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Revolutionary Anarchists Call for International Solidarity for Ongoing Public Revolt Against State Terrorism

by Revolutionary Anarchist Action (DAF)

16Last week a group of protesters started guarding action after some trees were taken down illegally in the name of urban gentrification projects. In the second day of the protest, very early in the morning, the police attacked the protesters heavily with gas bombs, water cannons and plastic bullets and wounded many protestors. A spark began against this event of state terrorism and spread across the country turning into a massive action and organized the big revolt. The public organized against increasing attacks, state terrorism and police violence and have been turning the streets into the area of resistance. This public revolt has been streaming for four days and is constantly spreading.

6Hundreds of thousands of protesters have resisted in Taksim where the government blocked entrance and the police violence have peaked, finally occupied the Taksim Square building barricades around the square and took control of Taksim. Protesters in Ankara took it to the streets in solidarity with Istanbul and building barricades in important placed in the city, expanding the revolt. Hundreds of protesters in Izmir, another big city, burned the ruling party building.
Social solidarity and mutual support in protest and clash areas are very high. In every city where clashes are streaming, people have opened their homes to protesters and wounded persons. Many people have put first aid kits and food to their front yards for the protesters. Volunteer medical teams have self organized very well in protest areas have been helping instantly to wounded protesters. Volunteer lawyers are helping protesters in custody.
1As clashes are continuing, the numbers of dead and wounded people are increasing. Mainstream media is still acting like nothing happened. The number of dead people is said to have reached 10, but it is not certain because there are no official statements made. One protester in Istanbul was driver over by a car while blocking a street, another one had a stroke because of gas bombs, still another have been driver over by police panzer and all have lost their lives. A protester in Ankara have been shot in the head by the police fire and is brain dead.
While the action and clashes continue here, global solidarity is increasing. Anonymous hacked the sites of ruling party, Istanbul Police, Ankara Municipality and many other government agencies in solidarity. Anonymous have declared that they are going to continue cyber attacks against the terrorism that the Turkish State is continuing.
2
While millions of people are in the streets resisting the police attacks across the county, some parties in opposition are trying to take advantage of and manipulate the action and politicization. Just like what we had seen in some regions during The Arab Spring, the opposing parties (especially Kemalists) are trying to assume the action as theirs. The opposing parties taking advantage of social politicization, are trying to gain from the action hoping for taking power. The ongoing revolt has left both politicians and the state in a bad position. While the government is trying to manipulate the revolt by calling it a protest of “a group of radicals”, crisis is beginning in economy. The economic crisis have showed first signs in the stock market.
However, this is one of the biggest massive action in the history of the country and the public is in the streets rising against the prohibitive politics of oppression, suppression, terror and police violence that the state has been increasing steadily for a long time. The people that the sate had been trying to tame with oppression for hundreds of years is now directly revolting against it.
5
We are calling all comrades who are struggling all around the world: Raise the voice of the public revolt from every place and every channel you can against the Turkish State and mainstream media who are trying to silence it. Organize solidarity action at your place to stand with the millions of people in the streets.
Join your voice to the revolt of the people whom the state had been ignoring, oppressing and exploiting for years. Let the fire of revolt against the Turkish State that we started with a spark and that is increasingly growing, grow further.
Everywhere is Istanbul and everywhere is resistance against state terrorism, police violence and capitalist exploitation.
We will continue to report as riot continues.
14  7

Occupy Highlights Authoritarian Behavior by Police

A funny thing happens when one uses the term “police state” to describe behavior by authorities in response to the Occupy protests. Very Serious Company turns pale and insists that the United States is not turning into a police state—at least not yet. America isn’t North Korea or East Germany or Russia, for goodness sake, Very Serious Company continues. Police don’t physically snatch journalists off the streets and murder them in back alleys, so no one has the right to label the United States a “police state.”

Yet what the Occupy Wall Street protests have helped reveal is that it is this hesitancy to acknowledge the authoritarian behavior of police that gives them cover when they—along with city officials—blatantly violate the rights of citizens.

Wall Street Mercenaries

Back in October, I wrote about how Occupy helped to highlight the problem of disappearing public space. Many Occupy camps (Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston and Zuccotti Park in New York City, for example) were built in parks owned by a mixture of public and private interests, and it was this private half of the partnership that gave authorities cover when they moved in to destroy the camps.

After all, private property is private property. When presented with this aphorism, people tend to imagine dirty hippies wrestling their own beloved possessions from their arms when, in fact, private companies often receive a far sweeter deal with the state than average citizens.

Brookfield Properties, the company that owns Zuccotti Park, owes $139,000 in back taxes. The company, on whose board Mayor Bloomberg’s girlfriend Diana Taylor sits, didn’t pay its taxes in 2009… or 2008…or 2007. Or 2006. This means that Brookfield is permitted to own the land for a song, and taxpayers step in to fill the revenue void. Then, when actual taxpayers attempted to use the land, Mayor Bloomberg’s private army rushed in to immediately defend the land on behalf of Brookfield.

Along with the NYPD, private security contractors such as MSA Security, defended Zuccotti from the First Amendment. Kevin Conner, co-founder of Public Accountability Initiative, reports:

MSA Security (formerly Michael Stapleton Associates), has even stronger ties to the NYPD. MSA Security, which advertises itself as being “In the business of business as usual,” listed Brookfield Properties on its website until a few days ago, but the client list has since been taken down. The google cache is available here. MSA’s clients in the financial sector include AIG, Goldman Sachs, NYSE Euronext (the stock exchange), and Bank of America. It also provides security services to Fox News and a number of real estate firms, including World Trade Center site developer Silverstein Properties.

Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis refers to the NYPD as “Wall Street mercenaries,” which is an apt title given that JPMorgan Chase made a massive $4.6 million donation to the NYPD, the largest such gift in the history of the New York City Police Foundation.

As massive corporations buy up public space and police forces, protesters are faced with the impossible task of facing off with police who increasingly work on behalf of Wall Street, and not the American people.

Free Speech Zones

In late November, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a midnight press release in anticipation of a raid on Occupy LA, which included this line: “During the park closure, a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.” The absurdity of that statement should be immediately apparent to anyone who understands how real journalism works. Good reporters don’t obediently stand in a “First Amendment area,” deliberately placed far away from the heart of the story. Reporters need to be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with protesters precisely so they can witness how the police interact with them.

Earlier in the month, journalist Josh Harkinson reported on being alerted to the existence of something called the “frozen zone” when he attempted to cover the eviction of Zuccotti.

A white-shirted officer moved in with a bullhorn. “If you don’t leave the park you are subject to arrest. Now is your opportunity to leave the park.”

Nobody budged. As a lone drum pounded, I climbed up on the wall to get a better view.

“Can I help you?” an burly officer asked me, his helpfulness belied by his scowl.

“I’m a reporter,” I told him.

“This is a frozen zone, all right?” he said, using a term I’d never heard before. “Just like them, you have to leave the area. If you do not, you will be subject to arrest.”

He grabbed my arm and began dragging me off. My shoes skidded across the park’s slimy granite floor. All around me, zip-cuffed occupiers writhed on the ground beneath a fog of chemicals.

“I just want to witness what is going on here,” I yelped.

“You can witness it with the rest of the press,” he said. Which, of course, meant not witnessing it.

“Why are you excluding the press from observing this?” I asked.

“Because this is a frozen zone. It’s a police action going on. You could be injured.”

His meaning was clear. I let myself be hustled across the street to the press pen.

“What’s your name?”

His reply came as fast as he could turn away: “Watch your back.”

The “frozen zone” is an arbitrary title that the NYPD simply made up. Like Villaraigosa’s “First Amendment zone,” it has zero legal merit and was created to suppress the media coverage of the Occupy raids. In early December, Occupiers once again encountered the frozen zone when they turned out to protest outside a swank fundraising dinner starring President Obama (corporate donors paid between $1,000 and $36,000 a plate).

Jeff Smith, a longtime OWS protester, tweeted that the “Free Speech zone has been officially ‘frozen’ until Obama is all clear.”

Journalist Andrew Katz reported that he and Josh Harkinson were escorted by three NYPD officers from 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue because they “weren’t allowed in the frozen zone with about 100 people.”

“I was doing nothing but…doing my job”

In addition to being harassed and intimidated, journalists also have to fear extended detention times, and in some cases, physical abuse. According to Josh Stearns, director at Free Press, 34 journalists have been arrested since the beginning of Occupy. While I don’t have the space to tell all of their stories, here are a couple examples of press intimidation by police.

Independent journalist John Knefel, whose work has appeared in Salon, was arrested December 13 for the crime of filming police actions during an Occupy protest. Knefel and a majority of the 16 other individuals arrested with him were held in prison for more than 36 hours. Several members of the Occupy 17, as they’re now called, were punished with extended detention times after they refused en masse to submit to an eye scan.

Along with methods like fingerprinting and mug shots, the NYPD now uses iris scanners as part of an effort to “improve security and safeguard identities.” Jailed individuals are given the option to decline such an eye scan, but warned that doing so may slow down their processing. Knefel told me a couple of the Occupy 17 had to get out of jail quickly to go to their jobs, so they submitted to the scans. The rest of the Occupy 17, however, were held in prison for the full 36 hours.

NPR reported on the controvery surrounding eye scanners, namely that the technology could be used for “facial profiling,” concerns over how the massive database of scanned images will be managed, and privacy worries centered around facial recognition software that can easily identify individuals from far away.

Another troubling testimony emerged when Democracy Now journalist Ryan Devereaux tweeted in disturbing detail abuse he and his colleague suffered at the hands of the NYPD. An officer jammed his fist into Devereaux’s throat and told him to “get the fuck back” despite Devereaux repeatedly informing the officer he’s press. His credentialed cameraman suffered an arguably worse fate when an officer punched him in the kidney three times.

“My neck is red, my press pass was ripped. I was going nothing but standing on the sidewalk doing my job,” Devereaux tweeted.

Since the beginning of Occupy, over 5600 individuals have been arrested and all major Occupy camps have been raided and shut down. The cases of abuse suffered by protesters at the hands of police are literally too numerous to name, but readers surely have images of an officer casually pepper-spraying UC Davis Protesters, and a pepper-sprayed 84-year-old woman, burned into their minds.

The simple truth that “things could be worse,” can’t distract us from the reality that things are quite bad right now. It’s virtually impossible for protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights, and now it’s increasingly difficult for press (even credentialed press) to report this abuse.

Americans are taught in school that moments of great social change always come when the public demands them, but what happens when the state no longer permits the public to make such demands?

AmiriBaraka -Somebody Blew Up America-FreeMumia Abu-Jamal -30th Anniversary of Incarceration

#AmiriBaraka “Somebody Blew Up America” @ #FreeMumia Abu-Jamal 30th Anniversary of Incarceration from adele pham on Vimeo.

Occupy Boston is Raided at 5am! A recap. [Updated]

Originally posted on Occupy Harvard:

“Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power” – Benito Mussolini.

“We would hate our city to ever be associated with anti-corporate protests”- Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

“The first thing I heard was the sound of a knife ripping through a tent” -Occupy Boston Protestor.

After thousands prevented the eviction of Occupy Boston from Dewey Square on Thursday, Mayor Tom Menino joined the national call by all Mayors to trample upon the constitution.

Today! At the Boston Commons Band Stand.

Multi-faith service at 6p

Student GA at 6p

Occupy Boston General Assembly at 7p

Here is my recap of the events surrounding the raid. Thanks to all who provided detailed first hand accounts of these activities.

Arrests and Camp Destruction

This morning, December 10th at 5 AM the Boston Police Department raided Occupy Boston and forcibly evicted them from Dewey Square.

View original 1,062 more words

Fighting in a New Terrain: What’s Changed Since the 20th Century

From: crimethink.com

Overture: The More Things Change…

Once, the basic building block of patriarchy was the nuclear family, and calling for its abolition was a radical demand. Now families are increasingly fragmented—yet has this fundamentally expanded women’s power or children’s autonomy?

Once, the mainstream media consisted of only a few television and radio channels. These have not only multiplied into infinity but are being supplanted by forms of media such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. But has this done away with passive consumption? And how much more control over these formats do users really have, structurally speaking?

Once, movies represented the epitome of a society based on spectatorship; today, video games let us star in our own shoot-‘em-up epics, and the video game industry does as much business as Hollywood. In an audience watching a movie, everyone is alone; the most you can do is boo if the storyline outrages you. In the new video games, on the other hand, you can interact with virtual versions of other players in real time. But is this greater freedom? Is it more togetherness?

Once, one could speak of a social and cultural mainstream, and subculture itself seemed subversive. Now “diversity” is at a premium for our rulers, and subculture is an essential motor of consumer society: the more identities, the more markets.

Once, people grew up in the same community as their parents and grandparents, and travel could be considered a destabilizing force interrupting static social and cultural configurations. Today life is characterized by constant movement as people struggle to keep up with the demands of the market; in place of repressive configurations, we have permanent transience, universal atomization.

Once, laborers stayed at one workplace for years or decades, developing the social ties and common reference points that made old-fashioned unions possible. Today, employment is increasingly temporary and precarious, as more and more workers shift from factories and unions to service industry and compulsory flexibility.

Once, wage labor was a distinct sphere of life, and it was easy to recognize and rebel against the ways our productive potential was exploited. Now every aspect of existence is becoming “work,” in the sense of activity that produces value in the capitalist economy: glancing at one’s email account, one increases the capital of those who sell advertisements. In place of distinct specialized roles in the capitalist economy, we increasingly see flexible, collective production of capital, much of which goes unpaid.

Once, the world was full of dictatorships in which power was clearly wielded from above and could be contested as such. Now these are giving way to democracies that seem to include more people in the political process, thus legitimizing the repressive powers of the state.

Once, the essential unit of state power was the nation, and nations competed among themselves to assert their individual interests. In the era of capitalist globalization, the interests of state power transcend national boundaries, and the dominant mode of conflict is not war but policing. This is occasionally employed against rogue nations, but continuously implemented against people.

Once, one could draw lines, however arbitrary, between the so-called First World and Third World. Today the First World and the Third World coexist in every metropolis, and white supremacy is administered in the United States by an African-American president.

 

 

Fighting in the New Terrain

At the turn of the century, we could only
imagine anarchism as a desertion from
an all-powerful social order.

Ten years ago, as starry-eyed young maniacs, we published Days of War, Nights of Love, unexpectedly one of the best-selling anarchist books of the following decade.[1] Although controversial at the time, in retrospect it was fairly representative of what many anarchists were calling for: immediacy, decentralization, do-it-yourself resistance to capitalism. We added some more provocative elements: anonymity, plagiarism, crime, hedonism, the refusal of work, the delegitimization of history in favor of myth, the idea that revolutionary struggle could be a romantic adventure.

Our approach was shaped by a specific historical context. The Soviet bloc had recently collapsed and the impending political, economic, and ecological crises had yet to come into view; capitalist triumphalism was at its peak. We focused on undermining middle class values because they seemed to define everyone’s aspirations; we presented anarchist struggle as an individual project because it was difficult to imagine anything else. As the anti-globalization movement gathered momentum in the US and gave way to the anti-war movement, we came to conceptualize struggle more collectively, though still as originating from a personal decision to oppose a firmly rooted status quo.

Today, much of what we proclaimed has become passé. As capitalism has shifted into a state of perpetual crisis and technological innovations have penetrated deeper into every aspect of life, instability, decentralization, and anonymity have come to characterize our society without bringing the world of our dreams any closer.

Radicals often think they are out in a wasteland, disconnected from society, when in fact they are its cutting edge—though not necessarily moving towards the goals they espouse. As we later argued in Rolling Thunder #5, resistance is the motor of history: it drives social, political, and technological developments, forcing the prevailing order to innovate constantly in order to outflank or absorb opposition. Thus we can contribute to tremendous transformations without ever achieving our object.

This is not to credit radicals with the agency to determine world events, so much as to assert that we often find ourselves unconsciously on their cusp. Measured against the infinities of history, all agency is infinitesimal—but the very notion of political theory presumes that it is still possible to utilize this agency meaningfully.

When we strategize for individual campaigns, we have to take care not to make demands that can be defused by partial reforms, lest our oppressors neutralize us by simply granting them. Some examples of easily co-opted radical programs are so obvious that it is practically vulgar to point them out: bicycle fetishism, “sustainable” technology, “buying local” and other forms of ethical consumerism, volunteer work that mitigates the suffering caused by global capitalism without challenging its roots.

But this phenomenon can also occur on a structural level. We should look at the ways we have called for broad social change that could take place without shaking the foundations of capitalism and hierarchy—so that next time our efforts can take us all the way.

Today it must become a line of flight
out of a collapsing world.

Not Working—Did It Work?

The defining provocation of our early years was to take literally the Situationists’ dictum NEVER WORK. A few of us decided to test out on our own skin whether this was actually possible. This bit of bravado showed all the genius of untutored youth, and all the perils. Though countless others had trodden this road before, for us it was as if we were the first primates to be shot into space. In any case, we were doing something, taking the dream of revolution seriously as a project one might initiate in one’s own life immediately, with—as we used to say—an aristocratic disdain for consequences.

It’s tempting to brush this off as mere performance art. Yet we have to understand it as an early attempt to answer the question that still faces would-be revolutionaries in the US and Western Europe: What could interrupt our obedience? Contemporary insurrectionists are attempting to ask this same question now, though the answers many of them offer are equally limited. By themselves, neither voluntary unemployment nor gratuitous vandalism seem to be capable of jerking society into a revolutionary situation.[2] Despite everything, we stand by our initial hunch that it will take a new way of living to bring about such a situation; it’s not just a matter of putting in enough hours at the same old tasks. The essential fabric of our society—the curtain that stands between us and another world—is above all the good behavior of exploited and excluded alike.

Within a decade, history rendered our experiment obsolete, perversely granting our demand for an unemployable class. US unemployment rates, alleged to be at 4% in the year 2000, had climbed to 10% by the end of 2009—only counting people known to be actively looking for work. The excess of consumer society once offered dropouts a certain margin of error; the economic crisis eroded this and gave a decidedly involuntary flavor to joblessness.

It turns out capitalism has no more use for us than we have for it. This doesn’t just go for anarchist dropouts, but for millions of workers in the US. Despite the economic crisis, major corporations are currently reporting enormous earnings—but instead of using this income to hire more employees, they’re investing in foreign markets, purchasing new technology to reduce their need for employees, and paying out dividends to stockholders. What’s good for General Motors is not good for the country after all;[3] the most profitable companies in the US right now are shifting both production and consumption to “developing markets” overseas.

In this context, dropout culture looks a bit like a voluntary austerity program; it’s convenient for the wealthy if we reject consumer materialism, since there’s not enough to go around anyway. In the late 20th century, when the majority of people identified with their jobs, refusing to pursue employment as self-realization expressed a rejection of capitalist values. Now erratic employment and identification with one’s leisure activities rather than one’s career path have been normalized as an economic position rather than a political one.

Capitalism is also incorporating our assertion that people should act according to their consciences instead of for a wage. In an economy full of opportunities to sell one’s labor, it makes sense to emphasize the importance of other motivations for activity; in a precarious economy, being willing to work for free has different implications. The state increasingly relies on the same do-it-yourself ethic that once animated the punk underground to offset the deleterious effects of capitalism. It is cheaper to let environmentalists volunteer to clean up the BP oil spill than to pay employees to do this, for example. The same goes for Food Not Bombs if it is treated as a charity program rather than a way of establishing subversive flows of resources and camaraderie.

Today the challenge is not to persuade people to refuse to sell their labor, but to demonstrate how a redundant class can survive and resist. Unemployment we have in abundance—we need to interrupt the processes that produce poverty.

New Technologies, Outmoded Strategies

In the second half of the 20th century, radicals based themselves in subcultural enclaves from which to launch assaults on mainstream society. The call for confrontational unemployment presumed a context of existing countercultural spaces in which people could invest themselves in something else.

The cultural landscape is different today; subculture itself seems to function differently. Thanks to new communications technology, it develops and spreads much faster, and is replaced just as quickly. Punk rock, for example, is no longer a secret society into which high school students are initiated by classmates’ mix tapes. It is still generated by the participants, but now as a consumer market mediated via impersonal venues such as message boards and downloading. It’s no surprise if people are less personally invested in it: as easily as they discovered it, they can move on to something else. In a world composed of information, subculture no longer appears to be outside society, indicating a possible line of escape, but rather one of many zones within it, a mere matter of taste.

Meanwhile, the internet has transformed anonymity from the province of criminals and anarchists into a feature of everyday communication. Yet unexpectedly, it also fixes political identities and positions in place according to a new logic. The landscape of political discourse is mapped in advance by URLs; it’s difficult to produce a mythology of collective power and transformation when every statement is already located in a known constellation. A poster on a wall could have been put up by anyone; it seems to indicate a general sentiment, even if it only represents one person’s ideas. A statement on a website, on the other hand, appears in a world permanently segregated into ideological ghettos. The myth of CrimethInc. as a decentralized underground anyone could participate in inspired a great deal of activity until the topography of the internet slowly concentrated attention on a single webpage.

Thus the internet has simultaneously fulfilled and rendered obsolete the potential we saw in subculture and anonymity. One could say the same of our advocacy of plagiarism; a decade ago we thought we were taking an extreme position against authorship and intellectual property when in fact we were barely ahead of the curve. The weeks we spent combing libraries for images to reuse foreshadowed a world in which practically everyone does the same thing with Google Image Search for their blogs. Conventional notions of authorship are being superseded by new forms of production, such as crowdsourcing, that point to a possible future in which free volunteer labor will be a major part of the economy—as a part of capitalism rather than an opposition to it.

Here we arrive at one of the most pernicious ways our wishes have been granted in form rather than content. Free distribution, once thought to demonstrate a radical alternative to capitalist models, is now taken for granted in a society in which the means of material production are still held hostage by capitalists.[4] Electronic formats lend themselves to free distribution of information; this forces those who produce material formats such as newspapers to give them away, too, or go out of business—to be replaced by bloggers happy to work for free. Meanwhile, food, housing, and other necessities—not to mention the hardware required to access electronic formats—are as expensive as ever. This situation offers a certain amount of access to the dispossessed while benefiting those who already control vast resources; it is perfect for an era of high unemployment in which it will be necessary to placate the jobless and make use of them. It implies a future in which a wealthy elite will use free labor from a vast body of precarious and unemployed workers to maintain its power and their dependence.

This is all the more gruesome in that this free labor will be absolutely voluntary, and will appear to benefit the general public rather than the elite.

Perhaps the central contradiction of our age is that the new technologies and social forms horizontalize production and distribution of information, yet make us more dependent on corporate products.

Decentralizing Hierarchy: Participation as Subjugation

At the close of the 1990s, anarchists championed participation, decentralization, and individual agency. Building on our experiences in the do-it-yourself underground, we helped popularize the viral model, in which a format developed in one context could be reproduced worldwide. Exemplified by programs like Food Not Bombs and tactics such as the Black Bloc, this helped spread a particular anti-authoritarian culture from New York to New Zealand.

At the time, we were responding both to the limitations of the previous century’s political and technological models and to emerging opportunities to transcend them. This put us near the forefront of innovations that reshaped capitalist society. For example, TXTmob, the SMS text messaging program developed by the Institute for Applied Autonomy for protests at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, served as a model for Twitter. Similarly, one can interpret the networks of the international do-it-yourself underground, formalized in guidebooks like Book Your Own Fucking Life, as forerunners of Myspace and Facebook. Meanwhile, the viral model is now best known for viral marketing.

So consumer culture has caught up to us, integrating our escape attempt into the maintenance of the spectacle we rejected and offering everyone else the opportunity to “escape” as well. Bored by unidirectional network television programming, the modern consumer can do her own programming, albeit still at a physical and emotional distance from her fellow viewers. Our longings for more agency and participation have been granted, but inside a framework still fundamentally determined by capitalism. The demand that everyone become a subject rather than an object has been realized: now we are the subjects administering our own alienation, fulfilling the Situationist dictum that the spectacle is not just the world of appearances but rather the social system in which human beings only interact as their prescribed roles.[5]

Even fascists are trying to get in on decentralization and autonomy. In Europe, “Autonomous Nationalists” have appropriated radical aesthetics and formats, utilizing anticapitalist rhetoric and black bloc tactics. This is not simply a matter of our enemies attempting to disguise themselves as us, though it certainly muddies the waters: it also indicates an ideological split in fascist circles as the younger generation attempts to update its organizational models for the 21st century. Fascists in the US and elsewhere are engaged in the same project under the paradoxical banner of “National Anarchism”; if they succeed in persuading the general public that anarchism is a form of fascism, our prospects will be bleak indeed.


“Autonomous Nationalists” (Somebody please put these morons out of our misery!)

What does it mean if fascists, the foremost proponents of hierarchy, can employ the decentralized structures we pioneered? The 20th century taught us the consequences of using hierarchical means to pursue supposedly non-hierarchical ends. The 21st century may show us how supposedly non-hierarchical means can produce hierarchical ends.

Extrapolating from these developments and others, we might hypothesize that we are moving towards a situation in which the foundation of hierarchical society will not be permanent centralization of power, but the standardization of certain disempowering forms of socializing, decision-making, and values. These appear to spread spontaneously, though in fact they only appear desirable because of what is absent in the social context imposed on us.

But—decentralized hierarchies? This sounds like a Zen koan. Hierarchy is the concentration of power in the hands of a few. How can it be decentralized?

To make sense of this, let’s go back to Foucault’s conception of the panopticon. Jeremy Bentham designed the panopticon as a model to make prisons and workplaces more efficient; it is a circular building in which all the rooms open inward on a courtyard, so as to be viewed from a central observation tower. The inmates cannot see what goes on in the tower, but they know they may be under observation from it at any given moment, so they eventually internalize this surveillance and control. In a word, power sees without looking, while the observed look without seeing.


Panopticon

In the panopticon, power is already based in the periphery rather than the center, in that control is chiefly maintained by the inmates themselves.[6] Workers compete to be capitalists rather than establishing common cause as a class; fascists enforce oppressive relationships autonomously, without state oversight. Domination is not imposed from above but is a function of participation itself.

Simply to participate in society, we must accept the mediation of structures determined by forces outside our control. For example, our friendships increasingly pass through Facebook, cellular phones, and other technologies that map our activities and relationships for corporations as well as government intelligence; these formats also shape the content of the friendships themselves. The same goes for our economic activities: in place of simple poverty we have loans and credit ratings—we are not a class without property, but a class driven by debt. And once again, all this appears voluntary, or even as “progress.”

What does it look like to resist in this context? Everything seemed so much easier in 1917 when proletarians worldwide dreamed of storming the Winter Palace. Two generations later, the equivalent seemed to be taking over the headquarters of network television; this fantasy reappeared in a Hollywood action movie as recently as 2005. Now, it’s increasingly obvious that global capitalism has no center, no heart through which to drive a stake.

In fact, this development is a boon to anarchists, in that it closes the way to top-down forms of struggle. There are no shortcuts now, and no justifications for taking them—there will be no more “provisional” dictatorships. The authoritarian revolutions of the 20th century are behind us for good; if revolt is to break out, anarchist practices will have to spread.

Some have argued that in the absence of a center, when the aforementioned virus is much more dangerous than the frontal assault, the task is not so much to pick the correct target as to popularize a new way of fighting. If this has not yet occurred, maybe it is simply because anarchists have yet to develop an approach that strikes others as practical. When we demonstrate concrete solutions to the problems posed by the capitalist disaster, perhaps these will catch on.

But this is tricky. Such solutions have to resonate beyond any particular subculture in an era in which every innovation instantly generates and is contained by subculture. They must somehow refuse and interrupt the forms of participation essential to the maintenance of order, both the ones predicated on integration and the ones predicated on marginality. They have to provide for people’s immediate needs while giving rise to insurgent desires leading elsewhere. And if we advance solutions that turn out not to address the root causes of our problems—as we did a decade ago—we will only inoculate the ruling order against this generation’s resistance.

When it comes to contagious solutions, perhaps the Greek riots of 2008 during which all the banks were burned were less significant than the day-to-day practices in Greece of occupying buildings, seizing and redistributing food, and gathering publicly outside the logic of commerce. Or perhaps the riots were equally significant: not just as a material attack on the enemy but as a festival affirming a radically different way of being.

Destabilization of Society: Double or Nothing

In the 1990s, capitalism appeared eminently stable, if not unassailable. Anarchists fantasized about riots, catastrophes, and industrial collapse precisely because these seemed impossible—and because, in their absence, it appeared that they could only be a good thing.

All that changed starting in September 2001. A decade later, crises and catastrophes are all too familiar. The notion that the world is coming to an end is practically banal; who hasn’t read a report about global warming and shrugged? The capitalist empire is obviously overextended and few still believe it is going to last forever. For now, however, it seems to be able to utilize these catastrophes to consolidate control, passing on the costs to the oppressed.[7]

As globalization intensifies the distance between classes, some of the disparities between nations seem to be leveling out. Social support structures in Europe and the US are being dismantled just as economic growth shifts to China and India; National Guardsmen who served in Iraq are being deployed in the US to maintain order during summit protests and natural disasters. This is consistent with the general trend away from static, spatialized hierarchies towards dynamic, decentralized means of maintaining inequalities. In this new context, 20th century notions about privilege and identity are increasingly simplistic.

Our enemies to the Right have already mobilized their reaction to the era of globalization and decentralization. We can see this from the Tea Party in the US to nationalist movements throughout Europe and religious fundamentalism worldwide. While Western Europe has agglomerated into the European Union, Eastern Europe has been Balkanized into dozens of nation-states teeming with fascists eager to capitalize on popular discontent. Religious fundamentalism is a comparatively recent phenomenon in the Middle East, having taken hold in the wake of failed secular “national liberation” movements as an exaggerated reaction to Western cultural imperialism. If we permit proponents of hierarchy to monopolize opposition to the prevailing order, anarchists will simply disappear from the stage of history.

Others are already disappearing from this stage. As the middle class erodes in Europe,[8] traditional Left parties are dying out with it, and far Right parties are taking all the ground they lose.

If the Left continues to recede into extinction, anarchism will be the only game left in town for radicals.[9] This will open a space in which we can make our case to all who have lost faith in political parties. But are we prepared to fight it out with global capitalism on our own, without allies? Escalating conflict is a gamble: as soon as we attract the attention of the state, we have to play double or nothing, attempting to mobilize enough popular support to outflank the inevitable counterattack. Every riot has to be followed by an even broader outreach campaign, not a retreat into the shadows—a tall order in the face of backlash and repression.

Perhaps it would be better if history were moving slowly enough that we had time to build up a massive popular movement. Unfortunately we may not have a choice in the matter. Ready or not, the instability we wished for is here; we will either change the world or perish with it.

So it is high time to dispense with strategies founded on the stasis of the status quo. At the same time, crisis keeps one locked in a perpetual present, reacting to constant stimuli rather than acting strategically. At our current capacity, we can do little to mitigate the effects of capitalist catastrophes. Our job is rather to set off chain reactions of revolt; we should evaluate everything we undertake in this light.

In this context, it is more important than ever not to see ourselves as the protagonists of insurrection. The currently existing social body of anarchists in the US is numerous enough to catalyze social upheavals, but not nearly numerous enough to carry them out. As a comrade from Void Network never tires of emphasizing, “We don’t make the insurrection. We do some organizing; everyone makes the insurrection.”

This will demand a lot from each of us. Ten thousand anarchists willing to go to the same lengths as Enric Duran, the patron saint of debt defaulters, could constitute a real force, seizing resources with which to establish alternative infrastructures and setting a public example of disobedience that could spread far and wide.[10] That would bring “dropping out” up to date for the new era. It’s terrifying to imagine going to such lengths—but in a collapsing world, terror waits ahead whether we choose it or not.

Everyone who has participated in a black bloc knows it’s safest in the front. Double or nothing.


Fight back—social peace is neither

Conclusion: Forbidden Pleasures

But enough about strategy. There was one demand in Days of War, Nights of Love that could not be realized in any form under capitalism: the idea that unmediated life could become intense and joyous. We expressed this in our conception of resistance as a romantic adventure capable of fulfilling all the desires produced but never consummated by consumer society. Despite all the tribulation and heartbreak of the past decade, this challenge still lingers like hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box.

We still stand by this demand. We don’t resist simply out of duty or habit or thirst for vengeance, but because we want to live fully, to make the most of our limitless potential. We are anarchist revolutionaries because it seems there is no way to find out what that means without at least a little fighting.

As many hardships as it may entail, our struggle is a pursuit of joy—to be more precise, it is a way of generating new forms of joy. If we lose sight of this, no one else will join us, nor should they. Enjoying ourselves is not simply something we must do to be strategic, to win recruits; it is an infallible indication of whether or not we have anything to offer.

As austerity becomes the watchword of our rulers, the pleasures available on the market will be increasingly ersatz. The turn to virtual reality is practically an admission that real life is not—cannot be—fulfilling. We should prove otherwise, discovering forbidden pleasures that point the way to another world.

Ironically, ten years ago this one sensible demand was the most controversial aspect of our program. Nothing makes people more defensive than the suggestion that they can and should enjoy themselves: this triggers all their shame at their failures to do so, all their resentment towards those they feel must be monopolizing pleasure, and a great deal of lingering Puritanism besides.

In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology [pdf], David Graeber speculates that

if one wishes to inspire ethnic hatred, the easiest way to do so is to concentrate on the bizarre, perverse ways in which the other group is assumed to pursue pleasure. If one wishes to emphasize commonality, the easiest way is to point out that they also feel pain.

This formula is tragically familiar to anyone who has witnessed radicals caricaturing each other. Declaring that you have experienced heavenly pleasure—especially in something that actually violates the regime of control, such as shoplifting or fighting police—is an invitation for others to heap scorn upon you. And perhaps this formula also explains why anarchists can come together when the state murders Brad Will or Alexis Grigoropoulos but cannot set aside our differences to fight equally fiercely for the living.

Death mobilizes us, catalyzes us. The reminder of our own mortality liberates us, enabling us to act without fear—for nothing is more terrifying than the possibility that we could live out our dreams, that something is truly at stake in our lives. If only we knew that the world were ending, we would finally be able to risk everything—not just because we would have nothing to lose, but because we would no longer have anything to win.

But if we want to be anarchists, we are going to have to embrace the possibility that our dreams can come true—and fight accordingly. We are going to have to choose life over death for once, pleasure over pain. We are going to have to begin.

 

Do not become enamored of power!

Michel Foucault, extracts from the Preface to the ANti-Oedipus by Deleuze and Guattari

How does one introduce desire into thought, into discourse, into action? How
can and must desire deploy its forces within the political domain and
grow more intense in the process of overturning the established order?
Ars erotica, ars theoretica, ars politico.
Whence the three adversaries confronted by Anti-Oedipus. Three
adversaries who do not have the same strength, who represent varying
degrees of danger, and whom the book combats in different ways:

1. The political ascetics, the sad militants, the terrorists of theory,
those who would preserve the pure order of politics and political
discourse. Bureaucrats of the revolution and civil servants of Truth.

2. The poor technicians of desire—psychoanalysts and semiologists
of every sign and symptom—who would subjugate the multiplicity
of desire to the twofold law of structure and lack.

3. Last but not least, the major enemy, the strategic adversary is
fascism (whereas Anti-Oedipus’ opposition to the others is more of a
tactical engagement). And not only historical fascism, the fascism of
Hitler and Mussolini—which was able to mobilize and use the desire of
the masses so effectively—but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and
in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to
desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.

[...]

This art of living counter to all forms of fascism, whether already
present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential
principles which I would summarize as follows if I were to make this
great book into a manual or guide to everyday life:
• Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.
• Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposi-
tion, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal
hierarchiza-tion.
• Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law,
limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held
sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is
positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities,
mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is
not sedentary but nomadic.
• Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even
though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of
desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that
possesses revolutionary force.
• Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor
political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use
political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier
of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.
• Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the
individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product
of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multipli-
cation and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be
the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant genera-
tor of de-individualization.
Do not become enamored of power.

A House Is a Home (with the help of bolt cutters): on occupation and its potentialities

From: 

By Johanna Isaacson and Mark Paschal

Occupy-related protests have steadily increased in number and militancy, and so has the resulting police repression. This has only made it more urgent to to identify and understand recent important steps in the transformation of the movement. These steps were most visible in the general strike in Oakland, and the later occupation of the Traveller’s Aid building, and they have begun to expand throughout the country.

On November 2 we saw the first general strike since the major restructuring of capitalism in the 1970s, an expansion into new and exhilarating territories. The retaking of Oscar Grant Plaza and closing down of banks was followed by a large anti-capitalist march and the blockage of Oakland’s port, the fifth largest port in the nation, by tens of thousands of protesters. Finally, in a widely misunderstood moment, a smaller group of protesters went to support the occupiers of a building a few blocks from Oscar Grant Plaza, the former Travelers Aid Center.

While the New York Times characterized the event as an unpopular disruption of an otherwise orderly day by a “belligerent fringe group,” this was actually a peaceful attempt to extend the occupy movement into a much-needed interior space that was presently unused and only became violent because of police aggression. Contrary to the New York Times, we thought this last stage of the evening was an evolution of the Occupy movement – entirely different in character from the property destruction that occurred earlier in the day, which the Times conflated with the night’s activities.

So far, financial institutions have been the target of the movement; but these abstract manipulations of ethereal value are systematic with the concrete suffering caused by the massive numbers of foreclosures and destruction of social services.The voracious hollowing out of the world’s energies and resources has been managed and masked by bubbles and other forms of displacing crisis. Capital accumulation is fueled by the enclosure or eradication of the “commons,” through predatory financialization and speculation, widespread debt peonage, privatization, austerity, and structural adjustment programs, which global financial institutions use to control populations while managing crises. The occupation of a building vacated by a defunded social service was a possible first step towards reclaiming the commons.

Gold Rush
Crisis has engulfed the entire country, but it is no accident that the most visible political response has come in California. As Richard Walker has argued, in the last three years California has deeply registered crisis and austerity, serving as an apocalyptic vision of what is to come for the country at large. While California’s share of US total household income and GDP over the last decade have held steady at around 13%, California now has the second highest unemployment rate in the country. While investment in venture capital is again on the rise – with California controlling more than 50% of this most “dynamic” form of capital – state and federal investment in education and social services for the increasingly impoverished are nearing record lows.

The mortgage lending bubble that contributed so greatly to the crash was concentrated in California, which was responsible for six million original mortgages, ten million refinance loans, and 56% of the subprimes issued between 2005 and 2007. Banks in California have ramped up their foreclosures and evictions within the past few months, as they scramble to get bad loans off their balance sheets. Walker points out that California was already “the heartland of the largest stock bubble in history, as investment in the marvels of Silicon Valley pushed the NASDAQ to uncharted heights.” This plunged California and then the nation into recession – but this recession was “overcome” with the housing bubble, whose bursting has bankrupted hundreds of thousands. Housing was a focal point of California’s bubble-and-bust economy, and in the wake of the busted bubble of real estate sales and housing construction California was left with more bad loans and foreclosures than any other state in the union.

California’s austerity process can be traced to the passage of Proposition 13, which capped local property taxes and required a two-thirds majority in the state legislature for any future tax increases. This began as populist outrage against rising housing costs, but ended up serving as a linchpin for the neoliberal program of draining state resources. A low point in this downward trend was the bankrupting of the entire city of Vallejo, now subject to extreme austerity measures. Bereft of tax money or investment, California now keeps itself afloat with debt and past resources. Sleight-of-hand measures such as state bonds have maintained the illusion of a working public infrastructure, with the result that California has the worst bond rating in the country.

Mirroring the decline of California’s economy is the rise of inland and exurban ghost towns, where the wind whistles through foreclosed, empty houses. It will not be surprising if Oakland, following the wave of university occupations of 2009, heralds the beginning of a nationwide movement to reclaim and reuse vacated spaces – a process that has already been proposed and ratified by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly.

Keep it for Yourself
The occupation tactic has a long history. One of its most inspiring moments came with Lotta Continua’s efforts to organize rent strikes and other housing and occupation movements in Milan, Via Tibaldi, Rome, San Basillo, Tarunto, Palermo, and Naples in the early 1970s. Lotta Continua, one of the most militant extraparliamentary groups in Italy, sought to push beyond the limits of the trade-union model of struggle by explicitly criticizing the assumption that the working class could only meet its needs by increasing the purchasing power of its particular segments. For these militants, struggle in the community, and self-organization through rent strikes and squatting, were tactics through which the working class could realize its needs while developing collective ways of organizing aspects of daily life, such as child care, cooking cooperatives, and health collectives. They saw the struggle around housing as a precondition of the extension of the fight into other areas, such as transportation, health, and commodity prices more generally.

The occupations, then, represented a necessary recalibration of working-class struggle. In Italy, as in much of the western world, the post-war expansion of the global economy caught parties and unions in the web of productivity and efficiency; the socialist bureaucracies sought to tie working-class politics to the national economy. While the earlier revolutionary period in Europe saw workplace struggles as integrally linked with organizing the quotidian world outside the factory, no such common assumption survived mass working-class politics after the War. Everyday life was severed from politics and the horizon of political activity was limited to representational politics.

The theoretical and practical innovations of the post-war left signaled renewed efforts to revive this suppressed link. For the autonomist squatters, social life and consumption was an important arena of revolutionary struggle. What the Italians called “self-reduction,” the refusal to accept increased prices for daily necessities, was led by the housewives who performed the bulk of what has been called “feminized labor”: the unpaid labor that capitalism needs in order to maintain a waged work force. Working-class women in the movement described the immediate effects on everyday life that resulted from withholding rent money:

In the two years and five months that I’ve been on strike, I’ve saved a lot of money. I feel healthier. I’ve had more money to give to the children, to the ones who really need it. I’ve had some money to give to a few old-age pensioners. I’m not saying all this to give you big ideas about myself. But just think for a minute. Rather than give your money to the bosses, keep it for yourself. Give it to the children. Give it to the workers who are struggling in the factories and who are exploited, year in and year out.

For these women, rent refusal was not an abstract form of politics – it provided immediate improvement of health and well-being, especially for the most vulnerable members of the community. Crucially, the decision to occupy was a mass decision; the general meeting acted as the leadership whereby control and use of buildings was articulated and enacted.

In an era when labor has become increasingly precarious and marginalized, most people inhabit this “feminized” labor position, forced to work without access to the basic services that facilitate daily life. Struggle at the level of the everyday is a forceful move towards reappropriating the hidden wealth amassed by capital, as it sheds the services it once promised. Predictably, self-reduction, squatting, and other militant actions were met with media and political outcry, because they affirmed the power of the working classes to determine the shape of their own lives.

Demand Nothing, Occupy Everything
Practices of self-management and dual power arose in times marked by periodic crisis, but now that we are entering an era marked by the greatest stratification of wealth since the 1920s, and the biggest global depression since the 1930s, the opportunities to mobilize have intensified. It’s useful to mark the distance not only from recent “periodic crises,” but also the crises of industrial capitalism that marked the early 20th century. As Andrew Wood and James Baer show in their history of rent strikes in the Americas, housing has long been a central concern for the working class. But the precondition for the movements of this period was a state nominally capable of intervening into social affairs. “In contrast to previous generations,” Wood and Baer write, “demands for reduced rents and improved housing conditions were based on the relatively new belief in the state as arbiter of citizen’s rights and individual welfare.” The welfare state was able to keep people working by negotiating with social movements – a “new political engagement,” which was “characterized by a dynamic negotiation involving tenants, community associations, political groups, property owners, the press, and key government agents.”

Industrial expansion was characterized by overcrowding and the absence of space for the teeming working classes, along with activist states willing to intervene in social processes to ensure the continued accumulation of capital. Today, we are presented with an inverse situation: neoliberal states have so far been unable to deliver anything other than austerity cuts. The resulting vast infrastructure of discarded and vacant structures seems to demand new forms of cooperation. Strikes and rent strikes once demonstrated the vitality of a revolutionary working-class movement – today strikes, rent strikes, and occupations point beyond the decay of capital to the nascent strength of a renewed working-class movement.

There are two entrenched fallacies that must be overcome as the movement continues to grow in size and strength. First, we must recognize that the reinstatement of the welfare state cannot solve the structural problems of contemporary capitalism. The political and capitalist class that laid the intellectual groundwork for the New Deal and Great Society has been transfigured by increasingly sinister neoliberal strategies, and the economic conditions of an expanding global economy anchored by US economic might, which girded the expansion of the middle class and welfare state, are no longer with us.

Second, we should reject the profoundly anti-utopian reformism of left-liberals, and their lack of visionary hopes or demands – a necessity even Rolling Stone Magazine has recognized. Liberals accuse occupiers of lacking specific demands. We must reply that these accusers themselves have no demands, and in the current context the vague demands they do have will only harness or halt the radical potentialities of this movement. Rather than concentrate on superficial political demands for social services, we need to address a civil society rendered apolitical by post-WWII expansion, a labor market made quiescent through mid-century compromise, and the repeated and concentrated attacks on our livelihoods under the capitalist strategy of neoliberalism.

This occupation movement is an opportunity to move beyond a politics of protest and resistance. Occupy Everywhere, in distinction from earlier movements that used the tactic of occupations, is moving to recreate conditions of social life while simultaneously pointing to the need for deeper structural change. Though occupations have been a tactic of student and worker movements throughout the last thirty years, the tenor of the present moment has changed. Previous movements, such as the 1999 UC-Berkeley occupation of Barrow Hall in defense of the Ethnic Studies Department, used occupations as a means to force undemocratic administrations to accede to demands. But the current occupation movement refuses to recognize these administrations at all.  In the past, administrations have used demands to recuperate the goals of the movement.  For example, Ethnic Studies departments in the UC and other universities have either adopted a corporate/public relations persona or been suffocated by the withdrawal of resources and faculty.   It is these forms of manipulation that have forced a reconsideration of the relationship between movements and demands in the first place.

As fee hikes at the University of California accelerated during the closing years of the last decade, student activists surveyed the political field and reached the conclusion that the wrong lessons had been learned from the anti-Iraq war movement and the various Ethnic Studies movements that utilized occupations. It was not the case that protest and political action were ineffective, but that they were mired in strategy of representation and public welfare that is past its time. Denunciations of and protests against the undemocratic activity of the Regents had not managed to stall or overcome the privatization and corporatization of the UC, or prevent the Regents from using it as a personal piggybank. Protest and occupations at universities and colleges since the 1970s had failed to hold administrative bureaucracy accountable or bring transformative change to the often immiserating experience of US higher education.

We were part of the group of academic and student activists who occupied buildings in the fall of 2009, and many of us remembered the millions who turned out nearly a decade before to try to stop the attack on Iraq. Mere numbers had failed to force democratically elected representatives to comply with the people’s demands. Working with the rudiments of Italian theory, visions of Greek agitation and the fresh challenge of The Coming Insurrection, our movement was determined to take over educational infrastructure, demand nothing, and manifest a last-ditch effort to politicize civil society.

That this movement began in the universities is no coincidence. More than 80 years ago, Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, elaborated a vision of capitalist media and universities enlisted to “train the emotions” and intellects of the working classes. For early 20th century capitalism to maximize its efficiency and productivity, the ignorant and stubborn masses would have to be “enlightened”; to this end, monopoly capitalism marshaled ostensibly disinterested expert witnesses in order to overcome opposition to a liberal state. Coupling administration by experts with a pedagogy that separated thought from action, the liberal era saw the manufacture of consent as the necessary supplement of the brutal use of force.

Against this vision of a passive audience, Marxists and radicals have long held to a theory of education through struggle – emphasizing the need to supplement study with active learning in the picket line, the strike or through direct action. It is no surprise that radical educators and students who seek to wrest the classroom from the pedagogy of public relations have been on the front lines, working through a new theory of radical action. Working-class education through action is the only antidote to ruling-class public relations.

Overcoming the supplicating attitude of the left since the New Deal means overcoming the left’s strange relationship to the state. Increasingly, the US state is unable to operate according to welfare-based strategies; making demands would represent nothing other than legitimation of an illegitimate power. This is the theory underlying today’s slogan: “Demand nothing, occupy everything!” The form of the general assemblies and of autonomous movements provides the beginning of an answer to all possible demands.

Long Live the Oakland Commune
The night of November 2 we had the privilege of wandering around the briefly occupied Travelers Aid building while a dance party took place outside. A flyer described the building’s intended use, as an immediate shelter from the cold for the Occupy Oakland movement and as a site of future forms of mutual aid. From the front, the building looked to be of modest size, but this hid an enormous interior space. There were at least 10 rooms in the two-story building, with a spacious basement. We’ve been around the Santa Cruz DIY community for many years, and have seen dedicated radicals build projects like Food Not Bombs, infoshops, bike churches, and concerts with only pennies and gleaned resources, so we could easily imagine a space of this size transforming the lives of hundreds of people through meaningful collective projects with and for the destitute, hungry, and desperate. With work approaching the next day, we left for home after a couple of hours, in a sanguine mood.

Police had been conspicuously absent, so we assumed that we’d have the opportunity for future visits and material contributions. News of police converging on the site was unsettling. We had spotty phone reception and received paratactic updates about the advance of the police, who unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets on our friends as we drove over Highway 17. While reception was fuzzy, it was clear that we would not be able to visit a thriving social center in the former Travelers Aid Building.

Despite our disappointment, we’re grateful we were able to take part in the collective joy that night. Given that the Oakland General Assembly has ratified its initial vote to occupy buildings – and that this call has been heeded in numerous other cities – we have no doubt that future endeavors will be made to seize the neglected spaces that should be ours. This has, as Business Insider notes, become an inevitability – as the weather gets colder, the millions of uninhabited buildings cry out for use. Recently a nationwide coalition called Occupy Homes has begun to reoccupy foreclosed homes and protect those about to be evicted; Occupy Atlanta has protected a police officer’s home from foreclosure, giving the family time to fight the bank; and Occupy Wall Street has secured low-income tenants heat from their slumlord. We’re not settled on a single theory of social transformation, but with news of these successes pouring in, it’s clear that this is an important step in that transformation.

As important as these particular successes are, the theoretical space opened by the actions might eclipse these first attempts in importance. Discussions and general assemblies are emerging in which people of varying political and social backgrounds have begun to debate how these spaces may be seized and held. Specifically, questions will arise about the relation of some of the more adversarial members of the movement – whose actions and theories, it must be noted, opened the space in which the occupation of public spaces became possible – to the general assembly; the pedagogical activity of marches and the assemblies; and the methods and modes by which future buildings will be claimed. A new era of self-management and mutual aid, made possible through the seizure of spaces abandoned by capital, has become a viable tactic. We look forward to an experimental period in which collective ingenuity will inhabit and expand capital’s gaps and fissures.


Mark Paschal is a graduate student at UC-Santa Cruz and a member of UAW 2865. He has contributed writing to Reclamations and Huffington Post. Johanna Isaacson is a lecturer at San Francisco State. She has written for Lana Turner Journal and Counterpunch. Both were participants in the 2009-2010 UC student movement.

Philly Mayor Michael Nutter Mic-Checked at Harvard

Philly Mayor Michael Nutter Mic-Checked at Harvard

DEMOCRACY VERSUS THE BANKERS

from: anarkismo.net

Europe & the Bankers
The limits of democracy in Project Europe

When the Arab peoples began to agitate at the start of the year, European countries quickly began to distance themselves from the dictators they had been nursing for some time, in order to seize the flags of change that the people were demanding in the streets. By doing theis, they sought to calm the clamour for social and economic demands and substitute them with cosmetic democratic reforms, as if the struggles of these peoples had not been about the right to bread but the right for access to the polls. There were some who accused the Europeans and their big brothers in Washington of hypocrisy: while the were “horrified” at the repression in Syria, they supported it openly in Bahrain and Yemen; while they waved the bugbear of radical Islamism in Yemen, they openly supported a regime of jihadists that was seeking to impose sharia law in Libya; while they were demanding the resignation of Assad, they closed one eye to the medieval monarchies of the Emirates, Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. It is absolutely no surprise, since the imperialists (and the USA and EU are imperialists in the classical sense of the term) never act unless it is for a goal that fits in with their own material and geopolitical interests. Hypocrites they may be, but their hypocrisy is fairly predictable.

Others also denounce hypocrisy on the part of the Europeans when they talk about “democracy”, seizing this concept too and deforming it at will, when what they were doing was carefully channelling the process of change in the Arab countries in a typically Leopard-esque way (“change everything in order to change nothing”), so that there would be no more open dictatorships but monitored “democracies”, with the army as the final custodian of the imperial interests. After all, the only freedom they know how to defend is the freedom of the market [1].

But there were also others again who corrected us saying that the European countries were not hypocrites, but merely contradictory: i.e., that it wasn’t that they were not “democratic” in themselves, it was that they had one policy at home and another abroad. Foreign policy was naturally determined by their venal interests, whereas domestic policy was supposedly based on well-rooted democratic values.

It just needed the entrance onto the scene through the Puerta del Sol of the “indignados” in all their glory and majesty for this myth of a democratic Europe to explode. Western democracy, as some call it, works as long as no-one protests. As Chomsky has so dramatically demonstrated, in advanced capitalist societies the real mechanism of control is not so much the police baton as the creation of forced consensus by means of a stifling form of propaganda. Once the people decide to move outside the tight limits on democratic liberties by this small elite that governs, European democracy shows its teeth and imprisons, beats (no-one dares say torture, but it is also this) and even kills. It happened in Genoa ten years ago and it has happened several times in Greece, but the memories of European citizens are fragile things…
The Bankers Coup in Greece
Last week we witnessed a real coup d’état in Greece. When the “social democrat” George Papandreou took the crazy initiative of calling a referendum to decide whether Greece would continue to remain as part of the Euro zone, he was immediately pressurized into quitting. The pressure, naturally, did not come from the Greek people but from the mandarins of the European Union. Why is the EU against a referendum? What can be more democratic than a referendum, where the people get to have a direct say on policies that directly concern both them and the next three generations at least?

The EU’s opinion on referendums is all too well known to anyone living in Ireland, where people twice voted against European Treaties (Nice in 2002 and Lisbon in 2008) and on each occasion were forced by Brussels to vote again after being threatened (and not in too roundabout terms) with all sorts of dire consequences ranging from expulsion from the EU to expulsion from the Eurovision Song Contest.

In Greece, they knew that they would have lost the referendum and so it was aborted in the most anti-democratic of ways, showing how they can force an entire people into remaining part of a commercial zone that is bleeding them to death with illegitimate, extortionate debt. They got rid of the social democratic Papandreou and substituted him, without any election, with a certain Lucas Papademos, ex-governor of the Bank of Greece until 2002, then vice-president of the European Central Bank and finally economic adviser to Papandreou. This is the man who was responsible for the transition from the drachma to the euro, who had a leading role in the irresponsible loans to Greek banks and, lastly, who personally promoted the failed economic policies of a government that brought an entire country to ruins. In other words, we are talking about the persons who alone is more responsible than any other for the mess that the Greeks find themselves in today. But the bankers have spoken: they will not accept any hint of “populism” (the word that is used when “democracy” gets results that Capital does not want) and the hard times that are in it demand a strong hand both to control finances and to control the streets, a stong hand for the poor, but a generous hand for the poor speculators… the bankers in power!
Technocrats and liars in power
In the meantime, the Italians have a good many reasons to celebrate the downfall of the pathetic, decadent Berlusconi, who transformed his premiership into nothing short of a reality show, with a little extra spice from sexy showgirls, sex with underage girls and “bunga bunga” parties, all serving to cloak his links with the mafia and the rampant corruption throughout the country. But they have less reason to celebrate their new premier, Mario Monti. His history is similar to Papademos': he was a European Commissioner, an adviser both to Goldman Sachs, speculators extraordinaire, and to the infamous multinational Coca Cola, and he is close to the current president of the ECB, Mario Draghi. We can only guess whose interests he will be serving, albeit perhaps more efficiently than the corrupt clown who has just left office.

In Ireland too the government fell at the end of last year, and in the improvised elections that were held in February, an apparently schizophrenic coalition was elected: Labour (who in Ireland are to the right of Tony Blair) and Fine Gael, a firmly right-wing nationalist party who once even flirted with Nazism, even to the extent of sending men to fight for Franco. They reached office by promising all the usual lovely things that are promised during election campaigns. They promised that they would review the outgoing government’s accords with the ECB and renegotiate the rescue plan; they also swore they would not shift the load of the debt onto the shoulders of the poorer parts of society. And in fact, they also lied, as is usual during election campaigns. Not only have they worsened the terms of the rescue package agreed by the previous corrupt government, they have announced further cuts in the next Budget which will hit the poor, social spending and the workers, while the bankers who created the mess continue to receive their millionaire bonuses because – according to Labour – those bonuses were agreed before the crisis started!

These governments will guarantee that this illegitimate debt will continue to be paid, that they will get every last cent out of us before these countries declare themselves bankrupt. There is no other logic to these Structural Adjustment Programmes and cuts in social spending that are strangling internal markets and de-stimulating spending. It’s a case of getting everything you can now before the house burns down.
Governments are falling… but where’s the alternative?
The tragedy in Europe is that governments are falling but there is no way out of the crisis being indicated by the mobilized people, partly because the popular movement itself is in crisis after decades of social pacts, immobilism and pacification and due to a quite thorough ideological penetration of the bankers’ fallacies in every layer of society. There are the struggles in Greece, but so far they haven’t proved enough. There are the “indignados” in Spain, but the working class there has only just started to wake up. In Italy and Ireland, protests are practically nonexistent. In Ireland, any mass mobilization is limited to the weekends (so as not to “damage” the economy), and as far away as possible from government buildings, where bankers are reminded of their social responsibility. As soon as the mass mobilizations that challenge the regime begin, what will happen in this (social) democratic Europe, so proud of its civil liberties? We’ve already had some idea with the experience of the Basques and Northern Ireland, which demonstrate that when democracy doesn’t work, they resort to a state of emergency, something which is as much a part of capitalist democracy as the illusion of elections. Don’t forget that in March 2009, at the time of what proved to be a flop of a general strike in Ireland, Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, asked the government to militarize the country’s airports in order to prevent any union action.

There has not been even the slightest hint of a revolution in Greece and already they’ve carried out a coup d’état – not a military one, true enough, but a coup nonetheless with a force that is greater than that of arms: the force of the euro. This should be proof enough for all those who still believe in the mantra of liberal values rooted in European society that these things can happen here, too. In the final analysis, capitalism is based on brute force and its exercises in democracy are merely formal, cosmetic. The “indignados” in their camps around Europe are right to demand real democracy, when everyone can see that the decisions that concern all of us are taken in Brussels and by the ECB.

We should of course never forget that there can be no democracy in politics unless there is democracy in economics. As long as the economy (i.e., the organization of the means to guarantee the people’s subsistence) is in the hands of a minority, it will be at the service of a minority. And this minority will have power over the others, without having to worry whether it governs by means of referendums or technocrats. This is the basic limit of democracy, sacrosanct private property and this should be the first element that any truly alternative project must challenge if it is to overcome the crisis.

José Antonio Gutiérrez D.

15 November 2011

Article written for Anarkismo.net. Translated by FdCA-International relations office.

The Occupied Dilworth Plaza – Philadelphia Occupation Phase 1

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