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Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth
Updated: 4 min 53 sec ago

In rural Oregon, trips to food banks are the new normal

Sat, 03/10/2018 - 20:01

via Street Roots News

by Thacher Schmid

Walking through the immaculate, well-organized aisles of Junction City Local Aid’s food pantry, Jeanie Burr chatted happily with volunteer Peggy Saltz about produce.

“OK, so I got a cauliflower,” Burr said, clutching three bags. “Look at the size of those potatoes! One of these will …”

“… make a meal,” said Saltz, finishing his sentence. “Raisins?”

Jim, another shopper who declined to give his last name, also seemed to be enjoying his trip to the pantry.

“I love brussels sprouts,” Jim said. “My wife hates them.”

A big man with a long white beard, Jim smiled as he described his love for super-spicy peppers. Another volunteer placed a bottle of Tabasco in his basket.

Burr and Jim said they felt no stigma accessing the pantry, even in a small town like Junction City, home to about 6,000 residents, in Lane County. It’s a place where “everybody knows everybody, so everybody knows if you’re having a hard time,” said the pantry’s executive director, Kori Rodley.

It’s trips like these that have become normal for some families as a way to offset the burden of housing costs, even in rural areas.

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People are dying because we misunderstand how those with addiction think

Sat, 03/10/2018 - 19:51


By Brendan de Kenessey

The American opioid epidemic claimed 42,300 lives in 2016 alone. While the public policy challenge is daunting, the problem isn’t that we lack any effective treatment options. The data shows that we could save many lives by expanding medication-assisted treatments and adopting harm reduction policies like needle exchange programs. Yet neither of these policies has been widely embraced.

Why? Because these treatments are seen as indulging an addict’s weakness rather than “curing” it. Methadone and buprenorphine, the most effective medication-assisted treatments, are “crutches,” in the words of felony treatment court judge Frank Gulotta Jr.; they are “just substituting one opioid for another,” according to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

And as county Commissioner Rodney Fish voted to block a needle exchange program in Lawrence County, Indiana, he quoted the Bible: “If my people … shall humble themselves … and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin.”

Most of us have been trained to use more forgiving language when talking about addiction. We call it a disease. We say that people with addiction should be helped, not blamed. But deep down, many of us still have trouble avoiding the thought that they could stop using if they just tried harder.

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Fossil Fuel Execs Very Annoyed #KeepItIntheGround Movement Crimping Their Ability to Pillage Planet

Sat, 03/10/2018 - 19:45

via Common Dreams

by Jake Johnson

Pipeline executives are extremely upset that protests by environmentalists and Indigenous groups are disrupting their ability to plunder the planet at will, and they aired their discontent publicly on Thursday at the CERAWeek energy conference in Texas.

Singling out the “Keep It in the Ground” movement—which calls for an “immediate halt” to all new fossil fuel development—as a particularly strong obstacle to their ambitious construction projects, pipeline CEOs complained that opposition to dirty energy has grown in “intensity” over the past several years, posing a serious threat to their companies’ bottomlines.

“There’s more opponents, and it’s more organized,” lamented Kinder Morgan CEO Steven Kean, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline—which would carry tar sands 700 miles from Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia—is currently facing fierce resistance from Indigenous groups and local governments. At least 7,000 people are expected to participate in a march and rally against the pipeline in Vancouver on Saturday, the Seattle Times reports.

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A Hidden Factor in Police Shootings of Black Americans: Decades of Housing Segregation

Sat, 03/10/2018 - 19:41

via The Intercept

by Maha Ahmed

Data has shown that, across the country, black Americans are more likely to be killed by police than whites. But the problem is worse in the most segregated states, according to a recent study showing that racial disparities in fatal police shootings are linked to histories of structural violence.

Police killings, more than just the consequence of a few bad-apple officers that can be rooted out of the system, instead can be traced back to the discriminatory housing and economic policies of the mid-20th century, the study’s senior author, Michael Siegel, told The Intercept.

To conduct their analysis, Siegel and his colleagues at Boston University’s School of Public Health compared two numbers for each state: the black-white ratio in the rate of fatal police shootings from 2013 to mid-2017, and something the authors termed a “racism index.”

For the former statistic, they pulled data from the Mapping Police Violence project database, one of the most comprehensive aggregations of police-involved deaths in recent years. (Other studies have found that government-collected data on homicides, like those of the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control, severely underestimate the actual number of fatalities from police shootings.)

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The spread of true and false news online

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 18:28

via Science magazine

by Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, Sinan Aral

Foundational theories of decision-making (13), cooperation (4), communication (5), and markets (6) all view some conceptualization of truth or accuracy as central to the functioning of nearly every human endeavor. Yet, both true and false information spreads rapidly through online media. Defining what is true and false has become a common political strategy, replacing debates based on a mutually agreed on set of facts. Our economies are not immune to the spread of falsity either. False rumors have affected stock prices and the motivation for large-scale investments, for example, wiping out $130 billion in stock value after a false tweet claimed that Barack Obama was injured in an explosion (7). Indeed, our responses to everything from natural disasters (8, 9) to terrorist attacks (10) have been disrupted by the spread of false news online.

New social technologies, which facilitate rapid information sharing and large-scale information cascades, can enable the spread of misinformation (i.e., information that is inaccurate or misleading). But although more and more of our access to information and news is guided by these new technologies (11), we know little about their contribution to the spread of falsity online. Though considerable attention has been paid to anecdotal analyses of the spread of false news by the media (12), there are few large-scale empirical investigations of the diffusion of misinformation or its social origins. Studies of the spread of misinformation are currently limited to analyses of small, ad hoc samples that ignore two of the most important scientific questions: How do truth and falsity diffuse differently, and what factors of human judgment explain these differences?

Current work analyzes the spread of single rumors, like the discovery of the Higgs boson (13) or the Haitian earthquake of 2010 (14), and multiple rumors from a single disaster event, like the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 (10), or it develops theoretical models of rumor diffusion (15), methods for rumor detection (16), credibility evaluation (17, 18), or interventions to curtail the spread of rumors (19). But almost no studies comprehensively evaluate differences in the spread of truth and falsity across topics or examine why false news may spread differently than the truth. For example, although Del Vicario et al. (20) and Bessi et al. (21) studied the spread of scientific and conspiracy-theory stories, they did not evaluate their veracity. Scientific and conspiracy-theory stories can both be either true or false, and they differ on stylistic dimensions that are important to their spread but orthogonal to their veracity. To understand the spread of false news, it is necessary to examine diffusion after differentiating true and false scientific stories and true and false conspiracy-theory stories and controlling for the topical and stylistic differences between the categories themselves. The only study to date that segments rumors by veracity is that of Friggeri et al. (19), who analyzed ~4000 rumors spreading on Facebook and focused more on how fact checking affects rumor propagation than on how falsity diffuses differently than the truth (22).

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We must fully unpack the complicated evils of our justice system in order to build the sophisticated solutions we need

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 18:07

via Medium

by Shaun King

Before this year began, I pledged that 2018 would be the year where I organized people for real change — where we took direct actions that would result in measurable gains.

Let me be clear — before somebody misconstrues what I’m trying to say — we must march and protest, we must sign petitions and create hashtags — those things build momentum and they build awareness. It’s always important, when we experience injustice in this nation, that people in power understand that we will not take that injustice quietly.

However, I’ve come to understand that awareness and momentum, while necessary and valuable, are just two of the dozens of essential ingredients required to actually make change happen.

If you don’t mind, I need to teach a history lesson for a few moments. I’m going to try and teach what deserves an entire book in a few paragraphs.

From 1492–1863, which is nearly 400 years, jails and prisons in this country were few and far between. Mass incarceration did not exist. Most estimates are that the United States, at any given point during those 400 years, always maintained less than 50,000 prisoners nationwide. By comparison, most of our smallest states now have more prisoners than that.

For the first 400 years on this land, prisoners were primarily white — that was in the North, South, East, and West. In fact, in many states, the jails and prisons were exclusively white.

Not only that, but the number of laws in this nation was relatively small and manageable. They focused mainly on theft and violent crimes. The criminal code was simple.

Everything, and I mean everything, changed about America’s justice system after The Civil War. I’m sure you understand why. If you’ve ever been to one of my presentations, you’ve heard me give a crash course on this.

Let give you the basics right now.

In the United States, we’ve had two periods of history where Black freedom and liberation, where Black rights and privileges, were the primary focus. The first was The Civil War, which birthed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and the Emancipation Proclamation. That was in the 1860s.

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The West Virginia Option

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 05:09

via Labor Notes

West Virginia teachers declared victory with a 5 percent raise and returned to their classrooms today. Their organizing and their 13-day strike not only forced the legislature to raise their rock-bottom pay; it backed off corporate-linked education “reformers” on a host of other issues: charter schools, an anti-seniority bill, preventing payroll deduction of union dues. The teachers unions say they’ve seen big upticks in membership.

On health insurance, tomorrow the governor will announce the members of a task force charged with figuring out a long-term financial stability plan for the state fund that covers public employees. Activists plan to target members of the task force next.

Even before the strike, the unions had successfully pushed the governor to cancel his plan to drastically increase teachers’ premiums and to enroll them in an invasive “wellness” program. Premiums are reportedly now frozen for 16 months.

And strikers won’t be losing pay for the days lost, because sympathetic school superintendents closed schools. Lost days will be made up later as are snow days.

Although sour-grapes leaders of the state senate threatened cuts to Medicaid to pay for the public employees’ raise (the 5 percent goes to all, not just teachers), Republican Governor Jim Justice said Medicaid will not be touched and that any cuts would have to come from elsewhere in the budget.

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Land and Liberty: a Review of Anarchism in Latin America

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 04:46

via Black Rose Federation

Review of “Anarchism in Latin America” by Ángel Cappelletti. Translation by Gabriel Palmer-Fernández with introduction by Romina Akemi and Javier Sethness-Castro. AK Press, 2018.

By Sasha Berkman

The translation of Ángel Cappelletti’s expansive Anarchism in Latin America, itself a small preface for an even more expansive anthology of Latin American Anarchist texts, into English is a welcome crash-course into a virtually unknown past (at least north of the Rio Grande). As Cappelletti notes in the preface, the history of Anarchism in Latin America has been largely downplayed and obscured by professional historians (liberal, revisionist, and Marxist) for perhaps obvious reasons. And as Romina Akemi and Javier Sethness-Castro remark in their thoughtful introduction to this translation: “[t]he publishing[of Anarchism in Latin America]…feeds a growing hunger by Latinx anarchists who want to read more about their history, and for gringo anarchists to become further acquainted with a history to which they are historically bound.” The book at times reads like a breathless series of heroic strikes and near revolutionary climaxes, at other times like a bibliographic list of revolutionary figures, books, poems, newspapers, and plays. The book lands short of its mark in a few significant regards, but it accomplishes a great deal in its ambitious endeavor.

Compelling and a breakneck pace

Anarchism in Latin America is at its most compelling when it recounts, at breakneck pace, the lives of the revolutionaries who managed to fit what seems like several lifetimes of work into one. Towering figures such as the Spanish-born anarchist Diego Abad de Santillan who moved to Argentina at a young age loom large across several decades and numerous countries. A participant and chronicler of the Latin American anarchist movements, he also edited La Protesta the most influential anarchist newspaper in Argentina, was a militant in the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA), helped found the Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores, and was one of the primary economic theoreticians of revolutionary Spain. Many of his works are yet untranslated into English, including a documentary detailing the rise and fall of revolutionary Catalonia from the perspective of its participants.

The book makes anarchisms’ immense influence throughout Latin America evident, he weaves his way from the Southern Cone north to the Rio Grande, country by country laying out the general structure of the movement. From Argentina, where the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA) led the workers to expel the ruling class in a fierce general strike that nearly turned insurrectionary and was subsequently bloodily repressed in what has come to be known as Tragic Week. To Mexico, where the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) led by figures such as Ricardo Flores Magón and Práxedis Guerrero helped topple the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, fought for libertarian communism, and even gave the Zapatista movement it’s slogan “Tierra y Libertad!”. Not to mention the many combative workers federations in Cuba, Brazil, and others. Even in the countries that did not have fully realized anarchist movements such as Bolivia, many dedicated anarchists organized in local unions, ran newspapers advocating for libertarian communism, and faced repression as a result.

The “Why?” of Anarchism in Latin America
Cappelletti largely attributes the growth of Anarchism in Latin America to the influence of the large immigrant populations from Europe. As in the United States, Latin America experienced large waves of European immigration throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. To give just one indication of the extent of immigration, according to Cappelletti in the early 20th century nearly half of the economically active population in Argentina was foreign born. These immigrants were primarily from Spain and Italy, two of the countries most influenced by the Anarchism of Bakunin and Proudhon. While certainly important, the texts reliance on the thesis of European influences in Latin America is one of its primary weakness. As Akemi and Sethness-Castro in their introduction so acutely diagnose, “…[Cappelletti]begins his historical arch with Spanish, Italians, and Greek proselytizers of the faith as active subjects while indigenous and mestizo people are described as the object’s who consume the faith.”

It is a strange oversight, that a book so dedicated to retrieving a lost history would not grapple in a more nuanced way with the question: why was anarchism was so successful in so many Latin American countries?

The important question of, “Why?,” is left unexplored in several significant ways. Cappelletti doesn’t tend to highlight the ties of the anarchist movement to the indigenous communities (ideologically or materially). To his credit he does, though almost in passing, suggest that there were commonalities and intentional efforts by anarchists to make explicit connections to indigenous systems of communal agrarianism (such as the Andean ayllu and the Aztec calpulli social systems). One of the more interesting episodes noted in the book was the short-lived Peruvian Federacion Regional Obrera Indios which according to Cappelletti was, “…immediately and violently repressed by the government, which declared it a special danger.” The nature of this “special danger” is left for the readers speculation, but can almost certainly be attributed to the threat such a multiracial, anti-colonial challenge might pose. Additionally, Cappelletti notes that the anarchist movement was derided by the Leninists for its strong overlap with indigenous forms of organization, with the typical racist derision applied to indigenous thought by more crude Marxists (“romantics”, “idealists”, “utopian”, etc). Its curious then that Cappelletti shys away from highlighting that connection and the potential strength of the anarchists to appeal to indigenous modes of organization and thinking. This connection may have exposed a bit more clearly the unique character of the anarchist movement in Latin America, if not at least have vindicated the anarchist position morally.

The question of anarchist women is also noticeably overlooked. Again, the introduction smartly remarks that while the book notes some of the women leaders in the movement it, “…nevertheless overlooks the contributions by women in the development of Latin American anarchism.” A serious history of revolutionary movements, in order to avoid simplifications and romanticization, should contend both with the contributions made by women to the movements growth and the limitations of the movement in it’s reproduction of patriarchal and misogynistic antagonisms (subordinating women and non-men to gendered roles, etc).

Remains lucid and groundbreaking
Nonetheless, Anarchism in Latin America lucidly details numerous successful movements and gives an amazing cross-section of the “resistance communities” which built robust and in some respects prefigurative proletarian and peasant social organs. In Brazil for instance, unions and mutual aid societies created: a Universidad Popular in the city of Santos offering hundreds of courses, a workers’ commission to aid drought victims, workers’ lecture halls featuring libertarian writers and speakers, and more. And of course, the brilliance of the workers’ federations, many of which were founded partially if not primarily by anarchists and had explicit goals of establishing libertarian socialist societies. Organizations such as: the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina, the Federación Obrera Regional del Peru, Federación Obrera Regional Uruguay, the Confederación Nacional Obrera de Cuba, the Partido Liberal Mexicano, and others gave the worker’s movement its bite throughout Latin America. As many organizations grapple with how to build movements independent of election cycles that can supplant and ultimately replace established power understanding these mass organizations may prove instructive.

Despite its limitations, Cappelletti’s work, as the introduction so aptly describes, is “groundbreaking,” if for no other reason than its ambitious scope. Anarchism in Latin America is hopefully just the beginning in a series of reflective studies, translations, and “rediscoveries” of anarchist literature and thought from throughout Latin America. Cappelletti argues that anarchisms eventual decline was largely tied to the rise of dictatorships in the 1930’s (in Argentina, Brazil, and elsewhere) and the rise of Bolshevism throughout Latin America in the wake of the Russian Revolution. A century later, authoritarianism and fascism are experiencing an ominous resurgence and state socialism has largely collapsed. Against this rising tide, decentralised resistance movements have begun to take shape and anarchism has to a certain degree become in vogue. New libertarian and socialist resistance movements may do well to draw lessons and inspiration from the expansive history of Latin American anarchism.

If you are interested in learning more about the book, we recommend checking out an excerpt of the introduction to the book, “Anarchism in Latin America: The Re-Emergence of a Viable Current.” The book is available for purchase from AK Press.

Finding Balance: The Mní Wičóni Sustained Native Community at Standing Rock

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 05:14

via Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine

by Dr. PennElys Droz, Sustainable Nations

The land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is a place of power; rolling hills juxtaposed with the wide open sky, revealing the quiet and beautiful strength of both. Through this land flows the Missouri River, the longest river in the northern part of Turtle Island, whose waters provide drinking water and life to the Tribe in a region with little other surface or groundwater available. Both the Tribe and the River have a long history of colonial impact. As recently as 1960 the Army Corps of Engineers, with the force of the Pick-Sloan Act, constructed the Oahe Dam along the Missouri River, just north of Pierre, South Dakota. This project was devastating, flooding over 55,000 acres of the Tribe’s land, submerging forests, towns, burial grounds, and the most fertile farmland, leaving the Tribe impoverished.

In spite of this history, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has remained strong in their determination to protect their homelands and build a resilient future, a strength they clearly demonstrated in 2016 when faced with a new threat—the Dakota Access Pipeline. This immense pipeline was slated to run directly through Tribal treaty lands, including underneath the Missouri River, threatening the health and integrity of the lands and waters. Fossil fuel transportation pipelines have a leak incidence rate of approximately 300 per year in the U.S., contaminating groundwater and surrounding soil. The Tribe immediately sued Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, for violating their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and have continued to fight a powerful legal battle.

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Gig economy strike and the Bologna Riders Union

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 03:23


by Cipo Fraioli

“Today we can make a beautiful observation: all that seemed impossible until a couple of months ago, that is to trigger an efficient struggle in the heart of the gig economy, is coming true, and the results are starting to appear.”

On February 23th, food delivery riders in Bologna working for platforms like Just Eat, Deliveroo, Glovo, Sgnam went on strike for two hours, from 7pm to 9pm on a Friday evening. The strike was organized by the “Riders Union” and had a participation so high that the major platforms were forced to suspend their services, at first on and off and then finally for the entire night shift.

The Bologna experience shows that coming together and organising is the only way to answer to the casualisation of the working conditions and of life itself. In other words, the winning tool is always the same, even in an economy that claims to be “new”!

The contractual power of these platforms actually results from the exclusivity of the employment relationship with each courier (recruitment, the handling of a delivery, payment: they all take place through an app). As such, every worker interacts only with the platform and not with the other riders. In fact, some platforms like Glovo use a ranking system that puts riders in competition with each other.

Basically, this “new economy” is anything but new: it uses piecework to set off a race to the bottom between workers, for which in order to be granted with more deliveries you must be willing to take more chances in traffic, to work in severe weather conditions and every weekend, to accept low wages and no job security.

“The platforms hire more people than are really needed and put them in competition with each other. We know that our work is gauged based on our speed, on the successful outcome of the delivery and on our availability, especially on weekends. If you refuse to work on Saturdays and Sundays, you will hardly be assigned any shifts the week after” (Giorgio, a Just Eat rider).

The platforms defend themselves by claiming that they are part of the so called “gig economy”, namely the economy of short-term jobs, but we all know that deliveries are far from being hobbies or side jobs.
By getting together, like in Bologna, the vicious game controlled by these companies can be shattered and an efficient demand can be pushed forward. The demands of the Riders’ Union aim at setting a minimum level of job security such as work contracts that improve on that of mere ‘occasional’ ‘independent’ ‘collaboration’, full accident insurance charged to the company and proper and free equipment, guaranteed working-hours, decent payment without piecework and compensation in case of smog, rain and holiday work.

But this is not all of it, as they declared in a statement published after the strike, “it’s everyone’s struggle, for a city model where on demand services don’t jeopardise the rights to a dignified and guaranteed job and to health.”

Check out the Bologna Riders’ Union on Facebook.

Translation of an article (in Italian) from the Clash City Workers website.

Why what we eat is crucial to the climate change question

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 20:40

via the Guardian

by Ruth Khasaya Oniang’o

Did you know that what’s on your plate plays a larger role in contributing to climate change than the car you drive? When most wealthy people think about their carbon footprint, or their contributions to climate change, they’ll think about where their electricity and heat come from or what they drive. They’ll think about fossil fuels and miles per gallon, about LED lights and mass transit – but not so much about combine harvesters or processed meals or food waste. Few consider the impacts of the food they eat, despite the fact that globally, food systems account for roughly one quarter of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the entire transportation sector, more than all industrial practices, and roughly the same as the production of electricity and heat.

Meanwhile, the most immediate threat of climate change for most of the global population will be at the dinner table, as our ability to grow critical staple crops is being affected by the warming we’ve already experienced. Between 1980 and 2008, for instance, wheat yields dropped 5.5 % and maize yields fell 3.8% due to rising temperatures. Climate change threatens the food security of millions of poor people around the world. Young people are increasingly keen to protect the environment by shifting to animal-product-free diets. They seek plant proteins which taste like meat, while insects are also growing popular as an alternative.

What these inverse challenges – that food and agriculture are both enormous contributors to climate change, and massively impacted by it – really tell us is that our food systems, as currently structured, are facing major challenges.

There is a much larger problem that implores us to look beyond farm and agricultural practices. We need to open our eyes to solutions that address the full scope of the challenge to create more sustainable and equitable food systems. That way, we can provide healthy food for all people while we protect our planet’s resources at the same time.

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Google’s stranglehold on information

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 00:33

via Monthly Review

by Julian Vigo

Last September, Verge writer Cat Ferguson uncovered that Google had unwittingly allowed shady generators to manipulate its AdWords system.

The fallout from this article revealed that high-cost ads based on rehab keywords actually referred users to telephone hotlines that gave the impression of being independent information services.

The reality is that these services were owned by treatment centre conglomerates.

In response to Ferguson’s article, Google pulled all its AdWords marketing for addiction treatment.

Just last month, an interesting story emerged from a number of small new websites that discovered they had been delisted from Google News without any explanation from Google initially.

Some hypothesised that this delisting of smaller companies was due to the recent search engine optimisation changes, while others are more suspicious as to what is happening as various message boards gave regular updates regarding the situation.

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How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that’s already happened)

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 18:55

via Euro Zine

by David Graeber and David Wengrow

1. In the beginning was the word

For centuries, we have been telling ourselves a simple story about the origins of social inequality. For most of their history, humans lived in tiny egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers. Then came farming, which brought with it private property, and then the rise of cities which meant the emergence of civilization properly speaking. Civilization meant many bad things (wars, taxes, bureaucracy, patriarchy, slavery…) but also made possible written literature, science, philosophy, and most other great human achievements.

Almost everyone knows this story in its broadest outlines. Since at least the days of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it has framed what we think the overall shape and direction of human history to be. This is important because the narrative also defines our sense of political possibility. Most see civilization, hence inequality, as a tragic necessity. Some dream of returning to a past utopia, of finding an industrial equivalent to ‘primitive communism’, or even, in extreme cases, of destroying everything, and going back to being foragers again. But no one challenges the basic structure of the story.

There is a fundamental problem with this narrative.

It isn’t true.

Overwhelming evidence from archaeology, anthropology, and kindred disciplines is beginning to give us a fairly clear idea of what the last 40,000 years of human history really looked like, and in almost no way does it resemble the conventional narrative. Our species did not, in fact, spend most of its history in tiny bands; agriculture did not mark an irreversible threshold in social evolution; the first cities were often robustly egalitarian. Still, even as researchers have gradually come to a consensus on such questions, they remain strangely reluctant to announce their findings to the public­ – or even scholars in other disciplines – let alone reflect on the larger political implications. As a result, those writers who are reflecting on the ‘big questions’ of human history – Jared Diamond, Francis Fukuyama, Ian Morris, and others – still take Rousseau’s question (‘what is the origin of social inequality?’) as their starting point, and assume the larger story will begin with some kind of fall from primordial innocence.

Simply framing the question this way means making a series of assumptions, that 1. there is a thing called ‘inequality,’ 2. that it is a problem, and 3. that there was a time it did not exist. Since the financial crash of 2008, of course, and the upheavals that followed, the ‘problem of social inequality’ has been at the centre of political debate. There seems to be a consensus, among the intellectual and political classes, that levels of social inequality have spiralled out of control, and that most of the world’s problems result from this, in one way or another. Pointing this out is seen as a challenge to global power structures, but compare this to the way similar issues might have been discussed a generation earlier. Unlike terms such as ‘capital’ or ‘class power’, the word ‘equality’ is practically designed to lead to half-measures and compromise. One can imagine overthrowing capitalism or breaking the power of the state, but it’s very difficult to imagine eliminating ‘inequality’. In fact, it’s not obvious what doing so would even mean, since people are not all the same and nobody would particularly want them to be.

‘Inequality’ is a way of framing social problems appropriate to technocratic reformers, the kind of people who assume from the outset that any real vision of social transformation has long since been taken off the political table. It allows one to tinker with the numbers, argue about Gini coefficients and thresholds of dysfunction, readjust tax regimes or social welfare mechanisms, even shock the public with figures showing just how bad things have become (‘can you imagine? 0.1% of the world’s population controls over 50% of the wealth!’), all without addressing any of the factors that people actually object to about such ‘unequal’ social arrangements: for instance, that some manage to turn their wealth into power over others; or that other people end up being told their needs are not important, and their lives have no intrinsic worth. The latter, we are supposed to believe, is just the inevitable effect of inequality, and inequality, the inevitable result of living in any large, complex, urban, technologically sophisticated society. That is the real political message conveyed by endless invocations of an imaginary age of innocence, before the invention of inequality: that if we want to get rid of such problems entirely, we’d have to somehow get rid of 99.9% of the Earth’s population and go back to being tiny bands of foragers again. Otherwise, the best we can hope for is to adjust the size of the boot that will be stomping on our faces, forever, or perhaps to wrangle a bit more wiggle room in which some of us can at least temporarily duck out of its way.

Mainstream social science now seems mobilized to reinforce this sense of hopelessness. Almost on a monthly basis we are confronted with publications trying to project the current obsession with property distribution back into the Stone Age, setting us on a false quest for ‘egalitarian societies’ defined in such a way that they could not possibly exist outside some tiny band of foragers (and possibly, not even then). What we’re going to do in this essay, then, is two things. First, we will spend a bit of time picking through what passes for informed opinion on such matters, to reveal how the game is played, how even the most apparently sophisticated contemporary scholars end up reproducing conventional wisdom as it stood in France or Scotland in, say, 1760. Then we will attempt to lay down the initial foundations of an entirely different narrative. This is mostly ground-clearing work. The questions we are dealing with are so enormous, and the issues so important, that it will take years of research and debate to even begin understanding the full implications. But on one thing we insist. Abandoning the story of a fall from primordial innocence does not mean abandoning dreams of human emancipation – that is, of a society where no one can turn their rights in property into a means of enslaving others, and where no one can be told their lives and needs don’t matter. To the contrary. Human history becomes a far more interesting place, containing many more hopeful moments than we’ve been led to imagine, once we learn to throw off our conceptual shackles and perceive what’s really there.

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Thinking about post capitalist housing

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 20:23

via Slingshot

By Kyle Chastain

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, conversing, and reading about housing under capitalism, what post-capitalist housing might look like, collective housing in capitalism with its potentials and short-comings, and some tactics we might consider in trying to form post-capitalist housing (and solutions to the so-called “housing crisis”). This submission is a reflection of these.

In terms of collective housing and potential for relating to unhoused folks, I recently found a collective house near where I live in Everson, Washington, which brings forth an interesting model for fluid-ish housing and the accommodation of new people to an area. After going to open mics hosted by the house, and to one of their house meetings, I realized that the house was functioning as a transitional space for some people. There are three floors in the house – two of which have community space (non-private living quarters) where people may stay for 5 nights a month free, and the rest of the month at $8.00 a day (to contribute to the cost of the space in utilities, house essentials, etc.). At the house meeting that I attended there were at least four people who were there living in community space, new to the area, and looking for housing. While probably not everyone would be comfortable dealing with the fluid nature of a space like this (having new people in and out of community spaces as they transition into longer-term housing) I think that those who can hold down very important spaces with a lot of potential. They are important in that they not only provide relatively inexpensive places to stay for people new to town – but also in that they are social spaces. They host events like the open mic for entertainment and gathering and provide an actual physical location to go to begin building new relationships in a new place. And collective spaces that have meetings to decide together show radical direct democracy in practice and have the potential to introduce new people to these politics in action (which could inspire more action like this i.e. propaganda of the deed)! Furthermore we move around a lot! Some of us for adventure, some of us to find new social relations, some of us are getting away from something unhealthy; there are so many reasons. If we want to live in a world in which this is easier to do whenever we feel compelled to do so we will have to make it so! Let’s make more social centers like this!

Another alternative to capitalist housing that we might continue to mobilize in the future is squatting1 (there was a lot of mobilization around this during Occupy and earlier movements i.e. Organizing For Occupation, Homes Not Jails, Operation Move-In in the 70’s, etc.). Squatting is a term used in various ways with lots of connotations. Here, I use it to mean: squatting because housing is fucking expensive, squatting out of necessity, squatting to collectively resist and create alternatives to the real estate market that turns homes into commodities, squatting because there are empty houses and people who need them so let’s fucking use them. I just recently finished a book by Hannah Dobbz called, “Nine Tenths of the Law: Property and Resistance in the United States” (I highly recommend it)2 which goes through the ins and outs of squatting in the so-called U.S.

I want to bring up a couple of points that Dobbz makes in this book that are important. One is that squatting could become an effective way of coping with so-called housing crisis. Now, I say so-called because Dobbz makes a compelling point that, in the U.S. as a whole, the housing crisis does not stem from a shortage of habitable housing. She cites statistics that show that even if we were to house all houseless people in the U.S. into their own homes that there would still be an enormous amount of housing empty. Rather, housing is seen as as a commodity (a thing to be bought and sold ideally at a profit) and that is what renders housing scarce. We have an artificial crisis. Another is that public support for squatting has fluctuated through time and by region in the U.S. While this is not important if one’s goal in squatting is to secure housing for as long as you can without getting caught, popular opinion is very important if we’re interested in gaining momentum around squatting as an effective means of dealing with “the housing crisis” (a.k.a. peeps trying to make mad profits off of our shelter) and having serious collective support if and when the police come to evict us. We need to “normalize” squatting.

This could also be dangerous. I think we’d have to watch out for profiteers who might take advantage of public support for squatting to gentrify; I think we’d also need to keep in mind a potential for racist outcomes (particularly in this moment of heightened xenophobia). That is, given the histories and continued institutional racism in the U.S. I think we would need to keep an eye to make sure that we mobilize public support around people of color and LGBTQ folks squatting in particular (this could open up a whole conversation around community self-defense). Maybe some consciousness raising tactics (conversations, reading, demonstrations, etc.) around squatting might be a good place to start?

Lastly, in theorizing post-capitalist housing, and really “ownership”, Dobbz suggests stewardship as a concept of ownership rooted primarily in the use and care of a space as a viable replacement for ownership based on title. In the U.S. the “ownership” of a space is based on legal title. Thus a person may have legal title to a space, regardless of whether they use or care for the space in anyway, and often can leverage legal title (though mostly this means force which is not always legal) to remove people from a place where they have the title even when the folks in the place have been stewards to it (Lower Eastside Squats, actions of settlers in colonizing the U.S., Zuccotti Park during Occupy).

If we could collectively shift to an understanding of ownership based on care, rather than on title, perhaps we could lessen the effects of careless landowning (derelict properties, gentrification, redevelopment with no concern for social equity or ecology, etc.). A non-profit called Land Action in Oakland is beginning some of this work. Land Action has engaged in multiple forms of struggle to create a new form of ownership including: squatting and going to court to gain ownership of property through adverse possession3 and fundraising to buy public lands for urban farming/land stewardship space. I think that this multi-pronged approach to creating decommodified space is very important. Sadly not everyone is down with squatting as a way to acquire lands and housing and this approach currently rubs a lot of folks the wrong way. See their website @ There is a video from CNN in which a reporter calls Steve DeCaprio’s actions and attempts at adverse possession “morally yucky.” However another guest on the show, a legislator, backs Steve up about his claims that this kind of caretaking squatting is good for the community and local ecology. According to their website Land Action has also fundraised to create urban farms in Oakland. Their goal is to create 100+ “microfarms” within the next five years which will take these lands out of the speculative land/housing market for good. Land Action is using direct action to counter gentrification which in turn is also raising awareness around squatting, land stewardship, and alternatives to capitalist housing.

In conclusion, perhaps based on the model utilized by groups like Land Action, we should attempt a multi-pronged approach to blow up capitalist housing for good. I think that squatting will remain an essential tactic – both for survival in the now, and for making moves to take care of spaces, and cultivate the kinds of communities we want to live in. I also think that taking a fundraising approach will be good for consciousness raising about both capitalist housing and what that really is, who benefits, etc., and the alternatives that we can use to create housing that benefits more of us in enriching social and ecologically mindful ways.

Editor’s note: We are overjoyed to announce that Alameda County recently dropped squatting-related charges against 4 Land Action organizers after a 2 year legal battle!

3. Adverse possession is a legal principle through which squatters may be able to legally “own” properties after certain amounts of time, or after making improvements to the property or paying the property taxes. Rules around adverse possession vary across the so-called U.S.

How Zombie Crime Stats, Phantom Stats and Frankenstats Paint a Misleading Picture on Crime

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 18:29

via Injustice Today

by John Pfaff

In September 2017, newspapers across the country ran headlines of a similar theme: According to data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, the agency’s official report on criminal behavior nationwide, crime — or at least violent crime — had risen for the second year in a row.

That’s not entirely true. “Violent crime” hadn’t risen. The violent crimes that we count — the so-called “index crimes” of murder/manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — had risen. Simple assaults? Sexual assaults that don’t rise to the level of rape? We don’t measure those crimes. The crimes we do measure were all chosen during the development of the UCR in the late 1920s, on the grounds that they were common, serious, and generally reported — which is true, but we haven’t updated the list since.

And even saying that “index violent crimes” rose isn’t quite right. Index violent crimes reported to the police had gone up. But a large fraction of crimes are never reported, perhaps fewer than half of all violent crimes and barely 50 percent of all serious violent crimes. And the widely reported UCR data are based only on crimes recorded by the police.

Well, some of the police. Participation in the UCR is voluntary, so it provides data on index crimes reported to the police by departments that then report to the FBI, with some efforts to fill in the gaps from those that don’t report at all or provide incomplete data. About 5,000 of the nation’s 18,000 or so police agencies — so something on the order of 20 to 25 percent — don’t appear to report sufficient data.

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What Happened After Standing Rock?

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 15:48

via BuzzFeed News

by Kate Bubacz

“I think the biggest misconception is that it was a protest and that the Water Protectors were protesters,” Josue Rivas, an indigenous photographer and journalist, told BuzzFeed News of the demonstrations and encampments at Standing Rock in 2016.

The #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock was forced to disband on Feb. 26, 2017, having failed to stop construction of a controversial oil pipeline that threatened the waters of the Missouri, Mississippi, and Big Sioux rivers and crossed through land sacred to the Lakota people. Despite this failure, the movement around it ignited changes that are still in effect and awareness that is creating conversations throughout the country.

Thousands of people gathered near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, over the course of nine months. The images of local government forces — who were protected by dogs, tanks, and shields while beating Native Americans — quickly became iconic as an intense debate over environmental water rights raged. What started as a local issue in a remote place became a broader fight between ideologies, attracting support from all over the globe.

“What happened at Standing Rock was something that we probably won’t see again anytime soon. People dropped their life and showed up at the camps because they were called to stand up for the water, and in the process they were part of something bigger than themselves,” said Rivas.

“Standing Rock lit a fire in so many of us. Maybe it was because we finally got the opportunity to tangibly feel an entirely indigenous reality. Camp did that for us. And when we left, we were able to take that feeling back into our communities and plant seeds of hope for a better future,” said Matika Wilbur, a Swinomish and Tulalip photographer.

For many non–Native Americans, this was a brief moment of reckoning with the painful history of appropriation, land-use rights, and indigenous customs. Celebrities took up the cause, mentioning the movement on air during awards ceremonies and posting the rallying cry of #NoDAPL on social media platforms such as Instagram.

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Federal officials discussed raising alert level to highest level during Idle No More

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 15:31

via CBC News

By Jorge Barrera

Senior federal officials discussed raising the country’s alert level to the highest tier at the height of the Idle No More movement, which also shaped how Canada’s security agencies handle Indigenous-led protests, according to a new book.

CBC News obtained an advance copy of the book, Policing Indigenous Movements, which charts how police, military and intelligence agencies handled such protest movements through “fusion policing models.”

The book is largely based on documents obtained under the Access to Information and Privacy Act. It is scheduled to be  published in May.

The  book was written by Andrew Crosby, a co-ordinator with Carleton University’s Ontario Public Interest Research Group, and Jeffrey Monaghan, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The researchers focused on how authorities handled opposition to Enbridge’s failed Northern Gateway project, conflicts between Ottawa and the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake in Quebec, the Idle No More movement and the Elsipogtog First Nation-led anti-shale gas battle in New Brunswick.

The researchers said the documentation shows the federal department of Indigenous Affairs — which has since been replaced by two new agencies — played a central information-sharing role with security agencies.

The department holds a wide breadth of information on communities and individuals, including family information of those with Indian status.

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More than 12 years after Hurricane Katrina, scientists are learning what makes some survivors more resilient than others

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 15:17

via Science magazine

By Kelly Servick

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA—A muggy quiet has settled over New Orleans, Louisiana’s Gentilly neighborhood as it soaks up a late-September rainstorm. Deep puddles hide dips in the street. And in a soggy patch of grass, a wooden kiosk tells a story of catastrophe.

“This place is a memorial to the trauma of the Flood,” reads the text, written by a local nonprofit, Near here, a section of concrete levee gave way one August morning in 2005, sending the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina crashing into the neighborhood. Yet the monument is not only a reminder of suffering, but also, the text insists, “a symbol of the residents’ resilience and determination to return home.”

Resilience and rebuilding—those two appealing themes bring hope after a natural disaster. The reality is more complicated. Many who fled Katrina’s destruction never did return home. More than 12 years later, tidy brick houses in Gentilly are interspersed with empty lots while post-Katrina lives play out elsewhere.

Some of those survivors, wherever they ultimately ended up, are proving more resilient than others. “One household or family manages to recover,” says David Abramson, a public health researcher who studies disasters at New York University in New York City. “The other remains dysfunctional.”

Abramson has been surveying people affected by Katrina every few years since the storm. Poor, predominantly black families on cheaper property in lower-lying areas faced disproportionate damage from Katrina—and a harder road to recovery. But with the passage of years, the paths of survivors have diverged in complex, hard-to-predict ways. “Initially, I thought that those with the least would do the worst,” Abramson says. “That wasn’t always the case.”

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Confederalism, Democratic Confederalism and Rojava

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 00:23


by Zaher Baher
Feb 2018

This article explains the definition of Confederalism by Murray Bookchin and the concept of the Democratic Confederalism by Abdulla Ocalan . The article tries to show the similarities and differences between both concepts and both views . In addition it followed by brief review of what has been achieved in Rojava.

Many religions and ideologies from left to the right have tried to tackle class issues and other societal problems, but none of them has been able to resolve these problems, rather most of them have made the situation even worse.

Whilst these problems have remained unresolved, groups, political parties and individuals have continued to come up with different theories and different ideas for how to tackle them. Confederalism or Democratic Confederalism is one of them.

The idea of federation and confederation dates back several centuries. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) wrote a lot about federation and confederation with regards to Canada, Switzerland and Europe. However, when he observed the debates about European Confederation he noticed that his own understanding and analysis of confederation was completely different from what was actually going on at the time. His comment on this was as follows: “By this they seem to understand nothing but an alliance of all the states which presently exist in Europe, great and small, presided over by a permanent congress. It is taken for granted that each state will retain the form of government that suits it best. Now, since each state will have votes in the congress in proportion to its population and territory, the small states in this so-called confederation will soon be incorporated into the large ones …” Proudhon’s analysis of the situation was right at the time and still right: “The right of free union and equally free secession comes first and foremost among all political rights; without it, confederation would be nothing but centralisation in disguise”1. In fact the EU, which is a union of States, has developed the most bureaucratic apparatuses and has become a very undemocratic confederation.

In addition to Proudhon, others like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, have written about confederalism, but none of them has written as much as Murray Bookchin (1921-2006). In fact, Bookchin not only wrote about it, but he also connected confederalism to the issues of social ecology and decentralisation, and considered the building of Libertarian Municipalism as the foundation for confederalism. Bookchin was not just a theorist, he was passionate about his ideas and as a very active, dedicated organiser tried to put his theory into practice during the 1980s, as described here “In Burlington, Vermont, Bookchin attempted to put these ideas[Libertarian Municipalism]into practice by working with the Northern Vermont Greens, the Vermont Council for Democracy, and the Burlington Greens, retiring from politics in 1990. His ideas are summarized succinctly in Remaking Society (1989) and The Murray Bookchin Reader (1997). 2

For Bookchin, building libertarian municipalism is the foundation of confederalism, an alternative to the nation-state, and the way to reach a classless and liberated society. While Bookchin placed libertarian municipalism within the framework of anarchism for much of his life “… the late 1990s he broke with anarchism and in his final essay, The Communalist Project (2003), identified libertarian municipalism as the main component of communalism. Communalists believe that libertarian municipalism is both the means to achieve a rational society and the structure of that society”. 2

Janet Biehl, Bookchin’s long-term partner, in her book Ecology or Catastrophe, describes the importance of municipalities and confederalism to Bookchin ” In Bookchin’s eyes , the democratized municipality, and the municipal confederation as an alternative to the nation-state, was the last, best redoubt for socialism. He presented these ideas and arguments, which he called libertarian municipalism, in their fullest form in The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship, published in 1986″.3

In the rest of this article I try to define Confederalism from Bookchin’s viewpoint, and the understanding of Democratic Confederalism by Abdullah Ocalan. This is followed by a brief review of what has been achieved in Rojava.

Although Bookchin had an idea and plan for putting his theory into practice, he knew very well that it would be impossible, or just a dream, to build Libertarian Muncipalism and confederalism among huge existing cities, given the current mentality, education and culture of their peoples and the centralist nature of society. He realised that building Libertarian Municipalism requires a different type of education and organisation, and thought of centralization as one of the main barriers. His thinking has been described as follows: “Bookchin became an advocate of face-to-face or assembly democracy in the 1950s, inspired by writings on the ancient Athenian polis by H. D. F. Kitto and Alfred Eckhard Zimmern. For the concept of confederation, he was influenced by the nineteenth century anarchist thinkers. Bookchin tied libertarian municipalism to a utopian vision for decentralizing cities into small, human-scaled eco-communities, and to a concept of urban revolution”.2
However, Janet Biehl believes differently. She thinks there were other factors that influenced Bookchin. “What really inspired Murray to think about confederation was not Proudhon/Bakunin, etc., but the story of the CNT (Confederation Nacional del Trabajo) in Spain. His book, ‘The Spanish Anarchists’ focuses on the CNT’s structure as a confederation. He was trying to demonstrate that, contrary to the accusation of Marxists, anarchists really could organise themselves, and confederation was the bottom-up structure they chose” (personal communication, 9th December 2017).

Although Bookchin believed in decentralisation and an ecofriendly society, he could not believe that this could be achieved without confederalism – a network through which municipalities could unite and cooperate to share resources between themselves on the basis of their citizens and communities’ needs. However, at the same time he believed each municipality must have autonomy over policy making. His definition of confederalism is “It is above all a network of administrative councils whose members or delegates are elected from popular face-to-face democratic assemblies, in the various villages, towns, and even neighborhoods of large cities. The members of these confederal councils are strictly mandated, recallable, and responsible to the assemblies that choose them for the purpose of coordinating and administering the policies formulated by the assemblies themselves”.4

The road towards confederalism requires the building of Libertarian Municipalism for which working on the primary pillars like decentralization, social ecology, interdependence and feminism are very important tasks. Each of these pillars is connected to the other, such that none of them is workable without the others. Bookchin clarified this very well when he said “To argue that the remaking of society and our relationship with the natural world can be achieved only by decentralization or localism or self-sustainability leaves us with an incomplete collection of solutions”.4 Bookchin also insists that decentralisation and self-sufficiency are not necessarily democratic so will be unable to resolve society’s problems and be successful, he therefore continues to say “It is a troubling fact that neither decentralization nor self-sufficiency in itself is necessarily democratic. Plato’s ideal city in the Republic was indeed designed to be self-sufficient, but its self-sufficiency was meant to maintain a warrior as well as a philosophical elite. Indeed, its capacity to preserve its self-sufficiency depended upon its ability, like Sparta, to resist the seemingly “corruptive” influence of outside cultures (a characteristic, I may say, that still appears in many closed societies in the East). Similarly, decentralization in itself provides no assurance that we will have an ecological society. A decentralized society can easily co-exist with extremely rigid hierarchies. A striking example is European and Oriental feudalism, a social order in which princely, ducal, and baronial hierarchies were based on highly decentralized communities. With all due respect to Fritz Schumacher, small is not necessarily beautiful……..If we extol such communities because of the extent to which they were decentralized, self-sufficient, or small, or employed “appropriate technologies,” we would be obliged to ignore the extent to which they were also culturally stagnant and easily dominated by exogenous elites”.4

Bookchin was not just talking about confederalism in a political way as an alternative to the nation-state. He thought that while the state has its own institutions and politics, and maintains a capitalist economy through its institutions, forces and spies with other administration (Churches, Banks, other Financial Institutions, Media and Courts), its economy can be imposed on and dominate the society. He thought confederalism, through its libertarian municipalities, should create its own institutions, design its own policies and education, build up its own economy, and empower its own individual citizens. So Bookchin stressed that “Confederalism as a principle of social organization reaches its fullest development when the economy itself is confederalized by placing local farms, factories, and other needed enterprises in local municipal hands that is, when a community, however large or small, begins to manage its own economic resources in an interlinked network with other communities”.4

Janet Biehl has tried to clarify and explain Boockchin’s ideas about the above concept in plain and simple language in her book, ‘The politics of Social Economy, Libertarian Municipalism’. In Chapter 11 she explains the meaning of the Bookchin quote above “A confederation is a network in which several political entities combine to form a larger whole. Although a larger entity is formed in the process of confederating, the smaller entities do not dissolve themselves into it and disappear. Rather they retain their freedom and identity and their sovereignty even as they confederate”.5

It is essential that people are economically equal according to their needs otherwise, they will remain in conflict politically. Obviously economic equality cannot happen unless people themselves control their economy. This means the economy should not in any way be in private hands, or in the hands of the State, either in what is called the public sector, or in public-private partnerships. In her book on Libertarian Municipalism mentioned above, Janet Biehl explains in Chapter 12, ‘A Municipalized Economy that the type of economy the community needs is very different from any other type of economy that class-based societies have seen before. She says “Libertarian municipalism advances a form of public ownership that is truly public. The political economy it proposes is one that is neither privately owned, nor broken up into small collectives, nor nationalized. Rather, it is one that is municipalized – placed under community “ownership” and control.”

“This municipalization of the economy means the “ownership” and management of the economy by the citizens of the community. Property – including both land and factories – would no longer be privately owned but would be put under the overall control of citizens in their assemblies. The citizens would become the collective “owners” of their community’s economic resources and would formulate and approve economic policy for the community …………In a rational anarchist society, economic inequality would be eliminated by turning wealth, private property, and the means of production over to the municipality. Through the municipalization of the economy, the riches of the possessing classes would be expropriated by ordinary people and placed in the hands of the community, to be used for the benefit of all”.5

The concept of Democratic Confederalism `

Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) both before and during his current imprisonment has thought about and analysed the PKK movement and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European Blocks. He has also linked the experience and ideology of all the Communist parties in the world with one another, especially in the Middle Eastern Region, and observed that their achievements in real life are not what they claim. However, the trigger point for Ocalan was familiarising himself with Bookchin’s ideas while in prison. Through his lawyer, Ocalan wrote to Bookchin a few times with a view to adapt his ideas to the context of the PKK, but Bookchin was near the end of his life.

At the beginning of this century, Ocalan realised that Bookchin’s proposed citizens’ assemblies and confederalism were the right solution for all the nations and ethnic minorities who are living in the countries of the region. He therefore rejected the idea of the nation-state. In fact he now believes the nation-state is the root of the problem rather than the solution and that it brought and still brings disaster to the people. He wrote “If the nation-state is the backbone of the capitalist modernity it certainly is the cage of the natural society …….. The nation-state domesticates the society in the name of capitalism and alienates the community from its natural foundations”.6

He thinks that not only do nations have no future under the nation-state, but even individuals – the citizens – have no future, except for fitting themselves into a kind of modern society “The citizenship of modernity defines nothing but the transition made from private slavery to state slavery “.6

Ocalan knew the root of the problem in many societies, like the Kurdish society, especially in the region he came from. For him it is not enough just to reject the nation-state, he believes people also need to concentrate on another major problem that has existed in society for a long time, women’s issues. He read a lot about ancient society, from the time of the first civilisation over 10,000 years ago and the role of women through this period. He realised that all issues from the nation-state, through exploitation and slavery to women issues and gender equality are strongly connected and so cannot be resolved separately. Indeed, he thought exploitation started with the slavery and repression of women “Without woman’s slavery none of the other types of slavery can exist let alone develop……without the repression of the women the repression of the entire society is not conceivable”. 6

Ocalan is deeply concerned about women’s issues and he thought even women is nation but a colonised nation. Testament to his genuine belief in what he wrote, is his insistence that the involvement of women is the first and essential step in the struggle to resolve their own issues as well as the entire problems of society. He was working on these ideas when he was in the mountains and he managed to involve many women in guerrilla fighting, even some non-Kurdish women. However, over time he became more aware of the role of women, not just in fighting the state with weapons, but in fighting the state in different ways and in building a new society based on Democratic Confederalism “The democratic confederalism of Kurdistan is not a State system,” he wrote “It is the democratic system of a people without a State.”6

Why was Ocalan so insistent on Democratic Confederalism? What is Ocalan’s definition of this concept?

Ocalan shortened the definition of Democratic Confederalism to just few words “democratic, ecological, gender-liberated society……or democracy without State”.7 He thought that capitalism has been built on three pillars: capitalist modernity, the nation-state, and industrialism, and he believed that people can replace these with “democratic modernity, democratic nation, communal economy and ecological industry”7 respectively.
The idea of democratic confederalism for Ocalan is people organising to manage themselves. He sees it as a grassroots task, enacted by collective decisions made by the people themselves about their own issues through direct democracy, which rejects control by the state or any dominant administration. He wrote “Democratic confederalism is the contrasting paradigm of the oppressed people. Democratic confederalism is a non-state social paradigm. It is not controlled by a state. At the same time, democratic confederalism is the cultural organizational blueprint of a democratic nation. Democratic confederalism is based on grass-roots participation. Its decision-making processes lie with the communities.”.6 He goes on to say “[Democratic Confederalism]…can be called a non-state political administration or a democracy without a state. Democratic decision-making processes must not be confused with the processes known from public administration. States only administrate[sic]while democracies govern. States are founded on power; democracies are based on collective consensus”. 6

Examining the definition and views of Bookchin about confederalism and of Ocalan about democratic confederalism, can we see similarities and differences between the two concepts and views? I personally see that both the concepts as well as Bookchin’s and Ocalan’s views on these concepts share many similarities. They may have chosen different conceptual labels, but the meaning of them and the aims are the same.

Minor differences are that Ocalan replaced the concept of confederalism with democratic confederalism and instead of using the concept of Libertarian Municipalism uses a different form of administration that has been put into practice in Rojava. As far as I know, Ocalan saw his theory as a solution to the conflicts and problems between the nations and ethnic minorities especially in the region he came from. However, Bookchin went further in that he believed that confederalism is the solution for all human beings and the way to end capitalist domination in every way. So for Bookchin confederalism is the solution to the problems that people are facing world-wide and not just in one region or some countries.

There is another difference. Ocalan in his analysis of the history of human civilization, exploitation and slavery believes that slavery started from the enslavement of women and hierarchy started from the domination of men over women, although elsewhere he agreed with Bookchin “I have repeatedly pointed out that the patriarchal society mostly consisted of the shaman, the elderly experienced sheikh, and the military commander. It may be wise to look for prototype of a new society within such development with “a new society” we mean a situation where hierarchy emerges inside the clan. The immanent division is finalised when hierarchy gives rise to permanent class-formation and a state-like organisation”.8 The issue of hierarchy is the soul of Ocalan’s theory, as libertarian municipalism was for Bookchin, although both of them see hierarchy as the foundation of the class society. It is quite clear that Bookchin has looked at hierarchy and hierarchical society in greater depth than Ocalan, and at how domination existed before class society through the heads of tribes, heads of families, elders, and the domination of men over women. Janet Biehl wrote in the Bookchin Reader: “According to Marx “primitive egalitarianism”was destroyed by the rise of social classes, in which those who own wealth and property exploit the labor of those who do not. But from his observations of contemporary history, Bookchin realised that class analysis in itself does not explain the entirety of social oppression. The elimination of class society could leave intact relation of subordination and domination……….Bookchin emphasised that it would be necessary to eliminate not only social class but social hierarchies as well…….. Hierarchy and domination, in Bookchin’s view, historically provided the substrate of oppression out of which class relations were formed”.9

However, Janet Biehl believes that Ocalan’s theory is almost the same as Bookchin’s and that Ocalan put Bookchin’s theory into practice. As she said on one occasion: “The way I think of it, Bookchin gave birth to the baby, and Abdullah Ocalan raised it to a child.” 10 She continued, noting that “Ocalan altered some of Bookchin’s original model. Bookchin was an anarchist, and as such he was opposed to all hierarchies, of race, of sex, of gender, of domination by state, of interpersonal relations. Mr Ocalan emphasised gender hierarchy and the importance of the liberation of women.[That is]one of the biggest theoretical changes I can see.” 10

In addition to these similarities and differences, in my opinion there is another main difference between Bookchin and Ocalan. Bookchin sees building libertarian municipalities as the foundation of confederalism. This building relies purely and completely on the education, organisation and participation of the people. Ocalan believes that participation is the people’s own job and should be done through mass meetings/assemblies to discuss and debate existing and related issues, and that decisions should be made collectively. The main tool that can be used for this purpose is direct democracy and direct action.

For Ocalan, although the aim is the same, as I have shown above, the way of to get to the destination, to a certain extent, or at least as far as we can see in Rojava and Bakur, is different. Until this moment Ocalan is the leader of PKK and he is the spiritual leader of the Kurds in Bakur and Rojava, as well as of many people in Basur and Rojhalat[Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan respectively]. It is true that Ocalan contacted his party and his people when he had the chance from his prison cell. He tried hard to convince them to transform the PKK into a social movement. As a result, there was a lot of discussion in 2012 and after about the idea of rejecting the nation-state, committing to a ceasefire and discussing anarchism. However the PKK did not transform into what many of us, probably Ocalan included, suggested and wanted.

Once all the contact between Ocalan and the outside was cut off in April 2015 and a new situation emerged when Erdogan announced a very brutal war against all Kurdish people, not just the PKK, the PKK became more militarised. So for the PKK it became more important to concentrate on fighting than to continue the discussion that commenced in 2012. In Rojava more or less the same thing happened. However, there, instead of having to fight the Assad Regime, it was forced to fight against Isis in defence of Kobane and other places*. There is no doubt that during a war in any country the mass movement will be weaker and the military will be stronger. So too in Kurdistan, Bakur and Rojava, the PKK and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) became more powerful at the expense of the mass movement.

From this I can conclude that in Bakur and Rojava a couple of high-disciplinary and authoritarian political parties, PKK and PYD, are behind building democratic confederalism in both Kurdistan, Bakur and Rojava. It is these parties that are the ones making major decisions, planning and designing the policies, and also setting up diplomatic relationships with other countries and other political parties. It is they who negotiate with their enemies or the states, and make war or peace. Of course, these are very big issues and extremely important as they shape the future destination of the society. However, unfortunately it is the political parties which are making these decisions and not the people in their own assemblies and mass meetings, or through direct action.

For Bookchin building Libertarian Muncipalities and confederalism is the task of people, or “Citizens” as he called them, but for Ocalan and PKK, at least at the moment, it is the task of political parties.

Finally we can ask ourselves a question: is what exists in Rojava democratic confederalism?
This is a difficult question especially for me to answer while I am confined to reading about Rojava, following the news on Rojava TV , Radio, websites and social media, especially Facebook. I believe that to answer this question properly and to understand all sides of this issue in relation to the future of Rojava, I may need to go there to do some essential research. This needs to include visiting cities, towns and villages, speaking to and interviewing people at every level and section of society. Visiting the Communes and participating in their meetings, following their decisions, seeing the Cooperatives, analysing the balance of power between the Movement for a Democratic Society (Tev-Dem) and the PYD as well as between them and the Democratic Self-Administration (DSA) and many more work for me to do.
We have all noticed that there has been a lot written about democratic confederalism in Rojava. The vast majority of these writings are positive and supportive and agree that democratic confedralism has been built or at least is on its way to being built there.
I believe the main problem with those articles or essays were isolated the major things, events and the role, from the influence and the power of PYD. The comrades who wrote these articles did not think or did not want to mention that building confederalism and democratic confederalism should be the task of anarchists. It is the anarchists, not political parties, who should participate and involve themselves through the mass movement in this process of building confederalism and democratic confederalism, because some issues that come up can be resolved completely through the libertarian muncipalism that is the foundation of the libertarian society. Bookchin wrote “before the class society there was “However we should not see democratic confederalism (or communalism) as separate from anarchism because they very much follow the tradition of classical anarchism.” 4

In the case of Rojava many questions remain to be asked and many outstanding issues queried, such as: Is everybody free to be involved in politics and take part in the meetings to make the decisions? Are the issues I raised in the previous page discussed and the decisions about them taken collectively through the mass meetings and by direct action? Are the existing Cooperatives really owned by the communes, the Democratic Self Administration (DSA), or a kind of mixture of private-public ownership; also can everybody be a member regardless of who they are, and finally how are the products distributed? Are the Communes and the Houses of the People really non-hierarchical groups or organisations? Why are the chair and co-chairs in position for such a long time? Is the head of the DSA, and those at the highest levels of the Tev-Dem and the Communes elected through direct democracy or just nomination? How hard is democratic confederalism working towards an ecological society and what has been achieved so far? There are actually many other aspects of democratic confederalism that also need to be questioned.

Those of us so far who have written about democratic confederalism, in my opinion, have not answered many questions or have not been following this project properly. I know some of the comrades and friends who have written about it have not stayed in Rojava long enough to know about all sides of the society and investigate these issues. Additionally, those who have stayed long enough were comrades who were or are with the YPG/J.
Having saying all that, we should agree that when we write and analyse Rojava we should not isolate Rojava from the situation that surrounds it, we should see Rojava’s enemies inside and outside Syria and also the continuing war with Isis, the Assad Regime, Turkey, and the probability that Iraq, Iran and Turkey will come together to fight PKK and Rojava in the future. In addition we should acknowledge that there has been no effective or strong international solidarity from leftists, communists, socialists, trade unionists and anarchists, and the same movement has not emerged in neighbouring countries. Had the situation been different and some of the above conditions met, perhaps Rojava could answer my questions in more positive way and set a better example to follow.

*This article drafted before the State of Turkey’s brutal attack on Afrin which was expected by few of us.


Anarchist and Radical Texts/The Anarchist Sociology of Federalism
2 Libertarian municipalism – Wikipedia

3 Biehl J. Ecology or Catastrophe, The life of Murray Bookchin, Oxford University Press 2015, P 227

4 The Meaning of Confederalism | The Anarchist Library

5 The politics of Social Economy, Libertarian Municipalism. Biehl, J. P 110 and 118


7 Democratic Confederalism – ROAR Magazine
8 Capitalism and unmasked gods and naked kings: Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization, Volume ll (page 110). Published New Compass Press, Porsgrun, Norway and International Initiatives edition, Cologne, Germany 2017
9 The Murray Bookchin Reader. Edited by Janet Biehl (page 75)
10 Golphy O. Rojava’s democratic confederalism: the experiment of an American theory. 2016.

50 Years After the Landmark Kerner Report Called Out Media Racism, the Power Structure Persists

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 22:42

via Color Lines

by Joseph Torres

It’s nearly impossible for people of color to achieve racial justice if we are unable to tell our own stories or control the construction and distribution of our narratives. This is a major reason why it is important to remember the Kerner Commission Report, which was released 50 years ago on February 29.

Black uprisings in cities across the country such as Newark and Detroit left more than 80 people dead in the summer of 1967. President Lyndon B. Johnson created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—better known as the Kerner Commission—to study the root causes of the uprisings and to prevent them from happening again. A year later the commission released its historic report, which included a chapter about the media’s role in the unrest.

The report criticized the news media for hiring few Black journalists and editors and failing to “report adequately on the causes and consequences of civil disorders and the underlying problems of race relations.” It noted that, “far too often, the press acts and talks about Negroes as if Negroes do not read the newspapers or watch television, give birth, marry, die, and go the PTA meetings.”

“By failing to portray the Negro as a matter of routine and in the context of the total society,” the report concluded, “the news media have, we believe, contributed to the black-white schism in this country.”

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