Philosophy - Index > AR Philosophy - General
NIO Galvanization and a comment

To our fellow vegans and liberationists,

On behalf of the NIO Editorial Collective, I would like to extend a personal invitation to each of you to join us and take an active role in trying to shape an effective movement, introducing our evolving models of comprehensive and sustained activism, and, most importantly, standing with us in solidarity, and promoting a new dynamic:

coordinated and sustained activism emanating from a galvanized community.

Whether we like each other or not is inconsequential and wholly irrelevant to the animals. They need us to be effective. And some modest success and a lot of feedback indicates that we have an opportunity to take control of the vegan liberation movement.

Please see an outline of our "Truth in Advertising" (TIA) campaign which will evolve in greater detail over the next several weeks:

It is our sincere hope that you will join us, promote TIA, and help us generate some momentum.

We welcome all ideas, suggestions, and comments.

Negotiation Is Over

Reply |Richard Kahn to Camille,

i think the most highly effective thing that the vegan and animal liberation movement can do right now is, beyond what it is already being done -- it is important to recognize that a call for the new does not entail the wholescale supplantation of the old, to engage in the highly serious and ongoing study of the history of capitalism as a socioeconomic/political/cultural system. vegans and animal liberationists presently seem to recognize generally that turning the animal body into a commodity is a moral horror but its not clear that most vegans or animal liberationists can even define "commodity" with any scientific rigor, much less analyze their own myriad self-contradictory complicities as capitalist subjects/agents in their work and everyday lives.

while not the only major form of social antagonism, i feel quite certain that if the movement cannot understand the complex nature of the production of class within a capitalist framework, at least to the degree that it presently understands speciesism, it cannot work proactively against systemic animal exploitation/ thus is committed to, at best, rearguard attacks on this system and evincing a culture war of a somewhat anticipatory but still highly limited fashion. you announce that class analysis will be conducted through a "deep veganism" campaign -- but here you articulate the goal of such is to "repackage veganism" as the only acceptable alternative. please see my recent comment to michael bishop as to why this is a misguided tactic if the goal is truly a systematic total liberation and not a single issue nonhuman animal focus. as an aside, i'm actually surprised to see this absolute commitment to veganism stated on NIO as i thought i saw that the other day you had a post from steve on NIO that veganism is not to be considered an absolute tactical end in this regard.

negotiation may need to be over with the plutocratic figureheads of the establishment, but i cannot imagine a total liberation pedagogy and politics that is not sincerely based on critically respectful dialogue across differences with those attempting to formulate alternatives to the establishment from whatever historical vantagepoint they emerge. veganism is a utopian space from which to reimagine the present, not a holy place from which the truly enlightened can bring sanctity to the profane others. in this regard, marx called for the "ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be." the vegan liberationist actions and rhetoric to date have been strong in showing leadership on the latter (at least as regards the single issue of nonhuman domination). they have been much less willing to arrive at a consistent and unflinching self-critique and public study of the movement's own limitations as part of a critique of the larger system. in part, this is because the rhetoric of action itself often demeans the very act of intellectual self-critique.

to my mind, this is wholly wrong. the movement is far too affective at present to be systematically effective. yes, our hearts must be open to the great sadness wrought by the system upon life at present. yes, we must ultimately be willing to put our bodies in harm's way to truly stand with the oppressed -- domination is not an abstract condition. but if we are to mount a radical testimony to this systemic pain, much less organize an honest-to-goodness revolutionary alternative someday, the movement will have to be powerfully cognitive and intellectual both about itself and its enemies. of course, i don't mean to imply that there is no degree of such intellectuality at present, there are the seeds of such intellectual rigor in movement conferences, print organs, the new blogosphere culture, radio shows, and attempts at educational outreach through voice and literature. still, my own ethnographic experience of marxist/socialist or feminist or critical race listservs and activist communities in comparison to the AL and vegan communities reveals that the latter is very good at passing around relevant current events and tactical information oriented to ongoing or future campaigns (indeed it is much better at this than the others), but it is staggeringly weak at sociological and historical theory. again, this is to my mind often because it suffers from an inability to recognize the value of such theory. other activist communities also can fall into the trap of demeaning intellectual formation, but this is a real problem here. even the level of the militant communiques, in my opinion, has fallen off.

until a qualitative change takes place within the movement such that activists are as comfortable and eager to breakdown the evolving history of the emergent paradigm of a transnational capitalist system's bludgeoning militarism and cultural violence as they are to promote veganism or demand the abolition of vivisection, slaughterhouses, cafos, and the like, i do not believe that we are witnessing a new paradigm of veganism or AL; or, if that is too harsh a conclusion, such change does not tend radically toward total liberation in my opinion. the fundamental question for me, i suppose, is whether "total liberation" is a utopian goal of the vegan and animal liberation communities in their attempt to find solidarity with other movements, or if it is an emergent alternative mobilization against a system of domination, one whose politics and ideology sublates all other single issue movements, demands they come into constructive, respectful dialogue with one another, and subject themselves to rigorous epistemological critique of their theories, values, and practices. for me, it is undeniably the latter. as it has been stated on NIO, it strikes me that its members interpret it as undeniably the former.

between the two there are tangent points of political agreement where the dialogue i would hope for is possible, but we don't appear to be working for similar ends at present. i say this, not to scold or patronize. its wholly the opposite actually -- you ask for ideas, suggestions, and comments, and so i send you my own here as a sign of public respect, even though i include no endorsement along with them.
Richard Kahn, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations and Research
University of North Dakota
231 Centennial Drive, Stop 7189, ED 305
Grand Forks, ND 58202
Ph: 701-777-3431

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