Infoshop News

Subscribe to canal de noticias Infoshop News
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth
Actualizado: hace 25 mins 54 segs

The Rough Road to Power: Comments on “Goodbye Revolution?”

Hace 4 horas 47 mins

via Black Rose Federation

By Patrick Berkman

A commentary by Patrick Berkman on the essay “Goodbye Revolution?” by Tim Horras which grapples with various debates around power and the path to socialist transformation.

In a new essay for Regeneration, Tim Horras examines just how fraught the alleged parliamentary roads to socialism are. Taking aim at debates within and around Jacobin and DSA, Horras goes after two general variants. The first is the suggestion that all we need to do is elect enough socialists, who will then be able to enact their platform and transition society away from capitalism:

The more sophisticated democratic socialist will grant that capitalist class power deforms the functions of government, but argue that the existing constitutional order is indestructible and/or a neutral, objective tool which can be made use of by any class. Thus, the existing state apparatus could be either used on behalf of the working class and the oppressed, or peacefully transformed from an apparatus of capitalist rule into an instrument of the working-class sovereignty. In other words, the idea is that if the Left wins enough elections to possess a majority in Congress, the capitalist state (with its courts, police, prisons and military) can then implement “full-throated democratic socialism” with the consent of “voters.” Thus, reformists generally posit a scenario whereby the capitalist class and their military and career civil service cede power in a relatively peaceful process to the working class majority.

To that Horras asks, “do we really think that the most powerful and ruthless ruling class
in human history will quietly acquiesce as they find their ill-gotten wealth
expropriated?” Ever since the dawn of the modern socialist movement those privileged few
at the top of capital and state have worked tirelessly to ensure that, by hook or by
crook, they hold onto their wealth and power. They won’t let a silly formality like
elections get in their way: socialists in power must either submit to the will of capital,
or bad things can happen.

The second variant critiqued is one that at least attempts to take seriously the real
problems of capital strike, intransigence and sabotage from the permanent state apparatus,
and violence from the armed forces and reactionary groups:

Immediately upon winning the election, capitalist resistance to the democratic mandate of
the masses begins: this could take the effect of juridical interference, capital strikes,
and violent fascist provocation.[…]

To their credit, left reformists do not try to minimize these problems. However, given
that their sole recourse to counterrevolution is mass mobilization and vague appeals to
the ability of “movements” to stymie the bloody tide of reaction. This is wishful thinking.

Mass mobilizations, broad popular support, and the weapon of the general strike certainly
ought to be tactics in the arsenal of any socialist movement. But in the face of the
ruling class’s trump card – a full-blown military coup d’etat – it is likely even these
powerful forces will prove insufficient without an armed and organized resistance. And
since these very same democratic socialists reject out of hand the possibility of
insurrection (and, presumably, also dispense with the need to make preparations today for
the eventuality of armed struggle), we are faced with the ironic prospect that democratic
socialists will not prepared to defend their own reforms.

If civil war is likely to be an inevitable component of the transition to socialism, our
movement must make every preparation necessary – psychologically and in practice – to
ensure that the forces of the working class and oppressed come out on top in such a contest.

Presenting an existential threat to the capitalist class is a deadly serious affair, and
historically, socialist parties in parliament have not been up to the task: “In the
context of a revolutionary situation, defensive measures will need to quickly pivot toward
an all-or-nothing struggle for power or else face utter annihilation. Halfway measures and
equivocation will lead us straight to the graveyard.”

The critique in this essay is thorough, well-reasoned, and worth a read.

However, after offering a compelling case against the parliamentary road to socialism,
Horras still leaves the door open to it, seemingly in spite of himself. Aside from citing
Lenin and writing that revolutionaries must “leap into political openings when they
present themselves,” no justification is offered. How “political openings” themselves are
identified is no straightforward matter, and depends on both real-world conditions and the
theories, analyses, and strategies that animate those of us examining them.

As anarchists we’ve concluded that the history of revolutionary socialist struggles points
to electoral and parliamentary engagements as methods that do not move us closer to
achieving a successful break with capitalism and the state, and indeed are actually
detrimental to that goal. Horras’ critique of socialists in power who have rejected armed
resistance to capital’s backlash (or rarely, those who have supported it weakly or
ineffectively) implies that this was a voluntary choice – that different socialists in
office could have done things better. But the demobilizing effects of parliamentarism are
baked into the project itself. As Rudolf Rocker, a one-time German SDP youth activist
expelled for criticizing the reformism of the party leadership, put it when he examined
socialist parties in Europe in the 1930s:

These very parties which had once set out to conquer Socialism saw themselves compelled by
the iron logic of conditions to sacrifice their Socialist convictions bit by bit to the
national policies of the state. They became, without the majority of their adherents ever
becoming aware of it, political lightning rods for the security of the capitalist social
order. The political power which they had wanted to conquer had gradually conquered their
Socialism until there was scarcely anything left of it.

The advancement and defense of the working class must be done by the working class itself:
those who wish to get beyond capitalism should firmly place electoralism among the many
other tactics and strategies the socialist movement has rightfully abandoned over the past
two centuries.

Patrick Berkman does graphics design work and is a member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra based
in Burlington, Vermont. The piece was originally published here.

The Rough Road to Power: Comments on “Goodbye Revolution?”

The post The Rough Road to Power: Comments on “Goodbye Revolution?” appeared first on Infoshop News.

The Anarchists Who Took the Commuter Train

Lun, 04/22/2019 - 04:43

via Longreads

Amanda Kolson Hurley | An excerpt from Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City | Belt Publishing | April 2019 | 19 minutes (4,987 words)

The Stelton colony in central New Jersey was founded in 1915. Humble cottages (some little more than shacks) and a smattering of public buildings ranged over a 140-acre tract of scrubland a few miles north of New Brunswick. Unlike America’s better-known  experimental settlements of the nineteenth century, rather than a refuge for a devout religious sect, Stelton was a hive of political radicals, where federal agents came snooping during the Red Scare of 1919-1920. But it was also a suburb, a community of people who moved out of the city for the sake of their children’s education and to enjoy a little land and peace. They were not even the first people to come to the area with the same idea: There was already a German socialist enclave nearby, called Fellowship Farm.

The founders of Stelton were anarchists. In the twenty-first century, the word “anarchism” evokes images of masked antifa facing off against neo-Nazis. What it meant in the early twentieth century was different, and not easily defined. The anarchist movement emerged in the mid-nineteenth century alongside Marxism, and the two were allied for a time before a decisive split in 1872. Anarchist leader Mikhail Bakunin rejected the authority of any state — even a worker-led state, as Marx envisioned — and therefore urged abstention from political engagement. Engels railed against this as a “swindle.”

But anarchism was less a coherent, unified ideology than a spectrum of overlapping beliefs, especially in the United States. Although some anarchists used violence to achieve their ends, like Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901, others opposed it. Many of the colonists at Stelton were influenced by the anarcho-pacifism of Leo Tolstoy and by the land-tax theory of Henry George. The most venerated hero was probably the Russian scientist-philosopher Peter Kropotkin, who argued that voluntary cooperation (“mutual aid”) was a fundamental drive of animals and humans, and opposed centralized government and state laws in favor of small, self-governing, voluntary associations such as communes and co-ops.

The Stelton colony revolved around its school, the Modern School. Leaders believed that education could free the young from fear and dogma. “We claim for the Modern School,” wrote colony co-founder Harry Kelly, “that the hope of the future lies in the ability of the rising generation to think and act independently without regard to the prejudices of the past.” It followed a theory of education not dissimilar from today’s “unschooling” movement. Arts and crafts was a main focus. The school’s longtime co-principals, Elizabeth and Alexis Ferm, believed that the best kind of education for a child was creative, active, and above all, self-directed. There were no formal hours or set lessons: school was life, life was school. A printer named Joseph Ishill had come to Stelton right after its founding and taught the children to set type and print on his old hand press. Under the Ferms, pupils continued to print their own magazine, Voice of the Children, and also did carpentry, weaving, pottery, and metal work. Each morning began with a song-and-dance circle, “Aunty” Ferm accompanying the children on the piano.

Jon Toreau Scott grew up in Stelton in the 1930s and ’40s. He didn’t learn to read until he was ten, but went on to become a professor of atmospheric science. “You could learn to read whenever you wanted to, you could play all day if you wanted to,” he told me. “You could go out and play in the brook, which is what I did. Ice skating, sled riding, hiking, swimming … That was the way it went.”

*

Heading to Stelton for the first time from my home in Maryland on a summer day, I cruised up the New Jersey Turnpike. The closer I got to New York, stands of pine trees gave way to warehouses, vast troughs of commerce where tractor-trailers lined up to feed. A few miles past the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, I turned off onto Route 18, following the curve of the Raritan River through New Brunswick. After skirting the campus of Rutgers University, the road crosses the river; then I forked right, onto Metlars Lane. I took another right onto Suttons Lane, passing a giant Rutgers parking lot topped by a canopy of solar panels, and saw the sign for School Street, once the spine of the Stelton colony.

School Street takes a dramatic couple of twists past a daycare center and around a cluster of modest vinyl-sided townhouses. Out of the corner of my eye, as I turned the wheel left and then right, I could already see what I’d come for. Two small houses — cottages, really — flicked by. The first was freshly stuccoed, but unmistakable for its boxy form and fat roof. The other was so unusual that I stopped and parked on the muddy verge of the road, which by this point had narrowed into a country lane.

Scrutiny of the anarchists intensified, and police began to infiltrate their meetings. The center’s leaders worried about the militants among their group poisoning the atmosphere for the children.

The window frames of the cottage were filigreed in patterns reminiscent of Art Nouveau, and some were painted a deep blue. The plaster on the walls had been sculpted into decorative reliefs. As I approached on foot, I could make them out: stylized flowers, a swan, and a man and woman in peasant clothes, he with an axe slung over his shoulder, both gazing hopefully into the distance. This was definitely Stelton. Where else in suburbia would you find this?

The cottage was once the home of Sam Goldman, a Russian Jewish painter and decorator, and his wife, Gusta, who ran a small dairy business on the property, selling raw milk and homemade cheese and butter. The house is still owned by Leo Goldman, Sam and Gusta’s younger son. “Jon Scott [the former science professor] was my best friend,” he recalled of his childhood. “His father was strictly anarchist, where my father was Communist. The parents didn’t get along, but Jon and I did. We did our thing.” Leo Goldman’s middle name is October; it was supposed to be October Revolution, but, he explained, “They wouldn’t allow my mother to put Revolution on the birth certificate, so it’s just October.”

Most of the Stelton colonists had originally met at the Ferrer Center, an anarchist association in New York. It was named for the Catalonian anarchist and educator Francisco Ferrer, who had set up a famous democratic school — la Escuela Moderna — in Barcelona and was executed by the Spanish authorities in 1909. Emma Goldman, the legendary anarchist firebrand “Red Emma,” was the guiding force behind the center, which hosted adult classes and lectures by the likes of Scopes-trial lawyer Clarence Darrow. In 1911, the Ferrer Center started a school for working-class children along the same lines as its namesake’s, first on East Twelfth Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and later in Harlem.

Read more

The post The Anarchists Who Took the Commuter Train appeared first on Infoshop News.

Against the Logic of the Guillotine

Sáb, 04/20/2019 - 13:33
Why the Paris Commune Burned the Guillotine—and We Should Too

via CrimethInc

148 years ago this week, on April 6, 1871, armed participants in the revolutionary Paris Commune seized the guillotine that was stored near the prison in Paris. They brought it to the foot of the statue of Voltaire, where they smashed it into pieces and burned it in a bonfire, to the applause of an immense crowd.1 This was a popular action arising from the grassroots, not a spectacle coordinated by politicians. At the time, the Commune controlled Paris, which was still inhabited by people of all classes; the French and Prussian armies surrounded the city and were preparing to invade it in order to impose the conservative Republican government of Adolphe Thiers. In these conditions, burning the guillotine was a brave gesture repudiating the Reign of Terror and the idea that positive social change can be achieved by slaughtering people.

“What?” you say, in shock, “The Communards burned the guillotine? Why on earth would they do that? I thought the guillotine was a symbol of liberation!”

Why indeed? If the guillotine is not a symbol of liberation, then why has it become such a standard motif for the radical left over the past few years? Why is the internet replete with guillotine memes? Why does The Coup sing “We got the guillotine, you better run”? The most popular socialist periodical is named Jacobin, after the original proponents of the guillotine. Surely this can’t all be just an ironic sendup of lingering right-wing anxieties about the French Revolution.

https://twitter.com/itsmikebivins/status/859154308192813056

The guillotine has come to occupy our collective imagination. In a time when the rifts in our society are widening towards civil war, it represents uncompromising bloody revenge.

Those who take their own powerlessness for granted assume that they can promote gruesome revenge fantasies without consequences. But if we are serious about changing the world, we owe it to ourselves to make sure that our proposals are not equally gruesome.

A poster in Seattle, Washington. The quotation is from Karl Marx.

Vengeance

It’s not surprising that people want bloody revenge today. Capitalist profiteering is rapidly rendering the planet uninhabitable. US Border Patrol is kidnapping, drugging, and imprisoning children. Individual acts of racist and misogynist violence occur regularly. For many people, daily life is increasingly humiliating and disempowering.

Those who don’t desire revenge because they are not compassionate enough to be outraged about injustice or because they are simply not paying attention deserve no credit for this. There is less virtue in apathy than in the worst excesses of vengefulness.

Do I want to take revenge on the police officers who murder people with impunity, on the billionaires who cash in on exploitation and gentrification, on the bigots who harass and dox people? Yes, of course I do. They have killed people I knew; they are trying to destroy everything I love. When I think about the harm that they are causing, I feel ready to break their bones, to kill them with my bare hands.

But that desire is distinct from my politics. I can want something without having to reverse-engineer a political justification for it. I can want something and choose not to pursue it, if I want something else even more—in this case, an anarchist revolution that is not based in revenge. I don’t judge other people for wanting revenge, especially if they have been through worse than I have. But I also don’t confuse that desire with a proposal for liberation.

If the sort of bloodlust I describe scares you, or if it simply seems unseemly, then you absolutely have no business joking about other people carrying out industrialized murder on your behalf.

For this is what distinguishes the fantasy of the guillotine: it is all about efficiency and distance. Those who fetishize the guillotine don’t want to kill people with their bare hands; they aren’t prepared to rend anyone’s flesh with their teeth. They want their revenge automated and carried out for them. They are like the consumers who blithely eat Chicken McNuggets but could never personally butcher a cow or cut down a rainforest. They prefer for bloodshed to take place in an orderly manner, with all the paperwork filled out properly, according to the example set by the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks in imitation of the impersonal functioning of the capitalist state.

And one more thing: they don’t want to have to take responsibility for it. They prefer to express their fantasy ironically, retaining plausible deniability. Yet anyone who has ever participated actively in social upheaval knows how narrow the line can be between fantasy and reality. Let’s look at the “revolutionary” role the guillotine has played in the past.

“But revenge is unworthy of an anarchist! The dawn, our dawn, claims no quarrels, no crimes, no lies; it affirms life, love, knowledge; we work to hasten that day.”

-Kurt Gustav Wilckens—anarchist, pacifist, and assassin of Colonel Héctor Varela, the Argentine official who had overseen the slaughter of approximately 1500 striking workers in Patagonia.

A Very Brief History of the Guillotine

The guillotine is associated with radical politics because it was used in the original French Revolution to behead monarch Louis XVI on January 21, 1793, several months after his arrest. But once you open the Pandora’s box of exterminatory force, it’s difficult to close it again.

Having gotten started using the guillotine as an instrument of social change, Maximilien de Robespierre, sometime President of the Jacobin Club, continued employing it to consolidate power for his faction of the Republican government. As is customary for demagogues, Robespierre, Georges Danton, and other radicals availed themselves of the assistance of the sans-culottes, the angry poor, to oust the more moderate faction, the Girondists, in June 1793. (The Girondists, too, were Jacobins; if you love a Jacobin, the best thing you can do for him is to prevent his party from coming to power, since he is certain to be next up against the wall after you.) After guillotining the Girondists en masse, Robespierre set about consolidating power at the expense of Danton, the sans-culottes, and everyone else.

“The revolutionary government has nothing in common with anarchy. On the contrary, its goal is to suppress it in order to ensure and solidify the reign of law.”

Maximilien Robespierre, distinguishing his autocratic government from the more radical grassroots movements that helped to create the French Revolution.2

By early 1794, Robespierre and his allies had sent a great number of people at least as radical as themselves to the guillotine, including Anaxagoras Chaumette and the so-called Enragés, Jacques Hébert and the so-called Hébertists, proto-feminist and abolitionist Olympe de Gouges, Camille Desmoulins (who had had the gall to suggest to his childhood friend Robespierre that “love is stronger and more lasting than fear”)—and Desmoulins’s wife, for good measure, despite her sister having been Robespierre’s fiancée. They also arranged for the guillotining of Georges Danton and Danton’s supporters, alongside various other former allies. To celebrate all this bloodletting, Robespierre organized the Festival of the Supreme Being, a mandatory public ceremony inaugurating an invented state religion.3

“Here lies all of France,” reads the inscription on the tomb behind Robespierre in this political cartoon referencing all the executions he helped arrange.

After this, it was only a month and a half before Robespierre himself was guillotined, having exterminated too many of those who might have fought beside him against the counterrevolution. This set the stage for a period of reaction that culminated with Napoleon Bonaparte seizing power and crowning himself Emperor. According to the French Republican Calendar (an innovation that did not catch on, but was briefly reintroduced during the Paris Commune), Robespierre’s execution took place during the month of Thermidor. Consequently, the name Thermidor is forever associated with the onset of the counterrevolution.

“Robespierre killed the Revolution in three blows: the execution of Hébert, the execution of Danton, the Cult of the Supreme Being… The victory of Robespierre, far from saving it, would have meant only a more profound and irreparable fall.”

Louis-Auguste Blanqui, himself hardly an opponent of authoritarian violence.

But it is a mistake to focus on Robespierre. Robespierre himself was not a superhuman tyrant. At best, he was a zealous apparatchik who filled a role that countless revolutionaries were vying for, a role that another person would have played if he had not. The issue was systemic—the competition for centralized dictatorial power—not a matter of individual wrongdoing.

The tragedy of 1793-1795 confirms that whatever tool you use to bring about a revolution will surely be used against you. But the problem is not just the tool, it’s the logic behind it. Rather than demonizing Robespierre—or Lenin, Stalin, or Pol Pot—we have to examine the logic of the guillotine.

To a certain extent, we can understand why Robespierre and his contemporaries ended up relying on mass murder as a political tool. They were threatened by foreign military invasion, internal conspiracies, and counterrevolutionary uprisings; they were making decisions in an extremely high-stress environment. But if it is possible to understand how they came to embrace the guillotine, it is impossible to argue that all the killings were necessary to secure their position. Their own executions refute that argument eloquently enough.

Likewise, it is wrong to imagine that the guillotine was employed chiefly against the ruling class, even at the height of Jacobin rule. Being consummate bureaucrats, the Jacobins kept detailed records. Between June 1793 and the end of July 1794, 16,594 people were officially sentenced to death in France, including 2639 people in Paris. Of the formal death sentences passed under the Terror, only 8 percent were doled out to aristocrats and 6 percent to members of the clergy; the rest were divided between the middle class and the poor, with the vast majority of the victims coming from the lower classes.

The execution of Robespierre and his colleagues. Robespierre is identified by the number 10; sitting in the cart, he holds a handkerchief to his mouth, having been shot in the jaw during his capture.

The story that played out in the first French revolution was not a fluke. Half a century later, the French Revolution of 1848 followed a similar trajectory. In February, a revolution led by angry poor people gave Republican politicians state power; in June, when life under the new government turned out to be little better than life under the king, the people of Paris revolted once again and the politicians ordered the army to massacre them in the name of the revolution. This set the stage for the nephew of the original Napoleon to win the presidential election of December 1848, promising to “restore order.” Three years later, having exiled all the Republican politicians, Napoleon III abolished the Republic and crowned himself Emperor—prompting Marx’s famous quip that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Likewise, after the French revolution of 1870 put Adolphe Thiers in power, he ruthlessly butchered the Paris Commune, but this only paved the way for even more reactionary politicians to supplant him in 1873. In all three of these cases, we see how revolutionaries who are intent on wielding state power must embrace the logic of the guillotine to acquire it, and then, having brutally crushed other revolutionaries in hopes of consolidating control, are inevitably defeated by more reactionary forces.

In the 20th century, Lenin described Robespierre as a Bolshevik avant la lettre, affirming the Terror as an antecedent of the Bolshevik project. He was not the only person to draw that comparison.

“We’ll be our own Thermidor,” Bolshevik apologist Victor Serge recalls Lenin proclaiming as he prepared to butcher the rebels of Kronstadt. In other words, having crushed the anarchists and everyone else to the left of them, the Bolsheviks would survive the reaction by becoming the counterrevolution themselves. They had already reintroduced fixed hierarchies into the Red Army in order to recruit former Tsarist officers to join it; alongside their victory over the insurgents in Kronstadt, they reintroduced the free market and capitalism, albeit under state control. Eventually Stalin assumed the position once occupied by Napoleon.

So the guillotine is not an instrument of liberation. This was already clear in 1795, well over a century before the Bolsheviks initiated their own Terror, nearly two centuries before the Khmer Rouge exterminated almost a quarter of the population of Cambodia.

Why, then, has the guillotine come back into fashion as a symbol of resistance to tyranny? The answer to this will tell us something the psychology of our time.

Fetishizing the Violence of the State

It is shocking that even today, radicals would associate themselves with the Jacobins, a tendency that was reactionary by the end of 1793. But the explanation isn’t hard to work out. Then, as now, there are people who want to think of themselves as radical without having to actually make a radical break with the institutions and practices that are familiar to them. “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living,” as Marx said.

If—to use Max Weber’s famous definition—an aspiring government qualifies as representing the state by achieving a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory, then one of the most persuasive ways it can demonstrate its sovereignty is to wield lethal force with impunity. This explains the various reports to the effect that public beheadings were observed as festive or even religious occasions during the French Revolution. Before the Revolution, beheadings were affirmations of the sacred authority of the monarch; during the Revolution, when the representatives of the Republic presided over executions, this confirmed that they held sovereignty—in the name of The People, of course. “Louis must die so that the nation may live,” Robespierre had proclaimed, seeking to sanctify the birth of bourgeois nationalism by literally baptizing it in the blood of the previous social order. Once the Republic was inaugurated on these grounds, it required continuous sacrifices to affirm its authority.

Here we see the essence of the state: it can kill, but it cannot give life. As the concentration of political legitimacy and coercive force, it can do harm, but it cannot establish the kind of positive freedom that individuals experience when they are grounded in mutually supportive communities. It cannot create the kind of solidarity that gives rise to harmony between people. What we use the state to do to others, others can use the state to do to us—as Robespierre experienced—but no one can use the coercive apparatus of the state for the cause of liberation.

For radicals, fetishizing the guillotine is just like fetishizing the state: it means celebrating an instrument of murder that will always be used chiefly against us.

Those who have been stripped of a positive relationship to their own agency often look around for a surrogate to identify with—a leader whose violence can stand in for the revenge they desire as a consequence of their own powerlessness. In the Trump era, we are all well aware of what this looks like among disenfranchised proponents of far-right politics. But there are also people who feel powerless and angry on the left, people who desire revenge, people who want to see the state that has crushed them turned against their enemies.

Reminding “tankies” of the atrocities and betrayals state socialists perpetrated from 1917 on is like calling Trump racist and sexist. Publicizing the fact that Trump is a serial sexual assaulter only made him more popular with his misogynistic base; likewise, the blood-drenched history of authoritarian party socialism can only make it more appealing to those who are chiefly motivated by the desire to identify with something powerful.

Anarchists in the Trump Era

Now that the Soviet Union has been defunct for almost 30 years—and owing to the difficulty of receiving firsthand perspectives from the exploited Chinese working class—many people in North America experience authoritarian socialism as an entirely abstract concept, as distant from their lived experience as mass executions by guillotine. Desiring not only revenge but also a deus ex machina to rescue them from both the nightmare of capitalism and the responsibility to create an alternative to it themselves, they imagine the authoritarian state as a champion that could fight on their behalf. Recall what George Orwell said of the comfortable British Stalinist writers of the 1930s in his essay “Inside the Whale”:

“To people of that kind such things as purges, secret police, summary executions, imprisonment without trial etc., etc., are too remote to be terrifying. They can swallow totalitarianism because they have no experience of anything except liberalism.”

Punishing the Guilty

“Trust visions that don’t feature buckets of blood.”

-Jenny Holzer

By and large, we tend to be more aware of the wrongs committed against us than we are of the wrongs we commit against others. We are most dangerous when we feel most wronged, because we feel most entitled to pass judgment, to be cruel. The more justified we feel, the more careful we ought to be not to replicate the patterns of the justice industry, the assumptions of the carceral state, the logic of the guillotine. Again, this does not justify inaction; it is simply to say that we must proceed most critically precisely when we feel most righteous, lest we assume the role of our oppressors.

When we see ourselves as fighting against specific human beings rather than social phenomena, it becomes more difficult to recognize the ways that we ourselves participate in those phenomena. We externalize the problem as something outside ourselves, personifying it as an enemy that can be sacrificed to symbolically cleanse ourselves. Yet what we do to the worst of us will eventually be done to the rest of us.

As a symbol of vengeance, the guillotine tempts us to imagine ourselves standing in judgment, anointed with the blood of the wicked. The Christian economics of righteousness and damnation is essential to this tableau. On the contrary, if we use it to symbolize anything, the guillotine should remind us of the danger of becoming what we hate. The best thing would be to be able to fight without hatred, out of an optimistic belief in the tremendous potential of humanity.

Often, all it takes to be able to cease to hate a person is to succeed in making it impossible for him to pose any kind of threat to you. When someone is already in your power, it is contemptible to kill him. This is the crucial moment for any revolution, the moment when the revolutionaries have the opportunity to take gratuitous revenge, to exterminate rather than simply to defeat. If they do not pass this test, their victory will be more ignominious than any failure.

The worst punishment anyone could inflict on those who govern and police us today would be to compel them to live in a society in which everything they’ve done is regarded as embarrassing—for them to have to sit in assemblies in which no one listens to them, to go on living among us without any special privileges in full awareness of the harm they have done. If we fantasize about anything, let us fantasize about making our movements so strong that we will hardly have to kill anyone to overthrow the state and abolish capitalism. This is more becoming of our dignity as partisans of liberation.

It is possible to be committed to revolutionary struggle by all means necessary without holding life cheap. It is possible to eschew the sanctimonious moralism of pacifism without thereby developing a cynical lust for blood. We need to develop the ability to wield force without ever mistaking power over others for our true objective, which is to collectively create the conditions for the freedom of all.

“That humanity might be redeemed from revenge: that is for me the bridge to the highest hope and a rainbow after lashing storms.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche (not himself a partisan of liberation, but one of the foremost theorists of the hazards of vengefulness)

Communards burning the guillotine as a “servile instrument of monarchist domination” at the foot of the statue of Voltaire in Paris on April 6, 1871.

Instead of the Guillotine

Of course, it’s pointless to appeal to the better nature of our oppressors until we have succeeded in making it impossible for them to benefit from oppressing us. The question is how to accomplish that.

Apologists for the Jacobins will protest that, under the circumstances, at least some bloodletting was necessary to advance the revolutionary cause. Practically all of the revolutionary massacres in history have been justified on the grounds of necessity—that’s how people always justify massacres. Even if some bloodletting were necessary, that it is still no excuse to cultivate bloodlust and entitlement as revolutionary values. If we wish to wield coercive force responsibly when there is no other choice, we should cultivate a distaste for it.

Have mass killings ever helped us advance our cause? Certainly, the comparatively few executions that anarchists have carried out—such as the killings of pro-fascist clergy during the Spanish Civil War—have enabled our enemies to depict us in the worst light, even if they are responsible for ten thousand times as many murders. Reactionaries throughout history have always disingenuously held revolutionaries to a double standard, forgiving the state for murdering civilians by the million while taking insurgents to task for so much as breaking a window. The question is not whether they have made us popular, but whether they have a place in a project of liberation. If we seek transformation rather than conquest, we ought to appraise our victories according to a different logic than the police and militaries we confront.

This is not an argument against the use of force. Rather, it is a question about how to employ it without creating new hierarchies, new forms of systematic oppression.

A taxonomy of revolutionary violence.

The image of the guillotine is propaganda for the kind of authoritarian organization that can avail itself of that particular tool. Every tool implies the forms of social organization that are necessary to employ it. In his memoir, Bash the Rich, Class War veteran Ian Bone quotes Angry Brigade member John Barker to the effect that “petrol bombs are far more democratic than dynamite,” suggesting that we should analyze every tool of resistance in terms of how it structures power. Critiquing the armed struggle model adopted by hierarchical authoritarian groups in Italy in the 1970s, Alfredo Bonanno and other insurrectionists emphasized that liberation could only be achieved via horizontal, decentralized, and participatory methods of resistance.

“It is impossible to make the revolution with the guillotine alone. Revenge is the antechamber of power. Anyone who wants to avenge themselves requires a leader. A leader to take them to victory and restore wounded justice.”

-Alfredo Bonanno, Armed Joy

Together, a rioting crowd can defend an autonomous zone or exert pressure on authorities without need of hierarchical centralized leadership. Where this becomes impossible—when society has broken up into two distinct sides that are fully prepared to slaughter each other via military means—one may no longer speak of revolution, but only of war. The premise of revolution is that subversion can spread across the lines of enmity, destabilizing fixed positions, undermining the allegiances and assumptions that underpin authority. We should never hurry to make the transition from revolutionary ferment to warfare. Doing so usually forecloses possibilities rather than expanding them.

As a tool, the guillotine takes for granted that it is impossible to transform one’s relations with the enemy, only to abolish them. What’s more, the guillotine assumes that the victim is already completely within the power of the people who employ it. By contrast with the feats of collective courage we have seen people achieve against tremendous odds in popular uprisings, the guillotine is a weapon for cowards.

By refusing to slaughter our enemies wholesale, we hold open the possibility that they might one day join us in our project of transforming the world. Self-defense is necessary, but wherever we can, we should take the risk of leaving our adversaries alive. Not doing so guarantees that we will be no better than the worst of them. From a military perspective, this is a handicap; but if we truly aspire to revolution, it is the only way.

https://twitter.com/HistoryMuppet/status/1108167839637225472

Liberate, not Exterminate

“To give hope to the many oppressed and fear to the few oppressors, that is our business; if we do the first and give hope to the many, the few must be frightened by their hope. Otherwise, we do not want to frighten them; it is not revenge we want for poor people, but happiness; indeed, what revenge can be taken for all the thousands of years of the sufferings of the poor?”

-William Morris, “How We Live and How We Might Live

So we repudiate the logic of the guillotine. We don’t want to exterminate our enemies. We don’t think the way to create harmony is to subtract everyone who does not share our ideology from the world. Our vision is a world in which many worlds fit, as Subcomandante Marcos put it—a world in which the only thing that is impossible is to dominate and oppress.

Anarchism is a proposal for everyone regarding how we might go about improving our lives—workers and unemployed people, people of all ethnicities and genders and nationalities or lack thereof, paupers and billionaires alike. The anarchist proposal is not in the interests of one currently existing group against another: it is not a way to enrich the poor at the expense of the rich, or to empower one ethnicity, nationality, or religion at others’ expense. That entire way of thinking is part of what we are trying to escape. All of the “interests” that supposedly characterize different categories of people are products of the prevailing order and must be transformed along with it, not preserved or pandered to.

From our perspective, even the topmost positions of wealth and power that are available in the existing order are worthless. Nothing that capitalism and the state have to offer are of any value to us. We propose anarchist revolution on the grounds that it could finally fulfill longings that the prevailing social order will never satisfy: the desire to be able to provide for oneself and one’s loved ones without doing so at anyone else’s expense, the wish to be valued for one’s creativity and character rather than for how much profit one can generate, the longing to structure one’s life around what is profoundly joyous rather than according to the imperatives of competition.

We propose that everyone now living could get along—if not well, then at least better—if we were not forced to compete for power and resources in the zero-sum games of politics and economics.

Leave it to anti-Semites and other bigots to describe the enemy as a type of people, to personify everything they fear as the Other. Our adversary is not a kind of human being, but the form of social relations that imposes antagonism between people as the fundamental model for politics and economics. Abolishing the ruling class does not mean guillotining everyone who currently owns a yacht or penthouse; it means making it impossible for anyone to systematically wield coercive power over anyone else. As soon as that is impossible, no yacht or penthouse will sit empty long.

As for our immediate adversaries—the specific human beings who are determined to maintain the prevailing order at all costs—we aspire to defeat them, not to exterminate them. However selfish and rapacious they appear, at least some of their values are similar to ours, and most of their errors—like our own—arise from their fears and weaknesses. In many cases, they oppose the proposals of the Left precisely because of what is internally inconsistent in them—for example, the idea of bringing about the fellowship of humanity by means of violent coercion.

Even when we are engaged in pitched physical struggle with our adversaries, we ought to maintain a profound faith in their potential, for we hope to live in different relations with them one day. As aspiring revolutionaries, this hope is our most precious resource, the foundation of everything we do. If revolutionary change is to spread throughout society and across the world, those we fight today will have to be fighting alongside us tomorrow. We do not preach conversion by the sword, nor do we imagine that we will persuade our adversaries in some abstract marketplace of ideas; rather, we aim to interrupt the ways that capitalism and the state currently reproduce themselves while demonstrating the virtues of our alternative inclusively and contagiously. There are no shortcuts when it comes to lasting change.

Precisely because it is sometimes necessary to employ force in our conflicts with the defenders of the prevailing order, it is especially important that we never lose sight of our aspirations, our compassion, and our optimism. When we are compelled to use coercive force, the only possible justification is that it is a necessary step towards creating a better world for everyone—including our enemies, or at least their children. Otherwise, we risk becoming the next Jacobins, the next defilers of the revolution.

“The only real revenge we could possibly have would be by our own efforts to bring ourselves to happiness.”

-William Morris, in response to calls for revenge for police attacks on demonstrations in Trafalgar Square

Voltaire applauding the burning the guillotine during the Paris Commune.

Appendix: The Beheaded

The guillotine did not end its career with the conclusion of the first French Revolution, nor when it was burned during the Paris Commune. In fact, it was used in France as a means for the state to carry out capital punishment right up to 1977. One of the last women guillotined in France was executed for providing abortions. The Nazis guillotined about 16,500 people between 1933 and 1945—the same number of people killed during the peak of the Terror in France.

A few victims of the guillotine:

  • Ravachol (born François Claudius Koenigstein), anarchist
  • Auguste Vaillant, anarchist
  • Emile Henry, anarchist
  • Sante Geronimo Caserio, anarchist
  • Raymond Caillemin, Étienne Monier and André Soudy, all anarchist participants in the so-called Bonnot Gang
  • Mécislas Charrier, anarchist
  • Felice Orsini, who attempted to assassinate Napoleon III
  • Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst—members of Die Weisse Rose, an underground anti-Nazi youth organization active in Munich 1942-1943.
Emile Henry.

Sante Geronimo Caserio.

André Soudy, Edouard Carouy, Octave Garnier, Etienne Monier.

Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

“I am an anarchist. We have been hanged in Chicago, electrocuted in New York, guillotined in Paris and strangled in Italy, and I will go with my comrades. I am opposed to your Government and to your authority. Down with them. Do your worst. Long live Anarchy.”

Chummy Fleming

Further Reading

The Guillotine At Work, GP Maximoff

  1. As reported in the official journal of the Paris Commune:

    “On Thursday, at nine o’clock in the morning, the 137th battalion, belonging to the eleventh arrondissement, went to Rue Folie-Mericourt; they requisitioned and took the guillotine, broke the hideous machine into pieces, and burned it to the applause of an immense crowd.

    “They burned it at the foot of the statue of the defender of Sirven and Calas, the apostle of humanity, the precursor of the French Revolution, at the foot of the statue of Voltaire.”

    This had been announced earlier in the following proclamation:

    “Citizens,

    “We have been informed of the construction of a new type of guillotine that was commissioned by the odious government [i.e., the conservative Republican government under Adolphe Thiers]—one that it is easier to transport and speedier. The Sub-Committee of the 11th Arrondissement has ordered the seizure of these servile instruments of monarchist domination and has voted that they be destroyed once and forever. They will therefore be burned at 10 o’clock on April 6, 1871, on the Place de la Mairies, for the purification of the Arrondissement and the consecration of our new freedom.” 

  2. As we have argued elsewhere, fetishizing “the rule of law” often serves to legitimize atrocities that would otherwise be perceived as ghastly and unjust. History shows again and again how centralized government can perpetrate violence on a much greater scale than anything that arises in “unorganized chaos.” 
  3. Nauseatingly, at least one contributor to Jacobin magazine has even attempted to rehabilitate this precursor to the worst excesses of Stalinism, pretending that a state-mandated religion could be preferable to authoritarian atheism. The alternative to both authoritarian religions and authoritarian ideologies that promote Islamophobia and the like is not for an authoritarian state to impose a religion of its own, but to build grassroots solidarity across political and religious lines in defense of freedom of conscience. 

 

The post Against the Logic of the Guillotine appeared first on Infoshop News.

Steal Something from Work Day 2019! Three Epic Tales of Workplace Resistance

Sáb, 04/20/2019 - 07:37

via Crimethinc

This year, to observe Steal Something from Work Day, we present three stories of ordinary workplace resistance. In the first, an employer seeking to cheat minimum-wage employees is outsmarted by an employee who secretly evens the score for the workers. In the second, a proponent of healthy eating smuggles a crucial implement out of a high-security situation. In the last one, a Steal Something from Work Day epic, two low-wage workers—one dressed as “McGruff the Crime Dog“—sneak into a hockey game in a surrealistic example of what our exploiters call “time theft.” We take great joy in celebrating the everyday heroism and good humor with which workers stand up for themselves and assert their dignity in the face of a dehumanizing system.

Employers see workplace theft as a major threat to their profits, if not to the stability of the order that enables them to profit. Traditional doctrinaire socialists ignore it or regard it as a pressure valve that ensures the continued functioning of capitalism, alleging that rather than organizing for the revolutionary seizure of the means of production, employee thieves try to solve their problems on an individual basis.

But we should approach workplace theft as a point of departure for a better world. This widespread phenomenon illustrates how many people don’t actually buy into the social constructs that sustain the current order. Even if theft does play a role in the continued functioning of capitalism—for example, by sustaining workers who could not subsist on their meager salaries alone—it can only serve that function if it takes place in secret, individualistically. When we celebrate it, when we create public forums in which to compare notes and reinforce the shared conviction that we all deserve better than this, we transform isolated acts of rebellion and survival into a basis for the kind of collective revolt that can never be reintegrated into the preservation of the status quo.

We honor the courage of those who refuse to be exploited, of those who seek to even the score. Let’s find each other and take action together.

Click the image to download the PDF. Correcting Disparities

I live on the border of two states with extremely different minimum wage laws. I worked for a company that moved over the border from the state with the higher (though still not sufficient) minimum wage to the other state. We were able to keep our jobs but we had to take a pay cut. Meanwhile, the boss bought a new house in California and kept her house here as well.

During the process of the move, I happened to find a Post-It note with the admin credentials to the payroll system. Every week for the few months I stayed on after the move, I gave myself and my coworkers a few extra hours of pay to make up for the money they were trying to save.

Nothing happened to me. And it felt like a good deed.

I just wanted to share my story for Steal Something from Work Day.

Liquidating the Bourgeoisie

The morning smoothie is an important tradition at our house. Some grocery stores in our town donate food they would otherwise throw away to the church up the street, and if you get there at the end of distribution process you can lay claim to whatever is left over before it becomes hog food. This gives us access to vast amounts of fruit, which is all well on its way out by the time we get our hands on it. To preserve what’s left, we dehydrate and freeze all we can salvage. The morning smoothie is a joyous celebration of this bounty.

Of course, this plan relies on one piece of essential equipment: the blender. And there came a time when our blender’s future was in question. It had served us dutifully and well; many a frozen banana had met a cruel fate in its gnashing maw. But its time had come to pass on to Valhalla, where it would chew strawberries thrice the size of those in our mortal realm all day and be lovingly soaped and rinsed by Valkyries all night. We all saw its end coming—we could hear the gears grinding. But miserly bunch that we were, we were leaving our next blender—and therefore the future of our house culture—to luck, the invisible hand of the Really Really Free market, or our own future cunning.

At the time, I worked on a ship and was finishing a two-month stint away from home. The day I was leaving was chaotic: we were receiving a truckload of new supplies and preparing for the next voyage. Typically, when we load supplies, we form a human chain and pass boxes deep into the bowels of the ship. On this day, I was located in the part of the chain where I was passing thirty-pound boxes of engine parts past the door to the galley (that’s ship talk for kitchen).

In plain view, on the counter, mere feet away, was the blender.

To protect the identity of this machine, lets call it the NutriStir. I had watched this sleek example of engineering prowess do things our warrior back home could only dream of. At home, we’d present our blender with a daunting task and often it would need assistance to accomplish the feats we asked of it. We’d have to stop it, stir the contents around, fish them out, chop them finer, and generally give the old battle-scarred veteran a leg up. The NutriStir, by contrast, made quick work of everything thrown into it. I had never see it even twitch at a job, no matter how formidable. If we had a blender like that, I thought to myself, our lives would be revolutionized.

Now, it’s common knowledge in shoplifters’ lore that it isn’t a good idea to steal from a place you can’t escape from. Trains, airports, ferries, and the like don’t offer you a way out; you’re in a closed population of suspects if suspicions arise. I admit it: despite knowing that it’s a bad idea, I love stealing from these places. These closed environments enable our exploiters to charge us exorbitantly more than they could if we had alternatives. I’m offended by these case studies in capitalist logic.

That said, it’s especially dangerous to steal on a boat. And a blender is not a small item: I couldn’t just pocket it and walk away. To get it to my room, for instance, I’d have to pass through many different spaces full of my coworkers, some of whom I knew I couldn’t trust, and into a room I shared with two other people. In only a few hours, I would leave the boat to catch my bus out. I thought about it all day, but no solution occurred to me. In my experience, a good theft demands either meticulous planning or a lightning flash of opportunity.

But then I was tasked with taking care of a stack of dirty towels.

In order to get to the laundry room, I had to pass by the galley. Looking through the doorway, I saw that it was empty. I ducked in and threw the towels over the coveted blender. Then I washed my hands in the sink so I would have an excuse if someone had seen me walk into the galley and happened to follow me in. In what felt like a slick move but probably looked extremely awkward, I picked up the towels and unplugged the blender underneath them. I carried my bounty to the laundry room and set down the heap in the corner, hoping to return before anyone else went to put them in the washer.

Then it was time to leave the boat. I packed my bags and said my goodbyes. My hidden treasure lay in the last room I would pass through on my way out. I was hoping to walk in, deftly put the blender in my backpack, and be on my way with no one the wiser.

An empty room would have been ideal. But one of my coworkers, a notable slacker, was hiding in the laundry room watching videos on his phone to avoid working. I hadn’t really come with an excuse prepared, nor could I imagine one that would make sense. “Oh, just left a sock in this pile of dirty towels.” “I can’t find my charger, so I’m checking everywhere.” I could gamble on trusting my coworker, but it was a gamble I didn’t want to take.

“Hi,” I said. He had headphones in and didn’t lift his eyes from his phone.

Often on boats, there is very little privacy. To cope with those conditions, we create our own little bubbles and focus on whatever tiny spaces of mental freedom we can arrange. In the crew lounge, it’s not uncommon to see one person watching a loud movie while another is intently reading and yet another is having a phone conversation a few feet away. I walked in, sorted through the towels, stuffed the blender in my backpack, and walked out. I feel confident my coworker didn’t even register that I had entered the room.

I arrived home victorious and proud. We had the nicest blender on our block. It effortlessly minced concoctions that would have destroyed our previous blender. It’s been well over a year since I brought home this new addition to our family, and I get a tinge of joy every time I hear it grinding away.

Sometimes I wonder what they thought when they discovered that the NutriStir was missing. There weren’t many places it could have gone. There really was no logical explanation other than what happened. Despite the fact that gossip on ships spreads fast and inflates fairly benign dramas to extraordinary levels, I never heard a word about it. I think the most likely answer is that they saw that it wasn’t there, pulled out a spare, and went on with the workday.

Our blender likely has a few years left in it. But if it starts to falter, the ship I work on now has an even nicer blender, waiting to be liberated.

When life gives you lemons… get revenge.

McGruff the Steal Your Time Back Dog

The National Museum of Crime and Punishment. I was an anarchist working at the National Museum of Crime and fucking Punishment.

Don’t let the name fool you. Though located in Washington, DC, it wasn’t a “national” museum in the same sense as the Smithsonian—it was a private collection of chintzy memorabilia and copaganda. The museum exhibited a life-size prison cell, a self-directed polygraph test, and a chronology of the evolution of crowd control weapons—cheap exhibits that could only fascinate a class of people entirely unacquainted with police and carceral violence… and as luck would have it, that’s precisely the class of people who could afford the $25 admission! The crime section of the museum actually had some cool stuff—daring prison breaks, bank robberies, piracy old and new, and no less than a dozen anarchists scattered throughout. But that’s not what the bootlicker clientele came for. The big hits were the police training simulators, “The Cop Shop” (the gift shop—apart from the lobby, the only part of the museum free to the public), and last but, by definition, not least, the America’s Most Wanted television studio.

So what the fuck was an anarchist like myself doing there? It wasn’t because it paid well, that’s for sure.

“Actors! Looking to build your resume? Need a job with a flexible schedule? A new, one-of-a-kind museum is coming to Washington, DC and we are looking for ACTORS to help promote it. Commission bonuses available!”

The Craigslist ad was for actors. I had recently aged out of a youth-empowerment/anti-oppression theater group1 that had changed my life and I was looking to fill the void its absence left in me.

I even did a half hour of diction exercises before the interview, not knowing if there would be a proper audition as well. As it turned out, the “acting” they needed was dressing up either in an orange prison jumpsuit or as McGruff the Crime Dog in order to draw tourists over to a coupon-monger. The coupons were for a discount of one dollar. One miserable dollar from the twenty-five dollar admission. In other words, touristy bullshit—definitely not acting. But hey, I needed the money, y’know, “until something better comes along.” Jobs are such shit. An endless impotent vow to myself to never again suffer that kind of humiliation just gives way to a readjustment (read: lowering) of expectations and self-worth. What else can one do? No, that’s not a rhetorical question. What else? That is the most important question our generation has to answer.2

But hey, at least I wasn’t the only sucker. A friend of mine—who I’ll call Zoe—from the youth-empowerment theater group also showed up, thinking, like we all did, that it was a more dignified résumé-builder than dressing up as a prisoner or McGruff the fucking Crime Dog.

The museum opened right before summer, which is the big tourist season in DC, but it was already sweltering. DC residents like to say the city was built on top of a swamp—hence the “drain the swamp” chant. That’s a myth, but it’s believable, given how insanely humid it gets.

On one particularly moist and muggy afternoon, I was handing out coupons while Zoe, dressed as McGruff, worked the passing pedestrians on the street. There were legions of them because, just a block away, the hometown hockey team was playing in the Stanley Cup semifinals. White suburbanites, sweating in their Capitals jerseys, rushed past us to get to the game, without time or attention to spare for my half-hearted sales pitch. The few that did engage with us were mostly drunk and exclusively stopped to challenge McGruff to a fight.

Why, you ask? During this time, there was a viral news story about an uptown MetroBus driver who, seeing a cop dressed as McGruff, stopped his bus, stepped out, and socked the crime-fighting mascot. The bizarre part of the story is that there wasn’t much more to it than that. No past grudges, not even much of an explanation—just plain old prole-on-police violence. What’s not to love?

As a result, when my coworker worked as McGruff (I unequivocally refused to ever do so), jokers would often approach and say something to the effect that “he oughta watch out.” Normally, it was easy enough to laugh this off and move on, but it was a different story when a crowd of drunken hockey goons began to form around my friend. Breaking character, Zoe took the head off: “I am so over this.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about these bozos.”

“Nah, I don’t care about them. It’s this damn costume. I’m sweating like a bama up in here and I can’t even get the fan to work. I feel like I’m gonna faint.”

McGruff’s head was wired with a fan that worked exactly 0% of the time that I was employed at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment.

“Damn. Yeah, just leave the head off. And if you want I could try getting you some ice from Chipot—”

Stop. The air dropped out of my voice and my eyes went wild. The gears of scheming began to turn in my head. You could say I froze…like… ice.

Ice. Cool. Cold. Ice. Rink. Hockey. Hockey! ICE. HOCKEY. Arena. Sitting. Cold cool sitting. Arena. Mascots. MASCOTS! MCGRUFF!!!

“No, wait, fuck that, I bet we could get into that hockey game with the McGruff costume.”

Had it been any other coworker, I don’t think I would have just come out with it. But Zoe and I had been through the theater group together. We came from really different backgrounds and parts of the city, but we had talked about deep shit together—race, oppression, growing up. Still, up to that point, we had never been bad together. My intuition told me that our shared capacity to communicate, both with and without words (for all good actors know that language is not just what we say, but how we say it), would make us good at being bad.

“Oh my god, you really think so?” She didn’t miss a beat. That’s how I knew she was down.

“Definitely. I mean, not legitimately, but…”

“Let’s do it.”

“The only thing is Matt and Laura…”

Matt and Laura. Matt and fucking Laura: our managers. About once per shift, one of them would find us on the street and “check up on us,” pretending like they were seeing if we “needed anything,” but both parties knew they were making sure we weren’t stealing back time while on the clock. If they rolled through and couldn’t find us, we’d have to sit through some patronizing interrogation. Fuck Matt and Laura.

“Fuck Matt and Laura. Oh wait, shit.”

“What?”

Matt’s voice startled me and I whipped around a little too fast. Did I betray our coworkerly conspiring? Is there a fucking YouTube channel or something where managers watch tutorials about how to creep up on you out of nowhere? They’re all so fucking good at it.

“Hey you two! Just wanted to check up and see if you needed anything!”

My eyes blurred, tearing up with all the effort it took to keep them from rolling. Luckily, it was a bright day, and my look came off more like a sun-squint than a glower.

“Oh, yeah, we’re all good.”

Laura piped in: “Looks like you’re doing a great job out here. Zoe, one thing, the McGruff costume just doesn’t work without the head, I know it’s hot, but maybe you could just stand in the shade?”

We were saving all the shade for you, Laura.

When my eyes came back into focus, I realized Matt and Laura were both wearing Capitals’ jerseys.

“So glad we bumped into you two. We won’t be back for a couple hours, so if you need anything just talk to Brock, ok? Keep up the great work!”

Brock, the security guard. Brock the Pet Rock, as we called him behind his back. The name had as much to do with his stone-cold demeanor as with the fact that the man barely ever moved. Neither before nor since have I met someone so apparently content to stare, for hours, straight across a gift shop lobby. We didn’t have to worry about Brock. And we no longer needed to worry about Matt or Laura—they’d be occupied… inside the very fucking place we were about to sneak into, oh shit!

Zoe apparently just didn’t give a fuck. Reasonable, given that the stadium was full of thousands of other people to blend in with—and the job sucked. I was a little nervous now, though.

“Risky.”

“What?” Zoe asked.

“This feels risky, yo. Matt and Laura are going to be in there.”

“Yeah, but so are twenty thousand other people.”

“Still feels risky. Let’s take a break and think it over.”

With a silent nod to Pet Brock, we were back in the museum soaking in the AC. It was slow inside. Barely any customers. Zoe hit the break room, but I took advantage of the empty museum to admire the crime exhibits on my own. Bandits, outlaws, escapees: I was surrounded by some of life’s greatest risk takers. Compared to their escapades, sneaking into a sports game was small potatoes. But what was the payoff? The criminals whose stories and memorabilia surrounded me (the ones I took inspiration from, at least) were after a life of riches and adventure, or else fighting for their freedom. Me, I was just trying to kill time.

“Maybe we shouldn’t…” I thought, “Zoe will be disappointed, but to be honest, I kind of need this job.” The pay was shit, but a couple of weeks without it, while searching for a new gig, would have really set me back.

From an enlarged mugshot, Emma Goldman abruptly butted in: “Puritanism is based on the Calvinistic idea that life is a curse, man must do constant penance, must repudiate every natural and healthy impulse, and turn his back on joy and beauty. Our life is stunted by Puritanism, and the latter is killing what is natural and healthy in our impulses.”

“So, uh, what you’re saying is I should skip work and try sneaking into this game… because it could be joyous and beautiful?”

Silence. I walked on, glancing back at Emma’s motionless face. She was still icily staring down her captors. Calvinistic Puritanism?

As I passed the “Great Trials in American History” section, Albert Parsons addressed me from the Haymarket panel:

“Break this two-fold yoke in twain!
Break thy want’s enslaving chain!
Break thy slavery’s want and dread;
Bread is freedom, freedom bread!”

“Okaay… thanks Albert, but I’m all good on bread. Always plenty in the dumpster. But, uh, that was a very inspiring verse. Thanks. Though to be completely honest I’m not really deciding between freedom and slavery, I’m just trying to figure out whether to sneak into this hockey game.”

On the gallows, next to Parsons, George Engel interjected, “As water and air are free to all, so should the inventions of scientific men be applied for the benefit of all!”

“Right… but, like, you mean hockey arenas?”

No reply.

I ambled on through the museum, lost in contemplation. Was this decision so important that the legends of anarchist history felt the need to speak up from beyond the grave and compel me to disobedience and crime? As I mulled it over, I didn’t even realize I was wandering into the “punishment” part of the museum, until I bumped into the glass perimeter. It was the studio of America’s Most Wanted.

Displayed behind the glass were the program’s biggest “busts.” The first one to catch my eye was Sarah Jane Olson. I recognized her immediately because we had celebrated the good news of her recent release at our infoshop’s last political prisoner letter-writing night. Olson did time for charges stemming from Symbionese Liberation Army actions in the 1970s, but she had lived underground for decades afterwards—even volunteering at the Arise! bookstore and infoshop in Minneapolis.

“There you are!”

Zoe. Right. Shit.

“I’ve been looking all over for you, I even asked Brock. Come on, he’s gonna snitch us out if we stay on break much longer.”

“Right. So, back to work or…?”

“What? What about the game? Or are you starting to feel sketchy about it?”

“Well, I was just thinking…”

The glass began to shake. Sarah Jane Olson’s voice broke through, shattering my inhibitions. “I’m with you, and we are with you!” The voices of all our freedom-loving, law-defying, boss-hating forebears rang out, filling the hall with an eerie, deafening hum. As the hum got louder, it filled me with determination. It wasn’t courage—for I was still scared of getting caught—but now I was determined not to live a life of fear, subjugated to the clock and the Sisyphean scam of earning commission. Then the janitor switched off the vacuum.

“Excuse me. I need to get that spot you’re standing in.”

“Oh, right, sorry. We were just leaving.”

Out of the television studio, back through the prison cell replica, past Parsons and the gang, past Emma Goldman, whose eyes, I swear, changed from icy refusal to pedagogical approval as we passed before them. Past Pet Brock, out of the air-conditioned lobby, into the sun. Too much sun and a flower will wilt, but the spell of a warm kiss after a long freeze will bring blossoms.

I come to life.

“Okay! Put your head on, don’t say a word, and just follow my lead,” I tell Zoe.

“Got it!”

We walk up to the first open door with a ticket taker. We try just walking in naturally, but the ticket taker stops us: “Excuse me.”

“Yeah, uh, McGruff here, uh, for a promotional, yeah, you know?” It’s not even a full sentence. And what explanation do I have for accompanying McGruff? Like, this woman is an adult and understands that there is a person inside the costume—why would they need me to walk the mascot around?

But the totality of the spectacle is powerful. She ignores McGruff and just speaks to me.

“The media check-in is at the loading dock.”

“Oh, right! Yeah, uh, where is that again? My boss forgot to tel—”

“Fifth Street.”

“Right, right, okay, cool! Thank you!”

Zoe complains, “Man I gotta walk to Fifth Street in this?” Fifth Street is on the opposite side of the arena. “At least you got time to work on a better line than ‘promotional, yeah, you know?’”

At the loading dock sits a bored security guard with a radio on his desk and a men’s fitness magazine in hand.

To Zoe, quietly: “Okay remember, let me do the talking.”

To the guard, after taking a second to breathe deep and muster all the improv skills I had honed through my years of theater: “Yeah, uh, here’s McGruff, uh, you know, for a um uh promotional, yeah…”

My supernatural abilities are expanding today. Not only can I communicate with portraits, but I can sense, without even being able to see through McGruff’s big plush head, that Zoe is staring daggers at me with the sidest eyes ever.

Without looking up from his magazine, “Sign here and see the media desk back there to find your registration.”

Find my registration? Fuck. Well, that definitely won’t be happening. I might have turned back at this point if I were by myself, but there isn’t really a way to discuss the situation with Zoe in front of this security guard. Best to just move forward, like everything is going as expected. I sign for both of us. I sign “McGruff McDogg” for Zoe. Dude doesn’t care, doesn’t even look.

The media desk sits about 50 yards down into the bowels of the arena, in front of an elevator. As we walk closer to it, I whisper to Zoe, “Wait, is anybody even back there?”

“Man, I can’t see that far in this thing.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone there. Here, walk quickly with me.” But not too quick, lest the first security guard turn around and suspect something’s up.

We get to the desk, and I scan the area—there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. There’s definitely some cameras pointed this way. But there are always cameras in places like this, right? Is this a part of the building they would prioritize during an event? It’s definitely a controlled access area, but…

The chime of the elevator brings me back. Zoe didn’t hesitate when we got to the desk. She just sidestepped it and called the elevator. Go Zoe! The doors open to reveal a tall man with an ID badge, looking very grumpy, and I immediately offer a jumble of excuses: “Oh sorry we were just making sure our names were here in the book I don’t know what happened to them you see McGruff is doing a promotional, uh, you know, thing, and they told us to sign back here they had our names back there at the entrance so I don’t know where the breakdown in communication was but we’re definitely supposed to—”

“What floor?”

Sweet relief—he’s the elevator operator! We rush past him into the elevator, before anyone actually shows up at the media desk.

“I said what floor?”

“Um…” I scan the numbers “Three?”

The doors close. We are lifted into the belly of the beast. Doors open. We’re in.

“YO!”

“I know Zoe, I know. We fucking did it. But come on now we need to find a bathroom and get you out of this costume.”

“What?! No way, man, this shit’s funny. I always wanted to be on the Jumbotron!”

“Not today, you don’t. Remember, Matt and Laura are here!”

“Man, fuck them.”

“Come on, I don’t want to lose my job.”

“Aight fine.”

Looking back, I shouldn’t have protested against the costume. I don’t remember how I eventually quit that job, but I would have never forgotten if it had been by giving the bird to my bosses over the Jumbotron.

In the bathroom, I think over what to do if we see Matt and Laura. Will I even recognize them? All white people in sports jerseys look the same to me. Maybe I can pass it off like we snuck in here to do some high-volume couponing. The halls are empty, though. It’s the middle of the second period, and the game is tied.

Zoe changing didn’t actually make us less conspicuous. We still had to carry around a giant plush mascot head stuffed with a trench coat, and, worse, we are literally the only two people not wearing hockey jerseys. Everyone is wearing a jersey.

We play it safe and go up to the nosebleed seats. But empty seats aren’t as easy to find as I expected. It’s fucking packed, even up here. And for good reason: the game is TENSE. It’s tied 1-1 when we finally take our seats, but almost immediately—SCOOOOOORE! The stadium erupts. Before I know it, Zoe and I are on our feet cheering, though we don’t know whom for.

“WOOOOOO!!!! What just happened?! I’ve never seen a hockey game.”

“What! Are you serious, Zoe? Then why did you want to come here?”

“Are you kidding me? This is way better than work!”

“Well, uh, I think it was the Capitals, because everyone in here is losing it.”

“We’re winning!” Some stranger screams in my ear as she hugs me. Yes, we are.

The rival team—the Pittsburgh Penguins—start off the third period strong. Two goals right off the bat take away the Capitals’ lead, but it brings suspense back into the game. A fight breaks out on the ice.

“Yo! They’re just letting those dudes brawl!”

“Yeah, that’s hockey.”

“Hell yeah.” Zoe is loving it.

With five minutes to go, I start wondering if we should call it and beat everybody to the exit—especially Matt and Laura. But while I’m discussing it with Zoe—SCORE!!!! The Capitals tie it up again. Four minutes left.

“Aw, fuck it. This is too good.” We stay.

The stadium is roaring. The atmosphere is electric. Time slows down for the next four minutes. Not a soul questions whether their tickets were worth what they paid for them. For once during my employment at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the calculator in my head stops evaluating whether $8.50/hour is worth what I’m doing with my time. I am more than fine with sneaking in to watch this game and hang with my friend for $8.50/hour. Fuck, this shit is FUN.

Overtime buzzes in and the crowd is LIT.

I explain to Zoe, “Overtime in hockey is sudden death.”

“What’s that?”

“First goal wins. So as soon as somebody scores we out, okay?”

“Kay.”

The whole crowd is screaming their goddamn heads off. Is that Emma’s voice I hear cheering in the stands? Albert’s too!? And George’s? I can’t tell—I can’t take my eyes off the ice. The ice. This is so much nicer than standing around outside in the heat.

Bam! Pittsburgh scores. All the energy is sucked out of the room. My gaze is hypnotically fixed on the ice, along with forty thousand other eyeballs, disbelieving what we just saw. What the fuck is wrong with me? How did I all of a sudden care about this game? Damn, what a rush…

“Hey, we gotta go, right?”

Zoe breaks me out of my daze.

“What? Oh. Yeah.”

We bolt, trying to beat the crowd. But, as we were sitting in the highest section, all the floors below us are full of people clogging the exits.

“Damn, we are definitely stuck. Hopefully we don’t see Matt or Laura.”

“Hey, why don’t we just hand out coupons right here?” Zoe proposes.

“What? We’ll get kicked out or something.”

“So? We’re trying to leave anyway. I’m just saying it’s a bunch of disappointed people who might want something to do now, and we get commission from the coupons, y’know?”

I agree that she has a point.

“Alright, yeah, go get changed.”

The coupons are flying out of my hands. Everyone’s eager to take their minds off the game. Damn, I should’ve brought more.

Two floors down and we’re almost to the exit, when none fucking other than motherfucking Matt breaks away from a conversation and gets in our face, “What are you guys doing in here?!”

“Uh, when the game ended we rushed in, you know—big crowd, lots of coupons.”

“No. No, no. Jesus, you can’t just go into a private establishment and solicit. You’re going to get us in trouble. We need a contract to hand stuff out in here! Get out of here, NOW!”

We turn around and start for the exits.

“Hey! And don’t get caught.”

“You got it, boss.”

  1. In practice, this theater group was one of the most functionally anarchist projects I’ve participated in. At the beginning of the season, we established agreements—rather than rules—that only passed if every single cast member agreed to them. For the first half of the season, we took part in long, challenging exercises addressing racism, sexism, heterosexism, and ageism—not only discussing them as abstract concepts but also sharing stories about the impact of oppression on our own lives, whether we faced the brunt of it or wielded privilege. In the second half of the season, we broke into small groups, each of which developed a one-act play based on our stories. These plays were then woven into a collectively written, full-length play. For me, the most transformative part was that whenever a problem came up in the cast—some beef, drama, or cliquing—if it couldn’t be addressed interpersonally, we addressed the conflict openly. The experience of working out problems between people from really different backgrounds, people who probably would never have met if not for this theater project, cemented my conviction that human beings have the capacity to live in societies without authority figures.No one besides myself would have identified as an anarchist or understood anarchism as anything other than Hobbesian chaos. However, through this project, everyone came out armed with the lived experience of collective organizing, consensus process, conflict resolution, and an understanding of power and oppression. While I treasure certain anarchist critical examinations of consensus process, identity politics, and conflict resolution, I lament the lack of attention given to the anarchistic aspects of the ways people often live, albeit by some other name or without a label at all. Everyday practices that reproduce anarchistic values are as important as our wildest revolutionary aspirations, for the latter require fertile ground to grow in—and the former can provide it. 
  2. Years later, a small scandal emerged over the museum paying black youth to stand outside in orange prison jumpsuits, essentially to entertain tourists. For me, this just illustrates how for targeted populations in a white supremacist society, dependence on a wage and imprisonment in a cage are just different expressions of the same thing—different points on the same continuum of oppression. 

The post Steal Something from Work Day 2019! Three Epic Tales of Workplace Resistance appeared first on Infoshop News.

An Interview with New Syndicalist

Mar, 04/16/2019 - 19:22

via Anarchist Studies blog

by Shane Little

New Syndicalist is a source of worker-led, anti-capitalist theory and strategy founded by members of the Industrial Workers of the World in the UK. The New Syndicalist Editorial Team visited Loughborough University to give a talk titled “New Media for a New Workers’ Movement: Syndicalism for the 21st Century” [listen in here]. Shane Little took the opportunity to find out more about the project.

 

Shane Little: What is the New Syndicalist and what is the aim of the project?

New Syndicalist: New Syndicalist is a media project for trade union activists and organisers. We aim to publish content that allows trade unionists to think about the activity they are engaged in and learn lessons from others. We hope that the media we produce plays a transformative role in making organising more accessible, practical and effective for our audience.

SL: You mention that New Syndicalist is “unashamedly inspired by Recomposition, Life-Long Wobbly and Kämpa tillsammans!” What is it about these projects that you found important and why did you feel such a project was needed in the UK?

NS: Recomposition was a really important resource to many of us when we were starting to organise campaigns with the Industrial Workers of the World in the UK. Many of us had never really had any trade union experience before and we were recruiting in workplaces that often had no union presence. Articles and reflective pieces from organisers of the Starbucks Workers Union, as well as other campaigns in the US around this period, were incredibly influential. It felt like these writers were just like us – in a hostile environment, finding their feet and trying to work out the practical steps that brought us closer to the lofty goals of our union. Accordingly, as we began to step up our organising here, we felt we needed our own space, focused on the UK experience, that would allow us to think through our choices, successes and failures, and hopefully help others, just like Recomposition had helped us.

SL: How would you map contemporary syndicalism in the UK, and would you say there has been a growth in its importance? If so, why?

NS: Syndicalism or base unionism is still a very small, informal organisational presence compared with the wider trade union movement in the UK, and also compared with other European countries. However, its influence is growing. You can see this increasingly within many TUC unions who are seeking to replicate the efficiency and impact of syndicalist courier organising and campaigns in fast food – both of which punched significantly above their weight when looking comparatively at the resources of the mainstream unions. There has also been a growth in the influence of lay or volunteer-led models of organising (as opposed to just service models of trade unions) within the TUC, something which is a central feature of all syndicalist/base unions.

IWW, IWGB and UVW all have young, healthy and growing memberships which contrasts with the wider pattern of declining and aging membership of mainstream unions. This probably has to be situated in wider political trends emerging from the financial crisis of 2008, however on a simple and practical basis I’d say the key driving force behind the health of these movements is that they are picking fights and winning them. That drive, energy and enthusiasm is inspiring and, hopefully, is serving as a good example to workers everywhere of what fighting unions can achieve.

SL: What is your editorial process like? How do you organise content on your website and what is your approach to adding new content?

NS: Our editorial process is both collective and democratic – qualities we’d like to see replicated in the wider trade union movement. Typically, writers will approach us with an idea as a first stage and we will advise them whether it’s suitable for the blog. We don’t publish sectarian attacks on individuals or groups, news and bulletin style pieces or overly academic pieces that don’t serve to inform practical concerns within organising. We have several existing series that we sometimes recommend writers to use. Like, for example, “What does a Union Mean to You?” which challenges contributors, from a diverse range of jobs, to think through examples of solidarity and support existing in their workplaces. We’ve had several interesting contributions under this title, including a sex worker who shared the challenges of dealing with the time spent waiting for, or finding work (something I’m sure many other types of workers can sympathise with), and the networks that they and their fellow sex workers use to keep safe.

When pieces are submitted, we discuss them as a collective. Most are pretty uncontroversial but on occasion we have had to take a vote on a submission, and we have rejected some content on the basis of it not fully meeting the broader goals of the project.

SL: Regarding strategy and organisation, do you think contemporary syndicalism has any unique characteristics that differentiates it from past expressions of syndicalism?

NS: Syndicalism has historically been very adaptable to changes in working life. The organisations we tend to refer to as the “historic” syndicalist unions – the Industrial Workers of the World, CNT, FAU, CGT etc. (although in reality none really disappeared and, therefore, shouldn’t just be seen as organisations of the past) – were at the forefront of changes to capitalism in the early twentieth century. As capitalism became more technologically advanced, more reliant on assembly lines of “mass workers” and as its workforce became increasingly global, it was these unions who argued for a holistic, industrial model of unionism with the aim of capturing these great new productive powers within industry for the benefit of all. This was while many of the craft unions saw these changes as only a threat to be fought against and were excluding these new types of workers as competition to the skilled labourers that were their traditional constituency. When I look at the way modern base unions have stepped up to organise fast food chains, the service sector and new work in the gig economy I just see a repetition of the same sort of patterns and the same forward-thinking attitude.

SL: Do you see a link between the growth of syndicalist style unions and a change in class composition in the UK?

NS: A lot of the syndicalist unions within London are organised around migrant labourers within the city. However migrant labour is nothing particularly new, in the UK or in the trade union movement, so I don’t think it makes sense to make too much of these compositional qualities. I think certainly a “space” has been opened for syndicalist unions to thrive and grow for workers who have been abandoned, ignored or betrayed by the mainstream trade unions. Likewise, there are many workplaces that are simply seen as too high cost – in terms of time, resources and money – for TUC organisers. Yet these are the workplaces, like bars and restaurants, social care, call centres, agency work, gig economy, etc. where an increasingly large number of precarious and poorly paid workers find themselves.

SL: What is your relationship with similar projects and unions in the UK, and do you see much collaboration between the different syndicalist projects?

NS: We like to encourage a supportive and friendly relationship with all similarly minded projects and unions in the UK. We are a relatively small and young movement and we ultimately will do better working to help and amplify each other.

SL: What do you think syndicalism’s potential is in the UK and what role do you hope New Syndicalist will have going forward?

NS: That’s a tricky question to answer. We would, of course, like our project to play a transformative role in the activity of workers, trade union activists and organisers. Anecdotally we have been told that members have been brought into syndicalist projects based on the content of our blog and have read and referred to our content in trainings and campaigns. That’s nice to hear! However, it’s important to practice some caution when getting out the crystal ball and speculating on our future as a project and what influence we might have. An early IWW organiser, “Big Bill” Haywood, preached a more modest understanding of union activity that its maybe useful to refer to here. He used to sign off every letter with the phrase, “help the work along”. I think that’s a beautiful sentiment. Every member doing their little bit, in their own way, in the service of a much greater cause. So perhaps we shall just say that. If New Syndicalist can simply “help the work along” we will be happy.

The post An Interview with New Syndicalist appeared first on Infoshop News.

A “Green New Deal”?: The Eco-syndicalist Alternative

Mar, 04/16/2019 - 19:17

via Ideas & Action

By Tom Wetzel

Capitalist dynamics are at the very heart of the current crisis that humanity faces over global warming.

When we talk of “global warming,” we’re talking about the rapid — and on-going — rise in the average world-wide surface and ocean temperature. Thus far a rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, two-thirds of this temperature increase has occurred since 1975. A one-degree rise in temperature might seem like no big deal. As the NASA scientists point out, however, “A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much.”

We know that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is at the heart of the problem. For many centuries the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ranged between 200 and 300 parts per million. By the 1950s the growth of industrial capitalism since the 1800s had pushed this to the top of this range — 310 parts per million. Since then the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen very rapidly — to more than 410 parts per million by 2018. This is the result of the vast rise in the burning of fossil fuels in the era since World War 2 — coal, petroleum, natural gas.

The problem is rooted in the very structure of capitalism itself. Cost-shifting is an essential feature of the capitalist mode of production. An electric power company burns coal to generate electricity because the price per kilowatt hour from coal-fired electricity has long been cheaper than alternatives. But the emissions from burning coal travel downwind and cause damage to the respiratory systems of thousands of people — including preventable deaths to people with respiratory ailments. This is in addition to the powerful contribution to global warming from the carbon dioxide emissions. But the power firm doesn’t have to pay money for these human costs. If the firm had to pay fees that would be equivalent to the human cost in death, respiratory damage and contribution to global warming and its effects, burning coal would not be profitable for the power company.

Firms also externalize costs onto workers, such as the health effects of stress or chemical exposures. The “free market” pundit or hack economist might deny that companies externalize costs onto workers. They might say that wages and benefits paid to workers for each hour of work measure the cost of labor. But the human cost of work can be increased without an increase in the compensation paid to workers. If a company speeds up the pace of work, if people are working harder, if they are more tightly controlled by supervisors, paced by machines or software, this increases the cost in human terms.

Toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, in agriculture and other industries pose a threat to both the workers and to people who live in nearby areas. Usually working class people live in neighborhoods near polluting industries, and often these are communities of color. This is another form of capitalist cost-shifting.

State regulation of pesticides or air pollution often ends up acting as a “cover” for the profit-making firms. Despite the existence of pollutants generated by leaky oil refineries and pollutants emitted by other industries in industrial areas in California — such as the “cancer alley” of oil refineries in the Contra Costa County area  or the similar refinery zone in Wilmington — the government agencies set up to deal with air pollution in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County protected polluters for years by focusing almost exclusively on pollution generated  by vehicle exhaust. In this way the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District have been an example of “regulatory capture” by corporate capital.

Power firms that generate vast amounts of carbon dioxide emissions — and firms that make profits from building fossil-fuel burning cars and trucks or from the sale of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel — have not had to pay any fees or penalties for the growing build up of the carbon dioxide layer in the atmosphere. The global warming crisis thus has its explanation in cost shifting and the search for short-term profits and ever growing markets — features that are at the heart of the capitalist system.

If global capitalism continues with “business as usual”, the warming will have major impacts — killer heat waves, more ocean heat pumping energy into hurricanes and cyclones, rising ocean levels from melting of ice in the polar regions and melting of glaciers, destruction of corals in the oceans, and a greater danger to the survival of many species of living things.

Previous attempts to get global agreement to cut back burning of fossil fuels have been ineffective. The Paris accords merely proposed voluntary targets. NASA scientist James Hansen described it as a “fraud”: “There is no action, just promises.” According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the dire situation calls for “rapid and far-reaching transitions…unprecedented in terms of scale.” The IPCC warns that there needs to be a 45 percent world-wide reduction in the production of heat-trapping gases (mainly carbon dioxide) by 2030 if humanity is to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

Clearly a global change is needed. But how to bring this about?

The concept of a Green New Deal has been proposed by Green Party activists, climate justice groups and various radicals for some time. The slogan is based on a comparison with the statist planning used by President Roosevelt to respond to the economic crisis of the 1930s as well as the vast and rapid transition of American industry to war production at the beginning of World War 2. The idea is that the crisis of global warming should be treated with equal urgency as the mass unemployment of 1933 or the fascist military threat of the early 1940s.

After the election to Congress of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a member of Democratic Socialists of America — the Green New Deal resolution was introduced into the US Congress by Ocasio-Cortez  and Senator Ed Markey. This lays out a set of ambitious goals, such as 100 percent electric power generation in the USA from “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”

Other goals include “removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing…as much as is technologically feasible” and “overhauling” the transport sector “to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions” from transport “through investment in zero-emission vehicles, accessible public  transportation and high speed rail.” Along with this resolution, a letter was sent to the US Congress from 626 environmental organizations backing the Green New Deal proposal. These environmental groups made it quite clear they oppose any market-based tinkering — reforms that we know won’t work — such as “cap and trade” (trading in pollution “rights”).

Many have proposed “public-private partnerships” and public subsidies to private corporations. Robert Pollin, writing in New Left Review, talks about “preferential tax treatment for clean-energy investments” and “market arrangements through government procurement contracts.” All part of a so-called “green industrial policy.” A green capitalism, in other words.

But workers are often skeptical of these promises. Companies will simply lay people off, under-pay them, or engage in speed-up and dangerous work practices — if they can profit by doing so. For example, low pay, work intensification and injuries have been a problem at the Tesla electric car factory which has received 5 billion dollars in government subsidies. Tesla recently laid off 7 percent of its workforce (over three thousand workers) in pursuit of profitability.

An alternative approach that looks to statist central planning has been proposed by Richard Smith — an eco-socialist who is also a member of Democratic Socialists of America. Smith characterizes the proposal by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this way:

Ocasio-Cortez…is a bold,  feminist, anti-racist and socialist-inspired successor to FDR…She’s taking the global warming discussion to a new level…She’s not calling for cap and trade or carbon taxes or divestment or other “market” solutions. She’s issuing a full-throated call for de-carbonization — in effect throwing the gauntlet down to capitalism and challenging the system…[1]1

Smith believes the goals of the Green New Deal can’t be realized through things like “incentives” — and he’s right about that. He points out that the Green New Deal resolution “lacks specifics” about how the goals will be reached. To realize the goal of “de-carbonizing” the economy, he proposes a three-part program:

  • Declare a state of emergency to suppress fossil fuel use. Ban all new extraction. Nationalize the fossil fuel industry to phase it out.
  • Create a federal program in the style of the 1930s Works Progress Administration to shift the workforce of the shut-down industries to “useful but low emissions” areas of the economy “at equivalent pay and benefits.”
  • Launch a “state-directed” crash program to phase in renewable electric power production, electric transport vehicles and other methods of transport not based on burning fossil fuels. Develop programs to shift from petro-chemical intensive industrial agriculture to organic farming.

Even though “AOC explicitly makes a powerful case for state planning,” Smith says, a weakness of the Green New Deal resolution, from his perspective, is the failure to “call for a National Planning Board to reorganize, reprioritize and restructure the economy.” When he talks about nationalization, he notes “We do not call for expropriation.” He’s talking about buying out the shareholders at “fair market value.” This is essentially a proposal for a largely state-directed form of capitalist economy — a form of state capitalism.

Smith’s proposal is wildly unrealistic. Are we to believe that the corporate-media influenced American electoral scheme can be used to elect politicians — through the business-controlled Democratic Party — to enact a multi-trillion dollar program of seizures of the fossil fuel industry, auto manufacturers, and chemical firms and set up a planning board to direct the economy?

The American working class did make important gains in the Thirties — such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage, unemployment insurance) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. These concessions were only won due to an uprising of the American working class in a context of vast struggles around the world — a working class revolution in Spain, plant occupations in France, a communist insurgency in China, the Communists holding on in Russia. In that moment capitalism faced a threat to its very existence.

The USA saw a huge working class rebellion between 1933 and 1937 — millions of workers on strike, hundreds of thousands of workers creating new unions from scratch,  rising influence for revolutionary organizations, a thousand workplace seizures (sit-down strikes), challenges to Jim Crow in the south. And in 1936 this angry and militant mood also pushed very close to the formation of a national Farmer-Labor Party that would have been a major threat to the Democrats. Many formerly intransigent corporations were forced to negotiate agreements with unions. The Democrats chose to “move left” in that moment.

It’s also a mistake to romanticize the New Deal. People talk of the 1930s WPA as the model for “job guarantees” — that is, government as employer of last resort. But there was still 17 percent unemployment in USA as late as 1940. Workers in the WPA often had beefs such as low pay. Communists, socialists and syndicalists organized unions and strikes among WPA workers. The gains that working class people were able to win in the Thirties did not simply come about through electoral politics. Nor were the conservative, bureaucratic “international unions” of the American Federal of Labor the vehicle either. They were more of a road block — exactly why several hundred thousand workers had created new grassroots unions from scratch by late 1934.

Smith is not alone in pushing statist central planning as a solution. This concept is being talked up lately by various state socialists, including people associated with Jacobin magazine and DSA. These advocates often assume the state is simply a class-neutral institution that could be taken hold of by the working class and wielded for its purposes.

In reality the state is not class-neutral but has class oppression built into its very structure. For example, public sector workers are subordinate to managerialist bureaucracies just as workers are in the private corporations. The day-to-day workings of state institutions are controlled by the cadres of the bureaucratic control class — state managers, high end professionals employed as experts, prosecutors and judges, military and police brass. This is in addition to the “professionals of representation” — the politicians — who are typically drawn from either the business or bureaucratic control classes, that is, classes to which working class people are subordinate.

As a top-down approach to planning, statist central planning has no way to gain accurate information about either public preferences for public goods and services or individual consumer preferences. Statist central planning is also inherently authoritarian. This is because it is based on a denial of self-management to people who would be primarily affected by its decisions — consumers and residents of communities, on the one hand, and workers in the various industries who would continue to be subject to managerialist autocracy.

Self-management means that people who are affected by decisions have control over those decisions to the extent they are affected. There are many decisions in the running of workplaces where the group who are primarily affected are the workers whose activity makes up the production process. Taking self-management seriously would require a form of distributed control in planning, where groups who are primarily affected over certain decisions — such as residents of local communities or workers in industries— have an independent sphere of decision-making control. This is the basis of the syndicalist alternative of distributed planning, discussed below.

State socialists will sometimes make noises about “worker control” as an element of central planning, but real collective power of workers over the production process is inconsistent with the concept of central planning. If planning is to be the activity of an elite group at a center, they will want to have their own managers on site in workplaces to make sure their plans are carried out.  Any talk of “worker control” always loses out to this logic.

Statist central planning can’t overcome either the exploitative or cost-shifting logic of capitalism, which lies at the heart of the ecological crisis. Various populations are directly impacted by pollution in various forms — such as the impact of pesticide pollution on farm workers and rural communities or the impact on air and water in local communities. The only way to overcome the cost-shifting logic is for the affected populations — workers and communities — to gain direct power to prevent being polluted on. For global warming, this means the population in general needs a direct form of popular power that would enable the people to directly control the allowable emissions into the atmosphere.

As difficult as it may be, we need a transition to a self-managed, worker-controlled socialist political economy if we’re going to have a solution to the ecological crisis of the present era. But this transition can only really come out of the building up of a powerful, participatory movement of the oppressed majority in the course of struggles against the present regime.

The Syndicalist Alternative for an Eco-socialist Future

The problem is not that people struggle for immediate changes that are within our power to currently push for. Rather, the issue is how we pursue change. Changes can be fought for in different ways.

The basic problem with the electoral socialist (“democratic socialist”) strategy is its reliance on methods that ask working class people to look to “professionals of representation” to do things for us. This approach tends to build up — and crucially rely upon — bureaucratic layers that are apart from — and not effectively controllable by — rank-and-file working class people. These are approaches that build up layers of professional politicians in office, paid political party machines, lobbyists, or negotiations on our behalf by the paid apparatus of the unions — paid officials and staff, or the paid staff in the big non-profits.

Syndicalists refer to these as reformist methods (for lack of a better term). Not because we’re opposed to the fight for reforms. Any fight for a less-than-total change (such as more money for schools or more nurse staffing) is a “reform.” The methods favored by the electoral socialists are “reformist” because they undermine the building of a movement for more far-reaching change. The history of the past century shows that these bureaucratic layers end up as a barrier to building the struggle for a transition to a worker-controlled socialist mode of production.

We can say that an approach to action and organization for change is non-reformist to the extent that it builds rank-and-file controlled mass organizations, relies on and builds participation in militant collective actions such as strikes, and builds self-confidence, self-reliance, organizing skills, wider active participation, and wider solidarity between different groups among the oppressed and exploited majority.

Syndicalism is a strategy for change based on non-reformist forms of action and organization. Non-reformist forms of organization of struggle are based on control by the members through participatory democracy and elected delegates, such as elected shop delegates and elected negotiating committees in workplaces.  And the use of similar grassroots democracy in other organizations that working class people can build such as tenant unions. Non-reformist forms of action are disruptive of “business as usual” and are built on collective participation, such as strikes, occupations, and militant marches.

A key way the electoral socialist and syndicalist approaches differ is their effect on the process that Marxists sometimes call class formation. This is the more or less protracted process through which the working class overcomes fatalism and internal divisions (as on lines of race or gender), acquires knowledge about the system, and builds the confidence, organizational capacity and the aspiration for social change. Through this process the working class “forms” itself into a force that can effectively challenge the dominating classes for control of society.

If people see effective collective action spreading in the society around them, this may change the way people see their situation. Once they perceive that this kind of collective power is available to them as a real solution for their own issues, this can change their perception of the kinds of change that is possible. The actual experience of collective power can suggest a much deeper possibility of change.

When rank-and-file working class people participate directly in building worker unions, participating in carrying out a strike with co-workers, or in building a tenant union and organizing direct struggle against rent hikes or poor building conditions, rank-and-file people are directly engaged — and this helps people to learn how to organize, builds more of a sense that “We can make change,” and people also learn directly about the system. More people are likely to come to the conclusion “We have the power to change the society” if they see actual power of people like themselves being used effectively in strikes,  building takeovers, and other kinds of mass actions. In other words, a movement of direct participation and grassroots democracy builds in more people this sense of the possibility of change from below.

On the other hand, concentrating the decision-making power in the fight for social change into bureaucratic layers of professional politicians and an entrenched union bureaucracy tends to undermine this process because it doesn’t build confidence and organizing skills among working class people. It fails to build the sense that “We have the power in our hands to change things.” Thus a basic problem with electoral socialism (“democratic socialism”) is that it undermines the process of class formation.

The electoral venue is also not favorable terrain for the working class struggle for changes because the voting population tends to be skewed to the more affluent part of the population. A large part of the working class do not see why they should vote. They don’t see the politicians as looking out for their interests. The non-voting population tends to be poorer — more working class — than the voting population. This means the working class can’t bring the full force of its numbers to bear.

A strategy for change focused on elections and political parties tends to lead to a focus on electing leaders to gain power in the state, to make changes for us. This type of focus leads us away from a more independent form of working class politics that is rooted in forms of collective action that ordinary people can build directly and directly participate in — such as strikes, building direct solidarity between different working class groups in the population, mass protest campaigns around issues that we select, and the like.

To be clear, I’m not here arguing that people shouldn’t vote, or that it makes no difference to us who is elected. Often in fact it does, and independent worker and community organizations can also direct their pressure on what politicians do. But here I’m talking about our strategy for change. I’m arguing against a strategy for change that relies upon — focuses on — the role of elected officials, a political party, or the full-time paid union apparatus.

An electoralist strategy leads to the development of political machines in which mass organizations look to professional politicians and party operatives. This type of practice tends to create a bureaucratic layer of professional politicians, media, think-tanks and party operatives that develops its own interests.

When the strategy is focused on electing people to office in the state, college-educated professionals and people with “executive experience” will tend to be favored as candidates to “look good” in the media.  And this means people of the professional and administrative layers will tend to gain leadership positions in an electorally oriented party. This will tend to diminish the ability of rank and file working class people to control the party’s direction. This is part of the process of the development of the party as a separate bureaucratic layer with its own interests. Because they are concerned with winning elections and keeping their hold on positions in the state, this can lead them to oppose disruptive direct action by workers such as strikes or workplace takeovers. There is a long history of electoral socialist leaders taking this kind of stance.

To the extent electoral socialist politics comes to dominate in the labor movement — as it did in Europe  after World War 2 — declining militancy and struggle also undermined the commitment to socialism. The electoral socialist parties in Europe competed in elections through the advocacy of various immediate reforms. This became the focus of the parties. Sometimes they won elections. At the head of a national government they found that they had to “manage” capitalism — keep the capitalist regime running. If they moved in too radical a direction they found they would lose middle class votes — or the investor elite might panic and start moving their capital to safe havens abroad.In some cases elements of the “deep state” — such as the military and police forces — moved to overthrow them. Most of these parties eventually changed their concept of what their purpose was. They gave up on the goal of replacing capitalism with socialism.

Eco-syndicalism

Eco-syndicalism is based on the recognition that workers — and direct worker and community alliances — can be a force against the environmentally destructive actions of capitalist firms. Toxic substances are transported by workers, ground-water-destroying solvents are used in electronics assembly and damage the health of workers, and pesticides poison farm workers. Industrial poisons affect workers on the job first and pollute nearby working class neighborhoods. Nurses have to deal with the effects of pollution on people’s bodies. Various explosive derailments have shown how oil trains can be a danger to both railroad workers and communities. The struggle of railroad workers for adequate staffing on trains is part of the struggle against this danger.

Workers are a potential force for resistance to decisions of employers that pollute or contribute to global warming. Workers can also be a force for support of alternatives on global warming, such as expanded public transit. An example of working class resistance to environmental pollution were the various “green bans” enacted by the Australian Building Laborer’s Federation back in the ‘70s — such as a ban on transport or handling of uranium.

A recognition of this relationship led to the development of an environmentalist tendency among syndicalists in the ‘80s and ‘90s — eco-syndicalism (also called “green syndicalism”). An example in the ‘80s was the organizing work of Judi Bari — a member of the IWW and Earth First!. Working in the forested region of northwest California, she attempted to develop an alliance of workers in the wood products industry (and their unions) with environmentalists who were trying to protect old growth forests against clear-cutting.

Worker and community organizations can be a direct force against fiossil fuel capitalism in a variety of ways — such as the various actions against coal or oil terminals on the Pacific Coast, or labor and community support for struggles of indigenous people and other rural communities against polluting fossil fuel projects, such as happened with the Standing Rock blockade in the Dakotas. Unions can also be organized in workplaces of the “green” capitalist firms to fight against low pay and other conditions I described earlier.

The different strategies of syndicalists and electoral socialists tends to lead to different conceptions of what “socialism” and “democracy” mean. Because politicians tend to compete on the basis of what policies they will pursue through the state, this encourages a state socialist view that socialism is a set of reforms enacted top down through the managerialist bureaucracies of the state. Certainly state socialists are an influential element in Democratic Socialists of America.

I think a top down form of power, controlled by the bureaucratic control class in state management, is not going to work as a solution for the ecological challenges of the present. The history of the “communist camp” countries of the mid-20th century showed that they were also quite capable of pollution and ecological destruction rooted in cost-shifting behavior.

On the other hand, the syndicalist vision of self-managed socialism provides a plausible basis for a solution for the environmental crisis because a federative, distributed form of democratic planning places power in local communities and workers in industries, and thus they have power to prevent ecologically destructive decisions. For syndicalists, socialism is about human liberation — and a central part is the liberation of the working class from subordination and exploitation in a regime where there are dominating classes on top. Thus for syndicalism the transition to socialism means workers taking over and collectively managing all the industries — including the public services. This is socialism created from  below — created by the working class itself.

Syndicalist movements historically advocated a planned economy based on a distributed model of democratic planning, rooted in assemblies in neighborhoods and workplaces. With both residents of communities and worker production organizations each having the power to make decisions in developing plans for its own area, a distributed, federative system of grassroots planning uses delegate congresses or councils and systems of negotiation to “adjust” the proposals and aims of the various groups to each other. Examples of libertarian socialist distributed planning models include the negotiated coordination proposals of the World War 1 era guild socialists, the 1930s Spanish anarcho-syndicalist program of neighborhood assemblies (“free municipalities”) and worker congresses, and the more recent participatory planning model of Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert.

A 21st century form of self-managed socialism would be a horizontally federated system of production that can implement planning and coordination throughout industries and over a wide region. This would enable workers to:

  • Gain control over technological development,
  • Re-organize jobs and education to eliminate the bureaucratic concentration of power in the hands of managers and high-end professionals, develop worker skills, and work to integrate decision-making and conceptualization with the doing of the physical work,
  • Reduce the workweek and share work responsibilities among all who can work, and
  • Create a new logic of development for technology that is friendly to workers and the environment.

A purely localistic focus and purely fragmented control of separate workplaces (such as worker cooperatives in a market economy) is not enough. Overall coordination is needed to move social production away from subordination to market pressures and the “grow or die” imperative of capitalism and build solidarity between regions. There also needs to be direct, communal accountability for what is produced and for effects on the community and environment.

The protection of the ecological commons requires a directly communal form of social governance and control over the aims of production. This means direct empowerment of the masses who would be directly polluted on or directly affected by environmental degradation. This is necessary to end the ecologically destructive cost-shifting behavior that is a structural feature of both capitalism and bureaucratic statism. Direct communal democracy and direct worker management of industry provide the two essential elements for a libertarian eco-socialist program.

  1. “An Ecosocialist Path  to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5°C” (https://systemchangenotclimatechange.org/article/ecosocialist-path-limiting-global-temperature-rise-15%C2%B0c) []

The post A “Green New Deal”?: The Eco-syndicalist Alternative appeared first on Infoshop News.

A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa

Lun, 04/15/2019 - 04:14

via zabalaza.net

Lekhetho Mtetwa, a member of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) discusses his role in the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), formed in South Africa in 2001. While the
LPM was affiliated to Via Campesina, and linked to the Landless Workers Movement
(Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra: MST), its activities centred on urban squatter
communities, rather than farm occupations or organising alternative agrarian systems.
Then-living in a squatter camp in Protea South, Soweto, Mtetwa served as the local
secretary; by 2013, this was the key LPM branch. Several attempts were made by political
parties to capture Protea South LPM, using patronage and promises, leading to the eventual
implosion of the branch. Mtetwa provides an essential analysis of the rise and fall of the
LPM, and the role that anarchists can play in such social movements.

A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho
Mtetwa

Introduction

The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) was formed in 2001, much of the initial impetus
coming from an NGO body called the National Land Committee (NLC). Although affiliated to
Via Campesina, and linked to the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, its activity
has centred on the struggles of urban squatter communities, rather than on agrarian
issues, farm occupations or organising alternative production systems. In 2004, LPM
supporters protested the national elections declaring “No Land! No Vote!” In 2008, the
Gauteng province-based LPM sections (now the main LPM affiliates) formed the Poor People’s
Alliance with the squatters’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Rural Network /
Abahlali basePlasini (both in KwaZulu-Natal), and the Anti-Eviction Campaign (in the
Western Cape). The Poor People’s Alliance also took an anti-electoral position.

In the texts provided below, Lekhetho Mtetwa, an activist in the LPM in Protea South in
Soweto, and a member of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), discusses the
struggles of the LPM. Mtetwa was, at the time, LPM secretary in Protea South. It is
important to note that by 2013 the LPM in Protea South in Soweto was the main LPM
affiliate. Since Mtetwa’s comments were made, this section has faced notable challenges.
In 2010, a founder member and office-bearer sought to use the LPM to support her running
for municipal office on a Democratic Alliance (DA)-linked ticket. This was defeated by
Mtetwa and others, but a long- term schism resulted. From 2014, many in LPM-Protea South
were (successfully) wooed by the new Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party: Mtetwa
resigned in protest. Despite some subsequent disillusion in EFF, following the 2014
national elections, the section has not fully revived. It seems likely that it will be
replaced by a branch of Abahlali baseMjondolo.

The texts

Two texts are provided below. The first is a lightly edited transcript of an introduction
to the LPM that Mtetwa gave on the 29 September 2013, at the “Politics at a Distance from
the State” conference at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. The second text is
an interview with Mtetwa, at the same event, by Lucien van der Walt, on 30 September.

Part 1: Lekhetho Mtetwa: The Landless People’s Movement fights for the people’s rights
“I am from the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), a movement that engages the people on
land issues. People have been protesting for their right to land, while the state is
trying to privatise and control land, and also push shack-dwellers away from the cities.
The eviction of people is ongoing, so we fight for the “right to the city,” and for the
right to land and housing.

“Another issue we address is unemployment: land is not enough. The workers and the
unemployed should occupy factories and workplaces, so that we can have jobs and meet our
needs.

“What does the word ‘state’ mean? The state rests on violence against the working class.

“At election times, politicians make empty promises, but after the elections they deploy
violence against us, the working class. Our structures have been attacked by police and by
vigilantes. In 2004, we had comrades who were arrested and tortured when they campaigned
at election time, saying “No Land! No Vote!” In 2007, on the 3rd September, we were
barricading roads, and we lost one comrade: he was knocked over by a van that rode away.
The police attacked us, although we were exercising and demanding our rights.

“I am involved in the LPM in Protea South, Soweto, where we are shack-dwellers. The state
wants to remove all the shack dwellers, and to then use the land for houses for other
people. This is a major issue that we are fighting. Forced removals are what we are
facing. Housing is what we want: to be housed properly.

“We also face a lack of consultation from our so-called elected municipal councillors:
they do things, without consulting the community. The politicians rely on the votes of our
grandparents: they use them to get elected, promising this and that to get at the end of
the day more votes.

“These are the problems that we are facing. To organise and fight for the things I have
mentioned, we as LPM Protea South usually have a protest march or barricade the streets,
so we can be seen by the state as fighting for our demands. Normally we make it a point
that no-one from our community goes to work during the protests. There are shops in our
area: we make it a point that no-one opens on that day also.

“If each and every person joins the struggle, we can make changes. We need to fight the
struggle together: even fighting for our rights in Protea South is not only a fight for
LPM members only, but for everyone who lives in in this community and in this world. We
are fighting for everyone who needs land and freedom.

“All social movements should organise all the ordinary people to take direct action to
defeat the state and the capitalists. If we always talk and talk without action, we are
like an empty vessel. We need to be creative, and I push the idea of a poor people’s
summit, to build for big day of action and to allow struggles to be linked up.”

Part 2: Lekhetho Mtetwa: Rebuilding the Landless People’s Movement from below

Lucien van der Walt (LvdW): Thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed. Can you tell
me a bit about yourself and about the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) and its work?

Lekhetho Mtetwa (LM): I am Lekhetho Mtetwa, secretary of the LPM in Protea South, from
Chiawelo, in Soweto.

The LPM was set up in Protea South in 2001, and the person who introduced it was Maureen
Mnisi. She became its chairperson for plus-minus 11 years, and was also Gauteng LPM chair.

How did I join? I raised issues in a public meeting, around land, and people said, “You
know what, come and join us.” And I was given light on how the LPM movement works, by word
of mouth. Later I was given the documents of the movement. Eventually I was selected as a
secretary, because I was politically strong. Initially I was co-opted onto the committee,
later I was elected.

The LPM fights for the rights of the people, for housing, land, and jobs and against
evictions. It fights so that the people may be able to support their families.

It doesn’t support elections to the state, including to town councils. LPM focuses on the
needs of the youth, and the community. We take the demands, and go to the local
councillor, and present the demands. If nothing happens then, we take our demands to the
top. And if nobody listens, then we march on government offices, and present a memorandum,
and we barricade the roads, and stay-away from work.

LVDW: Can you can you tell me more about the current situation of the LPM? How is it doing
these days?

LM: We are trying our best to rebuild the movement, and most of the support we have, we
are getting from our community – and also from other social movements, which support us.

The LPM was, at one stage, claiming to be a country-wide organisation. Today, though, the
main branch is in Protea South, Soweto. One of the issues is that there is not a structure
linking different branches, even if they did exist. But as far as I know, the only other
existing branch involves comrades in Durban. But there is nothing which I heard from that
side for some time, about what they are maybe doing. We have contacts with them, but there
is nothing we have planned together.

Understanding the problems, let us remember our branch of the LPM and other branches also,
have faced repression. In our case has included arrests and assaults, and also attacks
from vigilantes from nearby better-off areas in Soweto.

But there are also internal challenges. Recently there was a change in the leadership of
the LPM branch in Protea South: I am the secretary of the new leadership. This change was
linked to a fight against people who were using the movement for their own benefit,
including trying to push it to join political parties, and provide votes. This is part of
a bigger problem of nepotism, favouritism and opportunism that we see in some movements,
and that we fight.

The earlier leadership tended to be top-down, not always even elected. We have changed
that. What we are doing now is involving each and every person in our community, so that
they can be part of us. What I am trying to say is that, as “leadership,” we are not
saying that, because we are the leaders or office-bearers, we will control and do
everything. Instead, before we take things forward, we call a mass meeting wherein the
community brings up suggestions and issues. Then we sit down as a committee, look at these
matters, and then work out a way ahead. Then after that, we go back to the community: if
they agree with everything, then we go further with everything; that is what we do;
otherwise we again take the points and again change the plan, and again go back to the
community.

Our focus is our branch’s work, where we try our best to make the LPM movement go back to
what it was before, but better. At this present moment we are trying to rebuild the
movement within our community, and from there, we are planning to start other branches in
other places.

LVDW: In the past, the LPM used the slogans “No Land! No Vote!” and then “No Land! No
House! No Vote!” once it helped form the Poor People’s Alliance along with Abahlali
baseMjondolo and others in 2008. Do these slogans still get used?

LM: Yes, it doesn’t end. It doesn’t end as long as we are living under the circumstances
under which we are living.

LVDW: And in the long-run what would be your vision of a new, a better South Africa? And
what would be required to make this into reality?

LM: For me, I want to see everyone owning land and resources together, in common; everyone
having a house, people living equal lifestyles and having useful jobs.

We should introduce the anarchist principles: all movements should come together and fight
the system and in that way, build for revolution. We will then be able to defeat the state
and the capitalists and thereafter the working class and poor people will be the ones
controlling everything – everything which the bosses and politicians are owning and
controlling at this present moment.

LVDW: How do you think we can create, solve the job problem in South Africa?

LM: By kicking out the bosses and taking over the factories and workplaces. That is the
only way.

LVDW: Thanks very much for your time.

LM: Thanks a lot, com.

SOURCE: Lekhetho Mtetwa, 2018, “Interview: The Landless People’s Movement Fights for the
People’s Rights,” 29-30 September 2013, in Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt (eds.),
Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives, Routledge:
London, New York, pp. 149-152.

A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa

 

The post A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa appeared first on Infoshop News.

On the Outside Looking in: a Critique of Inside/outside Strategy

Lun, 04/15/2019 - 04:04

via Black Rose Federation

by Alex Isa

“Yes, I would consider my inside/outside strategy toward corporations somewhat of a Robin
Hood effect … I use their money, which becomes my money, to produce stickers, posters,
stencils, etc. This strategy was, however, the result of my acceptance of the reality of
things. One of the most jarring realizations this project has brought about for me is the
complete inevitability of supply and demand economics in a capitalist society. ” —-
-Shepard Fairey

How to (and whether to) engage with existing political institutions
is a perennial topic hotly contested by groups and individuals in left organizing spaces.
By performing well above expectations in the Democratic Party presidential primaries,
Bernie Sanders revived the national outlook for left electoralism. However, electoral
politics are simply one facet of what we refer to as the institutional left – “unions,
non-profits, and those with institutional interests to protect and preserve.”

This brings us to the phenomenon of ‘inside-outside strategy’ (IOS). You’ve definitely
heard this phrase used at political meetings and events, perhaps by people who have
varying and contradictory understandings of the term.

Years before Trump’s win in the 2016 presidential election, a growing segment of the
anti-capitalist left represented by groups like Democratic Socialists of America
proclaimed in favor of an “inside/outside strategy.” According to one popular definition,
inside/outside strategy might be defined as:

the creation of mass movements and alternative activities outside the centers of power
that work in conjunction with clusters of interest – organized or individual supporters
inside or along the periphery of the power structure. IOS is a strategic orientation that
social movements and dissenters have historically used to influence society.

In the past two years, various segments of the anti-capitalist left have dusted off
inside-outside strategy and repurposed it into a theory of revolutionary transformation.
Starting with a brief history of the term and its historical uses, we will see why
inside-outside strategy is flawed both in theory and practice.

The History of Inside/Outside Strategy as a Term

To understand the flaws of inside-outside strategy as a proposal for social transformation
and struggle, we have to understand how it entered the lexicon of social movements. The
basic idea is not necessarily new-something attested to by a long history of debates
around electoralism and political participation, even during the peak of labor radicalism
in the U.S. during the 20th century.

While it’s difficult to say with complete accuracy, one of the earliest works explicitly
theorizing the relationship between an “inside” and “outside” strategy comes from a
chapter in the 1991 book Mobilizing Interest Groups in America: Patrons, Professions, and
Social Movements. The authors define “inside” strategy as lobbying activities and
“outside” strategy as “[shaping]and mobilizing public opinion.” (103)

In this telling, the scope of change is nothing more than influencing public policy on
individual issues. The protagonists of this process are simply “interest groups” led by
political entrepreneurs who successfully find “patrons” in existing institutional
structures. (196) For much of the 90s and early 2000s, appearances of this phrase
unequivocally reflected and reified the typical elements of liberal political engagement:

  • Single-issue groups
  • Disconnected from any pretense of mass or class organizing
  • Make a few friends in government
  • Get some legislation passed

The system works and everyone goes home happy (emphasis on “going home”).
This inside-outside dyad was adopted by progressives as part of a long period of
self-reflection on Jesse Jackson’s failed presidential bids as a Democrat in 1984 and
1988, paralleled by the growth of his Rainbow Coalition. For many years thereafter,
progressives continued to express disappointment that Jackson demobilized the Rainbow
Coalition and folded it into the Democratic Party campaigning apparatus. This July 2004
piece in The Nation looks back at Jesse Jackson’s presidential candidacy and the Rainbow
Coalition:

To speak with Rainbow warriors now is to confront a persistent, deep disappointment that
in the spring of 1989 Jackson decided against institutionalizing the Rainbow as a
mass-based, democratic, independent membership organization that could pursue the
inside-outside strategy he’d articulated vis-à-vis the Democrats and build strength
locally and nationally to leverage power for progressive aims.

For all of the disappointment expressed by progressives, their ideal inside-outside
strategy boiled down to a way to steer the Democratic Party and win elections. The promise
represented by the Rainbow Coalition historically represented a vampiric transfer of
social movement potential to renewed liberal hegemony in the form of a resurgent
neoliberal Democratic Party in the 90s.

“When it comes to the inside-outside dyad, “inside logic” continuously and inexorably
seeks to subsume and colonize those of us who live and struggle outside of the halls of
power-always to the benefit of a few, albeit a different few from the ones who are
currently in power.”

In From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor expertly captures
how figures like Jackson presided over the institutionalization and neutralization of the
revolutionary potential of the civil rights movement at a time when the carceral state
reached ever greater heights under a nominally liberal administration.

Nonetheless, opposition to the neoconservative Bush presidency kept this idea alive,
resulting in the formation of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) in 2004. One of
their stated goals was to act as a progressive pressure group operating within the
Democratic Party:

As a grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, and outside in movements for
peace and justice, PDA played a key role in the stunning electoral victories of November
2006 and 2008. Our inside/outside strategy is guided by the belief that a lasting majority
will require a revitalized Democratic Party built on firm progressive principles.[emphasis
added]

This meant tailoring their actions to the contours of the existing political structure –
fielding candidates in mostly unsuccessful bids for office, spending time and resources on
procedural fights within the Democratic Party structure, and various lobbying schemes such
as holding mid-day “brown bag lunch vigils” outside of the district offices of various
members of Congress in the hopes of delivering a letter or flyer to the member of Congress
or their staff. PDA also took credit for convincing Bernie Sanders to compete in the
Democratic presidential primaries in 2015. In essence, groups like PDA condition their
members to speak to “electeds” rather than the masses.

The other notable example of this strategy was the Working Families Party (WFP), a
“fusion” political party that maintains a separate ballot line in elections due to unique
New York state ballot laws, but often endorses the same candidate as the Democratic Party.
This variety of inside-outside strategy is meant to gradually pull candidates in a more
progressive direction, but in places like New York WFP will endorse unabashedly
reactionary candidates like Governor Andrew Cuomo in order to reach the 50,000 vote
threshold needed to maintain their ballot line. In order to keep the candle burning for
the faintest glimmer of even mildly progressive change, organizations like WFP must
deliver their supporters unto the altar of neoliberal capitalism in the here and now.

Until fairly recently, inside-outside strategy has meant working with and/or within the
system to accomplish limited goals. That this strategy doesn’t conflict with the power
structures of capitalism is highlighted in embarrassing fashion by a blog featured on the
website of the World Bank. Yes, THAT World Bank!

In a post entitled “The Inside-Outside Strategy,” a World Bank employee makes a case for
working with officials in the name of “pro-poor” reform:

The logic of the inside-outside strategy is unanswerable. If you start a reform within the
government, it is wise to build wider support; and if you push for change from the outside
you need to transform public opinion all right, but you also need to find allies within
the state. In the real world, that is how things get done.

We can assume that, being a World Bank publication, this refers to the process of
streamlining Structural Adjustment Programs.

In any case, it seems fairly clear that inside-outside strategy was conceived and executed
as a program of liberal reform, one where politics is devoid of any understanding of class
struggle and where working-class people have only the barest form of leverage via social
and political “entrepreneurs” of the institutional left. These figures and institutions
have a symbiotic relationship with the State and reinforce its hegemony while using left
rhetoric.

More than their progressive forebears, DSA did the most to bridge the gap between
liberal-progressive politics and the anti-capitalist left, more or less giving us the
current incarnation of inside-outside strategy. In 2014, for example, a statement by the
organization put inside-outside strategy in the following terms:

DSA also understands that unless the labor movement and the Left build the independent
political capacity to challenge the mainstream leadership of the Democratic Party, from
the inside and the outside, its embrace of pro-corporate, pro-austerity neoliberal
economic and social policies will continue as well.

The current political moment has seen inside-outside strategy become an incoherent jumble
of expectations, socialist in words but liberal in practice, aiming for Fully Automated
Luxury Gay Space Communism but trying to get there in a hot air balloon.

Take the Momentum Caucus of DSA, whose platform purports to critique inside/outside
strategy while simultaneously arguing that “we should attempt to use the major parties’
ballot lines without confronting the major parties’ infrastructure.” Since then,
ironically but to the surprise of few, it was discovered that Momentum developed
organizing projects within DSA (like Medicare for All) with the intention of “folding”
such projects into a Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign infrastructure.

Though advocates of this approach favor building a “mass left-wing formation” down the
line, candidates who have racked up endorsements by DSA-whether they be “soft”
endorsements where members significantly assist and boost campaigns or explicit
endorsements-have hewed closely to Democratic Party leadership, boosted fundraising
prospects for the Democratic Party as a whole, and have gladly accepted endorsements from
politicians who unequivocally represent the capitalist class.

The failure of inside-outside strategy is that movement activists and supporters have
failed to maintain accountability. We can see this rather prominently in the response of
certain DSA members to critiques of Ocasio-Cortez when she expressed support for a
“two-state solution” to resolve the continued civil and military oppression faced by
Palestinians and offered to sit down with “leaders on both” sides. One op-ed defending
Ocasio-Cortez’s upsetting blunder threw the premise of inside-outside strategy out the
window entirely:

it would still be wrong to insist that DSA members are under an organizational discipline
to adhere to them. The right to dissent and to express views different from those of the
majority and the organizational center is a fundamental part of DSA’s democratic and
socialist-feminist decision-making. DSA has taken a position to be actively involved in
electoral politics, for example, but those who have a different view – including many
signers of the petition against Ocasio-Cortez – are still free to express that
perspective. We would have it no other way.

In practice, this seems like a cynical manipulation of “democratic” practices to keep
those outside of power in a position of impotence, even when politicians claiming to
represent them contradict movement ideals entirely.

Other attempts to defend this triangulation on Ocasio-Cortez’s part indicate that “inside”
and “outside” are not at all equal partners in spite of claims to the contrary:

Because the value of an elected official, of an activist in the Advocate role, is to get
things done close or in the halls of power. A senator or congressmember embracing BDS,
would probably be doing so at the expense of their effectiveness in most other areas. It’s
pretty clear that the lobbying power of those who support Palestinian rights is not very
high, and in most of the country if you only want to vote for someone who agrees with that
position, you won’t have anyone to vote for.

The fact that there was a perceived need to defend Ocasio from the “maximalists” and
“Rebels” to her left, including dedicated DSA members, suggests that so-called Advocates
and influencers (like Ocasio-Cortez) have an overriding role in shaping the agenda and
defining priorities. Members of social movements, on the other hand, are expected to keep
the candle burning and play a support role rather than develop forms of self-governance
that might create anything beyond the State.

The idea that the current mix of democratic socialist candidates, including patricians
like Cynthia Nixon and CEOs like Zak Ringelstein, could create the nucleus of a separate
“mass party,” or that a mass party of these same political figures could offer an
alternative vision to capitalism, does not conform to what we are seeing in real time.
Thus, 4 years and a few electoral victories later, progressives and even democratic
socialists have signaled hesitation in challenging the “mainstream leadership” of the
Democratic Party as was promised in 2014.

No amount of premeditation seems to be successful in overcoming the gravity of State
power. “We’ll do it right next time” becomes a perpetually unfulfilled rallying cry.

At any rate, DSA national has leaned into the press coverage, membership surges, and
increased national profile brought along by major electoral victories and endorsements. In
an e-mail dated June 28, National Director Maria Svart writes: “In the first 24 hours
since the election results were announced, over 1000 people joined DSA. That’s bigger than
the first day of the Trump bump – it turns out that in dark times, people want reasons to
hope. Let’s keep these victories coming!”

Whatever the inconsistencies of the candidates they support, national leadership is happy
to boast of new members and dues. It is almost certain that many of these members entered
the organization with a very general and incomplete conception of socialism, heavily
shaped by the measured statements offered on the electoral front. In this way, the
“inside” part of this strategy wields tremendous influence and puts limits on the
“outside” part where these are assumed to work in tandem.

There are more earnest attempts to conceive of inside-outside strategy as a way to build
dual power, where the “outside” might consist of more radical, working-class, and
horizontally-organized social movements, only seems to highlight the woeful inadequacy of
these strategies in relation to the task at hand. Even when inside-outside strategy fails,
the impression that it is succeeding creates a powerful perception that drives dues and
membership, reflecting the agendas and assumptions of campaigns rather than movements.
Beyond this, however, there is also a failure to theoretically recognize the nature of how
power operates at various levels of society.

The Problems of Inside-Outside Strategy: Some Theoretical Considerations

Nascent ideas of inside-outside strategy explained how single-issue interest groups of no
particularly radical persuasion and a highly-professionalized structure could influence
policy outcomes. Later, it became a way for outgunned progressives to “take back” the
Democratic Party in the name of a more humane capitalism. Currently, we are at a stage
where inside-outside strategy functions in the same way but in the service of purportedly
revolutionary outcomes ranging from a social democratic welfare state to a breakaway left
workers’ party.

Even as inside-outside strategy was repackaged and painted red for a newer generation of
radicals, various interpretations of this idea reflect an unclear sense of the
relationship between existing political structures and social movements. What’s more, they
don’t even demonstrate a good understanding of the distinct manifestations of power and
how they operate.

The definition of inside-outside strategy quoted earlier comes from a series of 2016 posts
on the blog Be Freedom, some of which was reprinted in other outlets like Counterpunch.
The author advocates creating mass movements whose aim is to bring about change by working
in conjunction with “clusters of interest” within and on the periphery of power
structures, then gives a disparate array of examples from mainstream politics to labor
unions. From this point of view, these are all seemingly valid arenas of struggle. While
many people who identify as progressive see no contradiction here, a bit of digging
reveals a huge conceptual problem therein.

If we start from the standpoint that all legislative bodies, courts, labor unions,
political parties, and UNICEF are equally valid entry points for transformative mass
movements to exercise power, what are the exceptions? One of the problems with the
advocacy of IOS on the left is the lack of proscribed limits.

What has been jarring these last two years is that some socialists have internalized this
as a system of belief to the point where they can enthusiastically root for District
Attorneys and Judges in their electoral efforts. In the case of Larry Krasner, some viewed
his victory as a step forward and a platform for further movement building based on
reforms such as ending cash bail and civil asset forfeiture. In the interim, however, this
means supporting someone who oversees mass incarceration and prosecutions that plainly
violate freedom of expression.

The power of belief being what it is, supporters can’t necessarily be moved to critically
interrogate these deficiencies or offer any broad vision other than improving things in a
piecemeal fashion, punching left and managing expectations.

This was made abundantly clear during the debate on House Joint Resolution 1, the bill
passed by House Democrats-including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna
Pressley- during the government shutdown to restore funding to the Department of Homeland
Security and, by extension, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Surprisingly, supporters of AOC and even leftists representing more critical tendencies
pushed back against left criticism of the vote and stressed the need for the newly-elected
representatives to build their political clout and momentarily put aside their promises to
“abolish ICE.”

When it comes to the inside-outside dyad, “inside logic” continuously and inexorably seeks
to subsume and colonize those of us who live and struggle outside of the halls of
power-always to the benefit of a few, albeit a different few from the ones who are
currently in power. This means that the socialist or democratic socialist label can be
rather easily used to exploit people’s expectations in the most cynical way possible to
gain and hold power.

If the revolution suddenly demands that we give our votes and support to Representatives,
Senators, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and Presidents, should we ask socialists to sign
up for the U.S. Army? ICE? Get a “democratic socialist” nominated as Secretary of Defense?
We’ve only seen the beginnings of such developments, such as progressive candidates
offering to “abolish ICE” by replacing itwith a similar organization controlled by the
Justice Department. Naturally, supporters of such politicians might downplay these
positions or defend them after the fact, much in the same way liberals (and oddly enough,
some leftists) defended Obama and the “long game” of his presidency: A long game that
inevitably concluded to the benefit of the ruling class and the demoralization of the
working class.

We can even take this idea to its most absurd limit: why not start a business and use that
a way to make the world a better place? Of course, most of us recognize this as a joke.
The functioning of capitalist economic institutions guarantees the highest allowable
degree of exploitation. What exempts the State from this logic, reflection of capitalist
economic development and class conflict that it is? If building socialism means occupying
State power-administering prisons, defending borders, and nationalizing the
bourgeoisie-then it is not any form of socialism with strategic or ethical value.

Advocates of inside-outside strategy misunderstand the nature of power, and consequently
make fatal errors of judgement that will limit our collective political imagination and
reduce the most vibrant movements in our workplaces and communities to servants of their
supposed representatives in the machinery of government.

From an anarchist perspective, our approach to social change is to build popular power –
a process where we use our time and resources to create “independent institutions and
organizations of the working class to fight white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism.”
This means looking to our neighbors and coworkers in our political struggles and not
politicians who promise to enact change from on high. All of the press releases and bully
pulpits available to left politicians and bureaucrats are absolutely inconsequential
compared to the popular power we can build.

Alex Isa is an educator, scholar, and member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra in Miami.

http://blackrosefed.org/outside-looking-in-critique-of-inside-outside-strategy/

The post On the Outside Looking in: a Critique of Inside/outside Strategy appeared first on Infoshop News.

404 Page Not Found

Lun, 04/15/2019 - 03:28

via The Baffler

by Kate Wagner

The first time I can remember logging on to the net was around 1998, when I was five years old. My father was with me; I remember him working his magic, getting the modem to hum its infamous atonal tune. The purpose of this journey was to see if the internet had any answers to my persistent questions about how railroad crossings worked. We opened a search engine, probably AltaVista, and quickly found a Geocities webpage devoted to railroad crossings from around the world. I still remember the site’s black textured background, its grainy, white serif typeface, and the blinking gifs of railroad crossings positioned on either side of a slightly off-center text header.

I’m a digital native, older than most. Because my father worked for the federal government, our household was an early adopter of the internet. As I grew up, so did it. When I was a child, for example, the internet was still indexable; you generally found websites through directories and webrings. Favorites meant something, because finding what you were looking for often took quite a bit of time. When search engines became the norm, around the time I was in elementary school, this analog directory hunting was replaced with the ubiquitous Google search. Which is to say I witnessed it all, and as a particularly lonely child, I witnessed it rather closely: Neopets in elementary school, the birth of Myspace in middle school, the rise of Facebook in early high school, Instagram in late high school, the internet culture wars of infamy as a freshman in college, Donald Trump and Cambridge Analytica in graduate school.

Writing in 2008, the new media scholar Geert Lovink separated internet culture into three periods:

First, the scientific, precommercial, text-only period before the World Wide Web. Second, the euphoric, speculative period in which the Internet opened up for the general audience, culminating in the late 1990s dotcom mania. Third, the post-dot-com crash/post-9/11 period, which is now coming to a close with the Web 2.0 mini-bubble.

For those my age, this tripartite history of the net begins at number two, with the anarchic, sprawling, ’90s net, followed by the post-9/11, pre-iPhone variety (including the blogosphere and the fulcrum moment that was Myspace), and ending with today’s app-driven, hyper-conglomerate social media net.

Read more

The post 404 Page Not Found appeared first on Infoshop News.

Vermont Union President Challenged Lawmakers

Sáb, 04/06/2019 - 04:33

AFSCME LOCAL 1343 PRESIDENT CHALLENGES LAW MAKERS: 

STAND WITH US ON CARD CHECK, OR YOU ARE COMPLICIT

-Submitted By David Van Deusen, District Vice President VT AFL-CIO-

Montpelier, Vermont 4/3/19 – Vermont AFL-CIO Unions including AFSCME, AFT, IBEW, USW, & PFFV, have been fighting all winter to get legislators to advance H.428 & S.36, card check recognition for public sector workers.  The bills were introduced in the House by Progressive Brian Cina, and in the Senate by Democrat/Progressive Phillip Baruth.  If passed, card check would establish that whenever a majority of workers sign a Union card in any given public sector shop, their Union would be immediately recognized.  Despite Labor’s united front on this issue, the Vermont Senate and House (which is overwhelmingly composed of Democrats) has yet to hold hearings on the bills, let alone move them out of committee.

 Today [4/4/19] AFSCME Local 1343 President, Damion Gilbert, spoke at a Statehouse press conference regarding card check.  The press conference was organized by Rights & Democracy in support of a $15 an hour livable wage, paid family medical leave, free college tuition, and card check.  Also speaking at the event were Lt Governor David Zuckerman (Progressive), Representative Emily Kornheiser (Democrat), Representative Kevin “Coach” Christie (Democrat), as well as a number of community leaders.

 What follows is the full text of the speech, delivered by AFSCME 1343 President, Damion Gilbert, in support of the card check bills:

 “Hello, I am Damion Gilbert, President of AFSCME Local 1343 & Executive Board Member for AFSCME Council 93.  I work for the City of Burlington’s Department of Public Works.  It is an honor to be here today to speak for my 1800 members and the 7000 Vermont Home Healthcare Providers that our Union represents.  It is also an honor to stand alongside fellow Labor Unions and community allies to demand that ALL working class Vermonters have access to livable wages, paid family medical leave, and especially a fair & democratic recognition process when working people choose to form a Union. 

 “It is a travesty that many tens of thousands of Vermonters do not presently get paid a livable wage.  I sympathize with this and support the effort to rapidly move to a $15 an hour floor for all laboring people.  I say this even though almost all of our AFSCME Union members already have won at least $15 an hour.  In fact this past year we celebrated our Unionized St Mikes Custodians winning a living wage for the first time in their new contract. Even as recently as this past fall, most Custodians were paid slightly more than $12 an hour, with some Custodians making as little as $11 and change. Here they were able to achieve a $15 an hour livable wage (now, and not four years from now) by standing united and engaging in the collective bargaining process which is afforded to them as a Unionized workforce.  

 “I say this to highlight that economic and social justice is within the immediate reach of working class people when they stand in solidarity with each other through a Labor Union which is theirs.

 “But Labor is under attack.  It was no mistake that the Supreme Court recently struck down the right of public sector Unions to collect mandatory dues.  It is also no coincidence that the Executive Branch of Government in DC is actively seeking a rule change to outlaw even VOLUNTARY dues-payroll deductions for Home Healthcare Providers.  And of course new appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have worn their anti-Union animus on their sleeve.  In brief, the powerful elite of this country, the wealthy ownership class, are actively trying to break the back of Organized Labor.  But we shall not be broken. As was said in the Spanish Civil War ¡No Pasarán!

 “If future historians are not to write that Vermont was party to this betrayal of Labor, political figures in Montpelier cannot remain silent.  And given the scope of the existential attacks we are now facing, non-action or the politics of the status quo are no different than collaboration. 

 “Therefore, AFSCME Vermont is here today to say loud and clear that H.428 & S.36, bills that would establish official Union recognition for any public sector shop wherein a majority of the workers have signed a Union card, is the means to demonstrate that Montpelier, unlike DC, stands with Labor!

 “These bills, known as the “card check bills”, circumvent the lengthy, legalistic, and  bureaucratic Labor Board process for recognition that exists today for public employees; and to be clear, the present VLRB process for recognition is weighted to favor anti-Union employers.  When implemented, card check would instead allow working people to more easily and more fairly come together and begin a collective bargaining process when such a Unionization effort is supported by a majority of workers. And here, by making the Unionization process more democratic and fair, it is our expectation that more Vermonters will choose to organize into a Union and will thereby be able to bargain for the social and economic justice that too many of our working families are yet to enjoy.

 “H.428 & S.36, card check, is the politically defining issue for AFSCME in 2019.  Those politicians that stand with us (and I see many of them here today!) shall be afforded our respect and appreciation.  Those that stand against us, or those that stand aloof shall rightly be viewed by AFSCME as complicit with the attacks presently emanating out of Washington.  One’s party label will have no bearing on who we gage as being with us or against us when it comes time to report back to our members. What will matter is if they supported card check, and if their support was active.

 “So again, we invite the leadership of the Vermont House & Senate, all persons elected to this General Assembly, and working Vermonters in general to support H.428 & S.36, card check, and see that these bills move out of committee and put on the desk of the Governor.  The time is now.  Thank You & Solidarity!”

-Damion Gilbert, President of AFSCME Local 1343

The post Vermont Union President Challenged Lawmakers appeared first on Infoshop News.

Freelancers Want to Join Unions but Labor Laws Won’t Let Them

Sáb, 04/06/2019 - 04:20

via Teen Vogue

by Kim Kelly

Unions are more popular than they’ve been in almost two decades, thanks to successful organizing efforts in new sectors like digital media and fast food, revitalized labor action in more traditional industries like education and manufacturing, and the threat of a general strike helping end a painful government shutdown. The labor movement is behind the greatest advances for working people in this country’s history — from the eight-hour workday to the minimum wage and the end of child labor — and built the United States middle class as we know it.

However, due to a flaw in a major labor law passed back during the New Deal era, not everyone is able to join a union.

Following the passage of the 1926 Railway Labor Act, which oversaw labor relations in the railroad and airline industries, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, which has remained the bedrock of federal labor law in the U.S. The NLRA guarantees the majority of private sector workers the right to organize and join unions, engage in collective bargaining with their employers, and take collective action, like striking, when deemed necessary. Under this law, no employer can fire or threaten to fire a worker for organizing or joining a union or being pro-union, something that many bosses neglect to tell said workers during efforts at union-busting.

Because of the NLRA, thousands of workers across the country have been able to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions, but, because of the way the law was written, thousands of others have been left without a legal option to do either.

Government employees, agricultural laborers, independent contractors, and supervisors (with limited exceptions), as well as domestic workers and those covered by the Railway Labor Act are excluded from the NLRA. Some of these workers are also not covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (which oversees workplace safety) or the Fair Labor Standards Act (which regulates wages and hours); in addition, those classified as independent contractors are responsible for paying their own federal and state income taxes (which, as anyone who has to do this can tell you, adds up quickly). These excluded worker categories also often represent some of the most vulnerable people. For example, an overwhelming number of agricultural workers are subject to low wages and dangerous working conditions, and while they do have some specific protections, those efforts still fall short.

It’s also important to note the racist history behind the exclusion of certain worker categories. Today, most U.S. farm workers come from Latin American countries like Mexico and Guatemala, and about half of those workers are undocumented. But at the time of the NLRA’s signing, the majority of agricultural workers were black, and some scholars believe it’s no coincidence that these workers were excluded from the NLRA.

Read more

The post Freelancers Want to Join Unions but Labor Laws Won’t Let Them appeared first on Infoshop News.

Focus on Labor News

Mié, 04/03/2019 - 08:24

 

A regular update on labor news from around the world. New unions, ongoing campaigns, strikes, and much more! Be sure to check out our Labor section and our front page for highlighted news and opinion.

Updated April 20, 2019

General Media Worker Organizing

 

2019 Teacher’s Strikes McDonald’s Amazon Fight for $15 / Fast Food Workers

The post Focus on Labor News appeared first on Infoshop News.

The insanity of global trade

Dom, 03/31/2019 - 00:14

via ROAR magazine

by Local Futures

The way trade works in the global economy is often absurd. Food routinely gets shipped halfway across the world to be processed, then shipped back to be sold right where it started. Mexican calves — fed imported American corn — are exported to the United States to be butchered, and then the meat is exported back to Mexico for sale. More than half of the seafood caught in Alaska gets processed in China, and much of it is sent right back to American grocery store shelves.

Compounding the insanity of this “re-importation” is the equally head-scratching phenomenon of “redundant trade”. This is a common practice whereby countries both import and export identical quantities of identical products in a given year. For instance, in 2007, Britain imported 15,000 tons of chocolate-covered waffles, while exporting 14,000 tons. In 2017, the US both imported and exported nearly 1.5 million tons of beef and nearly half a million tons of potatoes.

On the face of it, this kind of trade makes no economic sense. Why would it be worth the immense cost — in money as well as fuel — of sending perfectly good food abroad only to bring it right back again?

The answer lies in the way the global economy is structured. Direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels, on the order of $5 trillion per year worldwide, allow the costs of shipping to be largely borne by taxpayers and the environment instead of the businesses that actually engage in it. This allows transnational corporations to take advantage of differences in labor and environmental laws between countries, not to mention tax loopholes, in service of making a bigger profit.

The consequences of this bad behavior are already severe, and set to become worse in the coming decades. Small farmers, particularly in the Global South, have seen their livelihoods undermined by influxes of cheap food from abroad. Trade agreements have made it impossible for companies to compete in the global economy unless they base their operations in places with the weakest protections for workers and the environment. And all the while, the share of global carbon emissions produced by commercial shipping is set to rise to 17 percent by 2050, if action isn’t taken to curb our addiction to trade.  But policymakers currently have little incentive to reduce unnecessary trade: bizarrely, emissions from global trade do not appear in any nation’s carbon accounting.

Read more

The post The insanity of global trade appeared first on Infoshop News.

Why the Green New Deal needs mass direct action

Dom, 03/17/2019 - 04:04

via Rising Tide North America

Last weekend in San Francisco, my friends and I with Diablo Rising Tide hosted two friends from Germany on the “Scale Resistance” tour that Rising Tide has organized with radical climate group Ende Galaende. The talk left me thinking a lot about resistance (the real kind, not the stuff being sold by Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the corporate Democrats).  The Green New Deal is currently capturing the imagination of the progressive climate movement and becoming a centerpiece of climate “resistance.” But it needs a massive social movement moving forward at a large scale, taking serious action, at its foundation to succeed.

For the past 5 or 6 years, Ende Galaende (“Here and No Further” in English) has organized a massive nationwide coalition, that includes everyone from small radical groups to big green non-profits, to stop lignite coal mining in Germany. Their demands were an immediate phase out of lignite coal mining. Rooted in the anti-nuclear movements of a previous era, their tactic was mass disruption of coal infrastructure. Their action campaigns included mass direct actions numbering in the thousands at open pit coal mines in the Rhineland region and a multi-year tree sit in the Hambach Forest.

This critical direct action campaign has put the German political establishment on the defensive around coal and climate issues. The establishment responded with an agreement for a 20 year phase out of coal in Germany, not an immediate one as demanded  by Ende Galaende.  Their campaign continues.

Nationally in the U.S., the fossil fuel infrastructure fights have also challenged the legitimacy of the oil and coal industries.  The hard fought campaign in the bayous of Louisiana has stopped Energy Transfer Partner’s Bayou Bridge pipeline for at least a year. Indigenous led resistance to Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline has also put the future of that pipeline into question. In Appalachia, the locally led campaign against the Mountain Valley Pipeline that has included long term tree-sits and disruptive protest along the construction route has also delayed the completion of that project. The purveyors of the Keystone XL pipeline are also bracing for a massive social movement response.  Last week, the state of South Dakota passed a set of anti-pipeline protest bills targeting both people in South Dakota, as well as any outside groups that provide support. There are dozens of these state laws being passed or proposed.

Globally, the climate and environmental uprising is spreading with ferocity as well:

  • Barefoot lockdown in Gibberagee State Forest.

    Australia: About 40 protestors took action in the Gibberagee State Forest in protest of illegal logging of koala habitat. A number of activists locked onto Forestry Corporation machinery. The action follows claims by North East Forest Alliance that an audit found the Forestry Corporation was only protecting half of the koala trees is it required to. Among the protestors was  veteran forest activist Nan Nicholson, who was instrumental in saving the forest at Terania Creek in the late 1970s.

  • Australia: In late February, Adani’s Abbot Point Port was targeted by anti-coal activists. Trains were stopped in a near continuous shutdown for over 75 hours during a week of non-violent direct action in central Queensland. Seven activists from across Australia, all committed to fighting the threat of thermal coal induced climate change, took action against Adani. The seven scaled fences, evaded drones, locked themselves to rail infrastructure and suspended themselves from trees and tripods to block coal trains from entering the port.
  • Finland: Climate protesters climbed Finnish Parliament House pillars. Members of several Finnish environmental groups demonstrated at the Finnish Parliament on 6 March. Eight protesters were detained after scaling the giant stone columns.
  • Scotland: About 20 conscientious climate protectors stayed in the National Museum of Scotland on behalf of Extinction Rebellion Scotland after closing time. They sat in to protest the ‘oil club’ dinner being hosted there tonight. A group of over 900 oil executives from the UK and beyond were gathered in a national museum and monument to celebrate their own relevance and profit-making from the destruction of the climate. 12 of our friends were arrested rather than leave after police warnings.
  • Greta Thunberg.

    Climate Strikes:  Across the globe, students and youth are taking action with walkouts and mass protests to protect a future that older generations (particularly those in political and corporate offices) don’t give a shit about. Another mass climate strike is expected on March 15th.

The Sunrise Movement is already using direct action in pushing members of Congress for the Green New Deal. It kicked off with hundreds sitting in at Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol Hill offices in November with 51 arrests. A couple of weeks later on Dec. 10th, Sunrise followed up with a massive Green New Deal lobby day that included sit-ins and 143 arrests.  In response to GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell trying to stop the Green New Deal before it starts, 43 climate activists were arrested in his Capitol Hill offices in late February.  In a stunning response, McConnell postponed the vote where he’d hoped to stop the Green New Deal’s march through Congress.

As Naomi Klein recently penned in the Intercept,

“I have written before about why the old New Deal, despite its failings, remains a useful touchstone for the kind of sweeping climate mobilization that is our only hope of lowering emissions in time. In large part, this is because there are so few historical precedents we can look to (other than top-down military mobilizations) that show how every sector of life, from forestry to education to the arts to housing to electrification, can be transformed under the umbrella of a single, society-wide mission.

Which is why it is so critical to remember that none of it would have happened without massive pressure from social movements. FDR rolled out the New Deal in the midst of a historic wave of labor unrest: There was the Teamsters’ rebellion and Minneapolis general strike in 1934, the 83-day shutdown of the West Coast by longshore workers that same year, and the Flint sit-down autoworkers strikes in 1936 and 1937. During this same period, mass movements, responding to the suffering of the Great Depression, demanded sweeping social programs, such as Social Security and unemployment insurance, while socialists argued that abandoned factories should be handed over to their workers and turned into cooperatives. Upton Sinclair, the muckraking author of “The Jungle,” ran for governor of California in 1934 on a platform arguing that the key to ending poverty was full state funding of workers’ cooperatives. He received nearly 900,000 votes, but having been viciously attacked by the right and undercut by the Democratic establishment, he fell just short of winning the governor’s office.

All of this is a reminder that the New Deal was adopted by Roosevelt at a time of such progressive and left militancy that its programs — which seem radical by today’s standards — appeared at the time to be the only way to hold back a full-scale revolution.”

We’re in a moment that needs massive social movement pressure to break through political and corporate barriers to respond to the climate crisis. Following the lead of organizers from our past, in other parts of the world today, the anti-infrastructure movements and the revitalized youth climate movement, it’s time to scale up and say “here and no further.”

###

Scott Parkin is a climate organizer working with Rising Tide North America. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparki1969

The post Why the Green New Deal needs mass direct action appeared first on Infoshop News.

Optimize What?

Sáb, 03/16/2019 - 03:45

via Commune

Silicon Valley is full of the stupidest geniuses you’ll ever meet. The problem begins in the classrooms where computer science is taught.

In November 2018, over six hundred Google engineers signed a public petition to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that the company cease work on censored search and surveillance tools for the Chinese market, code-named “Project Dragonfly.” During the ensuing public outcry, Pichai appeared before Congress, human rights groups protested in front of corporate offices in ten countries, and the company quietly put the project on hold.

This is merely one episode in what has been a long year for Big Tech, roiled by an increasingly intense series of protests and political scandals. Salesforce, Microsoft, and Amazon workers petitioned their executives to cancel lucrative contracts with US Customs and Border Protection. Facebook was found to be lobbying Congress and employing a right-wing PR firm to quell criticism from activists. Lyft and Uber drivers protested outside corporate headquarters over the companies’ rate cuts and deactivation policies.

All this has spawned a renewed interest in the ethics of technology and its role in society, with technologists, social scientists, philosophers, and policy wonks all chiming in. Of all the factions coming to the rescue, however, the most intriguing is the academic field of computer science. Recently, for instance, Stanford University’s School of Engineering launched a “Human-Centered AI Initiative” to guide the future of algorithmic ethics, and offered, for the first time, a course on data ethics for technical students. Other universities are following suit, with similar courses, institutes, and research labs springing up across the country. Academics hope that, by better teaching the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs, universities can produce socially conscious tech professionals and thereby fix the embattled tech sector.

Yet in positioning itself as tech’s moral compass, academic computer science belies the fact that its own intellectual tools are the source of the technology industry’s dangerous power. A significant part of the problem is the kind of ideology it instills in students, researchers, and society at large. It’s not just that engineering education teaches students to think that all problems deserve technical solutions (which it certainly does); rather, the curriculum is built around an entire value system that knows only utility functions, symbolic manipulations, and objective maximization.

_____

In spring 2018, Stanford offered, for the first time, a course on data ethics specifically for students with a background in machine learning and algorithms. At the time, I was a graduate student in the Computer Science department, and attended the class when I could. One particular case study was on a controversy from 2009, shortly after California’s infamous Proposition 8 was passed, which defined state-recognized marriage as being between a man and a woman. The anonymous creators of a website called Eightmaps had used the Freedom of Information Act to retrieve records of donations to organizations that supported the measure, then plotted them on a map. Visitors to the site could see the names, donation amounts, and approximate locations of individuals who had donated at least $100 to the Proposition 8 campaign. As use of the tool spread, the exposed donors received angry messages and threats of physical violence. “What could be done,” the instructor asked, “to prevent these scenarios in future elections?”

The students had many ideas. One suggested that, in the interest of protecting small donors, the $100 minimum donation threshold be increased. Another conjectured that there was some inherent trade-off between having transparent public information and preserving the privacy needed for democratic participation (including the right to donate to campaigns). Thus there might be some intermediary way to make campaign finance information more coarse-grained so as to protect individual identities, while providing aggregate information about where the donations came from. Several classmates nodded in agreement.

By this time, I had plucked up the courage to raise my hand. “Isn’t it a bit insane,” I asked, “that we’re sitting here debating at what level of granularity to visualize this data? Is this a technical problem that can be optimized to find some happy balance, or is it a political question of whether elections should be run this way, with campaign contributions, in the first place?”

Read more

The post Optimize What? appeared first on Infoshop News.

Why Extinction Rebellion can’t save the world

Sáb, 03/16/2019 - 03:21

via Slow Burning Fuse

Extinction Rebellion was established in the United Kingdom in October 2018 as a movement that aims to use tactics of nonviolent direct action in order to avert the effects of climate change.

While we support the means of using direct action tactics it is their ends that needs greater examination. Extinction Rebellion is essentially a reformist movement, whose earnest activists lack a real vision of what is needed if we are serious about halting the damage to our environment. Instead, they are pinning their hopes on merely making adjustments to the present system which is destroying our world.

We argue that this isn’t enough, and the only way to effectively campaign to halt climate change is to impart a true picture of a capitalism whose insatiable hunger for profit is not only undermining the working and living conditions of hundreds of millions of working people but the basis of life itself. The future of our planet depends on building a livable environment and a movement powerful enough to displace capitalism.
Extinction Rebellion are guilty of thinking that their demands can create an idyllic capitalism, managed by the state, that can end the destruction being caused to the Earth’s environment They see their role as just needing to make enough noise to wake up political and business leaders. Theirs is a view which sees capitalism moving towards sustainability and zero growth. It is the idea that capitalism can be reformed to become a green system. In this model of capitalist society lifestyles change and infrastructure are reformed while technical green advances are applied. It supposes that all would be well if we all bought organic food, never took a holiday anywhere which would involve flying, and put on more clothes in winter rather than turn up the heating. Green capitalism presumes it will be enough to replace fossil fuels with renewables, whilst leaving the overall system intact.
We argue that such a scenario completely ignores the way capitalism operates, and must operate, and is therefore hopelessly utopian. The present capitalist system is driven by the struggle for profit. The present system’s need for infinite growth and the finite resources of Earth stand in contradiction to each other. Successful operation of the system means growth or maximising profit, it means that nature as a resource will be exploited ruthlessly. The present destruction of the planet is rooted in the capitalist system of production and cannot be solved without a complete break with capitalism. Yet ending capitalism is something that Extinction Rebellion  does not appear to be prepared to countenance, they are only attacking the symptoms rather than the cause. They see their green capitalism as a type of capitalism worth fighting for.

We, rather, see the need to create a different form of social organisation before the present system destroys us all. The entire system of production based on wage labour and capital needs to be replaced with a system which produces for human needs. All the half measures of converting aspects of capitalism to limit the damage to the environment, while the fundamentals of capitalism remain in place, are just wishful thinking, and to pretend they could solve our problems is deception on a grand scale.

The fact is that before production can be carried out in ecologically-acceptable ways capitalism has to go. Production for profit and the uncontrollable drive to accumulate more and more capital mean that capitalism is by its very nature incapable of taking ecological considerations into account properly, and to be honest it is futile to try to make it do so.

A sustainable society that is capable of addressing climate change can only be achieved within a world where all the Earth’s resources, natural and industrial, are under the common ownership of us all, as well as being under grassroots democratic control at a local and regional level. If we are going to organise production in an ecologically sound way we can either plead with the powers that be or we can take democratic control of production ourselves, and the reality is to truly control production we have to own and control the means of production. So, a society of common ownership and democratic control is the only framework within which the aims of Extinction Rebellion can be realised. In reality, to achieve their wish of halting climate collapse, those within Extinction Rebellion should be anarchists.

One of the demands of Extinction Rebellion is a call for participatory democracy, and yet they also talk of giving governments emergency war-time powers. It’s not altogether clear what they mean by this. Does it mean, for example, seizing fossil fuel industries and shutting them down? Enforcing new low-carbon, low-travel, and low-meat shifts in consumption? Or imposing sanctions against companies or countries trafficking in fossil fuels? Will it see imprisonment for those whose protest when they feel their interests may be compromised by green government legislation?
In the past, warlike conditions and major disasters typically were seen to justify the temporary abolition of democratic liberties, but how long will they last for this fight, what will be the endpoint, or will the special war-time powers last indefinitely? Would such a suspension of democracy be easy to reverse anyway? These are big questions, and, for those of us that value the limited freedoms we have, they need to be addressed.
Giving more power to the state is also a case of putting all your eggs in one basket as there is no one simple response to fixing climate change. Climate change will bring many issues, those that we can have a go at predicting, but also many unforeseen. Increasing the powers of the state reduces its ability to be flexible and capable of learning from policy mistakes. The fight against climate change must be associated with greater local democracy. We need more democracy, strengthening local and regional capacities to respond to climate change. For those in Extinction Rebellion who think that there can be only one pathway to addressing climate change, the erosion of democracy might seem to be “convenient.” History, however, tells us that suppression of democracy undermines the capacity of societies to solve problems.
Those campaigning with Extinction Rebellion are no doubt sincere and caring people who want something different for themselves and future generations. In their own lifestyles they probably have made genuine changes which are in line with a more ecologically sustainable way of living. So have we, but we are well aware that our individual lifestyle changes are not going to change the fundamental nature of the social system which is damaging the planet. Millions of us might give up using products which destroy the environment, but what effect do we really have in comparison with the minority who own and control the multinational corporations. Just 100 companies have been responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988. They, and all businesses, have an interest in keeping their costs down, and profits up. If their profits come before the long-term interests of people, who can blame them for sacrificing our needs? They can act no other way.

We do not have faith that capitalists, or their parliamentary representatives, can act in time to limit climate change in a meaningful way, but when we make a call for revolution, the answer we mostly get is that the lesser evil of piecemeal reforms will take less time to achieve than our grand anarchist aims. However, we think it is an ill-advised attitude to take that small improvements are more worthy of support than realisable big ones. There is unlikely ever to be a government passing meaningful green legislation. Governments may pass a few minor reforms to appease green voters, the business owners themselves may realise that some of their brands may be harmed by a lack of environmental concern, and greenwash their product, but ultimately these acts will be a sticking plaster when what is required is major surgery.

If anyone concerned with Extinction Rebellion read this and grasps the impossibility of what they are asking for, then we would say it’s time to keep the methods of direct action that you are advocating, but change the demands. If Extinction Rebellion ever wants their arguments to carry any force, then they need to campaign to abolish capitalism and create a system of grassroots democracy.

Full article from Aotearoa / so-called New Zealand here:

http://awsm.nz/2019/03/12/can-extinction-rebellion-aotearoa-nz-help-save-the-world/

The post Why Extinction Rebellion can’t save the world appeared first on Infoshop News.

Criticizing Israel isn’t Anti-Semitic, Here’s What Is

Lun, 03/11/2019 - 04:17

via CounterPunch

by Sarah Gertler

Weeks ago, when the first accusations of anti-semitism were being leveled against Representative Ilhan Omar, I was deeply agitated.

Not long ago I saw her address these accusations at a local town hall. She reminded the world that, as a Black Muslim woman in America, she knows what hate looks like — and spends her life laboring against it. Her words were clear, bold, and unflinching.

When members of Congress not only continued to gang up and falsely smear Omar as anti-semitic, but even created a House Resolution painting her words as hateful, I wasn’t just agitated. I was absolutely disgusted.

Omar has criticized the U.S. government’s support for Israeli actions that break international law. And she’s spoken out against the role money in politics plays in shoring up that support.

Neither is anti-semitic.

What is anti-semitic is the cacophony of mainstream media and politicians saying that criticizing U.S. policy toward the state of Israel is the same as attacking Jewish people.

Like most American Jewish youth, I grew up knowing Israel. During holidays, I sang prayers about Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. In Hebrew school, I learned about the country’s culture, its cities, its past prime ministers. At my Jewish summer camp, we started every day with the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah.

My image of Israel was a rosy one. When I finally visited it in college, I was spellbound by the lush landscapes and sparkling cities, certain I would one day move to this golden ancestral home myself.

All this emotional buildup made it all the more sickening when, in the years that followed, I learned the realities of the Israeli occupation.

The modern state of Israel was established by Zionists — a nationalist movement started by European Jews with the aim of creating a “Jewish state” as a refuge for persecuted Jews.

It’s true that Jews have faced centuries of brutal persecution in Europe. But the Zionists’ project shared unmistakably European colonialist roots.

In 1948, Israel’s war of independence led to the Nakba, an invasion driving 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. These Palestinians were never allowed to return, creating a massive refugee population that today numbers over 7 million.

While I was able to travel freely up and down Israel, the Palestinians who once lived there are legally barred from returning. While I wandered the marketplaces trying stews and shawarmas, Palestinians in Gaza can’t afford even the gas to cook their food because of the Israeli blockade.

Zionism didn’t create an inclusive Jewish refuge either. In fact, the diverse Mizrahi — or Arab — Jewish population that was already thriving in Palestine was pushed out of Israeli society as Ashkenazi — or European — Jews became the elite class.

What it did create is an imperialist stronghold that continues to break international law by building settlements deeper and deeper into Palestinian territory, giving Jewish Israelis superior legal status to Arab Israelis and Palestinians, and attacking all who protest.

Since Israel’s origin, the U.S. has supplied tens of billions of dollars of military aid and ardent political support. Congress consistently ignores dozens of UN resolutions condemning Israeli abuses, and year after year gives it more resources to violently oppress impoverished Palestinians.

Pro-Israel lobbying groups’ considerable political influence has even pushed Congress to consider bills punishing Americans who support Palestinian rights. (Around half of all statesalready have such laws.)

More broadly, they rely on villainizing critics with false claims of antisemitism — especially when the criticism comes from a person of color, as we’ve seen with Angela Davis, Marc Lamont Hill, and Michelle Alexander before Rep. Omar.

I, along with an increasing number of young American Jews, want to discuss U.S. support of Israel. Talking foreign policy is not anti-semitism.

What is anti-semitic — always — is saying that all Jews support violence and imperialism.

Sarah Gertler is the Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

The post Criticizing Israel isn’t Anti-Semitic, Here’s What Is appeared first on Infoshop News.

Recent Rise of Visible Anti-Semitism

Lun, 03/11/2019 - 04:09

via First of May Anarchist Alliance (M1)

By Miriam of the Michigan Collective, a retired Jewish autoworker. Miriam was raised as a communist in Compton, California and is now an Anarchist operating out of the Detroit area.

The recent rise in visible Anti Semitism – vandalism of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, shooting and murder in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the fascist slogans pointing to Jews as the enemy – shows that the ground of security is once again cracking.  The economic and social insecurities thrown up by the decay of capitalism, and its attempts to stabilize itself globally through a neoliberal strategy, have allowed hatred of “the other” to rise to the surface. This enables racists to publicly act out against Black people, questioning their right to be in public places; it enables public policies to detain, and sometimes murder, refugees seeking survival and protection; and it enables hatred of Jews.

Israel’s role in the world as agent of the United States and apologist for apartheid allows a conflation of Jews and Zionism.  They are not the same. Zionism and the state of Israel is supported by people and institutions that are not Jewish; there are Jewish people who do not support the state of Israel.

Currently, Jews have assimilated into the United States to such an extent, particularly through the professional class, that they are seen as the face of authority among other groups, who have also been othered, and discriminated against, particularly Black people.

The Jewish people have been seen as other, as heretics from their first refusals to go along with Roman authorities during the rise of Christianity.  Driven from living spaces, corralled in ghettos (Italy) or the Pale of Settlement (Russia), the diaspora, or dispersion, spread Jews throughout the world.  Expelled from Spain (1492), they were forbidden to live openly in Spanish colonies. They lived as secret Jews, or Marranos (pigs), openly Christian, following Jewish traditions in secret.

The first Jewish settlement in what is now New York was in 1624.  Through peaks of nativism, hostility against Jews rose periodically.  Jews were forbidden to live in certain areas, there were quotas on their entrance to schools, they were caricatured, identified as greedy, money hungry, sly and devious, dirty, and, of course, the killers of Christ.

Jews sought assimilation and were allowed to participate as settlers; as Europeans displaced Native Americans across the western United States, Jews were among their number.  In order to become “white”, or “truly American”, one must adopt attitudes of anti-Blackness. This was the route all settlers took as they established themselves as Americans, as they threw off their European identities.

The first major influx of Jews to the United States was in the 1840s, primarily from Austria and Germany, after the failed revolutions in Europe.  They were primarily shopkeepers and financially able to secure employment and businesses. In Europe Jews were prevented from becoming farmers and were denied access to education and to the professional classes.  They sought protection from their anti Semitic neighbors by appealing to the king or members of the king’s court for protection. They were often used as usurers, or money lenders, as this profession was forbidden to Christians.  This role linked them to banking and money in the public eye; it also linked them to the ruling classes.

This group set itself against the second wave of Jewish immigration around the late 1880s-1900s, which was larger, poorer and escaping from the Russian and Polish pogroms.  This wave also brought the anarchist and Communist influence into the Jewish communities, into the working class neighborhoods where they settled, and into the shops they helped organize.  The many daily newspapers in Yiddish provided cultural adhesion, along with a strong cultural practice of poetry, theater and music, and a high value placed on education.

The “Jewish Community” has always been divided among itself – culturally and by class; by religious expression and by how it identifies itself.  Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist are all forms of religious Judaism, each one seeing itself as the “true” Jewish religion. The humanist or secular Jews also see themselves as Jews, but without a religious identity, living within a cultural tradition.

These divisions were aggravated with the establishment of Israel as a “Jewish” state in 1948.  Set up as a British and United States outpost in the Middle East, intended to represent British interests against the rising independence movements of the Arab states and as a place to send Jews displaced by World War 2, that were not welcome in the United States or in Europe.

Zionism was never the ideology of all Jews.  Jews hold a range of politics and opinions, based on their upbringing and experiences, their desires to assimilate or remain a part of a Jewish community, whether religious or secular.  It has served the purposes of both Israel and western imperialism to conflate Jews with the Israeli state and with Zionism. This has aggravated many Jews who do not identify with either.

Jews have played a major role in the various professional layers of American society – doctors, lawyers, businessmen, academics, movie moguls.  Some have amassed great wealth and use this for the benefit of the many right wing causes and politicians they support.

Part of the othered persona has led Jews to a role of middleman, particularly in regard to Black people.  They are the owners of stores in Black communities, the managers of recording artists, the landlord or slumlord willing to rent to Black people when others would not.  This relationship has exacerbated a particular understanding of Jews as the face of the white man, even when the white man does not consider the Jew white, or allow them to live in their white only neighborhoods. Many Jews changed their names and hid their identities in order to attend schools with Jewish quotas. The fact that they were able to pass allowed a degree of assimilation unavailable to more recognizable groups.

Jews have also played major roles in various left wing and social justice movements, putting ideas and bodies into the struggles for rights for working class people.

One of the lessons of the German Holocaust is that assimilation into a capitalist society will not save an othered group from the thuggery of predators.  As the right wing becomes more empowered and feels itself enabled to be open about its politics, its root anti Semitism once again reveals itself: in vandalism, in Nazi slogans, in murder.

 

The post Recent Rise of Visible Anti-Semitism appeared first on Infoshop News.

Garment Workers Have Organized Strikes for Over 100 Years As They Pay the Human Cost of Fashion

Lun, 03/11/2019 - 03:50

via Teen Vogue

by Kim Kelly

On February 25, Ivanka Trump criticized Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s signature policy proposal, the Green New Deal, during an interview with FOX News. The specific part of the proposal — which seeks to address the dire threat of climate change as well as fight economic inequality — that Trump had trouble with was its promise to provide “a job with a family-sustaining wage…to all people of the United States.” Trump’s response was hard to make out around the silver spoon jammed into her mouth, but she managed to spit out, “People want to work for what they get. So I think this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want. They want the ability to be able to secure a job.”

Many critics were quick to point out the hypocrisy inherent in her words, spoken as they were by a millionaire heiress who grew up rich, was handed a high-level job at her father’s company, and now serves in his administration despite her complete lack of government or political experience. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez joined the chorus, commenting on Twitter, “As a person who actually worked for tips & hourly wages in my life, instead of having to learn about it 2nd-hand, I can tell you that most people want to be paid enough to live.”

Others, like writer Ira Madison III, called attention to Trump — whom he dubbed “Sweatshop Shannon” — and her comments in the context of her experience as a businessperson. Madison skewered Trump’s relationship with the predominantly Bangladeshi and Indonesian garment-factory workers who manufactured her clothing line; the Guardian has reported that Indonesian workers “describe being paid one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia.” In 2018, Trump shut down her eponymous clothing line in order to focus on whatever it is she does in Washington, after years of flagging sales, boycotts, and backlash from consumers who turned on the brand because of its association with the president. However, her complicity in the deep-rooted and ongoing issue of sweatshop labor remains.

Trump’s was far from the only fashion brand to allegedly mistreat and exploit an overseas workforce. Nike, Wal-Mart, Gap, H&M, and even Beyoncé’s Ivy Park have faced similar accusations and criticisms over hazardous conditions and low wages in the factories that these and other U.S.-based companies contract to manufacture their products. The rise of semi-disposable “fast fashion” — a term for low-quality, cheap, trendy clothing that takes ideas from high fashion and celebrity culture and rushes them onto store shelves — and the high production quotas, fast turnarounds, and potential exposure to harmful chemicals characteristic to its production have placed immense pressure on already underpaid, overworked employees.

Read more

The post Garment Workers Have Organized Strikes for Over 100 Years As They Pay the Human Cost of Fashion appeared first on Infoshop News.

Venezuela-Baiting: How Media Keep Anti-Imperialist Dissent in Check

Jue, 03/07/2019 - 22:20

via FAIR

by Alan MacLeod

Corporate media have always attacked leftists for their positions on Venezuela, a country consistently demonized and misrepresented in the US press (FAIR.org, 6/1/02, 11/1/05, 4/1/13, 2/22/19). But with President Donald Trump’s latest tightening of sanctions, and signs of a build-up to a long-rumored invasion (Fox News, 2/27/19), the media’s Venezuela-baiting has been turned up to 11.

The political right is uniting with establishment Democrats in denouncing presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for his supposedly pro-dictatorship stance on Venezuela. And the media are piling on.

Bernie Sanders tweets (1/24/19) on Venezuela.

Yet Sanders’ statements on the Venezuelan crisis were quite critical of President Nicolás Maduro, saying his 2018 re-election was a vote “many observers said was fraudulent.”  He condemned his “violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society,” and insisted “humanitarian aid” be allowed in the country. He has consistently maintained a strongly adversarial position to Venezuela, calling Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez a “dead Communist dictator.”

In fact, the 2018 Venezuelan elections were watched over and endorsed as free by over 150 international observers, although media uniformly ignored those bothersome facts (FAIR.org, 5/23/18). It should also be noted that “civil society” is not a neutral, but a highly loaded term (FAIR.org, 1/31/19). In a study of over 500 articles across a 20-year period, I found that the term was used exclusively to refer to the light-skinned US-backed Venezuelan elite, and never once to the largely black, largely working-class groups who support the government.

The UN and Red Cross have also rejected the US “aid” Sanders demands be let in as politically motivated, and have long worked closely with the Venezuelan government in supplying and distributing genuine international aid across the country. Moreover, the McClatchy DC bureau (2/7/19) has already exposed how weapons are being smuggled into the country from the US. Thus, the senator’s statements echoed and supported many of Trump, John Bolton and Elliott Abrams’ discredited regime change talking points.

But at the same time, Sanders stopped short of openly endorsing the Trump administration’s attempt to overthrow the Maduro government, warning, “We must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups—as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil & the DR.”

Some in the establishment applauded Sanders’ position. In a Foreign Policy essay headlined “The Left Keeps Getting Venezuela Wrong” (1/28/19), writer James Bloodworth distinguished Sanders from left politicians like Ilhan Olmar and Tulsi Gabbard who supposedly “favor dictators—as long as they mouth anti-American platitudes”:

It’s possible to oppose US interventionism without making further excuses for the dictatorship in Caracas. The unequivocal statements put out by US Sen. Bernie Sanders make a nonsense of the idea that the left has some duty to protect dictators simply because they purport to be socialists.

(Bloodworth has turned Venezuela-baiting Western politicians into a career, writing the same article for years—Spectator, 11/23/13; London Independent, 2/19/14; International Business Times, 7/4/17; New Statesman, 8/2/17; Huffington Post, 5/22/18.)

The Washington Post (1/31/19) scolds Bernie Sanders for not recognizing “the fading of US will to topple toxic regimes.”

Yet most corporate media coverage condemned Sanders’ position as a shameful, slavish support of a dictatorship. The Wall Street Journal (1/28/19) attacked the senator for worrying about “regime change”:

Regime change is exactly what the people of Venezuela want. Bernie is siding with the dictator, who survives in power only because of the military and Cuban intelligence.

The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl (1/31/19) wrote that Sanders was “poorly informed” and “dead wrong” about Venezuela, since in Diehl’s view the “US has avoided full-scale confrontation with Venezuela” for decades—ignoring Washington’s support for overthrowing the Venezuelan government going back at least to 2002, and devastating sanctions that have crippled Venezuela’s oil industry and access to credit.

The Washington Examiner (2/21/19) wrote of the senator’s “choking immorality” and “rank hypocrisy” for refusing to call for the removal of Maduro, aka “the child butcher of Venezuela.” The Miami Herald (2/1/19) began an article, “Shame on you, Bernie Sanders!”—claiming that, by “parroting a dictator’s propaganda,” he was doing Trump a favor by driving voters to the president’s supposedly more sensible position on the country.

Politico (2/21/19) increased the pressure on Sanders, claiming he could not be the Democratic nominee while endorsing a “dictator,” giving free rein to multiple sources to attack him for his supposedly “disgusting,” “clueless” and “extremely ignorant” comments, which proved “he is not going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party” because “he does not understand this situation.”

Politico presented Maduro as an isolated tyrant and the White House’s regime change position as common sense. In a nod to balance, it did inform readers that countries like North Korea, Syria, Iran and Russia opposed the plan. It did not inform readers that states such as Norway, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico and South Africa, nations that are not continually demonized in the US media, also recognize Maduro’s government.

Wolf Blitzer (CNN, 2/26/19) questions Bernie Sanders on his failure to use the approved propaganda term when condemning Nicolás Maduro.

For over a month, the media have continued to pursue Sanders with the same question. Sanders was grilled live at a town hall by Wolf Blitzer on February 25 (CNN, 2/26/19): “Why have you stopped short of calling Maduro of Venezuela a dictator?” the journalist demanded.

In reality, 75 percent of the world’s countries have rejected the US position that Juan Guaidó is the legitimate president of Venezuela, according to a study by Venezuelanalysis (2/6/19). The UN has formally condemned the US sanctions, with a UN special rapporteur comparing them to a “medieval siege” and declaring the US guilty of “crimes against humanity” (London Independent, 1/26/19). These inconvenient truths that form the basis for international understanding of the situation have not been reported by the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC or other national news outlets.

International opinion, never in favor of the US, is fast turning actively hostile to Trump’s plans, most of which are tacitly or explicitly endorsed by Sanders. The US was excoriated at a UN Security Council meeting (2/26/19), while the unity of the Lima Group—a collection of right-wing Latin American states created by Washington with the express intention of regime change in Venezuela—is disintegrating. Even Brazil’s fascist government has backed away from Trump’s military build-up, stating under no circumstances would it be part of an invasion (The Hill, 2/25/19). Other key partners like Colombia, Chile and Peru made similar statements, while important European allies Spain and Germany have categorically rejected the military option (Guardian, 2/25/19). Thus, in trying to isolate Venezuela, the extreme position the US has taken has virtually isolated itself.

Nevertheless, the media continue to heap pressure on Sanders to conform to Washington’s aggressive foreign policy, deemed too extreme even for far-right governments like Brazil to countenance. Despite his denouncing Maduro and backing the US’s dubious “humanitarian” demands, his reminder that the US has a record of “inappropriately intervening in Latin American nations” appears to be too much for columnists and TV anchors to accept.

In their seminal study of the media, Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky argued that there is an all-pervading anti-socialist secular religion in the press. They noted that leftists at home are constantly accused of supporting the “atrocities” of “socialist” countries, keeping them permanently on the defensive and demanding they support reactionary policies abroad in order to prove their democratic credentials.

The London Telegraph (2/4/19) demonstrates that Venezuela-baiting is a handy tool on either side of the Atlantic.

So useful is Venezuela-baiting that it is being used around the world to chide leftist politicians into supporting regime change. The Daily Telegraph (2/4/19) claimed that “the tragedy of Venezuela” shows how “dangerous” UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is, while the Daily Express (2/5/19) accused Corbyn of “moral bankruptcy” for his failure to sufficiently denounce Maduro. Meanwhile, leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been condemned for his failure to support those “fighting for a democratic Venezuela” (Ekathimerini, 2/7/19).

Sanders has faced similar baiting before, over his position on Russia—another official enemy. Despite consistently endorsing the Russiagate narrative and condemning President Vladimir Putin for interfering in US elections, he was constantly attacked as a Russian puppet himself (FAIR.org, 7/27/18). The Washington Post (11/12/17) asked its readers, “When Russia interferes with the 2020 election on behalf of Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders, how will liberals respond?”

The reality is that nothing but complete capitulation to this extractive right-wing tactic will be accepted. Redbaiting is a time-honored technique of enforcing discipline by directing flak for those who step outside the range of “respectable” opinion. Sanders should know this; he once shared a stage with Chomsky (5/20/85), introducing the professor’s  lecture on how the US media distort the image of Latin American countries as a first step towards military intervention. They also attempt to destroy and defame anyone not sufficiently excited by the prospect of regime change in America’s “backyard.”

The post Venezuela-Baiting: How Media Keep Anti-Imperialist Dissent in Check appeared first on Infoshop News.

Páginas