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Editorial Note

Hatred and Violence

For years, capital has claimed victory. The world over, life is covered with its coating of simulated happiness and advertised prosperity. This image of a pacified world is on the verge of cracking. Like lava welling up from the earth's mantle, today's explosions are the only clues to the world's real condition. Today, riots in Miami, Venezuela, Algeria and many other areas dispute capital's absolute triumph. This newly visible force has swept ghettos of both the "advanced" and "developing" nations. Within countries calling themselves both capitalist and "socialist," the areas of greatest capitalist misery are boiling over.

It is difficult to get detailed information on many of these revolts, they are sporadic and because they are opposed by both governments and official opposition groups. In general, the riots have taken the form of mobs of dispossessed people challenging the rule of the state's police. The kind of challenge presented to the state has varied from Palestine, where shopkeepers struck in solidarity with stone throwing youths to Venezuela, where looting was an important part of the activity; Even in revolt, the degree to which the working class is organized for itself varies greatly.

The rising food prices and falling wages in most "third world" countries are knit together by the austerity programs of the International Monetary Fund; the third world has paid the price of the first world's debt crisis. This organization is having a harder and harder time appearing as a "good Samaritan" promoting development, even in the first world. (The anti-IMF riots in Berlin were useful in demonstrating this, at least in Berlin).

These riots, so far, have not been united into a movement but appear rather as reactions to the increasing impoverishment of much of the world. Palestinians and Yugoslavs have struggled for years. But it is the crisis of world capital that sparked their more desperate forms of resistance even as resistance to austerity appears in "surprising" places like Algeria or Venezuela.

...the break

These riots reveal and collectively extend the resistance to order of daily life that has always existed with individuals under capital. The school room riots that take place periodically are precursors to a resistance to what may only eventually be seen as capital. Looting involves a play of things that will be necessary for a new society. The use of cars in the looting of a wealthy mall in Caracas Venezuela shows the way many parts of the old society can be immediately transformed within the new order (this is not saying that all such changes are happening now).

Class war has reappeared to solve all the "problems" that responsible commentators call unsolvable. The level of resistance to the world's "austerity programs" is significant for both its violence and because no method exists for preventing its further out-break; the reforms that were tried in Haiti, Venezuela or Yugoslavia failed to convince the rioters that any real change had taken place. While it seems likely that any one of these situations may die down eventually, their basic causes can not be dealt with by the threatened governments.

Hatred and violence are spreading everywhere, not simply because more and more people in the world are starving but because the spectacle has strangled virtually everyone's ability to express their condition.

While there is nothing new about riots, the level of desperation has become high enough to provoke riots even when there is no obvious way out. Unions, "popular leaders" or "people's" parties can are insufficient to channel the anger that poverty generates.

One step forward

All this said, there is a long way to go before any of this forms a revolutionary force. Unfortunately, there is little consciousness yet of a radical opposition to world capitalism in these rioters. So far, revolt has appeared as an act of desperation rather than a way of creating a new society. While they often oppose both national and foreign bourgeois, the mass of rioters in countries like Yugoslavia, Haiti, or Burma are not yet consciously opposed to the system of wage labour that underlies the capitalist system as a whole (This makes them something of a flip side to the militant strikes that have been happening in Europe and the US. More on these next issue).

With the present permanent economic crisis, resistance to the world market now requires resistance to the rulers of the first, second and third worlds. A full critique of this society is now inseparable from the creation of an idea of a new society. This cuts both ways. An incomplete critique of capitalism reverts to the most miserable form of capital imaginable. The ideologists who are trying to take advantage of todays' unrest are often reactionaries trying to salvage pre-world capitalist systems; ethnic nationalists in Yugoslavia and Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria and Palestine. Like Iran, many of these revolts have the choice of going forward or backward. These reactionary tendencies will likely succeed at the point where a revolt fails to challenge capitalism as such.

The various movements, from Burma to Algeria to Yugoslavia, can only succeed in stopping austerity if they become self-aware attacks on world capitalism, represented by not only the IMF and large commercial banks which impose austerity programs but all capitalists, from the bureaucrats of Yugoslavia to the despots of Haiti and Algeria to the colonial bourgeois of Israel and the petit bourgeois of the PLO.

House of mirrors

Even with these problems they have begun to strip off many illusions existing in the advanced capitalist nations, from developmentism, which has not improved the living conditions of the world's people but made them worse, by increasing the competition for wages, to third world nationalism, which "liberates the rulers from their people but not from world capital1", to Third World Socialism, which is the most extreme form of third world nationalism. In America, an illusion that is only beginning to crumble is the idea of the "privileged" US worker (who pay for a high "standard of living" with ever decreasing pay checks).

The violence of these movements is fully justified both in the face of violent repression and as a means to prevent the movement from being converted into a kind of "democratic opposition", as a means to prevent the "democratic" professional politicians from taking control of their actions.

One simple reason for the acts of violent revenge in Haiti against the Ton Ton Macoutes is that, with the great amount of political falsification there, most people have no reason to believe in any legal dissolution of the Macoutes, leaving the Macoutes direct extermination as the only way to make certain that they don't come back to power.

Since, in general, all of these different attacks have begun from almost no prior revolutionary tradition, there has been little conscious self-organization among the emerging proletariat of the developing (capitalist) world. Still, an outline of the possibilities of world revolution is emerging. Just as revolutionary theory in the sixties found its strongest expression in the critique of the spectacle, modern theory will reappear as a critique of the crisis of capital (incorporating the critique of the spectacle).

Today's possibly revolutionary movements are appearing in reaction to this crisis. Drugs, Austerity, Dictatorship vs Democracy etc. are the spectacles that are being fought by soldiers in Haiti, poor blacks in Louisiana, rioters in Brazil and Algeria, and squatters in South Africa (these are struggles of dispossessed proletarians still appearing in the roles the spectacle has allotted them).

A key cause of these riots has been that the problems and contradictions of capital cannot be solved by any of the existing factions of capital. This forces an autonomous organization of the working class but is very conditional because it appears only when conditions are too difficult to allow the bourgeois to lead. Areas like China presented the strong possibility that if the immediate situation had settled down, demonstrators would have abandoned their self-organization and cooperated with the reconstituted "reformed" authorities.

Recognition of the crisis is appearing in a number of struggles throughout the world in more or less confused ways. The austerity program has not yet been fully attacked by workers in Poland, where unionism and nationalism hamper any struggle without illusions against the Western and Eastern capital. Yugoslavia is an area where this balance of East and West is being upset terribly without a conscious revolutionary program being put forward; ethnic nationalism hampers a struggle which otherwise has a great capacity to be an explicit attack on world capital. Yugoslavia is heavily invested in by western capital but officially runs under a system of self-managed market "socialism". The general strikes there against "worker owned" businesses can become attacks on the system of world capital.

In Nicaragua covert American military intervention has sabotaged a system that had intended to be a model of cooperation between East and West bloc capital. The population of Nicaragua has endured immense hardships in a vain attempt to merely implement the capitalist reforms of a "mixed economy".

Those who can no longer survive their intolerable roles within the spectacle are a notable force in all of these attacks. Those who are given the impossible parts in capitalism's play are the first to smash the show. The Haitian soldiers who arrested their officers are a good, visible example of this, since they had previously been forced to carry out actions to defend the rulers of the state while they suffered terrible conditions themselves (The rebellion of Egyptian police conscripts had a similar form but was less effective).

The struggles of women in many third world nations have also come for this reason, because of the impossible duties that have come as the old world's duties are combined with the duties of the new. Teachers' and students' strikes in Mexico are part of the same phenomenon on a more distorted level; still accepting school, unions and politics, they demand schools and unions that will be improvements over the intolerably bad conditions of the ones they have now.

It is equally important to see who is fighting and what they fight against. In the US, women and minorities together make up a majority of the working class. To talk about the struggle of working class here without seeing that it is the struggle of these particular people is absurd. In the world as a whole the same conditions prevail. At the same time, the struggle can only succeed when it sees that the enemy is capital and that any particular repressive group; whites, men, scabs etc. are only frightened servants of capital.

Since the crisis has begun as an inability of the capitalist class to manage society, it has come sharply into focus in those areas where society has had to adapt to new conditions; the earthquake in Mexico City gave rise to a number of (still reformist) popular movements. The inability of the capitalists of the more newly developed countries to deal with the simple task of social survival shows even more the need for social revolution.

1Guy Debord, Society of The Spectacle, Published by Black and Red.