Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined

Truth Out - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 05:00

 Andy Baker / Ikon Images / Getty Images)(Image: Andy Baker / Ikon Images / Getty Images)

In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth.

Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the US is becoming "a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power."

"Over recent decades, an incredibly disproportionate share of America's income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of our economic spectrum. At the tip of that top sit the nation's richest 400 individuals, a group that Forbes magazine has been tracking annually since 1982," write IPS's Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie, the report's authors. "Americans at the other end of our economic spectrum, meanwhile, watch their wages stagnate and savings dwindle."

Collins and Hoxie are quick to note that the vast gulf that currently exists between the rich and everyone else is not the product of some inexplicable "natural phenomenon." It is, rather, the result of "unfair economic policies that benefit those at the top at the expense of those at  the bottom."

Based on data recently made public by the Forbes 400 list and the Federal Reserve's annual "Survey of Consumer Finances," Billionaire Bonanza examines in detail the principal beneficiaries of America's "deeply unbalanced economy": the mega-rich.

"The wealthiest 25 individuals in the United States today own $1 trillion in combined assets," the report notes. "These 25, a group equivalent to the active roster of a major league baseball team, hold more wealth than the bottom 56 percent of the US population combined, 178 million people."

The top 25 list features billionaires who have attained their vast riches through a variety of means, from inheritance to investing to founding a corporate giant like Amazon or Google. What unites these enormously wealthy individuals -- aside from the fact that they are all white -- is that they just keep getting richer, decade after decade.

Average Americans, by contrast, have not fared nearly as well: a significant percentage of the US households "have no savings at all or owe more than they own," making them residents of what Collins and Hoxie term "Underwater Nation."

"Excluding the value of the family car, 19 percent of US households have zero or negative net worth," the report notes. "Looking at this trend through the lens of race reveals that 30 percent of black households and 27 percent of Latino households have zero or negative wealth."

In order to get a broader sense of the size of the chasm between rich and poor in the US, Collins and Hoxie place the net worth of the top one percent and the bottom one percent side by side.

"All combined, households in the bottom one percent have a combined negative net worth of $196 billion," the report finds. "For comparison, the top one percent, a category holding the exact same number of people, have positive $33.4 trillion in combined net worth."

Even mainstream institutions like the International Monetary Fund have acknowledged that such vast disparities of wealth and income are not sustainable, politically or economically. But as Billionaire Bonanza notes, the Trump administration -- with the help of the GOP-controlled Congress -- appears bent on making these disparities worse by slashing taxes for the wealthy while gutting programs that primarily benefit low-income and middle class Americans.

So the first priority, Collins and Hoxie note, is to "reject tax and other federal policies that will add oil to the inequality fire."

In terms of going on the offensive once the "do no harm" principle is observed, the report makes several suggestions, including:

  • Enacting higher marginal tax rates on individuals earning above $250,000 and $1 million;
  • "Addressing the problem of hidden wealth," which often leads to an underestimation of the level of wealth inequality;
  • Instituting a tax on Wall Street financial transactions, which could bring in an estimated $350 billion in federal revenue over a decade;
  • Eliminate the carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to "reclassify wage income as capital income" and pay less in taxes as a result; and
  • Bolstering, rather than eliminating, the estate tax, which only affects a tiny number families.

As "the elite ranks of our billionaire class continue to pull apart from the rest of us," the report notes, many Americans -- including students saddled with loan debt, workers suffering from stagnant wages, and families who have seen "their wealth and savings evaporate" -- are revolting against the system that allowed the richest to accumulate such wealth at the expense of so many.

"A century ago, a similar anti-inequality upsurge took on America's vastly unequal distribution of income and wealth and, over the course of little more than a generation, fashioned a much more equal America," Collins and Hoxie conclude. "We can do the same."

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Categories: News

The Trump Effect, One Year Later: Thousands of Women Running for Office

Truth Out - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 05:00

In the year since Trump won the presidency, groups working toward women's political empowerment have reported an unprecedented surge of interest in politics, especially at the local level. Thousands of women who had not considered or embarked on bids for office began stepping up, nominating themselves for everything from school boards to US Congress.

 Brian Ach / Getty Images for L'Oreal)2016 honoree Nadya Okamoto speaks onstage at the L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Celebration 2016 on November 16, 2016 in New York City. When the Harvard freshman saw fellow classmates displaced by gentrification in Cambridge, she launched a campaign to become the youngest city councilmember. (Photo: Brian Ach / Getty Images for L'Oreal)

On election night last November, Nadya Okamoto gathered with friends in the dining hall of her dorm at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Okamoto, then 18, wore a Hillary Clinton T-shirt -- earlier that day, she'd voted for Clinton -- and felt "pumped that the first woman in history would be elected." Two years before, she had co-founded a nonprofit, PERIOD, that provided tampons to homeless women and girls. She'd helped launch a movement to destigmatize menstruation and, like many women, was troubled by the way Donald Trump talked about women during his campaign.

 As the results came in that night, her exhilaration drained. "I was so sad, angry, I was crying," she said. But as she looked around at her devastated classmates, her body kicked into fight mode. She wondered what she could do.

It was the same story across the United States.

In Piedmont, California, Gina Scialabba, an attorney who volunteered with Clinton's campaign, started out the evening celebrating. By the end of the night, she was heartbroken and confused. As the weeks went by, she worried about the future of health care and marriage equality under a Trump administration -- and whether her own plans to marry her partner would be threatened. She began to express her opinions more openly.

"You should run," Scialabba's friends told her.

In the year since Trump won the presidency, groups working toward women's political empowerment have reported an unprecedented surge of interest in politics, especially at the local level. Thousands of women who had not considered or embarked on bids for office began stepping up, nominating themselves for everything from school boards to US Congress. Deborah Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said the day of the election she worried that women would "just pull the covers over their heads."

Instead, she saw the opposite: The next day, she started receiving applications for CAWP's Ready to Run campaign training camp. By the end of the year, the number of registrations had surged by a factor of 10.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights, a group focused on Black women's political participation, was contacted by dozens of women interested in running immediately after the election, and more than 1,000 women came to one of her leadership seminars. The defeat of "the most qualified candidate either party has ever put up in history," Peeler-Allen said, "has had women -- particularly Black women -- saying, 'If I don't step up, who will?'"

In Cambridge, Okamoto was worried about gentrification and had been sending ideas to her local leaders. "People said, 'If you have so many ideas, why don't you run yourself?'" she said. "So I was like, OK, fine. I'll run for office."

Neither Okamoto nor Scialabba knew exactly where to start. They joined an incubator run by the organization She Should Run, which recruits, trains, and shepherds women through the process of running for office. When the group launched its first programs in 2011, it typically drew 50 to 100 interested women. In the past year, they have welcomed about 16,000 women into their campaign training programs.

"It's truly been a moment where we've seen women begin to own their potential for elected office," said Clare Bresnahan, the organization's executive director. She Should Run helped Okamoto launch a campaign to be the youngest member of Cambridge's city council and is guiding Scialabba through a yearlong exploration of her political future before she makes a bid for office. "A lot of what She Should Run does is about giving a community to women, who are really encouraging one another to go big," Bresnahan said.

When women and men are not equally represented in government, the resulting policies do not fully promote women's interests. One of She Should Run's goals is to, by 2030, help achieve parity in politics -- women holding at least half of the 500,000 elected seats nationwide. Going into the off-year election season of 2017, women occupied just 105 of the 535 seats -- 19.6 percent -- in the U.S. Congress, 24 percent of statewide elective executive offices, such as governor and attorney general, and 25 percent of state legislative offices. Only 20 of the country's 100 largest cities had female mayors.

It's not that women can't win elections. In fact, research shows that when women run, they have an equal chance of winning. The problem is that too few step forward.

There are plenty of reasons why that is the case. Many women already juggle full-time jobs and raising children, which puts campaign work out of reach. A 2009 CAWP study examining paths to state legislative offices found that women are on average 50 years old when they first run for office, while their male peers tend to launch political campaigns much younger. "We used to hear that what women needed was a wife,"  CAWP's Deborah Walsh said.

Groups like She Should Run hope the networks of support they're building among thousands of future candidates can change this landscape. This year, legislative elections in New Jersey and Virginia provided a first glimpse into what we may see more broadly in 2018: Both states had more women running than before, and Virginia saw a 60 percent increase from the previous election cycle.

But Bresnahan cautions against putting too much stock in 2018. What's important, she said, is seeding the pipeline for the long term -- planning for the "decade of the woman" rather than the "year of the woman" -- and preparing millennials for a lifetime of active engagement. She wants them to say, "Wow, my friend thinks I can do this. My neighbor is doing it. I could do it, too."

Scialabba hopes to run for office in the near future; meanwhile, she's getting involved with her community however she can. Earlier this year, she applied for a seat on the Piedmont public safety commission. One of her first tasks was helping launch a dog-walker safety program.

"Every time someone asks if there's someone who can do something for the community, I raise my hand and do it," Scialabba said. "The best way I can be a part of it is to literally just show up and do it."

The 2016 presidential election provided a wake-up call for women across the country. But rather than showing that women can't win, it has proved to women such as Scialabba and Okamoto that now, more than ever, they are called to do more than root from the sidelines.

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Categories: News

Mitch McConnell admits middle class America may see tax hike if new Republican Senate bill passes

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 02:51

Mitch McConnell admits middle class America may see tax hike if new Republican Senate bill passes | 11 Nov 2017 | Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is now admitting that some middle class Americans might see tax increases after all if the new Republican tax plan goes through. Kentucky Republican senator McConnell had previously stated that 'nobody in the middle class is going to a tax increase' under the new tax plan, but dialed back his assertion in a new interview. 'I misspoke on that,' McConnell told the New York Times on Friday, noting that it wasn't possible to guarantee that 'no one sees a tax increase.'

Categories: News

Dropping like flies: Prominent holistic doctor and entire family found shot dead in AZ home

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 02:37

Another day, another holistic doctor shot dead. Prominent holistic doctor and entire family found shot dead in Arizona home --This is our 77th doctor in my unintended Holistic Doctor Series. Read about the first 76 in detail, with a timeline and photos. | 11 Nov 2017 | It is with very heavy heart that we announce that holistic Dr. Annie Fairbanks, 39, husband Jason Fairbanks, 39, and their 3-year-old daughter and 9-month-old son died in a shooting Friday afternoon November 10th. The Scottsdale Police Department released their names Saturday morning, November 11th. [See also: Vaccines and Vaccine Safety - The Full Truth By David Wolfe. An enzyme produced by viruses and cancers called nagalase appears to be in some vaccines. Nagalase blocks the super immune compound GcMAF (Gc Macrophage Activating Factor). This may be causing autism and cancers sooner or later in life. Dr. Gonzales (possibly heart attacked -- killed, but made to look like a heart attack) and Dr. Bradstreet (murdered) were on to the nagalase connection in vaccines and were also aware of the solution and a potential autism and cancer cure: GcMAF.

Categories: News

Moore lashes out at Washington Post

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 01:54

Moore lashes out at Washington Post | 11 Nov 2017 | A defiant Roy Moore on Saturday adamantly denied accusations that he pursued romantic and sexual relationships with teenagers while he was in his 30s, instead charging that The Washington Post published "fake news" to advance its own political agenda. Speaking at a Mid-Alabama Republican Club event at the Vestavia Hills Public Library near Birmingham, the embattled Republican argued that the timing of the story just a few weeks before the special election for U.S. Senate was an attempt by the Post and his opponents to undercut his campaign.

Categories: News

Disneyland shuts down two cooling towers after nine contract Legionnaires' disease at theme park

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 01:16

Disneyland shuts down two cooling towers after nine contract Legionnaires' disease at the theme park | 11 Nov 2017 | Disneyland has shut down two cooling towers after nine people contracted Legionnaires' disease at the theme park. A total of a dozen cases of the bacterial lung infection were discovered in Anaheim, California, about three weeks ago, the Orange County Health Care Agency announced Friday. One of the three cases not linked to Disneyland was fatal, the agency said.

Categories: News

Debt Vultures Behind Puerto Rico Austerity Are Also Fueling Climate Change

deSmog - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 13:58

By Rob Galbraith, crossposted from's Eyes on the Ties 

The island of Puerto Rico has been devastated by a set of human-made catastrophes – two hurricanes supercharged by fossil fuel emissions and a debt crisis and ruthless austerity regime imposed by Wall Street.

Seeds for both of these disasters were sown by Seth Klarman, the president of Baupost Group, a Boston-based hedge fund heavily invested in both Puerto Rican debt and in the oil and gas industry. Klarman is also a trustee of the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank which has both fought against action on climate change and for austerity in Puerto Rico.

var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12309'; [Reuse options] Click here for reuse options! Tags: Puerto RicoAmerican Enterprise InstituteCheniere Energy
Categories: News

Texas church massacre survivor says there was a shooter 'on top of the roof'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 08:25

Texas church massacre survivor says there was a shooter 'on top of the roof' | 08 Nov 2017 | A woman who survived Sunday's mass shooting at the First Baptist Church where 26 people lost their lives said that her and another survivor "know" that shots were raining down into the room from above and that the shooter was "on the roof." "I didn't just hear them, I saw them, and then people went down." the woman said in a brief interview with ABC News from the hospital..."He was on top, that's how I got shot back here," the woman explained while pointing toward her shoulder blade.

Categories: News

Hunger Strikes & Abolitionist Organizing in Indiana Prisons

It's Goin Down - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 07:20

The post Hunger Strikes & Abolitionist Organizing in Indiana Prisons appeared first on It's Going Down.

On this episode, we are joined with someone from IDOC Watch, a group which is organizing alongside and amplifies the voices of incarcerated people in Indiana. In this episode we talk about the history of prison organizing in Indiana as well as the work that IDOC is doing. We also talk about the recent hunger strikes that have been launched by inmates as well as their fight against the censorship of the radical Black newspaper, the SF Bay View

URGENT: prisoners on hunger strike need folks to call in to Wabash Valley and IDOC administration tomorrow 11/6

— IDOCWatch (@IDOCWatch) November 6, 2017

We also discuss how abolitionist groups on the outside can support ongoing struggles from prisoners on the inside, how we can mobilize, and how we should approach both long term organizing as well as bread and butter issues.

Shaka shares more about the conditions and abuse he’s experiencing in WVCF. Support the hunger strike!

— IDOCWatch (@IDOCWatch) November 10, 2017

We close by discussing what abolition means and how it differs from reform, and what is next for abolitionists in Indiana. Lastly, we talk about how everyone should call into Indiana prisons and support the current hunger strike, as it has recently become a thirst strike, and calls are needed now more than ever.

More Info: IDOC Watch, Bloomington ABC, and Kite Line

Music: Charles Bradley

Categories: News

Saudi-led warplanes strike defense ministry in Yemeni capital

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 07:13

Saudi-led warplanes strike defense ministry in Yemeni capital | 11 Nov 2017 | The defense ministry building in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, has been targeted in at least two airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, local media and eyewitnesses report. There are fears of civilian casualties as nearby buildings were also reportedly hit. "There were two to three strikes on the Ministry of Defense," local journalist Hassain Abukhaiti told RT, confirming that Saudi-led planes are targeting the Yemeni capital. He said there are reports that "one of the missiles hit a house" near the military building. "A family was living there," the journalist said. "The house has been destroyed. It is very likely that the entire family was killed."

Categories: News

Moyers and McKibben: Time Is Running Out for the Planet

Truth Out - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 05:00

For 30 years now climate change has been Bill McKibben's beat -- first as a journalist, then as an environmentalist and now as the leading activist in mobilizing a worldwide movement to win a race against time. His latest book, Radio Free Vermont, turns to humor for inspiration as runners go to bottled water for sustenance, and has readers laughing all the way to the finish line. In this interview, McKibben discusses the book and the present political moment.

2017 1111 Moyers(Photo: Pixabay)

Honest, fearless media is needed more than ever, and nonprofit newsrooms like Truthout need all the help we can get. Can you take a few seconds to support this important work?

I wasn't one of the 50,766 participants who finished the New York City Marathon last weekend. Instead, I spent the average marathon finish time of 4:39:07 to read a book -- obviously a small book. In the interest of disclosure, I didn't even start the race, but that's another and even shorter story than Radio Free Vermont, the book from which I did occasionally look up and out the window to check on the stream of marathoners passing our apartment, their faces worn and haggard. A shame, I thought, that I couldn't go outside and hand each one a copy of the book that had kept me smiling throughout the day while also restoring my soul; I was sure the resilience would quickly have returned to weary feet and sore muscles now draped in aluminum foil for healing's sake. I admire those athletes, but wouldn't have traded their run for my read, because Radio Free Vermont is funny, very funny, all the more so considering the author is one of the more serious men on the planet -- the planet he has spent his adult life trying to save.

Bill McKibben's calling has been a footrace of its own, not to report to Athenians the victory of Greek warriors over the Spartans, but to wake up Americans to the once creeping, now billowing threat of global warming. For 30 years now climate change has been his beat -- first as a journalist, then as an environmentalist and now as the leading activist in mobilizing a worldwide movement to win a race against time. In Radio Free Vermont, his latest book, he turns to humor for inspiration as runners go to bottled water for sustenance, and has us laughing all the way to the finish line. Also in the interest of disclosure, you should know Bill McKibben and I are old friends who sometimes conspire in plotting resistance to -- well, read on.

Bill Moyers: Sixteen books of first-rate journalism and now a novel. Your first. Did reality become too much for you?

Bill McKibben: I've been working on this story just to amuse myself over the years, little bits at a time. But this year seemed like the year when everybody else could use a little relief from another of my usual depressing books about the world in the middle of another depressing year. That seemed just too much angst all around, so I thought maybe it would be OK to indulge my funnier side a little bit, in the service of the resistance to all that's happening around us.

Well, it's a hoot and a romp -- and a meditation on the state of the world as experienced in the state of Vermont. Did you have fun writing it?

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

Maybe too much. It's probably not a great sign when a writer sits there cackling at his own jokes while he's writing them. But it cheered me up, anyway.

From Concord and Lexington on April 18, 1775 -- "the shot heard 'round the world" -- to Paris, France on July 14, 1789 -- the storming of the Bastille -- it's a stretch to Radio Free Vermont broadcasting on the run from an "undisclosed and double-secret location in Vermont." You give us an opening scene that gets the heart beating and the blood running as hints of secession waft through the globally warmed January Green Mountain air.

Vermont has an interesting history. It's the 14th state in the Union, and there was a big gap between [it and] the first 13. It took 10 or 11 years for Vermont to decide that it was going to join the Union and not continue, as it was for a bit, as an independent republic. I'm not actually thinking that we should secede again -- at least right now. But man, there are moments this past year when it's been hard not to think that one would want to separate from the United States, if only psychically, at least for a little while.

Are you picking up where Edward Abbey left off with The Monkey Wrench Gang  -- everyday people willing to become outlaws for justice?

Ed Abbey -- yes. The Monkey Wrench Gang was one of my great delights of any book I've ever read, and Abbey I knew at the end of his life and liked enormously. The thing I liked most about him was that he was funny, and so I hope this is, too. It does seem to me that humor doesn't end up playing as large a role in our literature as it should. We've confined it to the work of late-night comedians.

Explaining, perhaps, why you turned not just to fiction but to a fable. Fables are playful.


Sometimes the truth goes down easier when it's more playful.

Well, Anna Karenina this is not.

I don't live in Vermont. You do. But I spend a lot of time there, as you know, and I can swear to seeing people like your characters on the streets, in their pickups, in coffee shops, on the town greens, talking to their neighbors. The characters in Radio Free Vermont are very real.

I've spent my life living in rural America, some of it in blue state Vermont, some of it in red state upstate New York. They're quite alike in many ways. And quite wonderful. It's important that even in an urbanized and suburbanized country, we continue to take rural America seriously. And the thing that makes Vermont in particular so special, and I hope this book captures some of it, is the basic underlying civility of its political life. That's rooted in the town meeting. Each of the towns in Vermont governs itself. We have a meeting the first Tuesday in March --

In every town?

Every town. Everybody comes, sits down in the high-school gymnasium or the church or wherever the meeting happens and spends the day hashing out the budget for the next year and how much the town clerk should be paid and if it's time to buy a new grader for the road. That system has worked well for hundreds of years, but it couldn't work if those meetings were filled with Donald Trumps standing up and insulting people all the time. And on occasion, when someone like that shows up in Vermont, everybody knows to ignore them. One wishes the US had known how to ignore this guy Trump when he stood up and started bellowing.

If I were making a movie out of Radio Free Vermont, I would turn to Motown for the score, because Motown songs run through your story -- in all-white Vermont!

Vermont's great problem, of course, is its signal lack of diversity. It's about as white as you can get. And there's no way to remedy that in fiction, except in this case to suggest that at the very least it could use a better musical score.

Where did you come up with Vern Barclay?

This is the septuagenarian former radio host who's the hero, in a way, of this book. One of the inspirations for it was the man who runs the radio station WDEV. It's the last great independent radio station I know of anyplace in the country. I wrote about it years ago for Harper's. A long piece. It's a radio station that carries the Red Sox, carries all the stock car races from Thunder Road in Barre, carries Amy Goodman's daily broadcast -- the only commercial station in America that carries Democracy Now. It has a libertarian hour in the morning. It has its own bluegrass radio band. The biggest draw of the entire week comes Saturday morning, when the man on whom Vern Barclay is somewhat modeled, does an hour-long show called Music To Go To the Dump By. What's important about this is the notion that we have lost the ability for civilized discourse, and this fellow who wants to secede from the Union is broadcasting clandestinely, and he's not only nonviolent physically, he's also nonviolent rhetorically. He gives his best shot and then says, "But I may be wrong" as he encourages people to think through what he's saying. And that's the part that feels missing to me most in the world we inhabit right now.

And he is broadcasting "underground, underpowered and underfoot," as the state police close in on him.

That's it.

Why is he fomenting rebellion?

The plot device is the fight against Walmart. Vermont was the last state in the Union with no Walmarts at all, and even now we've only got a couple, thank heaven. So he had been sitting there behind the microphone for many decades talking with Vermonters and interviewing them and watching the community start to erode around him, watching as Vermont began to work less well as it began to be overtaken by the forces of bigness. That's obviously not special about Vermont. That's the story of America in many ways over the last 50 years.

The folks in Marshall, Texas, my hometown, will be reading Radio Free Vermont, I'm sure. Walmart came in there and you cannot believe the beautiful trees that went down as the huge box store went up.

The consumer culture in general has washed over our civilization. And one result is that neighbors like these became optional in America. For the last 50 years, if you've had a credit card and some access to money, you don't really need neighbors around you. And as a result, they dwindled. The average American has half as many close friends as they did in 1950. Three quarters of Americans don't know their next-door neighbor. They may know their name, but they have no real relationship with them. That's an utterly new place for human beings to find themselves in -- I mean, we're a socially evolved primate. It wasn't that many generations ago that we were sitting on the savannah picking lice out of each other's fur. It's got to be one of the reasons that we're going so crazy right now.

And this is why your hero --

It's why he gets angry at certain things and starts down particular roads without thinking very far [ahead] about where they're going to take him.

I understand that. I was sad when those trees disappeared in Marshall.

Sad is appropriate as well. And I think for those who've lived through these changes, there's a certain amount of just plain puzzlement, too. How did this happen? How did the world that we knew so quickly dissolve into the kind of froth we see at the moment?

So I'll give away a few details of your story -- of where Vern Barclay's little rebellion takes us. Your characters hijack a Coors beer truck and fill it with local beer, of which there's plenty in Vermont. They hack into a Starbucks sound system to announce that Vermont still has coffee shops actually owned by Vermonters, and the money stays in the state. And this is my favorite: They stage a walkout of middle-school students in honor of Ethan Allen Day. Ethan Allen is one of my favorite figures in American history.

Ethan Allen, the great Vermont progenitor. And not an entirely admirable character in every way, a kind of real estate speculator and --

Part theologian, part businessman, part philosopher, part politician. But in his own way --

A great man. A great man.

Many parts a patriot.

Absolutely, a great character --

Founder of the Green Mountain Boys. Hero of Ticonderoga --

Yep. The cannon that he liberated from Fort Ticonderoga was the cannon that drove the British out of Boston.

And when the British general surrendered the fort to him, he accepted it "in the name of the great God Jehovah and the Continental Congress."

The Continental Congress. I forgot that line. He had a good self-dramatizing sense. Absolutely.

If you're lucky, you'll get Lin-Manuel Miranda to produce Radio Free Vermont on Broadway.

I'm afraid rebellion comes naturally to me. You mentioned Concord and Lexington in Massachusetts. I grew up in Lexington. And I used to give summer tours of the Battle Green, the "birthplace of American liberty." Really, Lexington marked the start of the worldwide battle against imperialism and colonialism, and I would put on my tricorn hat and go out and tell tourists about the beginning of that fight. So I've never in my life confused dissent with a lack of patriotism. Just the opposite, in many ways.

You've written how those Minutemen "fought against the unpredictable, unrepresentative and unaccountable power that the king represented. They felt they had no more voice in the central government than many feel right now."

No taxation without representation! How many of us feel truly represented? One of the ironies of this book is that Vermont in some ways should be the last place to secede from the Union. We come closer to having an effective democracy than anyplace. There's 600,000 of us and we have two senators -- Sanders and Leahy -- and we can see them in the grocery store and call them on the phone. I can't imagine why California settles for only two senators. It's the sixth-largest economy in the world. It's got 40 million people. And two senators, just as we have in Vermont. The idea of one man, one vote is increasingly crazy in this country, and so is the malignant effect of money on our political life, as you have been reporting a long time now.

Fiction doesn't always have a moral, but fables always have a moral. What do you want us to take away from this one?

Not that we all should secede from the Union. Instead, let's resist. I really wrote this as a love note to the resistance -- the resistance that's been happening over the last 10 years. I've been a part of it with the organization, fighting global warming, and now in the resistance that's sprung up in the last year since Donald Trump took over. That's been the one heartening thing about this year: the antibodies have assembled themselves to try and fight off the fever that America's now in. I'm no Pollyanna, so I don't know if it's going to work or not. Sometimes the antibodies don't get there in sufficient quantity or in sufficient time, and you end up amputating.

Let's pause right here and talk about this present moment as reality, not fable. Here's what your story prompts me to ask: When people realize the current order of things no longer works and the institutions of government and society are failing to fix them -- failing to solve the problems democracy creates for itself -- what options do they have?

Well, I don't think we're in a place where rebellion in the sense of the American Revolution works anymore. One of the reasons that I'm a big advocate of nonviolence is that it's the only thing that makes sense. Taking up arms against a government that has the world's biggest supply of them is just a bad idea right from the start. But that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to resist, and we're seeing more and more of it coming from all directions. There are lots of lawyers testing what we can still do with the courts. There are demonstrators in the streets reminding us that when people rise up in large numbers, it makes it more difficult for the government to do bad things. There are people on social media and people jamming the switchboards on Capitol Hill, and there are people by thousands getting ready to run for office in this country, and people trying all kinds of different routes. To me, the thing that activists work for more than anything is not a new law. It's a change in the zeitgeist.

The spirit of the times.

Yes. That's the end result of most really big campaigning, and once you get that change in the zeitgeist, then the change in laws and legislation comes relatively easily. But it's winning that battle in the culture, in the atmosphere around us, as it were.

For example?

The great example in recent times is how effectively people organized around gay marriage. Now, you and I are both old enough to remember when that seemed like an utterly impossible ideal. In fact, five years ago Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still dead set against it because it didn't poll well. But people changed that. Activists managed to change the zeitgeist around those questions to the point where others began to realize, "Hey, we like people falling in love. Falling in love and getting married is a good thing. We should have more of it and not less." And the minute that that line was crossed, then the battle was for all intents and purposes over.

Climate change hasn't been so easy.

It's harder with many other things. The fight around climate change, which I've spent my life on, is somewhat more difficult because no one makes trillions of dollars a year being a bigot, and that's how much the fossil-fuel industry pulls in pumping carbon into the air. But the principle is the same, I think.

For me the question now is how much time do we have? When it comes to global warming, all signs suggest we are running out of time.

The question of time is the question that haunts me. I remain optimistic enough to think that in general human beings will figure out the right thing to do eventually, and Americans will somehow get back on course. Of course, there'll be a lot of damage done in the meantime. But with climate change in particular -- the gravest of the problems we face -- time is the one thing we don't have. It's the only problem we've ever had that came with a time limit. And if we don't solve it soon, we don't solve it. Our governments so far have not proven capable of dealing with this question. They simply haven't been able to shake off the self-interest and massive power of the fossil-fuel industry. It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort to get us onto renewable energy quickly and everywhere. It's doable technically; the question is whether it's doable politically or not. There I don't know.

You've said that winning slowly in this fight --

Winning slowly is another way of losing. Look, we're screwing up our health care system again right now. That's going to cause grave trouble for people over the next five, 10 years. There are going to be lots of people who die, lots of people who are sick, lots of people who go bankrupt. It's going to be horrible. But 10 years from now it will not be harder to solve the problem because you ignored it for those 10 years. It won't have changed into some completely other problem. With climate change, that's not true. As each year passes, we move past certain physical tipping points that make it impossible to recover large parts of the world that we have known.

Just last week we got the National Climate Assessment Report, which says we're now living in the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and that the average global concentration of carbon dioxide has surged to the highest level in approximately 3 million years. Three million years!

Three million years, and the last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature of the planet settled several degrees higher, which results in approximately a 20-meter rise in the level of the oceans. Times Square is 16 meters above sea level, just to give you a little bit of reference. We're playing with forces so enormous now. As you know, I wrote the first book about climate change almost 30 years ago --


When I started writing about it, climate change was still theoretical and abstract. Now it bludgeons you weekly. Think about the last eight weeks and confine yourself to the small percent of the planet that's covered by the United States. We had the greatest rainstorm in American history. Hurricane Harvey came ashore in your old state of Texas and dropped 54 inches in parts of Houston. That's more rain than we've ever seen at one time in the United States. Hurricane Irma, on its heels, is the longest ever recorded on the planet -- longest storm with a wind speed above 185 miles an hour. Maria comes to Puerto Rico 10 days after that, it knocks an entire island 30 years back in its development. It's going to be that long before they get back to where they were in August. And then look at what happens in California after the hottest and driest summer ever recorded there. Napa and Sonoma, which are as close as you get to our definition of what constitutes the good life -- you know, prosperous beautiful communities, surrounded by big buckets of wine -- Napa and Sonoma burn in the course of hours. People flee for their lives and the people who are slow don't make it.

We are divided, it seems to me, between the passionately ignorant and the passively informed. And therefore paralyzed.

We have to take some percentage of the passively informed and make them into the actively engaged. That's what movement-building is about. And we don't have to get all of them. There's a wonderful new book by the Engler brothers called This is an Uprising. It's an impressive history of nonviolence, a great sort of accounting of what we know from the last 50 or 75 years of nonviolent resistance. One of the things they find -- and I think they're quoting an academic named Erica Chenoweth -- is that if you can get 3.5 percent of the population actively engaged in some fight, then you usually win. That makes intuitive sense to me. What it means is that apathy cuts both ways. If you have a largely unengaged population, then some people getting engaged can move it in big ways. We saw that with the tea party quite effectively.

They took over the Republican Party.

That's right, and now we need to see it from the other direction.

Standing against the tide of movement that you and others are creating is something you haven't really faced before. A president as defiant as you, who insists that climate change isn't real. He and his cronies are twisting themselves into pretzels to justify blocking efforts to reverse global warming.

Absolutely. We may well run out of time. Part of me has never been particularly optimistic about the fight. The name of that book that I wrote back in 1989 was The End of Nature  -- not a very cheerful title. So we may well run out of time. But at the very least now, the one heartening thing is we are not going to run out of fight. It's going to be a battle. It's being engaged every day all over the world. And that at least is some consolation.

Are there other consolations?

It's not an impossible battle, because the engineers have done their job too. The last 10 years, we've watched the price of a solar panel fall 80 percent. That means there is no longer any mystery about what we do. If we were serious, we would put up a lot of solar panels.

As the Chinese are doing.

The Chinese are rapidly doing it.

I saw some news footage the other night: hundreds of acres in China -- thousands -- covered with solar panels.

The Chinese are trolling us. They're building hundreds of giant solar parks in the shape, from the air, of pandas. You look down and there's a panda's face composed entirely of solar panels. I think they're just making fun of us.

I don't think any reader who knows you will put this book down without asking what does Bill McKibben think we can do now, given the folly of our government? What can we do about the fate of the Earth as the planet gets hotter and the United States turns thumbs down on responding. As you just said, you spent the last 30 years trying to warn us about the threat. You've written important books, you've produced stellar journalism, you've traveled and lectured, protested and petitioned. You've organized and led marches and got yourself arrested outside Barack Obama's White House. Indeed, it wasn't until things like that happened that Obama finally woke up and started coming up with policies to fight global warming. It took that long to move a progressive Democrat. Now we have a president surrounded by like-minded cronies and supported by a Congress controlled by Republicans, a party that seems absolutely willing to let the Earth burn for profit. What would you have us do against such -- such counter-resistance?

You're right; we can't make any progress in DC, at least for now. One of the things that we have to do in the moment is make a lot of progress in the places we can: in local communities, in states and cities where we have enough political purchase to get things done. And really that's a larger span of places than you would think.

That's what you and several thousand other people were doing the other night here in Carnegie Hall, wasn't it?

We had a great gathering here in Carnegie Hall. We were kicking off this 1,000 Cities Campaign. Between the Sierra Club and a bunch of other allies we've been asking cities in the last year to commit to 100-percent renewable energy, I think there's 47 major American cities that have done that now. At first it was the obvious ones -- Berkeley, California, and Madison, Wisconsin -- but now it's Atlanta and Salt Lake City and San Diego, among others. You'll recall that when President Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord -- by the way, just think about that for a minute: a truly shameful thing to say that America, which has put more carbon in the atmosphere than any other country, was going to go back on its word, break its word, walk away from its commitments to an international body -- he said, "I was elected to govern Pittsburgh, not Paris." That afternoon the mayor of Pittsburgh announced, "We're going to make our city 100-percent renewable energy, thank you very much," which was at the moment the best response you could give Trump. Bill, we have to believe that some combination of events, and we can see some of them forming, may cause the fever in Washington to break. But we can't sit around just hoping for that to happen and nothing else. Our job in the meantime is to take on as many places as we can and start making them work again. Not just on climate, although that's really key, but on 100 other questions as well from voting rights to fair taxation to all the other things that are being suppressed on a national level.

What specifically did you ask that packed house at Carnegie Hall to do?

At this point I'm much more of an organizer than a writer, I guess, and I couldn't stand the thought of just getting up and giving a speech to 2,500 people without asking them to do something. We inserted a blank sheet of paper in their programs. In between listening to Joan Baez and Patti Smith and Michael Stipe and many other great heroes, I asked them to write Scott Stringer, the comptroller of the city of New York. Now, that's not a job that necessarily gives you a lot of latitude to fight climate change, except that he's ultimately the guy in change of the hundreds of billions of dollars in pension funds from New York City. And believe it or not, a bunch of that is invested in fossil-fuel companies. That makes no financial sense, as the fossil fuel guys have lost more money than anybody else over the last five years -- that's why people like the Rockefeller brothers, for heaven's sake, divested. It makes no moral sense. These are the guys who gamed our political system -- as Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, is demonstrating daily as he goes after ExxonMobil. It makes no practical sense, Bill -- New York City is going to spend billions upon billions building seawalls to try and protect Wall Street. Why would you be investing the city's cash in the companies that are making that work necessary?

But of course like many politicians, the comptroller and the mayor of New York have been better at talking about this than doing anything about it. And they're saying, "Well, we'll take this slowly, we'll have some more studies."

We've run out of years in which to have studies. This stuff comes at us now so fast that we need change in real time. So, I hope that Mr. Stringer, who may well be a good progressive, will decide this is within his ambit, that he'll be able to take this step and take it soon.

You mention ExxonMobil. I have to pinch myself to see if I am awake in the real world when I am reminded that Donald Trump made the CEO of ExxonMobil the US secretary of state. This is the company whose chief scientist told senior management in 1979 that the temperature would rise at least 4–5 degrees Fahrenheit and that it would be a disaster. And what did ExxonMobil do?

They did two things. Here's the real horror. They completely believed it. They went and built all their drilling rigs to compensate for the sea level rise they knew was coming. But they didn't tell any of the rest of us. Instead they spend hundreds of millions of dollars building the architecture of deceit and denial and disinformation that's kept us locked in this 25–year debate about whether global warming was "real" or not, a debate that both sides knew the answer to when it began. It's just that one of them was lying about the answer.

What kind of capitalism is it that puts everyone on earth at risk and lies about it for the sake of profit?

I'm afraid it's Ayn Randian capitalism  -- the elevation of the rich to a point of such incredible power that no one can question them. And the only way to deal with that is to build collective power in response. This is the perfect example of the fight of the many and the small against the few and the very big. Hey, there's a great picture on my wall from a couple of summers ago. Shell wanted to go drill in the Arctic.

Shell Oil?

Yes, Shell Oil. It was insane. Scientists had said, "If you keep burning coal and gas and oil, you will melt the Arctic." And then the Arctic melted just as they had predicted. Did Shell Oil look at the melt and say, "Huh, maybe we should go into the solar-panel business instead?" No, Shell Oil looked at that and said, "Oh, well, now that it's melted it will be easier to drill for more oil up there." That's enough to make you doubt about the big brain being a good adaptation, no? But when they started to take their giant -- and I mean giant -- drill rig up there to the Arctic from the harbor in Seattle, thousands of people in small craft came out on the water to block it. We called them kayaktavists. And they did so much brand damage to Shell that before the summer was out, Shell threw up its hands and said, "You know what? We're out of the Arctic drilling business," and walked away from their $7 billion investment. Sometimes people can stand up to the monolith. We just better figure out how to do it effectively and fast.

Has there been a corporate crime greater than the fossil-fuel industry's propaganda against the truth of global warming since -- well, since German industry became part of Hitler's killing machine?

Philip Morris took us down one smoker at a time, but Exxon's going one planet at a time. These guys are setting all kinds of records.

But it's not just industry that is undermining our efforts to cope with global warming. It's not just those moneybags at the oil companies and the utilities that are engaging in predatory delay. It's a whole lot of folks. Scenery lovers who try to block windmills on the grounds that they will kill birds. Labor unions that try to build pipelines -- you've written about how the AFL/CIO came out for building the Dakota Access Pipeline, even after the company sicced German shepherds on peaceful indigenous protesters. Then there are all us urban liberals who resist denser populations in the centers of our cities.

Sure, there's a part of all of us whose impulse is to say, "Let's keep everything the same until I die and then you can do whatever you want afterward." [laughs] And that's a difficult part. But Bill, most people don't spend their lives hiring lobbyists to make sure that that happens, don't have the trillions of dollars to spend to make sure that the political system obeys their impulses. So that's why at places like we look first to the biggest players and try to exert as much leverage as we can there.

Just as you say in Radio Free Vermont, movements are the heart of resistance, of change.

They're what we've got. Look, do I think that people should in the best of all possible worlds have to go to jail for wanting our government to pay attention to the warnings of scientists about climate change? Not really. I mean, in a rational world, if all the scientists said, "The worst thing that ever happened is about to happen and here's what you should do to stop it," you would expect any rational system to say, "Oh, sure, OK, let's do something about it." But that's not the world we live in. In the world we live in, you do need people willing to stand up, fight, march and sometimes go to jail.

But let's take a concrete reality. There's one guy in Washington who has more power than your movement -- or so it would seem -- and his name is Scott Pruitt. He's the guy Donald Trump has turned loose to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt thinks climate science is a hoax. He's a hack for the energy industry, a tool. He's shredded the budget for global warming. He's making it impossible for us to get from the EPA the science we need to know about climate change. He's stripping independent experts from the EPA Science Advisory Board so he can replace them with representatives of oil and gas companies. He's a fanatic -- including a religious fanatic, to be frank -- he even quoted the Bible last week to justify what he's doing to the Science Advisory Board. He protects himself around the clock with an 18-man security detail. He even has a soundproof booth built near his office so nobody can hear him colluding with corporate lawyers. Scott Pruitt has a killer's instinct, and he's clearly prepared to see the Earth burn up and people with it as long as his enablers can make money. What do you do about a Scott Pruitt, firmly ensconced in office, backed by the Trump White House, willfully, even cheerfully, doing everything he can do every day to impede the fight against global warming and environmental destruction?

In the very short run, there's nothing we can do. This was the Koch brothers' fantasy come to life. This is what they've worked for all those years that you've covered what they've been doing. In the slightly longer run, we do what we can within the electoral system to try and rein them in. If we get to the 2018 congressional races and the Democrats take back either the Senate or House, there will be at least some check on what Trump and the Republicans can do, or at least some ability to investigate and subpoena what they are doing. In the longer run, though -- the slightly longer run, because we don't have a great deal of long run -- what we have to do is what I said earlier: not be content merely with playing defense, but with really changing the zeitgeist. Because it's important to remember that wonderful as he looks in retrospect, Barack Obama wasn't solving this problem either. In Obama's time, and with his blessings, the US passed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the biggest producer of hydrocarbons on the planet. I like Barack Obama and I voted for him twice, and if he were still president, I'd be outside his door again the next day demanding that he actually do something about these problems. And that's the work that goes on. It's not going to be pretty in the short run, Bill. We're getting routed. But we better take that as the reminder not to give up our game but to change as best we can the places where we're fighting. That's why this move toward smaller and more local fights is imperative right now.

Global warming may be the most immediate and biggest problem we face, but there's a deeper reason we're not confronting it than Trump, Pruitt and the Republicans. It's what moved Vern Barclay and his co-conspirators to think about secession. Let me read you these headlines:

"Is this the end of democracy?"
"Is American democracy headed to extinction?"
"Across the globe, a growing disillusionment with democracy"
"Democracy in decline"
"Yes, American democracy could break down"

Do you think it could happen here -- that enough people stop caring about democracy and give up doing what is necessary to save it?

I think it definitely could. It causes me to lose sleep at night. It's one of the reasons I like living where I live, because I'm convinced that we'll reseed that democracy from the bottom up, from the town meetings of the world, from people organizing and coming together. But whether we can do it in time or not is absolutely an open question, and it's the most trying and vexing open question that we face.

Is it possible that we're approaching the limits of our ability to govern as a democracy?

It's possible that we're approaching the limits in terms of size. Three hundred million people are a lot to govern at once. It's possible that we're also approaching it in terms of concentrations of wealth and power, which make our system unstable and erratic. When we've reached the point where 10 or 20 Americans have as much wealth as half of their countrymen, it's a little much to expect that our system's going to work very well. Yes, we're clearly at the limits of something systemic, and if we cannot figure out how to make democracy work, then not only are we in trouble, but the planet is in a great deal of trouble, too. Always before, when governments collapsed or civilizations have gone under, the damage has been somewhat limited to the geographic proximity of that place. But because of climate change, we're now at the moment where what happens in a place as big and important as the United States happens everywhere. And that's what keeps me up at night. That's what makes it necessary to have some good local beer from time to time and dream the occasional dream about what a different future might look like.

Thank you, Bill McKibben.

Categories: News

Why We Need Devin Patrick Kelley to be Crazy

It's Goin Down - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 03:06

The post Why We Need Devin Patrick Kelley to be Crazy appeared first on It's Going Down.

Saying the Unsayable Every Time

When the unspeakable occurs, where do we turn for answers?

Whenever a politician or pundit — the two rusty gears of the great national blah-blah-chatter-machine — informs us that a shooting is an inarticulable tragedy — an unspeakable event — one can be sure this statement will be followed by excessive explanation.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting event in the US, journalists struggle to find answers as to how or why these keep occurring. Perhaps too many people have guns, or America is too violent, or maybe we’ve just lost our faith in God.

Through all this chatter, one answer is consistently appealing to all sides: the killers are crazy, psychos, lunatics, deranged, deluded, psychotic, mentally ill, Mad. Trump only said what everyone was thinking: Devin Patrick Kelley is another symbol of a national mental health crisis.

CNN reporters Emanuella Grinberg and Eliott C. McLaughlin believe that“the warning signs were there.” [1] Which warning signs? “Domestic violence. Sexual assault accusations. Animal cruelty. Escape from a mental health facility. Threatening text messages. An obsession with guns and mass shootings” they tell us.

This continued obsession in the biographical, the subjective, or the personal, means that the systemic and the historical will once again be swept aside. Hegemonic normative systems can only reproduce themselves if they can prove that the incident of extremity and ultra-violence are explainable solely by reference to the particular and not an expression of the system itself, even if it is an extreme one.

With this in mind, there is something profoundly disturbing about that list from CNN above. Each characteristic is listed as if we the readers ought to register them as Other, as abnormal and incorrect.

Their statement contains two dangerous errors in this regard: 1. none of these forms of ultra-aggression and terror are “outside” to Western values, rather, they are integral to them; and 2. escaping from a mental hospital does not belong on a list of assaults. Wrong first because they fail to see how these forms of aggression and hostility towards perceived weakness grew out of his experience as a normal, white, straight male, and not as some bizarre abnormality. Wrong also because they lump these forms of aggression in with the drive to escape from the controlling environment of the mental hospital.

The smooth integration of this supposed proof of mental instability and abnormality in  their list is a sly trick and one which serves a specific purpose: if they can point a finger at the psychos, they can continue to ignore the violence we all let fester within and around us.

More Than Just Normal

We find ourselves incapable of reading Devin Patrick Kelley’s “warning signs” as exactly that, as warning signs. Rather, they seem like the normal objects of our collective psychic environment. We see it like this: the nice, pleasant, normal, environs we live in, and the nice, pleasant, normal young men who most confidently move around in them were produced through acts of terror and aggression; they maintain themselves through these, and the act of locating the source of these hostile tendencies in the “mad” is a part of this structure.

White identity was/is produced through both legal and discursive acts of separation on the one hand and acts of performative domination and actual terror and destruction on the other. It was constructed in the Plantation era to separate the low, the nonhuman or partly human, from the high, the Whites. When whiteness came under threat — whether from slave insurrections, mixed race revolts in the pre-revolutionary era, or black organizing in the 60s — it was reconstituted with acts of extreme violence: mass executions, bombings in the South, re-enslavement and public torture. These events clearly had a performative and demonstrative element: they demonstrated that whiteness was untouchable and perceived encroachments would not be tolerated.

Silvia Federici, in Caliban and the Witch, wrote extensively on the physical and psychical violence committed against women in the construction of what might be called the “modern” form of Western Patriarchy. [4] Patriarchy for her isn’t some wisp or spook, nor a spectral abstraction used only for pointing out the meanness of men. Federici shows that it’s a real material process of degradation and terror leveled against the autonomy and abnormal behavior of women. This process didn’t occur merely through forms of discourse, but also through the physical destruction of medicines, degrading representations of women, the burning of “witches.” In other words, through systemic  terror and aggression.

Terror — the severing of limbs, the wanton violation and destruction of bodies, the performance of absolute domination and control — is more than just a normal part of our normal value systems (what many call White Supremacy and Patriarchy), it is the ritual element required for their continued existence. It may be extreme to hurt animals, to beat your wife, or to obsess about tools of murder, but it isn’t abnormal, not here, not in the West.

The designation of a class of “mentally ill” is part of this structure itself. As Erma VIP did in her critique of Susan Du’s City Pages article on strippers, we must ask ourselves who benefits from the further stigmatization of the mad? Who will suffer on account of Kelley’s portrayal as “mentally ill?” Probably not us (Sasha), at least not directly. Because we look the way we do (i.e. white and male), our abnormalities are not often read in public (although not never) as “dangerous schizoid behavior” but more often as drunkenness, or just weird. Certainly, we could suffer on account of this perception. It all depends on how we are seen in the moment, and Kelley’s portrayal as “crazy” won’t help.

Of course, that doesn’t yet take into account how these public accusations fit into a psychic economy. The self-representation of our differences as illness and the self-doubt around our own “threat potential” are not nothing. Concern over our “condition” (at this point of cognition, the condition is already separate and no longer simply a part of who we are) and whether or not we are perhaps actually a danger, or will be perceived as one, means that we, and others in our position, will be less likely to want to reach out and either share experience or seek care when needed. As some begin to publicly argue that increasing the rate of forced commitment is necessary to solve the “mental health crisis,” suicide suddenly becomes, in the moment of distress, a more tenable and attractive option.

But “madness” and “mental illness” themselves are constructed and traversed by contradictory lines of race and gender. The further stigmatization of the umbrella group  “the mentally ill” will only foster the mentality of fear, which makes a life-or-death situation out of the encounter with a “schizo” or “psycho.”

Whiteness, which must live in fear of the insecurities it itself has reproduced through its exclusions, lives in perpetual fear of retribution for its history. The darker the skin, the more likely the White Man will feel himself existentially threatened, and the more likely he is to call the police, who, as protectors of white society and its values, themselves perceive danger at every turn.

Even though Kelley himself was white, the “mentally ill” appellation cascades hierarchically downward, increasing the chance for others — those who are already primarily under threat — of being even more heavily policed or murdered.

Calling someone “mentally ill” is also a favorite weapon of misogynists, who see difference or vulnerability in expression as further proof of feminine weakness. Men like Devin Patrick Kelley think difference is a sign of inferiority and justify their own acts of terror with this fact.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as saying “we all must love each other” or “why can’t we just accept everyone for how they are?” We can’t take refuge in beloved universals. “Civilized” is a word-weapon we Westerners have used to elevate ourselves above and separate us out from those we see as beneath us: the savages, the primitive, the diseased and pathological. [2] “Humanity,” as Achille Mbembe has shown in his Critique of Black Reason, despite its seeming universality and biological foundation, was historically never supposed to represent all living things who talked and lived in communities. “Modern ideas of liberty, equality, and democracy are . . . historically inseparable from the reality of slavery” he writes [3]. This has been true since the Ancient Greeks established the form of government we still claim to practice today. Democracy for all! Except, of course, for women, slaves, children, the insane, foreigners.

The understandable anger of those who ask why white men are never labelled terrorist quickly turns into a demand that they be seen as such. In this way, they perform the same universalizing gesture but in reverse: we are united in seeing his behavior as so abhorrent and inexplicable that we cast him out from humanity. But in the West, terror is all too human, and the more we search for “terrorists,” the less we search around and within for the foundational source of that terror.

The radical acceptance of difference means being capable of being silent, of listening, of not over-hastily subsuming the other in your ideas about them. It means valuing receptivity above performance and communicability. Those excluded from the beloved universals have been forced to learn this skill. The so-called crazy people must do it, lest they get locked up again.

It’s time the ones doing the excluding do so as well.

Why We Love Throwing Lunatics to the Dogs

Sometimes a “progressive” journalist will meekly question the dominant belief that the schizo will kill you, flay you, eat your face off, or whatever. He or she will surely cite statistical reports from the Annals of Epidemiology or the US Department of Health and Human Services that show that only a tiny percentage of violent crime is attributable to those with a mental illness diagnosis.

We refuse to play this game. The mad, the “mentally ill,” as we are now called, do not exist as a permanent, stable group.

The mad have been women who wanted to escape what had become a boring, domestic hell. Maybe they wanted to sleep with other women. Maybe they didn’t want kids. Maybe they hated their husbands. Maybe they altered or even refused the gender assigned to them at birth.

The mad have been children who found it impossible to sit still in school. Maybe their teacher was unbearable. Maybe she found his lessons degrading, insensitive, and pointless. Maybe he didn’t want to hear about the accomplishments of Europe any longer.

The mad have been black and native men and women who decided to resist unlivable or unacceptable conditions whether in 1960s urban centers in America [2], or in New Zealand [3]. This is a global phenomenon. Maybe they were too loud, too black, too scary, or too strange to be understood by the white doctors who ultimately decided who was mad and who wasn’t.

The mad have been those experiencing extreme mental or physical distress who require care. Not the expert care that originates in the minds of those who pathologize them, but situated care, deeply aligned with their world and their desired place in that world. The exact same kind of care we all need.

Yes, we need to talk about specific intersections of mental health and care, but not uncritically. By automatically assuming the existence of “the mentally ill,” the criteria for identifying them, and the need for “treatment,” and by not asking any questions about who gets to decide who is mad, about the effects of stigma, about the various labels’ historical functions, about the power relations within which they exist, about the structure and formation of the medical knowledge that make up their foundations, or about the diverse experiences of those who receive these labels, even the most progressive calls for “care” can unthinkingly reproduce power relations of domination, scientific racism, gender policing, and the isolation of the suffering.

The crisis is not insanity, nor mental illness. The crisis is our normal way of thinking and acting itself; its hegemony and our inability to admit the legitimacy of another way of thinking and living. The mad have been those who think differently, who have organized their thoughts in their own way. This act of insolence must be punished in the eyes of the normal, hence they are a natural scapegoat for society’s most extreme perversions.

The mad, whether as insolent housewife, as rebellious subject, as “bad kid”, as sufferer, or as abnormal freak are not essentially the unreasonable, the nonspeaking, the abnormal. We represent another kind of reason, another way of speaking, a different norm, and for that reason we must be represented as the truly Outside, as unpredictable violent brutes capable of random violence.

We are a threat, true, but not because of a heightened physical capacity for murder or violation of consent — that belongs more so to Jeff and John down the street — but because we live according to other standards, whatever they may be.



[2] Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process.

[3] Mbembe, Achille. Critique of Black Reason.

[4] Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch.

[5] Metzl, Jonathan. The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease.

[6] Cohen, Bruce. “Passive-Aggressive: Māori Resistance and the Continuance of Colonial Psychiatry in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Categories: News

Water Protectors Lock Together Inside Pipeline, Shut Down Last Stretch of Wisconsin Line 3 Construction

It's Goin Down - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 02:54

The post Water Protectors Lock Together Inside Pipeline, Shut Down Last Stretch of Wisconsin Line 3 Construction appeared first on It's Going Down.

Early this morning, a group of water protectors from the Makwa Initiative halted the last piece of construction for the Wisconsin section of Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 replacement project. Two water protectors locked together inside a segment of steel pipe in defense of Mother Earth. Sleeping pads and blankets protected their skin from exposure in the below freezing temperatures.

Upon arrival, police officers tackled a young female water protector without providing notice or reason for arrest. A male police officer physically searched the woman while a female police officer looked on, ignoring her cries for a female patdown. The water protector was later released when police dropped all charges. After several hours, the two locked water protectors left the pipe and also stopped active construction further into the worksite and are still being detained.

The project is estimated to carry almost one million barrels of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin; Enbridge has received approval in Wisconsin, but has not received approval in Minnesota, which would be the largest segment of the proposed project. The non-violent direct action came after a week of evidentiary hearings in Minnesota, where Enbridge revealed that it had already paid for 100% of the pipe for the project, and has built several pipe storage yards across the state.

A water protector stated, “We have attended public hearings, marches, and rallies. At this point we feel like the only way we can make are voices heard is by locking our bodies to the equipment. The state has recorded our comments, catalogued them, and say they factor them into their decision on whether or not to permit the project. We want them to stop expanding tar sands infrastructure. We need to be thinking about our children’s futures.”

Photos by Rob Wilson Photography

Categories: News

Kite Line: 23 Hours In & One Hour Out, The View From Menard

It's Goin Down - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 02:38

The post Kite Line: 23 Hours In & One Hour Out, The View From Menard appeared first on It's Going Down.

Listen and Download Here

This week, we share the words and experiences of Salomon X, a former prisoner in Illinois. In the first of two episodes with Salomon, he describes poor conditions and exploitation in the Menard prison, site of many recent struggles, and compares it with other facilities. Many of his memories will be recognizable to Hoosiers; elsewhere, he has spoken of prisoners choking to death without receiving aid. A similar situation occurred in Westville, Indiana, sparking a round of protest there.

Categories: News

Porland, OR: Portland Pickets In Support of IWW Burgerville Workers Union

It's Goin Down - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 02:29

The post Porland, OR: Portland Pickets In Support of IWW Burgerville Workers Union appeared first on It's Going Down.

Tonight, Portland residents joined with Burgerville Workers Union members to picket outside of a Burgerville store to demand that the corporation begin negotiations with workers.

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Posted by Burgerville Workers Union on Friday, November 10, 2017

The picket is only the latest in a series of actions, pickets, and strikes which have attempted to put pressure on the local burger chain to meet workers demands of a living wage and improvements in overall conditions.

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Power to the workers!

Posted by Burgerville Workers Union on Friday, November 10, 2017

In a post about the picket on Facebook Burgerville Workers Union wrote:

In the year and a half since going public the union has only gotten stronger, but corporate still refuses to negotiate. Come out in support of Burgerville workers and show the company what they’re up against until the day they start treating their workers with respect. 

To learn more about Burgerville Workers Union, check their page here and check out our past podcasts with them here and here.

Categories: News

Bloc Party: Prisoner Updates

It's Goin Down - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 00:53

The post Bloc Party: Prisoner Updates appeared first on It's Going Down.

We are happy to announce anarchist prisoner Casey Brezik’s brand new support site and post-release fund. As he mentions in his updates below, Casey is trying to raise an additional $1,000 over the next two years from his anarchist comrades so that he can buy a used car when he gets out of prison, hopefully sometime at the end of 2020. This seems like a goal that can certainly be met and almost certainly exceeded. 

In case you aren’t familiar with Casey, and you’d like to understand better Casey’s motivations and the mental and emotional conditions that led to his action, you can check out his article “The Short Story of How I Got Here” published by the Kansas City Anarchist Black Cross. As in all of his writings, Casey reflects on his action with a rare degree of humility and honesty that we appreciated quite a bit. 

Over the course of Casey’s time in prison, he has not gotten the degree of support that our comrades deserve from one another. We’re not going to get into brainstorming all the troubling reasons why that might be the case, instead we want to continue to encourage folks to get involved with him. He’s a kind and humble person who is very open to and capable of friendship and his requests of us are always very modest. And for all you anarcho-scientists hiding out there, ashamed to admit that a post-revolutionary society that doesn’t involve space exploration would make you just a little sad, Casey is the pen-pal for you!

Supporting our comrades can be complex at times, and just as they are when they’re with us on the outside, our friends inside are not one-dimensional characters. But, when the state holds them captive it is imperative that we let them know in the most tangible ways possible that they are not forgotten and they are never alone. Prison is meant to break ones spirit. It is designed to break you in the most heinous ways physically, emotionally and spiritually. We don’t always have the greatest tools to combat that kind of violence, but the ones we do hold we can never stop utilizing. Like our dear friends from the June 11th crew reminded us this past Summer, communication is a weapon. It is one of our strongest weapons. Let’s use it together. For Casey, for all our other comrades, and for the comrades we have yet to get to know.

June 11th demo, Pittsburgh

From Casey:

Hello! How are you doing?! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. Partially I feel bad for that but partially I consider you could probably care less. Lol. I’ve been doing alright. I’ve seen some bad times but some good times too. Most importantly, I got married March 14th, 2017. That’s been a blessing. I’ve been fairly depressed otherwise though. I’ve had a few issues in here but a big cause has been my hopeless outlook for my Anarchists in Space aspirations. Finding funds seems impossible. But recently, I’ve come across something.

I’m not recalling exactly what all was said in my last post, but I know my plans for college have changed. My family wasn’t able to pay for any correspondence courses, although I was able to get ahold of a calculus textbook and have had support with studies from another comrade. So, I am still making progress. For a while that was slow though because of a bad situation I was in for 6 months due to have a terrible celly. Anyway, my intentions, as of now, are to get out and attend St. Charles Community College. They do a lot of work with the prison here. I figure they’ll allow me to attend. I’ll go there to take care of my basics before transferring to Missouri University of Science and Technology to pursue a doctorate’s in aerospace engineering. If I’m going to build a rocket, it only makes sense that I study rocket science.   That brings me to the idea I have to generate funding for the project. I still figure building a fueling station for a new generation of fusion-powered rockets is a good idea. But, it’d be better if we could build a fusion-powered rocket to get there. Really a two option rocket. Something we could use conventional means to get there with. Then, carry a small payload that could convert the lunar soil (regolith) into fuel to power an even further expedition. If we can start mining our solar system we’re bound to attract wealthier investors to fund our expeditions.   I realize this poses a problem because we’d be adopting capitalist tactics by taking on investors, but with a good business plan I think the effects could be kept to a minimum. There’s still plenty of time to work out the details, though. I’m not eligible for parole until November 2020 and it’ll take another 8 years to complete my Ph.D. That’s long enough to work out the details. Right now, it’s just important that we have something to work towards.   That brings me to something else though. I need some help. I’ve been saving back money that people have been sending me. I have $1,300 now. However, I don’t think that’ll be enough for when I’m released. The few sources I was relying on for funding have ceased due to complications. My goal is to have about $3,500 once I’m released. The plan is to buy a cheap vehicle to help me get to work and school in St. Louis. Plus, I’d use some money for rent. Hopefully, I can find someone to room with. We’ll see. It’s still too far off to figure that out yet. Currently, I’m receiving $50 a month from family. Of that I’m saving $30/month. That should put me close to $2,500 by the time I get out. My hope is that I can solicit about $1,000 from my comrades in order to get the rest. If you can help, I’d be greatly appreciative.   If you’re interested in sending funds there are three ways you can do it:
  1. The best way is to donate to the PayPal account that is collecting money for my post-release fund.
  1. You can also go to and use my inmate information (Casey M. Brezik/ #1154765/ Missouri Dept. of Corr.) to send money online or find instructions to do so by phone, or…
  1. You can write me a letter stating that you’d like to send funds and I can send you a deposit slip that you can send in with a money order.
  If you create an account at, you can send me free emails. Just beware I can’t email you back. I’d have to write you. So don’t forget to include your address.   In other news, there won’t be a book coming out any time soon. I may have an idea for what to write but the actual process is difficult and beyond me right now. Mad respect to all the authors out there.   I hope everyone is doing alright. Thanks for taking the time to listen. Solid, Casey

Comrades, I have to apologize for my last post. Giving a half-assed sales pitch for a crackpot idea and then asking for your money is no way to send out my first post in over a year. My apologies for that. It’s just difficult for me to see how I could have anything worthwhile to contribute. However, I’ve been talking with some comrades and they’ve helped me gain some self-confidence. I want to talk to you about the antifa.

Lately, since Charlottesville, I’ve been seeing a lot mentioned about it on the mainstream media. I think it’s good that you are getting the recognition you deserve even if it’s somewhat controversial. I know you’ve been around for a long time and have really been stepping up your efforts since Donald Trump started his ascension to power. I have mad respect and gratitude. Especially because I’m a minority. However, I want to run something by you.

I know they deserve to be punched in the face as much so or more than the next man, but I think we as anarchists have bigger things to concern ourselves with. I’m not saying that our presence shouldn’t be made known at their little rallies. I’m just saying we should think twice before risking jail time over them. Jail and prison isn’t worth these scumbags. Because, guess what? Jail and prisons are filled with them. A white guy without a Swazi or lightning bolts tattoo is really the exception and not the rule. White supremacy runs rampant like the black plague in the prison systems. And guess what? There are no anarchists! Not to say anarchists aren’t imprisoned but that anarchists don’t have numbers in prison. Wherever you end up, the chances are you’re going to be alone. The fascists will always out number us. Even if they don’t know what fascism is as many don’t. Hell, I’m not an expert either though. Most inmates aren’t politically savvy. It’s not unusual for me to see guys walking around with both Swazi and anarchists tattoos. Yet, somehow I’m the confused one with a “circle A” on my right hand and a “hammer and sickle” on my left.

I think the main difference between our camp and theirs (besides our ideology) is our funding. Fascists can make their money selling drugs and guns because for the most part they’re looking at a slap on the wrist. As to where in most cases we’re declared enemies of the state and face much harsher punishments. Even if we were on a level playing field in regards to the amount of time we were looking at, they’re still better funded than we are. Being that they can also come from all professions. As to where most (not all!) anarchists are stuck working odd end jobs just to pay the bills.

My point in all this is that possibly we should have more of a focus on strengthening our own ranks rather than spreading them thin by straining them with unnecessary prisoner support. Maybe I’m a hypocrite for saying that, but I recognize that I’ve become an unnecessary burden. It urks me to no end that I don’t feel like I can contribute in a meaningful way. In all the thinking I’ve done, the best idea I have to “give back” is to “make something of myself,” so I can feed funds back into the scene. Money more than anything is what I think we need right now.

In short, I think we need to be encouraging each other and helping each other to realize our fullest potential and not settle for less. Be that a doctor, a scientist, artist, or whatever we aspire to. I think a lot of people get caught up or deterred in associating these aspirations as a product of the capitalist system. No doubt they’re intertwined. But we live in a capitalist society. There’s nothing we can do about that. However, how you make your money and how you spend it are two different things. Thanks for listening.

Casey Brezik

In other news from the bloc…

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s website reports that there is a new issue of Main Line out now. Check it out here.

Sean Swain has a book newly published by LBC called “Last Act of the Circus Animals.” Sean himself gave some solid seals of approval:

“In 2008, some folks who were affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front got raided by the fascists, and copies of ‘Last Act’ were found in their possession. Another reader of ‘Last Act’ started writing to me and applied to be on my visiting list before he got picked up as one of the founding members of the hacktivist group Anonymous. I’ve heard that one of the twelve original members of the Ad-Busters group that started Occupy was radicalized in high school when reading a dog-eared copy of ‘Last Act of the Circus Animals.’ And I’ve also heard that a member of the NATO 5 conspiracy still reads ‘Last Act’ to his infant child each night before bed.

Hopefully, that’s a good indication that there will be another generation of ski-mask-clad machete-wielding molotov-throwing savage-cannibal maniacs kicking a dent in the system… if we can’t topple it sooner.”

We’ll be back after the weekend with a full roundup of prison/er updates. For now we hope you’ll send a little loving solidarity to Casey and Sean:

Casey Brezik #1154765
Northeast Correctional Center
13698 Airport Road
Bowling Green, Missouri 63334

Sean Swain #243-205
Warren CI
P.O. Box 120
Lebanon, Ohio 45036

Categories: News

“We’re Not Leaving”: Chicago Squatters Resist Eviction

It's Goin Down - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 23:26

The post “We’re Not Leaving”: Chicago Squatters Resist Eviction appeared first on It's Going Down.

This statement published below comes from a group of squatters who have occupied a building owned by Barnett Capital, one of the driving forces of gentrification in Chicago. The squatters state that they are not leaving the building. As many of us are squeezed out by rising rents and real estate capital, we must all stand in solidarity with everyone fighting back. For background information, go here.

Our time is up. After squatting a former homeless shelter owned by billion dollar investment company Barnett Capital for the past thirteen months, we have reached the end of our rope. The eviction papers have been signed and stamped by the judge, all negotiations have expired, the sheriffs are on standby.

We were supposed to be out by April 1st, but through direct confrontation and sheer nerve, managed to push the eviction back to November 7th. That day has come and gone, and only one thing stands in Barnett Capital’s way of turning our squat into luxury condos: we’re not leaving.

Chicago: Barnett Capital and Police Move to Destroy Squat for Condos #rentistheft #deathtocapital

— The Base (@TheBaseBK) May 17, 2017

All entrances to the building have been barricaded and we are bunkered down in our squatted fortress. This building is Barnett Capital’s eastern entry point to gentrify the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago. To them we say: it’s on. We are committed to making it physically, socially, and financially implausible for them to carry out their war on poor people.

To our comrades fighting in this war we say: don’t give in. We have pushed past the limits of what all respectable organizations deemed possible. We have proved that we can make these fuckers fear us.

Rent is their illusion, it’s up to us to shatter it. SQUAT THE WORLD!!!

Categories: News

Dispatches from Puerto Rico: Front Line Relief

It's Goin Down - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 22:57

The post Dispatches from Puerto Rico: Front Line Relief appeared first on It's Going Down.

Our current Mutual Aid Disaster Relief team in Puerto Rico has concentrated efforts mostly on HIV/AIDS prevention, safe water outreach/education, breastfeeding in disasters and also is addressing other health needs with our team of nurses, a lab chemist, lactation counselors and a medic.

We provided health education materials, triage, screening, and assisted 100 patients one of the first days we were here, based out of a little church 1/2 way up a mountain in a little community called Quebrada Prieta. This community lacks potable water: one woman was using the water from her pool to wash and clean, most are drinking from the river that drains from the rain forest. We were able to provide lab testing, exams, and assist a home bound, double amputee diabetic patient with a host of diabetes supplies.

Another day we were in Vega Baja, close to the ocean. We saw 89 patients in a pop-up clinic inside of a restaurant called El Right Field de Tommy. Since the storm, this restaurant has been providing free rice and beans every Tuesday to residents of this severely affected neighborhood. Yet another example of mutual aid in practice. Many of the folks seen had just got water back in their homes, but were unsure if it was safe to drink and some only had a steady drip coming out of the tap, insufficient for a day’s water needs. And yet others noted that some days the water worked and other days nothing came out of the taps. So we discussed ways to make water potable, such as boiling for 2 minutes if they have a gas stove or using a bleach + water recipe to make it safer to drink.

With so many people saving rainwater, we also talked about ways to safely store it and how to prevent mosquitoes. Very few in this community had generators. However we did do a home visit with a bedridden, oxygen dependent patient in which the generator was running outside of her bedroom windows. When we walked in we could smell it in her bedroom. We talked about the impact of carbon monoxide on her lungs and helped her husband move the generator to a safer spot, further away from his wife’s windows. We also got to do some more breastfeeding education as there were a lot of moms with babies and toddlers. Many of the moms were happily breastfeeding their babies. We were able to answer their questions and provide support and encouragement that they were doing the right thing.

Still another day, we saw 54 patients at a community Center in Los Naranjos, a community that saw flooding up to peoples necks during the storm. Most lost a lot, some lost everything, most have no potable water, none have electricity. All are helping each other: one woman had 70 people on her roof during the floods. The last 6 patients of the day were home bound. All of them are strong men women and kids. The oldest was 102 years old, the youngest was still in her moms belly!

There is a much wider context, including socioeconomic status and availability of resources that factor into health and food access. First, Puerto Rico had above 40% poverty before the storm; Unemployment was above 12%. Staying healthy and eating healthy costs more money, in the form of direct costs (for example: $4 for milk) and indirect costs (taking the day off work to care for a sick family member).

Second, going to the doctor or store implies that you have a car, which implies you are driving, which implies that your car didn’t flood or get blown to pieces in the storm. Then we must assume that you bought gas, which implies that you may have stood in line for 0 minutes to 2 hours (depending on the city, it’s short in the metro area), and all of this implies that you have money, which brings me to…

Returning to your job. Many people’s jobs are too damaged to even exist anymore or they cannot work the way they once did. For example, yesterday we saw a school that was destroyed, covered in mud, windows shattered to pieces, metal cables sticking out of cracked cement, no running water, bathroom walls crumbled. These children are not in school anymore. If their parents both used to work, someone now needs to stay home or adjust their schedule to take care of the kids during the work day or they can find someone else to care for their kids, which costs money. Their days are spent collecting water for washing and cleaning from the river; arriving early at the store or the water truck to stand in line for water that’s sold out within 20 minutes; cleaning up mud from every surface of their home; caring for sick or injured family and friends and neighbors; looking for accessible/cheap food; removing every piece of furniture that was submerged in water including the children’s mattresses which are now on the curb growing mold…. and the list goes on and on and on and on.

It’s not always possible to just go to the doctor. Sometimes the doctor is the one living the scenarios described above. Sometimes the traditional organizations tasked with assistance don’t have the people-power to maintain their services. Sometimes the closest store is miles away and the land you were living off is now a bare pile of sticks.

Here is a quote from Dr. Diana Negron, the director of the SILO Treatment Center, with whom we have been working alongside, “He who was poor before the storm is 1000 times more poor now. And if he wasn’t poor before the storm, he is becoming poorer each day.”

We brought down and distributed notes of support and solidarity from preschoolers and kindergartners in Florida.

The kids at the community center, El Ojo de Agua, made drawings for us thanking us for our work.


Of course it made me cry, I cannot express how grateful I am to serve the community day after day. It’s hard work and sometimes sad and sometimes one feels as if they’re not making a dent in all the needs in every town. But we’ve had people tell us that the storm brought them together, men have cried telling us about how they’ve lost everything yet they feel strong, elderly women living alone have declined supplies because they know someone else needs them more, neighbors have invited neighbors to live in their homes, and they share hugs with us, share drawings and offer us delicious rice and beans as a thank you. Our gratitude for these folks and for our ability to do this work is a bottomless well. Truly, it is us who should be thanking the people of Puerto Rico for their humbly and nobly navigating the worst, and still showing us humanity at its best.

Categories: News

One Hundred Years after the Bolshevik Counterrevolution

Anarchist News - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 19:19

A Timeline Charting the Repression of Revolutionary Movements

A century ago, on November 7, 2017, the Bolshevik seizure of power got underway in revolutionary Russia. Following up our compilation of voices who spoke out against the rise of Soviet totalitarianism, “Restless Specters of the Anarchist Dead,” we present this translation of a text that appeared today in Catalan. It offers a detailed timeline of the Bolshevik crackdown on revolutionary currents in Russia, starting before the so-called October Revolution and running up to the treaty between Stalin and Hitler.

The current text is no more than a summary, a small reminder of a historical disaster that still resonates in our struggles today. This October 2017, a hundred years later, it falls on us to remember the Bolshevik appropriation of the Russian Revolution, which constituted a disaster for the working class, a disaster for the Russian people and all the peoples subject to the Russian Empire, a disaster for anti-capitalist movements on a world scale, a disaster for everyone seeking freedom, a disaster for humanity.

Forward, comrades—into counterrevolution!

A Predictable Disaster

The counterrevolutionary drift of the USSR was predictable. Bakunin foresaw just how a “dictatorship of the proletariat” would quickly turn into yet another dictatorship over the proletariat, 50 years before it occurred. In the following years, many other anti-capitalists arrived at the same conclusion. It was a pretty safe bet, considering how the leaders of the new dictatorship found their inspiration in another counterrevolutionary figure, Karl Marx.

We don’t make this assertion lightly, denouncing as “counterrevolutionary” a person who, beyond any doubt, was so important to anti-capitalist struggles. We wouldn’t ever take such a step over simple disagreements in theoretical matters. It is only after a painstaking survey of the consequences of Marx’s actions that we arrive at this conclusion.

Marx implanted colonial and white supremacist attitudes in the heart of the anti-capitalist movement, and he broke the autonomy of this movement so completely that 150 years later we still haven’t recovered.

To name a single example, Marx celebrated the US conquest of Mexico, using openly racist terms to contrast the “energetic” Yankees with the lazy and “primitive” Mexicans. His idea of dialectical progress shared the element of white supremacy with the liberalism of the day. He was convinced that the Western nations were the most advanced in the world and that all the other peoples would have to emulate Europe and follow the same path to liberate themselves. As such, he was an unapologetic defender of colonialism, which he recognized as an exercise of capitalist violence, but which he also believed was vital to the progress of “primitive” peoples.

Apart from his racism, Marx was an authoritarian complicit with bourgeois institutions. One of the strongest features of the workers’ movement in the 19th century was its autonomy. It was a movement built by the workers themselves and within it the institutions of the class enemy had no place. Marx ruined all that with his obstinate insistence that in order to win, according to his theory—a theory which history has torn to shreds, a theory that predicted the anti-capitalist revolutions would occur in Germany and the UK, definitely not in Russia or Spain—the working class had to adopt the political forms of its enemy, organizing itself in political parties and entering the bourgeois institutions, the parliaments where monarchists and capitalists struggled for control of a power based solely in the subordination of the peasants and workers, a power that could not even exist without the continued domination of these classes.

Marx was accustomed to being surrounded by lackeys. When he realized that there were independent minds and contrary opinions within the International Workingmen’s Association, that it was no longer his personal fan club, he conspired and made use of all the dirty tricks that have since become well-known methods of manipulating assemblies in order to kick out all those who differed with him and who opposed the obviously erroneous tactic of creating political parties. This was not merely a conflict between two positions, Marxist and anarchist, nor was it a duel between Marx and Bakunin. Marx excluded not only anarchists but anyone who disagreed with him, including feminists like André Leó, participant in the Paris Commune (a movement which Marx initially denounced).

As a result of the split, the majority of the International broke with the Marxist faction. Many people who are only familiar with oversimplified accounts centered on Marx assume that as soon as the headquarters of the International were moved to New York, the organization was effectively finished, but in fact it was only the smaller Marxist splinter group that immediately became moribund. The majority of the International continued organizing together according to anarchist principles for half a decade more, as the Marxist historian Steklov was forced to recount in his history of the International. It took five more years of continuous state repression to destroy the organization, and that only succeeded because Marxists and other statist elements of the labor movement refused to act in solidarity with revolutionary labor organizing.

Marx’s controversial strategy—to convert the International into a tool for entry into bourgeois institutions via social-democratic parties—was an embarrassing failure, just as his critics predicted. The new parties wasted no time in selling out the working class to their new professional colleagues, the bourgeoisie. What’s more, Marx’s main heirs, such as the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany, sent the working class off to the counterrevolutionary slaughterhouse that was World War I.

Nestor Makhno on May 1, 1907, in the front row on the far left, with fellow members of an anarchist organization in his hometown.

Lenin: From German Agent to Butcher of the Working Class

From early on, Lenin was a leader of the Bolshevik (“majority”) faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party, which would later become the Communist Party.

He was an intellectual from a bourgeois family who never stopped playing the role of manager. We can’t deny that a person doesn’t choose where they are born, and can decide to renounce their privilege and fight alongside the oppressed. But Lenin was the architect of a pseudo-revolutionary state that would be directed by his class. From the beginning, the USSR was a dictatorship of intellectuals and bureaucrats oppressing the exploited classes. Lenin never abandoned his class interests. He called on the workers and peasants to rise up for the same reason that during the Revolution he appropriated anarchist discourses (in The State and Revolution, which scandalized the members of his own party who didn’t understand that the text was simply a manipulative attempt to win the support of the masses and an alliance with the anarchists, who constituted a key force in the October insurrection). All of this was calculated to motivate the masses to serve as cannon fodder for his ambitions.

Lenin was even more authoritarian than Marx. As the leader of the Bolsheviks, he maneuvered to expel the Mensheviks, Bogdanovists, and other currents from the Party. He differed with the former because they favored freedom of opinion whereas he believed that the entire Party must adhere to their leaders’ dogmas and decisions. He differed with the latter simply because they represented a threat to his control of the Party. He alleged that Bogdanov wasn’t an orthodox Marxist, but neither was Lenin; for years, he had appropriated the idea of the anarchists and the esery (Socialist Revolutionaries or SRs) that a revolution could be made in Russia without passing through a constitutional period.

On the eve of the Russian Revolution, Lenin was in contact with the secret police of the German Empire. It was only thanks to them that he was able to return to Russia amid the tumult of the World War. They also gave financial aid to his Party. In exchange for the aid, they expected Lenin to pull Russia out of the war, freeing up the Germans’ eastern front.

In the end, Lenin was more faithful to the German imperialists than to the workers and peasants. Even though many other Bolsheviks were horrified by his proposed collaboration with Germany, the dictatorship that Lenin had already established within his Party prevailed. Without consulting the Polish and Ukrainian peoples, historically occupied by Tsarist Russia, Lenin ceded those territories to the German imperialists along with a huge bounty in money and raw materials that contributed to the slaughter of the working class on the western front.

Contrary to the Leninist or Trotskyist version, which attributes all the brutality of the USSR to Joseph Stalin, the bloody repression of the worker and peasant classes and the effort to rebuild capitalism began in the first year of the dictatorship when Lenin was still in charge.

Lenin and Stalin: two of a kind.

A Revolution Derailed

The February Revolution of 1917 resulted in a parliamentary government immobilized by the unrealistic attempt to reform the old regime while protecting dominant interests. The October Revolution (which began on November 7, according to the modern calendar), was supposed to put an end to the power of the bourgeoisie and aristocrats and allow the self-organization of society via the soviets, assemblies of workers, peasants, and soldiers, which had appeared spontaneously in the 1905 Revolution and reemerged with the February Revolution.

On November 7, the Bolsheviks and their allies rose up in Petrograd, beginning the second revolution. On November 8, a detachment of anarchist sailors from Kronstadt, led by the anarchist Zhelezniakov and in coordination with the Bolsheviks, captured the Winter Palace, abolishing the Provisional Government.

The same Zhelezniakov was also chosen to lead a detachment that seized and abolished the Constituent Assembly in January of the following year. He led a flotilla and then an armored train battalion against the White Army during the Civil War. Although he protested the Bolsheviks’ imposition of hierarchical measures and the restoration of tsarist officers within the Red Army, he was too valuable as a military strategist to cast aside. The Bolsheviks invited him to rejoin them—he had gone to Crimea to fight against the Whites in an autonomous formation—and they assigned him the command of the armored train campaign to halt the advance of the White General, Denikin. He died in combat in 1919.

Subsequently, it became clear that the Bolsheviks did not coordinate with anarchists out of a spirit of solidarity. On the contrary, they systematically assigned anarchists the most dangerous roles so that they would assume the physical and political consequences if things went poorly.

In November 1917, the Bolsheviks took advantage of a temporary majority they had in the Second Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets, thanks to the disorganization of the other parties after the coup against the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks’ able propaganda, and their political and intellectual profile (they didn’t represent a majority within the working class but they did get a majority of chosen delegates). At the Congress, they converted the Central Executive Committee into a largely independent government organ standing over the soviets. Previously, the Committee had been an organ devoid of state power that was only supposed to give continuity to the tasks of the Congress of Soviets. The Bolsheviks’ maneuver turned it into the executive power of a new state. And this Committee, formed by delegates elected by delegates elected by delegates (the three layers of representation were the local soviets, the Congress of Soviets, and the Central Executive Committee) was controlled—inevitably—not by the people but by the most Machiavellian and opportunistic bureaucrats, which is to say: the Bolsheviks. Subsequently, the Party under Lenin’s intransigent dictatorship had the new Central Executive Committee form the Council of People’s Commissars, or Sovnarkom, which quickly became the supreme authority of the new state, in charge of reorganizing the economy and administering state affairs. And its chairman was—what a surprise—Lenin!

The Bolsheviks did not honor any of the other decisions of the Second Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets. They abandoned the entire opportunistic program they had used to attain a majority of delegates—the agrarian program, the proposal for seeking a dignified withdrawal from the war, the decision to create a Constituent Assembly. Now that they had created the bureaucratic layers capable of legitimating their dictatorship, they no longer had to fight for the interests of the workers and peasants. Subsequently, the Congress of Soviets would do little more than rubber stamp the decisions of the Sovnarkom.

On December 5, 1917, the Bolsheviks established the Cheka, the secret police, who directed their activity against other revolutionary currents from the very beginning. The Cheka were led by Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat.

Dzerzhinsky, head of the Cheka.

On December 22, 1917, the Bolsheviks began to negotiate with Germany and the other Central Powers, arrogating the authority to speak in the name of the whole of Russian society, as well as the peoples occupied by the Russian Empire.

On December 30, 1917, the Bolsheviks carried out their first operation of political repression. The Cheka arrested a small group of SRs, ostensible allies, including a delegate of the Constituent Assembly, who formed a part of the opposition.

In January 1918, the Bolsheviks abandoned the Constituent Assembly and orchestrated its suppression, together with the anarchists. Whereas the anarchists opposed the Assembly as a bourgeois organ that counteracted the power of the soviets, the Bolsheviks had demanded the creation of the Assembly after the February Revolution and they had stood in the elections. They only turned against the Assembly once they were unable to win a majority.

In March 1918, the Bolsheviks signed a humiliating peace treaty with Germany that went against all the working class proposals for ending the war. They paid a huge war compensation and ceded control over various nations previously under tsarist domination (in effect, the Baltic countries, Poland, and Ukraine). In Ukraine, the peasants organized a guerrilla war and won many battles against the German imperialists, proving the viability of the proposal of anarchists and others for “neither war nor peace,” by which they meant ending the imperialist war but resisting any military occupation through revolutionary guerrilla tactics. Lenin imposed his rejection of this option, probably because he knew his elitist Party would be incapable of controlling a decentralized guerrilla campaign. He preferred the defeat and occupation of Ukraine over an uncontrolled revolution.

As a consequence, the SRs, an important ally of the Bolsheviks, declared that the latter were German proxies and left the government.

In April 1918, the Cheka began its first extrajudicial executions in an operation against anarchists in Petrograd and Moscow. By the end of the operation, they had executed 800 without trials. Their rhetoric was to attack “class enemies,” but their secret orders were to liquidate all anarchist organizations in the two principal cities.

On April 12, 1918, the Bolsheviks attacked 26 anarchist centers in Moscow, killing dozens and arresting 500. Threatened by the dramatic growth of the anarchist movement in Moscow, Trotsky and the Bolshevik press had carried out a media campaign in collaboration with the local bourgeoisie, accusing veteran revolutionaries of being “bandits” and “criminals” for expropriating bourgeois properties, even though these were put to the use of the revolution.

In June 1918, Trotsky abolished any kind of worker control over the Red Army, destroying the proletarian tradition that allowed soldiers to elect their officers and enjoy real equality. He restored the old hierarchies in the army—of aristocratic origin—and complemented them with a new ideological hierarchy upheld through the sinister presence of the Cheka at every level, destroying the capacity of the Red Army to function as a bastion of revolutionary ideas and turning it into a mere tool of the Party.

As before, officers received status and high pay while the common soldiers became thralls, and anyone—officer or soldier—who spoke out against the regime would be shot.

Simultaneously, Trotsky carried out a mass recruitment of officers from the old Tsarist army. Under Bolshevik dominion, the Red Army became an aristocratic army. As a result of this initiative, in 1918 75% of the officers were former tsarists, and by the end of the Civil War that figure had climbed to 83%. Rather than fomenting leadership among the masses, the Bolsheviks returned authority to an elite.

On the contrary, all the prominent leaders of the anarchist formations in the Civil War—Maria Nikiforova, Nestor Makhno, Fyodor Shchuss, Olga Taratuta, Anatoli Zhelezniakov, Novoselov, Lubkov—were chosen by their comrades according to their abilities, and they were workers or peasants, in contrast to the bourgeoisie, aristocrats, and intelligentsia who dominated in the Bolshevik camp. And they were among the most effective on the battlefield. While Trotsky suffered one defeat after another, Zhelezniakov and Makhno played decisive roles in the defeat of the White Army General Denikin. Subsequently, it was Makhno and his guerrillas who seized the Perekop Isthmus, the key stronghold of the Crimean Peninsula, the loss of which spelled defeat for White Army General Pyotr Wrangel. And in wide swaths of Siberia, anarchist guerrilla detachments, like those of Lubkov and Novoselov, played a key role in stopping the advance of the White Army in 1918 and 1919, even though it was the Red Army that shot them in the end.

White Army General Pyotr Wrangel.

In the same month, June 1918, the Party implemented their policy of “war communism.” There was nothing communist about it; rather, it constituted the Party’s monopolization of the entire economy. It wasn’t workers and peasants who controlled the factories and the land, but bureaucrats ruling from faraway offices. This policy, aside from the nationalization of all industry, imposed a strict discipline on the workers, a worsening of labor conditions and a lengthening of the workday; it turned striking into an offense punishable by firing squad; it established state control over international commerce; it legalized the forcible appropriation of all the peasants’ goods and properties, thus inaugurating an agrarian policy even harsher and more exploitative than that of tsarist serfdom. This, of course, led to millions of deaths among the peasants and provoked constant rural rebellions against Bolshevik power.

It would be the new aristocratic Red Army that would crush these revolts, just as during the tsarist dictatorship. Another important factor in the evolution of the bureaucratic dictatorship: starting in the same month, the Party arrogated to itself the right to veto the decisions of any soviet.

In July 1918, the left SRs initiated an insurrection against Bolshevik power. They were defeated, illegalized, and expelled from the soviet government. As a consequence, the Bolsheviks ended up with an absolute monopoly on state power and prohibited the participation of other parties in the soviets.

At some point in 1918, acting under orders from Lenin, the Bolsheviks established their first concentration camps, which would give rise to the gulag system that claimed millions of lives during Stalin’s reign.

In August 1918, Lenin ordered the use of “mass terror” against a rebellion in the city of Nizhny Novgorod and against a peasant revolt in the Penza region. The rebellions were protests against the new policy of “war communism.” Nonetheless, Lenin founded a long Communist tradition of accusing any critic or dissident of being a secret right-wing agent (rather hypocritical of him, considering he had worked as an agent of imperialist interests, and just that summer had personally apologized to the German government after revolutionaries had assassinated the German ambassador). He ordered mass executions of those suspected of disloyalty, the execution of prostitutes, whom he blamed for the lack of discipline in his army, and the execution of a hundred random peasants in order to send a message so that “all the people in many miles see it, understand, and tremble.”

On September 5, 1918, the Cheka were assigned the policy of the “Red Terror.” They claimed that this was directed against the Whites and counterrevolutionaries, but it was an immediate response to two assassination attempts (one successful) carried out by left-wing revolutionaries—Fanya Kaplan and Leonid Kannegisser—against Bolshevik leaders to avenge their repressive policies. The “Red Terror” was clearly a policy of liquidation aimed at any enemy or critic of Bolshevik power, as they themselves declared in their newspaper on September 3, “We must crush the counterrevolutionary hydra through mass terror […] anyone who dares spread the slightest rumor against the Soviet regime will be immediately arrested and sent to the concentration camps.” In the first two months, they killed between 10,000 and 15,000, many of them members of other revolutionary currents. By 1922, they had killed as many as 1.5 million, some of them Whites and tsarists, but the great majority peasants, workers, dissidents, and revolutionaries.

Fanya Kaplan.

It must be said that the White Army was the first to practice mass executions—against Red Army prisoners—but the Bolsheviks took advantage of the situation to organize an unprecedented repression against all the other currents of the Revolution.

In November 1918, throughout a large territory in south Ukraine comprising 7 million inhabitants, primarily peasants, locals founded the Volnaya Territoriya or “Free Territory,” an anarchist society based on communes, free and decentralized militias, land collectivization without intermediaries and direct worker control of industry, universal education based on the modern pedagogy of Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, and soviets free from party control but open to participation from any current of the worker and peasant classes and federated in a decentralized way.

The movement was rooted in the anarchist militias that had fought against the German occupiers to whom Lenin had handed over the entire country. The peasant militias immediately began holding the line against General Denikin of the White Army, but Lenin and Trotsky kept them from receiving munitions and functioning weapons, effectively sabotaging the front and causing many deaths. In the rearguard, the peasants prevented the Bolsheviks from taking over the revolution.

Throughout the whole of 1919, the Cheka continued and expanded a policy initiated the year before to execute Red Army deserters. As an authoritarian, involuntary army, the Red Army was plagued with desertions, of which there were more than a million in a year. Many conscripted soldiers tried to go home, and many others joined up with “Green Armies” of peasants who were trying to defend their lands from plundering by the Whites or the Communists. In Ukraine, tens of thousands joined up with the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the anarchists.

In cases of mass desertion, the Cheka fell back on the tactic of holding family members hostage and executing them one by one until the soldiers returned (and then executing an exemplary number of the deserters).

In February 1919, the Bolsheviks granted an amnesty to the SRs. The White Army was advancing on all fronts, and the Communists desperately needed allies (the previous November, they had re-legalized the Mensheviks after these declared their support for the government). When the SRs came out of clandestinity and set up offices in Moscow, the Cheka began arresting successive waves of SR leadership, accusing them of conspiracy, in order to bring about the fracturing and then destruction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party.

Between March 12 and 14, 1919, in the city of Astrakhan, the Cheka executed between 2000 and 4000 striking workers and Red Army soldiers who had joined them. Many were thrown into the river with stones tied to their necks, while the rest were killed by firing squad. To give an idea of the primarily anti-worker and counterrevolutionary scope of the Communists’ activities, during the same repressive campaign they killed a significantly smaller number of bourgeoisie, between 600 and 1000. The primary victims of the Bolsheviks were from the popular classes.

A breadline.

The 16th of March, 1919, in Petrograd, the Cheka assaulted the Putilov factory, where workers starving to death had begun a strike demanding larger food rations, freedom of the press, the end of the Red Terror, and the elimination of the privileges held by Communist Party members. 900 were arrested and 200 executed without trial.

The Cheka also repressed strikes in the cities of Orel, Tver, Tula, and Ivanovo. In the course of the repression, the Cheka developed methods of torture surpassing those of the Inquisition. They slowly fed prisoners into ovens or vats of boiling water, they flayed prisoners, they buried peasants alive, they put rats in metal tubes against prisoners’ bodies and put flames under the tubes so that the rats would eat their way through the prisoners to escape.

Nestor Makhno, Fyodor Schuss, and Semen Karetnyk.

In June 1919, the Bolsheviks began their first attempt to illegalize and liquidate the peasant anarchists of Ukraine fighting alongside Makhno. Already in May, they had made a failed attempt to assassinate Makhno. Trotsky stated that he preferred for all of Ukraine to fall to the White Army than to leave the anarchists to carry out their activity. The campaign intensified after the defeat of Denikin, the White leader, in the fall. The anarchist fighters played a key role in his defeat and afterwards the Bolsheviks didn’t have as much need for an alliance with the anarchists… until Communist incompetence produced a new threat to the Soviet regime just one year later.

Between May 1 and 3, 1920, a peasant and anarchist insurrection broke out in the regions of Altai and Tomsk, with the eventual participation of 10,000 combatants. It was principally directed against the White Army, but their support for decentralized, local control ran them afoul of the Communists, who sought to crush the rebellion, illegalizing and destroying the Altai Anarchist Federation. The resistance continued until the end of 1921.

In June of 1920, women workers in Tula went on strike for the right to have a day off on Sundays. They were sent to the concentration camps.

On August 19, 1920, the Tambov peasant rebellion began when a “requisitioning” squad of the Red Army beat the old men of a small village to force the inhabitants to surrender more grain to the government. By October, the peasants had fielded 50,000 combatants to fight the Communist authority. They functioned as an autonomous, self-organized force fighting the Whites and the Bolsheviks. There were also several veteran revolutionaries from the left SRs who rose to leadership positions in the rebellion. By January 1921, the uprising had extended to include Samara, Astrakhan, Saratov, and parts of Siberia. With 70,000 combatants, they defended their territory from the Communists until victories on other fronts enabled the deployment of 100,000 Red Army soldiers. To crush the revolt, the Communists used chemical weapons for approximately three months in 1921, killing many civilians. They sent 50,000 peasants—mostly women and the elderly—to concentration camps as hostages. The majority died. Between the war, the concentration camps, and the executions, the region lost some 240,000 inhabitants, the great majority peasants and non-combatants.

In November 1920, the Bolsheviks initiated a major campaign against Makhno’s Revolutionary Insurgent Army in Ukraine, mobilizing tens of thousands of troops, many of which deserted to join the anarchists. The campaign began as a surprise attack. The day after anarchist forces managed to seize the Perekop Isthmus, the fortified pass into the Crimean Peninsula where Wrangel was based, and which the Red Army had been unable to take, the Bolsheviks began arresting and executing their supposed allies, the anarchists. Their treachery began ten months of intense guerrilla warfare before the Communists finally crushed the insurgent peasants.

Stepan Maximovich Petrichenko—anarcho-syndicalist, engineer for the Russian navy, ex-Bolshevik, and member of the revolutionary committee that led the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921.

On February 28, 1921, delegates of the revolutionary sailors and workers from the Kronstadt naval base published a declaration in solidarity with the workers of Petrograd, recently repressed after going on strike against the starvation conditions. The Bolsheviks responded with more repression, provoking a rebellion on Kronstadt. The Kronstadt rebels, long recognized as the heart of the revolution, demanded free soviets, an end to the Bolshevik dictatorship, and the recovery of the Revolution’s principles. Trotsky, “the butcher of Kronstadt,” led a military expedition that ended with the total suppression of the soviet on the 19th of March, the day before the anniversary of the Paris Commune. The Red Army played the role of the Versailles troops, executing more than 2000 people. They sent several thousand more to the gulag, where the majority died. Afterwards, the Bolshevik repression only increased. At the Party congress in April of that same year, as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman related in a letter, Lenin promoted the total liquidation of the anarchist movement, including those participating in the soviet government who had allied with the Bolsheviks.

Kronstadt sailors, 1921.

In March 1921, the Bolsheviks adopted the “New Economic Policy,” putting an end to “War Communism.” As Lenin himself recognized, the NEP represented “state capitalism,” a “free market and capitalism, both subject to state control”. The NEP gave rise to a new social class, the nepmani—men of the NEP or nouveaux riches—who enriched themselves thanks to the new conditions and at the expense of the working classes. It goes without saying that all of them were Communist Party bureaucrats. The NEP also resulted in treaties and trade relations with the main capitalist countries, starting with Great Britain (1921) followed by Germany (1922), and then the US and France.

The Communist Party at no point installed communism. Their first era constituted a bureaucratic monopoly based on the hyper-exploitation of workers and peasants, whereas the era of the NEP constituted a capitalist system with a higher degree of planning and centralization than the Western capitalist systems. That is, the Communists unleashed an insane level of repression against all the other revolutionary currents, drowning worker and peasant struggles in blood and lead, and in the end, all that sacrifice didn’t serve for anything more than establishing capitalism. In a country where the capitalists themselves had been unable to implant capitalism, the Communists did, thanks to their obsession with holding power at any price.

And contrary to later leftist revisionism, all this brutality and exploitation wasn’t the fault of Stalin; it started earlier, from their very first weeks in power and always under the direction of Lenin and Trotsky. From the beginning, the Bolsheviks operated as an intellectual vanguard independent of the soviets and the workers’ and peasants’ struggles. They used the soviets as a tool to conquer power, and when the soviets were no longer convenient, they suppressed them, just as they had repressed any expression of popular struggles. The Bolsheviks—a current of the Social Democratic Russian Workers’ Party, who went on to become the Communist Party—were the principal incarnation of the counterrevolution within the Russian Revolution.

Olga Taratuta, co-founder of the Ukrainian Anarchist Black Cross, arrested and murdered under Stalin; Nestor Makhno’s comrade Fyodor Schuss, who died in June 1921 during the subjugation of the Ukraine; Maria Nikiforova, another leader of anarchist partisans alongside Makhno, who was murdered by the White Army after the Bolsheviks declared war on her and forced her underground.

The USSR: Force for Global Counterrevolution and Accomplice of Fascism

The outcome of other putatively communist states demonstrates that, while Lenin’s party was especially bloodthirsty, the problem was the model itself. Far from achieving communism through state power, each attempt at authoritarian communism managed to implant capitalism in a country where the bourgeoisie hadn’t been able to. China, today, is the largest capitalist market in the world and may soon be the leading capitalist economy on the planet, an evolution aided in large part thanks to the industrialization and bureaucratization carried out under Mao’s leadership. Vietnam is following the same path on a smaller scale. As for Cuba, in the first years of the revolution (after executing the anarcho-syndicalists and dissident socialists), Che and Fidel abandoned the plan of creating true communism in order to construct a sort of export colony with a more equitable distribution of resources (like a Costa Rica with a Swedish government). They maintained the island’s old role as a producer and exporter of sugar for the international market.

As the first of these capitalist revolutions, the USSR stands out for the harm it caused to anti-capitalist movements worldwide. It’s true that they supported many revolutionary movements, but always prioritizing their interests above the interests of the revolution itself. It’s a significant fact that most communist movements distanced themselves from the USSR the moment they no longer depended on Soviet aid, as was the case with China and in certain periods with Cuba. Soviet intervention in the Spanish Civil War demonstrates how badly Soviet “aid” could destroy a struggle.

The international policy of the Comintern can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, they aimed to export revolution, but only if they could monopolize it. Between 1919 and around 1926, Comintern agents were charged with imposing Bolshevik control over all worker and anti-colonial organizations. They did this with funding, “entryism” (implanting charismatic agents who climbed the ranks in a particular organization without revealing their affiliation with the Communist Party), attacks against non-Bolshevik currents, and other tactics. One preferred method was to organize apparently neutral international conferences, with fake delegates (they sometimes paid people to act as delegates from supposedly massive organizations that didn’t actually exist), a script and a choreography in order to approve decisions that had already been made.

In the case of organizations that refused to accept Communist domination, Comintern agents were dedicated to neutralizing them via false rumors, the provocation of internal conflicts, turning the authorities against them through snitching, and even murder. In this way they destroyed a number of workers’ movements.

In the second phase, representing the triumph of the line promoted by Stalin and Bukharin, the Communist Party abandoned the pretense of exporting revolution and adopted the watchword “Socialism in One Country.” Subsequently, all anticapitalist movements worldwide served only to protect the geopolitical interests of the Soviet Union.

In effect, there wasn’t that much difference between the two phases. Both of them resulted in failed insurrections and revolutions—in the first phase, because the Communists’ lack of solidarity and obsession with power obstructed revolutionary processes in other countries, and in the second, because the USSR continued encouraging unviable insurrections in other countries when it might weaken an enemy power.

For the first phase, we have the example of the Hamburg Uprising of 1923. Soviet leaders like Trotsky were pressuring the KPD—the German Communist Party, the strongest in the world outside of the USSR—to stage an insurrection, but the German leaders thought it was too early. Due to poor organization, the plan was initiated only in one district of Hamburg. The failed attempt unleashed a strong repression and worsened relations between Communists and Socialists in Germany.

There’s also the example of the failed revolution in Indonesia. In 1925, the Comintern ordered the Indonesian Communist Party to join with anti-colonial but not anti-capitalist forces (they imposed the same strategy in China and elsewhere). In 1926, the Communist unions were ordered to spark a revolution, but the plan was green and the coordination with other sectors of the united front failed. The repression claimed many lives.

Of the second phase, we have the example of the mutiny on the Dutch warship, Die Zeven Provinciën, provoked by a Communist cell, while the ship was sailing near the Indonesian colonies. The intention was to destabilize the colonial power. There is also the similar example of the mutiny and failed revolution in Chile in 1931.

A German Comintern agent described how his bosses ordered him to organize a dockworkers’ and sailors’ strike in the major German port cities like Bremen and Hamburg. Once all the port workers were on strike, the Comintern instructed trusted agents to scab, sabotaging the strike. Many workers who demonstrated solidarity lost their jobs, but the Comintern got their agents in key positions on many boats and ports, increasing the efficiency of their smuggling network (which they used to supply the USSR, transport agents, and smuggle materials to countries across the world). Maneuvers like that increased the cynicism of the German working class, cost the Communist Party a good deal of support, and gave more legitimacy to the Nazi argument that all the “reds” were agents of Moscow.

Nestor Makhno in 1930.

The German Communist Party aided the Nazi Party in much more direct ways, as well. Between 1928 and 1935—the critical era in the rise of the Nazi movement, when it grew from a small party into one capable of taking power—the Comintern, following Stalin’s directives, declared that social democracy was equal to fascism, but that communists had to ignore fascism in order to dedicate all their efforts to combating other left-wing currents. The KPD followed this line with enthusiasm. On many occasions, Communist militants joined with Nazi stormtroopers to smash up the events of Socialists.

It is true that the Socialists used state power wherever they were in the government to repress the Communists, just as the SRs in the Russian Revolution also maneuvered to try and gain power, just as leftist statists across the planet seek to dominate others. Because the state is a tool of domination and repression. But, on the one hand, collaboration with the Nazis represented an extreme of reprehensible practices, surpassing the dirty tricks used by the Socialists. And on the other hand, the currents that didn’t seek to conquer state power—anarchists and others—rejected such tactics.

In Prussia, the largest state in Germany, the Communists openly collaborated with the Nazis in 1931 to try to revoke the Socialist government. They said the Nazis were “working class comrades.” In 1933, the year the Nazis rose to power, the Communists effectively let them win. If they had joined forces with other left-wing forces, the Nazis would not have achieved a majority. But they were obsessed with destroying the Left in order to monopolize it, believing that they would rise to power after a Nazi government. Thälmann, leader of the KPD, coined the slogan, “After Hitler, it’s our turn!”

Contrary to the slogan denouncing “social fascism,” it wasn’t the Socialists who had much in common with the Nazis, but the Communists themselves. The Nazis’ racial ideology was an import from the US, as is widely known. But not so many people remember that the organizational model of the Nazi dictatorship came from the Soviet Union itself. In order to set up their Gestapo—the secret police charged with political repression and counterespionage—the Nazis studied the Cheka and the NKVD (successor to the Cheka established by Stalin). The Soviet secret police, which inherited many techniques from the tsarist Okhrana, were the most advanced in the world, with the possible exception of the British intelligence agencies. But these used techniques that were much too soft for Nazi needs. Many times, the Nazis arrested and tortured Soviet agents in order to learn how their counterespionage apparatus functioned, with the purpose of copying the model.

In 1935, when the KPD had been almost completely destroyed, suffering thousands of arrests and executions, the Comintern inaugurated their next strategy without ever accepting responsibility for the Nazis’ rise to power. The new strategy was the “Popular Front.” But this was just as disastrous for revolutionary movements.

The prime example would be the Soviet intervention in the Spanish Civil War. The USSR was slow to begin sending aid to the anti-fascist side. This was due in part to the fact that the Communist Party in Spain was tiny, even smaller than the Trotskyist POUM. They weren’t attentive to the fascist threat in Spain because they had few interests in Spain. Before sending aid, they wanted to make sure they could control the situation and profit from it in some way. To be precise, they didn’t give military aid to the Republic; rather, they sold it, appropriating the entirety of the Spanish gold reserves, the fourth largest in the world at the time. And to a large extent, they sabotaged the war efforts. For the Stalinists, the Spanish Civil War was an opportunity to destroy what was then the strongest anarchist movement in the world (they and the Japanese imperialists had already destroyed the movement in Korea), and also to liquidate dissident communist currents, above all the Trotskyists. Given that fascism had already arrived in Germany and Italy, Spain was an important refuge and a field of action for communists who had fled those countries.

For that reason, the NKVD—the Soviet secret police—began a feverish activity in Spain, liquidating thousands of Trotskyists, other dissident communists, and anarchists. Far from the romantic legends, the International Brigades were in large part a machine for attracting these dissidents and killing them in the most discreet context possible: on the battlefield. The Brigades were also used to repress peasant collectives in Aragón.

What’s more, the Communists directly sabotaged anarchist and Trotskyist militias with the purpose of reducing their influence and feeding their propaganda campaigns in favor of “militarization”: the imposition of elitist and counterrevolutionary hierarchies in one of the most important spheres of the social revolution. The obstruction and withholding of weapons carried out by all the forces on the Left were responsible for the militias getting bogged down on the Huesca and Teruel fronts. If those cities had been taken—a reasonable accomplishment given sufficient weapons—then Zaragoza probably also would have fallen to the antifascists, potentially turning the tide of the war. Dirty tricks and lack of solidarity on the part of the Communists also played a part in the fall of Mallorca, another decisive moment in the Republican defeat.

We can also add to the list the Communists’ arrest of Maroto, an effective guerrilla leader operating around Granada, and the Communists’ blocking of the anarchist proposals to launch a large scale guerrilla war in the fascists’ rear and to create an alliance with the anticolonial resistance in the Rif (Morocco), which would have undermined Franco’s most important base. The Communists rejected the first proposal because they knew they couldn’t control a guerrilla war and such a conflict would have given the anarchists an important advantage, and they blocked the second to avoid upsetting the French government, which also had interests in Northern Africa. In both cases, Communist interests were not defeating fascism nor carrying out the revolution, but maintaining power and sabotaging their adversaries.

After winning the counterrevolution and installing a leader who would be faithful to them, Negrín, in May 1937, the USSR no longer had significant interests in Spain. For that reason, starting in June 1937, they began drawing down their military assistance to the Republic. The tragic truth is that Stalin didn’t want the Republic to win the war. On the one hand, he didn’t want to trouble relations with France and Britain, who promoted a “non-intervention” policy designed to favor the fascists. And on the other hand, he wanted to prolong the conflict in order to convince Hitler of the need for a non-aggression pact.

The negotiations for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact began in April of 1939, just at the end of the Spanish Civil War. It was what Stalin needed to protect the USSR from a Nazi attack, and what Hitler needed to be able to attack France and avoid a two-front war. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was an important prerequisite for World War II and another example of Nazi-Stalinist collaboration.

German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Stalin shake hands to celebrate the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact committing to peaceful coexistence between the USSR and Nazi Germany. It was Nazi Germany, not the USSR, that broke the pact in 1941.

The Relevance Today of the Communist Counterrevolution

Recovering this historical memory is important for a variety of reasons. To begin with, it is important to remember our dead, to carry them with us, and to cast down the thrones their murderers have built atop their graves—to stop honoring as heroes those who betrayed revolutions and served as executioner to the oppressed.

This is important because historical memory is our library of revolutionary lessons, the communal apprenticeship that brings us closer to freedom. And if we store falsified volumes within this library, histories of lies, victories that never occurred, we will repeat the same mistakes time after time. By turning the people and the parties who strangled revolutions into heroes, we preserve completely unrealistic ideas about what revolution is and how to achieve it. If we think the state could be—or has ever been—a tool of the people capable of defeating capitalism, we create the perfect recipe for defeat: a revolutionary movement in which it is impossible to distinguish between the naïve and enthusiastic and the opportunists who are trying to climb the rungs of power.

A worrisome pattern exists on the Left. They sell off the future of the revolution by signing deals with the devil. Time after time, the authoritarian Left obstructs revolutionary movements by implementing strategies that are predictable failures. The advantage of these strategies is that they permit those who use them to monopolize the struggle. If they win a partial victory, they impose their monopoly by capturing state institutions that can serve to buy out or repress all the other sectors of the struggle. And if they fail, by having created a spectacular struggle in which they are the tragic protagonists, they can turn everyone else into spectators watching a mediatized combat between two hierarchical poles.

Liberation must be carried out by the oppressed. Revolution, by definition, must be self-organized, and above all the popular classes need to maintain the autonomy of their struggles with respect to the institutions of power.

We hold close all the revolutionaries and fighters who sacrificed everything in the struggles that came before us. We spit on the memory of those who took advantage of those struggles to rise to power, and those who tried to impose their unquestionable truth on everyone else, obstructing the self-activity of the very class that, hypocritically, they pretended to liberate.

Long live the Revolution of 1917! Down with all dictators, representatives, and politicians!

Further Reading

Volín, The Unknown Revolution

Alexander Berkman, The Bolshevik Myth (diary 1920-1922)

Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia

Ngo Van, In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary

Erik Benítez Martínez, La traición de la hoz y el martillo

Augustí Guillamón, El terror estalinista en Barcelona 1938

Angel Pestaña, Seventy Days in Russia: What I Saw

James Guillaume, L’Internationale; documents et souvenirs (1864-1878)

Stepan Maximovich Petrichenko, The Truth about Kronstadt

Miguel Amorós, Los incontrolados de 1937 and José Pellicer, el anarquista íntegro

Bloodstained: One Hundred Years of Leninist Counterrevolution, ed. Friends of Aron Baron

Jan Valtín, Out of the Night

Categories: News

Anarchist Political Prisoner Jeremy Hammond has Moved!

It's Goin Down - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 19:13

The post Anarchist Political Prisoner Jeremy Hammond has Moved! appeared first on It's Going Down.

After a long and stressful week, we are very happy to report that Jeremy has arrived at his new prison – FCI Milan in Milan, Michigan!

As you may have heard, Jeremy requested this relocation so he could participate in “RDAP” – or, the Residential Drug Abuse Program. RDAP is an intensive, nine-month long program offered to federal inmates who have a documented history of drug use prior to their arrest. Since Jeremy was an admitted marijuana smoker, he applied and was accepted into the program.

We're so happy Jeremy is finally making progress towards release! More info in an upcoming post! #JeremyIn140 #FreeJeremy

— Free Jeremy Hammond (@FreeJeremyNet) November 9, 2017

While the program is intensive, and Jeremy has described it as “hard time”, this will, in the end, be a positive step for Jeremy, as he will be eligible to receive up to twelve months off his sentence upon successful completion of the program.

As always, Jeremy loves to receive mail, and you can write to him at his new address:

Jeremy Hammond, #18729-424
FCI Milan
P.O. Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160

Another exciting development with this move is that the rules for sending Jeremy books has changed! Paperback books (and zines) no longer have to come directly from a publisher or distributor – they can now come directly from private citizens. Please note this applies to paperback books only. Hardcover books must still come directly from a publisher or distributor, like Amazon or AK Press. This means that if you have old paperbacks on your shelves that you think Jeremy would like, you can mail them directly to him! Please, if you choose to send books directly to Jeremy, do not include anything other than books (no more than 3 per package) and a letter in your package. Jeremy still cannot receive any items other than paperback books, zines, letters, articles, or photos through the mail. Please see this page for complete information about writing or sending books to Jeremy.

Please also be aware that, with participation in RDAP, the amount of free time that Jeremy has to do things like write back to people may change. Please be patient if you do not hear back from him, and remember that even if he doesn’t write back, he reads and deeply appreciates every letter that is sent to him. Please also remember that donations are still needed to ensure that Jeremy has the necessary funds to email, call, and write to friends, supporters, and loved one.

Thank you for all the solidarity shown to Jeremy over the years. We are so excited that Jeremy is finally making progress towards release, and, without a doubt, this progress could not have been made without the support of those of you who have written, sent books, donated, or spread awareness about Jeremy and his case. Thank you so much!

Categories: News