October 2008

Human Iterations 2008-10-31 12:33:00


Congratulations where congratulations are due for getting quoted in Slate.

A comic about a friend…

From Jitterati, a comic that appears in one of the local free newspapers.

More details on the protest in question at Aotearoa Indymedia.

Categories: Anarchism
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Well-known reporter Pedro Matías kidnapped and tortured in Oaxaca

Pedro Matías, a well-known reporter who writes for Noticias, a local daily paper, as well as the national weekly Proceso, was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and robbed on Saturday night in Oaxaca. Reporters Without Borders states that,

Matías was kidnapped as he left the newspaper to go home on the evening of 25 October. His abductors beat him and terrorised him for hours, simulating an execution, asking him how he preferred to die and variously threatening to drag him along the ground behind their car, cut off his genitals, rape him or behead him. They also threatened his family members, saying they had been “located.”

He was released the next morning some 30 km outside Oaxaca in Tlacolula de Matamoros, without his car and without his papers, which his abductors also took from him.

Matías does much reporting on the social movement in Oaxaca, usually giving it fair, if not occasionally favorable, coverage. According to Reporters Without Borders, he also is a contributor to a radio station and on it has criticized the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), the party which has ruled Oaxaca for almost 80 years.

This is not the first attack against Noticias or its reporters, which for several years has been the lone local mainstream media outlet which is critical of the state government. Mexico is also the most deadly country in the Americas for journalists.

On November 19, 2004, masked gunmen took over Noticias' warehouses and printing presses, holding it for several days and murdering a 19 year old.

On June 17, 2005, Governor Ulises Ruiz, with the help of a state congressman and a PRI-controlled union called the CROC (Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants), fomented a fake strike against Noticias in an attempt to shut it down.  Union members, paramilitaries and local police blockaded the building with 31 Noticias employees inside, cutting off the electricity, phones and water.  After a month, the thugs raided the building, dragging out the 31 employees and destroying the offices.

On August 9, 2006, during the rebellion in Oaxaca, two armed, masked men entered the offices of Noticias, shooting equipment and people, wounding two employees.

This year, on January 16, two Noticias reporters received death threats from Rubén Marmolejo Maldonado, aka "El Dragón," a leader of porros (paid thugs), who has instigated numerous conflicts on the campus of the state university in Oaxaca (UABJO) as well as organizing attacks against the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca).  He has been denounced by the Chair of the Law and Social Sciences Departments of UABJO of working for the state government.

And now Pedro Matías has been kidnapped and tortured. While this event should be seen as another occurrence of government repression against Noticias, it also has a place in the increasingly tense climate of repression against the social movement which has been escalating these past couple of weeks.  Oaxaca has seen the October 16 arrest of three APPO members for the October 27, 2006, murder of Brad Will, the issuing of more that 300 more arrest warrants, and the October 25 warrantless raid and trashing of a house belonging to CODEP, a group aligned with the APPO, by the AFI, Mexico's equivalent of the FBI.

Things may only get worse as the anniversary-laden month of November approaches. November 2 marks not only the Day of the Dead but also the unsuccessful 2006 Federal Preventive Police (PFP) attack on the barricade of Radio Universidad.  And November 25 is the two year anniversary of the massive and brutal PFP, paramilitary, state and local police attacks against the APPO.  Clearly, the government of Oaxaca is trying to pre-emptively intimidate and frighten a rebellious populace that it still very much fears.

Bean harvest


Beans! i decided that since it’s getting pretty cool at night now, i should bring in the meager bean harvest. There were a lot of green pods, but there were a couple of yellow ones holding mature beans. The two kinds that i grew were Kidney and Black Coco (which look just like kidney beans except that they’re solid black and shiny). I planted 8 plants in the garden, and 6 survived. Only two really got to a decent size, however. Most stayed quite small and only yielded 5 or 6 pods. The biggest had maybe 30 pods on it, although not all of those reached maturity.

Next year, i’m going to start them much earlier (because i start this year in late may/early june). I’m also going to put them closer together, maybe with 8 inches separating each plant, and maybe alternating the spacing of the rows so i can put them closer together. Seems like i had a lot of unused dirt in the garden this year, but i really didn’t know what each plant was going to look like so it was hard to space them properly.

Ride hard, ride free

Anarchist6[zero]6 (28 October 2008 5:46 am)

When is a Terrorist not a Terrorist? One of the insanities on the war of terror is the idea of stopping terror, a dumb concept as I bet most people can't agree on what is and is not a terrorist - freedom fighter/insurgent/terrorist - depends on your point of view. The Nazi's called the French resistance fighters 'terrorists' - I'd call them freedom fighters. On this subject: Two white

radish harvest


I just harvested some late radishes from the garden. I have to say, these were the easiest plants i’ve ever grown. In the first week of september, i took my radish seeds out to the garden and put them in two rows, about a half-inch deep. then i waited until today (Oct 27), and picked them. I might have watered them once or twice to help them sprout, but that’s it. They taste quite good too. Crisp, lightly spicy (similar to mustard greens)

When i do these again next year, i think i’d change the spacing. I put my rows about a foot apart, but i could have done them more like 4 inches apart, maybe even less. The leaves only need about a 4 inch diameter circle to grow in, although i had plenty of them that did well even though the roots were almost touching. So i guess it might work with rows separated by 2 inches on each side. Mine took 7 weeks from seed to harvest, but much of that time was some rather cool weather, around 10C much of the time. Also, there were far fewer hours of sunlight in September and October. I bet these things would go super fast if it were July.

Ride hard, ride free

Anarchist6[zero]6 (27 October 2008 6:51 am)

The Expanding (and Failing) War or Terror As the twilight of the failed Bu$h presidency comes to a close, the war of terror that is his legacy is spinning out of control. We can see cross-border raids, counter to international law in Syria (and analysis); The Bush administration seems to be ratcheting up action against Syria during its last days in power. The cross border raid undertaken on

“Shame Train” Disrupted in Montreal – No Olympics on Stolen Land!

Shame Train ends in Montreal with successful disruption

October 20, 2008 -- Over 100 protesters gathered in Montreal's Old Port this past Saturday to disrupt the CP Spirit Train's final stop. After successful protests and disruptions throughout it's route from the West Coast to Montreal, the Spirit Train – dubbed the "Shame Train" -- was again met with protesters, and had to cancel or alter large parts of their Montreal program.

-> Photos from the Montreal CP Spirit Train disruption are linked here: http://www.mediacoop.ca/photo/138

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Human Iterations 2008-10-26 07:40:00

(The Dustbin Of Absolute Fucking Irrelevancy)

While I'm ruffling feathers,
Marx's theory of the crises of capitalism is little more than a melodramatic description of the business cycle - standard fare in economic analysis. Every original contribution that Marx made to our understanding of capitalism is demonstrably false: the working class does not become increasingly immiserated; the class structure does not become increasingly polarised; no society has evolved from feudalism through capitalism to communism; the iron law of wages is fallacious; the State does not wither away when capitalism is abolished. Marx will continue to be neglected by serious scholars because he was wrong in every important respect. (via)

The question I always have for workerists and everyone else with irrevocably class-war tinted sunglasses is this: What if capitalism is actually leading us to a classless society?

What if a rising tide really does lift all boats (and assorted driftwood) and, as globalization is finalized over the next few centuries, every last human on earth is systematically subsumed into the bourgeoisie? Or what if the upper classes just ship the lower classes off to an incinerator one day? And do you really think that wage labor will have any relevancy to future iterations of capitalism? What happens if the humps on the graph of wealth distribution dissolve into a Gaussian curve? Or a smooth exponential? Or even a flatline of absolute material equality -- do you think that would necessarily have one fucking iota of effect on net oppression?

I'm an anarchist, for god's sake. I do not oppose a specific type of power systems. I oppose power systems.

The Revolution will not be Teleologised

This isn't the post I meant to write tonight (that was going to be about me and my relationship to class prejudice and class privilege), but it's a kind of a spin off from it, as part of that post was going to be about the ways I disagree with Marxism...

While I do think Marx's analysis of capitalism was incredibly important, and introduced the world to loads of incredibly useful concepts, I do have several major problems with it. Marx's rigid classification of the class system is one of them (while a lot of present day Marxists accept that Marx's class system was a description of how things were in the 19th century, and thus needs some modifications to be applicable to the 21st, my opinion of it is that it was flawed even as a description of the 19th), but the biggest one is his teleological assumptions...

Teleology is the belief that history has an inevitable conclusion, and must inevitably pass through certain stages to reach that conclusion. It's an extremely common part of Western ideologies, probably coming mostly from Christianity (with the idea of the inevitable final judgement, the work of an omnipotent God existing beyond or outside time itself, and thus having both knowledge of and control over the whole timeline of the cosmos), but in secular form it has bedevilled understanding of evolution all the way from Darwin on down (the false, but excruciatingly almost-universally believed idea that evolution has an "end point", and/or that organisms somehow "consciously" evolve towards inevitable final forms - will try to edit in some links to science blogs critiquing this), is a major part of both the political philosophies that dominated the 20th century world (liberal-capitalist "development theory", as exemplified by Francis Fukuyama's The End of History, and the Marxist teleology I'm deconstructing here), and crops up in a bunch of other places, for example in psychology (developmental models of child psychology, which totally fail to take into account neurodiversity, and therapeutic paradigms such as 12-step programs or grief counselling, with their assumptions that everyone goes through (or needs to go through) exactly the same stages of overcoming addiction or of dealing with grief, in exactly the same order, and anyone who thinks their own personal progression might be different is somehow in denial).

This last example very clearly shows how nearly all teleological belief systems commit the is-ought fallacy - conflating, or switching between without explicitly stating that they are switching between, descriptive and normative statements. Is the "inevitable" progression from feudalism to capitalism to socialism in Marxist dogma a descriptive theory of how history will unfold, or a prescriptive theory of how things should go in order to reach the Marxist utopia? Are the "5 stages of grief" a description of how human beings actually do deal with loss, or are they a prescription of what one needs to go through in order to "recover" from their experience of loss? (I have major problems with the concept of "recovery" in itself, but for this post that would be too much of a digression.)

The aspect of specifically Marxist teleology that I find most disgusting is the idea that capitalism (and specifically industrial capitalism) is a necessary stage that a nation or society "must" pass through in order to reach socialism, and that no society can reach socialism without having passed through capitalism first. This ties in with the idea that the industrial proletariat (wage-workers in large-scale, highly organised workplaces) is the only class capable of bringing about a socialist revolution.

Quite apart from how monstrously exclusionary this is towards huge numbers of people (most women in most present-day developed countries, nearly all disabled people everywhere, and practically everyone in any part of the world not sufficiently "developed" to be industrialised), this bears no relationship to reality! There is not a single country which has had an even vaguely Marxist-inspired revolution which was fully industrialised or proletarianised at the time that that revolution occurred - all of them were carried out by primarily agricultural "peasantry", whose economic situations Marx would have categorised not as capitalism, but as forms of feudalism. (Of course, this leads some Marxists to try to deny that, for example, Lenin's Russia, Mao's China or Castro's Cuba were Marxist revolutions, and to make up some other category to put them in, but all of them considered themselves Marxists...)

The really, obscenely horrific thing about this form of Marxist teleology is that it considers the process of proletarianisation - which happened in Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries, in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and has been happening in many parts of Africa, Asia and South America from the 1970s to now - to be a good thing. For orthodox Marxists, The Grapes of Wrath (which is a fucking magnificent novel - seriously, if you read one chapter of one novel in your life, make it chapter 5 of The Grapes of Wrath - about the most powerful and moving - and unbelievably radical for its place and time - political manifesto ever written) is not a tragedy, but a comedy (in that word's original sense of "story with a happy ending", as opposed to "something primarily intended to make people laugh"), and the Structural Adjustment Programs which replicated that story over most of the Majority World, in what I frankly consider to be one of the most evil episodes in the whole of human history - and one which is still ongoing - are just as much a positive example of "progress" as they are to the "neoliberal" capitalists who orchestrated them.

The whole "only the industrial proletariat can be the true revolutionary class" thing is also a breathtaking denial of agency to... well, people of all classes, really. So, no matter what someone believes, what someone wants, or what someone chooses to do, they have no hope of being an agent of revolution if they don't belong to a particular economic grouping? I guess all those Russian, Chinese, Cuban [...etc] peasants were doomed to fail from the beginning, then... and I find it sickeningly disingenuous (is that a real word?) when Marxists of various types try to argue that I am a member of that proletariat, when by just about any plausible interpretation I am a combination of all the classes that were most despised and regarded as counter-revolutionary by Marx himself (intellectual, peasant and lumpen)...

In fact, any kind of teleology applied to human history is, by definition, a denial of human agency. If our ultimate fate is predestined by an omnipotent God, then nothing we do in this life can make any difference. If a patriarchal society is the inevitable product of the evolution of the human brain, then any kind of feminist activism is a fruitless endeavour against nature (I'll leave the criticism of the concepts of "natural" and "unnatural" for another post...). If the inevitable end of history is all societies becoming representative democracies and members of a global free market, then no one is responsible for that state of affairs except some abstract force of historical inevitability, and any attempt to make the course of history run otherwise is hopeless. If the inevitable course of any political society is from feudalism through industrial capitalism and a proletarian revolution to socialism, then likewise. Teleology is the enemy of liberty.

If we want radical social change, then we cannot sit around waiting for "The Revolution" to come as some sort of historical inevitability, any more than we can sit around waiting for "the Messiah" or "the Rapture". Revolution is not a single, historical event, after which all contradictions will be resolved and everyone will live happily ever after; it is something continually happening, all the time and everywhere, wherever people struggle against oppression and injustice and, while recognising achieving Utopia to be impossible, try to make their worlds as close to it as they can. There is no universal law of nature that says either that we will always be oppressed or that we will all eventually be liberated; that is, and always has been, up to the actions of individual human beings, whether acting alone or communally and collaboratively (although i'd argue that generally the latter is more effective).

To quote Seize The Day, "we weave our destiny with our own hands"...

(note: just because i have major problems with Marxism doesn't mean that i'm not still a socialist, just as my major problems with pro-corporate "vulgar libertarianism" don't mean that i'm not still a libertarian. I am quite amused by the anonymous comment on this post calling me "a socialist trying to pass as a libertarian", considering that i believe that to truly be either one of those things, you also have to be the other...)