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

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 post 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.


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
• 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


By Johanna Isaacson and Mark Paschal

Occupyrelated 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.


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.

Occupy Wall Street’s anarchist roots

Occupy Wall Street’narchist roots
 from: http://www.aljazeera.com/
The ‘Occupy’ movement is one of several in American history to be based on anarchist principles.
The ‘Occupy’ movement is ‘a genuine attempt to create the institutions of a new society in the shell of the old’ [AFP]

London, UK – Almost every time I’m interviewed by a mainstream journalist about Occupy Wall Street I get some variation of the same lecture:

“How are you going to get anywhere if you refuse to create a leadership structure or make a practical list of demands? And what’s with all this anarchist nonsense – the consensus, the sparkly fingers? Don’t you realise all this radical language is going to alienate people? You’re never going to be able to reach regular, mainstream Americans with this sort of thing!”

If one were compiling a scrapbook of worst advice ever given, this sort of thing might well merit an honourable place. After all, since the financial crash of 2007, there have been dozens of attempts to kick-off a national movement against the depredations of the United States’ financial elites taking the approach such journalists recommended. All failed. It was only on August 2, when a small group of anarchists and other anti-authoritarians showed up at a meeting called by one such group and effectively wooed everyone away from the planned march and rally to create a genuine democratic assembly, on basically anarchist principles, that the stage was set for a movement that Americans from Portland to Tuscaloosa were willing to embrace.  

I should be clear here what I mean by “anarchist principles”. The easiest way to explain anarchism is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society – that is, one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants.

Anarchism versus Marxism

Traditional Marxism, of course, aspired to the same ultimate goal but there was a key difference. Most Marxists insisted that it was necessary first to seize state power, and all the mechanisms of bureaucratic violence that come with it, and use them to transform society – to the point where, they argued such mechanisms would, ultimately, become redundant and fade away. Even back in the 19th century, anarchists argued that this was a pipe dream. One cannot, they argued, create peace by training for war, equality by creating top-down chains of command, or, for that matter, human happiness by becoming grim joyless revolutionaries who sacrifice all personal self-realisation or self-fulfillment to the cause.

It’s not just that the ends do not justify the means (though they don’t), you will never achieve the ends at all unless the means are themselves a model for the world you wish to create. Hence the famous anarchist call to begin “building the new society in the shell of the old” with egalitarian experiments ranging from free schools to radical labour unions to rural communes.

Anarchism was also a revolutionary ideology, and its emphasis on individual conscience and individual initiative meant that during the first heyday of revolutionary anarchism between roughly 1875 and 1914, many took the fight directly to heads of state and capitalists, with bombings and assassinations. Hence the popular image of the anarchist bomb-thrower. It’s worthy of note that anarchists were perhaps the first political movement to realise that terrorism, even if not directed at innocents, doesn’t work. For nearly a century now, in fact, anarchism has been one of the very few political philosophies whose exponents never blow anyone up (indeed, the 20th-century political leader who drew most from the anarchist tradition was Mohandas K Gandhi.)

Yet for the period of roughly 1914 to 1989, a period during which the world was continually either fighting or preparing for world wars, anarchism went into something of an eclipse for precisely that reason: To seem “realistic”, in such violent times, a political movement had to be capable of organising armies, navies and ballistic missile systems, and that was one thing at which Marxists could often excel. But everyone recognised that anarchists – rather to their credit – would never be able to pull it off. It was only after 1989, when the age of great war mobilisations seemed to have ended, that a global revolutionary movement based on anarchist principles – the global justice movement – promptly reappeared.

How, then, did OWS embody anarchist principles? It might be helpful to go over this point by point:

1)    The refusal to recognise the legitimacy of existing political institutions.

One reason for the much-discussed refusal to issue demands is because issuing demands means recognising the legitimacy – or at least, the power – of those of whom the demands are made. Anarchists often note that this is the difference between protest and direct action: Protest, however militant, is an appeal to the authorities to behave differently; direct action, whether it’s a matter of a community building a well or making salt in defiance of the law (Gandhi’s example again), trying to shut down a meeting or occupy a factory, is a matter of acting as if the existing structure of power does not even exist. Direct action is, ultimately, the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.

2)    The refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal order.

The second principle, obviously, follows from the first. From the very beginning, when we first started holding planning meetings in Tompkins Square Park in New York, organisers knowingly ignored local ordinances that insisted that any gathering of more than 12 people in a public park is illegal without police permission – simply on the grounds that such laws should not exist. On the same grounds, of course, we chose to occupy a park, inspired by examples from the Middle East and southern Europe, on the grounds that, as the public, we should not need permission to occupy public space. This might have been a very minor form of civil disobedience but it was crucial that we began with a commitment to answer only to a moral order, not a legal one.

3)    The refusal to create an internal hierarchy, but instead to create a form of consensus-based direct democracy.

From the very beginning, too, organisers made the audacious decision to operate not only by direct democracy, without leaders, but by consensus. The first decision ensured that there would be no formal leadership structure that could be co-opted or coerced; the second, that no majority could bend a minority to its will, but that all crucial decisions had to be made by general consent. American anarchists have long considered consensus process (a tradition that has emerged from a confluence of feminism, anarchism and spiritual traditions like the Quakers) crucial for the reason that it is the only form of decision-making that could operate without coercive enforcement – since if a majority does not have the means to compel a minority to obey its dictates, all decisions will, of necessity, have to be made by general consent.

4)    The embrace of prefigurative politics.

As a result, Zuccotti Park, and all subsequent encampments, became spaces of experiment with creating the institutions of a new society – not only democratic General Assemblies but kitchens, libraries, clinics, media centres and a host of other institutions, all operating on anarchist principles of mutual aid and self-organisation – a genuine attempt to create the institutions of a new society in the shell of the old.

Why did it work? Why did it catch on? One reason is, clearly, because most Americans are far more willing to embrace radical ideas than anyone in the established media is willing to admit. The basic message – that the American political order is absolutely and irredeemably corrupt, that both parties have been bought and sold by the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population, and that if we are to live in any sort of genuinely democratic society, we’re going to have to start from scratch – clearly struck a profound chord in the American psyche.

Perhaps this is not surprising: We are facing conditions that rival those of the 1930s, the main difference being that the media seems stubbornly willing to acknowledge it. It raises intriguing questions about the role of the media itself in American society. Radical critics usually assume the “corporate media”, as they call it, mainly exists to convince the public that existing institutions are healthy, legitimate and just. It is becoming increasingly apparent that they do not really see this is possible; rather, their role is simply to convince members of an increasingly angry public that no one else has come to the same conclusions they have. The result is an ideology that no one really believes, but most people at least suspect that everybody else does.

Nowhere is this disjunction between what ordinary Americans really think, and what the media and political establishment tells them they think, more clear than when we talk about democracy.

Democracy in America?

According to the official version, of course, “democracy” is a system created by the Founding Fathers, based on checks and balances between president, congress and judiciary. In fact, nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution does it say anything about the US being a “democracy”. The authors of those documents, almost to a man, defined “democracy” as a matter of collective self-governance by popular assemblies, and as such they were dead-set against it.

Democracy meant the madness of crowds: bloody, tumultuous and untenable. “There was never a democracy that didn’t commit suicide,” wrote Adams; Hamilton justified the system of checks and balances by insisting that it was necessary to create a permanent body of the “rich and well-born” to check the “imprudence” of democracy, or even that limited form that would be allowed in the lower house of representatives.

The result was a republic – modelled not on Athens, but on Rome. It only came to be redefined as a “democracy” in the early 19th century because ordinary Americans had very different views, and persistently tended to vote – those who were allowed to vote – for candidates who called themselves “democrats”. But what did – and what do – ordinary Americans mean by the word? Did they really just mean a system where they get to weigh in on which politicians will run the government? It seems implausible. After all, most Americans loathe politicians, and tend to be skeptical about the very idea of government. If they universally hold out “democracy” as their political ideal, it can only be because they still see it, however vaguely, as self-governance – as what the Founding Fathers tended to denounce as either “democracy” or, as they sometimes also put it, “anarchy”.

If nothing else, this would help explain the enthusiasm with which they have embraced a movement based on directly democratic principles, despite the uniformly contemptuous dismissal of the United States’ media and political class.

In fact, this is not the first time a movement based on fundamentally anarchist principles – direct action, direct democracy, a rejection of existing political institutions and attempt to create alternative ones – has cropped up in the US. The civil rights movement (at least its more radical branches), the anti-nuclear movement, and the global justice movement all took similar directions. Never, however, has one grown so startlingly quickly. But in part, this is because this time around, the organisers went straight for the central contradiction. They directly challenged the pretenses of the ruling elite that they are presiding over a democracy.

When it comes to their most basic political sensibilities, most Americans are deeply conflicted. Most combine a deep reverence for individual freedom with a near-worshipful identification with institutions like the army and police. Most combine an enthusiasm for markets with a hatred of capitalists. Most are simultaneously profoundly egalitarian, and deeply racist. Few are actual anarchists; few even know what “anarchism” means; it’s not clear how many, if they did learn, would ultimately wish to discard the state and capitalism entirely. Anarchism is much more than simply grassroots democracy: It ultimately aims to eliminate all social relations, from wage labour to patriarchy, that can only be maintained by the systematic threat of force.

But one thing overwhelming numbers of Americans do feel is that something is terribly wrong with their country, that its key institutions are controlled by an arrogant elite, that radical change of some kind is long since overdue. They’re right. It’s hard to imagine a political system so systematically corrupt – one where bribery, on every level, has not only been made legal, but soliciting and dispensing bribes has become the full-time occupation of every American politician. The outrage is appropriate. The problem is that up until September 17, the only side of the spectrum willing to propose radical solutions of any sort was the Right.

As the history of the past movements all make clear, nothing terrifies those running the US more than the danger of democracy breaking out. The immediate response to even a modest spark of democratically organised civil disobedience is a panicked combination of concessions and brutality. How else can one explain the recent national mobilisation of thousands of riot cops, the beatings, chemical attacks, and mass arrests, of citizens engaged in precisely the kind of democratic assemblies the Bill of Rights was designed to protect, and whose only crime – if any – was the violation of local camping regulations?

Our media pundits might insist that if average Americans ever realised the anarchist role in Occupy Wall Street, they would turn away in shock and horror; but our rulers seem, rather, to labour under a lingering fear that if any significant number of Americans do find out what anarchism really is, they might well decide that rulers of any sort are unnecessary.

The Night in Which All Cows Are White

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By Asad Haider and Salar Mohandesi

Philadelphia has a large population of black, disaffected youth. It also has a black mayor. But when some of these young people began to spontaneously protest the obscene level of urban segregation and systematic poverty of the city with “flash mobs,” it was Mayor Michael Nutter who launched the counter-attack, imposing the disciplinary measure of an earlier curfew in wealthy white areas. Curfews, as George Ciccariello-Maher points out, “have historically served as a racist weapon for the containment of Black bodies” – but Nutter himself made the point by accompanying this measure with an ideological assault on black Philadelphians in general. In a speech at a church, he said:

Pull your pants up and buy a belt, because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt… Comb your hair. And get some grooming skills… Running round here with your hair all over the place. Learn some manners. Keep your butt in school… And why don’t you work on extending your English vocabulary… beyond the few curse words that you know, some other grunts and grumbles and other things that none of us can understand what you’re saying.

We want to juxtapose this with a complementary story that took place in Europe, when the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik set out to attack “cultural Marxism.” In spite of the fact that he shot young white socialists, Breivik conceived of this project as systematic with the destruction of “multiculturalism.” The importance of his project for capital was appreciated by the bourgeois press, who made a considerable effort to argue that this terrorism was only an extreme expression of “legitimate concerns about genuine problems” resulting from widespread Muslim immigration.

What these strange events – a black elite perpetuating racist stereotypes to attack the poor, and a neo-fascist murdering white leftists on the basis of racist ideology – seem to suggest is that racism, as a strategy of controlling and dividing the working class, exists today in an abstract but still powerful form. By abstract, we only mean that racism can’t be reduced to individual acts of discrimination; it’s part of the dynamic logic of capitalism. There is, of course, a dramatic empirical history; Stephen Steinberg has recently described how the right-wing backlash against affirmative action, alongside the stigmatization of “the black family,” served as the foundation for the bipartisan “counter-revolution” that would dismantle the welfare state for all races.

But what we’re interested in here is the structural role of racism. Throughout Europe the Right has clearly connected its projects of privatizing society and destroying the power of labor with the attack on immigrants and the brutal disciplining of the banlieue population. Étienne Balibar has pointed to “the heterogeneity of the historical forms of the relationship between racism and the class struggle” in Europe, ranging “from the way in which anti-Semitism developed into a bogus ‘anti-capitalism’ around the theme of ‘Jewish money’ to the way in which racial stigma and class hatred are combined today in the category of immigration.” From this history he concludes that “each of these configurations is irreducible,” that it is ultimately “impossible to define any simple relationship of ‘expression’ (or, equally, of substitution) between racism and class struggle.”

It’s hard to find evidence of European leftists who see the right-wing racist backlash as a “legitimate concern about genuine problems” with the “multiculturalist” ideology of neoliberalism, and who go on to conclude that multiculturalism is the main enemy. In fact, many of them have turned to American debates on “whiteness” and “border crossing” to understand their own political situation. But strangely enough, such theories are gaining attention here.

The most vocal representative of this tendency is a literary critic named Walter Benn Michaels, who wrote in a New Left Review article called “Against Diversity” that “American liberals feel a lot better about a world in which the top 20 per cent are getting richer at the expense of everyone else, as long as that top 20 per cent includes a proportionate number of women and African-Americans.” Michaels’ argument is that in spite of major legal and cultural measures against racism and sexism, economic inequality has only grown. This indictment of liberal apologies for capitalism is powerful enough. But the argument is taken much further: political struggles against racism and sexism are not only distractions from the struggle against inequality, they are justifications for inequality, the guilty conscience of neoliberalism. As he wrote in the London Review of Books, anti-racism and anti-sexism “have nothing to do with left-wing politics, and… insofar as they function as a substitute for it, can be a bad thing.”

To really understand what he means by this, we should step back to Michaels’ earlier work. He became well-known for a manifesto co-authored with Steven Knapp called “Against Theory” – Michaels is apparently fond of such titles – in which he argued that the deconstructivist interest in the “materiality” of signs mistakenly separated the meaning of a text from the author’s intention. “Theory,” as a set of methods that addressed how to interpret things in general, was a useless project, Michaels argued, precisely because the meaning of the text and the intention of the author are the same. In other words, because there is no space, or slippage, between the two, there should be no need for “theory.” His elaboration of this view claimed that the emphasis on interpretation rested on a concept of identity: who the reader is matters more than what the text says. What really counts, Michaels claimed, is ideas, the beliefs elaborated by authors independent of their identities.

It’s a strange notion, since “who you are” clearly has a lot to do with the languages you speak, and the ideas contained in a text you write are no more “real” than “who you are.” Surely, after all, ideas don’t have primacy on their own; unless you believe that ideas make the world, you’ll be interested in studying the historical process that these ideas are a part of, which involves who’s speaking, who’s listening, and how they’re communicating. Antonio Gramsci put it this way: “The starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and of ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces without leaving an inventory.”

And in fact it was the argument of Fredric Jameson that Michaels’ practice as a literary critic in a work like The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism, by absorbing itself in historical detail, ended up rediscovering these theoretical questions: studying the constitution of identity “on the model of private property,” asking whether the logic of the market in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie could be considered ideology or critique, reinterpreting the naturalist fantasy of “some Utopian space outside the dynamics of the market” as an ideological supplement to the market itself – recapitulating themes familiar from Lukács to Adorno, but without the self-critical perspective often called “theory.” This conspicuous absence, Jameson concluded, is exactly what led Michaels to dispassionately analyze market logic as the logic of American culture, and ignore the Marxian critique that begins with the “primacy of production,” ultimately oriented by the political project called “socialism.”

But since Michaels has extended this argument to the more visible and practical issues of American politics, many on the Left have signed on with this odd ideology. It’s the same argument: political movements that are based on the demands of particular groups are just locked into authorial identity. What counts is the right idea – the idea of equality – and not the particularity of the actual subjects involved. Any identity-based movement may change the color of those who suffer inequality, but inequality will remain. This doesn’t mean, Michaels argued in the LRB, that there should be a struggle against “classism” that would offer “positive affirmation for the working classes.” Class is not an identity; it’s the difference between a good life and pure deprivation. For Michaels, turning the poor into an identity to be defended would be reactionary – you’d be celebrating lives that are defined by abjection.

Considering that fostering “diversity” has become a replacement for the elimination of poverty and inequality, especially among academics with large salaries, it’s no surprise that committed leftists are drawn to Michaels’ arguments. It’s certainly important to resist this condemnable tendency on the part of affluent liberals to abandon the white working class, and indeed the working class in general, in favor of politically correct policing of television shows. However, this is no excuse for a distortion of reality, or for abandoning the foundations of radical politics. Just like “multiculturalism,” the discourse of equality can only emerge from a liberal viewpoint. Michaels certainly has the right to a liberal viewpoint. But it’s hard to understand why Marxists would endorse it.

The unique thing about Marxist politics is that it doesn’t aim for a more enlightened distribution of wealth, the Proudhonian dream of a society managed by egalitarian accountants. Marxism breaks from the view that class is a matter of privilege or relative wealth. Class is the fundamental social relation of society insofar as it represents the division between people who own the means of production and those who are forced to sell their ability to work. The consequence is that the capitalist class dominates and exploits the working class. This is a totally different phenomenon from distribution, and the Marxist analysis takes it one admirable step further. The way to change this system is not for intellectuals to decry its moral degradation and administrators to reorganize it more equitably. Instead, it can only be changed when the exploited themselves express their political power – when they abolish this whole relationship of domination and run society for themselves.

An abstract politics of equality on behalf of the poor totally buries the agency of the working class – it falls prey to the ideology of the bourgeois utopians who, Marx wrote in The Poverty of Philosophy, “see in poverty nothing but poverty, without seeing in it the revolutionary, subversive side, which will overthrow the old society.” Those who define the working class by its deprivation obscure the fact that people make their lives with what they have available to them, often imaginatively refusing the limits imposed on them by capitalism. Most importantly, they forget that what the working class does on a daily basis – work – is what the capitalist class requires to accumulate profit and to build all of society. A purely negative definition of the working class leaves no space for it to struggle for its own emancipation. And perversely, it ends up celebrating the very culture of the rich, the culture of entitlement, that engages in “multiculturalism.” This kind of “equality” seems to rest on the premise that we will one day all become latte-sipping multiculturalists.

What this means is that calling for equality on the basis of class is also a form of identity politics. Michaels illustrates this theoretical twist when he declares in an interview that he comes down on the “redistribution side” of Nancy Fraser’s theory of “redistribution and recognition.” But Fraser’s argument has been precisely that redistribution and recognition should be understood as two elements of one larger framework of justice, which is based on “parity of participation.” This conception of justice is actually derived from Fraser’s reworking of identity politics into “status,” since status hierarchies interfere with the capacity of individuals to participate as “full partners in social interaction.” Whether you’re criticizing unequal distribution of wealth or discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, the normative framework is somewhere between a Silicon Valley board meeting and the “safe space” of a consciousness-raising group. Ultimately, though Fraser rather incredibly describes an ideal politics based on a “combination of socialism and deconstruction,” her socialist utopia amounts to New Deal nostalgia.

Indeed, the problem is that terms like identity, status, justice, and equality all belong to debates within the same liberal discourse. What they don’t address is the fact that the relationship between the capitalist class and the working class isn’t fundamentally about “inequality”; it’s about power. It was a politics limited to “equal right” and “fair distribution” that Marx railed against in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, contrasting these ideas with the “real relation” that determines distribution.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that demands for equality based on class identity are irrelevant. They are extremely important at the level of propaganda, ethics, and politics, because they mobilize a wide range of people, they alleviate real suffering, and they empower workers. But they are reforms which don’t address the fundamental structure of capitalism. This, after all, is the crucial issue: the fundamental structure of capitalism. White populists are fond of arguing that capitalism has adapted to racial equality. It doesn’t need racism, and now its damage is done purely at the level of class.

This is a peculiar argument. It seems to imagine that capitalism is some kind of beautiful jewel hidden in an uncut stone. If we just carve away all the extraneous and unnecessary trappings, we will arrive at the essence of capitalism, a pure and unadulterated concept that has been waiting since the 17th century to be discovered.

But capitalism isn’t an essence; it’s a social relation that assumes historically specific forms. Race and class are not totally independent layers of exploitation; they constitute different aspects of a reciprocally implicated relationship. Since they are not just externally related but actually interpenetrate one another, it’s ridiculous to argue that combating racism would have absolutely no effect on capitalism. These two struggles have always been related, but the irreducible specificities of this relationship have always varied from one conjuncture to the next.

The other side of the argument that race and class are entirely unrelated is the equally crude assertion that class now includes race within itself: any serious problem suffered by people of color in America results from their class position, not their race. In this view, the complicated relationship between race and class has been abruptly resolved by subsuming the former into the latter. Instead of closely examining the ways in which the relationship between these distinct forms has changed over time, we get a world where all particularities have been swallowed up by an overfed – though paradoxically undernourished – conception of class.

In this light, we have to reconsider the meaning of the movements against racism. It’s inadequate to argue that struggles against racism have now grown irrelevant because they achieved a few victories in the past. After all, capitalism itself has also adapted to a wide range of class-based demands: the eight-hour workday, the abolition of child labor, safer working conditions. Does this mean these demands, and their continuation or radicalization, are somehow epiphenomenal and irrelevant?

Instead of imagining these struggles as cutting a progressive and irreversible incision through each layer of exploitation, we have to recognize that they addressed specific elements of capitalism’s concrete historical existence. Struggles waged against capitalist domination put forth trade-union demands and forced capital to restructure itself, to adapt to a militant labor movement. Similarly, historical struggles against racism were an attack on the historically specific form of capitalism, which emerged from a racialized slave state. In response, capital restructured the hierarchies imposed on the working class. Instead of unilinear progress, we have to see these actions as part of the dynamic restructuring of a historical relationship.

The same has always been true of gender. “The labour of women and children,” Marx wrote in Capital, “was the first thing sought for by capitalists who used machinery.” The introduction of machinery, which overcame the need for muscular strength, allowed capitalists to put women and children to work while simultaneously attenuating capital’s previous dependence on male labor. Capitalists could therefore generate more surplus-value and fracture the unity of the working class at the same time. Capital took advantage of the relative inexperience and general political disorganization of these new workers by working them harder and paying them less, ultimately increasing the general level of competition within the working class. With women now able to do their husband’s old jobs for less, capitalists were freed to come down harder on recalcitrant male workers. The men’s political resistance was undermined while women – who now had to balance the waged labor of the factory with the unwaged labor of the household – came to occupy, as the most exploited and least organized sector of the class, the most vulnerable position.

Recent changes in American capitalism attest to the continuing significance of the mutually involved relationship between gender and class. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, men – who were hit hardest by the recession – are actually regaining jobs far more quickly than women. From June 2009 to May 2011 men gained 768,000 jobs while women lost 218,000. But the striking fact is that men are outpacing women because capital is allowing them to take over the very vocations that have been traditionally gendered feminine: health care, education, and services in general. This is nothing less than a destructuring of the workforce. Women are forced to reenter the household as unwaged domestic workers while husbands do their wives’ old jobs for lower wages. The strategy of decreasing real wages and increasing the cost of living attacks the proletariat as a whole, but focuses its terror on unemployed mothers. This restructuring of the sexual division of labor, now coupled with major cuts to services like social security, precisely the services that unpaid domestic workers depend on most, serves to break the unity of female workers by forcing them to absorb the undue strain placed on the rest of the proletariat.

Such intersections of class and social categories mislabeled “identity” are exactly what make it impossible to abandon struggles against racism and sexism insofar as they have a concrete relation to class struggle. Otherwise we lapse into the assumption, as Robert McChesney said in another context, that the American working class is entirely made up of “middle-aged, overweight white men.” The political consequences of such a view are disastrous; imagine a labor organizer going up to North Philadelphia and telling black workers that they should forget about how the cop disrespects them, because what matters is the white workers on strike in Center City.

To avoid such embarrassments, we’ll need to carefully examine prevailing ideas about class and identity, and trace their history. Seth Ackerman has written an interesting article dissecting the numbers in opinion polls. He points out that “racial resentment” is measured, for example, by agreement to statements like “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if Blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as Whites.” The numbers show that while 59% of white people agreed with this statement, 86% of them agreed with the non-racialized statement that “any person who is willing to work hard has a good chance of succeeding,” a measure of “individualism.” Ackerman argues that the former is merely a consequence of the latter – a “spandrel,” to use the concept made famous by Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, an accidental result of a wider structure that nevertheless monopolizes our attention, due to its spectacular appearance. In other words, white people aren’t racist, they are just expressing a much broader individualist ideology.

We only want to suggest that both of these beliefs are spandrels, as indeed are most incoherent expressions of political ideology. The individualist dream of social mobility is not necessarily compatible with a society that is based on the preservation of a systematically exploited working class. In certain cases, it is ideologically effective in encouraging people who are exploited to work hard, as they dream of one day becoming millionaires. But this is a specific expression of individualism, which belongs to a more general conception Marx described in the Critique of the Gotha Programme as “bourgeois right.” After all, it would be impossible for someone to succeed simply as a function of working hard without the wider social value of rewarding people in proportion to their hard work. An individualist conception of “right” like that certainly enables the conservative Horatio Alger theory of society, but it also enables a trade-union demand for better pay for more work, and even, as Marx wrote, serves as a contingent basis for the socialist reorganization of the labor process.

So let’s return to these complementary spandrels. As we have noted, Ackerman points out that 59% of whites believe that black people could get ahead if they work harder, while 86% of whites believe that hard work is rewarded with success in general. Without getting too deeply into the data, let’s accept Ackerman’s argument that the former is an extension of the latter – so 59% of whites believe it is important to specify that this “individualist” logic applies in spite of any history of structural racial inequality. What Ackerman wants us to understand is that black people agreed with the general, non-racialized declaration of individualism even more strongly than white people.

The question is what this intersection of views represents. It would be an oversimplification to conclude that black and white people simply share an individualist false consciousness. It is possible – and in fact highly likely – that the overall ideological meaning of these statements is completely different, depending on who is uttering them. When white people agree with a statement that racializes the individualist sentiment – that is, a statement that introduces race as a variable and dismisses its structural importance – this is systematic with an entire history of racial divisions and hierarchies within the working class, a model in which white success is predicated on black disadvantage. When a black person makes such a statement, it has far greater proximity to a tendency in African-American politics that extends from Marcus Garvey to the Nation of Islam. Though this tendency addressed poor blacks and told them to get jobs, stop drinking, and wear bowties, it did so as part of a black nationalist politics that sought to develop black political power, to fight the wider political and economic structures that kept racism in place.

Just like any other ideological spandrel, this is a contradictory belief – it can just as easily be assimilated into the lineage that goes from Booker T. Washington to Bill Cosby, which tells poor black people to buck up and get to work, while dismissing the structural exploitation that occurs at the nexus of race and class.

In the early 20th century, one of the major tasks undertaken by the American communist movement was to take this “self-help” philosophy of black nationalism and make it part of revolutionary anti-capitalism – the principle, above all, was unity of the proletariat, which was impossible if black people remained in a state of hyper-exploitation, buttressed by the extra-economic coercion that comes from segregation of urban space, hierarchization of the workforce, and policing by repressive state apparatuses.

For example, William Z. Foster described in 1926 the effect of racial divisions on the class struggle in general:

The policy of the employers is to develop the Negroes as a great reserve army of strikebreakers. They refuse to give the Negroes employment in many industries and trades unless they come in as strikebreakers. They force them to accept the lowest wages and the most terrible working conditions. They leave no stone unturned to exploit the deep race antagonism between whites and blacks in order to force the Negro to scab. And in many great strikes, such as for example the 1919 steel strike, where at least 50,000 Negroes were brought into the mills during the strike, they are only too successful.

This reality was reinforced by the craft unions, whose white chauvinism led them to block black workers from joining. The solution, said Foster, was for white and black workers to struggle together – but this could only be achieved if black workers were able to organize on their own terms, without their interests being subordinated to those of white workers.

Ultimately this led the communist movement to incorporate the demands made by black nationalist movements, represented by Marcus Garvey but also by black communist groups like the African Black Brotherhood. This policy, based on the Bolshevik endorsement of movements for national self-determination, was institutionalized in the 1928 and 1930 Comintern Resolutions on the “black national question,” but what is interesting above all is its practical effect. Communist Party USA members risked their lives to engage in activism that included organizing armed self-defense from lynching in the South, anti-eviction campaigns in Harlem, and the Sharecropper’s Union that won a strike for better cotton prices.

The political importance of this policy was not lost on the rest of the communist movement. Some Trotskyists suggested rejecting the nationalist line in favor of “social, political and economic equality for Negroes.” But Trotsky himself considered this a “liberal demand,” and in fact a “concession to the point of view of American chauvinism.”

“I understand what ‘political equality’ means,” Trotsky said. “But what is the meaning of economical and social equality within capitalist society?” Ultimately he concluded that “the Negro can be developed to a class standpoint only when the white worker is educated.” It was those white workers who fought for black self-determination, who defended black workers from the police, who Trotsky looked to: “those are revolutionists, I have confidence in them.” This struggle against racism was the condition for a class struggle: “The Negroes will through their awakening, through their demand for autonomy, and through the democratic mobilization of their forces, be pushed on toward the class basis.”

The implications of this history must be seriously elaborated. First of all, it would be impossible to speak today of a united labor movement if this early nationalist turn had not laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement. But even further, the wider political logic must be continued, since such practical activity has important analogies today. Within the communist practice enabled by the black national question, the anti-lynching movement was inseparable from the “economic” battles against evictions and for unemployment benefits. It’s difficult not to notice that these links are still present – the past year saw the murder of Troy Davis by the prison-industrial complex, and the police brutality against the occupations movements recalls the systematic attacks on black communities. The economic battles of yesterday persist alongside the clearly racialized issues of migrant labor, welfare, and “school reform.” There was and still is no way to organize black workers for their self-emancipation without frankly acknowledging the racist articulations of class power, and it’s clearly the only way for movements against economic exploitation to incorporate the sectors of the working class that suffer the most from evictions and foreclosures.

Obviously, it would be illogical to simply repeat unreconstructed claims about nationalism today. It is crucial to use a Marxist theory of self-determination to confront “essentialist” nationalisms. Black nationalism is a way to defend the interests of one sector of the class, to unify it, ground its autonomy, and strengthen its struggle. But it can also produce internal oppression, artificially homogenize the group, and force the community as a whole to subordinate itself to the representation of one of its segments – say, black men. And these risks are clear from Garvey to Farrakhan.

But from the point of view of the American revolutionaries of the 1920s and 1930s, black nationalism was a weapon that could be strategically reappropriated. What is important is that this classical left practice wasn’t at the level of identity. It confronted the historical specificity of capitalism, which is articulated at the level of the nation-state – and advanced a politics based on the self-emancipation of an agent, therefore the unity of this agent, that social processes have reduced to a certain function. Our historical predecessors recognized that the slogan of self-determination came far closer to the self-emancipation of the proletariat than any liberal platitude about equality.

Such a practice demonstrates the only effective means of combating neoliberal identity politics: a politics based on the primacy of class struggle, which carefully addresses the mediation of class by other elements of the social formation in order to construct the unity of the proletariat. It is this lesson, from the American revolutionaries whose legacy is worth reclaiming, that we should recall as we debate the complex relationship between race and class. We can start by asking a simple question: why have the black youth who participated in the Philadelphia flash mobs been so conspicuously absent from the occupation at City Hall? Projects like Occupy the Hood pose the next question: how can this division be overcome? The future of an anti-capitalist movement depends on the answer.

Asad Haider is a graduate student at UC-Santa Cruz. Salar Mohandesi is a graduate student at UPenn. They are the editors of Viewpoint.

Repression Breeds Resistance

From: http://www.counterpunch.org

The Coming War on the Occupy Movement


As I begin to write this, Occupy Oakland circulates in a by-now familiar pattern: forced from the camp at the break of day, the occupiers reconvened as they have done before on the steps of the Public Library. Later, they will attempt to close a repeating circuit that stretches a short six blocks along 14th Street between City Hall and the Library.

This circuit, moreover, is one which draws its familiarity not only from recent weeks, but also from the early moments of what is a single cycle of struggle spanning years: it was down 14th Street that Oakland Police pursued us during the first rebellion, on January 7th of 2009, that greeted the murder of Oscar Grant. And it was in front of the same Public Library that I crouched behind a bush as an armored personnel carrier sped past, only to sprint off as heavily-clad militarized police-troops dismounted to chase myself and others on foot.

It has become all too apparent that the Occupy Movement is under attack, and that even my title is wholly insufficient: this war is not “coming,” this war has already begun.

Breaching the Limits of Tolerance

Writing from the perspective of a previous cycle of struggle, the radical Frankfurt School theorist Herbert Marcuse described the phenomenon of “repressive tolerance,” in which an ostensibly liberating concept and practice becomes distorted to suit the powerful and legitimate the status quo. According to the political theorist Wendy Brown, the discourse of tolerance serves to mark the powerful as normal while discrediting the “unruly” as somehow “deviant,” and thereby “legitimates the most illiberal actions of the state.” In other words, the repression that comes is not a distinct and corrupted form of tolerance, as for Marcuse, but instead embedded within the idea itself.

This lesson is of paramount importance to the Occupy Movement, but so is its opposite: even the most repressive of tolerance has its limits in the push-and-pull of forces vying for control, and Marcuse’s arguable pessimism on this point must be countered with the optimism of transgressing those limits.

This war began as most do, in the realm of hegemonic struggle where small shifts signal coming offensives. But walking the fine line of counterintelligence and counterinsurgency, the forces conspiring against the Occupy Movement have been anything but subtle. In a crude and thinly-veiled information war, lies are tossed about like the seeds they are, and the media duly parrots line put forth by police and city alike. This “chatter” (to turn the language of the counterinsurgents against them) begins to spread surreptitiously: that Occupy is unsanitary, now dangerously so, now downright violent.

By the time San Francisco Chronicle was citing “anonymous police sources” about the conditions of the camp (bearing in mind that the police were not even allowed into the camp), it was clear to many that a raid was imminent. For the second raid this morning, the warning was even clearer: another anonymous leak to the Chronicle, and a leaked email to parents at a local school about an “overwhelming use of force.”

The script is strikingly similar across the map, from Oakland to Portland, Atlanta to Philly: a Democratic mayor plays nice, claiming to represent “the 99%” and to support the Occupation’s crusade against big business. But at some point, as the chatter increases, the occupation goes badly wrong, becoming unacceptable and violent, unrecognizable to the Middle America for which it claims to speak. A murder, a suicide, a rape, and an overdose suddenly brim with political opportunity. With the stage set, all that remains is for the guardians of good order to step in to defend the common good.

The Students Step into the Fray

The Bay Area Occupy Movement received an unexpected shot in the arm last Wednesday when students protesting the creeping increase in fees in the UC system pitched a small number of tents on the grassy area in front of Sproul Hall. If Oakland Mayor Jean Quan drastically miscalculated when she unleashed the police in late October, the response by UCPD to this seemingly minor disturbance strays into the realm of the Epic Fail. Deploying overwhelming force, UCPD could be seen on video beating and spearing students with their batons, punching some in the face, and even dragging English Professor Celeste Langan down by her hair. Langan would later write about her experience, and another English Professor, Geoffrey O’Brien, was also injured by police on the day.

Such repressive tactics and blatant disconnect between the second-rate cops of the UCPD and the student body are nothing new. Amid the student upsurge of 2009, the UCPD came under heavy scrutiny for its handling of a wave of building occupations, and at least one lawsuit from a friend of mine whose fingers had been purposely broken by a sadistic officer outside the Wheeler Hall occupation. At the height of the repressive wave, I myself was one of many featured on the UCPD website in an openly McCarthyite attempt to foster a snitch culture on campus (website visitors were encouraged to send tips that would aid in identifying the dangerous student organizers). The website was eventually removed through legal action.

But repression breeds resistance, as we well know. As I write this, the November 15th system-wide student strike is but a few hours away, and the mass participation of students in the Occupy struggle promises, if they can successfully link with their counterparts to the south, to offer a much needed injection of energy and numbers.

The Indestructible Oakland Commune

The days following the Oakland General Strike and port shutdown were dominated by a debate that never should have been. Rather than crowing about an unprecedented and unexpected chain of victories, in which Occupiers forced the city to back down and re-took Oscar Grant Plaza only to then embark on a massive if not truly General Strike, which saw up to 25,000 people swarm and shut down the Port of Oakland, some within the metaphorical Occupy camp naively took the bait offered by the city and the police, and amplified by the media. The press talking points went something like this: an otherwise powerful day was sullied by the actions of a small few who broke windows at a bank and assailed the Whole Foods in my old neighborhood.

While this iteration of the “nonviolence” debate was won on many fronts by those promoting nuance and diversity of tactics, this was nevertheless a powerful foothold for those seeking to oust the Occupation once again. Within a matter of days the chatter had increased once again, City Council was almost unanimously urging its removal, and the formerly remorseful Jean Quan, fresh from a visit to Scott Olson’s bedside, was once again urging the Occupiers to vacate. Councilwoman Desley Brooks, whose opportunism apparently knows no bounds, went from sleeping at the occupation (or at least publicly emerging from a tent) to condemning the occupiers in a matter of mere weeks. (Such stage-managed populism is something of a forte: Brooks had previously unleashing her goons on myself and others for apparently undermining her carefully crafted image of sympathy with the people.)

As City Council turned against the Occupiers, and as the City Administrator threatened to go around the Mayor to approve a raid, Quan was apparently disconnected and feigned impotence: as a leaked email from her husband put it, “she does not set policy for the city… council does.” The very same Mayor who had approved the devastatingly brutal raid a week prior finally signed on to allow the same police, under the same police chief, with the same participating agencies, to move in and clear the camp.

This was too much for some within the Quan administration to handle. At 2am, Quan’s chief legal advisor Dan Siegel resigned via a twitter message. Siegel, who I am proud to count as a friend and a comrade, and whose civil rights law firm has tirelessly defended protestors in the past, has been for years fighting the struggle within the Quan administration against all odds. He has chosen to take a principled stand at exactly the right moment.

As Occupiers massed at the Public Library, only to march once again up 14th Street to again seize Oscar Grant Plaza with no resistance from police, the same Plaza the Mayor had just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear, it is clear that she has been defeated once again, and decisively so. One wonders what could possibly be next for Quan.

Occupy Philly’s “Wrong Turn”

On the opposite coast, the same script plays out. After initially expressing support for Occupy Philly, and evidently fooling many Occupiers in the process, Mayor Nutter was re-elected by a wide margin last Tuesday, freeing his hand for a radical change in course. The previous week, the Radical Caucus of Occupy Philly had brought forth a proposal to the General Assembly which simply stated that the Occupy camp would not voluntarily leave in preparation for a scheduled construction project in Dilworth Plaza, and would resist eviction. The proposal seemed to shock many who had been lulled into the false sense of security that liberal tolerance provides, but after extending discussion of a modified proposal for an entire week, a four-hour General Assembly decided almost unanimously (150 to 3) to remain in Dilworth Plaza and make preparations for nonviolent civil disobedience in the event of a raid.

Nutter’s first move came in a Sunday press conference, in which he announced his intentions to the world in so many words. “Occupy Philly has changed,” he insisted, and so to must the city’s relation with it change. Conditions had deteriorated, fire codes had been violated, and communication, according to the Mayor, had been unilaterally severed. The shadowy force behind this subtle and unwelcome change, according to Nutter, was the Radical Caucus, a frightening group that had taken over and is “bent on civil disobedience” (I only wonder why he didn’t follow suit with other cities in referring to “violence”). If the central pretext for eviction in other cities has been murder, suicide, and overdoses, in Philly it is rape: Nutter highlighted a sexual assault at the camp as an indication of just how far the movement had fallen.

If the repetition of this same strategy, discredit then evict, across the country were not enough to doubt the Mayor’s words, Occupy Philly itself was quick to respond. At a counter-press conference yesterday, speaker after speaker dismantled Nutter’s claim, piece by piece. The most shocking revelation came from the Women’s Caucus, which was quick to highlight the opportunism and hypocrisy of focusing in on the sexual assault as a pretext to attack the Occupation. As a representative of the Women’s Caucus told the press, “We asked police for help with the eviction of a sexual predator. The police said, ‘It’s not our problem. Get your men to handle it.’”

If anything, the Mayor’s slander has strengthened the resolve of those who will defend the camp from eviction, and here’s to hoping it will open the eyes of some who have claimed that the Mayor was on the side of the Occupation from day one. (The so-called “Reasonable Solutions Committee,” which had spearheaded efforts to hand the Plaza back to the city, appears to be beyond all limits of reason. Its members are now both circulating a petition to repeal the GA’s decision to remain, deemed a “Petition for the Logical” with characteristic condescension, while simultaneously betraying the Occupation as a whole by unilaterally applying for alternative permits from the city).

The Politics of War

From the messy dialectic of the spreading Occupy Movement emerge some expected developments. Solidarity develops among the occupiers, who draw strength from the successes and rage from the repression of their comrades, learning crucial and radicalizing lessons from both. Police and city administrators similarly close ranks (sometimes together, sometimes against one another) gripped with the fear that their power is splintering, that the movements have become ungovernable, that they are slipping the yoke and refusing the straitjacket. A climate of mutual polarization, radicalization, and warfare sets in.

But other unexpected dynamics surface as well, some of which play into the hands of the Occupiers. As Occupations spread from Oakland to Berkeley, the sheer number of available police becomes a question, as individual forces rely on mutual aid programs for costly, large-scale eviction efforts. Word emerges that Oakland’s efforts to remove the camp were sped-up due to the constraints imposed by the impending student strike tomorrow. Here the fallout from the brutality of the first Oakland eviction blows back on the police forces themselves: citing the excessive force in Oakland, Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to block mutual aid assistance between the Berkeley PD and UCPD.

And even those more than willing to participate in brutality have begun to demand more booty and protection: in the run-up to the second Oakland eviction this morning, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department demanded not only $1,000 per officer per day, and the City of Alameda also demanded increased legal protection in the case of a repeat of the brutality that left Iraq veteran Scott Olson critically injured at the hands of an ACSD officer. This increasing legal scrutiny, financial strain, and sheer numerical limitations bode well for the future of Bay Area occupations and those across the nation.

I use the language of war consciously, not out of some desire for violent conclusion but out of a recognition that violence is already there. As our Egyptian comrades made clear in a statement in solidarity with Oakland, “It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose.” Despite the asymmetrical nature of the war that confronts us, the implements are the same: few can deny the shocking militarization of police departments in recent years, or that this heavy weaponry has been all but openly deployed against the Occupiers. If Clausewitz famously argued that war is politics by other means, a formulation which Foucault slyly reversed, the practical reality of the Occupy Movement is that the two are much more difficult to disentangle from one another. Every word from the mouth of these Democratic Mayors, every leak whispered from a cop to a reporter is a rubber bullet in potentia.

I use the language of war because we will not back down, and because as a result, the war will be brought to us.

But more importantly, I speak of war because this is not a one-sided affair, and we should not allow our opponents to strip us of our status as equals simply because we do not respond in kind. Our power is nothing to scoff at, although it circulates in a manner largely distinct from that which we oppose. Just two nights ago, Occupy Portland swelled into the thousands to defend Chapman and Lownsdale squares, facing down riot police, forcing their retreat, and winning the night in the most absolute of terms. Last night, the plaza was cleared and campers removed, but traces of such a stunning initial victory remain in the confidence and compromise of the occupiers as they regroup and go once more into the breach.

And as I finish, I receive late word from Oakland that the occupiers have re-taken Oscar Grant Plaza without more than a symbolic police presence, and even later word of a massive crackdown of Zucotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Another skirmish lost, another battle won, but the long war stretches out before us like an interminable horizon.

George Ciccariello-Maher is an exiled Oaklander who lives in Philadelphia and teaches political theory at Drexel University. He can be reached at gjcm(at)drexel.edu.

Letter of solidarity from Mexico

From: http://radiozapatista.org/?p=4577

Spanish version: http://ocuparytraducir.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/carta-de-solidaridad-con-ocupa-oakland-desde-mexico/


A few days ago, we sent our this letter inviting comrades in Mexico to join our campaign in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland movement, in California, USA. On November 20, the Oakland Commune celebrated its one-month birthday, and in the past few weeks this movement has emerged as an important site of autonomous resistance and organization, in a city emblematic with a strong legacy of militancy and anticapitalist activism. After the first attempt by the police to evict the camp on October 25, thousands took to the streets marching in protest and the police responded with brutal repression, using “chemical weapons” against the protesters. On October 26, following a second march, at the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland 3000 people approved a call for a General Strike on November 2. The Oakland General Strike on November 2 (the first in the city since 1946) was an overwhelming success, blockading the Port of Oakland, with more than 50,000 people participating. Since then, the Occupy Oakland movement continues to resist, alongside related movements throughout the world, and we are very concerned by the possibility of anothet eviction attempt and more repression in the coming days. For these reasons, we feel it is extremely important to send this message of solidarity to our comrades on the Other Side of the border, to show our support.

Saludos rebeldes,

jóvenes en resistencia alternativa


November 13, 2011

To the Peoples of the World

To the Occupy Movement

To the Oakland Commune

To Our Sisters and Brothers in Struggle on the Other Side of the Border

We don’t need to remind you of the deep connections between Wall Street, Gringo Capitalism and our Mexican misery. From Imperialist wars to the initial experiments in agrobiotechnology, Mexico has been the principal landscape for offensives by northern capital. We have participated and continue to, in the uprising of the Zapatistas against the neoliberal attack of NAFTA. The uprising which set the spark for the movement against neoliberalism. We met each other at the summits of Seattle, Prague, Genoa, Miami and Cancun. We met each other through a great global conversation.

It’s been a long time since we fought together in the movement against neoliberalism and the world has changed since those times. Today the narco war is devastating our society. As two sides of the same coin, on one side we have the narco and on the other the militarization of the country. These two faces are crushing us from both sides. Although it seems like they fight, they are both at the service of capital and in the modern world local capital is connected in a strong fashion to global capital. In the last few months we have learned these connections between Wall Street and narco money. According to one analysis, narco money was the liquid capital necessary to rescue the banking sector from the initial hits of the financial crisis in 2008 [1]. Further, the huge quantity of drug profits needs a laundromat just as large. Although we don’t have a detailed balance, we know that Wall Street facilitates this laundering. For example according to the US justice department, one bank, Wachovia, laundered $378 billion narco dollars from Mexico between only 2004 and 2007. This bank fell and ironically was acquired by Wells Fargo, the same bank which still has the salaries of our fathers and grandfathers who worked in the bracero program. The same bank which funds detention centers for immigrants where our brothers and sisters die only trying to provide for their families.

But in Mexico there isn’t only the cultivation of misery. Here we drew one of the first lines of struggle against global capitalism in our laboratory of resistance. With humility in front of you, our comrades, we would like to tell of our experience. Encampments and occupations are common in Mexico and comrades joke about the lack of space to put up more encampments. But this isn’t by chance and was won through struggle. One recent example: in 2006, in the state of Oaxaca, the local teachers union setup an encampment in the center of Oaxaca City during their annual collective bargaining. One morning, on the 14th of june, the state police tried to take down the camp of the teachers and the city rose up, they not only retook the plaza but kicked the police out of the city. The Commune of Oaxaca was born on this day and the following 6 months transformed Oaxaca and the participants in the uprising. Like you, they also had problems of repression and representation. Against the repression they put up thousands of barricades each night to protect the population from the murderous paramilitaries of Governor Ulises Ruiz, who they struggled to kick out. Against the lying representation of the media, they took over their television and radio studios, collectivized the resources and began to have conversations that had never been had by those means.

We are following closely everything that is happening in Oakland. The police kill youth like Oscar Grant [2] and gravely injure anti-war veterans such as Scott Olsen [3]. The media lies about the popular participation in the movement and they propagate superficial divisions. The self-defense and sefl-representation of our movements are essential to our collective struggle. We invite you to learn from our experiences and we hope to learn from yours. Together and in concert we are toppling this miserable system.

In our stories you will see your story.

We Walk by Asking, We Reclaim by Occupying.

From Mexico with total support for Occupy Oakland.


jóvenes en resistencia alternativa

Universidad de la Tierra en Oaxaca, A.C.

Colectivo Radio Zapatista

Regeneración Radio

Colectivo Cordyceps

Colectivo Noticias de la Rebelion

Amig@s de Mumia de Mexico

Furia de las Calles

El Centro Cultural La Piramide

Marea Creciente México (Capítulo de la Red Internacional por Justícia Climática Rising Tide)

Gustavo Esteva, Oaxaca, México

Bocafloja, DF, México

Patricia Westendarp, Querétaro, México

Alejandro Reyes Arias, Chiapas, México

José Rabasa, México

Cristian Guerrero, México


[1] http://www.saboteamos.info/2011/05/26/imperialismo-banqueros-guerra-de-la-droga-y-genocidio-en-mexico/

[2] http://www.kaosenlared.net/noticia/policia-mata-sangre-fria-joven-negro-desarmado

[3] http://pueblossinfronteras.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/veterano-de-guerra-de-irak-herido-por-policias-de-oakland-california/

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