From 613 Anarchy
This new zine published in Kingston, Ontario discusses both the challenges and advantages of being an anarchist in smaller places. The first two pieces are reflections on workshops facilitated by the authors on these questions in North Carolina and Virginia. The third piece is a From Embers interview with Christine from Prince Edward County on rural organizing. The last piece is a report-back on Kingston's 2018 May Day.canadaKingstonsmall townzinecategory: Projects
From Anews podcast
Welcome to the Anews podcast. This is episode 67 for June 8th, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
* sound edited by Rocinante
* “The Praxis of Pragmatics, Part 1” by SUDS
* Editorial: Feyerabend Is My Favorite Scientist - by notnull
* Thanks to Aragorn! and Wednesday for topic of the week discussion
* The music is 1. Tunacola, “Vámonos Al Parque” 2. Él Mató a un Policía Motorizado, “Las Luces” 3. Unlike Pluto (ft. Mike Taylor), “Everything Black”
* Contact us at email@example.com
Over the last six months special services are trying to destroy anarchist movement in Russia. They are using methods which are much more cruel in comparison with the “classic” repressions against the rioters in Russia. Kidnappings, torture, fabrications of criminal cases. The most notable is the case of “Network” organization, in the course of which the anarchists from Penza and St. petersburg are exposed to pressure, monstrous torture, baiting from the side of the official mass media and indictment in creation of the “terrorist community” because of playing airsoft in the forests. A lot of information is aiready published about this case.
But this case is far from the only. Repressions also touched Crimean anarchists. Alexander Kolchenko is an anarchist from Crimea which is staying in a jail for several years already. And the new repressions started in the March of 2018 – mass searches, arrests, torture for the crimean activists. The reason was communication in the social networks and giving notice to the authorities about holding a meeting. Now one of the crimean anarchists – Alexey Shestakovich – was forced to leave the country. Another – Evgeny Karakashev – is staying in the remand center.
Except of the attempt of creation the “terrorist community” and cleaning Crimean peninsula from the anarchists spesial services are trying to compose a wider anarchist criminal case, in course of which they could tie in not only airsoft players but also every anarchist activist. Now they are trying to portray not “terrorists”, but “extremists”. And the methods are the same. Anarchists from the different cities are tortured for giving readings about membering in “Narodnaja Samooborona” “extremist anarchist community”. And we can read with surprise in mass media about the valiant security officials from FSB and “E” center which report about detention of the “leader” and “members” of the “Narodnaja Samooborona”.
“Narodnaja Samooborona” is the most popular and fast-growing for the last years anarchist media platform. News about the events which are happening in the country, in the world and in the anarchist movement, analytical and historical articles and the articles with the attempts of a critical rethinking of the anarchist theory are published on it. Except this, a lot of reports from the anarchist actions from Russia and Belarus are published on the platform. Those reports are not sent from the one group or even a network of groups. Every active group of the anarchists can send the reports about their actions and the reports will be published. By the way, “Narodnaja Samooborona” closely interacts with “Narodnaja Samooborona (direct action)” project, the main goal of which is a struggle with unscrupulous employers and scammers, confrontation with bandits and apartment raiders.
A big growing of the anarchist activity was noticed for the last year. Anarchist campaigns were held regularly from the May 2017 till the May 2018 – in solidarity with political prisoners of anti-corruption protests, arested comrades after anti-G20 protests in Gamburg, anarchist political prisoners from the different countries. Also there were actions against money-lending firms, against “Platon” system, anti-fascist actions and memorial events dedicated to murdered antifascists, actions against increasing tariffs and against ruling party… Maximum activity was in February and March of 2018 when the campaigns against president elections and lots of protest actions against repressions of “Network” case were organized. Actions of different formats were held in dozens of russian cities. The most noticeable were such anarchist actions as unauthorized march through Myasnitskaya street against terror of FSB in Moscow and action near the local department of FSB in Chelyabinsk, when “FSB is the main terrorist”
banner was hanged and pyrotechnic smoke was thrown on the territory of the department. Except of the solidarity actions for the “Network” case repressed activists, a small attack of the “Union Russia”( russian ruling party) office by moscow anarchists had a special resonance.
All these actions attracted attention of special services, which tried to unite them as actions of “Narodnaya samooborona”. Earlier “Narodnaya samooborona” also was the object of a special attention of FSB and “E” center, which made raids on anarchist events and cowed the anarchists which could be connected with “Narodnaya samooborona”. Now the growing of anarchist activity called their worry for active actions against “NS”. In addition, in March of 2018, before the repressions against moscow anarchists have started, russian president Vladimir Putin ordered to special services to detect and punish the organizers of unauthorized actions.
In February several moscow anarchists were arrested as suspected in attack on the “Union Russia” office and also chelyabinsk anarchists which were blamed in attack on the FSB department. Chelyabinsk anarchists were tortured in the FSB department after being arrested. During all the night they were tortured by electric shock to confirm their participation in the action. Besides that the terrorists from FSB demanded them to say that the idea of the action had been found in the “Narodnaya samooborona” public group. And one of the arrested comrades – Dmitry Tsibukovsky – was assigned by FSB as a leader of the chelyabinsk branch of the “Narodnaya samooborona” extremist anarchist organization.
In March the repressions continued in Moscow.”E” center and SOBR ( Russian service of rapid force response) made searches and arrests in the houses of moscow anarchists before the president elections on the 14th of March. One of them – Svyatoslav Rechkalov – was tortured in the minivan of SOBR. He was demanded to confirm his participation and leadership in “NS”, organizing of anarchist actions and campaigns on the territory of the whole Russia. Agents of “E” center straight declared that the reason of the tortures is the growing anarchist activity, “anarchists rapidly started their actions everywhere”.
Obviously, special services are preparing to open a new big extremist criminal case against anarchists, they are trying to get by force from the anarchists from different cities the recognitions that all the anarchist actions in Russia for the last time were organized and coordinated by “NS” organization. This is not true. Media resource of “Narodnaya samooborona” first of all is a platform and every anarchist group can send their reports to it. It is obvious that the special services torture every arrested anarchist and demand him to confirm that the action was prepared and held by “NS” because they want to create a new extremist criminal case.
The reasons of such interest to us are clear. Attempts to clean the political sphere from dissidents in Russia are being made not for the first decade of years. For the last time special services paid their close attention to the anarchists. And, of course, they couldn’t miss the most popular anarchist media platform – especially at the moment of rising level of anarchist activity and the growing amount of published reports.
Attack on the “Narodnaja Samooborona” is an attempt to destroy anarchist infrastructure, disabling the most popular media platform which spreads the information about events of lots of separate groups.
Also it’s obvious that the repressions are the indicators of the effective anarchist activities in Russia. Why do the special services catch the next person which could be an anarchist and try to assign him as an “activist” or a “leader” of “Narodnaja Samooborona” and russian anarchism? This is so because the state is afraid of growing anarchist movement and activity. Every resultative activity, every rising movement will meet repressions and pressure from the state. We are calling to continue actions of solidarity with the russian anarchists and remember all the anarchists which were repressed. Resist repressions is possible only all together, and the struggle must be waged against the repressive politic of the state in the attitude to the all anarchists. So we are calling to arise in your actions all the cases of repressions in Penza, St. Petersburg, cremia, Chelyabinsk and Moscow. All these repressions are the links of one chain for us.
But also is very important not to stop only on this theme when making the actions of solidarity with repressed anarchists. If it happens and we forget about other problems of our society, state will reach its goals, divert our attention and stop spreading of our ideas.
And of course none of repressions can suppress our desire for freedom and equity. We are calling the anarchists to be afraid of nothing and continue their struggle. Surrendering and retreating now we will achieve nothing and let them understand that it’s easy to suppress us by repressions. And, of course, every time when the anarchist movement will grow the repressions will be started. Only dedication in our struggle and solidarity can help us to stand at this hard time.Tags: Russiarepressionscategory: International
via Friendly Anarchism - listen below or after the link
Last week I spoke at the North American Anarchist Studies Network conference in so-called Montreal on the topic "We're Brokenhearted: Understanding Fierce Love in Anarchist Organizing". There was a great discussion afterwards included in the audio. For full notes including quotes and references you can go here: friendlyanarchism.org/2018/06/01/nor…ntation-notes/
Thank you to NAASN for having me! You can support them and the work they do hereTags: friendly anarchismchristian anarchismpodcastcategory: Projects
We are pleased to announce the thirteenth annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair, located on unceded Coast Salish Territory in Victoria, British Columbia.
The Bookfair is for anarchists and non-anarchists, with participants from all over North America and beyond. Events include book and information tables, workshops, readings, films, presentations, and much more! Get involved! Please get in touch with proposals for workshops and tables by August 25th, 2018. Late proposals will be considered but may not be included promotional material.
1. Bookfair Dates & Contacts
2. How to Request a Table
3. Call for Workshops & Presentations Proposals
4. Volunteers needed!
1. Victoria Anarchist Bookfair Dates & Contacts
September 22nd and 23rd
Fernwood NRG, Victoria, BC, Lekwungen Territory
We are pleased to announce the thirteenth annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair, located on unceded Lekwungen Territory in Victoria, British Columbia. The Bookfair is for anarchists and non-anarchists, with participants from all over North America and beyond. The Bookfair always includes workshops on a wide range of topics. We seek to challenge colonial attitudes, introduce anarchism to the public, foster dialogue between various political traditions, and create radical, inclusive, anti-oppressive spaces.
Participants with different visions, practices, and traditions are welcome. Events include book and information tables, workshops, readings,films, presentations, and much more!
Please consult our Statement of Principles before sending your proposal. It can be found on our website:http://victoriaanarchistbookfair.ca
2. How to Request a Table for September 22nd and 23rd
The heart of the Bookfair is the main room including booksellers, distributors, independent presses and activist groups from all over BC, North America, and abroad. If you’d like to table this year, please provide a short description of your group and the materials you intend to distribute at the Bookfair.
There is no fee for tabling at the Bookfair, but we suggest 10% of sales after expenses in order to help us cover costs.
3. Workshop & Presentation Proposals
The Bookfair organizing collective is currently seeking workshop and presentation proposals.
As stated above this Bookfair we are looking to convene in order to challenge the ongoing colonization of our communities and our minds. We are looking for workshops that discuss Indigenous perspectives, de-colonialisation, social struggles, and environmental issues. We also aim to foster a growing movement in resistance to colonialism through the sharing of practical skills. Together we can acknowledge our past and move forward with meaningful solidarity.
Workshops may be aimed at people who are curious about, or new to, anarchist ideas and radical practices; alternatively they might address a topic in depth for people who are already familiar with the subject.
Standard Bookfair workshops last for 50 minutes with a 10-minute break in between. While we are open to a variety of workshop formats, we recommend that facilitators leave at least 20 minutes for discussion at the end of their presentations. Each year we get a lot of submissions, but if we don’t have space at the Bookfair, we still want to help make your workshop happen!
Please provide a title and short description of the workshop’s content in your submission. If your workshop is accepted, this information will be reprinted in the program zine.
We need your help! The Victoria Anarchist Bookfair & Festival of Anarchy Collectives are always looking for new people to assist behind the scenes. We’re looking for help in all kinds of areas such as postering, welcoming & information tabling, room set-up, kids activities, counselling and safe-space support, cleanup and more. The Bookfair is entirely volunteer-run and helping out is a great way to get involved and meet new people. If you’re interested, please read the volunteer descriptions, our collective principles and accessibility statements on our website, and let us know how you’d like to help out!
We continue to spread the epidemic of anarchist and insurrectionist rage:
Public response to a misdiagnosis that circulates on the internet.
To the anarchists of Mexico and the world, to all the witches fighting in the universe.
«My Mother, go to your room and take care of your work, the loom and the spinning wheel (…) The word must be a thing of men, of all, and above all of me, of whom is the power of this palace». – Telemachus, The Odyssey
«If I can’t dance, your revolution does not interest me». – Emma Goldman
Those of us who been joing the insurrectional informalism from an anarchist-feminist perspective, and are part of our affinity collectives, have suffered the contempt and persistent attacks of those claiming to be ‘accomplices of Anarchy’, they slander us for accepting a theory and a praxis different from their ‘handbook of the (good) anarchist’. Some in the insurrectionist scene have even accused us of being ‘witches’, ‘whores’, ‘feminazis’, ‘traileras’, ‘buchonas’ and ‘flip flops’. There are also those who call themselves ‘anarcha-feminists’ (operating within extremely sexist ‘federations’ and ‘collectives’) who censure our insurrectionary actions for departing from ‘nonviolence’, for not following a program or the so-called libertarian evolutionism.
However the most recent attacks are those from the libertarian Bolsheviks, who are surprised that «there are also compañeras who have allowed themselves to be infected with rage and led astray by Rodriguista violence who have formed their ‘affinity groups’ from anarcho-feminism and implement terrorism as their praxis». And they worry about us being «part of that group of naive young people around the world who fall into the trap, obstructing the daily growth of the anarchist movement, the popular struggle against the State and Capital for the realization of libertarian communism».
Thus, the Bolshevik libertarians try and prevent our participation in the anarchic war and ask us to return to the school, to the metate, to the molcajete, to caring for our daughters and darning socks. Like Telemachus to Penelopes, they send us to the knitting room. Once again, the cry of patriarchal power disguises itself as ‘libertarian’ and condemns us to shut us up and keep us from ‘the things of men’.
Before continuing we want to clarify that we are not Rodriguistas, and not because we don’t share the theory of compañero Rodriguez but because we are not Bakunistas, nor are we Malatestas, we are not Magonistas, nor are we Goldmanistas. We follow ideas not people.
We are anarchists and we believe that there is only one way to confront power and authority, and that is the anarchic insurrection, that is why we conceive anarchic organization in an informal way through collective affinities and permanent conflict against the patriarchal civilization as a whole. That is why we reject the misogynist authoritarianism of the these Bolshevik libertarians, and why we do it publicly. To fight against sexism and misogyny is to fight against gender, and to fight to destroy gender is to also fight to destroy the whole patriarchal civilization.
We do not represent all the insurrectionist anarchist comrades, we only represent a collective of affinity based in the central region of Mexico. We recognize the struggle of all the other anarcha-feminist insurrectionist compañeras, from those who individually confront the patriarchal civilization, to the compañeras who do it in anonymous collectives and those who have decided to group themselves under new acronyms and claim their actions.
Our fight is the same.
Neither God, nor State, nor Master!
Against the patriarchal civilization!
For the control of our bodies and our lives!
For the destruction of gender!
For the anarchic insurrectional tension!
Informal Insurrectionist Anarcha-Feminist Coven
(via Contra Info, translated into English by Nae Clone for Mpalothia)Tags: Mexicoinformalinsurrectionaryanarcha-feministcategory: International
From June 11th
We are one week away from the June 11th International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners!
Events are coming in fast & there’s still time for organize events and actions in your town. Everything from writing a letter to an imprisoned anarchist to attacking the dreadful normalcy of everyday life contributes to the sort of living and active solidarity that can aid our comrades behind bars and stoke fires which may someday burn down the prisons.
If you’re not sure what to do, check out this list of possibilities drawn from previous years, and our page full of posters, handbills, audio interviews, and more.
And if you’re looking for inspiration, a number of imprisoned anarchists have written powerful statements for this year’s June 11th.JUNE 11th EVENTS
Please email information on additional events to june11th [at] riseup [dot] net
Asheville, NC (USA)
June 11 // 6pm
Potluck BBQ in honor of imprisoned comrades
@ Asheville Park
More info here
Austin, TX (USA)
June 11 // 7:30-9:30
The Gentleman Bank Robber movie screening + letter writing
@ Monkeywrench Books (110 E North Loop Blvd)
a benefit for Austin ABC & former-prisoner & anti-authoritarian urban guerrilla bo brown
Bloomington, IN (USA)
June 7 // 10pm-3am
Rock Against Racism dance party
@ The Back Door (207 S College Ave)
a benefit for June 11th organizing
June 12 // 7-9pm
Letter writing for imprisoned anarchists
@ Monroe County Public Library
Contact: realicide [at] gmail [dot] com
Denver, CO (USA)
June 11 // 5:30 – 8:45 pm
Prison Abolition Potluck
Prison abolitionists will come together to break bread, learn from one
another, and network. Screening of Trouble – No Justice… Just Us, updates, prison abolition discussion and socializing.
For more info, contact denver iwoc at denver [at] incarceratedworkers.org
Durham, NC (USA)
June 17 // 6pm
@ The Pinhook
Grand Rapids, MI (USA)
June 11 // 7pm (tentatively)
Movies, Games, Food, and Letter Writing
@ MLK Park
Minneapolis, MN (USA)
June 10 // 6pm
Vegan potluck, letter writing, board games
Potluck & letters at 6, games at 7:30
@ 2301 Portland Ave S
Montreal, QC (Canada)
June 11 // 22h
Tabling & letter writing + show
with Gazm & Cell, Wax
@Bistro de Paris
Olympia, WA (USA)
June 11 // 8pm
Benefit Show & Letter writing
with Aro, Lomes, Pines
@ 115 Legion Way SW
Olympic Peninsula (USA)
June 11 // 6-8pm
Prisoner Letter Writing & Film Screening
Letter writing & snacks at 6pm, screening of “The Gentleman Bank Robber: The Story of Butch Lesbian Freedom Fighter rita bo brown” at 7. Donations welcome and encouraged, but no one turned away! Snacks and letter writing materials/info provided.
@ Jefferson County Library (in the big meeting room) / traditional Klallam territory / Port Hadlock, WA / Olympic Peninsula
Pittsburgh, PA (USA)
Fight Toxic Prisons Conference
Portland, OR (USA)
June 11 // 4pm
Letters to Prisoners
@ Social Justice Action Center (400 SE 12th Ave)
Followed by a noise demo @ 7PM
June 14 // 6-9pm
Prisoner letter writing night
@ Social Justice Action Center (400 SE 12th Ave)
16 de Junio
Disidencia, accion directa y liberacion total
Conversatorios, proyecciones, musica en vivo, comida vegana, rifa a beneficio, venta de almuerzo
@ Centro Cultural Pedro Mariqueo (Pob. La Victoria)
Seattle, WA (USA)
June 10 // 6pm
Potluck, art show, benefit
173 16th ave and Spruce
Tags: june 11thjune 11long term prisoner supportanarchists in troubleeventscategory: Projects
From CrimethInc.And a Look Inside an Occupied University in Managua
As even the Russian state news service admits, the ongoing revolt in Nicaragua against Daniel Ortega’s government is coming largely from the left side of the political spectrum. While supporters of the authoritarian left exhort people to support “left” governments no matter what neoliberal policies they implement or how many people they slaughter, we believe that the declining fortunes of left governments throughout Latin America are not just the consequences of CIA conspiracies but also the consequence of real shortcomings of the institutional left and of government itself. Doubtless, various capitalists and state actors have their own agendas for Nicaragua and they hope to take advantage of the uprising to implement them. But ordinary people have legitimate reasons to rise up. We should identify the participants in the uprising who are pursuing goals complementary to our vision of a world without capitalism and the state, in order to direct our solidarity towards them. Otherwise, as the Ortega government attempts to retain power by brute force, the revolt will likely be hijacked by right-wing and colonial interests.
While students were discussing what demands to make in the negotiations with Ortega, Dissensus Nicaragua published a translation of the CrimethInc. text “Why We Don’t Make Demands” in Spanish. The negotiations have broken down. Now the crisis is intensifying, with students continuing to occupy universities while the police continue killing people and Ortega refuses to back down. In the following report, our Nicaraguan correspondent outlines some of the tensions within the uprising and presents an eyewitness report from inside one of these occupied universities.
Rebel students in Nicaragua.
I am part of the affinity group that created sosnicaraguareporte.com, in Spanish. It includes a timelime and all sorts of information. It’s a good place for news. There is even a meme section!
As of this writing, over 100 people have been murdered by the state and the police in the uprising in Nicaragua. The majority have been students. On Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, May 30, there was a Mother’s Day march. This march broke all records for participation. The state police and Sandinista Youth attacked the march, killing 11 and injuring 79 all over Nicaragua.
We have not been able to discuss all the questions we would like to. Things are messy and changing constantly, and we are not the majority. Nevertheless, I will try to describe the situation.
We can see some tensions inside the movement. The most noticeable are the following:The Private Sector vs. the Autovoncado Movements
The Autoconvocado movement (the coalition of student organizers and community organizers, independent from the Coalition of Students and Representatives in the dialogue) has been supporting a general strike as a way to escalate the situation and put more pressure on the government to negotiate and stop the killings. The private sector (which employs dozens of thousands of people and holds a lot of wealth and political power) has not advocated for a general strike, supposedly to avoid economic losses. As a consequence, for example, the city of Masaya organized autonomously and declared, independent of the private sector, that they would conduct a citywide general strike. That strike occurred and was violently repressed. Up to now, Masaya is the most dangerous and most affected city in Nicaragua, with over 10 people murdered by the police over last weekend.Student Movements and the Student Coalition
There is very strong communication between the student movement and the Student Coalition that is representing the movement at the level of dialogue with the state. But many participants in the student movement feel that the Student Coalition is being very soft and diplomatic. The Coalition is a group of student organizers from multiple universities all over Nicaragua; they are the ones representing the movement in the negotiations with the state. The student organizers that form the coalition emerged from affinity groups that were created at the beginning of the student protests. I don’t know exactly how they got so much power—it was a combination of being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. These students were the first ones to present themselves as leaders.
So the power distribution is very vague and there are instances when they have been accused of selling out. The Student Coalition representatives are the ones who release the communiqués and plans of action, and the ones who talk to the press the most. Nevertheless, it is possible for student dissidents to claim that the Coalition does not represent them and to provide a different set of demands and methods.
There are also complaints that the Student Coalition does not offer space for anyone’s voices besides those of men when it comes to delegating the responsibilities.
The participant in the Student Coalition that comes closest to our perspective is probably Enrieth Martínez.
The gates of UNAN, the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, in Managua. The sign reads “UNEN [the official student union] doesn’t represent me.”
A lot of the power and decision-making process has been focused on students in Managua, since the capital has been the site of the major manifestations and occupied universities. But the cities that have been affected the most have been outside of Managua—cities that don’t have a university campus, where the residents are defending themselves through citywide barricades and something like a general strike. There is no effective communication among people in the different cities, since the strategy has been to block all major roads and transportation. At the table of the dialogue with the state, there are no representatives from the cities that are affected the most. Here is where several groups have advocated for self-governance and self-administration as a way to take the decision-making power out of Managua.Feminism
The first and most prominent critiques of the government and the state arose from feminists. Since the 1980s, feminists have critiqued the hierarchical and patriarchal aspects of the Sandinista Movement. In a famous speech by Daniel Ortega on International Women’s day at the peak of the Sandinista Revolution, Ortega said that the revolutionary duty of women was to give birth to the next generation of revolutionaries. This showed how the revolution viewed women and women’s participation in everything. It has been feminists who have critiqued the state as connected to machista and religious culture in Nicaragua and Latin America. It has been feminists who have denounced hierarchies in the family, in politics, in culture, and in the state. It has also been women who have constantly said that the war against the people did not start on April 19, it started way before, but it was carried out against rural women and indigenous people in Nicaragua.On the Question of Capitalism
People need to understand that the Nicaraguan people are sacrificing economic stability for social justice. Nicaragua was perceived as safe, an economic paradise for investment, but this only came about through the centralization of political power. Like Vietnam and China, a single-party centralized government has been an incentive to draw private investors.
Nicaragua’s economic stability, which took 10 years to build, only benefitted the upper middle class and the upper class. This created a false sense of “progress,” “development,” and “stability,” all of which the government celebrated. In reality, most of the people worked in informal sectors and did not have access to jobs. In this sense, participants in the student movement are forced to start asking questions: “OK, now I have graduated from an Autonomous University, now what? Where am I going to work? And at what price?” The vast majority of college majors and programs were “pro-market majors” focusing on business administration, engineering, computer science, marketing, tourism, and the like.
The student movements will need to address capitalism and neoliberalism and start to see how their struggle intersects with the anti-capitalist movement outside of authoritarian governments. These conversations have not started yet.
I think a lot of people are disappointed in the lack of international support towards people in Nicaragua. Americans only cared about us as long as they could come to Nicaragua to vacation and enjoy cheap things. On an international level, many of those who support the Nicaraguan insurrection are not asking hard questions about their own governments and structures. Hopefully, we can find a way to make would-be allies start addressing these questions themselves. It’s true, we are seen as a “legitimate” movement that wants “democracy” (whatever that means). If we succeed, we will see how many countries will support our efforts to collectivize, autonomize, and decentralize.
Will the United States still support us after they realize our intention to go ever further left? Will a centrist government create the conditions for more radical politics to emerge? This is a long-term plan; the Ortegas will do the best they can to stay in power at whatever cost. They would prefer to stay in power in a destroyed country than give up power in a way that leaves the country stable.
I think the conversation regarding “politicians,” “elections,” “the state,” “political participation,” and “the police” are all up in the air. It’s an opportunity to create new local concepts. After everything that has been lost—entire towns burned to the ground and children executed in the street—we will not settle for less. Whatever government comes next will need to radically change what it means to do politics.
I think we are trying everything from every possible angle, and it will be the people who will decide what best fits their spiritual needs. We are attacking state power from every angle, some angles more “institutional,” “democratic,” and “legimitate” than others, but somehow these are all complementing each other.
Unfortunately, we don’t know if we are moving forwards or backwards. We just know what the government is doing everything, desperately to survive, and every single day, they lose more support. As the saying goes, El que no critica a su gobierno, no quiere a su madre! Those who don’t criticize their government don’t love their mothers.
A protest at UNAN.
After a week of communicating with my contact inside the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua (UNAN), I received a message from him: “I’ll be at the main entrance in 15 minutes. I can meet you there if you want to come inside, meet everybody, and see what we’ve been up to.”
For a week, I had been participating in a support system helping the occupation at UNAN from the outside. At first, my contact, Guadalupe (a pseudonym) had advised me not come inside for fear that infiltrators might recognize me and harass me outside. But as things seemed to have settled down, I was invited in.
With about 30,000 students, UNAN is the largest public university in Nicaragua. Students have been occupying it since May 8. Every major entry is blocked by two sets of barricades, starting blocks away from the main Portones (entry gate). Each porton is guarded by at least 15 students armed with morteros (mortors).
“Dress up as a medical student and bring a med kit, just in case anybody is watching. They are less likely to be suspicious if you enter as a ‘medic,’” Guadalupe told me.
I crossed the main Porton and met Guadalupe for the first time. “Second in command” in the occupation, he is also a part of the committee representing the students in the national dialogue. He is 23 years old and a student at UNAN. Guadalupe was part of the first protest organizers inside of UNAN. Currently he divides his time between working inside and outside of UNAN, inside as a coordinator and outside as a delegate of UNAN as part of a larger student coalition.
The organization inside of UNAN involve “leaders” from different portones and sectors (Medical, Food, Supply) that meet up and negotiate responsibilities and priorities. These leaderships emerged out of the first week of occupation and were agreed upon by all. Since each porton is semi-autonomous, it can operate as a closed circuit in case of an attack, without the necessity of a top-down decision-making process that would involve the entire University. Roles were distributed by voluntary association and based around shifts so that everybody can rest. Main roles are: Guarding the barricades, sorting through donations, food, cleaning, guarding the portones, medical attention, communications and coalition participation.
Its important to note that the organization inside the occupied Universities occurred spontaneously. They did not follow a pre-established or pre-rehearsed organizational model. This model of organizing was the most efficient, participatory and democratic. Remember that young Nicaraguans did not have an “occupy movement” o something similar that could have provided the blueprint of how to organize. The only political models that were practiced were through hierarchical political parties, and ONG’s leadership training.
Here are the rules inside the gates: everybody in the University uses pseudonyms; you are not allowed to take any photos or videos of anything; if you are texting, you have to do it with your phone facing the ground. In Nicaragua, it is very common for people to use nicknames, usually derived from physical cues like La Flaca (the skinny one), El Gordo (the fat one), El Negro (the black one), La Zorra (the Fox), El Chino (the Chinese one), El Chele (the light-skinned one), El Gringo (the gringo).
Guadalupe confirmed my identity and began to show me around the university campus. Most of the muchachos (“the boys”—a word that includes girls) were busy taking over UNI, the Engineering University, so UNAN was somewhat quiet. Later that day, the police and Sandinista Youth attacked UNI, injuring 30 students and killing one of them.
We approach the geology building, which has been turned into a medical center. “This is one of the newest buildings of this University and we are protecting it, because we plan on using these facilities in the future for our education.” I see rooms full of medical supplies, and a lot of students sleeping in the hallways in sleeping bags. “Those are the muchachos from the night shift at the barricades. They sleep here during the day. Not all of them are from UNAN—some of them are neighbors that are too afraid to go back home.”
The hallways are dark and quiet, but everything is clean and organized. There are cleaning crews; students know the rules, which rooms to go into and which not to go into. “We need to protect this building. It’s the geology building. We are protecting diamonds and meteors that are worth thousands of dollars, but we want to save them for future generations to learn and study.”
The entire university is protected. You don’t see graffiti on the walls. All the classrooms are locked. The restaurants inside of the university are also protected because the occupiers don’t want the occupation to affect the small business owners who need to keep a job.
We left the building and approach one of the cooking and food collection sheds. The leader of this zone is called Aymara. She administrates the food in this section and keeps a tight record of all the food donations that come in. She distributes the food and supplies wherever they are needed the most.
A map showing the distribution of conflict around Managua.
What do you all do for food?
“We’re living off Gallo Pinto.” (Gallo Pinto—rice and beans—is the most popular Nicaraguan dish). “We don’t have a set time for breakfast. If the muchachos are hungry but don’t want to leave their post, we’ll send food their way. Every day, we must cook three meals for about 400 people.” The joke in Nicaragua is that we eat rice and beans for breakfast, beans with rice for lunch and Gallo Pinto for dinner.
Aymara also showed me a shed full of food, enough food for months, all of which has been donated by people all over Nicaragua. It is rationed out daily. Pointing to an immense pile of spoiled food, Aymara said “You see all that food? That’s all poisoned food. Sometimes people send us bananas with needles inside, or bread injected with rat poison. We need to double-check everything that we receive. That’s why we prioritize canned goods.”
“We also managed to jumpstart five university trucks and one tractor, which we use inside and outside of the university.”
This article does a good job describing the leadership of women inside and outside of the student movement. I studied with the author, Madeleine Caracas, and we both started out in the same organizing committee in early April.
Each porton operates semi-autonomously. Each zone has its own medical center, food center, and bomb-making center, each with a delegate in every porton. Every porton is always ready to defend itself. Two nights before my visit, an armed man on a motorcycle rapidly approached a barricade, shooting at the students. The students defended themselves with mortars and injured the motorcyclist, who destroyed his phone before the students moved him to a local hospital. He died on the way there.
This was a very confusing scenario. The man on the motorcycle underestimated the abilities of the students to defend themselves. Why would he attack the barricades by himself? Did he plan on shooting, perhaps killing, some students and then retreating? We don’t know.
Such attacks usually happen at night. Keep in mind that this university is the size of an entire neighborhood, with hundreds of buildings, classrooms, departments and soccer and basketball courts, with six different entryways. In order to add more protection at night, the barricades are moved further out of the university perimeter to create more of buffer zone.
Unlike UPOLI, UNAN does not have the support of the local community to protect them. In this sense, the students are more exposed. UNAN is neighbored by La Colonia Miguel Bonilla, which is an Orteguista neighborhood. This community was created in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution, and most of the houses are owned by the police, the military, and high-ranking military officials. This neighborhood was one of the military headquarters during the Somoza dictatorship, but was confiscated during the revolution and given to UNAN students for housing and to military, police, and civilians to live in. Therefore, most of the families that live inside of La Miguel Bonilla strongly support the Orteguista government as a “revolutionary government.” If you are political dissident in La Miguel Bonilla, you must keep a low profile; there have been many cases of harassment by the community towards anti-Ortega supporters. La Miguel Bonilla is also where a lot of UNAN administration officials live, the safe officials that perpetuate and institutionalize the Orteguista influence inside of the University.
The UNAN has a strong barricade in front of the entrance to La Miguel Bonilla, since a majority of the attacks have been organized inside of the neighborhood, which functions as a safe space for Orteguista forces.
What do you want to accomplish?
“We want to obtain university autonomy, a complete restructuring of UNEN [the chief Nicaraguan student union], and a complete restructuring of the internal administration of the University. Every day we spend in this university, we are sending a message to all of Nicaragua about how far we are willing to go to offer quality education for our generation and future generations.”
What does autonomy mean to you?
“It means professors not getting fired because they oppose decisions that the government has been making. It means giving access to scholarships to everybody, not just the Sandinista Youth. It means taking the Orteguista party out of the Universiy’s administration. It means studying things that matter. We need a student-centered education and not an Orteguista-centered education, and this is happening not just at the University level but also at the Primary and Secondary school education level.”
I noted Campus Security was still present in the University. I asked about their role in the university during the occupation. Guadalupe told me, “They work here because they are privately hired, so they don’t want to lose their jobs. They have helped us identity infiltrators and have been extra set of eyes and ears their own communities, to help the students. They’re on our side.”
For context, in Nicaragua, Campus Security is nothing like the police or “private security.” They do not carry weapons; they do not have the power to turn people in to the police. This job was created in the 1990s when so many revolutionaries were jobless. These jobs are done at a very low wage by very poor families, usually protecting empty lots.
What message do you have for students around the world?
“Hopefully we can inspire students to occupy their universities and start building the kind of university they want to study in.
“It’s also super important for Universities to have a good relationship with their neighborhood. That way you can involve the community in matters that affect the university and start building solidarity.”
The students I met and spoke with in UNAN seem to have developed an unbreakable bond based on solidarity that crosses gender and class backgrounds. They appear willing to die for each other and to protect the future they believe in. They have spent over three weeks building barricades, conspiring, living together, and protecting each other, forever changing what it means to be a student in Nicaragua.
A protest at UNAN
What comes next? Will other forces intervene in Nicaragua to maintain and intensify neoliberalism? Or will the rebellion expand its scope and analysis to take on the forces beyond the Ortega regime?Tags: NicaraguaCrimethinc.Occupystudentscategory: Essays
From CrimethInc.Hacking as Direct Action against the Surveillance State
We spoke with the world-famous hacker persona and self-proclaimed anarchist revolutionary Phineas Fisher about the politics behind their attacks on the surveillance industry, the ruling party in Turkey, and the Catalan police. Here follows a retrospective on the exploits of Phineas Fisher, followed by their remarks to us.
Text and interview by BlackBird.
Hacking is often depicted as something technical, a simple matter of attack and defense. Yet motivations are everything. The same technique that builds oppressive tools can be used as a weapon for emancipation. Hacking, in its purest form, is not about engineering: it is about leveraging power dynamics by short-circuiting technology. It is direct action for the new digital world we all live in.
In the shadows of the techno-empire, the hacking scene became a target for cooptation and infiltration. But the underground cannot be eradicated: from time to time, a new action breaks through the surface. Some of the hackers we admire are coders who produce tools for online privacy and anonymity. Other crews create and distribute alternative media. And then there are those who hack back.
The Lost Hacker Circles
It is no secret, for anyone paying attention, that for a long time the hacker underground was also taking sides in the ongoing war. Yet the effervescence that characterized the underground DIY scene of the past few decades has died down, or at least receded to less visible places.
Pessimists mourned the death of hacker communities in a proliferation of individual desertions. It is true that the techno-military complex succeeded in swelling the ranks of the mercenaries: there is a price at which a particular mindset can be bought, whether with money, success, the feeling of power, or the excitement of playing with fancy toys while chasing what state propaganda labels “the enemy.”
The underground sought to multiply zones of opacity and resistance, while public perception shifted towards normalizing the relationship between the hacker attitude and technology. Hackers were no longer seen as rebel teenagers producing chaos in a casual game (as depicted by movies from the eighties or nineties like War Games or Hackers), but as a highly specialized unit of the military occupation forces—or else as their comic-book-level villain counterparts. In the most depoliticized version, the term “hacker” is understood as just another name for the capitalist entrepreneur, a myth you can find in the “hackerspaces” of any gentrified city.
The surveillance industry was so proud of its business that it did not bother concealing it. Representatives of the armed forces and vendors of spy programs showed up regularly at hacker community events, openly recruiting talent. Commercial videos pitching “offensive security” tactics circulated openly, selling products to intelligence agencies, corporations, and governments.
It’s an old story: states buy legitimacy in the eyes of the public by portraying themselves as fighting the kinds of crime very few dare to discuss—child pornography, human trafficking, international terrorism. But as soon as they have the surveillance weapons in their arsenals, they direct these weapons against the entire population.
In the middle of this ongoing cooptation of the hacker world, the surveillance complex experienced an important yet invisible blow. An individual—or perhaps a group—fought back by hacking spyware companies and publishing the contents of their secret vaults. When you’re fighting an industry that depends on secrecy, publicly disclosing their internal communications and tools can be a very effective strategy.
The GammaGroup Hack
In August 2014, a hack took place against “GammaGroup,” an Anglo-German vendor of spy programs. A dump of 40Gb of information followed. After this hack, there were no more secrets about GammaGroup: everything was made public, including their clients, product catalog, price lists, and the programs themselves, along with their training manuals.
The star product of the company, a program named “FinFisher,” had been sold to more than 30 government agencies and police forces to spy on journalists, activists, and dissidents. The company had been infecting dissidents in Bahrain and Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring. They usually used social engineering to trick their targets into installing the software.
A targeted dissident would click on a document attached to an email, or open a link that would install the spyware. From there on, the clients who bought the spyware from the company would have control over the infected computer or cellphone, monitoring microphones, voice and Skype calls, messages, and emails, not to mention continuous location tracking.
Immediately after the hack, someone began tweeting from an account posing as the Gamma PR. The info dump was not enough: a hacker going by PhineasFisher released an old-school text file containing a tutorial with the details of the attack on Gamma:
“I’m not writing this to brag about what an 31337 h4x0r I am and what m4d sk1llz it took to 0wn Gamma. I’m writing this to demystify hacking, to show how simple it is, and to hopefully inform and inspire you to go out and hack shit… I wanted to show that the Gamma Group hack really was nothing fancy, and that you do have the ability to go out and take similar action.”
The name of that phile was “HackBack—A DIY Guide for those without the patience to wait for whistleblowers.” For a gravely wounded hacker community, in which the original solidarity, freedom, and open exchange of information was losing ground against the commodification of knowledge by the market and the empire, this action was a breath of fresh air. And—perhaps—the beginning of a movement.
You are the target.
“You want more. You have to hack your target. You have to overcome encryption and capture relevant data, being stealth [sic] and untraceable. Exactly what we do.”
You can hear these words in the commercial for a product called “Da Vinci,” a “remote control system” that was sold worldwide by an Italian company named “Hacking Team.”
A company so shamelessly called “Hacking Team” is what results when a local police department approaches two hackers of a mercenary mindset with a request for collaboration. The cybercrime unit of Milan’s police force decided that passive monitoring was not enough for their purposes; to fulfill their offensive needs, they asked Alor and Naga, two famous Italian hackers, for help modifying a well-known hacking tool that they had originally authored.
Who their clients were and how they managed to infect and spy on their victims remained a secret until July 5, 2015. That day, the twitter account for the company announced: “As we have nothing to hide, we are publishing all our e-mails, files, and source code,” providing links to more than 400 Gigabytes of data. As usual, the company initially claimed that the leak was comprised of false information, but forging such a tremendous amount of data would be an almost impossible feat.
The ones who suspected that the attack had a familiar signature were not wrong: the sarcastic nickname of Phineas Fisher was once again behind the disclosure.
By publishing all the internal information—and, later, another tutorial exploring technical details and political motivations—Phineas Fisher offered the world undeniable evidence about the operations of the 70 customers of Hacking Team. Most of these customers were military, police forces, and federal and provincial governments; the total revenue added up to over 40 million Euros. You can read the full list of customers here.
This info dump confirmed that there were very good reasons for the global demand for privacy and anonymity. Alongside the Snowden revelations, the ability to peek into HackingTeam’s dirty secrets gave us an idea of the magnitude of the campaign of targeted surveillance being carried out by governments and corporations. We know today that there are many other unscrupulous firms profiting from illegal spy operations—such as the Israel-based NSO Group, recently involved in targeted infection of the devices of journalists investigating the Iguala massacre in Mexico, which used base tricks to lure their victims into compromising their own devices.
This anonymous unmasking of HackingTeam was a brilliant operation with global repercussions.
A Market for Secrets
A business like Hacking Team depends on secrecy. To infect their targets, in many of the cases something called a “zero day”1 is used. A zero day is a vulnerability in a computer program that has not been publicly disclosed yet, which can be exploited by anyone who knows about it to attack computer programs, data, or networks, in many cases offering complete remote control over them. Recently, surveillance capitalism has created a net of companies that act as brokers, buying these vulnerabilities in black and gray markets. The price for a single zero day can range from $10k to $300k or even $1 million.
Spyware companies like Hacking Team “weaponize” these vulnerabilities, gluing several of them together and selling licenses to the forces of repression so they can simply “click and spy,” with the added possibility of custom developments for penetrating the systems that belong to chosen victims.
The window of opportunity to take advantage of these “zero days” gets shorter over time. The more you use the knowledge of an unknown vulnerability, the higher the chances that someone will notice the attack and start investigating the holes that allowed it, and the higher the likelihood that other groups will find the same holes. The opportunity to use the vulnerabilities ends when the software in the user’s device is patched to fix the errors: this is why it is so important to keep our devices up to date. However, there are cases in which the manufacturers of our devices make the update procedure difficult or even impossible.
Vulnerability brokers and spyware vendors make it possible for technically incompetent people to infect, spy, and exfiltrate data from their targets just by filling forms and clicking around a web application. We saw this when we were able to dissect software like XKeyscore or Hacking Team’s Galileo suite.
The irony is that selling dumb-proof spy tools to the cops can give you a false sense of security. Phineas found that the compromised systems were using absolutely lame passwords such as “P4ssword,” “wolverine,” or “universo.” No one is free from the basic rules of operational security!Hack the Planet! Erdogan and Rojava
Another advantage of cyberspace is that you do not have to travel to attack a target on the other side of the world. You do not even have to get out of bed, although often that is a good idea in order to keep a balanced mind.
“I hacked AKP,” Phineas announced in 2016 after having breached the servers of the ruling Turkish party. A dump of more than 100GB of AKP files and emails was passed on to the revolutionary forces in Kurdistan. Phineas had to hurry because Wikileaks published the information before he even finished downloading all the data.
Information is not the only thing that arrived in Kurdistan thanks to hacking actions: Phineas also exploited a vulnerability in the security systems of an undisclosed bank and sent 10,000 euros in bitcoin to Rojava Plan, a group coordinating international solidarity with the autonomous region of Rojava.Mossos and Scapegoats
In May 2016, after watching the documentary “Ciutat Morta,” Phineas thought about trying a simple attack on the Catalan Police Forces. Ciutat Morta is a film about the 4F case, a famous case in the history of the Spanish state in which repressive forces tortured and imprisoned several young people from South America as an act of revenge after a policeman was put into a coma by the impact of a stone following a police charge in downtown Barcelona.
As a result of this new hacking action, using a well-known vulnerability, Phineas defaced the website of the union of the Catalan police with an ironic manifesto declaring that the organization “was refounded as a union in favor of human rights.” A data dump with personal details of some 5000 police accounts appeared, along with a 40-minute video tutorial on the techniques used in the hack.
Shortly afterwards, the police carried out several raids on social centers and hacklabs in Barcelona, then claimed to have caught the famous hacker. Only hours later, journalists reported that the same person had contacted them to say that “he was alive and well” and that the police forces had only imprisoned a scapegoat who happened to have retweeted the info in the dumps.
After the Catalan police carried out a series of unsuccessful raids in pursuit of the hacker, Phineas Fisher agreed to do an interview with Vice Magazine on the condition that his answers be presented by a puppet.
One of the most interesting consequences of the Phineas Fisher actions is the look you see in the eyes of your fellow hackers when you discuss the topic with them. Chileans will tell you that Phineas is obviously a Latino. Squatters in Barcelona swear that the tone is familiar. Italians will do the same. US-Americans think she or he speaks like one of them. And then there is the commonsense assumption that, like any good hacker, Phineas must be Russian—one of those Russians who speaks surprisingly good Spanish.
There is indeed something familiar in the actions of this ghost: a deep sense of justice and internationalism, and the feeling that his actions will continue to remain under the radar, because—just as in the past—nobody could believe that a person living an otherwise ordinary life could be the mind behind such deeds.
The truth is, no one cares—except for the cops, who are having a hard time identifying this persona despite all their adversarial modeling paraphernalia and stylistic analysis tools. We don’t care about the identity of the person who does these things. It doesn’t matter, in the end: when that identity is burned, a new one will appear. Once you ditch the cult of personality, you suddenly gain a lot of freedom.
What we do care about is that, whoever it is, it is one of us, and his actions help us to realize our power.
These direct actions show that, while a lot of effort and dedication might sometimes be needed to cultivate a concrete skillset, most of the time nothing extraordinary is strictly needed. Perhaps you are not particularly technically inclined, but you might be good with people: often, that is the only thing that is needed to pull off an awesome hack. Or you might not come from a technical background, but a determined and playful perseverance can achieve more than any formal training when it comes to making a breach in the realm of cubicle bureaucrats that only care about enforcing policy.
Security is not an absolute quality; there will never be an absolute power in cyberspace. Quoting Phineas: “That’s the beauty and asymmetry of hacking: with 100 hours of work, one person can undo years of work by a multi-million dollar company. Hacking gives the underdog a chance to fight and win.”
The actions of a humble but motivated hacker can go further than the big, inflated egos of the cyber-security industry, or the academics who do not dare to act outside of the box. It’s not always the big hacks that change reality: someone who learns how to stay anonymous, someone who is not afraid and keeps the discipline needed not to leak personal details already has a huge advantage. Not having an ego to feed is also crucial in the business of keeping one’s personal freedom.
Eventually, Phineas Fisher went silent. “I killed the accounts because I had nothing else to say.” And probably it was enough. Sometimes a little action is all that is needed to shift the collective mood, to render us aware of our own power.Epilogue: Silent Years of Expropriation to Come
Phineas Fisher is dead. It was more than a name: the tip of an underground network of practices and desires. It was not one, but several actions. Cybernetic guerrilla: hit and hide.
However, as anyone who wrote to the hackback email can report, Phineas is still enjoying freedom these days. Engaging in charming conversation, he or she will demonstrate that state does not have absolute control. As he likes to repeat: it is still possible to attack the system and get away with it.
Phineas has kept himself busy. He enjoys talking from the shadows about his new occupation. As he told us:
“Expropriation has some material effects, but it really is an ideological weapon. The rules of this system are not immutable facts, but rules imposed by a minority, and rules that we can question, change, and even break. When someone robs a bank, the State spends huge resources investigating it, not because it makes any economical sense to spend 100k while investigating a 3k robbery, but they spend it because it protects the shared illusion of private property. They try to wipe out that rebel spirit that plays outside of their rules.”
“You don’t need computer science studies to be able to participate in what the former NSA chief Keith Alexander refers to as responsible for the greatest transfer of wealth in the world’s history. In this big project, most of the work is not done by hackers, but by lay people, those who know how to find addresses where to receive post and parcels, how to use a fake ID in a convincing way, and how to use a burner phone. Those are all the skills you need to open a cellphone contract, open bank accounts and ask for loans, make online purchases and receive them. Everyone can learn how to use the Tor Browser and bitcoin, and participate in the darknet markets. Mafia and organized crime acknowledged this change, but anarchists open to illegalism and expropiation did not yet realize that we are not in the pre-internet world anymore, and that there are better tactics than robbing a bank with a gun. We are living an unique moment in history, and we have a great opportunity.”
Indeed we do. Long life to hacking, and to all silent expropriations to come.
From Ruputura Colectiva by Paulo Ilich BaccaA conversation with anarchist sociologist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui
Ritualizing the Memory
It is a lively Tuesday in the second week of August 2016 in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, as I listen to the song Aylluman Kutiripuna (Let us return to the community) by Luzmila Carpio, a Quechua singer who upon facing the double bind of singing in Quechua, her mother tongue, or in Spanish, the ‘prevalent’ language under the trend of Bolivia’s modernization, decided to use the language of her ancestors. In such a tension, the prioritization of the indigenous side of this double bind is not unidirectional. Indeed, the indigenization turn that I am attempting to remark also results in the need to colour the Western tradition with the indigenous syntax, which is precisely what Carpio’s artistic trajectory embodies. By strengthening the melodic ways of the Andes, she has projected her music as a political expression of rebellion against the overuniform model of cultural progress over first nations’ own thinking in two complementary ways. Initially, Carpio composed children’s music in Quechua as a way to keep alive the ancient Andean world training the mind of new generations for the future. Subsequently, she started to croon bilingual songs in order to remark on the potentialities of a heterogeneous society in which the indigenous legacy can bring about a ‘creative adjustment’ to the world inherited from colonialism.
While listening to music, I make the final preparations to interview Aymara sociologist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui. After spending one month and a half in La Paz interacting with Rivera and El Colectivo, a self-organized group of cultural action and critique, she has agreed to converse with me about her work, intellectual trajectory, and political activism during the last four decades. As a prelude, the interview uses Rivera’s course on sociology of the image, an epistemological proposal based on double-bound readings of Andean history. In this appraisal, the double bind between the memory of indigenous peoples and the records of official history is resolved in favour of what Rivera calls indigenous visualization. The ‘heuristic tool’ of visualization is a sort of memory able to condense other senses beyond sight. Thus, while official history has been over determined by the visual, being anchored in both language mediation and data interpretation, visualization, by recovering senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing and movement, is able to decolonize memory, allowing not only for the expression of indigenous sources of knowledge themselves, but also the expansion of mainstream narratives. According to Rivera, it is an
attempt to project her own Aymara mode of thinking, termed ch’ixi epistemology, understood as an articulating agency of contradictions in which those histories that have been hidden, diminished, or forgotten come to the surface as a way to potentiate a dynamic dialogue between the contradictory forces.
Recalling Rivera’s teachings, I had decided to ritualize our conversation with the help of Argentinian photographer Sandra Nicosia, who has kindly accepted to share her photographic memories for this interaction. Rivera usually performs a ritual before starting a new project—to ascertain her social and political responsibility with what will emerge from her writings or artistic interventions. I choose Luzmila Carpio’s melodies to create a previous harmonizing effect because her work, as well as Rivera’s, has been inspired by the inherent contradictions of the double bind between colonial impositions and indigenous resistance. In fact, as Spivak has sustained, Western tradition has prescribed the ‘proper terms’ for conducting social interventions: ‘[i]t seemed that there was always an issue of controlling the other through knowledge production on our own terms, and ignoring, therefore, of the double bind between Europe as objective and subjective ground, judge and
defendant.’ However, as Rivera and Carpio have shown in their work, the appropriations and reappropriations of the indigenous world to turn such impositions into something else are also unquestionable. Or, as Spivak has said, all philosophical traditions should resonate with each other as equals, just as all languages are equally able to prepare a child for life.
This harmonizing effect is accompanied by the reading of the poem ‘Tu Calavera’ (Your Skull) by renowned Bolivian experimental poet Jaime Sáenz (1921-1986), who dedicated the piece to Rivera. In this poem, Sáenz refers to an old dream in which Rivera’s skull appears. It is a reference to a pre-Inca cranium that Rivera considers her adoptive ancestor since a period of illness in which an indigenous healer (yatirí) announced an antidote to the disease: Rivera would have to return the skull to its place of origin or welcome it as a member of her family. Rivera took the second option and named it Jáquima after the finding of a set of documents of her maternal family in the United States during the seventies. Rivera managed to recover these papers from her uncle’s house, being made aware not only of her family genealogy but also the traces of a deep colonial history. Indeed, those documents tell the story of the Indian who first declared that he witnessed the arrival of the Spaniards to Cuzco, the Inca capital. He returned to Pacajes, a province in the central Bolivian highlands, and was executed by his indigenous fellows, who considered him a traitor. The descendant of this legendary character, genealogically related to the
Cusicanqui family, was an indigenous woman named Jáquima and that is why Rivera baptized her skull with this name. Finally, leaving my hotel in downtown La Paz, I decide to take a walk echoing one of the main sources of indigenous knowledge, which is intertwined with ancestral territories as a way of remembering indigenous cosmologies and laws: I go to the Basilica of San Francisco set in the historic heart of La Paz and built over an ancient sacred place where indigenous peoples render cult to their divinities (wak’a), and where, even now, indigenous social movements routinely meet after their mobilizations (see Figure 1.1). Then, I walk through the Mariscal Santa Cruz Avenue, a central street that leads to a corner from which
it is possible to see the Illimani, the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real and one of the main geographical and cosmological referents of the Aymaras—the people to which Rivera belongs (see Figure 1.2). Thus, I feel that I can be closer to Rivera’s work, always enriched by the double bind between her own indigenous sources and Western epistemological frameworks.
Figure 1.1 Basilica of San Francisco, La Paz, Bolivia.
Courtesy of Sandra Nicosia (P.Bacca)
Figure 1.2 Illimani, seen from La Paz, Bolivia.
Courtesy of Sandra Nicosia (P.Bacca)
A Double-Bound Indigeneity
Evoking the life and work of Gamaliel Churata (1897-1969), a Peruvian novelist and philosopher who skilfully mastered the double bind between European avant-garde (taking the foundations of critical Western philosophy seriously) and Latin American indigenism (assessing the contribution of Andean cosmologies with particular emphasis in the conceptual richness of the Quechua and Aymara languages), my conversation with Rivera began by exploring the double bind between indigenous and non-indigenous identity. Talking about indigeneity with Rivera is to speak of the impossibility of resolving the paradox of being simultaneously indigenous and non-indigenous. Rivera recounted growing up in an environment where the understanding of Aymara language is a spontaneous experience: ‘I grew up in La Paz and there were two women who took care of the home. They spoke Aymara all the time and one of them took care of me and while holding me in her aguayo (multicoloured woollen cloth) would tell me stories. Somehow, I was bilingual by means of my sense of hearing – I could not speak but I was very familiar with the sounds of Aymara (there was a lot of onomatopoeia). I was eight-years-old when
she passed away and I felt an orphan since then; indeed, my mother was never able to “replace” this woman.’
According to Rivera, her instinctive appreciation of the Aymara world was the legacy she received during that moment of her childhood. She related that period with a lot of affection since it shaped her temperament and determined her vocation for Andean cosmologies as well as her spiritual connection with Aymara mythical beings such as the fox and the condor. However, Rivera noted that this ‘learning curve’ has always been an unfinished process, indeed, a practice of life that is always to come: she was around sixteen when she began taking Aymara lessons, but feels that she does not speak the language well and is in an unending process of learning. Interestingly, Rivera’s conclusions regarding this route are inextricably connected with the possibility of developing the social sciences using a double bind logic.
In Rivera’s view, behind the physical elimination of Aymara amawt’as (philosophers) and yatiris (healers) during the fifteenth century Spanish conquest of the Americas, lies the ‘spiritual’ annihilation of the philosophical uses of the Aymara language. The amawt’as were murdered, while the yatiris hid their knowledge cryptically and syncretized it with Catholic religious elements in order to survive. Thus she considers it necessary almost to reinvent the words’ philosophical meaning by taking into consideration their metaphorical senses in daily life. And this is precisely what Rivera has done in her unparalleled work: departing from the pragmatic use of Aymara words, she has been ‘scratching’ their allegorical connotation in order to project a philosophical reflection based on indigenous sources of knowledge. In so doing, Rivera is working with an Aymara idiosyncratic translation of what Spivak has termed concept-metaphors, that is to say, the possibility of unveiling the deep philosophical roots of expressions that tend to remain unnoticed for most anthropologists and ethnographers although they are fundamental in day-to-day indigenous activities.
The metaphorization of daily-life concepts is inherent to the polysemous character of Aymara language and, it is by using this polyphony that Rivera has been working with the contradiction (located at the very heart of double bind logics) as an epistemological tool to explain indigenous social realities. One of Rivera’s key concept-metaphors is encapsulated in the Aymara concept of the ch’ixi. Rivera told me: I have reinvented the practicality of this concept by exploring its allegorical and epistemological power. ‘Pragmatically, ch’ixi is the stained sheep, the spotted toad, the smudged snake. It is a descriptor, a keyword; however, its most abstract and philosophical dimension has not been developed and this is because after the assassination of the amawt’as and yatiris in colonial times, the language has been impoverished by the translations conducted by priests such as Ludovico Bertonio (1557-1625) and Domingo de Santo Tomás (1499-1570), who have expurgated Aymara concepts and ideas that were incomprehensible to them, subsequently removing the philosophical potential of indigenous languages’. In an interview given to Francisco Pazzareli, Rivera explained that the ch’ixi as a concept-metaphor, embodies the quintessence of an Aymara double bind, namely, a decolonial gesture to work with the contradiction as a way of moving between opposite worlds. Thus, for instance, the snake is not only ch’ixi for being spotted but also for being an Aymara mythical animal who is undetermined in cosmological terms: it belongs to both the world above and the world below, it is both masculine and feminine, it is both rain and a vein of metal, it is symbolized both as lightning striking from a great height and as a subterranean force. And this is precisely the way in which Rivera traces the epistemological signs of Aymara cosmologies within the contemporaneity of a modern Bolivia that is indigenous and non-indigenous at the same time.
By challenging the official discourse, according to which the colonization of the Americas supposed the harmonious mestizo fusion of European and indigenous cultures (in which Western imaginaries overlay indigenous cosmologies), Rivera projects a reverse process of analysis in which indigenous cosmologies are capable of indigenizing Western imaginaries. In so doing, Aymara cosmologies endow Western narratives with a new throbbing immediacy by taking the threads of indigenous laws and weaving them in their own modern way. This does not occur following the mestizo logic of fusion but by making reference to paradoxical structures as the inspiration of a double-bound reasoning. When I asked Rivera if she is indigenous and non-indigenous at the same time, her response was categorical: ‘of course, being indigenous is a becoming. It is not an identity, it is a search’. Rivera’s reflections range from the personal to the methodological and from the epistemological to the collective. She once described herself, during our interactions, as an ‘abajista’—a Spanish term that she uses in opposition to the ‘arriviste spirit’ that characterizes the Bolivian upper middle class. Indeed, belonging to an upper middle-class family, Rivera never expected to join the ‘elite’ but rather to become an urban Aymara woman.
According to the Argentinian intellectual Verónica Gago, Rivera refers to herself as a ‘non-identified ethnic object’, and has also reclaimed the labelsochologist (fusing the word sociologist with chola, Bolivian term for an urbanized Aymara woman), a term once used to discredit her. She similarly plays with the termbirchola (combining chola withbirlocha, a name for women whose dress indicates upper class aspirations, and were among the social categories that Rivera investigated in El Alto, the indigenous-dominated city above La Paz. Gago sees these amusing word plays as simultaneously a merciless critique against the essentialization of the indigenous. She quotes from a conference address by Rivera: ‘We are all Indians as colonized peoples. Decolonizing one’s self is to stop being Indian and to become people. People is an interesting word because it is said in very different ways in different languages.’
The idiosyncratic way of displaying an indigenous becoming is not only an asset for Rivera but also an indigenous performative act that can be seen in different practices of the Aymara mind-set. A central Aymara principle that passed from Rivera’s personal experiences to her methodological endeavours is captured in the possibility of reading Western sources using Aymara rationalities. Thus, for instance, Rivera’s work clearly demonstrates the principle of selectivity with which Andean communities transform Western properties such as Spanish grammar/syntax and classical European ways of dressing, as well as the epistemological parity demanded in indigenous social struggles (see Figure 1.3). She told me, ‘I read in a fragmentary and selective way, from my point of view, you have to put what is lacking in an author […] and furthermore the different philosophical traditions should be placed on an equal footing […] that is to say that the words of an indigenous sage are connected with an inherited collective knowledge—they have an intellectual genealogy and you do not have to put them as ethnographical data separated from theory. Rather, I believe we have to engage in a dialogue between philosophical and theoretical conceptions of the world’.
In this way, not only are indigenous epistemological tools capable of nurturing collective experiences, as is indeed the case with Aymara cosmologies, but also Western systems of knowledge can resonate in a comparable way with indigenous cosmological frameworks. This synergy vividly appeared in the course of a face-to-face interaction between Rivera and Spivak, in the context of Rivera’s simultaneous translation of a conference presented by her Indian comrade in La Paz. Gago recounts that in so doing Rivera showcased the undiscipline of the text and of linear translation. Finding no Spanish translation for Spivak’s term double bind, Rivera instead came up with an exact equivalent in Aymara: pächuyma, which means having the soul divided by two mandates that are impossible to fulfil.’ Rivera says that these translation exercises reveal that all words are being questioned today: ‘This is a sign of Pachakutik, of a time of change.’ Talking with Rivera spontaneously about this event, she told me that most people in the audience were Aymara speakers, which alerted her to the convenience of translating the idea of the double bind to Aymara rather than Spanish. On the spur of the moment and without any kind of previous preparation, Rivera began to talk about the pä chuyma in Aymara, explaining to the public what Spivak had said. Spivak, double-bind-thinker par excellence, immediately incorporated the Aymara double-bind-pä chuyma in her own English speech, which according to Rivera was a very sympathetic gesture: ‘Spivak once told me that she makes theory with the guts, so she fully understood’ (we laugh). Rivera continued explaining to me that the Aymara have a three-way logic: something can be and not be at the same time, which is tantamount to the possibility of having an included third—completely at odds with Aristotelian logic. ‘I think that is what makes possible such a compatibility with Gayatri. She also thinks that one needs to live with the pä chuyma, that it is necessary to coexist with the contradiction, and that the contradiction must be converted into a purposeful referent rather than an obstacle to the subject’s integrity. For Bateson, the contradictory subject is schizophrenic, and it is a collective schizophrenia that produces a sort of paralysis. Instead, for Spivak, the contradictory subject embodies an incomparable creative power’, Rivera added.Tags: BoliviaInterviewsociologyIndigenouscategory: Other
In this week’s sedition of TFN, a look at the repression being faced by comrades in Klanada and the United Snakes. First an update on the J20 trials, where prosecutors have been repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot, and then an udpate on the state’s crack-down on anarchists in so-called Ontario and Quebec in the lead-up to this weekend’s G7 Summit.
For more info on how to help peeps in Hamilton:
For more updates on the J20 defendants, follow Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) and Defend J20 (@Defendj20) on Twitter!submediavideothe fucking newscategory: Projects
He was an essential part of a Yorkshire triumvirate that included the sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and he is among the 16 Great War poets commemorated in Westminster Abbey – yet outside the Howardian Hills that he loved, the name of Sir Herbert Read is scarcely spoken.
Next week marks the 50th anniversary of his death, but it is being marked not at the British Museum or the Tate, but in the relative backwater of the lending libraries in Malton and Helmsley, curated by two retired teachers. There will be no keynote lectures or red-carpet visitations – just an hour set aside for a chat with the organisers.
Sir Herbert – the knighthood came in 1952 for services to literature – was not only a writer but also a publisher, the first to propagate the works of TS Eliot, and a noted anarchist who campaigned on behalf of political prisoners in Franco’s Spain.
“His circle of friends included George Orwell and Graham Greene. But as an English teacher at Ampleforth, I was amazed that even people like me never knew that this chap was on the doorstep,” said John Dean, who leads a local history group dedicated to Read and who, with his wife, Helen, is behind the anniversary exhibition.
“I taught at a school in Liverpool that had Wilfred Owen on its doorstep and the kids were absolutely Owen crazy. But Read is different,” Mr Dean said.
Owen’s name sits immediately above that of Sir Herbert on the memorial in Poet’s Corner within Westminster Abbey.
During the First World War, Read had served with the Green Howards. He won the Military Cross at the second battle of the Somme and the Distinguished Service Order
Mr Dean said: “Unlike Owen, Read dedicated only part of his life to war poetry. At one point he lived in studios in Hampstead with Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and the painter Ben Nicholson.
“They all shared studios in the same area. George Orwell was another member of the group.”
Read had been born in the North Riding farming hamlet of Muscoates, four miles from Kirkbymoorside. But in 1901, when he was eight, his father died of rheumatic fever and he spent the next five years in a charity orphanage on the moors above Halifax.
At 15, he was taken on as a clerk by the Leeds, Skyrac and Morley Savings Bank but managed to earn a place at Leeds University, whose archive now holds his library of 14,000 volumes.
Its librarian, Richard High, said: “His papers include a postcard from Picasso. Given his wide range of interests, it’s a mystery that he is not better remembered.”
There have been several reappraisals of his work since his death in June 1968, at 74 – most recently, in 2004, a Herbert Read Conference at the Tate Britain.
“I think he has been unfairly dismissed,” Mr High said. “Perhaps his anarchism was compromised by his having accepted a knighthood.”
Sir Herbert spent the inter-war years in Edinburgh – where he eloped with his second wife – and in London, before returning to his beloved Yorkshire in 1948, buying the old rectory in Stonegrave, near his old home at Muscoates.
The exhibition on his life is at Malton Library until Tuesday before moving to Helmsley and later Kirkbymoorside.Tags: EnglandHerbert ReadMSMcategory: International
via The Base12th Annual NYC Anarchist Book Fair — 55 Washington Square
It’s 2018 and, once again, the specter of war haunts us—in the headlines as well as in the depressing certainty that the politicians and other elites who rule the societies of this world persist in maintaining the exploitative death-culture hierarchy of white-hetero-patriarchal Imperial-colonial-capitalism.
◆ Join us at the Judson Memorial, which has hosted the NYC Anarchist Book Fair nearly every year since its inception, and it will again in 2018 ◆
Once again, too, we will contribute to the ongoing dialogue and analysis occurring worldwide and help ordinary people who seek to understand their history and search for liberatory alternatives (mutual aid, autonomy, solidarity, decisions based on consensus, etc.). We emphasize the dominant role of the oppressed in the creation of forward-looking activism and culture as we celebrate the struggle to free humanity and the animal world from today’s predatory global political and social systems. The NYC Anarchist Book Fair actively encourages members of minority and oppressed groups—whose voices may not be heard in the larger community—to join us in inspiring, planning, and organizing this year’s event.
12th Annual NYC Anarchist Book Fair Saturday, June 9, 2018, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.,
Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, Manhattan FREE
EMMA GOLDMAN ANARCHIST FILM FESTIVAL Saturday, June 9, 2018,
7 p.m.–11 p.m., Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, Manhattan FREE
ANARCHIST ART FESTIVAL Friday June 8, 2018, 8 p.m.–12 a.m.,
Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, Manhattan (Suggested Donation)
NYC ANARCHIST BOOK FAIR MUSIC NIGHT ***** POSTPONED
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Details about additional events and book fair exhibitors will follow. Panels and workshops will appear on our website (http://anarchistbookfair.net/ ) and here as they are confirmed. NYC Anarchist Book Fair tablers include publishers of anarchist literature; small independent presses; community groups focused on, among other topics, ecological activism and animal liberation; and prisoner support networks. Although this collective does not engage in celebrity worship, a special section in the venue will be set aside for anarchist authors who would like to make an appearance.
F o r m o r e i n f o a b o u t t he N Y C A n a r c h i s t B o o k F a i r , Contact [email protected]Tags: NYCAnarchist bookfairnew york anarchist bookfaircategory: Projects
LISTEN HERE: http://archive.org/details/AnarchyRadio06052018
Tribe by Sebastian Junger, LA Book Review's "The New Primitives" by Ben Etherington. Indigenous video and panel at U of O Longhouse May 30. Weekly news of the Onslaught on the physical, social, personal worlds. Barbara Ehrenreich's Natural Causes. Domesticated fish going deaf. Eating alone, Lynq vs. lynx. Stone tools. Ads of the week, political and resistance reports. One call.Tags: anarchy radiopodcastcategory: Projects
Beyond Support: Update on Locke St Defendants and a Proposal for Beginning to Organize Solidarity
Before giving updates on the Locke St defendants, it's worth taking a moment to put things in their context and to remember that these seven people are accused of participating in a struggle against gentrification in the city. This struggle has taken countless different forms over the years, from mass meetings, to stickers and posters, to broad-based organizing, to counter-demonstrations and pressure campaigns. The reason so many people have chosen to dedicate their energy to this issue for so long is that it's one of vital importance -- people are losing their homes at an ever-increasing rate as housing is treated more as a commodity or investment than as a basic need that everyone deserves to have met.
The broad, vague charges brought against these defendants are a way of silencing the increasingly urgent voices speaking and acting out against this attack on our ability to live in this city with dignity. The message of the police and legal system here is that there is no circumstance in which our deteriorating living conditions would ever justify any threat to property. And yet for over a decade developers, speculators, and their boosters have been easily able to ignore all opposition behind a wall of feel-good platitudes about renewal and culture. To now approach the struggle against gentrification as simply a matter of crime is an attempt to strip it of its content, concealing the larger struggle between the class that profits from rising housing prices and those who are displaced.
When dealing with the hugely disproportionate violence of the state, it can be easy for us to lose track of these larger issues. Yes, we're opposed to all forms of political repression, and we also don't see that repression as separate from all the ways the police and government protect those who benefit from gentrification (business owners, landlords, investors) at the expense of those who don't. Yes, we will support these defendants in beating their charges and getting through the incarceration and bail conditions they will have to endure in the meantime, but we will also keep finding ways to act against the dominant interests in this city. We can't let ourselves be so swallowed by the support work that we give the rich a break.
In terms of support though, the three people who were wanted by police turned themselves in last night (Sunday, June 3), and were released on bail today. The person who fought her conditions and stayed in over the weekend has also been released without the particular conditions she had refused. The person from Montreal will be up for his hearing tomorrow morning, and we are hopeful he will be released on consent and allowed to return to Montreal. More updates on his situation tomorrow. So far, all the recent arrestees are able to remain in their homes without having to deal with house arrest.
Although personal and financial support for the defendants remains important (https://fundraising.the-tower.ca for the Hamilton Community Defence Fund), a case of this importance requires solidarity that goes further than that. In the next week or so, we would like to encourage you to bring people together in your town to talk about issues of repression and gentrification, to talk about the details of this case and how it's relevant to you elsewhere in the territory controlled by the Canadian state, and to clarify your basis of support for those accused. This might be a useful step in preparing to act in solidarity over the long term as this case drags on.
To help get discussions going, we've compiled a hastily laid-out zine of various texts that have circulated about the Locke St actions and these charges to far that can be downloaded here: https://north-shore.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/discussion-zine.pdf And if you do decide to organize an event, if it's public, consider posting on North Shore Counter Info's events listing so others can find out about it: https://north-shore.info/submit-event/
Regardless of innocence or guilt, solidarity with the Locke St defendants and let's keep pushing back against the power of capitalists.Tags: hamiltonRepressioncategory: Prisoners
What is an anarchist game? Is it a game that promotes anarchist values? A game that depicts anarchist activities? A game that subverts and destabilizes power structures? What can gaming theory teach anarchists—and what can anarchists teach through games? To explore these and other questions, we conducted the following interview with TL, game designer and artist of Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game.
Bloc by Bloc is available on Kickstarter until June 14.
—Why do you think creative activity is important for anarchists?
Creative resistance is one of the essential elements of a thriving anarchist movement. Play and imagination allow for the kind of experimentation that can reveal cracks in the systems of control. Anarchists need to be able to imagine other worlds and other forms of life in order to position their activities in opposition to this one. When creativity is allowed to flourish in anarchist spaces, it’s easier to neutralize stifling and toxic modes of social organization.
Bloc by Bloc 2nd edition game box art.
—Is Bloc by Bloc just a form of entertainment? Or are there other dimensions to the project and what you hope it will accomplish in the world?
Bloc by Bloc is a tabletop game that simulates the urban rebellions that we have seen in cities around the world over the past 10 or 15 years. The goal of this project is to produce a fun and educational gaming experience. I don’t want to pretend this is anything more than that. That’s one of the reasons the graphics in Bloc by Bloc are playful, reminiscent of colorful cartoons. It’s important that we don’t take the project too seriously or overstate its political impact. That would be misleading and disrespectful to everyone who has been out there in the streets in real struggles that have real consequences.
But games can be powerful tools for exploring complex ideas. That’s one of the main reasons I continue to work in this medium.
The game of Bloc by Bloc (broken glass not included).
When we play games, we create stories out of the interaction between players, game mechanics, and components. The best games craft rich and emergent stories that change each time we play them. These stories mirror archetypical narratives that we find throughout society. This is why games can feel so meaningful: they create a temporary space in which we can safely explore the stories that define our lives. This space is referred to as “the magic circle.”
Bloc by Bloc creates a magic circle in which players can explore stories of contemporary revolt and resistance. It’s a response and a challenge to the ubiquitous narratives of colonization, industrialization, statecraft, authoritarian hero-worship, and chauvinist violence that dominate much of tabletop gaming—and digital gaming even more so. In this way, it can be understood as an anarchist intervention in the world of gaming.
—Does Bloc by Bloc have antecedents? What were your points of reference when you were designing it?
A group of us first started brainstorming ideas for an insurrection board game in the summer of 2010. None of us were experienced gamers; we had very little to draw on in terms of antecedents. Our points of reference were the struggles and insurrections we had been following very closely. The uprising initiated by a teachers strike in Oaxaca, Mexico during the second half of 2006 had a major impact on these early conversations that would eventually shape the contours of what we now call Bloc by Bloc. The youth revolt that spread across all of Greece following the police murder of the young anarchist Alexis Grigoropolous in the Exarcheia neighborhood of Athens in December 2008 was another point of inspiration. Here in Oakland, the protests and riots in response to a white police officer killing a young Black man named Oscar Grant in January 2009 gave us firsthand experience with some of the ways these moments can unfold.
Early sketches during the development of Bloc by Bloc.
Based on these recent historical events, we stitched together the general framework for the game. We knew that all the players would need to be factions of the insurrection and that the game would somehow play the role of the state. We also decided that the game would be a race against time until the military or some kind of federal force intervened to reestablish order. And finally, we came up with a list of actions that players should be able to take: barricading, looting, occupying, and clashing with police. This laid the foundation for the game; all of these ideas are central to Bloc by Bloc 8 years later. Probably due to our limited knowledge of game mechanics and theories of gaming, we didn’t get very far in the actual game development process back in 2010. “The Insurrection Game,” as we called it at the time, sat on the shelf for years. It wasn’t until after another round of even larger uprisings around the world between 2011 and 2014 in places like Cairo, Istanbul, and Ferguson that I felt motivated to circle back to the project. I studied some contemporary tabletop games like Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, and Dead of Winter, and I read up on theories and approaches to game design.
In early 2015, we began playtesting the first working prototypes of Bloc by Bloc. At first, the game was unplayable. But the iterative process was in motion.
Barricade in Istanbul during the Taksim Commune and the struggle for Gezi park, 2013.
Since then, I have learned more about the history of subversive and anti-authoritarian tabletop games out there in the world. Suffragetto is a game from 1909 that simulates women’s suffrage protestors clashing with police. What we now know as the game Monopoly was originally a game called The Landlord’s Game that critiqued real estate speculation and finance capitalism. Class Struggle*, Chicago Chicago, and Mai 68 Le jeu are a few other titles from the 1970s and ’80s that attempted to simulate popular uprisings. A few years ago, some Italian comrades created a game called Riot that features anarchists, autonomists, police, and nationalists fighting each other in the streets. It’s interesting to note that most of these games assume that one player needs to take on the role of the police. This is something we knew from the very start we would not be including in the framework for Bloc by Bloc.
—What are the advantages of the tabletop game format for telling these stories, as opposed to, say, a novel, a film, a video game, an oral history?
Creating Bloc by Bloc allowed us to explore social upheaval through the lens of systems thinking. A game is a great way to simulate the cybernetic forms of control exercised by institutionalized power. And it allows players to experiment with emergent forms of cooperative strategy to liberate themselves from these oppressive systems. There really isn’t another medium out there that enables this sort of emergent systems approach to telling these stories.
Another important way that tabletop games are great for telling these stories is that they are inherently social. There’s something powerful about exploring the dynamics that shape social insurrections through discussion, play coordination, and conflict with others face to face around a table.
However, this format also comes with drawbacks. A game is itself a sort of cybernetic system made up of various positive and negative feedback loops. The necessity of creating a stable gaming system that functions as a fun game makes it impossible to fully simulate real world events, which are defined by their chaotic and ever-changing nature.
The Bloc by Bloc rulebook.
—Tell us about some of the specific components and dynamics of the game, and how you crafted them to convey strategic lessons about real life.
One of the most important changes in the second edition of the game is an improved semi-cooperative mode. In Bloc by Bloc, each player has a secret agenda card. The majority of these cards are social agendas. Players with social agendas are in solidarity with each other and must work together to defeat the state and win the game cooperatively. However, there are also vanguardist and nihilist agenda cards. Players with these cards have to secretly undermine the social insurrection; they are playing to win the game alone.
It’s possible to remove the vanguardist and nihilist cards and play the game in fully cooperative mode. This is probably the best way to play your first game; it’s how most people chose to play the first edition. But that’s not the experience we originally set out to create with Bloc by Bloc. A simulation of urban insurrection should include the internal tensions that one always experiences within social movements and uprisings. This semi-cooperative experience also creates a more dynamic play space that allows for deeper strategy. And it prevents the problematic behavior of alpha players who dictate what other players should do on their turns. This tends to happen in almost all fully cooperative games. Ironically, by introducing an element of uncertainty and suspicion among players, you protect their individual agency.
A game of Bloc by Bloc in action.
Another mechanic in the game that people are often surprised by is how movement works. Most games force you to move your pieces one space at a time or to count the number of spaces you are able to move. In Bloc by Bloc, movement is restricted by access, not distance. If there is an open pathway using roads, highways, and metro stations, you can move your blocs as far as you want with one action. Even the largest cities in the world can still be crossed in a few hours as long as the corridors of movement are open. As the game deploys police and they move throughout the city, this access becomes increasingly restricted. This is a reflection of how we are able to move within contemporary cities. Zones of exclusivity and institutional power are not protected from popular uprisings by their distance from those who have the potential to rise up. They are protected by security forces and systems of control that limit access and control space.
Inside the Bloc by Bloc rulebook.
Just about every mechanic in Bloc by Bloc can be understood as the intersection between some kind of strategic lesson and the necessity of balancing the game to create a stable system full of emergent potential. It’s possible to read into each of these mechanics and draw conclusions about real world insurrections. But at some point, remember, this is just a game! A PDF of the Bloc by Bloc 2nd edition rulebook is available online for anyone interested in taking a closer look at the game’s mechanics.
—How do your values shape how you approach game design? Is there an ideological dimension to this project?
I try very hard to avoid taking a dogmatic approach to this work. Games are a great way of letting people explore interconnected ideas and systems without being overly didactic. However, I’m sure it’s apparent to everyone that this project is grounded in political ideas.
I would say that the game development process for Bloc by Bloc was guided by a specific ethical framework. A crucial part of that framework is that it centers those who struggle under capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and the state as the protagonists. I refer to these protagonists of resistance as “social antagonists.” The blocs are those who organize themselves to rise up from below. This isn’t a game that places the conquerors or the powerful at the center of the narrative.
A still from the Bloc by Bloc 2nd edition trailer.
Another important element of this framework is an understanding of the importance of social insurrection. If we take a moment to reflect on the past two decades, we see an impressive array of uprisings and rebellions around the world. Social insurrection is a defining feature of our time. It is a crucial form of resistance and joy in a diverse array of cities in these first decades of the 21st century. Insurrections sustain social movements and they have reshaped the political map. But they also bring with them the potential for severe repression and reactionary backlash. So it’s important to not romanticize these moments of conflict and to understand their consequences.
It’s also important not to fetishize the violence involved in these uprisings. Destruction and popular expropriation are necessary parts of sustained insurrection. But the success of these uprisings is not determined by their ability to destroy or kill. Urban insurrection is most effective when it transforms social relationships across a whole city and repurposes urban space. We can see this most clearly when an insurrection is an expression of everyday resistance and organizing. This creates the social fabric from which an insurrection can draw the power to reshape entire cities and societies.
—Is this an anarchist game?
I think that’s debatable. Bloc by Bloc is a game for gamers more than it is a game for anarchists. We’ve always wanted this project to stand on its own as a game that people can enjoy even if they’re unfamiliar with or uneasy about the theme. As I said before, it’s an intervention in the world of gaming in that it challenges the usual narratives of oppression and exploitation.
There are a few other ways that it differs from most games. We have attempted to manufacture the game in a relatively ethical fashion here in the US. The vast majority of games are manufactured in China to take advantage of cheaper labor. And all of the files one needs to create DIY printed copies of Bloc by Bloc 2nd edition will be released online for free, as we did with the first edition. But overall, Bloc by Bloc doesn’t attempt to break out of the specific form set by the standards of contemporary tabletop gaming.
The question of what an anarchist game could look like is very interesting. Maybe Bloc by Bloc is a step in this direction. But a truly anarchist game would likely take place in the everyday terrain of our lives. It would craft a magic circle that empowers the participants to subvert real forms of control and domination. And it would be easily replicable, even for those with limited resources. Maybe anarchists and other social antagonists already play games of this sort all the time without specifically referring to them as games?
My hope is that this project can be part of a much larger creative process that utilizes play and imagination to unleash our collective potential to fight back and reshape the world.
All Power to the Blocs!
For more information on Bloc by Bloc, please visit the Kickstarter page for the 2nd edition.
For gamers’ perspectives on the themes of colonialism and domination in Settlers of Catan, check out:
What non-anarchists are saying about the game.
Running Down the Walls (RDTW) 2018 was a success in building relationships, feeling the solidarity of running as our imprisoned comrades did the same, and raising funds for the ABCF Warchest and the Revolutionary Abolitionist Community Bail Fund which works to bail people out that are incarcerated at Riker’s Island.
We arrived early to claim our spot, hoping to stake our rightful claim to the commons that is (should be) Prospect Park. Unfortunately, due to the food circus we refuse to name that operates its melee disguised as an overpriced food truck parade, we were nudged out of our usual spot and forced to set up across the path. Originally surly with the hall monitor employed by the unnamed food circus who snitched on us, the consensus at the end of the day was that we enjoyed the new location.
The course was the same as last year, one single loop around the park which amounts to just about a 5K distance. Typically we start the run off by playing a recording by Jaan Laaman but because he was moved this year and could no longer send the recording, he instead submitted a handwritten statement that we read aloud along with solidarity statements from Hanif Bey, David Gilbert, and Eric King.
Although it was a bit cooler this year, participants admitted that they were relieved to save some sweat enduring the course. We had printed bib numbers for the participants. The flipside of the bib numbers had information about NYC ABC and guidelines for writing to prisoners, making it both a memento and a useful reminder to write to folks.
We were thrilled to have three former political prisoners join us in biking, running, walking, eating, and hanging. It was lovely to have folx there from various groups that do political prisoner support including NYC Jericho Movement, the Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar, and Eric King Support Crew to name a few. Additionally we were happy to share space with folx from other local organizing groups including NYC Anarchist Book Fair, Black and Pink, Friends of the Island Academy, Rojava Solidarity NYC, The Base, the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement, Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council, Pop Gym, Books through Bars, among others.
Most folks had left by 6:00 and those who stayed did so to help clean up and transfer everything to the cars. So the event went as scheduled, almost to the minute.
Knowing the history of the run and the imprisoned comrades with whom we ran in solidarity elevated Running Down the Walls 2018 to an even more inspiring level.
And that’s how we get down (the walls).
-NYC ABCTags: NYCanarchis black crosscategory: Actions
Some comrades just dropped a d-beat demo under the name D-ARREST, so we made a lil de-arrest montage video to go with it. I'm reposting this here because the CC crew is rapidly growing, and since we're all pretty young I thought the A-News comments section would be the perfect place to get some crit feedback / some *ahem* projectual ideas. Right now our site has a lot of activisty report-back content, but we want to move away from that and focus on building connections between diff youth crews.
And in case you missed it, we have two new anarcho-punk mixes available for download and streaming on our soundcloud: Only 90's Anarcho-Punx Will Remember... volume 1 (lol some of the CC crew weren't even alive in the 90s, so roast our music tastes if ya want) and Now That's What I Call Anarcho-Punk, vol. 3
Plus, here's a cute excerpt from "De-Arrests are Beautiful" (a piece that helped us source a lot of this footage) published by Mask Magazine:
"Whether it takes place on a dark street or in organized civil disobedience, being arrested is isolating and humiliating. The police lash zip ties around our wrists and tear us from our friends to parade us from jail cell to court until someone makes bail or the DA dismisses the charges.
But we don’t always face arrest alone. When we gather at rowdy demonstrations or busy street corners, we’re not just there to make trouble; we show up to break free of the daily alienation forced on us by work or school. There we see people freeing their friends from the cops: they pull them away by sheer force, open cruiser doors to let arrestees go, or simply land a well-timed blow to the head of an arresting officer.
These simple actions show us that the law and the state are not supernatural forces, but relationships enforced at the hands of the police. That’s why we appreciate all the different ways people have figured out how to de-arrest each other."
Now That's What I Call Anarcho-Punk, v. 3
(A)Truth - No I.C.E. [2012 // NYC]
Good Throb - Scum [2016 // London, UK]
MUJERES PODRIDAS - SOBREDOSIS [2018 // Austin, TX]
HUMO - ESCLAVXS [2017 // Philly]
Pryss - Broca's Area [2018 // Springfield, Il]
Appalachian Terror Unit - Officer Down / Warehousing Prisoners [2014 // Huntington, WV]
Human Bodies - Only the Sigh [2015 // Massachusetts]
Crutches - Såld [2017 // Sweden]
The Fight - You Call it D.I.Y. [2009 // Poland]
Infantile Dissention - Racist Bigot Capitalists [2015 // Victoria, BC]
SLOUCH - FILTH [2015 // Olympia, WA]
FUTURA - Spit on the Flag [2018 // LA]
Exit Dust - Return to Dust [2016, Gainesville, FL]
Olvido - Olvido [2016, Mexico City]
Only 90's Anarcho-Punx Will Remember... v. 1
Litmus Green || Queer Thoughts
A//Political || Stop Thinking and Pogo
Mankind? || Find Your Future
Aus-Rotten || Fuck Nazi Sympathy
The Unseen || Don't Be Fooled
Backside || The Ones
The Orphans || While You Were Out
Propagandhi || ...and We Thought Nation-States Were a Bad Idea
INDK || Feelin' Lucky, Punk?
Bikini Kill || Carnival
Crimpshine || Fucked Up Kid
Fifteen || Petroleum Distillation
Sin Dios || Revolucion Social
Naked Aggression || Plastic World
Catharsis || Arsonist's Prayer
Resist and Exist || The Movement
From Anews Podcast
Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 66 for June 3rd, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.Editorial: guest editorial by Julian Langer TOTW: Something about criticism
This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
* sound edited by Linn O'mable
* written by jackie
* narrated by chisel and Dim
* Music! These New Puritans - Numerology (AKA Numbers), Time Hecker - Aerial Light-Pollution Orange, Drab Majesty - Not Just A Name
* Thanks to Aragorn! and Ariel for the topic of the week
* Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The weekend of June 22-24 marks the second year that Asheville community members host the Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfair, a series of free workshops, panels, talks, vendors, parties and concerts, to promote community building and resource sharing in regional networks of anti-authoritarian organizers.
June 4, Asheville NC
From June 22-24, our city will once again be the location for a meeting of people working to promote anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, decolonial ideas and organizing. Last year’s bookfair was a huge success, bringing in hundreds of people from the Southeast, Appalachians, and around the world. We expect another amazing confluence of people with an exciting lineup of events, a roster of independent booksellers and organizations, concerts and dance parties. Events will take place at a series of locations across town.
Last year we came together in the aftermath of Trump’s rise to power and in light of a series of actions that heightened state repression and tightened authoritarian control over the most vulnerable people’s lives. Since then, things have only gotten worse: Nazis marching in the streets and murdering those working to stop their violence, the police aiding them and perpetrating their own continuing forms of violence against people for sitting in their cars or crossing the street, and the forms of state repression putting many of those who fight for the freedom of all under the threat of decades in prison. Asheville has been a site of terror, with recent ICE raids keeping community members shut in their houses and breaking up families, and police violence continuing to make the streets unsafe for those going about their days peacefully. On top of that, we see here, and across the country, municipal, state, and federal government prioritizing business interests to the detriment of people trying to survive on a daily basis. A local housing vacancy rate of 1%, a decrease in affordable long-term and stable housing opportunities due to short term rentals like AirBnB and the lack of will at a city and county level to build homes and a realistic public transportation infrastructure, has exacerbated the difficulty of living here for the backbone workers of the economy. Breweries, boutique hotels, and fancy restaurants catering to tourists make it impossible for working class people to live.
The bookfair will serve as a space for people to come together to strategize for means of survival in the onslaught of repression, environmental catastrophe, and racist, misogynistic, and homo/transphobic violence. Anarchists have long articulated visions for another possible world, based not on hierarchy, but instead on mutual aid and collective liberation. We fight every day to make a world where people look after each other, where people have access to food, shelter, means of care, and all necessities of survival, where we live through cooperation not exploitation. As we gather, the programming of our events will not only address means of resistance, but also ways to organize our lives now towards the aims of freedom for everyone. While so many of us have to live under threat of violence, we recognize the importance of creating spaces for us to celebrate the work that we do and to share our understanding of the events taking place worldwide in a setting of care and support.
In our programming for this year, we have emphasized regional resistance, including presentations from strippers striking against police raids, anti-racist organizers in rural areas, resisting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the toppling of the confederate statues in Durham, groups working on mental health support and community accountability, and alternatives to calling police for community self-defense and justice. We have also focused on decentering whiteness in anarchism, as the media representations often portray anarchism as an insular, exclusive project dominated by white men. William Anderson, co-author of As Black as Resistance, will deliver a keynote talk called “Black in Anarchy” (Saturday June 23 8pm), addressing the anarchism of blackness and current practice in black liberation and anarchist movements. We will also feature a talk by members of Charlotte Uprising, organizers countering the police murder of two young black men in Charlotte and currently facing forms of state repression. This talk will interrogate forms of violence, highlight community self-defense, and discuss models of transformative justice and the dangers of involving police in community conflict.
Check out the website for the full schedule and list of vendors.