Originally published by Philly Anti-Capitalist (Zine in PDF format). Written by some anarchists.
Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.
REPORT BACK AND SOME EMBEDDED CRITIQUES
The beginning of OccupyICE Philly started out as a beautiful event which had so much potential. Before the end of the first night that was actively squandered by the “central committee” of the “occupation”. What began as a direct interruption of ICE’s ability to operate their office devolved into a purely symbolic self-victimizing spectacle, one that was unable to defend itself or escape enemy capture.
To recap, throughout the day anarchists and other folx who were not complacently just linking arms and singing (as the Left has done in contemporary times, only to get beaten and arrested symbolically,) were taking actions of tactical defense and escalation. These were the individuals who are actively trying to destroy and shut down ICE via tangible, time tested methods.
Banners (and a couch) were used to initially block the streets, put up in open defiance of police asking people to stop, while also sending other radical and intersectional
messages through their imagery. The occasional projectile was thrown. Barricades were built using construction materials, chairs, a dumpster, and a couch. Entire streets were blocked off in order to create a defendable zone for the occupation. A van arrived to aid the blockade while blasting tunes for what was feeling like a beautiful and empowering block party.
Anarchists attempted to open up conversations to share thoughts, coordinate, and deepen analysis. The socialists’ marshals and other self-appointed “leaders” were neutral
or even hostile to these autonomous initiatives. The suggestion of open and horizontal discussion seemed to frighten and upset the marshals, who quickly swooped in and informed us that they were meeting and that we were welcome to send a delegate from our “group” if we wanted. A bottle thrower was shamed. Barricades were alternatively applauded and criticized throughout the night. Anarchists in Philly have been busy for years attacking capital, the state, and fascists. There is a certain familiarity with occupation and conflict that many of us felt we could contribute. It would be an understatement to say that we are disappointed (but not surprised) at how the marshals behaved.
The first concession to the cops was to obey their order to move the van. This is understandable since it was probably connected to someone’s name, but it was
replaced by a singing human chain. For some reason (another police order?) a little later, the socialist human chain then backed off the street and willingly lined up with their backs to the wall of the building. Anarchists then built barricades around them and began fortifying those in the streets.
This might point to a big difference in tactics and experience. To anarchists it seemed obvious for many reasons to hold the entire space rather than just block the building: for one, it required less material (whether bodies or pallets) to blockade across the streets rather than along the entire building, but it also gave everyone more room and safety, and would have been more effective and defensible. The barricades asserted our autonomy and at the very least would have bought some time if they had to be taken down by the city.
The liberals (in which we include communists/socialists/ red “anarchists”) got scared when the police gave their 4th or 5th “final” warning to unblock the street and take
down the tents. Like good little subjects of the state, the liberal ”central committee” of organizers convened and decided to take down all the barricades. They flipped a dumpster upright that was tipped over and they started handing barricade building materials and trash TO THE POLICE! As the police were trying to clear the area of all trash. Like they literally handed things to the police. After an entire day of ‘fuck the police’ this and ‘there’s no good cops’ that, they fucking helped them, this hypocrisy is disgusting, cowardly, and completely dishonest. Their “revolutionary” politics is nothing but a self-congratulatory and self- victimizing performative social scene. Why talk such a tough game only to retreat again and again?
It is no surprise that the socialists were willing to cooperate/collaborate and do the cops’ work for them, because as statists they wish not to destroy the police but to become them themselves. This is made clear by their incessant policing of others at demonstrations. For instance, after an anarchist, visibly upset that the barricades were being taken down, yelled into the crowd that the socialists had given up, he was swarmed by people in yellow vests (organizers). They proceeded to say things such as “Oh nuh, uh white boy, you don’t get to just yell, we’re going on a walk, you have to listen to me a brown woman of color” the same person proceeded to snitch jacket the anarchist, telling him that “I haven’t seen you around” “What do you organize?” “you’re acting like a cop”. The irony of calling someone cop-like for criticizing the marshals’ policing (and doing the cops’ work of clearing the barricades for them) seemed to completely fly over heads of the self-appointed leadership. The anarchist told the organizer he didn’t want to see them get lied to and beat up by the police and the organizer said that if that anarchist had a problem he could have approached an organizer. When he replied that he was actually fundamentally opposed to their decision making process, and that if they had announced the occupation to the public and were calling for public support then they’d have to let go of their control, the organizer shook their hands by his face screaming “You stupid fucking anarchist!” Very approachable. He was then told he could stay if he wanted but a few minutes later was asked why he was still there.
Earlier in the day, the same people got upset at the anarchists for shouting more conflictual things on a hijacked megaphone. They even tried so hard asking around to find out who the people on the megaphone were. The marshals did not seem to understand autonomy, diversity of tactics, or horizontality. They made clear that their idea of solidarity was everyone doing the same thing (ie: doing what they said people should do) rather than the understanding the those who struggle against oppression without hindering each other benefit each other. One of the more strange hypocrisies coming from the organizers/marshals was their supposed support of both unity (“there can only be one line”) and a diversity of tactics, this is a contradiction that became more andmore clear as they tried to reign in those who did not follow their plan.
In response to anarchists agitating and spreading messages against ICE and cops, marshals said that it was counter to the messaging they were trying to spread, while a
line of people had their arms locked, ready to dislocate their shoulders, all while singing kumbaya or this land is your land. Again the irony of a group of mostly white people singing about land ownership at a demonstration challenging borders was lost on many.
Back to the organizers accosting and snitch jacketing a friend (snitch jacketing is the dangerous practice of accusing people of being snitches or cops without substantial evidence, often as a way to insult or discredit someone). Something happened and one of the organizers proceed to get in the face of another anarcho, trying to flex, this created a very tense situation. There was some arguing back and forth, the liberals saying they respected diversity of tactics (despite actively dismantling other people’s hard work which is antithetical to respecting diversity of tactics). The points were made that A.) a lot of the anarchists have been around and seen the failures of several movements and here we are doing things we think could have made them better B.) Liberals literally do this every time anarchists try to participate in demonstrations and movements, they actively push us out, snitch jacket us, rat us out to the cops, etc. It is whya lot of anarchists, particularly in Philly do not fuck with demonstrations. This happens every fucking time. C.) We’re anarchist, we’re not trying to do what you tell us to do, we’re gunna do what we want. There were more discussions, a liberal got socked for being an ass, and many anarchists left, those who stayed are anarchists in name, but their submissive and streamlined participation in hierarchical organization baffle us. We clearly were not wanted or respected at this demo that night. We were the ones going hard all day, the heat exhaustion and cuts on our hands show that. Maybe when the police move in and they are getting their asses beat and arrested, they’ll understand. Enjoy the camp out, sucks you don’t have tents, it’s hot.
We hope a number of you socialists realize that you were being led by hypocritical bigots, getting conned into being beaten up for a symbolic protest. We hope that upon
reflection you might recall that the space felt safer, more effective, and more fun when anarchists were building barricades and openly defying the police. We hope you realize the limitations, contradictions, and oppressiveness of hierarchical organizing, especially when it comes to public occupations, and that your leaders’ authoritarian resistance to a diversity of tactics in effect sabotaged any chance of an effective defensible occupation. We hope you quit your sheepish roles in your organization and to see you in the streets as individuals fighting for our collective liberation.
It’s important to take a look at some of the tactics that authoritarian organizers use to maintain their control over events like these. From the beginning, there was a necessary level of secrecy around the plan to take the space. Cool. However, once the space was taken (again, largely because of the efforts of autonomous elements to actually keep cops out of the space), organizers actively undermined efforts to open up space for conversationaround tactics and strategy.
Throughout the more promising hours of the occupation, anarchists tried initiating conversations in a number ways, from just approaching People With Vests and asking “Is there a plan to initiate some sort of assembly?”to just stealing megaphones and declaring that such aconversation would take place.
In one-on-one conversations, People With Vests frequently responded that The Plan was ultimately to withdraw from barricades and use bodies to block the garage doors. Often, these individuals didn’t seem to know who made The Plan, if it was a *good* plan, or how to create space for broader numbers of people to discuss. During one more open conversation, a couple authoritarians asserted that the police were going to successfully
reclaim the space *no matter what* so therefore efforts to build up barricades *or even make space for tactical discussions* were futile.
So, organizers were starting from a place of assumed total weakness and with zero intention of actually attempting to hold the space in a directly disruptive way long-term. However, their attempts to stifle broader conversation meant that this was never asserted plainly, nor was there opportunity to propose that other approaches could be possible or desirable.
During the arguments later in the evening, People With Vests who were berating anarchists insisted that they were and had been available if anyone had any questions
or proposals. Thing is, we weren’t trying to just ask clarifying questions or seek approval from these selfappointed leaders. We wanted to make space to assert that it was possible to emphasize building up the space so that it could be better defended and to find and encourage others for whom that idea resonated.
People With Vests and other official organizers were able to prevent that from happening by presenting themselves as the only ones to talk to, and then dismissing any ideas that ran counter to their strategy of preemptive defeat. They deftly managed to gatekeep information, shut down participatory decision-making or discussion spaces, then made decisions in closed (or at least not announced) meetings of authoritarians. After making and imposing unilateral decisions, they’d defend this by insisting “well, this is the decision we democratically voted on.” Just wait until you hear our thoughts about democracy!
Our idea of struggle is to struggle ourselves, their idea of struggle is to manage how others struggle.
WHAT WE LIKED
Despite our frustrations with the way things went down, there were still some things we really liked about the occupation and wanted to voice appreciation for. First, it’s important that people even took the initiative to make the occupation happen in the first place. It started off tactically smart by blocking all the entrances to the ICE building, which was a crucial element to the actual disruption of ICE’s functioning. The use of a bike barricade was also effective in blocking the cops, and the van which served as part barricade, part sound system created a fun atmosphere for the crowd. These initial barricade tactics helped form solid barriers between our space and the cops, which allowed for more freedom of movement within the space itself and created an overall
more pleasant mood. The stronger the physical barrier between us and the cops, the more time and effort it will take the cops to break the occupation, which also means the more time people have to escape arrest, and less of a likelihood of people getting hurt (especially compared to people using themselves as an obstacle). Our favorite part of the night, was building stronger and secure barricades of pallets and larger materials including an overturned dumpster and stolen police fences. It was really cool to watch the spark of inspiration spread as more people began to take it upon themselves to source supplies and contribute to the construction without being told to by anyone. Shout out to all the anarchists and unknown comrades who held it down. It’s unfortunate that all of the hard work put into these tactics was repeatedly willfully abandoned or destroyed at each request of the police. The cops were probably laughing as the protesters wound up doing their dirty work for them. Besides that, we thought it was great to see so many people bringing in supplies. There was never a shortage of food and water and its not surprising that sharing and comfort were such strong priorities for the commies, we just wish they could have expanded their imagination on other types
of supplies, strategies and possibilities needed to create and maintain an effective occupation. Our goal is to destroy ICE (and all forms of prisons and replications of the state honestly), but their goal is simply “to stay as long as possible.” What does that even do? Causing a spectacle is merely a parade and does little to dismantle this horrifying reality we face.
WHO WE ARE
We are anarchists. We are enemies of authority, hierarchy, and domination. This means we fight government and economy, both within and outside of our struggles, in this case specifically we are against both ICE and the protest marshals who imagine themselves to be our leaders. We do not organize anyone but ourselves, and we refuse to allow others to make decisions for us.
Additionally, anarchists aren’t making moves in order to loudly take credit. We also tend to do things that need to stay anonymous for multiple reasons. So, when you shout “I haven’t seen you at anything you do literally nothing ever!” that’s because we’re not trying to recruit people to a cultish political party, get our faces on the news so we can raise funds for said cult, or get arrested just to collect war stories.
We want some of our shit to be opaque. We also want it to be inviting. To act in ways that refuse the specialization and elitism of Activism and assert that anyone can attack, defend, build, whatever, in innumerable ways.
We don’t want a state, which you [authoritarians] do and are trying to prefigure. We know about the comments after the arguments when you finally got honest and said you’re gonna shoot us if you win. Please maintain that level of honesty in the future! You actually got people to line up against a wall, this time just to get sacrificed to the police. When you become the police… yeesh.
We want to end domination. We are your enemies.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE ORGANIZERS
Obviously, we want to call out the organizers of this occupation for the many faults that were present because we hope this critique will cause them to think more critically about their strategies, tactics, and shortcomings. We want to offer some insights and suggestions so that maybe they’ll be less alienating, authoritarian, naive, and submissive if they attempt to do things like this in the future. We also want to provide these suggestions for anyone who may organize a similar action or find themselves in the midst of one and feels it could be improved upon.
Suggestions on how to not be alienating:
In any situation where there are intentions of liberation, it is important to be open to dialogue with other people and to listen to critiques. If you’re on some “we the people” tip you’re gunna have to expand conversation to outside of your governing body of marshals. There were multiple times in the night where conversations surfacing outside
of the jurisdiction of the marshals were shut down. We thought it was especially dismissive that after bringing mad energy and ideas to the occupation, the People with
Vests refused to engage in critical dialogue with us and even went as far as to propose we send them an email instead of talking directly. Welp, here’s your email.
All the while this was happening, there were plenty of people who were shouting their opinions and trying to discredit the anarchists. You don’t need to be rude to people who are trying to help just because they’re opinions and strategies are different from or unfamiliar to you. Conflicts are healthy and good to explore. Don’t just shut them down or ignore them, they are prime ground to learn from.
Suggestions from an anti-authoritarian perspective:
Consensus is not the same as being in charge, even though often times it is used as a ploy in making things play out in a limited and restrictive way. Removing people’s individual autonomy for the uniformity of a group is stifling and restrictive. It’s impossible for everyone to come to an agreement in a group where people’s needs and desires are manifold. Don’t hide your objectives of running things or trying to control a specific outcome under the guise of false unity. We don’t all want the same things. Another suggestion is to make proposals and suggestions instead of giving orders. When you tell
someone what to do you’re policing them, and assuming you know better than them what they should be doing. As anarchists, we hate all cops, even the self appointed ones. So don’t be a bastard and don’t tell us what to do! Being leaderless and uncontrolled feels better and honors autonomy– is freedom not your ultimate goal anyway? If so isn’t non-hierarchical organization an essential part of getting there? If it’s not, you are just replicating the state and we want nothing to do with you.
Throw away your yellow vests, they send the message that you’re in charge, when really no one should be “in charge”. If you let go of your hold onto power there’d be a lot more room for things to open up in interesting ways.
Along with abandoning control and a central organizing body, decentralizing activity not only allows for the potential of people to figure out their own desires better and to make their own moves towards them, it is also a really smart strategic move to confuse and baffle the police. Whether at a public occupation, or in other means of direct action, when there is no central group for cops to pinpoint activity on, we become harder to trace, fostering a better culture of security and safety. This not only makes it harder for the cops to figure out what we’re up to and know how to plan for what moves we’ll make, but also gives us more chances of being successful in our actions by remaining outside of their reach. Additionally decentralization leaves room for any and everyone to
struggle and express themself as they see fit, to associate with whoever they want to collaborate with, and distance themself from whoever they do not want to cooperate
with. If we believe none are completely free until all are completely free, we should organize ourselves in ways that reflect this idea.
Suggestions on flexibility:
Understand that you may have to adapt to the situation at hand. We heard over and over that people had been planning this for weeks and that every decision was strategic, but you can’t cling to a rigid model; it’s important to be able to switch up your methods, especially when attempts grow predictable. The cops being able to predict what is going to play out is a bad idea, and why it’s cool to embrace diversity of tactics! This argument was relied on as an attempt to undermine any unplanned tactics used. Stop clinging to your ‘Activist’ identity, and instead be receptive to new and changing ideas and methods.
Suggestions regarding media:
Don’t depend on the media to represent you fully or garner you enough sympathy to make your struggle ‘successful’. The media will spin their story however they like, generally cooperate with the cops and will hand over footage to them if they want to arrest or convict people. It seemed a huge part of the tactical strategy for the marshals was to time it appropriately for mediaattention, which seems to hold far too much faith in the media. Theres also a difference between spreading information and being preoccupied with self promotion (get off your instagram). Again, what goes online can be
used against people.
Suggestions on anonymity and security:
Get yourself some damn masks.
Suggestions for the naive:
Why does it feel reasonable to use yourselves as barricades when you could place objects in the street instead? This means barricades only need to be built once and then you are free to spend your time doing something else. If it feels important to create a human chain to stop the cops, it can always reform when the cops are advancing. Regarding the police; they are the enemy! They should not be trusted (we heard they beat and arrested some of you after telling you they wouldn’t, which is very unfortunate, but should come as no surprise). They are the modern day slave patrol. It is their job to maintain the social order, crush dissent, kill and imprison the excluded and exploited, and generally stand in our way. To draw a connection that should be obvious; ICE are cops! Aren’t we against ICE?
We suggest it’s best to figure out what you want to do and then how you’ll make it happen. There was a lot of flip flopping the first night. Organizers saying they were cool with barricades only to take them down, saying they respect a diversity of tactics only to shame those whose actions didn’t fit their program, wanting anarchists to stick around and then completely alienating them, etc. For authoritarians who had discussed the occupation together for days you all seemed awfully hesitant and unsure of what you wanted to do. We feel like some of your preparation time would have been better spent
researching and understanding other tactics. The only proposal (order/command actually) you had on offer was to link arms, and prepare for symbolic arrest. Occupations have been popping up all over the country, and there have been occupations here and elsewhere before we can learn from. One that we found particularly interesting was the train track blockade in Olympia, WA against fracking
There was a genuine fear and aversion to anarchist ideas and organizing styles, we have our bias as anarchists, one of which is that you should get over this fear and aversion. Anarchists have been involved in struggles against borders, policing, and imprisonment for a long time. Local anarchists have years of experience fighting against these systems. Our tactics and approach may seem confusing to those who don’t understand them, but we assure you they are thought through and taken with intentionality. Consider that anarchists started the Occupy movement to which the ICE occupation is tactically and strategically indebted, that anarchists have been organizing against imprisonment locally for years, and that anarchists have been at the forefront of direct efforts against gentrification, against Amazon, and other struggles here.
Suggestions on overcoming submission and complacency:
Stop it with the tired chants that are dishonest. When you say “no justice, no peace” and “we’re not scared of the police” how are you going to stand by what you say? Are you really not afraid of the cops? why wouldn’t you be? Don’t talk big only to submit, we have yet to see you stay true to your words. If you say “no justice, no peace” what are you including in your measures of “no peace”? More often than not, violence is a necessary response and/or offensive move in systems as violent as the ones we live in, we have yet to see the you toe your own line about this. To add to that, defense without offense is bullshit. If you are just retreating and responding, you are not actually fighting anything. Expanding is better than shrinking. We mean this in the most literal sense. Shouldn’t an occupation be about building our power, expanding our reach and the capacity of what we can achieve? You can’t grow “a movement” by cowering the crowd into a corner. The cops should be the ones cowering, but to do that we need to be conflictual. Conflictuality delays cops, not submission. You make it easier for them every time you submit to their orders of what they want you to do.
The last tip of advice is just to have more fun. Fun and joy are some of the most powerful strengths we have that can help thicken our solidarity to each other and our causes.
Shout out to all the anarchists near and far who stay making shit happen, holding it down, all the while having to deal with heaping loads of liberal bullshit. Shout out to the unknown comrades who actively decide how they engage with the occupation rather than choosing the easy path of obeying the marshals or the cops.
“Maybe we just didn’t fully grasp our own power, and their strength on the inside and the result of that. Like every other direct action we just stopped at the gate, thought that it’s not going to succeed, that we’re just gonna go and make a stand, that people are going to film and we’ll have a little beef with the cops and that’s that. Maybe I’m guilty of not thinking enough of the possibilities, not imagining enough, not being fucking utopian enough, or hopeful enough… Maybe not fucking joyous enough, that we can bust them out and that we *can* do this. We were just not prepared, to run them out, to get it right…” -participant-accomplice in the 2002 breakout from the Woomera detention center
In late 2015, Brendan Dunn was pulled over by a New York State trooper for driving with expired registration. The officer handed him a ticket. Then he asked whether Dunn had ever lived in Washington State.
He had. But Dunn wondered what relevance his prior residence had to the traffic stop. His Oldsmobile had New York plates, after all. He asked the officer, but could not get a clear answer. As he and a friend drove away, it dawned on Dunn that the officer had likely seen an alert about him while running his license. A public records request from his lawyer confirmed his suspicion.
That wasn’t supposed to happen. In a settlement agreement resulting from a 2008 wrongful arrest lawsuit, the Seattle Police Department had agreed to remove an officer safety advisory that had been placed on Dunn’s name. Now Dunn is back in court, suing the department for its failure to follow through.
The source of the advisory, also known as a flag, was an allegation that Dunn choked a Seattle police officer named Matthew Hyra and attempted to unholster his gun during an anti-war rally more than a decade ago. Dunn was never convicted of any crime related to the incident and King County prosecutors dropped the charge of assault on a police officer against the 33-year-old in 2007. Dunn continues to deny the allegation today. “It’s completely fabricated and completely made up,” he said in a phone interview last week.
Hyra, now a sergeant, issued the flag on Dunn. According to SPD Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey, the flag would have been transmitted to state and national databases accessible to most law enforcement. That means police officers across the country searching Dunn’s name would have been presented with the following message:
"SUBJECT ASSAULTED OFFICER FROM BEHIND BY PLACING HIS HANDS AROUND THE OFFICERS NECK AND ATTEMPTED TO REMOVE HIS SERVICE WEAPON FROM ITS HOLSTER"
SPD eventually did scrap the officer safety advisory in 2016 after longtime civil rights lawyer Lawrence Hildes contacted the Seattle City Attorney’s Office on Dunn’s behalf.
Maxey said it’s unclear why the settlement term wasn’t honored. “The ball got dropped somewhere,” he said. “Whether it was with the lawyers or with the department, I can’t tell you.”
Dunn filed another federal lawsuit in February against the City of Seattle over its failure to remove the flag in a timely manner. He claimed breach of contract, negligence and civil rights violations. Dunn is seeking unspecified damages and is asking that officers receive additional training.
In a motion to dismiss Dunn’s complaint, the city attorney’s office argued that the statute of limitations has passed on his breach of contract claim. On top of that, the city argues that it should not be liable for actions of police officers in other jurisdictions, referring to Dunn’s 2015 New York traffic stop. The case is still in the pretrial phase.
The run-in that would dog Dunn for a decade stemmed from the young activist’s participation in an anti-war rally in the fall of 2006. At the time, he was a student at the Evergreen State College. Dunn identified with a strain of anarchism called anarcho-syndicalism, which advocates for radical change through labor organizing and general strikes.
Dunn drove with friends to Seattle to attend a rally against the Iraq War at Cal Anderson Park. He sat on a hill eating lunch among other anarchists, including Jacob Erwin and Ryan Tompkins. An anarcho-syndicalist flag attached to a bent metal pole rested on Erwin’s shoulder.
Officer Matthew Hyra approached the group and confiscated the flag from Erwin. As the officer walked away, a crowd formed around him and demanded he return the flag. At one point, Dunn shouted, “Who wants to witness suppression of free speech?” Another officer at the scene, Steven Bale, called for backup.
From there, the stories diverge dramatically. According to police reports and depositions, Hyra claimed Dunn hopped on his back and attempted to choke him. One of the backup officers, John Skommesa, said he grabbed the anarchist by the shirt, pushed him to the ground and arrested him after allegedly seeing Dunn holding onto Hyra’s jacket.
Hyra did not respond to an emailed request for comment. He currently works as a detective for the Office of Police Accountability, SPD’s internal unit for investigating complaints against officers.
Dunn said he kept a distance from Hyra throughout the incident, claiming Skommesa tackled him to the ground without provocation. He said Hyra questioned him about his involvement with anarchism at the East Precinct, calling the flag a violent symbol.
Police also arrested Erwin and Tompkins during the incident. A Seattle judge would later dismiss charges of resisting arrest against them, saying, “Officers acted unlawfully when they approached Mr. Erwin.”
Dunn, Erwin and Tompkins sued the Seattle Police Department and the officers who arrested them, alleging the cops violated their civil rights. The trio settled with the department in 2009 for $31,000.
Part of the settlement agreement also required the department to remove the advisory attached to Dunn’s name within fifteen days. Dunn told Crosscut that he believes police treated him differently during the nine years when Seattle failed to fulfill that requirement.
He points to that time when he was pulled over while driving to work in Rotterdam, New York. The police officer “seemed very argumentative and angry.” And there were those times he said he was detained at the border going into Canada.
“I figured out all of this was happening, in my mind, because of what flashed in front of police on their screen.”Tags: MSMthe lawcategory: Other
“The history of people who have a history is, we are told, the history of class struggle. The history of people without a history is, we might say with at least as much truth, the history of their struggle against the state.” Pierre Clastres,
La société contre l’État, 1974.
The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott, Yale University Press, 2009 – 442 pages
Whole societies without a State have existed until recently in Zomia, the vast mountainous region of south-east Asia which is far from the urban centres and significant economic activity.
This zone is also situated between eight nation-states, where several cosmologies and religious traditions co-exist and where the inhabitants have a chameleon identity, in other words one of multiple identities.
This a zone which States only managed to penetrate in the mid 20th century and then only with the aid of modern technology. This type of zone has also existed elsewhere in the world; in the Alps, the Appalachians, the Atlas mountains etc. Other kinds of geographical zones have also managed to remain outside the reach of States: seas, archipelagos, marshlands, coastal mangroves, forests, arid steppes, deserts etc [ed. – 'smooth' space, a term in contest; see Return Fire vol.4 pg56].
In this book, the author argues that hill people are best understood as communities of runaways and fugitives who, in the course of 2,000 years, have fled the oppression of State projects in the valleys – slavery, taxes, forced labour, epidemics and war. Tales of escape run through countless legends of the hills. These people's physical dispersion across a rugged terrain, their mobility, their subsistence practice, their family structure, their chameleon ethnic identity and their devotion to millenarian leaders have enabled them to avoid being incorporated into States and have prevented the State from emerging amongst them. He also argues that the culture of certain foods, the social structure made up of small autonomous groups and the patterns of physical mobility were political choices.
But since 1945 the capacity of the State to deploy distance-eliminating technology – railways, roads that stay open all year, telephones, telegraphs, aircraft and IT – has completely overturned the strategic balance of power between the autonomous peoples and the nation-states. Everywhere, States have invaded the “tribal zones” to extract natural resources and ensure the security and productivity of their periphery. Everywhere, they have ended up colonising the mountains and importing the slave-subject-citizen model.
Hills, Valleys & States
Zomia illustrates the extreme divide between inhabitants of valleys and those of the mountains, between those on the lower and higher reaches of the rivers. The populating of the hills goes hand in hand with the State-forming process in the valleys, with the colonisation of the land, the creation of borders and the grabbing of resources (slaves and raw materials).
Living without state structures was the norm in human history. When the State appears, living conditions change for semi-sedentary horticulturists, pushing many of them into fleeing taxes and war.
The arrival of agriculture as the principal means of subsistence, and of State society, came with new strategies for “bringing together the population”, such as the establishment of permanent villages, thus replacing open common property with closed private property.
Across the world, the phenomenon of enclosure aimed to make the peasantry and the periphery profitable, forcing peasants to contribute to the wealth of the empire and into commercial exchanges, in the name of “development” and of “economic progress”. In practice, this amounts to making their activities ratable, taxable and liable to seizure.
This enormous ungoverned periphery (Zomia) long constituted a threat for all the States present in the various valleys. It sheltered fugitive and mobile populations organised on a subsistence basis – gathering, hunting, peripatetic [nomadic] growing, fishing, small-scale livestock farming – which were fundamentally resistant to appropriation by the State. But the biggest threat for the States was the constant temptation and alternative that it represented for their own populations of slaves; that of a life beyond the reach of the State.
A massive majority of the population of the first States was not free. Many dreamed of escaping from taxes, feudal labour and a condition of servitude. In pre-modern conditions, the concentration of the population, the presence of domestic animals and their heavy nutritional dependence on a single variety of grain brought damaging consequences for the wellbeing of humans and harvests alike, making famine and epidemic commonplace. People also fled conscription, invasion and pillage, all very frequent in State-run spaces.
The non-civilised chose their place, their subsistence practice and their social structure in order to maintain their autonomy. They were not “left” to one side by civilisation, but should rather be seen as adaptations designed to escape both from capture by the State and from the formation of a State. In other words, these are political adaptations of State-less people to a world which consists of numerous States.
The history of the civilised is the history of the State and of sedentary agriculture. Cereal-growing on fixed fields is the foundation of its power. Peripatetic agriculture, slash-and-burn, was much more widespread in the hills and permitted crop diversity and physical mobility. Sedentary agriculture brought with it property rights, the patriarchal family enterprise, and encouraged big families. Cereal culture is inherently expansionist [ed. – see the companion piece to Return Fire vol.3; Colonisation] and generates a surplus of population and the colonisation of neighbouring land, while being liable to famine and epidemic. However, as they had a constant need to keep the population together for work and war, States had to use generalised slavery to survive as ideological entities.
As a general rule, the social structure in the hills was much more flexible and egalitarian than in the hierarchical and formalised societies of the valleys. The higher the altitude, the less hierarchical and more egalitarian the structure. The inhabitants of the hills paid neither taxes nor tithes. It isn't surprising that they still host separatist movements, struggles for indigenous rights, millenarian rebellions and armed opposition to the States. This resistance can be seen both as a cultural rejection of the patterns of the inhabitants of the plains and as a zone of sanctuary. Many inhabitants fled to the hills to escape State projects in the valleys. The nomadism of the hills is also a strategy of survival and the multiple rebellions of these regions pushed many to seek refuge in even more remote regions. This historical pattern of flight is therefore a stance of opposition if not resistance.
As elsewhere, cereals (such as rice) constitute the foundation of State projects. From the perspective of a tax collector, cereals have a considerable advantage over root crops. Cereals grow above the ground and ripen at around the same time. Harvests can therefore be calculated in advance. They have the effect of anchoring populations in a territory and raising their visibility.
The State depends on its capacity to gather crops within a reasonable distance. The further that the place to be controlled lay from its centre, the further the power of the State dwindled. Watercourses were the pre-modern exception to its limits. Before modern technology, it was difficult for States with navigable watercourses to concentrate and project their power and cultural influence. Flat lands thus enabled State control and appropriation (State space), while undulating land is intrinsically resistant to State control (non-State space).
Hills and marshes were sparsely populated and their populations practised forms of mixed agriculture (peripatetic growing of mountain rice and root vegetables, gathering, fishing and hunting) which were hard to assess and even harder to appropriate. Before modern technology, the state was a seasonal phenomenon in the hills; in the rainy season, from May to October, the rain rendered the roads impassable, making year-round military occupation impossible. The inhabitants of the hills also knew when to expect the arrival of the armies and the tax collectors. These people had only to wait for the rainy season, when the supply routes were broken (or more readily sabotaged) and for the garrison to be facing famine or in retreat. The coercive presence of the State in these zones was episodic, or practically non-existent.
Concentration of Workforce & Cereals
Political and military supremacy calls for a concentration of the workforce within reaching distance. The concentration of the workforce is only possible with sedentary agriculture. And such agro-ecological concentration is only possible with the irrigated growing of rice (or other cereals). This constitutes the most efficient means of concentrating workforce and foodstuff. The two other means of achieving this are the taking of slaves and pillage.
Peripatetic agriculture offers a greater return for less effort and produces a considerable surplus for the families which practise it. This type of growing disperses people across a territory, forming a constraint to the State's need to concentrate the population and making it difficult and costly to collect the food. Unlike monoculture, mixed and dispersed agriculture ensures nutritional balance and offers greater resilience to diseases and pests than does monoculture. Moreover, farm animals transmit numerous illnesses to humans. Overall, monoculture provides a diet that is nutritionally inferior to a mixed diet. However, rice alone could not support a denser population, but did mean the population was more readily mobilised when required for feudal labour or war.
The growth of population by means of war and slave-raids is considered to be at the origin of social hierarchy and the centralisation of the first States. Kingdoms expanded their workforce base by forcing prisoners of war to settle in their territory and by kidnapping slaves. Soldiers burned the fields and homes of the captives to stop them from returning there. They razed forests, turning them into fields and drained the marshes. The majority of royal decrees were against runaway serfs, forbidding them from leaving, from moving home or from ceasing to grow cereals. Many subjects were even tattooed to indicate their status and their master. In pre-modern systems, only physical coercion can guarantee property and the accumulation of wealth.
Monoculture encourages social and cultural uniformity on many levels: in the family structure, in the value of child labour, in diet, in architectural styles, in agricultural rituals and in market exchanges. A society shaped by monoculture is easier to watch over, evaluate and tax than a society shaped by agricultural diversity. Empires have tried to eradicate peripatetic agriculture, because its produce was not accessible for State appropriation. In modern times, two other reasons have pushed States to eradicate peripatetic growing: political security and the control of resources. Peripatetic fields and forests are therefore burned, razed and eventually replaced by mines. States thus minimise the chances of survival for the inhabitants of the hills outside State spaces.
Civilisation & the Ungovernable
The narrative of civilisation is one of development, progress and modernisation. To be civilised is synonymous with being governed: living in a permanent village, cultivating fixed fields, recognising the social hierarchy and practising one of the principal salvation-based religions [ed. – see Return Fire vol.4 pg40]. In the eyes of the civilised, the level of civilisation can be read by means of altitude: those living on the peaks are the most backward; those living halfway down are slightly more cultured and those who live on the plains and grow rice are the most advanced, albeit still inferior to those living in the heart of the State.
The more you adopt the dominant culture, the higher you raise yourself culturally. Even if you live on a mountain, you are always “higher” in town and “lower” outside. This has nothing to do with altitude, but with cultural elevation. When entire peoples lead, out of choice, a semi-nomadic lifestyle, they are seen as a threat and stigmatised. Social policies and government aid measures are put into place to bring these “uncouth and backward” people back into the fold of civilisation. All those finding refuge among the rebels are associated with a primitive condition, with anarchy.
The Great Wall of China in the north and the Miao walls in the south-west were built not to prevent barbarian invasions but to keep overtaxed peasants from escaping to live with the barbarians. It's in the light of administrative control, and not of culture in itself, that we should understand the invention of ethnic categories at the borders. An ethnic group is no more than a social status, a way of telling whether and how those in question are administered by the State. A barbarian region is thus a political place facing up against the State; it is a social position. The civilised are completely incorporated into the State and have adopted the customs, the habits and the language of the dominant group. Going off to live with the barbarians was less the exception than the norm; if you left the State space you were in a political space that was free and autonomous.
Keeping the State Out of Reach: Populating the Hills
Mountain people can be seen as refugees displaced by war and choosing to stay out of the direct control of State authorities. These authorities tried to control the periphery by grabbing the fruits of their labour, taxing their resources and by recruiting soldiers, servants, concubines and slaves. The history of their flight is recalled annually by the mountain folk with various rituals and their traditions are culturally encoded within a strong tradition of familial and economic autonomy. The valleys can revert to the characteristics of the social life of the hills following a collapse of empire. Empires fear these latent forces on their borders and have constantly launched campaigns of assimilation or extermination, particularly after popular insurrections.
The principal reason for flight was war; when entire armies go on the pillage, destroying everything in their path, capturing slaves and raping, the inhabitants of the valleys are pushed out towards zones beyond the reach of the State. Banditry and revolt were widespread practices, but the typical response was to escape into a remote zone where the coercive force of the State was the least felt, while the elites moved towards the centre. Those withdrawing towards the mountains saw there a significant natural advantage. They could, at any moment, block the various accesses and, when necessary, withdraw even deeper into the mountains. Mountains favour defensive warfare in general and provide countless sites where small groups can hold off a much bigger force. They can also destroy bridges, prepare ambushes or booby-traps, bring trees down across roads, cut phone and telegraph lines, etc.
Escape the State. Prevent the State.
Those who try to escape the State can use several strategies: fleeing into inaccessible zones, scattering and dividing into smaller groups and adopting subsistence techniques which are invisible and low-profile. In other words, when a society or part of a society chooses to flee from incorporation and appropriation, it moves towards simpler, smaller and more dispersed social entities. These remote regions are thus a choice and part of a strategy enabling people to stay out of reach of the State.
Peripatetic agriculture is a way of escaping the grip of the State. All the representatives of the States of south-east Asia have discouraged or condemned peripatetic agriculture, because it is a fiscally barren form: diversified, dispersed, difficult to watch over, to tax and to confiscate. Peripatetic agriculture offers relative freedom and autonomy. By growing root vegetables, hunting and fishing, nobody needs to work for a wage.
Tribes and States are mutually constituted entities. There is no sequence of evolution; tribes do not precede States. They are social form defined by their relation to the State. And when there is a hierarchy in a tribe, it is often a theatrical performance by a group to adapt to its relationship with the State. The position of the hill-dwellers is that of equality, autonomy and mobility. Amongst the Kachin gumlao, there is a tradition of assassinating, deposing or abandoning more autocratic chiefs. They have a long history of applying egalitarian social relationships by deposing or killing chiefs with over-large ambitions for governing. The Lisu, Lahu, Karen, Kayah and Kachin are known for their tradition of anti-chief rebellion.
But it is flight, rather than rebellion, which was the foundation of freedom in the hills: many more egalitarian communities were founded by fugitives than by revolutionaries.
The Invention of Ethnic & Tribal Identities
Ethnic identity is defined by the mode of subsistence and the belonging or non-belonging to a State; it is a social position regards the State. It is a sort of cultural phenomenon. States are made up of prisoners and slaves and slavery is primarily an urban phenomenon. The slave-raids at the periphery were aimed against the hunter-gatherer and horticulturist animists [ed. – see Return Fire vol.4 pg40] so as to deport them towards the needs of the centre. Seeing as most of the town-dwellers originally came from the hills, do they really share an ethnic identity?
The Karen people and many other minorities seem to be ethnically chameleon, capable of passing from one identity to another without problems. Living close to a diversity of cultures, ethnic chameleons learn the performances required by each of the cultural paradigms. For example, the Lua/Lawa, who are animists, who practise peripatetic agriculture and speak a Mon-Khmer language at home, are skilled in the Thai language when they move into the valleys. Ethnicity is thus a self-made project; those who adopt a specific identity become members of the identity in question. Ethnicities in the hills are not rigid, but are deployed in the aim of incorporating neighbouring populations. The area has been populated for 2,000 years by wave after wave of people fleeing State centres, invasions, slavers' raids, epidemics and feudal demands. There they joined localised populations in hilly and relatively isolated areas. They accentuated the phenomenon of complex dialects, customs and identities.
The identities found in the hills represent a position against the States of the valleys. They have been put into the service of autonomy and the absence of State. The anti-State identity is perhaps the most common foundation of mountain identities up until the 20th century, when a life outside the State was still possible.
States assimilated all the persons that they captured, but the culture under a State barely altered as a result because the dependence on just one kind of cereal crop ended up dominating the work routines of a majority of the people. The homogenising effects of an agricultural system and a class structure were often punctuated by revolts, reproducing the previous social order under a new administration. The only structural alternative was flight towards the communal properties in the hills.
Porous, Plural & Fluid Identities
Most of the hill peoples of south-east Asia didn't have what we regard as proper ethnic identities. They identified themselves often by the name of a place – the people of this or that valley or catchment basin – or by a lineage or family group. Their identity varied according to the person they were addressing. Many names were implicitly relational – the people from up high, the people of the western ridge – making sense only as an element in the relational whole. Others names used were those given by foreigners, as was the case with the Miao. Most of the hill-dwellers had a repertoire of identities which they could use according to context. A person's ethnic identity would be in a sense the repertoire of their possible performances and the contexts in which they were displayed. Ethnicity is not a given, but a choice.
Across the world, colonial forces have identified and codified customs and traditions with the aim of using them as the basis for indirect power via the nomination of chiefs. This technique involves not only new fixed identities, but assumes a mainly hierarchical and universal order. Egalitarian and chameleon peoples without chiefs or permanent political order beyond the hamlet or the family line have no place in this order of things.
There was a lack of institutional levers by which they could be governed. These institutions were introduced by force. For example, in their dealings with the Kachin, Lahu, PaO, Padaung and Kayah, the British handed institutional power and privileges to a few local chiefs so as to control them better.
In any case, once it has been invented the tribe takes on a life of its own. An entity created as a political structure in order to govern has turned into an expression of political protest and self-affirmation. It has become the recognised means of stating a claim regarding one's autonomy, natural resources [sic] or the earth. Confronted by peoples without a State, the State only recognises claims based on ethnic identities and tribal rights.
It's the standard mode of making claims to States and answers the same needs as a trade union or association in contemporary society. The more you look at the reality behind the concept of the tribe, the more it seems to be the creation of the white man [sic] to describe indigenous people, to be able to negotiate with them, administer them, encourage them to think in the same way. The invention of the tribe must be understood as a political project.
The vagueness of social forms in the hills, the historical and genealogical flexibility and the baroque complexity of languages and populations, all form part of the constitutive characteristics of hill societies.
 ed. – Leading via apocalypse visions.
 ed. – see Return Fire vol.4 pg51
 The creation of the Cossacks as a self-conscious ethnicity is particularly instructive in grasping this phenomenon. Those who became Cossacks were fugitives and serfs who fled western Russia in the 16th century for the steppes of the River Don so as to escape social control. They had nothing in common with each other, apart from their servitude and their flight. They were geographically fragmented into 22 groups. They became a people because of the new environmental conditions and subsistence routines. They established themselves alongside Tatars, Circassians and Kalmyks. They lived by a communal land system, were egalitarian and had total freedom of movement. Cossack society was thus a mirror image of the servitude and hierarchy of tsarist Russia. The three big revolts which threatened the empire started in Cossack lands. After the failure of the Bulavin Rebellion (1707-8), the Cossacks were forced to provide the tsarist army with cavalry units in exchange for the preservation of their autonomy. And after the defeat of Pugachev's Rebellion (1773-74), their local democratic assemblies were replaced by a Cossack aristocracy.Tags: agricultureanti-civasiacivilizationcolonizationempireethnicityevasiongovernmentalityhill societiesidentityJames C ScottLa Mauvaise HerbelanguagenomadismraceReturn Firereviewthe statetribewarfarecategory: Essays
SOLIDARITY WITH ANARCHIST PRISONERS IN INDONESIA
"Prison is a milestone in the revolutionaries' path towards freedom. It’s an intermediary stop, but not the end" - Conspiracy of Cells of Fire
On the 1st May 2018, Yogyakarta, dozens of anarchist were arrested during a furious riot against the Sultan and NYIA mega-airport projectt which threaten the Kulonprogo coastal community. 11 anarchist remain imprisoned for the fight with the police and the thugs of the Sultan. Comrade Ucil is charged with molotov attacks on cops bikes. The Indonesian state has used this moment to repress anarchist movement on the Archipelago and some comrades are in hiding or under investigation. Let's light the spark of revolutionary solidarity and ignite the black international. Fire to Corporations, Investors, Tourists , and Banks operation in Indonesia.
Solidarity fund - paypal.me/TobiVBonano
"Unfortunately the dream we carry in our hearts is too great to avoid the risk of finding ourselves up against the monstrous wall of authority raised in defense of the state and capital" - Nicola GaiTags: 325ucilanarchistblackcrossanarchist prisonersanarchists in troubleIndonesiacategory: International
Affinity is exactly this: a reciprocal knowledge between comrades, shared analysis that lead to prospectives of action. Affinity is therefore directed on one hand towards theoretical deepening and on the other towards intervention in social conflictuality.submediavideoaffinityfriendscategory: Projects
From Sprout Distro
This is our monthly round-up of anarchist zines and pamphlets published in June of 2018. We do these posts each month with the goal of increasingly the visibility and circulation of these zines and highlighting the diversity of thought that exists within the broad anarchist space. As always, we don’t necessarily agree or disagree with everything included in this post.
This zine contains the essay “Insurrectionary Councilism” published in May by the Radical Education Department. The Radical Education Department describes itself as “an autonomous collective training cultural warriors for a radical internationalist Left”. This strategy proposal is informed by that goal and builds on the ideas articulated in a 2017 essay titled “The Insurrectionary Campus: A Strategy Proposal.” The zine begins from the premise that “Anarchists are facing a historic opportunity” with the current “unprecedented outpouring of resistance in America.” It makes suggestions about how anarchists should orient themselves in light of this, with a focus on what the author calls “insurrectionary councilism.” This is defined in the intro as “creating radical, hybrid councils of delegates from the most radical anarchist and non-anarchist groups in a city for the sake of an experimental, federated, direct-action oriented system.”
The Anarchist Wallpaper is an irregularly produced anarchist publication that is designed to be wheatpasted in public places. This edition focuses on gentrification and features the tagline “Don’t Move For The Rich! Fight Gentrification!” It includes a brief analysis of how gentrification works alongside instructions for filling fire extinguishers with paint and using them to decorate yuppie businesses. This is a unique way of presenting anarchist analysis and could have many applications.
This collection published by underHILL Distro collects writings from Sever from the green anarchist journal Black Seed. The pieces (“Land & Freedom”, “Childhood, Imagination, & the Forest”, and “Against Self-Sufficiency, The Gift”) are very well-written and explore broad anti-civilization themes. Together they serve as a good introduction to anti-civilization anarchist theory and practice. They raise a lot of important points about how anarchists relate to the spaces in which they live.
Described as a “clandestine anarchist newspaper”, Fantasma arose from “the circumstance of involuntary but self-chosen clandestinity”. It aims to open up a dialog between what they describe as “the invisibles” and “the visibles.” It features reflections on being clandestine, analysis of the current situation (especially focusing on the isolation of the modern techno-hell), and the necessity of acting in the present rather than waiting for some far away date when the conditions are somehow deemed sufficient. It also includes an excerpt from the book Incognito: Experiences that Defy Identification that collected essays from anarchists living in underground.
Sub-titled “A Compilation of texts on the Locke St events and the charges laid in connection with them,” this zine features a number of different writings that appeared online in relation to the March 2018 actions against gentrification that happened in Hamilton, Ontario. In response to a militant march involving property destruction, a number of anarchists were arrested. The title “Beyond Support” is based on the understanding that in situations like this one anarchists have a tendency to focus on support (which is of course essential), but that by focusing exclusively on support we often lose sight of the reasons that people acted in the first place. To that end, this collection of writings on the Locke Street events is aimed at facilitating discussions around repression and gentrification.
This is a collection of altered (or detourned as the Situationists would say) Felix the Cat cartoons published by The Slow Burning Fuse. Instead of whatever Felix the Cat usually would be talking about, the speech bubbles have been altered to have Felix the Cat sharing anarchist sentiments. It’s useful as an example of how anarchists can get creative in conveying their ideas. We don’t need to rely on analytical essays, manifestos, and dry writings.
This zine focuses on “small city anarchy” and what it means to be an anarchist outside of the big hubs of anarchist activity. It grows out of a series of workshops and conversations hosted by two anarchists from Kingston, Ontario who wanted to have “discussion about both the challenges and advantages of anarchist projects and struggles in smaller cities and rural areas.” A lot of the reflection will likely resonate with people living in smaller places while it could also offer some helpful perspectives to anarchists who live in larger cities. Overall, this zine is a useful addition to the conversation around small town anarchy (other zines discussing the topic include “The Spaces Between” and “Small Town Organizing for Anarchists”) what anarchy can be in practice.
This zine was produced by the Chicago Anarchist Black Cross to elevate the voices of prisoners who were involved in the February 2017 uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware. It includes letters solicited by Chicago ABC that share the experiences and thoughts of the individuals who engaged in the rebellion. Beyond the letters, there is background material on the rebellion and a list of ways people can support the Vaughn 17. The zine was put together with the goal of deepening connections with the Vaughn 17 and expanding solidarity, so it definitely check it out and consider how you might be able to support them.
This is the June issue of Anathema, a counter-information publication out of Philadelphia. It has the usual write-up of anarchist actions in the Philadelphia area titled “What Went Down”, updates on the city’s efforts to court Amazon, and news about ICE raids. There is also a piece titled “The Legacy of the Green Scare” which offers some important reflections on the wave of repression in the mid-2000s commonly referred to as “The Green Scare.” There is a lot to learn from that history and this text is a good starting point.
This is the latest issue of the semi-regular zine of prisoner writings published by the Prison Books Collective. They had this to say about it:
It was actually completed in May 2017 and we’ve been sending it into prisons for the past year. We’ve just been slow to post it on our website. It includes some great poems and essays, along with beautiful drawings!! Although many of the submissions are from North Carolina and nearby states, our cover images was drawn by someone from a prison in Oregon!
This is the latest issue of the long-running Using Space, which is a zine “about squats, social centres and alternative ways of living.” This issue features a long interview with a squatter from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The interviewee talks about their experience squatting in Rotterdam as well as their insights into the squatting scene, their understanding of politics, and how they understand repression. The zine concludes with a list of resources for people wanting to learn more about squatting in Europe.zinesSprout distrocategory: Projects
Against all power and its multiple “worlds”, for the reconstitution of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF) Mexico.
– A public response to the vomit-inducing anarcho-populist manifesto.
“We must remember our past experiences, not to imitate them but to go much further”
– Imprisoned compañerxs of the CCF-Greece
Sometimes it is convenient to allow time to process the facts. It has been 20 days since the anarcho-chairmen of Mexico issued their “manifesto” of support for Peje* (Translation note: nickname of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President-elect of the Mexican State), inspired by the supposed ‘opportunity’ for the anarcho-communists “to push the Morenista (Translation note: A term used to describe opportunism, betrayal and lack of political ideology) project to the left” and made public its list of the “30 personalities committed to popular sovereignty” elected to form the national coordination of a “Popular Class Front”.
We expected to have read or heard some critiques of this text from various libertarian positions, however time has passed and a complicit silence has accompanied the manifesto.
The signatories of the text writing under the pseudonym “Some Organized Libertarians” shamelessly call to build Popular Power from below and towards the left via the electoral route to later implant the “Libertarian Communism in the noses of the Empire”.
Certainly, there are few “libertarian” groups that have publicly affirmed such a euphoric anarcho-populist discourse and such a cynical defense of neo-platformist principles and their popular-power formula. However, there is not a single “organized anarchism” publication in Mexico that has not alluded to the fatigue of the “People” and their defense, in the same way that they claim to be “from below and to the left” with singular joy. So it is not surprising that this opportunistic discourse has supposed “anarchist” promoters and defenders.
Apparently either this proposal has not had a great impact among the other anarcho-chair groups or they have decided to remain “on the sidelines” until “things set” and thus avoid “steps without sandals”. But we are clear about their pretensions.
This “manifesto” is now the second text of the anarcho-populists and again, they republish a misdiagnosis claiming the death of the informalists and “inoperative insurrectionists” in Mexico.
We are very pleased to give you the bad news that the anarchic informal trend in Mexico is in very good health and that your erroneous conclusions do not conform to reality. Just becuase some groups of anarchic affinity have decided to dissolve or stop claiming their actions this does not represent “the death” of informalism in Mexico or “the retirement” of the anarchic war. And just to prove we have had enough: we announce the reformation of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF) Mexico.
We have been participating in an international debate regarding organizational alternatives and the dilemna of protest, in response to the ongoing discussion between compañero Cospito and the imprisoned compañerxs of the CCF-Greece, as well as the contributions to the new illegalism from the compañeros Pombo Da Silva, Rodriguez and Argyrou.
We fully agree with Cospito that the creation of an “autonomous anarchist movement” or an “autonomist anarchist pole for the organization of the anarchist guerrilla” or an “International Anarchist Federation”**, is a step backwards in the development of the new illegalism and the informalist tendency. A return to the past, to the age of the schemes that put us at risk of returning to a specific organization of classical synthesis, an ancient instrument, a rusty scalpel. We agree with Cospito that forming a structured organization through the creation of assemblies would inevitably lead to the creation of specific organizations, thus distorting the object of informality, deviating from the objectives we have set for ourselves.
That is why in this second generation of the CCF we do not assume as an affinity group, or as a new cell, coordination throughout the Mexican territory (as the compañerxs that preceded us did) or as a federation, but as a weapon, a methodology of praxis, a pseudonym under which to operate, even for those compañerxs totally alien to any organization or coordination, a medium that can be used by any anarchist or affinity group that aspires to destruction here and now.
The resurgence of this proposal is limited to being a call to all informalists, to individulaists, to anarcho-nihilists and to new insurrectionists to intensify the anarchic war against all authority with this comprehensive slogan. Let us claim all our actions under this growing Conspiracy, thus creating new paths of permanent conflict, separated from unifying, ideological and stinking politics.
Unlike the anarcho-chairmen, we do not call for voting, but instead for conscious insurrectional abstaining. We don’t care about your fucking electoral circus, we recognize that all candidates contesting it are all useless (maybe some more populist than others), but although one made some difference, we will not be captivated by siren songs. We do not care about your reforms, your transformations or your revolutions for a better world. We fight against the system of domination, against all authority and against all power, even if it is labelled popular. We fight for destruction here and now, we fight for total liberation. We who remain, our war continues,
For the anarchic informalist tendency!
For the Black International!
Conspiracy of Cells of Fire-Mexico (without surnames)
** Note of 325: Reference to the recommended text which appears in Dark Nights #46, ‘Chaotic Variables‘ by CCF – Metropolitan Violence Cell.Tags: MexicoCCFConspiracy Cells of Firecategory: Projects
From The Local Kids
A Response to a Proposal for Desertion
This is a jotted-down reflection of some thoughts triggered by the reading of An Invitation to Desertion by Bellamy Fitzpatrick; the first article in the first issue of Backwoods (A journal of anarchy and wortcunning, Spring 2018). In order to develop my own objections and rejections of the theory (named as such by the author), I will break it down in circumscribed parts. This partly corresponds with the sequence from the original text, partly it is my own imposition on it since the author wanders off from time to time. Deconstructing the theory to digestible bits, is something I do at my own risk (of missing the point, and consequently being off mark with my critique) and it is neglecting the text as a creative work (since all the literary qualities are thus dispensed of). But it is also a necessity to make way for my own trail of thoughts to develop.
The parts this theory consists of are; (1) a framing of this society as "civilization" (an outcome of its historical process and a continuation/deepening of it), (2) the shortcomings of the critiques against it (the reformist as well as the revolutionary ones - left, right and anarchist) and (3) a proposal for its negation (or its bypassing?). This seems an improbable feat to accomplish in one article and indeed the text is rather condensed and at times feels like a compilation of arguments instead of an argumentation (a mould I have, admittedly, not been able to escape from...).
When Bellamy describes the current situation as "largely decided for us, overdetermined by existing social norms that we can influence only minutely, allowing us only a little room to maneuver in decisions about how we want to live and what values we want to pursue", I feel it as quite accurate since it's close to my own experiences. It is interesting though to see which statements about society apparently call for a reference (academic in lots of cases) and which not. I'm not against listening to what people who have chosen to study a specific field are thinking. But these quantifying and categorizing exercises are not my first way of understanding to go to, and they shouldn't have to be. Are we not witnesses to the destruction and pollution of our surroundings? Is there a need for statistics to talk about the current crisis? Do we want to reproduce definitions and categories used by specialists? For example: depression. What do medical professionals understand as depression? Is there a default state of happiness? How can it be compared over time; did we always reflect on ourselves with the same criteria? Isn't more measuring, measuring more? From the moment a medical diagnosis (with which kind of criteria?) and treatment (effective or not, and to what end?) has been created, the numbers will increase. So, if 17% of Americans are afflicted by depression; what does that mean? If you describe to me how you feel and how you understand others around you are feeling, I will probably be able to recognize that (wholly or partly, in myself or in my friends). That is more meaningful to me than how many times a box was ticked in a survey. I'm not saying we should only talk in truisms, but while the conclusions of scientific research are supposed to be just accepted, talking out of personal experiences makes a conversation possible.
But maybe that's not enough for someone who wants to talk about "civilization". The rejection of the simile of life offered by this society and the exploration of yourself and your relations, will lead one (better sooner than later) to make an attempt at understanding the obstacles on the way (the authority of one over the other; would be - in short - an anarchist response). There's a difference between this effort to analyse the social system (and its crises) and the apparent need to go back hundreds of years to a point in time and designate it as the nexus of the problem. Necessarily there is no first-hand experience of before or during this moment of transformation that can be or has been communicated, only contemporary interpretations and extrapolations based on few elements. In what way can we understand the qualitative difference in relations from before and after? And why do we care so much? Do we think we can recreate the before? Probably not, but why then construct this spectre that transgresses my faculties to grasp reality? Isn't Civilization another disguise of Empire, or Capitalism? Hovering over our heads, always there but impossible to grasp in everyday relations (on a theoretical level maybe yes, with the help of some specialists), let alone defeat. There's a lot to learn from history, but I become a bit wary when history teaches us.
Summarized it goes something like this; civilization means cities, cities mean agriculture. Or the other way around. That's the material side of it. The psychic side is reification and the voluntary submission to authority. I would suggest that some of the (problematic because alienating) characteristics ascribed to civilization may also be found - for example - in historical accounts of groups of people accumulating wealth through plundering or people living in clusters of villages that together make up a self-sustaining territory. Were they not capable of reification? Also, in most civilizations a significant amount of people living inside its physical boundaries were nevertheless outside of its economy and not particularly influenced by its reifications. That some social systems get labelled civilization and others not and thus the first deserve more of our ire seems unwarranted from a position of critique of authority. Further on BF argues that "the anti-civilization critique goes far beyond that on offer by the Left, the Right, or the majority of the anarchists." I would argue that the anti-civilization critique is only a more comprehensive version of an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist etc. critique since it criticizes a specific crystallization of authoritarian relations. Anarchist critique however criticizes authoritarian relations wherever it encounters them.
I have never used the adjective insurrectionary for me or the projects I was taking part in. Anarchist suffices. So it can be fairly true what Bellamy says about the majority of insurrectionary kinds (selfdefined as such or labelled by BF), that they are just promising Revolution 2.0 (decentralised and with users' participation) or Revolution Zero - Without (Authoritarian) Additives. But it is far removed from the reasons I feel an attraction to insurrectionary moments.
Instead of the first baby steps of a coming revolution, insurrection means a rupture. It is when normality is not normal any more and other possibilities open up. Already now we are refusing to submit, finding loopholes - alone or with friends. But we bump into limits of overcoming alienation and repression. An insurrectionary moment is a qualitative leap, a negation of existing social relations on a whole other level. From there ugly things can happen, beautiful things also. What has changed is our power to make things happen. Surely repression (in old or new forms) will try gathering force to hit everyone back in submission. And will surely succeed since death always has the last word. History says so too. In the end, life is self-defeating. But to start from there must be a misunderstanding, because insurrection is exactly the refusal of history and the affirmation of life.
There are those invested in the politics of insurrection, working in the tradition of the authoritarian Blanqui. An Eric Hazan and his Factory (producing theory for the aspiring intellectuals) have measures to implement, the (not so) Invisible Committee has the strategy (tested before and failed) and its (not so) Imaginary Party has the cadre (wannabe politicians) and the infrastructure (thanks to wealthy lefty benefactors). Cynical people willing to manipulate others to realize their authoritarian projects. Nothing new there. It's up to persons with anarchist sensitivities to recognize these intentions and subvert them (if they care enough). Admittedly, a lot of the radical milieu got seduced by their mystifications. If it's still needed one can take a look at To Our Customers (although the English version lacks the playful and scathing tone from the French one) criticizing the political theory and rhetoric of the Committee and The Movement is Dead, Long Live... Reform! (A Critique of "Composition" and its Elites, from the ZAD in Notre-Dame-des-Landes) criticizing the political practices of the Party members and their allies. So I'll leave the remark of Bellamy about "the cadre of insurrectionaries" in their corner.
To attack authority you don't need to be an anarchist (unconsciously or consciously). You just need to be able to situate the source of your misery. Lucidity and irony are more helpful at that than anarchist theory. All of us are alienated to some extent and contribute ourselves to that alienation in some measure. Some might be content with the toys they are given and the mirages of material comfort they see appearing before them.
Others experience daily the emptiness of what society has to offer them. Probably more shift between these positions on a regular basis. Anarchists don't have models that people can follow to overcome alienation, only experiences that give a taste of something different. Neither do I hope others to be latent anarchists (whatever that means), but I cannot stop myself from recognizing myself in others when they struggle with their contradictions (isn't that the empathy Bellamy was looking for?). More so when they express their unrest through acts of rebellion against their repression and self-alienation.
Acts of rebellion come in multiple shapes and forms. A lot can be said about them. Rioting can be one of them. A lot can be said about it. How it can be used as a symbolical threat to social peace by a reformist group to gain more negotiation leverage. How it is necessary for people to understand the risks they are taking and to avoid unnecessary ones (what is an unnecessary risk is up to the persons involved to define). How repression against rioters is framed to legitimize or delegitimize their ideas (martyrs for the first, mindless criminals for the second). Etcetera. It would be a bit too easy to present these as conclusions already reached and not discussions to have inside specific settings. Like in other situations I would like people to be consciously active in it (which can also mean to not take part). Intentions are diverse and outcomes are not so clear-cut as BF presents them (is it about material damage vs arrests?). I can share my critical thoughts with others but it's not up to me to decide for others if it is all worth it (what I could consider foremost as a potentially self-destructive act might be primarily self-realizing for someone else, that doesn't mean that I'm a coward and neither the other to aspire to be a martyr).
Victimization is not the privilege of rioting. Neither does repression need an insurrection to humiliate and stamp out people. Insurrection wouldn't be the original "deeply traumatic experience" for those who desire to be mere followers. Authoritarian society has its own catastrophes which legitimize the existence of its leaders. Trauma and powerlessness are bound together. There is something quite contradictory in insisting on a bleak image of civilization with its all-encompassing repression and self-alienation, and the impossibility of the majority of "slaves" to be something other than slaves; and on the other hand, to warn against acts of rebellion because they might provoke or not be able to overcome repression and self-alienation. A theory tends to come up with logical explanations for every phenomenon it encounters, and becomes deterministic on the way (it is what it is, it was what it was and it couldn't have become something else). So eventually everything can only be futile against or complicit with domination. But then who is this Bellamy Fitzpatrick that he against all odds is ready "to rise to the terrifying responsibility of freedom"? Why is he not one of those who "have been born and bred as slaves" and thus "are far more likely to feel comfortable becoming a new kind of slave"? What is his secret and why doesn't it belong to the possibilities of others, namely "people" aka "slaves", to do the same?
It seems that it is the frustration and disappointment stemming from the ineffectiveness of reform and revolution to defeat civilization, that leads BF to reject them. But is there even such a thing as a definitive victory over repression and alienation? I have this nagging idea that the desire to dominate others and the desire to submit oneself are intrinsically human. The social system we're living in promotes - or rather imposes - these desires over all others. So for those who have the desire to self-realization, it is necessary to create situations where these are pushed back. What can be such a situation?
The proposal of Bellamy (and Backwoods) is desertion, meaning "moving toward the abandonment of civilization, both materially and psychically". This leads further to autarky; "the knowledge and practice of providing one's subsistence [...] for and by oneself in an unalienated relationship with one's habitat and in voluntary cooperation with others with whom one freely associates". The outcome of desertion and autarky is reinhabitation; "it is, in the most profound sense, being somewhere", "a sense of place requires a sense of belonging". "To truly flourish as organisms in communion with our habitats, we must live in a way that nourishes the human psyche: in small, sustained, face-to-face, autarkic communities of kinship."
The picture presented here is a bit too harmonious for my taste. Those that grew up in a small village (or a close-knit community inside a city) know that "face-to-face" relationships come with their own vicious feuds and relentless norms. And for those who managed to leave these suffocating places, a statement like "our culture of late modernity, where one can disappear into anonymity and find a new social group at the first sign of conflict or disappointment, is the grotesque antithesis of healthful human relations" would set off all the alarm bells (besides, I would say that a lot of people are stuck into destructive relations because they fear to be alone in a world where it is extremely difficult to make true friends). But that is in this world. And BF is talking about another world, one where "a true union of individualities could grow" while "it would be possible to know everyone's story, to count on another, and to be united in a common purpose". Bellamy insists that "such a group would not be a suppression of individuality through stifling and incessant collectivism". I guess I'm not so easily convinced by (certain specialists of) anthropology, neurobiology and ethnography that such a thing exists, could exist or existed. And although Bellamy also acknowledges "human conflict and suffering", he directly brushes it aside as "misfortune" (dealt with through a culture based on "the combination of loving and shaming that comes from sustained intimacy"). Ironically, the reproaches from Bellamy directed at insurrectionaries, could also be applied to desertionaries. Do you expect people to be latent anarchists, just waiting to be in a context of small face-to-face groups with a sense of belonging and purpose to start behaving with respect to each other? Surely desertionism must be "afflicted with the most poisonous sort of magical thinking and optimism about human beings". And, indeed, there are some who already have created a "collective mythos" on the same theme, namely the Commune (see ‘our friends' from the Committee and Party). And they are quite honest about the suppression of individuality (according to them a modern invention and thus, to be abandoned) and the patriarchal character of a family and a tribe ("less preferably" as labels than "a band society", according to BF).
While the full weight of history is thrown against the false critiques of civilization, the proposal of desertion is presented to us as something completely novel (otherwise it might have to be discarded with the rest as futile or complicit?). Are there no past experiences to learn from? We don't need to go too far back in time, since at least the end of the 60s lots of drop-outs (from society and the protest movements) turned their backs to the cities to have their own experiments with face-to- face communities and self-sufficiency. History books don't have to tell us much about these (not so spectacular) moments, but the people that were/are part of them still can. From their accounts it transpires that it is not that evident to desert self-alienation and repression, nor to create autarky. Which territories can we inhabit? Given the relations of power, probably not the most hospitable ones. Are these places not always precarious? Threats from infrastructural projects, bureaucratic rules and regulations, hostile neighbours, are real. How to avoid a relative and self-chosen isolation becoming inescapable and suffocating? How free is free association when there are no other places to go to? Even with all good intentions, relations can turn sour. Until which point should the project be defended in spite of the persons involved, or vice versa? A current publication like Nunatak (Revue d'histoires, cultures et luttes des montagnes) talks about issues of living in the mountains and the conflicts with society it comes with (leisure industry, infrastructural projects, food and health regulations, etc.). These questions raised might not be enough reasons to abandon desertion, but - at least - to be less affirmative about all the blessings to be expected.
What does it mean that "desertion will not and cannot be quick or total, but it can nonetheless meaningfully be incremental and partial, pushing toward ever-greater withdrawal"? Where is the line between partial desertion and - for example - just being a part of local, artisan economy? Isn't it conceivable that a part of the so-called "creative classes" forced out of the city centres by the so- called "gentrification" they were once part of, turn to "pockets of happiness" as a kind of alternative, more satisfying suburbia? Or is it that, since to a certain extent there is still a need for money (to pay the rent for example), it is just convenient that a small amount of time is dedicated to a well-paying, skilled job done over the internet? Who draws the line between the reformer - "who might imagine himself the staunch social critic" - and the deserter incremental but still partial - the anti-civ cadre?
The concept of "desertion" doesn't bring us closer to self-realization, because it is based on an illusion. That "attentat" (no idea why Bellamy has a preference for that word instead of "attack"; to me it smells of the People and/or Revolution mythos) is something hypothetical, that it "may well be necessary and appropriate to resist more confrontationally at certain junctures". May? At certain junctures? Why not now? Let me clarify myself. Insurrectionary moments have a value to me, but they are not my telos. The projects I want to engage in - the instruments of my self-realization - have two guidelines; direct action (acting without mediation) and self-organization (having an understanding of our differences and acting together with respect towards them). If for anarchists direct action also includes to attack, this is because given the existing social relations wanting self-realization means conflict. This conflict can express itself in different forms and mostly we'll be reactive towards it. But to be able to negate the repression/self-alienation spectrum, we'll have to choose ourselves a moment and place to act. Thus, to go on the offensive. Not making conflict an integral part of our projects, can lead us to being unarmed when repression and/or self-alienation become an existential threat to our projects (and arguably then it's already too late). Unarmed as well on a level of critical thinking; being able to recognize where one is complicit, as on the level of action; how to stop retreating. How can we not accommodate and compromise when repressive relations are imposed upon us if we didn't create the conditions for another response? On a side note here; making conflict part and parcel of our projects goes a long way in avoiding sterile discussion with those for whom anarchy is just a pose or an opinion and opens up possibilities to meet people who have started to act without mediation and on their own terms (again, there's no expectation to discover latent anarchists, only a potentially enriching encounter).
At one point Bellamy argues that in opposition to most forms of sabotage and attack, "desertion does harm the ruling order by depriving it of the resource on which it totally depends: the daily submission of slaves". Society might depend on submission, that doesn't lead it to depend on my submission. Then maybe does BF propose a generalized desertion as a sort of boycott of civilization? Does victory over civilization look like a strategic retreat? He contradicts such a position further on; "it is a modern, utilitarian moral calculus that measures the value of a course of action in terms of its expected quantitative consequences".
What Bellamy forgets to mention is; where are the wild places? No places in Europe (and presumably also in the US) are outside of this society. Places that we could appropriate are more likely the ones that have been pushed to the margins of society (instead of overlooked - by property rights? by pollution? by capitalist profit-seeking? by land use rules?) and these can be found in urban environments as well as in the countryside. This probably implies developing to some extent new knowledge and skills. Being in the margins also implies that society didn't disappear and might impose itself sooner or later in full force. Refusing to be instruments of this recuperation will certainly include offensive practices.
I do think we should attempt to create the conditions for self-realization. This can mean looking for less hostile surroundings (what defines as hostile depends greatly on the project and on the individual). But I don't think our projects will take shape totally outside of the existing social relations. And while the concept of desertion may be based on the illusion that there is a safe place to escape to, I don't want to reject all of the practices it contains.
I concede this is a theory we are presented with. But more than being a "whole way of seeing" (as Bellamy defines it); a theory is based on generalizations and abstractions. At the best of times, a theory can provide us with tools to find a more conscious relation with what is surrounding us. Mostly though, theory produces crude categories that are imposed on complex beings and dynamic realities; reductions that are counter-productive to understanding. Moreover, a theory that is not understood as having its limitations and shortcomings (and thus, as being a peculiar way of seeing), but instead as forming a complete picture produces its own mystifications and idealizations. This is not a postmodernist stance. The values and ideas I hold, are true. For myself. And I'm willing to act upon them. But I don't hold them as universally true for other people embedded in situations I don't fully grasp and don't have influence over. Even so, I do want to communicate with others (through conversations or stories), to understand my motives better, to deepen (or alter) my critique and to sustain my empathy. As I said before, anarchist critique criticizes authoritarian relations wherever it encounters them. The most important of these encounters are part of my own experiences, the least important happen in theoretical abstractions and history teachings.
Several points I didn't go into, some because of lack of (head)space and some because I don't know where to start. There's mention in the text of "world-soul" and "self-conscious animality". These are concepts I don't have a reference point for, and neither does the theory provide me one.
As always it is the points one doesn't agree with that trigger the most articulated response. Several parts of the text I did enjoy (partly recognizable here in some of the vocabulary I have taken on from Bellamy's text). If there weren't any I wouldn't make the effort of writing this text. So I would recommend people to get hold of a copy of Backwoods and read it for themselves.
kidYELLOWTags: reviewbackwoodscategory: Essays
From The Local Kids
The year is 2018. Our living environment is increasingly interconnected and transparent. This is obvious for the digital reality but is also true for the physical – if the distinction between the two hasn’t already become too artificial. These tendencies have reinforced the validation of the self through affiliation to a group and subjugation to its norms. Before our eyes identities are being constructed, clashes erupt in the scramble for a space to carve out and claim. A bonus for its members is that the enforcing of the norms now is horizontally distributed. As society becomes more totalitarian, the main feeling becomes anxiety. Will for one more day our imperfections pass unnoticed, or maybe just tolerated? And while we invest everything in this socially acceptable image of ourselves we have created, we become the role we were only playing. Is this life?
No, it is a defeat, and we should refuse it. To acknowledge the richness of our desires, to explore them, to feel the power in developing them. Nothing will make us repent of the choice for full life, the substance of which is autonomy, individual and collective. So we move towards the subversion of social relations.the local kidszinecategory: Projects
Black & Green Podcast 10: 7-3-2018.
Episode 10: 7-3-2018
'Of Gods and Country' update. MD newspaper shooter and facial recognition software. Colonizers and headhunters in 'Severed.' Identity politics, social media, and seeing faces on a new virtual landscape and the rise of a new ethno-nationalism. Dear Antifa.
p>A response to Christian Parenti’s assertion that the state is the only way to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.
By BRRN Radical Ecology Committee (REC)
In the concluding chapter of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2012), author Christian Parenti suggests that those seeking to mitigate and adapt to the disastrous effects of global warming can do so best by taking power of the State to implement the necessary changes to bring about a transition to a post-capitalist global society powered by renewable energies. In an address to the 2013 Left Forum, “What Climate Change Implies for the State,” in which he develops these ideas, Parenti asserts that the Left should adopt a strategy of recovering and reclaiming the territory of the State, “reshaping” it toward the end of an all-out short-term mobilization to resolve the impending threat of climate destruction. Though Parenti recognizes that the State’s primary role within the rise of capitalism to have been to facilitate the exploitation and destruction of nature, he somehow believes that this same mechanism could now serve the opposite end. He claims that climate change can be resolved simply through fiat by the Environmental Protection Agency: “we’re [just] waiting for numerous rules from the EPA.” He insists that the Left desperately needs to come up with “realistic solutions” to the gravity of the climate crisis, and that any strategy of merely “being outraged” or “invoking the righteousness of our cause” will utterly fail. What Is the State, and Is It Neutral?
To begin to respond to Parenti, we first have to ask, what is the State? Peter Kropotkin distinguishes between the State as bureaucratic despotism imposed from above and collective self-governance from below, otherwise known as self-organization or self-management.  Examples of the latter can be seen in the soldiers’, peasants’, and workers’ councils of the Russian Revolution; indigenous Latin American assemblies; the Paris Commune of 1871; the Gwanju Commune of 1980; the cooperatives, communes, and free cities of medieval Europe and today’s Rojava Revolution; and the Local Coordinating Councils of the Syrian Revolution, among other examples. Therefore, when we mention “the State,” all that is meant on the philosophical level—leaving aside for a moment the very real physical presence of the State, as embodied in militarism, prisons, and the police—is just centralism, or the concentration of decision-making power, whether that be a monarch, emperor, One-Party State, or modern multi-party western democracies.
In terms of ecology, it is clear that the State is not a “neutral” arbiter but rather, as Parenti argues, the facilitator of ecocides global and local. The EPA’s laws and regulations are often not enforced, even when the ruling class believes they should at least be on the books, and are currently being decimated due to the Trump Regime’s affinity for fossil capital. If enforced, these standards are too-often observed along a racial-territorial basis, exacerbating environmental racism. Centralism in practice leads to bureaucratic lack of accountability and popular dis-empowerment, among other problems, as Kropotkin specified. So then the question becomes, do we need centralism for a successful transition to a post-capitalist, “ecological” future? The answer to this is of course not.Facing Global Ecocide
To be clear, the need for a revolutionary transition beyond capitalism and global ecocide is absolute, given how seriously climate change, species’ extinction, chemical pollution, and several other environmental disasters threaten the future of humanity and, indeed, complex life on Earth. That is not under question. Rather, this is a question of strategy. In this sense, Parenti’s statism is a dangerous distraction from the necessary struggle of organizing a broad-based international popular movement against the factors impelling catastrophe: that is to say, capitalism and the State themselves. Parenti’s short concluding chapter to Tropic of Chaos and his Left Forum address do not consider this possibility; yet it is a surer way of resolving the problem than deferring to the State.
One undeniable problem of a reliance on the State to combat climate change is that the “progress” supposedly made by the State is eminently reversible upon the entry into power of a new administration: hence Barack Obama, a notorious climate criminal who effectively continued George W. Bush’s approach while presenting the same as just and reasonable, is followed by the Trump Regime, which in power has closely implemented the anti-environmental de-regulations announced by candidate Trump, ranging from the opening up of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling to the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, intensified bombardment of different Middle Eastern countries, privatization of public nature reserves, and suppression of climate science, ad nauseum. While the gains of the revolution can similarly be reversed—for indeed, what we are witnessing on the part of the State across the globe is an unprecedented counter-revolutionary mobilization—they should also be considered closer to the interests of the people, the soul of the revolution, who ensure the progression of the necessary social changes by fighting autonomously for them—and for the collectives of humanity and all life on Earth behind them.An Anti-State Ecological Transition
Concretely, we know what has to be done: to avert the worst of capital-induced climate change, we must transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels right away, with the proviso that, in Peter and David Schwartzman’s view, we should set aside a given amount of petroleum for the construction of renewable-energy infrastructure.  According to Jeremy Brecher, achieving a transition beyond fossil fuels implies undermining several “pillars of support” for them, including the cancellation of the trillions of dollars in subsidies for these fuels; the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energies; direct carbon sequestration; the discrediting of the “climate destroyers,” or those principally responsible for the problem; the increasing of the negative consequences of continued fossil-fuel extraction and burning; and developing of dual power. 
None of these goals requires the State, but they can be achieved through dual power. We can imagine workers and communities coordinated across borders to shut down fossil-fuel industries, thus revealing the simplicity of the problem. Rather than divert our struggle into the State, where it becomes lost, we can do this better ourselves. It is only a conscious working class battling with the interests of the youth, future generations, and the planet at heart that provides hope. To rely on the State and the bourgeoisie is sheer folly, given that they’re the reason we’re in this mess. While the example of taking matters into our own hands can be expected to provoke a concerted backlash on the part of the privileged, it can also open the horizon of possibility that is currently veiled by the ethos of capitalist “realism,” which denies the very destructiveness of bourgeois society while prioritizing production and consumption above all else. 
To close, let us summarize the argument. Is the State necessary for the struggle against climate change? No; instead, we see that the State is, alongside capitalism, our principal enemy in contributing to global warming and other environmental catastrophes. Due to its functional role in defending and expanding the capitalist system, the State cannot be a means for true climate justice. Let us not concern ourselves with reformist false solutions to environmental problems, but rather get on with organizing a broad-based popular global movement that implements the solutions we need.Footnotes
- Javier Sethness Castro, “Reform and Revolution at Left Forum 2013,” CounterPunch, 14 June 2013. Available online.
- Jim Mac Laughlin, Kropotkin and the Anarchist Intellectual Tradition (London: Pluto, 2016), 137-141.
- Peter D. Schwartzman and David W. Schwartzman, “A Solar Transition Is Possible!” Institute for Policy Research and Development, 2011. Available online.
- Jeremy Brecher, Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2017).
- Stefan Gandler, Critical Marxism in Mexico: Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez and Bolívar Echeverría (Leiden: Brill, 2015).
via Freedom News
Ever since Trump became President of the USA there’s been the prospect of him visiting the UK and the chance for direct action. Anarchist organising is not what it was in London just a few short years ago. I seriously doubt the capacity for bursting the official bubble and suspect that the main leftist counter demo will be the only alternative narrative on offer.
The mainstream left initially called on the government not to invite Trump to the UK when he first became President. This typical call to ban anything they don’t agree with was as predictable as it was lacking in imagination. You can’t ban fake news, let alone bad news and he is bad news in every conceivable way. Let’s have him here and challenge him in some way, even if we can’t get anywhere close.
There are many ways this can be done. His will be a spectacle dominating our national news for days on end. What we could do with is a variety of alternative spectacles for the news to highlight. The left’s aim for a massive peaceful jamboree is lacklustre but at least it’s something. We’re all at different levels of political activity and action and I don’t blame anyone for going along to something where they will have a nice time. We have to hope it might be a bit more exciting than this though.
I’m not sure that there is a black bloc in London anymore but emulating what happened in Washington DC on the day Trump was inaugurated would be a fine thing indeed. Damage to property was the order of the day highlighting the very real damage that trump and people like him do to people and the planet. Of course the black bloc faced some criticism for causing trouble but they also got space to explain why they did what they did and why it matters. Property damage is entirely justifiable and nothing compared to the damage he is causing to lives and livelihoods.
It doesn’t have to simply be black bloc activity either. There are a myriad ways in which the point can be made. I notice a crowdfunded activity to install a massive inflatable baby Trump above the capital for example. This might not achieve a great deal but it makes a point and maybe there will be people who are more willing to help that than to get their paint bombs out. It’s all good and while I think we should push protest down radical routes when and where possible we’re having trouble simply getting our own house in order so I’m not going to criticise anyone for actually getting something done.
I can’t underplay how much damage the rise of Corbyn has done to anarchism in Britain. It’s now clear that many people involved in anarchism over the last 10 years or so have moved towards constitutional methods for their politics. The argument that Labour is just as bad as the Tories doesn’t work for them anymore. In Labour, many see a chance for a transformational progressive government. I can’t help but assume that this is the reason for the lack of dynamism within the anarchist movement since 2015. These things perhaps run in cycles. The anarchist movement has been dominated by the green and peace movements before and maybe we’re moving to a period when they take the forefront again.
I’d love to be proved wrong though. There is a chance that through antifascist organising the weekend of Trump’s visit could present an opportunity to mobilise in large numbers. Whilst the Trump protests will take place on Friday July 13th, the following day sees a planned far-right demo take place in support of Tommy Robinson. Two fascists in two days? Well Trump certainly has fascist tendencies and he actually has power so I place him as more important than that wretched imbecile currently squealing ‘free speech’ while hoping he can one day paralyse all our vocal chords.
There is no doubt though that this could present a weekend like no other in terms of the possibilities for direct action, subversion and counter spectacle. Having opportunities and being able to take them are of course two different things. We’ve waited a long time for Trump to finally get his ass to the UK. Those that are able will mark the occasion I’m sure. Whether anarchists can puncture through all the official pomp and even the official counter pomp of Labour and their supporters remains to be seen but if they do there is the chance of inspiring a new generation of people on the margins of politics. Trump’s visit will give us a clear indication of the health of the anarchist movement and the direction it is taking in the UK.
Jon BiggerTags: protestanti-trumpcategory: Essays
From The Anvil Review - by Alex Gorrion
Now that the controversy and indignation over Kanye West's early May comment has been forgotten and replaced by a dozen other moral outrages, each evidently so important for fine-tuning the ethics of a society that doesn't actually change, I want to return to his assertion that four hundred years of slavery was “a choice”. I would argue—not out of any desire to play a role in a spectacle of controversy, one that has long since expired, but out of genuine conviction—that Kanye was right about one thing, and wrong about another.
To be clear, I think Kanye is one part hack and one part provocateur, but my opinion holds very little water. Exactly zero of my friends habitually come to me for my knowledge on pop culture or rap. So let's move on to what was false about his statement. In a consumerist, comfort-driven society, the word “choice” suggests an effortless and even facile decision. Such a word minimizes the brutality of slavery and invisibilizes the resistance. In fact, Native and African peoples engaged in constant, multiform, heroic, and often bloody resistance against the regime of slavery in North America for the entirety of its 400 year history. Progressive whites and institutions like the New York Times that rushed to condemn Kanye and win cookies have a consistent position of recognizing the brutality of the regime of chattel slavery, but only as a way to overshadow subsequent forms of racism and exploitation, from which they directly or indirectly benefit. Nor have they done very much to rescue the history of resistance against slavery, given that such resistance breaks the narrative monopoly of nonviolence that has been mandatory since the Civil Rights Era, and de-centers the benevolent State as guarantor of rights and freedom. It's also problematic that Africans in America continued their resistance into Reconstruction, often rejecting the northern wage regime in the same terms they had rejected chattel slavery.
And as a lesser historical quibble, it's worth pointing out that Kanye's emphasis on the 400 years that slavery continued, as though the longevity of an oppressive system were evidence of its popularity, is misplaced. Oppressive systems generate conflicts that undermine them, and some seek to forestall this mounting pressure through systems of reward, amelioration, and recuperation, while others hold no illusions and try to stay together through uninhibited use of repression and terrorism. The Roman slave system, based on aggressive conquest, torture, mass terrorism, and sometimes genocide, lasted for considerably longer than 400 years.
In the end, though, these are questions of insinuation and misplaced argumentation. Kanye's central affirmation, that slavery is a choice, is one hundred percent correct. Slavery is always a choice. The fact that plantation owners and the rest of the ruling class exercised a whole range of terroristic methods to force the enslaved into compliance does not mean that they determined the entire range of choices that enslaved people had, and this is an important distinction.
We can link this distinction to the crucial imperative of the Existentialists, that all life is and must be a choice, that we must consider suicide as our right and our constant guarantor of emancipation, and if we choose not to use it, then we should embrace life as a positive choice, rather than just accept it as the absence of other choices. Tangential to this philosophical reframing is the historical fact that suicide has often been a form of resistance to totalitarian regimes: the masters need us alive, or they need to use our deaths to keep the living in line. If we reappropriate death, we rob them of one of their most vicious weapons.
We can also consider the dialectic of the Master and Slave, elaborated by Hegel and expanded upon by Stirner and Nietzsche. These philosophers were not talking about choice as an easy affair, like taking one product or another off the shelf of a supermarket. Supermarkets didn't exist back then, no, not even internet shopping existed back then. But they did correctly recognize that the master and the slave are interlocking roles; they require and they reproduce one another. In the end, tyranny only works if people submit to it, and all submission manifests as a choice. Perhaps this is the ugliest aspect of the torture and terrorism that is used to achieve domination. But it may also be the key to liberation.
Recognizing the presence of our own will on the other side of the table from us, amongst our enemies, the moment we sign our unconditional surrender, is paramount to the question of resistance. Only by liberating our will, by wresting back our own volition from the system that would dominate us—only, in a word, by choosing—can we ever speak of freedom. Thus, it is vital to anyone interested in freedom to recognize that, yes, domination is a choice.
Unknown reader, I despise bad faith writings, but I must admit that I have tendered you a trap. Sartre, Hegel, Nietzsche, is this dude serious? Is anyone still that clueless in the 21st century? I know that some of you are thinking, these are all white men, they have nothing valid to say about slavery. This Alex Gorrion is an out of touch racist for even citing them in such a context. Others were going a step further, wondering if I, too, am a white man. Perhaps you recognized that “Gorrión” is a word in Spanish, but not a common last name. You may even be subconsciously frustrated that Alex is an androgynous name. Curse such ambiguity! If only everyone were clearly labeled. Meanwhile, a couple, the truly stupid among you, are thinking, Wasn't Nietzsche a fascist? I'm afraid I don't have Alexander Reid Ross' number, but surely there's a hotline somewhere you can call to report me.
But oops, look at me. I got my notes all out of order. I meant to start with this quote:
“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”
Yup. That quote you've almost certainly sent out in an email or posted on your Facebook wall at some point in your life. By Frederick Douglass. Philosopher, abolitionist, freedom fighter. Hero, who lived under, escaped from, and spent the rest of his life fighting against, slavery. Saying, quite eloquently, that we either choose to submit to slavery or we choose to resist. In fact, he goes significantly further than Kanye, saying that the degree to which we will be oppressed is an inverse function of the degree to which we choose to resist.
Preceding the Existentialists by a good century, he also said, commenting on resistance:
Hence, my friends, every mother who, like Margaret Garner, plunges a knife into the bosom of her infant to save it from the hell of our Christian slavery, should be held and honored as a benefactress. Every fugitive from slavery who, like the noble William Thomas at Wilkes Barre, prefers to perish in a river made red by his own blood to submission to the hell hounds who were hunting and shooting him should be esteemed as a glorious martyr, worthy to be held in grateful memory by our people. The fugitive Horace, at Mechanicsburgh, Ohio, the other day, who taught the slave catchers from Kentucky that it was safer to arrest white men than to arrest him, did a most excellent service to our cause. Parker and his noble band of fifteen at Christiana, who defended themselves from the kidnappers with prayers and pistols, are entitled to the honor of making the first successful resistance to the Fugitive Slave Bill. But for that resistance, and the rescue of Jerry and Shadrack, the man hunters would have hunted our hills and valleys here with the same freedom with which they now hunt their own dismal swamps.
There was an important lesson in the conduct of that noble Krooman in New York the other day, who, supposing that the American Christians were about to enslave him, betook himself to the masthead and with knife in hand said he would cut his throat before he would be made a slave. Joseph Cinque, on the deck of the Amistad, did that which should make his name dear to us. He bore nature’s burning protest against slavery.
(Also, notice how he trolls his New England audience, repeatedly linking Christianity with slavery.)
Here we can learn several things. The most paltry—though the most relevant to the absurd controversies that fill our shallow lives in this most pitiful of decades—is that identity is not existence. A white woman can never know the experiences of black slavery, but only because one person can never know the experiences of another. There are certainly clusters of commonality and long flattened plains of difference, but there are no essential and impassable barriers between tidily defined groups of people. Someone's identity category does not mean that they have nothing valid to say on topics that are potentially relevant to everyone. The fact that we were taught for centuries that only property-owning white men had anything important to say does not mean the opposite is true (though in the current iteration, the class marker—the only one that actually refers to someone's choices in life—is notably absent).
It also does not mean that we should expect Kanye to have anything worthwhile to say about slavery, although maybe he can surprise us. Maybe, just maybe, someone's experiences and choices in life are more important than the boxes we put them in, whether these are the evil and antiquated Boxes of Oppression, or the new and improved, sweeter-smelling Boxes of Intersectionality and Movement-Building. Power is everywhere, and privilege aside, no one is free unless they choose to be free.
This was a recurring theme of Frederick Douglass' 1857 speech in Canandaigua, quoted above. The principal target of his speech, alongside the slave hunters, were white progressives. These white progressives wanted abolition without black people taking a leading role in the movement. And they wanted emancipation without insurrection. In fact, such “Garrisonians” believed that “the insurrectionary movements of the slaves were [...] prejudicial to their cause.” It was in response to such people, such hypocritical allies, that Douglass found it so important to make the argument that submission to the yoke was a choice, and that refusal and bloody resistance were also choices – choices to be celebrated. Liberation wouldn't come from enlightened progressives, and it wouldn't be doled out by the state. “If there is no struggle there is no progress,” he said.
This may come as a shock to the Facebook generation, but struggle does not mean getting offended by stupid comments that breach the etiquette of polite society. Struggle means taking risks and staking out unpopular positions that allow us to win back ground from the structures of centralized power.
The difference between a victim and a survivor is agency. The difference between blame and responsibility is that one is useful for explaining away why society is the way it is, and the other is useful for changing it. We are always responsible for our lives and how we respond to the shitty things society does to us.
More than 150 years have passed, but Douglass' words are still relevant today, when the rebellions of Oakland, Ferguson, and Baltimore have been drowned out in the NGO and social media framework of Black Lives Matter (a useful sentiment with a mediatic bent), when the Democratic Party is mobilizing people to put all their struggles aside and pray for another Obama.
Nowadays, explicit racism is already non-hegemonic. Roseanne will get canceled when the star makes an openly racist comment, and even drug companies will chime in as defenders of anti-racist sensibilities. Meanwhile, COPS, which has done far more to advance the cause of white supremacy than Roseanne ever has, has just entered its 31st season. All they have to do to stay on air is to edit out any time one of the officers on camera uses the N word. Back in the '90s, perhaps not being a racist in the public eye just meant having a good lawyer. In the internet age, it means having a good editor. In any case, Roseanne explicitly voiced a racist stereotype that is more subtly and constantly reproduced by COPS, a stereotype that is directly related to police, judges, and juries treating black people more violently, whether shooting them down or locking them up for life. And it is a stereotype that works best when it is subliminal.
Ignoring the heroic resistance and all the brutality that the government and the plantation system used to impose slavery is extremely hurtful. But there are those who profited and continue to profit off the ways that white supremacy and obligatory labor were adapted after the Civil War, and these people and institutions were there in sheep's clothing together with all the rest, condemning Kanye's reckless comment. Surely, what they found most controversial about it is that it suggests that we are ultimately responsible for achieving our freedom.
"Prison is a milestone in the revolutionaries’ path towards freedom. It’s an intermediary stop, but not the end" - Conspiracy of Cells of Fire
As of May 1st, 2018 to today (July 4th, 2018), the anarchist prisoners in Yogyakarta have still not faced court proceedings. Information received is that the anarchist prisoners should have been transferred to Cebongan Prison in Sleman on June 29th, 2018, as the prosecutor's office has been holding them in Yogyakarta police station (Polda Yogyakarta) since May 1st for the investigation process. However, the planned transfer was cancelled and the period of detention at Polda Yogyakarta has been extended until July 30th, 2018 on the grounds of further investigation. Our prediction is the extended investigation process is due to this case being politicized, it's evident by the many opinions that appear on the surface that the May 1st action was an act of opposition against the government.
As for the condition of the anarchist prisoners of Yogyakarta, one of them, Brian Valentino (UCIL) was taken to hospital due to suffering shortness of breath and stomach problems. Ucil is still recovering now, but he remains in good spirits and is always spreading laughter to other prisoners. As for the other anarchist prisoners, they are all in good health both physically and psychologically, however we know the pressure they are under from various parties, especially the police and the state.
We will continue to provide information on the situation of the anarchist prisoners and the progress of the case. Thank you to all the friends who have shown solidarity for the anarchist prisoners of Yogyakarta.
"Unfortunately the dream we carry in our hearts is too great to avoid the risk of finding ourselves up against the monstrous wall of authority raised in defense of the state and capital" -Nicola Gai
Instagram account: @palang__hitam
by Arthur Burbridge
On July 2nd, a coalition of groups in Philadelphia occupied the local ICE office. In what follows I offer a few quick sketches of the occupation. I was there at the opening of the march at City Hall at 5PM until I had to leave at 9, and then again the next day (July 3rd) at 9:30, leaving just after noon. Today, July 4th, the occupation enters its third day. The account and ideas below are therefore cobbled together from my own experiences, from Unicorn Riot’s live feed, and from reports from comrades who were there when I couldn’t be.
These sketches are partial, and they need to be filled out and corrected as the struggle continues. But I hope they can add to our reflections on the ongoing ICE occupations and help us to continue building and developing radical power.
A loose timeline
The occupation was a planned escalation out of an anti-ICE rally at City Hall. After the rally, about 500 of us took to the streets. The cops were clearly expecting this to some degree—they had shut down a number of roads leading from City Hall to the ICE office—but they were also unprepared. We waded through traffic, turning suddenly and sending the police scrambling. A section of bikers darted ahead to help find a path. When we reached the ICE office at the corner of 8th and Cherry, we set up a two-part camp. The first one was in front of ICE’s van garages on Cherry. The second was on the 8th street side of the building in front of ICE’s main doors.
Tents popped up immediately and people threw down their gear to block the garages. At the other entrances, a bike loaded with food and water blocked the doors. Someone brought in a massive red van with a PA system, and parked it to block Cherry and keep out cop cars. The van started blasting tunes, and people started dancing. Somehow a couch made its way in front of the fenced parking lot for ICE vehicles. Banners swung across the streets
The cop presence was large and growing at this point. I was with the 8th street crowd guarding the building doors. I couldn’t see what was going on around the corner at the garage. But dozens of bike cops were lined up across from us. Within 15 or 20 minutes they rushed the crowd, swinging their bikes as weapons for maximum effect. They broke through the occupiers to cut the 8th street crowd in half and secure the building entrances. But the priority was obviously the van garages (we later learned there is an entrance into the building, shared by a women’s center, that ICE employees are exploiting). The pigs backed off and left the 8th street doors to us. Almost immediately the bike brigade stood wheel to wheel and people jumped into the street to cut the road off from the cops.
But police started massing forces to retake 8th. There was a commotion around the corner (since then, I heard a cop just tripped and fell down). The cops on our side panicked and tried to break through the bike line to get across. But the bike crew and the other occupiers around them refused. The line was two or three bikes deep across the street; bikes collided and people pushed back, forcing the cops to retreat.
By 9, there were over 50 cop cars lined up down the street, and rumors of riot gear being unloaded. Over the next few hours, a cop or two started appearing wearing some heavy-duty gear (vest, helmet, gas mask, etc.) that was marked “Counterterrorism Unit.” Around the corner from me—on Cherry—cops apparently tried to bum rush the crowd to break through. They were forced back again and occupiers locked arms to prevent another attack. Occupiers threw up barricades to separate the tents and occupiers from police on the north end of 8th and to create a barrier in front of the garages—wooden pallets, trash, other city debris.
As the night dragged on, more whiteshirts. Ross, the police commissioner, Ross, appeared. Cops demanded the removal of the barricades, the couch, and the banners stretched across the streets. Occupiers allowed these to be carted away. To get rid of the couch, though, the cops had to haul it up into a trash truck. People were screaming at that the police were scabbing the municipal services. By 1 the cops backed down and started trickling away. The threat of an immediate raid lifted. A number of people—maybe 50, I’m not sure—stayed the night. The cops turned on the building floodlights to fuck with people trying to sleep.
But by 6 a.m., police forces were regrouping. By 11, the camp was building its numbers, along with its cop presence. Dozens of beach umbrellas are popping up. It looked like a beach. Chants started up again in earnest. People—many otherwise unconnected to the event—were unloading car after car of food, water, ice, coolers, food.
But the pigs were biding their time for a noon assault to secure the garages. They marched out the mounted police and dozens of regular officers, along with about a dozen or two whiteshirts. Occupiers closed ranks and linked arms. Bike cops charged, shoving people aside along the wall and garage. A dense mass of occupiers refused to move. There were apparently about two dozen arrests. The pigs took control of the garages. They put up and are guarding metal barracades to make sure ICE can keep on working as efficiently as possible. It’s not clear what the future of the occupation will look like from here, but the site is still occupied without any plans to leave.
The event represents one more episode in the growing militancy and radicalism of hilly, and it offers some important lessons as radical struggles continue to grow.
The developing tactic of occupation in Philly
The actions around ICE are a reminder of the Occupy encampment a few blocks away. But this action is different. Occupy was flooded by liberals and libertarians alongside a number of radical individuals and groups. More militant actions, like confrontations with the police, were infrequent and did not occur on a large, coordinated scale. And in Occupy, the strategic plan was extremely unclear. In this vacuum, it seemed like the site was being held simply for the sake of occupying it, regardless of its tactical or strategic value.
Little of that applies here. Militancy is built into the plan. The bike squad was part of a design to keep cops away from the building and clashes between them were inevitable. The strategic aims of the occupation are clear: disrupt as far as possible the operation of the ICE office; create official and unofficial refusal to cooperate with ICE. These goals are paired with broader demands: stop deportations, end family detention in Berks Family Detention Center, and end Philly’s cooperation with ICE.
The militancy here seems to be building off of the growing energy and numbers of radical antiauthoritarian struggles over the past couple of years here, in the Summer of Rage Anarchist Crew, the actions around J20, in Antifa on the national and local level, etc. I think the militancy of anarchists as well as police abolitionists have laid some of the important groundwork. In other words, we’re witnessing a kind of accidental but powerful collaboration between groups that is building Philly’s radical power.
Is it possible for this kind of collaboration to be developed, going forward, in a more deliberate way? For anarchists and radical Socialists to deliberately coordinate successive militant actions, or actions that are different but complement each other—creating groundwork for each other, building on each other, even despite major differences?
There is no question that the cops are working for and coordinating with ICE. This isn’t just obvious from their violent protection of the building. I’ve heard from a reliable source that on Tuesday morning, the cops helped clear occupiers out from in front of the parking lot to let in an employee car.
This opens up more space for developing local radical politics. The police are very clearly aligning here with white supremacist and fascistic forces in the state. This isn’t a shock to many of us. But the radical left has here a chance to emphasize the links between the police, the state, capital, and colonial violence. In this situation, it can become very clear why calls for police abolition, prison abolition, and radical anti-capitalist politics need to be connected.
To the barricades?
As far as I know, barricades have not been a particularly popular tactic in Philly in recent years. On the very last night of Occupy Philly, in the face of overwhelming police power, occupiers threw up a hasty barricade without much result. But barricades have played an important part in the occupation of the ICE office so far.
As police were gathering forces and preparing to invade last night, the barricades signaled a militant defense of the occupation that was unusual for the city. The dumpster rolling down the street—that was the signal of an even higher level of struggle, it seems, the threat of a pitched battle. All this seemed to spook the cops. And so it played another unexpected role, too. The cops were hesitating to raid the space. The barricades became a point of negotiation. It’s like pigs need to save face; all that hyper-masculine bullshit needs to convince itself it’s forced people to obey. The cops took the couch and the barricades. The people kept the office.
How do we up the ante and expand our use of barricades in the future? Can we set them up in advance to fuck with the way police will try to guide marches? Are there techniques we can learn to build them bigger, higher, stronger, more durable? How could they tactically help us resist repression—maybe buying us time to stay at a location, or giving us a few minutes to fly to another one while cops are stumbling over trash?
Some tactical possibilities
It’s clear the police are blundering to try to deal with this tactic and its new level of aggression. Cops were panicked and swarming us during the march, and within an hour or two at the ICE office there were easily 60-75 cop cars gathered up. But cops made an enormous traffic jam. We can use this confusing and this overwhelming show of force against cops in a two (or more) stage operation.
If a large crowd is moving towards occupying a key spot, like ICE, cops will swarm. But if we plan things right, and have the numbers, this could be followed up by getting another, separate crowd mobilized blocks away to take another major target. With so many of them tangled up at the first spot, the chance for embedding in that second location would be much higher.
And the more that we use two stage actions, the more paranoid the pigs will get. They’d be extremely hesitant to launch a massive force against an occupation for fear of the next steps—and we could use that to our advantage. Or they’d try greater shows of strength (riot gear etc.). That could be a problem, but it could be a real opportunity, too, in a city like Philly that claims to be progressive. It’s clear this city wants to shed its well-earned image of police violence.
The occupation is also an important experiment in radical coalition-building. The event emerged through the efforts of the following official endorsers (but many other groups were also present at the event and probably helped in various ways): Philly Socialists, Socialist Alternative, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Montgomery County Socialists, Liberation Project, Philly DSA, Reclaim Philadelphia, Green Party of Philadelphia, International Marxist Tendency, POWER, and IWW Philly.
The list shows that the event emerged out of the socialist scene here, connecting more radical groups with more reformist and traditional groups. This kind of project isn’t unusual in Philly, but the scale and militancy seems to me to be a serious step up.
The occupation acts as a kind of “estuary” where currents from different traditions, especially the more radical anticapitalist kind, are combining, and where a space for new, less ideologically rigid projects and ideas to develop. Even though the “official” planning of the event was largely socialist, many other far left groups and tendencies appeared, too: a strong police abolitionist presence as well as at least some anarchists. This kind of combination crucial as the fascistic state in the US grows in power and audacity. Developing and deepening connections among radical groups are essential today if we’re going to build an effective (and therefore, necessarily, mass) response to fascism in a still deeply fractured radical scene.
But the event also raises an important question for Philly anarchists and the other parts of the radical left beyond the socialist scene. Is this event worth throwing support behind? What about the major differences in ideology between anarchists and groups like the PSL or Philly Socialists? The occupation is mounting a clear challenge to a key local branch of fascistic power in this country. And it’s helping build radical militancy and connections among anticapitalists here. For anarchists or other radical anticapitalists to sit this out would be an important missed opportunity.
We can’t just wish away major ideological differences. They are real and create tensions that can’t be ignored. But there are also levels of coalition, the lowest being merely tactical unity without strategic or ideological agreement. This is highly limited. But it is still important, even as a first step, particularly if we’re going to go on the attack against an increasingly audacious state.
And the occupation shows the importance of different kinds of coalitions. A single Philly wide coalition right now for all anticapitalists would be too internally divided and weak. If the differences are just too big between some groups, they are much smaller between others; we see this principle at work in Philly’s current occupation. What would it look like to create more “nodes,” or sites where closer segments of the revolutionary left experimentally build together? Philly’s occupation is a coalitional project driven mostly by socialists. Something similar, maybe, could be developed across different but still close sectors of the radical scene in Philly—the most anarchic wing of socialist groups with sympathetic anarchists and prison abolitionists.
And finally, the occupation is a reminder that building revolutionary power is a process and an experiment. Connecting at least some of the revolutionary forces in a city will come step by step, by connecting some individuals across groups that share a liberatory anticapitalism, and building outward from there. We’re laying the foundation for many more struggles after this one.
Radical Education Department
radicaleducationdepartment.comphiladelphiaoccupy icecategory: Essays
Several people were charged with illegal usage of forest resources and distribution of extremist materials after GUBOPiK (Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, – a branch of Ministry of Internal Affairs, which executes the functions of political police in Belarus) supported by special task forces attacked an informal anarchist meeting. According to the ABC-Belarus reports, there were around 20 participants at the camping site. Below you can read the first-person evidence of one of the participants of the camp.
“JUST ANOTHER THREAT SHOW
The journalists must be tired of writing about the anarchists being arrested, beaten up, etc. So I’m really sorry, dear colleagues, for this having happened again, yesterday, 30 June, when 17 young men and women of anarchist views met for an informal meeting on the outskirts of Krupki (Minsk district, Belarus), looking forward for interesting discussion and camping in a nice company of comrades.
Having found a beautiful glade in the forest, we pitched our tents, organized an improvised kitchen, put up the canopy, and began our activities.
About 3 p.m., when we were preparing to the next discussion, we suddenly heard the sub-machine gun burst, and people in masks in body armor and with a variety of weapons arrived, shouting “Everybody down!!!”, – they made everyone lie on the ground. – The police operatives – also masked – came after them.. They started filming us, asking for our names and reasons why we were here, in which quantity, whom had we come with.
The most ridiculous were the policeman’s attempts to prove that they had come… because of the illegal felling of trees!
‘Who was engaged in logging? Whose saws and axes are these? Do you know how old are these trees?!’ – That was said about two dry pine trees that we used as banks.
Time to time they were beating those who disobeyed the orders or just was looking to the sides whilst lying down. Not everyone of them showed their documents. One man from the environmental inspection, and another one who was wearing the mask, showed their identity cards of the members of SOBR (Rapid Deployment Special Force – the special unit of Ministy of Internal Affairs). The policemen in masks refused to show any documents, but I’m sure it were the operatives of GUBOPiK (Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, – a branch of Ministry of Internal Affairs, which executes the functions of political police in Belarus).
If talking about me personally, I was beaten two times: when I tried to run away from the SOBR guys, and when the guys from GUBOPiK took me aside “to talk a bit”. Nevertheless, they hit me not very painfully, probably having had received the order not to be too cruel. That “special operation” lasted seven hours, six of which I spent in handcuffs, mostly lying on the ground face down, under the rain. I was taken aside for two “conversations”, the main sense of which was: ‘For what a f**k have you returned, get out to you Europe or we’ll find a way to deal with you’. Surprisingly, they mentioned my articles, swearing. One of the GUBOPiK operatives also said, anyway: ‘We can find you abroad too’, and added that I was ‘slander my motherland for money’.
For a most of time we were lying face down on the ground, waiting for arrival of various services and officials or for being called for inspection of our tents. The rain and the cold were the main problems. Some of us were made to knees, somebody was made lay down on the wet grass. Not mentioning such “small points” as constant insults, threats, kicks and stepping on lying people. One of our comrades was discovered to be having the stickers of the anarchist group ‘Pramen’ (‘The Ray’) – they took him aside and tried to make a video with him telling about that stickers. He refused, and they began to beat him. As soon as we noticed it and raised a cry, they stopped.
Then our things were inspected. The inspectors arrived with witnesses who were the guys from local Open-type penal colony (i.e. people totally dependent from the cops). At the end we counted and came to a conclusion that during the day our camp in the forest was visited by at least 40 cops.
Finally they drafted protocols onto 2 people from our group (about “The distribution of the extremist materials” and “Illegal vegetation removal”), and confiscated the anarchist brochures and stickers.
From the very beginning we were sure that we were facing minor detention, as it usually happens after the riot police assaults anarchist events, being morally prepared to that. But, to our surprised, the SOBR and GUBOPiK left around 21.00. Then the inspectors left us too, having handed us documents ordering us to appear in the court the 6th July. Finally, at about 10 p.m., we were left alone in our destroyed camp in the forest.
Here are the top cops quotes:
“Fucking burnouts and drug addicts!”
“Is this your tent? And what if we find the woman stuff there, ha-ha?”
‘Dziadok will f**k away to his Europe, and you all will puff for him!’
(To the young comrade): ‘It is Dziadok who invited you here? What did he promise to you?’
“Just tell us who were cutting the trees, and we’ll free you!”
(The investigator, on the phone): “How can I ask for their documents, they are all masked and with machine-guns!”
There were positive sides of the situation also. Noone of us gave a written explanation to the police, despite they demanded it. Neither anyone has told them anything beside their identity information. ‘What were you doing here?’ – ‘Relaxing’. – ‘Whom do you know here?’ – ‘Nobody’. In spite of the threats and beatings, everyone’s behavior was decent.
Now my condition is not good enough to draw large-scale conclusions. I’ll just tell one thing: Ok, we were left beaten and humiliated; well, the police managed to have got informed about our closed meeting and to disrupt it. But they couldn’t do anything with our solidarity, with our belief in our ideas. We have already survived a lot of things, we’ll survive it too. Without any pathos: that hounds haven’t achieved anything.
After a bit of sleep and treatment, I’ll continue sharing my thoughts.”
Source: http://fb.com/happymikola (with few explanatory notes and additions).
Allegedly, the one who have leaded the SOBR and orchestrated the beating, interrogations and humiliations of the activists was Michail Bedunkevich – the chief of the 3-rd bureau of the GUBOPiK (“An anti-extremist bureau”). Previously he was involved in threatening anarchists and antifa, and falsificating criminal cases against them.
During the crackdown, a lot of “extremist” materials were confiscated and will never be returned which is a huge financial damage to those organizing local distros. Those willing to support the Belarusian anarchists can donate to Anarchist Black Cross Belarus.
It is not the first time Belarusian political police with support of the special task forces attack anarchist events in Belarus.
– June, 2017. Riot police attacks the visitors the punk-concert in Baranovichi. 3 ppl got 5 days in prison.
– August, 2017. Riot police attacks the lecture of Russian antifascist Alexey Sutuga in Baranovichi. 15 ppl arrested.
– October, 2017. Riot police attacks the lecture of Russian anarchist Pyotr Ryabov. 20 ppl arrested.
– October, 2017. Riot police attacks the antifascist concert in Minsk. Around 50 ppl arrested.
Welcome back comrades!
Nothing is over, everything continues!
anarhija.infoTags: 325category: Projects
A few weeks ago we went to the Nautilus aquarium, a prison for marine species, which as such is part of a macro-structure that assimilates the detention of free beings into its own interests. We attacked a part of its structure scattered around several blocks. In this case the goal was to vandalize the aquarium advert on the avenue with paint, write slogans near the aquarium and leave leaflets explaining our action for the closure of this prison.
Why did we choose the form of vandalism?
Because the level of devastation carried out by the bodies of Power has reached the point where such places (like the aquarium and others) are protected by the people’s consensus dictated by ignorance, by the laws that defend them, the false representation of beauty, by entertainment to others’ detriment and also by false critics: welfare groups, associations, pacifists who weigh things up and beg the anthropocentric-specist enemy.
In short, we believe that it’s necessary to put an end to everything that violates free and wild nature and the path that denies these dynamics is this: attack. Freedom can’t be asked for, you don’t beg for, it won’t be the result of rules, laws or reforms. We need to crush fear, freedom is here and needs to be left as it is.
Peace around detention centres is specism!
Nature is chaotic!
The animal bites whoever wants to tame it!
The animal is prepared to suffer pain, hunger and thirst for its own freedom!
Strength to those who struggle for anarchy and total liberation!
Acapana contra el blanco/objetivo – Grupo de acción.
Translated from Italian by act for freedom now!peruvandalismanimal liberationcategory: Actions
via IT'S GOING DOWNThe following is a text about what to do to keep yourself and loved ones from being doxxed and everyday steps to avoid detection.
Read and Download HERE
The alt-right has gotten hold of some of our online accounts. With this information they are creating imposter accounts in order to harass, phish, and dox us. They are sharing our personal photos along with addresses and phone numbers to encourage further harassment. Their efforts have been far reaching and are expanding. Now is a crucial time for us to take our data security seriously and review our practices.
We particularly encourage those of us who may feel off the radar to examine security practices, as we have seen a willingness to target less visible or publicly active friends both for harassment and for information mining. Individual security is about keeping all of us safe.
We have put together a PDF detailing what we have learned thus far so we can all be prepared and hopefully prevent future doxxings and invasions on our privacy and safety.Tags: IGDdoxxingcategory: Other
Everywhere in the news and in conversations these past few weeks have been discussions about immigration and the policies of the USA government, especially that of separating migrant parents from their children. For anarchists, there is a justifiable need to abolish the borders between nations, societies, cultures and whatever else separates and defines us.
Outside of a revolution, how do we do this though? How do we create widely accessible points of intervention that provide direct leverage on the infrastructure with which the border is built upon? People need a pressure point, a place that they can converge to go on the offensive. What does this look like and what lessons have we learned?
We can look at Calasis, anarchists in Greece squatting giant buildings to help provide space for migrants, no border camps of the past, anarchists against the wall in Israel, and the recent occupations in Portland and Atlanta. Within these past two occupations, some questions about how do we counter the politics of leadership, inaction and shame? How do we build our power and keep it anti-state even as the liberals and peace police are actively trying to strip it from us? And after the event unfolds, how do we keep these direct actions alive?Tags: totwbordersmigrationworkthe strugglecategory: Other