[sixties-l] Foul Movement

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sat Apr 21 2001 - 21:44:52 EDT

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    Affinity group radicals. Creative graffiti. Ritualized destruction of
    Yes, May Day is coming. Can you feel the revolution in the air?

    Foul Movement


    By Andrew L. Giarelli

    At 15, on the night Chicago cops whacked longhair head at the 1968
    Democratic National Convention, I cried myself to sleep for our lost
    democracy and its noble defenders; four years later, when my chance came to
    join the Volunteers of America, I deserted. A bunch of us radicals had
    cornered some Marine recruiters in a building on the outskirts of Yale, and
    though it was a beautiful collective thing, the lead Marxist in the bunch
    assumed command. This guy, Josh, who'd later become a Wall Street lawyer,
    stalked the line of New Haven police protecting the building, spitting in
    their faces and occasionally pushing a young woman into them.
    "C'mon pig! I know you want some of this hippie ass! C'mon, why doncha grab
    her hair and throw her down!" Some of the pigs, young working-class guys
    like me, looked hurt and shocked. So when the asshole Marxist announced
    that it was time to show whether you were with the Revolution or against it
    by liberating the corner of College and Chapel at rush hour, I switched sides.
    Oh, I spent the rest of the '70s and early '80s occasionally pretending
    otherwise, but in truth each wave of self-serving, manipulative,
    hypocritical "progressives" I encountered sickened me more than the last:
    from the subpoenaed feminist protectors of Weatherwoman-on-the-lam
    Katherine Ann Powers who lectured me on how to report their grand jury
    case, to the Marxists who commandeered my graduate teaching assistants'
    union and issued orders about talking to the press, to some of my NYU
    journalism students who kissed Sandinista and Fidelista ass in print while
    real journalists there were harassed and imprisoned. Thus I mistrust the
    current "affinity groups" gathering in the Northwest to overturn world
    corporate hegemony this spring.
    What are affinity groups, anyway? That's when someone who despises China
    for enslaving political prisoners gets convinced to join supporters of
    Mumia Abu-Jamal and agrees not to mention how the latter boasted about
    killing that cop, and they agree not to praise China's one-party rule
    specifically but still get to spout Chinese-style Marxist rhetoric
    generally because, after all, you wouldn't want to disrespect Leonard
    Peltier's supporters, right? From my vantage, it's when hell freezes over.

    My only problem is that some of my younger friends here in progressive
    Puddletown are affinity group radicals, and while I do admire their
    malcontent creativity, I despise their dainty identity politics. What do I
    mean by each, you ask? Here are two examples. On North Interstate Avenue,
    the desolate North Portland strip spotted with faux-tropical no-tell motels
    and the so-faux-it's-real Alibi Lounge, a big sign for a Dodge sport
    utility vehicle displays the monster alongside the brand new word
    "Baditude." Just one more non-word the corporate philologists have foisted
    upon us and denied us the right to use at will, except that there's another
    word beneath it, bigger, badder, in the kind of graffiti-esque scrawl
    advertising uses now to lure maturing Gen-Xers. The word is "KILLS." Yes,
    "Baditude^ KILLS."
    It looks like it belongs, like just another incremental push of the
    marketing envelope that innocently overshadows the verb's literal
    nastiness. "Baditude^ KILLS" yeah, maybe Dodge is just so down with you
    still-daring yet financially stabilized X-ers that but wait a minute, look
    at that SUV, the part of the ad that's definitely the product of Dodge's
    advertising division. It's almost careening up on two wheels, not careering
    on all four, and that might have spelled "freedom" a year ago, but now it
    spells "Firestone."
    What mimic genius it took to monkey-wrench that billboard at just the right
    anti-marketing micro-moment, none too soon and none too late, for all to
    see how Dodge might have actually considered boasting that "Baditude
    KILLS"; how unnerving the words must be now to anyone driving by! I like that.
    I don't like this: It's lunchtime on the Park Blocks, the genteelly
    democratic green space abutting Portland State University, the same space
    where the Oregon Ballet holds open-air rehearsals and where you can buy
    absolutist organic spinach for $5 a pound at the Farmers' Market. A
    singer-guitarist with electronic accompanist is performing some chant-like
    stuff. She introduces her next piece, struggling for the words. "I, like,
    come from so many different cultures," she begins. "I'm Asian-American,"
    she says forthrightly, "and supposedly Native American," she adds in a
    cutesy rushed half-whisper, "and I'm bisexual, so " She leaves the rest,
    whatever it could possibly be, ineffably unsaid.
    Now in New York, all that might tote up to one culture, if you actually had
    anything to sell with it, but here it's at least six, all demanding
    tax-free status too. How much time the poor young
    woman must take unwrapping and examining and re-wrapping those cultural
    threads, how many memoirs needing release, how many memoir-writing course
    credits I and my sleazy cronies at Portland State University might sell her!

    So, about those May Day plans. "It's going to be a fiasco," my favorite
    radical (all mimic subversiveness, no identity politics) announced proudly
    last weekend at a cupping he hosted. Right, what's a cupping? That's when
    a coffee roaster (both professionals and adept amateurs abound here)
    invites people over to blow on and slurp up and vote for cups of his new
    roasts; in my friend's case, he's busting a move to professional, hoping to
    sell at Saturday Market. Please don't make me tell you what Saturday
    Market is. Just imagine the nation's biggest conglomeration of legitimate
    old and new hippie craftspeople, and across the street from them an
    illegitimate appendage of drum-circlin', bud-dealin' gutterpunks who make
    it possible for Junior to sneak over and cop a forty-bag while Mom compares
    Anyway, by "fiasco," my friend who was busted during a demonstration last
    fall wearing a Ronald McDonald suit and who also insisted on being booked
    as said character, and continues to tie up the courts with his disorderly
    conduct case means "failure in communication to the movement's benefit," I
    "The police still don't realize that they're a part of it all," he
    explains. By that I think he means that the cops' only choice is to let
    things happen.
    What will happen? According to infoshop.org, "your online anarchist
    community," May 1 is going to be a "Planetary Carnival Against Capitalism
    and the State." To warm things up, affinity groups opposing the Free Trade
    Agreement of the Americas Ministerial Meeting in Quebec City (April 17-21)
    will rally here and up on the Canadian border to support their brothers and
    sisters trying to shut down the event. "FTAA will mean the increased
    oppression of indigenous communities abroad and of people of color at
    home," argues the local anti-FTAA coalition's Web site. "It will expand the
    wealth gap between rich and poor countries as well as between the rich and
    poor in our own country. And the environmental degradation caused by 'free
    trade' affects the air we all breathe and the water we all drink."
    Of course, like the old movement, this one promises fun and danger too.
    Calling on the spirit of Seattle, it urges: "Get ready for the next
    festival of resistance!" In Quebec City, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence
    (April 18-22) will culminate in a Day of Action on May 20 that will
    include, of course, "direct action." Here on campus, talk and posters I
    mean, just posters, because actually, I haven't heard any students talk
    about this are of anti-FTAA demonstrations, a pena (Marxist co-opting of
    traditional culture) and May Day ramblings. Meanwhile, the Peace Arch
    Coalition, another network of affinity groups, will try a "major
    cross-border No Way FTAA Rally" on April 21 at Peace Arch Park on the
    Washington-British Columbia border, which will surely allow Customs and
    Immigration on both sides to try out their latest crowd control
    tactics. The spring hasn't felt this crackly with the giddy scent of
    revolution since David Crosby preferred pot.

    The real deal, though, is May Day. According to the publicity for the
    Planetary Carnival ("nothing ever burns down by itself every fire needs a
    little help"), "global resistance to capitalism is finally on the rise
    again!" Citing anarchist holy days of obligation like N30 (the 1999 Seattle
    anti-WTO protests), A16 (2000 anti-IMF protests in D.C.) and the primordial
    start to the revolution, J18 (the 1999 date when Eugene anarchists first
    smashed and looted en masse), the online anarchists conclude: "momentum is
    growing to overthrow the corporations and start building a better planet."
    Clearing the terrain for this better planet, another group called The
    International Network of Night Workers (INNW) is calling for a night of P-D
    ("property destruction") on April 30. "They want to remind people that
    capitalism cannot be reformed, it can only be resisted through direct
    action," infoshop.org tells us. Their suggested target list includes
    McDonald's, Nike, Monsanto, Citibank, Shell and the Gap. Oddly, no
    Starbucks, which is something else I'd like to ask them about.
    But who are they? The friendly affinitists at infoshop.org don't link to
    them. And who are the folks at infoshop.org, anyway? Their main page
    connects me to anarchafeminism.com, the Anarchist Cookbook, the Institute
    for Anarchist Studies, the Internet Anarchist University, the San Francisco
    Mission Yuppie Eradication Project, Smash Giulianism, and of course, the
    Eugene anarchist community. But they don't really identify themselves.
    Direct Action Network is just a linker too: I have all these messages in to
    DAN "contacts," because I want to ask if they support "P-D," but nobody
    answers. It's like I'm this old fart nobody wants to acknowledge or something.
    Who coordinates all this fun? Are the anarchists mixing it up with the
    Marxists? Does Direct Action Network, which acts like it coordinates
    everything, run the show? If you've got to ask that, you don't get it. The
    primary organizer in Quebec is La Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitalistes,
    who sound rather proudly Marxist. The world of Web site links is a
    wonderful new improvement on our old movement selective denial of
    responsibility (i.e., those subpoenaed Katherine Ann Powers supporters all
    those years ago wouldn't talk about her; they wanted to talk about the FBI
    harassing women's communities). So is the world of "affinity groups."
    Which brings me back home to Portland and Craig Rosebraugh. He's the
    self-announced spokesman for Earth Liberation Front, which took
    responsibility for burning down luxury condos in Aspen last year but says
    it didn't burn up the SUVs in Eugene the other night. At least, Rosebraugh
    says that ELF denies responsibility.
    Who, where, what, how and especially why are not really Rosebraugh's
    concerns, which makes him kind of different from most media spokespeople,
    as the local alternative rag The Portland Mercury noted this week when it
    named him a finalist for its "Stupid Fucking Hippie" Award. Alas, he lost
    to Tre Arrow, the young hero who sat and shat on the federal building ledge
    in downtown Portland last year for more than a week to support the Eagle
    Creek tree-sit up there in the Cascades, then ran, or more appropriately
    hung out, for Congress on the Green Party ticket before getting busted last
    month for shoplifting at Nature's, a yuppified organic grocery chain.

    Things are getting ugly here. A kind of ritualized cycle of property
    destruction has begun. Poor Mayor Vera Katz, who thought she'd got tough on
    young street graffitists with varieties of public humiliation over the last
    two years, now faces an assault wave. Storefronts in the freshly painted,
    city-supported Alberta Arts District got spray-painted last week with "Soup
    kitchens not bistros" and "Yuppies Go Home," along with the anarchy fist.
    "This is a crime" was spray-painted on one sport utility vehicle (why just
    that one?) and dollar signs sprayed onto Wall Street Journal newsstands on
    trendy Northwest 23rd. A few days later, the counter-assault on the enemy's
    key assault vehicle began in earnest: A million bucks' worth of sport
    utility vehicles were torched at a Eugene dealership. That fire sounds a
    little like the suspicious fire that burned more than a dozen police cars
    in a Southeast Portland parking lot last June. "No Justice No Peace" was
    written on sidewalk in front of the lot. It happened a week before the
    first anniversary of the original Eugene anarchist "action," and the cops
    are still investigating.
    A couple of films are making the rounds of Northwest campuses to rev up the
    action. One is This Is What Democracy Looks Like, produced by Independent
    Media (how independent are they if they're linked all over the place to the
    anti-FTAA and May Day web sites?). I especially like the poster for this
    film by Whitman Insurgency, a student group at otherwise conservative
    Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
    The movie, from Indy Media, retells the 1999 anti-World Trade Organization
    demonstrations in Seattle, which have been sanctified into the equivalent
    of the 1967 March on the Pentagon or the Russian sailors' revolt on the
    Potemkin. In the drawing, proud young rebels march down a path cleared of
    riot cops, the last couple of whom scurry fearfully into foreground. The
    revolutionaries are holding maybe flags, maybe truncheons; watching the new
    order take shape from the sides are representatives of "affinity groups": a
    rather mistrustful looking young African-American, a green-kerchief-masked
    white radical, a proud and hirsute young woman and the blurred masses
    holding red flags. Notice that the flags aren't black, the color of the
    anarchist movement. That tells you right there who'll be running the firing
    squads when the revolution comes. Those Eugene anarchists ought to read
    their revolutionary history. It's always the dangerous allies like
    anarchists whom successful Marxists execute first; there's plenty of time
    later for reactionaries.
    Andrew L. Giarelli was the founding editor of Edging West, a regional
    magazine that ran from 1995-98. He teaches nonfiction writing at Portland
    State University.

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