance


(from Hot Tide Discussion Bulletin No.1)

In the face of the new form of globalization, some have argued that we must return to the nation state or to culture as the privileged site of struggle, others have maintained that the individual is necessarily the site of confrontation. Many Marxists, on the other hand, have argued theoretically that the world proletariat, often understood as a homogenous entity, must unite as one to overthrow capitalism. In practice, Marxists have usually attempted to organize the proletariat at the scale of the nationality. The present moment in the capitalist process shows up the limits of these approaches and the need to think critically about the issue of scale and difference in opposing capitalism. Today, more than ever, we need to pay attention to both ends of the scale: the universal (global capitalism and global capitalist culture) and to the particular (how capitalism operates in a particular geographic situation, culture or how it effects particular individuals or groups). One dichotomy we wish to avoid, however, is that contained in the idea that capitalism is the universal and homogenous and culture is the particular and heterogeneous. One project that Hot Tide is involved in, therefore, is to rethink the contradictions between anarchism (especially individualist and insurrectionary anarchism) and anti-state communism and autonomous Marxism. This is both a question of theorization (How does capitalism operate on different spatial scales? How does it produce difference across the globe? What forms of resistance and positive self-valorization are emerging in the present moment?) and organization (How are diverse people (a multitude) with diverse goals to attack capitalism effectively without erasing or repressing their differences; the two should not be separated.

We will write a series of articles in order to stimulate such a discussion in both Hot Tide and Killing King Abacus.

Points for further discussion:

1. The most recent phase of globalization is a new spatial organization of capitalism. Yet it is simplistic to understand this new phase of globalization as the emergence of pure capitalism and the destruction of the nation state. (it is strange that some anarchists have recently fallen into such rhetoric) or as simply the homogenization of the globe. Capitalism works on many levels to produce differences around the globe, it doesn’t only produce homogenization. While capitalism works to free certain flows of trade and capital, for instance, it also always ties these flows down on new levels. And while the role of the state is certainly changing, there is no pure capitalism that wishes to wipe the state out completely. Capitalists use state power to reorganize global power relations. States take part in the construction of new or reinvented nodes of power such as the World Bank, the IMF, NATO, and the WTO. It is through states that these institutions gain legitimacy. At the same time that states are losing some control over the flow of trade and capital, the control of many states over the lives and actions of their populations has increased. The state and capital have sunk their tentacles deeper into our very being. At the same time, capitalism helps to produce uneven geographic conditions around the globe: some states become stronger while being retooled and others grow weaker. It is also true however, that the globe has almost been completely enveloped in under a single logic of power and value, and states must operate within that logic.

2. We need to reconceptualize how we envision resistance to capitalism. The time for thinking in terms of the ‘mass’ is long gone (if there ever was one); we need to be able to conceptualize resistance without either wiping out our differences, or denying commonality in struggle (there is only one capitalism). There is no homogenous mass, only a multitude of participants in the struggle against capitalism. This seeming contradiction between the desires of and individual and the struggle of the multitude is indeed difficult to attend to, but it is enormously important. In moments of struggle we need to make space for our differences while attacking the many headed hydra of capitalism. On the level of organization, this means we should never again attempt to build a single, overarching organization; the autonomy of self-organization must always be maintained. In addition, organizations should have a particular purpose for which they come together, and once that particular purpose has been reached they should disband. Permanent organizations have a tendency to become authoritarian and waste most of the energy of the participants in trying to ‘build the organization’ or push its line.

3. It’s the date, not only the target. The recent string of anti-capitalist protests, while not without problems, have given a powerful new form to the anti-capitalist struggle. This has been especially true in their ability to link up diverse struggles without wiping out their particularity. The brilliance of these struggles has been their organization around a certain date on which a global capitalist institution is meeting. While there were large protests at the site of a major target, it was the date and capitalism in its many aspects that was the prime focus. Thus one is encouraged to attack a target of one’s own choice on that day. Attacks on such diverse targets on the same day that a global capitalist institution meets, link many struggles without causing them to march to the same drummer or suppressing the diversity of these struggles until ‘the organization’ names the time (after the revolution?). The simultaneity of these struggles links them up in our imaginations; this allows us to begin in understand a common enemy. We have no need to go to Seattle, Washington, or Prague (although doing so is fine); pick your own target in your area, for N30 or S11, and find the local particular expression of an always globalizing capitalism as your target.

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