File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2004/postanarchism.0403, message 97


Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004 02:14:20 -0800 (PST)
Subject: [postanarchism] Harney: "Fragment on Kropotkin and Giuliani"




Fragment on Kropotkin and Giuliani 

(Social Text # 72)

by Stefano Harney 

Kropotkin's history of the French Revolution has a
revealing chapter on anarchists. 1 Kropotkin notes
that they were greatly feared by both the Girondins
and the Jacobins, and they dominated many key moments
of action and deliberation in the Revolution. Yet they
left behind little direct trace, except in the
pamphlets of others in which they were attacked. And
Kropotkin's great history enacts this presence.
Anarchists are given only one short chapter, but they
are present as a force in every scene. They were the
people willing to make revolution at every turn, "even
against themselves." These anarchists were precisely,
in Kropotkin's history, both the movement and limits
of the French Revolution. 

The contemporary Italian anarchist Alfredo Bonanno
points out in his introduction to Kropotkin's study
that Kropotkin had a keen historical sense of these
anarchists. He argues that Kropotkin understood their
violence, and violence in general, as a bourgeois
phenomenon. Neither this violence, nor the
authoritarianism it makes possible, had any place in
the communist anarchism that interested Kropotkin.
Bonanno himself calls terror "a bourgeois ideal."
Violence turns to terror in Kropotkin's history. But
this is not a condemnation for Kropotkin. It is a
question of historical limits. Violence limited what
could be achieved politically. For Kropotkin, the
Terror was both the achievement and the limit of
bourgeois power. The Terror was not the beginning of
anarchy in the French Revolution, but its end. 

Today, violence continues to limit what can be
achieved politically. But today this is still a
historical question. Bourgeois violence, or terror, is
fully achieved in many places today inside what
Jacques Derrida calls the force of law. 2 And yet the
force of law—that sophisticated attempt by a new class
to hold all the terrors of the emerging capitalist
world together by investing them with a participatory
universality—begins to spend itself. The always
already present question of our day—is legitimacy
legitimate—swirls in the wind over every ground zero.
But this time, the mass refusal of violence hints at
an anarchy grown full. [End Page 9] 

Refounding Law? 

The September 11 attacks sped up the decomposition of
the force of law, and in its aftermath one could see
most easily the naked attempts to refound law in the
Terror. But such attempts were already desperately
present on September 10, and already failing. Nowhere
was the Terror more ineffective, more
counterproductive in its own terms, than in New York
City in the last eight years. But of course on
September 11, the victim-hero of that terror, Rudolph
Giuliani, had the chance to try again. And he and his
supporters did try to put the force of law back
together again by renewing his victim-hero status. And
yet, this did not work; the terror no longer
terrifies. And the evidence for this is striking. 

Of course, this sounds wrong at first, and perhaps
even feels wrong if one lives in the United States. It
sounds wrong because following the attack there was
indeed a global bourgeois riot, with the state and its
ideologues rampaging from Washington, D.C., to Jakarta
to Buenos Aires, looting and pillaging with renewed
frenzy any alternatives to their rule. To give one
bloody example, antiterror legislation in the United
States has permitted renewed links with the Indonesian
military, despite a congressional ban, no progress on
the prosecution of Indonesian military and
paramilitary war criminals, and the military's recent
and brazen extrajudicial killing of a peaceful West
Papuan independence leader. That pattern is the same
everywhere. And it feels wrong here in the United
States to say the terror does not terrify. It
certainly feels like the force is with us more than
ever at this moment, when no one can stop working,
neither mothers nor billionaires, no one can stop
spending, and where no one is safe without security,
or secure without a homeland. Decisions about our
safety have to be made, enacting the force of law
again and again. Democracy and rights must be
enforced, enacting the terror behind this force, again
and again. Obedient tourists repossess the city,
ceding their politics en masse as spectators to
terror. In this sense, one can still easily agree with
Alexander Berkman in his ABC of Anarchism, "If we
speak honestly, we must admit that every one believes
in violence and practices it, however he may condemn
it in others. In fact, all of the institutions we
support and the entire life of present society are
based on violence." 3 

Sociologists for Terror 

But does terror still hold history in its grasp? It
was certainly the case once. In a repetition of the
anarchist trace in the French Revolution, classical
anarchist readings of violence, which were historical,
were represented [End Page 10] principally and
ahistorically through their critics, the classical
sociologists. Durkheim, Weber, Simmel feared anarchism
as both a political movement and rival analysis, and
they suppressed that fear. 4 Anarchism was inserted in
history, and history inserted in terror. So, today it
would seem easy to declare an endless war on terror,
when history has been turned inside out and placed
inside terror. But whatever the anarchists had hoped,
or for that matter, whatever Walter Benjamin had
hoped, one can ask now—is history still within this
horizon of violence today? 

On the one hand, it is. The violence of the
Palestinians is a part of the historical violence of
the Israelis. So too, with the Irish and English,
Acehnese and Indonesians. It would be hypocritical to
condemn one without the other, as one makes the other
possible and both agree on the rules, the force of
law—even, or especially, in the breach. So too,
violence makes possible the terror of the peace
processes, more properly understood, as Bernadette
McAliskey has noted in the case of Ireland, as the
pacification process. 5 (At another moment she refers
to these putative peace processes revealingly as
"constitutionalizing.") In these "conflicts" the
terror waits for peace and this is precisely what once
scared Frantz Fanon—the transformation of arbitrary
violence into a violence of origin and into the
promise of participation in the force of law. This is
why a close reading of Frantz Fanon can lead one to
believe he favored an arbitrary violence, a position
not easily assimilated into a reasoning Left today
(and thus the focus on his Caribbean work). 6 He did
favor such violence—anything but the force of law that
had produced his subjugation. His violence against
violence was a revolution against himself. Perhaps he
understood himself as one of the enragés, as one of
Kropotkin's invisible anarchists, and perhaps he
wanted to go beyond the limits of violence. Certainly,
he could have hoped for more from his historical
moment, since one way to understand the Cold War in
the West is as a panic that terror might not be
universal. And indeed, violent responses were
inevitably greeted with relief in the anti-Communist
world. 

Fanon Enragé 

On the other hand, today terror's universalism is
challenged by a new Fanonian spirit inhabiting the
peace movements in Ireland, Palestine, and elsewhere,
in the Mothers of the Disappeared everywhere, and in
the hunger strikes in the Turkish jails. 7 Like Fanon,
these movements want to refuse the connection between
violence and law that is terror. Like King, they want
to refuse the distinctions of violence that law makes
possible. But now it is the force of law that has
grown arbitrary, that speaks a logic [End Page 11] of
the arbitrary. The bombs drop and the police shoot. It
is all terror and can be refused only by refusing all
law. 

Thus, for the anarchist mass there is no violence that
is not legitimate, and therefore, to refuse violence
is to refuse legitimacy. Their arbitrary development
rejects not just the present violence but also the
future law, the promise of force on the other side of
violence, the force that brings participation to it,
whether in Sinn Fein or the Palestinian Authority. The
invitation of the Israelis to the Palestinians to make
the common violence of the bourgeois order, to
deliberate on a common terror, the invitation of the
CIA and the International Monetary Fund to make the
common terror globally, to harmonize all terror, these
are faced with what C. L. R. James called
self—movements that for the sake of their own
mobilization refuse participation in the law in favor
of "their infinite and from one point of view
ungraspable and unpredictable variety" of social
development. 8 

The Bronx and Brooklyn 

To these self-movements, the force of law is therefore
losing its power, if its power is understood as its
ability to limit the politics of what Kropotkin called
mutual aid. Of course, it is possible to be skeptical
of this claim, but the forces of terror are not. The
grip is slipping in an orgy of unmasked violence.
Neither state terrorists like Bush nor semistateless
terrorists like bin Laden even attempt to hold
together the force of law. Instead they visit
arbitrary violence on the innocent. The U.S. military
does not even make a pretense of law, blissfully
ignorant of universalisms like the Geneva conventions
for instance, making participation in what Fred Moten
calls the "pentagonal we" impossible for all but the
most deracinated. The key component of the force of
law, promising universal participation, lies wasted.
Of course, it is well understood in critical
scholarship that this participatory universalism was
established and conducted by exclusion. But has it
ever, in its short life on earth, admitted its own
mortality in the way it does today? 

In the past, the great mobilizations of mutual aid, in
the soviets and workers' councils or in maroon
communities, were drawn back into violence by law.
Terror worked. Anticolonial movements began and often
ended inside the bourgeois horizon, even if they arose
from self-movements beyond this horizon, or strove
themselves in this direction. Countless other moments
of self-movement are lost to history, leaving only
what was written in response to them, often without
naming them. On the way to the bourgeois horizon
invitations abounded, to human rights, property
rights, families, and nation-states, invitations that
require only terror, the great normalizer. [End Page
12] 

But along this same road lies the possibility of too
much participation in the force of law. Too much
participation begins to draw attention to the
participation itself and such participation becomes
subject to organizational creativity in music, sport,
sex, or language, for instance. These self-movements,
drenched in their own surplus of participation,
refused the force of law, calling into question its
underlying compulsion. Limiting the argument just to
New York City, this pattern of refusal was clear and
widespread before September 11. On September 10, the
symbol of this force of law, America's most well-known
mayor, was in forgotten disgrace, but this is to miss
what defeated him, and indeed what had called him into
being. 

Although attempts have been made on both the Left and
the Right, for different reasons, to reverse this
sequence, Rudolph Giuliani was called forth by
Latinos, drowning in property rights, who created
community gardens. He was called forth by African
American communities, facing white vigilantism, that
mobilized for Jackson and Dinkins. He was called forth
by students at the City University of New York
attempting to radicalize the university system once
again amid the deepening depoliticization of their
lives. He was called forth by organizations mobilizing
people with AIDS, the homeless, immigrants, and reform
unionists, among others. This included all of those
who had been forced into an excess of participation in
the force of law, and who now refused to do so. But
Giuliani was finally formed by those still floating in
participation, by those whose participation is
imagined through victimhood. Developers victimized by
rent control, young professionals victimized by
alternative street life, and uniformed state and trade
workers victimized by women and people of color. These
needed the protection of terror. It was an unstable
coalition that finally formed him, perhaps more
unstable than similar coalitions that formed his
predecessors like Koch and Wagner. It was unstable
because one part of the coalition literally dumped on
the other. One controlled all the space of the other.
The Staten Island dump remains an apt symbol of the
idiocy of the coalition for its junior partner. But if
one wants to understand why suddenly the face of
Giuliani emerging from the white dust on September 11
should be said to bring such comfort and reassurance,
one has to look here, at this coalition. That face
said, "our coalition, our victimhood is intact." White
ethnic men would be our heroes and get the contracts,
and people of property would have the white ethnic men
at and for their disposal. But that comfort and
reassurance came also from the sense of a second
chance for what was in fact a failing coalition. 

How has it failed? The coalition has taken two forms
of violence and attempted to incorporate them into the
force of law, to turn them into terror. [End Page 13]
As already mentioned, it became incorporated in the
white ethnic vigilantism that erupted on the borders
between expanding Latino and Anglo-Caribbean immigrant
communities and the established, mostly Italian,
homeowner communities. The second form of violence was
an equally vicious attack on property that had been
differently valorized, a self-valorization represented
most famously by the growth of cultural centers, arts
collectives, and community gardens. Prior to Giuliani,
these floated as free violence, without universal
participation, through the Koch and Dinkins
administrations. The seeds of incorporation were
already there, of course, as fear had been stood on
its head, and violence attributed to those upon whom
it was visited. But the Giuliani administration really
subsumed this violence by inviting all the alleged
victims to a war on drugs, a battle for quality of
life, and the renaissance of the New York spirit. 

This subsequent story of revanchism has been
persuasively told by Neil Smith in this journal. 9
What is now apparent, however, is that rather than
incorporating this violence, the force of law in New
York City, the Giuliani administration was ultimately
consumed by it and destroyed. Its universalism, not
surprisingly, was ripped apart by the contradictory
position of its junior partners and the excesses of
its senior partners. For instance, although there was
expansion in the police force, there was pressure from
the senior partners to simultaneously cut the city
budget, 40 percent of which was made up of such
uniformed services wages. To achieve security for the
whole coalition, the forces had to be kept as white as
possible to maximize jobs for the junior partners. Out
of hundreds of uniformed service workers horribly
killed in the World Trade Center attack, only
twenty-three were African American. And as columnist
Les Payne noted, in a city "where among eight million
residents the white male population is less than
twenty percent, the staff of the entire fire
department is only 2.7 percent black." 10 In fact,
this department is made up of 94 percent white males. 

Keeping wages down was another way to expand and
contract at the same time. This was done most
successfully in 1994 by stuffing ballot boxes during
the union contract vote for workers in the largest
city union, D.C. 37, setting the pace for all city
workers. These practices would come back to haunt the
coalition by further inciting an anticoalition
movement among white union reformists to augment the
movement of unionists of color. 

Furthermore, a split developed between white young
professionals who wanted to participate in the
quality-of-life terror but not, many realized too
late, in the renaissance that soon saw them
marginalized and moved to Williamsburg by commercial
property developers. These petit [End Page 14]
bourgeois renters, the frontline supporters of the
terror, soon found themselves both priced-out and
embarrassed, in public at least, by their own
cryptofascist tendencies. This public shaming came of
course in the notorious rise of arbitrary and brutal
police violence. It was soon clear that the arbitrary
quality of the baseball bat had simply been
transferred to the nightstick and the Glock. It became
harder and harder for any of the coalitions' partners
to participate as victims in this force of law, with
each refounding from Abner Louima to Patrick Dorismond
escaping into arbitrary violence. But, of course,
neither public embarrassment, nor obscene violence,
nor rapacious profiteering has ever ripped the force
of the law apart completely. 11 

This was accomplished by the enragés of New York City,
known only by what had risen against them, and it was
accomplished in a way that would have interested
Kropotkin. The revolution these enragés made against
themselves was the one for which Kropotkin had been
waiting. In the face of the Terror, violence was
refused. The notorious broken window policy of the New
York City Police Department, the cornerstone of
normalizing white vigilantism, extended the long right
arm of violence and the long left arm of the job.
Everything in poor working neighborhoods, all other
self-directed, alternative, or cooperative social
activity, was to be caught up in this embrace of the
force of law. Yet by 1994, King Tone, head of the
Latin Kings and Queens, had announced that his
organization would become a street justice
organization called the Mighty Latin Kings and Queens
Nation, rejecting the gang violence that prison life
had fostered. The Million Man March in the African
American community, although portrayed as a Nation of
Islam event, led to new initiatives in peace and
justice in many New York neighborhoods. The October 22
coalition developed as a Mothers of the Disappeared
organization to reject the violence and the brutality
of this normalized white vigilantism. Then the
CIA-crack cocaine trafficking stories finally broke.
Hillary Clinton compelled her husband to free Puerto
Rican political prisoners to win votes in that
community, a move that required admitting they
existed. By then, Mumia Abu-Jamal had become America's
most famous political prisoner. The Reverend Al
Sharpton was arrested with Latino activists and
politicians protesting the U.S. military destruction
of Vieques. All of this occurred against the backdrop
of the high-profile brutality cases already mentioned,
and as importantly the daily abrogation of civil
rights for all youth of color in their own
neighborhoods. These youths were routinely subject to
stop and search practices by police. This was also the
era of the Rodney King and O. J. Simpson trials and
the Klanlike murder of Robert Byrd in Texas. 

This is by no means a comprehensive timeline. But on
Flatbush [End Page 15] Avenue, on New York Avenue, on
Grand Concourse Avenue, the rush of state violence and
its refusal had become overwhelming by September 10,
2001. There was widespread rejection of the connection
between violence and law in these communities and it
took the form of a rejection of all violence (and thus
opened up onto the rejection of law, of bourgeois
terror). In short, incorporated white vigilantism had
become so provocative as to be unworkable, culminating
in the civil disobediencesit-downs in front of One
Police Plaza that forced indictments on those who shot
Amadou Diallo. By September 10, 2001, Giuliani had no
successor, and it was unclear whether his coalition
could retain electoral power. There was no one able to
refound the Terror. The lack of a successor was lamely
explained by the New York Times as an unhappy
consequence of Giuliani's giant presence. This
explanation made no sense on its own terms (why would
he not groom someone as part of this egoism?), but was
simply ridiculous given the shell of a man about whom
it was being said. No, what Randy Martin has termed
"the always already prepolitical mobilization," that
anarchist mass in New York City, made succession
impossible. 12 Even if someone had emerged to promise
the continued social wages of whiteness in the service
of speculation by September 10, neither the long arm
of the job nor the long arm of the law could provoke
the necessary participation in violence. 

Return of the Victim-Hero 

Who knew this coalition would get such help from a man
George Caffentzis described as a disaffected member of
the Saudi capitalist class, trying to gain state power
back home? 13 That man's failure to anticipate the
consequences of his solipsistic arbitrary
violence—that is, a rejuvenation of participation by
opponents in the universality of bourgeois terror—was
a fatal mistake for him and his supporters, but a gift
to New York City's ruling coalition. Giuliani seized
his victimhood with the gusto once reserved for his
putative suffering at the hands of fifteen-year-old
children from East Harlem and Brownsville. Through his
wounds he called to his coalition for unity. The
people's rescue brigades that formed spontaneously
after the collapse of the two towers gave way
reluctantly, and in some cases under state force, to
the binary of victims and heroes. The mobile
subjectivities on the missing posters that adorned
statues in Union Square were appropriately scraped
away by Work Experience Program workers in an
early-morning October downpour. Heroes replaced these
brigades and posters in the public view, and the
heroes were the Fire Department of New York officers,
New York Police Department officers, [End Page 16] and
soon United States Special Forces and Central
Intelligence agents. This was Derrida's
self-conserving repetition of the force of law in high
gear, where conservation refounds so that it can claim
to be defending what it has refound. Terror reduced
the victims to heroes, and the heroes to white men,
relegating all others—the living to future victims and
suspects, and the dead to serial newspaper obituaries.
Hero and victim were refounded. And the harbinger of
this refounding came in the appearance of the man who
could be both. 

>From America's mayor, from the victim-hero, came the
Jacobin call. There is no other way to understand him.
Certainly there was nothing substantive in his
September 11 performance. After all, very few victims
were found alive or saved in the course of the day or
thereafter, the city was broke, and money for victims
was slow to come, especially for those many workers
without private life insurance, not to mention papers.
Giuliani's irrelevant command bunker, together with
the New York offices of the CIA and the FBI, was
destroyed, despite apparently credible warnings of
more attacks after the 1993 bombing. But Giuliani was
the right man again to invite participation. He was a
victim of his love for the city's diversity, one
heard, but heroic enough to continue loving it, just
as the Pentagon would soon be a victim of its own
feminism, forced heroically to oust the Taliban. In
this moment his talent exceeded the mere alchemy of
the social wages of whiteness in the service of
property. He had been wronged, as in the classic theme
in post-1960s "walking tall" action dramas where Clint
Eastwood, Charles Bronson, or Sylvester Stallone (and
usually their proplike families) suffer horribly, only
to exact a later revenge that exceeds all law. But
these acts of revenge are justified precisely as the
violence necessary to refound law. A master of this
invitation to terror, America's mayor nonetheless
enjoyed the most temporary of victories. 

We Can Be Heroes? 

In the days after the attack it was just possible to
glimpse a different city. To give one example, the
people's brigades that formed in the rescue effort
reminded one that services like the police and fire in
New York should be largely voluntary or at least
draft-based. While there are specialized skills and
danger in some aspects of fire services and emergency
medical response, policing requires no specialized
skill, nor is it particularly dangerous (despite the
propaganda). One saw, just for a moment, that
decomposing the state into labor in this way would
offer the possibility of more free association and
simultaneously reduce the violent associations of the
present voluntarism—that is, vigilantism—and of state
violence. [End Page 17] Nor was this the only place
that labor emerged. One thinks of the odd call by
city, state, and national leaders to get right back to
work. This was symbolized by the manic work at New
York's ground zero, even after it was clear that no
one would be found alive and few—if any—identified
from the remains. For a moment, it was apparent that
the city's propertied classes, who had fantasized for
eight years about finally separating capital
completely from labor, were making panicky appeals to
the working people in the city to work and to consume,
to save them. 

These glimpses did not last, but neither did the
refounded regime of law. Within a month of this
refounding, in fact, a more abiding alternative to the
present city reasserted itself in the primary election
of Bronx borough president Ferdinand Ferrer. Ferrer
knew he had to run a campaign that explicitly refused
the call to universal participation in quality of life
and civic renaissance before the attacks on the city,
and he knew his supporters wanted him to resist the
call to unity after the attacks. He pointedly asked
for redistribution in the wake of the attack and in so
doing implied a material shift in power away from
Manhattan and its dominating coalition. An imperfect
vehicle, he was carried nonetheless by the city's
refusalist Left to Democratic primary victory. Despite
all of the victimhood and heroism at the coalition's
disposal, at this point, in the face of this refusal,
it was forced to turn to social democracy to stave off
this threat from the Left. First Mark Green and then
Michael Bloomberg emerged as the Tony Blairs of the
moment to try to sap and divide this emergent
electoral Left, having the added advantage over Blair
of reracializing the election. 

It worked, but only electorally. Signs of this refusal
of the force of law continued to appear. In the midst
of what might be the most disciplined performance by a
state's media in history—a media that as Michael
Parenti points out actually led the call to war rather
than simply amplifying it—nonprofit listener-supporter
radio won a historic victory, expelling corporate
raiders from its five stations around the country,
including WBAI in New York. 14 Thousands of listeners
actively participated in this shift to the Left.
Moreover, Pacifica was no lone voice. In the midst of
this statistmedia blitzkrieg, one witnessed the first
U.S. military operation to be comprehensively covered,
critiqued, and exposed on the World Wide Web. Nor was
this evidence of refusal limited to media activists.
Within weeks of the war, 2,000 people showed up to
hear the great historian and pacifist Howard Zinn
speak in New England. And new forms of activism are
also apparent. New immigrants and more established
communities of color have been connected by the
intersection of FBI disappearances, racial profiling,
and the prison-industrial complex. All of this is
without looking at the massive, militant nonviolence
that the continued U.S. military's [End Page 18]
arbitrary violence is producing through the Muslim and
Third World, building on already strong and widespread
refusals. 

Nor does it take into account the better-noted
democracy movement fighting corporate globalization,
resurging for the World Economic Forum in New York
(kicked out of Davos and moved brazenly to the Waldorf
in Manhattan, out of the mistaken notion that the
refounding of bourgeois terror had pacified this
movement). A spokesman for this forum denounced this
movement a week ahead of the meeting by saying that
"the bottom line is that Americans and people around
the world have decided violence is not acceptable or
legitimate." And indeed, many in the black blocs and
in other "anarchist" formations within this democracy
movement have been eager to enter into legal and
extralegal definitions of violence, seeking some kind
of legitimacy in the face of "bad press" and heroic
police. 15 They try to define violence as that which
injures humans or separate violence used in
self-defense against widespread and brutal police
aggression. An assistant professor of anthropology at
Yale University, anarchist Dr. David R. Graeber, is
quoted in the New York Times as saying the protests
"must send a pointed message," and he complains in the
article about getting this message out through a
hostile press. 16 But this kind of actually existing
anarchy demonstrates some of the difficulties of
trying to realize such politics from within the
violence of history. 17 For the history of violence
that can only be written with a communist refusal, a
refusal of legitimacy as the form for the social, one
also has to look outside this movement. 

One place to look would be any given day at Brooklyn
Supreme Court. On one such day recently, almost
seventy prospective jurors were dismissed in a routine
and unnoticed case of a child who had sold less than
$20 of crack to an undercover police officer, and who
was now subject, if convicted, to the so-called
Rockefeller drug laws, mandating a long prison term.
Almost all these jurors, new immigrants and old,
refused. Those drug laws are the only thing for which
Rockefeller and his family name remain famous among
the anarchist mass. Just as America's mayor, unless he
returns to politics to add to his crimes, will be
known among them for those forty-one shots that killed
unarmed street vendor Amadou Diallo as he attempted to
show his identification to police officers. 

The multiple offender and prisoner Kropotkin said,
"the first duty of the revolution will be to abolish
prisons." The prison was stormed by the French
Revolution, but not abolished. That revolution
promised instead to make the prison irrelevant by
universalizing terror. The return of thep rison in the
United States is a sign of the end of that revolution,
the end of participation, the end of the bourgeois
ideal of terror, and the beginning of a struggle. 




===="Being at one is god-like and good, but human, too human, the 
        mania
     Which insists there is only the One, one country, one truth and
         one way."

- Friedrich Hölderlin, 1799

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