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Re: Reply to Adam Starr about "activist demonstrations"
by Threehegemons
18 March 2002 03:00 UTC
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<Your critique of my question leads to what I initally
stated about 'activist demonstrations'. They are
mainly 'symbolic'. Thus, I  maintain that they don't
amount to major policy change.>

Briefly, I think you're naive about the relationship between 'the real' and the 
'symbolic'.  Everyone--Bush, or bin Laden, or 'us', needs to organize 
symbolically in order to have some unity.

The terrorists attacks did not 'initiate changes' in any meaningful sense.  
Entrenched power structures (i.e. the US state) acted in ways which were fairly 
predictable in light of recent behaviors.  Bombing countries, ratcheting up 
police state aspects--these are continuous with policies that have been 
evolving for the last ten (or twenty) years.  Could go back further, but I 
think the bombing of Panama marked something of a departure (in tactics, not 
goals).  The policy changes--bombing rather than low-intensity warfare, the 
move towards more of a police state--over the last ten years, accelerating 
since 9/11, were the product of debates within ruling circles, think tank 
activity, etc.  If you don't have these means, you're probably going to have to 
try to change things the hard way--by organizing social movements...

The US was 'losing' the Vietnam war in the sense that the army was increasingly 
mutinuous, and there was considerable concern about ongoing unrest at home. In 
terms of the latter, the anti-war movement made a real contribution.  The 
actual position of the army in Vietnam wasn't getting dramatically worse, and 
for this reason the American right has never understood why the US 'let' them 

Who in the world do you think the 'we' that is going to change the world, in 
any way, is?  I'm all for debating tactics or even goals, but I think the 'who' 
would be, for starters, the global community thats emerged, in part, in the 
wake of the Seattle, Genoa, etc.  This subject didn't emerge out of nowhere, 
but came together through a number of developments, 'real' and 'symbolic'.  It 
will need plenty of more 'symbols' to maintain some degree of unity over the 
years.  And if you don't like this subject, and want to construct a different 
one, you're going to have to deploy some symbols of your own so that those who 
you see as 'us' will be able to figure out who they are.  

Steven Sherman

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