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On the Limits of “Just Being Polite”

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 23:16

via C4SS

by Lynn James

There are few things more intrinsic to what we do as humans than communication. Activism, politics, and philosophy rest heavily on our ability to effectively engage in meaningful discourse. Jürgen Habermas even claims in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action that communication is foundational to morality and freedom. All that philosophy jargon aside, the way we talk to each other is meaningful. Both the words we use and the way we structure discourse have ethical implications. In this piece, I hope to address both those issues in the context of left-wing and radical activism.

Specifically, we’ll talk about the strict rules of discourse imposed by activist spaces and the negative consequences of those rules, such as social hierarchies based on language policing. One particularly illustrative example of the dynamics I’ll identify comes from Max Stirner, but the point of this piece is not to defend Stirner or the particular example in question. In activist spaces, well intentioned rules are applied in deeply toxic ways, creating a structure where conformity to the discursive norm is valued above all else. The norms in question restrict people’s ability to participate in real communicative efforts and come to any kind of mutual understanding. If we seek liberation from oppression at all, it must necessarily come from within our own spaces as well as without.

If you’ve read this far, you probably know what leftbook is. For those who don’t, I’m referring to Facebook groups dedicated to discussion and shared community around leftism and memes. Here’s a little story about how those work: in one, it was against the rules to say the word “spooky” because it was considered a racist slur.

Wait, what?

Let me explain. Max Stirner, a 19th century German philosopher, wrote extensively about the relationship between individualism and society. He emphasized the way certain social constructs are insubstantial, saying notably that “Man, you see, is not a person, but an ideal, a spook.” A more literal translation is “higher being,” but the point is the same: Stirner argued that social constructs are not ontologically solid and exist only in the mind. Stirner’s ideas are prevalent in leftist and anarchist communities, but are otherwise obscure. Referencing Stirner and spooks became a sort of meme in leftbook, mostly because it represents an interesting and esoteric element of political philosophy. You could call anything a spook and other group members would understand that you were essentially calling it a social construct. It was a little bit meme, it was a little bit discourse, and it was funny.

One day, though, someone brought up the alternative connotations of “spook.” “Spook” has been used to refer to dark skinned black people as a derogatory slur. In the effort of approaching this in the best possible faith, it should be clear that I do not contest that “spook” has been used for racist purposes by racist people. Within certain contexts, it is indeed a slur. In this specific FB group, moderators called for a thread discussing whether calling various socio-political themes spooky was allowed or whether people who used it would then be banned. Eventually, the group decided that “spook,” “spooky,” and “spooks” would all be banned, and that those who used them would be asked to “self-crit.” If they refused, they too would be banned from the group. “Sounds spooky” was problematic.

Depending on your pre-held beliefs here, you may either think this sounds fairly reasonable or completely insane. If you think it’s reasonable, you might believe in what many advocates of political correctness maintain: that these restrictions pose no burden and that following them is “just being polite.” After all, no one has a right to be in a FB group. Follow the rules and use a different word.

But there are limits to just being polite.

Banned words in leftbook groups often surpass the limits of words commonly recognized as oppressive. Some of that is good; people opposed to domination and hierarchy shouldn’t use oppressive language. We should be on the front lines of being non-dominant in our language. It would be absurd to suggest that words can never cause harm and I’m not here to call people triggered snowflakes for being legitimately hurt by slurs. It may even be better to err on the side of caution in these cases; it has often been the case that derogatory words weren’t widely recognized for decades. But context matters. Until someone brought up that “spook” had alternative [racist] connotations, no one in the group had a problem with it. No one was using “spooky” to reference racism; there was absolutely no connection between the Stirner meme and the word’s alternative racist use. Only after “spooky” was labeled problematic did anyone make the connection. The context in which members of the group used “spooky” was utterly different than the context in which it has racist significance. But afterwards, those who disagreed with the ban were removed from the group, and those who supported and enforced the ban were lauded as woke and particularly anti-racist.

When activism takes political correctness and purity politics to an extreme, “just being polite” reaches its limits. Besides “spooky,” other examples of banned words included moronic, dumb, crazy, lame, and stupid. These words were all flagged as ableist and we were told to use “silly” or some similar word, as a replacement. Twitter posts circulating among leftist communities claim that non-binary people shouldn’t abbreviate their identity as “NB” as that is also used by non-black POC. It’s also recommended that polyamorous people abstain from using “poly” in their communities because Polynesian people use it. The arguments for this rest solely on the idea that using these terms causes harm to the impacted community. Clearly, here, not only do some communities become privileged over others, but the nebulous idea of causing harm substitutes for other analysis.

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Internationalists in the Revolution

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 03:54

via ROAR Magazine

by Internationalist Commune of Rojava

Despite being under attack from the Turkish state and its allied militias operating under the banner of the Free Syrian Army on the one hand, and the Islamic State (ISIS) on the other, behind the front lines of the Syrian civil war the revolution in Rojava continues to develop in exciting ways. Inspired and shaped by the ideas of Abdullah Öcalan and the struggle of the Kurdish freedom movement, Rojava is a revolutionary project with the aim of challenging capitalist modernity through women’s liberation, ecology and radical democracy.

For several years, internationalists from all over the world have travelled to Rojava to contribute to and participate in the revolutionary project. Foreign fighters who have joined the armed struggle have garnered significant attention in the international media, but much less is known about the foreigners working behind the front lines. Inspired by the revolutionary perspective of the Kurdish freedom movement, they have come to learn and to support and help develop existing projects. Their aim is to organize a new generation of internationalists to challenge capitalist modernity.

Supported by the youth movement in Rojava (YCR/YJC), some of these activists established the Internationalist Commune of Rojava in early 2017. ROAR editor Joris Leverink spoke with two members of the Internationalist Commune about their motivations for joining the revolution, the different projects they have been involved in and the importance of solidarity beyond borders.

What were your motivations for going to Rojava, and how did you end up there?

Casper: I was involved in social and ecological movements in Europe, but with time I saw the problems and shortcomings of this way of doing politics. In fact, that concept was an obstacle to my political understanding in itselfI “did politics”, but I did not ask how to live and fight in a revolutionary way. And when I asked myself this question, I could not find an answer. Thanks to the resistance against ISIS in Kobane, I got to know the Kurdish movement and I saw that the revolution here lays out a path towards overcoming the critical problems this world faces — in social, political, economic and ecological aspects. To begin to follow that path, I came to Rojava and joined the revolution.

Clara: I think that each one of us should be able to feel and be revolted by any injustice in any place in the world. In fact, I was upset by the hypocrisy of our governments, our officials, our newspapers — and even other leftists — who spoke about ISIS, the Syrian people and the Kurds without taking real or concrete action. Only a few of them ever thought of coming here, which is the most important way to challenge these injustices and ensure our actions follow our words.

Casper: To be here is my expression of internationalism — overcoming the borders of states that are implemented between people. I often asked myself: “what would I have done against fascism in the times of the Spanish Civil War?” And many times, I answered: “of course I would have joined the resistance.” Today the fascist power is Turkey, and like in the times of the Spanish War, we as internationalists have to fulfil our duty.

Tell us a bit more about the Internationalist Commune: How was it set up? How many of you are there? What kind of projects have you initiated or been involved with?

Clara: The Internationalist Commune was jointly created by some internationalists who decided to engage in long-term work here, and comrades from the youth movement in Rojava (YCR/YCJ). The Commune aims to bring internationalism to life again, but also to find a new way within internationalism itself. As such, the commune is a structure that helps internationalists to find their place in the revolution. We support the struggle here, learn from the revolution, and do so in an organized way. For example, we share our experiences as internationalists, and help to organize solidarity structures around the world.

Casper: Part of the Commune is the newly constructed Internationalist Academy, where we have space to live, work and study together until people move on to work with different structures in the civil society of Rojava. It’s important that internationalists who arrive in Kurdistan have the chance to learn about the philosophy the Kurdish freedom movement stands on — and also to study the language.

Clara: One of our main projects is the campaign “Make Rojava Green Again.” The aim is to contribute to the ecological work of the revolution. But of course, the ecological situation cannot be analyzed without considering the state politics of Syria, Turkey and others.

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The post Internationalists in the Revolution appeared first on Infoshop News.

How Do Unions Win Organizing Campaigns? Let’s Look at the 20 Year Old Data That Told Us

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 03:17

via Medium

by Eric Dirnbach

An analysis of NLRB data from decades ago showed unions how to win elections against even tough employer union-busting campaigns. Is this still relevant today?

The Labor Movement Acknowledges its Crisis

After finishing graduate school I went to work in the labor movement in 2000 as a researcher and have spent the last 18 years doing union research, organizing and bargaining campaign work, policy analysis and similar projects.

That was a time when unions were in the middle of a renewed conversation about organizing, prompted by the election of the “New Voice” leadership at the AFL-CIO in 1995. A consensus had emerged that the labor movement was in a crisis due to falling membership and union density (the percentage of all workers who are union members). Many unions pledged to devote more resources to organizing and improve the way they ran organizing campaigns.

This issue became a focus of new research and many labor academics published probably dozens of books from 1995–2005 on unions and organizing, and I read most of them. One chapter of one book stuck in my mind all these years and I recently went back to reread it to see if it still offers lessons for today.

A Union Election Analysis

The first chapter of the 2004 book Rebuilding Labor: Organizing and Organizers in the New Union Movement, was “Changing to Organize: A National Assessment of Union Organizing Strategies” by Cornell professor Kate Bronfenbrenner and then-graduate student Robert Hickey. It featured an analysis of 412 NLRB union certification elections with over 50 eligible voters from 1998–1999. What was particularly interesting about this study is that they surveyed the union organizers who were involved in these elections to find out about union and employer tactics during the campaigns. They analyzed the data to see what factors mattered most for union wins. The authors noted that unions needed to engage in more strategic campaigning:

While the majority of unions today run very weak campaigns with no underlying strategy, the majority of employers run very strategic campaigns, taking full advantage of the range of effective anti-union tactics available to them, and adapting and tailoring those tactics, depending on the organizing environment and the union’s campaign.

The main hypothesis of the study was that unions would win more campaigns if they utilized what the authors called a “comprehensive union-building strategy,” composed of 10 tactical elements:

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The Movement as Battleground: Fighting for the Soul of the Yellow Vest Movement

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 05:36

via CrimethInc

In response to Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to increase the tax on fuel for “ecological” reasons, France has experienced several weeks of unrest associated with the yellow vest movement. This grassroots uprising illustrates how the contradictions of modern centrism—such as the false dichotomy between addressing climate change and considering the needs of the poor—can create social movements that offer fertile ground for populists and nationalists. At the same time, the increasing involvement of anarchists and other autonomous rebels in the unrest raises important questions. If far-right groups can hijack movements, as they did in Ukraine and Brazil, can anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians reorient them towards more systemic solutions?

“The yellow vests will triumph”—but what will triumph with them?

Yesterday, the Macron government offered its first concession, delaying the fuel tax for six months. At the same time, protests and police violence around France continue unabated; another day of action has been called for this Saturday, with the authorities promising a massive crackdown in response. The involvement of truck drivers and high school students signals that the story has yet to reach its climax. The model has already spread to Belgium and there are demonstrations called in Spain and Germany. As seems usual these days, no one on any side of the conflict seems to have any strategy in mind except to continue escalating.

But who will benefit from this escalation? Will it radicalize ordinary people, equipping them to defend their livelihoods against neoliberal austerity measures by means of direct action? Will it offer the police state a new justification for further repressive laws and measures? Will it bring a far-right nationalist government into power in place of the government of Macron?

Likewise, if this internally contradictory movement spreads to other parts of Europe, what aspects of it will spread? Will it supplant xenophobic populism with popular rage about the economy, clearing the way for a new wave of anti-capitalism? Will it offer a vehicle for the far right to create a surge of grassroots nationalism, opening a new era of fascist street violence? Will it continue to be a battleground on which nationalists, anarchists, and others vie to determine what form the opposition to centrists like Macron will take in the years to come?

Let’s get some perspective on the situation.

In the United States, in less reactionary times, the Occupy movement saw some of the same conflicts emerge. Legalistic liberals, leftist pacifists, insurrectionist anarchists, far-right crypto-fascists, and unaffiliated angry poor people all converged in the movement and fought to determine its character. At first, it was unclear whether Occupy would be most useful to middle-class democrats, right-wing conspiracy theorists, or the genuinely poor and desperate; in fact, in September 2011, we heard some of the same pessimism about Occupy that we heard from anarchists about the yellow vest movement in November 2018. However, after a few weeks, anarchists and other militant opponents of capitalism and white supremacy seized the initiative, especially in Occupy Oakland, focusing the movement on confronting the root causes of poverty and ensuring that many of the people who were radicalized during Occupy adopted emancipatory rather than reactionary politics.

We saw the opposite process play out in Ukraine two years later, when fascists gained the initiative via the very same approach anarchists had used in Occupy Oakland—taking the front lines in clashes with the police and forcing their political adversaries out of organizing spaces.

Today, the far right has made considerable gains since 2014, and conflicts worldwide are playing out at a much fiercer pitch than they were in the days of Occupy. France has a long history of movements for liberation, including many powerful struggles over the past decade and a half. Hopefully, these have created powerful networks that will not let nationalists take the lead in determining what social movements in France will look like.

But even if we understand the movement itself as a battleground, that only poses further questions. What is the best way to influence the character of a movement? How do we engage in this struggle in a way that doesn’t weaken the movement, offering the advantage to the police? How do we remain focused on connecting with other ordinary participants in the movement rather than getting mired in a private grudge match with fascists?

The fog of war.

In order to explore these questions in greater detail, we present the following update from France. This report picks up where our previous analysis left off, in the aftermath of the yellow vest demonstration of November 24.

The Aftermath of November 24

A week ago, total confusion reigned about the yellow vest movement—and within it. The self-proclaimed “leaderless,” “spontaneous,” and “apolitical” movement against the increase of taxes on gas had reached its first impasse. How could the movement remain unified when people from across the entire political spectrum were participating with completely contradictory views about how to address the government, what sort of tactics to employ, and what narratives to rally around? At the same time, how could the movement resist the attempts from political opportunists and party leaders to coopt it, while continuing to push? The yellow vest movement was fracturing over these issues.

The yellow vest movement is a battleground for the entire political spectrum.

The day after the Parisian demonstration on Saturday, November 24 that saw the avenue of the Champs Elysées transformed into a battlefield between demonstrators and police, part of the movement voted to elect eight official spokespersons. In doing so, they hoped to reintroduce some good old-fashioned hierarchy and centralization into the movement, so as to establish dialogue with the government.

Once again, with these elections, it was not easy to maintain the appearance that the yellow vest movement was “apolitical.” Two of the newly elected spokespersons had connections with the far-right:

  • Thomas Mirallès ran for the Front National (now Rassemblement National) in the 2014 municipal elections. To defend himself, he describes this political experience as “a youthful mistake” and emphasizes that since that election, he “has never campaigned again.”
  • On social media, Eric Drouet has shared videos against migrants and expressed arguments used by the xenophobic far right. Knowing that this could tarnish his new “respectable” image as a spokesperson of the movement, he deleted all his Facebook publications up to November 18.

However, these elections were rejected by another part of the movement that refused to fall into the traps of representation and negotiation. Some yellow vesters explicitly reject the concept of representation: rather than having a spokesperson, the idea is that every participant should speak for himself or herself. Moreover, after the intense confrontations that took place during the November 24 demonstration in Paris, several local organizers decided to distance themselves from the movement.

The conflict within the movement didn’t stop some determined yellow vesters from calling for another day of action on Saturday, December 1, in order to increase the pressure on the government to rescind the tax—or simply to destabilize the government itself. The tone was set!

State power, destabilized. The Government Tries Dialogue

It is clear now that the French government was not expecting the demonstrators’ rage to escalate, producing hours of rioting in Paris. When another call appeared to demonstrate in Paris the following weekend, the government realized that they were losing control of the situation. This is why, after weeks of expressing contempt towards the yellow vest movement, members of the government changed their strategy in hopes of pacifying the situation. In this regard, the decision to elect official spokespersons for the movement was a strategic mistake, in that it facilitated the government’s efforts to establish a “dialogue” in which politicians would dictate terms to representatives who would then dictate them to participants.

On Tuesday, November 27, President Macron made a public speech in order to present the creation of the Haut Conseil pour le Climat (the High Council for Climate), the purpose of which is to “provide an independent perspective on the Government’s climate policy.” During his speech, President Macron changed his strategy by directly addressing some of the demands and concerns of the yellow vesters, presenting himself as a pedagogue willing to listen to what people have to say. This political masquerade failed; many members of the yellow vest movement rejected the so-called “helping hand” offered by the president and criticized his hypocrisy, as Macron had categorically refused to meet some yellow vesters just that morning.

Later that day, at the request of President Macron, the Minister of Ecological Transition, François de Rugy, received the leading figures of the movement. This meeting was supposed to establish some kind of dialogue between the government and the movement in order to find an exit from the situation. However, after two hours, the deadlock remained. Unconvinced by their exchange with the minister, the two spokespersons reaffirmed their intention to demonstrate on Saturday, December 1.

Understanding that the situation was escalating as more and more yellow vesters rejected the idea of dialogue and committed to gathering in the streets, the government tried one more time to re-establish dialogue. On November 30, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe invited the eight spokespersons of the movement to a meeting. This meeting was a failure, too: in the end, only one spokesperson out of eight met with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Ecological Transition. A second spokesperson, Jason Herbert, left the meeting shortly after it began.

Yellow for all. A Fertile Ground for Populists

That same week, the self-proclaimed “legalist” and “official” part of the movement, including the elected leaders and spokespersons for the yellow vests, presented traditional media outlets with 42 demands. Looking at this list, it is easy to see the confusion within the movement, but also to identify some of the political influences that its protagonists share.

The list includes demands from every position on the political spectrum. There are social demands such as increasing minimum wage, fighting homelessness, and increasing financial assistance to handicapped people. But there are also reactionary demands, including deporting immigrants who haven’t received the right to asylum, blocking migration, developing a policy of assimilation for those who want to live in France, increasing the presidential term from 5 to 7 years, and providing more funding to the Justice department, the police forces, and the army.

Alongside these demands, we saw the now “classic” opposition to the increase of taxes on gas, as well as some ecological, protectionist, and nationalist arguments. The “legalist” or “official” part of the movement was playing a dangerous game in giving populists from the left to the far right reason to support the movement, if not enabling them to coopt it completely.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftist populist party France Insoumise, publicly denies that his party has engaged in any efforts to coopt the movement; in reality, the populist leader, who is obsessed with the idea of a coming “citizens’ revolution,” is hoping that the anger in the streets will weaken Macron’s government. This is purely opportunistic, as the leftist populist party aims to increase its ranks by attracting “angry” voters in the 2019 European elections.

On the other side of the political spectrum, emboldened by the wave of far-right victories in the US, Italy, and Brazil, nationalists know that this movement of collective anger represents a great opportunity for them to gain power and confirm their status as a “real political alternative” to the current government. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, leader of Debout La France, has been supporting the movement from the beginning, and some yellow vesters are members of his political party—Frank Buhler, for example, whose video became viral online.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National, believes that the yellow vest movement represents what she’s been describing for years as “the France of the people left behind.” The nationalist party believes that [yellow vesters] “look like our voters. Unhappy and unlucky people because they are usually invisible, and who have a strong contempt for politicians.” This explains why the Rassemblement National has been extremely cautious in terms of strategy. They fear that if they attempt to coopt the movement too obviously, they could turn the demonstrators against them. They decided instead to offer verbal support to the demonstrations without their leaders marching in the streets alongside protestors. They have concentrated on communicating and defending some of the “42 demands” in corporate media outlets. Marion Maréchal Le Pen, niece of Marine Le Pen, said that she was present at the Champs Elysées on November 24 and described herself as “an ardent moral support for the yellow vesters’ suffering,” claiming to have “a lot of empathy for them.”

December 1 in Paris. Preparing for the Unknown

Frustrated at having failed to neutralize the movement through dialogue, and fearing that, for the second week in a row, images of chaos in the streets of Paris would dominate the airwaves, the government decided to take every possible measure to maintain its precious republican order during the demonstrations of Saturday, December 1.

To secure the capital city, prevent or contain confrontations, and deal with the infiltration of radicals and “extremist elements,” the government arranged 5000 anti-riot police (Gendarmes and CRS) for the day. Their mission was to control all the access routes to the Champs Elysées, the meeting location of the demonstration. To ensure that no dangerous objects or possible projectiles would be brought inside the demonstration, the authorities filtered the access points, searching every single person who wanted to enter the perimeter. These controls were to be in effect from 6 am on Saturday, December 1 until 2 am on Sunday, December 2.

In order to protect the most important buildings, symbols, and organs of power, the authorities designated restricted areas where freedom of movement would be limited. All access to the Elysée (the Presidential palace), the Place Beauvau (the Ministry of the Interior), the Hôtel Matignon (the Prime Minister’s office), or the National Assembly was sealed off completely for the day.

Another reason the government took all those safety measures was that the yellow vests were not the only group demonstrating that day in Paris. At 10 am, railway workers were supposed to gather near the Saint Lazare train station to defend their status; they planned to join the yellow vesters after their action. At 12 pm, other trade unions were gathering for a traditional annual march against unemployment and precariousness. At 1 pm, several collectives of Parisian suburbs and anti-fascists decided to gather at Saint Lazare to join the yellow vest movement.

In short, on the eve of the December 1 national day of action, all the elements were combining to make for a truly explosive mixture in the streets of Paris.

All cops are bastards; all cars are barricades. The Fuse Is Lit…

Due to the dramatic scope of what happened on December 1, we cannot provide an exhaustive list of all the actions and confrontations that took place in the streets of Paris that day. This is only an incomplete overview of the course of events. Also, in reference to the images and stories presented herein, it bears saying that some of the protagonists may be members of the far right.

Early in the morning, the first demonstrators began to converge on the Champs Elysées. Police were already deployed and on the alert; all yellow vesters were searched before entering the perimeter of the demonstration. The trap set up by the government was in effect. During the first few hours of the day, police arrested several individuals on accusations of possessing weapons and projectiles.

This map depicts the zones that were declared forbidden or restricted. This map depicts the part of Paris where the clashes took place. In blue, the restricted area controlled by police forces; in yellow, the areas where yellow vesters circulated; in red, the major confrontation zones, including the route taken by some anarchist comrades in their report.

Surprisingly, the safety plan set up by authorities protected the avenue of the Champs Elysées, but not the Place de l’Etoile—the large traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe. Proposed by Napoléon I in 1806, the Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated in 1836 by Louis Philippe, then King of France, who dedicated the monument to the armies of the Revolution and the Empire. In 1921, the French government buried the Unknown Soldier of World War I beneath it. The flame of remembrance is revived everyday and official military commemorations take place annually in front of the flame. The monument is a symbol of French glory.

Aware that the Arc de Triomphe was not under police control, and knowing that, to access the Champs Elysées, they would have to submit to a search and have their identities checked, demonstrators began to gather around the monument, just outside the police perimeter. At 8 am, about a hundred yellow vesters were already on site, while the official beginning of the demonstration was due at 2 pm. Shortly after, around 9 am, the first confrontations began when yellow vesters tried to force their way through a checkpoint to enter the Champs Elysées. Police responded immediately with tear gas, which only escalated the clashes.

From this vantage point, it is not easy to confirm precisely who initiated the first confrontations or who took part. As during the previous week, the confrontations included everyone from neo-Nazis and other fascists to anarchists, anti-capitalists, and anti-fascists, not to forget angry yellow vesters from many other different backgrounds and political tendencies.

As is becoming usual with the yellow vest movement, the situation was quite confusing. Some protestors gathered around the Unknown Soldier’s flame as if they were paying tribute to war, nationalism, and imperialism. Others started singing the Marseillaise—the French national anthem. Meanwhile, the more determined protestors were throwing cobblestones at police forces, erecting barricades in the neighboring streets, and setting cars on fire.

Soon, the entire traffic circle was enveloped in tear gas. The situation continued to escalate. Every time the police line got too close, rioters welcomed them with a shower of cobblestones and other projectiles. In the meantime, the first tags appeared on the Arc de Triomphe; this imperial symbol was finally profaned! Sadly, although some of the tags were clearly inscribed by anarchist and anti-statist comrades, others were written by fascists.

The Arc de Triomphe. French taxes at work.

The presence of organized fascist groups during the clashes around the Place de l’Etoile during the morning of December 1 is undeniable. Several mainstream media outlets covering the yellow vest movement mentioned their presence among the yellow vest movement. In one article, the journalist says: “Several police vehicles had to leave the Place des Ternes hastily after being attacked by tens of individuals wearing visible far-right symbols.” In another article, the author reports the presence of monarchists, traditionalist Catholic groups, and nationalist and fascist groups, such as the GUD (Groupe Union Défense), a far-right student union—backing up these claims with photographs.

In their personal report about the yellow vest demonstration, anarchist comrades also mention the presence of the far right near the Place de l’Etoile:

“When we arrived at the Place de l’Etoile around 12 pm, it had already been a huge chaos for almost three hours. According to some comrades we met on site, the confrontations had been extremely violent underneath the Arc de Triomphe during the morning. It seemed that a lot of people had been injured. It was also in this area that radical far-right groups were most present during the day. The GUD was there. We saw a good amount of walls covered by Celtic crosses. The far right in its “legalist” tendency also appeared to be well-represented among the demonstrators. It seemed to us, and according to several other testimonies as well, that these fascist tendencies stayed present all day long around the Place de l’Etoile. Nevertheless, it was difficult to really quantify them.”

The Arc de Triomphe was the focal point of confrontations throughout the morning. Police repeatedly tried to repel protestors from the historical monument, but not without difficulties, as evidenced by this scene in which a group of demonstrators charged an anti-riot police unit that was trying to protect the edifice. During the charge, one policeman was isolated from his unit and beaten up by yellow vesters.

Clashes at the Arc de Triomphe.

This event illustrated once more the confusion and disagreement within the movement. While some yellow vesters were attacking the police officer, others helped him to escape from his attackers, so he could rejoin his unit. Later, another yellow vester even returned an anti-riot shield to the police after demonstrators had seized it.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the French capital, other people in yellow vests gathered in the district of Bastille and walked along the large street of Rivoli, passing in front of the main City Hall of Paris, with the objective of entering the Champs Elysées from the opposite side—via the Place de la Concorde.

The museum under the Arc de Triomphe. …Now It’s Time to Explode

The following section draws on this narrative published by anarchists, complemented by information from corporate media and other sources.

Around 1 pm, while the Arc de Triomphe was still surrounded by massive clouds of tear gas, a group of comrades decided to change their strategy and create a new dynamic by starting a wildcat demonstration and leaving the stalemate around the traffic circle behind them. Rapidly, a procession of 800 individuals left the square and entered the streets of wealthy Parisian districts. The crowd was quite heterogeneous, but the atmosphere seemed friendly.

On the Hoche avenue, the wildcat demonstration ran into a large procession of railway workers who were heading towards the Saint Lazare train station in order to join the afternoon call made by suburban and anti-fascist collectives. Without thinking twice, the two processions united and continued to march towards the meeting point. This development shifted the horizon of possibility for the rest of the day.

When all the processions converged in the luxurious Opéra district, thousands of individuals were marching through the streets. Over a century ago, during the Belle Epoque era, anarchists such as Emile Henry demonstrated the concept of propaganda of the deed in this neighborhood by attacking the rich and their symbols in their own luxurious district. Here, in contrast to the ambience around the Arc de Triomphe, the atmosphere was comfortable. Within this large procession, there were anarchists, anti-fascists, queer radicals, collectives against police violence, railway workers, garden variety yellow vesters, some people we might describe as rioters without adjectives, and many others, including the simply curious. For the first time, it really seemed that some kind of anti-capitalist and anti-fascist force could gain a foothold within the troubled waters of the yellow vest movement.

Heading south, the large procession finally arrived at Rue de Rivoli—a large street that connects Bastille to the Place de la Concorde, the highly restricted area near the Presidential palace. At this point, part of the crowd decided to go east and continue marching towards the City Hall of Paris—where they were welcomed by police forces with tear gas. The rest of the procession, about 1500 individuals, were determined to go the opposite way and force their way through the police checkpoint near Place de la Concorde.

When they approached the square, numerous police trucks and a water cannon blocked their way. Uninterrupted and intense confrontations followed between radicals and police forces. Barricades appeared on different fronts, projectiles were thrown at police, while a rain of tear gas canisters fell on protestors and the water canon attacked them at full blast. Eventually, however, the water canon seemed to have some technical issues. Some demonstrators seized this opportunity to set a car on fire for use as an additional barricade.

A barricade.

Further away, near Saint Augustin, about 3000 individuals had been gathering at a major intersection since 3 pm, building numerous barricades in the area to block traffic. People were joyously expressing their desire to overthrow President Macron. The fences of a nearby construction site were used to erect new barricades, while others were set on fire. A little further away, police forces were already blocking the streets. At this point, mounted police also appeared. Not thinking twice, protestors began breaking up the asphalt and throwing projectiles at the police. For over an hour, a confrontation continued at this intersection. This shows how determined people were that afternoon. In the meantime, a nearby bank was thoroughly damaged, while other demonstrators flipped a truck over. Law enforcement finally cleared the area of protestors with a massive tear gas attack.

Christmas comes early to Paris.

Several different parts of Paris were completely chaotic. Three cars were burning on the fancy Haussmann Boulevard, named for the reactionary urban planner who attempted to make Paris insurrection-proof after the revolution of 1848. Several streets further, an empty police car was destroyed, looted, and set aflame. A crowd of radicals arrived at Place Vendome, well known for its luxurious jewelry stores, the Ministry of Justice, and the infamous column that the Communards once destroyed. Plastic Christmas trees found in the nearby streets were piled up as barricades and set on fire.

While a thick cloud of smoke enveloped the Opera district, the anti-capitalists decided to move towards the Bourse, the historical stock market building—another symbol of capitalism and state power. Granted, since 1998, no more financial transactions are made inside this building. Nevertheless, several windows were smashed, the front doors were opened, and fireworks made their way inside the hall. Then the rioting crowd left the area, attacking another police car in a neighboring street on the way. They used urban furniture and construction equipment to block traffic, destroyed the front windows of several banks, and disappeared into the early night.

One day, all that money will just be burning garbage. The evening of December 1.

The emergence of some kind of anti-capitalist and anti-fascist bloc was an important development within the yellow vest movement. Likely drawing on years of experience in demonstrations such as the May Day and Loi Travail protests, the bloc took advantage of the general confusion to carry out multiple actions throughout Paris with clear objectives and intentions.

In addition to the clashes with police, there were also several confrontations with fascists. Members of the GUD were seen on a barricade with a Celtic cross flag. In another instance, protesters recognized Yvan Bennedetti—a well-known Nazi and former president of the ultranationalist Oeuvre Française, which disbanded after the killing of anti-fascist Clément Méric in 2013. He was effectively forced out of the area, if not out of the movement as a whole.

On Saturday, December 1, an insurrectional wind blew through the streets of Paris. Many thousands of people unleashed their rage against symbols of power: police were constantly harassed; banks and insurance agencies were systematically destroyed; numerous stores were looted, some even set on fire; cars and urban furniture were used to build barricades; several private mansions were vandalized and set on fire; historic monuments and republican symbols were occupied or attacked, including the Bourse and the Arc de Triomphe. Demonstrators succeeded in entering, looting, and destroying the museum located beneath the historical monument.

Scenes from December 1.

In view of such determination, the government and police forces were completely overwhelmed. There are several explanations for this. The first reason is the wide range of people taking part in the riots. It was not just anarchists and anti-capitalist radicals attacking police forces, but also a great number of other angry people in yellow vests including far-right activists and other rioters. Secondly, the protests continued to change and develop throughout the day, assuming unpredictable new forms. Finally, the extreme mobility, diffuse organization, and determination of the protestors made them a match for the officers, who were pinned down by their task of defending predefined areas. Indeed, as most police forces were assigned to positions around the restricted areas or busy dealing with confrontations near the Champs Elysées, they couldn’t respond to the developments in other districts of Paris. Nevertheless, on several occasions, members of the BAC (Anti-Criminality Brigade) were seen in the streets haphazardly shooting rubber bullets at every demonstrator in view.

Many officials and media agree that Paris hasn’t experienced such riots since 1968. To this assessment, we must add the following figures.

  • Altogether, 412 individuals were arrested and 378 of them were put in custody.
  • It is difficult to tell how much ammunition the police used; numbers vary widely between sources. However, it appears that they deployed about 8000 tear gas grenades, 1000 sting-ball grenades, 339 GLI-F4 stun grenades, 1200 rubber bullets, and 140,000 liters of water during the confrontations.
  • In the end, during the Parisian demonstration alone, 133 individuals were injured, while the authorities counted 112 cars, 130 pieces of urban furniture of one kind of another, and six buildings set on fire for a total of 249 fires.
  • The total amount of property destruction could reach 4 million euros.
The clashes around the Arc de Triomphe continued well into the night. The police unloading even more ammunition. Some of the consequences. If you want us to spend more on gas, you may spend more on cars. Fire Spreads on the Wind

Paris was not the only place in France where yellow vesters expressed their anger with actions. In various cities, protestors gathered for this third nationwide day of action; some of them were as determined as those who took the streets in Paris.

In Nantes, the first actions took place at the airport, where demonstrators succeeded in entering the tarmac. In the afternoon, about a thousand yellow vesters gathered in the streets of Nantes. The demonstration didn’t last very long; as soon as protestors tried to enter to the shopping district, police deployed massive quantities of tear gas to disperse the march.

In Toulouse, intense confrontations took place between yellow vesters and law enforcement. In Narbonne, yellow vesters set fire to a toll collection point. In Bordeaux, clashes erupted between police and protesters when the crowd of yellow vesters arrived at City Hall and tried to enter by force.

In Tours, a demonstration drew about 1300 individuals. Shortly after the beginning of the march, participants began smashing shop windows, and confrontations with police escalated. One yellow vester lost his hand as a consequence of a grenade thrown by police.

In Marseille, the confrontations began at the end of the day. Protestors burned trash containers, smashed several shop windows, looted stores, set a fire in front of the city halls of the 1st and 7th districts, and finally set a police car on fire in front of the Canebière police station. It appears that 21 individuals were arrested after these actions. An 80 year old women was killed when a tear gas grenade hit her in her face as she was closing her shutters.

Finally, about 3000 individuals gathered at Puy-en-Velay. Yellow vesters entered the courtyard of the local Prefecture with tires and refused to leave. Some of them set fire to the tires. Police forces tried to disperse the crowd by using tear gas, but this only increased the anger of the demonstrators. Numerous confrontations followed. The prefect himself tried to discuss with the protestors in order to bring back order but without any success. In the end, dissatisfied with the situation, yellow vesters burned down the Prefecture.

A day of chaos. The Aftermath

The day after the demonstrations, the government knew that it had reached an impasse of its own. President Macron was on a trip to Buenos Aires for the G20; as soon as he heard about the situation in Paris, he returned to France immediately to deal with this major political crisis.

On Sunday, December 2, President Macron met with some of the policemen and firemen who had been in the streets the previous day. He also made a small tour of the damages caused by hours of insurrectional confrontations before heading back to the Elysée palace for an emergency meeting with all of the government. The President asked his ministers to cancel all their business trips for the next two days.

President Macron did not make any official declaration after the meeting. Nevertheless, he personally asked the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to see all the political leaders of the different parties the next day, as well as the spokespersons of the yellow vest movement.

In the meantime, the left populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon requested that every political group in the National Assembly opposed to the government should make a vote of no confidence to denounce the “catastrophic management of the yellow vest issue.” At the same time, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen demanded the dissolution of the National Assembly. Once more, it is not difficult to see who wants to take advantage of the situation.

On Saturday night, the Minister of the Interior said that he was willing to consider all possibilities to ensure republican peace and order in France, even re-imposing the state of emergency to deal with the yellow vest movement. This is gratuitous: in the new antiterrorist law adopted on October 31, 2017, many of the elements that constituted the exceptional aspect of the state of emergency are now fully integrated into ordinary French common law—for example, the creation of restricted zones during events.

Nevertheless, on Sunday, December 2, yellow vesters determined to push their movement further were already planning a fourth round with the government, calling for another national day of action on Saturday, December 8. It happens that on the same day, the global climate march will take place in Paris. For the occasion, radicals have made a call for an offensive contingent. We will see whether it is possible for these two movements to establish a connection.

On Tuesday, December 4, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that the government had decided to suspend gas tax increases for the following six months. In addition, the government is also suspending new tougher rules on vehicle checks for the same amount of time, and committing not to increase electricity fares until May 2019. In addition, the Prime Minister announced that a debate about taxes and public expenses at a national scale would take place between December 15, 2018 and March 1, 2019. In making these concessions, the government aims to show that it is open to dialogue with yellow vesters.

Nevertheless, it seems that part of the yellow vesters are not willing to give up the fight. The spokespersons of the yellow vest movement rejected the invitation from the Prime Minister to find a way out of the current situation; several local yellow vests groups are calling to continue their actions.

So far, the government’s announcement does not seem to have had much effect upon the ranks of the yellow vest movement. Since the beginning of the movement on November 17, the number of demonstrators has dropped as the intensity of conflict has escalated. Yet even if some yellow vesters have dropped out due to the increasingly confrontational strategy, the last day of action showed that some demonstrators are determined to continue forward.

We still have an unknown horizon before us—and so many dawns yet to break.

Revolutionary optimism. Some Reflections

As we hoped, an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist front has emerged within the yellow vest movement. In Paris on December 1, this created a convergence point and catalyst for people who do not identify with nationalist narratives. Hopefully, this will help to spread a discourse that identifies the structural causes of Macron’s programs, rather than framing them as the “betrayals” of a politician who should simply be replaced with a more nationalistic populist.

In only three weeks, the yellow vest movement has gone from blocking traffic to demolishing the wealthy districts of Paris. This illustrates the efficacy of direct action, horizontality, and the refusal to negotiate. In the era of globalized capitalism, any movement that is to face down the neoliberal assault on the living standards of ordinary people will be forced to escalate in this manner and to resist all attempts to control, represent, or placate it.

As many anarchists have emphasized before, effective resistance to capitalism requires the participation of a wide range of people, not just those who share a common ideological framework. This means that a movement must spread beyond the control of any one group or position. Indeed, we can understand the yellow vest movement as a widespread popular appropriation of the confrontational tactics that anarchists and other rebels have been employing in France for years—for example, in the protests against the Loi Travail and on May Day.

Yet the widespread appropriation of radical tactics is not necessarily a step towards a better world unless people also absorb the values and visions that accompany them. The rise of Trump and grassroots nationalism in the US has been marked at every step by the far-right appropriation of left and anarchist rhetoric and tactics, which they have used to advance their own agenda.

What happens inside a movement against the reigning government is just as important as what happens in the conflicts between that movement and the police. This is why we have emphasized the importance of fighting on two fronts—against Macron’s police and likewise against the fascists who hope to impose their own authoritarian agenda.

United colors of resistance? There’s No Such Thing as an Apolitical Movement

From the outset, the yellow vest movement has claimed to be an “apolitical” space open to all. This has offered fertile ground for populists and nationalists to promote their ideas. In most cases, they have not been the majority of those taking action in the streets, but they have often set the discourse online. Fascist groups have gained visibility, too, even if their number seems comparatively modest. They are better organized now than they were at the beginning of the movement. We must not abandon the streets and the movement to the far right.

No social movement is a monolith; each is a heterogeneous space of perpetual change and tension. It is foolish to deem movements worthy or unworthy, standing in judgment like the Pope, relinquishing the ones that do not meet our standards to the influence of our adversaries. Instead, we can aim to intervene in movements in ways that enable the liberating currents within them to gain momentum and become distinct from the reactionary currents. The challenge is to offer our fellow participants useful examples of how to solve their immediate problems and to connect those with emancipatory visions of long-term change—and to do all this without creating tools or momentum that fascists, authoritarian leftists, or other opportunists can capitalize on.

We need to think more about the relationship between street battles and the battle of ideas. Historically, anarchists have often assumed that those who are willing to take the most risks will be better positioned to determine the character and goals of a movement. On the ground, this is often true—for example, when a movement escalates conflict with the police, it can force centrists and legalists to withdraw. But we should also remember all the times that rebels from oppressed groups have taken the most risks and suffered the most repression, only to see authoritarians take advantage of their sacrifices to consolidate their power. This is a very old story, from the French revolutions of 1830, 1848, and 1870 and the Italian Risorgimento to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

We should bear all these lessons in mind when we weigh whether the best way to gain leverage within a movement is to be the ones who take the most risks within it. How can we make sure that our adversaries within the movement cannot force us to take the majority of the casualties while they simply—take power?

Likewise, if our only idea for how to gain leverage within a movement is to engage in the most dangerous or disruptive activity, far-right organizations with greater social privilege and more access to resources may be able to beat us on that playing field while taking fewer losses.

A decade ago, in less complicated times, some anarchists and autonomists imagined that, rather than being connected by a common set of values and aspirations, people in revolt could be connected simply by behaving ungovernably in relation to the prevailing authorities. It is still possible to find examples of this “anti-ideological” attitude in France today, despite the evidence that at least a few of those who wear the yellow vest are simply fighting to enthrone other authorities who will be just as dangerous when they come to power. It would not be the first time that rebellious street violence brought a new oppressive government into office.

Yes, the order that reigns must be undermined by any means necessary. The same goes for the proponents of rival ruling orders. Driving Yvan Bennedetti out of a demonstration is just as important as defending it against the police.

At the same time, it must be clear to all the newly mobilized and politicized participants in these movements that we are not simply robots acting according to a pre-programmed ideological framework, but that we genuinely hope to connect with them, exchange ideas and influences with them, and work together to create solutions to our mutual problems. Our opposition to authoritarians is not a tenet of a religion, but a hard-won lesson about what it takes to create spaces of freedom and possibility.

In this regard, the moments of dialogue between strangers that take place in the street are just as important as the courageous acts by which people hold police at bay and force out fascists. Let’s not be naïve, let’s not disavow our opinions or abandon our convictions, but let’s remain open to the possibility that we could become stronger and more vibrantly alive by working with others we have not yet met, who share our problems but not our reference points.

The Long Game

Sooner or later, this moment of crisis will pass—either the leaders will cut a deal with the state and the police will succeed in isolating those who refuse to cooperate, or Macron’s government will fall and be replaced by another that promises to solve the problems that drove people into the street.

And what then? Will the far right be able to claim that they were the ones who scored the victory against Macron? Most of the aforementioned 42 demands are compatible with both leftist and far-right populist programs; it would not be surprising to see the movement split in two and be coopted by the two populist parties. Since the riots last weekend, both populist leaders have been galvanized by the demand to oust President Macron and his government. It is entirely possible that a far-right government will come to power after Macron. What should we be doing right now to prepare for that situation, to make sure that people will continue to come together in the streets against them?

As we fight—in France, in Belgium, and everywhere else that neoliberal governments are forcing austerity measures on us—let’s be thinking about how to come out of each fight more connected, more experienced, and with a sharper way of identifying the questions before us. Good luck to each of you, dear friends.

Further Reading: Comparing the Yellow Vests with Ukraine and Italy

Gilets Jaunes et Extrême Droite: Les Leçons de Maïdan

Les Gilets Jaunes à la lumière de l’expérience italienne

The post The Movement as Battleground: Fighting for the Soul of the Yellow Vest Movement appeared first on Infoshop News.

‘We Are In a State of Insurrection’: Deep Inequality and Macron’s Dedication to Elites Fuel Yellow Vest Uprising in France

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 16:23

via Common Dreams

by Julia Conley

After more than two weeks of protests over high fuel prices and intensifying inequality across France under centrist President Emmanuel Macron, the French government announced Tuesday that it would suspend planned price hikes for gas and electricity—but the demands of the so-called “Yellow Vest” protesters have become more broad, and more broadly embraced, as the demonstrations have swelled in size and energy.

The price increases for the utilities will be suspended for six months, said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, but leaders of the demonstrations in which hundreds of thousands have donned yellow safety vests were dismissive of the gesture.

“It’s a first step, but we will not settle for a crumb,” Benjamin Chaucy, one of the leaders of the protest, told Al Jazeera. “The French don’t want crumbs, they want a baguette.”

The yellow vest protests began November 17, with 300,000 low- to middle-income demonstrators expressing outrage over fuel costs, which have gone up 20 percent in the last year as a result of Macron’s plan to tax carbon use. The price hikes are the result of France’s effort to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in the next 12 years—but the reaction from protesters suggests intense anger across the country as low-income households have bore the burden of the green initiative, adding to the untenable cost of living for many, while the rich have been given generous tax cuts.

I don’t understand why not give the low income people fuel subsidies and go after the real big polluters??

“France suspends fuel taxes increase to end Yellow Vests protest” by @tictoc

— iamonfire (@mercforce) December 4, 2018

In addition to their dissatisfaction with the government’s offer regarding the price hikes, the yellow vest protesters have widened the scope of their demonstrations and demands in recent days. The protests have exploded into an impossible-to-ignore statement of outrage over Macron’s leadership, which had a 23 percent approval rating according to a poll released Tuesday by Ifop-Fiducial for Paris Match and Sud Radio; working conditions for paramedics; school reforms; and the perception that Macron, a former investment banker, is a president for the country’s elite.

Workers who live in rural areas far from city centers were the worst-affected by the fuel taxes, as they rely on their cars far more than city dwellers, bolstering protesters’ complaints that Macron represents those wealthy enough to live in Paris and other large cities.

“People want fair fiscal justice. They want social justice,” Thierry Paul Valette, a Paris protest coordinator, told Al Jazeera.

Four people have died in the Yellow Vest protests so far, and an estimated 75,000 people took part in demonstrations that turned violent in Paris this past Saturday. Hundreds of vehicles were set on fire and the Arc de Triomphe was vandalized with the words, “The Yellow Vests will triumph.”

Meanwhile, police used water cannons, stun grenades, and hundreds of canisters of tear gas against the demonstrators, as well as arresting about 400 people.

French government considers state of emergency over Paris yellow vests protests

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) December 2, 2018

Violence during ‘yellow vests’ protests in Paris — in pictures

— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 3, 2018

‘Listen to the anger of the people’: the message of this yellow vest protester in Paris’s Place de la République #GiletsJaunesParis #f24 #giletsjaunes #GiletJaune

— Catherine Norris-Trent (@cntrentF24) December 1, 2018

65 injured, 140 arrested in #Paris #protests. #GiletsJaunesParis

— Carles Dijous (AAlb) (@carlesdijous) December 1, 2018

“We are in a state of insurrection, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jeanne d’Hauteserre, mayor of Paris’s 8th district, told Al Jazeera.

According to French journalist Agnès C. Poirier, both far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing group France Unbowed, have tried to link themselves to the Yellow Vest movement—but their attempts have been rebuffed.

“The protesters seem wholly uninterested in party politics,” Poirier wrote in the New York Times last week. “But they do have something in common with the extreme right and the radical left: a profound dislike of Mr. Macron.”

While only a few hundred thousand people have physically taken part in the movement so far, Le Figaro and Franceinfo reported late last month that 77 percent of French people support the Yellow Vests’ protests.

“The Yellow Vests seem to be the face of a deep malaise in French society,” wrote Poirier.

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The Yellow Vests in France

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 15:52

by the Anarchist Communist Group

A movement of three hundred thousand, with 3,000 blockades, what is the Gilets Jaunes movement?

The Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement emerged in France in November. It got its name from the high visibility tabards that those who take part in the actions wear. It is a movement mobilising around rising taxation, in particular the tax on diesel. It was able to undertake actions in rural areas like the Aveyron department where 2,000 took part in blockades in villages, in small towns like Villefranche de Lauragais where 300 demonstrated and Montgiscard, where 200 came out on the streets. On November 17th more than 300,000 took part in blockades of roundabouts, supermarkets and petrol stations. This action continued on the following two days. However the demonstrations have seen large scale brandishings of the tricolour, the French national flag. Indeed the extreme right is one of the components of the movement, with groups like the monarchist (and anti-Semitic) Action Francaise, the openly fascist GUD, etc. A Muslim woman wearing the veil was forced to take it off by some demonstrators and there were many racist insults against black and Arab people. At one blockade Yellow Vests saw immigrants hiding in a truck and called the police. People perceived as homosexual by these demonstrators were insulted or held up longer in the blockades. These acts are partly attributable to the far-right groups. But, and a big but, in many places there were attempts at self-organisation, with social and ecological demands that went beyond the Macron tax on diesel.

The movement is very mixed, with on one hand, the aggressive waving of the tricolour as already mentioned and on the other, crowds made up of families with their children in a festive mood. Various self-proclaimed spokespeople have come forward to speak on behalf of the Yellow Vests. These have included local bosses, right-wing and far right activists. This shows the attempt by these different interest groups to claim the movement for their own. However, the spreading of blockades then caused the bosses organisations MEDEF and SME to call for the end of these blockades.

The Macron government has imposed a tax on diesel in the name of environmental concerns. But this is the same government that has no tax on fuel for airplanes and private jets and cruise ships. It is the same government that has closed railway lines, forcing people to use cars. It is the same government that has closed down hospitals, maternity centres, tax centres and post offices, forcing people to travel miles.

The broad slogan of “Ras-Le-Bol Fiscal” (Fed Up With Tax) has united the working class, shopkeepers, craftspeople and employers in a vaguely defined movement. Some transport employers joined the demonstrations because they saw an attack on their profits. The far right quickly participated in the movement followed by different currents of the left and right who did not want to miss the opportunity of taking part in a movement of such size.

Among some Yellow Vests there were opinions expressed going beyond the opposition to fuel tax rises to include opposition to contributions to social assistance and social security and pensions. These neo-liberal opinions would certainly legitimise the plans of the Macron regime for further attacks on public services and social security.

All the same, the Yellow Vests movement has given a strong indication of the simmering anger throughout France, a France of precarity and austerity. In particular, that anger is being expressed in what are now rural deserts where transport, health services and schools have been wiped out. It could point to the emergence of new social movements in opposition to the planned attacks by the government. Many pensioners are living under the poverty line whilst the very rich and the shareholders are increasing their wealth.

Unfortunately the uniting of bosses and workers around a common slogan has shown how class consciousness among French workers has been eroded over the last few decades. Anarchists in France must react to the movement with clear ideas about class opposition, and one of the key demands must be the renewing of public transport which will be free of charge.

As the movement developed there was widespread police violence against the Yellow Vests. A concerted police attack on demonstrators at Puy en Velay led them to attack the prefecture (seat of local administration). In Paris, police blocked the Champs-Élysées , using tear gas and water cannons. This caused a dispersal into the surrounding wealthy areas. Windows of luxury stores were attacked with an attempted attack on the Bourse (Stock Exchange). In Martigues and Vichy, the Yellow Vests were joined by workers marching behind union banners, although they were not apparent in other cities and towns. In some areas lorry drivers were willing captives of the blockades and mingled with the Yellow Vests.

One of the new slogans to emerge within the Yellow Vest movement has been for the resignation of Macron, who is seen as a symbol of the arrogant ruling class and as the controller of the recent austerity measures. Macron is now considerably rattled and he and his En Marche party are now looking for leaders of the Yellow Vests to negotiate with. But this movement by its very nature is diffuse and disparate and any such self-styled leaders that emerge will be quickly co-opted by the regime. It is all the more important to carry out revolutionary propaganda within the Yellow Vest movements and to call for general assemblies and mandated delegates than can make fighting co-option, racism , sexism, homophobia and fascism that much easier. As the organisation Alternative Libertaire commented:

“The movement of yellow vests is a real popular revolt, with an obvious class dimension, but whose political colouring depends on local contexts. The worst is next to the best. That the fascist and nationalist leprosy infects several points of the mobilization and flowers in the words of some of the yellow vests is not surprising given the current political context. But to believe that the far right could monopolize a popular struggle of magnitude is an incredible admission of weakness.”

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A-infos; Keeping the torch burning for the 24th year

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 05:38

via A-Infos

by Andrew Flood

In 1994 Class War organised an international anarchist gathering in London under the heading of ’10 days the shook the world’. It provided a location that brought together a number of anarchist who had been working on the promotion of the anarchist idea online and set off a string of collaborations that would last in some cases to the present day. —- Somewhat earlier in 1990 another international anarchist meeting in the Netherlands had seen the establishment of a physical printed international anarchist news sheet as part of a new A-Infos network designed to facilitate anarchist communications between countries which involved anarchists from Canada, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Spain and Uruguay.  Part of this work was each group producing a a-infos bulletin in the languages of the country it was in, in 1995 there were 11 groups doing this.

In 1995 an electronic version of A-Infos was launched where individual news items were transmitted via email and archived on a website – this involved people, including myself, who had met at the London event the previous year.  Initially this was a single general multi-lingual email list but it soon because possible to subscribe to single language lists and to a digest version of the lists. Essentially this is still the distribution structure of a-infos over 20 years later in 2018, indeed when you visit the webpage it still has something of the flavour of a page from the 1990s in terms of design.  A-Infos form and organisation has probably remained consistent since the round of changes that followed the 1997 Zapatista encuentro in Spain which also saw the launch of Peoples Global Action.

An important aspect of a-inofs in comparison with some of the other anarchist websites of the time was that it took anarchist practise seriously and a lot of effort was put into creating a collective system of direct democracy through which decisions were made.  Likewise those involved in running the collective were also involved in anarchist organisations and struggles offline. Indeed Ilan Shalif who I believe is the longest running of those members continues to receive a regular dose of tear gas from the Israeli military at the weekly protests in Palestine against the building of the apartheid wall.

To put it mildly rather a lot happened in terms of internet development after those years but a-infos struck to its original format and publishing methods as countless other projects were founded, bloomed and in many cases ceased to exist.  As such one major point of value it provides today is an archive that probably includes any significant bit of anarchist news from the last 23 years, often translated into multiple languages. That is one hell of a resource for anyone willing to put serious time into tracking the history and development of anarchism in that period.

Left organisational methods date from the period before the ‘many to many’ communications facilitated by the internet came into being.  From before the period when video and audio distribution became something that anyone could do at very little cost. From before the period where one to many communications required a lot of money and often time to reach any substantial number of people.  From before the period when researching a daily obscure piece of history about a land far away could be instantaneous. From before the period when many people could watch in real time events unfold at a location across the planet and see and hear ordinary participants in those events.  From before the period where money could rapidly be raised from people you have no previous contact with at all. This list could be longer but the point should be clear, the communications revolution that is the internet is, if anything, more profound than the printing press was and as such is remaking organisation and rebellion.

This isn’t simply a question of using new communication technology.  It’s also a question of understanding how that technology has already remade social relations to the extent that the society of 2018 is radically different from the society of 1990.  So different that a lot of the old methods simply don’t work very well any more as they required different sorts of people for them to work. There is an extent to which the archaic form a-infos retained from the mid 1990s isn’t that much of a disadvantage in 2018 as the pace of change over rate years since has been so rapid that each new innovation has only remained current for a couple of years before it is replaced by the next.  During the summit protest period of the early 2000s a few of us had a somewhat serious conversation over drinks at a counter-summit event trying to work out if at that point we could provide live video news from the front line of protests. It was technically possible but would have required about 50,000 euro worth of extra equipment and satellite hire, today almost everyone has all the needed equipment in their pocket.

The pace of innovation has slowed down, each years new phones or computers are now pretty similar to the previous years.  So it would be an interesting project to consider what a-infos might look like if it were to be built in the light of all the important developments in the years since, from Social Media through to everyone having a pretty good video camera on their phone and the ability to live stream.   There would certainly be considerable value in a ‘one stop shop’ anarchist new service that provided not use written reports but also audio and video, originating in multiple regions and languages around the globe. This is something we very much need going forward, Climate Change has added a comparatively short count down to the old ‘Socialism or Barbarism’ slogan.

A-infos today remains a useful way of getting a direct email every day (or even per item) that will probably contain any significant anarchist news from the previous few days and which isn’t reliant on a Facebook algorithm deciding this is something you might be interested in.  You’ll find the list of subscription options at:
A – I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
By, For, and About Anarchists
Send news reports to A-infos-en mailing list

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The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 16:22

via The Nation

by Dave Lindorff

On November 15, Ernst & Young and other private firms that were hired to audit the Pentagon announced that they could not complete the job. Congress had ordered an independent audit of the Department of Defense, the government’s largest single cost center—the Pentagon receives two of every three federal tax dollars collected—after the Pentagon failed for decades to audit itself. The firms concluded, however, that the DoD’s financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan tried to put the best face on things, telling reporters, “We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it.” Shanahan suggested that the DoD should get credit for attemptingan audit, saying, “It was an audit on a $2.7 trillion organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial.” The truth, though, is that the DoD was dragged kicking and screaming to this audit by bipartisan frustration in Congress, and the result, had this been a major corporation, likely would have been a crashed stock.

As Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, a frequent critic of the DoD’s financial practices, said on the Senate floor in September 2017, the Pentagon’s long-standing failure to conduct a proper audit reflects “twenty-six years of hard-core foot-dragging” on the part of the DoD, where “internal resistance to auditing the books runs deep.” In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act, which required all departments and agencies of the federal government to develop auditable accounting systems and submit to annual audits. Since then, every department and agency has come into compliance—except the Pentagon.

Now, a Nation investigation has uncovered an explanation for the Pentagon’s foot-dragging: For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher, regardless of military necessity. DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions—knowing that Congress would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the DoD the following year, according to government records and interviews with current and former DoD officials, congressional sources, and independent experts.

Read more

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The 2018 G20 in Buenos Aires: Logbook November 17-19

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 05:09

via CrimethInc

Peronism, Counter-Summit Creativity, and the Schedule of Resistance

In this second installment of our coverage of the 2018 G20 summit, our international correspondents report on the political and cultural events leading up to the summit. China has given Argentina a considerable amount of military equipment with which to brutalize and potentially mass-murder people in Buenos Aires if they interfere with the state agenda of totalitarian control during the G20 meetings. Meanwhile, organizers have announced the schedule for a week of resistance. The lines are drawn.

Saturday, November 17 Day of “Militant Peronism”

This day marks the return of Juan Domingo Perón on November 17, 1972 after 17 years of exile in Franco’s Spain; the date is still celebrated annually by the Peronist movement in Argentina. Traditionally, there is a large rally with numerous speeches. This year, it took place in the stadium of a local football club. The motto is: Unidos o Dominados, “united or dominated.” The dominant theme is President Macri’s austerity budget package imposed by the IMF and his “necessary replacement—at the latest, by the 2019 elections.” Naturally, of course, by the Peronists.

But what is this “unity,” exactly? Some Peronists in the Senate voted for the budget package; they were called “traitors” at the rally. But also, the powerful Peronist trade union federation CGT is conducting a dialogue with a high-ranking IMF representative, while other parts of the Peronist movement support the protests and are also calling for a protest against the G20 summit. These call themselves “Peronismo popular”; they are left-oriented and still able to mobilize masses of people onto the streets. In addition, a large part of the Porteños (the urban residents of Buenos Aires) feel connected to Peronism; in many cases, this loyalty has been passed down across multiple generations. This describes a considerable portion of modern and cosmopolitan urban society in Buenos Aires.

Between Nazi Exiles and Left-Wing Guerrillas

What most Perón fans don’t know—or have suppressed in their memories—is that after World War II, Perón opened Argentina to thousands of high-ranking Nazi officials. Above all, he wanted them to help him establish his own aviation industry, including the secret continuation of the Nazi missile program. Some ended up in Peron’s secret service; others set up “Mercedes-Benz Argentina” with his support, where demonstrably massive quantities of dirty Nazi money were laundered. The Holocaust co-organizer Eichmann found employment there, along with many other Nazis.

At the same time, Perón implemented extensive social programs aimed at the poorer sections of the population and promoted culture, education, and civil rights, including the introduction of women’s suffrage. In foreign policy, he was emphatically anti-American, but in domestic policy, he fought communists and brought the previously heterogeneous trade unions into line. He controlled the press through state-controlled paper quotas. When the previously flourishing economy went downhill, Perón—though the “legitimately elected president”—was expelled by a military putsch in 1955 with the backing of influential entrepreneurs, the church, bourgeois intellectuals, and the CIA.

A permanent change of government was established under the control of the military, the economy continued to decline, and social tensions increased. In the 1960s, armed groups throughout Latin America began the “revolutionary struggle,” including the so-called Montoneros in Argentina. They simultaneously referred to the successful Cuban revolution, Peronism, and the anti-imperialist struggle. Their tactics ranged from organizing soup kitchens in the poor neighborhoods to carrying out armed raids on military facilities. Not least, this movement helped create the pressure that led to Perón’s return in 1972. He died in 1974 and his third wife, Isabell Perón, took power. The military overthrew her in 1976.

A military dictatorship ensued, lasting until 1983, which particularly persecuted the Montoneros with an immense bloodshed.

Sunday, November 18 La Criatura: The “Performative Counter Summit”

The two-day festival La Criatura was about “thinking up other ways to make politics.” As the organizers put it:

“The politics we make is old. We cannot close our eyes to what is happening in Brazil because it is a global trend.”

The event took place in one of the numerous and largely self-organized cultural centers of Buenos Aires, organized by the Asociación “CRIA”—Creando Redes Independientes y Artisticas. In South America, “crias” also means Lama—“young animals.”

All kinds of workshops, many of an artistic nature, took place in various adjoining rooms. A long table was set up in the large hall in mockery of the G20 summit. Here, people gradually took seats for the presentation of the various thematic forums.

First, there was a short introduction by a woman dressed up as a monster with snake hands. She read a pithy text:

“A predator devours the world. It is able to destroy countries and nations, cultures and peoples, change nature genetically, turn forests into deserts, undermine the seas and drill into mountains to extract the last mineral fragment. This predator wants to leave us nothing, a humanity freed from everything. In defiance of this devastating scene, there are other herds of monstrous creatures that reinvent themselves in the face of this plundering, that create counter-pedagogy, building utopias and errant becomings.”

Then they presented a historical outline of former summit protests—beginning in the early 1990s, when the anti-globalization movement slowly developed, and passing from the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa to Mar de la Plata (about 400 km south of Buenos Aires), where in 2005, the Organization of American States met in the face of massive protests. They emphasized that over the years, resistance has shifted more and more to the global South and that a specific expression was found there, which still has to be expanded.

This was followed by an impressive lecture by a Mapuche, who told the story of his people and of growing oppression and repression, but also of the resistance and the expressiveness of the Mapuches, which is gaining more and more international attention through social media. In the end, he emphasized amid applause that the struggle of the Mapuche nation cannot be solved solely by granting them their land. Rather, their struggle represents a future model for how to inhabit the earth and they are convinced that it is time to develop alternatives.

There followed are several contributions by representatives of the feminist movement who presented their progress and the growing resistance against patriarchy, stressing that all the different forms of resistance to the capitalist patriarchal system must be given the same importance. They referred to the immense mobilizations of the last few months, in which huge numbers of people took to the streets against the ban on abortion, among other things.

Numerous other contributions followed—for example, a presentation by the representative of the Senegalese Association in Argentina on the growing importance of migration in the face of extensive exploitation and oppression in the regions of the global South, above all in Africa.

Finally, the conference took a position against the current criminalization of the resistance and called for participation in the week of resistance to the G20 from November 25 to December 1.

Monday, November 19 The Schedule of the Week of Protest

The program describes almost 60 public events. Most of them are discussions, workshops, or lectures—many within the framework of the alternative (counter) summit—but there are also a number of public actions. At this point in time, ten days before the summit, not all the events have been announced; this was no different at previous summit protests.

The schedule impressively documents the diversity and internationalism of the upcoming counter-events and protests. It is available online in English here and in Castellano here.

Argentine security personnel test military-grade crowd repression equipment from China, preparing to attempt to impose a future of brutal violence on humanity.


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The Megamachines Are False Specters — A Response To Gelderloos

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 05:02

Via C4SS

by William Gillis

November 26th, 2018

I think it’s a shame that anarchists don’t write more on either geopolitics or analyses of the future; over the last two centuries our greatest successes have come from our imagination and foresight. For this reason I applaud Peter Gelderloos’ recent attempted forecast, published in a variety of forms by Crimethinc.

There’s much to agree with in Gelderloos’ analysis and I applaud his effort, but there’s nevertheless much in his analysis I find askew.

We could do with more predictive evaluation of geopolitical or institutional forces, and I hope this opens the door to more writing in these arenas by anarchists, but there’s an ever-present danger to such lenses: you start seeing the world primarily in terms of big social structures and miss other critical dynamics — often assuming too much solidity, integrability, or centrality to said social structures. In my opinion Gelderloos’ analysis falls into this trap when considering capitalism, fascism, and technology. To be more specific on each account: he follows a rather marxist notion of capitalism as a unified whole system with a tendency to self-preservation, he frames fascism in terms of dictatorial institutions rather than an ideology of hypernationalism, and he struggles to maintain the dated narrative of a unified technological global social system.

What’s common across these is the projection of solidity to abstractions where the institutional macro structures are privileged as the most relevant causal forces. This glosses over the root dynamics of individuals, ideologies, and tools, treating them in short as mere cogs making up the broader “systems.”

Gelderloos’ analysis of fascism should be the most glaring issue for anarchists since he attempts to break with the longstanding near-consensus in antifascist analysis by instead casting “fascism” purely in terms of dictatorship — a structure of institutions — rather than as an ideology. Gelderloos is correct that fascists are ideological opportunists on a variety of things, for example they really don’t give a shit about economic systems. But it’s profoundly mistaken to assume fascism hasn’t had a stable and coherent ideological core. Fascism is always a hypernationalism, a “might makes right” fetishization of raw power and denial of empathy with beyond one’s tribe, community, or imagined “people.” This doesn’t require a centralized state apparatus, much less one structured in dictatorial terms. The last few decades of fascist permutations have shown clearly that you can have democratic or decentralized variants of fascism (eg “national anarchism”). Indeed these are arguably the most common varieties of fascism today, from the populists of the new European right to the goat sacrificing tribes of the Wolves of Vinland.

Gelderloos demands to know what conceptual clarity is provided by analyzing fascism in ideological and philosophical terms rather than as a specific lost historical moment. Well first of all, it can give us insight into the actual fucking organizing of fascists, or at the very least their descendants. But second of all it’s useful because — despite their opportunism on some fronts — fascists are often refreshingly clearheaded about things in a way liberals cannot afford to be. Liberalism is the tortured grab-bag of contradictions, with capitalism and democracy desperately trying to distract us (and themselves) from the functioning of the existing system. If liberalism is a pack of lies and distractions, fascism infamously doesn’t bother disguising its lies, flak, and prevarication. Fascism is the most confident and explicit expression of the ideology of power itself: Might makes right. Care only about your own. That there is a philosophical position diametrically opposed to anarchism is important and provides a lot of illumination. Fascism clears the air. Just as anarchism is not a fixed blueprint or system, fascism is not a system but a set of values, a motivation and take on power utterly at odds with our own. This means it has just as diverse expressions as anarchist ethics do. But at the end of the day you are either for or opposed to power, you either care about all or just a few. Inevitably the scales tend to fall and everyone is forced — as in the Spanish revolution — to side with anarchism or fascism.

Ideology and philosophy matter. They’re not always post-facto rationalizations of an existing context or system, but often the sincere source of new developments. The problem with lenses as sweeping as geopolitics is you get into the habit of evaluating the behavior and function of institutions and ignore the roots — the actual people and psychologies and patterns of relation that give rise to these structures.

One of the worst legacies the left has infected anarchists with is a totalizing molochian view of capitalism. This often leads to some really skewed predictions when we start freaking about “commodification” (often really just meaning a more fine tuned accounting of certain considerations). A certain type of pop-marxists have convinced many that “commodification” is magically in-differentiable from capitalism per se. Got some commodification? Someone’s keeping finer-grained track of something? Fuck son, you’ve got a bad case of capitalism — with all the attendant things we associate with it, nevermind tracing any specific causality. If you’re filling out an itemized form on a dating site (“commodification of romance!”) somehow that’s class society and workplace hierarchies growing stronger. Never you mind what the causal mechanisms are, think holistically!

This leftist view of capitalism as an unified monolithic megamachine with its own clear plan and needs — rather than conflicting loci of power, orthogonalized mechanisms, and acidic currents of bottom-up market pressures — blinds people to possibilities today and ultimately encourages us to cast our dreams off beyond the veil of a magical revolution. If the abstraction is treated like a cohesive whole, if we treat institutions as the only relevant agents, and ignore everything below as constituent cogs, well then there’s no hope for anything substantively different save via some kind of total break.

For those well and truly spooked with this kind of leftist thinking, there’s ultimately little option besides despair, or a reification of the same old rituals of subcultural community. When the world is filled up with gods like “capitalism” or “civilization” and drained of actual living breathing human beings there’s no hope of salvation, save through some kind of divine intervention.

So something new gets mystified and worshipped, The Revolution, or The Collapse. The Party or The Natural Order.

What gets lost as our attention focuses entirely on these big abstractions is the concrete issues of freedom. What possibilities are available to us in our social relations, in our projects, in our environmental conditions, in the configuration of our bodies?

Gelderloos unfortunately writes,

We are increasingly being sold a transhumanist narrative in which nature and the body are presented as limitations to be overcome. This is the same old Enlightenment ideology that anarchists have fallen for time and again[.]

We’ve “fallen for” transhumanism because it’s fucking correct. Anarchism’s aspirations are not to become fucking stewards of some kind of reactionary “natural order” but to champion positive freedom, to collaboratively expand what is possible rather than retreat to a single blueprint or ecological niche. Those who would tell you to make do with and embrace the current configuration not just of the world but of your body are reactionaries of the highest order.

This endlessly repeated mantra that technology is not methods or blueprints, not even the specific infrastructure being built (which is surely skewed to the interests of power), but is some kind of closely knit together global political system, where every component props up the whole, contains the DNA to inexorably rebuild the whole, is becoming an ever more desperate rhetorical maneuver. While there are certainly countervailing authoritarian pressures in certain normalizations — like bosses in certain sectors of the first world demanding you be on call via a cellphone — what we also see is across the planet is greater diversification among technological forms and uses from the bottom up.

And what conceptual value would there really be in seeing “technology” as a unified system rather than an ecosystem or a vast arena of complex conflict? Sure there’s a kind of mental reassurance in clustering a bunch of mechanisms together and declaring them a unified whole, a sum of their varying parts, a single megamachine. The simplicity of totalitarian thinking has always held an appeal, but that doesn’t make it a correct or an adequate lens for anarchists.

This sort of thinking can cause us to cluster too much together and fail to see the joints, the root causes, or ways things can be reconfigured (for better or far worse).

The danger and constraints of geopolitical analysis — of thinking in terms of the macroscale institutions — is that you risk growing as stupid as they are with as confined a scope of attention. You see things purely in terms of the persistent macrostructure and miss the degrees of freedom among the base, shifting or pushing in ways sometimes deeply antithetical to those macrostructures. Institutions seem invulnerable, infinitely capable of appropriation and cooption… until suddenly they fail.

I suppose it’s better that Gelderloos, in his categorization system, frames transhumanism as a liberal project rather than fascistic or dictatorial one. But of course he views it in terms of technocratic flows among the ruling classes rather than as a sincere grassroots ideology. Thus he misses the intensely anarchistic bent of morphological freedom.

This smacks of nothing so much as a myopic preoccupation with the neoliberal ruling order, with the existing systems and institutions, like Glenn Greenwald’s infamous tendency to dismiss the threat of fascism/nationalism while hectoring us to go back to focusing on the usual capitalists and imperialists.

There is of course a serious danger that neoliberalism will eventually triumph again and use fascism as a specter to better ingrain its own technocratic democratic order, but there is also a threat of nationalism winning, and a nationalist victory is in fact worse. A forthright fascism that isn’t twisted in on itself in obfuscation and delusion can be clumsily brash, but it can also grasp the longer game in a way liberalism almost never lets itself.

The greatest weapon of anarchists is that we see the roots. We are in a long war between power and freedom. Liberalism — being an ideology of the existing order, of existing institutions — can never allow itself to recognize this. And so it is only in the roots, the unruly masses beneath the institutional structures, that we will find the opportunities liberals can’t see or plan for. The little twists and turns, the reconfigurations, the unexpected degrees of freedom, to what liberals (and marxists) see as mere cogs inexorably a part of a whole.

Gelderloos writes,

Capitalism has invaded every corner of our lives, turning us against ourselves. The power of the State has grown exponentially and they have defeated us so many times before.

But we are still here. We are not merely here as marginal spectators whose one good trick — rioting — is increasingly toothless. We have been coursing through the veins of this system, reconfiguring things and pressuring back in countless ways. Central to our success has been our appreciation for the possibilities beneath the feet of the giants and the actual terms of the millennia old conflict we’re all in.

Unfortunately the very leftist legacy of preoccupation with the macrostructures, of reifying them into giant omnipotent monsters can only grasp two equally absurd paths: reform or revolution. Maintaining the monsters or making some kind of magical sudden break with them. This traps radical leftists in the mental cycles of depression.

Anarchism needs to break with this leftist frame and instead view things in more diffuse, myriad, and dynamic terms of erosion and insurrection.

There are no magically holistic megamachines, just complex ecologies and chaotic weather systems. And history is not a drama of giant storms, but of the butterflies beating our wings.

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Popular Power In a Time of Reaction: Strategy for Social Struggle

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 04:57

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation / Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra

Editorial Note: This piece builds upon and updates the strategy and analysis document “Below and Beyond Trump” we released in late 2017 and aims to capture a snapshot of our internal discussions and conclusions over the past year. Because these conversations began in the lead up to our National Convention in early August we were not able to incorporate some more recent events and especially the feminist analysis developed in the statement “Kavanaugh and a Feminist Movement Fighting to End Capitalism” and which draws upon the article “A Feminist Movement to End Capitalism, Part I (Part II forthcoming). We recommend reading these pieces in addition to this. #PowerFromBelow #BuildPopularPower

Strategy and Analysis / Análisis de Coyuntura Document

Prepared by members of the BRRN Analysis and Strategy Committee and approved by the membership.

Last year in “Below and Beyond Trump: Power and Counterpower,” we argued that the U.S. ruling class is in the midst of a destabilizing political crisis, leading to increasing politicization and polarization across the country, and that the Trump regime is both a symptom and a cause of the current divisions playing out at the top of the political food chain. In response to the rise of Trump, we noted that social movements, particularly those driven by the “institutional left” (nonprofits, business unions, etc), have been characterized by retrenchment, militant reformism, and a sharp turn toward electoral politics. In this context, we highlighted the growing potential for advancing a libertarian socialist vision and strategy that speaks to the needs and desires of the current moment.

In this follow up to Below and Beyond Trump, we will briefly highlight recent expressions of the dominant trends that characterize the current social, political and economic landscape and outline a strategic orientation for building popular power and advancing social movements toward libertarian socialism. Our argument is simple, that we need to move from “protest” to building popular power. We define popular power as creating independent institutions and organizations of the working class to fight white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism. Whether in workplaces, neighborhoods, prisons, or schools, building organizations in these sites can help movements build power and transform the current tide of right politics. With a focus on organizing, movements can win not only meaningful reforms, but create a path toward a libertarian socialist society.

Power at the Top

In the realm of foreign policy, Trump has represented a huge step backward for US global leadership. In a whole number of strategic areas, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia, the US role as global economic, diplomatic, and military leader is on the wane (although still in the top position). Perhaps this is nowhere more evident than in Europe, where US leadership in NATO and the G7 is under serious strain. Sometimes this can open the door for the aims of anti-militarist movements such as the case with the Korea peace process. But this can also be dangerous, for example in Syria where Trump has allowed horrendous atrocities by Assad and US ally Turkey.

In many of these moves, we find the Trump administration’s behavior inexplicable. For example, in the emerging trade war with China, Canada, and European powers, the imposition of $34 billion in tariff protections defies longstanding elite consensus on global trade. In making this move the Trump administration has angered many powerful corporate sectors of US society, who stand to lose billions of dollars, and have been vocal in their opposition to the trade tariffs. Why this isn’t enough to stop the policy is unclear, as are the motives for it in the first place. China is emerging as an economic power that is beginning to rival the United States, although in military capacity the US still dwarfs the rest of the world. The tariffs could be a way to counter the economic rise of China, or an ideological and racist move for which economic factors are less significant. But it points to a highly unpredictable and maverick leadership, and because of this many establishment liberals are adamant in the necessity to oust Trump.

In the domestic realm, Trump’s positions, as odious as they are, have largely stayed within the scope of neo-liberal practice of state management. He continues to roll back the Keynesian New Deal state much like Obama and Bush before him. Numerous environmental, labor, and civil rights protections have been abandoned by the administration. In budgetary priorities, the Trump administration has granted the Pentagon its largest funding priority ever, exceeding even the requests from US military planners, and at the same time is imposing and proposing some of the harshest cuts on social services in recent memory, all while cutting taxes on the very rich. For example, bedrock programs of the New Deal state like Social Security and Medicaid are under serious threat. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has appointed a series of semi-criminal elements that have been forced to resign, and some like Dinesh D’souza and Sheriff Joe Arpaio the president has personally pardoned.

In all this, it appears that the Trump administration has little concern for the “legitimation” function of the state, which is a basic role of government to build support for established centers of authority and capital. Instead he is strengthening and expanding the authoritarian elements devoted to violence. The two best examples of this are the family detention and separation policy imposed by Trump advisor Stephen Miller and the Muslim ban recently approved by the Supreme Court. These come as huge shocks to the liberal establishment, but here too build off policies of Obama and other centrists. This lack of legitimation, and widespread corruption within his administration may lead to his impeachment. The recent indictments and convictions of close Trump aids increases this likelihood. If these scandals move toward impeachment, it will be a major test of the constitutional resilience of the liberal institutions of governance and will be important to watch closely.

A further potential disruption on the horizon is the possibility of economic destabilization and depression. While the capitalist class and the corporate sector are exploding with wealth, the rest of the country never recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. This dynamic echoes the economic inequality and tensions of the 1920s that led to the historic 1929 market crash and resultant depression. No one can tell the future, but there are worrying signs on the horizon like the slowdown in the housing market, and the “inversion” of bond rates spelling trouble for long term investments. If there is a recession or depression it would significantly change the organizing terrain before us.

The State of Popular Power

Social movements have been disoriented and have responded in ways we laid out in our Below and Beyond Trump strategy document from 2017. US social movements are comparatively weak when examined from an international perspective. This means that movements here must organize at a much more basic level than those in other countries to build the capacity for mobilization and empowerment. Even so, with the election of Trump movements have become more cautious and shifted efforts into electoral campaigns.

Many movements have been forced or voluntarily moved to a defensive footing. This is especially true for the “institutional left” – unions, non-profits, and those with institutional interests to protect and preserve. Unions in particular have been flat footed in the response to significant existential threats like the recent Janus ruling and the declared offensive by very large and well-funded business groups. Other NGOs have also been unable or unwilling to respond to the clamor for more activism and resistance against Trump. For example, organizations like the ACLU their “membership has grown from 400,000 to 1.84 million so far during the course of Trump’s presidency. And while it usually brings in an average of $3-$5 million each year, during these first excruciating 15 months it has raised almost $120 million in online donations.” Yet that growth has not translated at all into the power necessary to resist Trump and his authoritarian version of neoliberalism.

For more dynamic social movements, the current moment reflects a mixed bag. In 2016 many social movements including environmental activism, the BLM movement and others were ascendant. The momentum has definitively shifted against them under Trump, but not all movements. For example two dramatic and powerful direct action movements emerged in the shadow of Trump, the #MeToo and the Parkland students movement against gun violence. Both of these show the dramatic power of direct action, mass disruptive movements focused on power. For #MeToo, several powerful men, many of them employers, have had their careers ended by the social media campaigns against sexual assault and sexual violence. For the Parkland students, their national protests (the first wave of school walkouts and disruptive actions, not the milquetoast efforts co-opted by the Democrats) forced major Republican figures to change their positions on guns, and in Florida to enact some modest though ultimately reactionary reforms. These are exactly the types of mobilizations we predicted as militant reformism as popular opposition pushes against institutional boundaries and forces legislative and social change within very narrow, liberal, confines.

These efforts have also quickly been diverted from their more militant and disruptive forms of protest into electoral channels either inside or outside the Democratic Party. For the left the largest phenomenon here is the rise of the Democratic Socialists of America, a political organization now with a reported 50,000 membership base, and one with significant impacts on movement strategy and direction, drawing people into electoral efforts. Their biggest victory was the recent primary win and successful election of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in Queens New York who beat out an entrenched Democratic incumbent to win a seat in the House of Representatives. There are also efforts among liberals and progressive elements to redouble electoral organizing. Most notable here is the move by BLM founder and movement leader Alicia Garza to build a Black voting base called Black Futures Lab, who just endorsed their first candidate Ilhan Omar, to replace Keith Ellison in Minnesota. We expect to see more of these moves to electoralism and see it as a major step backward for social movement strategy for reasons we have explained elsewhere.

However, the most significant and surprising development of the last year for social movements was the emergence of a militant rank-and-file teachers movement. This movement deserves more careful study from our organization, but it has achieved impossible gains in a very short time, and BRRN members have been active organizing here. Most notable is that through labor action in the workplace, strikes, walkouts and sickouts, the teachers have forced major gains, as much as 20% pay increases and expanded state funding for schools, on some of the most reactionary Republican legislators and administrators in the country. Notably, they also did this by organizing under, over, around and through their union leadership, sometimes bringing them along to the fight, at other moments having to circumvent the leadership entirely, and vote against official recommendations for conciliation. They built power outside of established channels, used small actions to build for strikes that were meaningful, and actually shut down their workplaces. Another example of worker militancy is the Burgerville Worker Union, the first fast food union in the United States organized by rank-and-file militants. Again BRRN members are active here and their approach highlights the failing strategy of the major unions and NGOs. One aspect of the rank-and-file organizing is the spark of confidence by workers that realize the potential of their power and that they can win is a huge victory for working people. These developments are a major step forward and a model we should look to in our organizing.

A movement that deserves mention are the deep and growing immigrants organizing networks. Whether around rank-and-file workplace militancy or direct defense against deportations organizers are working to strengthen immigrant communities. Trump’s shocking policy of family separation was built on Obama era policies of family detention, and galvanized much of this popular push back. But again, the large NGO mobilizations have yielded disappointing results, where on the ground direct action is having a much larger impact. One example we would point to is the Koreatown Popular Assembly (KPA) of Los Angeles, a project that BRRN members are helping organize. The KPA has used technology that allows them to rapidly respond, alert and mobilize community members in response to ICE activity such as raids and detentions. Here there is a connection to mass incarceration, and again BRRN members are involved organizing the historic prison strike of August of this year, and building connections with immigrants detained in corporate deportation centers. It is through these engaged, on-the-ground organizing and direct action campaigns that we can push back against the right-ward tide of American politics. Meanwhile, efforts tied to the institutional left are failing to adequately face this challenge.

Practical Strategy for Building Popular Power

Our vision for building popular power to both stop the advance of the right and create transformative change to build the libertarian socialist society is detailed here. We advocate a strategy that focuses on building popular organizations and institutions of community control. Building popular power is meant to build autonomous organizations for and run by working class people to realize their political power, which is in contrast to power negotiated between those in the state political arena and directed by professionalized staff. In any sector, it means we must organize; this involves building small nuclei of organizers, engaging with movements on a direct action basis, and scaling up those projects to mass participation. There are further steps after this that are necessary, for example building organizational structures that are resilient and flexible enough to remain both mass oriented and combative in nature, but for now we will focus on local militant activity and how to build popular power.

In the last 18 months we have heard an increasing call that social movements should move “from protest to politics.” Typically this means that street demonstrations of #BlackLivesMatter or anti-fascist organizers have limited efficacy, and to make lasting change activists must organize in electoral campaigns to support progressive mainstream politicians. We fundamentally disagree here. While we share the critique of activism and the limitations of mobilizations, we argue that a move to electoralism is a step backward because it does not build the independent power we need to win.

Instead, we argue that social movements build on the tremendous power of protest by organizing more deeply and more widely in different social sectors. Indeed, BRRN is considering adopting a sectoral strategy as the basis for our organizing work. We see social sectors as the people, social relationships and institutions that define our lives and experiences. For example, labor is a major social sector, a place where we spend most of our adult lives, where we generate profit for capitalists, and have established social networks and collective interests. Other organizing sectors we have identified are the neighborhood, in prisons and carceral institutions, and with students and education. Each of these sectors is a site of power, and movements can turn from disconnected mobilizations to organizing in these sectors to build popular power. We also see the need to highlight the intersectional and intersectoral nature of social struggle and social power.

Organizing 101

Whatever your movement work, building popular power means organizing. This is the process of bringing people together to impact the issues that concern them. Our model comes from labor organizing, and involves forming an organizing committee to take collective action. The committee can be small, between three and twenty persons, but with an emphasis on organizing and disruptive action it can have a huge impact. With a committee, organizers can bring more and more people into political action, and plan a direct action campaign targeted against power to win concessions. With success here, those projects can be scaled up to increased participation in mass mobilizations and mass direct actions, like strikes or sit-downs or civil disobedience, and a proliferation of the model.

This part of organizing we call “political layers” and are considering adopting as a formal strategic framework. Here we see three layers of social movement organizing, from the political layer, to the intermediate, and the mass layer. The political layer is the role of parties and political organizations like BRRN, and organizations that have clear political principles and objectives. In the above schema, the committee organizing takes place in the intermediate layer, a grouping with loosely shared objectives or tactics, with an eye toward building mass layer organizations and movements. We find this break down helps clarify and organize our tasks for supporting and sustain social movement organizing and transformative change.


With sectoral and political layer analysis, we still have many lingering questions and there has been significant internal discussion about our adopting these strategic frameworks. Most of the questions have to do with what gets left out, what are the intersections with identity and social oppression, and how we can use them in our organizing. For the time being, we argue that organizing within the arenas of our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools and where we are incarcerated can help take movements from “protest to politics,” but to a politics of different sort, not ones based on supporting politicians and building the institutions of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and the status quo. Instead building popular power rooted in sites of struggle can help us win transformative gains, and help turn the course of history to a brighter future.

Fractures at the top provide opportunities for building power from below. It is our task to seize these opportunities and push forward movements for liberation.

The post Popular Power In a Time of Reaction: Strategy for Social Struggle appeared first on Infoshop News.

The Yellow Vest Movement in France

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 02:12

via CrimethInc

Between “Ecological” Neoliberalism and “Apolitical” Movements

The past weeks have seen a massive confrontational movement arise in France opposing President Emmanuel Macron’s “ecological” tax increase on gas. This movement combines many contradictory elements: horizontally organized direct action, a narrative of being “apolitical,” the participation of far-right organizers, and the genuine anger of the exploited. Clearly, neoliberal capitalism offers no solutions to climate change except to place even more pressure on the poor; but when the anger of the poor is translated into reactionary consumer outrage, that opens ominous opportunities for the far right. Here, we report on the yellow vest movement in detail and discuss the questions it raises.

A las barricadas: the yellow vest movement has provided a venue for people to revolt without giving up their identity as consumers.

Preface: The Ruling Center and the Rebel Right

In the buildup to the 2018 elections in the US, we heard a lot of arguments that it would be better for centrist politicians to win control of the government. But what happens when centrists come to power and use their authority to stabilize capitalism at the expense of the poor? One consequence is that far-right nationalists gain the opportunity to present themselves as rebels who are trying to protect “ordinary people” from the oppressive machinations of the government. In a time when the state can do precious little to mitigate the suffering that capitalism is causing, it can be more advantageous to be positioned outside the halls of power. Consequently, far-right nationalism may be able to gain more ground under centrist governments than under far-right governments.

In attempting to associate environmentalism, feminism, internationalism, and anti-racism with neoliberalism, centrists make it likely that at least some of the movements that arise against the ruling order will be anti-ecological, misogynistic, nationalistic, and racist. That works out well for centrists, because it enables them to present themselves to the world as the only possible alternative to far-right extremists. This is precisely the strategy that got Macron elected in his campaign against Marine Le Pen. In this regard, centrists and nationalists are loyal adversaries who seek to divide up all possible positions between themselves, making it impossible to imagine any real solution to the crises created by capitalism.

A social movement of anger and confusion.

In short: if the wave of nationalist victories still sweeping the globe eventually gives way to a centrist backlash, but anarchists and other revolutionaries are not able to popularize tactics and movements that adequately address the catastrophies that so many people are facing, that could pave the way for an even more extreme wave of far-right populism.

We should study populist social movements under centrist governments in order to identify the ways that far-right groups can hijack them—and figure out how we can prevent that. This is one of the reasons to pay close attention to the “yellow vest” movement unfolding right now in France under the arch-centrist President Macron.

The “yellow vest” movement shows the strange fractures that can open up under the contradictions of modern centrism: above all, the false dichotomy between addressing global warming and addressing the ravages of capitalism. This dichotomy is especially dangerous in that it gives nationalists a narrative with which to capitalize on economic crisis while discrediting environmentalism by associating it with state oppression.

Against the dictatorship of the rich: a banner seen near Nantes.

What is taking place in France is reminiscent of what happened in Brazil in 2013, when a movement against the rising cost of public transportation provoked a nationwide crisis. This crisis gave tens of thousands of people new experience with horizontal organizing and direct action, but it also opened the way for nationalists to gain ground by presenting themselves as rebels against the ruling order. There are two significant differences between Brazil in 2013 and France today, however. First, the movement in Brazil was initiated by anarchists, but grew too big too quickly for anarchist values to retain hegemony—whereas anarchists have never had leverage within the movement of the “yellow vests.” Second, the movement in Brazil took place under a supposedly leftist government, not a centrist one. The hijacking of the movement against the fare hike in Brazil set the stage for a chain of events that culminated in the electoral victory of Bolsonaro, an outright proponent of military dictatorship and extrajudicial mass murders. In France, the context seems even less promising.

What should anarchists do in a situation like this? We can’t side with the state against demonstrators who are already struggling to survive. Likewise, we can’t side with demonstrators against the natural environment. We have to establish an anti-nationalist position within anti-government protests and an anti-state position within ecological movements. The “yellow vest” movement provides an instructive opportunity for us to think about how to strategize in an era of three-sided conflicts that pit us against both nationalists and centrists.

Burning barricades.

The Yellow Vest Movement in France

Several weeks ago, the Macron government officially announced that, on January 1, 2019, it will once again increase taxes on gas, which will raise the price of gas in general. This decision was justified as a step in the transition to “green energy.”

Diesel vehicles comprise two thirds of vehicles in France, where diesel is less expensive than regular gas. After decades of political policies aimed at pushing people to buy cars that run on diesel, the government has decided that diesel fuels are no longer “eco-friendly” and therefore people must change their cars and habits. Macron reduced taxes on the income of the super-rich at the beginning of his administration; he has not taken steps to make the wealthy pay for the transition to more ecologically sustainable technology, even though the wealthy have been the ones to benefit from the profits generated by ecologically harmful industrial activity. Consequently, Macron’s ecological arguments for the gas tax been largely ignored. Many people see the decision to increase the tax on gas as yet another attack on the poor.

The French government is responsible for creating this false dichotomy between ecology and the needs of working people. Decades of spatial planning have concentrated economic activity and job opportunities in bigger metropolises and developed public transportation in those same areas while isolating rural areas, making cars necessary for a large part of the population. Without any other option, many people are now completely reliant on their cars to live and work.

Blocking a toll collection point.

In response to Macron’s announcement about the tax on gas, people started organizing on the internet. Several petitions against the increase of the price of gas became viral, such as this online petition that is about to reach a million signatures as this text goes to press. Then, on September 17, 2018, a driver organization denounced the “overtaxation of fuels,” inviting its members to send their gas receipts to President Macron along with letters explaining their disapproval. On October 10, 2018, two truck drivers created a Facebook event calling for a national blockade against the increase of gas prices on November 17, 2018. As a result, more and more groups appeared on Facebook and Twitter sharing videos in which people attack the president’s decision and explain how difficult their financial situations already are, emphasizing that increasing the taxes on gas will only make it worse.

On the eve of the national call, about 2000 groups across the country were announcing their intention to block roads, toll collection points, gas stations, and refineries, or at least to hold demonstrations.

In order to identify the participants during this day of action, demonstrators decided to wear yellow emergency vests and asked sympathizers to show their support to the movement by displaying these vests in their cars. The symbolism behind this vest is simple enough. The French driver’s manual mandates that every driver must keep an emergency vest inside their car in case of accident or other issues on the road. In view of their dependency on cars, fearing to see their living conditions worsen, protestors chose these emergency vests as a symbol of resistance against Macron’s decision. By extension, protestors and media came to call this movement the “yellow vests.”

A blockade near Nantes on November 17.

Thousands of actions took place during the weekend of November 17. Approximately 288,000 “yellow vest” protestors were present in the streets for the first day of national blockade. This was a success for the movement, especially considering that it did not receive any assistance from trade unions or other major organizations.

Unfortunately, things escalated when fights broke out between “yellow vests” and other individuals. One “yellow vest” protester, a woman in her sixties, was killed by a driver, a mother who was trying to take her sick child to the doctor and attempted to drive through a blockade when people in yellow vests started smacking her car. Altogether, more than 400 people were injured, one protestor was killed, and about 280 individuals were arrested that weekend.

The movement remained strong despite these incidents. The blockades continued over the following days, even if participation diminished. In order to maintain the pressure on the government, the “yellow vests” made another national call for the following Saturday, November 24. Once again, various “yellow vest” groups on Facebook planned actions and demonstrations everywhere in France and circulated a call to converge in Paris for a big demonstration.

Facing a water cannon.

At first, this demonstration was planned for the Champs de Mars, near the Eiffel tower, where law enforcement would have surrounded and contained the protestors. However, this official decision did not satisfy some “yellow vesters,” and other calls circulated on social media. The November 17 demonstration in Paris had failed to reach its objective, the Presidential palace; consequently, the “yellow vesters” who were about to converge in Paris decided to repeat that effort on November 24. So it was that, rather than gathering at the base of the Eiffel tower, people converged and blocked the Champs Elysées, a target with powerful symbolic status. This luxurious avenue is the most visited in Paris; the Elysée palace where President Macron resides is located at the end of this avenue.

As they had the preceding week, demonstrators tried to get as close to the Presidential palace as possible. Barricading and confrontations took place all day along the most well-known Parisian avenue. It was reported that this second round of actions gathered about 106,000 participants throughout France, with about 8000 in Paris. These figures suggest that the movement is losing momentum. In the course of the demonstration in Paris, 24 people were injured in clashes and 103 people were arrested, of whom 101 were taken into custody. The first trials took place on Monday, November 26.

Bonfire on the Champs Elysées.

What Kind of Movement Is This?

The “yellow vest” movement describes itself as spontaneous, horizontal, and without leaders. It is difficult to be certain of these statements. The movement started via social media groups that facilitated decentralized actions in which people decided locally what they wanted to do and how to do it. In this regard, there is clearly some kind of horizontal organizing going on.

Regarding whether the movement is truly leaderless, this is more complicated. From the beginning, “yellow vesters” insisted that their movement was “apolitical” and had no leader. Instead, it was supposed to be the organic effort of several groups of people working together on the basis of their shared anger.

Nevertheless, as in practically every group—anarchist projects included—there are power dynamics. As is often the case, some people manage to accumulate more leverage than others, due to their access to resources, their capacity to persuade, or simply their skills with new technologies. Scrutinizing some of the self-proclaimed spokespersons of the “yellow vest” movement, we can see who has been able to accumulate influence within the movement and consider what their agenda might be.

  • Christophe Chalençon is the spokesperson for the Vaucluse department. Presenting himself as “apolitical” and “not belonging to any trade union,” he nevertheless presented his candidacy for the 2017 legislative election as a member of the “diverse right.” When we dig deeper into his personal relations and Facebook profile, we can see that his discourse is clearly conservative, nationalist, and xenophobic.
  • In Limoges, the organizer of the November 17 action of the “yellow vests” in the region was Christophe Lechevallier. Once again, the profile of this “angry citizen” is quite interesting. The least we can say is that Christophe Lechevallier seems to be a turncoat. In 2012, he presented his candidacy for the legislative elections as a member of a centrist party (the MoDem). Then he joined the extreme-right Front National (now called the Rassemblement National) and invited in 2016 its leader Marine Le Pen to a meeting. In the meantime, he was also working with the French pro-GMO agricultural organization FNSEA (the National Federation of Agricultural Holders’ Unions), known for defending the use of chemicals, such as the Glyphosate, to intensify their productions.
  • In Toulouse, the “yellow vest” spokesperson is Benjamin Cauchy. This young executive has been interviewed several times on national and local media. Again, this spokesperson is hardly “apolitical” if we consider his past. Benjamin Cauchy speaks freely about his political experience as a member of the traditional neoliberal right (at that time, the UMP, now known as Les Républicains). However, during law school, Benjamin Cauchy was one of the leaders of the student union UNI—well-known for its connections with conservative right and far-right parties and groups. But even more interesting, Benjamin Cauchy has not publicly acknowledged that he is now a member of the nationalist party Debout La France, whose leader, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, made an alliance with Marine Le Pen (of the Rassemblement National) during the second round of the last presidential election in hopes of defeating Macron.
There are frustrated consumers on both sides of the barricades.

So it is clear that conservative and far-right groups are hoping to impose their discourse, spread their ideas, and use this “apolitical movement of angry citizens” as a way to gain more power. This has not gone entirely unopposed. The yellow vesters of Toulouse decided to evict Benjamin Cauchy from their movement due to his political views. On November 26, while invited at a radio show, the latter said that as an answer to his eviction, he was creating a new national organization entitled “Les Citrons” (the Lemons) to continue his fight against tax rises and took the opportunity to denounce the “lack of democracy that exists within the ‘yellow vest’ movement.”

Finally, it seems that the so-called “leaderless movement” completely changed its strategy in the aftermath of the second Parisian demonstration. On Monday, November 26, a list of eight official spokespersons of the movement was presented to the press. Apparently, the preceding day, yellow vesters were asked to vote online to elect their new leading figures. These nominations and strategic decisions are already creating tension within the movement. Some yellow vesters are now criticizing the legitimacy of the election, raising questions about how these leaders got selected in the first place.

Meanwhile, some members of the movement have called for another day of action on Saturday, December 1. The demands are clear: 1.) More purchasing power; 2.) The cancellation of all taxes on gas. If these demands are not granted, demonstrators say that “they will march towards Macron’s resignation.” So far, 27,000 persons have announced that they will participate in this event. Once again, the unity that was the watchword several weeks ago seems to have evaporated, as several local organizers have dissociated themselves from the movement in opposition to the more confrontational path that the movement seems to be taking.

A blockade by night.

Rather than addressing the question of horizontality, corporate media outlets have been focusing on another question: is the protesters’ anger legitimate?

Many media outlets have suggested that this movement is mostly composed of undereducated low-income people who are against protecting the environment; they describe the demonstrations as violent in order to delegitimize the anger of the participants. Despite this, some media outlets have shifted their discourse over time, becoming somewhat less condescending and more whiling to broadcast demonstrators’ concerns. For example, after the confrontations at the Champs Elysées last Saturday, Christophe Castaner, the new Minister of the Interior, said: “the amount of damages is poor, they are mostly material ones, that’s the most important thing.” Quite a surprising statement, considering how corporate media outlets and politicians have decried similar actions during the demonstrations on May Day and the protests against the Loi Travail.

From our perspective, there’s no doubt that their anger is legitimate. Most people who take part in this movement speak of the difficult living situations they have to deal with every day. It makes sense that they are saying that they have had enough; the gas issue is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The lower-class population has to struggle harder and harder to survive while everyone else remains comfortable enough not to be affected by economic shifts and tax increases targeting consumers. For now, at least.

So anger—and direct action—are legitimate. The question is whether the political vision and values that are driving this movement can lead to anything good.

“Well, let’s give them biofuels – Brigitte Macron.”

Troubled Waters

Numerous racist, sexist, and homophobic acts have taken place during yellow vest actions. During the November 17 demonstration in Paris, several well known anti-Semites and nationalists were seen among the crowd of demonstrators. Members of far-right and nationalist groups participated in the demonstrations on November 24 in Paris, as well. Some comrades have reported that the presence of the far right in the Paris demonstration is “undeniable.” They describe seeing a group of monarchists with a flag; the crowd considered their presence “insignificant” compared to the water cannons that law enforcement used during the clashes.

The same report also mentions several elements that are difficult to interpret. For example, while the crowd in Paris chanted some classic slogans of May 1968 (“CRS SS”) and the Loi Travail demonstrations (“Paris debout, soulève toi!”), they also chanted the first verse of the Marseillaise, which is currently associated with traditional republican parties and the far right, not radicals. This chant could be understood as a reference to its origins in the French Revolution, but the song has been coopted by its role as the French national anthem, giving it a patriotic and nationalist tone.

Yellow bloc.

Another example: while marching down the Champs Elysées, the crowd chanted “We are at home.” For an English-speaking reader, this statement seems innocuous enough, an affirmation that the demonstrators had taken the streets, as the authors of the above report framed it. However, this chant echoes the one regularly used by National Front supporters during their meetings. Understood in that context, “we are at home” has a more sinister connotation. For nationalists, it means that France is and will always be a white, Christian, and nationalist country. Everyone who doesn’t fit their identity and political agenda is therefore considered a stranger or an intruder. In other words, this slogan creates a narrative about who belongs and who doesn’t. The use of these words during the yellow vest demonstrations is poorly chosen, if not ominous.

Paris is not the only place reactionary tendencies have emerged in the movement. Indeed, on November 17, in Cognac, yellow vest protestors assaulted a black woman who was driving a car. During the altercation, some protestors told her to “go back to [her] country.” The same day, at Bourg en Bresse, an elected representative and his partner were assaulted for being gay. In the Somme department, some yellow vesters called the immigration police when they realized that migrants were hiding inside a large truck stuck in traffic. The list goes on.

Finally, some participants in this “apolitical” movement have openly expressed contempt for social movements in general—including the movement for better education, the movement to defend hospitals and access to health care, and the movement of the railworkers. In effect, this movement that purports to dissociate itself from collective struggles so it can benefit “everyone” ends up promoting individualistic self-interest: the right of isolated consumers to keep using their cars however they want at a cheap price, without any real vision of social change.

Police block the freeway as yellow vesters make representations of themselves.

How Should We Engage?

Among anarchists and leftists, we can identify two different schools of thought regarding how to engage with the “yellow vest” phenomenon: those who think that we should take part in it, and those who think that we should keep our distance.

Arguments to distance ourselves:
  • The yellow vest movement claims to be “apolitical.” By and large, the participants describe themselves as disgruntled citizens who work hard but are always the first to suffer from taxes and government decisions. This discourse has a lot in common with the Poujadisme movement of the 1950s, a reactionary and populist movement named for deputy Pierre Poujade, or, more recently, with the “Bonnets rouges” movement (the “red beanies”).
  • The idea that the movement is “apolitical” is dangerous in that it offers a perfect opportunity for far-right organizers, populists, and fascists to insinuate themselves among protesters. In other words, this movement offers the far right a chance to restructure itself and regain power.
  • As soon as the movement gained widespread attention, extreme-right politician Marine Le Pen and other conservatives and populists expressed support for it. So much for the talk about being “apolitical”!
“The ultra-right will lose!”

Arguments in favor of participating in the movement:
  • This appears to be a genuinely spontaneous and decentralized movement involving low-income people. In theory, we should be organizing alongside them in order to fight capitalism and state oppression. Mind you, the concepts of class war and anti-capitalism are far from being accepted or promoted among the demonstrators.
  • Some argue that we should participating in order to prevent fascists from coopting the movement and the anger it represents. Some radicals believe that we should take part in these actions as a way to make new connections with people and spread our ideas about capitalism and how to respond to the economic crisis.
  • For some radicals, being skeptical of the current movement and not wanting to take part in it can also indicate some sort of class contempt directed at the “apolitical” poor. Others argue that in every situation, we should always aim to be actors rather than spectators. Some even assert that if we are “true” revolutionaries, we should leap into the unknown and discover what is possible instead of passively criticizing from a distance.

All these arguments are valid, but if they lead to anarchists participating in a movement that offers fascists a recruiting platform—as some anarchists did in the Ukrainian revolution—that will be a disaster that opens the way for worse catastrophes to come.

“Down with the state, the police, and the fascists.”

The fundamental problem with the yellow vest movement is that it begins from the wrong premises, attempting to preserve conditions that we should all have been fighting to abolish in the first place. Rather than seeking to protect today’s alienated and miserable consumer way of life, which is itself the result of a century of defeats and betrayals in the labor movement, we should be asking why we are so dependent on cars and gasoline in the first place. If our ways of surviving and traveling had not been constructed in such an isolating, individualized way—if capitalists were not able to exploit us so ruthlessly—we would not have to choose between destroying the environment and giving up the last vestiges of financial stability.

We have to change our habits and give up our privileges in the course of fighting for another world (or another end of the world), but as always, governments and capitalists are forcing us to bear the brunt of the problems they caused. We must not permit them to frame the terms of the discussion.

“Overthrow Macron, disband the government, and abolish the system.”

Open Questions

Incidentally, the situation is quite different outside the French homeland. On the island of Reunion, since November 17, there has been a social upheaval in which all strategic sites have been blocked—the port, the airport, and the prefecture. Fearing that they might lose control of the situation and being concerned about the impact on the economy, French authorities established a curfew on November 20 that lasted until November 25.

In Europe, as the yellow vest movement attempts to restructure itself after being weakened by leadership issues and conflicts over strategy, this might be an opportunity to create new bridges and make proposals about more systemic solutions to the problems that caused this movement.

Regarding ecology, we have to emphasize that the rich are the ones chiefly responsible for climate change, and that they will have to be the ones who pay to deal with it—if we are not able to dethrone them first. To some extent, this seems to be what the current blockading movement against capitalism and climate change Extinction Rebellion is trying to do in England. It is ironic that two different blockading movements about capitalism and ecology are taking place on either side of the English channel right now—one making ecological demands of the state, the other reacting to state environmental measures.

About nationalism, we must assert that it is no better to be exploited by citizens of our own race, gender, and religion than it is to be exploited by foreigners, and emphasize that we will only be able to stand up to those who oppress and exploit us if we establish solidarity across all the various lines of difference—race, gender, religion, citizenship, and sexual preference. We are inspired by the yellow vest protesters in Montpellier who formed a guard of honor to welcome the feminist march on November 24.

Above all, we need an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-sexist and ecological front within the space of social movements. The question is whether that should take place inside the “yellow vest” movement, or against it.

Chaos for Christmas.

There are so many dawns that have yet to break.

The post The Yellow Vest Movement in France appeared first on Infoshop News.

Focus on Disaster Relief

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 00:01
Solidarity Not Charity

Infosbop News has provided news and resources about disaster relief efforts dating back to Hurricane Katrina. This is our new disaster relief, mutual aid and solidarity portal for past disaster and ongoing situations around the world. It provides news and information about current relief efforts, relief organizations, and info about given situations. We will make an effort to provide links to reputable organizations, but we stress that you should always research organizations and campaigns.

California Wildfires 2018


Episcopal Farmworker Ministry

News & Analysis

Hurricanes Florence and Michael 2018 Hurricane Irma and Maria 2017 Houston / Gulf Coast Hurricanes 2017 Hurricane Matthew 2016




The post Focus on Disaster Relief appeared first on Infoshop News.

Noam Chomsky on Pittsburgh Attack: Revival of Hate Is Encouraged by Trump’s Rhetoric

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 04:40

via Democracy Now

It’s been less than a month since a gunman stormed the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 Jewish worshipers. The massacre has been described as the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. After the shooting, we spoke with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned professor, linguist and dissident, about Pittsburgh, Israel’s policies toward Gaza and other recent white supremacist and right-wing attacks in the U.S.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We continue our conversation with Noam Chomsky. Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh and I spoke to him on November 1st. It was just days after a gunman shot dead 11 Jewish worshipers, October 27th, at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. I asked Noam to talk about anti-Semitism and his own Jewish upbringing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was a Hebrew linguist.

NOAM CHOMSKY: When I was a child, the threat that fascism might take over much of the world was not remote. That’s much worse than what we’re facing now. My own locality happened to be very anti-Semitic. We were the only Jewish family in a Irish—mostly Irish and German Catholic neighborhood, much of which was pro-Nazi, so I could see it better on the ground.

What we’re now seeing is a revival of hate, anger, fear, much of it encouraged by the rhetorical excesses of the leadership, which are stirring up passions and terror, even the ludicrous claims about the Nicaraguan army ready to invade us—Ronald Reagan—the caravan of miserable people planning to kill us all. All of these things, plus, you know, praising somebody who body-slammed a reporter, one thing after another—all of this raises the level of anger and fear, which has roots.

The roots lie in what has happened to the general population over the past 40 years. People really have faced significant distress. An astonishing fact about the United States is that life expectancy is actually declining. That doesn’t happen in developed societies, apart from, you know, major war or huge famine. But it’s happening because of social distress, and not necessarily impoverishment. The people who are demonstrating this fear and resentment may be even moderately affluent, but what they see is they’re stagnating. In the past, there was—you had this dream: You worked hard, you could get ahead, your children would be a little better. Now it stopped. It stopped for the last 40 years as a result of very specific socio and economic policies, which have been designed so that they sharply concentrate wealth, they enhance corporate power, that has immediate effects on the political system in perfectly obvious ways, even to the point where lobbyists literally write legislation. This onslaught has literally cast a bunch of the population aside. They’re stagnating. They are not moving forward. They see no prospects. And they’re bitter and angry about it.

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Why the Decline of Newspapers Is Bad for the Environment

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 16:11

via Pacific Standard

by Sophie Yeo

Local newspapers in the United States are declining at an alarming rate. A lack of local news sources can be bad for democracy, leaving politicians free to act without scrutiny. A new study suggests that it could also be bad for the environment.

Besides reporting on local government, community newspapers cover nearby corporations—and on the toxic emissions released by those corporations’ facilities. In doing so, journalists wield a powerful tool when it comes to forcing companies to clean up their act, according to a recent paper by Pamela Campa, assistant professor of economics at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Specifically, Campa looked at the top 20 polluters in each state in the U.S., deriving her data from the Toxics Release Inventory, a data set collected by the Environmental Protection Agency based on information gathered by companies themselves. Then, she searched for examples of news stories about these plants. Using a newspaper archive called NewsLibrary, she searched for any articles in local newspapers that covered the annual release of this data set.

Unfortunately, coverage was rare: Only 4 percent of the top 20 polluters in each state received any coverage at all, perhaps owing to a lack of environmental specialists at local papers, Campa speculates. But among those that were subjected to negative press attention, the effect of coverage on emissions was often stark.

“Before these plants are featured in the news, their emissions evolve over time in a trend that is comparable to plants that are not covered in the newspapers,” Campa says. “Then, after I observe some newspaper coverage, the plant that is in the news drops its toxic emissions.”

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Will We Survive Climate Change?

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 05:18

via the New York Times

by John Schwartz

Are we doomed?

If you’re an expert in climate science, you probably get this question a lot.

“I do,” said Kate Marvel, associate research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “And I’ve been hearing it more recently.”

It’s no mystery why. Reports of the threats from a warming planet have been coming fast and furiously. The latest: a startling analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting terrible food shortages, wildfires and a massive die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040, unless governments take strong action.

The Paris climate accord set a goal of keeping the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels. At 2 degrees, things are bad enough: Arctic sea ice is 10 times more likely to disappear over the summer, along with most of the world’s coral reefs. As much as 37 percent of the world’s population becomes exposed to extreme heat waves, with an estimated 411 million people subject to severe urban drought and 80 million people to flooding from rising sea levels.

But if we can hold the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Arctic sea ice is far likelier to survive the summers. Coral reefs will continue to be damaged, but will not be wiped out. The percentage of people exposed to severe heat waves would plummet to about 14 percent. The number exposed to urban drought would drop by more than 60 million people.

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The Grassroots Movement to Transform Our Broken Disaster Relief System

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 01:48

via Splinter

by Sophie Weiner

It would have been a beautiful autumn day in Oakland, if not for the haze. Standing in a parking lot next to the iconic Lake Merritt, the smoke hung over everything, turning the sky a bluish beige and blurring anything more than a few hundred yards away.

A few volunteers and reporters milled about in the lot. We were there to see a 26-foot truck deliver 50,000 N95 particulate masks from Southern California to the organization Mask Oakland, a collective started by two people to address the toxic smoke in the East Bay that resulted from the fires in Sonoma County last October.

“There were just so many people outside walking through visible haze. It was gnarly, you know? You could taste it sometimes,” Mask Oakland co-founder J Redwoods told Splinter on the phone last week, remembering the fallout from the devastating Tubbs Fire last year. Redwoods, who identifies as non-binary, looked around then and saw thousands of homeless people walking around without masks on, breathing the toxic smoke. They went to the store and spent $100 of their own money to buy masks. They began visiting Oakland’s innumerable homeless encampments, handing them out to whoever wanted one. By the time the smoke cleared, Redwoods and local organizer Cassandra Williams, who became Mask Oakland’s other co-founder, ended up using a few hundred dollars in donations they received on Venmo to buy and distribute 4,000 masks.

The Camp Fire has now surpassed the Tubbs Fire as the most destructive and deadly fire in California’s history. It has burned 151,000 acres, destroyed 17,000 buildings, and killed at least 81 people, with hundreds still missing. The recovery process for communities like Paradise, which was almost totally destroyed by the fire, and the neighboring city of Chico, will take years, maybe decades. In the process, the air in Northern California has become the most toxic anywhere in the world. Every day since the fire, the air quality in most of Northern California has been rated “unhealthy” or worse, prompting school closures and cancellations of outdoor events.

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Abolishing ICE Means Defunding it

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 21:25

via CounterPunch

by Anthony Pahnke

Many progressive Democrats that won their midterm election bids, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, to Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, campaigned to change radically immigration policy. One of their slogans was to abolish the principal immigration law enforcement agency, ICE (Immigration Customs and Enforcement). To turn that campaign slogan into reality means defunding ICE, which Democrats can do, if they chose, now that they have a majority in the House of Representatives.

ICE has long been criticized by immigration rights groups – even before Trump became President – for its use of private, for-profit detention centers, treatment of detainees, and overall lack of transparency and accountability. Despite these problems, the Trump administration has not only expressed support for the agency, but has sought to increase its budget. In 2017, ICE was authorized to use $6.4 Billion, which increased to $7.6 Billion in 2018. Trump’s proposed 2019 budget for ICE, similarly, sees an increase of nearly $1 Billion dollars.

A variety of activities related to immigration fall within ICE’s purview. Its 2018 budget divides these activities into five ‘missions,’specifically, (1) ‘preventing terrorism and enhancing security,’ (2) ‘securing and managing our borders,’ (3) ‘enforcing and administering our immigration laws,’ (4) ‘safeguarding and securing cyberspace,’ and (5) ‘strengthening national preparedness and resilience.’ Of these five, the third – ‘enforcing and administering our immigration laws’ – receives by far the lion’s share of ICE’s total budget. In 2017, this amounted to nearly $4 Billion, with over $3 Billion dedicated to enforcement and removal. Such operations, as explained in ICE’s budget statement, entail “identifying and apprehending removable aliens, detaining those individuals pending final determination of removability, and removing aliens from the United States by legal processes and procedures.” These practices, which are central to ICE’s mission, are also some of the institution’s most controversial and criticized.

Yet, to abolish ICE, especially in the current political climate, is next to impossible. The reason is that ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was created during the Bush Administration in the aftermath of September 11th. Public Law 107-296 officially saw to the creation of DHS, and with it, ICE. Thus, to abolish ICE would require legislation not only to pass the House of Representatives, but also the Republican-controlled Senate. The chances of such a bill getting a vote in the Senate are next to none. The odds that President Trump would sign that legislation, also, are essentially zero.

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I’m a woman who fought wildfires for 7 years. Climate change is absolutely making them worse.

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 16:06

via Vox

By Anastasia Selb

018’s wildfires are already proving to be more destructive than last year’s. The Camp Fire near Chico, California has already claimed at least 29 lives, destroyed more than 6,400 structures, and burned more than 111,000 acres since it began last Thursday. It is now the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. Meanwhile, the Woolsey Fire continues to ravage Los Angeles County, burning 85,500 acres. This essay, published during last year’s brutal fire season, tackles many of the same issues as this year’s season.

The mundane days all run together. But those days when I was genuinely unsure if I would make it to the end of my shift intact are the ones that stand out.

I remember fighting a fire on the Angeles National Forest in 2002. Our crew flew onto a ridge in a helicopter. The rotor wash, or wind created by the helicopter blades, flung orange embers into the unburned vegetation — the “green.” Immediately, it started burning.

We jumped out of the helicopter, ran underneath the fire, and started digging. The goal was to quickly create a line free of any vegetation that could burn, called a fireline, which we used to stop fires from growing. Digging fireline is grueling; I often lost myself in the sound of chainsaws and rhythm of my tool hitting the dirt and ignored my physical pain.

Some of us had to run deep into the green and find embers or put out new small fires before they began burning out of control. There were full minutes when I thought, This may be it. We may not make it.

I worked as a wildland firefighter for seven years in the 2000s. And so I’ve been watching the smoky footage on my computer of the fires burning across the West this last month with great unease. Take the La Tuna Fire, which ignited on September 1. It was one of the largest fires Los Angeles has ever seen and burned more than 7,000 acres before it was contained. And it’s the kind of fire that is increasingly common in the age of climate change.

Wildland firefighters are especially attuned to how climate change puts us all at greater risk for destructive fires. We understand how higher temperatures and long-term drought are the perfect conditions for ignition. To us, there’s little controversy that it’s happening, although not everyone believes it’s human caused. I do, and, along with others in the field, I wonder when those in power will take the steps needed to address climate change.
Climate change and wildfires are a vicious cycle of worsening conditions

Wildfires currently burning in Northern California have destroyed thousands of acres and homes and resulted in the deaths of 11 people. Counties including Napa and Sonoma have been declared a state of emergency.

It’s been a brutal wildfire season. Last month’s La Tuna Fire in Los Angeles was, I’m sure, one of those fires that seemed uncontainable. In a speech, Ralph Terrazas, the LAFD fire chief, said, “We can handle everything. We have to. We don’t have an option.” He sounded exhausted and less hopeful than his words.

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Women’s March is the wrong target in the fight against anti-Semitism

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 15:55

via JTA

by Daniel Sieradski

NEW YORK (JTA) — The same Jewish liberals who gave in to efforts by the Jewish right to divide the black and Jewish communities in the ’70s are back again to divide Jews from their would-be allies, and this time they’re dead set on being the breach in the dam that lets the Nazis through.

Not three weeks after the worst massacre of Jews by a white supremacist in American history, Jewish liberals and conservatives alike have found a target for their wrath, and it’s none other than Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour.

Here’s why I’m fuming:

Any day now the president of the United States can sign an executive order, as he has threatened to do, that will strip citizenship from those who were born in America to parents that were here illegally. Forgive me if I take this personally, as the son of a septuagenarian mother who was born to two Holocaust survivors who sneaked into the country by overstaying their tourist visas.

While this possibility simmers in the background, undocumented and documented immigrants are being rounded up, thrown in cages, having their kids taken from them and sent halfway across the country, and are then deported without their children. These kids, who when they are are lucky enough to be reunited with their parents, suffer from severe emotional and psychological trauma from which they may never recover.

In light of this and the administration’s attacks on the rights of transgender men and women, women’s right to choose, the rights of workers to organize in their workplaces and the right of black people to vote, it becomes clear that everything this administration stands for will result in the destruction of all that we as Jewish people of conscience purport to care about.

So when, inspired by a president who openly blames prominent liberal Jews for that which white nationalists refer to as “white genocide,” a neo-Nazi walks into a shul and kills a bunch of liberal Jews, you’d think that our energy would stay focused on the existential threat in the White House — something actually leading to Jews being killed.

Instead, the dishonorable Minister Louis Farrakhan says something abhorrent, and suddenly all of the energy and anger after Pittsburgh has been shifted away from the president and onto Farrakhan and the left that supposedly embraces him.

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