On Summit Demonstrations, Solidarity Actions and the Necessity of Consistency
The problematic aspects of summit demonstrations have been made clear. In the current climate of action in antiauthoritarian circles we have run into a little bit of a bind, both conceptually and practically. Militant demonstrations at the sites of trade summits have done a lot to break the image of the “Washington Consensus” as well as mount actual destabilizations in the functioning of the apparatus of the State in certain areas for periods of time But summit demos have become something of an abstract anarchist threat that comes to take up a lot of energy and only engages for a short period of time, only to see that energy dispersed after the last dumpsters are rolled back down their respective alleys and the last windows replaced.
But we want to push beyond the absurdities of the recent debates around large scale confrontation. The absurdities of claims to our addictions or speculation about the psychological motivations beyond confrontation aside, we need to move beyond understanding our actions within the borders of spatial divisions of local and global. If we can say one thing about capitalist globalization it is that these divisions have been eliminated and have become part of global commodity flows.
But most recent debates around how to engage in anticapitalist actions have fallen either into an understanding of attacking capitalism as some sort of entity or focus on the local level where it is actually enacted. But all action is localized to a time and place within a wider context that frames that “locality,” and yet a reliance on this localism or globalism, or the position of only “local organizing” or “global movements,” relies on an arbitrary definition of “local” or “global” as a geographic location, as if we only act geographically. We need to understand that capitalist markets operate as a conjunction of local circumstances that, through their mechanizatons, frame the limits and possibilities of localized actions.
We need to see beyond the local/global dichotomy to begin to understand actions against capitalism as a matter of consistency. It is not that markets are things that are damaged by broken windows, in fact I bet plate glass companies love anarchists. But really it is a matter if disrupting the very possibility of the functioning of markets, the flow of commodities. In other words, it is not a matter of striking at sites but of disrupting operations in a consistent and wide spread basis. On this level there is something to be said for completely dispersed tactics that attack at a variety of sites all at once. But again, this reduces disruption to sites of capital rather than the possibility of their operation. What is traded away in these widely dispersed tactics (organized under the banner of Plan B and a variety of different names) is the sheer magnitude that presents itself in convergence, the ability to disrupt and rupture police strategy, the space generated in widespread disruption. We need to look beyond the summit as a singular action, and also beyond the summit as a collection of widely dispersed singular actions that have no resonance or magnitude to them. Rather we need to understand these phenomena through the lens of a flow and deployment of energies, on the level of magnitude, on the level of resonance. In other words, we need to look beyond the summit demonstration as a thing or a space, beyond the institution as a target, and begin to understand it as a convergence, as a coming together. In this framework it may seem odd to focus on the International Monetary Fund, and it would be if that were the focus. It is not that the IMF does horrible things that create poverty through austerity (although it does), but rather that what the IMF presents, and how it has operated, is in the capacity of making capitalism possible through enforcing privatization, monetarization, and the standardization of economic relations around capitalist models. This is what has been recognized in this current round of financial crisis, the IMF makes capitalism possible. And it is within this understanding that we can begin to see something like the IMF not as an institution that is central in itself but as another manifestation of capitalism to be confronted.
The importance of solidarity actions needs to escape this odd format of global referendum on the popularity of our politics and become a way to understand global resistance to capitalism as a convergence of anticapitalist actions, actions that can be more or less coordinated, more or less in concert with each other. But the spectre of the solidarity action is a vast modification in the way that we have understood demonstrations in the past. With the dispersal of action, not in a single urban space necessarily (although there is a lot to say about the tactical advantages of this as well), but on a wider scale, we are able to mount disruptions not only at the site of the summit but within the global flows of markets. But solidarity needs to be seen beyond simply the dates of a meeting and needs to be understood as a constant stance, a constant series of actions in widely dispersed sites over a consistent period of time.
In other words, it is time to get serious about this! Trying to appeal to the better ethical notions of capitalists and politicians, trying to shame cops out of beating demonstrators, trying to appeal to global financial institutions to “find a heart” are all approaches based in an understanding of capitalism as some sort of cabal. What we need to understand is that markets only work if economic situations are “stabilized”, smooth, without disruption and that these minor disruptions, these singular actions, pieces of graffiti, broken windows, are nothing compared to the constancy of the flows of global capitalism. Solidarity actions are pointless if they are about “speaking with one voice” or appealing to “decision makers”. They are about making a decision ourselves. Deciding that we will not allow our existence to be limited and defined through the flows of markets, and that we will do what is necessary to create the space to live a life that is worth living. But that decision must exist outside position papers like this one, it must exist as an active, alive convergence of the energy generated by anticapitalist actions. It must exist as an expansion, a multiplication of disruptions that operate beyond the arbitrary borders of the global and the local, and every confrontation is part of the development of this destabilization. It is not about smashing capitalism, but about generating disruptions of enough magnitude, in enough places, consistently enough to make its operation impossible. That means that confrontation must feed confrontation, on whatever scale possible, at whatever site possible.