Bending the rules til they break

It's no longer hyperbolic or romantic extremism to say that the economy is undergoing massive crisis, and this is leading to changes will upset the status quo in unpredictable ways. Crisis is a demonstration that the authorities do not, in fact, have everything under control. The period of crisis itself is marked both by the underlying problem itself and the attempts of the authorities to re-assert their control over the many cracks that emerge.

Some -- I'll take the opportunity to make a cheap shot at "the Left" -- have already yielded the ground to the state. Argument over the bailout or particular budget cuts are not an assault upon the capitalist system. Rather they point to a desire for a return to normalcy. At the risk of sounding cliche it is insisting to play by the rules of the game even when the rules no longer apply.

Leftists want management and stability; anarchists want autonomy. Left parties continue doing what they normally do in times of crisis because they don't know what else to do, nor do they really want anything else to do. Recruit; "organize"; preach. Anarchists would do well to approach the situation by looking at strategic weaknesses and capitalizing on them while the window is open.

For example, tightening local budgets will mean reductions in police forces:
"I think it's going to mean less police visibility ultimately in the community, and we're going to need a lot of community cooperation to keep the crime rate as low as it's been," he said.
What points towards rupture and unpredictability is that the situation ahead is a coupling of both police under-staffing and an increased need for individuals to participate in property crimes:
"I have been in this business for a long time, and I have experienced cutbacks in the past. Those, however, were done through attrition. I have never experienced the cuts that we are anticipating next year when we anticipate the very real probability of layoffs occurring in our community," he said.
There stand a real possibility that the rules will be changing. In fact the rules have changed, albeit temporarily, such as when the Cook County Sheriff declared a brief hiatus on evictions, throwing absentee landlords and bankers into a fit. The decision was criticized as being selective enforcement of laws, but what it showed was that mass refusal (in this case, of paying rent) can lead to the suspension of reality -- not by convincing the authorities but by making enforcement materially unfeasible ("the deputies were doing the work of notifying tenants that their buildings were in foreclosure, a procedure that Dart said should have fallen on banks, and was costing the taxpayers money"). That the sheriff made the decision and later reneged speaks to the relative class power of those being evicted. It is times like these that offer opportunity to upset that balance of power.

Anarchist intervention can emerge at points where folks understand the need to survive trumps obedience to social norms and laws. The police admit that "When people are hungry, they need to feed their families somehow... Not all those ways are always legal." It's sick and cruel that the officer would take such a callous stance, willing to enforce the law over or against human need. But anarchist practice with petty criminality is a skill that can be offered to others. If criminality is spreading on its own, anarchists can insert themselves to make the push from criminality towards rebellion. Widespread and confrontational squatting, for instance, could be one method of taking advantage of the inability of the authorities to enforce their own laws.

Even Alan Greenspan admits the situation before us is a "once in a century credit tsunami." Particularly interesting is that the authorities haven't entirely figured out what went wrong or how to fix it. While they scramble to reassert order, we should strike.

It is likely that the current financial crisis will yield to the efforts of international governments. But the cracks that emerge offer anarchists space to plant long lasting seeds of revolt capable of moving in the direction of total rebellion.

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