wayne on rev in reverse

(2015) by wayne price – reversed revs of david graeber [https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/wayne-price-the-reversed-revolutions-of-david-graeber]

notes/quotes on 10 pg pdf via kindle version from anarchist library:

The Reversed Revolutions of David Graeber – Review of David Graeber, Revolutions in Reverse: Essays on Politics, Violence, Art, and Imagination. (2011)


Oddly enough, however, he downplays the movement against the war in Vietnam or any other antiwar struggle, saying, “ Organizations designed…to oppose wars will always tend to be more hierarchically organized….” (16) “…An antiwar movement…pretty much invariably is far less democratically organized.” (34) This contradicts the thousands of local antiwar groups formed in communities and on campuses during the 60s. They played a major role in the defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam. Anarchists, libertarian socialists, and radical pacifists played a part in the creation of the “Vietnam Syndrome” (unwillingness of the US population to support another long war) which hobbled the US military for decades.

to me.. anything anti (anything trying to oppose anything) will end up being same song


Among other things, this means that no victory can be final, so long as we remain under the system of capitalism, with its state and other forms of oppression..t Whatever has been won, can be taken back, when political power swings back to the default position.

rather.. so long as we remain under any form of m\a\p

He only comments, “The question is why we never noticed the victories we did win.” (23) Fair enough, provided that we do not forget that without achieving the “long-term goals” of defeating capitalism and the state, no victory can be said to be really, finally, won.

again.. w/o letting go of defeating ness et al..

part\ial ness is killing us for (blank)’s sake


(Considering that capitalism and its states need war, I think that over time this is more than a “small risk.”) The question then is what will replace capitalism: a new, stateless and classless, society, or mass destruction.. t The capitalist class’ blindness “might well mean not just the death of capitalism, but of almost everything else.”

‘replace’ ness has been a cancerous distraction.. we need something legit different – graeber make it diff law – ie: let go of all the ‘anti’ ness

Graeber’s Concept of Revolution

How then shall we get from the short-term and medium-term goals, to the final goals of getting rid of the state and capitalism and all forms of oppression—and replacing them with “a world worth living in” (7)?.. t

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..

Historically, anarchists and other socialists have raised two possible basic strategies. One is to propose a series of step-by-step changes, gradual and mostly peaceful reforms, until a new social system exists. This approach has been called “reformism.” It is not to be confused with its cousin “liberalism,” the desire to make improvements in the existing society, without fundamental changes. Reformist anarchists generally advocate building up alternate institutions, economic and otherwise, to gradually replace existing institutions. (As if it were possible to create enough cooperatives to replace the steel industry, automobile producers, multinational corporations, and giant banks—without the state interfering!) Some declare that this is a “new” anarchism, but in fact it goes back to the strategy of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first person to identify himself as an anarchist.

The other viewpoint has been called “revolutionary.” This is not just because it desires a transformed society nor because it opposes reforms (which it generally does not). But it believes that at some point in the process of transformation, some sort of social upheaval will be necessary, to confront the established powers, to overturn the state and the ruling class. *It requires mass struggle by the self-organized workers and their allies among all the oppressed. It reflects the **belief that the capitalist ruling class is very unlikely to give up its power, wealth, and prestige merely because the big majority of the population has decided it wants a new system, cooperative and radically democratic. This does not necessarily mean much violence—that depends on the extent of the capitalists’ resistance. This viewpoint has been “the broad anarchist tradition” (Schmidt & van der Walt 2009). That is how I understand the historical distinction between reformism and revolution, made by both anarchists and Marxists. (As will become clear, Graeber does not accept this interpretation.)

*if calling people ‘workers’ et al.. not going to be a legit revolution

**one reason why we need to org around legit needs (that each soul craves)

Where does Graeber stand? He is no liberal: he wants a transformed society without capitalism or the state or other oppressions. However, his exposition is muddled. He frequently uses the term “revolutionary” positively while rejecting the very idea of revolution.

“…Many ‘60s radicals…felt that all this was inevitably leading up to a great insurrectionary moment—‘the’ revolution, properly speaking….There can be no such fundamental, one-time break….What seems strikingly naive is the old assumption that a single uprising or successful civil war could…neutralize the entire apparatus of structural violence….” (57-58) “…There are no clean breaks in history…the one moment when the state falls and capitalism is defeated.” (29) “None of us have much faith remaining in ‘the’ revolution in the old 19th or 20th century sense of the term” (27) “…The old apocalyptic version of revolution—the victorious battles in the streets, the spontaneous outpouring of popular festivity, *the creation of new democratic institutions, the ultimate reinvention of life itself—**never quite seemed to work itself out, and there is no particular reason to imagine it ever could have.” (6)

**this.. because of *this.. has to be sans any form of democratic admin.. sans any form of m\a\p


Why does Graeber reject the concept of an “insurrectionary moment—‘the’ revolution…a single uprising or civil war”? At no time does he address the main argument for the need for a revolution—namely, that the ruling class will not permit its wealth and power to be taken away without using its state forces to fight the people. The people must defend themselves, that is, make a revolution. (By the way, neither Graeber nor I am discussing those current theories which have been labeled “insurrectionary anarchism.”)

One argument he raises is that the idea of revolution is tied to the aim of creating a revolutionary state, as proposed by the Leninists. “…The total view of revolution, that there will be a single mass insurrection or general strike and then all walls will come tumbling down, is entirely premised on the old fantasy of capturing the state. That’s the only way victory could possibly be that absolute and complete….” (27)

But for revolutionary anarchists the issue is not “capturing the state” nor building a new state, but getting rid of the state. The state of the capitalists stands as a roadblock in the way of building a new society. *It cannot be ignored. It must be removed if social evolution is to continue (not a “total, absolute and complete” victory, but the continuation of social evolution). **In the place of the state, anarchists (from Bakunin on) have advocated building federations and networks of workplace councils, neighborhood assemblies, and popular militias (an armed people). This would not be a state—that is, it would not be a bureaucratic-military socially-alienated machine to rule over the working people. It would be the self-organization of the working people and all the (formerly) oppressed.

or perhaps *it has to be ignored.. ie: imagine if we listened to the itch-in-8b-souls 1st thing everyday & used that data to connect us (tech as it could be.. ai as augmenting interconnectedness)

need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature ie: tech as it could be

**actually in the end.. same (state ness) song

Another argument Graeber makes is that the *transformation of society from statist capitalism to a stateless, classless, non-oppressive society is a long drawn-own process. This is true enough. But a lengthy process may include sudden upheavals, insurrections, and rebellions, as a necessary part of the overall process. Graeber is really thrashing a straw man here. All theorists of revolutionary anarchism or socialism have known that apparent calm and stability will be followed by periods of rebelliousness among the people, before bursting out into the actual “insurrection or civil war”—and that the post-insurrectionary period would take a great deal of time for working out the actual functioning of the new society.

perhaps.. actually not *true enough.. and perhaps what is keeping us from us.. thinking it has to be.. for (blank)’s sake

Peter Kropotkin (who certainly did not share what Graeber calls “the old fantasy of capturing the state”) explained, “…The anarchists recognize that…slow evolution in society is followed from time to time by periods of accelerated evolution which are called revolutions; and they think the era of revolutions is not yet closed. Periods of rapid changes will follow the periods of slow evolution, and these periods must be taken advantage of….” (1975; 110)

all our references to history ness are also cancerous distractions.. non legit data.. keeping us blind to possibilities..

ie: we have no idea what legit free people are like – black science of people/whales law et al

Another argument Graeber seems to raise is “the anarchist insistence that we can no longer imagine revolution solely within the framework of the nation-state….” (6) Whatever this means, the original anarchists and Marxists advocated international revolution—beginning wherever it may and spreading to all lands. Those who declared “Workers of the world unite!” did not “imagine revolution solely within the framework of the nation-state.” (If anything, the early anarchists and Marxists overlooked just how strong a hold nationalism had on the working class.)


Graeber’s Strategy: Revolutions in Reverse

Since Graeber rejects “a great insurrectionary moment—‘the’ revolution, properly speaking,” then what (if anything) does he mean when he writes about “revolution” ? Essentially he means the long, drawn-out, historical process, during which there are movements and struggles, the building of alternate institutions, a few, limited, insurrections, and the winning of limited victories, mostly through peaceful means. Whether this will get anywhere, he does not know, but he regards the process of struggling collectively, democratically, and locally as good in itself.

“Any effective road to revolution will involve endless moments of co-optation, endless victorious campaigns, endless little insurrectionary moments and moments of flight and covert autonomy. I hesitate to speculate what it might really be like. ” (30) “…Dramatic confrontation[s] with armed representatives of the state…serve more as…momentary advertisements…for a much slower, painstaking struggle of creating alternate institutions….Action is seen as genuinely revolutionary when the process of production of situations is experienced as just as liberating as the situations themselves. It is an experiment…in the realignment of imagination….” (64) If any sense can be made of this mish-mash, it is that Graeber is not using “revolution” to mean, well, revolution, an “insurrectionary moment—‘the’ revolution, properly speaking.” As he admits.

Instead, Graeber raises a perspective he calls “revolutions in reverse.” As he sees it, previous revolutions began with insurrections and were followed by the people organizing themselves into autonomous councils, factory committees, cooperatives, soviets, and so on. But now, he advocates that people first organize autonomous councils, workplace committees, and other associations, and only then, if necessary, go on to have their “little insurrectionary moments.” (30)

revolution in reverse ness spot on.. it’s just that we need it to happen in sync.. so that it becomes a global leap/re\set

not drawn out.. for (blank)’s sake

“In practice, mass actions reverse the ordinary insurrectionary sequence. Rather than a dramatic confrontation with state power, leading…to an outpouring of popular festivity [and] the creation of new democratic institutions,…in organizing mass mobilizations, activists…create new, directly democratic institutions to organize ‘festivals of resistance’ that ultimately lead to confrontations with the state….” (42—43) This would lead to a string of “insurrectionary moments on an ongoing basis.”


Graeber is entirely correct in viewing the revolution as a lengthy process.

oi oi oi..


However, he misses the full potential of the working class. For one thing, “we are all workers” in that most adults work for a wage or salary and are non-supervisory employees (as blue-collar or white-collar workers). And non-waged people usually depend on the income from paid workers (such as full-time women homemakers, most children and students) or are retirees or unemployed workers—which is to say they are all part of the “working class” as a class. This covers most of the population and overlaps with every other sector of oppressed people (People of Color, immigrants, women, GLBT people, Deaf people, etc.) So, against the power of the capitalists and their state, the working class has its own power of numbers and the potential of integrating distinct oppressions.

but the work ness is the part we need to let go of

Further, against the rulers’ power, the workers have their hands on the means of production, transportation, communication, and services. Workers can shut down society if they chose—and start it up again in a different way.

In passing, Graeber mentions the problem of having “an anticapitalist revolution without gun battles in the streets…since…if we come up against the US army, we will lose.” (26) But the working class, besides having numbers and a potential industrial power, also can appeal to the ranks of the military, who are generally the daughters and sons of the working class. (In almost every successful revolution, a significant part of the military was either neutralized or went over to the people’s side.)

just need to org around legit needs that every soul already craves..

Graeber does not quite get the importance of the working class—as the working class (which is not to deny the importance of all other issues and oppressions that the people face). Thinking about the need for an immediate strategy for struggle, he suggests focusing “on struggles over debt….Debt has shown itself to be the point of greatest weakness of the system….” (38) *Debt is an important issue which does affect most people. But it is a mistake, I think, to bypass a focus on issues which relate directly to work, including issues of pay, working conditions, and time off. Since the capitalists are the enemy, then there is no one with as much reason to fight them as their workers—those whose labor supports the capitalists and the whole system. Neither store keepers, police, independent professionals, nor college presidents have as much of a direct interest in opposing the capitalists and their managing agents.

*oi.. ie of not letting go of work ness


Graeber’s book combines intelligent insights with muddled thinking. He makes an important point about the victories which have been won, particularly by the direct action, anarchist, wing of the justice movements. It is important to remember these victories, whatever their limitations, in order to maintain hope and to prepare for the future. (Among other intelligent aspects of his book are brief but good discussions of the concepts of “immaterial labor” and “the biopolitical” as “transparently absurd” and “extremely dubious.”) (87 & 92)

On the other hand, his discussions of “revolution” and “insurrection” are quite muddled. He appears to reject them in favor of a gradualist, lengthy, drawn-out, process (which I can only regard as reformist). But he seems to insist on using “revolutionary” and even “insurrection” as part of his non-revolutionary perspective of “revolutions in reverse.” He wants to reject his revolutionary cake but to eat it anyway. Of course, what matters is not the terms he uses but the conceptions behind them. Graeber realizes that the planet is in a bad way and needs a drastic change, but *his program is gradualist and unclear. He never criticizes the main argument for a revolution—that the rulers will not give up their power and wealth without a fight—but raises all sorts of other, lesser, objections. To some extent he appreciates the potential of the working class, but he still underestimates its possibilities. This is an interesting book but a murky one.

*don’t think he’s offering a program.. and i think the point is to be unclear.. do think it can’t be gradual/long-drawn-out