Editorial note: the exceptional nature of the September 11th terror attacks and the consequent war seemed to merit a momentary departure from The New Formulation's book-review-only policy.
September 21, 2001
We are living through scary times. Clearly the U.S. Government and its allies believe they have a grand opportunity to realign domestic and international relationships in their interest. This is frightening: major shifts in the political landscape threaten to tear the ground from beneath our feet.
However, these glacial shifts in the political scene also offer anti-authoritarians a unique opportunity to obtain a new, more secure footing in our struggle against economic exploitation, political hierarchy, and cultural domination. Political conditions are changing radically and, if we respond correctly, we have the chance to advance our movement to a much higher level.
The purpose of this letter is to explore the contours of an anti-authoritarian position on recent events. We encourage you to discuss this letter with your friends and comrades and to prepare for broader discussions that we intend to initiate in the near future.
We want to address three important issues in this letter: structure, politics, and the future.
Thus, we think our immediate challenge is to ensure that the anti-war mobilizations are decentralized and democratic in structure: specifically, that those doing the work make the decisions in these organizations. We recommend the model of assemblies, spokescouncils, or other horizontal networks of small, decentralized groups that are unified around an anti-authoritarian vision of social change. This will assure that those at the base hold decision-making power and thus that the mobilization reflects the political consciousness of the base, which is typically more radical and sane than that held by the leadership. It will still be possible for sectarian groups to infiltrate the base, but much harder for them to seize control. We believe that instituting such a decentralized structure is consistent with a principled commitment to democracy and should be our first act of defense against the party building hacks and the omnipresent "leadership."
Presently we are aware of two positions on the war:
The right-wing position asserts that the United States is entitled to take unilateral military action against whomever. This position is not reasoned, just retaliatory, and is thus utterly barbaric. The argument crumbles when faced with questions of social justice.
The liberal-left position condones military action against Osama Bin Laden if—and only if—the UN or some pre-existing international legal body decides that such action is required and determines its nature. This appears to be Z Magazine’s position, as well as many others.
This position is inadequate because it appeals to the political authority of the UN (and/or similar bodies). This is untenable because the UN is an illegitimate political body and thus incapable of determining a just or unjust response to the terror attacks. The UN is illegitimate because a) it presupposes the nation-state, which is inherently anti-democratic and b) because the United States has veto power over many of the UN’s most important decision-making bodies, such as the Security Council.
The anti-authoritarian position must obviously be much more radical than the liberal-left position. We believe that anti-authoritarians should advance the following demands:
We believe there is a great potential to create a radically democratic and deeply oppositional movement against the war. We believe this movement could sustain the accomplishments of the struggle against global capital and bring our movement to a new level of engagement, diversity, and radicalism.
[Read this article in Spanish ]