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Swimming against the tide

The highlight of the Edinburgh festival for me was John Holloway launching his latest book Crack Capitalism (Pluto Press) in the city that was his home before he moved to work at the Autonomous University of Mexico.

John has spent recent years theorising about the meaning of revolution today. His earlier book Change the World Without Taking Power has stimulated discussion amongst activists the world over who, like John, reject the antics of revolutionary parties and their aims of taking state power.

Professor Holloway spoke to three events, including one held by Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity that links with the Zapatistas in Mexico. I heard him at the Word Power Book Fringe and asked him if he thought Peace News should replace its famous strap-line “For nonviolent revolution’.

I didn’t get a straight answer to this, but he did give his thoughts on the possibilities for nonviolent change.

For John, capitalism is the source of violence and exploitation so that we now live in a world where nuclear weapons or climate change could destroy the means of life itself. He theorises that this has happened because such a large proportion of human activity is channelled into working for the capitalist system, making money and following rules, instead of people deciding what to work at together and doing activities that make sense to them.

He thinks that this sensible activity – caring for children, reading Peace News (?), or organising community groups – makes cracks in capitalism. So perhaps one alternative strap-line could be “Peace News – doing sensible things together”.

For John, the key question is how to expand and join up the cracks and make capitalism go away. According to John, we need to “tell capitalism to f*** off” (a strap-line that might not go down so well with PN editors).

Addressing the question of nonviolent change, John said that he thought we “weren’t very good at violence” compared with armies who are trained in it.

Remembering the German anti-G8 protests, he reckoned that the Rebel Clown Army were much more effective than the so-called Black Bloc, helping blockades by diffusing police tension. More specifically, John suggested that the best defence against state violence is the “quality of transformation in daily lives”, referring again to his argument that activity for change has to be dignified and meaningful, doing things that make sense to us. But, he says, we are “swimming against the tide”.

Sarah Young is PN Scotland editor.

Topics: Anarchism