In early December 2000, Bob Erler (member of the Libertarian Book Club and the Atlantic Anarchist Circle) sent out an e-mailed notice concerning the second meeting of the NY Anarchist Tribes, an incipient federation of NY anarchist groups. NOT BORED! regularly receives notices about events, both from Bob and from other NYC anarchists. These notices rarely require or elicit a response; they are erased once we’ve decided whether or not they announce events that are interesting and worth attending. But we felt compelled to respond to the notice Bob sent out concerning the second meeting of the NY Tribes. Judging by the minutes of its first meeting, the annoucements concerning its second meeting, and the tell-tale presence of one Brooke Lehman amidst its ranks, the NY Tribes appears to be a "borg" group and not an anarchist one. (For more on "the borg," see our discussions of the Lower East Side Collective, Reclaim the Streets, and the Community Labor Coalition in the previous issue of NOT BORED!). On 14 December 2000, we sent Bob the following e-mail.
Awright, Bob, here we go. I too feel warmly about our relationship, especially the glory days of the Unabomber for President days, and so I'll take the time to set it down for ya in words.
These comments may be forwarded to and read by others, as I have never made a secret of my strong dislike for the Lower East Side Collective, the Community Labor Coalition and other "Borg" groups.
1. "Inclusivity": who said this was more important than including the right type or kind of people, that is, people of a certain caliber or qualitative richness?
2. "Exclusivity" is drastically under-appreciated these days. The NYC Tribes should never, ever be afraid of excluding people who are not anarchists pure and simple.
3. An anarchist isn't simply someone who is opposed to elections and the State, although that's part of it (I assume neither Brooke nor anyone else among the 45 people who attended the first meeting supported Ralph Nader). An anarchist has a concept/practice of organizing against elections and the State that is distinct from all others.
To my mind, this means an anarchist or an anarchist group concentrates on the quality of people involved and the manner in which they relate to each other, and not their quantity or numbers. It seems to me that if 45 people -- a very big number by SCP standards -- aren't enough for this federation of anarchist groups, then something is seriously wrong with the purpose and goals of that federation. Why build up numbers if you're only counting heads and not whole human beings? More isn't better; only better is better.
4. This brings up the shorthand definition of anarchism as mutual aid. When did anarchism become so narrow, so respectable? Anarchism is a theory of revolutionary action, which requires direct work upon the State, capitalism and organized religion (often forgotten amid the noise about globalization), not indirect aid of the disparate adversaries of the Church, the State and capitalism.
Mutual aid means more fundraisers and parties. Same old UltraLeftist bullshit. Raise $10,000 so that in a "Buy Nothing Day" action you can throw it at tourists and gawkers in Times Square? Money is only useful if you know what to spend it on.
5. As were the situationists in 1967, when they met with but remained distinct from the International Federated Anarchists, I'm quite sure that this is not the time for federating anarchist groups. Seems to be jumping the gun. Instead, what these times call for are the proliferation, enrichment and deepening of autonomous groups. Federation is necessary during revolutionary crisis; we are far from there yet.
6. "Diversity": this is not an issue for the SCP. Sure: I'm a college-educated white male. But the rest of the SCP are women (straight and gay), both of whom seem to be lacking in the NYC Tribes group if I'm not mistaken. The ratio of men to women in the group is something like 1 to 6. The SCP has included a homeless black man. I'm not bragging: my point is that "diversity" is only a problem with groups obsessed with the quantity and not the quality of its members. One problem flows from the other.
7. As for the very strong distaste people like Margot, my friend Jenni and I feel for Brooke Lehman, it's as simple as this: she, like Leslie Kauffman of the Lower East Side Collective, is reaping what she sowed at Seattle. Both in the streets and afterwards in interviews she gave with very high profile publications, Brooke's inclusiveness not-so-paradoxically led to the exclusion/demonization of the militant anarchists. I won't forget this easily: look at what happened at the Peltier rally this past weekend: some nice inclusive people said to the police, "Those people in all black over there aren't with us," and then the cops attacked the anarchists, beat them up and arrested them.
8. The reality of Brooke's inclusiveness is this: though she is a very nice, pleasant person who talks-the-talk, she ultimately wants you to include her so that she can put you down as yet another co-sponsor of the inclusive actions she and her ilk favor. This is why over a short period of time she's been associated with so many impoverished, quantity-obsessed groups: Lower East Side Collective, Reclaim the Streets, No to WTO, Direct Action Network, etc. etc. and now AAC/NYC tribes it seems. It all blurs into one big inclusive blob. AAC can find much better ways of re-invigorating itself than by opening its doors to polite, well-spoken post-Marxist graduate students and adjunct professors, even if they are young and exciting to be around for short periods of time.
Bill Brown, publisher of NOT BORED! founded in 1983
director of the Surveillance Camera Players since 1996
There's been no response from Bob.
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