Posts by AK Press

Revolution Is a Real Riot

We’re counting the minutes. At some point today, a truck will arrive with newly minted copies of our Malatesta anthology: The Method of Freedom. We’re all big fans of Malatesta’s thought and writing, his tactical insights, his no-nonsense approach, and his uncommon ability to remain generous and comradely even as he debates opponents into smithereens. We like him so much that this anthology will be followed, year by painstaking year, by our ten-volume The Complete Works of Malatesta.

For now, we offer an excerpt as evidence of Malatesta’s continued relevance. It’s his take on the relationship between riots and revolutions (turns out he’s a fan of both), with a few additional paragraphs addressing the question of police infiltration, the nineteenth-century version of snitchjaketing, and how a vital movement should deal with both.

 

Click here for the excerpt.
Click here to learn more
about the book.
Tagged with:

Against Equality goes on tour!


Members of the Against Equality collective have an impressive list of events lined up this spring throughout the U.S. and Canada, to celebrate the release of Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion. If you’re lucky, you can catch an event near you. And if you’re not so lucky this time around, you can always get in touch with them and invite them to speak on their next tour!

 

SPRING 2014 EVENTS:

Apr 12 @ 10:50am: Radical Archives Conference, Cantor Film Center Theater, New York University (NYC)

Apr 16 @ 4:30pm: Kagin Ballroom, Macalester College (Saint Paul, MN)

Apr 19 @ 7pm: Bureau of General Services – Queer Division (NYC)

Apr 22 @ 4:30pm: Axinn 229, Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)

Apr 23 @ 6:30pm: Concordia Coop Bookstore (Montreal, QC)

Apr 24 @ 8pm: Queer Possibilities Lecture Series, Alteregos Cafe (Halifax, NS)

Apr 26 @ 7pm: Calamus Books (Boston, MA)

May 2 @ Time TBA: Bates College (Lewiston, ME)

May 4 @ 6pm: Artists at Work Space, Maine College of Art (Portland, ME)

May 5 @ 4pm: UC San Diego (San Diego, CA)

May 6 @ 4pm: MultiCultural Center Lounge, UC Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)

May 10 @ 7:30pm: Stories Books & Cafe (Los Angeles, CA)

Keep an eye on the Against Equality website for the most up-to-date tour news and event information.

Michael Schmidt on the Global Impact of Revolutionary Anarchism

 The interview below was conducted and published by the group Anarchist Affinity, in Melbourne, Australia. You can read the original (and check out their site) here.

Global Fire – South African author Michael Schmidt on the Global Impact of
Revolutionary Anarchism

 

Michael Schmidt is an investigative journalist, an anarchist theorist and a radical historian based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been an active participant in the international anarchist milieu, including the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front. His major works include ‘Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (2013, AK Press) and, with Lucien van der Walt, ‘Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism’ (2009, AK Press).

In your recent book, Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (AK Press, USA, 2013), you argue that anarchists have often failed to draw insights from anarchist movements outside of Western Europe. What lessons does the global history of anarchism have to offer those engaged in struggle today?

The historical record shows that anarchism’s primary mass-organisational strategy, syndicalism, is a remarkably coherent and universalist set of theories and practices, despite the movement’s grappling with a diverse set of circumstances. From the establishment of the first non-white unions in South Africa and the first unions in China, through to the resistance to fascism in Europe and Latin America – the establishment of practical anarchist control of cities and regions, sometimes ephemeral, sometimes longer lived in countries as diverse as Macedonia (1903), Mexico (1911, 1915), Italy (1914, 1920), Portugal (1918), Brazil (1918), Argentina (1919, 1922), arguably Nicaragua (1927-1932), Ukraine (1917-1921), Manchuria (1929-1931), Paraguay (1931), and Spain (1873/4, 1909, 1917, 1932/3, and 1936-1939).

The results of the historically-revealed universalism are vitally important to any holistic understanding of anarchism/syndicalism:

Firstly, that the movement arose in the trade unions of the First International, simultaneously in Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, and Egypt from 1868-1872 (in other words, it arose internationally, on four continents, and was explicitly not the imposition of a European ideology);

Secondly, there is no such thing within the movement as “Third World,” “Global Southern” or “Non-Western” anarchism, that is in any core sense distinct from that in the “Global North”. Rather that they are all of a feather; the movement was infinitely more dominant in most of Latin America than in most of Europe. The movement today is often more similar in strength to the historical movements in Vietnam, Lebanon, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, Costa Rica, and Panama – so to look to these movements as the “centre” of the ideology produces gross distortions.

The lessons for anarchists and syndicalist from “the Rest” for “the West” can actually be summed up by saying that the movement always was and remains coherent because of its engagements with the abuse of power at all levels.

How is anarchism still relevant in the world today? What do anarchist ideas about strategy and tactics have to offer people active in social movements today?

I’d say there are several ways in which anarchism is relevant today:

1) It provides the most comprehensive intersectoral critique of not just capital and the state; but all forms of domination and exploitation relating to class, gender, race, colour, ethnicity, creed, ability, sexuality and so forth, implacably confronting grand public enemies such as war-mongering imperialism and intimate ones such as patriarchy. It is not the only ideology to do this, but is certainly the main consistently freethinking socialist approach to such matters.

2) With 15 decades of militant action behind it, it provides a toolkit of tried-and proven tactics for resistance in the direst of circumstances, and, has often risen above those circumstances to decentralise power to the people. These tactics include oppressed class self-management, direct democracy, equality, mutual aid, and a range of methods based in the conception that the means we use to resist determine the nature of our outcomes. The global anti-capitalist movement of today is heavily indebted to anarchist ethics and tactics for its internal democracy, flexibility, and its humanity.

3) Strategically, we see these tactics as rooted in direct democracy, equality, and horizontal confederalism (today called the “network of networks”), in particular in the submission of specific (self-constituted) anarchist organisations to the oversight of their communities, which then engage in collective decision-making that is consultative and responsible to those communities. It was the local District Committees, Cultural Centres, Consumer Co-operatives, Modern Schools, and Prisoner-support Groups during the Spanish Revolution that linked the great CNT union confederation and its Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) allies to the communities they worked within: the militia that fought on the frontlines against fascism, and the unions that produced all social wealth would have been rudderless and anchorless without this crucial social layer to give them grounding and direction. In order to have a social revolution of human scale, we submit our actions to the real live humans of the society that we work within: this is our vision of “socialism”.

In sum, anarchism’s “leaderless resistance” is about the ideas and practices that offer communities tools for achieving their freedom, and not about dominating that resistance. Anarchists ideally are fighting for a free world, not an anarchist world, one in which even conservatives will be freed of their statist, capitalist and social bondage to discover new ways of living in community with the rest of us.

Is it important to advance anarchism explicitly? Or is it enough to engage in social movements whose objectives we support without adopting the anarchist label?

This is primarily a tactical question, because the approaches adopted by anarchists have to be suited to the objective conditions of the oppressed classes in the area in which they are active, and the specific local cultures, histories, even prejudices of those they work alongside. The proper meaning of “anarchist” as a democratic practice – a practical, not utopian, one at that – of the oppressed classes clearly needs to be rehabilitated in Australia and New Zealand. Just as the Bulgarian syndicalists who built unions in the rural areas relied upon ancient peasant traditions of mutual aid to locate syndicalist mutual aid within an approachable framework, so you too must find a good match for anarchism within your cultures. We, for example, have relied heavily on traditional township forms of resistance to explain solidarity, mutual aid, egalitarianism, and self-management. Yet, it is also a strategic question because in my opinion, where you have the bourgeois-democratic freedoms to organise openly and without severe repression, it is important to form an explicitly anarchist organisation in order to act as:

a) a pole around which libertarian socialists, broadly speaking, can orbit and to which they can gravitate organisationally – though it is important to recognise that there can be more than one such pole; and

b) as a lodestar of clear, directly-democratic practice, offering those who seek guidance a vibrant toolkit of time-tested practices with which to defend the autonomy of the oppressed classes from those who would exploit/oppress them.

It is the question of responsibility that compels us to nail our colours to the mast. This is for three reasons:

a) firstly, because we are not terrorists or criminals and we have nothing to be ashamed about that requires hiding, even from our enemies (we should be able to openly defend our democratic credentials before mainstream politicians);

b) secondly, that by forming a formal organisation, people we interact with are made aware that none of us are loose cannons but are subject to the mandates of our organisation (with those mandates being public, fair and explicit); and

c) lastly, but most importantly, that the communities we work within, whether territorial (townships, cities, etc), or communities of interest (unions, queer rights bodies, residents’ associations etc) know that we are responsible to them, that our actions, positions and strategies are consultative, collaborative, responsive and responsible to those they may most immediately affect.

schmidtWe’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Counter Power Volume 2, Global Fire: 150 Fighting Years of Revolutionary Anarchism, is there any news on when it will be released? What ground will you be covering that people might not expect?

Global Fire is really a monstrous work: in research and writing for close to 15 years now, it’s really an international organised labour history over 150 years, tracing the organisational and ideological lineages of anarchism/syndicalism in all parts of the world. We have a lot to get right: we need to have a theory, at least, for why the French syndicalist movement turned reformist during World War I, or why the German revolutionary movement as a whole, both Marxist and anarchist, collapsed over 1919-1923, paving the way for the Nazis. These are issues of intense argument among historians, and we have to be able to back up with sound argument our stance in every case, from the well-known, like the Palmer Raids against the IWW in the USA in the wake of World War I, to the fate of syndicalism in Southern Rhodesia in the 1950s, or of the near-seizure of power in Chile by the syndicalists in 1956, and their fate under the red regimes in Cuba, Bulgaria and China, or the white regimes in Chile, South Korea, or Argentina. We need to understand the vectors of the anarchist idea in a holistic, transnational sense, but have often been hampered by the narrowness of national(ist) perspectives. Even within the Anarchist movement, histories have been more anecdotal and partisan than truly balanced and rigorous assessments, and have often been very disarticulated by language differences. With lengthy delays incurred by us trying to make sure that Global Fire is the best (in fact only) holistic international account of the movement. You can be assured that Lucien is working on refining the text, which if published in its current format would weigh in at a whopping 1,000 pages, and that we have a pencilled-in release date for 2015, though perhaps 2016 is more realisable.

 

original url: http://www.anarchistaffinity.org/2014/03/global-fire-south-african-author-michael-schmidt-on-the-global-impact-of-revolutionary-anarchism/

Tagged with: ,

The Winter We Danced: a new book on Idle No More!

The Winter We Danced is a brand-new collection of writing on the Idle No More movement. We at AK Press Distro have been anxiously awaiting getting this new book from our friends at Arbeiter Ring Publishing, ever since we first heard about it. And we weren’t the only ones—we’ve been fielding lots of calls and emails from other folks eager to read the words of the folks involved in this inspiring moment of Indigenous organizing. The waiting is over: the book is here in our hands, and can be in yours too! The publishers were gracious enough to give us permission to post the editors’ introduction to the book here, to give you all a better sense of the book so that you, too, can be excited about it. So here it is, we think it speaks for itself.

Idle No More:
The Winter We Danced
The Kino-nda-niimi Collective

Indigenous peoples have been protecting homelands; maintaining and revitalizing languages, traditions, and cultures; and attempting to engage Canadians in a fair and just manner for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, these efforts often go unnoticed—even ignored—until flash-point events, culminations, or times of crisis occur. The winter of 2012-2013 was witness to one of these moments. It will be remembered—alongside the maelstrom of treaty-making, political waves like the Red Power Movement and the 1969-1970 mobilization against the White Paper, and resistance movements at Oka, Gustefson’s Lake, Ipperwash, Burnt Church, Goose Bay, Kanostaton, and so on—as one of the most important moments in our collective history. “Idle No More,” as it came to be known, was a watershed time, an emergence out of past efforts that reverberated into the future. The clear lesson regarding this brief note of context is that most Indigenous peoples have never been idle in their efforts to protect what is meaningful to our communities—nor will we ever be.

This most recent link in this very long chain of resistance was forged in late November 2012, when four women in Saskatchewan held a meeting called to educate Indigenous (and Canadian) communities on the impacts of the Canadian federal government’s proposed Bill C-45. The 457 pages of multiple pieces of legislation, an “omnibus” of new laws, introduced drastic changes to the Indian Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Navigable Water Act (amongst many others). Entitled Idle No More, this “teach-in” organized by Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sheelah Mclean raised concerns regarding the removal of specific protections for the environment (in particular water and fish habitats), the improper “leasing” of First Nations territories, as well as the lack of consultation with the people most affected even where treaty and Aboriginal rights were threatened. With the help of social media and grassroots Indigenous activists, this meeting inspired a continent-wide movement with hundreds of thousands of people from Indigenous communities and urban centres participating in sharing sessions, protests, blockades and round dances in public spaces and on the land, in our homelands, and in sacred spaces.

From the perspective of our collective and based on the curated articles in this book, the Idle No More movement coalesced around three broad motivations or objectives:

  • The repeal of significant sections of the Canadian federal government’s omnibus legislation (Bills C-38 and C-45) and specifically parts relating to the exploitation of the environment, water, and First Nations territories.
  • The stabilization of emergency situations in First Nations communities, such as Attawapiskat, accompanied by an honest, collaborative approach to addressing issues relating to Indigenous communities and self-sustainability, land, education, housing, healthcare, among others.
  • A commitment to a mutually beneficial nation-to-nation relationship between Canada, First Nations (status and non-status), Inuit, and Metis communities based on the spirit and intent of treaties and a recognition of inherent and shared rights and responsibilities as equal and unique partners. A large part of this includes an end to the unilateral legislative and policy process Canadian governments have favoured to amend the Indian Act.

Admittedly, the movement goes beyond even these issues. The creativity and passion of Idle No More necessarily revealed long-standing abusive patterns of successive Canadian governments in their treatment of Indigenous peoples. It brought to light years of dishonesty, racism and outright theft. Moreover, it engaged the oft-slumbering Canadian public as never before. Within four months, Idle No More moved beyond the turtle’s continental back and became a global movement with manifold demands.

Idle No More is, in the most rudimentary terms, a culmination of the historical and contemporary legacies emerging from colonization and violence throughout North America and the world. These involve land theft, treaty violations, and many misunderstandings. There is therefore much to talk about, reflect upon, and take action to redress. In this way, Idle No More represents a unique opportunity: a chance to deepen everyone’s understanding of the circumstances and choices that have led to this time and place; and a forum for how we can come up with solutions together. This movement represents an important moment for conversations about how to live together meaningfully and peacefully, as nations and as neighbours.

That being said, the nature and enormity of Idle No More meant that it was sometimes bewildering in scope and complexity. As it grew, the movement became broad-based, diverse, and included many voices. There were those focused on the omnibus legislation, others who mobilized to protect land and support the resurgence of Indigenous nations, some who demanded justice for the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and still others who worked hard to educate and strengthen relationships with non-Indigenous allies. Many did all of this at once. Idle No More adopted a radically decentralized character, having no single individual or group “leader.” Instead, communities would join together for distinct purposes, temporarily or for long-term activism. Events were local, regional, and wide-scale. This often confused and frustrated those (particularly in the media) who looked for the “voice” of the movement or somebody who could—or would—speak on behalf of all participants. Idle No More, however, was inherently different. It defied orthodox politics.

Indigenous women have always been leaders in our communities and many took a similar role in the movement. As they had done for centuries when nurturing and protecting families, communities, and nations, women were on the front lines organizing events, standing up and speaking out. Grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters sustained us, carried us, and taught through word, song, and story. When Indigenous women were targeted with sexual violence during the movement, many of us organized to support those women and to make our spaces safer. Many also strived to make the movement an inclusive space for all genders and sexual orientations and to recognize the leadership roles and responsibilities of our fellow queer and two-spirited citizens. The movement also didn’t escape the heteropatriarchy that comes with several centuries of colonialism. We have more work to do collectively to build movements that are inclusive, respectful, and safe for all genders and sexual orientations.

At almost every event, we collectively embodied our diverse and ancient traditions in the round dance by taking the movement to the streets, malls, and highways across Turtle Island. The powerful events and emotions of the round dance are captured beautifully in SkyBlue Mary Morin’s poem “A Healing Time”—which is why we started off the book in this way. It is also worth remembering how the dance started. Cree Elder John Cuthand explains the origin and significance of the dance:

The story goes there was a woman who loved her mother very much. The daughter never married and refused to leave her mother’s side. Many years later the mother now very old passed away. The daughter’s grief was unending. One day as she was walking alone on the prairie her thoughts filled with pain. As she walked she saw a figure standing alone upon a hill. She came closer and saw that it was her mother. As she ran toward her she could see her mother’s feet did not touch the ground. Her mother spoke and told her she could not touch her. “I cannot find peace in the other world so long as you grieve,” she said, “I bring something from the other world to help the people grieve in a good way.” She taught her the ceremony and the songs that went with it. “Tell the people that when this circle is made we the ancestors will be dancing with you and we will be as one. The daughter returned and taught the people the round dance ceremony.” [1]

In the winter of 2012-2013, our Ancestors danced with us. They were there in intersections, in shopping malls, and in front of Parliament buildings. They marched with us in protests, stood with us at blockades, and spoke through us in teach-ins. Joining us were our relatives, long-tenured and newly arrived Canadians, and sometimes, when we were lucky, the elements of creation that inspired action in the first place.

Speaking of inspiration, the impact of Chief Theresa Spence’s fast on the movement—which many in this book speak about—cannot be understated. We also danced to honour and protect the fasting Ogichidaakwe, who went without food for six weeks on Victoria Island in Omàmìwinini (Algonquin) territory, Ottawa, to draw attention to unfulfilled treaties and the consequences on her community. While originally unrelated to any legislation or to those four Saskatchewan women, her simultaneous protest galvanized the movement. Her commitment provided an urgency that motivated our communities and our leaders to confront the legacy of this colonial relationship. Her sacrifice encouraged so many others to act.

A unique aspect of Idle No More is that the movement often went around mainstream media, emerging in online and independent publications as articles, essays, and interviews. This was the first time we had the capacity and technological tools to represent ourselves and our perspectives on the movement and broadcast those voices throughout Canada and the world—we wrote about the movement while it was taking place. Through social media—but also through good old word of mouth and discussions in lodges and kitchen tables
—these words spread quickly and dynamically, trending through venues like Twitter and Facebook. Never before have Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and artists presented to Canadians such rich art, stories, and expressive forms to others in such personal, intimate, and dynamic ways that provoke and evoke visions of the past, present, and future. During the winter we danced, the vast amount of critical and creative expressions that took place is like the footprints we left in the snow, sand, and earth: incalculable. And, for the most part, it was full of a positive, creative, and joyful energy that continues to spark critical dialogues.

The Winter We Danced is a collection of much of this important work and a hopeful contribution to the new trajectories of Idle No More and the new movements to come. This book reflects what the movement represents in our history and asks critical questions about the state of Indigenous activism today. More importantly, it also gifts us a look into our future. Like a round dance, readers are invited to reflect upon this beautiful and significant moment, to remember, celebrate, think, and contribute to change we all can benefit from. The Winter We Danced hopes to serve as a space for everyone to join in, and maybe even inspire some more movement.

The Winter We Danced brings together the writings of both actors and activists within Idle No More but also Indigenous and non-Indigenous thinkers, organizers, leaders, artists and advocates—all of whom in various ways are embedded in community and their homelands. We begin with “First Beats”—a group of writing that captures the origins of the movement. “Singers and Dancers” builds upon these beginnings with a series of critical perspectives on core issues and events throughout the movement. “Image Warriors” features some of the most influential and powerful visual art emerging during the movement. “Friendships” reflects our relationships with supporters and allies across lines and borders, while “Next Steps” considers where we might collectively go from here. The resulting volume is an ambitious primer on the history of Idle No More and its implications, but also provides a platform for responses to the movement’s very existence. This collection has been curated by a group of Anishinaabeg and Neyihaw editors who were part of the movement at various stages and, in some cases, helped shape it. We reached out to colleagues and friends in the north, the west and the east to bring their issues and voices into the book. There are, however, some unfortunate absences in the book as a result of time constraints.

Finally, it should be stated that The Winter We Danced is not a complete body of work documenting the movement nor a comprehensive analysis of Idle No More. We have included as many voices as possible from the many who acted and danced and sang and lived in an incredibly diverse movement. At the same time, we have tried to provide a detailed overview of major events over a very complex time. Intended to be read by diverse audiences, this collection is ensconced with distinct politics and perspectives that do not always represent the ideas of all members of the collective. The text will serve as an invitation for those within Indigenous nations, Canada, and elsewhere to learn about Idle No More, reflect on this moment in history, and consider possibilities for the future of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships. The spirit and the work of the winter we danced continues, like it always has, into the future.


[1]      See: creeliteracy.org/2012/12/19/elder-john-cuthand-shares-the-story-of-the-round-dance/

You can learn more about the book HERE.

 

 

“Ecology, Ethics, Anarchism.” Javier Sethness-Castro interviews Noam Chomsky


Javier Sethness-Castro, author of Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe, conducted a lengthy and pretty fascinating interview with Noam Chomsky on the ongoing environmental crisis, its capitalist causes, and what anarchism might contribute to a solution. We’ve included an excerpt below. You can read the whole interview on truth-out.org, or watch it in glorious living color here.

 
 
 

JC-S: You have described humanity as being imperiled by the destructive trends on hand in capitalist society – or what you have termed “really existing capitalist democracies” (RECD). Particularly of late, you have emphasized the brutally anti-ecological trends being implemented by the dominant powers of settler-colonial societies, as reflected in the tar sands of Canada, Australia’s massive exploitation and export of coal resources, and, of course, the immense energy profligacy of this country. You certainly have a point, and I share your concerns, as I detail in Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe, a book that frames the climate crisis as the outgrowth of capitalism and the domination of nature generally understood. Please explain how you see RECD as profoundly at odds with ecological balance.

Noam Chomsky: RECD – not accidentally, pronounced “wrecked” – is really existing capitalist democracy, really a kind of state capitalism, with a powerful state component in the economy, but with some reliance on market forces. The market forces that exist are shaped and distorted in the interests of the powerful – by state power, which is heavily under the control of concentrations of private power – so there’s close interaction. Well, if you take a look at markets, they are a recipe for suicide. Period. In market systems, you don’t take account of what economists call externalities. So say you sell me a car. In a market system, we’re supposed to look after our own interests, so I make the best deal I can for me; you make the best deal you can for you. We do not take into account the effect on him. That’s not part of a market transaction. Well, there is an effect on him: there’s another car on the road; there’s a greater possibility of accidents; there’s more pollution; there’s more traffic jams. For him individually, it might be a slight increase, but this is extended over the whole population. Now, when you get to other kinds of transactions, the externalities get much larger. So take the financial crisis. One of the reasons for it is that – there are several, but one is – say if Goldman Sachs makes a risky transaction, they – if they’re paying attention – cover their own potential losses. They do not take into account what’s called systemic risk, that is, the possibility that the whole system will crash if one of their risky transactions goes bad. That just about happened with AIG, the huge insurance company. They were involved in risky transactions which they couldn’t cover. The whole system was really going to collapse, but of course state power intervened to rescue them. The task of the state is to rescue the rich and the powerful and to protect them, and if that violates market principles, okay, we don’t care about market principles. The market principles are essentially for the poor. But systemic risk is an externality that’s not considered, which would take down the system repeatedly, if you didn’t have state power intervening. Well there’s another one, that’s even bigger – that’s destruction of the environment. Destruction of the environment is an externality: in market interactions, you don’t pay attention to it. So take tar sands. If you’re a major energy corporation and you can make profit out of exploiting tar sands, you simply do not take into account the fact that your grandchildren may not have a possibility of survival – that’s an externality. And in the moral calculus of capitalism, greater profits in the next quarter outweigh the fate of your grandchildren – and of course it’s not your grandchildren, but everyone’s.

Now the settler-colonial societies are particularly interesting in this regard because you have a conflict within them. Settler-colonial societies are different than most forms of imperialism; in traditional imperialism, say the British in India, the British kind of ran the place: They sent the bureaucrats, the administrators, the officer corps, and so on, but the place was run by Indians. Settler-colonial societies are different; they eliminate the indigenous population. Read, say, George Washington, a leading figure in the settler-colonial society we live in. His view was – his words – was that we have to “extirpate” the Iroquois; they’re in our way. They were an advanced civilization; in fact, they provided some of the basis for the American constitutional system, but they were in the way, so we have to extirpate them. Thomas Jefferson, another great figure, he said, well, we have no choice but to exterminate the indigenous population, the Native Americans; the reason is they’re attacking us. Why are they attacking us? Because we’re taking everything away from them. But since we’re taking their land and resources away and they defend themselves, we have to exterminate them. And that’s pretty much what happened – in the United States almost totally – huge extermination. Some residues remain, but under horrible conditions. Australia, same thing. Tasmania, almost total extermination. Canada, they didn’t quite make it. There’s residues of what are called First Nations around the periphery. Now, those are settler-colonial societies: there are elements of the indigenous populations remaining, and a very striking feature of contemporary society is that, throughout the world – in Canada, Latin America, Australia, India, all over the world, the indigenous societies – what we call tribal or aboriginal or whatever name we use – they’re the ones who are trying to prevent the race to destruction. Everywhere, they’re the ones leading the opposition to destruction of the environment. In countries with substantial indigenous populations, like say in Ecuador and Bolivia, they’ve passed legislation, even constitutional provisions, calling for rights of nature, which is kind of laughed at in the rich, powerful countries, but is the hope for survival.

Ecuador, for example, made an offer to Europe – they have a fair amount of oil – to leave the oil in the ground, where it ought to be, at a great loss to them – huge loss for development. The request was that Europe would provide them with a fraction – payment – of the loss – a small fraction – but the Europeans refused, so now they’re exploiting the oil. And if you go to southern Colombia, you find indigenous people, campesinos, Afro-Americans struggling against gold mining, just horrible destruction. Same in Australia, against uranium mining; and so on. At the same time, in the settler-colonial societies, which are the most advanced and richest, that’s where the drive is strongest toward the destruction of the environment. So you read a speech by, say, Obama, for example, at Cushing, Oklahoma – Cushing is kind of the center for bringing together and storing the fossil fuels which flow into there and are distributed. It was an audience of oil types. To enormous applause, he said that during his administration more oil had been lifted than any previous one – for many, many years. He said pipelines are crossing America under his administration to the extent that practically everywhere you go, you’re tripping across a pipeline; we’re going to have 100 years of energy independence; we’ll be the Saudi Arabia of the 21st century – in short, we’ll lead the way to disaster. At the same time, the remnants of the indigenous societies are trying to prevent the race to disaster. So in this respect, the settler-colonial societies are a striking illustration of, first of all, the massive destructive power of European imperialism, which of course includes us and Australia, and so on. And also the – I don’t know if you’d call it irony, but the strange phenomenon of the most so-called “advanced,” educated, richest segments of global society trying to destroy all of us, and the so-called “backward” people, the pre-technological people, who remain on the periphery, trying to restrain the race to disaster. If some extraterrestrial observer were watching this, they’d think the species was insane. And, in fact, it is. But the insanity goes back to the basic institutional structure of RECD. That’s the way it works. It’s built into the institutions. It’s one of the reasons it’s going to be very hard to change.

[...]

JC-S: In a speech reproduced over 20 years ago in the film version of Manufacturing Consent, you describe hegemonic capitalist ideology as reducing the life-world of Earth to an “infinite resource” and “an infinite garbage can.” Even then, you had identified the capitalist tendency toward total destruction: you speak of a looming cancellation of destiny for humanity if the madness of capitalism is not halted within this, the “possibly terminal phase of human existence.” The very title and argumentation of Hegemony or Survival (2003) continue in this line, and in Hopes and Prospects (2010), you claim the threat to the chance for decent survival to be one of the major externalities produced, again, by RECD. How do you think a resurgent international anarchist movement might respond positively to such alarming trends?

In my view, anarchism is just the most advanced form of political thought. As I’ve said, it draws from the Enlightenment, its best ideals; the primary contributions of classical liberalism carry it forward. Parecon, which you mentioned, is one illustration – they don’t call themselves anarchists – but there are others like it. So I think that a resurgent anarchist movement, which would be the peak of human intellectual civilization, should join with the indigenous societies of the world so that they don’t have the burden to save humanity from its own craziness. This should take place within the richest, most powerful societies. It’s kind of a moral truism that the more privilege you have, the more responsibility you have. It’s elementary in every domain: you have privilege; you have opportunities; you have choices: you have responsibilities. In the rich, powerful societies, privileged people like us – we’re all privileged people – we have the responsibility to take the lead in trying to prevent the disasters that our own social institutions are creating. It’s outrageous to demand or even observe the poorest, most repressed people in the world taking the lead in trying to save the human species and in fact innumerable other species from destruction. So we should join them. That’s the role of an anarchist movement.

Javier Sethness is a libertarian socialist and rights-advocate, author of Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe and For a Free Nature: Critical Theory, Social Ecology, and Post-Developmentalism. His essays and articles have appeared in Climate and Capitalism, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, MRZine, Countercurrents, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. Currently, he is writing a political and intellectual biography of Herbert Marcuse. He blogs on various aspects of the crises of capital at Notes Toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism.

AK Press in Twin Cities!

 

Persons in and around the Twin Cities area, two AK Press authors are in Minneapolis. You should see them, listen to them, and maybe even buy their books!

 

Kristian Williams, editor of Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency.

Friday, April 4th 2014 at University of Minnesota
(hosted by Minnesota Global Justice Project)
1:30-3:00pm Room 614, Social Science Tower

Saturday, April 5th 2014 at Minnehaha Free Space
(hosted by Twin Cities Anti-Repression)
3747 Minnehaha Avenue S., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406

 

Eric Laursen author of The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan

Monday, April 7th 2014 at Boneshaker Books
7:00pm, 2002 23rd Ave. S. MSP ~ One Block South of Franklin Ave.

 

Tagged with:

Exploring “Anarchy Without Opposition”

We’re always glad when the ideas in our books jump off their pages and morph into real-life (or online!) discussions, so we were pleased to see that one of the pieces from our recently published book Queering Anarchism has been making the rounds online lately. Jamie Heckert’s contribution, “Anarchy Without Opposition,” has just been excerpted on OccupyWallStreet.net. Here’s a taste:

“Anarchist politics are usually defined by their opposition to state, capitalism, patriarchy, and other hierarchies. My aim in this essay is to queer that notion of anarchism in a number of ways. To queer is to make strange, unfamiliar, weird; it comes from an old German word meaning to cross. What new possibilities arise when we learn to cross, to blur, to undermine, or overflow the hierarchical and binary oppositions we have been taught to believe in?

Hierarchy relies on separation. Or rather, the belief in hierarchy relies on the belief in separation. Neither is fundamentally true. Human beings are extrusions of the ecosystem—we are not separate, independent beings. We are interdependent bodies, embedded in a natural world itself embedded in a vast universe. Likewise, all the various social patterns we create and come to believe in are imaginary (albeit with real effects on our bodyminds). Their existence depends entirely on our belief, our obedience, our behavior. These in turn are shaped by imagined divisions. To realize that the intertwined hierarchical oppositions of hetero/homo, man/woman, whiteness/color, mind/body, rational/emotional, civilized/savage, social/natural, and more are all imaginary is perhaps a crucial step in letting go of them. How might we learn to cross the divide that does not really exist except in our embodied minds?

This, for me, is the point of queer: to learn to see the world through new eyes, to see not only what might be possible but also what already exists (despite the illusions of hierarchy). I write this essay as an invitation to perceive anarchism, to perceive life, differently. I’m neither interested in recruiting you, nor turning you queer. My anarchism is not better than your anarchism. Who am I to judge? Nor is my anarchism already queer. It is always becoming queer. How? By learning to keep queering, again and again, so that my perspective, my politics, and my presence can be fresh, alive.

Queering might allow recognition that life is never contained by the boxes and borders the mind invents. Taxonomies of species or sexualities, categories of race or citizenship, borders between nations or classes or types of politics—these are fictions. They are never necessary. To be sure, fictions have their uses. Perhaps in using them, we may learn to hold them lightly so that we, in turn, are not held by them.”

You can read the full excerpt here, and then check out the thoughtful response to “Anarchy Without Opposition” that was published recently on the “cultivating alternatives” blog. Here’s just a bit of it:

“At some points, Heckert calls for an anarchism with ‘no borders, no purity, no opposites,’ which seems a bit unrealistic in practice, since our lives are full of all kinds of borders and boundaries, some of which are desirable, and others that we can’t simply get rid of (refusing to ‘see’ the borders of private property will probably land you in jail).  But I think his main point is that we don’t have to take these borders for granted; they can be queered, unsettled, and shifted.  In this sense, this isn’t a call to get rid of all borders or divisions or oppositions, but to pay attention to what happens to them; to attend to them, to loosen them up, rather than assuming that they’re necessary or good or right…”

“…Furthermore, the really important and interesting stuff happens at the borders, not inside them. Heckert draws on permaculture’s insight that edges are the most productive and fertile parts of ecosystems, suggesting that anarchism would benefit from attending to the social edges, where people and communities permeate and connect: ‘The more that anarchism, a many branched river in our social ecosystem, mixes and mingles with swamp and stone, soil and soul, the more diverse forms of life will benefit’ (69).

An important problem with all this (and I wished he spent more time on this) is the fact that these ways of being aren’t just beliefs that we can change by thinking critically or declaring ourselves otherwise.  As Heckert puts it: ‘declaring a politics to be nonhierarchical, anarchist, feminist, safe, or queer does not magically make this happen.  It takes a different kind of magic: practice’ (70).  Both the positive and negative ways of being are held in our bodies; they’re accumulated habits of relating to ourselves and to each other, and they’re often-unconscious attachments and investments.  And working at being otherwise means working that through our bodies, and shifting our unconscious desires.  How?  I think Heckert’s suggestion is that we practice radical acceptance: of ourselves, of others, of the world, and of its hierarchies and borders (even if we want to tear them down): ‘there is no such thing as evil; there is nothing to oppose.  Instead, we might learn to both empathize with the desires of others, and to express our own’ (71).  This is a politics ‘that starts off accepting everything just as it is.  From the basis of acceptance, we might then ask, what service can be offered?  How can anarchy be nurtured, rather than demanded, forced?’ (71).”

You can read the whole response here.

And of course, if you haven’t already, we encourage you to check out Queering Anarchism to read “Anarchy Without Opposition” its entirety, as well as the many other thought-provoking pieces in the collection!

 

Abolish Prisons! An interview with Isaac Ontiveros.

“We don’t see the prison-industrial complex as broken; we see it working very, very well at surveilling, policing, imprisoning, and killing exactly who it targets.”

Former AK Press collective member and current communications director of Critical Resistance, Isaac Ontiveros, gave a brilliant interview to Vice magazine recently. Read it and learn why abolition is the only real solution, not only to our twisted prison system, but to the whole interconnected and thoroughly racist network of surveillance, policing, the courts, and imprisonment. Support Critical Resistance, please…and read the book we co-published with them: Abolition Now! Ten Years of Strategy and Struggle against the Prison Industrial Complex.

Here’s an excerpt (you can read the whole thing on here):

 

VICE: What does it mean to be a “prison abolitionist”?


Isaac Ontiveros: What we mean is that we want to end the whole system of mutually reinforcing relationships between surveillance, policing, the courts, and imprisonment that fuel, maintain, and expand social and economic inequity and institutional racism. So, not just prisons.

By “abolition,” we mean that we are interested in doing away with the system rather than finding ways to make it work better or for it to be kinder and gentler. We don’t see the prison-industrial complex as broken; we see it working very, very well at surveilling, policing, imprisoning, and killing exactly who it targets. As abolitionists, we work to diminish the scope and power of the prison-industrial complex while simultaneously increasing the ability of those communities targeted by it to be stronger, healthier, and more self-determined.

Why do you think imprisonment came to be the dominant means of delivering “justice” in America?


The US government, along with state and local governments, has always been involved one way or another in enforcing racial inequities—whether through social codes, laws and statutes, policing policies and practices, encouragement of vigilante violence, or outright domestic warfare against certain segments of the population. And poor people of color have borne the brunt of this violence—and, importantly, they’ve also been at the forefront in fighting back.

Think about the incredible political repression that goes on in this country; think about the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), unleashed against organizations like the Black Panther Party. Think of the massive cuts to social and health services, massive job loss, attacks on organized labor, and de facto permanent unemployment. Think of the war on drugs, the war on gangs, the war on terror. Think of the thousands of new offenses added to the criminal codes—the equivalent of one federal offense a week between 2000 and 2007. Think of the positively virulent anti-black racism that goes along with this. Think of the militarization of the US-Mexican border and immigrant detention. Think about even small towns having a SWAT team and zero-tolerance policing and of the largest prison-building project in world history in the state of California. Think about the disenfranchisement and dispossession of formerly imprisoned people. Think of the absolute pervasiveness of surveillance as well as media images that perpetuate some of the basest and most racist stereotypes imaginable of who is a criminal, or an undesirable, or a terrorist. And now think of the instability created by such violence and the need to control that instability—and the need to keep people from fighting back.

The US doesn’t actually imprison all that many violent people. Most of those behind bars committed nonviolent drug or property offenses. But what about the violent ones? Aren’t we better off having murderers and rapists off of the streets?


Well, I think an interesting part of that question is that even as the US has managed to lock up more people than any other country in the world, and has built probably the most massive and repressive policing, legal, and imprisonment system in history, we still tend to be pretty terrified in this country. This is not to say that violence—including sexual violence and murder—isn’t a real thing or a real fear. But I think in order to build up any hope of moving beyond the bleak situation we are in… we have to ask a few tough questions, and we have to change quite a few things. How do we relate to violence in our communities vis-à-vis the terrible violence that is wrought by the US government on a global scale, or by the prison-industrial complex domestically on a daily basis? How do we understand violence in relationship to the devastation caused by racism and economic inequity? How do we relate to sexual violence when we are inundated with horrendously misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic images? Our fears might be real, but our fears are also being produced and exploited. And then, of course, how do we think of anything else but prisons and police when we’ve be indoctrinated with this idea that all problems are solved by locking people up?

At the same time, violence is a very real concern, especially in the communities that are most impacted by the prison-industrial complex. I think we are better off if we can develop sustainable and transformative ways to confront, address, and intervene in situations of harm and violence. And the thing is, for the most part, especially in marginalized communities, people are already working to resolve conflict and address harm without using police or imprisonment all the time. And they are doing it around some egregious forms of harm, including murder and sexual violence. And sometimes some things work better than others. As an abolitionist, I am always interested in figuring out ways to address harm and violence that don’t rely on using the police.

Sure, America may not be as violent as popularly imagined, but there is still a lot of violence in this country. What would a prison abolitionist do if they found out his next-door neighbor was a serial killer or rapist? In the absence of viable alternatives, I think I might call the cops. Is that wrong? Would it be better if I took justice into my own hands?


Rather than saying, “Is it wrong to call the cops?” I want us to ask, “Is there anything we can do besides call the cops?” I think the more we can ask ourselves that question, and ask it among our friends, families, coworkers, neighbors, organizations, etc., and try to ask it and answer it as imaginatively as possible before things escalate, the more we will be able to respond swiftly and thoughtfully during crises.

If you mean, “What could I do if an act of violence was being carried out in front of me?” I would do everything in my power to stop it—and if I were able, this would include drawing in, as quickly and as thoughtfully as possible, the help and support of others. And then, yes, as far as all the lessons we’ve been taught about what to do next, we are in a no-person’s land. But the fact of the matter is, people deal with these situations all the time—sometimes they use violence, sometimes they don’t; sometimes the person who does harm is banished from the family or the community, and sometimes they are drawn closer. I heard a story of an indigenous community where one person murdered another person. There was this long process by which it was agreed that the person who did the murder would essentially replace the person he killed as far as his social and economic responsibilities. Gacaca courts in Rwanda and conferencing circles among indigenous communities in Canada also teach us very useful lessons about the complex ways survivors of very serious violence have attempted to hold those who’ve done harm accountable.

I would challenge the notion that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to these types of situations. That’s the response that the prison-industrial complex has offered us, and that hasn’t worked—except to exacerbate the social instability that fuels the violence we see in our communities. I live in a neighborhood where people are killed from time to time, but it doesn’t help me to understand the person doing the killing to think of them as some monster or serial killer out of a movie. I hope my anger or fear or frustration about this type of violence would lead me to want to fight to change the context in which it occurs, so that it happens less and less in the first place.

Abolishing prisons seems like a pretty distant goal. What then is a prison abolitionist to do in the meantime?


Like any social change, it will take time and is something that requires taking decisive and strategic steps toward the world we want to see. We have a broad vision of a world without prisons, police, surveillance, and the inequities they defend, and as we takes steps toward that world, we understand better what the path forward is going to look like.

In Los Angeles, we work with other organizations and community members to fight back the expansion of the LA County Jail, which is the largest jail system in the world. We are working to do the same in San Francisco County. In New Orleans, we were able to win a cap on the number of people that can be locked up in the notorious Orleans Parish Prison—no small feat, given that Louisiana has the highest imprisonment rate in the US—so now the challenge is to get people out.

In Oakland, we won a fight against the racist policing policy known as a civil gang injunction, which under threat of arrest and imprisonment restricts the freedom of movement and association of individuals profiled as gang members—in the US, this has never been used against a white person—and now we are working in neighborhoods to develop ways people can take care of one another without using the police. In California as a whole we’ve been successful in winning massive cuts to the prison budget. We’ve also worked with prisoners and their loved ones and advocates to support three massive prison hunger strikes in protest of the state’s use of solitary confinement. We run a mail program and publish a newspaper that goes to thousands of prisoners throughout the US, aimed at working to develop our capacity as activists inside and outside prisons. All of our members are volunteers, and we do most of our work in coalition with the idea that we are think it is necessary to build a movement to both dismantle what keeps us down and to build up the world we believe is possible. At every turn, we try to put forward a vision of what we are for as strongly as we fight what we are againstWorking to improve the conditions faced by those behind bars seems like a good thing, but is there a fear it could make the current system more sustainable, injecting life into an unjust system?


This is a crucial challenge that doesn’t have an easy answer. The system we are up against is not fixed, and those who work as its strategists and technicians aren’t stupid—so it grows, changes, and adapts, and that includes accommodating and adjusting to reforms. Our organizing philosophy cautions us to try to not build up something that we have to knock down later. This is not easy, but is also part of any sustainable process of change. For example, ending solitary confinement doesn’t necessarily mean anyone gets to come home, but it does neutralize one of the main tools prison systems use to inhibit prisoner social and political organization. So organizing against that hopefully increases the capacity of imprisoned people (and those in the communities from which they come) to fight for further gains that might lead to more freedom.

[interview by Charles Davis]

___________________________________________________

Here are some related books and DVDs if you want to learn more:

Marshall “Eddie” Conway: Free at Last! Interview on Democracy Now!

As we happily announced yesterday, Marshall “Eddie” Conway was freed from prison after being framed and locked up for nearly 44 years. At the age of 24, he was torn from his family and friends and political work by federal agents intent of shutting him down and shutting him up.

As anyone who has read his memoir (Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther) knows, they failed. Eddie stayed just as active, creating mentoring programs and prison labor unions, organizing prison libraries where there had been none, and generally refusing to accept the conditions the state had relegated him to.

After less than 24 hours on the outside (and with zero sleep), Eddie gave an interview to Democracy Now! You should give the whole thing a listen. It shows just how undefeated this amazing man remains after enduring some of the worst shit the state can dish out. And how sharp and relevant his analysis remains. Below the video, we’ve pasted a bit of that analysis, specifically about the government infiltration and counterinsurgency tactics used to unjustly jail him and so many other (right up to today).

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Marshall “Eddie” Conway. He left prison yesterday after nearly 44 years there. You mentioned that you realized later it was a member of the National Security Agency who was involved in setting up the Black Panther Party chapter in Baltimore, Eddie?

MARSHALL “EDDIE” CONWAY: There was a—the defense captain named Warren Hart, he worked for the National Security Agency. He set up the Black Panther Party. I was instrumental in exposing him after a lengthy investigation, and he fled the country. He went to Canada. He infiltrated Stokely Carmichael’s organization, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party. He was exposed up there after engaging in some skulduggery with the FBI. He went to the Caribbeans, I believe the Bahamas, and he actually undermined some of the political movements down there and actually caused a death or two. And I’m not really sure that he didn’t cause a couple deaths in Maryland in the Black Panther Party, and which is a part of what caused me to actually start investigating him, because one of our members were actually killed as a result of something that he encouraged him to do.

But apparently, and as Bob said, there’s like political prisoners all across the country now from the Black Panther Party that has been victims of the COINTELPRO operation. It undermined a lot of people. It painted a picture that caused people not to get fair trials. It goaded people into responding to the violence that it was encouraging. It caused a lot of our members to get assassinated. It caused a lot of conflicts with other organizations that normally wouldn’t have occurred had they not been in the background manipulating different organizations with poison pen letters, etc.

As a result of the Church Committee hearings in ’75, I believe it was, they determined that that operation was created to perpetrate violence among black groups and among other groups, and that was illegal activity. And some of the agents that participated in it got pardoned by the president, got presidential pardons. But all the Black Panther members that were victims of it didn’t receive pardons. And they are still in prisons right now across the country. They are victims, primarily, because of the skulduggery, but also because of the climate that was created. And so, that’s the kind of operations that were going on then. Now they have kind of like legalized most of that stuff, in terms of spying and so on.

WELCOME HOME, EDDIE!

 

Tagged with:

David Solnit on the WTO in Bali and the Fourteen Year Anniversary of the “Battle of Seattle”

David Solnit takes a moment to reflect on the fourteen year anniversary of the collapse of the WTO meetings in Seattle, Wa as talks in Bali end in an impasse. David and his sister Rebecca are authors of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, published by AK Press. Follow the link to the write up and commentary with Paul deArmond at Popular Resistance.