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Why Hondurans See Migration as an Act of Civil Disobedience

Hace 5 horas 41 mins

via Yes! magazine

by Crystal Vance Guerra

A singular image is said to have sparked this latest migrant caravan. Set against a bold, red background, it features a figure, arms outstretched like a cross, with a backpack flying the Honduran flag. Contained in the message across the top: “We aren’t leaving because we want to; violence and poverty expel us.”

The image expresses the generalized frustration regarding the current social, political, and economic state of Honduras and proposes migration as a challenge to that reality. The typical Honduran sees the caravan movement for what is: an outright act of civil disobedience. People are walking out of their own countries, the subconscious protest of a frustrated people. It is a bold protest by Hondurans against their president and corruption within their government and a challenge to the U.S. to reckon with the regional crisis its foreign policies have created.

I remember an article from a 1980s Mexican magazine promoting migration to the U.S. as a means of calming popular discontent around a range of social injustices. Instead of using organized protest to demand change, people could be encouraged to seek the American Dream, quelling the problem of popular uprisings at the root.

In the 1980s, revolution was a tangible goal throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Cuba gave the region its first successful popular revolution in 1959. Nicaragua led the way on the mainland with their victory 20 years later. Before the American Dream, the image of change was well-rooted in the anti-capitalist struggle.

But now, it seems as if this psychological shift from revolution to migration has circled back, and migration has become the newest form of protest.

Read more



The post Why Hondurans See Migration as an Act of Civil Disobedience appeared first on Infoshop News.

The Yellow Vest Movement: Showdown with the State

Hace 5 horas 57 mins

via CrimethInc

Reports from the Clashes in Paris, around France, and across Europe

Since November, France has been shaken by the yellow vest movement, a grassroots reaction to President Macron’s proposal to increase fuel taxes in order to force the poor to pay for the transition to “ecological” technologies. Like the Occupy movement, the yellow vest movement cohered around shared tactics and frustration rather than common goals or values; consequently, the movement has been a battleground for many different political agendas and factions. The far right initially took advantage of the movement’s “apolitical” character to gain influence, especially online; but as the movement spread and the clashes with the police intensified, anarchists and other uncontrollable rebels also staked out ground within the movement.

Paris, December 8.

Although divided as to how to relate to the movement, anarchists and other autonomous rebels chose to get involved in order to confront fascist and authoritarian tendencies from within, undermine the legitimacy of the authorities, and reorient the movement towards more systemic solutions. These efforts bore fruit: fascists have been driven out of demonstrations; anti-capitalist and anti-fascist blocs have marched together in Paris; new connections have arisen between anarchists, autonomists, and other yellow vesters, not to mention rail workers, students, and those who live on the margins of the metropolis; demonstrators have attacked symbols of capitalism and the state with increasing frequency; slogans from the protests against the Loi Travail and other radical movements have spread among the protesters. Yet the outcome of the yellow vest movement might still benefit any number of different groups, including the far right.

Macron’s government has repeatedly attempted to establish dialogue with the spokespersons of the yellow vests. All these attempts have failed. The majority of the movement has refused any negotiation with officials and seems to reject the political system as a whole—this is why it has been successful in compelling Macron to promise concessions. At the same time, leftist populists and far-right nationalists are poised to cash in on the crisis it has created.

The tension is still mounting in France. For two weeks now, students have been blockading schools and universities to protest against education reforms; meanwhile, trade unions joined the yellow vest movement last weekend, as did other economic sectors. The government is desperately seeking a way to resolve the situation as the Christmas holidays approach. Hoping to avoid a fifth act in the conflict, on December 10, President Macron promised to grant many of the protesters’ demands. Yet the story isn’t over. Another day of action has been called for Saturday, December 15.

There have been copycat actions on three continents now, though it does not appear that the yellow vest movement is about to spread worldwide. France has been somewhat out of step with the rhythms of the rest of the world—a wave of riots broke out in France in 2005, years ahead of the Greek insurrection of 2008, but nothing like the Occupy movement occurred there until Nuit Debout in 2016. Still, the yellow vest movement may offer some hints as to what the next global wave of protest will look like. If what is happening in France is any indication, we can anticipate a new round of uprisings catalyzed by economic desperation, involving a wide range of participants and ideologies—who clash with each other just as fiercely as with the authorities.

In order to explore these issues in greater detail, we present the following update from France. The work of many hands, this report picks up where our previous analysis left off, in the aftermath of the chaotic and insurrectionary nationwide day of action on December 1.

Paris, December 8. The Aftermath of December 1

The confrontations that took place in Paris and elsewhere around the country on December 1 were arguably the most significant rioting in France since 1968. The intensity caught the government off guard. President Macron rushed back from the G20 summit in Argentina to assess the damage and try to reassert order.

Hoping to neutralize the movement, Macron promised to grant some of the movement’s demands. This didn’t placate the majority of protesters, who reaffirmed their determination to demonstrate on Saturday, December 8.

Within the yellow vest movement, opinions differed about this new day of action. The images of chaos from the previous weekend were still in everybody’s minds; pacifists and legalists argued fiercely with the more radical yellow vesters. Organizers debated different strategies. Some wanted to march towards the presidential palace; some suggested blocking the périphérique (the Parisian beltway); some proposed that people should gather in front of the Maison de la Radio (the major radio station building) in order to occupy it and seize control of the airwaves; others argued against going to Paris, seeing it as a trap set by authorities, in favor of developing local initiatives instead. As December 8 approached, it was impossible to tell how it would play out.

On Tuesday, December 4, the first trials took place for charges arising from the yellow vest demonstrations of Saturday, December 1. Three people were tried on charges included participation “in a gathering, even if temporarily formed, with the objective— characterized by one of several material facts—of preparing and committing wilful violence against persons or destructions or property damages” and “intentional violence on a PDAP” (Person in Charge of Public Authority). The first individual received a €200-fine suspended sentence for violence; the second was sentenced to three months in prison and held in detention; the third was sentenced to a year in prison. This also set the stakes for December 8.

On another front, the student strike against school reforms intensified. All week, students blocked their high schools and universities, held general assemblies, built barricades, demonstrated in the streets, and confronted police. Not wishing to fight on multiple fronts at once, the government responded aggressively, with police injuring numerous students. The violent attacks on high school students—usually barely mentioned in corporate media—gained wide exposure with a viral video posted on Thursday, December 6 showing the conditions in which students were arrested at Mantes-la-Jolie. Dozens of students are lined up on their knees with their hands on their heads, some of them facing the wall, surrounded by riot police officers. The person shooting the video remarks, ”Here is a quiet and well-behaved class!”

The propagation of these images couldn’t have come at a worse time for the French government. On the eve of the fourth act of the yellow vest movement, the video intensified the general climate of rage and defiance towards the police and government.

Clashes in Paris on December 8. The flag is the national flag of Brittany, a French region with separatist tendencies. As with so many other aspects of the yellow vest movement, it could represent far-right politics, or it could simply suggest an “apolitical” patriotism. Paris under Siege

Fearing that scenes of chaos and “extreme violence” would recur in Paris on December 8, the authorities took drastic preventive measures. For the weekend, Paris would be in a state of siege.

Eighteen museums and eight national monuments remained closed for the day, including the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. Both Parisian Operas cancelled their performances, as did other theaters. The Paris prefecture asked the storekeepers of the Champs Elysées, the Matignon, the Montaigne, and the Franklin-Roosevelt avenues to close their stores and board up their windows. The major fancy department store groups Galeries Lafayette and Printemps decided to close all their stores located near the Champs Elysées, the Opera, Montparnasse, or Nation.

From 6 am until the end of the demonstrations, a traffic restriction plan would be enforced in order to facilitate the movements of law enforcement. In addition, 36 metro and RER stations would be closed starting 5:30 am in order to facilitate police controls. The restriction affected about 56 bus lines. Several sports events and television shows were also cancelled, postponed, or relocated.

Police from the BAC (Anti-Criminality Brigades) in Paris on December 8. The Government Adjusts Its Strategy

After the previous week’s fiasco, President Macron instructed Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner to review his law enforcement strategy in preparation for the fourth act of the yellow vest movement. According to the Minister of the Interior, “the last three weeks have given birth to a monster that has escaped its genitors.”

For December 8, the authorities took exceptional measures. Fully 89,000 police officers were to be deployed all over France—almost 100% of the troops—with 8000 in Paris alone. In addition, the state requisitioned 12 gendarmerie tanks, the same ones that participated in the eviction of the ZAD last April and May. Mobile water cannons and helicopters were also deployed in Paris.

In contrast with the previous week, the police did not remain static, defending large restricted areas. This time, the only restricted area was designated around the Champs Elysées and the major government buildings. There, police forces were tasked with searching and controlling every single person who sought to enter the avenue.

Having been criticized for failing to keep up with events on December 1, police received orders to stick close to protestors, initiate frontal confrontations, and carry out arrests at any opportunity. As the traditional riot police forces (CRS and gendarmes) move slowly on account of their heavy equipment, these tasks were given to the BAC (Anti-Criminality Brigades), the CSI (Securing and Intervention Companies), and other police units.

The authorities also set up roadblocks around Paris in order to control vehicles entering the capital city. Several prefectures temporally banned the sale and transport of fuel, pyrotechnical materials, and flammable products in order to prevent people from constructing homemade incendiary devices.

In the days leading up to the demonstration, the government ramped up psychological pressure by making several appeals for “non-violence” and demanding that “reasonable yellow vesters, those who do not support violent action, dissociate themselves from extremists and not gather in Paris,” hoping to isolate the most determined parts of the movement. At the same time, with the assistance of media outlets, the authorities tried to spread fear among the population by asking everyone to stay home on Saturday, sending clear warnings to anyone who might join one of the Parisian demonstrations.

The trap was set for Paris. Still, the authorities were expecting only several thousand people in Paris, including some “ultra-violent” individuals.

Several hours before the demonstrations, an important official and confidential document leaked. The entire law enforcement plan of the Paris prefecture was available online. This document made it easier to understand what to expect in the streets for the following day: 85 police teams were mobilized to control and search individuals in train and metro stations; mounted police were to be present in the streets again; and so on. The authorities have since opened an investigation to find the origin of the leak.

On the eve of the fourth act of the yellow vest movement, some comrades published an article on “the rupture in progress,” arguing:

“We can’t be sure that this Saturday, the plan decided by the Interior Minister will not be more insidious, avoiding frontal conflicts in favor of targeted arrests—in the German manner, as it were—in order to contain the tension to the point of breathlessness.”

The events of December 8 confirmed this forecast.

Paris, December 8. Staying outside the Trap

It would be impossible to detail all the events that took place in the streets of Paris. Here, we draw on narratives from several anarchists and autonomous rebels, complemented by information from corporate media and other sources.

A map showing the clashes of December 8 in Paris. Report #1

This first report was jointly composed by several individuals covering different zones of activity.

Early in the morning, groups gathered in various areas of Paris: at Place de l’Etoile, Bastille, Porte Maillot, and République. Corporate media outlets were already broadcasting their litanies: the situation was under control, authorities were already arresting dangerous individuals, the number of arrests was increasing minute by minute. At 10:30 am, the authorities announced that they had already arrested 354 individuals, keeping 127 in custody. Soon, they launched the first tear gas canisters at the Champs Elysées, where about 1500 people had already assembled. By 11 am, the gathering near the Saint-Lazare train station was blocked and surrounded by CRS (riot police). For this reason, we decided not to enter the police perimeter, so that we might stay in control of the situation.

At 11:30 am, near the Opera, we met a group of about 1000 people. The whole district was blocked by police forces and checkpoints. You could easily enter the perimeter, but to exit it you would have to comply by presenting an ID and letting them search your bag. Police forces had a “wanted list” in their possession in order to arrest potential troublemarkers. Two tanks were spotted near the Haussmann Boulevard. Because the police seemed to be in control of the situation in this district, we decided to move towards the Champs Elysées. Several police troops were already deployed near Avenue de Friedland—to protect access to the Place de la Concorde—and Saint-Augustin square. That morning, we were a sparse crowd of several thousand individuals walking through a dead city, with about 90% of the windows around us boarded up.

At 11:30 am, near the Champs Elysées, thousands of people were converging to enter the avenue. Up to that point, every single demonstrator had been meticulously searched by members of the BAC (the Anti-Criminality Brigade) before entering the demonstration zone. But the gentle pressure created by the arrival of waves of demonstrators trying to enter the Champs Elysées eventually enabled people to break through one of the checkpoints and people succeeded in entering without being searched. When we entered the avenue, there were already a lot of people there.

Radical far-right groups were also present. The atmosphere was quite surreal with the entire avenue barricaded and protected. Ridiculous groups of BAC members could be seen at regular intervals on the sidewalks wearing ski masks and swimming goggles and carrying LBD-40 weapons. Further away, near the Place de l’Etoile, police forces launched a charge involving a lot of grenades in order to contain the crowd within the designated perimeter, out of reach of the Arc de Triomphe that had been ravaged the previous week. Once again, the outcome of the situation at the Champs Elysées was a forgone conclusion. We decided to leave and entered the Saint-Philippe du Roule district. There, a lot of yellow-vested groups were trying to figure out where interesting events were happening, just as we were. Little by little, the crowd gathered near Haussamnn Boulevard and Avenue de Friedland.

From 12:30 pm until 2:30 pm, while police lines were still blocking access to the Arc de Triomphe, the first serious confrontations started. As soon as we arrived on site, we saw a man shot in the thigh with a rubber bullet. We provided first aid, then wished him good luck and continued our way. For more than an hour, several thousand individuals confronted CRS forces, consecutively resisting charges and tear gas. Some comrades drove out members of Action Française, a monarchist and far-right group, then chanted “Paris, Paris, Antifa!” The confrontations on Avenue de Friedland continued and the first burning barricades appeared. The police charges were unusually violent; we couldn’t count the number of tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades they used during the confrontations. Several stores and a bank were attacked, but surprisingly, the nearby Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris remained almost intact, despite part of the demonstration remaining static in front of the building for some time.

Police blocking access to the Arc de Triomphe on December 8.

As we were losing ground, the crowd decided to leave this point and marched towards the Saint-Augustin area. There, a Mercedes was set on fire; people erected barricades using the wooden planks that protected stores’ front windows and set them on fire; a luxurious handbag store was looted. As property destruction intensified, police forces tried to surround protestors with three tanks at the intersection between Avenue de Friedland and Courcelles Street. They employed copious amounts of tear gas, but the majority of demonstrators succeeded in exiting the trap. Then the crowd split; some went towards Monceau Park, where a diplomatic car was set on fire, while others departed for Haussmann boulevard, where people erected massive barricades and welcomed police trucks with rains of projectiles.

Around 3 pm, as the police presence was increasing in the area—police tanks and trucks were going towards Avenue de Friedland and several BAC groups were patrolling the streets—several groups of protestors agreed to leave the zone. About 2000 individuals took Capucines Boulevard, with more demonstrators joining in the course of their advance. Tired of trying to get closer to the Champs Elysées, several groups decided to move towards the Climate March that was supposed to leave the Place de la Nation at 2 pm in order to reach République.

The situation in Paris was no longer a regular demonstration. There were too many people everywhere in the streets; all the stores were closed on most shopping avenues. This was significant on a Saturday before Christmas.

Yellow vests and tear gas in Paris on December 8.

Around 4 pm, groups of yellow vesters were arriving at the République square. Gendarmes and CRS were already present in every major street surrounding the square. Their strategy brought back memories of the Loi Travail and Nuit Debout protests in 2016. The Climate March had already arrived, and the atmosphere was mostly festive. Everyone agreed that the demands of the yellow vest and environmental movements were not opposed, and that the divide-and-conquer strategy of the authorities and media would not work. The crowd was heterogeneous but far from being offensive. Therefore, we decided to leave the square, only to discover that individuals wearing yellow vests were not allowed to do so. The atmosphere grew tense, but no one was ready to charge police lines yet.

Further away, in the Saint-Lazare district, while police backups were becoming more visible, a march several thousand strong took the large boulevards connecting Opéra to République. Property destruction became automatic and looting frequent. Every window of every fashion store, bank, fast-food restaurant, and similar target was attacked. Several tags also appeared on the walls; the atmosphere in the march was clearly anti-capitalist. The march stopped near Strasbourg Saint-Denis in order to build a large barricade blocking the entire width of the boulevard. The latter was set on fire and more demonstrators joined the festivities.

Around 5 pm, some of us decided to go back to Haussmann Boulevard to see what was going on there, but then we heard that a wildcat demonstration was taking place near Grands Boulevards. Part of it took the direction of Châtelet-Les Halles (in the center of Paris) via the street Saint-Denis. Participants sang the International—a nice change from the Marseillaise (the French national anthem). A large part of the crowd chanted “Paris, debout, soulève-toi!” (“Paris, stand up, rise up!”) while the windows of banks continued to fall to the cheers of some demonstrators. At some point, a group of police officers arrived, creating a moment of panic within the procession. Barricades were set on fire in the nearby streets, while protestors threw stones at a police car in the street Quincampoix. The march tried several times to reach the City Hall of Paris, but without success, as police were blocking the streets. Finally, the crowd left the area by taking the small streets of the Marais district in order to reach the square République.

Around 7 pm, we arrived at République under a rain of tear gas canisters. The sport outlet store located near the square was attacked, but a police charge ended any hope of looting it. Then, a group left the square and started another wildcat demonstration. As soon as the procession took the street Faubourg du Temple, two police cars passing by were targeted with projectiles. A McDonald’s was also attacked. Further away, some barricades were built and trash bins set on fire. Near the Goncourt metro station, a huge flaming barricade paralyzed traffic and thick black smoke filled the streets. Little by little, the crowd dispersed.

Again, today was a great day!

Paris on December 8. Report #2

In another personal account, the author presents a different analysis of the events of December 8. Due to the deployment of police in the Parisian streets and the massive wave of arrests that started earlier in the morning, the author experienced the first part of the day as confusing and something of a failure. The psychological warfare carried out by the government seemed to have succeeded, as several demonstrators who gathered at Saint-Lazare felt helpless and anxious before the powerful display of police forces—checkpoints, tanks, water cannons and trucks everywhere.

Moreover, it seemed to the author that the majority of the people present for the morning demonstration were inexperienced and didn’t know how to proceed. In the end, the demonstration didn’t happen, and people felt confused, defeated, and, for the most part, wandered around the streets of Paris seeking some sort of action that would finally bring some air within the oppressive trap of law enforcement.

Then, around 1 pm, the author explains that the situation changed. Indeed, most police forces had emptied out of the streets in the area—probably to deal with other groups of demonstrators closer to the Champs Elysées. Protestors seized this opportunity to initiate a wildcat demonstration, but unfortunately without any clear objectives as to where to go and what to do. The march seemed really unorganized; at some point, it was attacked by police with grenades before people decided to take another direction.

Near the Madeleine square, the crowd met some yellow vesters and rail workers who were coming from the Champs Elysées. The overall situation there was really difficult. In addition to the fierce and violent police repression, demonstrators had to deal with personal trauma and fatigue. Some yellow vesters said that they were exhausted and were hoping that others would take the helm.

Around 3 pm, people converged at the Saint-Augustin square. There, the crowd seemed much younger—probably including some high school students—and more determined. As more and more protestors assembled around the square, police shot the first tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd. Confrontations and property destruction continued until no one could bear the gas anymore.

Little by little, hours of humiliation and frustration, as well as consecutive police charges, generated an uncontrollable raging crowd. This angry mass started by destroying a Starbucks coffee shop. Then, the crowd split into several processions after a violent police charge. One procession took the direction of Châtelet and the City Hall. Everywhere, capitalist symbols were attacked and stores were looted. At this moment, it seemed that “everyone wanted to smash everything, the only thing that was preventing all of us from doing so was fear.”

Around 7 pm at République, as nobody seemed to want to leave the square, the first sporadic confrontations took place. Soon, police forces filled the entire square with tear gas and the crowd dispersed. Later on, around 11 pm, when the square was empty and calm had returned, small groups of militia-like policemen were patrolling the zone with ski masks and guns for firing rubber bullets at the ready.

A Starbucks Coffee Shop attacked in Paris on December 8. The graffiti reads “Pay your taxes!” and “Give back the bucks!” Starbucks is known in France for not paying taxes, while profiting on the French market. Report #3

Some friends who were also present in the streets of Paris, contributed this short report on the events of December 8.

On Friday, December 7, the city of Paris was readying itself for the day of action called by the yellow vester movement for the next day. Undeniably, the riots and scenes of chaos of the previous week had left scars. From Opéra to République, all major stores and banks were covering their front windows with wooden planks. Would these precautions be enough to prevent damage?

On Saturday, December 8, we intended to go to the Saint-Lazare gathering at 10 am in order to evaluate the situation outside of the Champs Elysées. However, due to the deployment of police around the city and the news of the morning arrests, we decided to rethink our plans. In our opinion, there was no more point joining the morning gathering, especially when we knew that in order to do so we would have to be searched at the perimeter and then would probably end up being surrounded by police.

Afterwards, while we were discussing strategies and possible impasses and futures for the yellow vest movement, we received the news that some friends had been able to pass through police checkpoints without any complications. In the end, we decided to meet them later.

First, we decided to join the Climate March in order to see what was going on there. We were really surprised to see so many people in the streets—25,000 according to the organizers, 17,000 according to authorities. Among the numerous organizations, it is worth mentioning that an anti-capitalist and radical contingent headed the march, and some yellow vesters were also present among the crowd. The latter were thanked several times for being there. However, we decided to leave on account of the explicitly pacifist and reformist messaging of the march.

At République, the square was already occupied by several hundred individuals, the majority wearing yellow vests. The atmosphere was light and relaxed. However, police forces were already present in the nearby streets, rue du Faubourg du Temple and rue du Temple. In rue du Temple, after we passed about 15 police trucks, we saw members of the BAC already equipped with ski masks and LBD-40 launchers, calmly talking, joking, and smoking cigarettes with other police officers who were wearing yellow vests. It was obvious that police wanted to infiltrate the yellow vest movement in order to monitor, attack, and arrest protestors from within.

As we continued walking towards downtown Paris, we saw numerous traces of the morning’s confrontations—smashed windows, graffiti, and abandoned barricades. Afterwards, wandering around Châtelet, where groups of yellow vesters were converging, we heard the familiar noise of an unruly demonstration approaching. Suddenly, the crowd ran towards us before heading towards Beaubourg. We understood that something had scared the crowd. Nevertheless, we decided to continue walking in the direction that the crowd had just came from.

All around us, the atmosphere was strange. Some people who were not involved in the day of actions were quietly drinking in fancy cafés or restaurants, while others were finishing their Saturday shopping—all this in the middle of empty streets, smashed windows, and barricades. It was as if two different atmospheres coincided. Even more surprising, there was absolutely no sign of police in the district.

Then, near the street Réaumur, we encountered a march of several hundred comrades shouting anti-capitalist chants. Unfortunately for them, the storm had already ravaged the entire street before them. We stayed there a couple of minutes contemplating the last flames of a barricade before continuing our night walk towards the Grands Boulevards.

Earlier in the day, some of us had decided to take a look at what was going on near the Opéra. Once in the area, we were surprised to see that no cars were parked in the streets and there was almost no one driving in this luxurious district. It seemed that, like us, many people were trying to figure out where the chaos was happening. To find it, we simply followed the police helicopter that had been patrolling over Paris since the morning.

The police state and the flaming trash that stands in its way.

After circumventing two police roadblocks, we saw one of the large demonstrations in the Saint-Augustin square. People were passing in waves; we couldn’t tell what was going on. Considering the overall situation of the day—massive waves of arrests and a large number of police—we located possible escape routes in case of a police charge or crowd stampede. At some point, police tear-gassed the crowd, provoking a moment of panic. We decided to escape via one of the nearby streets, and had to sprint in order to avoid a CRS line that was trying to block us from the rear. In the end, due to the number of people who were slowly arriving, the police ended up stepping back.

We took this opportunity to move towards Saint-Lazare, taking advantage of having the whole streets—the whole city?—to ourselves, not knowing what we might encounter around the next corner. At some point, police motorcycles and an unmarked white truck passed in front of us at full speed, then returned coming the other direction several minutes later. Even now, we don’t know what this truck was for: delivering more ammunition to conflict points? Extracting people arrested from confrontation zones to bring them to police stations?

Once we arrived in front of the Saint-Lazare train station, we didn’t know where to go. Demonstrators were everywhere in the area, and police were throwing tear gas canisters in front of the station to disperse the crowd. We decided to go back towards Opéra. Then we joined a large march that began to erect barricades out of urban furniture including barriers and wooden planks. Part of the crowd also started smashing everything and looting stores. Everything was happening really fast.

The rioting crowd took the large boulevards between Opéra and République. Police attacked the rear of the crowd with tear gas, yet without any real success, as people were running through the large arteries for several minutes. From the left side of the street to the right side, people smashed numerous windows—sometimes without paying attention to their surroundings, sometimes even without wearing a mask.

The procession continued its course towards Strasbourg Saint-Denis. At this point, the procession was clearly outside the perimeter established by law enforcement, as the crowd was running among cars. Some stores were open—which did not protect them from being looted or having their windows smashed. Upon reaching Strasbourg Saint-Denis, the crowd slowed down and some of us took this opportunity to leave.

When some of us reached the Grands Boulevards later, once again the atmosphere was really strange. The entire boulevard was full of barricades and covered with all kinds of debris. The area was really quiet despite the large number of people in the streets. Tourists, yellow vesters, and protestors of all kind were immortalizing the moment with their phones. A friendly and joyful atmosphere reigned in the boulevard, while further away, towards the Opéra, police lights and clouds blocked the view.

We decided to walk towards Place de la République to see if something was happening there—since we had left the Climate March hours ago. Passing through the streets, we admired the consequences of the raging storm that had passed. Some cars were trying to find their ways through the numerous barricades; the front of a fast-food restaurant was smashed; bus shelters were destroyed; anarchist and anti-capitalist tags gave color to the walls.

When we finally reached the République square, several thousands of people were already occupying it; a large banner saying “ZAD partout!” (“ZAD everywhere!”) was wrapped around the massive statue. So far, the atmosphere seemed joyful; we decided to wait there to see whether the situation would escalate. Police were already on site; as usual, they were ready to block single exit around the square if necessary. After several minutes, the crowd got bigger and started to get closer to the police lines in front of the rue du Temple. The first torches were lit and the crowd of demonstrators started encouraging each other and booing the forces of authority. Several projectiles were thrown at the police. Immediately, the first tear gas canisters were shot into the middle of the square, where some demonstrators began to panic.

The rain of tear gas canisters continued for a while, and little by little people left the square. Some started a wildcat demonstration, while others simply passed behind the police lines. Once again, the atmosphere was surreal. Several steps away from the Place de la République, people were eating at restaurants and drinking with friends at bars, like they would on any other Saturday night, not feeling disturbed at all by the surrounding chaos, the police, the tear gas, or the helicopter lighting up the square. More proof that although we all supposedly live under the same system, we share different realities and worlds.

Later that night, we decided to pass by the République square one more time to see if something was still happening there. When we arrived, the square was almost empty and occupied by BAC officers and other agents in ski masks wielding LBD-40 launchers. Some of them attacked the few people left on the square with stun grenades and rubber bullets. We ended our long day witnessing these scenes of police violence.

Place de la République on the night of December 8. Report #4

Around 9 am, as the prefecture of Paris had shut down several metro stations for safety measures, we exited the metro seven or eight stations from our destination: the Place de l’Etoile. There, the most striking thing was the strange—and somehow oppressive—silence in the streets that was regularly interrupted by police sirens. All the shop windows had been boarded up overnight, and after walking only 500 meters we saw the first police cordons checking people and searching bags. One person in front of us was brutally pressed against a wall after protesting when the police confiscated his swimming goggles. We passed through the checkpoint without a hitch, even if having gloves in our possession made the police officers suspicious. Police officers demanded that we open our jackets and vigorously patted us down.

Beside us, we saw one person leave a group of demonstrators and make a common gesture of disapproval at a group of gendarmes. Five of them left their ranks to charge at him and slammed him down on the ground. Brave acts of self-expression are admirable, but in that situation, considering the context and the tangible tension among police officers, his behaviour was borderline suicidal.

The police were indeed on edge. As we approached the meeting point, the situation became increasingly absurd. We were checked and searched every 50 meters. At every checkpoint, our thoughts were with those who were arrested for carrying harmless item with them. If any of us had tried to speak to them, we would have been arrested as well.

Once we arrived at the Champs Elysées, all the stress we had accumulated during our walk vanished when we saw how many people had already gathered and with what enthusiasm. The first great news of the day was that, somehow, a lot of people were still well equipped. To be honest, we don’t know how they pulled this off. The second great news was the large number of individuals present on the avenue. A lot of people seemed really determined. Every time tear gas canisters were shot or stun grenades exploded, the crowd was cheering. These scenes were completely strange.

Some journalists from BFM—a 24-hour news channel—positioned on a rooftop were on the receiving end of vigorously expressed insults. While we disapprove of the terms that were used, it is important to note that the collective experience shared during demonstrations develops some common reactions even among those who are “not activists.”

All the ingredients were present for the situation to become explosive. We decided to leave the Champs Elysées in order to meet up with other friends. There were lots of people at the next meeting point, as well. The crowd was clearly more “autonomous and radical” than in the Champs Elysées; we saw more black clothes than yellow vests. It only took a few seconds for the timeless chant “Siamo tutti antifascisti!” (“We are all anti-fascists”) to ring out. The march began moving, but very calmly. So far, there was no real property damage, just a few small attacks on urban furniture. We decided to divide up, again. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet again for almost two hours—our communication tools being completely useless under the circumstances.

We wandered the streets with the feeling that we were always arriving after the battles, hearing incomplete reports about confrontations elsewhere in the city. We went back and forth on the major arteries without a clear target while trying to contact other friends.

Tension was high throughout the entire city. More and more of the roads were obstructed by trees, debris, and trash bins. We saw tanks racing in the direction of the Champs Elysées. It is noteworthy that at this point in the day, the police presence in the area shifted from omnipresent to sporadic. It seemed, according to what people told us, that something was burning at the Champs Elysées.

From where we were standing, a huge blaze could be seen. We had finally found our destination. Once we arrived on site, however, it appeared that once again, we had missed the events.

Not at all! An angry and determined crowd of hundreds was coming in our direction. Half a dozen CRS (riot police) trucks tried to go through the crowd. People reacted by throwing stones and other projectiles at them; then CRS units on foot charged and chased the crowd. After a sprint and a good rush of fear and adrenaline, we decided to meet up on a major artery. There, people were smashing all the windows while a tobacco store was looted.

The atmosphere was incredible. The crowd was characterized by a collective serenity—probably due to the large numbers present in the streets and the fact that there was no sign of police on the horizon. There was an atmosphere of joy: every time the window of a corporate store chain was smashed, people cheered, sang, or laughed. We had never experienced such thing before.

The march continued for another two or three kilometres, leaving nothing intact behind us and building makeshift barricades all along our route. Then, people informed us that a nervous group of policemen were waiting for us a little further ahead. This is when we decided that it was a good opportunity to disperse and quit while we were ahead.

For additional personal accounts about the events of December 8 in Paris, we recommend this article and this one.

Mixed Feelings

In the end, December 8 was a strange mix of defeats and victories.

The day started out perfectly for the government; its trap was working. Early in the morning, police forces were already on alert to search and arrest any potential threat. Controls took place in the streets, at roadblocks, and in train stations around Paris. Every single person with a gas mask, goggles, or alleged projectiles was immediately arrested. Numerous potential demonstrators were put in custody simply for carrying a scarf and swimming goggles to protect them from the inevitable tear gas, like this person in Bordeaux.

By 10:30 am, about 354 people were already arrested, with 127 of them were put in custody. All day long, the number of arrestees continued to increase, reaching the gigantic number of 1082 people arrested in Paris with more than 900 in custody.

The preventative controls and arrests, as well as the massive presence of police, thwarted a new insurrectionary outburst in the French capital city. For the most part, Saturday morning was relatively calm; no confrontations or destructions were reported in the Champs Elysées. Around 10:30 am, some yellow vesters succeeded in blocking the Parisian beltway near Porte Maillot. Police forces brought the action to an end without using force.

In other words, all morning, it seemed that the authorities had the upper hand. The feeling of being defeated before the battle had even begun spread among our ranks, and with it, the frustration and fear of state repression increased.

Then, around midday, the situation started to change. At the Champs-Elysées, the strategy of the “pressure cooker”—containing demonstrators in a closed area while increasing the pressure—led to the first confrontations and damages. For example, some yellow vesters attacked a store and tried to break in. BAC agents and other officersunleashed their rage and inflicted the day’s first serious injuries on demonstrators. Fortunately, several teams of street medics were present to provide first aid. Unfortunately, near 2 pm, at the Champs Elysées, a 20-year-old woman lost an eye due to shrapnel from a grenade thrown by police.

As the accounts illustrate, in the afternoon, protestors succeeded in turning the tables by outmaneuvering the police. In this situation—facing massive numbers of preventative arrests and a city under siege—creating a breach was not easy. Our decisions to remain—for the most part—outside of the checkpoints imposed by the government and the areas where clashes were occurring with police enabled us to act and move freely, and eventually to give vent to our rage.

In the end, all considered, the actions of December 8 were much more effective than those of the previous week. To begin with, the fact that most stores, museums, theaters, and other institutions decided to close on a Saturday before Christmas already qualifies as a serious disruption with animpact on the French economy. On December 10, the Minister of the Economy held the yellow vest movement responsible for the fact that France lost “0.1 percent of growth of our national wealth during the last quarter.” According to the Mayor of Paris, the actions of December 8 inflicted more damage than those of the preceding week.

Property destruction in Paris on December 8. Meanwhile, Elsewhere in France…

While the French government and national media were focused on the situation in Paris, something just as important—if not more—was happening in other cities. The yellow vest movement began as a decentralized phenomenon; on its first day of mobilization, about 2000 actions took place in France. For this fourth nationwide day of action, about 136,000 individuals participated, creating an explosive situation in several cities.

Dijon

In Dijon, this day of action was less explosive than the previous one had been. As had become usual since the beginning of the movement, the demonstration took the same route and ended near the local prefecture, where confrontations erupted with police. However, the authorities had changed their strategy since the previous week and anticipated the intentions of the crowd. Anti-riot fences protected the prefecture building and officers deployed massive quantities of rubber bullets and tear gas against protestors. As a result, numerous people were injured, one with a fractured jawbone.

In addition to providing a report of Saturday’s demonstration, the authors of this report mention the difficulty of dealing with racist and misogynist behavior within the movement, while insisting on the necessity of not deserting it. While at some point the movement was unpredictable, now it has become a known quantity; the authors mention that they have the impression that they have reached a kind of impasse. However, they still express hope for the future. Since the beginning of the movement in Dijon, they have seen useful practices propagate in demonstrations, including participants wearing proper equipment and establishing teams of street medics. During the last demonstration, a connection arose between yellow vesters and members of the Climate March. Now, the important thing is to make sure that these alliances can last past the holidays.

Lyons

In Lyons, the situation was more difficult. People started gathering in the morning for the Climate March. Between 7000 and 10,000 individuals showed up, but the march was disappointing. On the bright side, the march showed solidarity with the student movement and some yellow vesters were also present among the crowd. Later, rumors circulated concerning the presence of numerous well-known fascists within the yellow vest contingent; the author of this article confirms the presence of fascists.

In Lyons, fascists are quite active in the yellow vest movement, which makes the situation difficult for anarchists and others. So far, it seems almost impossible for radicals to take part in the movement there. At the end of the day, police forces dispersed crowds of demonstrators in downtown Lyons with tear gas, which also impacted passers-by.

Toulouse, December 8. Toulouse

On December 8, Toulouse was burning. During the preceding weeks, several calls had been made in order to create a real bloc that Saturday. Yellow vesters, students, anarchists, and others individuals were determined to take the streets that day. The demonstration hadn’t even started when the first confrontations took place with police. This time, the rear part of the demonstration was the center of the clashes. As usual, police shot rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, which only escalated the situation.

The streets of Toulouse descended into a state of siege warfare and the first barricades were set on fire. The law enforcement strategy failed completely, as the angry crowd dispersed into nearby streets and continued to riot. In terms of strategy, the rear of the march occupied police in confrontations, which enabled the rest of the march to continue its course. Altogether, four different wildcat demonstrations were moving through the city at the same time. At 5:30 pm, despite the prefecture’s efforts, yellow vesters succeeded in marching through downtown Toulouse and reaching the Capitole (City Hall). Confrontations continued until late that night, especially in the Saint Cyprien district. Due to the chaotic situation, police forces even shot tear gas canisters from their helicopter.

Marseille, December 8. Marseille

In Marseille, yellow vesters, environmentalists, residents who were angry about urban policies, and students took the streets together on December 8. In the morning, about 2000 yellow vesters gathered in the vieux port (the old port) and moving towards the prefecture. Unfortunately, far-right tendencies were present in the march, including rhetoric against migrants and radical leftists. Some participants were even asking the police to join the demonstration. Once the march came back near downtown, yellow vesters tried to get closer to the main City Hall. Police shot the first tear gas canisters at that point and pushed demonstrators back towards the Canebière. The first fashion store was looted as police repeatedly charged several groups of protestors and rioters.

Around 4 pm, more than 5000 individuals arrived from the Castellane district. This procession was composed of climate marchers and angry locals. All the different marches and crowds were converging on the Canebière. The different components of the crowd expressed solidarity; everyone was there with the same purpose. Police forces started increasing the pressure by tear-gassing the crowd. Officers of the BAC were also present, mostly to protect stores and other possible targets.

That didn’t stop people from attacking and looting several stores, banks, and ATMs. Police forces continued to push back the crowd. Once the crowd reached the Soléam building—a company in charge of the urban planning—every single window was smashed. Confrontations lasted for several hours as barricades and trash bins were set on fire; the Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas trees were set on fire.

Police finally dispersed the rioting crowd with tanks. However, the riots continued further: new barricades were erected and set aflame; a parking meter was attacked; jewelry stores were looted. The cat and mouse game between police forces and rioters ended around 8 pm. The authorities arrested about 60 people and injured many more.

Bordeaux, December 8. Bordeaux, December 8. Bordeaux

In Bordeaux, the situation was quite intense. Everything started around 1 pm, when a group of 100-200 high school students joined the demonstration called for by local yellow vesters. According to local media outlets, 7000 people were already gathering on the docks. The atmosphere was quite friendly but also determined.

A joyous crowd started walking through the city in order to reach the City Hall. Passing through the rue Sainte-Catherine, the city’s chief shopping street, demonstrators mingled with bystanders shopping for the holidays. Some stores started closing their doors upon seeing the crowd. The march reached the Place Pey Berland, the main square where the Cathedral and the City Hall are located.

Rapidly, the square filled with people. Around 4 pm, some projectiles were thrown at police, who responded with the first tear gas grenades of the day. The situation continued to escalate for about two hours, as yellow vesters and students resisted police charges, tear gas, and rubber bullets. At least one individual was injured by rubber bullets impacts to the face.

Around 6 pm, police forces received the order to clear the square. A rain of tear gas canisters fell upon the protestors. Then police forces shifted to stun-grenades. A young man lost his hand as a consequence of trying to protect the demonstrators from one of these.

Due to the intensity of the confrontations, the crowd dispersed into the neighboring streets. Some protestors took this opportunity to erect barricades, some which caught fire; several banks were attacked; camera surveillance were smashed; trash tins were set on fire; windows were smashed. A cat and mouse game took place pitting rioters against BAC agents in the streets of Bordeaux.

After a final massive police charge, the groups of rioters dispersed. In their escape, one group attacked and looted an Apple Store and set one last barricade on fire. In total, 69 people were arrested, 54 of whom were held in custody.

Bordeaux, December 8.

Additional reports from other French cities are available here and here.

Altogether, according to the Minister of the Interior, the fourth nationwide day of action in France ended up with a total of 1723 arrests, with 1380 people put in custody. Since the beginning of the yellow vest movement, more than 3300 individuals have been arrested, 2354 have been put in custody, and more than 1200 have already seen trial.

A trade union demonstration in Paris on December 8. The people with helmets, masks, and goggles are in charge of the security of the march. And Outside France?

There have been several attempts to ignite copycat movements elsewhere around Europe and the world. In Egypt, the military tyrant al-Sisi forbade merchants from selling yellow vests ahead of the upcoming anniversary of the Egyptian revolution; in Tunisia, people launched a Facebook page proposing a “red vest” movement; in Iraq, demonstrators in Basra dusted off vests they had worn in a similar protest movement in 2015.

Belgium

Brussels saw the largest yellow vest demonstration outside France on December 8, with major traffic disruptions, clashes with police, and 460 arrests. The participants were largely middle class and white, but not entirely so. One demonstrator carried a sign opposing fascism; another, no to taxes and no to the immigration agreement. The person holding the sign opposing immigration was booed by the other demonstrators.

A group of yellow vesters demonstrating in front of the Alsetex factory of Précigné, France—a company known for producing law enforcement weapons used by the French government. The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the yellow vest movement has largely emerged from the far right. Gele Hesjes Facebook groups appeared around December 1 and grew quickly. That day, small demonstrations drew dozens of participants in a few cities. On December 8, there were demonstrations in more cities, with 200 participants in Rotterdam, about 100 in Amsterdam and the The Hague, and dozens of participants in several other towns.

At the demonstration in The Hague on December 1, yellow vest demonstrators displayed fascist symbols including the so-called Prinsenvlag, an old version of the Dutch national flag that has only been utilized by fascists since 1945. Members of several extreme right-wing groups were involved. On December 8, two prominent right-wing reactionaries participated in the demonstration in The Hague, one from Pegida, the other from the PVV, the party of Dutch fascist Geert Wilders. A portrait of the fascist icon Pim Fortuyn could be seen on the yellow vest of one of the participants.

In Nijmegen, where the chief organizer has extreme right wing connections, the fascist group Identitair Verzet handed out stickers to yellow vest demonstrators inside the demonstration. In Amsterdam, one demonstrator wore a yellow vest emblazoned with the letters RFVD (Forum voor Democratie), a fascist party with two seats in parliament, even more openly racist than de PVV.

The movement in Amsterdam seems to be the least dominated by the far right, so far, with anarchists distributing literature and engaging participants in discussion on December 8.

Of course, not all the demonstrators are fascists. You see many complaints about budget cuts, health care structures in disrepair, issues that it makes sense to be angry about. But these are often connected to complaints about the European Union, so-called “globalism,” and so on. Many of the Gele Hesjes discourse has focused on a United Nations agreement on immigration called the Marrakesh pact. In fact, the agreement simply confirms laws and treaties already in place. According to right-wing disinformation, however, this pact means that Europe invites “all of Africa” to come, while outlawing any criticism of migration. It is amazing how many people appear to believe this nonsense.

Under these conditions, most of the left are understandably hostile to the yellow vests movement in the Netherlands. It is an open question whether anarchists could have been the first ones to initiate Yellow Hesjes groups and thereby set a different discourse. Hesitation, followed by relief when one’s suspicions are confirmed, can cede the space of social unrest to the far right—with disastrous consequences.

A new Facebook group has appeared now under the name Rode Hesjes, “red vests,” stressing solidarity and rejecting racist tactics of divide and conquer. This seems to be a classic left project, making demands to the government and holding itself apart from the social ferment of generalized unrest.

Germany

Developments in Germany have been mostly farcical; a few far-right groups initially attempted to popularize the yellow vest model, without success. One Nazi group held its regular demonstration in yellow vests. As usual, the majority of German anti-fascists expressed suspicion about the popular movement, though a few groups oriented towards class-war politics criticized this attitude.

Anti-fascists in Dortmund organized their own yellow vest demonstration on the weekend of December 8, addressing the contradictions within the movement. In conservative southern Germany, an institutional left group in Munich is calling for yellow vest demonstrations, and the left party Die Linke has endorsed the movement.

Entertainingly, a German anarchist apparently started one of the popular yellow vest twitter accounts as a prank, attempting to use satire to mock the conspiracy theories within the right-wing elements of the movement. Unfortunately, this is a bad era for satire, and right-wing German yellow vesters took even the most outlandish tweets seriously until the prank was revealed.

Place de la République, where the Climate March ended on December 8. The sign reads something to the effect of “Proud and determined. Women in precarious situations, mad women. The DALO law [which supposedly guarantees the right to decent housing to anyone who is unable to access it by their own means] is a joke. This is a bourgeois bohemian law. Having a roof above our heads is a right. Our lives can’t wait.” Aftermath

On Monday, December 10, President Macron delivered an official speech on national television. He acknowledged that the country is currently in “an economical and social state of emergency.” In light of this, he personally asked the government and the parliament to do whatever is necessary to make it possible for people to live decently from their jobs starting next year. Alongside these statements, Macron presented new political measures—including increasing minimum wage by €100 a month starting next year; offering tax exemption on overtime; asking employers to offer Christmas bonuses; cancelling tax on pensions under €2000 a month—in order to answer some of the yellow vesters’ demands.

On Tuesday, December 11, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the new government’s decisions before the National Assembly and reaffirmed the wish to find a mutual agreement quickly in order to exit this month-long political and social crisis.

So far, it is difficult to evaluate the real impact that Macron’s speech will have on the yellow vest movement’s future. For the most part, political parties—the populist left and the far-right nationalists—jumped on this occasion to denounce the President’s measures and the legitimacy of the actual government. While some yellow vesters—mostly “legalists”—seem satisfied with the government’s announcement and think it is time for the yellow vest movement to accept dialogue, others describe the situation as a farce and aim to continue the fight. Another day of action has been called for Saturday, December 15.

A banner on the Champs Elysées reading “Referendum of Popular Initiatives. €(Euro) dictatorship, Banksters in prison!” The idea of establishing a “referendum of popular initiatives” has become one of the most popular demands among some yellow vesters. They took this idea from an existing policy in Switzerland, where, if a petition receives a certain amount of signatures, a referendum must take place on the issue. This is a demand for the kind of participatory democracy that also produced the Brexit vote. The rhetoric of “€ dictatorship” has been used by the far-right for years; like “Banksters in prison,” it focuses on a single element of capitalism, so as to distract from the problems with the system itself. The banner is representative of the kind of crypto fascist and far-right conspiracy theories prevalent among some participants in the movement; further evidence of this includes the french flag and the sign reading “11 vaccines=poison” in the background. Reflections

The yellow vest movement continues to surprise everyone on account of its duration, its determination, and its capacity to assume new forms. A month ago, no one imagined that such chaos and political instability were about to unfold in France. Despite numerous attempts to establish dialogue, pacify the social base, and isolate the most radical fringe, the movement is still alive and unpredictable.

The focus of the movement has slowly shifted. Several weeks ago, the participants concentrated on protesting the increase of fuel and gas prices and the high cost of living; now, there is more attention on the government and the systemic causes of our difficult living situations.

Moreover, part of the movement has also succeeded in opening its ranks to other demonstrators and causes. In the beginning, the movement was almost exclusively composed of people wearing yellow vests and pushing the associated demands; last Saturday in Paris, we saw students, rail workers, climate marchers, trade unionists, individuals from the suburbs, anarchists, autonomous rebels, and “rioters without adjectives” joining the yellow vesters in the street fights. This convergence seems to have pushed the movement towards a more social, leftist, and anti-capitalist approach, and opening up space for marginalized people to participate.

For example, in their collective charter, some yellow vesters are asking for the end of French pillaging, political interference, and military occupation in African countries. In a surprising letter published on November 9, several radical yellow vesters proposed an analysis of the current situation based on anti-capitalist and anti-statist arguments. They concluded by saying:

“No, our violence is not bad! No, our violence is not violent! No, our violence is a deliverance! Our violence is not bloodthirsty, it is salutary! Now, let us be governed by ourselves, and let’s trust our creative power!”

On this boarded up grocery store belonging to a widespread corporate chain, we read: “The earth is burning—when will it be the turn of the Elysée?” The Elysée is the name of the presidential palace. The Threat of Nationalist Cooptation

Yet the movement has also involved populists, nationalists, and fascists. The so-called “apolitical” façade in the early stages of the movement enabled far-right nationalists and populist leftists to create connections with the movement and take advantage of its anger for political purposes. This is not surprising, since many of the demonstrators share common ideas with those parties. Regarding the possible end result of the movement, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the leftist populist party France Insoumise or the far-right nationalist Rassemblement National emerge victorious from this political crisis.

This is what our comrades from Dijon experienced last Saturday, when they were confronted with xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny during the yellow vest demonstration. The situation in Lyons is troubling in that local fascists are well organized and are using this movement as a platform to spread their ideas.

In Paris, fascist groups have been seen since the beginning of the yellow vest movement. Thankfully, anti-fascists are doing everything they can to keep them off the streets.

However, some comrades say that to the extent that nationalists have been marginalized within the yellow vest movement, this has not been accomplished by street attacks so much as by expanding the activities of the movement to include tactics—such as property destruction—that are incompatible with right-wing politics. Fascists were able to represent street conflicts with police as a righteous struggle against the forces of centrist neoliberalism, but they have no narrative to legitimize property destruction and rioting.

Minimizing or ignoring the presence of fascists within the movement is dangerous. Considering the political and ideological connections many participants share with populist and nationalist parties, the tables could turn overnight. This makes it especially important to attack and delegitimize fascists who wish to participate in the movement, to come up with discourse and strategies that offer them no footholds within the movement, and above all to organize effective anti-capitalist measures addressing the economic problems that confront so many people today.

We also must strategize about what to do if nationalists are able to capitalize on the political turmoil resulting from the movement. Even if nationalists are marginalized in the streets, they could still take advantage of the situation to win power in the government. We should be ready for that situation, as well.

On this boarded up pharmacy in Paris on December 8, we read: “Macron, Le Pen, Mélenchon, get the hell out!” And after the Crest?

For some of us, the events of December 8 were a partial failure because the situation was not as uncontrollable as on December 1, and because the crowds never mustered the courage to confront the police directly. Many people felt overwhelmed by the situation. This seems to indicate that the movement is reaching a plateau, if not an impasse. If things do not shift again, the movement will eventually cycle down and die, at least in Paris.

On the other hand, other comrades consider last Saturday a huge success. While the authorities deployed unprecedented police force nationwide and sent a threatening to message to any individual who wanted to demonstrate, thousands of people still found the courage to take the streets, and many of them eventually succeeded in outmaneuvering the police. In Paris, the riots lasted for about seven hours. In the end, there was more overall economic damage than the previous week, which compensates for the fact that crowds rarely engaged in frontal confrontations with the police.

Yet here, too, we see the risk of stagnation. The yellow vest movement still lacks a way to expand the horizon beyond blocking traffic, confronting police, and destroying symbols of capitalism. Of course, one could make the same criticism of the police strategy—though the police, too, have shown themselves to be capable of shifting their approach. The tactics of the movement have created a political crisis, but mere escalation is a game that the state can play as well—at least within a limited space.

One option would be to intensify occupations alongside blockades and riots—as some yellow vesters did in Saint Nazaire and some students are doing in their high schools and universities. This could create a space for discussion, in which people could develop deeper ties within the movement. It would offer another model for bringing pressure to bear on the state while also putting the participants in touch with their own power to create alternatives.

In any case, with the Christmas holidays approaching, the calendar itself—that ancient weapon to contain social struggles within the existing order—is against the movement. The greater question is how the yellow vest movement will have changed the long-term conditions and horizon of possibility in France and around the world.

“Merry Christmas, [Em]Manu[el Macron].” This graffito in Paris was intended ironically, but it may indeed be Christmas that saves Macron.


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How to create a leaderless revolution and win lasting political change

Hace 6 horas 21 mins

via The Guardian

by Carne Ross


The gilets jaunes movement in France is a leaderless political uprising. It isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Occupy, the Arab spring and #MeToo are other recent examples of this new politics. Some of it is good. Some of it is not: a leaderless movement, self-organised on Reddit, helped elect Donald Trump. But leaderless movements are spreading, and we need to understand where they come from, what is legitimate action and, if you want to start one, what works and what doesn’t.

The Arab spring began with the self-immolation of one despairing young man in Tunisia; the revolt rapidly spread across the region, just as protests have proliferated in France. In highly connected complex systems, such as the world today, the action of a single agent can suddenly trigger what complexity theorists call a “phase shift” across the entire system.

We cannot predict which agent or what event might be that trigger. But we already know that the multiplying connections of our worldoffer an unprecedented opportunity for the rise and spread of leaderless movements.

Leaderless movements spring from frustration with conventional top-down politics, a frustration shared by many, not only those on the streets. Polls suggest the gilets jaunes are supported by a large majority of the French public. Who believes that writing to your MP, or signing a petition to No 10 makes any difference to problems such as inequality, the chronic housing shortage or the emerging climate disaster? Even voting feels like a feeble response to these deep-seated problems that are functions not only of government policies but more of the economic system itself.

What such movements oppose is usually clear, but what they propose is inevitably less so: that is their nature. The serial popular uprisings of the Arab spring all rejected authoritarian rule, whether in Tunisia, Egypt or Syria. But in most places there was no agreement about what kind of government should replace the dictators. In Eygpt, the Tahrir Square protests failed to create an organised democratic political party that could win an election. Instead, the Muslim Brotherhood, long highly organised and thus prepared for such a moment, stepped into the political vacuum. In turn, this provoked further mass protest, which eventually brought to power another dictatorship as repressive as Hosni Mubarak’s.

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Climate justice and migration in the media

Jue, 12/13/2018 - 18:47

via The Ecologist

by Maria Sakellari

Migration in the context of climate change is a justice issue. Those countries that have contributed most to climate change have a responsible the vulnerable communities forced to migrate due to climate change. 

Climate justice is a matter of determining the rights of those communities and the responsibilities of high polluters toward them. 

However, public discourses on climate change induced migration are moving backwards in terms of posing the question of justice, when they should be asking: how come certain people and communities are more vulnerable to climate change impacts; don’t high polluters owe redress to these groups? 

Climate injustice 

Wildfires in California have been exacerbated by climate change, and have destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of people. Huge numbers of homeless are sleeping on the streets.

At the other end of the scale, a recent report rom the UK Committee on Climate Change found that accelerating rising sea levels would claim coastal areas in the country and local communities would have to move inland. 

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the old San Francisco, his new novel, and his first 100 years

Jue, 12/13/2018 - 18:09

via Document

by Ira Silverberg

The literary legend discusses the legacy of City Lights, anarchism, and the San Francisco that was with editor Ira Silverberg.

Perhaps no living American deserves the honorific “man of letters” more than Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Best known as a poet—his poetry collection A Coney Island of the Mind, first published in 1958, has sold more than one million copies—Ferlinghetti is also a novelist, playwright, publisher, and bookseller. In 1956, he published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems at City Lights Books, which was then, Ferlinghetti says, both a one-room bookshop and a “two-bit poetry press” in San Francisco. The ensuing trial for obscenity became a literary landmark when the California State Superior Court decided in Ferlinghetti’s favor, ruling that Howl “does have some redeeming social importance.” That decision also paved the way for a landmark of a different sort: In 2001, nearly 50 years after opening its doors, City Lights, the bookshop Howl made famous, was designated an official historic site by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

In March, Doubleday will publish Ferlinghetti’s Beat-inflected third novel, Little Boy, on the occasion of the author’s 100th birthday. Though the little boy of the title is based on Ferlinghetti, and his biographical details bear more than a passing resemblance to Ferlinghetti’s own— dead father, absent mother, World War II service, studies at the Sorbonne—the author is quick to clarify that the boy is “an imaginary me.”

Recently, Ferlinghetti caught up by phone with Ira Silverberg, a fellow publishing polymath whose career has spanned several decades, multiple book imprints, and two literary agencies. Silverberg, now an editor at Simon & Schuster, was also a close friend of Ginsberg and continues to teach his work each year at the Columbia University School of the Arts MFA writing program.

Ira Silverberg—How are you? It’s been a number of years.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti—Well, there’s no blood running out.

Ira—Indeed. You know, I read something of yours today that I’d love to read back to you, if you’ll indulge me.

Lawrence—Yeah.

Ira—[“Pity the Nation” (After Khalil Gibran)]

‘Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars Whose sages are silenced

And whose bigots haunt the airwaves Pity the nation that raises not its voice Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero

And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed Pity the nation oh pity the people

who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!’

Lawrence—Where did you pick it up?

Ira—Oh, you know, the wonder of the internet is that one can find anything. It’s actually on the City Lights site. Hearing it today, I wonder how that feels in terms of where we’re at politically right now.

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Yellow Vests Movement Rocks France

Dom, 12/09/2018 - 14:34

The yellow vest protests has been disrupting France for weeks and has turned into a broader social movement. Infoshop News brings you a round-up of the latest news, developments, media, opinion and analysis.

Breaking News Analysis, Opinion, Statements “The People’s directives”

Demands made by the yellow vests in France.

  • End of the tax hike on fuel.
  • Promote the transport of goods by rail.
  • Tax on marine fuel oil and kerosene.
  • Monthly minimum wage at 1,300 euros net ($1947 CAD per month after taxes).
  • Indexing of all wages, pensions and allowances to inflation.
  • Nationalization of the fuel for home heating and electricity sectors.
  • More progressive income tax (more marginal tax brackets).
  • The end of the austerity.
  • No withholding tax.
  • Restoring the taxes for the ultra-wealthy.
  • Same social security system for all workers, including the self-employed.
  • The pension system must remain in solidarity and therefore socialized.
  • No retirement pension below 1,200 euros ($1797/month CAD).
  • Increase of disability allowances.
  • Retirement at age 60, and a right to early retirement at 55 for workers who have worked a hard manual labour job.
  • Continuation of the Pajemploi help system until the child is 10 years old.
  • End of outsourcing of work for French corporations.
  • Limit the number of fixed-term contracts for large companies, replaced with more full time employment.
  • Maximum salary fixed at 15,000 euros [monthly] ($22469/month, or maximum annual salary of ~$270,000).
  • Jobs for the unemployed.
  • Any elected representative will be entitled to the median national salary.
  • The popular referendum must enter into the Constitution. Creating a readable and effective site, supervised by an independent control body where people can make a proposal for a law. If this bill obtains 700,000 signatures then this bill will have to be discussed, completed and amended by the National Assembly, which will have the obligation, one year to the day after obtaining the 700,000 signatures, to submit it to the vote of all French.
  • Return to a seven-year term for the President of the Republic.
  • End of presidential allowances for life.
  • Proportional voting system.
  • Elimination of of the Senate.
  • Accounting of the protest/blank/none of the above ballots.
  • Promote small businesses in villages and town centers. Stop the construction of large commercial areas around the big cities that kill the small business. More free parking in city centers.
  • No further privatization of French infrastructure.
  • Improved funding for the justice system, the police, the gendarmerie and the army.
  • All the money earned by highway tolls will be used for the maintenance of motorways and roads in France and road safety.
  • Immediate closure of private trains, post offices, schools and maternity homes.
  • Maximum 25 students per class for all ages.
  • Large corporations (McDonald’s, Google, Amazon, Carrefour …) pay big [taxes], small businesses (artisans, SMEs) pay small [taxes].
  • Protect the French industry to prohibit outsourcing.
  • End of the business tax credit. Use this money for the launch of a French hydrogen car industry.
  • Eliminate credit card fees for merchants.
  • Lower employers’ charges.
  • Continue exemption of farm diesel.
  • Improve the lives of the elderly, by banning exploitation and making money off the elderly.
  • Substantial boosts in mental health fund.
  • Prohibition of glyphosate.
  • Immediate end to temporary foreign worker programs.
  • Plan for improving insulation of housing (help the environment by helping the household).
  • Rent control. More low-rent housing (especially for students and precarious workers).
  • Treat the root causes of forced migration.
  • Fair treatment of asylum seekers . We owe them housing, security, food and education. Work with the UN to have host camps open in many countries around the world, pending the outcome of the asylum application.
  • Return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to their country of origin.
  • Real integration policy is implemented. Living in France means becoming French (French language course, French history course and civic education course with certification at the end of the course).

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The “Yellow Vests” Show How Much the Ground Moves Under Our Feet

Dom, 12/09/2018 - 03:00

via La Monde

by David Graeber

If one feature of any truly revolutionary moment is the complete failure of conventional categories to describe what’s happening around us, then that’s a pretty good sign we’re living in revolutionary times.

It strikes me that the profound confusion, even incredulity, displayed by the French commentariat—and even more, the world commentariat—in the face of each successive “Acte” of the Gilets Jaunes drama, now rapidly approaching its insurrectionary climax, is a result of a near total inability to take account of the ways that power, labour, and the movements ranged against power, have changed over the last 50 years, and particularly, since 2008. Intellectuals have for the most part done an extremely poor job understanding these changes.

Let me begin by offering two suggestions as to the source of some of the confusion:

1. in a financialised economy, only those closest to the means of money-creation (essentially, investors and the professional-managerial classes) are in a position to employ the language of universalism. As a result, any political claims as based in particular needs and interests, tended to be treated as manifestation of identity politics, and in the case of the social base of the GJ, therefore, cannot be imagined it as anything but proto-fascist.

2. since 2011, there has been a worldwide transformation of common sense assumptions about what participating in a mass democratic movement should mean—at least among those most likely to do so. Older “vertical” or vanguardist models of organization have rapidly given way to an ethos of horizontality one where (democratic, egalitarian) practice and ideology are ultimately two aspects of the same thing. Inability to understand this gives the false impression movements like GJ are anti-ideological, even nihilistic.

Let me provide some background for these assertions.

Since the US jettisoning of the gold standard in 1971, we have seen a profound shift in the nature of capitalism. Most corporate profits are now no longer derived from producing or even marketing anything, but in the manipulation of credit, debt, and “regulated rents.” As government and financial bureaucracies become so intimately intertwined it’s increasingly difficult to tell one from the other, wealth and power—particularly, the power to create money (that is, credit)—also become effectively the same thing. (This was what we were drawing attention to in Occupy Wall Street when we talked about the “1%’—those with the ability to turn their wealth into political influence, and political influence back into wealth.) Despite this, politicians and media commentators systematically refuse to recognize the new realities, for instance, in public discourse one must still speak of tax policy as if it is primarily a way of government raising revenue to fund its operations, whereas in fact it is increasingly simply a way of (1) ensuring the means of credit-creation can never be democratized (as only officially approved credit is acceptable in payment of taxes), and (2) redistributing economic power from one social sector to another.

Since 2008 governments have been pumping new money into the system, which, owing to the notorious Cantillon effect, has tended to accrue overwhelmingly to those who already hold financial assets, and their technocratic allies in the professional managerial classes. In France of course these are precisely the Macronists. Members of these classes feel that they are the embodiments of any possible universalism, their conceptions of the universal being firmly rooted in the market, or increasingly, that atrocious fusion of bureaucracy and market which is the reigning ideology of what’s called the “political center.” Working people in this new centrist reality are increasingly denied any possibility of universalism, since they literally cannot afford it. The ability to act out of concern for the planet, for instance, rather than the exigencies of sheer survival, is now a direct side-effect of forms of money creation and managerial distribution of rents; anyone who is forced to think only of their own or their family’s immediate material needs is seen as asserting a particular identity; and while certain identities might be (condescendingly) indulged, that of “the white working class” can only be a form of racism. One saw the same thing in the US, where liberal commentators managed to argue that if Appalachian coal miners voted for Bernie Sanders, a Jewish socialist, it must nonetheless somehow be an expression of racism, as with the strange insistence that the Giles Jaunes must be fascists, even if they haven’t realized it.

These are profoundly anti-democratic instincts.

To understand the appeal of the movement—that is, of the sudden emergence and wildfire spread of real democratic, even insurrectionary politics—I think there are two largely unnoticed factors to be taken into consideration.

The first is that financialized capitalism involves a new alignment of class forces, above all ranging the techno-managerials (more and more them employed in pure make-work “bullshit jobs,” as part of the neoliberal redistribution system) against a working class that is now better seen as the “caring classes”—as those who nurture, tend, maintain, sustain, more than old-fashioned “producers.” One paradoxical effect of digitization is that while it has made industrial production infinitely more efficient, it has rendered health, education, and other caring sector work less so, this combined with diversion of resources to the administrative classes under neoliberalism (and attendant cuts to the welfare state) has meant that, practically everywhere, it has been teachers, nurses, nursing-home workers, paramedics, and other members of the caring classes that have been at the forefront of labor militancy. Clashes between ambulance workers and police in Paris last week might be taken as a vivid symbol of the new array of forces. Again, public discourse has not caught up with the new realities, but over time, we will start having to ask ourselves entirely new questions: not what forms of work can be automated, for instance, but which we would actually want to be, and which we would not; how long we are willing to maintain a system where the more one’s work immediately helps or benefits other human beings, the less you are likely to be paid for it.

Second, the events of 2011, starting with the Arab Spring and passing through the Squares movements to Occupy, appear to have marked a fundamental break in political common sense. One way you know that a moment of global revolution has indeed taken place is that ideas considered madness a very short time before have suddenly become the ground assumptions of political life. The leaderless, horizontal, directly democratic structure of Occupy, for instance, was almost universally caricatured as idiotic, starry-eyed and impractical, and as soon as the movement was suppressed, pronounced the reason for its “failure.” Certainly it seemed exotic, drawing heavily not only on the anarchist tradition, but on radical feminism, and even, certain forms of indigenous spirituality. But it has now become clear that it has become the default mode for democratic organizing everywhere, from Bosnia to Chile to Hong Kong to Kurdistan. If a mass democratic movement does emerge, this is the form it can now be expected to take. In France, Nuit Debout might have been the first to embrace such horizontalist politics on a mass scale, but the fact that a movement originally of rural and small-town workers and the self-employed has spontaneously adopted a variation on this model shows just how much we are dealing with a new common sense about the very nature of democracy.

About the only class of people who seem unable to grasp this new reality are intellectuals. Just as during Nuit Debout, many of the movement’s self-appointed “leadership” seemed unable or unwilling to accept the idea that horizontal forms of organization were in fact a form of organization (they simply couldn’t comprehend the difference between a rejection of top-down structures and total chaos), so now intellectuals of left and right insist that the Gilets Jaunes are “anti-ideological”, unable to understand that for horizontal social movements, the unity of theory and practice (which for past radical social movements tended to exist much more in theory than in practice) actually does exist in practice. These new movements do not need an intellectual vanguard to provide them with an ideology because they already have one: the rejection of intellectual vanguards and embrace of multiplicity and horizontal democracy itself.

There is a role for intellectuals in these new movements, certainly, but it will have to involve a little less talking and a lot more listening.

None of these new realities, whether of the relations of money and power, or the new understandings of democracy, likely to go away anytime soon, whatever happens in the next Act of the drama. The ground has shifted under our feet, and we might do well to think about where our allegiances actually lie: with the pallid universalism of financial power, or those whose daily acts of care make society possible.


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The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology

Sáb, 12/08/2018 - 16:41

via Scientific American

by By Han de Groot

The latest IPCC report  does not mince words about the state of our planet: we must act now to achieve global change at a scale that has “no documented historical precedent” in order to avoid the climate catastrophe that would result from a 2 degree C rise in average global temperature. Climate change already disproportionately affects the world’s most vulnerable people including poor rural communities that depend on the land for their livelihoods and coastal communities throughout the tropics. Indeed, we have already seen the stark asymmetry of suffering resulting from extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires and more.

So far, advocates and politicians have tended to focus on reducing fossil fuel consumption through technology and/or policy, such as a steep carbon tax, as climate solutions. These proposals are, of course, essential to reducing manmade carbon emissions—71 percent of which are generated by just 100 fossil fuel companies. For this reason, fossil-fuel–related emissions reductions rightly figure heavily in the national climate commitments of the 181 nations that signed the global Paris Agreement.

Yet the international focus on fossil fuels has overshadowed the most powerful and cost-efficient carbon-capture technology the world has yet seen: forests. Recent scientific research confirms that forests and other “natural climate solutions” are absolutely essential in mitigating climate change, thanks to their carbon sequestering and storage capabilities. In fact, natural climate solutions can help us achieve 37 percent of our climate target, even though they currently receive only 2.5 percent of public climate financing.

Forests’ power to store carbon dioxide through the simple process of tree growth is staggering: one tree can store an average of about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in one year. Recent research shows intact forests are capable of storing the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions of entire countries such as Peru and Colombia.

For this reason, policy makers and business leaders must create and enforce ambitious policies and incentives to prevent deforestation, foster reforestation of degraded land, and support the sustainable management of standing forests in the fight against climate change. Protecting the world’s forests ensures they can continue to provide essential functions aside from climate stability, including producing oxygen, filtering water and supporting biodiversity. Not only do all the world’s people depend on forests to provide clean air, clean water, oxygen, and medicines, but 1.6 billion people rely on them directly for their livelihoods.

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Student Debt Must Become Part of the Battle Against Poverty

Vie, 12/07/2018 - 23:24

via Truthout

by Daniela Senderowicz

Debt is to capitalism, that which hell is to Christianity,” economist Yanis Varoufakis recently said. “Debt might be unpleasant, but absolutely essential for capitalism.” If so, then in our capitalist society, the hell of student debts makes borrowers the sacrificial lamb that appeases the deities of capital.

Forty-four million people owe over $1.5 trillion in student debt that is primarily held by the US Department of Education. Tens of millions are struggling to pay back a government that acts increasingly like a predatory vulture fund feeding off the misery of debtors’ perpetual poverty. Debts spiral out of control quickly when one is disadvantaged or can’t find a good-paying job, or when the creditors themselves employ the classic, corrupt tactics of parasitic pawnbrokers. The path to student loan distress is not that difficult: Not only have wages stagnated, but already intolerable wealth inequality grew during the global financial crisis to critical proportions. The Brookings Institute, after measuring representative samples of borrowers in loan distress, estimates that 40 percent of debtors who entered school in 2004 may default by 2023. Research by The Washington Center for Equitable Growth shows that “student loans are a burden for all earners,” including higher income earners. The Center’s national map of student debt shows significant delinquency rates among borrowers, especially in areas plagued by racial inequality and lower median incomes.

Struggling student loan debtors have a keen understanding of the corrosive greed that transformed our higher education system into just another commodity. But their narrative of despair has done little to bring relief to their financial atrophy. A handful of progressive groups has emerged over the last decade demanding jubilees or bankruptcy protections for debtors, but their membership numbers are a nominal fraction of the millions of borrowers that are facing financial ruin. What sociologist Lauren Langman has termed the “virtual public sphere” has allowed many to share their grief in late-night online denunciations about the injustice of their debt bondage, but this hasn’t translated into massive public and collective action. While the Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter and teacher strikes are bringing thousands out into the streets demanding racial, gender and economic justice, why are student debtors not rising up en masse too?

The student debtor class can claim its own intellectual status as a form of social capital. But the arbitrarily constructed story of status has no value for capital: Educational rank and prestige does not ensure entry into a higher economic class, especially when it comes with perpetual debt bondage.

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On the Limits of “Just Being Polite”

Vie, 12/07/2018 - 23:16

via C4SS

by Lynn James

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

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

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

Wait, what?

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

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

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

But there are limits to just being polite.

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

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

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Internationalists in the Revolution

Vie, 12/07/2018 - 03:54

via ROAR Magazine

by Internationalist Commune of Rojava

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vie, 12/07/2018 - 03:17

via Medium

by Eric Dirnbach

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

The Labor Movement Acknowledges its Crisis

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

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

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

A Union Election Analysis

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

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

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

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

Jue, 12/06/2018 - 05:36

via CrimethInc

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get some perspective on the situation.

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

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

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

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

The fog of war.

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

The Aftermath of November 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State power, destabilized. The Government Tries Dialogue

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

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

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

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

Yellow for all. A Fertile Ground for Populists

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 1 in Paris. Preparing for the Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arc de Triomphe. French taxes at work.

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

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

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

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

Clashes at the Arc de Triomphe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A barricade.

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

Christmas comes early to Paris.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scenes from December 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day of chaos. The Aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revolutionary optimism. Some Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long Game

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

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

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

Further Reading: Comparing the Yellow Vests with Ukraine and Italy

Gilets Jaunes et Extrême Droite: Les Leçons de Maïdan

Les Gilets Jaunes à la lumière de l’expérience italienne

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

Mié, 12/05/2018 - 16:23

via Common Dreams

by Julia Conley

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

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

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

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

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

“France suspends fuel taxes increase to end Yellow Vests protest” by @tictochttps://t.co/ZsrRWU4saS

— iamonfire (@mercforce) December 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

French government considers state of emergency over Paris yellow vests protestshttps://t.co/P9Q0ocH6Qm pic.twitter.com/fXhxWwO2hd

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) December 2, 2018

Violence during ‘yellow vests’ protests in Paris — in pictures https://t.co/FZ6yI1uqce pic.twitter.com/2C0QCYaHdE

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

‘Listen to the anger of the people’: the message of this yellow vest protester in Paris’s Place de la République #GiletsJaunesParis #f24 #giletsjaunes #GiletJaune pic.twitter.com/uh53D9jUHO

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

65 injured, 140 arrested in #Paris #protests. https://t.co/GP8jOfsNZA #GiletsJaunesParis pic.twitter.com/YSBklq2Wio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Yellow Vests in France

Mié, 12/05/2018 - 15:52

by the Anarchist Communist Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mié, 12/05/2018 - 05:38

via A-Infos

by Andrew Flood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed

Jue, 11/29/2018 - 16:22

via The Nation

by Dave Lindorff

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

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

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

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

Read more

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

Jue, 11/29/2018 - 05:09

via CrimethInc

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

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

Saturday, November 17 Day of “Militant Peronism”

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

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

Between Nazi Exiles and Left-Wing Guerrillas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19 The Schedule of the Week of Protest

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

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

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

 

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The Megamachines Are False Specters — A Response To Gelderloos

Jue, 11/29/2018 - 05:02

Via C4SS

by William Gillis

November 26th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gelderloos unfortunately writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gelderloos writes,

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

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

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

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

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

The post The Megamachines Are False Specters — A Response To Gelderloos appeared first on Infoshop News.

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

Jue, 11/29/2018 - 04:57

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation / Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra

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

Strategy and Analysis / Análisis de Coyuntura Document

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

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

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

Power at the Top

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

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

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

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

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

The State of Popular Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical Strategy for Building Popular Power

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

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

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

Organizing 101

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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