James Tuttle is a left-libertarian anarcho-ostromite, the Director for the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS), an occasional Instructor for the C4SS Stateless University Course: Introduction to Anarchism - Bravo Section, a Co-organizer for the Tulsa Anarchist Meetup, a Co-Editor of the left-libertarian zine ALLiance Journal, a Friend of Corvus Editions, and a proud Delegate of the Industrial Workers of the World
Posts by James Tuttle
I am reading Thaddeus Russell’s Out of the Jungle and enjoying the hell out of it.
It is full of Russell’s anti-paternalistic wit, but hidden away are some interesting points regarding the circumstances and contexts of labor organizing in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
I remember in an another book by Robert L. Heilbroner a description of the run up to and conflict during the Homestead strike where 7 Pinkerton strike-breakers were killed in the attendant melee. Then in a Bayle-ian-esque footnote it points out that 195 workers were killed on the job in one year at Homestead.
There are moments like this in Out of the Jungle. One moment Russell is, matter of factly (worts and all), describing some of the tactics used by Teamsters in Detroit during the 30s, like threatening to bomb trucks. Then bombing trucks.
A couple of pages down from this matter of fact, there is a description of solidarity strikes along a number of points of production and in concert with a couple of major and minor unions where the Employers threatened to pay the cops to crack skulls. Then paid the cops to crack skulls.
Side note, I like the part in the story where a strike was successful because a police captain refused to crack skulls because they played poker with some of the strikers and didn’t want to miss an upcoming game.
“We exist and survive by making judgments. In the big issues that shape the fate of men and nations out judgments are based on simplifications ans generalizations, on ‘images.’ The present world of baffling complexities therefore demands the reduction of mazes which only experts can follow – and even they imperfectly – to simple patterns comprehensible to ordinary men and women. All people, particularly in a democracy, deal with and judge these issues, one way or the other. The choice before us then is not of simplicity or complexity but of good or bad, penetrating or misleading simplification. Generalizations guide public opinion, public opinion influences and sometimes determines government policy, and government policy holds the fatal trigger of war and peace… Let our generalizations, therefore, be knowledgeable and just.” –Theodore H. VonLaue, Why Lenin? Why Stalin?, Preface to the First Edition.
“Peter Paret in his book On Understanding War outlines Clausewitz’s thoughts on what constitutes an effective theory of warfare. First and foremost, a theory must have a powerful capacity to explain. It must be able to show the relationship between the past and the present. It must not be constrained by temporary trends in military philosophy or technology, and it must be ‘sufficiently flexible … [with] potential for further development.’ If a theory possesses these characteristics, then the student of war, using his experience and knowledge, will be able to make judgments about the future of warfare.” –William H. McRaven, Spec Ops, Conclusions.
There is an ambivalence or neutrality in the language of Javert.
His intention and devotion, by themselves, are understandable and admirable. He is really no different from a Bruce Wayne, a Frank Castle, or a Walter Kovacs. Actually, I would say he is better than all of them combined; he has the integrity to apply his standards to himself, he has the discipline to not take a normalizing pleasure from his violence, and he has the the honor to remove from danger and torment the victims of “the law” by removing himself the story.
So why is he regarded as a villain over and above all of these characteristics, yet Batman, for example, receives heaping mountains of sympathy and apologetics?
I submit that it is context.
Javert, in any other story, an agent of any other code of law, would be a hero. A hero who’s faults would be understood and forgiven. But because he is an agent of a code of law that preys upon the weak and desperate he is – rightly! – despised as an agent of class, privilege, brutality and inhumanity. This is the tragedy of Javert.
I submit the tragedy of Javert is the by product of a philosophy, a mentality of, “it’s just politics.” Nothing is just politics. Nothing is alone, in a vacuum. To de-contextualize your politics, to remove it from time, place, history, humanity is to turn a virtue of politics, justice, into cruelty. And those you love justice into monsters, like poor Javert.
I can think of no greater disservice to any political, economic, structural philosophy, than to make justice cruelty. To make the one thing we need most desperately the one thing we hate most completely.
If your motto or code or philosophy is, “it’s just politics”, then I understand where you stand. I can only hope that you have the same virtues of a Javert and not a Wayne.
I don’t feel the need or desire to contextualize or comment on the following films, because I am still puzzling out where and how they fit together. But this is a good sample of the kinds of puzzles and categories I find myself thinking about the most. Broad strokes, fragile hearts, valued complexity.
Most anarchists and activists are familiar with David Rovics song “I’m a better anarchist than you”.
A friend ask the following question:
Wondering if internet “debates” about what is a true anarchist are a sly tactic to avoid being one.
My response, which in my head I titled “The agony of desire”:
This is indeed an interesting question or phenomena, and it is not unique to anarchism. I would wager a guess that it happens within any group with strong desires, bold visions, and limited or felt traction or movement towards those desires and visions.
It acts like a kind of identity crisis. The constant recounts of one’s personal psychic inventories that result from living in a terribly contaminated, compromised, and manipulated society/context are unbearably painful. I can empathize with, and have even witnessed, a self-loathing from activists and anarchists for having these desires and not being able to enjoy or experience them fully or communally.
There also seems to be leftist-milestone residue regarding “mass” and “momentum” which can lead, again from the pains of unrequited desire, to demand more of others or curse others for not doing enough.
Otoh, there are “agents of disinformation” and a “disinformation agent”.