via Free Jeremy
It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update on Jeremy and his current situation (previous updates can be found here and here), and a lot of little things have happened in that time, so I decided to write another update to keep everyone informed of what has been going on. Some of it is positive, but, unfortunately, the overwhelming amount is negative, as it often is in these situations. So, without further ado…
Jeremy’s Release Date
Last week, upon checking the BOP’s website, I noticed that Jeremy’s release date had been pushed back a significant amount – over a year, in fact. His new release date is now 17 March 2021. Previously, it had been February 22, 2020. I did not announce this when it first happened because I had been expecting his release date to be pushed back when he was kicked out of RDAP. One of the reasons Jeremy chose to participate in RDAP was because it gave him a year off his sentence. Before his enrollment in RDAP, his release date was 22 February 2021, and with the time given to him for his participation in RDAP, it was pushed forward to 22 February 2020. When he was kicked out of RDAP, I expected his release date to change, but it was quite the shock to see it change in the midst of this situation with extra time added on. While I cannot be certain, I assume the extra time is punishment for the disciplinary infraction he is currently facing.
People can always check for themselves Jeremy’s most current scheduled release date by visiting the BOP website and searching for Jeremy via his name or register number (18728424).
Legal Call to Jeremy
As I tweeted on December 7, a legal call was able to be placed to Jeremy. While this was encouraging, and it was wonderful to be able to hear his voice, it was discouraging the process that had to be gone through to get the call placed. The lawyer who placed the call, Nancy Norelli of Free Anons, who has acted on Jeremy’s behalf numerous times in the past, had to escalate her request all the way up to Washington, DC to have it honored, being denied numerous times along the way. Also highly concerning was the fact that, while this was intended to be a legal call and was requested as such in all correspondence with the BOP, the BOP chose not to honor the confidentiality that is standard when clients converse with their lawyers, instead forcing Jeremy to call from standard prison phones, which are monitored by the BOP.
Jeremy’s Case Manager
Jeremy was recently assigned a new case manager. This, too, is highly discouraging, as it means all the letters that were sent to his old case manager pleading with her to let him stay at FCI Milan are now sitting with a person who has no power to make decisions on his behalf. Make no mistake – this was most likely done intentionally, and new letters will be going out to the new case manager.
Sending Books and Mail to Jeremy
While Jeremy originally thought he was going to be allowed to receive books while in SHU, it now looks like that may not be the case, and it may all be because of the whims of one person who got annoyed that too many prisoners had the audacity to want books. Jeremy had requested a specific book from a friend, and when other SHU prisoners heard that Jeremy was getting books, they also wanted books. This is a completely understandable response – prisoners in SHU are often locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day with very little to do. The prison official who manages the SHU became annoyed at the number of book requests and instituted a new rule – no books for SHU prisoners. This seems to be a rule that is being applied to all prisoners in SHU and not just Jeremy. This is incredibly cruel, not only for Jeremy, but for all prisoners isolated in SHU. Jeremy is lucky to have a broad support network and plenty of people to write him and help keep his mind occupied. For those that are not so lucky, books serve as not only a form of diversion, but as education, comfort, and freedom. Banning books for prisoners already suffering torturous levels of isolation is inhumane. There is no other word to describe it.
As for letters, while we know that at least some of the mail that is being sent to Jeremy is reaching him, we have no way of knowing if all of his mail is reaching him. Last time he was held in SHU at FCI Manchester, a large portion of his mail was withheld and given to him upon his release from SHU. We can only hope that all mail that is being sent to him us being delivered. If mail sent to Jeremy during his stay in SHU is ever returned to you, please contact me. It is helpful to know if mail is returned so we can watch out for mail being improperly rejected or rejected too frequently.
As far as outgoing mail, we strongly believe that mail that Jeremy is attempting to send out is being purposely held and delayed by FCI Milan. Jeremy has said that he is sending letters to people, and, so far, none of those letters have materialized. With the removal of Jeremy’s phone privileges, this is highly concerning, as snail mail is the only way for Jeremy to communicate with people on the outside. (Prisoners do not have access to e-mail while in SHU.) While FCI Milan did allow Jeremy to purchase some stamps, all the stamps in the world mean nothing if the prison refuses to send the letters he writes. Purposely delaying mail is common repression tactic used by prisons to isolate people (especially activists) and silence news of both their own activities and the treatment they are receiving during their incarceration. Because we know it is happening with Jeremy, it is a situation we will be monitoring closely.
Conditions in SHU
Overall, Jeremy says he is well. He was able to get soap, was given a new pair of pants when they let him shower, and they allowed him to purchase some socks and boxers. However, he is not being given a pillow and, while it may seem trivial to us on the outside, the lack of a pillow is causing him pain. With no clear indication on when he will be released from SHU, it is vital that his health remain good. Medical care in prison is substandard at best, with prisoners often waiting years to have the most trivial of problems cared for, if they are ever cared for at all. Back problems from poor sleeping conditions could follow Jeremy for the rest of his life. There is no reason why he cannot be given a pillow. The BOP’s own program statement on special housing units states, “You will receive a mattress, blankets, a pillow, and linens for sleeping.” As per the program statement, only mattresses may be removed “during non-sleeping daytime hours as ‘loss of privilege’ sanction imposed by the Unit Discipline Committee (UDC)/DHO. Removal
of an inmate’s mattress is otherwise prohibited, absent life or safety concerns as specifically documented and authorized by the Warden, or his/her designee.” The program statement says nothing about a pillow, and it seems nothing more than yet another deliberate act of cruelty to remove one of the small comforts SHU inmates have in an attempt to cause them pain and discomfort.
These are all the updates we have for now. While the circumstances remain uncertain and challenging, we are still remaining hopeful and Jeremy is remaining strong. Please, keep Jeremy in your thoughts and keep writing to him. His address is:
Jeremy Hammond, #18429-424
P.O. Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160
Thank you all for your continued support.
Love and Rage,
Certainty is a luxury of the ignorant.
There is no shortage of perspective, but for the most controling among us limiting deviation from our increasingly precise doctrine has become an all too familiar passtime.
Intellectual colonialism and the safe spaces it leaves in its wake may resemble freedom, because for the indoctrinated there is a comfort in predictability, and this comfort invites those whose preference is security to become themselves.
In practice however, such perfectionism is only the kind of freedom the lazy have sustaining pure apathy.
To view the world through ones values and punishing those who see with different eyes promises only the certainty of global blindness.
The ease by which these colonies comfort themselves can be alluring, especially to the growing population of the lonely as they lose their faith in institutional power and seek a familiar replacement.
The echo, for a moment, relieves the lonely as they hear the chorus of company. However, the voice is still only their own, replicated, and redundant, lacking in its variety.
Yet, the fleeting feeling is the paramount objective, because to feel is effortless and requires no degree of literacy. Participation in feeling has no barrier to entry and again, because of this, resembles freedom when in fact it is merely an inescapable passtime, imprisoned by our flesh.
To build a platform of the passionately ignorant requires only the cultivation of feelings and the demise of variance in favor of an increasingly more generic intellectual identity.
When we delegitimize the beauty of the idea by mistaking it for a feeling, and interrupt the prototyping of a future whose invention will be inspired by unpredictable influences, we tarnish practice while trying to make it perfect.
To demand ideological obedience shrinks the thought to a feeling and it then becomes apparent why the colonist fears perspective. They are alarmed because to evoke a change in emotional state is child's play compared to the effort required to change an adult's mind.
The intellectual colonist is merely a syndicatalist enlisting a program of thought control, attempting to seize the means of production, building a platform of union solidarity, and calling anyone who deviates from their puritanical moralizing a target and a scab.
To engage in the stageplay of "no platforming" might feel like freedom, but it is merely a spectacle with an audience, a script, and actors. To experience anarchy we must sacrifice security, control, and dogmatism.Tags: totwno platformmoralismif you disagree youre fascistcategory: Other
via A-Radio Network
This is episode number 18 (12/2018) of “B(A)D NEWS – Angry Voices From Around The World”, a news program from the international network of anarchist and anti-authoritarian radios, consisting of short news segments from different parts of the world.
This month, you’ll hear:
- Črna Luknja (Slovenia), speaks with Rote Hilfe, a German anti-repression network (02:09);
- Radio Kurruf shares news of Camilo Catrillanca, a Mapuche activist killed by a Chilean militarized police unit known as the Jungle Commandos and the public response (10:11);
- Dissident Island Radio shares criticism about protests coordinated protests by Extinction Action in the U.K. and updates on far-right mobilizations concerning UKIP, shit-cake Tommy Robinson and antifascist protests to a pro-Brexit demo on December 9th (13:58);
- A-Radio Berlin’s report on the December 7th protest of the FdA against the repressive rise to power of the reactionary leader Bolsonaro in Brazil with sounds and impressions from demo’s outside the Brazilian consulates in Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, Germany. (19:54)
by Christopher Scott Thompson, via gods & radicals
I knew I wanted to review Occult Features of Anarchism for Gods and Radicals as soon as I read the title. I knew I would love the author’s way of thinking as soon as I saw the title page, a tribute to the gloriously verbose title pages of the 18th century – right down to the font.
Much of the European revolutionary tradition traces its roots back to the 18th century, including the first stirrings of anarchist philosophy as we now know it. Much of the neopagan and occult tradition as we now know it traces back to the same era, and not at all coincidentally as author Erica Lagalisse demonstrates in this essay’s 114 densely-argued pages.
Along with the better-known Enlightenment of the rationalists and deists, there was another and stranger Enlightenment combining elements of occultism, pantheism, and radical politics. Working through clandestine secret societies such as the Illuminati and various Masonic splinter groups, the revolutionary occultists of this “Radical Enlightenment” were major players in the struggle against absolute monarchy and feudal social relations. In the process, they had a much larger role in the birth of anarchism and even Marxism than most of today’s radicals would ever dream. (For one startling example, see fig. 8 pg 54 – I don’t want to spoil the surprise!)
This hidden or “occult” legacy of revolutionary politics is now largely forgotten, disregarded by a radical culture that identifies itself as militantly atheist and rationalist. Yet its mark remains, and not always for the best.
Lagalisse, who describes her work as a critique of anarchism, approaches her topic from two directions. One is to demonstrate, with copious evidence, that the rigid atheism of most contemporary anarchism obscures a rich history of spiritual thought that once flourished in the circles that first articulated the tradition. (Just to give one example, several of the founders of the first International apparently belonged to radical Masonic lodges - including Bakunin himself.) The second is to demonstrate that the “secret society” mentality of the early revolutionary occult fraternities survives today in the use of impenetrable jargon and other gate-keeping behaviors that serve to keep anarchism the private domain of a few well-read gnostics rather than the mass movement it was meant to be.
Occult Features of Anarchism includes chapters on the hidden similarities between political ideology and religious cosmology, the underground occultism and political radicalism of the enlightenment, the mix of hermetic and pantheistic ideas in 18th and 19th century freemasonry, the revolutionary fraternities that worked and sometimes fought for these ideas, the influence of this tradition on the IWA or First International, the hidden connections between socialism and theosophy, the influence of hermetic philosophy on the Marxist dialectic, the origins of some of the deeply-ingrained assumptions about race, class, and gender in the anarchist movement, and the mythic implications and uses of the conspiracy theory.
The chapter on conspiracy theories also addresses the curious historical reversal by which the revolutionary brotherhood of the Illuminati was misremembered as a secret society devoted to maintaining the hidden power of an invisible elite. One of Lagalisse’s central arguments is that people outside of traditional radical circles may express a radical political and social critique through the medium of the conspiracy theory – using the conspiracy theory as a myth for articulating and personifying the forces responsible for oppression and injustice. As such, it would make sense for anarchists and other radicals to engage in dialogue with those who hold such beliefs rather than to reject them out of hand as “irrational.” Insisting that everyone we talk to must think the same way we do, read the same books we read, and express their radicalism as we express ours can be the equivalent of testing would-be initiates to see if they are worthy of admission into our own elite society – with the result that anarchism stays remarkably homogeneous.
As a direct challenge to today’s anarchists, Occult Features of Anarchism is in some ways the opposite of my own Pagan Anarchism. Lagalisse’s work calls anarchists to task for the self-limiting mentalities and behaviors that have narrowed the appeal and impact of our ideas by centering them in an intellectual tradition that still looks a lot like the world we are trying to change. As much as I love Kropotkin’s bread book, perhaps the albatross around the neck of the anarchist tradition… is the anarchist tradition.
Not many books are truly “essential reading,” but if you think of yourself as an anarchist you cannot afford to miss this. This is one critique we need to be talking about.occultbook reviewcategory: Essays
Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 94. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week on anarchistnews.org.
Editorial by Dim!
TOTW: Yellow, Black, Rectangular...
This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
- sound edited by Linn O'Mable
- what's new was written by Jackie and narrated by Chisel and Dim
- Redacted with SUDS, et al
1) Kelis - Milkshake
2) Gazelle Twin - Little Lambs
3) Imperial Triumphant - Swarming Opulence
Cindy Milstein, pt1: Grief, Care, Anarchy and Vision
Cindy Milstein, pt2: Rojava, Autonomy, Religion, Anarchism and CareCindy Milstein, part one
Cindy Milstein is an anarchist, activist and author who was a touring few months back with Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief, published last year by AK Press. The book is compilation of essays by various authors about loss in it’s myriad forms experienced under cis-hetero-patriarchy, in a capitalist settler colonialism, anti-Black and otherwise racist, able-ist society. After Cindy came to speak at Firestorm Books in October 2018, we sat down for a LONG chat. In this FIRST hour, Cindy shares thoughts on the following topics and more: a prior book they put together, Taking Sides (AK Press, 2015); the process of making Rebellious Mourning and creating “brave spaces” for engaging with hard topics; prefiguration during the anarchist summer camp they help organize called the “Institute for Advanced Troublemaking”; and multi-generational care and care-taking in anarchist communities.
When I say the conversation was long, I mean that we recorded for about two and a half hours. We present the first hour here for radio audiences. We’re also going to do an out of the ordinary for us thing, which is that we’re going to release the second half along side it. You’ll find part two linked in this blog post soon, so you can listen to the both back to back if you choose. Next week, this second half will air for radio audiences but our podcast listeners will get a special treat because in place of a new Final Straw episode,, we’ll be sharing a new episode of our occasional tech security from an anarchist perspective podcast, Error451. So, stay tuned for the voice of someone engaged in spreading tools of encryption for free to help you to protect your right to whisper.
First, we happy to announce that we’ll should be airing this Sunday at 12pm Pacific time for the first of many broadcasts on the airwaves of KFUG-LP, Crescent City in Del Norte County in California. KFUG broadcasts at 101.1fm and streams on the website kfugradio.org!Unist’ot’en Camp Needs Help
The Canadian State has declared an injunction against the First Nations Unist’ot’en camp blocking Transcanada from building a pipeline through their unceded territory from the Alberta Tar Sands to the east. They need folks to come and join the blockade, they have an updated asks list for donations and you can keep up by find them on social media or checking their website Unistoten.CampJeremy Ricard, Prisoner Check In
Jeremy Ricard, a prisoner at David Wade Correctional in Homer, LA, has been facing repression from guards in the forms of getting maced, kept in solitary, beaten, had his personal and legal property taken and given only a paper smock for the 30 days at a time. A friend has asked folks to contact the prison and express concern about his situation and care. Jeremy Ricard’s prison number is #511078 and the Warden at David Wade is Jerry Goodwin. Warden Goodwin can be reached at (318) 927-0400Donations & Support
If you care to support The Final Straw Radio, please consider a one-time donation via our paypal or a recurring donation via our Patreon or librepay. We have items on the Patreon and our BigCartel webstore to thank supporters including stickers, buttons, t-shirts and zines, great for the socially required gift-giving holiday season. We never charge for our audio work, so if you feel like you can kick back some cash our way, we really appreciate it! Find more info at our website by clicking the Donate/Support Button.
. … . ..
Download This Episode
You’re listening to the second half of my inteview with anarchist, activist and author Cindy Milstein as they toured with the book Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief, published last year by AK Press. In this portion of the conversation, Cindy will share about community support infrastructures in sickness and in health, the importance of play, the Montreal Student Strikes, insights from Silvia Federici, care circles and religious institutions, anarchism and more. The first half of this chat can be found at our website really should be listened to first.
Cindy mentions a documentary about the co-president with Abdullah Öcalan of the PKK who was assassinated in 2013 in Paris. The film was called SARA – My Whole Life Was A Struggle and can be watched on youtube in full with English subtitles. The film covers the life and struggles of Sakine Cansiz who, alongside Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şöylemez were taken by an assassins bullets while struggling for Kurdish autonomy.
The worst zine can be found here.
. … . ..
In lieu of the playlist that’ll be up with the next episode, here’s a listing of the two tracks in this podcast:
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and His Orchesta: I Took The Front Door In
A Silver Mt. Zion: Hang On To Each Other
Wendy Rene: After Laughter Comes TearsIt's only fair to share...00 Tags: The Final Strawcindy milsteinInterviewcategory: Projects
Black bloc and yellow-vest hybrids!
Today in NYC protestors held a demo outside the French embassy in solidarity with the French yellow vests. Here are some words from their flyer:
“The earth floods, trembles, and burns. Hundreds of species die every day. In a world where everyone seems hesitant, the Yellow Vests offer an example. They’ve persisted beyond co-optation, beyond the repression of the state, and beyond what anyone thought possible. Their revolt is a testament to the resolve we need to pull the emergency break on civilization’s headlong rush into ecological catastrophe - to really wage a war for life against its decimation and destruction.”Tags: yellow vestsgilets jaunesNYCcategory: Actions
From CrimethInc.Reports from the Clashes in Paris, around France, and across Europe
Since November, France has been shaken by the yellow vest movement, a grassroots reaction to President Macron’s proposal to increase fuel taxes in order to force the poor to pay for the transition to “ecological” technologies. Like the Occupy movement, the yellow vest movement cohered around shared tactics and frustration rather than common goals or values; consequently, the movement has been a battleground for many different political agendas and factions. The far right initially took advantage of the movement’s “apolitical” character to gain influence, especially online; but as the movement spread and the clashes with the police intensified, anarchists and other uncontrollable rebels also staked out ground within the movement.
Paris, December 8.
Although divided as to how to relate to the movement, anarchists and other autonomous rebels chose to get involved in order to confront fascist and authoritarian tendencies from within, undermine the legitimacy of the authorities, and reorient the movement towards more systemic solutions. These efforts bore fruit: fascists have been driven out of demonstrations; anti-capitalist and anti-fascist blocs have marched together in Paris; new connections have arisen between anarchists, autonomists, and other yellow vesters, not to mention rail workers, students, and those who live on the margins of the metropolis; demonstrators have attacked manifestations of capitalism and the state with increasing frequency; slogans from the protests against the Loi Travail and other radical movements have spread among the protesters. Yet the outcome of the yellow vest movement might still benefit any number of different groups, including the far right.
Macron’s government has repeatedly attempted to establish dialogue with the spokespersons of the yellow vests. All these attempts have failed. The majority of the movement has refused any negotiation with officials and seems to reject the political system as a whole—this is why it has been successful in compelling Macron to promise concessions. At the same time, leftist populists and far-right nationalists are poised to cash in on the crisis it has created.
The tension is still mounting in France. For two weeks now, students have been blockading schools and universities to protest against education reforms; meanwhile, trade unions joined the yellow vest movement last weekend, as did other economic sectors. The government is desperately seeking a way to resolve the situation as the Christmas holidays approach. Hoping to avoid a fifth act in the conflict, on December 10, President Macron promised to grant many of the protesters’ demands. Yet the story isn’t over. Another day of action has been called for Saturday, December 15.
There have been copycat actions on three continents now, though it does not appear that the yellow vest movement is about to spread worldwide. France has been somewhat out of step with the rhythms of the rest of the world—a wave of riots broke out in France in 2005, years ahead of the Greek insurrection of 2008, but nothing like the Occupy movement occurred there until Nuit Debout in 2016. Still, the yellow vest movement may offer some hints as to what the next global wave of protest will look like. If what is happening in France is any indication, we can anticipate a new round of uprisings catalyzed by economic desperation, involving a wide range of participants and ideologies—who clash with each other just as fiercely as with the authorities.
In order to explore these issues in greater detail, we present the following update from France. The work of many hands, this report picks up where our previous analysis left off, in the aftermath of the chaotic and insurrectionary nationwide day of action on December 1.
Paris, December 8.
The confrontations that took place in Paris and elsewhere around the country on December 1 were arguably the most significant rioting in France since 1968. The intensity caught the government off guard. President Macron rushed back from the G20 summit in Argentina to assess the damage and try to reassert order.
Hoping to neutralize the movement, Macron promised to grant some of the movement’s demands. This didn’t placate the majority of protesters, who reaffirmed their determination to demonstrate on Saturday, December 8.
Within the yellow vest movement, opinions differed about this new day of action. The images of chaos from the previous weekend were still in everybody’s minds; pacifists and legalists argued fiercely with the more radical yellow vesters. Organizers debated different strategies. Some wanted to march towards the presidential palace; some suggested blocking the périphérique (the Parisian beltway); some proposed that people should gather in front of the Maison de la Radio (the major radio station building) in order to occupy it and seize control of the airwaves; others argued against going to Paris, seeing it as a trap set by authorities, in favor of developing local initiatives instead. As December 8 approached, it was impossible to tell how it would play out.
On Tuesday, December 4, the first trials took place for charges arising from the yellow vest demonstrations of Saturday, December 1. Three people were tried on charges included participation “in a gathering, even if temporarily formed, with the objective— characterized by one of several material facts—of preparing and committing wilful violence against persons or destructions or property damages” and “intentional violence on a PDAP” (Person in Charge of Public Authority). The first individual received a €200-fine suspended sentence for violence; the second was sentenced to three months in prison and held in detention; the third was sentenced to a year in prison. This also set the stakes for December 8.
On another front, the student strike against school reforms intensified. All week, students blocked their high schools and universities, held general assemblies, built barricades, demonstrated in the streets, and confronted police. Not wishing to fight on multiple fronts at once, the government responded aggressively, with police injuring numerous students. The violent attacks on high school students—usually barely mentioned in corporate media—gained wide exposure with a viral video posted on Thursday, December 6 showing the conditions in which students were arrested at Mantes-la-Jolie. Dozens of students are lined up on their knees with their hands on their heads, some of them facing the wall, surrounded by riot police officers. The person shooting the video remarks, ”Here is a quiet and well-behaved class!”
The propagation of these images couldn’t have come at a worse time for the French government. On the eve of the fourth act of the yellow vest movement, the video intensified the general climate of rage and defiance towards the police and government.
Clashes in Paris on December 8. The flag is the national flag of Brittany, a French region with separatist tendencies. As with so many other aspects of the yellow vest movement, it could represent far-right politics, or it could simply suggest an “apolitical” patriotism.
Eighteen museums and eight national monuments remained closed for the day, including the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. Both Parisian Operas cancelled their performances, as did other theaters. The Paris prefecture asked the storekeepers of the Champs Elysées, the Matignon, the Montaigne, and the Franklin-Roosevelt avenues to close their stores and board up their windows. The major fancy department store groups Galeries Lafayette and Printemps decided to close all their stores located near the Champs Elysées, the Opera, Montparnasse, or Nation.
From 6 am until the end of the demonstrations, a traffic restriction plan would be enforced in order to facilitate the movements of law enforcement. In addition, 36 metro and RER stations would be closed starting 5:30 am in order to facilitate police controls. The restriction affected about 56 bus lines. Several sports events and television shows were also cancelled, postponed, or relocated.
Police from the BAC (Anti-Criminality Brigades) in Paris on December 8.
After the previous week’s fiasco, President Macron instructed Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner to review his law enforcement strategy in preparation for the fourth act of the yellow vest movement. According to the Minister of the Interior, “the last three weeks have given birth to a monster that has escaped its genitors.”
For December 8, the authorities took exceptional measures. Fully 89,000 police officers were to be deployed all over France—almost 100% of the troops—with 8000 in Paris alone. In addition, the state requisitioned 12 gendarmerie tanks, the same ones that participated in the eviction of the ZAD last April and May. Mobile water cannons and helicopters were also deployed in Paris.
In contrast with the previous week, the police did not remain static, defending large restricted areas. This time, the only restricted area was designated around the Champs Elysées and the major government buildings. There, police forces were tasked with searching and controlling every single person who sought to enter the avenue.
Having been criticized for failing to keep up with events on December 1, police received orders to stick close to protestors, initiate frontal confrontations, and carry out arrests at any opportunity. As the traditional riot police forces (CRS and gendarmes) move slowly on account of their heavy equipment, these tasks were given to the BAC (Anti-Criminality Brigades), the CSI (Securing and Intervention Companies), and other police units.
The authorities also set up roadblocks around Paris in order to control vehicles entering the capital city. Several prefectures temporally banned the sale and transport of fuel, pyrotechnical materials, and flammable products in order to prevent people from constructing homemade incendiary devices.
In the days leading up to the demonstration, the government ramped up psychological pressure by making several appeals for “non-violence” and demanding that “reasonable yellow vesters, those who do not support violent action, dissociate themselves from extremists and not gather in Paris,” hoping to isolate the most determined parts of the movement. At the same time, with the assistance of media outlets, the authorities tried to spread fear among the population by asking everyone to stay home on Saturday, sending clear warnings to anyone who might join one of the Parisian demonstrations.
The trap was set for Paris. Still, the authorities were expecting only several thousand people in Paris, including some “ultra-violent” individuals.
Several hours before the demonstrations, an important official and confidential document leaked. The entire law enforcement plan of the Paris prefecture was available online. This document made it easier to understand what to expect in the streets for the following day: 85 police teams were mobilized to control and search individuals in train and metro stations; mounted police were to be present in the streets again; and so on. The authorities have since opened an investigation to find the origin of the leak.
“We can’t be sure that this Saturday, the plan decided by the Interior Minister will not be more insidious, avoiding frontal conflicts in favor of targeted arrests—in the German manner, as it were—in order to contain the tension to the point of breathlessness.”
The events of December 8 confirmed this forecast.
Paris, December 8.
It would be impossible to detail all the events that took place in the streets of Paris. Here, we draw on narratives from several anarchists and autonomous rebels, complemented by information from corporate media and other sources.
A map showing the clashes of December 8 in Paris.
This first report was jointly composed by several individuals covering different zones of activity.
Early in the morning, groups gathered in various areas of Paris: at Place de l’Etoile, Bastille, Porte Maillot, and République. Corporate media outlets were already broadcasting their litanies: the situation was under control, authorities were already arresting dangerous individuals, the number of arrests was increasing minute by minute. At 10:30 am, the authorities announced that they had already arrested 354 individuals, keeping 127 in custody. Soon, they launched the first tear gas canisters at the Champs Elysées, where about 1500 people had already assembled. By 11 am, the gathering near the Saint-Lazare train station was blocked and surrounded by CRS (riot police). For this reason, we decided not to enter the police perimeter, so that we might stay in control of the situation.
At 11:30 am, near the Opera, we met a group of about 1000 people. The whole district was blocked by police forces and checkpoints. You could easily enter the perimeter, but to exit it you would have to comply by presenting an ID and letting them search your bag. Police forces had a “wanted list” in their possession in order to arrest potential troublemarkers. Two tanks were spotted near the Haussmann Boulevard. Because the police seemed to be in control of the situation in this district, we decided to move towards the Champs Elysées. Several police troops were already deployed near Avenue de Friedland—to protect access to the Place de la Concorde—and Saint-Augustin square. That morning, we were a sparse crowd of several thousand individuals walking through a dead city, with about 90% of the windows around us boarded up.
At 11:30 am, near the Champs Elysées, thousands of people were converging to enter the avenue. Up to that point, every single demonstrator had been meticulously searched by members of the BAC (the Anti-Criminality Brigade) before entering the demonstration zone. But the gentle pressure created by the arrival of waves of demonstrators trying to enter the Champs Elysées eventually enabled people to break through one of the checkpoints and people succeeded in entering without being searched. When we entered the avenue, there were already a lot of people there.
Radical far-right groups were also present. The atmosphere was quite surreal with the entire avenue barricaded and protected. Ridiculous groups of BAC members could be seen at regular intervals on the sidewalks wearing ski masks and swimming goggles and carrying LBD-40 weapons. Further away, near the Place de l’Etoile, police forces launched a charge involving a lot of grenades in order to contain the crowd within the designated perimeter, out of reach of the Arc de Triomphe that had been ravaged the previous week. Once again, the outcome of the situation at the Champs Elysées was a forgone conclusion. We decided to leave and entered the Saint-Philippe du Roule district. There, a lot of yellow-vested groups were trying to figure out where interesting events were happening, just as we were. Little by little, the crowd gathered near Haussamnn Boulevard and Avenue de Friedland.
From 12:30 pm until 2:30 pm, while police lines were still blocking access to the Arc de Triomphe, the first serious confrontations started. As soon as we arrived on site, we saw a man shot in the thigh with a rubber bullet. We provided first aid, then wished him good luck and continued our way. For more than an hour, several thousand individuals confronted CRS forces, consecutively resisting charges and tear gas. Some comrades drove out members of Action Française, a monarchist and far-right group, then chanted “Paris, Paris, Antifa!” The confrontations on Avenue de Friedland continued and the first burning barricades appeared. The police charges were unusually violent; we couldn’t count the number of tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades they used during the confrontations. Several stores and a bank were attacked, but surprisingly, the nearby Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris remained almost intact, despite part of the demonstration remaining static in front of the building for some time.
Police blocking access to the Arc de Triomphe on December 8.
As we were losing ground, the crowd decided to leave this point and marched towards the Saint-Augustin area. There, a Mercedes was set on fire; people erected barricades using the wooden planks that protected stores’ front windows and set them on fire; a luxurious handbag store was looted. As property destruction intensified, police forces tried to surround protestors with three tanks at the intersection between Avenue de Friedland and Courcelles Street. They employed copious amounts of tear gas, but the majority of demonstrators succeeded in exiting the trap. Then the crowd split; some went towards Monceau Park, where a diplomatic car was set on fire, while others departed for Haussmann boulevard, where people erected massive barricades and welcomed police trucks with rains of projectiles.
Around 3 pm, as the police presence was increasing in the area—police tanks and trucks were going towards Avenue de Friedland and several BAC groups were patrolling the streets—several groups of protestors agreed to leave the zone. About 2000 individuals took Capucines Boulevard, with more demonstrators joining in the course of their advance. Tired of trying to get closer to the Champs Elysées, several groups decided to move towards the Climate March that was supposed to leave the Place de la Nation at 2 pm in order to reach République.
The situation in Paris was no longer a regular demonstration. There were too many people everywhere in the streets; all the stores were closed on most shopping avenues. This was significant on a Saturday before Christmas.
Yellow vests and tear gas in Paris on December 8.
Around 4 pm, groups of yellow vesters were arriving at the République square. Gendarmes and CRS were already present in every major street surrounding the square. Their strategy brought back memories of the Loi Travail and Nuit Debout protests in 2016. The Climate March had already arrived, and the atmosphere was mostly festive. Everyone agreed that the demands of the yellow vest and environmental movements were not opposed, and that the divide-and-conquer strategy of the authorities and media would not work. The crowd was heterogeneous but far from being offensive. Therefore, we decided to leave the square, only to discover that individuals wearing yellow vests were not allowed to do so. The atmosphere grew tense, but no one was ready to charge police lines yet.
Further away, in the Saint-Lazare district, while police backups were becoming more visible, a march several thousand strong took the large boulevards connecting Opéra to République. Property destruction became automatic and looting frequent. Every window of every fashion store, bank, fast-food restaurant, and similar target was attacked. Several tags also appeared on the walls; the atmosphere in the march was clearly anti-capitalist. The march stopped near Strasbourg Saint-Denis in order to build a large barricade blocking the entire width of the boulevard. The latter was set on fire and more demonstrators joined the festivities.
Around 5 pm, some of us decided to go back to Haussmann Boulevard to see what was going on there, but then we heard that a wildcat demonstration was taking place near Grands Boulevards. Part of it took the direction of Châtelet-Les Halles (in the center of Paris) via the street Saint-Denis. Participants sang the International—a nice change from the Marseillaise (the French national anthem). A large part of the crowd chanted “Paris, debout, soulève-toi!” (“Paris, stand up, rise up!”) while the windows of banks continued to fall to the cheers of some demonstrators. At some point, a group of police officers arrived, creating a moment of panic within the procession. Barricades were set on fire in the nearby streets, while protestors threw stones at a police car in the street Quincampoix. The march tried several times to reach the City Hall of Paris, but without success, as police were blocking the streets. Finally, the crowd left the area by taking the small streets of the Marais district in order to reach the square République.
Around 7 pm, we arrived at République under a rain of tear gas canisters. The sport outlet store located near the square was attacked, but a police charge ended any hope of looting it. Then, a group left the square and started another wildcat demonstration. As soon as the procession took the street Faubourg du Temple, two police cars passing by were targeted with projectiles. A McDonald’s was also attacked. Further away, some barricades were built and trash bins set on fire. Near the Goncourt metro station, a huge flaming barricade paralyzed traffic and thick black smoke filled the streets. Little by little, the crowd dispersed.
Again, today was a great day!
Paris on December 8.
This is a compressed summary of another personal account; the original is available in full here.
The author presents a different analysis of the events of December 8. Due to the deployment of police in the Parisian streets and the massive wave of arrests that started earlier in the morning, the author experienced the first part of the day as confusing and something of a failure. The psychological warfare carried out by the government seemed to have succeeded, as several demonstrators who gathered at Saint-Lazare felt helpless and anxious before the powerful display of police forces—checkpoints, tanks, water cannons and trucks everywhere.
Moreover, it seemed to the author that the majority of the people present for the morning demonstration were inexperienced and didn’t know how to proceed. In the end, the demonstration didn’t happen, and people felt confused, defeated, and, for the most part, wandered around the streets of Paris seeking some sort of action that would finally bring some air within the oppressive trap of law enforcement.
Then, around 1 pm, the author explains that the situation changed. Indeed, most police forces had emptied out of the streets in the area—probably to deal with other groups of demonstrators closer to the Champs Elysées. Protestors seized this opportunity to initiate a wildcat demonstration, but unfortunately without any clear objectives as to where to go and what to do. The march seemed really unorganized; at some point, it was attacked by police with grenades before people decided to take another direction.
Near the Madeleine square, the crowd met some yellow vesters and rail workers who were coming from the Champs Elysées. The overall situation there was really difficult. In addition to the fierce and violent police repression, demonstrators had to deal with personal trauma and fatigue. Some yellow vesters said that they were exhausted and were hoping that others would take the helm.
Around 3 pm, people converged at the Saint-Augustin square. There, the crowd seemed much younger—probably including some high school students—and more determined. As more and more protestors assembled around the square, police shot the first tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd. Confrontations and property destruction continued until no one could bear the gas anymore.
Little by little, hours of humiliation and frustration, as well as consecutive police charges, generated an uncontrollable raging crowd. This angry mass started by destroying a Starbucks coffee shop. Then, the crowd split into several processions after a violent police charge. One procession took the direction of Châtelet and the City Hall. Everywhere, capitalist symbols were attacked and stores were looted. At this moment, it seemed that “everyone wanted to smash everything, the only thing that was preventing all of us from doing so was fear.”
Around 7 pm at République, as nobody seemed to want to leave the square, the first sporadic confrontations took place. Soon, police forces filled the entire square with tear gas and the crowd dispersed. Later on, around 11 pm, when the square was empty and calm had returned, small groups of militia-like policemen were patrolling the zone with ski masks and guns for firing rubber bullets at the ready.
A Starbucks Coffee Shop attacked in Paris on December 8. The graffiti reads “Pay your taxes!” and “Give back the bucks!” Starbucks is known in France for not paying taxes, while profiting on the French market.
Some friends who were also present in the streets of Paris, contributed this short report on the events of December 8.
On Friday, December 7, the city of Paris was readying itself for the day of action called by the yellow vester movement for the next day. Undeniably, the riots and scenes of chaos of the previous week had left scars. From Opéra to République, all major stores and banks were covering their front windows with wooden planks. Would these precautions be enough to prevent damage?
On Saturday, December 8, we intended to go to the Saint-Lazare gathering at 10 am in order to evaluate the situation outside of the Champs Elysées. However, due to the deployment of police around the city and the news of the morning arrests, we decided to rethink our plans. In our opinion, there was no more point joining the morning gathering, especially when we knew that in order to do so we would have to be searched at the perimeter and then would probably end up being surrounded by police.
Afterwards, while we were discussing strategies and possible impasses and futures for the yellow vest movement, we received the news that some friends had been able to pass through police checkpoints without any complications. In the end, we decided to meet them later.
First, we decided to join the Climate March in order to see what was going on there. We were really surprised to see so many people in the streets—25,000 according to the organizers, 17,000 according to authorities. Among the numerous organizations, it is worth mentioning that an anti-capitalist and radical contingent headed the march, and some yellow vesters were also present among the crowd. The latter were thanked several times for being there. However, we decided to leave on account of the explicitly pacifist and reformist messaging of the march.
At République, the square was already occupied by several hundred individuals, the majority wearing yellow vests. The atmosphere was light and relaxed. However, police forces were already present in the nearby streets, rue du Faubourg du Temple and rue du Temple. In rue du Temple, after we passed about 15 police trucks, we saw members of the BAC already equipped with ski masks and LBD-40 launchers, calmly talking, joking, and smoking cigarettes with other police officers who were wearing yellow vests. It was obvious that police wanted to infiltrate the yellow vest movement in order to monitor, attack, and arrest protestors from within.
As we continued walking towards downtown Paris, we saw numerous traces of the morning’s confrontations—smashed windows, graffiti, and abandoned barricades. Afterwards, wandering around Châtelet, where groups of yellow vesters were converging, we heard the familiar noise of an unruly demonstration approaching. Suddenly, the crowd ran towards us before heading towards Beaubourg. We understood that something had scared the crowd. Nevertheless, we decided to continue walking in the direction that the crowd had just came from.
All around us, the atmosphere was strange. Some people who were not involved in the day of actions were quietly drinking in fancy cafés or restaurants, while others were finishing their Saturday shopping—all this in the middle of empty streets, smashed windows, and barricades. It was as if two different atmospheres coincided. Even more surprising, there was absolutely no sign of police in the district.
Then, near the street Réaumur, we encountered a march of several hundred comrades shouting anti-capitalist chants. Unfortunately for them, the storm had already ravaged the entire street before them. We stayed there a couple of minutes contemplating the last flames of a barricade before continuing our night walk towards the Grands Boulevards.
Earlier in the day, some of us had decided to take a look at what was going on near the Opéra. Once in the area, we were surprised to see that no cars were parked in the streets and there was almost no one driving in this luxurious district. It seemed that, like us, many people were trying to figure out where the chaos was happening. To find it, we simply followed the police helicopter that had been patrolling over Paris since the morning.
The police state and the flaming trash that stands in its way.
After circumventing two police roadblocks, we saw one of the large demonstrations in the Saint-Augustin square. People were passing in waves; we couldn’t tell what was going on. Considering the overall situation of the day—massive waves of arrests and a large number of police—we located possible escape routes in case of a police charge or crowd stampede. At some point, police tear-gassed the crowd, provoking a moment of panic. We decided to escape via one of the nearby streets, and had to sprint in order to avoid a CRS line that was trying to block us from the rear. In the end, due to the number of people who were slowly arriving, the police ended up stepping back.
We took this opportunity to move towards Saint-Lazare, taking advantage of having the whole streets—the whole city?—to ourselves, not knowing what we might encounter around the next corner. At some point, police motorcycles and an unmarked white truck passed in front of us at full speed, then returned coming the other direction several minutes later. Even now, we don’t know what this truck was for: delivering more ammunition to conflict points? Extracting people arrested from confrontation zones to bring them to police stations?
Once we arrived in front of the Saint-Lazare train station, we didn’t know where to go. Demonstrators were everywhere in the area, and police were throwing tear gas canisters in front of the station to disperse the crowd. We decided to go back towards Opéra. Then we joined a large march that began to erect barricades out of urban furniture including barriers and wooden planks. Part of the crowd also started smashing everything and looting stores. Everything was happening really fast.
The rioting crowd took the large boulevards between Opéra and République. Police attacked the rear of the crowd with tear gas, yet without any real success, as people were running through the large arteries for several minutes. From the left side of the street to the right side, people smashed numerous windows—sometimes without paying attention to their surroundings, sometimes even without wearing a mask.
The procession continued its course towards Strasbourg Saint-Denis. At this point, the procession was clearly outside the perimeter established by law enforcement, as the crowd was running among cars. Some stores were open—which did not protect them from being looted or having their windows smashed. Upon reaching Strasbourg Saint-Denis, the crowd slowed down and some of us took this opportunity to leave.
When some of us reached the Grands Boulevards later, once again the atmosphere was really strange. The entire boulevard was full of barricades and covered with all kinds of debris. The area was really quiet despite the large number of people in the streets. Tourists, yellow vesters, and protestors of all kind were immortalizing the moment with their phones. A friendly and joyful atmosphere reigned in the boulevard, while further away, towards the Opéra, police lights and clouds blocked the view.
We decided to walk towards Place de la République to see if something was happening there—since we had left the Climate March hours ago. Passing through the streets, we admired the consequences of the raging storm that had passed. Some cars were trying to find their ways through the numerous barricades; the front of a fast-food restaurant was smashed; bus shelters were destroyed; anarchist and anti-capitalist tags gave color to the walls.
When we finally reached the République square, several thousands of people were already occupying it; a large banner saying “ZAD partout!” (“ZAD everywhere!”) was wrapped around the massive statue. So far, the atmosphere seemed joyful; we decided to wait there to see whether the situation would escalate. Police were already on site; as usual, they were ready to block every single exit around the square if necessary. After several minutes, the crowd got bigger and started to get closer to the police lines in front of the rue du Temple. The first torches were lit and the crowd of demonstrators started encouraging each other and booing the forces of authority. Several projectiles were thrown at the police. Immediately, the first tear gas canisters were shot into the middle of the square, where some demonstrators began to panic.
The rain of tear gas canisters continued for a while, and little by little people left the square. Some started a wildcat demonstration, while others simply passed behind the police lines. Once again, the atmosphere was surreal. Several steps away from the Place de la République, people were eating at restaurants and drinking with friends at bars, like they would on any other Saturday night, not feeling disturbed at all by the surrounding chaos, the police, the tear gas, or the helicopter lighting up the square. More proof that although we all supposedly live under the same system, we share different realities and worlds.
Later that night, we decided to pass by the République square one more time to see if something was still happening there. When we arrived, the square was almost empty and occupied by BAC officers and other agents in ski masks wielding LBD-40 launchers. Some of them attacked the few people left on the square with stun grenades and rubber bullets. We ended our long day witnessing these scenes of police violence.
Place de la République on the night of December 8.
Around 9 am, as the prefecture of Paris had shut down several metro stations for safety measures, we exited the metro seven or eight stations from our destination: the Place de l’Etoile. There, the most striking thing was the strange—and somehow oppressive—silence in the streets that was regularly interrupted by police sirens. All the shop windows had been boarded up overnight, and after walking only 500 meters we saw the first police cordons checking people and searching bags. One person in front of us was brutally pressed against a wall after protesting when the police confiscated his swimming goggles. We passed through the checkpoint without a hitch, even if having gloves in our possession made the police officers suspicious. Police officers demanded that we open our jackets and vigorously patted us down.
Beside us, we saw one person leave a group of demonstrators and make a common gesture of disapproval at a group of gendarmes. Five of them left their ranks to charge at him and slammed him down on the ground. Brave acts of self-expression are admirable, but in that situation, considering the context and the tangible tension among police officers, his behaviour was borderline suicidal.
The police were indeed on edge. As we approached the meeting point, the situation became increasingly absurd. We were checked and searched every 50 meters. At every checkpoint, our thoughts were with those who were arrested for carrying harmless item with them. If any of us had tried to speak to them, we would have been arrested as well.
Once we arrived at the Champs Elysées, all the stress we had accumulated during our walk vanished when we saw how many people had already gathered and with what enthusiasm. The first great news of the day was that, somehow, a lot of people were still well equipped. To be honest, we don’t know how they pulled this off. The second great news was the large number of individuals present on the avenue. A lot of people seemed really determined. Every time tear gas canisters were shot or stun grenades exploded, the crowd was cheering. These scenes were completely strange.
Some journalists from BFM—a 24-hour news channel—positioned on a rooftop were on the receiving end of vigorously expressed insults. While we disapprove of the terms that were used, it is important to note that the collective experience shared during demonstrations develops some common reactions even among those who are “not activists.”
All the ingredients were present for the situation to become explosive. We decided to leave the Champs Elysées in order to meet up with other friends. There were lots of people at the next meeting point, as well. The crowd was clearly more “autonomous and radical” than in the Champs Elysées; we saw more black clothes than yellow vests. It only took a few seconds for the timeless chant “Siamo tutti antifascisti!” (“We are all anti-fascists”) to ring out. The march began moving, but very calmly. So far, there was no real property damage, just a few small attacks on urban furniture. We decided to divide up, again. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet again for almost two hours—our communication tools being completely useless under the circumstances.
We wandered the streets with the feeling that we were always arriving after the battles, hearing incomplete reports about confrontations elsewhere in the city. We went back and forth on the major arteries without a clear target while trying to contact other friends.
Tension was high throughout the entire city. More and more of the roads were obstructed by trees, debris, and trash bins. We saw tanks racing in the direction of the Champs Elysées. It is noteworthy that at this point in the day, the police presence in the area shifted from omnipresent to sporadic. It seemed, according to what people told us, that something was burning at the Champs Elysées.
From where we were standing, a huge blaze could be seen. We had finally found our destination. Once we arrived on site, however, it appeared that once again, we had missed the events.
Not at all! An angry and determined crowd of hundreds was coming in our direction. Half a dozen CRS (riot police) trucks tried to go through the crowd. People reacted by throwing stones and other projectiles at them; then CRS units on foot charged and chased the crowd. After a sprint and a good rush of fear and adrenaline, we decided to meet up on a major artery. There, people were smashing all the windows while a tobacco store was looted.
The atmosphere was incredible. The crowd was characterized by a collective serenity—probably due to the large numbers present in the streets and the fact that there was no sign of police on the horizon. There was an atmosphere of joy: every time the window of a corporate chain store was smashed, people cheered, sang, or laughed. We had never experienced such a thing before.
The march continued for another two or three kilometres, leaving nothing intact behind us and building makeshift barricades all along our route. Then, people informed us that a nervous group of policemen were waiting for us a little further ahead. This is when we decided that it was a good opportunity to disperse and quit while we were ahead.
In the end, December 8 was a strange mix of defeats and victories.
The day started out perfectly for the government; its trap was working. Early in the morning, police forces were already on alert to search and arrest any potential threat. Controls took place in the streets, at roadblocks, and in train stations around Paris. Every single person with a gas mask, goggles, or alleged projectiles was immediately arrested. Numerous potential demonstrators were put in custody simply for carrying a scarf and swimming goggles to protect them from the inevitable tear gas, like this person in Bordeaux.
By 10:30 am, about 354 people were already arrested, with 127 of them were put in custody. All day long, the number of arrestees continued to increase, reaching the gigantic number of 1082 people arrested in Paris with more than 900 in custody.
The preventative controls and arrests, as well as the massive presence of police, thwarted a new insurrectionary outburst in the French capital city. For the most part, Saturday morning was relatively calm; no confrontations or destructions were reported in the Champs Elysées. Around 10:30 am, some yellow vesters succeeded in blocking the Parisian beltway near Porte Maillot. Police forces brought the action to an end without using force.
In other words, all morning, it seemed that the authorities had the upper hand. The feeling of being defeated before the battle had even begun spread among our ranks, and with it, the frustration and fear of state repression increased.
Then, around midday, the situation started to change. At the Champs-Elysées, the strategy of the “pressure cooker”—containing demonstrators in a closed area while increasing the pressure—led to the first confrontations and damages. For example, some yellow vesters attacked a store and tried to break in. BAC agents and other officers unleashed their rage and inflicted the day’s first serious injuries on demonstrators. Fortunately, several teams of street medics were present to provide first aid. Unfortunately, near 2 pm, at the Champs Elysées, a 20-year-old woman lost an eye due to shrapnel from a grenade thrown by police.
As the accounts illustrate, in the afternoon, protestors succeeded in turning the tables by outmaneuvering the police. In this situation—facing massive numbers of preventative arrests and a city under siege—creating a breach was not easy. Our decisions to remain—for the most part—outside of the checkpoints imposed by the government and the areas where clashes were occurring with police enabled us to act and move freely, and eventually to give vent to our rage.
In the end, taking everything into account, the actions of December 8 were more effective than those of the previous week. To begin with, the fact that most stores, museums, theaters, and other institutions decided to close on a Saturday before Christmas already qualifies as a serious disruption with an impact on the French economy. On December 10, the Minister of the Economy held the yellow vest movement responsible for the fact that France lost “0.1 percent of growth of our national wealth during the last quarter.” According to the Mayor of Paris, the actions of December 8 inflicted more damage than those of the preceding week.
Property destruction in Paris on December 8.
While the French government and national media were focused on the situation in Paris, something just as important—if not more—was happening in other cities. The yellow vest movement began as a decentralized phenomenon; on its first day of mobilization, about 2000 actions took place in France. For this fourth nationwide day of action, about 136,000 individuals participated, creating an explosive situation in several cities.Dijon
In Dijon, this day of action was less explosive than the previous one had been. As had become usual since the beginning of the movement, the demonstration took the same route and ended near the local prefecture, where confrontations erupted with police. However, the authorities had changed their strategy since the previous week and anticipated the intentions of the crowd. Anti-riot fences protected the prefecture building and officers deployed massive quantities of rubber bullets and tear gas against protestors. As a result, numerous people were injured, one with a fractured jawbone.
In addition to providing a report of Saturday’s demonstration, the authors of this report mention the difficulty of dealing with racist and misogynist behavior within the movement, while insisting on the necessity of not deserting it. While at some point the movement was unpredictable, now it has become a known quantity; the authors mention that they have the impression that they have reached a kind of impasse. However, they still express hope for the future. Since the beginning of the movement in Dijon, they have seen useful practices propagate in demonstrations, including participants wearing proper equipment and establishing teams of street medics. During the last demonstration, a connection arose between yellow vesters and members of the Climate March. Now, the important thing is to make sure that these alliances can last past the holidays.Lyons
In Lyons, the situation was more difficult. People started gathering in the morning for the Climate March. Between 7000 and 10,000 individuals showed up, but the march was disappointing. On the bright side, the march showed solidarity with the student movement and some yellow vesters were also present among the crowd. Later, rumors circulated concerning the presence of numerous well-known fascists within the yellow vest contingent; the author of this article confirms the presence of fascists.
In Lyons, fascists are quite active in the yellow vest movement, which makes the situation difficult for anarchists and others. So far, it seems almost impossible for radicals to take part in the movement there. At the end of the day, police forces dispersed crowds of demonstrators in downtown Lyons with tear gas, which also impacted passers-by.
Toulouse, December 8.
On December 8, Toulouse was burning. During the preceding weeks, several calls had been made in order to create a real bloc that Saturday. Yellow vesters, students, anarchists, and others individuals were determined to take the streets that day. The demonstration hadn’t even started when the first confrontations took place with police. This time, the rear part of the demonstration was the center of the clashes. As usual, police shot rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, which only escalated the situation.
The streets of Toulouse descended into a state of siege warfare and the first barricades were set on fire. The law enforcement strategy failed completely, as the angry crowd dispersed into nearby streets and continued to riot. In terms of strategy, the rear of the march occupied police in confrontations, which enabled the rest of the march to continue its course. Altogether, four different wildcat demonstrations were moving through the city at the same time. At 5:30 pm, despite the prefecture’s efforts, yellow vesters succeeded in marching through downtown Toulouse and reaching the Capitole (City Hall). Confrontations continued until late that night, especially in the Saint Cyprien district. Due to the chaotic situation, police forces even shot tear gas canisters from their helicopter.
Marseille, December 8.
In Marseille, yellow vesters, environmentalists, residents who were angry about urban policies, and students took the streets together on December 8. In the morning, about 2000 yellow vesters gathered in the vieux port (the old port) and moved towards the prefecture. Unfortunately, far-right tendencies were present in the march, including rhetoric against migrants and radical leftists. Some participants were even asking the police to join the demonstration. Once the march came back near downtown, yellow vesters tried to get closer to the main City Hall. Police shot the first tear gas canisters at that point and pushed demonstrators back towards the Canebière. The first fashion store was looted as police repeatedly charged several groups of protestors and rioters.
Around 4 pm, more than 5000 individuals arrived from the Castellane district. This procession was composed of climate marchers and angry locals. All the different marches and crowds were converging on the Canebière. The different components of the crowd expressed solidarity; everyone was there with the same purpose. Police forces started increasing the pressure by tear-gassing the crowd. Officers of the BAC were also present, mostly to protect stores and other possible targets.
That didn’t stop people from attacking and looting several stores, banks, and ATMs. Police forces continued to push back the crowd. Once the crowd reached the Soléam building—a company in charge of the urban planning—every single window was smashed. Confrontations lasted for several hours as barricades and trash bins were set on fire; the Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas trees were set on fire.
Police finally dispersed the rioting crowd with tanks. However, the riots continued further: new barricades were erected and set aflame; a parking meter was attacked; jewelry stores were looted. The cat and mouse game between police forces and rioters ended around 8 pm. The authorities arrested about 60 people and injured many more.
Bordeaux, December 8.
Bordeaux, December 8.
In Bordeaux, the situation was quite intense. Everything started around 1 pm, when a group of 100-200 high school students joined the demonstration called for by local yellow vesters. According to local media outlets, 7000 people were already gathering on the docks. The atmosphere was quite friendly but also determined.
A joyous crowd started walking through the city in order to reach the City Hall. Passing through the rue Sainte-Catherine, the city’s chief shopping street, demonstrators mingled with bystanders shopping for the holidays. Some stores started closing their doors upon seeing the crowd. The march reached the Place Pey Berland, the main square where the Cathedral and the City Hall are located.
Rapidly, the square filled with people. Around 4 pm, some projectiles were thrown at police, who responded with the first tear gas grenades of the day. The situation continued to escalate for about two hours, as yellow vesters and students resisted police charges, tear gas, and rubber bullets. At least one individual was injured by a rubber bullet impact to the face.
Around 6 pm, police forces received the order to clear the square. A rain of tear gas canisters fell upon the protestors. Then police forces shifted to stun-grenades. A young man lost his hand as a consequence of trying to protect the demonstrators from one of these.
Due to the intensity of the confrontations, the crowd dispersed into the neighboring streets. Some protestors took this opportunity to erect barricades, some which caught fire; several banks were attacked; surveillance cameras were smashed; trash bins were set on fire; windows were smashed. A cat and mouse game took place pitting rioters against BAC agents in the streets of Bordeaux.
After a final massive police charge, the groups of rioters dispersed. In their escape, one group attacked and looted an Apple Store and set one last barricade on fire. In total, 69 people were arrested, 54 of whom were taken in to custody.
Bordeaux, December 8.
Altogether, according to the Minister of the Interior, the fourth nationwide day of action in France ended up with a total of 1723 arrests, with 1380 people put in custody. Since the beginning of the yellow vest movement, more than 3300 individuals have been arrested, 2354 have been put in custody, and more than 1200 have already seen trial.
A trade union demonstration in Paris on December 8. The people with helmets, masks, and goggles are in charge of the security of the march.
There have been several attempts to ignite copycat movements elsewhere around Europe and the world. Protesters are donning yellow vests in Israel. In Egypt, the military tyrant al-Sisi forbade merchants from selling yellow vests ahead of the upcoming anniversary of the Egyptian revolution; in Tunisia, people launched a Facebook page proposing a “red vest” movement; in Iraq, demonstrators in Basra dusted off vests they had worn in a similar protest movement in 2015.Belgium
Brussels saw the largest yellow vest demonstration outside France on December 8, with major traffic disruptions, clashes with police, and 460 arrests. The participants were largely middle class and white, but not entirely so. One demonstrator carried a sign opposing fascism; another, no to taxes and no to the immigration agreement. The person holding the sign opposing immigration was booed by the other demonstrators.
A group of yellow vesters demonstrating in front of the Alsetex factory of Précigné, France—a company known for producing law enforcement weapons used by the French government.
In the Netherlands, the yellow vest movement has largely emerged from the far right. Gele Hesjes Facebook groups appeared around December 1 and grew quickly. That day, small demonstrations drew dozens of participants in a few cities. On December 8, there were demonstrations in more cities, with 200 participants in Rotterdam, about 100 in Amsterdam and The Hague, and dozens of participants in several other towns.
At the demonstration in The Hague on December 1, yellow vest demonstrators displayed fascist symbols including the so-called Prinsenvlag, an old version of the Dutch national flag that has only been utilized by fascists since 1945. Members of several extreme right-wing groups were involved. On December 8, two prominent right-wing reactionaries participated in the demonstration in The Hague, one from Pegida, the other from the PVV, the party of Dutch fascist Geert Wilders. A portrait of the fascist icon Pim Fortuyn could be seen on the yellow vest of one of the participants.
In Nijmegen, where the chief organizer has extreme right wing connections, the fascist group Identitair Verzet handed out stickers to yellow vest demonstrators inside the demonstration. In Amsterdam, one demonstrator wore a yellow vest emblazoned with the letters RFVD (Forum voor Democratie), a fascist party with two seats in parliament, even more openly racist than de PVV.
The movement in Amsterdam seems to be the least dominated by the far right, so far, with anarchists distributing literature and engaging participants in discussion on December 8.
Of course, not all the demonstrators are fascists. You see many complaints about budget cuts, health care structures in disrepair, issues that it makes sense to be angry about. But these are often connected to complaints about the European Union, so-called “globalism,” and so on. Much of the Gele Hesjes discourse has focused on a United Nations agreement on immigration called the Marrakesh pact. In fact, the agreement simply confirms laws and treaties already in place. According to right-wing disinformation, however, this pact means that Europe invites “all of Africa” to come, while outlawing any criticism of migration. It is amazing how many people appear to
believe this nonsense.
Under these conditions, most of the left are understandably hostile to the yellow vests movement in the Netherlands. It is an open question whether anarchists could have been the first ones to initiate Yellow Hesjes groups and thereby set a different discourse. Hesitation, followed by relief when one’s suspicions are confirmed, can cede the space of social unrest to the far right—with disastrous consequences.
A new Facebook group has appeared now under the name Rode Hesjes, “red vests,” stressing solidarity and rejecting racist tactics of divide and conquer. This seems to be a classic left project, making demands to the government and holding itself apart from the social ferment of generalized unrest.Germany
Developments in Germany have been mostly farcical; a few far-right groups initially attempted to popularize the yellow vest model, without success. One Nazi group held its regular demonstration in yellow vests. As usual, the majority of German anti-fascists expressed suspicion about the popular movement, though a few groups oriented towards class-war politics criticized this attitude.
Anti-fascists in Dortmund organized their own yellow vest demonstration on the weekend of December 8, addressing the contradictions within the movement. In conservative southern Germany, an institutional left group in Munich is calling for yellow vest demonstrations, and the left party Die Linke has endorsed the movement.
Entertainingly, a German anarchist apparently started one of the popular yellow vest twitter accounts as a prank, attempting to use satire to mock the conspiracy theories within the right-wing elements of the movement. Unfortunately, this is a bad era for satire, and right-wing German yellow vesters took even the most outlandish tweets seriously until the prank was revealed.
Place de la République, where the Climate March ended on December 8. The sign reads something to the effect of “Proud and determined. Women in precarious situations, mad women. The DALO law [which supposedly guarantees the right to decent housing to anyone who is unable to access it by their own means] is a joke. This is a bourgeois bohemian law. Having a roof above our heads is a right. Our lives can’t wait.”
On Monday, December 10, President Macron delivered an official speech on national television. He acknowledged that the country is currently in “an economical and social state of emergency.” In light of this, he personally asked the government and the parliament to do whatever is necessary to make it possible for people to live decently from their jobs starting next year. Alongside these statements, Macron presented new political measures—including increasing minimum wage by €100 a month starting next year; offering tax exemption on overtime; asking employers to offer Christmas bonuses; cancelling tax on pensions under €2000 a month—in order to answer some of the yellow vesters’ demands.
On Tuesday, December 11, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the new government’s decisions before the National Assembly and reaffirmed the wish to find a mutual agreement quickly in order to exit this month-long political and social crisis.
So far, it is difficult to evaluate the real impact that Macron’s speech will have on the yellow vest movement’s future. For the most part, political parties—the populist left and the far-right nationalists—jumped on this occasion to denounce the President’s measures and the legitimacy of the actual government. While some yellow vesters—mostly “legalists”—seem satisfied with the government’s announcement and think it is time for the yellow vest movement to accept dialogue, others describe the situation as a farce and aim to continue the fight. Another day of action has been called for Saturday, December 15.
A banner on the Champs Elysées reading “Referendum of Popular Initiatives. €(Euro) dictatorship, Banksters in prison!” The idea of establishing a “referendum of popular initiatives” has become one of the most popular demands among some yellow vesters. They took this idea from an existing policy in Switzerland, where, if a petition receives a certain amount of signatures, a referendum must take place on the issue. This is a demand for the kind of participatory democracy that also produced the Brexit vote. The rhetoric of “€ dictatorship” has been used by the far-right for years; like “Banksters in prison,” it focuses on a single element of capitalism, so as to distract from the problems with the system itself. The banner is representative of the kind of crypto fascist and far-right conspiracy theories prevalent among some participants in the movement; further evidence of this includes the french flag and the sign reading “11 vaccines=poison” in the background.
The yellow vest movement continues to surprise everyone on account of its duration, its determination, and its capacity to assume new forms. A month ago, no one imagined that such chaos and political instability were about to unfold in France. Despite numerous attempts to establish dialogue, pacify the social base, and isolate the most radical fringe, the movement is still alive and unpredictable.
The focus of the movement has slowly shifted. Several weeks ago, the participants concentrated on protesting the increase of fuel and gas prices and the high cost of living; now, there is more attention on the government and the systemic causes of our difficult living situations.
Moreover, part of the movement has also succeeded in opening its ranks to other demonstrators and causes. In the beginning, the movement was almost exclusively composed of people wearing yellow vests and pushing the associated demands; last Saturday in Paris, we saw students, rail workers, climate marchers, trade unionists, individuals from the suburbs, anarchists, autonomous rebels, and “rioters without adjectives” joining the yellow vesters in the street fights. This convergence seems to have pushed the movement towards a more social, leftist, and anti-capitalist approach, and opening up space for marginalized people to participate.
For example, in their collective charter, some yellow vesters are asking for the end of French pillaging, political interference, and military occupation in African countries. In a surprising letter published on November 9, several radical yellow vesters proposed an analysis of the current situation based on anti-capitalist and anti-statist arguments. They concluded by saying:
“No, our violence is not bad! No, our violence is not violent! No, our violence is a deliverance! Our violence is not bloodthirsty, it is salutary! Now, let us be governed by ourselves, and let’s trust our creative power!”
Others have distributed a text entitled “Vests of All Colors” at several different yellow vest blockades:
“Our vests are rainbow colored because we refuse the false solutions to the current crisis: the flight towards an even more liberal capitalism and the nationalist and xenophobic withdrawal… There is no more reform to do, there is a world to build.”
On this boarded up grocery store belonging to a widespread corporate chain, we read: “The earth is burning—when will it be the turn of the Elysée?” The Elysée is the name of the presidential palace.
Yet the movement has also involved populists, nationalists, and fascists. The so-called “apolitical” façade in the early stages of the movement enabled far-right nationalists and populist leftists to create connections with the movement and take advantage of its anger for political purposes. This is not surprising, since many of the demonstrators share common ideas with those parties. Regarding the possible end result of the movement, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the leftist populist party France Insoumise or the far-right nationalist Rassemblement National emerge victorious from this political crisis.
This is what our comrades from Dijon experienced last Saturday, when they were confronted with xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny during the yellow vest demonstration. The situation in Lyons is troubling in that local fascists are well organized and are using this movement as a platform to spread their ideas.
In Paris, fascist groups have been seen since the beginning of the yellow vest movement. Thankfully, anti-fascists are doing everything they can to keep them off the streets.
However, some comrades say that to the extent that nationalists have been marginalized within the yellow vest movement, this has not been accomplished by street attacks so much as by expanding the activities of the movement to include tactics—such as property destruction—that are incompatible with right-wing politics. Fascists were able to represent street conflicts with police as a righteous struggle against the forces of centrist neoliberalism, but they have no narrative to legitimize property destruction and rioting.
Minimizing or ignoring the presence of fascists within the movement is dangerous. Considering the political and ideological connections many participants share with populist and nationalist parties, the tables could turn overnight. This makes it especially important to attack and delegitimize fascists who wish to participate in the movement, to come up with discourse and strategies that offer them no footholds within the movement, and above all to organize effective anti-capitalist measures addressing the economic problems that confront so many people today.
We also must strategize about what to do if nationalists are able to capitalize on the political turmoil resulting from the movement. Even if nationalists are marginalized in the streets, they could still take advantage of the situation to win power in the government. We should be ready for that situation, as well.
On this boarded up pharmacy in Paris on December 8, we read: “Macron, Le Pen, Mélenchon, get the hell out!”
For some of us, the events of December 8 were a partial failure because the situation was not as uncontrollable as on December 1, and because the crowds never mustered the courage to confront the police directly. Many people felt overwhelmed by the situation. This seems to indicate that the movement is reaching a plateau, if not an impasse. If things do not shift again, the movement will eventually cycle down and die, at least in Paris.
On the other hand, other comrades consider last Saturday a huge success. While the authorities deployed unprecedented police force nationwide and sent a threatening message to any individual who wanted to demonstrate, thousands of people still found the courage to take the streets, and many of them eventually succeeded in outmaneuvering the police. In Paris, the riots lasted for about seven hours. In the end, there was more overall economic damage than the previous week, which compensates for the fact that crowds rarely engaged in frontal confrontations with the police.
Yet here, too, we see the risk of stagnation. The yellow vest movement still lacks a way to expand the horizon beyond blocking traffic, confronting police, and destroying symbols of capitalism. Of course, one could make the same criticism of the police strategy—though the police, too, have shown themselves to be capable of shifting their approach. The tactics of the movement have created a political crisis, but mere escalation is a game that the state can play as well—at least within a limited space.
One option would be to intensify occupations alongside blockades and riots—as some yellow vesters did in Saint Nazaire and some students are doing in their high schools and universities. This could create a space for discussion, in which people could develop deeper ties within the movement. It would offer another model for bringing pressure to bear on the state while also putting the participants in touch with their own power to create alternatives.
In any case, with the Christmas holidays approaching, the calendar itself—that ancient weapon to contain social struggles within the existing order—is against the movement. The greater question is how the yellow vest movement will have changed the long-term conditions and horizon of possibility in France and around the world.
“Merry Christmas, [Em]Manu[el Macron].” This graffito in Paris was intended ironically, but it may indeed be Christmas that saves Macron.
From Sprout Distro
The following zines were published in the broad anarchist space in November of 2018. We’re a bit late on collecting the contents of this post, but as always we hope its useful in some way. As always, let us know about new titles to include next month.Zines – November 2018 Anti-Gentrification Direct Actions: Philadelphia 2013-2018
This zine catalogs reported anti-gentrification actions undertaken in Philadelphia over the past five years. From the intro:
“This zine is the latest in a decentralized series of posters and zines recording resistance to gentrification. We are not writing this to create a false sense of strength, but so that we remember what is possible and what has happened. A chronology of past actions does not mean resistance to gentrification is thriving or will continue. However, memory and imagination are two forces rapidly being extinguished and we want to counter that. At the same time, memory and imagination alone cannot oppose gentrification, but, must combine with the choice to fight, leading to action. As always people need to choose to fight.”
The zine includes photos and a nice introduction outlining some of the dynamics of gentrification in Philadelphia.
This is zine from the United Kingdom is a response to a recent string of animal liberation actions and the predictable denouncements that came from reformist animal rights organizations. It’s a critique of liberal concepts of animal rights alongside a critique of traditional activist forms and goals.
From the text:
“We do not want the state to “veganize” itself, we wish for its destruction… We do not want the commodity world to “veganize” itself, we wish for its destruction… We do not want the “wilderness” to “veganize” itself, we want to get closer to it.”
This is the latest issue of this well-known insurrectionary publication. It features the usual action chronicle alongside updates on actions and repression in Russia, Spain, Argentina, and Italy. The zine opens with a longer essay titled “Without Delay” (translated from Italian) that presents a very hard-hitting indictment of the existing world and its systems of social control.
This is a new text by Peter Gelderloos and published by Crimethinc. From Crimethinc:
“In this in-depth analysis, Peter Gelderloos explores the technological and geopolitical changes that movements for liberation will face over the next several decades. How will those who hold power today attempt to weather the economic and political crises ahead? Will artificial intelligence and bioeconomics save capitalism? What’s more dangerous—governments refusing to address climate change, or the technocratic solutions they will propose? Will we see the rise of fascism, or the regeneration of democracy? If we study the challenges that capitalism and the state will confront, we can prepare to make the most of them to put forward another way of life.”
This essay attempts to untangle some of the deeper themes running through contemporary fascism, specifically around the areas of ecology and anti-modernism. The essay has its roots in a series of debates over neo-fascism and crypto-fascism in the green anarchist space. From the intro:
“With its academic style and its inevitable omissions and imperfections notwithstanding, this essay is being released now because I still see it as a worthy preliminary entry in what will prove to be an ongoing discussion about the nature of fascism, anarchism, and modernity. Its subject matter, broadly speaking, is likely to grow in appeal as the alleged “resistance” mobilized by fascistic forces to (post-) modern democratic governance grows more and more insurgent and “green.” The framework of the essay draws heavily upon the works of Zygmunt Bauman and Roger Griffin, and includes a look at the ideas of Julius Evola and Ernst Jünger, two major influences on the esoteric and “deep green” variants of fascism, yesterday and today. It also examines the roots of portions of the Green and organic movements of today in German Romanticism’s more racist applications of a century ago.”
This zine is published by It’s Going Down and it grows from a column that appeared regularly on the website documenting radical graffiti and outlining a theory of why the authors think vandalism is important. This publication expands on that theory and presents a clear and concise case for the importance of vandalism, both in political and non-political forms. It extrapolates a theory where graffiti can be seen as a “signal of disorder” showing that the state’s capacity for social control isn’t total.
The November issue of Anathema features the usual chronology of actions in Philadelphia alongside a number of longer articles on a variety of topics including the Proud Boys and the Vaughn 17. This issue includes an essay titled “What is Attack?” outlining the theory and practice of anarchist attack. There is also a reprint from the green anarchist journal Backwoods and a small selection of “world news.” This remains a consistently solid local publication.
This is an anarchist newspaper from London. Much of the content focuses on housing and development, which isn’t at all surprising given the pace of gentrification across the globe. Judging by this paper, it seems to be a major issue in London as well. All of the content is London focused. It’s worth checking out to see how anarchists in other areas approach putting out a print publication.
This text first appeared almost a decade ago in the aftermath of the queer anarchist Bash Back! network’s demise. Rather than a political struggle, it argues for an anti-political criminal intimacy that seeks to move away from scripted conflicts, political forms, and identity. This excerpt gives a good sample of the text and the ideas it articulates:
“Our “theory” is really simple: self protection and exploding social war by communalizing violence–to multiply, not exhaust our terror. Build a material social force by living together with relationships between us that build our autonomy and destroys theirs. Start the fight, bring the bashing first; attack and hit back and find others already fighting and build bonds between you—the anarchist scene, outside of the bonds we already share, is mostly a husk to be shrugged off.”
This is the October issue of the KSL Bulletin, a publication of the Kate Sharpley Library. These bulletins are the best source for largely unknown anarchist histories. This issue features reviews of recently published books on anarchist history, some updates, and a cover feature on the anarchist Pierre Monatte.
This is a critique of syndicalism and its relevance to the changing world economy. It was written in response to the resurgence of interest in radical politics and the growth of organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) which articulate a vision of democratically managed economies and work. However, they offer antiquated visions that are based on economic systems that have been fundamentally altered. The authors are right to argue that this has all been said before, but it’s nonetheless refreshing to see an updated critique being designed for dissemination amongst those who are newly radicalized.
This zine by Crimethinc is written in response to the increasingly racist and nationalist rhetoric being used by President Donald Trump against the migrant caravan that departed from Honduras early this fall. From the intro:
“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.”
This zine is an anarchist critique of identity politics, this time coming from the United Kingdom. The text gives the strong impression that liberal identity politics are having some kind of resurgence in the UK with the opening:
“Anarchism in the UK is a joke. Once symbolising hard-fought struggles for freedom, the word has been stripped bare to make way for narrow-minded, separatist and hateful identity politics by middle class activists keen to protect their own privileges. We write this leaflet to reclaim anarchism from these identity politicians.”
What follows is fairly standard critique of identity politics and its limits, yet is one that is being repeated over and over.
This zine by Crimethinc presents a short critique of the idea of “revolutionary government”, an idea which is being increasingly promoted by leftist groups like the DSA and Socialist Action, both of which have gained traction in the Trump era. This is a useful text that makes a case about the limits of the idea of revolutionary government, reminding readers that revolutionary governments have always ended in disaster. From the intro:
“Since the mid-19th century, anarchists have maintained that the key to liberation is not to seize the state but to abolish it. Yet from Paris to St. Petersburg, from Barcelona to Beijing, one generation of revolutionaries after another has had to learn this lesson the hard way. Shuffling politicians in and out of power changes little. What matters are the instruments of rule—the police, the military, the courts, the prison system, the bureaucracy. Whether it is a king, a dictator, or a Congress that directs these instruments, the experience on the receiving end remains roughly the same.”
This solid zine presents English translations of texts that originally appeared outside of North America. They all come from what could be vaguely described as an insurrectionary perspective and cover a lot of different areas from wind power and technology to the black bloc the act of creating theory. This publication promotes a depth of thinking and analysis that is sadly rare in the anarchist space and it is definitely worth checking out.
“The essays in this zine were written by the Mary Nardini Gang/A Gang of Criminal Queers. These texts come from Bash Back!. Bash Back! was a queer anarchist tendency that started in the Midwest. It aimed to be a net- work for queer anarchists to connect and to confront the pitiful normality of capital, the state, and heterosexuality.”Sprout distrozinescategory: Projects
May 11th - 12th
The Green Scare Anarchist Bookfair focuses on (but is not limited to) nihilist, post-left, individualist and green anarchist theory and projects.
This will be an all-age event, hosted at a sober space where vegan food will be available for sale.
This will be a two day event with tablers upstairs and bands playing in the basement. There will be no tabling fees. Donations to the venue are welcomed.
For tabling and band submissions, or general questions contact:green anarchynihilismindividualist anarchypost-left anarchybookfairszinescategory: Projects
From Zabalaza by Lucien van der Walt
Towards an anarcho-syndicalist project
Trade union renewal is essential but should not be reduced to democratising structures or new recruitment methods.
Renewal should centre on a bottom-up movement based on rank-and-file reform movements, and the direct action of workers as a precondition for radical redistribution of power and wealth to workers, community assemblies and councils in a self-managed, egalitarian order based on participatory planning and distribution by need. It must be rooted in an anarcho-syndicalist understanding that unions can profoundly change society.From union renewal to a self-managed society: Towards an anarcho-syndicalist project
Lucien van der Walt (ZACF)
Trade union renewal is high on the agenda in many countries, but we need to think carefully about why we want it. Union renewal is a profoundly political and ideological issue.We need to have a clear understanding of how we got into the current mess where many unions are bureaucratic, inefficient and struggle to respond to urgent issues. We need to think carefully about what we want to achieve, not just in terms of how we organise – but what we aim at in the long run.
We need to have some theory about what unions can be, and should be . If we have to ask the question of why we should revitalise or expand unions, we have to decide what we want from unions in the first place. We also need to tackle the issues of the relationship between unions and political parties – and whether workers and unions benefit from workers’ parties that aim at state power.
What ‘union’ means
Speaking of union ‘renewal’ often assumes we had a working model in the past, and that there is one specific way unions can and should work.
But what we can and should achieve is not obvious.It’s not a simple technical question about which structures work. It’s not a simple question of democratising unions.What is the aim of having a well-organised or democratic union in the first place? There are many choices to be made, even if we have democratic unions. Should unions be business unions, basically dealing with wages and conditions? Or run by experts as service organisations, similar to insurance firms? Or be aiming at something more?
The reality is that unions are always intrinsically political. Their very existence raises questions around power, around class, and around identity and how we build it. Unions are never neutral. Even if when a union calls itself non-political, that is itself a politicai position, based on a theory.
Unions emerge as a response to a system that is intrinsically unable to satisfy the needs of the great majority of the working class.They provide a key place for solidarity among ordinary people in a very alienating society. Unions are not disappearing, and neither is the working class. Other than faith-based organisations, trade unions are the largest and most resilient popular organisations.
People speak of a crisis of unionism, but we need to be careful about how we measure that. There is no proper database of unionism worldwide, but every indication is that unions, overall, remain quite stable in terms of numbers, and viewed globally, are even expanding. This reflects the fact that proletarianisation is accelerating: despite certain fashionable theories, class is not gone; class divides are deepening, the working dass – those dependent on wages but lacking control -is now the biggest class on earth.
Unions persist precisely because capitalism and the state are simply unable to incorporate or co-opt the working class. Their very existence reflects the fact that society is riven with deep, stark contradictions. Even the most undemocratic, politically problematic union can only survive to the extent that it represents workers’ interests, no matter how limited a way, and the reality of irreconcilable class antagonisms.
What can a union be?
None of this invalidates arguments that unions have often been undemocratic or sectional in that they reflect and even reinforce divisions between workers -by union, by skill, by industry, by country, between employed and unemployed, and between different federations -or often ended up dealing only with immediate issues around wages rather than the larger challenges in society.
But the question is: is this inevitable? Pessimistic approaches think so, e.g. Robert Michels’ iron law of oligarchy’, in which all mass movements get captured by small full-time self-seeking leaderships. He believed union democracy would die as unions developed.V.I. Lenin believed that unions were sectional, reflecting and reinforcing divisions between workers. Arguing that unions were normally stuck at the level of dealing with immediate issues like wages: they bargained over the terms of exploitation, rather than ended it.They focused on reforms -reformism -and ‘economistic’ concerns. That fulltime union bureaucracies emerged to run the bargaining and held back anything -including workers -that threatened it.
But this is all very one-sided, as a more ‘optimistic’ analysis shows. There are many examples of union bureaucracies being challenged from below, especially through rank-and-file movements of ordinary members.The whole notion of union renewal assumes precisely that such challenge and reform is possible.There is no link between union size and levels of democracy: some of the most democratic unions in South Africa in the 1980s were massive unions like those in the so-called ‘workerist’ Federation of SA Trade Unions (FOSATU) movement, and some of the least democratic were small conservative business unions.And unions have repeatedly proved to be key sites of class consciousness and radical politics.
And, moving beyond the ‘optimistic’ analysis, to an anarchist/ syndicalist analysis, it is also possible to show many examples of mass unions that have maintained democratic systems, the best being the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) in Spain. This was a radical union that, in the 1930s, came close to two million members, yet rested on a very decentralised structure and had a tiny full-time staff. It systematically overcame sectional divisions among workers, participated in land, community and youth struggles, and opposed colonialism.
Contrary to Lenin’s view that unions, left to themselves, were inevitably stuck at the level of so-called ‘trade union consciousness; the CNT systematically promoted revolutionary ideas and actions, organised a workers’ army, and, in 1936, helped place most of the land and industry in Spain under the direct control of ordinary people, changing daily life and creating a working-class democracy.
Breaking the ‘iron law’
So what Michels and Lenin were talking about were tendencies -but they ignored the counter-tendencies for democracy, and the obvious evidence that unions could achieve revolutionary changes without party tutelage or state support.
Michels’ so-called ‘iron law’ rests on the assumption that topdown centralisation and full-time bureaucracy are the most efficient, technically necessary, inevitable measures available, and that oligarchies emerge from this process. The same idea is present in studies that suggest that unions ‘mature’ over time, becoming more moderate, professionalised and conservative.
But undemocratic, top-down unions, run by officials, are actually very ineffective, and often fairly lifeless. They struggle to respond to changes, they place the interests of the officials over the interests of their members, and their leaders are prone to co-optation by governments, businesses and political parties.
Centralism, Rudolph Rocker noted in his book, “Anarcho-syndicalism,” “turns over the affairs of everybody in a lump to a small minority, is always attended by barren official routine and … crushes individual conviction, kills all personal initiative by lifeless discipline and bureaucratic ossification.”
That is precisely what the current push for union renewal shows: the future of unions lies in unions becoming more democratic, more member-driven, more decentralised and more flexible.
The argument for centralism and bureaucracy is an ideological one, a deliberate choice (as the CNT’s counter-example shows) that arises from a false theory, reinforced by the destruction of democratic checks-and-balances, the immersion of union leaderships in political parties and states, and the ‘Moses syndrome’: the idea that the masses need to be led by a few great leaders, and the ambitions of those who hope to become the Moses.
Beyond the symptoms
An economistic and reformist unionism is always better than no unionism at all. Of course bargaining around wages and rights is valuable, and there is not much else, besides unions, that has succeeded in these roles.
But it deals with the symptoms of, and it simply responds to, what the capitalist system and the state do. And since the problems facing the global working class – unemployment, poverty, low wages, insecurity, racism, war, gender oppression and so on – are deeply linked to capitalism and the state, real change means tackling the system itself. If you have headaches all the time, it’s not a good idea to live on headache pills; you need to find out what is wrong and get a cure.
Capitalist corporations and the state apparatus are extractive systems that centralise power and wealth in the hands of small elites, are profoundly undemocratic, produce and distribute for profit and power, are prone to instability, and marked by war, imperialism and hatred. Removing poverty and inequality, and ending class exploitation, requires their negation by placing productive resources and real control in the hands of ordinary people -a bottom-up society based on participatory planning, common onwership, global community and distribution by need.
The party is over
So, if unions emerge as part of the class struggle, reflect class divisions, and can certainly (as the CNT showed) make radical changes in society, can they help develop the cure that society needs? And if so, how? And what would that cure entail?
The dismissal of unions by many self-described radicals today is not shared by the ruling classes: the bosses and politicians.They are well aware that unions can make dramatic, revolutionary changes. This is precisely why labour law is designed to contain unions, limit their scope and activities, and tie them into lengthy official procedures -and why every effort is made to weaken, corrupt and destroy unions.
Lenin, too, never denied that unions could play a role in a transition to socialism. His argument was, rather, that unions could become revolutionary, only if led by a revolutionary workers party aiming at state power.
But this vanguardist politics -the party first, the union as ‘transmission belt’ for party instructions -still rested on a profound underestimation of the potential of unions. It also rested upon a fatal overestimation of the value of so-called workers parties. Subordination to a party that aims at state power political unionism – centralises unions, replaces workers’ control of the unions with party control; it leaves politics and transformation to the party; rather than overcome reformism and economism, it inevitably promotes it.
The history of workers’ political parties, whether reformist labour parties, or revolutionary communist parties, and of nationalist parties, as forces for popular emancipation, is absolutely dismal. Rather than bring workers to power, they have repeatedly betrayed, broken, corrupted, divided and repressed workers’ movements like unions. The fall of the African National Congress (ANC) is nothing exceptional.
The problem is not that these parties have the wrong programme, or bad leaders – as those who insist on trying to rerun the failed project also claim -but the fact that transformation by the immense majority in the interests of the immense majority cannot come through the state.
The state is a centralised, undemocratic structure that entrenches minority class rule; rather than change the state, the parties are changed by the state, their leaders co-opted into the ruling class and its agendas. Simply put: elections and dictators are not the solution.
Prefiguration and transition
Unions can certainly contribute to a new, better society in which there is a massive redistribution of power and wealth to the popular classes, including the workers and the poor. But as Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution in 1917-where a labour-repressive dictatorial Tsarist regime was simply replaced with a labour-repressive dictatorial Marxist regime -shows, real change must take place in a way that does not just replace one elite with another.
This means rejecting the party form and the capture of state power, in favour of mass movements that can transfer power directly to the people. Bottom-up participatory trade unions are the most efficient, the most creative, the most innovative and the most responsive types of union.
We need to move from the idea that unions must be centralised, and also from the idea that unions’ future lies in servicing members. A radical union movement of this sort defends its members, and fights for daily improvements. lt’s a participative model where the members are the union, not customers, and where union leadership is essentially about facilitating a bottom-up unionism. The important thing is accumulating organisational power and promoting popular consciousness to contribute to a society where ordinary people are in charge.
But they can also prefigure and then help create a radical change in society, by developing the ideas and structures that can lay the basis for a new social order. To place power and wealth in the hands of ordinary people requires, not a state, not a party, but a system of worker and community assemblies and councils in a selfmanaged, egalitarian order based on participatory planning, common ownership and distribution by need.
This was precisely what was shown in the Spanish revolution by the CNT. After decades of failed land reform, corrupt government, chasms of poverty and inequality, and the failure of the parties, the CNT – with its popular allies, and providing direction to rival unions – undertook one of the most profound revolutions in history. And the bottom-up CNT structures formed the core of the new society.
Beyond ‘servicing’ members
We need to move beyond the idea that unions are just needed in conflicts, to thinking about how unions can provide a space for collective action, class identity, unity across divides of race, ethnicity, and country, and self-activity. The core of a counter-hegemonic project is the development of popular capacities and escalating demands. This requires creativity and innovation.
There is no reason why union investment funds cannot be redirected into organising drives, an alternative mass media, and the basis of union-run clinics, recreational facilities and schools. Along with this is the need for much more branch control of union funds.
This is not a crude workerism, but a revolutionary class politics that is solidarity based, egalitarian, is anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-sexist opposed to all forms of oppression. Not a party-led political unionism, but a profoundly revolutionary unionism. It means taking a lead in fighting against oppression, for the emancipation of women, against war and empire, and for freedom for all. This is not new: it’s the core of old left traditions like anarchosyndicalism.
Values and rank-and-files
Many challenges unions face are linked to capitalist restructuring, but we need to also be very clear about states. Unionists commonly speak of capitalism as the main problem, but it’s not the only one unions face.
lt is clear from African and Latin American experiences that states wreak havoc. They are the largest employers and they actively aim to capture union leaderships. Rather than corporatist bodies and parties in government helping unions, these enable the state to exert control over unions.
In place of parties, it makes more sense for unions to be part of a revolutionary front of the oppressed classes, based on community, youth and other formations, aiming at deep change, and to also expand beyond traditional constituencies into organising the unemployed and so-called self-employed. The muscle of unions at the point of production can aid the rest of the front, and the front can aid unions through, for example, consumer boycotts.
All of this requires serious reform in the unions – reform that will inevitably be resisted by parts of the union bureaucracy, and definitely by the political parties. It must, therefore, rest upon a rank-and-file movement to change the unions from below -a movement in all the unions -into part of a working class counter-power, armed with clear ideas and a programme.
**Lucien van der Walt is at Rhodes University, and has long been involved in the working-class movement. This article is based on an input at the FES – Trade Union Competence Centre conference in October 2017 themed, ‘Challenges for Trade Unions in Sub-Saharan Africa: the members are the union, aren’t they?’
** Source: Lucien van der Walt, 2018, “From Union Renewal to a Self-Managed Society: Towards an anarcho-syndicalist project,” South African Labour Bulletin, volume 42, number 1, pp. 27-30.Tags: south africazabalazaAnarcho-SyndicalismorganizationunionsworkZACFLucien van der Waltcategory: International
The following text is an article by EUNOMIA, translated from french to english by ABC GBG
After four weeks of demonstrations, blockades, occupations, general meetings, analysis of all kinds, here is one with a radical left and/or anarchist angle.
Sorry to all those who are still in complete denial but the Yellow Vests, in good multiples forms movement, shelter at worst the far right and at best nationalist confusionism. And that’s normal, we are in a racist, homophobic, virile country. A national movement, poorly politically formed , and assembled on the basis of an aggregation of anger is likely to resemble the ideology that shaped our political consciences (or our lack of consciousness). It is this lower middle class, made up of many workers and salaried workers, rural and peri-urban whites, which crystallizes the political confusion. This, moreover, deeply annoys those who would like to see in this movement the emancipated proletariat which, once capitalism has fallen, will magically abandon its racism, its nationalism, its virilism, and so on.
It is not because a movement is said to be predominantly apolitical that it is. it just means that it does not know exactly what ideology it fits into. And as we have seen, it is a very heterogeneous movement that was built on anger. Anger being an excellent fuel to turn into political determination, the movement has since a few weeks, gradually evolved. Far from dying as we had hoped in its early days, we have seen:
- Growing determination.
- A rather strong rejection of all attempts at political recuperation, with rare locally exceptions.
- Claims finally out of the initial tax treaty, still spreading, quite disparate from one place to another, and often until the total rejection of the political system and not only Macron.
- Modalities of action which emancipate themselves finally from the places without interest which are the roundabouts, except to communicate summarily with many passers-by.
- An increasingly massive refusal of any “political representation”, whatever it may be, refusal still very vague in its consequences, without historical or ideological reference, but letting appear a desire still nascent and obviously hesitant to cross the rubicon of direct democracy.
And here we are, somehow obliged to participate in one way or another to this movement which even if it is still very weak and too permeable to Poujadism in terms of massification (it will be recalled that ” 250 000 demonstrators throughout France, it is considered a defeat during a trade union mobilization, and even here they do not even strike. “), has the merit to exist socially so much so that it s takes a non-negligible part of the collective and symbolic imagination in the social struggle.BUILDING CONVERGENCE
Indeed, since the beginning of this movement, there has been an internal struggle between a militant group trying, both on the internet and on the barricades, to assert an identity and anti-migrant line (playing especially with intoxicants or the theory of “the great replacement” and launching patriotic slogans or singing the Marseillaise), and a much more left tendency that tries to replace the claims of said movement with a criticism of liberal capitalism as well as in an inclusive logic of oppressed minorities. The latter is gaining more and more ground as the extreme right struggles to propose concrete solutions to police repression, alternatives consistent with capitalism and effective modes of organization in the fight; that on the contrary, the extreme left is quite able to bring the Yellow Vests. To this we can add that the balance of power in the street is clearly in favor of the anti-fascism that targets the fascist activists to make them flee the protests.
But naive will be the one who will explain to us that the movement is now progressive on the pretext that he would have been joined by the “committee for Adama” ( support committee of the family who lost Adama under police violence and became a larger group against police repression ) or LGBTQIA+ militant and authors. For this movement to which everyone tries to bring the good word has nevertheless succeeded in expressing something fundamental: it refuses the idea of representation globally.
It refuses anyone to speak on its behalf whether to negotiate a truce or to make demands. And in this it is ultimately deeply anti-reformist. Let’s even dare: profoundly revolutionary (for good or bad).
In the same way, think that it is the proletariat (and only it) who is actually in the street, categorizing any criticism of the movement in the camp of class contempt , is wrong. A multiple forms movement inevitably produces discourses, methods of struggle and contradictory claims.
Do not recognize it, do not accept it is already a little recovery and fall into the trap of confusion. This same movement seems to claim less money than dignity.
It is now obvious that, given the media exposure, the fierce repression, the fear and contempt it inspires to bourgeois, it would be ill advised to ignore the Yellow Vest movement any longer. Especially since we talk about “movement” since the beginning of this article it’s good that we are in a dynamic, that things move, that the lines are moving. These people do not argue, do not want to sit around a table. They rise up.
And the uprising is what we want no? Political self-determination, anger turned into a desire to further disorder. Apparently this is not the case for everyone in the extreme left. Some still prefer to parade at the head of procession under trade union or party flags. Not much moved by the fierce repression of those who are no longer satisfied with a lukewarm march from point A to point B, framed by the prefecture. What is being played here is also two visions of reversal that clash. A certain left speaks to us of national revolution, massive, quasi-spontaneous in which one must rush to make the best of it. Do not hide it, this left is authoritarian. It does not need to be in political alignment with those who share the uprising: it will purge them later.
Another left, anti-authoritarian , needs to build patiently, through collective education and self-management at the local level, solid political bases, and by direct action, to create insurrection, and maybe the commune. This left is the one who hesitated the most to join the Yellow Vest movement. We think it’s all to his credit
Yet the strength of the Yellow Vest movement is that it disconcerts everyone, both the seasoned activist and the police force. They gas all the way to divide the procession? Never mind, there will be 2, 3, 4 processions, each with its inflamed barricades (what happened in Toulouse last Saturday). They confiscate the protective equipment to dissuade to go to protest? Okay, but there will be street doctor teams more determined than ever and poignant solidarity testimonies. The police killed, it mutilated, it humiliated … it tried to maintain order but only pushed to radicalization, showing the extent of its violence and by the same the extent of its inability to join the a movement gradually silencing the slogans “the police with us” that soon give way to “everyone hates the police”.
The counter-attack is organized therefore, the plans of repression leak on the internet, as well as their personal addresses. And while, driven by ever more militarized repressive techniques, yellow vests are gradually forming anti-repression strategies provided by the radical left. In short, the police militarise, we organize. Unaccustomed to this logic of generalized “craziness”, the police tramples and that’s good.
WHAT ARE WE DOING THEN?
There is a very clear link between the fact that the movement was based on Poujadism ( French political and trade union movement appeared in 1953 This movement claimed the defense of small sellers and artisans, whom he considered endangered by the development of supermarkets)
and the fact that it does not mobilize or little against police violence (recall that a woman was shot by the police from his window), that he can not yet declare itself in solidarity with the direct actions of sabotage or that it gives pride of place to conspiracy (especially with regard to the Strasbourg attack on the 11/12/18)
Far from believing that this neo-Poujadism will magically disappear in contact with the left-wing activists, the rioters will emancipate themselves from the figures who built them throughout their education (the French Revolution, the sovereign people, the value of work, the defense of the territory etc.) the context has forced us all to join them on the barricades.
Because it is this context that has allowed the blocking of high schools, the mobilization of drivers or paramedics and more generally the mobilization that spreads in the General Assembly in universities, or simply on the internet. It is finally the same context, in all its anti-police violence which is gradually pulling back the government which grants for the moment only crumbs of victory, but which for its greatest misfortune, and for our greatest happiness, is not addressed to reasonable interlocutors.
So yes this choice that it was very dangerous to do in the aftermath of November 17 has become necessary, see salutary for an activist anti-fascist (who will track the fascists in the demo), anti-capitalist (which will counter citizenism in the General Assembly) ), anti-racist and anti-sexist (who will build inclusion through non-mixed gatherings). Because for the moment, the analysis of the white Peripheral France that rises against the oligarchy globalist acts as electoral boulevard for Le Pen. It’s up to us to change that.Tags: Franceyellow vestsanarchist black crosscategory: International
From Anarkismo by Wayne Price
An Anarchist View of State Formation-- Review of Peter Gelderloos, “Worshipping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation”
A review of Peter Gelderloos'anarchist analysis of how states are formed and developed.
It it important for anarchism to have a theory of the state, the fundamentals of government, its origins and development. This is my third essay on this topic, the first being a presentation of the class theory of the state, as held by both anarchists and Marxists (Price 2018a). The second was a review of a “post-anarchist” analysis of the state, proposed by Saul Newman (Price 2018b). This is a review of Peter Gelderloos’ analysis of the nature of the state and its origins.
Gelderloos defines the state as “a bureaucratic, territorial, coercive organization with multiple levels of administration, in which power is institutional rather than personal, and power-holders monopolize (…) the legitimate use of force….” (5) “The state [is] a centralized, hierarchical system of political organization based on coercion and alienation….” (14) These are fine definitions.
In his broad overview of state formation, Gelderloos has two fundamental hypotheses. The first is his opposition to any specific theory of state origins. States are not the result of any one special force, but are the end result of all sorts of factors, he argues. “State formation is a multilineal process and not a teleological progressive evolution.” (Gerderloss 2016; 234) “States…are…a social arrangement that evolved following a wide variety of evolutionary pathways, in very different conditions, on different continents.” (13) His book is a hotch-potch collection of accounts of state formations, in no particular order, covering all sorts of possible causes in specific cases. This includes cultural and religious factors, as well as military, political, and geographic factors, among others. He ends up with no less than fifteen “models” of state formation. (233—234) That many factors go into the formation of each specific state is undoubtedly true. The question is whether any underlying generalizations can be made about the main factor or factors.
What I take to be his second main thesis is the rejection of the class (or historical materialist) theory of the state. He rejects the view that the state grows out of the tendency of early humanity to create a surplus which results in early class divisions (developing out of other early social divisions such as gender, age, or special knowledge). He regards the hypothesis that the state exists “to regulate economic production and surplus value” to be as “demonstrably false” as the myth that it exists “to protect individual rights through a social contract.” (1) On the contrary, Gelderloos insists that the state was first formed and then it promoted class division and exploitation. In his view, the state does not serve capitalism (feudalism, slavery, etc.) but capitalism serves the state.
He claims that this is the classical anarchist view of Bakunin and Kropotkin (which I do not think is true; Price 2018a). He quotes Bakunin, “If there is a state, there must be domination of one class by another, and as a result, slavery; the state without slavery in unthinkable….” (4—5) He writes, “Capitalism can easily be read as the motor of the modern state…. Sometimes capitalists have modernized government in order to increase their power.” ((6—7) These views would seem to contradict his own generalization.
It would be difficult to demonstrate, historically or by anthropology, either that the state created class societies or that class societies created the state. As Gelderloos agrees, very few statist systems began ab novo. Almost all states we know about began in societies which already had states—and had class systems of exploitation. Summarizing the evidence, he makes the important statement, “As a general rule, reciprocity is the basis of society and culture.” (7) This is to say that class division created the state and the state created class division and so on, back and forth, intertwined, at the same time, (dialectically, if you will).
While Gelderloos discusses various possible pathways to state formation, he repeatedly returns to one model: early elites creating a state to serve their interests. “Local elites within the preexisting autochthonous hierarchies were impressed by the greater power amassed by elites in neighboring societies and sought to copy them.” (38) “The exigencies of warfare…are exploited by an endogenous proto-elite to create a pathway for increasing social discipline and hierarchy. “ (53) “The ascendance of the council and other institutional forms of leadership in the [early] Kuba state reflect a push by the elite to extend their power….” (5) “Incipient elites used military brotherhoods and resurgent patriarchy to establish a new kind of state authority.” (133) “State formation was a strategic act of elite will.” (153)
He does not discuss who were these elites which existed before the state but which deliberately created states to serve their interests. Were they not the local lords, rich farmers, clan leaders, patriarchs, slave holders, and so on—proto-ruling classes—who made states to expand their wealth and their power over others’ labor? This is the view of the class theory.
“Primitive Accumulation” by the State
Against “the matter of economic accumulation…as the motor of state formation…,”Gelderloos says, “the very notion of understanding (…) the economy as a distinct sphere of social life is problematic….” (138) He does not realize that the idea of the distinction between the economy and the state was created by the experience of capitalism. Almost for the first time, the ruling class did not need to directly manage the state. Capitalist enterprises were run by businesspeople and their managers, while professional politicians could manage the state. In the U.S.A. today, the state claims legitimacy as “democratic,” while the capitalist economy is justified on the basis of “freedom.”
Gelderloos is right to challenge this apparent distinction between the capitalist market and the state. But then what becomes of his chicken-or-the-egg-which-came-first argument about which causes which? Are we not back to the “reciprocal” (dialectical) understanding that each causes the other? “History has been shaped by the conflict between rulers and ruled” (3) which is also the conflict between exploiters and exploited.
It may surprise Gelderloos, but that was the perspective of Karl Marx. In his discussion of “primitive” (or “previous” or “primary”) accumulation, which began capitalism, Marx emphasized the role of the state and other non-market forces. “In general history, it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part….The history of this, [the workers’] expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” (Marx 1906; 785—6) The different methods of “primitive accumulation,” in different countries and different times, “all employ the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten, hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.” (823—4)
Kropotkin criticized Marx’s concept of “primitive accumulation,” only because he thought it gave the impression that state support of capitalism was solely in its early period. Kropotkin insisted that the state continued to intervene in the economy, to prop up capitalism. “Force” continues to be “an economic power.”
The Marxist geographer, David Harvey, writes, “In recent times, several commentators, including myself, have suggested that we need to take the continuity of primitive accumulation throughout the historical geography of capitalism seriously. Rosa Luxemburg put that question firmly on the agenda a century ago.” (Harvey 2010; 305) The accumulation of capital, not only through exploitation of labor but also through state expropriation of existing wealth, has become ubiquitous. Harvey prefers to call it today, “accumulation by dispossession.” (310) This is consistent with the views of anarchists such as Kropotkin.
Program to Destroy the State
Gelderloos has not written an academic work. With justification, he wants to strengthen the anarchist case against the state, to encourage “an unambiguous desire to destroy the state.” (234) He wants to refute the liberal and reform socialist view that the state can be used to improve society in a consistent and permanent way. “No party has ever stood in the way of capitalism, yet people keep on voting.” (238) He rejects the Marxist-Leninist program of overthrowing this state and replacing it with a new state (the “dictatorship of the proletariat”). He has an ambivalent discussion of the Kurdish movement in Rojava. This has been influenced by anarchism but “they have not made a complete rupture with preexisting governmental and capitalist institutions.” (239)
Rojava aside, there are ambiguities in his programmatic approach. Since he sees capitalism as primarily a tool of the state, he does not advocate “socialism” (let alone “libertarian communism”), as did Bakunin and Kropotkin. He only uses “socialism” to mean “state socialism” rather than “libertarian socialism” (anarchism). Since he regards exploitation as only secondary to state domination, he does not emphasize the popular struggles of workers and other oppressed and exploited people. How wealth is generated and distributed is not central to his analysis of society.
He apparently opposes mass movements making demands on the state (such as ending specific wars, raising minimum wages, outlawing discrimination of women or People of Color, etc.) Instead anarchists should “disparage state representatives, insult them, mock them, ignore them, or silence them.” (244) Disrespecting politicians is all right but not a strategy for destroying the state. Instead of working class struggles, he advocates “refusal to pay taxes,…willfully breaking every law that one can get away with….rejecting or abstaining from the private communications technologies that states increasingly use to monitor their subjects….using cash instead of credit cards….” (244) These are mostly individual, rather than mass actions. This too is hardly a program for overthrowing the state. Gelderloos praises anarchist and other terrorists who have assassinated “monarchs, generals, presidents, and governors.” (246) Without shedding tears for the monarchs, etc., we have to acknowledge that such deeds (outside of the context of revolutionary wars) often killed all sorts of working people, antagonized the popular masses, and resulted in jailing or killing many good militants.
Peter Gelderloos raises many important questions about the relation of the state, its origin, and its future to economic, popular, and class forces. There is very little current material on the anarchist view of the state and this book makes a significant contribution.
Gelderloos, Peter (2016). Worshipping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation. Chico CA: AK Press.
Harvey, David (2010). A Companion to Marx’s Capital. Vol. 1. London UK: Verso.
Marx, Karl (1906). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. 1. NY: Modern Library.
Price, Wayne (2018a). “An Anarchist View of the Class Theory of the State.” Anarkismo.
Price, Wayne (2018b). “Post-Anarchism on the State—An Anarchist Critique.” Anarkismo.
*written for www.Anarkismo.netTags: Anarkismowayne pricePeter Gelderloosreviewthe statecategory: Essays
Volume 4 Issue 11 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)
Volume 4 Issue 11 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)
In this issue:
- Cash Bail
- Yellow Vests From Afar
- Brosnan Security In Chico
- Welcome To The Future
- Revolutionary Letter #18
- On Splitting
- N17 Report
- Black December
- Phones & Security Culture
Today we bring you one of the longest text readings in our history: Desert by Anonymous.
Here I have tried to map present and plausible futures whilst calling for a desertion from old illusions and unwinnable battles in favour of the possible. I would hope that the implicit call throughout, for us to individually and collectively desert the cause of class society/civilisation, was clear. Yet I can already hear the accusations from my own camp; accusations of deserting the cause of Revolution, deserting the struggle for Another World. Such accusations are correct. I would rejoin that such millenarian and progressive myths are at the very core of the expansion of power. We can be more anarchic than that.
Desert tries to be realistic about climate change, revolution, and anarchist action in the world. With no illusions about a revolution being possible, climate change being stopped, a post-collapse eden, or our capacity to make a dent in leviathan, desert explores what the near future may bring, and where we might choose to act in it. It heavily cites climate science, and more interestingly also cites military projections about the future. What will happen? There will be some good here and there, and some bad here and there, and there are more ways of looking at things than that.
Anon delivers again.Tags: desertanarchyclilmatecollapseaudiocategory: Projects
A statement from the Yellow Vests shows the political sophistication we must develop as similar social struggles emerge in the declining United States.
An excellent friend in Paris forwards this:
Pour transmettre aux anglophones qui seraient intéressés…
Call from the Yellow Vests of Commercy to set up popular assemblies
“We will not be ruled. We will not be divided and bought off.”
NO TO RIP OFF! LONG LIVE DIRECT DEMOCRACY!
NO NEED FOR REGIONAL ‘REPRESENTATIVES’!
For nearly two weeks the movement of yellow vests has brought hundreds of thousands of people in the streets all over France, often for the first time. The price of fuel was the drop of diesel that set the plain on fire. The suffering, the enough-is-enough, and the injustice have never been so widespread. Now, all across the country, hundreds of local groups are organizing themselves in their own different ways.
Here in Commercy, in the Meuse, we have been operating from the beginning with daily popular assemblies, where each person participates equally. We organized to block entrances to the city and service stations, and filtering road blocks. In the process, we built a cabin in the central square. We meet there every day to organize ourselves, decide next actions, interact with people, and welcome those who join the movement. We also organize “solidarity soups” to live beautiful moments together and get to know each other. In equality.
But now the government, and some parts of the movement, propose to appoint representatives for each region! That is to say a few people who would become the only “interlocutors” to public authorities and summarize our diversity. But we do not want “representatives” who would end up talking for us!
What’s the point? At Commercy a punctual delegation met the sub-prefect, in big cities others met directly with the Prefect: they ALREADY have conveyed our anger and our demands. They ALREADY know that we are determined to finish off with this hated president, this detestable government, and the rotten system they embody!
And that’s what scares the government! Because he knows that if they begin to give in on taxes and fuels, they will also have to back down on pensions, the unemployed, the status of civil servants, and all the rest! They also knows VERY WELL that they risk intensifying a GENERALIZED MOVEMENT AGAINST THE SYSTEM!
It is not to better understand our anger and our demands that the government wants representatives”: it is to supervise and bury us! As with the union leadership, they look for intermediaries, people with whom they could negotiate. On whom they can put pressure to appease the eruption. People that they can then buy off and press to divide the movement to bury it.
But that’s without counting on the strength and intelligence of our movement. It’s without counting that we are thinking, organizing, developing our actions that scare them so much and amplifying the movement!
And above all, there is a very important thing: everywhere the movement of the yellow vests demand in various forms, something that is well beyond the purchasing power! This thing is power to the people, by the people, for the people. It is a newsystem where “those who are nothing” as they say with contempt, regain power over all those who stuff themselves, over those who rule, and over the money powers. It’s equality. It’s justice. It’s freedom. That’s what we want! And it starts from the grassroots!
If we appoint “representatives” and “spokespersons”, it will eventually make us passive. Worse: we will quickly reproduce the system and act from top down like the scoundrels who rule us. These so-called “representatives of the people” who are filling their pockets, who make laws that rot our lives and serve the interests of the ultra-rich!
Let’s not put our finger in the gear of representation and hijacking. This is not the time to hand over our voice to a handful of people, even if they seem honest. They must listen to all of us or to no one!
From Commercy, we therefore call for the creation throughout France of popular committees, which function in regular general assemblies. Places where speech is liberated, where one dares to express oneself, to train oneself, to help one another. If there must be delegates, it is at the level of each local yellow vests people’s committee, closer to the voice of the people. With imperative, revocable, and rotating mandates. With transparency. With trust.
We also call for the hundreds of groups of yellow vests to have a cabin as in Commercy, or a “people’s house” as in Saint-Nazaire, in short, a place of rallying and organization! And that they coordinate themselves, at the local and departmental level, in equality!
This is how we will win, because that, up there, they are not used to manage it! And it scares them a lot. We will not let ourselves be ruled. We will not let ourselves be divided and bought off.
No to self-proclaimed representatives and spokespersons! Let’s take back the power over our lives! Long live the yellow vests in their diversity!
LONG LIVE PEOPLE POWER, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE!
(posted by K.)Tags: gilets jaunesyellow vestspopular assembliescategory: International
LISTEN HERE: http://archive.org/details/AnarchyRadio12112018
Kathan co-hosts. French uprising going strong, Polish climate summit even more of a bad joke than usual.Cambridge word of the year: nomophobia, fear of being away from phone. Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee drying up.No amount of drugs can cure depression. Grimes' disgusting ode to the Machine. Carbon emissions spike globally. Resistance briefs, two calls.Tags: long-runningnytimesKathancategory: Projects
Gilets jaunes, the protest that we can't seem to stop talking about. To recap a few interesting events over the last week, more outrage was stoked when 140 high school students were forced to kneel and place their hands beind their heads while being arrested for protesting education reforms, inspiring high school students in Paris, Dijon, and other cities to reenact the scenario in solidarity. The protests seems to be spreading to other countries as well, such as Brussels, where over 400 yellow vest-inspired protesters were arrested. An Anonymous Anarchist group coordinated the collection and publication of the info of hundreds of French police officers. Many have even taken to calling it yellow vest protests#EuropeSpring
The purpose of this TOTW is to attempt to bring together some of the perspectives that have already been shared, reflect on how they might have changed even in the few days since they've been written, and continue to advance our perspectives on what's happening.
According to A Brief Note on the Yellow Vest Movement, "The Yellow Vest Movement presents something of a conundrum for anarchists."
This is fair. Admittedly, it's a bit difficult to disentangle all of the parties--fascists, workers, insurrectionists, as well as their agendas and the consequences of supporting them.
The author continues: "For fascists [the current reality] represents an opportunity to sow a false narrative among the working class, blaming immigration, encouraging racism against minorities and maligning environmentalism by associating with a state that is out of touch with the realities of everyday life."
This makes me wonder: what sorts of opportunities does this represent for anarchists? What narratives might they sow, or what new narratives might they create? Do anarchists have a narrative that could resonate more than what the fascists have to offer? Or even if it didn't resonate with a majority, could it be viable?
In Contribution to the Rupture in Progress the author writes:
"Even if it soon proves fragile, for now, one of the principle merits of the current mobilization is to have sent the rhetoric and the tactical repertoire of the left movements of the past century to the Grévin Museum [i.e., to the grave]-all while demanding more justice and equality and without reproducing the anti-tax rhetoric of the post-war right and extreme-right... For the novelty, the tenacity of the first successes of the “yellow vests” cruelly illuminate the series of almost systematic defeats that have taken place over the past several years in France and the general decomposition into which all the currents of the left... have sunk... Far from being an obstacle, it’s precisely the much-disparaged ideological impurity of the movement that has enabled it to spread and rendered obsolete all the unifying voluntarisms of specialized organizations and activists."
While many writers have concluded that the movement's 'a-political' nature offers fertile ground for populists and nationalists and allows everyone to attach their petty ideological flag, this author identifies it as a success, not in virtue but in results. The author does not suggest embracing fascism but identifies glimmers of tactics that could look very different than those leftist tactics being sent to the grave. Do those tactics exist? And what do they look like?
And finally there's the perspective put forth by a post from Attaque:
"The smashy-smashy cannot replace antiauthoritarian ideas. We were in the streets back in 2016, and will be again, but not for the purpose of defending the old world and its cars."
Should we as anarchists carry on as usual, ignoring the weeks-long mobilization of multitudes because we only hit the streets (or don't hit the streets) for causes that suit us?
What can we as anarchists learn from the yellow vest movement? Can we move into the future with fresh tactics, fresh vision, fresh narratives about the world we want to live in, without all of our efforts being in reaction to the right and to the state?
*note: title inspired by NegativlandTags: #totwgilets jaunes
The logic of the state and capital—of punishment and imprisonment, must be replaced by a rejection of oppression and exploitation. This call is one step in that direction. We come together to break the loneliness and isolation. Offensive solidarity with the comrades who face repression in France and other regions in the Earth. The memory of our comrades is fuel to stoke the flames of our lives in permanent revolt.
Anonymous Anarchist Agency
Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 93. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week on anarchistnews.org.
TOTW: Education Revisited with Aragorn! and a friend
This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
- sound edited by Linn O’Mable
- what’s new was written by Jackie and narrated by Chisel and Dim
- Redacted with SUDS, et al
1) Sectioned – Beautiful Struggle
2) David Liebe Hart – Stay In School
3) Huerco S. – Stuck With Deer Lungs
- Contact us at email@example.com