[Debate] Dignified and Undignified Rage : Brief Notes on the UK riots, and Our Collective Failure to Construct Revolutionary Responses to the Global Crisis

Peter Waterman peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 21 19:47:59 BST 2011


Only two comments on what is otherwise an original and thought-provoking 
piece:

*Firstly,* I do think it is time to say 'Farewell to the Revolution! 
Long Live Global Social Emancipation!' I understand when the Zapatistas 
use the R word, given their situation and their tradition. But when, at 
a European Social Forum, Florence 2002 (I think), the Socialist Workers' 
Party (UK) did their customary full-frontal demonstration, chanting 'One 
Solution, Revolution!', my response was that they didn't know the 
difference between a solution and a problem. Think France 1789, Russia 
1917, Czechoslovakia 1948, 1989 (a Velvet one) China 1949, Cuba 
1959...and now...Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria 2011?

In so far as these were products of various mixes of dignified and 
undignified rage, and saw (or hoped to see) the 'capture of the 
commanding heights', they eventually resulted (or are likely to result) 
in the state 'capture' of the commanding revolutionaries, generals, 
counter-elites, ideologists, communicators. As well as being joined and 
largely shaped by what in Cuba was called 'the January 2nd Movement' 
(the revolution having succeeded on January 1).

Revolutions result in 'the world turned upside down', and are, 
paradoxically, expressions of weakness rather than strength. That is 
that the only way the masses involved can imagine freeing themselves is 
in one cataclysmic event, in which (in the Marxist tradition) 
dictatorship over the proletariat will become the dictatorship of the 
proletariat.

The concept of 'global social emancipation' has not yet really entered 
left discourse internationally. Anymore than has the concept of 'the 
global justice and solidarity movement'. This is no bad thing since the 
meaning of both can and should become a matter of global dialogue and a 
global dialectic (as, for example, when a movement for 'democracia real' 
was unexpectedly self-organised in Southern Europe recently - according 
to no leftist's  plan or theory.

However, the notion of GSE certainly allows for all kinds of 
emancipatory actions and ideas, especially if we take 'emancipation' to 
mean the surpassal of alienation, in all its conceivable and not yet 
conceived forms. It is certainly this, not 'revolution' that is both 
necessary and possible in the UK. And which can be identified as 
emerging in various of the community-level responses and in some of the 
BBC 5 phone in programmes I head. Someone should trawl both and build an 
emancipatory programme on such bases.

*Secondly,* Kolya, of course, is having a little joke when he says he 
does not remember which famous guy was responsible for the quote he 
provides us with. If he HAS forgotten, he could either re-read the 
Communist Manifesto, or, possibly, the book on the First International 
co-authored by his grandfather, Chimen Abramsky.

Keep on writin', Kolya!

PeterW


> Sunday, 21 August 2011
>
> On the fire beneath.
>
> Thank you, Kolya.
>
>
>
> *Dignified and Undignified Rage:*
> *Brief Notes on a Pending Invitation, the UK riots, and Our Collective 
> Failure to Construct Revolutionary Responses to the Global Crisis*
> *
> *
> Kolya Abramsky
> **
> */London, 18^th August, 2011/*
> //
> //
> /Up there, they intend to repeat their history./
> /They once again want to impose on us their calendar of death, their 
> geography of destruction./
> /When they are not trying to strip us of our roots, they are 
> destroying them./
> /They steal our work, our strength./
> /They leave our world, our land, our water, and our treasures without 
> people, without life./
> /The cities pursue and expel us./
> /The countryside dies and we along with it./
> /Lies become governments and dispossession is the weapon of their 
> armies and police./
> /In the world, we are illegal, undocumented, unwanted./
> /We are pursued./
> /Women, young people, children, the elderly die in death and die in life./
> /And up there they preach to us resignation, defeat, surrender, and 
> abandonment./
> /Down here we are being left with nothing./
> /Except rage./
> /And dignity//.*[1]* <x-msg://88/#_ftn1>/
> //
> //
> With these words �the men, women, children, and elderly of the 
> Zapatista Liberation Army in Mexico convoked all the rebellious of 
> Mexico and the World� to attend the World�s First Festival of 
> Dignified Rage, under the theme �/Another World, Another Path: Below 
> and to the Left�./ Coincidentally, or not, the call was issued on the 
> very same day thatLehmann Brothers bank, metaphorically, went up in 
> flames, September 15^th  2008.
> Nearly 3 years later, in mid August 2011, the UK exploded in nearly a 
> week of urban war. Sparked by the killing of a young Black man at the 
> hands of the police, London and other major (and also not so major) 
> cities proceeded to burn in the worst riots the country has seen in 
> decades. A tinder box, waiting for a spark. And, though not directly 
> related, it was nonetheless impossible not to notice the fact that the 
> riots took place exactly the same time as the world�s stock markets 
> once again found themselves hurtling towards a free fall.
> Yes, the political right wing and the crisis are ugly, and rapidly 
> getting even more so. And, yes, the parliamentary left in many 
> countries, including Britain, is nearly as bad as the right. Yes, the 
> Obama regime seems to be in the process of implementing an agenda that 
> is as bad, if not worse, than the agenda implemented by Bush, despite 
> the hopes that many of his supporters held for change.
> And, yes, the riots were also ugly.
> Despite the fact that the riots were predictable and predicted, and 
> despite the fact that this explosion was, in all likelihood, necessary 
> to shock people in Britain out of a collective sleepwalk towards the 
> abyss, something is nonetheless wrong.There is nothing to celebrate. 
> Involving the burning of residential homes and family owned shops in 
> poor areas; the deaths of 5 additional people on top of the original 
> death at the hands of the police; wounded people being mugged under 
> the guise of helping them; a rampant living up of repressed 
> consumerist fantasies; and a blinding absence of a clear �articulate 
> political discourse� - something is indeed very wrong.
> Whereas the Zapatistas issued an /invitation/ to the world, what 
> exploded in the UK last week was a /warning/ to the world. A warning 
> of the immense/Typhoon /of /Undignified /Rage that is almost certain 
> to engulf the world should we collectively shy away from accepting the 
> Zapatista invitation to celebrate and build an ongoing 
> /Festival/ of/ Dignified/ Rage.//
> //
> //
> /There is no ear for our pain, except that of the people like us./
> /We are no one./
> /We are alone, and just with our dignity and our rage./
> /Rage and dignity are our bridges, our languages./
> /Let us listen to each other then, let us know each other./
> /Let our rage grow and become hope./
> /Let our dignity take root again and breed another world./
> /We have seen and listened./
> /Our voice is small to be the echo of that word, our gaze small for 
> such an amount of rage, a rage with such dignity./
> /We need to see each other, look at each other, talk to each other, 
> listen to each other./
> /We are others, the other./
> /If this world doesn�t have a place for us, then another world must be 
> made./
> /With no other tool than our rage, no other material than our dignity./
> /We still must find each other, know each other./
> /What is lack is yet to come� Falta lo que falta�/
> //
> //
> The urgency of these dignified words of rage is ever greater with each 
> day that passes. There is no turning back. The world of yesterday is 
> gone, and many possible worlds of tomorrow are hanging in the air. We 
> have no choice, but to be ready, whether we like it or not. There is 
> no neutrality, nor stability in the years ahead. The Zapatista 
> invitation was prescient, though perhaps its meaning nonetheless 
> remained obscure when it was issued in 2008.Yet, its intention becomes 
> more and more self evident, the London riots making it blindingly 
> clear: /In the absence of Dignified Rage, the Rage will not disappear, 
> it will simply become Undignified Rage. /We are in dangerous times.
> //
> /Now, three years after the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, 
> the EZLN has undertaken a collective assessment, nourished by the 
> broad horizon that our compa�eros of the Other Campaign in Mexico and 
> the Zezta Internazional across the world have given us./
> /What we have seen and heard is not little, sometimes directly, 
> sometimes through the words and the gaze of others./
> /The rage that we felt and the dignity that we found was so great that 
> now we think we are smaller than what we thought before./
> /In Mexico and in the five continents we have found what we sensed we 
> would when we began our sixth step: there is another world, there is 
> another path./
> /If the catastrophe that is coming is to be avoided and humanity is to 
> have another chance, it will be because these others, down here and on 
> the left, have not only resisted, but are already sketching the 
> outline of something else./
> /Something different from what is going on up there./
> //
> //
> //
> A famous man, whose name I have forgotten, once said, �The history of 
> all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles...In a 
> word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one 
> another, carried on an uninterrupted, /now hidden, now open fight/, a 
> fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution 
> of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.� 
> And, now, once again, we are in a moment where the /fight is open. 
> /The gloves are off.The unspoken truth that everyone knows but barely 
> dares to say: the ongoing and worsening world economic and financial 
> crisis was not caused by mistakes, and the �recovery� is a myth. The 
> crisis is /worldwide class war from above/, against the majority of 
> the world�s population. That�s it, plain and simple.
> As the capitalist crisis deepens, it will not wait for people to get 
> ready. We will either make emancipatory solutions through our 
> creativity and resistance, or capitalism�s solutions will reap their 
> devastation. And, yet, seemingly a certain inevitability has begun to 
> unfold. As the same famous man also once said, "We recognize our old 
> friend, our old mole, who knows so well how to work underground, 
> suddenly to appear: the revolution." /As if by clockwork, as the 
> crisis deepens, the old mole has come up to the surface, alive and 
> well, as if it had never even disappeared from view: /uprisings in 
> much of the Arab world, mass assembly movements in Spain and general 
> strikes and insurrection in Greece, occupations in Wisconsin, student 
> rebellion in Chile and tent cities in Israel. This is just to name a 
> few of the places where the mole has made itself visible, and not just 
> to wildlife enthusiasts who scrutinize the wilderness with binoculars 
> in hand.
> Yet, as the Zapatista invitation so clearly recognized, there are no 
> inevitabilities, no clockwork revolutions. Only human activities, our 
> choices, creativities, conformities, strengths, weaknesses, courage 
> and our fears.
> //
> //
> /In the impossible geometry of political power, the fundamentalisms 
> are distributed evenly: the right wing becomes ultra-right and the 
> institutional left wing becomes the impossible cultured right wing. 
> Those who make up the progressive media complain that the fanatics on 
> the mainstream press censure them, twist their words and slander their 
> leader. But they at the same time censure, twist the words, slander, 
> and remain silent before any movement that hasn�t bowed down to the 
> dictates of their ringleaders. And without shame they condemn and 
> acquit to the rhythm of a senseless media rating. Fanatics on one and 
> other side fight over lies dressed as truths and crimes are gauged 
> according to the media time they occupy. But this is nothing more than 
> a pale reflection of what is happening in politics./
> /Weariness in the face of cynicism and incompetence on behalf of the 
> traditional political classes has been turning into rage. Sometimes 
> this rage still hopes for change following the usual paths and places, 
> and it crashes head-on either with the disappointment which 
> immobilizes it or an arbitrary force which tramples it. The unsettled 
> and brutal North goes back to its old ways. When it is not sponsoring 
> electoral fraud (as in Mexico), it is promoting, encouraging, and 
> financing state coups (as now attempted in Bolivia and Venezuela). War 
> continues to be its primary and favored form of international 
> diplomacy. Iraq and Afghanistan burn, but, to the despair of those up 
> there, they are not consumed./
> /The impositions of hegemony and homogeneity on a global scale find 
> their witches� apprentices in nations, in regions, and in small 
> localities, which rehearse the impossible historic return to a past 
> where fanaticism was law and dogma, science. Meanwhile, the governing 
> political classes have found in the world of bright lights an adequate 
> disguise to hide their full participation in organized crime./
> /Sickened by so much greed, the planet begins to pay the unpayable 
> bill of its destruction. But �natural� disasters are also class issues 
> and the devastation is felt most by those who have nothing and are no 
> one. Faced with this, the stupidity of Power has no limits: millions 
> and millions of dollars are dedicated to the manufacture of new 
> weapons and installation of more military bases. The power of capital 
> does not worry about training teachers, doctors, engineers, but rather 
> soldiers. It doesn�t prepare constructors, but rather destructors./
> /And those who oppose this are pursued, incarcerated, murdered./
> //
> //
> And, in response to once such murder, in a long string of police 
> murders, London, and then the rest of the UK exploded, spectacularly 
> failing to conform to the benign image of the uprisings occurring in 
> other places. Uprisings that have articulated a clear and political 
> critique of the world economic-financial-and-increasingly-political 
> crisis, and which all but complete heartless morons could not fail to 
> sympathize with. And, horrified by the murders and house burnings that 
> screamed across the world�s media, then comes the raucous clamour for 
> law and order, safety of person, and property. Young kids herded into 
> jail for stealing some bottles of water, or for posting inflammatory 
> words on facebook; a wave of national hysteria that sees the sickening 
> image of parents delivering their teenage children on a plate to the 
> police, for stealing some designer shoes or a TV set, or some other 
> petty property crimes, all of which are put on a par with those most 
> extreme of acts, the undeniably horrendous burning of houses and 
> killing of people standing in the way of the riots. A vision of the 
> future, no doubt, but a nihilistic vision. Kids without a future. No 
> alternative, so the narrative runs. A rage without creativity.
> //
> //
> /In Mexico, farmers who have defended their land are in prison (San 
> Salvador Atenco); in Italy those who opposed the installation of 
> military bases are pursued and treated as terrorists; in the France of 
> �liberty, equality, and fraternity�, humans are only free, equal, and 
> brothers if their papers say so; in Greece being young is a vice that 
> must be eradicated; again in Mexico, but now in that city of the same 
> name, young people are criminalized and murdered and nothing is done 
> because it is not on the agenda dictated by those up there. Meanwhile, 
> a legitimate referendum is converted into a shameful way for an 
> assassin-governor to wash his hands off a situation. In the Spain of 
> the modern European Union, publications are closed and a language, 
> Euskera, is criminalized �they think that by killing the word they can 
> kill those who speak it�; in that Asia that is so close, the demands 
> of the peasants are met with armored nonsense; in that arrogant 
> American Union, born of immigrant blood, the �other colors� who work 
> there are pursued and killed; in the long wound that is Latin America, 
> the brown blood that sustains it, is despised and humiliated; in the 
> rebellious Caribbean, a people, the Cuban people, have to add up to 
> the disgrace of a natural hazard that of an imperial embargo that is 
> nothing other than an unpunished crime./
> /And in all of the corners of the world�s geography, and in all of the 
> days of its calendars, those who work, those who make things run, are 
> plundered, despised, exploited, repressed./
> /But sometimes, many times, as many times that a smile sets off, that 
> rage looks for its own paths, new paths, other paths. And the �no� 
> that they raise now not only resists, but begins to propose, to 
> propose itself./
> /Since our public appearance, now almost 15 years ago, it has been our 
> goal to be a bridge on which rebellions can walk back and forth./
> /Sometimes we have achieved this, sometimes we haven�t./
> /Now we see and we feel not only the rebellious resistance that, as 
> sister and compa�era, stays at our side and encourages our steps./
> /Now there is something that wasn�t there before, or that we hadn�t 
> been able to see./
> /There is a creative rage./
> /A rage that paints all of the colors of the paths down below and on 
> the left on the five continents�./
> //
> //
> There has been a collective failure to take up the Zapatista 
> invitation. It�s time to stop pretending.//
>
> The riots are not the fault of the right. Nor are they the fault of 
> the supposed �kids with no future�. They are the fault of the 
> �organized�, �political� left, for failing to build a meaningful and 
> convincing process of struggle, resistance and reconstruction based on 
> creative and dignified rage in the face of the worst crisis of 
> capitalism in close to 100 years.//And, if the left continues to fail 
> to do so/,/ the riots will almost certainly become stronger and 
> uglier. A crisis whose effects build upon years, sometimes even 
> generations or centuries, of cumulative pent up rage. Rage against the 
> multiple oppressions, discriminations, exploitations and 
> brutalizations that stamp themselves indelibly on the lives of women, 
> men and children throughout the world. Rage against the fears of 
> losing hard fought for gains. Rage against never having been included 
> in these gains in the first place.
> The complacent left and radical movements need to wake up to the 
> glaring truth that it isnot true that if we do not make the revolution 
> today, we can do it tomorrow, or next week, or next year....the time 
> is now. //Failure to make revolution, based on viable alternatives in 
> peoples� real lives and not in the realm of ideas, means only one 
> thing: /Undignified Rage and counterrevolution. /Undignified Rage 
> waiting to explode at any moment, in any place: the USA, Brazil, 
> Mexico, India, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Germany, 
> Italy...
> //
> /The Zapatista invitation to build a World Festival of Dignified Rage, 
> and to build alternative social relations amongst ourselves was not an 
> indefinite invitation. Time is running out, and no one else will take 
> up the invitation if we don�t./
> /
> /
> /
> /
> /
> /
> /
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> [1] <x-msg://88/#_ftnref1> This and subsequent quotes from the 
> Zapatista call for a World Festival of Dignified Rage are taken from 
> the website 
> http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2008/09/18/comunicado-del-ccri-cg-del-ezln-comision-sexta-comision-intergalactica-del-ezln-en-ingles/ Throughout 
> this article, the call has been quoted almost in its entirety. The 
> Spanish original can be found at 
> http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2008/09/15/comunicado-del-ccri-cg-del-ezln-comision-sexta-comision-intergalactica-del-ezln/ , 
> and footage of the event can be found at 
> http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2010/01/24/primer-festival-mundial-de-la-digna-rabia/ .
> /
>
> ______________________________
>
> Jai Sen
>
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