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Crimethinc: In Love With Love Itself

by Jed Brandt Thursday, Mar. 02, 2006 at 6:33 PM

A true review in three parts of Crimethinc's "Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook"

Blasting the axiom that you can't blow up a social relationship, Crimethinc's latest lexicon delivers way more fireworks than the dubious incendiaries of the original Anarchist Cookbook. Where the latter was an unreliable, DIY guide to explosives and firearms, Recipes for Disaster gathers a polymorphous introduction to the direct-action heart of anarchism. It deserves to be read far beyond the circular networks of true believers, for in the grace of its plain-spoken sedition it succeeds not just as provocation, but as a masterpiece of radical propaganda.

The black bloc is here, alongside dozens of anonymously penned chapters on everything from forming affinity groups to helping survivors of sexual violence heal. Making the best of unemployment doesn't compete with building independent media and dealing with government repression every recipe is given the dignity of its own moment, held together by the demand that what we dream of be what we are. Liberation is not a zero-sum game, it's a "movable feast."

Direct action is cast by its detractors as little more than a code word for smashing windows, but rebellion in the streets is only the most confrontational aspect of a philosophy that seeks life in hand, not the pie in the sky of religion or the crapshoot of organizing for political change. Each recipe is a viral revolt that tries to show how easy it is to live, to skip off the well-traveled and desiccated roads of pre-digested food and pre-determined elections. It's the common-sense of utopian longing, beautifully laid-out over 600 pages.

Direct action is a healthy ethic to live by, but for all their ecstatic immediacy Crimethinc seems to honestly believe that liberation is a simple choice each individual gets to make. Obviously defensive over their well-earned reputation as the self-satisfied bards of the crusty aristocracy, the authors insist that "anyone can do it," over and over again. From Days of War/Nights of Love to Evasion, each Crimethinc book re-affirms their dogmatic rejection of the social. Why everyone doesn't just get free seems utterly lost on them.

It's easy to hit the road when you know you have a home to return to, to refuse basic hygiene (as bourgeois) when you only associate with the equally dirty (and bourgeois). In place of a vanguard that seeks to organize people to fight for power, Crimethinc admits only the possibility of avant-gardes, who through the beauty of their dance will somehow show the rest of us the way. It's a propaganda of the deed more concerned with dinner parties than assassinations, but the underlying misanthropy remains the same. Fight for social change beyond the bounds of affinity and you're just a new boss in the making. In this age of war and the serious danger of Christian fascism sweeping the country how's that working out? From what I can see, not too well at all. For every anarchist unconcerned with power, there's another Pat Robertson (or liberal demagogue) eager to play.

Capitalism doesn't just thrive through some puritanical suppression of Eros. It replicates itself through the commodification of stimulated desire. In our pornographic dystopia, billboards display flesh more than the product they sell and Nike tells us to Just Do It. In the 1960s, Jerry Rubin was a proto-Crimethinc prophet, and he "just did it" right onto Wall Street, where he traded rebellion in for a career in finance.

Instead of learning from the limitations of the narcissistic side of the 1960s, Crimethinc has fetishized it and defined it as the limit. The Crimethinc ideology is effectively that beyond personal choice lies tyranny. Ronald Reagan couldn't have said it better himself.

If the Situationist author Raoul Vanneigm was right that those who speak of revolution without mentioning everyday life "have a corpse in their mouth," then maybe its fair to say that those who equate revolution with the lifestyle choices of well-read drop-outs confuse making love with jerking off.

It's a whole lot easier to like Crimethinc when you don't take them too seriously. Like Adbusters in a ski mask, they confuse the very real oppression of a working class (they pretend doesn't exist) with the terminal boredom of consumer culture. Decades ago, the German writer Gunter Grass said of the beatific hippies singing peace and love that they were "powerless with a guitar."

In other words, George Bush is real and we can't shoplift regime change. Political change requires politics. Mao was right. Revolution really isnt a dinner party. Even still, Crimethinc is a tasty dish.
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