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17 books every activist should read in 2019

Infoshop News - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 22:24

via Mashable

By Victoria Rodriguez

Reading is one of the best solutions to a rainy day, cancelled plans, and maybe even the state of our world. Whether you’re an activist or just want to take a deep dive into an issue you’re passionate about — immigration, racial justice, gun control —a book is a great tool.

The catalog of books coming out in 2019 is jam-packed with powerful writers and activists who are encouraging conversations in the hopes of creating a more inclusive, just society. Some, like Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and Valerie Jarrett’s memoir, Finding My Voice, draw from direct experiences — at refugee camps, the White House, and other places around the world.

In the below books, you’ll hear from women’s rights trailblazer Gloria Steinem, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Shannon Watts, former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue Elaine Welteroth, who helped prove teenage girls in this country care about both fashion and politics.

Some books provide an escape from the never-ending news cycle while others rejuvenate your desire to protest on the streets, call your representatives, vote in upcoming elections, and continue the work of 2018.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about the LGBTQ movement, introducing a young reader to the power of community protests, or finding a YA book that features a Muslim American protagonist, consider adding these books to your TBR pile:

Image: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World 

By Malala Yousafzai

In her second book, We Are Displaced, education activist Malala Yousafzai begins with her experience of being internally displaced and eventually relocating to England — far from her home in Pakistan. The book also features stories from refugee girls from around the world who, despite their devastating circumstances, demonstrate resilience and hope.

Image: Beacon Press

Memes To Movements: How the World’s Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power 

By An Xiao Mina

Memes are known to magnify and poke fun at pop culture moments, but technologist, writer, and artist An Xiao Mina makes the case that they play a role in today’s politics, as well. While activists in China use them to evade censorship, certain governments and hate groups utilize memes to spread propaganda, according to Mina. Meme culture is engraved in our feeds and conversations, but this book takes a deeper look at the power pictures and hashtags can have.

Read more

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Punk Elegance: How Guerrilla Translation reimagined itself for Open Cooperativism

Infoshop News - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 22:20

via Guerrilla Translation

by Stacco

Who we’ve been, who we are becoming

If you’re not familiar with Guerrilla Translation (GT), here is what you should know. Founded in Madrid in 2013 and inspired by the 15M and Occupy movements, GT is a P2P and commons-oriented translation collective. It was conceived as a new kind of livelihood vehicle for activist translators that combines two compatible functions: a voluntary translation collective working for activist causes (eg. social, environmental, etc.) and an agency providing translation and general communication services on a paid contract basis. The proceeds from this paid commissioned work go, in part,  toward financing the social mission by retroactively paying translators for their voluntary (aka ‘pro-bono’) work. Sounds simple, right? But, as we soon found out, when trying to do something from scratch that’s radically new and commons-oriented, the devil is in the details.

The first thing we realized back in 2014 was that we needed a better system to organize the paid and pro-bono work.  We decided to adapt an abandoned open-source governance model and orient it towards our ideology and needs (the original had a strongly traditional “startup” flavor). We discussed it for more than a year but, due to lack of engagement, we never arrived at a final version. Meanwhile, GT was thriving: we were well regarded in our community, our translations were reaching more people than ever and we had an increasing stream of work offers. At the same time there was an imbalance between readily recognized productive labour, and all the invisible, reproductive work required to keep the project healthy.

Frustrated with this imbalance, some of us decided to take an extended sabbatical from the project. An exception to this pause was our very successful crowdfund campaign to translate and publish David Bollier’s Think Like a Commoner, a Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons. The campaign was important in several aspects, including the use of the Peer Production License and an innovative, distributed publishing model dubbed “Think Global, Print Local”. The lead-up to the campaign saw renewed activity on the pro-bono side, and the crowdfund succeeded in its objectives, leading to a book launch in the fall of 2016.

But after the crowdfund, GT still suffered from the same mixed condition: solid social capital, continued offers of paid work, but no clear governance structures to ensure a fair distribution of work and rewards whilst maintaining its social mission.

Read more

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Chicago’s Homeless Freeze As Thousands of Buildings are Empty, Unused, Wasted

Infoshop News - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 22:02

by Anarchimedia

People struggling without shelter have frozen to death during the dangerously cold conditions in Chicago and across the US. Some of the bodies have yet to be found, tucked away where they last fought painfully to stay warm when temperatures dropped below negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the 80,000 homeless people in Chicago can be found huddled outside of empty offices, curled up next to doorways, in a desperate effort to escape the elements and inches away from life saving heat, but locked out. Thousands of bank owned homes sit empty, entire buildings vacant, and the solution is obvious.

Finland has managed to essentially eliminate homelessness by providing housing immediately to people without homes. Finland is the only country in Europe that has had the number of people who are homeless decline in recent years. This option may not be available to the good folks in the US and elsewhere, but it is only because the people making those decisions don’t find value in providing homes to the homeless.

In order to solve this problem communities may need to takeover these properties. Cities in the US have dealt with people who are homeless as a problem they solve, at best, by buying them bus tickets out of town, out of sight, out of mind. Bus tickets are at least better than the other tactics of criminalization and victimization often deployed.

The only way to solve the homeless crisis may very well be for communities to take direct action. To takeover empty housing with homeless people, take over the empty buildings, the empty lots and taking over whatever else is necessary. Governments are making a choice whenever a homeless person dies on the street, they are choosing not to save these people, it is a choice that communities don’t have to accept.

The post Chicago’s Homeless Freeze As Thousands of Buildings are Empty, Unused, Wasted appeared first on Infoshop News.

Chile’s Feminists Inspire a New Era of Social Struggle

Infoshop News - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 18:07

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation and ROAR magazine

By Bree Busk

Feminism has a deep history in Chile and the powerful organizing that has emerged over the last year provides a number of lessons to draw from. We republish this piece from ROAR Magazine which is a summary of the longer piece, “A Feminist Movements to End Capitalism, Part I” originally published on our website.

By Bree Busk, ROAR Magazine

It is May 2018 and as winter descends on Santiago, Chile, a new wave of feminist activity is exploding into life. Anti-patriarchal graffiti covers the city walls and streets are littered with the evidence of recent marches. Tension is rising in the universities and social media are flooded with posts ranging from cautious inquiries to joyous declarations: “Is the downtown campus of PUC occupied?” “Was UCEN taken over?” “Instituto Arcos on feminist strike!”

Almost every day, a new selection of feminist banners can be spotted hanging from the fences of Santiago’s most prominent institutions. One by one, the universities and high schools are falling to feminist occupations, but somehow it still only feels like the beginning. Feminism is on the rise, and while there may be messages of sorority in abundance, they are sharpened by an intense anger directed squarely at those who have wielded patriarchal power against the women of this country.

To an outsider, the feminist movement in Chile might come across as a strong, unified mass movement, with a large number of diverse organizations joining the annual mobilizations. But what at first glance might be taken as a well-developed expression of feminist power was in reality much more fragmented. The movement was in chaotic transition, disrupting and challenging the left as a whole, but without a clear vision of what new practices would replace the old.

A New Wave of Chilean Feminism

The frustration and outrage felt by women, trans people, and queers had clearly been intensifying for years, but the tension had yet to find release in a mass, popular movement. Everyone could feel something coming, but no one was sure which combination of events would finally crack the dam. The flood would come in April 2018, with a massive wave of university and high school occupations, all carried out in the name of feminism.

The Chilean student movement has a long, rich history, most recently marked by periods of struggle in 2006 and from 2011 to 2013 and can seem quite exotic to foreign audiences, thanks to iconic photos of occupied schools and massive mobilizations. However, there is a danger in romanticizing these superficial images of struggle. The risk is that without historical grounding or contextual analysis, this current spectacle of youthful, feminist rebellion will obscure the far more intriguing political developments taking place away from the cameras.

“Contemporary Chilean feminism is refreshingly experimental and resilient … By maintaining a class struggle orientation and infusing their analysis with lessons learned from Black and Indigenous feminisms, this generation of feminists has advanced the struggle much farther than was previously considered possible.

The students may have been the first to throw open the door, but many more may soon walk through it. Feminist activity has re-awoken in the working class neighborhoods of Santiago and is stirring in the rapidly expanding migrant community. Workers’ movements are integrating an analysis of reproductive labor and even some traditionally masculine unions are considering going on strike for feminist demands.

This new wave of Chilean feminism will be explored in a series of three articles with a specific focus on the multisectoral and transversal tendencies within the movement which arguably hold the potential to unite Chile’s diverse social movements into a force capable of presenting a real challenge to the triad of capitalism, patriarchy and the state. This first part in the series looks at the conditions that gave rise to this fresh cycle of struggle as well as the emergence of La Coordinadora 8 de Marzo, the coalition currently serving as the primary vehicle for this political approach.

Feminists Against Femicide

Currently, the wave of strikes is already subsiding and the movement is charting a new course. However, Chilean feminists are still struggling to analyze the moment in which they have found themselves. It is not enough to simply react; we must understand where we have been in order to determine where we will go from here. This process of reflection will be ongoing, but several contributing factors can be clearly identified: the surge in global feminist visibility, the parallel ascensions of other social movements and the pressure exerted on all Chileans and Indigenous peoples through the continued application of the neoliberal policies instituted since the return of democracy.

Chileans are very sensitive to international political trends. The #metoo movement in the US and its equivalent in Spain, #yotecreo (“I believe you”), aligned neatly with Chile’s history of funas — a tactic where people congregate around the homes of public figures or known abusers in order to denounce and shame them for human rights violations or patriarchal violence. This tool is used when people believe there is no other recourse for justice, which is often the case with individuals who escaped criminal prosecution for their roles during the military dictatorship. Unfortunately, this also applies to abusers who are often free to live their lives and perpetuate violent behavior without experiencing any consequences.

WATCH: Video greetings from BRRN to the Chilean feminist movement, August 2018.

In the modern era, funas have gone digital and young women bravely post photos of their bruised faces on social media accompanied by explicit accounts of their abuse. These women are naming names and sharing screenshots, taking advantage of modern means of communication to highlight their daily struggles.

#NiUnaMenos (“not one [woman] more”) is a slogan against femicide which originated in Argentina and resonates strongly with Chilean feminists, giving life to such organizations as the Coordinadora #NiUnaMenos (NUM Coordinator), which successfully instigated massive mobilizations throughout 2016 and into 2017. Femicide is a dominant theme in Latin America, so much so that it feels like every week brings a fresh headline about a woman murdered out of jealousy or as a punishment for stepping beyond traditional gender expectations.

June 25, 2018, for example, marked the second anniversary of the death of Nicole Saavedra, a young lesbian from a rural community who was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. Family members and activists have charged that the investigation of Nicole’s death was neglected due to the lack of importance placed on the lives of women, and those of lesbians in particular. This is a recurring theme for Chilean feminists, who are met with resistance from both the government and media when they insist on the existence of femicide as a unique category that cannot be understood or combated in the same way as other homicides.

For many who organize to combat the persistent themes of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and femicide, the fight against apathy and resignation is a struggle in and of itself. In Chile, remembering is not only about personal reflection. Rather, it is political process that prevents the loss of collective knowledge and preserves the memory of martyrs. Contemporary feminists use the politicization of memory in the same way as the older generation who lived under the dictatorship: by honoring victims of femicide through art and political struggle.

In late 2017, the struggle against femicide and gendered violence converged with the immigrant rights’ movement with the death of Joane Florvil, a young Haitian woman accused of abandoning her infant daughter. She was subsequently arrested and held in detention until her death 30 days later, allegedly due to injuries incurred during her arrest. As a recent migrant who didn’t speak Spanish, Joane was placed in a position of hyper-vulnerability, unable to explain her actions to the police or to defend herself against their accusations. Her death has since become emblematic of growing xenophobia, a problem which is further exacerbated by anti-black racism and misogyny.

As migrants continue to surge into the country in unprecedented numbers, the left has struggled to adapt to this new political landscape. Chilean feminists have been some of first to extend a hand to the Haitian community, building bonds through activism and popular education projects. With the passage of a new decree that singles out Haitians for a more restrictive immigration process, feminism has the potential to become the lens through which this crisis is understood and confronted.

Multisectoral Movements

The themes of income disparity, reproductive labor, and precarity have been taken up most notably by the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras No Más AFP (National No More AFP Workers’ Coordinator, or No+AFP), the coalition organized to reform or replace the corrupt pension system. This movement has been propelled forward by female trade unionists — among others — and hasn’t hesitated to highlight how women are uniquely disadvantaged under the current capitalist system due to gender-based income disparity and the uncompensated nature of work in the home. The women of No+AFP are often active participants in neighborhood assemblies and political organizations and represent a traditional image of Chilean working class activism.

Tension emerges when the feminism of the labor movement and poblaciones — shantytowns or working-class communities — intersects with the feminism of the student movement, which has largely, but not exclusively, been developed in the context of the most politicized high schools and universities. Certainly there is a vast gulf of experience between poor, rural Chileans and those who are able to attend the best universities in the capital city of Santiago. That said, it is the project of every social movement to identify the common threads capable of binding these groups together across and through their diverse experiences.

The neoliberal policies instituted under the dictatorship and expanded on by subsequent right-wing governments have impacted the lives of all Chileans and indigenous people. Therefore, movements against state violence and privatization in the areas of education, social security, healthcare and labor have everything to gain from recognizing and acting on their complementary objectives.

This multisectoral approach is exemplified by the national organization Movimiento Salud para Todas y Todos (Healthcare for All Movement, or MSpT), which unites healthcare workers, medical students and patients to demand healthcare as a public right. They pursue this goal through many diverse campaigns, including support for Mapuche hunger strikers, improvement of patient conditions, public health education workshops and the decriminalization of abortion. In the language of the Chilean left, sectors are defined areas of struggle, such as labor, territorial — land and community — and student.

Multisectoralism means having a cross-sectional analysis of these social movements and developing relationships of solidarity across these sectors, resulting in multisectoral support for specific demands.

The multisectoral movements of today reflect the experiments and advances of the past, as evidenced by the Chilean student movement which has proven itself to be remarkably flexible, capable of incubating new ideas and putting them into practice. One such idea was “sexual dissidence,” a radical answer to the neoliberal politics of inclusion and diversity. Popularized by such groups as Colectivo Universitario de Disidencia Sexual (Sexual Dissidence University Collective, or CUDS), sexual dissidence denotes “constant resistance to the prevailing sexual system, to its economic hegemony and its postcolonial logic” and rejects the idea of subversive identities — gay, lesbian, queer, trans, drag, etc. — in favor of subversive analysis and action. The result is an inclusive, combative politics that cannot be easily co-opted or institutionalized, no matter how many individuals are peeled away by token reforms.

Since the theorization and practice of sexual dissidence developed in conjunction with the growth of student feminist activity, there is a significant tendency that has proved resistant to trans-exclusive radical feminism. This influence is most visible in feminist assemblies and demonstrations in Santiago where trans and nonbinary feminists show up in far greater numbers than can be seen in the US and even hold leadership positions in their organizations.

Contemporary Chilean feminism is refreshingly experimental and resilient, grounded in historical leftist analysis, but open to integrating new theories and tactics as they emerge on the global level. By maintaining a class struggle orientation and infusing their analysis with lessons learned from Black and Indigenous feminisms, this generation of feminists has advanced the struggle much farther than was previously considered possible. However, there are a number of forces that stand in ideological opposition and seek to sabotage the movement at every opportunity.

Bree Busk is an American anarchist living and working in Santiago, Chile. As a member of both Black Rose Anarchist Federation (USA) and Solidaridad (Chile), she is dedicated to building international coordination across the Americas. She currently contributes to movements in both countries through art, writing, and providing the invisible, reproductive labor that organizations need to survive and flourish.

If you enjoyed this article we also recommend the longer article this is based on, “A Feminist Movements to End Capitalism, Part I” and the organizational statement “Kavanaugh and a Feminist Movement Fighting to End Capitalism.” For further critical anarchist feminist readings we also recommend the seminal piece, “Breaking the Waves: Challenging the Liberal Tendency within Anarchist Feminism,” authored by Busk together with Romina Akemi. 

The post Chile’s Feminists Inspire a New Era of Social Struggle appeared first on Infoshop News.

Climate school strikes go global

Infoshop News - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 17:55

via The Ecologist

by Campaign Against Climate Change

UK wide student strike has been called on Friday 15 February 2019 to protest against climate inaction, with a global strike following on Friday 15 March.

There have been escalating young people’s school strikes across the globe, with tens of thousands coming onto the streets to demand action to stop global warming and environmental destruction.

All have been inspired by Greta Thunberg, who began a solo climate protest by striking from school in Sweden in August 2018. Since then, thousands of school students around the world have joined her.

Climate action

The school strikes have spread to at least 270 towns and cities in countries across the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the US, Canada and Japan.

The picture above shows young people in Belgium taking part in a strike organised by an independent youth movement, not affiliated to any parties or organisations.

In November 2018, thousands of Australian children struck school in defiance of the prime minister to protest for greater action on climate change.

Organisers estimated around 15,000 left their classrooms in 30 locations across the country, including Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, carrying signs reading “procrastinating is our job not yours” and “I’ve seen smarter Cabinets at Ikea”. There were similar protests in Canberra and Hobart also.

Read more

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America’s Kurdish allies risk being wiped out – by Nato

Infoshop News - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 17:45

via The Guardian

by David Graeber

Remember those plucky Kurdish forces who so heroically defended the Syrian city of Kobane from Isis? They risk being wiped out by Nato.

The autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in Northeast Syria, which includes Kobane, faces invasion. A Nato army is amassing on the border, marshaling all the overwhelming firepower and high-tech equipment that only the most advanced military forces can deploy. The commander in chief of those forces says he wants to return Rojava to its “rightful owners” who, he believes, are Arabs, not Kurds.

Last spring, this leader made similar declarations about the westernmost Syrian Kurdish district of Afrin. Following that, the very same Nato army, using German tanks and British helicopter gunships, and backed by thousands of hardcore Islamist auxiliaries, overran the district. According to Kurdish news agencies, the invasion led to over a 100,000 Kurdish civilians being driven out of Afrin entirely. They reportedly employed rape, torture and murder as systematic means of terror. That reign of terror continues to this day. And the commander and chief of this Nato army has suggested that he intends to do to the rest of North Syria what he did to Afrin.

I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members.

Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions. The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them.

Read more


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The Warmth Fund: Solidarity Response to Extreme Cold in Chicago

Infoshop News - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 15:08

By Chicago Black Rose/Rosa Negra

In an unprecedented cold front that started Tuesday night and continued through Wednesday, January 30th, extreme temperatures in the negative teens with a real feel effect of negative 40’s, most of Chicago was hunkered down inside. And for good reason–at these temperatures someone can get frostbite after being outside for only 10 minutes.

Chicago anarchists took to the streets and started organizing immediately to ensure that folks who didn’t have permanent shelter could at least get a ride to one of the warming shelters set up around the city overnight. With funds raised through a paypal pool raising over $6,000 in five days, supplies were distributed across the city, from Roger’s Park to Hyde Park and in between. Clearing many stores out of emergency blankets, and hand warmers, organizers passed out the items along with propane-powered indoor heaters, food, water, and hot beverages to the folks who were most susceptible to the freezing temperatures.

Street Team Response

Several teams sprung up and mobilized quickly from a coalition of anarchist groups which included Little Village Solidarity Network, Haymaker, Tenants United Hyde Park Woodlawn, Blood Fruit Anarchist Library, Chicago Recovery Alliance, Lucy Parsons Labs, Four Red Stars, Chicago General Defense Committee, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and Chicago Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation, among others. Raising funds from family, friends, and allies, they were able to immediately put together a plan to track temporary warming shelters and open spaces that were available like Haymaker gym.

Teams fanned out to purchase supplies and deliver them to whichever neighborhoods they knew best, giving rides to shelter where needed and checking in on people in encampments who were less mobile or didn’t want to leave. While hitting the streets other individuals were encountered who had the same idea, and some independent groups like ChiRides. As well, a warming school bus was making rounds and giving rides. Trinity Lutheran Church in Bridgeport was passing out socks that the teams were able to take with them, and shelters like Flood’s Hall in Hyde Park were looking for help with the early morning shifts, being especially busy at night. Provided by Chicago Recovery Alliance, narcan was available and distributed to whoever was in need.

The city has a long history of criminalizing homelessness and prioritizing the needs of developers and landlords over tenants and people without housing, while hundreds of houses sit empty or foreclosed across Chicago. Though we don’t depend on the City of Chicago to come through in times like this, we used whatever tools we had to keep people safe tonight. A lot of the warming shelters that would be open during the day on Wednesday weren’t open at night, but the trains that were running 24/7 weren’t charging readmission. Passing out single ride ventra cards downtown and elsewhere has already kept a lot of people out of the cold, and then we have teams going in and out of train cards offering food and supplies through the night and all day today.

We’re not here to be thanked or anything, but mutual aid and direct action are what’s going to save us from capitalism and that’s something that doesn’t just come about when you need it–it’s something that requires organizing now and practicing community care all the time.

Ongoing Efforts

With the funds that kept flooding in, organizing are hoping to expand hot food distribution, and continue passing out supplies such as hand warmers and ventra single rides. Dehydration and lack of food will become more pressing the longer the extreme cold continues. Those items will be important to continue bringing to shelters. McDonald’s and other 24/7 restaurant gift cards are great for a free meal and the opportunity to spend some time indoors, since a lot of places make people they identify as homeless spend money there in order to stay. Of course, giving cash directly to people allows them to choose where to eat or stay warm.

In a similar vein for helping folks help themselves, some teams bought and distributed snow shovels for those who want to earn their own money shoveling.  Shelters are collecting gloves and hats, blankets, coats, etc. Important if more expensive items include sub-zero rated sleeping bags, tents, waterproof tarps, and phone cards. Even as the temperatures eventually travel back towards positive numbers, it’ll be good to have information and preparations for the next plunge. This is certainly not going to be the last cold day in Chicago, and since capitalism-caused global warming has exacerbated this extreme cold and fluctuation in climate, it’s going to become more and more vital that we find solutions for sustainable long-term survival collectively.

Another useful tip— Free rides to warming centers are available with Lyft through Friday, February 1 at 11:59pm. Use the code CHIJAYDEN19 (named for Winter Storm Jayden) to redeem two rides at up to $25 each to city-designated warming centers.

In addition to the warming shelters that the City of Chicago listed (marked here with google maps), other organizations that were staying open include:

  • Trinity Church on 94th
  • The Night Ministry’s The Crib (for young people)
  • The Sikh Temple on Devon
  • Aeslin Pup Hub, 1904 N Milwaukee (for people with pets)
  • Above Zero Soup Kitchen, 2242 S Damen
  • Flood’s Hall on 52nd Place in Hyde Park, 3rd floor (not 24/7)
    This site is urgently in need of additional volunteers. Link to sign up to volunteer for a shift or call (414) 455-6861.
  • The Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Ave
  • 807 S 17th Ave, Maywood IL

The post The Warmth Fund: Solidarity Response to Extreme Cold in Chicago appeared first on Infoshop News.

Ενάντια στους ενεργειακούς σχεδιασμούς

Anarkismo - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 13:50
Ας συνδυάσουμε όλο τον πλούτο που έχουμε γεννήσει τις τελευταίες δεκαετίες. Την αυτοοργάνωση, τον αντιφασισμό (θα βρούμε πολλούς πατριώτες μπροστά μας, να μην αφήσουμε στους φασίστες χώρο), την κριτική στον σπισισμό και την καταστροφή της φύσης, την μάχη ενάντια στην πατριαρχία (η απληστία και η αδιαφορία για τη φύση είναι συγκροτητικό της πατριαρχίας), τις πρακτικές άμεσης δράσης. Και ας δοκιμάσουμε αυτό που τόσο συχνά λέμε. Την συνδιαμόρφωση με άλλους, έξω από εμάς, παράλληλα με την δικιά μας παρέμβαση.

Διδάγματα από τα Κίτρινα Γιλέκα

Anarkismo - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 09:39
Η μόνη ρεαλιστική προσέγγιση της αλλαγής του κλίματος είναι αυτή που αναγνωρίζει την ανισότητα στην κοινωνία μας. Οι πολιτικές του νεοφιλελευθερισμού, και ειδικότερα η τιμολόγηση του άνθρακα, συνιστούν συνταγή για αποτυχία. Οι εργαζόμενοι και οι κοινότητες που εξαρτώνται σήμερα από μη βιώσιμες βιομηχανίες αξίζουν μια δίκαιη μετάβαση. Τα πρότυπα διαβίωσης της εργατικής τάξης στο σύνολό της πρέπει να προστατεύονται για να διατηρήσουν την κοινωνική στήριξη για τη μετάβαση σε μια οικονομία χωρίς άνθρακα. Η τιμή της μετάβασης πρέπει να βαρύνει εκείνους που έχτισαν και επωφελήθηκαν από μη βιώσιμες βιομηχανίες - τους καπιταλιστές. Εν ολίγοις, πρέπει να καταργήσουμε τον καπιταλισμό. Είναι η μόνη στρατηγική που μπορεί να λειτουργήσει.

Everything You Need to Know About General Strikes

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 05:38

via Teen Vogue

By Kim Kelly

The word strike seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. Workers across the world have been striking to protest poor working conditions, to speak out against sexual harassment, and to jumpstart stalled union negotiations. And as we just saw with the Los Angeles teachers’ successful large-scale strike, which spanned six school days, strikers have been winning. Despite the shot of energy that organized strikes have injected into the labor movement, many people aren’t content with run-of-the-mill work stoppages, or even with more militant wildcat strikes.

As President Donald Trump’s scandal-plagued government shutdown stretches into its fourth week and more than 800,000 federal workers struggle to survive sans paychecks, the words general strike have begun appearing with increasing frequency on social media and in a spate of articles. On January 20, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson suggested that a general strike could potentially end the government shutdown. The fact that a labor union official is speaking about such drastic action now is very significant, for one thing because there has not been a major U.S. general strike since the government cracked down on labor following 1946’s Oakland general strike. Also, a general strike is an incredibly massive undertaking; while many organized industry-specific strikes can comprise hundreds or even thousands of workers, a general strike could potentially involve millions.

So what does it all mean? How is a general strike different from a planned, industry-specific work stoppage; why are people interested in the idea now; and what would one look like in 2019?

A general strike is a labor action in which a significant amount of workers from a number of different industries who comprise a majority of the total labor force within a particular city, region, or country come together to take collective action. Organized strikes are generally called by labor union leadership, but they impact more than just those in the union. For example, imagine the scenario if thousands in your town or city — no matter what their job was or whether or not they were in a union — got together and decided to go on strike to protest police brutality, as happened in Oakland, California, in 2011, after Iraq veteran Scott Olsen was critically wounded by local police when they stormed the Occupy Oakland encampment. The community declared a daylong general strike that ultimately saw thousands of people shut down the Port of Oakland (which was more of a symbolic protest, but still it got the job done).

Though the concept has its roots in ancient Rome’s secessio plebis, one of the first modern general strikes took place during the Industrial Revolution in Northern England in 1842, a time of great civil and social unrest, as modern capitalism began to take hold and hierarchical class lines began to be drawn between employers and employees. General strikes played pivotal roles in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Spanish Civil War. And in the U.S., general strikes became almost common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, with examples taking hold in Philadelphia (1835), St. Louis (1877), Chicago (1886), New Orleans (1892), and Seattle (1919), and during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. These large-scale actions were instrumental in securing crucial workers’ rights that many of us take for granted today, from basic safety regulations to the eight-hour workday and the end of child labor. But those wins did not come easily.

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The Zapatistas Have Been Revolutionary Force in Mexico for Decades

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 05:25

via Teen Vogue

By Andalusia Knoll

It was New Year’s Day of 1994. As dawn was about to break, a group of indigenous Mayan guerrillas launched a coordinated attack on cities and towns across the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. They called themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and wore black ski masks and red paisley bandanas known as paliacates.

The United States had just signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was supposed to decrease trade barriers and increase business investment between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. It would also flood Mexico with imported corn, which the Zapatistas and other subsistence farmers believed would be their death, quite literally, and said so.

The Zapatistas, armed with machetes and antiquated rifles, took the municipal palace of the quaint mountain city of San Cristóbal de las Casas. It is estimated that between 600 and 2,000 troops, of humble farming backgrounds and largely between 18 and 30 years old, almost all indigenous Mayans from the state of Chiapas, participated and read a declaration of war from the Lacandon Jungle, proclaiming “Ya basta,” which translates to “Enough is enough.” They declared war on the army, the state and federal government, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had been in power for 65 years.

“We are a product of 500 years of struggle: first against slavery, then during the War of Independence against Spain led by insurgents, then to avoid being absorbed by North American imperialism,” their declaration read.

Their declaration of war was a last resort, but seen as necessary in order to achieve “work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice, and peace,” they said. They took the name Zapatista from the early-20th-century Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who said: “The land belongs to those who work it.”

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Acorn Community: American Anarchism at its Apex

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 03:31

via 71 Republic

by Ryan Lau

America, since its founding, has strongly valued the need for a government to satisfy needs. Rule of law, freedom, and checks and balances are ideals that many of us grow up believing in. But some people believe that freedom is not compatible with the State. The range of anarchist thought varies drastically, from philosophical to political and individualist to collectivist. In 1993, a group of them came together and birthed their ideas. Hence formed Acorn Community.

Acorn Community Anarchism

Acorn Community, as stated above, began as a small project in 1993 in Louisa County, Virginia. It is a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, a group of rural autonomous settlements throughout the United States. The community professes itself to be anarchist, egalitarian and sustainable. Moreover, it claims to thrive on non-coercive, voluntary interactions.

The group began when a sister group, Twin Oaks, was at its maximum capacity of 100 members. Many more people wanted to join, so the group branched out and purchased another plot of land. Now, both communities are healthy and full. Twin Oaks operates with over 100 members, while Acorn Community has around 30.

Of the many groups that make up the FEC, Acorn Community is one of the few that professes anarchism. Despite this belief, the community nonetheless does still pay taxes. With 501(d) non-profit status, their rates are considerably lower, but unlike some religious organizations, they are not entirely exempt from the state.

Collectively, the roughly 30 members of Acorn Community own the various elements of property present on the site. Large items, such as houses, cars, and the seed-growing business that they use to sustain the group, fall under this communal ownership. On the other hand, smaller items, including those that one can stash in a bedroom, are owned by individual members.

The Decision-Making Process

What makes Acorn Community particularly notable is the way that it reaches agreements. In fact, that’s exactly it: every rule they impose on the community, they all agree to. The group rejects majority rule as a way of disregarding minority voices. Instead, they firmly believe in a process that they call Consensus.

In the system of Consensus, any full member of the community is allowed to propose a new idea. Then, every other member of the community can voice his or her agreement or disagreement. Peaceful discussion and debate follows, and eventually, they all state their preferences. If a single full member disagrees with the notion, then it does not go into action.

This form of decision-making is incredibly uncommon, even among other members of the FEC. It is known by political theorists as unanimous direct democracy, under which everyone’s voice is included and no one member can make a decision for another without his or her consent. In a sense, it gives ultimate veto power to every single member. Some theorists believe that such a system is the only way that both authority and autonomy can exist. Acorn Community, therefore, is a rare example of such a phenomenon of freedom and democracy.

However, for the sake of efficiency, Acorn Community encourages members to listen to each other and seek out compromises. If each member can agree to one, then the motion moves forward.

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Why the Climate Change Message Isn’t Working

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 03:21

via Yes magazine

In Climate—A New Story, Charles Eisenstein looks at debates about global warming and proposes a narrative shift for the climate movement. Embracing love of nature, he writes, moves people beyond denial and passivity to the action necessary to protect life on our planet.

Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of energy and commitment that we saw at Standing Rock. We need the breadth of activism we saw in Flint, Michigan, where everyone from yoga teachers to biker gangs joined in relentless protest against lead contamination. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. Facing the reality of loss is called grief. There is no other way.

The Standing Rock action to stop the Dakota Access pipeline wasn’t framed around climate change at all (at least until White environmentalists became involved) but around protecting water and the integrity of Indigenous sites, and not all water or all sites, but a specific body of water and specific sites, real places. Thousands of people, especially young people, braved long journeys and hostile conditions to participate. That is the kind of commitment we need to arouse in defense of the sacred, in defense of all beings of Earth. It comes from beauty, loss, love, and grief.

Could we still drill new oil and gas wells, build new pipelines, open more quarries, and dig new coal mines if we came from a place of love for the Earth and water around us? We could not, and anthropogenic global warming would be a moot question. True, the Standing Rock movement failed to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, yet it revealed a tremendous latent power in that so many people were willing to go to such great lengths in defense of the sacred. What will be possible when that power is fully mobilized?

What would happen if we revalued the local, the immediate, the qualitative, the living, and the beautiful? We would still oppose most of what climate change activists oppose, but for different reasons: tar sands oil extraction because it kills the forests and mars the landscape; mountaintop removal because it obliterates sacred mountains; fracking because it insults and degrades the water; offshore oil drilling because oil spills poison wildlife; road building because it carves up the land, creates roadkill, contributes to suburbanization and habitat destruction, and accelerates the loss of community. Just look at photos of Albertan tar sand pits. Even if you know nothing about the greenhouse effect, the heart weeps at the toxic pits and ponds where pristine forests once stood. Or watch the Gasland films. Read about the oil spills that have devastated the Niger Delta. These immediate tragedies pierce straight to the heart, regardless of one’s opinion about global warming.

From this vantage, we still seek to change nearly everything that the CO2 narrative names as dangerous, but for different reasons and with different eyes. We no longer have to conjoin environmentalism with faith in Big Science and institutional authority, implying that if only people had more trust in the authorities (in this case scientific, but it extends to all the systems that embed and legitimize the institution of science) then things would be fine. You know what? Even if I were to accept the position of the climate skeptics, it wouldn’t diminish my environmental zeal one bit. Awakening ecological consciousness doesn’t require winning an intellectual debate with the skeptical forces. That isn’t what will make people care.

By framing environmental issues in terms of CO2, we distance people from grief and horror. Averting our eyes from the bulldozers toward graphs of CO2 concentrations and average global temperatures, it seems perfectly reasonable to say, “Well, we’ll offset that gas field by planting a forest. And besides, it’s transitional until we get enough wind turbines operating.”

Paradoxically, the CO2 framing enables the continuation of the activities that are generating CO2. On the global scale, any local power plant or city makes a negligible contribution to greenhouse gases. Any city could say, “We don’t need to cut back on emissions as long as the rest of the world does.” Any nation can say, “We cannot afford the economic cost. Let other nations make the cuts.” The disputes that plague climate talks are inevitable when the problem and solution are framed in global, quantitative terms.

When we shift attention to palpable, local damage, such passing of responsibility to distant others is no longer possible. No one can say, “Let someone else preserve our beloved mountaintop. Let someone else preserve our beloved river. Let someone else preserve our beloved forest.” We won’t be mollified if the destruction of our favorite trout stream is “offset” by a reforestation project in Nepal. Not-in-my-backyard thinking, when universalized to an empowered citizenry, becomes not-in-anyone’s-backyard.

Our family friend, the late Roy Brubaker, was a Mennonite minister in central Pennsylvania. He organized a highly successful watershed conservation campaign in his region, which is politically extremely conservative, by mobilizing the Rod and Gun Club. In the entire county, it would be hard to find a Hillary Clinton voter, or anyone who would have lifted a finger had he framed the issue in terms of climate change. Yet, not only was the local watershed improved, with benefits downstream for the Chesapeake Bay, but if the living planet view I’ve advanced here is correct, the whole planet benefited as well.

Does de-emphasizing the carbon narrative mean that business-as-usual gets a free pass? No. It is the contrary. As Wolfgang Sachs presciently observed, “Indeed, after ‘ignorance’ and ‘poverty’ in previous decades, ‘survival of the planet’ is likely to become that well-publicized emergency of the 1990s, in whose name a new frenzy of development will be unleashed.”

Protecting and healing local ecosystems around the world is much more disruptive to civilization as we know it than weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. Mainstream climate policy assumes that we can simply switch to renewable fuel to power industrial society and continued global economic development; hence the terms “green growth” and “sustainable development.” The powers-that-be are quite comfortable with climate change when it is conceived in a way that gives more power to themselves, who are charged with, as Sachs puts it, “the Promethean task of keeping the global industrial machine running at ever increasing speed, and safeguarding at the same time the biosphere of the planet.”

This, he continues, “…will require a quantum leap in surveillance and regulation. How else should the myriad decisions, from the individual to the national and the global level, be brought into line? It is of secondary importance whether the streamlining of industrialism will be achieved, if at all, through market incentives, strict legislation, remedial programs, sophisticated spying or outright prohibitions. What matters is that all these strategies call for more centralism, in particular for a stronger state. Since ecocrats rarely call in question the industrial model of living in order to reduce the burden on nature, they are left with the necessity of synchronizing the innumerable activities of society with all the skill, foresight and tools of advancing technology they can muster.”

Climate change portends a revolution in the relationship between nature and civilization, but this is not a revolution in the more efficient allocation of global resources in the program of endless growth. It is a revolution of love. It is to know the forests as sacred again, and the mangroves and the rivers, the mountains and the reefs, each and every one. It is to love them for their own beingness, and not merely to protect them because of their climate benefits.

The idea that deep and active care for the planet comes through experiences of beauty and grief, and not from fear of future ruin, might seem counterintuitive. Many people tell me they became environmentalists when they learned about the imminent, catastrophic consequences of climate change. Accordingly, we adopt the language of costs and consequences, hoping thereby to make others care about the environment.

But is that really why you became an environmentalist? The use of climate arguments to promote other conservation issues has a psychological counterpart in cultivating an image and a self-image of hardheaded realism, in which squishy nature lover reasons give way to rational utilitarian ones. You can traffic in data about sea levels and economic losses and crop failure risks to disguise the truth: Basically, you are a tree hugger. You are a whale lover, a butterfly gazer, a turtle caresser. Maybe you practice Druidic rituals or connect with the soul of Gaia in vision quests. The arguments you give about future impacts, 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees, meters of sea level rise, hectares of forest, energy return on energy investment for photovoltaics, methane clathrate release rates … these legitimize your mushy tree hugger sentiments. But this might be a Faustian bargain, too, in which environmentalism accedes to the language of power, in exchange for its soul.

The bargain might be worth it if it actually brought the intended results. It hasn’t. The ecological situation on Earth has deteriorated steadily, despite the adoption of data-driven models and the cost-benefit arguments that follow them. We have tried being reasonable. Perhaps it is time to be unreasonable. The lover does not need self-interested reasons to cherish his beloved. If we honor our inner nature lover and speak from that place, others will hear us. Perhaps we have been speaking the wrong language, seeking a change of mind when really what we need is a change of heart.

From Climate—A New Story by Charles Eisenstein. Published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2018 by Charles Eisenstein. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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Trump’s Coup in Venezuela: The Full Story

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 03:08

via CounterPunch

by Eric Draitser

The US-sponsored coup in Venezuela, still ongoing as I write, is the latest chapter in the long and bloody history of US imperialism in Latin America. This basic fact, understood by most across the left of the political spectrum – including even the chattering liberal class which acknowledges this truth only with the passage of time and never in the moment – must undergird any analysis of the situation in Venezuela today. That is to say, the country is being targeted by the Yanqui Empire.

This point is, or at least should be, indisputable irrespective of one’s opinions of Venezuelan President Maduro, the Socialist Party (PSUV), or the progress of the Bolivarian Revolution. Imperialism, and its neocolonial manifestation in the 21st Century, is there to pick clean the bones of the Bolivarian dream and return Venezuela to the role of subservient asset, an oil-soaked proxy state ruled by a right-wing satrap eager to please the colonial lords of capital.

But in providing analysis of the situation, the Left must tread carefully with the knowledge that though it may be weak, disorganized, fragmented, and bitterly sectarian, the Left remains the principal vehicle for cogent analysis of imperialism and its machinations. This historic role that the Left has played, from Lenin and Mao to Hobsbawm and Chomsky, is of critical importance as analysis informs discourse which in turn ossifies into historical narrative.

And with that weighty and historic responsibility, the Left is duty-bound to understand at a deep level what we’re witnessing in Venezuela. Moreover, the Left must beware the pitfalls of shallow, superficial analysis which can lead to poor understanding of material reality, and even poorer anti-imperialist politics.

It’s the Oil…Or Is It?

One could be forgiven for immediately assuming that the blatantly illegal coup, and its near instantaneous recognition by the Trump Administration (among others), is proof positive that the US has instigated the overthrow of the Bolivarian Revolution in a nakedly aggressive action to steal oil resources. Indeed, this would be a near textbook example of the sort of colonial policies visited upon the peoples of the Global South since the dawn of the colonial age.

And there’s no doubt some truth to the conclusion. As Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard noted on Twitter, “It’s about the oil…again,” referencing the parallel to the Bush Administration’s crime against humanity known as the Iraq War which was, in no small part, about enriching Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, and the US oil industry broadly speaking.

And Gabbard is correct to highlight statements by Trump’s National Security Warlock, John Bolton, whose every word oozes the sociopathy we’ve come to expect from this most hawkish of neocons. Bolton stated in a press conference, “We’re in conversation with major American companies now…it would make a difference if we could have American companies produce the oil in Venezuela. We both have a lot at stake here.”

Leaving aside the likely deliberate ambiguity of these statements – What are these “conversations”? Does this mean there was no production plan before the coup was initiated? etc. – it seems obvious that oil is a major motivating factor.

But why, exactly?

As anyone with even basic knowledge of the global oil market can tell you, there are a number of reasons why we should be skeptical of the idea that the US simply wants to rake in profits by stealing Venezuela’s oil, its primary resource and export revenue generator.

First, global oil prices have remained fairly depressed in comparison to the historic highs of just a decade ago. With the price per barrel hovering somewhere between $50 and $60 today, Venezuelan crude remains profitable, but due to its heavy qualities, it requires somewhat more expensive refining technologies, making it less attractive than some other oil reserves, most notably shale.

This is not to say that oil companies would not be interested in looting this natural resource, as evidenced by ExxonMobil desperately trying to control the Essequibo region which continues to be a source of competing territorial claims between Guyana and Venezuela. The USGS estimated roughly 15 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 42 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves lie under the Guyana Suriname Basin, making it 2nd in the world for prospectivity among the world’s unexplored basins and 12th for oil among all the world’s basins – explored and unexplored.

However, from a pure profit perspective, Venezuelan oil remains far less profitable (and stable from an investor perspective) than investing in the Permian Basin in Texas where the fracking boom, also hampered by global oil prices, has continued unabated. Indeed, with the US becoming an exporter of oil, and potentially the most productive oil field in the world in the Permian Basin, the appetite for simply snatching Venezuela’s oil supply would seem to be less.

And yet, here we are. So, what gives?

The View from Washington and Moscow

In fact, the fixation on Venezuela’s oil is only part of the story. The real story is the politics, and geopolitics, behind control over the oil. Put simply, control of Venezuelan oil is part of the broader international conflict with Russia, and perhaps to a lesser degree China.

In 2016, as Venezuela’s economy was in freefall due in no small part to the historic lows in oil price ($35 per barrel in January 2016), the Maduro government took the controversial decision to stake 49.9% of its ownership in PDVSA’s US subsidiary, Citgo, to the Russian state oil company Rosneft in exchange for a $1.5 billion loan. In essence, the Kremlin gave Caracas a very temporary bailout with major strings attached. With this move, the Russians effectively became part owners of Venezuela’s primary asset.

But Russia, being one of the world’s leading oil producers itself, surely had little interest in the oil per se. After all, Russian energy exports remain dominant in Europe, with expanding operations in Asia. Instead, Venezuelan oil was to be a potent lever against the US at precisely the moment the US was applying political and economic pressure on Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine, among other things. It should be remembered that the Obama Administration had imposed sanctions against Moscow in March 2014 over the Russian annexation of Crimea, and later involvement in the civil war in Eastern Ukraine.

With the US and European sanctions, some of which targeted Russia’s oil industry, the Kremlin was desperate for strategies to leverage against the US both to extract a cost for the sanctions, but perhaps more importantly for potential future negotiations. Putin & Co. settled on, at least in part, Venezuela’s oil sector. By providing what amounted to a relatively small loan of $1.5 billion, Russia immediately became a dominant player in Venezuela’s oil, thereby becoming a power player with Washington’s political and economic strategy.

And indeed this strategy, or at least recognition of it, was confirmed by powerful US interests in early 2018 when a still shadowy group of US investors made a move to try to purchase the Russian stake in Citgo.

Essentially, the plan, which was revealed to Reuters by an anonymous investor who is part of the group, called for the investors to pay off Venezuela’s outstanding loan balance and then require Rosneft to terminate its lien and transfer the loan to new investors. As the investor told Reuters:

“The [Trump] administration should recognize that if it doesn’t do something pro-active here, it will face…limited options under almost any scenario, whether it is an attempt to foreclose by the current lienholder, further restrictions on Venezuelan crude oil imports into the U.S., or even in the event there is a positive political change in Caracas… This is a private sector solution to a public policy problem.”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. US elites clearly felt that Russia’s foray into Venezuela’s oil sector was a strategic calculation designed to counteract US political and economic moves against Russia. Moreover, it seems obvious that there is/was a lack of faith on the part of segments of the ruling class that the Trump Administration would actively block Russia’s geostrategic maneuvers effectively, hence the need for a “private sector” solution.

And yet here we are, less than 12 months after the news of this potential strategy broke, and the Trump Administration is doing precisely what the ruling class demanded, namely targeting Venezuela’s economy, specifically the oil sector. As the recent move by the US Treasury makes clear, the US will use Venezuelan oil revenues as part of a hostage-taking strategy designed to force regime change which would make moot the question of Russian power in Venezuela as the new government would be, for all intents and purposes, a US puppet regime.

One can almost hear the shrill cries of Trump’s apologists on left and right who will cry in the night about the Deep State forcing Trump to do this, that he has no choice as it is the will of the ruling class which has weakened him with the Russiagate hoax.

But, leaving aside the unbearable blitheness of being MAGA-adjacent, the reality is that Trump has warmongered against Venezuela since well before the recent escalation, including in an infamous 2017 meeting at which ExxonMobil’s State Department CEO Rex Tillerson and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster both were “stunned” at the stupidity of Trump’s expressed desire to invade Venezuela. According to the Associated Press:

“Trump alarmed friends and foes alike with talk of a ‘military option’ to remove Maduro from power. The public remarks were initially dismissed in U.S. policy circles …But shortly afterward, he raised the issue with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to [a] U.S. official. Two high-ranking Colombian officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing Trump confirmed the report.”

So, it seems Trump never needed any help getting to the war criminal perspective on Venezuela. In fact, it could be said that, ironically enough, it was an oil man and a Pentagon man who tried to talk him out of it. So much for the Deep State. Instead, it was simply that Trump needed the right kind of crazies around him to indulge his imperialist insanity; he has them now with a messianic Secretary of State in Pompeo and the aforementioned National Security Warlock Bolton.

Imperialism a la Carte

I’ve tried to highlight the more nuanced analysis of the energy issue, and how it ties to broader geopolitical questions so that, hopefully, leftists can see the full picture of the political context, rather than a one-dimensional, reductionist one. However, it must be said that oil is not the only issue requiring careful analysis.

There is also the question of mineral extraction, and there too Russia figures centrally. In late 2018, President Maduro, desperate to get additional financing amid crippling sanctions, announced that Venezuela had offered Russian mining companies access to gold mining operations in the country. While the Kremlin’s media platforms like RT and Sputnik did their usual spin, presenting this as simply mutually beneficial, friendly, and downright altruistic policy from Putin, the reality is that Russia sees in Venezuela much the same as what US interests see: a cash cow on its knees, easily controlled and exploited.

And of course, in addition to gold, there are plenty of other mining prizes to be had in Venezuela including nickel, diamonds, iron ore, aluminum, bauxite, natural gas, etc. Both Russia and China have a significant interest in all these minerals, and projects necessary to exploit them.

Washington is not necessarily most concerned with Russian and Chinese billionaires enriching themselves in Venezuela, though it is undoubtedly irksome.

Rather, the strategic planners inside the Beltway see in Venezuela today an opportunity to strike a death blow to socialism and anti-imperialist politics in Latin America. While they shed crocodile tears over elections, democracy, and corruption, the reality is that the vultures of Empire are circling around what they feel is a carcass to be stripped clean. No more Bolivarian Revolution means not even the pretense of, let alone substantive movement for, regional integration.

With Chavez gone, and Venezuelan people hurting and desperate, people like war criminal and newly appointed envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, see an opportunity to win a major victory in their endless fight against socialism on the one hand, and petro-capitalist Russia on the other hand. And if they can stick it to China in the process, depriving it of a significant export market and diplomatic foothold in the Western Hemisphere, all the better.

Ultimately, what we’re witnessing is the classic Monroe Doctrine policy from the US, albeit under 21st Century conditions. With a consolidated right-wing front already in place under Duque (and his puppet-master former President Alvaro Uribe) in Colombia, Macri in Argentina, and Bolsonaro in Brazil, Washington sees Venezuela as perhaps the last domino to fall in South America (Bolivia notwithstanding). And with its demise, the region will be America’s backyard once more.

Unfortunately for the Empire, I’ve seen the Bolivarian Revolution with my own eyes, seen the commitment of poor and working-class people to the ideals of Chavez’s vision and of socialism from the ground up. These people, in their millions, are not simply going to watch as the US takes everything they’ve bled for these last twenty years. They’re not going to sit idle and play the victim.

If Trump thinks he will take Venezuela without a bloody fight, he’s even dumber than we thought.

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Eric Draitser is an independent political analyst and host of CounterPunch Radio. You can find his exclusive content including articles, podcasts, audio commentaries, poetry and more at patreon.com/ericdraitser. He can be reached at ericdraitser@gmail.com.

The post Trump’s Coup in Venezuela: The Full Story appeared first on Infoshop News.

In Praise of Direct Action (and More)

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 03:03

via CounterPunch

by Paul Street

Idle Capital Through Disruption

As the partial federal shutdown moved into its third week, I found myself thinking about the late left economist and sociologist Giovanni Arrighi’s concept of “workplace bargaining power” (WBP).  By WBP, Arrighi meant the ability some strategically placed workers possess to idle capital and harm profits by bottle-necking the interdependent, integrated, and continuous flow of production.  This, Arrighi argued, was different from the special “marketplace bargaining power” (MBP) some workers derive from the possession of scarce skills. WBP is available to “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” workers by virtue of their strategic position in highly capital-intensive production processes.  It was no small part, Arrighi theorized, of how the United States’ once powerful industrial unions arose amidst the mass unemployment of the Great Depression [1].

The Shutdown’s Tipping Point: Worker Resistance

As the shutdown ground on, I started wondering when federal air-traffic controllers and other key and strategically placed air-travel workers would flex their capacity to disrupt the continuous flow of airline flight operations? The answer came last Friday when a sick-in of New York City controllers led to the stoppage of flights at LaGuardia Airport. Delays began piling up across the nation’s integrated air-travel system, a quarter of which moves through New York.

The disruption was just a taste of what might have come if the slowdown and stoppages had spread to include the flight attendants and the pilots.  On Thursday, the separate unions representing the controllers, the attendants, and the pilots had issued a joint statement warning the nation that the government’s failure to pay controllers and TSA workers (the people who scan and pat-down  passengers on the way into airport terminals) had created a situation of “unprecedented” air travel peril.

A critical tipping point was coming. The New York air-traffic controllers were starting to flex their WBP (and more – see below) to control the situation from the bottom up. The pilots and attendants were likely to walk off their jobs. The unpaid TSA workers would have done the same, bottlenecking the boarding of jets. It wasn’t hard to imagine activists and supporters flocking to major air terminals on the model of the early airport protests of Trump’s Muslim travel ban. Some of them might even have donned yellow vests (see below).

The nation’s critical and capital-intensive air-travel system, upon which the nation’s business and professional classes depend, would have crashed, helping move America’s Trump-saddled capitalism from zero to negative growth.

The previous Sunday, Sara Nelson, the president of Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, had given an impassioned speech in which she called for a national general strike in support of the 800,000 unpaid federal workers and connected the shutdown with the struggles waged by public schoolteachers in Los Angeles and workers everywhere.


It wasn’t just about WBP, of course.  Air traffic controllers are skilled professionals with a good bit of MBP as well, thanks in part to the federal government’s failure to train an adequate number of professionals to fill vacancies resulting from retirements. I saw an airline CEO complain go on CNN to complain about the shortage of “replacement workers” if controllers were forced to take other jobs.

Airline pilots are high skilled workers, to say the least. They too are not in great supply and not easily disciplined by Karl Marx’s “reserve army of labor.”

Rising hazard was also part of the equation.  When a brain or heart surgeon royally screws up, one person dies. If air-traffic controllers and pilots don’t do their jobs at a high level of proficiency, hundreds can perish in an instant. TSA workers are charged with keeping wannabe shoe-bombers, hijackers. and other maniacs from wreaking mass-murderous sky-havoc. The notion of people doing the incredibly stressful work involved in monitoring flights and coordinating take-offs and arrivals to prevent mass-fatality airplane crashes while being exhausted from working second jobs (or from sleeplessness induced by financial anxiety) was simply and transparently insane.

Government is supposed to guarantee public safety, but Trump’s insane nativist Wall demand and the political and fiscal theatrics in Washington were putting travelers at chilling risk.

It was too much for big capitalist “adults” behind the absurdist political theater of the visible state. The CEO of Bank of America called for an end to the shutdown last Wednesday, warning of serious damage to “economic stability” (translation: to capitalist profits).

A potent combination of WBP, MBP, and public safety concern – call that “civic bargaining power” (CBP) – translated into political bargaining power (PBP). The workers left Trump with no choice but to “cave” on his ridiculous and self-owned shut-down.

The Pitiful Orange Dufus’s Predictable “Cave”

This ridiculous buffoon of a president had just the other day announced that federal workers really didn’t need to worry so much about losing their wages and salaries because “Local people know who they are, when they go for groceries and everything else.” (Translation: their neighbors and grocers would supposedly give them free food). Trump’s pathetic Treasury Secretary and fellow clueless and classist billionaire Wilbur Ross had just sparkedmass nauseaby suggesting that unpaid federal workers had no business visiting food pantries since they could take out loans to cover their expenses – this after Trump had been boasting that his shutdown (“I will own it”) could go on “for months, even years.”

The pitiful orange dufus, with his popularity sunk to a pathetic new low (34%), had to bow his head and walk like a pouting toddler up to a White House microphone and pretend to have led an agreement to re-open the government – but just for three weeks, mind you (I will return to this important topic in a future commentary). The nation was left to wait for the tough-sounding Tweets certain to be issued the following morning by the tangerine-tinted wannabe strongman – and for the shrieks of “betrayal” and “wimp” certain to be made by the sallow Neo-Nazi necromancer Ann Coulter. Both arrived on schedule.

It was all so predictable. As Barbara Ehrenreich Tweeted a few days before Trump’s defeat: “The shutdown would come to a sudden end if airport workers stop working and shut down air travel. Business, aka capitalism, cannot function if its minions are all floating in the stratosphere or fattening themselves at Cinnabon. The whole thing should take no more than 3 hours.”

I channeled Ehrenreich’s advice and the spirit of the Gilets Jaunes (see below) while speaking last Friday afternoon to the wonderful talk show host Esty Dinur on WORT-radio in Madison, Wisconsin.  I predicted that airport and airline workers’ WBP would raise its head and the shutdown would end soon.  Little did I know the deal would be done (for three weeks anyway) in less than an hour.

Corporate Media Spin: A Great Victory…for Nancy Pelosi

Notice the framing on “liberal” (Democratic) CNN and MSNBC: the end of the shutdown has been repeatedly called “a victory for Nancy Pelosi,” but not and more accurately a victory by and for working people, who exercised critical workplace, marketplace, civic, moral, and political bargaining power at the strategic point of airline flight production.  No surprise there. Acknowledging the political potency of direct action by ordinary working people beneath and beyond the masters’ election cycle is pretty much a no-no in the corporate news and commentary complex.  At CNN and MSDNC, where practically one-third of air-time goes to corporate advertisers (with Big Pharma represented to a comic degree), it’s all about two capital-serving things right now:

+ Getting rid of one ridiculous state-capitalist political head of state (Trump) and replacing him with a more suitable and sophisticated state-capitalist head of state (Kamala Harris as the new Obama?)

+ Getting and keeping everyone to understand U.S. “democracy” and “popular input” as those incredibly brief and distantly time-staggered moments when we little citizens get to make teeny little marks on ballots filled with the names of ruling class-vetted politicos.

It’s not for nothing that those remarkable French working-class streetfighters, the Gilet Jaunes, have been blacked out on American cable news. They aren’t waiting around like passive idiots for the 2022 French presidential election to fight back against upward wealth concentration and neoliberal austerity. Putain non! They practice and demand disruption and democracy now! They are demanding direct citizen democracy maintenant, dans le présent (now, in the present) and calling for fundamental constitutional change beyond the sham popular sovereignty of bourgeois electoralism.

Back to TrumpMuellerRussia, Up with the Quadrennial Candidate Circus and the Bipartisan Empire

Meanwhile, with the shutdown on hold, MSNBC and CNN get to do some partisan victory laps (“All Praise to Nancy Pelosi!”) and run 24/7 with the real stories that matter most to them:

+TrumpMuellerStoneRussiaCohenManafortTrumpMuellerStoneRussiaCohenManafortTrumpMuellerStoneRussiaCohenManafortTrumpMuellerStoneRussiaCohenManafort (Many CNN and MSDNC staffers were surely irritated that the military-style FBI raid on Roger Stone’s mansion had to compete with the shutdown’s suspension for airtime.)

+  The Democratic presidential candidate circus, already starting its engines two years before the next presidential Inauguration.  CNN has already scheduled a Town Hall candidate event with Kamala Harris in Iowa for tonight!

Along the way, the “liberal” corporate-imperial cable networks have been showing their real colors by curiously praising the Trump administration’s brazen effort to delegitimize the democratically elected socialist government of Venezuela and, indeed, to foster a coup there. The chattering cable news skulls endlessly obsess over despicable Russian interference in American politics even as they praise US interference in Venezuela. They like how “Pelosi beat Trump” but dig “Trump beating Maduro.”  The hypocrisy of it all stinks to high heaven and barely registers with the liberal Democratic base, which has become more aggressively imperialist than the Republican base under the influence of MSDNC in the Obama and Trump years.

 “The Best Way to Protest”

“The best way to protest,” the deeply conservative former president and MSNBC-CNN hero Barack Obama told University of Illinois students last year, “is to vote. … When you vote,” Obama said, “you’ve got the power.”

As people sometimes like to say to this day on Chicago’s Black South Side, which Obama pretended to be from: “Negro,please.”  Like most of Obama’s fake eloquent utterances, his statement in Urbana was slimy, silver-tongued bullshit.  We are allowed, yes, to vote, but mammon reigns nonetheless. As  the mainstream political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens noted  in their important 2017 study Democracy in America?,  U.S. “government policy … reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.

Candidates like Obama, who blew up the public presidential campaign finance system with record-setting contributions from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in 2008 – and who then went on to honor those contributions by governing in utmost accord with the commands of the nation’s unelected financial dictatorship.

Contrary to the conspiracy addicts at the DNC, CNN, MSNBC, the CFR, the CIA, the New York Timesand the Washington Post, there was no “great American democracy” for Russian military intelligence to “undermine”in 2016. Insofar as Russia interfered, it was an intervention between two different oligarchies– theirs and “ours.”

No, the “best way to protest” is, for starters at least, to protest. And the best way to protest is with actions that threaten capitalist profit and disrupt business and business-[rule-]-as-usual. “There’s a time,” as Mario Savio famously said in December of 1964 during Berkeley Free Speech Movement:

“when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all!…That doesn’t mean that you have to break anything. One thousand people sitting down some place, not letting anybody by, not [letting] anything happen, can stop any machine, including this machine! And it will stop!”

Three years later, the great protester Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rejected “progressive” pleas for him to run for president (as a Democrat, of course). The narcissistic presidential-electoral game held no interest to King.  He called instead for “massive, active, nonviolent resistance to the evils of the modern system…The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both White and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society,” King said in a lecture broadcast into the United States by the Canadian national radio network in December of 1967. “They must organize a revolution against that injustice…There must,” King intoned, “be a force that interrupts [a classist and racist society’s] functioning at some key point…mass civil disobedience” to “dislocate the functioning of society.

There’s a very different and more potent kind of politics beneath and beyond our bourgeois masters’ carefully calibrated and constitutionally contained election cycle. Ordinary people “g[e]t the power” when they form militant grassroots movements and take collective and direct actions before, during, and after the election spectacles, whatever their outcomes.

We can follow the dictates of MSDNC, CNN, Obama, Nancy “We’re Capitalist and That’s Just the Way it is” Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Tom Perez et al: get out of the streets and wait for your precious little moment in a voting booth for two minutes once every two or four years. Or we can follow the paths suggested by Savio, King, and those other great protesters who both preceded and followed them, including Tecumseh, Black Hawk, Sitting Bull, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, the sit-down strikers, Herbert March, the Freedom Riders, the Selma marchers, Occupy, the Ferguson protesters, the Chicago and LA teachers, and the late radical historian Howard Zinn, who wrote the following about and against the “Election Madness” he saw “engulfing the entire society, including the left, in the Obama-crazed spring of 2008:

“Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. … But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice. … Let’s remember that even when there is a ‘better’ candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore.… Yes, two minutes. Before that, and after that, we should be taking direct actionagainst the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

That’s great advice, but we need to go further given what we know about capital’s cancerous compulsion to push the planet past the last tipping points of environmental catastrophe. Exercising workplace, marketplace, civic, and political bargaining from the bottom up is necessary but insufficient now. It’s not just about “shak[ing] whoever is the White House, in Congress.”  At the current moment of ecological and authoritarian peril, it’s about dismantling (by any and all means necessary) the corporate and imperial state and system.  We need to take it down from the bottom-up, from the top-down, and from the sides-in and all the way around.  The reigning class rule system poses a grave existential threat to any and all hopes for a democratic and remotely decent future.  Sorry to be so stark, but Istvan Meszaros was right: “It’s [eco-]socialism or barbarism if we’re lucky.”

Help the adjunct history instructor Street keep writing at https://www.paulstreet.org/subscribe/


1. The great prolonged sit-down strike (workplace occupation) that gave rise to the United Auto Workers (UAW-CIO) union in 1936 and 1937 is a classic example. Even during the Great Depression, in a time when mass unemployment undercut workers’ MBP, the mostly semiskilled and unskilled workers of General Motors’ Fisher Body plant in Flint, Michigan were able to win union recognition and a contract by demonstrating their capacity to disrupt the overall production process of their highly capital intensive corporate employer – the nation’s (and perhaps the world’s) largest manufacturing firm at the time The same basic power was exercised by such workers in numerous other industries across the nation during the mid- and late-1930s.  The CIO packinghouse union, for example, rose largely on workers’ flexing of WBP on meatpacking plant’s strategic killing and cutting floors, located at the very front end of the “production” (really dis-assembly) process. When highly specialized but strategically placed knife workers on the killing floors stopped work, their work department went down. When the killing floors went down, whole meatpacking plants ground to a halt and the employers’ expensive raw material spoiled, at no small cost. Politics (the rise of a significantly pro-union New Deal state and Democratic Party by the middle 1930s) was significant as well, of course. Still, the elaborate collective bargaining systems that arose in the United States during the late 1930s and 1940s were dedicated among other things to the managerial containment of the workplace bargaining power flowing to workers (unskilled and semiskilled as well as skilled) under “modern” capitalist mass-production.

Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

The post In Praise of Direct Action (and More) appeared first on Infoshop News.

George Orwell & Alex Comfort’s World War II Debate

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 02:41

via Fifth Estate # 402, Winter 2019

by Rui Preti

a review of
The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort by Eric Laursen. AK Press 2018

George Orwell’s fiction and non-fiction writings are among the most relevant works for understanding our current societal plight, although he died in 1950. All we need to do is turn on the TV or radio or check the internet to be confronted with denial of truth and misinformation. And all we have to do is walk down a street or enter a store, bank or public building to be reminded of the increasing surveillance all around us.

In several of his essays and books, Orwell pointedly and poignantly discusses how demagogues use language to pervert the truth in order to obtain and maintain political power over others. That concern is obviously still highly relevant today.

So, it should come as no surprise that Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four are among the two most widely read fictional works in the English language. Nineteen Eighty-Four has generally sold well in the U.S. since it first appeared in 1950, partly because it has become a required classroom text in many high schools and universities.

After Edward Snowden’s 2013 disclosures of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance, sales increased dramatically. With the election of Trump in 2016 sales soared again. And, after his inauguration in January 2017, this novel rose to the top of Amazon’s best seller list.

Orwell’s non-fiction book on his experiences in Spain during the revolution of 1936-39, Homage to Catalonia (written in 1938), has also been very popular over the years. The story it tells resonates with many because of its straightforward language relating his experiences as a person with sincere social ideals who became disillusioned with authoritarians striving for power. He skillfully describes coming to admire the egalitarian practices of the self-organized revolutionary militias.

A new book by Eric Laursen explores some aspects of Orwell’s perspectives that are of particular interest to anarchists. At the same time, it introduces the reader to a 20th century anarchist they may not be familiar with, whose ideas and actions are also still relevant for today’s struggles.

Alex Comfort (1920-2000) was a prolific English anarchist writer and activist seventeen years Orwell’s junior. He is not generally well known today (except as the author of The Joy of Sex, 1972), because he could not be neatly fit into the categories of militant direct action anarchist or pacifist anarchist often favored by historians of the period.

Comfort was close to the group around the London-based Freedom Press and also active in anti-militarist circles during the 1940s through the 1960s. His uncompromising, aggressive anti-militarism and criticism of state power led Comfort to identify as an anarchist as he came to realize his principles rested on the historical theory and experience of anarchism. Once he reached this conclusion, he continued to identify with anarchists in his many fiction and non-fiction writings for the rest of his life.

In this context, it is important to note that two terms used often in Laursen’s book, “stand aside” and “pacifism,” are not used in ways most of us would expect based on current American English usage. This is not due to inaccuracy on Laursen’s part, but rather to the way they were actually used by Comfort in mid-twentieth century England.

The phrase “the duty to stand aside” is both the title of the book and discussed in depth as employed by Comfort in defining his opposition to participating in government efforts during World War II and wars in general. But the way he used the phrase did not involve advocacy of anyone withdrawing as a passive neutral observer, abstaining from taking action against fascists and Nazis, or authoritarian communists for that matter. Comfort was definitively for active resistance through mutual aid and direct action wherever one might find themselves, including in Britain or another supposedly democratic state.

In 1946, he asserted, “I do not believe it is evil to fight…We have to fight obedience in this generation as the French maquisards fought for it, with the reservation that terrorism, while it is understandable, is not an effective instrument of combating tyranny.”

Comfort also appreciated the active opposition to dictatorial rule of anarchists and others in Spain, Nazi Germany, and other parts of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s as exemplary models of popular resistance to authoritarianism.

He emphasized the importance of individual responsibility in resistance in order to strengthen social solidarity. Unlike those who call themselves pacifists nowadays, Comfort had no objections to armed resistance, so long as it was the result of local initiative and not led by people who aspired to replace one authoritarian regime with another slightly less reprehensible.

Orwell admired Comfort’s novels and poetry, and shared his deep concern about the way the politics of both the authoritarian and so-called democratic states of the 1930s and 1940s were, as Laursen succinctly notes, “degrading culture and serious political discourse, turning literature and art into propaganda.”

Orwell and Comfort agreed on the importance of working for a world in which individual self-determination and social cooperation could be combined. But they differed on whether or not the institution of the state and rulers of the democratic nations might play positive roles in the struggle against authoritarianism.

Laursen explains that while despising the British imperial system, which Orwell had experienced from the inside as a policeman in Burma, he was a patriot and a believer in the necessity of centralized authority for maintaining the basics of law and order.

Comfort, on the other hand, felt sincere love for actual people and places he knew, but rejected patriotism as a dangerous abstraction and centralized power as dangerous to those directly under its control in the homeland as well as to ordinary people in other countries.

This was based in part on his understanding that the modern state in all its manifestations attracts psychopaths to positions of authority, and also fosters corruption and brutality (what he called delinquent behavior) in power-holders.

Orwell developed respect for anti-authoritarian resistance to tyranny, and during the 1930s he hoped a workers’ revolution would vanquish Nazism and fascism. But his hopes faded as the decade wore on, and anti-authoritarian groups were crushed while authoritarian forces grew stronger in many parts of the world. The massive use of military technology by states on both sides in World War II further convinced Orwell, like so many others, that it was necessary to compromise with the so-called democratic governments since only they possessed the equipment and organizations capable of defeating the Nazis, and later, authoritarian communists.

Comfort, on the other hand, strongly objected to compromising with state authorities or aspirants to power, which he always considered dangerous, because it destroys vital trust relationships between ordinary people in our own society and between the world’s peoples. He also felt that it was morally reprehensible because it allowed authoritarian practices and rationales to be normalized in our own society.

Even though Eric Laursen’s book deals with debates that took place more than sixty years ago, it can help us to think more deeply about many of today’s questions of how to defeat authoritarianism.

Rui Preti is a long-time friend of the Fifth Estate.

The post George Orwell & Alex Comfort’s World War II Debate appeared first on Infoshop News.

Elections have consequences but only direct action will get you satisfaction

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 02:31

via Fifth Estate # 402, Winter 2019

by Paul Walker

“If voting could change anything, it would be illegal.”
—Anarchist anti-electoral slogan

It’s difficult to imagine that there isn’t at least some joy, even among the most ardent electoral abstentionists, about the losses Donald Trump and the Republicans suffered in the November mid-term elections.

The party and the president’s final call to continue their hard right agenda based on a relentless campaign of fear and hatred of immigrants was so fascistic that one could easily substitute Jew, something that crawled into the president’s and candidate’s speeches.

That elections have consequences seems undeniable. Historical examples abound with the early 1930s being a signal era which saw Adolph Hitler’s Nazi party gain dominance in Germany and the victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the U.S. Their electoral successes of profoundly changed the history of their country and of the world.

However, each marked a different mode of meeting a crisis in capital and the nature of political rule. One utilized repression, the other reform. As one can note from history, the latter performed better than the former in protecting capitalism and the state.

Slogans, like the one above, are designed for use on picket signs and can’t be nuanced or give complex explanations of what underlies its words. If they could be, this catchy phrase would be rendered more like, “If voting could change the entire system of capitalism and the rule of the political state, the rulers wouldn’t risk putting it such a proposal up for a vote.” Not very punchy, but it gets more to the core of what’s at issue when discussing anarchist voting.

Anarchists have traditionally stayed away from political activity, correctly viewing the arena of parties and elections as a dead end that sucks revolutionary movements into the system they are trying to abolish. This has an ironic twist since the first person to declare himself an anarchist was Pierre Joseph Proudhon, who became a member of the French Parliament after the European revolutions of 1848.

Ironic since it was that year that launched an almost century long period of heroic but failed revolutions defeated by the forces of first reaction and finally Stalinism, but also the corrosive nature of reformism to revolutionary thrusts.

Capital and its bulwark, the state, have plenty of latitude in which to provide inclusion of excluded groups and, when pushed, a somewhat more equitable distribution of wealth if enough political commotion is created. What it will never do is allow challenges to its existence.

When those occur, as in the wide-spread European 1848 revolutions, the 1871 Paris Commune, or the Spanish Revolution in the late 1930s, brute force, the armed might of the state or fascism is employed to assure capitalism’s continuance.

Within the context of acceptance of established parameters, often alterations are allowed through popular elections although this occurs only in a few countries and in different periods. State administration throughout history has overwhelmingly been autocratic or dictatorial.

In nation states that feature formal democratic rule, reforms become possible as pressure from below suggests that this is the best course to head off revolutionary confrontations and the smooth operation of the system. Whether anarchists vote or not, elections often have extraordinary consequences.

Political tendencies such as liberalism and social democracy are often motivated by a genuine desire to alleviate the worst abuses of capitalism, hence, programs such as social legislation, the extension of rights, minimal protection of the environment, and the like are enacted.

However, even those political reform tendencies with seemingly the best of intentions either become thoroughly corrupt like the Workers Party of Brazil,. Or the Democratic Party in the U.S. while advocating reforms at home, presides over the murderous American empire abroad as enthusiastically as the Republicans.

Reforms and their advocacy create the illusion that if not anything is possible, at least something is. In practical terms, while reforms often serve to make life better for capital’s subjects, they have the function of affirming and extending the system.

When you are a prisoner, a nice guard is better than a brutal one, and when overwhelmed by the power of your captor, hoping for the best one seems a logical course. But, at least a dream of escape—of freedom—should be present.

At this point, anarchism looks only like a dream, but one that sustains us in our hopes, all of which lay outside of what exists now

Voting seems beside the point. Casting a ballot on the prescribed day is the most passive of all political acts, soon to be made even more so as computer screen voting will probably soon be a reality. It’s not clear that clicking a check box invalidates the anarchist electoral critique, but probably reduces the integrity of it. Most people don’t vote as it is. During the 2018 Michigan primary election, there was a 28 percent turnout, with all of the political tumult, it was hoped that 50 percent would vote in the mid-term election.

How we exercise our activity is where the real question of expenditure of radical energy comes into question. On the macro level, one person doing or not doing anything doesn’t count for much except in unique or exceptional circumstances. If one person does or doesn’t vote, or come to an anti-fascist rally, or even the revolution, it doesn’t mean much in the totality. However, when the relationship of the single unit to the aggregate is socially driven, then each is part of a coalescing force and is elevated in importance. Campaigning for an electoral candidate seems like an utter waste of radical effort and places the practitioner of affirming not only the politician who is part of the reigning system of domination, but often winds up with the opposite of what was hoped for. Case in point: Lyndon Johnson, the Democrat, was elected president in 1964 in great part because voters feared the other candidate would start a land war in Southeast Asia. How did that work out?

However, campaigning on issues which raise the nature of the system—Black Lives Matter, the state repressive mechanism; pipeline battles, the environment and Native land; reproductive and LGBTQ—rights, patriarchy—allows one to keep the integrity of the anarchist critique of the state, but probably has the unintended consequence of more people voting for liberal candidates.

Sorry, but that’s what usually happens. Energized by engagement in political struggles, most people are going to turn towards voting for politicians most sympathetic to what they are fighting for. We can’t control that other than to urge people we are campaigning with to see what works and what doesn’t.

Most of us realize that, as the old slogan goes, only direct action will get you satisfaction. Although, there may be great satisfaction in seeing the White Christian Nationalist Party suffer a partial defeat, the system which fields murderous cops, destroys the environment, and prepares for the next Cold War remains intact.

According to most polls, the majority of Americans support a social democratic set of policies, but even those reforms face great impediments because of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and felon exclusion to assure racialized capitalism doesn’t face democratic displacement.

However, at this point, there are no impediments to organizing outside of and against the system. The anarchist tradition has the critique and the vision to pose what is necessary for a new world.

Paul Walker is a long-time friend of the Fifth Estate who lives in the Detroit area.

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Anything Can Happen—Or Not: May 1968 & the Question of Possibility

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 02:28

via Fifth Estate # 402, Winter 2019

by John Clark

“Sous les paves, la plage!” [Under the paving stones, the beach!]
—Revolutionary slogan; Paris 1968

1968 was an “Anything Can Happen” kind of year.

It was the year of the Prague Spring, the Tet Offensive, President LBJ’s abdication, massive student protests, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the police riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention. The most historically momentous occurrence of that year was the May June uprising and general strike by students and workers in France.

Something was definitely happening!

Slogans of 50 years ago echo today in movements of resistance and revolution. “We are the realists: We demand the impossible.”

The #1 song of 1968 was “The Happening,” by Diana Ross and the Supremes. “I woke up. Suddenly I just woke up to the happening.” People all over the world had that feeling. What many overlooked was that, as the rock group Buffalo Springfield pointed out, when “there’s something happening here,” sometimes “what it is ain’t exactly clear.”

Fredy Perlman participated in the Paris events and chronicled them in his essay “Anything Can Happen,” which captures the euphoria and hopes of those caught up in the events of the Summer of ’68. At the time, I was studying in Scotland, but also visited Amsterdam, Berlin, London, and other centers of political activity. It felt like something was happening.

On a street-corner in Edinburgh, I met a classic hippy in a long robe who supported himself by selling Anarchy magazine. I picked up two issues reporting on the events in Paris. I was inspired. Some of my dreams seemed to be becoming realities. When I finally got to Paris, the revolt had already dissipated. However, it lived on in the imagination, including my own.

Anything can happen! The ancient sage Heraclitus, a major thinker from Asia Minor, said “always expect the unexpected,” because if you don’t, you won’t recognize it when it appears. He also said that there is a logos, an underlying meaning and order. It is the nature of things, not something we can impose. So, not just anything can happen!

Similarly, the Surrealists developed the idea of “objective chance.” Andre Breton, a leading figure of the movement, describes it as something “that shows people, in a way that is still very mysterious, a necessity that escapes them.” Anything can happen! But then we find out that certain things were destined to happen.

Ancient Daoism saw the art of living as based on wu wei, which means doing without doing. It means allowing things to happen spontaneously, then nurturing them in a non-possessive, non-controlling manner. But again, not just anything happens. All things have a dao, a way of their own. By not dominating them, we help them follow their way.

What was the way of May ’68? Perlman writes that despite being “trained for a lifetime to respect law and order,” students and workers staged “a general strike which paralyzed all French industry for over a month.” Anything can happen!

But as he knew, there was much more to the story than indoctrination and liberation. There was a long history of worker organizing, rebellion, and insubordination. The famous French “esprit critique,” critical mind, was dispersed widely, and there’s a real social history that did the dispersing.

Perlman says that in May ’68 “divisions among the oppressed disappeared” and “they began to fight against a single world system that oppresses and divides.” Yet, much of this revolutionary solidarity seemed to have disappeared by August, when people put down the paving stones and headed for the actual beach.

Why didn’t the revolt continue to radicalize? Most of the voting population supported the right in late June elections. And the revolutionaries’ demands of May were soon exchanged for reformist ones.

Yet, there was a real change in many participants. Some were transformed deeply for the rest of their lives, though often who they became was not who they thought they were becoming. A moment of deep transformation was taking place, but its direction was being guided by social forces that were not consciously recognized.

The Situationists warned of the system’s forces of recuperation or cooptation, but few suspected how powerful those forces were. While liberatory paths were emerging, the pervasive effects of institutional, ideological, imaginary, and ethotic (practical) determinants remained. New possibilities appeared, but contradictory possibilities persisted, and soon gained ascendancy.

Why did so many revolutionaries fulfill French psychoanalyst Jacques Marie Émile Lacan’s prophecy that they were looking for “new masters?” Marxist-Leninist sectarianism, with its easy-to-plug-into ideology, historical mythology, and cult of personality was a convenient option for those who found running away from the old world to be too strenuous. Many succumbed to the lure of a Third World-ism that had little to do with the living realities of non-Western societies, and nothing at all to do with the indigenous realities that they needed desperately to discover.

But the most masterful of the new masters was a transformed version of an old one: the commodity. We saw the increasing mediatization and spectacularization of the movement, the emergence of political stars, and the conversion of political activism into social capital. Soon, the Kinks would immortalize in a song the idea that “everybody’s a star,” but the movement was already way ahead of the game.

Possibly the worst leftist cliché was “the whole world is watching.” Maybe it was. But so what, if “the revolution will not be televised”? The world may be watching, but some of it is cursing at you, some of it is laughing at you, and some of it is bored and about to change the channel. Worst of all, some of it is thinking, “Wish I were there. I could be a star.” My friends all drive revolutionary Porsches. I must make amends, adding a word to the Janis Joplin song.

We discovered something “under the paving stones” of May ’68 and it wasn’t “the beach.” It was what was paving the way for the cooptation of revolution by capitalism. “It is forbidden to forbid!” so, “Just do it!” Consume your own liberation.

Then, along came hip capitalism, New Age capitalism, green capitalism, and right-wing “libertarianism,” the most advanced and mystified ideology of capitalist domination.

The revolutionaries wanted liberation and capitalism was about to give them more liberation than they knew what to do with. Be as free as you want, as long as you don’t threaten the structures of domination!

Never had so many impossibilities been turned into possibilities in so impossibly short a time. This culminates in the cyber-revolution of the past twenty years. We’ve entered the age of instant and totally addictive non-gratification. Everything is possible, yet nothing really happens in our age of ascendant nihilism.

One of the messages of indigenous cultures is that not everything is possible. Native American writer John Mohawk attacked utopianism on the grounds that conquest has always been justified by utopian ideology. First, it promised

Heaven, then the Heaven on Earth of the consumer society. The utopia of domination has always refused to recognize limits, and especially natural, ecological ones. In the name of infinite possibility, it is now, in the Necrocene, making everything impossible.

It’s time to renew May ’68’s quest for “the impossible,” but this time an impossible grounded deeply in the realities of history and of the Earth. This requires an imaginary break, an ethotic (practical) break, an ideological break, and an institutional break with the dominant ecocidal and genocidal order. Otherwise, the movement will once again succumb to collapse or cooptation.

This break must take place through processes of social regeneration, rooted in communities of liberation and solidarity, awakening and care, and of larger communities of such communities. This was the vision of German anarchist theorist Gustav Landauer and other communitarian anarchists, but it has never become the central focus of the anarchist movement. This is why indigenism remains so important. It teaches us that communitarian anarchism is a topian reality, the wisdom of the ages, not just some utopian ideal.

When I got back to New Orleans at the end of the Summer of ’68, I began selling (usually giving away) forty copies of Anarchy every month, and started an anarchist group, hoping that something would happen. I was a believer, or at least a half-believer, in “anything can happen.”

Looking back on the period, I find that I wasn’t concerned enough about how things happen, the nature of cause and effect and how they relate to conditions in the world. I gradually realized that this must be a major preoccupation, if you want something to happen. Understanding causes and conditions are crucial, even if it’s still essential to believe in magic. Any real magician can tell you this.

The conclusion is that if you demand an impossible that is radically different from the actualities that you have known and lived, you may be in trouble when your demand is realized. It might be a good idea to begin by searching for actually-existing impossibilities. These may create the best path toward the best of all possible impossibilities.

John Clark is a communitarian anarchist activist and theorist in New Orleans. He is director of La Terre Institute for Community and Ecology and is the author of The Impossible Community: Realizing Communitarian Anarchism and Between Earth and Empire: From the Necrocene to the Beloved Community. The latter and a new edition of the former are forthcoming from PM Press. pmpress.org

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In the Age of Faltering Democracies, Noam Chomsky Is More Relevant Than Ever

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 02:04

via The Wire

by Rohit Kumar

Noam Chomsky is probably the world’s most famous public intellectual. The 90-year-old Professor Emeritus from MIT has penned over a hundred books in his lifetime. His works range from the study of linguistics and the development of language to the causes of war and the condition of democracies around the world. His books are important because they provide a deep and broad understanding of the systemic problems afflicting societies and democracies the world over.

Requiem for the American Dream – The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power (2017) is one such book. This masterful volume, which has also been turned into a Netflix documentary, summarises the deepest problems blighting democracy in the US, and interestingly, also sheds a good bit of light on the root causes of the current problems of Indian democracy.

In the introductory chapter to the book, Chomsky explains how in a democracy, public opinion is supposed to influence government policy but more often than not, doesn’t. This he attributes to the influence of the privileged and powerful who have never liked democracy. Chomsky sums up the biggest threat to democracy thus:

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of power, particularly so as the cost of elections skyrockets, which forces political parties even more deeply into the pockets of major corporations. This political power quickly translates into legislation that increases the concentration of wealth. So fiscal policy, like tax policy, deregulation, rules of corporate governance, and a whole variety of measures— political measures designed to increase the concentration of wealth and power— yields more political power to do the same thing. And that’s what we’ve been seeing. So we have this kind of “vicious cycle” in progress.

Chomsky points out how the wealthy have always exerted an inordinate amount of control over policy. Way back in 1776, Adam Smith in his famous Wealth of Nations, pointed out how the “principal architects of policy” in England were its manufacturers, the people who “owned society” and who made sure that their own interests were well cared for, however grievous the impact on the people of England or on others might have been.

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Stand with Rojava, oppose Turkey’s war

Infoshop News - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 01:52

via ROAR Magazine

by Internationalist Commune of Rojava

The threat of yet another war looms over northern Syria once again. Turkish troops and their Islamist mercenaries are massing on the borders of the self-governed Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, the predominantly Kurdish regions also known as Rojava. They are gearing up for an invasion that unavoidably will cause many deaths and the displacement of tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The situation on the ground is extremely tense. The populations of Manbij and Kobane have formed human shields in protest against the Turkish invasion and have been readying themselves for war. The People’s and Women’s Defense Units (YPG and YPJ) as well as local militias are not just defending their lands, but they are also defending hope. Hope for a better life that extends far beyond northern Syria. A hope that has inspired many internationalists from all over the world to come to Rojava and join the revolutionary struggle.

This coming weekend they are calling for global days of action to speak up and protest against the threat of a Turkish invasion.

Sand and death”

Shortly before Christmas, President Donald Trump announced that he ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, thus clearing the way for the long-anticipated invasion of Rojava by Turkey and its Islamist proxies.

Why this sudden change of direction? Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the main concerns of the US and its allied NATO partners in the Middle East have been to assert their control and influence and to weaken the position of Russia and Iran in the region. In achieving these goals, NATO states have waged wars throughout the region, lent their support to Islamist groups, established militias and backed dictatorial regimes.

Today, this strategy lies largely in ruins, while Russia and Iran have successfully expanded their influence in the region. With the exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia, the US is pretty much on its own now that NATO-ally Turkey, too, is turning its back on the coalition and actively seeking rapprochement with Russia and Iran. In this regard, it would make sense for the US to broker a deal with Ankara to bring them back into the fold, sacrificing northern Syria in the process. According to Trump, there is not much for the US to gain there anyway, beside “sand and death.

Admittedly, many among the US establishment see this differently; they do not want to leave the stage to Iran and Russia and do not want to rely exclusively on Turkey. As soon as Trump had finished his call with Erdoğan and put down the phone, he found himself in a crossfire of criticism and quickly had to back down. Not least because of the predictable scenario that played out next: Bashar al-Assad announced that the Syrian army would take the place of the US — of course with the backing of Iran and Russia.

In response to Trump’s surprise announcement, France declared that its troops would remain in Syria, and Trump quickly backtracked on his earlier statements agreeing to slow down the withdrawal process. After a suicide attack later claimed by ISIS killed several US troops in Manbij on January 16, Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that the so-called Islamic State had been defeated was further undermined. It appears that for the time being, coalition forces will maintain a presence on the ground both to continue the fight against ISIS and to protect their Kurdish allies from the Turkish threat.

Setting back the clock?

Does this mean the people of Rojava and their revolution are safe now? Not at all. Neither Assad, nor Russia, nor any of the Western powers are concerned with the protection of the population of northern Syria, nor with the safety of the Kurds and other minorities of the region, and certainly not with the liberation of women and the democratic revolution underway in Rojava. This became all too clear last year, when Afrin was invaded by the Turkish army and its allied jihadist groups with the consent of both Russia and the West.

This time, too, it is Russia that holds the cards. If a deal between Moscow and Ankara were to be brokered, then Putin could order Assad to withdraw and give the green light to Erdoğan’s invasion. This deal would concern the situation in Idlib, one of the last regions in Syria that have not yet been brought back under regime control. Erdoğan could agree to withdraw his Islamist proxies of the National Liberation Front (Jabhat al-Wataniya lil-Tahrir) from the Idlib region, thus allowing for an offensive by the Syrian regime against the Islamist stronghold. In return, Assad would hand over Rojava to Turkey.

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