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Updated: 27 min 53 sec ago

To Our Compas in Buenos Aires

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 05:08

via Crimethinc

A Full Retrospective on the 2017 G20 Protests in Hamburg

Comrades in Germany, France, and elsewhere have prepared the following overview of the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg and the resistance it provoked. As a gesture of solidarity with others who fought the G20 and with those who will face it in Buenos Aires this November, we present their text here. You can also download it as a bilingual PDF in German, French, English, and Spanish.

Deutsch/English PDF

Español/English PDF

Francais/English PDF

This is a detailed report and reflection on what happened before, during, and after the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. At the same time, it is a letter addressed to the activists and residents of Buenos Aires, Argentina—where the next summit (protest) will soon take place.

The authors come from Paris and Hamburg; they took part in the protest week together. They began working on this book in September 2017, discussing and composing everything clandestinely because politicians and police have been alleging that an “international conspiracy” was responsible for the militant resistance. Organizing in different locations and languages took a lot of time. In the end, about 25 people from four continents participated.

The people who worked on this project all come from different political backgrounds and attitudes; some see themselves as militants, others as explicitly non-violent. The narrative they have composed of their shared experience of the events is a contribution to the historiography of the G20, casting light on events that have remained clouded by the smoke of tear gas, burning barricades, and above all, media representation.

For the Compas in Buenos Aires, this letter should help to prepare for similar situations—in order to avoid repeating mistakes and to make the most of the opportunities.

Proceeds from the sale of these books in Europe will go to support those targeted by repression in Buenos Aires.

Preamble

Hello Buenos Aires, hello all,

We are writing to you to share our experiences of and to critically self-reflect on what happened in July 2017 at the G20 summit in Hamburg and in its wake. We regard its context a global one and, at the same time, we want to focus on concrete events.

We want to try to provide a context for the upcoming G20 summit in Buenos Aires. We want to express our solidarity to you as well as encourage you to organize resistance. We are on your side. Presumably, we will not be able to come directly to Buenos Aires, but we will try to get involved from here as directly as possible.

Barricades at the Hafenstraße 1987

We come from Paris and from Hamburg, from left and radical left movements, from antifascist, ecological, refugee, squatting, and Right to the City movements. Accordingly, our respective histories and perspectives are quite different. We will discuss this in more detail later.

We assess the G20 protests in Hamburg as generally positive, but, there were also bad experiences and, of course, mistakes. Vehement state repression is ongoing, focusing particularly on trans-European connections like ours. Therefore, this “open letter” is anonymous. It has been written in a conspiratorial way.

In this open letter to you, French and German are the source languages. The third language, English, is used as a “bridge” language since we can write it reasonably well. Finally, there is Spanish which some of us speak fairly well. For English and Spanish, we have also consulted native speakers. Multilingualism is, in our view, now key to international movements, since English is the most widespread second language in the world. Therefore, we have added it to each of the different language editions with the same illustrations.

Our letter to you should also be a contribution to the discussion and collective memory of both this G20 summit and the protests against it. In this respect, it also contains some details that may be less exciting for you in Buenos Aires, but are much more so for those who were in Hamburg. In addition, the public debate in Hamburg and in Germany has been dominated by many skewed or simply wrong representations of the events. With this open letter, we aim to counteract this trend.

So as to avoid any wrong impressions, we would like to highlight from the start that we cannot speak for the whole movement, nor do we wish to. Our perception is by no means universally valid. On the contrary: we deliberately show here a variety of sometimes contradictory views. In addition, there are countless other considerations. Our literary as well as linguistic competence is limited. But perhaps this is a world-first: “passing the torch” of summit protest organizing in five languages, with a project that originated in two different cultural contexts (France and Germany) and was completed with the participation of people from four continents. It may also be the first letter of this length written by movements in Europe to movements in Latin America on behalf of a common protest.

From our point of view, resistance and protests at summits, especially on the occasion of the G20, should link up internationally and learn about and refer to each other. We have informed ourselves as much as possible about previous summit protests and repression: for example, the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia. Some of us from France, and especially those from Paris, were present in 2007 at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany; some of us from Hamburg travelled to Paris in 2016 to join the international demonstration against the “Loi Travail.”1 We are following the movements and fights in Latin America as closely as we can. We are trying to go ahead and develop a common understanding in spite of all our differences.

We don’t think that the G20 is a kind of world government—to us, this simply does not exist. In fact, the global system of repression and exploitation has developed automated mechanisms. Clearly, we ourselves are part of it extensively. The times of the easy front lines are over. The G20 and other global meetings are an attempt to legitimize the existing conditions and those who represent them, even though they do so under the pretense of looking seriously at the problems of planet Earth and its inhabitants. However, in this world of destruction and chaos, where predatory capitalism is becoming more and more ruinous, this claim is less and less plausible, and there is little sincere talk of real, positive “progress.” In fact, the G20 is exclusively concerned with coordinating their common interests along with a demonstration of their power. Both attempts thoroughly failed in Hamburg—due to both the increasingly evident disunity and fragmentation of the respective political elites and also to our common resistance.

The only concrete result of the summit was the so-called “Compact for Africa.” Nothing was done to change the process of Europe closing its borders to the African continent, where people are becoming ever more impoverished. The goal was only to put an end to the circulation of photos depicting tens of thousands of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. Africa itself was not even involved in that deliberation at all.

At the same time, the streets and plazas of Hamburg were dominated by both colorful and militant protests. In the course of events, the aggregated German police, with all their expensive technology, lost control of the situation. While the heads of government listened to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in the brand-new ultra-expensive concert hall, we took over the city.

Before the Summit Where We Come from

We come from two strategically central countries and cities of Europe: politically, historically, economically, and culturally. In centralist France, anything of importance happens in Paris, whereas Hamburg—the self-styled “world champion of exports”—is the trade hub par excellence for Germany.

We come from the East of Paris, where the French revolution started, and the Paris Commune has its roots. We also come from the “Banlieues,” the dreary suburbs of “Paname”2 where there is no work, where the cops harass and sometimes even murder youngsters with African roots. We come from Hamburg, Germany’s so-called “gate to the world.“ The city is socially split like no other in Germany. Moreover, while Berlin is first and foremost a city of government and administration, Hamburg, with its big harbor, is the commercial metropolis as well as the media capital—most importantly, it has been the protest stronghold of Germany for some decades.

Most conflicts in recent years have taken place in the St. Pauli and the adjoining Schanze quarters. In 1987, we succeeded in creating a whole series of occupied houses by building up barricades. The autonomous, radical left cultural center “Rote Flora“ has been squatted since 1989. In 2009, when the “right to the city“ network was established, activists successfully squatted Gängeviertel. There are also several other left projects in town. However, these quarters are in the process of changing. Rents have exploded and forced many to move. But who are we to say this when the apartment situation is at least as bad in Buenos Aires?

In Hamburg, especially in the St. Pauli and Schanze quarters, the police regularly enact sprees of violence, brutally attacking demonstrations and street parties. After an escalated demonstration in 2014, the whole quarter was declared a “danger zone” for ten days. 80,000 people were affected when the state suspended several fundamental rights. They forbade demonstrations and searched the inhabitants without cause, especially youngsters and young adults. That didn’t stop us from organizing wild demonstrations against the “area of danger” every night, even if the demonstrations were undeclared and therefore illegal. In ten days, we wore out the cops so much that they eventually they gave up. Our protest symbols at the time were toilet brushes that we constantly carried as a “weapon” and waved during the demos.

Otherwise, in Hamburg there was and still is quite a well-organized “Antifa” (antifascist movement); for many years, they have succeeded in effectively disturbing fascistic, racist, or right-wing populist marches—sometimes even preventing them completely. An important part of “Antifa” is the leftist fan scene around the St. Pauli football team, our wonderful football club that is known throughout Europe. Even in Buenos Aires, there is an officially registered fan club with the excellent-sounding name, “Los Piratas Del Sur.”

Global Disaster

Many of you might think that life here, generally, is a lot better than in Argentina. Of course, there are gigantic differences. The average income is comparatively higher in France or Germany than, for example, in Argentina or Brazil. And there is a higher standard of social security, education facilities, and health services here in Europe compared to your country or, more generally, to your continent. We are far from denying that these are quite fundamental differences for the people that live in such conditions. But we also know that in Latin America, the images of life here in Europe are often simplified and, worse, depicted as unrealistically positive. The reality looks very different from how it is presented by the media.

Like the societies of your continent, here, too, the societies are socially divided. Here, there are more and more people who live on the street, cut off from all social protections. There are even more people who suffer from the pressure of the system, some of them becoming ill due to their despair. In addition, increased social impoverishment leads to social isolation, which is often covered up by the illusions created by the new media. The economic pressure has strongly increased for many people. In large parts of Europe, youth unemployment exceeds 50%. Evidently, there were good reasons for the powerful youth revolts in Greece and Spain in recent years and in France in 2016. Labor legislation is being eroded everywhere and social benefits are being cut. In short, the situation in Europe is becoming increasingly precarious for more and more people.

Equally fictitious is the image of an ecologically advanced Europe. In France, one dangerous over-aged nuclear reactor stands beside another—in total, there are 54 of them. And in Germany, the supposed European leader of clean energy, dirty brown coal-fired power stations continue to smolder and cause extreme climate damage, even though alternatives have been available for a long time. It becomes downright vulgar if we take a look at the respective roles and responsibilities in global politics. France, recently supported by the German military in Mali, merrily carries on with its “post-colonial mode” in West Africa. Germany, on the other hand, supplies authoritarian regimes like Saudi Arabia with large quantities of arms: in particular, with small weapons suitable for civil wars, as well as bigger equipment like tanks or frigates.

Read more

The post To Our Compas in Buenos Aires appeared first on Infoshop News.

Kavanaugh Shouldn’t Be on the Supreme Court. Neither Should Anyone Else.

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 05:03

via CrimethInc

Last week, millions watched the dramatic hearings pitting Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh against Christine Blasey Ford, who courageously narrated her experience of being sexually assaulted by him decades ago. Once again, Americans were confronted with the brazen entitlement of the male power establishment. The hearings stirred up traumatic memories for countless survivors, ratcheted up partisan tensions, and catalyzed furious responses from feminists and progressives in view of the implications of the court shifting further to the right. With Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance, critics point out the horrifying irony of an unrepentant sexual predator potentially casting the deciding vote to block abortion access to millions of women and others across the country.

We applaud the courage of Christine Blasey Ford and everyone who has supported her through this ordeal. We don’t want to see Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, either. But should any man be able to wield that much power over the lives of millions?

What if the Trump administration manages to find a judge with the same views, but with no history of sexual assault? Would that render the confirmation process legitimate and their decisions of the Supreme Court beyond question? Should people of conscience accept the sovereignty of a nine-person elite over the most intimate spheres of their lives?

If you don’t think so either, you may already be an anarchist.

What does it look like to resist the nexus of rape culture and far-right power that Kavanaugh represents? The usual suspects propose the conventional solutions: calling representatives, canvassing for Democrats, taking to the streets to hold signs indicating our displeasure. But even if these efforts forestall Kavanaugh’s nomination this time around, they won’t disrupt the relations of power in which hundreds of millions are held hostage to the machinations of a small, mostly male elite. A victory against this particular nominee would only reset the clock; eventually, Trump will force through a new candidate who will rule the same way Kavanaugh intends to. And even if Trump is impeached or a Democrat is elected and a progressive nominee is sworn in—we’re still in the same place we started, vulnerable to the whims of a judicial aristocracy and alienated from our own power and potential. We need an approach that challenges the foundations of the system that put us in this situation in the first place.

Meanwhile, progressive critics such as Amy Goodman have demanded an FBI investigation as a way to give official weight to Ford’s testimony and hopefully discredit Kavanaugh as a candidate. Goodman points out, reasonably, that Trump’s claim to be in favor of law enforcement while hesitating to order the FBI to look into Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct reveals his hypocrisy. This logic positions progressives and feminists as the honest proponents of law enforcement—and police as protectors of women. Have we learned nothing from decades of rape crisis organizers explaining how the police and courts so often serve to retraumatize survivors, putting them on trial rather than those who attacked them? Can we ignore the feminists of color from INCITE to Angela Davis who call on us to remember that police and prisons do not stop rape but rather intensify poverty, racism, and injustice?

Democrats are trying to recast themselves as the real “law and order” candidates. This is not so much a change in strategy as a revealing of their true colors. Between the blue of “blue states” and the blue of “blue lives matter,” it’s only a matter of tone, not content.

In TV newsrooms and around water coolers across the country, the discussions about this case have focused on how “believable” or “credible” Ford’s testimony is versus that of Kavanaugh. Taking this approach, we become an entire nation of judges and juries, debating evidence and scrutinizing witnesses, choosing whose experience to legitimize and whose to reject. This adversarial framework has always benefitted those who wield privilege and hold institutionalized power. Even if we rule in favor of Ford, we are reproducing the logic of a legal system based in patriarchal notions of truth, judgment, and objectivity, a way of understanding reality that has always suppressed the voices and experiences of the marginalized, preserving the conditions that enable powerful men to sexually abuse others with impunity.

Unfortunately, calls for FBI investigations reinforce this logic and legitimize the murderous regime of surveillance, policing, and prisons as a means of obtaining justice rather than a source of harm. Rejecting the rape culture that Kavanaugh and his supporters represent necessarily means rejecting the patriarchal institutions through which they wield power. If we legitimize any of those institutions in the course of trying to be pragmatic in our efforts to discredit specific officials, we will only undercut our efforts: one step forward, two steps back.

This has broader implications for how we address rape culture in general. When we reduce the issue of sexual violence to the question of whether specific men have committed sexual assault or abuse, we frame these as crimes carried out in a vacuum by deviant individuals. As a result, entertainment corporations and government agencies can pretend to solve the problem by finding men who do not have sexual assaults on their record rather than addressing the misogynistic dynamics and power imbalances that are inherent in government, the workplace, and society at large. This confuses the social question of addressing sexual violence with the matter of finding candidates and nominees who can present a clean résumé; should they later turn out to also be implicated in doing harm, they can be replaced, just as the electoral system replaces politicians every few years without ever giving the rest of us self-determination.

Rape, abuse, and other forms of violence are a systemic problem within our society, not a matter of individual deviance. We need a way of addressing rape culture that cuts to the root.

So is a woman’s place in the government…

…or in the revolution? Can we have it both ways?

Are there other ways that we can think about how to respond to the threat that a judge like Kavanaugh poses to our bodies and communities?

As anarchists, we reject the idea that judges or politicians deserve the authority to determine the course of our lives. Rather than only trying to pressure leaders to vote one way or the other in a winner-take-all system that reduces us to spectators in the decisions that affect us, we propose solutions based in direct action: taking power back into our hands by enacting our needs and solving our problems ourselves, without representatives.

As long as legislators and judges can determine the scope of our reproductive options, our bodies and lives will be subject to the shifting winds of politics rather than our own immediate needs and values. Instead of validating their authority by limiting ourselves to calling for better legislators and judges, we should organize to secure and defend the means to make decisions regarding what we do with our bodies regardless of what courts or legislators decree.

In practice, this could mean networking with health workers who have the necessary skills, and sharing them widely; stockpiling and manufacturing the supplies we need for all sorts of health care; defending spaces where we can operate our own clinics; fundraising resources to secure access to health care and birth control options for all, regardless of ability to pay; and developing models for reproductive autonomy that draw on past precedents but address our current problems. We can do our best to render the decisions of would-be patriarchs like Kavanaugh irrelevant.

All this has already happened before. For example, from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, the Jane network, a vast clandestine effort centered in Chicago, provided illegal abortions to thousands of women. The fact that abortion was already accessible to so many women was a major factor in compelling the US court system to finally legalize abortion access in order to be able to regulate it. The most effective way to pressure the authorities to permit us access to the resources and care that we need is to present them with a fait accompli. Unfortunately, when it comes to standing up to elites like the Supreme Court and the police who enforce its decisions, there are no shortcuts.

We can extend the logic of direct action to every area in which a right-wing Supreme Court might inflict harm, from environmental destruction to indigenous sovereignty to labor organizing. All of the rights we have today are derived from the grassroots struggles of ordinary people who came before us, not from the wisdom or generosity of powerful officials.

FBI investigations and court processes will not end sexual violence or bring healing to survivors. To strike at the root causes that enable the Kavanaughs of the world to do harm, we have to tear up patriarchy and toxic masculinity by the roots. This involves a process of ongoing education around sexuality, consent, and relationships, developing strategies to intervene when we see violence of any kind in our communities, creating culture that models alternative visions of gender and intimacy, and reimagining justice as restorative and transformative rather than adversarial.

We can see how pervasive the problem is when we look at the narratives that underpin support for Kavanaugh. Leading up to the hearings, supporters focused on portraying Kavanaugh as a devoted family man. As multiple allegations of sexual assault surfaced, many commentators framed the question as a contradiction between Kavanaugh the loving husband and father and Kavanaugh the callous rapist, implying that these roles are mutually exclusive. Yet gendered violence continues at epidemic levels within proper heterosexual families; shocking rates of spousal rape and domestic violence permeate American marriages, while statistics on child sexual abuse indicate that family members make up a substantial proportion of abusers. Bill Cosby, the archetypical television husband and father, was recently sentenced to prison for drugging and sexually assaulting numerous women. The false assumption that a history of sexual assault is somehow incompatible with adhering to the conventions of heterosexual family life reflects the persistence of patriarchal norms and homophobia, as well as a refusal to honestly address the extent of gendered violence in our society.

No Supreme Court could solve this problem, even if it consisted of the nine wisest and gentlest people in the world. When it comes to social change, there’s no substitute for widespread grassroots action.

Family men and rapists are not mutually exclusive.

Some American feminists have drawn parallels between the Kavanaugh case and the #NotHim movement in Brazil, in which women are rallying against a Trump-esque misogynist politician running for president.

The struggle of Brazilian feminists to resist the extreme-right threat deserves our attention and support. Yet as anarchists, we can take that model further in responding to the Kavanaugh nomination. Rather than Not Him, we can assert Not Anyone—no man, rapist or not, deserves the power to decide the reproductive options for millions of women and others. Perhaps the more appropriate slogan for the struggle against patriarchy and the Supreme Court would be the rallying cry of Argentina’s 2002 rebellion: “Que se vayan todos!”—get rid of all of them. They all must go.

The sooner we can do this—the more we can delegitimize the authority of Supreme Courts to shape our lives, and the more powerful and creative we can make our alternatives—the less we will have to fear from the Trumps and Kavanaughs of the world. Let’s build a society that enables everyone to engage in genuine self-determination—in which no man can decide what all of us may do with our bodies—in which no state can take away our power to shape our future.

Further Reading

Fuck Abuse, Kill Power: Addressing the Root Causes of Sexual Harassment and Assault

The post Kavanaugh Shouldn’t Be on the Supreme Court. Neither Should Anyone Else. appeared first on Infoshop News.

In Defense of Tenants: An Interview with Omaha Tenants United

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 04:18

via The Hampton Institute

by Devon Bowers

Talk about how the organization formed and the work that you all do.

A group of us were aware of housing issues like tenant mistreatment and gentrification, and were inspired by other socialist organizations that help tenants, like those in Seattle or Philadelphia. From initial meetings where we discussed housing issues and read the state tenant-landlord statute, we came up with potential items to organize around. We began to focus particularly around the issue of “slumlords,” or low-rent, low-maintenance landlords who skirt legality and mistreat tenants, largely getting away with it due to non-existent local enforcement and a tenant population of marginalized and low-income people, like refugees or immigrants.

We met our first tenant through Feed the People, an organization devoted to food distribution some of us were members of at the time. Since he had moved in to his apartment six months earlier, he did not have hot water despite repeated maintenance requests, with the landlord saying it would cost thousands of dollars and weeks of work. We met with the tenant, and after we went over portions of the state tenant statute and discussed the tenant’s options, he made the decision to take a more direct approach to resolving his dispute with the support of our organization. We drafted a demand letter citing the various parts of the statute that the landlord was infringing upon, and demanding that steps be taken to resolve the issues or face escalation. The tenant then signed the letter, and we went together to his landlord’s office to deliver it. The landlord wasn’t home, but after hearing about the large group who delivered the letter, he contacted the tenant, angrily demanding to know what was going on. The tenant sent him a picture of the letter and explained our involvement. Less than 24 hours later, a maintenance crew repaired what turned out to be only a broken gasket, and the tenant had hot water.

We built our approach on this experience. We try to establish contacts among the working-class people in our neighborhoods, and learn from them about the situation of tenants in the city, particularly tenants of slumlords. Through this process we identify situations we can help resolve through forming demands of landlords, and stepping in to back the tenant up in a confrontation or meeting. It’s important to our mission that we serve to empower the tenant themselves rather than be seen as performing a charitable service. Our first tenant, mentioned above, was shocked when we proposed delivering the demand letter as a group with him. He had assumed that we would deliver the letter ourselves, and was delighted to take for himself the action of delivering his demands to his landlord with our support. Typically, non-profit organizations who work in working-class communities are seen as doing things for working-class people or on their behalf.(just to clarify, we’re not a “non-profit” in the 501c3 sense, nor do we have any desire to be. We merely use that phrase to draw a line of demarcation between how we operate and how many other organizations do (especially 501c3 nonprofits) and the perceptions surrounding them) We want to work with tenants to support them in doing what they are already capable of doing, and through this process, we hope that the tenants will learn more about their own power and the power of an organized working-class community.

Recently, we helped a tenant win a big fight against one of Omaha’s most notorious slumlords in which we occupied the slumlord’s office with about 20 people and were able to get over $1,000 in made up move out fees waived and $500 of the tenant’s deposit back. (Do you want us to go into greater detail about that here? We recently did a long write up on that story at our Medium which I highly recommend reading. Not sure if you want to just link that or if you’d like us to make additional comments on it here. Definitely the biggest victory we’ve been a part of so far.

What problems do many of the tenants deal with? Would you say that the legal system is biased in favor of landlords?

A recurring problem is a lack of proper maintenance in a tenant’s home. A landlord will only put in to a building what they can get out in profit, and a slumlord, already working with crumbling buildings and tenants paying low rent, lacks motivation to make any repairs at all. Living in such a building often comes with the mentality that “well, at least the rent is cheap,” and slumlords take advantage of the expectation that better maintenance is just something that one has to pay more for, rather than a housing right. As a result, many tenants are living in conditions that are not merely uncomfortable, but actively dangerous to their health.

The legal system is definitely biased in favor of landlords. While there is a state statute that outlines a tenant’s rights and what a landlord owes them, the only enforcement to be found is in the courts, which tenants with low income and little time cannot afford. In addition, city housing laws were drafted essentially directly by the landlords themselves, and even the ensuing weak laws are not enforced. The statutes are also written in an obtuse, self-referential way that is not easy for a busy person to understand, much less take action based upon. As a result, after reaching some familiarity with the statute, our strategy has been to outline areas in which an offending landlord is in infringement of the statute, because while a tenant can’t necessarily afford to go to court, the landlord knows that it is better for them to concede a small maintenance request than to go to court for a case they most likely know they will lose.

How do landlords utilize pricing for their own financial benefit (ie increasing prices in Silicon Valley to kick out current tenants and price gouge techies?)

Gentrification is a continual problem in the city. Landlords will redevelop housing, and/or demolish and build new housing, raising the prices, which cause working-class people to be kicked out of their own neighborhoods. Occasionally a slumlord will allow a property to deteriorate to the point that it is considered “blighted,” attracting public funding for redevelopment. Slumlords have used the money they’ve drained from working-class tenants in dilapidated buildings to redevelop or bulldoze those buildings to make way for a higher-paying demographic.

How do you help people understand that landlord-tenant relationships are not alright and are predatory?

People we talk to already understand that they are being mistreated by their landlord, and that their friends and neighbors are too. But this is seen as the way things are. We don’t need to show them that landlords are exploitative, but we can help them to fight back, showing them that it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s a matter of class consciousness. The relationship between landlords, particularly slumlords, and tenants, is one of the most obvious examples of class struggle we have. These landlords are profiting by charging working-class people to live in places that they would never sleep in themselves, a property that they rarely maintain, for the most part receiving passive profit for owning a place where others take shelter. It brings up the question of private property. Anyone can see this is unfair, and we try to systematize it when we have conversations with tenants. We don’t want to get caught up in individualizing the systemic injustices to a given landlord, focusing on how they are evil individually; rather, we try to have conversations in terms of landlords as a class, and us, the working people, as a class that can fight back through organizing together.

First and foremost, we are an anti-capitalist organization that believes the renter-landlord system, and more generally private property as a whole, should be abolished. In the meantime however, we recognize the need to help tenants get what they can under the current system. We hope these experiences empower our fellow tenants and other working class people to begin to fight back and get organized so that the way can be paved for more fundamental revolutionary change.

Explain the day in the life of someone who is battling their landlord.

For a tenant working with us, a large part of it is about just getting to know us. When we’re essentially doing cold calls (knocking on doors of places we know have problems, there’s a natural hesitancy from people when random strangers walk up to your door asking about your living conditions, let alone trying when they’re trying to convince you to take a big step in actually confronting your landlord about them. So we make sure to take a lot of time attempting to build a relationship with the people we interact with. This helps us build trust in each other, and feel more confident working with each other. Ultimately, we of course want to get them confident enough that they’re willing to take the steps needed to get their problems resolved.

Since OTU has kind of blown up, however, we’ve received a big influx of people reaching out to us with issues they’re already having via our Facebook page, so this eliminates some of the initial awkwardness and need for agitation, since they’re obviously already agitated enough to feel the need to reach out. At this point, we set up a time to meet in a semi-public place, and learn about their situation in greater detail. Here you sometimes sort of face the opposite issue that we do when cold calling. The people who reach out are typically already pissed off and wanting to do something fast. We really have to be careful to not over promise anything, or lead them to believe that we can just magically help them fix things.

We like to be sober and honest about what our odds are, and if it’s something that we might not have the capacity to deal with, we have to be honest about that and be willing to say no to certain cases. In either situation – whether it be a cold call or someone who has reached out to us – we try to be sure to walk people through exactly step by step what all of their options are, so they aren’t blindsided by anything later on. We try to explain some possible outcomes, and how we would respond from each one. Based on where the tenant is at in terms of willingness to act, and based on what the situation is, we try to formulate a plan and proceed from there. While many people would maybe like to go straight to the big confrontation method like we did in our story about notorious local slumlord Dave Paladino, we generally try to escalate as necessary.

This means first setting up a meeting with the landlord, the tenant, and maybe two OTU representatives max to read off the tenant’s demands in a more low-key setting and seeing how the landlord responds. There’s of course always pushback, but we give the landlord a deadline by which we expect these changes to be made. If they’re not made in the amount of time given, we escalate things from there. The important part is that at all steps in the process, the tenant is taking the lead.

We don’t want to get out ahead of the tenant and get them into a situation they don’t feel comfortable with, and on the other hand, we don’t want to hold back the tenant or discourage their own initiative, even when we may have to be frank about a situation or explain how being too rash might jeopardize the entire process. We take a lot of influence from Mao Zedong and movements inspired by him that apply what is known as “the mass line”, which essentially means everything we do is informed and enacted in a way that is “from the masses, to the masses.”

In what ways can people learn more about your organization?

You can find us on Facebook at Omaha Tenants United. We also have Medium, where we’ll be publishing our longer-form material summarizing our work and stating our positions on things. We will have our Points of Unity out soon which explain our beliefs that we expect people to uphold in order to join. While we are a multi-tendency organization, we do ask that anti-capitalism be at the forefront of one’s politics (amongst other things), and that people are willing to regularly commit time to disciplined work.

The post In Defense of Tenants: An Interview with Omaha Tenants United appeared first on Infoshop News.

On Anarchist Economies

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 15:17

via Freedom News

Analysis, Sep 29th

Anarchism is generally not associated with economics — and Iain McKay argues that perhaps it’s time the field got more attention.

There is no “anarchist” school of economics as there are “Marxist,” “Keynesian” and so on. This does not mean there are no anarchist texts on economics. Proudhon springs to mind here, with his numerous works on the subject — the three Memoirs on property (most famous being the first, What is Property?) and the two volumes of System of Economic Contradictions (of which, only the first has been translated) — as does Kropotkin, with his Fields, Factories and Workshops. However, in spite of various (important) works there is no well-established body of work.

There are various reasons for this. Partly, it is due to the typical isolation of the English-speaking movement: many works which could be used to create an anarchist economics have never been translated into English. Partly, it is due to an undeserved sense of inferiority: too many anarchists have followed Marxists by taking Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy as an accurate account and honest critique of Proudhon’s ideas (it is neither, as I show in “The Poverty of (Marx’s) Philosophy,” Anarcho-Syndicalist Review 70).

Partly, it is due to anarchists being — in the main — working class people who often do not have the time or resources to do the necessary research — and more often, rightly, prefer to change the world than interpret it, particularly given we wish to end the exploitation and oppression we are subject to sooner rather than later.

What would anarchist economics be? There are two different — if somewhat interrelated — possibilities.

First, and least important, would be the economics of an anarchist society. As such a society does not exist, this explains why it is the least important. Adam Smith did not speculate about markets in theory, he described them by observing their workings (I write “markets” rather than “capitalism” as capitalism — wage labour — was not extensive when he was writing and so he was describing an economy marked by substantial self-employed artisans and farmers).

So, in this sense, any anarchist economics would develop as an actual anarchist society develops. Attempts to produce in detail now how a libertarian socialist economy would function are misplaced. All that systems such as Parecon1 can show is that certain notions (such as detailed planning) cannot and will not work — even if its advocates do not seem to recognise this.

So all we can do is sketch general principles — self-management, socio-economic federalism, etc. — and discuss how tendencies within capitalism show their validity. This is important, as anarchists do not abstractly compare the grim reality of capitalism to ideal visions. Rather, as Proudhon stressed (and Kropotkin praised him for), we need to analyse capitalism to understand it and to explore its tendencies — including those tendencies which point beyond it.

Which brings us to the other, more relevant, form of anarchist economics, which would be the analysis and critique of capitalism. The two are interrelated, for what we oppose in capitalism would not exist within an anarchist economy. So, for example, Proudhon’s analysis of exploitation as occurring in production — because workers have sold their liberty to the boss who keeps the “collective force” and “surplus of labour” they create — points logically to workers’ co-operatives (self-management) as the basis of a free economy. He and subsequent anarchists opposed associated labour to wage-labour.

Here we do have much to build on. Proudhon’s analysis of exploitation pre-dates Marx’s near identical one by two decades — ironically in 1847 Marx mocks the Frenchman for advocating what he later came to advocate in 1867 (see my “Proudhon’s Constituted Value and the Myth of Labour Notes,” Anarchist Studies 25:1). Other insights, including methodological ones, can be drawn from his and Kropotkin’s contributions — although much of it may need to be translated first!

This does not mean we cannot usefully draw upon other schools. Marx, for all his flaws, provided genuine insights into the workings of capitalism. Keynes may have sought to save capitalism from itself, but to do so he had to understand how it works and so is worth reading. The post-Keynesian school, likewise, has a substantial amount of work which would be of use in constructing an anarchist economics (Steve Keen, author of the excellent Debunking Economics, is a post-Keynesian). Those schools which have been developed — often explicitly so — to defend capitalism (such as neo-classicalism) have little to offer, except perhaps as examples of what not to do.

Which points to another key aspect of any anarchist economics, an understanding of the flaws of other schools — particularly the mainstream neo-classical school.

It should help us see when we are being lied to or when certain conclusions are based on preposterous assumptions or models. The same applies to Marxist economics, which all too often woefully mixes up empirical reality and explanatory categories. As such, it would play a key role in intellectual self-defence.

The key issue, though, is not to confuse understanding how capitalism works from a libertarian perspective, an anarchist economics, with the economics of an anarchy.

So an anarchist economics in this sense is still in its early days — even after over 150 years! — but there is a foundation there which can be usefully built upon. The real question is, how do we start? As Kropotkin suggests, by basing our analysis of empirical evidence rather than the abstract model building of neoclassical economics. We need to root our understanding of capitalism in the reality of capitalism — and our struggles against it.

This is no trivial task — but one which would be of benefit.

Iain McKay

1. Participatory economics suggests a collectively planned economy with shared baseline access to resources and some augmented personal income rewarding high effort or dangerous work

This article first appeared in the Summer edition of Freedom Journal

Image: Clifford Harper

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Self-Care Tips for Radical Social Media Users

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 23:21

via Rest for Resistance

by Dom Chatterjee

As much as social media is a go-to stress reliever, it’s important we recognize that it’s a source of stress.

When I tried to take an offline day off at home, of course I wound up on Facebook anyway. It was really fun talking to friends, but within an hour, I was calling out a misogynist.

Those interactions don’t mean we have to deactivate completely. There are plenty of ways to practice self-care and stay on Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and all that while making the most of it.

Yet often people say if the news or dialogue stresses you out, just sign off.

Since we all have different self-care needs, it can be disrespectful to give advice that’s inaccessible to the person receiving it. But it’s ironically on social media that we encounter well-intended others offering reminders to stop staring at the screen and unwind elsewhere.

Offline self-care works great for some people. Yet it’s harder for those of us who don’t have space to sequester ourselves at home with friends and family. Due to isolation, many of us don’t have room IRL to even believe that we deserve space in our own lives. Social media is simply a better source of hope than the outside world.

We all deserve community, and many of us find that online.

It’s a beautiful thing – I’ve had ‘net friends helping me stay on the planet since I was a teen in the early 2000s – but one way we can feel shamed for this is when people say to deactivate Facebook or stay off social media for a significant break. For me, half a day is a significant break. Saying offline for longer than that just isn’t beneficial for my mental health.

If you’re reading this, it’s unlikely you’re going to go cold turkey on social media, and it’s probably not even in your best interest. So how can we practice self-care online while navigating the bullshit?

Here are realistic ways to stay connected on social media without burning out.

1) Find online escapes outside social media.

We can’t control who is going to show up in what conversation (or what bigoted ideas they are bringing to the table). But we can control how we navigate that. And it helps to be conscious consumers of media so we know where to point our browser to recharge after a heated convo.

Bookmark a few websites that are POC-centered or otherwise uplifting for you. Instead of relying on your Facebook feed to stay in touch, make a habit to check your fave websites directly. You can even make a folder labeled “self-care” so you don’t have to think about it when you’re low on energy and feeling foggy.

Reading / watching / listening to your fave sites might lead you right back to social media to excitedly share a quote or message a link to a friend, but you’re still taking steps to spend more time away from Facebook and Twitter, where you can be interrupted by messages and notifications. And that’s great!

2) Reach out to a friend.

It doesn’t matter if you know a person online or IRL. A friend is a friend no matter what, and that means they’ll offer non-judgmental support when you need it most (and when they have energy and time to do so, of course).

A simple, “Hi, how are you?” always works to start a conversation.

Even better, check in to see if they’ve done any self-care that day. This is a win-win, a reminder for them and for you. Sometimes hearing a friend say they’re drinking tea or just took a shower is enough to motivate me to do the same.

If you’re anxious about what to say, send over a link to something you think they’d like. Ask if they’ve read the article or saw the video you’re excited about or want to critique together.

And of course, you can always send kittens, puppies, and other heartwarming things to deliver some joy to their inbox.

3) Hear news directly from sources you trust  not mainstream media.

It’s tempting to click on links when you’re scrolling and see a sensational headline. But before you give energy to mainstream media, take a look at the source.

Of course you want to stay up-to-date on what matters. And thankfully we don’t need Fox or CBS or HuffPo or whatever to get information. We’re saturated with information, and although we’re served the crap they want us to swallow, there are alternatives.

Rather than clicking on just any headline, go to Google to look for a source you actually want to read. You might have to look through a few pages of results before you find news from Mother Jones or The Grio.

And if all the options look bad, reach out to a friend who may know what’s going on. The fewer of us who have to read mainstream media to understand those perspectives, the better.

So let’s check in with each other more often, and we’ll hear the news from our own inner circle and from those whose viewpoints and ideas we respect.

4) Plan ways to feel relaxed even when you’re (possibly arguing) online.

When you’re less stressed, use some self-care time away from social media to plan for when you’re having a hard time tearing away.

Set up playlists that’ll help you when you’re overwhelmed. The music could be low tempo to help you chill out, or be upbeat as more of a distraction when your blood is boiling.

And if you shut down and don’t like reaching out when you’re anxious, make a list of people who you can reach out to. Check in with them when you’re more able to talk, and ask if they’re ok being contacted when you’re panicking or need to vent.

You can also have a go-to tea that offers soothing energy. Or keep a heating pad, aromatherapy oils, or a salve like Tiger Balm nearby as a cue to unwind.

It also helps me to have items to fidget with on my desk. That could mean clicking a pen or taking the cap on and off. I just got a fidget cube, and it’s been most used when I’m stressed out on Facebook.

5) Move away from the computer  or move the computer away from you for a few minutes at a time.

Even if you are going to spend a lot of social time online, where you’ll possibly encounter upsetting information and interactions, you can find brief moments of peace. For example, when you make a soothing cup of tea, hang out in the kitchen to enjoy the moment while the tea kettle boils. And leave your phone in another room so you aren’t tempted.

When I’ve been on the computer all day and notice my back tension getting worse, I know that’s my cue to do any one of the above. If all else fails, I move a foot away from my laptop to the floor to spend quality time with my foam roller and other self-massage tools. Some cost less than $10, and instead of getting anything fancy, you can just use a lacrosse ball.

Other ways to carve out a few minutes here and there include stretching, cooking, mindfully eating a snack, playing a game on your phone, going outside for fresh air, or spending time playing with a pet.

 

There’s no reason to dismiss all the positives we get from internet community because, thankfully, they can outweigh the bullshit. But it helps to be aware of how you’re balancing things out.

If it is accessible to you, try one of the services like KeepMeOut, which blocks website for the amount of time you set, AppBlock for Android, or Freedom for iPhone. These help keep social media away from you for a short time, say two hours. Then you can build your willpower over time to help you focus on something away from social media.

For a human solution, ask friends who also spend time online if they can help you with accountability. Check in regularly with one another to see if you’re practicing self-care and making the most of your social media time.

If any of these methods doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. It’s not easy to get offline, so only take on a self-care plan that’s practical for you and doesn’t lead to feelings of shame or failure. The best self-care is whatever helps you live with a greater sense of ease.

And don’t forget to bookmark our social media:

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A Feminist Movement to End Capitalism, Part I

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 21:24

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation

by Bree Busk

The first of a two part series on looking at anti-capitalism feminism in South America and with a wealth of concepts and analysis that we can draw from in the US. Part two will include the article in pamphlet form for download and distribution. See below for a glossary of terms. 

A Feminist Movement to End Capitalism: The Rise of Multisectoral Feminism in Chile

 

I. A Feminist Fall

It’s May of 2018 and as winter descends on Santiago, Chile, something new is growing. Graffiti blooms on every surface and the wheat-pasted posters accumulate on the walls like leaves on the ground. This is a familiar site to any Santiaguino; it marks the beginning of a new cycle of struggle for one of the major social movements. Student issues are always well-represented, but you are just as likely to spot a slogan in support of a Mapuche political prisoner or a poster advertising the latest day of action from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras No+AFP (the coalition organized against the corrupt Chilean pension system). However, if you step closer, you will notice that there has been a shift in theme, tone, and frequency: feminism is on the rise, and while there may be messages of sorority in abundance, they are sharpened by an intense anger directed squarely at those who have wielded patriarchal power against the women of this country.

NO es NO. YO TE CREO. PRACTICA LA VENGANZA.

NO is No. I believe you. Practice revenge.

“Practica la Venganza” or “Practice Revenge!” Feminist graffiti spotted in downtown Santiago, May 2018

When I walk to work in the morning, I run into marches or the evidence of their recent passing. It’s not unusual to hear the echoes of distant drumming bouncing down the wide streets of Downtown.  On social media, friends and acquaintances are making posts that have transitioned from cautious inquiries to joyous declarations: “Is the downtown campus of PUC occupied?” “Was UCEN taken over?” “Instituto Arcos on feminist strike!” Every week, I spot a new collection of feminist banners hung from the fences of Santiago’s most prominent institutions. All the universities are falling to the feminist strike and somehow, it only feels like the beginning.

II. The Water is Rising

When I arrived in Santiago in 2015, I was nothing short of starstruck by the Chilean feminist movement. As a North American accustomed to the moderate, anemic social movements of the US, I wasn’t prepared to witness the sheer numbers that would mobilize for almost any cause. I marvelled at the variety of organizations that filled the marches and snapped photos of every spray-painted slogan. I teared-up at the sight of fathers carrying their children on their shoulders during the demonstrations against gendered violence. I was sure that I was witnessing a strong, unified feminist movement for the first time in my life. It took me years to realize that I was viewing events through the lens of my political experience in the US: what I took for a well-developed expression of feminist power was, in reality, quite fragmented. Behind the scenes, conflicts were erupting in every sphere of the Left. Most organizations were struggling to change their sexist internal cultural (with differing degrees of success) while others were experimenting with new political forms and ideas. Many female radicals were resigning from traditional Leftist groups, often in favor of joining or starting feminist separatist projects. It was a time of great instability, but also a time of great political potential. The frustration and outrage felt by women, trans people, and queers were clearly intensifying, but the tension had yet to find release in a mass, popular movement. Everyone could feel something coming, but no one was sure which combination of events would finally crack the dam. Even now that the tsunami has hit, feminists are still struggling to analyze the moment in which they have found themselves. This process will doubtless be ongoing, but I believe that several contributing factors can be identified: the surge in global feminist visibility, the parallel ascensions of other social movements, and the pressure exerted on all Chileans and indigenous people through the continued application of the neoliberal policies instituted since the return of democracy.

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The Rage of Entitled Elites

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 16:17

via The Hampton Institute

“Elites” aren’t accustomed to adversity, being challenged, or having their birthright entitlements questioned. They coast through their prep schools and Ivy League, and slide into their preordained adult lives without ever experiencing the daily struggles of working people. Their lives exist in a collective bubble, constantly protected from the harsh realities of life that most of us face. In fact, our miserable existence is what allows them to live as they do in the first place – oppressive systems like capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy thrive on this interplay.

Regardless of the differences elites may have with one another (political or otherwise), they live by an unofficial code of maintaining and protecting each other at all costs. Because they realize that by protecting others within this exclusive club, they’re really protecting the socioeconomic hierarchy itself. This code operates much like the “thin blue line” that police have – let bad and evil deeds slide, turn a blind eye, minimize indiscretions, etc. In the rare instance when they turn on each other, their true nature (and culture) is exposed. We are seeing this now with Brett Kavanaugh.

The sheer rage that spills from such an entitled existence is like no other. There is very little doubt that he is guilty of what he’s being accused of, as his entire path through life occurred within the narcissistic, haughty, callous, misogynistic environment that encompasses elitist, white, frat-boy culture – where such transgressions are routinely protected. Even far “below” these “elite” circles, women are victimized everyday by merely existing within the confines of patriarchy and capitalism. Men throughout society generally get away with this behavior. But “elite” men, especially “elite” white men, have been raised to embrace the powers of the bubble and the code that allows them unlimited room to maneuver unethically within it. This applies to all who have access (Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal), not just Brett Kavanaugh.

When this bubble bursts, this is the result. And they call us entitled for wanting food, housing, and healthcare.

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From Turmoil to Tribute: How the Trump Presidency Will Ultimately Fortify the Status Quo

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 05:26

via The Hampton Institute

by Michael Orion Powell

If you grew up in the United States as a Millennial or in Generation X, many of the historical names seem like a natural part of our environment. A main street is named after Martin Luther King, Jr. in close to every major city in the country, while New York’s busiest airport is named after John F. Kennedy, parks and streets in major cities like Washington D.C. are named after Malcolm X, an airport in Kansas is named after Dwight Eisenhower, and a major stadium in Washington D.C. is named after Robert F. Kennedy.

It’s normal for monuments to be named after leaders, but the process where it becomes finalized often occurs after a tumultuous period. The 1960s and 1970s were just that. Deemed “a long national nightmare” by President Gerald Ford (who also has an airport named after him in Michigan), that period started off with promises of “a new frontier,” only to go through an unpopular war, multiple assassinations, the resignation of a president, inflation, an oil crisis, and social, class, and racial tension and conflict throughout the country.

Currently, we are passing through a similar phase. The eulogy of John McCain last week signaled a bipartisan group of former American heads of state coming together to actively spurn the sitting president, Donald Trump, while simultaneously building up a legacy for the Arizona Senator they were mourning.

Several comments seemed directed at Trump. One was from George W. Bush, who said, “Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy – to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places … We are better than this. America is better than this.”

Barack Obama added on by saying that “so much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.”

Trump is going to go down. At least every few days is a strange new accusation, departure, or friction between him and someone else, including people within his own administration. A few weeks ago, it was the departure of political aide Omarosa Manigault. As of this writing, it is bizarre accusations from veteran political journalist Bob Woodward of Trump behavior in the White House, including calling Attorney General Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb Southerner” while imitating his accent in a Foghorn Leghorn manner. Woodward also claimed that he was told by an inside source that Trump wanted to “fucking kill” Syrian leader Bashir Assad, a strange accusation for someone who “colluded” with Russia, given Russia’s decades-long support for Assad and his father.

And now, in perhaps one of the most shocking moments in modern political history, an anonymous op-ed published by the NY Times titled, “ I am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration ,” whereas a reported “insider” goes on to talk about an organic resistance that has developed within Trump’s own circle in an effort to “thwart Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

With the eventual exit of Trump will be a gift for his predecessors, who will be hoping to shore up their legacies as America’s “legitimate” statesmen. Donald Trump, the Alt Right, Russia, and whatever other far-right elements are associated with him, will be pinned with the nadir of American society that the country now sits in, instead of the destructive policies that led America toward Trump in the first place.

The true legacy of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, no matter what role they are playing now, was war and decline.

Bush talked of a “humble foreign policy” while running for president, while one of Obama’s first political appearances was at an anti-war speech in Chicago. The only change that Obama brought was changing how theatrical war appeared. Instead of relying on “troops on the ground,” to coin a phrase from Secretary of State John Kerry, special forces and drones were used to maintain American supremacy in Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and elsewhere.

Bush’s policies promised the end of terrorism, only to create a breeding ground for Al Qaeda to transform into ISIS and then Boko Haram. The invasion of Iraq touted democracy and the rule of law, but created so much chaos that people whose ancestors had lived in the Lavant for generations fled for Europe by the millions.

Obama promised “post-racialism,” a phrase used often upon his election, only to see a small (and mostly one-sided) war between police and the black community escalate, as the federal government distributed military equipment to the nation’s police departments.

All of this will be forgotten as the erratic housing tycoon-turned-president Donald Trump eventually falls, however. In the mainstream imagination, Trump will represent the treasonous forces of darkness that usurped those who wanted progress. Just as Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and the like were venerated in the aftermath of Nixon’s resignation, national holidays, monuments, and buildings will be memorialized after the establishment figures who stepped up against him – all with the purpose of whitewashing recent history and fortifying the status quo.

The reality of what all the last American presidents, Trump included, really is stands beyond what a theater of difference they stage. As Vladimir Putin put it in an interview with Oliver Stone, “It’s very curious. Your presidents change but the policy never changes.” The truly powerful people who run the United States only change the face of the United States every few years. If we go through difficulties, it’s their doing and not the spokesperson they pick. This reality, while tested by the tumultuous Trump, will only be strengthened in his ousting.

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What the Eight Latest Bird Extinctions Can Tell Us

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 05:16

via NRDC

By Jason Bittel

Scientists estimate that 179 species of bird have gone extinct since the year 1500. Around 90 percent of those losses happened on islands, as in the case of the Mauritius night heron and the Tasmanian emu. And about half of the avian extinctions took place at the hands, or paws, of invasive mammals. Rabbits, for instance, took over the Laysan rail’s Hawaiian home turf, and cats and stoats rid New Zealand of its laughing owl. Biologists attribute yet another 25 percent of the extinctions to hunting and trapping, the fate of many a dodo.

But the extinction record, after half a millennium spent replaying this island invasions groove, now seems to be skipping to another track, the mainland.

“What we’re seeing increasingly is a growing wave of extinctions washing over the continents,” says Stuart Butchart, chief scientist at BirdLife International, an avian conservation group.

A new study, published in Biological Conservation by Butchart and colleagues at BirdLife and the University of Cambridge, now classifies eight more species as extinct or suspected to be extinct—and six of those are native to continents, not islands.

The causes of these avian losses are also not the typical invasive species or overhunting variety, but instead are heavy on deforestation and habitat destruction. Surely, such threats aren’t unique to modern times, but the findings suggest that we may have reached a tipping point.

“The scale of the impacts that we’ve had on the environment is now such that we’re pushing a whole suite of species toward extinction,” says Butchart. In other words, even the world’s larger landmasses can’t buffer all the blows of humanity’s ecological assaults.

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Women’s Internationalism against Global Patriarchy

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 00:42

via ROAR Magazine

by Dilar Dirik

The struggle against patriarchy — whether organic and spontaneous, or militant and organized — constitutes one of the oldest forms of resistance. As such, it carries some of the most diverse arrays of experience and knowledge within it, embodying the fight against oppression in its most ancient and universal forms.

From the earliest rebellions in history to the first organized women’s strikes, protests and movements, struggling women have always acted in the consciousness that their resistance is linked to wider issues of injustice and oppression in society. Whether in the fight against colonialism, religious dogma, militarism, industrialism, state authority or capitalist modernity, historically women’s movements have mobilized the experience of different aspects of oppression and the need for a fight on multiple fronts.

The State and the Erasure of Women

The division of society into strict hierarchies — particularly through the centralization of ideological, economic and political power — has meant a historic loss for the woman’s place within the community. As solidarity and subsistence-based ways of life were replaced with systems of discipline and control, women were pushed to the margins of society and made to live sub-human lives on the terms of ruling men. But unlike what patriarchal history-writing would have us believe, this subjugation never took place without fearless resistance and rebellion emerging from below.

Colonial violence, in particular, has focused on the establishment or further consolidation of patriarchal control over the communities it wanted to dominate. Establishing a “governable” society means to normalize violence and subjugation within the most intimate interpersonal relationships. In the colonial context, or more generally within oppressed communities and classes, the household constituted the only sphere of control for the subjected male, who seemed to be able to assert his dignity and authority only in his family — a miniature version of the state or colony.

Over the centuries, an understanding of familial love and affection developed that split from its roots in communal solidarity and mutuality, further institutionalizing the idea that violence and domination is simply part of human nature. As authors like Silvia Federici and Maria Mies have argued, capitalist imperialism — with its inherently patriarchal core — has led to the destruction of entire universes of women’s lifeways, solidarities, economies and contributions to history, art and public life, whether in the European witch hunts, through colonial ventures abroad, or through the destruction of nature everywhere.

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Lessons From Katrina: This Organization Tries to Get Hurricane Florence Survivors Home Quicker

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 15:05

via ROAR Magazine

By Jewel Samad

After Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas, the USDA’s Forest Service staff and FEMA coordinated to evacuate and rescue residents. Coaches and students at a school in mountainous Asheville, North Carolina, which was not affected by the storm, collected money and supply donations for neighbors. Volunteer firefighters from Oregon made the trek to North Carolina to help clear debris and deliver meals.

But this is just the beginning for North Carolinians whose homes have been destroyed.

“This deadly storm has left a lasting impact on families, neighborhoods, and communities across a wide swath of our state,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “Now is the time to pull together to help our fellow North Carolinians recover from Hurricane Florence and rebuild even stronger, and smarter, than before.”

Flooding is ongoing, but after floodwaters have cleared, contractors and volunteers will have to rebuild homes and clean up mold, spillage from septic systems, and other debris.

One group is already preparing its long-term recovery efforts in North Carolina. SBP, formerly known as the St. Bernard Project, was founded in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The organization has assisted with long-term recovery in at least eight cities affected by other hurricanes or disasters since then, including Houston; Rockaway, New York; and Joplin, Missouri. Now, it’s setting up long-term assistance in North Carolina.

SBP began its efforts by sending a team of five AmeriCorps members and two full-time nonprofit staffers to New Bern, North Carolina, on September 18.

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Climate change made Florence a monster—but media failed to tell that story

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 05:15

via Monthly Review

by Jim Naureckas

Originally published: FAIR (September 20, 2018)

That Hurricane Florence broke rainfall records for tropical storms in both North and South Carolina shouldn’t be surprising, as global climate change has increased extreme precipitation in all areas of the continental United States. One analysis released before the massive storm hit, by researchers at Stony Brook, Berkeley National Lab and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, projected that warming would cause Florence to bring twice as much rain compared to a similar storm with normal temperatures.

But news audiences were rarely informed about the contribution of human-caused climate disruption to the devastating storm, according to a study of hurricane coverage by Public Citizen. Less than 8 percent of Florence stories in the 50 top-circulation U.S. newspapers  (9/9–16/18) mentioned climate change—and only 4 percent of segments on major TV outlets.

The New York Times had the most Florence-related stories that made reference to climate change: 15 out of 75 stories, or 20 percent. By contrast, 19 of the top 50 papers had no stories on the hurricane that mentioned climate change, including the Chicago Tribune (out of 34 stories), Atlanta Journal-Constitution (28 stories), Orlando Sentinel (37 stories) and Miami Herald (21 stories). (Three papers—the East Bay Times, San Jose Mercury News and Orange County Register—ran no stories on Florence.) Aside from the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer (6 out of 32 stories) and Washington Post (4 out of 49) were the only other papers to reference climate change in Florence stories more than three times.

ABC never referred to climate change in its coverage of Florence, Public Citizen found; its over-the-air colleagues did little better, with CBS and NBC airing one segment apiece that mentioned Florence and climate change together (out of 63 and 73 hurricane segments, respectively). MSNBC brought up climate in 13 percent of its Florence reports, considerably ahead of CNN’s 4 percent; Fox discussed climate in 10 percent of 51 segments on Florence, but, the study noted,

All five of Fox News Network’s mentions of climate change were segments denying the relationship between the storm and climate change.

“When outlets fail to connect these events to global warming, audiences are left uninformed about some of the most critical decisions we face,” David Arkush, who directs Public Citizen’s climate program, said in a statement.

We need a serious national discussion about the urgent, existential threat from climate change and how we are going to fix it—and it’s very difficult to have that conversation when media won’t talk about the topic.

Fox News only brought up climate change with regard to Hurricane Florence in order to dispute the connection.

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The Last Man to Know Everything

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 03:29

via The Boston Review

by Troy Vettese

Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx’s Lost Theory
Mike Davis
Verso, $26.95 (cloth)

Mike Davis didn’t write his first book until his forties. He was too busy doing other things, from working in a slaughterhouse to running the Communist Party’s bookshop in Los Angeles (until he, an inveterate Trotskyist, threw out the Soviet cultural attaché). His late start as a scholar, however, has been compensated for by a deep reservoir of experiences to draw from and a swift pen: since writing his first book in 1986, he has published twenty more.

Not that he slowed down his extracurricular pursuits after he became a feted scholar. Over the last thirty years he has been a MacArthur and Getty fellow, the urban design commissioner of Pasadena, an advisor to the Crips (the Los Angeles gang), a university lecturer, Los Angeles’s most sought-after tour guide, a journalist, and an author of children’s science fiction. One hopes his latest book, Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx’s Lost Theory—a disparate collection of four essays on working-class history, nationalism, and the environment—will not be his last; the man needs to write a memoir. The only way to make sense of the new book’s blunderbuss array of topics is to know Davis’s vast scholarly corpus. Composed as it is of various strands drawn from his interests and experiences, which over the years have become ever more complex and tangled, it can only be ordered through intellectual biography.

Davis was born in 1946 in Fontana, a working-class steeltown outside of Los Angeles. His family moved to El Cajon, near San Diego, during a strange moment in the 1950s when the Red Menace merged with the Yellow Peril. Members of the town’s rabidly anti-communist John Birch Society warned that just across the border the Chinese People’s Liberation Army trained in the Sonoran desert, preparing to invade. After his father, a meat cutter, had a heart attack, Davis dropped out of high school and took up his father’s profession. He left this McCarthyite childhood behind him in 1962 when he befriended Jim Stone, a civil rights activist. In an almost literal baptism by fire into radical politics, he and Stone were nearly killed by racist hooligans attacking a civil rights demonstration, who soaked them in gasoline. With Stone’s encouragement, Davis finished high school—coupled with a brief, unhappy stint at Reed College—and became more involved in activism for the Communist Party, the Committee for Racial Equality, and Students for Democratic Society.

Tiring of autodidactism (“trying to digest Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution during lunch and supper breaks at work,” he says in his new book), Davis enrolled for an undergraduate degree at UCLA when he was twenty-seven. There he studied history and economics, and he apprenticed in Marxology under Robert Brenner, a creative historian and the eponym of two ‘‘Brenner debates’’ on the nature of capitalism. After three years Davis was restless again. Scholarship in hand, he went to Edinburgh to study Irish history and immersed himself in contemporary Northern Irish politics. He also spent time in London where, through Trotskyist channels, he met Perry Anderson. Impressed by Davis’s essay on the French “regulation school” of political economy, Anderson invited him to join the editorial board of New Left Review in 1980. A collection of his essays published in that journal grew into his first book, Prisoners of the American Dream (1986). In 1987 Davis returned to Los Angeles to finish his doctoral dissertation on the history of the city while moonlighting as a trucker. (I draw much of this biographical narrative from Adam Shatz’s 1997 profile of Davis in Lingua Franca.)

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It’s Time to Ban Nukes for Good

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 03:13

via Common Dreams

by Olivia Alperstein

September 26 is International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to one of its oldest goals: achieving global nuclear disarmament. Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) honors the occasion by calling once again for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. We are committed to working for a nuclear-free world, and we are proud to join our partners and allies in envisioning a better, safer future.

We’re not in this fight alone. In fact, a few champions in Congress have recently taken critical steps to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war. On September 18, Representatives Ted Lieu, Adam Smith, John Garamendi, Earl Blumenauer, and Senator Ed Markey introduced a bill called the Hold the LYNE—or Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive—Act. This legislation would “prohibit the research, development, production and deployment of a low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles.” So-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons actually lower the threshold for nuclear war and increase the risk that they may actually be used.

“There’s no such thing as a low-yield nuclear war,” said Rep. Lieu in the joint press release announcing the bill. “Use of any nuclear weapon, regardless of its killing power, could be catastrophically destabilizing. It opens the door for severe miscalculation and could drag the U.S. and our allies into a devastating nuclear conflict. That’s why Reps. Smith, Garamendi and Blumenauer, and Sen. Markey in the Senate, introduced the Hold the LYNE Act, to ensure we won’t lower our standards for launching a nuclear weapon.”

We have come very close to nuclear war in the past. On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov made a split-second decision and deemed a supposed missile attack from the United States to be an error, refusing to carry out an order to counter-attack and thus averting a potential nuclear war. If Petrov hadn’t made that personal judgment, we might not even be here to advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons.

We must prevent what we cannot cure. We know that there is no truly adequate health or emergency response to a nuclear attack. We know the deadly consequences that will result–from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Chernobyl to Three Mile Island to Fukushima, we’ve seen enough disasters due to bombs, nuclear weapons and nuclear power to know that we cannot afford any more.

14,500 nuclear weapons remain. That’s enough to completely destroy the earth tens of thousands of times over. Future generations should not have to worry about the threat of a nuclear attack. We fight for a nuclear ban so future generations won’t have to, so that their future isn’t clouded by the looming danger of nuclear war.

Already, dozens of nations have taken critical steps to secure a nuclear free future. Over a year ago, the historic United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons officially opened for signature at the UN Headquarters in New York, after over 120 nations voted to approve the treaty. At the time, Elayne Whyte Gomez, the president of the UN conference to negotiate the treaty, said, “We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons. We (are) … saying to our children that, yes, it is possible to inherit a world free from nuclear weapons.”

That is a future worth fighting for. We call on all nations to sign or ratify the treaty and take a bold step toward a nuclear free world.

September 26 is International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Let’s make this the year when we finally abolish nuclear weapons for good.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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In Alaska, Starving Seabirds and Empty Colonies Signal a Broken Ecosystem

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 03:08

via Audubon

By Jillian Mock

For thousands of years, tribal communities living on the inhospitable coast of Alaska and frigid islands of the Bering Sea have celebrated the arrival of spring by harvesting murre eggs. Every year Brandon Ahmasuk takes his family out to the cliffs, and just as he and his brother once did, his boys fight over who gets to scramble across the rocky outcroppings to collect the oblong, speckled eggs near their home in Nome, Alaska. On a single outing, Ahmasuk says he can usually count on gathering enough eggs to fill a 55-quart cooler.

But this year, when Ahmasuk’s brother took his annual trip out to the cliffs, he found a single egg. The breeding colony of several thousand Thick-billed and Common Murres was practically vacant.

Seabirds and their eggs are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but Alaska’s native peoples can legally harvest these traditional foods as long as animal populations are healthy. And they need to: Due to the region’s isolation, grocery items are expensive at rural stores. Ahmasuk, who is the subsistence director for Kawerak, Inc., an association of native villages in the Bering Strait Region, estimates it costs $8 or $9 for a gallon of milk in his town, where unemployment is high. Murres and other seabirds are a caloric lifeline, and their robust colonies have always been able to support the annual egg collections. That is, until recently.

The murres’ disappearance this year isn’t limited to Nome. Throughout Alaska’s coastal waters on the Bering and Chukchi Seas, Common and Thick-billed Murres failed to breed this year. Typically millions of the raucous black-and-white seabirds gather at some 170 colonies along Alaska’s coast to nest and raise their chicks together. But this year barely any birds showed up to their breeding grounds in May and June, and those that did arrived uncharacteristically late. Some birds in the Pribolof Islands in the Bering Sea were still sitting on eggs in mid-August, about a month later than normal.

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How Climate Catastrophe Victimizes the Poor

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 20:23

via Monthly Review

Originally published: Socialist Project by Phil Hearse

Climate change catastrophe is, as this article is written, facing hundreds of thousands on the eastern seaboard of the United States and on the Philippines island of Luzon, as Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut make landfall simultaneously. Mangkhut also threatens Hong Kong, South China and maybe Vietnam.

In the United States, Donald Trump has promised all necessary aid to the affected states–North and South Carolina and Virginia in particular. But the recent hurricane history of the United States is one of neglect and indifference toward poor and non-white populations–often the same people–not least by the Trump administration toward the people of Puerto Rico.

In the United States we see the same set of factors recurring: 1) Poor populations are disproportionately victims because their housing is substandard, because flood defences have been neglected and because they tend to live in the most vulnerable areas; 2) Poor populations have a higher proportion of victims because they don’t have the means to escape from the onrush of storm water; 3) Survivors from Black and Latino populations suffer disproportionately in post-hurricane situations because they often lack the means to rebuild their homes, renew their possessions (including vital documents) or find missing relatives and 4) Local officials are often keen to aid property developers in stealing the land of the poor where their homes and businesses are not rebuilt. As a consequence of these factors communities and families are dispersed, which compounds the grieving and social distress of victims.

Class Differences

A major factor in all the U.S. events discussed here is that a huge proportion of the poorest victims of hurricanes and floods cannot afford household insurance. Lack of insurance, or inadequate insurance, is a major source of theft from America’s poorest.

Last year’s hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and because of the slow and weak emergency response, between 3000 and 5000 people died unnecessarily. Two independent academic studies found that there were between 3000 and 5000 unnecessary deaths as a result of post-hurricane neglect. Trump responded on 11 September by typically denying the facts–tweeting that the reported death tolls from the storm were fabricated by Democrats “to make me look as bad as possible.”

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Anarchy at the south pole: Santiago Sierra plants the black flag to destroy all borders

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 19:29

via The Guardian

by Stuart Jeffries

‘I travel a lot,” says Santiago Sierra. “But entering a country is like going to jail. Borders disgust me – as an idea and as a personal experience. This work denies all of that.”

It’s a typically forthright remark from the Spanish artist, who once caused uproar by pumping carbon monoxide into a former synagogue in Germany, then inviting visitors to don gas masks to enter this simulated death chamber.

Sierra is talking about his latest installation, which has just opened at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Called Black Flag, it documents his attempts to have the symbol of anarchism planted at the north and south poles. What was the reason for the project? “To occupy the world, I suppose. I’ve always loved Piero Manzoni’s The World Pedestal, in which the whole world was inside the work of art.” Manzoni created a pedestal on which the world purportedly rested, making the whole planet a work of art. He also once made tins of Merda d’Artista which, as the name suggests, purportedly contained the Italian’s excrement.

Sierra’s attempt at world occupation started three years ago when he sent an expedition to the remote Norwegian island of Svalbard. From there, his minions travelled to the Russian base of Barneo which, because it sits on a drifting ice floe, has to be rebuilt every year in order to serve incoming tourists. From there, Sierra’s team ventured to the nearby north pole and, on 14 April 2015, planted a black flag, as well as capturing the landscape in sound and video.

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Millennial survivalists share downtown squat, anarchist ideals

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 18:14

via The Times Union

By Lynda Edwards

David Gunn had just been released from the hospital after trying to kill himself when he met the fallen beauty who changed his life.

It was a downtown Albany townhome painted ivory, abandoned years ago but with its elegant bones and tall glass windows intact. Gunn, 30, climbed the wooden stoop and turned the doorknob. The door was unlocked.

“Like most abandoned buildings are in Albany,” Gunn noted.

The two-story walkup had no electricity or running water. But inside was a wonderland of grace notes: arched doorways, bookcase built-ins, hardwood floors. A huge black A surrounded by an O adorned one wall, the symbol created by 1890s anarchists then made famous by 1970s punk rockers. Since 2016, three to eight self-described anarchists have lived here. They have about two dozen Capital Region supporters who are welcome to drop by and plan protests and vigils.

No county or city official has noticed the squatters. The building gave Gunn a home, true love and a community of friends.

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Are Los Angeles Teachers Next?

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 18:08

via Labor Notes

by Samantha Winslow

Who’s next to join the strike wave? The nation’s second-largest teachers local, in Los Angeles, kicked off the school year with a strike authorization vote.

With 81 percent of teachers voting, 98 percent backed a strike if mediation fails this fall.

After working hard to get out the vote across L.A.’s 900 schools and 35,000 members, this landslide result was “the best feeling ever,” said teacher and union rep Karla Griego.

For 18 months, bargaining has gone nowhere.

“There’s a broad sense that our district is in decline, is headed in the wrong direction,” said United Teachers Los Angeles Vice President Daniel Barnhart. “If we don’t all step up and do something about it, things are going to get worse.”

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Trump administration poses new threat to birds in allowing ‘incidental’ killings

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 04:56

via the Guardian

The eagle may be America’s mascot, but being a bird today in the United States is tough. Billions die each year in the maws of domestic cats, or after crashing into power lines or skyscraper windows. But on a large scale, climate change is warping the environment of birds that migrate long distances, such as whooping cranes or Arctic terns. And bald eagles, the nation’s regal avatar, are being struck down by lead poisoning.

Bird conservationists are now alarmed by a fresh threat – the Trump administration. In a striking new stance on a longstanding law protecting migrating birds, the federal government will essentially allow the “incidental” killing of birds via buildings, energy production and other developments that act as avian death traps.

“Sadly, migratory birds have not faced this many dangers in any of our lifetimes,” said David O’Neill, chief conservation officer at the campaign and conservancy group Audubon. “The pressures of climate change coupled with the federal government pulling back on protections are threatening the songbirds, the seabirds and the raptors that Americans really cherish.”

Audubon, along with the attorneys general of eight states, recently launched a legal attempt to halt the Trump administration from reinterpreting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a 100-year-old law that safeguards about 1,000 migrating species, spanning everything from bluebirds and mockingbirds to ducks, owls and eagles. Nearly one in 10 of these species are federally listed as threatened.

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