Monday, August 02, 2010

Long Quote: Activism and Everyday Revolts

This is the danger of militancy or activism. The great public displays of revolt or dignity (Gleneagles, Heiligendamm, and so on) are of course the outcome of dedicated militancy or activism, the result of the activity of a lot of people who devote much of their lives to organising anti-capitalist action. Most of them are not professional revolutionaries of the old style, but people who make the organisation of struggles against capital a high priority in their lives. Without such dedication, many of these great protests would not take place. The danger, however, is that a self-referential world of militancy or activism can be created. This may take an obvious institutionalised form in the creation of a party or some other permanent organisation, but, even where this type of institutionalisation is rejected, the danger remains. The focus on the great public displays of dignity can easily lead to a lack of sensitivity or even a complete lack of respect for the less visible displays of revolt. If that happens, we are in a situation of vanguardism, however strong the anti-vanguardist commitment of the militants may be. The world becomes divided into the world of those who fight for change on the one hand, and the great mass of people who must be convinced, on the other. The argument here is not an argument against the importance of what activists do, but it is, crucially, an argument for 'breaking down the division between "activist" and "non-activist"' (Trott 2007: 231).

The relation between the visible and the invisible (or barely visible) revolts can be thought of in two ways. In the first, it is only the visible, public revolts that are to be taken seriously. Beyond that there is a barrier or gap, outside which remains the vast majority of people. These people are to be reached by teaching, by explaining, by talking. The central issue is consciousness and the lack of it. The other way is to think that there is not a gap or barrier but lines of continuity that run from the great insubordinations to the tiny, apparently insignificant insubordinations. The central issue is not consciousness but sensitivity: the ability to recognize insubordinations that are not obvious and the capacity to touch those insubordinations. Consciousness or understanding certainly plays a role, but it cannot be a question of bringing consciousness from outside but of drawing out that which is already present in undeveloped form, of bringing different experiences into resonance with one another. This takes us to a politics not of talking but of listening, or of listening-and-talking, a politics of dialogue rather than monologue.

-- John Holloway, Crack Capitalism, pp. 76-77

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