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Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 23:55

via Labor Notes

The moment you may have been dreading arrived June 27, when the Supreme Court imposed the open shop on the public sector nationwide with its decision in Janus v. AFSCME District 31.

Instead of the usual mix of articles, this month we’re sharing a special expanded issue of Labor Notes devoted to one topic: our survival guide for rebuilding power in open-shop America. (Are you in the private sector and think this won’t affect you? Don’t get too cozy.)

Janus is a serious blow—but we have good news. As plenty of unions in open-shop states and sectors can testify, it’s still possible to win campaigns and maintain high membership rates despite the legal hurdles. We talked to workers in schools, factories, buses, hospitals, oil refineries, grocery stores, post offices, and shipyards. This guide reveals the principles and practical steps behind their successes.

Here’s the punchline: the unions that build power in open-shop America will be the ones that fight hard on workplace issues their members care about, and where large numbers of rank-and-file members take on their own fights.

Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America

A Labor Notes Guide
labornotes.org/openshop

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Be Democratic

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 22:21

via Labor Notes

Anti-union politicians claim that right-to-work laws free workers from paying a third party. Union activists rightly counter that there is no third party, emphasizing to co-workers that “you are the union.”

But just saying it doesn’t make it so. The uncomfortable reality is that many unions don’t afford rank-and-file members much power over their own organizations. Too few get the chance to help make the union’s plans; instead they are simply asked “Are you in, or are you out?”

This democracy deficit has consequences. When members are treated as an ATM for predetermined priorities, it’s no wonder they feel disconnected—and may opt out.

On the other hand, workers who know that the union is theirs will be glad to stick around and invite others to be part of it. That’s why building a more democratic organization is the best avenue to strengthen the union.

OFFER A WAY IN

Local officers are often frustrated with low attendance at union meetings and a lack of volunteers for committees—and then they get an earful of complaints about how the union is run. “We’re not keeping anybody out,” these officers say. “We’d love to have more involvement, but all we can do is to open the door.”

It’s true that anyone trying to promote member involvement is up against the “let the experts do it” reflex that we learn in community life as well as in unions. Being a passive member has definite attractions for workers with plenty of other demands on their time, from kids to church to overtime.

But often low participation is because the union seems to have no power, or participation seems to make no difference. What’s the point?

When people see results from involvement, more will want to get involved.

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The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 15:15

via Jacobin

by Suzi Weissman

An interview with David Graeber

In his latest book, David Graeber, the best-selling author of Debt: The First 5000 Years, argues that many jobs today are essentially pointless — or, as the book’s title calls them, Bullshit Jobs.Jacobin Radio’s Suzi Weissman sat down with Graeber to find out what bullshit jobs are and why they’ve proliferated in recent years.

A Taxonomy SW

Let’s just get right down to it. What is the definition of a bullshit job?

DG

A bullshit job is a job which is so pointless, or even pernicious, that even the person doing the job secretly believes that it shouldn’t exist. Of course, you have to pretend — that’s the bullshit element, that you kind of have to pretend there’s a reason for this job to be here. But secretly, you think if this job didn’t exist, either it would make no difference whatsoever, or the world would actually be a slightly better place.

SW

In the book, you start out by distinguishing the bullshit jobs from shit jobs. Maybe we should start doing that right now, so we can talk about what the bullshit jobs are?

DG

Yeah, people often make this mistake. When you talk about bullshit jobs, they just think jobs that are bad, jobs that are demeaning, jobs that have terrible conditions, no benefits, and so forth. But actually, the irony is that those jobs actually aren’t bullshit. You know, if you have a bad job, chances are that it’s actually doing some good in the world. In fact, the more your work benefits other people, the less they’re likely to pay you, and the more likely it is to be a shit job in that sense. So, you can almost see it as an opposition.

On the one hand, you have the jobs that are shit jobs but are actually useful. If you’re cleaning toilets or something like that, toilets do need to be cleaned, so at least you have the dignity of knowing you’re doing something which is benefiting other people — even if you don’t get much else. And on the other hand, you have jobs where you’re treated with dignity and respect, you get good payment, you get good benefits, but you secretly labor under the knowledge that your job, your work, is entirely useless.

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The time of revolution: Reflections with Uri Gordon

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 14:55

via autonomies.org

by Julius Gavroche

In a richly argued essay, Uri Gordon critically evaluates the notion of “prefigurative politics”, an expression that has become popular with social movements, including anarchist groups, eager to maintain the ethical unity between means and ends.  What has gone unnoticed however is what lies beneath this notion, as part of its animating past, namely, a linear conception of history in which the future (as the end, the eschaton) radiates back on its past, thereby offering reassurance for the present, for actions in the present reflective of the idealised future.

By way of opposition, Gordon contrasts this “recursive temporal framing” with the idea, borrowing from Ernst Bloch, of “concrete utopia”.  In the case of the latter, there is no congealing and legitimisation of the present by the light of a prefigured future.  Rather, revolutionary social transformation is “path dependent” (i.e., what future follows from actions is uncertain and unknowable without antecedent actions), held together only by the ethical underpinnings of anti-authoritarian politics.

If Gordon’s argument appears abstract, perhaps even scholastic, it cannot be ignored that “ideas” have “material force”, “agency” and that therefore political thought and practice must be open to permanent critique, even of what seems to be esoteric.  And Gordon’s conceptual genealogy of the “prefigurative” helps us to see the extent to which a prefigurative “politics” may fall to the illusion, the dangerous illusion, of already knowing the future towards which political action is directed (Durruti: “We carry a new world here, in our hearts”), and thereby condemning that politics to submission to a future that can only be assumed to be known, but without warrant.

This however should not lead to, nor justify, what Gordon calls presentism, the equally false idea (and consequent practice) that because we cannot know what the future so as to be able to prefigure the politics of the present, that we must ignore therefore the future altogether, the thought of what it might or could be, to focus exclusively on the here and now, on present desires and/or needs only.  Present practices are in fact generative of new ideas, dispositions and practices, that point to futures.  And for Gordon there is no inherent danger of sacrificing the present to the future in such generative thought-practice; indeed, it is what has animated the tradition of anarchism and what Gordon seeks to ground in the notion of “concrete utopia”.

It might be said that Gordon is forcing his argument, parsing and overemphasising conceptual and political differences and oppositions, when in practice, both in the past and the present, things are much less clear, more confused.  So-called, or even self-described, prefigurative politics are often expressed in “concrete utopias”, and the latter are often fetishised to the point of excluding other possible futures.  These two politics are not so easy to disentangle in the course of the everyday.

More significantly, the presentism for which Gordon criticises some radical politics is not perhaps the the child of misguided militancy, but instead of contemporary capitalism.

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Rural Americans’ struggles against factory farm pollution find traction in court

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 14:18

via The Conversation

As U.S. livestock farming becomes more industrial, it is changing rural life. Many people now live near Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) – large facilities that can house thousands of animals in close quarters. Neighbors have to contend with noxious odors, toxic emissions and swarms of insects, and have had little success in obtaining relief – but this could be changing.

On April 26, Murphy Brown LLC, a division of Smithfield Foods, was required to pay US$75,000 in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages in a nuisance lawsuit filed by ten residents of Bladen County, North Carolina over impacts from a nearby hog farm. On June 29, another North Carolina jury awarded $25 million to a couple in Duplin County in a similar lawsuit against Smithfield Foods. Other cases are pending in North Carolina and Iowa.

Smithfield Foods is the largest hog processor and producer in the world, so these verdicts are major victories for people organizing against industrialized animal agriculture. Based on my experience studying environmental health at the community level, I see them as breakthroughs after decades of government failure to protect rural communities from negative impacts of CAFOs.

Threats to health and the environment

Iowa and North Carolina are the largest pork-producing states in the nation. Hog farms generated US$6.8 billion in sales in Iowa in 2012 and $2.9 billion in North Carolina.

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Right-Wing, Business-Funded Groups Are Preparing to Use the Janus Decision to Bleed Unions, Internal Documents Show

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 23:31

via The Intercept

Just moments after the Janus vs. AFSCME ruling came down, several conservative think tanks launched campaigns to leverage the pivotal Supreme Court decision as a means of starving unions of funds and eventually disbanding them altogether.

The effort is aimed at encouraging public-sector workers in 22 states to withhold minimum bargaining fees from their labor unions, a shift made possible by the Janus decision. As labor comes under attack, the advocacy groups will launch decertification campaigns to nullify certain unions in certain jurisdictions.

Withholding the funds and dismantling the unions could have profound effects on American politics — a feature, not a bug, of the conservative activism following Janus. Many public-sector unions and the activists who work with them are affiliated with the Democratic Party, and the organizing they carry out is dependent on the hundreds of millions of dollars they expect to collect in union fees in the coming years.

“In the short-term, labor unions are going to feel the pinch,” said Moshe Marvit, a fellow with the Century Foundation. “They will simultaneously have to devote far more resources to keeping their current memberships, while having to adjust to less money coming in from free-riders. This will leave unions with less resources to spend on political issues and candidates that affect working people.”

The decision prevents unions that represent public employees from collecting an “agency fee” for the cost of bargaining on behalf of the workers in the union, meaning that government employees in unions no longer must contribute dues to pay for the fair-share cost of collective bargaining.

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How Kurdish women are approaching patriarchy under capitalism

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 22:22

via The Region

by Elif Gun

The Kurdish movement understands that for any successful revolution to take place, a revolutionary ethos must have an integrated understanding of women’s liberation. Women, in turn, cannot be liberated unless they are free from the capitalist systems of the world. If women are to be free, this can only be preconditioned with the existence of a stateless democracy, for it is the state that upholds class oppression and patriarchy.

The system in Rojava today demonstrates a living example of the attempt to overcome patriarchy, capitalism and the state. Capitalism is the key oppressor of all and the liberation of women from class oppression is key to a liberated society. The capitalist class has always made use of a policy of “divide and rule”, particularly on the grounds of gender. Capitalism invades all aspects of our lives, our social conditions, it installs hierarchy and maintains the hegemony of the ruling class over human society. Ultimately, capitalism often leaves women with the option of just accepting the sexist and patriarchal system which confronts them.

The existence of patriarchy preceded that of capitalism. But patriarchy was qualitatively transformed with the accumulation of capital across the world. For capitalism to pervade, it has had to make use of patriarchal oppression to ensure, often, that males go to work while women tend at home. It has also pervaded the cultural sphere, turning the bodies of women into commodities to be bought and sold. It is important, therefore, to understand that women’s oppression under capitalism is not only a form of class oppression but one of the most brutal. Then there is the cultural oppression of women in the current climate of capitalism, which is expressed in many ways, through the use of language, stereotypes, religion and global culture. For example, the use of words like “Hoe”, “Bitch”, “Slut” are all forms of verbal oppression. Stereotypes follow examples of for example what a “feminist” looks like, or what “lesbians” may look like, or for that matter, what an ideal mother should like etc. Religion too is another key factor in the oppression of women – historically, the interpretation of religions has led to the systematic oppression of women, starting with eve being made by Adam’s rib in the Christian Religion. With capitalism, the power of the (not solely) Abrahamic religions organised by states, and religious institutions spreading around the world demonstrates a synthesis of capitalism with religion in order to elevate the more oppressive interpretations as opposed to the more liberatory visions of religious communion based on the premises of gender equality.

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The Only Way to Survive Janus

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 04:03

via Labor Notes

by Alexandra Bradbury

Update, June 27: As expected, today the Supreme Court ruled against the union in Janus v. AFSCME District 31, invalidating agency fees. This makes the whole public sector open-shop. Coming soon: the Labor Notes guide to organizing in open-shop America.

The snows were still flying, but for unionists, spring came early this year. West Virginia’s teacher uprising burst onto the scene like rhododendrons opening: first one walkout, then another, and before you knew it a statewide strike was in full bloom.

The strikes were born at the grassroots, and that’s how they spread. Classroom teachers passed the word on Facebook, organized school votes, and rallied at the capital. Union leaders followed their members, but never took the reins.

No one seemed much concerned that public sector strikes are illegal in West Virginia. “What are they going to do, fire us all?” said Jay O’Neal, treasurer for the Kanawha County local.

It didn’t take long for the spirit to spread to underpaid teachers in three other states—thus far.

Their actions drove home a point that’s crucial for anyone who wants to see the labor movement survive. What’s required is members organizing themselves like those teachers did.

MEMBER CONTROL IS KEY

As our readers know, the labor movement is in crisis.

Twenty-seven states have “right-to-work” laws and, very soon, the Janus case at the Supreme Court is expected to make the whole public sector right to work.

That makes union democracy more important than ever for union power.

Democracy means a culture of control by the members (not just formal rules such as fair election procedures, though those are important).

Union leaders can make bold demands at the bargaining table or in the legislative halls. But neither the boss nor the government is moved by strong words. What moves them is action—as the West Virginia teachers demonstrated when they held out for their raise, and got it.

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True altruism seen in chimpanzees, giving clues to evolution of human cooperation

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 00:01

via Science

Whether it’s giving to charity or helping a stranger with directions, we often assist others even when there’s no benefit to us or our family members. Signs of such true altruism have been spotted in some animals, but have been difficult to pin down in our closest evolutionary relatives. Now, in a pair of studies, researchers show that chimpanzees will give up a treat in order to help out an unrelated chimp, and that chimps in the wild go out on risky patrols in order to protect even nonkin at home. The work may give clues to how such cooperation—the foundation of human civilization—evolved in humans.

“Both studies provide powerful evidence for forms of cooperation in our closest relatives that have been difficult to demonstrate in other animals besides humans,” says Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved with the research.

In the first study, psychologists Martin Schmelz and Sebastian Grüneisen at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, trained six chimps at the Leipzig Zoo to play a sharing game. Each chimp was paired with a partner who was given a choice of four ropes to pull, each with a different outcome: give just herself a banana pellet; give just the subject a pellet; give both of them pellets; or forgo her turn and let her partner make the decision instead.

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How to Defeat the Post-Janus Union Attacks

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 17:47

via Jacobin

by Dave Kamper

Maybe it will come in the mail. Maybe a phone call, a knock on the door, or a Facebook ad. Give yourself a raise, they will say. Quit your union.

Their hope is that hundreds of thousands will agree.

Public-sector labor unions have lost Janus v AFSCME. The Supreme Court has stripped all public-sector unions in the country of the right to collect fair share fees from workers whom they represent but who choose not to become union members. In functional terms, it is a national right-to-work law for state, county, city, and school district employees. Union membership will soon become solely voluntary.

But the real danger of the Janus decision isn’t from Samuel Alito’s majority opinion. It will come from the right-wing juggernaut that stands ready to exploit the new legal landscape by going union member-by-union member in an attempt to, as they put it, “defund and defang” the left. Union members and leaders need to be ready: the opt-out effort is coming.

The Guardian and In These Times have both published exposes based on leaked documents of efforts by groups affiliated with the State Policy Network (SPN) to target individual union members and persuade them to quit their union membership. SPN is a central hub in the vast array of dark-money-funded groups that have led the fight against public sector unions, starting with Scott Walker’s 2011 assault in Wisconsin and culminating now with Janus.

Janus offers every public-sector union member in the country a tantalizing option: the right to stop paying dues to the union while still receiving all the benefits of union membership. At first glance, it’s something for nothing, and SPN’s allies want to make sure union members know about it.

The Anti-Union Playbook

We’ve already seen early versions of this, so we know what it will look like. After Michigan passed right to work in 2012, the Mackinac Center of Public Policy — an SPN member that has received millions from right-wing donors like the Bradley Foundation and the Donors Capital Fund — created a website specifically targeting members of the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Michigan Education Association (MEA). The site, www.michiganunionoptout.com, includes a handy calculator for MEA members to see how much money they are “losing” to union dues over their lifetimes, as well as printable forms for MEA members to opt out of their dues.

In Oregon and Washington, the Freedom Foundation (another SPN member, if you were wondering) escalated to door-to-door canvassing. They sent postcards and emails and made phone calls, too — they even sent people “dressed as Santa Claus to stand outside government buildings” at Christmastime in 2015, urging public-sector employees to give themselves a present by dropping their union membership. And of course they also had an opt out website (www.optouttoday.com).

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Review: Tears and cheers at stirring true story of ‘Haymarket’

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 17:29

via the Chicago Tribune

by Chris Jones

A girl of roughly middle-school age was directly in my field of vision Saturday night at the Den Theatre’s mainstage. She was part of a large group of kids who had been taken to the show and, by the end of “Haymarket,” I could see that her eyes were flooded with tears.

And her fellow students all stood and cheered at the end.

Wow, I thought. Not bad for an original musical about an oft-forgotten labor protest turned deadly in 19th century Chicago.

This wasn’t my first rodeo with the Underscore Theatre Company’s “Haymarket,” the musicalized story of one of the bloodiest days in the history of Chicago, with book, music and lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser and David Kornfeld. I saw the work at its premiere at the Edge Theatre in 2016, when it felt very much like a promising song suite, with melodic, mostly folk and bluegrass-style numbers exploring various points of view about what happened in the West Loop in 1886, right where foodies and condo dwellers now prowl.

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A Birthday Message from the IWW: Rebel, And Mean It

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 14:46

via the IWW

By Michael K. Smith

2005 — One hundred years ago Big Bill Haywood lumbered onto the platform at Brand’s Hall in Chicago, gaveled the podium with a piece of loose board, and called the assembly to order. Flanked by Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, and Lucy Parsons, he announced the birth of the Industrial Workers of the World, a union of native-born radicals whose capacity for militant solidarity was and remains unmatched in U.S. history.

Haywood told the two hundred plus delegates crammed into the hot, overcrowded hall that they were “the Continental Congress of the working class,” adding that, “The aims and objects of this organization should be to put the working class in possession of the economic power, the means of life, in control of production and distribution, without regard to capitalist masters.” This ambition was to be fulfilled, not by violent seizure of state power, but by paralyzing big business with a series of general strikes, culminating in direct workers’ control of all industries.

After trekking to the graves of the 1886 Haymarket martyrs buried in Waldheim Cemetery, the I.W.W. delegates passed a resolution endorsing the Russian revolution then in progress. The preamble of their constitution announced a complete divorce from those who rented their labor: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few who make up the capitalist class have all the good things in life.” Therefore, conflict “must go on until all the toilers come together … and take and hold that which they produce by their labor.”

Revolutionary in spirit, the “Wobblies” plunged directly into danger, demanding their due without haggling or hassle. Regarding the profit system as one giant leach on the back of the working class, they insisted that compromise between owners and workers made no more sense than between a fungus and blighted potato. Determined to gain control of production, not negotiate the terms of subservience, they disdained gradualism as procrastination and disliked contracts for surrendering the right to strike at any time. They had even less regard for elections, agreeing with the socialist priest Father Hagerty that, “Dropping pieces of paper into a hole in a box never did achieve emancipation.”

Where other unions shunned the lowly in preference for the “skilled,” the I.W.W. welcomed all races, privileged no one, included housework as a category of labor, and organized chambermaids and prostitutes. The answer to the owners’ One Big Trust, they said, was One Big Union, the prelude to a society where all took their share of production and received the necessities of life without resort to money.

Outdoor workers addicted to jokes and wild stories, the Wobblies thrived on disaster—and had to—as they were constantly attacked by police, shot by militia, beaten by scabs and vigilantes, and bitterly denounced as “the scum of the earth” by a business press dedicated to egging the bullies on. For Wobblies to speak their minds was itself a crime, and they were regularly dragged off soapboxes for reading seditious material—like the U.S. Constitution. Characterized by soaring idealism and police brutality, these “free speech fights,” as they came to be known, featured Wobblies dropping their tools for hundreds of miles around and walking or riding the rails to besiege the conflict zone, where they sang, shouted, lectured, and put on skits until the jails were swamped, a city’s treasury was drained, and the First Amendment recognized. A standard press reaction was provided by the San Diego Tribune in 1912: “Hanging is none too good for them and they would be much better dead; for they are absolutely useless in the human economy; they are waste material of creation and should be drained off in the sewer of oblivion there to rot in cold obstruction like any other excrement.”

The most famous—and infamous—of Wobblies was the nationally renowned “Big Bill” Haywood. A child of the West, he was recognized on the streets of New York the way a star athlete might be today. Adored by women and instinctively obeyed by men, he was the most popular unionist in the country. Possessed of the manners of a gentleman, he packed a revolver, cried like a baby when reciting poetry, and delivered thunderous orations that ignited crowds of workers like a wick in a powder keg.

The brutality of wage work had taught Haywood of injustice early and converted him to socialism. His first boss whipped him when he was only twelve and the same year he witnessed a black man surrendered to the tender mercies of a lynch mob. Three years later he was a Nevada miner doing a “man’s work for a boy’s pay,” breaking the loneliness of Eagle Canyon reading Darwin, Marx, Burns, Voltaire, Byron, and Shakespeare. An older miner’s explanation of the class struggle capped his education, though the lesson didn’t sink in until the Haymarket anarchists were hung two years later.

In subsequent years Haywood saw scores of men poisoned at Utah’s Brooklyn lead mine, watched a friend’s head crushed against an air drill by a slab of falling rock, and had his own right hand smashed between a descending car and the side of the shaft at Iowa’s Silver City mine. “I’ve never read Marx’s Capital,” he liked to say, “but I have the marks of capital all over me.” Of the class subordination that made such disfigurement routine, he said this: “[The] barbarous gold barons do not find the gold, they do not mine the gold, they do not mill the gold, but by some weird alchemy all the gold belongs to them.”

After Haywood in the annals of great I.W.W. leaders came Vincent Saint John. Son of a pony express rider, he was a delivery boy, a farm hand, a tinner, a printer, an upholsterer, a prospecter, a miner, and a militant unionist. In the 1890s he had ruined his lungs rescuing dozens of men from a smoke-filled mine in Telluride. In 1901, his men rewarded him with the presidency of the Telluride miners’ union at the tender age of 25. St. John promptly armed them with 250 rifles and 50,000 rounds of ammunition, which they used to ambush scabs from behind boulders and trees like the Minutemen of old and shoot their way into possession of the mines.

His men nicknamed him “the Saint” to honor his incorruptibility, with one of them remembering later that “the air smelled clean in his presence.” By contrast, the mine owners called him a dynamiter, a gunman, and a dangerous agitator—and always kept a price on his head. With a graduate degree from the school of hard knocks St. John’s only creed was action.

In 1906, he found himself at the center of a brutal labor struggle in Goldfield, Nevada, the biggest, busiest, richest gold camp in the world. Crowded with dance halls, saloons, and gambling houses, it was a boom town swarming with claim jumpers, fortune hunters, and gamblers, all drawn to the gold like children to candy from every district in the West. St. John recruited 20,000 local workers for the I.W.W., including miners, dishwashers, engineers, stenographers, teamsters, clerks, newsboys, croupiers, maids, and prostitutes. He established the eight-hour day, guaranteed a minimum daily wage of $4.50 for all, and abolished begging for jobs. Any employer wishing to hire workers had to come and negotiate with the union committees. A company detective explained to the Rocky Mountain News that the I.W.W. leader posed an intolerable threat to civilized society wherever he went: “St. John has given the mine owners of Colorado more trouble in the past years than twenty other men up there. If left undisturbed, he would have the entire district organized in another year.”

Striking dramatically in the East for the first time, the I.W.W. led one of its most memorable strikes in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1912, where 20,000 textile workers without a dime to their names walked off the job in mid-winter to protest a cut in their already desperately low pay. Accusing their employers of wrecking families, they charged them with having “taken away our wives from the homes, our children … from the playground, stolen out of schools and driven into the mills, where they were strapped to the machines, not only to force the fathers to compete, but that their young lives may be coined into dollars for a parasite class, that their very nerves, their laughter and joy denied, may be woven into cloth … .” Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick, a stockholder in the American Woolen Company, responded for the employers, explaining with admirable directness that, “Any man who pays more for labor than the lowest sum he can get men for is robbing his stockholders.”

Though the employers held all the cards, the I.W.W.’s direct action proved to be trump. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the “Joan of Arc of Labor,” mesmerized the workers with her poignant explanations of class warfare. “Would you like to have nice clothes?” she rhetorically asked throngs of immigrant women. “Oh, yes!” they shouted in unison. “Well, you can’t have them,” she responded. “Your bosses’ daughters have those things!” Flynn then proceeded to ask the women why they had abandoned their native villages, their aged parents, and their children to come to an alien land, knowing full well they had come for a better life in the New World, free from tyranny and oppression, from landlords and military conscription, a life of work, savings, education for their children, and a chance to send for others.

“What freedom?” Flynn shouted, blasting their hopes with a harsh dose of class reality. She asked if they were free when they were herded into fortress-like New England mills or when they were branded as inferiors and intruders or when they were disdained as “Greenhorns” and “Hunkies.” She asked if they were free as wage slaves, hired and fired at the whim of a soulless company, paid unlivable wages for grueling hours tending a whizzing machine. She asked if they were free when they were clubbed, jailed, and shot down in the street or when politicians ignored their suffering because they couldn’t vote.

Urging the women to neutralize the police and militia by putting down their tools, folding their arms, and bringing machinery, production, and profits to a halt, she poignantly inquired: “Can they weave cloth with soldiers’ bayonets or policemen’s clubs?” “Did they dig coal with bayonets in the miners’ strikes or make steel or run trains with bayonets?” Heads nodded and eyes welled up with tears as Flynn explained a magical new English word: “Solidarity.”

Labor journalist Mary Heaton Vorse, a friend of Flynn’s, would never forget what she witnessed: “She stirred them, lifted them up in her appeal for solidarity …It was as though a spurt of flame had gone through the audience … . Something beautiful and strong had swept through the people and welded them together, singing.”

For once, the mill owners’ bag of repressive tricks failed them. They banned fixed picket lines by local ordinance, but the strikers responded with a roving human chain that circulated the mills 24 hours a day while supporting crowds surged through town singing labor songs and occupying department stores. They imported scabs, but the strikers denied them sleep, serenading them with mocking choirs that recorded their names and sent them back to their native lands to disgrace their families. Police, clerics, mill management, and city officials tried to proceed with business as usual but found themselves loudly jeered at wherever they went. Soldiers had the backs of their uniforms suddenly shredded by anonymous scissors emerging from beneath long cloaks. The proud forces of order were attacked and stripped by gangs of women, who forced them to flee in humiliation while they hooted and pointed at their nakedness.

National publicity of a tactical blunder proved decisive. Besieged by police, militia, and cavalry, the workers arranged for host families in neighboring towns to temporarily care for their children. Margaret Sanger helped escort a flock of “pale, emaciated, dejected children” to the train station, all of them lacking even “a stitch of wool on their bodies.” Troopers surrounded the station and the police attacked, clubbing the children and tearing them away from their parents. Dozens of frantic women and kids were beaten, arrested, and thrown kicking and screaming into patrol wagons. Hauled away to jail, the parents were charged with “neglect” and improper guardianship while their children were shipped off to the Lawrence Poor Farm. Livid strikers besieged the police station as shock reverberated throughout the country at the cowardly attack on children. The U.S. Bureau of Labor ordered an investigation and the House Committee on Rules opened hearings on the strike and the textile industry. Governor Foss of Massachusetts suddenly informed the mill owners that the state troopers had to be withdrawn.

With public support cratering and the loss of their tariff on imported woolens increasingly likely, the companies gave in, granting the strikers a raise, reduced hours, overtime pay, and a promise not to retaliate for the strike. The mill agents’ smug confidence that workers divided into countless different crafts and nationalities couldn’t possibly pull off a strike proved to be unfounded. Crowds of exuberant workers celebrated their stunning victory, joyously singing the Internationale in two dozen languages.

Sources:

Bird, Stewart with Dan Georgakas and Deborah Shaffer, Solidarity Forever – An Oral History of the I.W.W. (Lake View Press, 1985)

Camp, Helen C., Iron In Her Soul – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the American Left, (Washington State University Press, 1995)

Dubofsky, Melvyn, ‘Big Bill’ Haywood, (Manchester University Press, 1987)

—–We Shall Be All – A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (University of Illinois, 1988)

Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley, The Rebel Girl, (International Publishers, 1955)

Foner, Philip S., ed., History of the Labor Movement in The United States, Volume 4, The Industrial Workers of the World, 1905-1917, (International Publishers, 1965)

Garrison, Dee, Mary Heaton Vorse – The Life of an American Insurgent, (Temple University, 1989)

Lens, Sidney, The Labor Wars – From the Molly Maguires to the Sitdowns, (Anchor, 1973)

Milkman, Ruth, ed., Women, Work & Protest – A Century of U.S. Women’s Labor History (Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1985)

Renshaw, Patrick, The Wobblies – The Story of the I.W.W. and Syndicalism in the United States, (Ivan R. Dee, 1999)

Zinn, Howard, The Zinn Reader, Seven Stories, 1997

Michael K. Smith is the author of “Portraits of Empire,” “The Madness of King George (with Matt Wuerker), and “Rise To Empire” (forthcoming), all from Common Courage Press.

No Gods; No Masters brings the history of anarchism to video

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 14:25

by Joe Nolan
Fifth Estate # 400, Spring, 2018

a review of
No Gods; No Masters: A History of Anarchism (2017) (Originally: Ni dieu, ni maitre. Une histoire de l’anarchisme) Writer/Director: Tancrede Ramonet. 156 min. Color/B&W (French, German with English subtitles) Available from Icarus Films icarusfilms.com/if-nogods

For average Americans, the word anarchy calls to mind chaos, destruction, lawlessness, and violence. Most modern Westerners know little about the people, philosophies, and history that make up the broader political and cultural movement we identify under the term anarchism.

This ignorance lingers despite the fact that in the 21st century, the worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement, the anti-austerity demonstrations in Europe, the Arab Spring, and even the Antifa forces clashing with today’s neo-Nazis all share common bonds in their self-organized collectivism, their anti-capitalist stances, and their aesthetics which often include the circle-A.

“No Gods, No Masters: A History of Anarchism” directed by Tancrede Ramonet, was originally a French TV Mini-Series documentary, now available as a three-DVD collection. It illuminates the history of anarchism from mid-19th century Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who coined the term anarchist through the twin mid-century challenges of European fascism and Soviet communism.

The disc set breaks its subject down into a trilogy of historical periods and includes a bonus feature 26-minute interview with Noam Chomsky, plus an eloquent 20-page booklet packed with profiles of notable anarchist thinkers and activists. The booklet contains brief, but elucidating writing samples from various authors that trace the evolution of anarchist thought from the end of the 19th century to the modern era.

The first disc, “Passion for Destruction (1840-1906)” focuses on the disparity between the technological, medical, and cultural progress achieved at the turn of the 20th century, and the horrific conditions that defined the work and home lives of the laborers who made the Industrial Revolution possible. This chapter highlights Proudhon’s tripartite attack on the state, capital and religion; the foundations of labor unionism and anarcho-syndicalism, and events like the 1886 Haymarket Square Riot which ignited the spread of anarchist ideas around the globe.

“Land and Freedom (1907-1921)” begins with the idealism, nudism, alternative education and free love of the Individualism Movement before cresting onto the waves of the Mexican and Russian revolutions when it seemed that the anarchist dream had come into its own, and appeared poised to overturn the global order.

“In Memory of the Vanquished (1922-1945)” lives up to its eulogizing title, documenting unparalleled violence against the labor movement in the United States, the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, the betrayals of Soviet communism, the horrors of European fascism, and the crushing of the anarchist forces in the Spanish Civil War and Revolution.

“No Gods, No Masters”‘ broad scope necessarily means that deep explorations of individuals or individual periods in the development of anarchism are off the table. Emma Goldman’s name is barely sprinkled in, and anarchistic artistic movements like early 20th century Dada are only briefly mentioned.

That said, “No Gods, No Masters” never devolves into a simple talking heads affair. Director Ramonet uses just enough animation effects to keep the archival photos, prints and paintings interesting, the well-written narration is consistently compelling, and the archival footage is often revelatory.

Anarchism has been the subject of many very good documentaries from profiles like “Emma Goldman: An Exceedingly Dangerous Woman” (2004) and “Sacco and Vanzetti”(2006), to broader studies like “Anarchism in America” (1983) and more contemporary efforts like “The Take” (2004).

That said, no films or series of films attempts to contextualize the global evolution of anarchism as a whole like Ramonet aims to do.

“No Gods, No Masters” isn’t a perfect movie and viewers who are well-versed in the events, people, and places that have informed the development of anarchist thought will inevitably find some sections lacking.

However, this film is a great first step that might inspire other filmmakers to take on anarchism as a holistic subject so that the ideas and actions of the past can continue to illuminate the philosophies and fights waiting for us in the future.

Joe Nolan lives in Nashville where he’s a regular writer for the street newspaper, The Contributor.

Authoritarian Character Structure: The Negation of Imagination

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 13:55

via Fifth Estate

by Fifth Estate # 400, Spring, 2018

Radical psychologists Wilhelm Reich and Eric Fromm answered the question of why people submit willingly to authority

While most of us were watching the 2016 presidential election with disgust, someone I’m very close to, looked at me with a fiendish grin and announced, “I’m voting for Donald Trump.”

This was perplexing. How could they be captivated by a racist, xenophobic, homophobic narcissist? Having starkly contrasting reactions towards the object of their affinity, I realized a lot of futile and draining arguments were likely to follow. Rifts, drama, and cut-offs between friends and family have become ubiquitous in American society over the past year, with many left bewildered by the resurgent appeal of authoritarianism.

During the Great Depression and World War II eras, influential and incisive books were written that aimed to decipher the reasons authoritarians were able to gain control over millions of people. In 1933, the year Germany’s infamous National Socialist leader became Chancellor, Wilhelm Reich published The Mass Psychology of Fascism.

Reich (1897-1957), a radical Austrian psychoanalyst, wrote that character structure, the emotional make up of our personality, was the means through which authoritarianism was exercised and expressed. Eight years later, Erich Fromm, a German social psychologist and critical theorist, who fled the country following the Nazi takeover, published Escape from Freedom in the U.S. In it, he penetrates the character structure that enabled authoritarianism to flourish.

Fromm and Reich wondered: Why do people act in ways that clearly go against their own interests? And what underlies the mindset of those seemingly enamored by dictators?

Reich postulated that mystical/religious distortions of emotions, and the repression of bodily sensations, significantly contributed to the cruelty exercised by fascists. He noticed that pent-up tensions and sensations could be discharged in unnatural and indirect ways, namely through sadism.

Reich focused on the adverse effects of sexual repression, but the suppression of explorational, introspective, and expressive impulses leads to similarly detrimental personal and social results. The connection between self-repressive tendencies and an attraction to authority struck a chord, as my relative has been a long time, vocal supporter of body restricting religious morality.

Reich felt that unfulfilled social needs were also an aspect of why reactionary authoritarians were perceived as appealing. A sense of belonging arose when people joined a party that eclipsed feelings of insignificance that many experience in modern society. In his view, authoritarianism would not be a threat if society allowed interpersonal cooperation (rather than promoting isolative competition), and if individuals could acquire and develop substantial and useful skills.

He advocated for self-administered, what he labeled work-democracy (essentially socialism or anarchism) and the elimination of disparity between pleasure and vocation. So, not only do anarchists wrangle with existing authoritarians, but the implementation of anarchist principles like mutual aid, cooperative labor, and the honing of skills of sustenance, could preclude future developments of authoritarianism.

Fromm (1900-1980) saw unfulfilling social circumstances, religion, and suppression of the individual as involved in the development of tyrannical rule. Additionally, he wrote that educational systems, child rearing styles, conformity pressures, and techno-industrial society’s obsession with work, contribute to producing personalities with the potential to become, or succumb to, authoritarians.

Digging deeply into a combination of masochistic and sadistic traits, he noticed that in the psychological constitution of authoritarians, maintenance of self-esteem is dependent upon identification with symbols of external power such as a flag, uniform or badge. Upon reading this description, I couldn’t help but recall the times my relative would engage in hollow flag-waving activities dictated by a calendar or cultural ritual.

Rants about a degenerating present and a squeaky-clean past that my relative would advance always seemed curious and spurious—so, a light bulb turned on as I learned of Fromm’s observation that authoritarians fetishize the bygone and dream of recreating a non-existent, idyllic yesteryear. A tendency which he felt corresponds with feeling powerless over circumstance and lacking a conviction that the future is malleable.

This connected with his more general discovery that an aptitude for copying and repeating, and an inability to originate, is characteristic of authoritarians. Between the two theorists’ discoveries, we can presume that when instinctual sensations are perpetually suppressed or misinterpreted, imaginative potential atrophies.

Character damage is the product of conventional attitudes and expected emotions superimposed upon people during their formative years resulting in objectification/depersonalization and the valorization of mechanistic efficiency and productivity, a process euphemistically termed socialization. Damaged character distances people from each other, and perpetuates the idea that reality requires an ideological or mystical second reality to corroborate itself.

In short, damaged character is responsible for the sanitization, standardization, and deterioration of social and individual potential.

Marxists and various militant leftists often have repressed/ repressive character structures that are analogous to reactionary authoritarians, along with similar desires for strong leaders and the propagation of symbols of bureaucracy.

In present conditions, the propensity for a greater proliferation of authoritarianism is hard to miss. A significant part of the populace is atomized and lonely, and stuck in skilless, mind-numbing jobs, resulting in pervasive feelings of powerlessness and desperation. Hence, many of the anti-fascist ideas put forth in the early-mid 20th century, such as Reich’s and Fromm’s, are again applicable.

And though viewing panaceas from a psychological standpoint doesn’t help overcome the cause and effect dilemma any more than looking from an economic or sociological one, helpful ideas have been put forth about what types of inter-community relations and philosophical perspectives correspond with minimizing the risk and spread of totalitarianism.

Possessing and utilizing skills of importance, and creating situations that provide tangible gratification, while rejecting pseudo-satisfaction (such as consumerism), is imperative for non-fascistic living. As is following one’s own perceptions while resisting domination by experts and bureaucracy. Both Reich and Fromm voice a connection between constricted, atomized life and authoritarianism—and between intellectual/emotional/sensual expansiveness and the minimizing of violence and authority.

Reich cautioned against a quantitative view of life, as he felt eliminating fascism required understanding humans biologically, not mechanically.

In a similar vein, Fromm stressed the importance of the spontaneous expression of the total personality, including the elimination of artificial divisions between instinct and intellect. Ultimately, interconnected, horizontal relations without governance is the natural form of reality that unfolds when repressive character structure ceases to dominate.

Bryan Tucker has been involved with anti-war efforts and social anarchist projects in the Bay Area for the past decade.

Understanding The Administration’s Monstrous Immigration Policies

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 04:28

via Current Affairs

By Brianna Rennix

Regular readers of Current Affairs will know that I usually have a lot to say about immigration. Regular readers of the news generally will know that a lot of bad stuff has happened with immigration over the past week or so. An article was inevitable! Here it is.

I will be taking several recent news items on immigration, putting them into a bit of context, and speculating about what future developments might arise from them. I want to stress, on the one hand, that this has been an especially bad few weeks in immigration policy. It represents, in my opinion, the culmination of a multi-prong strategy to completely choke off asylum-seeking at the border. No physical wall could possibly be more effective than the system the Trump administration is currently setting up, if everything works out according to their plans (though this is not yet a foregone conclusion).

On the other hand, many of the things that people are currently shocked by are not new. Separating mothers from children on a large scale is new. Separating children from fathers, or fathers from families, is not new: That has been going on for ages, and no one has ever given a damn. The heartwrenching, blood-boiling story of the Honduran father who killed himself after his child was ripped from his arms could have happened at any point over the past six years or so.

Important caveat: I am not an expert in immigration law, so what follows are purely my own impressions. I think they are sensible, but they are by no means authoritative. I have not been able to consult at any length with more knowledgeable immigration law folks, because they are all too goddamn busy right now. Technically, I myself am supposed to be studying for the bar exam—memorizing the rules of estate administration and corporations and all those really important areas of law—but I am too busy drinking about the gathering strength of the murderous immigration police state. (Don’t worry, I am doing fine! We all occasionally have those days when it feels as if one’s physical body is but the fragile carapace of a huge and terrible rage.)

  1. WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT SEPARATING FAMILIES AT THE BORDER? IS IT BECAUSE OF A “DEMOCRATIC LAW”?

Recently, Trump has dropped numerous cryptic references to a “Democratic law” that is supposedly forcing his hand on family separations. The other day he tweeted: “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.”

I have no idea what Trump’s referring to there—there is no existing law that requires Trump to separate families. It’s possible he’s just casually spreading disinformation. That said, there are a number of laws and legal holdings that, operating in conjunction, produced a situation on the border that the Trump administration has found extremely frustrating to their plans to reduce border crossings. The only way to get around this was to start separating families. I will explain.

Basically, between the time when the Refugee Act was passed in 1980 (implementing in our domestic law the commitments we agreed to when we signed the 1951 Refugee Convention) and the Clinton years, anybody who came to the U.S. and asked for asylum was entitled to a full hearing of their claim, either at the asylum office or before an immigration judge. Immigration detention was quite rare: It was certainly not a standard feature of the asylum-seeking process. Asylum-seekers had temporary permission to live and work in the U.S. while their cases were pending.

Then, in 1996, Congress passed, and Clinton signed into law, the “Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act,” which (among many other disastrous things) established a procedure known as “expedited removal.” This means that any person who cannot prove continuous presence in the United States for the past two years—including, by definition, all the people who come to our borders and ports of entry—may be snatched by CBP or ICE and summarily deported, without ever going in front of a judge.

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Frontlines in the Forest

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 04:21

By Slingshot, slingshot.tao.ca

By Olea

My boots sink a few inches into soft snow with each step as I make my way along a narrow path behind my comrade. We try to avoid leaving prints by walking on the bare patches of soil, but in this spot, the snow has blanketed the ground. On our left the hillside falls steeply beneath towering old growth Douglas fir, tanoak, madrone, and bay trees. The forest floor is cloaked in moss and ferns and dotted with fallen branches and logs. Above us is a gravel road, and on either side there are rows of close-planted tree farm fir. Suddenly, my comrade whips around, motioning to me silently and pointing up the hill. A truck is passing just 20 feet above us on the road. We freeze, silent until it passes, exchanging sighs of relief that we were not spotted. We are deep in timberlands owned by Humboldt Redwood Company on Northern California’s lost coast – behind enemy lines in a battle that many thought ended years ago.

I had come to Humboldt county with only a pedestrian grasp of the history of California’s timber wars. I had, completely on accident, walked into a meeting of activists defending old growth forest in the Mattole watershed. I had always assumed direct action campaigns were completely underground affairs carried out by experienced activists in tight knit affinity groups. But they needed hands in the woods, and I just happened to be there. That’s how I found myself in the backseat of a sedan rushing south on Highway 101 with tinny Grateful Dead in my ears and pot smoke wafting past my nose.

We were dropped off and began the several-hours-long hike up logging roads to reach our destination: Rainbow Ridge, the 3000-foot spine separating the Bear River watershed to the northeast from the Mattole River watershed to the southwest. Beyond the Mattole’s verdant ravines, only the forested King Range lay between us and the Pacific ocean, 10 miles west as the crow flies. That first night, trekking in the darkness up a steep gravel road, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d make it. After a month of hiking Rainbow Ridge, though, I came to know each turn and landmark. I felt the comfort of homecoming when I reached the familiar meadow marking the summit of the hike. I called out to the cows grazing in the ranchers’ meadows; I imagined that their responding moos were proclamations of solidarity with our forest defense efforts. I could look across the valley and distinguish the uniform green blocks of planted Doug fir from the old-growth mixed stands with their rich, heterogenous colors and textures.

The history of forest defense in Humboldt County is long and rich. The seeds were planted in the late 70s when activists first used non violent direct action tactics to resist logging near the Sinkyone wilderness, but forest defense efforts didn’t garner widespread attention until the late 80s. In 1985, Texan venture capitalist Charles Hurwitz orchestrated a hostile takeover of the Humboldt county timber company Pacific Lumber (PL) and began liquidating their assets – clearcutting at a breakneck speed forests that PL had been cutting slowly for over a century. Resistance mounted all over the county against the timber harvest plans of PL and other logging companies. One campaign coalesced around the headwaters of the Elk River, a 20,000-acre forest southeast of Eureka owned by PL that included several pristine groves of old growth mixed forest.

The battle over the Headwaters wore on for over a decade – in the forest with blockades and tree sits, in the community with demonstrations and public actions, and in the courts with suits over PL’s destruction of endangered species habitat and blatant disregard for forestry regulations. In 1999, the Headwaters Deal was signed, in which 7500 acres of timberland in the Elk River watershed, including 3000 acres of old growth, were bought out from PL in exchange for $480 million in taxpayer money and the green light to log other PL holdings.

The Mattole is often referred to as the orphan of the Headwaters Deal because activists proposed that protections for the Mattole be included in the Deal, but none were granted, leaving the area vulnerable to continued logging. In 2007 PL declared bankruptcy, an inevitable conclusion after two decades of mismanagement which prioritized immediate gains over environmental and fiscal sustainability. PL’s assets, including over 200,000 acres of timberlands and the company mill in Scotia, were reorganized into Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) with general support from the community, largely because HRC promised not to log old growth. The majority shareholders in HRC and its sister company, Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC), are the Fisher family, San Francisco real estate giants and owners of the Gap clothing brand and the Oakland A’s. Between HRC and MRC, the Fishers possess 440,000 acres of forest, which makes them the single largest landholder of coastal Redwood forest. If you suspect that the 1% have their nasty fingers in literally everything evil, and then wonder if thinking that makes you a conspiracy theorist, you’re not tripping – it’s fucking real!

The Headwaters Reserve and most of the other former timberlands that have been granted protection as a result of the timber wars are low elevation, mixed forest dominated by coast Redwood. 97% of California’s old growth coast Redwood forest were logged, and most of the remaining groves are now protected. The Mattole is unique in that it is dominated by Douglas fir and tanoak rather than Redwood. Coast Redwoods only grow up to about 2,000 ft above sea level, and being at about 3,000 ft, Rainbow Ridge’s only Redwood trees are a short row of young saplings planted as an experiment by the company.

Douglas fir is the only “marketable” species on the ridge, and HRC has been intent on converting the diverse mixed forest into a monocropped Doug fir plantation for maximum board foot output. To this end, HRC and MRC both employ a barbaric herbicide technique known as “hack and squirt” to kill “unmarketable” hardwood trees (which on Rainbow includes tanoak, live oak, madrone, and bay laurel), which they have the audacity to call restoration. Notches are cut into the trunks of the hardwoods, and then injected with Imazapyr, an herbicide that is an ingredient in Roundup and that is water soluble and can travel to parts of the landscape where it wasn’t sprayed. We walked through a unit on Rainbow Ridge that had been treated with herbicides, and it gave me the chills. The hardwoods are left standing dead, and the remaining forests feel like spooky, dry brown graveyards with lonely surviving Doug fir mingled throughout. There is a severe fire risk posed by forests filled with standing dead fuel, and in 2016 Mendocino county voters passed a measure, aimed specifically at MRC, to limit hack and squirt on the basis of fire safety. But enforcement has been lax, and MRC continues to herbicide hardwoods. HRC faces no such limitations.

There was frequent resistance to PL timber operations in the Mattole prior to HRC’s acquisition of the land. In 1997 Mattole valley residents sued PL over destruction of habitat for endangered coho salmon and staged demonstrations. In 2001 forest defenders blockaded a narrow section of road just above the Upper North Fork of the Mattole River. The spot they chose is strategic — blockading this single point prevents access to 18,000 acres of forest. This gravelly section of road has seen a lot of action since then. In 2014 HRC filed 2 timber harvest plans (THPs) for Rainbow Ridge and activists responded with a four month blockade, which halted logging on that side of the ridge.

In 2016, in response to community pressure, HRC cancelled their plans for helicopter logging on Rainbow, but retained 2 cable yarding THPs. In 2017 company officials told the community they wouldn’t log until summertime, but activists discovered company contractors had herbicided over 180 acres in the spring. Again, a blockade was set up, and HRC was unable to log all season. HRC renewed their two active THPs in the area in September of 2017, claiming there were no significant changes in the units. In fact, a massive landslide had occurred directly adjacent to a unit, a clear indication of the instability of the steep, rocky hillsides that characterize the ridge — and a certainly a reason not to risk additional logging the area. Activists dismantled the blockade at the end of the logging season in the fall but have maintained a close eye on HRC’s movements on the ridge over the winter.

The newest development is that HRC has filed a road proposal for a completely redundant road which would serve the sole purpose of circumventing the bottleneck spot that activists have successfully blockaded for nearly 2 decades. Constructing the road would require destroying a sensitive marsh area, removing a beautiful grove of old growth bay laurel trees, and quarrying a huge rock outcrop. California Department of Forestry (CDF), the regulatory body responsible for the final stamp of approval, is notorious for approving virtually every timber company scheme that lands on their desks, but this road proposal has faced half a dozen delays as HRC struggles to comply with CDF’s meager requirements for new logging roads. Forest defenders are poised and ready to make sure this pointless and destructive road is not built. At the same time, the logging season is upon us, and with two active THPs on the ridge HRC could start work in the units any day. There is also a second road proposal, already approved, farther down the ridge that would open up access to unentered old growth.

Nonviolent direct action tactics like blockades and tree sits cannot protect the forest forever, but in the past 35 years they have proven to be a crucial stalling technique, slowing or stopping logging during the long months or years it takes for aboveground routes to be navigated – which often ultimately looks like buying the land and designating it a preserve, but can include legal strategies such as suing the timber companies over noncompliance and legislating tighter restrictions on timber operations. Forest defenders hope for full protection in perpetuity for the remaining 1,100 acres of unentered old growth on Rainbow Ridge.

There are a multitude of tangible, locally relevant reasons to oppose logging in this region – protecting habitat for native endangered species, including salmon; preserving wildlands for the next generation to enjoy; and preventing direct impacts on local residents, such as exposure to toxic herbicides, or the landslides and floods that come after heavy logging, just to name a few.

But what makes the Mattole worth fighting for if these issues don’t affect you personally? The temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest is actually the most efficient carbon sink of any ecosystem on Spaceship Earth – more effective at sequestering carbon per acre than the Amazon. With climate change quickly surpassing conservative estimates, the importance of the carbon sequestration value of forests, as well as their role as climactic regulators in the water cycle, increases every day. Scientists are scrambling to design carbon sinks – it is ludicrous to destroy the natural carbon sinks Earth herself has gifted us with. Forests the world over will go through major changes in the coming centuries as climate change progresses. Karen Coulter of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project says that it is imperative that we create protected areas where ecosystems can have the freedom to adapt to climate change without human intervention. We must realize that examples of ecocide such as the logging and herbiciding of Rainbow Ridge are not merely little individual tragedies. They are appendages, small in appearance, but connected to a many-limbed beast of industrial destruction that is fueled by consumption and piloted by the cold logic of capital. To resist this, our struggles for ecology cannot manifest as isolated efforts to address a single issue. Our campaigns must be rooted in a broad intention to address ecological devastation on all fronts across the globe.

The forest defense movement is wide-ranging and is made up of people of many walks of life participating in different ways. There are lawyers and nonprofit directors who work behind the scenes to file suits and get the land permanently protected. There are rascals on the ground building blockades and climbing trees. And there are a multitude of things to be done to support a forest defense campaign – supplies to be hiked in, food to be dumpstered, calls to be made, big trees to be measured, articles to be written, benefit shows to be played, collective dysfunctions to be addressed. This work is never easy, but it is unequivocally important, and deeply meaningful.

Climate chaos is fully upon us now, and working to address it and adapt to it requires all of our attention and focus. We can no longer afford to carry on focusing on jobs, school, or family as if things are as they’ve always been. We are facing something unprecedented, and protecting forests is crucial in mitigating ecological collapse.

All my respect and love goes out to those engaged in eco-defense around the world. I call on those who are not engaged yet to reach out to your local campaigns against ecological devastation. Organize in your community, or come to Humboldt County and join us here. The forest is waiting for you to call it home.

Upcoming action camp will be held May 24th – May 27th near the Mattole River watershed in Southern Humboldt county. Trainings and hands on workshops will be held on nonviolent direct action, tripod blockade rigging, tree climbing, herbal first aid, backwoods medic skills, logging monitoring, groundtruthing and more! Come prepared and self-sufficient for all weather conditions, and for those interested, come ready to play in the woods after camp! For further details and directions contact mattoleactioncamp@riseup.net or 707-336-2231

A Reporter’s Reporter: a Conversation With Seymour Hersh

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 23:51

via CounterPunch

By Daniel Falcone

Seymour Hersh on Democracy Now!

Seymour Hersh states that the “deadliest words” in US media today are, “I think.” With media cycles constantly fluctuating and changing format and delivery based on website clicks it’s hard to keep up and find good reporting. For example, Hersh points to a lack of coverage or deep analysis regarding the war in Yemen and Trump’s removal of Sudan from the travel ban list, as crucial stories in need of further investigating.

Hersh also refers to America’s “continuing special force operations and the never ending political divides” across several continents that don’t get enough play because of our current state of news coverage. Aside from “today’s newspapers that cannot afford to keep correspondents in the field,” for Hersh, the news of today seems “unstructured and chaotic,” and is pieced together much like the country as “partisan and strident.”

Author of My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath (1970), and Pulitzer Prize recipient and best-selling author Seymour Hersh is “a survivor from the golden age of journalism.” Hersh, the author of numerous groundbreaking articles and nearly a dozen books, most recently, The Killing of Osama bin Laden (2017) and Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, (2004) has just come out with his story and a revealing look at one of the top-rated investigative journalists in US history. Reporter: A Memoir, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018)outlines Hersh’s early life, his rise in journalism, and sketches an illustration for the state of journalism in a changing world.

I spoke with Seymour Hersh on June 12, 2018, by phone from New York City, for nearly an hour in his Washington D.C. office and he shared with me great insights and stories about his career and his latest book.  I started by asking Hersh to comment on how he was “a survivor from the golden age of journalism,” wanting to find out what was entailed in this “golden age.”

Hersh indicated that, “there was a period then when we could dominate the news.  In other words, the newspapers were believed more than anybody else in the government, and that’s what I called a “golden age.” Hersh added it was a period that lasted for three or four years.

“There were a couple of years when the state couldn’t control what we were doing,” remarked Hersh. “They couldn’t do it.” Hersh’s message in Reporter is that good investigative journalism tells the story, and essentially does not set out to make the United States look good. “That is not the function of a good newspaper,” explained Hersh.

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Occupy Protests Freeze ICE Operations From Oregon to Manhattan

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 23:47

via The Daily Beast

By Kelly Weill

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has put some New York City operations on hold while a protest outside Manhattan’s main ICE facility stretched into its fifth day.

On Thursday, demonstrators set up camp outside a downtown ICE processing center that houses an immigration court and a temporary immigrant detention facility. By Friday, ICE was smuggling detainees out a freight exit reserved for the U.S. Postal Service in order to avoid the demonstrators. By Monday, ICE had postponed all immigration hearings in the building, without clear plans to resume.

“The original call was for a 24/7 presence to occupy this space and call for the abolition of ICE,” Marisa Holmes, an activist with the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council told The Daily Beast. The group has been a leading coordinator of the demonstration, which began at the ICE processing center at 201 Varick St. Thursday night. On Monday morning, approximately a dozen protesters were blocking the facility’s doors.

Holmes said she and other activists were inspired by an occupation-style protest outside an ICE detention center in Portland, Oregon. Beginning June 17, activists blocked all entrances to the facility, leading to its closure last week. Before dawn on Monday, Department of Homeland Security police re-entered the facility, although it is unclear when the facility will reopen, or whether federal authorities will attempt to remove the demonstrators camping outside.

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Open Borders are Our Only Hope

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 02:37

via Center for a Stateless Society

by Emmi Bevensee

Tribalism and National Borders

Fundamental to the danger of nation-states and borders are the paradigms of nationalism and tribalism that exploit human quirks to justify violence. Tribalism is best understood in terms of the creation of teams through the dehumanization of an ‘other.’ Tribalism is mentally categorizing someone who is somehow different (however shallow that difference may be) and turning their value into less than that of your team or “community.”

The ideology of whiteness, as utilized by exploitative empires, is one of the most deeply othering paradigms to curse this planet. The word ‘tribalism’ is, unfortunately, quite linked with the smoke and mirrors of colonial rule in which the deepest acts of tribalism are committed by the exploiters and enacted upon native bodies. However, tribalism should not be a derogatory slur against “primitiveness.” It is instead a fundamental facet of the myth of whiteness necessary to justify colonial rule. However, whether a native person or a white king does it, it is necessary to resist this dishonest mental aggression even as it is critical to recognize degrees of scale, spectra, and the intensities of harms that accompany tribalism depending on from whom it comes. After all, to other up (“Fuck you pig!” from a poor PoC) is awesome and is a fundamentally different act than to other down (“The poor are stupid.” from a rich white lady).

Tribalism is often synonymous with nationalism, but tribalism is more fluid. It doesn’t depend on just the nation-state. Tribalism swims equally well among neighborhood nationalism, racial othering, etc. Our human tendency to have affinity with people is not in and of itself the problem. The problem is what we do with it. The behavior of having tribes is largely distinct from ‘tribalism.’ A tribe or imagined community that seeks cooperative game theoretic strategies across lines of difference and doesn’t resort to dehumanization to maintain violent supremacy is not being tribalistic; they are practicing voluntary free association. For instance, just because I like someone and value myself doesn’t mean that I should hate everyone who isn’t that person or me and doesn’t share the traits that we connect over.

But even if it was ‘natural’ or inherent to be tribalistic then I would resist my nature and try to change it, mechanically if need be. My goal is to eliminate the faulty wiring that suggests that somehow because I am me and not you that I am somehow worth exponentially more than you. In a trolley problem between myself and two people of equal value and goodness (whatever that means) I should never ever ever hesitate to save them by sacrificing my own life just because I feel so urgently connected to my own being. This logic of self-absorption stretches across time as well. Indigenous spiritualities are often careful to think 500 years forward and backwards from a given generation and to recognize the interconnectedness of individuals across this scale. It is important, as well, that neither the collective nor the individual rule over one another. Western failures to incorporate a similar paradigm of interdependence are coordination problems that arise because ‘I do not see others’ liberation as being as important as my own,’ even if that ‘liberation’ is just food or health care. Whatever it is in my head that says “I’m worth more,” only because I’m me, is wrong. It’s a tick. If that’s what being natural means, then fuck being natural.

Nationalism is one of the grosser forms of tribalism though racism is quite similar in form. Ideological and cultural disparity are disguised as justice and then built into intricate systems of domination. I should never think of someone across a border as being worth less than me because they were born where they were and I, here. I should know that billions of lives deserve basic freedom even though I’ll never know a damn thing about them.

Nationalism, being one of the most violent modern battlegrounds of tribalism, is defined by its endemic othering.  Borders are a place of resistance, the hybrid space between imagined communities and inflated sites of value. Borderlands infect dehumanization with empathy to the extent that movement and sharing across difference is possible. This vulnerability to power and mythos is precisely why nationalists seek to violently repress connectedness across borders. Interconnectedness is a memetic virus that liberates us from our faulty wiring, and every step that ratchets that freedom closer is an exponential expression of hope for the future of the human race and its place in the ecological landscape of the universe. Open borders are the difference between a sociopathic prisoner’s dilemma stuck in recursive loops for the rest of ours species’ miserable hell of an existence and a dimension of wonders beyond what we’re capable of even considering.

Borders

Borders, in the modern sense of physical and/or ideological constructs separating conjoined nation-states, are not the norm they are generally assumed to be. National borders are the (often literal) walls demarcating sites of authoritarianism and coercion at odds with the liberty and development so crucial to the human species. Many believe that the modern nation-state was born through the Treaty of Westphalia in response to European religious wars in 1648. Time went on and the ideas and practices of statism were reified through Hobbesian justifications of the need for the state as a means of coordination and collective action around public goods problems,namely domestic peace and security. The passport was originally just meant to be a temporary war-time precaution, and most countries advocated total abolition of the passport system. The U.S. border with Mexico was largely porous and allowed for free movement before the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Clinton’s National Strategic Plan in 1994. These changes were made as ways of curbing the inevitable flows of migration that they expected as a result of the free-trade agreement. The border is now being even more heavily militarized and politicized amidst calls from Donald Trump and his zealots for an impossible wall, despite the fact that net migration into the U.S. from the southern border has been beneath zero, that immigrants commit less crimesdon’t increase unemployment, and also use fewer public resources. The US effectively makes immigration illegal by ensuring that it’s nearly impossible for average people to migrate legally. Lately the Trump regime continues to make legal immigration even more difficult than it already was. Even now, experiments such as the Schengen zone and the European Union are proving, despite the complexity of Brexit and the unceasing bureaucracy of the EU, that fluid boundaries between a great number of countries is not only possible, it is exceptionally profitable, ethical, and enjoyable. Further, most U.S. Americans believe that immigration is a good thing even if they disagree with the level at which it is occurring or that they think it’s occurring.

As incompetent, inefficient, and rigidly inflexible as national states are, the primary anarchist argument against them is their illegitimacy as defined by their monopoly on violence and coercive methods of domination. With the exception of the Nazi offshoot of national-“anarchism,” sincere anarchists across the spectrum, from anarcho-capitalists to anarcho-communists, are broadly against nationalism and the state. Borders and the state are seen as central impediments to empathy, evolution, and coordination and, instead, stand as critical pillars of tribalism and stagnation.

If people are migrating, something in public goods allocation is (likely structurally) unequal. If it was just as good to stay or go, mostly people would stay. Open borders are an equalizer and an outlet for productivity. Freedom of movement is essential to any liberty-focused ethos and system of rights. If not for freedom of movement, most other systems of ethics and rights crumble. For example, if people do not have the right to change their location and who they are around, what good is freedom of association or voluntary exchange? Or if people cannot migrate and interact with different audiences, what good is freedom of speech?

Any libertarian in favor of militarized national borders is more than likely a crypto- or open fascist of the ilk of Augustus Invictus, et. al. There can be no liberty without the abolition of nation states and their borders. Libertarian ethicist Michael Huemer states of borders:

“These restrictions are imposed by coercion: guards are hired to patrol the borders, physically barring unauthorized entry, and armed officers of the state forcibly detain and expel immigrants who are found residing in the country illegally… many suffer from oppression or poverty that could and would be remedied, if only they were able to enter the country of their choice.”

But this is only the beginning of the suffering as many are fleeing warfare, or worse, only to face the brutality of detention centers. Additionally, though, even persons who are not refugees and simply have a preference deserve to move freely as long as they are not infringing directly on the rights of another. Migration, like markets, when not disrupted by monopolies of power and violence, has inherent characteristics that lend towards a rapidly adaptive and yet dynamic homeostasis.

Borders are essential in creating the non-state “other.” Those from outside the drawn lines of the borders are often a racialized and heavily policed fiction of the paranoid colonial mind. It is no coincidence that xenophobia and the desire for borders and a clear citizen subject has so often been historically linked with genocide in the colonial pursuit. In modern statist capitalism the “other” from across the border serves the purpose of a “justifiably” exploitable labor and resource pool in a different way but also reminiscent to the slaves in the early colonial Americas.

National borders, however, should not be confused with personal boundaries or privately held property. That which an individual or collective has legitimate and ethical claims to ownership over should not be impinged upon by outside actors. This can be seen in the methods of indigenous resistance to infringements of treaty-based land-claims such as the “No-DAPL” movement at Standing Rock supported by any anarchist or libertarian with a backbone and conscience. The fact that they refused violence as a means of protest is a testament to either their strength of conviction or the danger of the situation they face. These indigenous property movements, although containing aspects of national liberation, reflect more of what an actual attempt at collective private property could be and, if nothing else, why nationalism will seek to destroy competing nationalism or property norms no matter how legitimate they are. Decolonization and indigenous nationalism can be seen in this way as more of an attempt at navigating monopoly and statist violence in their desire for basic access to the resources they rightly own.

Economics

There is a reasonable hesitancy to discuss the economics of migration because immigrants are often reduced to inhuman caricatures of their commodified value. This is an absolute cruelty that misses the ethical imperatives surrounding migration. However, to dismiss the economics of the issue entirely serves to render invisible other layers of the catastrophic ramifications of closed borders. No matter how devastatingly corrupted our current system is, even if the bosses and monopolists benefit the most from migrant labor and resources, the economics of closed borders are still devastating to those most vulnerable, from colonized nations to the undocumented labor force in the host country. So, however treacherous, an understanding of the economics of migration that recognizes the central humanity of migrants is necessary to gathering a complete picture of the crisis.

Imperialist national borders are designed to protect concentrations of wealth and maintain access to exploitable labor and resources. Most oppressed nationalism is itself a response or method of resistance against this impossible playing field even if it is fettered by the same problematics of nationalism. However, with things like the internet and higher levels of exchange happening between global citizens every day, the ability to effectively maintain national borders and identities is in many ways dwindling. Nations come replete with numerous high-overhead subsidies. The unsustainability of this, coupled with the ever increasing ease of use for things like cryptocurrencies and homebrew industrial manufacturing, trends in many ways towards a general market decentralization through agorist and counter-economic practices. These practices can then be coupled with parallel institutions which, following market logic, lend themselves to significantly flatter firms and the gradual destruction of many vast concentrations of wealth.

To make this idea of subsidized sites of power and resource concentration tangible, the U.S. spends billions of dollars a year on the “Prevention Through Deterrence” infrastructure that channels migrants through the most dangerous parts of the desert. Furthermore, as spending on border enforcement infrastructure and agents continues to explode, apprehensions continue to decline. This is in conjunction with the fact that the U.S. spends more on Immigration Control and Enforcement than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. These subsidies help to create and maintain monopoly through cronyism and carte-blanche contracts with private companies who supply every piece of the seemingly infinite web of needs for “protecting the border.” The prevention through deterrence strategy and Border Patrol (BP) boots on the ground mean that the Mexican drug cartels (narcos) can control certain key crossing areas rather than having to patrol the entire border. Through brutality and corruption, BP and the narcos are able to own the lives of those crossing, often forcing them into ever more dangerous situations as the desperation for safe crossing grows. Similar phenomena haunt the EU, as countries close borders, disrupting Schengen efficiency across the increasingly nationalist and xenophobic continental Europe.

Economists have argued that we could double the world’s GDP through open borders. This could not only eliminate global poverty, it could usher in an age of unprecedented prosperity that could enable us to solve some of the most pressing issues of health and environmental destruction facing, not only our species, but earth as a whole. There are a host of benefits that a receiving country has as part of accepting migrants including labor, entrepreneurship, and social capital, and these benefits can also extend even to “under-developed” countries receiving migrants.  In the U.S., for example, many migrants are only entering for seasonal work after which they will return home. Migrants are often willing to do work that U.S. citizens are not which drives down prices and increases wages overall even if it is as a result of initial inequality that that this phenomena even exists. The U.S. agricultural industry, for example, would likely collapse without its huge supply of undocumented labor and the same goes for many international economic goals such as the United Kingdom’s budget surplus. Migration restrictions (and the coming economic suicide of tariffs) to folks south of the U.S. border are also obstacles to many U.S. entrepreneurs seeking to do business in Mexico but deterred by long lines on the land crossings and extensive harassment, especially for non-white U.S. citizens upon return. Also, though, to assume that entrepreneurial innovation and intellectual development is a one-way street flowing south from the U.S. into Mexico is a racist and ludicrous assumption. We need not forget that brown folks created much of what modern society depends upon from food to math and physics. The reality however is that greater exchange between Mexican intellectuals, innovators, and entrepreneurs would inevitably increase the dynamics of competition that keep labor wages high and prices low in addition to fueling development of practices and products in the market.

The grossly exaggerated $113 billion figure initially thrown out by Trump and his media cronies as being the cost of undocumented persons on U.S. taxpayers is misleading in that if migrants were allowed to be documented and work legally, they would leave the agorist black-market economy and enter into the taxable economy (although I’m an anti-statist and anti-tax, etc.). This would enable the U.S. to collect taxes on their labor and monitor migrant flows as they futilely desire to waste resources doing (such as with the now cut-off DACA recipients). This would also reduce the relatively minuscule benefits expenditures that conservatives obsess over as these persons would be able to pursue work at market value, rather than grossly unfair and precarious under the table employment schemes. In fact even the paranoia of migrant flow increasing the size and failure of the welfare state is unfounded or at least dramatically exaggerated as this multi-EU nation study finds. Even many conservative libertarians are skeptical of whether the economic arguments are real, much less whether they overcome the obvious moral obligation.

Migrants should be given the same to chance to compete freely on a leveled global market as any other firm or individual. One extensive study found that the politically motivated efforts to create a perception of negative competition among migrants, rather than striving to create collaboration and coordination, actually ends up dramatically increasing the costs and losses associated with demographic shifts as a result of migration. This diverse entry into the marketplace would rush in a network of complexity capable of maximizing development, lowering prices, and raising wages. All of these artificial subsidies on protecting the imagined community of the United States is as ineffective and wasteful as it is unbearably cruel. The U.S. depends on the subjugation of Mexico and Mexicans (in addition to south of Mexico). Allowing those south of the U.S. border equal opportunities raises the boat for everyone except for those whose inordinate wealth depends on the violence of exploitation and fictitious nationalism. So much more could be said about the economics of these issues, but, more than almost anything, it is essential to treat immigration policies as if immigrants are actual people– real live, human beings, striving for and deserving of life, thriving, and human dignity— because they are.

Intellectual and Cultural development

The borderlands are often places of great fun, amazing food, flourishing markets, music, and intricate hybridity. The mixing of cultures often leads to literal parties when the effects of state and non-state militarization and monopoly can be sufficiently shaken off. Borderlands with freer movement allow for exchange that can promote peace-building across difference. Additionally, and this cannot be understated, open borders allow for increased movement of ideas, and ,where the movement of ideas are restrained, development is poisoned. Whereas, where ideas are free, the world benefits in dramatic fashion.

Ideas are obstructed in two key ways through closed borders: (1) inability of persons to physically move and build connections to share their ideas, and (2) inability for people to be immersed in different cultures and languages so as to learn how to effectively introduce their ideas. Vulgar nationalism and isolationism makes for stale nazism and vastly restricts growth in science, technological development, politics, and other cultural fields such as literature and the arts.

The internet has bested some of the problems of restrictive borders, but it is no substitute for the ability of people to make meaningful connections in real life, especially in contexts such as China or Turkey where the internet is massively censored and controlled despite the wide availability of things like proxies, VPNs, and Tor browser. Even up against many restrictions, though, the internet serves as a landscape visualizing the potential for increased memetic complexity through cultural interchange. When you can go on a forum and test your pet political or economic theory against the lived experience and research of people from across the world, your sample size grows and your data models can become exponentially more reliable. The same goes with immersion. An individual’s ideas and stereotypes can be pinged off of the lived experience and observations of other human beings with access to other forms of knowledge. In this way open borders help to solve the knowledge problem of markets and the knowledge problem of privilege and ideas in a way that atomized siloing completely throttles.

Not Being A Dick

Aside from this heady discussion of economics and ideas, it is almost more important to focus on the underpinning of open borders ideologies: not being a dick. Anyone could find themselves in a situation where they are desiring of migration. That desire should be able to be filled along voluntary lines in a larger process of cooperative solutions to coordination problems. Most people don’t have the pleasure of knowing a lot of migrants, refugees, and undocumented people. I know more than I could count and the experience changes me at deep levels all the time. Empathy and liberty are twin principles, which in conjunction, form many trails and pathways needed in order for humans to survive, much less thrive, through the thicket of obstacles we collectively face. So, in lieu of big fancy stuff, babysit and make a casserole for your migrant neighbors and community. Learn a language and build deep bonds. Be trustworthy and you’ll experience a chosen family unparalleled. The non-zero sum game of open borders is a rare dynamic where efficiency and ethics mingle to create a network of people and practices that deeply embody the spirit of benevolent mutual-aid. So put out your hand, and walk beside everyone instead of with no one. Be a friend and an accomplice. Protect migrants and undocumented people from the U.S. gestapo of Border Patrol and ICE. When you run across those who wear rifles to enforce borders, treat them as terrorists and, if we have a future, it will look kindly on you.

Feeling Powers Growing: An Interview with Silvia Federici

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 02:15

via Bella Caledonia

This interview was conducted by carla bergman and Nick Montgomery for Joyful Militancy (building thriving resistance in toxic times) published by AK Press. Silvia Federici is an Italian activist and author of many works, including Caliban and the Witch and Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle. She was co-founder of the International Feminist Collective and organizer with the Wages for Housework Campaign in the ‘70s. In it they discuss new ways of acting and destructive cultures within political movements.

Silvia Federici: My politics resonate with your idea of “joyful militancy.” I’m a strong believer that either your politics is liberating and that gives you joy, or there’s something wrong with them.

I’ve gone through phases of “sad politics” myself and I’ve learned to identify the mistakes that generate it. It has many sources. But one factor is the tendency to exaggerate the importance of what we can do by ourselves, so that we always feel guilty for not accomplishing enough.

When I was thinking about this conversation, I was reminded of Nietzsche’s metamorphoses in Thus Spoke Zarathustra and his image of the camel. The camel is the prototype of the militant who burdens herself with huge amounts of work, because she thinks that the destiny of the world depends on her overwork. Inevitably she’s always saddened because the goal is always receding and she does not have the time to be fully present to her life and recognize the transformative possibilities inherent to her work.

carla and Nick: You said that you feel like there are so many sources to sad militancy[1] and can you speak to some more of those?

Federici: Sad militancy comes from setting goals that you cannot achieve, so that the outcome is always out of reach, always projected into the future and you feel continuously defeated.  “Sad politics “ is also defining your struggle in purely oppositional terms, which puts you in a state of permanent tension and failure. A joyful politics is a politics that is constructive and prefigurative. I’m encouraged by the fact that more people today see that you cannot continuously postpone the achievement of your goals to an always receding future.

Joyful politics is politics that change your life for the better already in the present. This is not to deny that political engagement often involves suffering. In fact our political involvement often is born of suffering. But the joy is knowing and deciding that we can do something about it, it is recognizing that we share our pain with other people, is feeling the solidarity of those around us. Militants in Argentina speak of  “politicizing our sadness.”

This is why I don’t believe in the concept of “self-sacrifice,” where self-sacrifice means that we do things that go against our needs, our desires, our potentials, and for the sake of political work we have to repress ourselves. This has been a common practice in political movements in the past. But it is one that produces constantly dissatisfied individuals. Again, what we do may lead to suffering, but this may be preferable to the kind of self-destruction we would have faced had we remained inactive.

The inability to make politics a rewarding experience is part of the reason why, I think, the radical Left has been unsuccessful in attracting large numbers of people. Here too we are beginning to learn however. I see that many young militants today are recognizing the importance of building community, of organizing activities that are pleasurable, that build trust and affective relations, like eating together for instance. It is not an accident that Indigenous peoples’ movements in Latin America give so much importance to the organization of events like the fiestas.

Nick and carla: We wanted to ask you specifically about the feminist movement and what are some of the ways that feminists and other movements have struggled with sad militancy in the past. We’re thinking of Jo Freeman’s essay on “trashing” from the ‘70s, where she talks about real tendencies to destroy relationships within the feminist movement.[i] In one of the interviews that you’ve done, you mention “truculent forms of behavior that were typical of the movement in the ‘60s” and that you see new forms of kindness and care emerging that maybe were absent back then. So we wanted to ask you about how things have changed from your perspective, and whether you see a connection between trashing and what is now called call-out culture in contemporary movements.

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