On October 16, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Crédit Agricole and 91 other global banks met in Washington, DC, to revise the Equator Principles, industry-led due diligence standards meant to prevent banks from supporting environmentally and socially harmful projects.
On the very same day, in a bitter irony, many of those same banks re-upped their support for Enbridge, the Canadian company behind the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, which tramples Indigenous rights and is flatly incompatible with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. They did so just days after the publication of a landmark United Nations report showing the desperate urgency of taking concrete steps to tackle the climate crisis. It’s as if the banks wanted to supply their own headline example of exactly why the Equator Principles are broken and in dire need of repair.
The current round of soul-searching around the Equator Principles dates back to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the Indigenous-led campaign calling out the banks behind the project. DAPL was a crisis for those banks, and it was a scandal for the Equator Principles Association. How did such an obviously flawed project pass muster?
In response to activist pressure, in 2017, the Equator Principles Association agreed to a revision process, including examining how the principles deal with the internationally accepted standard that projects cannot be built unless directly impacted Indigenous communities give their free, prior and informed consent. The Equator Principles currently ignore these principles in rich countries like the US — and ignore climate impacts everywhere.
It’s astonishing that the banks were discussing those revisions on exactly the same day that many of them reaffirmed their support for Enbridge, when the Line 3 pipeline — the company’s largest new investment — is in danger of becoming DAPL 2.0. In a clear echo of DAPL, Enbridge has failed to secure the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities impacted by Line 3: three Ojibwe tribes in the Minnesota portion of the pipeline’s proposed path remain staunchly opposed. There’s been a steady and growing drumbeat of Indigenous-led legal and direct action, up to and including peaceful civil disobedience.
Of course, all this comes on the heels of the historic report recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that describes food shortages, growing wildfires and massive coral reef destruction by 2040 unless we take immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
We urgently need to stop expanding and start phasing out fossil fuels to have any chance of meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Flying in the face of these facts, the Line 3 pipeline would increase extraction and burning of tar sands, one of the dirtiest forms of oil. Enbridge is a company going in exactly the wrong direction: Last year, it even sold off a huge wind farm to free up capital to build Line 3.
JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Crédit Agricole are the lead banks behind two key Enbridge credit facilities, loans that act like giant credit cards for Enbridge to use as it pleases. They are crucial for Enbridge’s ability to build Line 3. When these loans are set to mature, banks have a choice: They can let them expire, or they can renew their support. One of Enbridge’s credit facilities was renewed recently, with another scheduled for renewal in December. At the beginning of October, Minnesota-based Native rights group Honor the Earth and a coalition of Indigenous and environmental organizations sent a letter to those three banks laying out the case against Line 3 and calling on them not to renew their support.
Because Enbridge is funding Line 3 from its general corporate coffers, the pipeline illustrates another fundamental shortcoming of the Equator Principles: Since the standards only cover direct finance for projects, Line 3 is outside of their scope, despite the project’s clear impacts on Indigenous rights and the climate. This is a litmus test for the current revision of the Equator Principles, which should cover projects like Line 3 if they’re going to be worth anything. As a start for companies sponsoring harmful projects, the Equator Principles evaluation should be triggered when these companies are up for credit renewals as well.
But JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Crédit Agricole can’t hide behind the revision of the Equator Principles. They should immediately end their support for Line 3 by dropping their financing for Enbridge, so long as the company is pushing forward this destructive project. The December credit renewal will serve as another test. This time they should make sure they pass it.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
The post Big Banks Just Flunked Their Own Test on Climate, Indigenous Rights appeared first on Truthout.
The tragic killing of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last Saturday has created a painful reckoning over the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the US. If there was ever any question about the threat white nationalism poses to the Jewish community, there can be no doubt after this attack, which some are calling the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in American history.
But if we are to truly respond to this resurgence, we must take pains to analyze anti-Semitism for what it is and what it is not. This is particularly important in the face of Israeli politicians and Israel advocacy organizations that are currently muddling the definition of anti-Semitism for cynical political gain.
One stark and egregious example of this occurred the day after the massacre, when Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the US, conflated neo-Nazi Jew-hatred with what he described as anti-Semitism of the “radical left” found on college campuses:
One of the big forces in college campuses today is anti-Semitism. And those anti-Semites are usually not neo-Nazis, on college campuses. They’re coming from the radical left. We have to stand against anti-Semitism whether it comes from the right or whether it comes from the left.
While it is important to acknowledge that truly anti-Semitic ideas that paint Jews as rich, conspiratorial “globalists” are occasionally parroted on the left as well as on the right, Dermer is not talking about real anti-Semitism within leftist communities; rather, he is disingenuously seeking to cast all Palestine solidarity activism as necessarily anti-Semitic.
While some Jewish college students may feel discomfort when confronted by a strong criticism of Israel by Palestine solidarity activists, this does not mean that criticisms of Israel are by definition anti-Semitic. This claim blithely conflates the state of Israel with all Jews and ignores the historic reality that there have always been Jews who have criticized Israel’s oppression of Palestinians — and have even opposed the very premise of an ethnically Jewish nation-state itself. In truth, there is a significant and growing percentage of Jews actively participating in Palestine solidarity campaigns who are not motivated by “Jewish self-hatred” but by the deeply held Jewish values of justice and the dignity for all.This misguided focus commits a very real injustice to the cause of Palestinian human rights, and it will also make it more difficult to identify and combat the real threat of anti-Semitism in our midst today.
The attempt to conflate criticisms of Israel on the left with bigoted anti-Semitism on the right is a tactic that has long been employed by the Israeli government and professional Israel advocacy organizations. Now that we are coming face to face with the deadly truth of neo-Nazi anti-Semitism in our country, however, it is becoming increasingly clear how their tactic not only enables violence toward Palestinians, but also puts Jews at greater peril by ignoring the resurgence of “alt-right” rhetoric and violence against them.
Unfortunately, there is every sign that the Trump administration itself is doubling down on this tactic. Shortly after news of the Pittsburgh killings broke there were reports that some were using this tragedy to create political wind behind the so-called “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.” While the title of this legislation suggests a sensible government attempt to raise the public consciousness, this House bill has zero to do with combating actual anti-Semitism. Quite the contrary, in fact.
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act has a long and somewhat tortured history. In December 2016, the Senate passed the first version of this bill quickly, unanimously and without debate. Introduced by Senators Bob Casey and Tom Scott, the bill purports to address claims of anti-Semitism on college campuses as “civil rights violations.”
For many, most troubling aspects of the bill came from the way it defined anti-Semitism itself:
For purposes of this Act, the term “definition of anti-Semitism” —
(1) includes the definition of anti-Semitism set forth by the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism of the Department of State in the Fact Sheet issued on June 8, 2010, as adapted from the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (now known as the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights); and
(2) includes the examples set forth under the headings ‘‘Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism’’ and ‘‘What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?’’ of the Fact Sheet.
Both the State Department and the “What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?” fact sheets contain definitions of Anti-Semitism that include such vague criteria as “demonizing,” “delegitimizing,” and “applying a double-standard to the state of Israel” — broad and vague language that would allow virtually any criticism of Israel to be labeled as anti-Semitic.
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act was pushed through the Senate, despite the strong opposition of numerous civil rights and free speech advocacy groups. Following its passage, the ACLU released a statement warning that the bill “poses a serious threat to the First Amendment free speech rights of those on campus who may hold certain political views,” adding that they were confident that Senators “must have been unaware of the unconstitutional implications of the only operative provision of the bill.”
The House soon introduced its own version of the bill, but despite furious lobbying by Israel advocacy groups, it failed to pass before Congress wrapped up its 2016 legislative session. Predictably, the bill has received renewed energy since the election of Trump and the confirmation of Kenneth L. Marcus as his new head of the Education Office’s Civil Rights Department.While our government uses spurious claims of anti-Semitism to suppress criticism of Israel on college campuses, real anti-Semites have gunned down 11 Jewish worshippers in their synagogue.
As scores of government watchdog groups have attested, Marcus has a history of abusing civil rights law to further a conservative political agenda and suppress college activists’ criticism of Israel. During his tenure as head of the US Commission on Civil Rights under George W. Bush, he oversaw the publication of a report backing the dismantling of affirmative action in law schools and argued against universities’ use of race-neutral criteria to achieve diversity. He also opposed a proposal to expand the scope of the US Commission on Civil Rights to investigate violations of LGBTQ rights and broader human rights.
In 2012, Marcus founded the Louis B. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law — an organization which, despite its lofty universalist name, has dedicated itself almost exclusively to fighting public criticism of Israel by branding critics as “anti-Semitic.” Over the years, the Brandeis Center and other Israel advocacy organizations had tried and failed to prosecute campus anti-Semitism cases through the Office of Civil Rights under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — a provision that was originally used during the 1960s to desegregate schools in the South.
During his confirmation hearings last year, hundreds of civil rights organizations and academics expressed their opposition to Marcus’s appointment. Despite widespread concern, Marcus was eventually confirmed by a narrow 50-46 Senate vote — and since then it was only a matter of time until he used the power of his new office to quash criticism of Israel on college campuses. One month later, Marcus and the Office of Civil Rights announced they would be reopening a seven-year-old case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, saying the Obama administration, in closing the case, ignored evidence that suggested the school allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students.
Not surprisingly, Congress re-introduced the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act in June 2018. Shortly after, in an August letter obtained by The New York Times, Marcus notified the Zionist Organization of America that the Office of Civil Rights would put the full force of his government office behind the State Department definition of Anti-Semitism.
Clearly, the effects of this new inquisition on the Palestine solidarity movement on campus — and the cause of free speech in general — are potentially devastating. At the same time, many are warning this legislation will do meaningful damage to the cause to fight the very real threat of Trump-era anti-Semitism in the US.
In his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee during its debate over the original Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, Holocaust historian Barry Trachtenberg of Wake Forest University openly stated that the supporters of the bill were “motivated less by an actual threat facing American or world Jewry than they are part of a persistent campaign to thwart debates, scholarly research, and political activism that is critical of the State of Israel.”
He went on to point out that despite widely reported “depictions of rampant anti-Semitism… in the press,” a Stanford University study reported that they do not represent the “actual experiences” of Jewish students at the campus level. They discovered that campus life is neither threatening nor alarmist. “In general,” noted Trachtenberg, “students reported feeling comfortable on their campuses, and, more specifically, feeling comfortable as Jews on their campuses.”
It is also worth noting that like all forms of racism, anti-Semitism is most dangerous and deadly when it is enabled and supported by state power. In the US, the anti-Semitism that fits this description is the “alt-right” anti-Semitism enabled and emboldened by a Trump administration that clearly views this movement as an essential part of its base. We would do well to view legislation such as the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act as a form of state-sponsored oppression inasmuch as it unfairly targets an oppressed group and its allies for exercising their constitutional rights of free speech.
While this misguided focus commits a very real injustice to the cause of Palestinian human rights, and it will also make it more difficult to identify and combat the real threat of anti-Semitism in our midst today. If there was ever any doubt, it should have been made abundantly clear last summer in Charlottesville, when neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville with torches chanting “Jews will not replace us” while others stood across from a local synagogue armed with semi-automatic rifles shouting “There’s the synagogue!” and “Sieg Heil!”
Following the tragic Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, of course, there can no longer be any doubt that old-style anti-Semitism is real and deadly in the United States. While our government uses spurious claims of anti-Semitism to suppress criticism of Israel on college campuses, real anti-Semites have gunned down 11 Jewish worshippers in their synagogue. It’s long past time to put to rest the equation of “far right and far left anti-Semitism” for cynical political gain.
The stakes are simply far too high.
The post After Pittsburgh, We Can No Longer Cry Wolf on “Campus Anti-Semitism” appeared first on Truthout.
In his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail: 1972, Hunter S. Thompson tells an apocryphal tale about one of Lyndon Johnson’s early Senate campaigns. The race was too close for comfort, so Johnson told his campaign manager to spread the word that his opponent was “having routine carnal knowledge of his barnyard sows, despite the pleas of his wife and children.” The campaign manager was aghast: We can’t say that! You know it’s not true! “Of course it’s not true,” Thompson quotes Johnson as replying, “but let’s make the bastard deny it.”
Dirty tricks during political campaigns are about as old as the moon, and persist to this day for a reason: They often work. That line they fed you in first grade – “Winners never cheat, and cheaters never win” – is goopy nonsense. One could make a sound, well-documented argument that the world is the way it is today in part because cheaters have been winning well before the cornerstone was laid for the first pyramid.
There are the old tricks, of course, the ones with all the tactical subtlety of saying “Look at my thumb!” before punching someone in the face. The ol’ Date Switcheroo is a classic: GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York sent out flyers out in 2016 giving constituents the wrong date for voting, and it worked so well that he did it again this year. Confusing only 5 percent of your opponent’s voters into thinking the election is on Thursday can get you a desk in the Rayburn House Office Building. It has happened many, many times.
There is also the rumor-spreading trick that worked so well against John McCain during the South Carolina presidential primary in 2000. McCain had just won in New Hampshire by 19 points. Karl Rove, hatchetman for Bush, and acolyte of dirty tricks Sith Lord Lee Atwater, put the word out in South Carolina that McCain was a mentally unstable traitor who had fathered Black children out of wedlock. The racist, ableist, false attack worked; Bush defeated McCain and cruised to the nomination. We all know what happened next.
Rove required the credulous assistance of the news media to spread his lies. Today, we have the internet, social media and Fox News to do the deeds. Once upon a time, you needed a mimeograph machine or a block of letterhead pilfered from an opposing campaign. Now, all you need to riddle the entire planet with lies is an internet connection. Don’t cost nothin’: Facebook and Twitter are free of charge and reach hundreds of millions of people, and as for Fox, well … the network has a strong financial incentive to spread the manure far and deep.
Karl Rove’s successful kneecapping of John McCain in 2000 is instructive, in that it underscores the most potent weapon in the dirty tricks arsenal: racism. Racist vote suppression is as old as the poll tax and literacy tests; it lives on through contemporary configurations like ID laws. In Texas, for example, 96 percent of voting-age white people have a photo ID. Only 86 percent of voting-age Black people in Texas have a photo ID. That 10 percent gap can be, and has often been, the difference between winning and losing.
The ability to deploy racism as a tool for wide-scale vote suppression requires one to have a measure of political power to begin with. You can’t pass and protect things like racist, restrictive ID laws unless you control your state’s congress and governor’s office, at minimum. This year, the midterm election campaign in North Dakota is proving the tactic of racist cheating goes all the way to the top of the legal food chain.
Heidi Heitkamp, Democratic Senator from North Dakota, won her seat in 2012 by a margin of less than 3,000 votes. A full 80 percent of Native American voters in that state supported her that year, and look to do the same this time around, so the state’s Republican-controlled congress passed an ID law that disproportionately disenfranchises Native voters. The law was challenged in court and recently upheld by the Republican-controlled Supreme Court. Today, every available election forecast has Heitkamp losing her seat on Tuesday.
Being in power also means being able to purge the voter rolls of people you’d prefer didn’t vote. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, he of the ill-fated and Trump-inspired “commission on voter fraud,” has turned his state into a kind of laboratory for vote suppression tactics. As Secretary of State, he controls the elections in Kansas, which is helpful to him since he is currently running for governor as the Republican nominee.
A similar scenario is unspooling in Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp is facing a stout neck-and-neck challenge in the governor’s race from Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams. Kemp has been accused of, and sued for, stripping the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are Black. Truthout recently published investigative journalist Greg Palast’s exhaustive report on the matter. Kemp’s ploy is so grossly corrupt that former President Jimmy Carter felt compelled to demand that Kemp step aside as Secretary of State. Kemp, to the shock of none, has refused.
And then there is the racist dirty trick on a grander scale, the theatrical nationwide dirty trick that is slightly less subtle than a Dear John letter glued to a hand grenade.
Down at the southernmost tip of Mexico, near the Guatemalan border, sits the little town of Tapachula. There, a full thousand miles away from the US border, a caravan of desperate refugees – mostly women and children – is slowly making its way north. Many of these people are fleeing their countries to escape poverty and rampant gang warfare, both of which are a direct result of deliberate US government policies.
According to the president of the United States, however, these people represent an existential threat to the nation. Donald Trump has called them “thugs” and “bad people,” and has even hypothesized that they might be Middle Eastern terrorists who may, at any moment, overthrow all “we” hold dear (if “we” is taken to mean timorous white racists). Trump claims these migrants are so terrifying that he has threatened to deploy as many as 15,000 combat troops to the border with orders to shoot to kill. The administration has already named this action “Operation Faithful Patriot.” Beyond that lethal alternative, according to Trump, the only way to thwart this imminent doom is to vote Republican, because of course it is.
Those troops, if deployed, will have some waiting to do. The refugees are on foot, moving through rough terrain, and still have to travel a distance equal to that which lies between San Diego and Seattle before they’ll even see US soil. Even now, refugees are dropping out of the caravan due to exhaustion and illness. If any of them actually reach the border by the end of December, it will be a genuine Christmas miracle.
Facts like these, however, have no purchase with this president or his most ardent supporters. His racist ranting about the caravan has reached a pitch that would make Andrew Johnson blush, but that is not enough. Trump, the dirty-trickster-in-chief, has also promoted a brazenly racist video accusing Democrats of coddling Mexican and Central American cop killers. “ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, LUIS BRACAMONTES, KILLED OUR PEOPLE!” reads the caption in the video. “DEMOCRATS LET HIM INTO OUR COUNTRY, DEMOCRATS LET HIM STAY.” Never mind that the accusations are bald-faced lies. Who better than a Republican to understand the racist power of a good old-fashioned Willie Horton ad?
All this from a president who spent the week vowing to overthrow birthright citizenship as enshrined by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The 14th Amendment was passed by a Reconstruction Congress after the Civil War for two primary reasons: to undo the disgraceful “three-fifths” compromise that deemed Black people less than human in the eyes of the law, and to ensure that freed slaves could become full citizens. If you think the racists in Trump’s base didn’t catch that particular dirty trick dog whistle, I have a bridge in Tapachula to sell you.
Most people, of course, see straight through this nonsense. Yet if the long history of political dirty tricks has taught us anything, it has taught us that the best tricks don’t have to fool everyone. These tricks deal in the small numbers, the three-to-five percent margins that make or break campaigns. In baseball, a hitter can fail seven out of ten times over the course of his career and make it to the Hall of Fame. In politics, a dirty trick can fail seven out of ten times and make it to the White House.
I take three core lessons from the mayhem of the 2018 midterm election season.
First, the United States remains a desperately racist nation despite all exhortations to the contrary. If this were not true, nobody would bother with these tactics. It is a regional affair – demonize primarily Black people here, primarily Native people there and primarily Latinx people somewhere else – that provides Republicans with a tactical advantage at the molecular level of election politics.
Second, the effectiveness of the tactic is visibly and fortunately diminishing with time, demographics and culture change. A campaign using racist dirty tricks risks losing at least as many votes as it gains nowadays, particularly in a nationwide race. The fact that Republicans are using racist dirty tricks with such shameless abandon reeks of desperation.
Third, voting really does matter. The best way, the proven way to overwhelm racist cheating and dirty tricks is with numbers at the polls. The document begins with “We the People” for a reason.
The post A Storm of Dirty Tricks and Presidential Racism Mar the 2018 Midterms appeared first on Truthout.
Note from the Russian Reader:
Once upon a time in another fairy tale kingdom, I made a silly resolution that I would grow a beard and keep it until my sisters and brothers in HERE Locals 34 and 35 won their strike against Yale University and got a new contract.
The strike ended ages ago, and the unions won their contract, but I still have the beard.
This testifies to something perverse about me, but that’s neither here nor there.
I’ve made a similar resolution in connection with the horrifying grand guignol known as the Network case a.k.a. the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case.
I won’t stop writing and translating articles about it until the story breaks through the seemingly impenetrable barrier that has so far kept it almost entirely invisible in the international press. I won’t stop translating and posting articles about it until the dozen innocent young men caught up in this tale of torture and justice travestied every way to Sunday are cleared of all charges and released from prison.
So far, I’ve published 54 stories about the case and other cases that shed light on the current mess in Russia, a mess that makes it way too easy for things like this to happen.
Fifty-four is not a round number nor, apparently, has it been enough.
But since Katya Kosarevskaya and Yana Teplitskaya—two young mathematicians who serve on the Petersburg Public Commission for Monitoring Conditions in Places of Incarceration and essentially opened the window on this case and a lot of other unsavory practices in Petersburg’s jails and the dungeons of the Petersburg FSB—have more solidarity and fight in them than all the rest of us combined, it’s the least I can do to keep on doing what I do best.
Feel free to join me, whatever you think about my perverse character.
Despite what you might think, in reality the Putin regime and its police state minions really, really hate publicity when it comes to their misdeeds and crimes. Publicizing the Network case and showing solidarity with Viktor Filinkov, Yuli Boyarshinov and the other framed and tortured suspects in the case will, in fact, help keep them safe and, ultimately, lead to their exoneration.
It’s not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of numbers, effort, and time.
How is the all-too-common Russian verb etapirovat’ translated into English? Screenshot of the relevant page from the website dic.academic.ru
by Yekaterina Kosarevskaya (original post in Russian)
30 October 2018 (original post in English)
Viktor Filinkov has arrived in Petersburg. He’s now in Remand Prison No. 4 on Lebedev Street, but apparently he will be transferred from there to Remand Prison No. 3 on Shpalernaya Street. Yana Teplitskaya and I chatted with him for two hours until lights out.
And yesterday Roma and I chatted with Yuli Boyarshinov.
Viktor’s in a very sad state, healthwise.
He took ill at every stop along the way during his convoy without having recovered from the previous stop. In Yaroslavl on Friday, before the last leg of his journey, Viktor was suddenly unable to walk. He doesn’t understand what it could have been, and he has never had anything like it before. His cellmates summoned the doctor. Viktor was taken to the dispensary. He was brought to his senses with smelling salts, given an injection of something, and left there until it was time to go.
It took three days for Viktor to get to Petersburg. They were on the road from Saturday to Tuesday, traveling only at night. During the day, the train car in which he was convoyed stood unheated and idle on the tracks.
He says he was really glad to go to Penza and hang out with [all the other prisoners in the Network case], although he did not enjoy the trip itself. The Penza Remand Prison was at such pains to show that none of the suspects in the Network case were being tortured anymore that every evening all ten suspects were inspected. They were forced to strip and undergo a full look-over, after which they were told to sign their names in a notebook. Viktor got tired of signing his name, so he took to drawing smileys, but no one followed his lead.
I wonder what it will mean when the wardens stop keeping this notebook.
Viktor told us about other remand prisons as well. He told us about Larissa the rat. He thought one inmate had made friends with her, but then he woke up and, finding the rat at the foot of his bed, moved to a top bunk.
It transpired that the censor at the Nizhny Novgorod Remand Prison expunged not only the phrase “Public Monitoring Commission” from Yana’s letters but everything else he found unfamiliar, including “vegan,” “Homo sapiens,” and “transhumanism.”
Viktor also told us Yegor Skovoroda had written to him in a postcard that he was a nudnik. Viktor wrote a three-page letter proving it wasn’t the case, but then he thought better of it and didn’t mail the letter.
Yana and I tried to recall the latest news. We told Viktor about Saturday’s protest rallies, about our latest report, about who had
successfully defended their dissertation (it wasn’t me), and who still hadn’t defended their dissertation and could thus invite Viktor to their defense (that would be me).
Yuli is in Remand Prison No. 3 on Shpalernaya Street and is fine. The only thing is that the prison’s censor has again gone on holiday, so Yuli doesn’t get any letters. So far he hasn’t received a single letter in Shpalernaya.
The censor at Remand Prison No. 4 has also gone on holiday.
UPDATE: I forgot to write that when we were traveling to Remand Prison No. 3 yesterday, Yana and I agreed that if I found out Viktor was there, I would exit the prison and telephone her so that she could travel there, too. I was worried I would waste a lot of time getting my telephone out of the box at the entrance to the prison, turning it on, and entering all the passwords. It transpired that Viktor was not there, but someone had made sure I didn’t waste any time. My telephone was turned on, and the password entry window was on the screen.
Translated by the Russian Reader
* * *
What can you do to support the Penza and Petersburg antifascists and anarchists tortured and imprisoned by the FSB?
Donate money to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org). Make sure to specify your donation is earmarked
Spread the word about the Network Case aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case. You can find more information about the case and in-depth articles translated into English on this website (see below), rupression.com, and openDemocracyRussia.
Organize solidarity events where you live to raise money and publicize the plight of the tortured Penza and Petersburg antifascists. Go to the website It’s Going Down to find printable posters and flyers you can download. You can also read more about the case there.
If you have the time and means to design, produce, and sell solidarity merchandise, please write to email@example.com.
Write letters and postcards to the prisoners. Letters and postcards must be written in Russian or translated into Russian. You can find the addresses of the prisoners here.
Design a solidarity postcard that can be printed and used by others to send messages of support to the prisoners. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Write letters of support to the prisoners’ loved ones via email@example.com.
Translate the articles and information at rupression.com and this website into languages other than Russian and English, and publish your translations on social media and your own websites and blogs.
If you know someone famous, ask them to record a solidarity video, write an op-ed piece for a mainstream newspaper or write letters to the prisoners.
If you know someone who is a print, internet, TV or radio journalist, encourage them to write an article or broadcast a report about the case. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or the email listed on this website, and we will be happy to arrange interviews and provide additional information.
It is extremely important this case break into the mainstream media both in Russia and abroad. Despite their apparent brashness, the FSB and their ilk do not like publicity. The more publicity the case receives, the safer our comrades will be in remand prison from violence at the hands of prison stooges and torture at the hands of the FSB, and the more likely the Russian authorities will be to drop the case altogether or release the defendants for time served if the case ever does go to trial.
Why? Because the case is a complete frame-up, based on testimony obtained under torture and mental duress. When the complaints filed by the accused reach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and are examined by actual judges, the Russian government will again be forced to pay heavy fines for its cruel mockery of justice.Russiaanarchists in troublea notetranslationthe stateRepressioncategory: International
From It's Going DownA critical and at times biting look back on the fight against J20 repression. This text will hopefully lead to more reflections, responses, and above all – critical reflection as we look back and assess our own activity.
I’m a former J20 defendant.
Off the bat, I want to say that I only speak for myself. I’ve learned this is important. No one has permission to speak for me, and I don’t permit myself to speak for anyone else. I think this is the common mistake made by “organizations” of any form, all these tiny Leviathans that pick up this or that cause, on behalf of such and such people: their project is still representation, the creation of subjects and sovereigns, still business as usual. In the end, I think they manage our struggles for us.
Our struggles need to be direct. They have to emerge directly from within our own lives, our particular situations, and we need to embrace a willingness to confront them. No one is coming to liberate us but ourselves. I think this is a good thing however, it means there’s no one to wait for.
I’m not going to discuss what happened on January 20th, 2017. The majority of ex-defendants had their charges dismissed without prejudice, and in addition to possibly placing them at risk, recounting a few (allegedly) shattered windows during a largely symbolic protest doesn’t mean nearly as much to me as the last eighteen months of concentrated, intense state repression.
These reflections are about that time and that repression: what I’ve seen and done; the spaces, projects, bonds, and communities that have forged me into a lifelong practitioner of anarchy; the ideological bullshit I’ve peeled away from “anarchism” and the weapons I’ve found hidden beneath; the lessons I’ve learned for future battles.
A lot of this is about what I felt I did wrong. I think that’s perfectly fine. I think we need to reflect upon and share our lessons of failure: our mistakes mean everything, so learn from them and don’t make the same mistake twice.In the Beginning, There Were “Spokescalls”
“US anarchists would need to exchange an emphasis on decision-making for one on initiative-taking. The open assembly does not exist to ratify a decision, because it would never dream of stopping its constituents from making all the decisions they wanted. And, I would argue it doesn’t exist either to impel action because it is assumed and promoted that its constituents are already taking action, and need the assembly in order to share.”
-From Movement to Space, the Anarchist Open Assemblies
“We just have to keep in mind that nothing different can come out of an assembly than what is already there.”
-To Our Friends, the Invisible Committee
After my release from jail, I was greeted by anti-capitalist chants, boxes full of fresh clothes, the first warm food in over twenty-four hours, and what have become some of my dearest friends. I can’t possibly stress what this meant to me. When we’re in the streets, our first priority should be to protect either other and prevent as many arrests as possible, but when our friends are kidnapped from us by the state, jail support is one of the most critical logistical projects and gestures of solidarity. That shit meant everything to me. Seeing my friends and comrades fighting for us on the outside set the tone for the next year and a half, and I came out of my cell spiting fire.
A small nucleus of local DC activists ran the logistical support for arrestees on the ground: keeping track of releases, contacting the National Lawyers Guild, getting us fed with pizza, shuttling us across precincts to collect our stolen possessions, etc. From what I can remember, this group of people eventually coalesced into an official organization called the Dead City Legal Posse.
If I recall, this organization, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) was also responsible for setting up one of the most important early acts in the struggle against our charges: the coordination of a regional spokes-council between defendants, or in our case, a “spokescall.” This call placed dozens of defendants, from across just as many states, in contact with each other for the first time and established critical lines of communication between us. Those early calls opened up the spaces for us to find each other. Without them, it’s possible that the majority of us would have remained isolated from each other throughout the case.
In this sense, I found the initial spokescalls invaluable for generating collective resistance and struggle.
Over the coming months, I also found that it regularly devolved into a routine decision – making body – a legislative body, to speak the language of government – that would suppress projects and manage defendants’ struggles.
I think that there are two ways of conceptualizing assemblies, the first could be called “anarchist” and the second could be called “anarchic.”
The former considers them as a kind a political organ constructed for the sake of ratifying and legitimizing (certain) decisions – a kind of brain, set with the intention of “thinking” and “reasoning” for the body-politique, the political-body, the artificial animal comprised of human bodies and social roles. The spokescalls, in my experience, often operated this way, and when it did I noticed a few things:
- Proposals formed within the calls themselves, with no outside momentum to drive them, often never materialized. The clearest example of this remains our attempt to organize a collective plea strategy, meant to provide those most vulnerable with some support by securing every defendant the same non-cooperating plea offer in the case. The first proposal was drafted within the call itself by the ~20 defendants on the call, and sent back with delegates to regional pockets of other defendants (at the time, it made sense to group into formations of defendants based on our geographic region; eventually, this would change to within our trial blocks). While the project was clearly important for those on the call, we never received much feedback from the larger groups of defendants, and when we did most felt that they wanted their day in court rather than a plea offer. However, instead of proceeding with the numbers/initiative we did have (small though they were), the proposal was re-drafted. And then again, and then again…a half dozen times: rewrite, re-establish consensus, re-share. This process finally deadlocked and descended into a bizarre spectacle of politics, where some folks struggled to decide on a proposal to ratify a decision-making policy for future proposals…Needless to say, enormous amounts of time were wasted on this shit, the project never got off the ground, and the defendants most at-risk were left with no cover.
- At the same time, this process was effective in terms of actually mothballing certain projects that did have initiative, but were deemed potentially risky or dangerous by particular people in the spokescall. Another example: the early-trial strategy. Our prosecutor, Jenny “Lowblow” Kerkhoff, initially setup a “Group One” of alleged breakers, alleged inciters, and moving defendants for the first trial scheduled in March ’18. We considered that her hope was to secure easy convictions and build momentum for future trial blocks within the courts and the press. Recognizing this, we moved to disrupt her scheduling by having defendants with much weaker cases request trials for November/December ’17. One defendant personally reached out to over a hundred other defendants, organized a conference call to analyze the strategy, and found folks willing to talk to their lawyers. But when this person shared all of this with the spokescall, they were told to wait: they hadn’t submitted a proposal for this, there was no consensus on it by the spokescall, it hadn’t been shared by the regional delegates – ignoring the fact that the delegates had by bypassed through direct contact with the regional defendants themselves. In the face of this, and the past failure of the collective-plea proposal, the defendant expressed their frustrations: they weren’t issuing a proposal, or looking for consensus, and they would proceed as intended, alone or otherwise. They had come seeking comrades, not politicians. The result of that work, in combination with the bravery of the November defendants, were six acquittals and 129 subsequent dismissals.
It’s this last examples that points towards the second way of understanding the assembly or spokes-council, the “anarchic” way: not as a political organ, but as a form of open space to find new people and a tool for sharing. The assembly is a weapon for coordinating initiatives to amplify their efficacy – a weapon to pick up or put down as the situation demands. This tool is only effective when (a) we already have developed projects outside of the assembly and want to share them, or (b) we are looking for others with similar projects to coordinate with or join.
Anyone who remembers the good calls we had (and we did have them) knows that they took place after defendants got updates from their lawyers and wanted to strategize, or after really important motions were filed worth sharing, or after a round of situational analysis following some new gambit from Kerkhoff. When the calls worked like this, I think we all found it invigorating and refreshing. But when they didn’t it was deeply demoralizing, contributed to burn-out, and attendance dropped of rapidly.
I think that more important than play-acting as politicians, or forming legislative bodies, is spreading the assembly-tactic as a general practice for when the situation calls. This way, it becomes a tool among anyone we share space with, and can be deployed when the time comes to open up space on the margins to find each other.The Anarchic Desert
“As such, the necessity of organization depends on the density of anarchist activity in a space or region. The most basic unit that conforms an anarchist density is the project. Too often, proposals are raised in the anarchist desert – regions with little activity. These are destined to fail. Organization itself does not generate more activity if there is nothing to organize.”
-A Wager on the Future
What is the anarchist (or rather, anarchic) desert? I think this phenomena deserves some discussion in relation to the struggle against our charges. The anarchic desert describes a space or terrain or struggle with either a low-density or total absence of anarchic organizing, with the project as the base unit of organization. The more projects within a certain space, the higher the anarchic density and the opacity of the space.
Some really brilliant projects were developed in the course of this case: a model for peer-led emotional support groups; community festivals with flaming limos and dinners for supporters; auctions to raise defense funds; all the Weeks of Solidarity; Kerkhophony Vol.I (still waiting on Vol.II). But overall, I can’t recall a time when I saw more than 35-40 defendants working on unique projects at once, out of ~235 people. I think this could be considered an anarchic desert of mild intensity.
Why did this happen? I’d love to see other reflections from ex-defendants come out regarding this, because I can only speak to my own experiences: the last year and half were extremely exhausting, and brutally traumatizing. In many cases I found my own fear paralyzing. I found myself cycling through sustained periods of burn-out and paranoia, followed by manic, sporadic bouts of organizing. I think there were multiple reasons for this:
- A lack of personal clarity about my own goals. What did I want? Finding yourself in a direct confrontation with the state, when you don’t consider the state’s existence legitimate, is a bit bizarre. Did I want my charges dropped, and did that seem possible? Did I just want a good, non-cooperating plea to cut my losses (which I considered many times)? Did I want to use my case as “propaganda of the deed” and sacrifice myself for “the cause”? Did I actually want to go to prison, into the deepest pits of the beast to wage my war, and do I still find it inevitable even now? Did I want to desert into political exile (a choice I heard ridiculed among other ex-defendants, which I consider fucked up)? Did I want to keep planning my escape? I never arrived at a clear answer. Without one, how could I think strategically or move effectively? Without objectives, strategic thinking is locked out of access, and fighting the state can become very surreal very quickly.
- Geographic distance from the site of struggle. More than once I thought about moving to Washington, DC. Wasn’t this the battleground of our struggle? I often felt, “yes, DC is the place to be.” Where else could we promote a subversive campaign of jury nullification, or disrupt the operations of the US Attorney’s Office, or work to legitimize property destruction as a tactic for resistance, or connect with other struggles against the Metropolitan Police Department? The idea of actually being in DC made things feel possible. But I never went. There were multiple reasons: it was financially and logistically inaccessible; it would strain my commitments and my relationships; the fear was overwhelming – of returning to DC, and of escalating the struggle. I thought above going over and over again throughout the case, but I just never took the leap. Towards the end of the case, a small group of defendants really ran with the initiative to secure a communal house for defendants just out of DC to act as a base of operations, but it also never happened. I think it would have been a good idea.
- Burn-out and trauma. I found quickly that within the desert, you could build social capital by “bottom-lining” the majority of needs, and you could set informal social hierarchies by framing the “needs” within the spokescalls. I spent time assuming a “leadership” position and bottom-lining more than I could handle. Part of this came from a felt urgency to “be productive,” part came as a response to anxieties and a desire for control of the situation (an authoritative impulse I ultimately had to reject). Part of me liked the praise. But not only did I find myself unable to keep all of my commitments, the over-extension led to poor execution of the projects I did follow through with. This also contributed as feedback to the burn-out cycle. Likewise, the fear of more repression kept me from pursuing other projects that felt important to me.
Who knows which cause was primary, but in the end, all of them affected my capacity and willingness to fight back, and I wonder if that’s a shared experience among my fellow ex-defendants. In the end, the desert persisted.
If I tried to point out the anarchic desert, I was told multiple times by co-defendants and supporters that my method of organizing was too “informal.” That having people pursue their own projects and attempt to coordinate efforts themselves lacked structure (or more accurately, discipline), and that people would be best served by the formality of the spokescall and its working-groups.
In truth, I find the question of “formal vs. informal” as pointless as the one between “violent vs. nonviolent.” What matters isn’t the degree of formality used to plan our coordinations. What matter is whether there is something to coordinate. What matters is whether people are doing something that matters to them. Often, I found this discourse to be a way of covering up the clear dynamic at hand – a lack of initiatives and projects coming from ourselves as defendants – while also trying to (re)capture people within the larger body-politique of the spokescalls: the “collective.” But the formation used to execute projects doesn’t matter so long as there are actual projects being organized and the formation can operate effectively. The important thing is that shit is getting done. And all of this ties back to each of us developing our own vision of liberation for ourselves.
Without our own projects – our own projectuality and a sense of the direction we want to move in – there is no such thing as “support.” To be supported, first of all, we need to want someone’s help. From there we can ask ourselves what that help needs to look like and we can communicate that to our friends. If this isn’t the case then we’re not being supported, we are being managed. Part of liberation is that we can’t be told what to want, or how to be, or what to do: we have to take the responsibility to look at the situation ourselves, figure out what we want, and then do what needs to be done. Our supporters can’t do this for us. I don’t need people to fight for me, I need people to fight with me. There’s a big difference.
A crucial example for me happened in court during one of the trials, where I witnessed a “supporter” shut down an attempt by a defendant to speak out against the testimony a particularly disgusting pig. The supporter, witnessing a potentially dangerous situation develop, decided it was best to step in and stop the defendant in order to “protect them from themselves.” This exploded into a serious conflict, one in which I backed my co-defendant for one simple reason: they did not ask for the supporter’s help, nor to be saved. This situation was nuanced. I don’t think this co-defendant thought about their comrades on the stand right next to them, or the danger it could have put them in as by jeopardizing the biases of the jury. I think they would have been responsible for that. And I can recognize that the impulse to “protect” emerges from a place of anxiety, concern, and fear. But that shit is patronizing and paternalistic as fuck, and it’s definitely authoritarian in character. If I need backup, I’ll ask you for backup. If you see me heading towards a dangerous situation, know that I recognize this and respect me enough to let me make my own choices.“Good Protesters” and Bad Press
This is the only reflection where I feel the need to get truly salty. But as a friend recently said, the salt brings out the flavor, so here it is.
The narrative constructed around this entire case was some reformist, liberal ass bullshit. And, quite to the point, I’m not “innocent” in this regard either. I worked within the “public relations” (oh, hello red-flag…) working-group from the jump, and from the outset the framework used to craft media involved erasing/minimizing the militancy of the march and the property destruction that took place, highlighting the “indiscriminate” nature of our arrest (i.e. how the cops couldn’t sort the “real protesters” from the “criminals”), and centering a narrative of police misconduct as opposed to a rejection of policing as an operation of government.
Had the MPD used surgical precision by deploying their “snatch squads” and arrested discrete actors in the demonstration, I would still fucking hate them.
The public relations working-group was, without a doubt, one of the most active combinations of supporters and defendants. For over a year they consistently churned out op-eds, interviews, podcasts, videos, blog-posts, press-releases, etc. They got busy and they stayed busy.
But facts are facts: this narrative completely sold out the defendants most at-risk from these charges, especially the alleged breakers. Not only in the press, but even within some of the arguments from the defense attorneys themselves in court. I know this to be a shared sentiment. At every point, the media in this case was focused on trying to hide the property destruction that took place, and instead affirm that the police “broke their own rules,” didn’t separate the guilty from the innocent, and just rounded everyone up. It should be pretty obvious how this narrative fucks people over, never mind the irony of anarchists complaining that the laws were broken.
Deploying this strategy in court made sense for the moving defendants (see the November trials), so I can understand the decision even if I don’t agree with it: loopholes and fuck-ups are apparently critical to destroying a legal case. But do to this in our media?
Where were the articles about the history of property destruction as an effective/essential tactic for struggle? Or the analysis of policing as an explicit counterinsurgency operation, one developed throughout all of the so-called Americas specifically as a method of suppressing insurrections? Where were the articles affirming why people shouldn’t give a shit about a Bank of America or a Starbucks getting its windows smashed up? Who gives two shits about a corporation that explicitly bribes your politicians, funds colonialism and genocide through pipeline development, and helped collapse the economy? I sure as fuck don’t, and I can’t imagine why anyone else would beyond the ridiculous notion of “public decency.” It was magnificent to watch people decide, even if only symbolically, that they weren’t going to sit back and accept the absurdity of life governed by this system anymore.
But where was that in the media? My lawyer told me verbatim that, “95% of DC residents hate Donald Trump, but they don’t want to see things broken over it.” This position remained unchallenged for our entire case.
I mentioned this issue in the working-group a few times, but the direction never changed. I ultimately left. At this point, the failure to change the narrative falls on me. The initiative was mine to take from that moment, but by then I’d become exhausted, paranoid, and paralyzed by the fear/trauma of my approaching trial. I couldn’t find the will to act, and no one can do that for us. I think we need to find that courage and drive within ourselves.
Still, I’m disappointed by this aspect of our struggle. I know I could have done better, and at this point I expect better from supporters. The statements from comrades in Hamilton over the Locke Street Riot give me fucking life: an outright rejection of “innocence”; unwavering support for the property destruction that took place; a real, complicated conversation about gentrification as literal acts of warfare against certain people. I think these folks have set a solid example of what solidarity can look like in practice within our media.Commune Against Statecraft
“Nature is, by the art of man, as in many other things, so also in this imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal. For by art is created that great Leviathan called the common-wealth, or state, which is but an Artificial Man; though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defense it was intended; an in which, the sovereign is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates and other officers, artificial joints; reward and punishment are the nerves; equity and laws, an artificial reason and will…lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body-politique were at first made, set together, and united.”
-Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
At the beginning of our repression, a kernel of defendants got together to draft certain “points of unity” – a pseudo-constitutional contract or a set of laws – that were then shopped around and agreed to by several dozen defendants, myself included. This collection of agreements served as the charter, as the “pacts and covenants”, of a new body-politique, a “collective,” that evolved into DefendJ20 Resistance.
It’s only now that I can recognize all of this for what it was: the primordial stages of statecraft, and a policing operation called “unity.” As the sovereign, the “collective” (with the defendants as its subject); as the magistrates and officers, the members of the collective itself armed with a decentralized method of policing; as reward, social capital, and as punishment, excommunication and snitch-jacketing; as equity and laws, consensus democracy and the points of unity.
All of this felt very cozy at first – a contract, signed by dozens of defendants swearing to work together, to play by the rules, not to snitch or cooperate with the prosecution. And more than that, a group, a security blanket of bodies to feel safe among.
But over time, I started noticing some weird shit: I never heard from people who hadn’t signed the points of unity, and never established contact with them; people who “violated” the points of unity – say, through a shitty news interview and a lack of willingness to respond to constructive criticism – were pushed out of the collective, ostracized, and nearly called out as snitches; by first setting the agendas and then “bottom-lining” the majority of the work, certain people acquired enormous amounts of social capital within informal hierarchies; in my own home, I was told that the “collective” had no space for a multiplicity of working-groups crafting media, and that only one would be “recognized” by the collective as legitimate.
I watched anarchists refer to the “collective” the same way Communists refer to the “party” without so much as batting an eye, and I saw projects snuffed out of existence under appeals to remain united because “we’re all defendants, right?”
Except that after a year of dealing with this, I decided I didn’t want to remain “united” as one of many corpses within this weird political machine. I decided that the collective was a lie, as fake an institution as any other piece of statecraft. And it was statecraft, Hobbesian down to its entire conception and operation.
See, I think our concept of “collective” isn’t helpful. We’ve inherited too much bullshit from the last several hundred years of empire, even within our language and our thinking. Right now, most folks consider “collective” to be a noun, sort of the same way they consider “community” to be a noun. For most people, both words refer to just “a group of people,” a set configuration of people, a patch-work machine of bodies sewn together by artificial ties. And so every time we try to embrace this idea of “acting collectively”, the only thing we can imagine is the same shit we’ve been doing for a while now: reproducing state-forms, over and over again.
But there are other ways of defining these words. “Collective” can become an adjective to describe that which is shared between us: a certain struggle, a position within the situation, a strategy, a gesture of attack. “Community” can stop referring to some discrete set of people, and can point towards an affective experience of resonance between bodies, a sensible feeling of being connected to others across the empty space. Similarly, we can redefine “commune” and change it from being a noun, specific unit of socio-geographic organization, to a verb that describes the act of sharing things openly.
I think these re-definitions offer a path towards a different way of moving through the world. A more anarchic way, one that is counter to the logic of statecraft, policing, and the performance of politics. One that involves a deepening practice of commune – of openly sharing with others to produce collectivities, living (and dying) expressions of free sharing, as a rich tapestry of communities, experiences of connection, that can take an infinite variety of forms simultaneously as they come together and then break apart. This practice demands attention, trust, risk, uncertainty, danger, the discovery of friends and enemies, and experimentation – the antithesis of suspicion, alienation, security, control, neutrality, and hegemony that defines life under the state.
One of my most cherished memories of my arrest was the singing that took place inside the jails, between rooms and across the concrete and steel. This act of commune, this gesture of care and defiance that we shared together, preceded any kind of decision-making process and produced a collectivity so rich, so ripe with the sense of community, that I still think fondly on it right now. That moment, and other moments like it, forged the real bonds that carried me through this case, the kind that can never be substituted by fucking contracts or points of unity. I’ll never forget it.
By forming this collective, I think we ignored the vast, untapped potential bonds that could have actually existed between us had we practiced more communing. Instead we affirmed a constructed, lowest-common-denominated identity – the “defendant,” one traumatized and criminalized onto our bodies by the state itself – and used it to build a political artifice. An artifice that brought over two-hundred strangers together as strangers and then tried to force them to work together. What kind of bonds could have really existed between us at this point, besides those forged in the streets and the jails?
I will never do this shit again. I affirm death to every state-form, including the “collective.” But in spite of itself, genuine collectivities did express themselves: in nights spent with co-defendants, sharing weed and war stories, becoming actual friends; in benefit shows, ventriloquist acts, musical albums, and laughter shared mocking our enemies’ stupidity; in Signal threads for sharing nudes and group sex on the living room floor; in support groups for sharing our tears and trauma; even in the early Impact Space meetings, where we shared our analysis of the situation and learned each other’s faces.
If I regret anything, it’s that I didn’t open up more of these spaces where we could have shared more with each other, elaborated these collectivities, and deepened the bonds between us. Because it’s these bonds, and not some bullshit political structure, that makes us ready to risk everything and fight for each other in the face of seventy-five years in prison. What else possibly could?Not “Anarchism”, but Anarchies
“We take what we want from a bunch of radical ideas and tendencies, while rejecting any aspects of them that we don’t find useful or worthwhile. So we want to reject becoming messiahs of any category, label, or ideological division…our lives are our own and we have to begin by defining our own course of action.”
-Anarchy, Activism, and Insurrection, A Murder of Crows
“The main idea of my way of strategy is to win. There is nothing else. Attack with one purpose and one purpose only – to destroy the enemy.”
-The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Mushashi
“How can we put an end to this? That’s the real question, isn’t it? Magic is about doing. Revolution is much the same: you’ll never really learn anything until you actually do it.”
-Starting Your Own War to Get Free, Dr. Bones
This is my last reflection. It feels like the most important.
Prior to my arrest, I could properly be called an “anarchist.” By this, I mean that I subscribed to an anarchist program of ideology (at the time, insurrectionalism), was part of the local anarchist milieu, maintained its aesthetic, and beyond that, believed in its promises. My introduction to struggle happened via theory and the academy, and I became an anarchist by the way of Bookchin and Bakunin. What I understood of struggle, largely, was limited to what I had read in the history books and thought in my own head.
Anarchism is a world-wide phenomena. It’s spread across the planet and interacted with countless liberation struggles over centuries, cross-pollinating its methods, practices, and tactics with others. It has a rich history of rebellion, revolt, and a rejection of capital’s putrid world, and a proud lineage of ancestors who I affirm and keep in my heart for guidance.
That said, it is still a deeply Euro-centric/colonial/industrial ideology that is wrapped up in utopian schemes of social engineering, “human progress,” the hegemonic project of the missionaries, and an image of “revolution” that looks more like a secular re-imagining of the Judgement Day than anything resembling liberation: one day, the wicked will be properly struck down in a fire of righteous punishment and justice, and the meek and dispossessed with re-inherit the earth. Sound familiar?
It wasn’t until I feel feet-first into a direct, concrete struggle against the state that I learned just how useless all of this is. Proselytizing for an ideology isn’t going to get your charges dropped, a new “social order” becomes repellent when you realize it will still require policing, and waiting for the “rev” feels pretty fucking stupid when your trial date is breathing down your neck.
As I’ve noted extensively above, all of the processes, formalisms, and politics of anarchism were not helpful in this situation. It’s at the point where I actively question whether I continue to call myself an “anarchist” or “revolutionary,” because maybe these things are best left in the trash-heap of capital’s identities – the ones it uses to manage us. Anarchism didn’t help me. Although some amazing people who call themselves anarchists did, and I’ll never forget that.
However, buried beneath all the ideology I found weapons: my personal ethics, projectuality, strategic thinking and situational analysis, direct action, operational theory, decentralized initiative, chaos magic, assembly and dis-assembly in the pursuit of community. All of these weapons and ideas form my concept of anarchy, which I consider very different from “anarchism.” I use them all because I find them effective.
What is anarchy? I find most definitions of the world useless, since they’re all still wrapped up in socialism and the social promise: “a world without domination,” “a society free from coercion,” “a world with rules, but no rulers.” How does that last one even make fucking sense? Who makes the rules if there are no rulers? None of these accurately describe anarchy for me, so instead I offer my own definition.
Anarchy: a methodology for engaging in direct struggle, a framework for embracing conflict, an art of war towards liberation.
Liberation is a crime. At some point, those of us looking to desert the Leviathan of capital will have to reconcile with this. It will always be a crime for a slave to free themselves. Our desires exist outside of the law by default, and by extension, at war with the hostage situation called civil society. Not war as in “military carnage,” but war as in “strategic conflict.” We have a game to win, with clear obstacles in our path and enemies on the other side of the board.
Anarchy is a framework for engaging in this war, a methodology for breaking out of this literal prison-world. As a framework, it makes sense then not to speak of “Anarchy”, but rather of anarchies – plural, multiple. Everyone who engages in this war for liberation will develop their own anarchic framework as they wage their struggles directly. These frameworks will overlap, intersect, cross-over and collide with each other, but they will never be mass produced like a fucking Ikea chair.
Well, that’s all. I’m not terribly good with endings. Please forgive me. Again, I’d love to see more ex-defendants share their own reflections. That kind of practice of communing could be very fruitful, even if conflictual.
We got away this time. Let’s make the most of it. Until next time.Tags: j20critiqueRepressionanarchists in troublecategory: Essays
If you were caught up in the midst of a massive earthquake – the kind that takes down buildings and buckles roads – would you know what … Read the rest
Migrant caravan members sue Trump for violating their 'constitutional rights' --Social media reacted with confusion and amusement, marveling that the migrants had thought to pack a US lawyer with them | 03 Nov 2018 | Twelve Honduran migrants are getting a head start on becoming US citizens by embracing that most American of pastimes: the lawsuit. They are suing the Trump administration for violating their Fifth Amendment due process rights. The plaintiffs, including six children, are alleging that President Trump's plans to block the 4,000-odd Central American migrants currently streaming northward toward the US-Mexico border are "shockingly unconstitutional." They are also suing the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. Civil rights law firm Nexus Derechos Humanos is representing the migrants.
Woman to be investigated after she admitted she made up rape claims against Kavanaugh because she 'wanted attention'
Woman to be investigated after she admitted she made up rape claims against Kavanaugh because she 'wanted attention' --Kavanaugh accuser Judy Munro-Leighton has recanted the claims she made in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee alleging the Judge raped her | 02 Nov 2018 | A woman who accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has confessed to federal authorities that she made up the claims because she was 'angry' as a 'ploy' to hurt his political career. Senator Chuck Grassley referred the false accuser, Judy Munro-Leighton, to the Justice Department for investigation on Friday, after she admitted she 'just wanted to get attention' on Thursday. Now it's in the hands of the Department of Justice to investigate her for potentially making 'materially false statements' and for 'obstruction'. Munro-Leighton sent an anonymous letter to Senator Kamala Harris on September 19, describing with graphic detail how Kavanaugh and a friend had supposedly raped her several times in the backseat of a car, but did not mention when or where.
The post No Hate in Toronto: Protesting and Disrupting White Nationalist Steve Bannon appeared first on It's Going Down.What follows is a discussion with anti-racist organizers Sharmeen Khan and Rachel Small on recent resistance to Steve Bannon.
In this No Borders Media audio dispatch (October 31, 2018), we speak with two organizers of the Bannon-Frum Toronto UnWelcoming Committee, who are attempting to protest, disrupt and shut down this Friday”s Munk Debate event in downtown Toronto. The event features right-wing neo-liberal David Frum and right-wing white nationalist Steve Bannon, in a so-called debate.
Sharmeen Khan, of No One Is Illegal Toronto, and Rachel Small of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and Council of Canadians address the arguments in favour of a vigorous campaign of opposition and de-platforming of the active enablers of far-right racism, particularly Trump ideologue Steve Bannon. We also discuss together strategies and tactics of resistance to the rise of the far-right, and the normalization of the politics of hate and blame.
- Listen, download & share: https://soundcloud.com/nobordersmedia/nohatetoronto
- More info about the protest this Friday (November 2) here: www.facebook.com/events/1401207076681549/
- Phone the Munk Debate to urge them to cancel this event which normalizes the discourse of the racist far-right; phone details here: https://act.leadnow.ca/munk/
No Borders Media is an autonomous left-wing media network. We share and create content that supports the struggles of communities in resistance, with a focus on the self-determination struggles of Indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and working class people of colour in the context of opposition to capitalism and colonialism. Some current focuses include: migrant justice, resistance to borders, anti-fascism and anarchism.
We are in the early stages our independent media project. To stay in touch send us an e-mail at email@example.com or look for No Borders Media on facebook, twitter and soundcloud. Much more to come in the coming weeks and months.
The post There is No Migrant Crisis: Trump Turns the Army on the People appeared first on It's Going Down.The following piece was written in collaboration with our comrades at CrimethInc.
Photo Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times
Several thousand migrants have fled Honduras, hoping to escape poverty, violence, and repression. Donald Trump and his fellow nationalists and racists have been fearmongering about this so-called “migrant caravan” in hopes of mobilizing their base to vote in the November 6 election; their efforts have triggered a wave of fascist violence including last week’s massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Still more troubling is Trump’s order to send thousands of US troops to “defend” against the caravan. This sets yet another precedent for the use of the military against civilian populations. Here, we explain why everyone who is not a racist ideologue has a common stake in resisting the militarization of the border, and offer an array of options for what you can do about it.
First things first: why are people leaving Honduras for the US in the first place? Honduras is still suffering the consequences of a US-backed coup that took place in 2009 on the heels of centuries of resource extraction. In short, Hondurans are trying to come to the United States because the natural and financial resources of Honduras have already been looted and brought across the US border.
We have met an enormous number of Hondurans crossing the border in the years since the coup, out of all proportion to the size of the country… We heard different versions of the same story from countless people: grinding poverty, chronic hunger and malnutrition, widespread violence and insecurity (much of it an extension of El Salvador’s gang problems), a rampant HIV/AIDS epidemic, appalling levels of violence against women and LGBTQ people, assassinations of environmentalists, union organizers, and human rights advocates, and a lack of the most basic services or opportunities…
If Honduras is in shambles, it is not because Hondurans are any less resourceful or fundamentally decent than anyone else, or even because its rulers are any more wretched and callous than our own. It is because the structure of the North American economy has made any other outcome impossible.
–No Wall They Can Build, July 2017
The conditions that are forcing refugees to flee Honduras are part of a much wider pattern. In the quarter of a century since the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), globalized capitalism has inflicted grievous damage on the biosphere, indigenous populations, and workers’ rights. Industrial production has shifted to the parts of the world where labor is cheapest, while structural adjustment programs have made it impossible for governments to maintain any sort of social safety net; from the United States to Honduras and Bangladesh, this has created a race to the bottom.
The combination of globalized financial speculation and militarized borders has increased the pace at which capital flows while exacerbating the ways that citizenship functions as a caste system limiting who can move freely, dividing the world into zones of exploitation and zones of accumulation. This benefits capitalists who aim to maximize their profits, but it doesn’t benefit the majority of workers—not even the ones in the wealthiest countries, because they still have to compete with workers in other parts of the world to see who can sell themselves the cheapest. In this context, it’s no longer possible for laborers to gain leverage by organizing on the level of a single factory, or even a single country; the global market simply routes around resistance to find a more exploitable population. If we want to defend our interests as workers, we have to make common cause with everyone else around the world who is exploited.
That means that labor organizing has to begin by opposing the border—not just as a line on a map, but above all as a social division that cuts through the population of every country, segregating those with citizenship and travel privileges from those who are denied them. Just like racial divisions, the border serves to prevent workers from uniting to defend their interests against those who exploit them.
Trump has pretended to be critical of neoliberal free trade, but in practice, he has just introduced a more xenophobic and oppressive version of the policies of his predecessors. This is the one-two punch of the complementary Democratic and Republican agendas: the Democrats have paved the way for the neoliberal order that is steadily concentrating wealth, while the Republicans are intensifying the violence that preserves that order. The Democrats introduced NAFTA, forcing millions to flee financial collapse in Mexico to seek precarious work at illegally low wages in the United States, and the Republicans are escalating police and military operations against those precarious undocumented workers—ensuring that they are divided from the other workers who would have to organize with them in order for anyone’s conditions to improve.
The caravan from Honduras is nothing new—people have been fleeing to the US from Honduras and other parts of the world for decades. In fact, the undocumented population of the US reached its peak over a decade ago and has been declining ever since. What’s more, a great part of those staying in the US “illegally” are not sneaking through the desert in the middle of the night, but coming into the country via legal work visa programs, then remaining afterwards. Of those who do cross illegally through the desert, roughly half of them are longtime residents of the United States who are simply trying to return to their jobs and families. And, as has been widely documented, immigrants engage in less criminal activity than the rest of the population.
So there is no migrant crisis. If anything, the fear of mass deportations has impacted the US economy, as agricultural industries that rely on migrant labor are experiencing difficulty recruiting enough workers. Trump’s rhetoric about an “invasion” requiring military intervention is blatantly dishonest. It’s obvious to his supporters as well as his critics that his real agenda here is not economic but ideological.
Despite his laughable campaign promises to bring factory jobs back to the United States, Trump knew from the start that he could not build a time machine and transport the white working class back to 1950. Nor did he intend to do anything to redistribute wealth to the white working class; thus far, all his financial policies have only served to speed the pace at which capitalists like himself are plundering them along with everyone else. What he can do to placate white male workers, however, is adjust the distribution of violence, focusing it even more against people of color, undocumented people, women, and queer and trans people than it already is today.
This is how we must understand Trump’s promises to “build the wall,” block the caravan, and strip citizenship from the children of the undocumented. All of these are intended to buy the allegiance of white people, even desperately poor white people, by giving them scapegoats at whom they can channel their frustration. The #MAGAbomber attacks and the massacre in Pittsburgh are not unwanted side effects, but an essential part of this program.
Fascists, white nationalists, and nativists desperately need an enemy to rally people against; their false notion of community only makes sense when they can define themselves by contrast with an Other. They are pushing for “strong borders” as a way to revive identities such as whiteness and patriotism that are fundamentally based on exclusion. If the caravan did not exist, they would have to find another threat to mobilize around.
Their project is not particularly popular with the majority of the population. This is why the lone-wolf killers, militias, and paramilitary outfits are necessary—not just to terrorize the opposition, but above all to shift the Overton window regarding what sort of discourse is acceptable. For his part, Trump’s strategy is always to push the envelope to see how much he can get away with.
And this brings us to his order to deploy thousands of troops at the border. This signals the enlistment of the US military in Trump’s strategy to preserve capitalism by inflaming the divisions within the population that suffers from it.
In the 21st century, the chief role of the military has not been to fight wars, but to carry out counterinsurgency measures. This was already clear in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which chiefly pitted the US military against the civilian populations of those countries. It became clearer still when US military personnel and private contractors who had patrolled Kabul and Baghdad were brought back to the United States to occupy Ferguson and Baltimore.
Just as it has been necessary to deploy troops around the world to secure the raw materials that keep the economy afloat, it is becoming necessary to deploy troops in the US to preserve the unequal distribution of resources at home. Just as the austerity measures pioneered by the IMF in Africa, Asia, and South America are appearing in the wealthiest nations of the first world, the techniques of threat management and counter-insurgency that were debuted against Palestinians, Afghanis, and Iraqis are now being turned against the populations of the countries that invaded them. Private military contactors who operated in Peshawar are now working in Ferguson, alongside tanks that rolled through Baghdad. For the time being, this is limited to the poorest, blackest neighborhoods; but what seems exceptional in Ferguson today will be commonplace around the country tomorrow.
-“The Thin Blue Line Is a Burning Fuse,” November 2015
If it becomes normalized for US troops to occupy unruly cities within the territory of the United States and to intervene at the border against unarmed civilians, it will be only a matter of time before those troops are deployed against other populations as well. First they came for poor Black communities—then they came for the Muslim immigrants—then they came for the undocumented immigrants… this list will continue to grow, eventually even including white liberals, if things go far enough. The less backlash there is about the deployment of troops at the border, the faster this process will proceed.
Trump and his supporters are trying to put the precedents in place for a future in which their notion of order will be maintained by open, brutal force involving every weapon and every institution of the state. Even if you don’t identify with refugees on the receiving end of colonialist oppression, even if you don’t recognize opposition to the border as a necessary step towards updating the labor movement for the 21st century, you have every reason to recognize this as your own fight. Words and sentiments are meaningless here—we have to act in solidarity with those on the other side of the border.
More context: @realDonaldTrump said that he has told the military to respond to any rock throwing by members of the migrant caravan as if it was an armed attack. "They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fightsback. I told them to consider it a rifle."
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) November 1, 2018
Trump and his cronies are hoping that people will disapprove of his administration’s activities, or perhaps just vote against them, without taking any concrete action to make it impossible to implement them. But only direct action can be effective against an administration that views protests, negative press coverage, and “speaking truth to power” simply as opportunities to rally Trump’s base. We demonstrated the efficacy of direct action with the airport blockades at the opening of his term—and again, to a lesser extent, with the ICE occupations over the summer of 2018. Both served to force Trump to abandon at least a part of his agenda. We have leverage, should we dare to use it.
What does it look like to resist the militarization of the border? Some may travel to the border to be there when troops are deployed, or when the caravan arrives. But the border is everywhere—everywhere that an ICE facility operates, everywhere immigrants live in fear of being snatched from their families. Even if you can’t travel, you can take meaningful and effective action wherever you are. Here are some points of departure.Resources and Upcoming Events Books
No Wall They Can Build: A Guide to Borders and Migration across North America— Drawing on a decade of solidarity work in the desert between Mexico and Arizona, this book uncovers the goals and costs of US border policy, and what it will take to change it. Order it here or click the image above to access the PDF.Stickers
Click the image above to access the PDF.
Click the image above to access the PDF.
Refugees Welcome from Sub.Media.
Undoing Border Imperialism with Harsha Walia.Days of Action
November 8-11: Call for International Day of Action Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism. Called by anti-fascist Jews, this is an opportunity to link antifascist struggle against white nationalism and anti-Semitism, including recent far-right attacks across the US, with Trump’s push to attack the caravan. More information here.
November 16-18: SOA Watch Border Encuentro. Called by School of the Americas Watch, this will be a mobilization against border imperialism. More information here.
December 17: Meet the migrants at the border.Ongoing Organizing
Donate or volunteer with No More DeathsFurther Reading
What Would It Take to Stop the Raids?—At the outset of Trump’s presidency, this article presciently proposed targeting ICE facilities as a pressure point in the struggle against the violence of the border.
The White Nationalists That No One Protested—On white nationalist influence within the Trump administration.