Memo to the indirectorate:

So that quote is a mouthful, but the basic idea is, if we can't disrupt capitalism by occupying factories, why not do it by disrupting shipping facilities? This was precisely a goal at the forefront of the Port Blockades conducted as off-shoot/dislocation of the Occupy protests in late 2011, as described in the piece. And, one might also conclude, as part of the freeway blockades in the protests against police brutality in 2014. Regardless of the full political rationale for disrupting "business as usual", it remains an anti-capitalist action, in that business as usual is explicitly capitalist, and the response to the criticism that this tactic harms the economy at any number of levels is easily summarized as somewhere on the spectrum of "yeah, so?" to "good!"

This is anti-capitalist, but is it anarchist? The reason this question comes to mind is a subject I've been thinking about, which I might call "infrastructural anarchism". Most of my consideration on this subject is trying to figure out exactly what that means.

I don't believe that anarchism is against logistics. There is certainly a primitivist trend in anarchism, but while this might take an anti-technological tone, it seems anything but anti-logistics. A general principle of capitalism is to separate a person from the means of their own bodily production: to take one's drinking water out of the well, and sell it back to you. If you are going to separate yourself from the globalized expanse of high technology, logistical questions must burst to the forefront of your thinking. Where will you get your fresh water from? What sort of food storage will you need to survive the winter? How will you stay warm? These are the sorts of questions that we now leave up to the globalized system of capitalism and settle with a monthly bill, but if you are going to strike out from this system, these responsibilities will suddenly fall to you.

For anarchism that is not primitivism, it remains that setting up a non-authoritarian system of mutual aid is exactly the issue of logistics. Camping, the most vacation-like form of this rejection of the system, is basically a weekend experiment in micro-logistics and self-organization. It may be only a privileged step out into the "wilderness" from capitalism, but you are still required to pack-in and pack-out. Other limited experiments, such as co-ops and collectives, seek an autonomous zone in a different dimension, looking to carve out a small space (a job, or a production facility) in which to experiment with non-authoritarian systems. A weekend trip is a zone of time, a collectivized bike shop is a zone of space. On a longer timeline, we might call this solarpunk or permaculture. In a larger spacezone, we might call this insurrection or autonomy. If set up indefinitely in space or time, any experiment in micro-logistics will eventually expand to fulfill the needs of the requisite community, or that community will stagnate and shrink, living on a subsistence basis until it eventually collapses. Either you are building medical clinics, or you are eventually going to die of sepsis. Or, eventually throw yourself on the mercy of the capitalist system when your experiment collapses.

If anarchism is always about logistics, would anarchism seek to disrupt logistics? Anarchism might look towards not only to countering capitalist logistics, but building anarchist logistics. It is not enough, therefore, to simply disrupt the networks of capital. The disruption must seek to secure a space for networks of anti-capital. This was exactly the point of Occupy--to not just seize public space back from the power regimes of private property and its police force, but to then do something with it, to make it into a camp, to develop it as a base for continued and expanding protest. The idea is not to simply burn down or shutter the means of production, but to seize it. Not to simply hold the owners of the factory hostage for some demands, but to collectivize the factory entirely, and to tell the owners they are no longer needed. The same thing should go for the means of distribution. Not to simply blockade the port, but convert it to serve better, non-authoritarian, non-capitalist means. Not simply to shut down the capitalist logistics, but to convert those logistics to anarchist logistics.

Of course, this is only possible insofar as tactics for doing so are at one's disposal. It is one thing to bring the trucks and cranes to a halt by encircling them with bodies, until the police drive you back. It is another thing to take over those trucks and cranes and make them do what you want to do. It might be much easier from a tactical standpoint, to dump the containers into the sea, than to get them shipping anarchist cargos. And so, anarchism might be forced to satisfy itself with simply countering capitalist logistics, rather than implementing anti-capitalist anarchist logistics.

This is a fundamental reason that anarchism tends to go for micro-logistics, rather than logistics on a societal scale. Far easier to score a tactical victory in collectivizing your community garden than collectivizing the Port of Oakland. This is not meant to be a dismissive observation: this is reality. But then the question is, what sort of other tactics might be available for implementing anarchist logistics, in addition to valid actions of countering capitalist logistics?

Occupy Sandy comes to mind. This was capitalist aid after a natural disaster, but by funneling this aid through an anarchist organizational pattern, the infrastructural goal of distribution was achieved not just more efficiently, but in a non-hierarchical way, responding directly to the needs of the community rather than by simply granting resources to the community. The blankets, the food, the AA batteries: all were produced and granted by the capitalist system. But what was pulled from the anarchist virtual warehouse was an organizing system, an anarchist logistics prototyped by the Occupy camps, still with plenty of bugs during Sandy, but ready and capable to displace the capitalist logistics of distribution, and a prototype for future logistical interventions.

So what's next?