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Reflections on the Student Movement in the UK

dim, 08/18/2019 - 20:27

via Libcom

by Internationalist Communist Tendency

The Students

Between 1965 and 1975, under the recommendations of the Robbins Report, university provision in the UK was extended, colleges of advanced technology were turned into universities, and the first generation of students from working class backgrounds entered higher education. When campus unrest broke out in 1968, sections of the British ruling class blamed it on the pace of the student intake (and the “quality” of the new students – by which they meant the class origins of the new cohort, even though most of the working class students were either conservative defenders of meritocracy, or thought middle class student activists were just “playing games”). At the time, full-time student numbers were still below 200,000.

In 1992 a Conservative government transformed former polytechnics into universities, nearly doubling the number of higher education institutions. In 1998 a Labour government first introduced tuition fees, and in 2006 the cap was raised to £3,000. At first glance, it might seem that tuition fees would act as a damper on student intake, however the opposite was the case. A range of grants, loans and bursaries were made available to entice students from low-income backgrounds to apply to university. Since 2010 and the tripling of tuition fees to £9,000, a three-year degree can now entail more than £50,000 of debt (and rising with inflation), but most of it will never be repaid – the average annual starting wage for graduates is estimated to be £19-22,000, while the threshold for repayment has just risen to £25,000 a year.

Today, there are around 2.3 million students studying in the UK (the majority of whom are undergraduates – 1.7 million), spread out over 164 higher education institutions. As Robbins foresaw, mass education has largely replaced elite education (recent attempts to “protect the value of degrees” by fining universities which hand out “too many” top degrees, or suggestions to introduce degree “quotas”, highlight this contradiction at the heart of higher education). Since 2017, 49% of 17-30 year olds in the UK will go on to higher education (this percentage has steadily risen since 2006, except for a brief fall in 2011-3 coinciding with the tripling of tuition fees). While socially universities remain the domain of the bourgeoisie (those from the “most advantaged backgrounds” are 2.4 times more likely to enter higher education than their “most disadvantaged peers”), the entry rate for students from the most disadvantaged areas is now higher than ever at 19.7% in 2018 (again, a rate which has continued to rise since 2006).1

The class position of students is not straightforward. Despite some 60% of students working while at university – often in minimum wage, part-time jobs in the service industry or the gig economy – for many this is a temporary condition. Unemployment among graduates is relatively low, standing at 5.1% six months after leaving university (as opposed to 10.4%, the UK youth unemployment rate). Student underemployment and precarity however is high (a quarter of graduates end up working jobs which do not require a degree). All this is to say that the image of the student as a violent bourgeois scab during the 1926 general strike is no longer the norm – the student body, since the 60s, has its own proletarian and bourgeois wings, even if both are distorted by middle class aspirations and liberal political perspectives (enforced by academia itself). The student condition is that of being in a state of transition, and where sections of the student body lie on the class divide comes out most clearly during class struggle.

Higher education is now an industry which generates more than £90 billion in gross output, universities compete for funding on a market of teaching and research metrics, student numbers keep on growing, while a workforce of increasingly precarious staff (many on temporary and zero-hours contracts) remains divided by profession, outsourcing, and union membership (e.g. solidarity between lecturers and cleaners during disputes remains uncommon and limited in scope). For a brief moment however, in 2010-1, it looked as if students were in the vanguard of opposition to cuts and capitalist austerity and could actually pose a challenge to the marketisation of higher education.

The Movement

The explosion of November 2010 was defined by the storming of Millbank Tower (at the time the Conservative Campaign Headquarters), but more importantly it gave birth to a wide range of political networks and student occupations at campuses across the country.2 In April 2009 David Cameron first spoke of the coming “age of austerity”, and in the June 2010 budget George Osborne announced extensive public spending cuts. Two other announcements followed. First, the Browne Review called for the £3,000 a year tuition fees cap to be lifted. Then a plan to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), an allowance of up to £30 a week paid out to further education students (16-19 year old) from poorer households. Discontent was growing on campuses and at colleges, with the formation of more local anti-cuts networks as well as national networks, like the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC). It culminated in a national demonstration, called by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the UCU, which overwhelmed both the organisers and the police, unprepared for the scale of the protest.

On 10 November 2010, 50,000 youth from universities, sixth-forms and colleges across the country protested in London over austerity, the tripling of tuition fees and the scrapping of the EMA. Effigies and placards were set ablaze, while thousands of students broke away from the main march and surrounded Millbank, chanting “Greece! France! Now here too!” as they broke through police lines and stormed the Tower. The UK had not seen such scenes in a long time – the NUS decried it as “violence by a tiny minority”, and hand in hand with the media blamed it on “anarchist” infiltrators. The protests continued on through November and into December, but the police made sure to prevent another Millbank, through violence, mass arrests and kettling. Students were beaten off the streets, while both the £9,000 fees and the scrapping of the EMA were voted through. In the end, while it revealed the true face of the state, the spectacle of Millbank failed to achieve anything. In November 2012 the NUS organised another national demonstration, but it only gathered some 10,000. These national demonstrations, sometimes called by the NUS, sometimes by the NCAFC, became an annual event until 2017 when numbers fell to just 1,000.

While student unrest disappeared from the public eye in the aftermath of the 2011 London riots3, the local student networks kept on going. These networks were much stronger at Russell Group universities as opposed to former polytechnics, but throughout 2011-3 they were instrumental in creating alternative spaces for discussion, often with at least a sense of “anti-capitalist” intention and engagement with Marxism, while also organising local protests and occupations. Inspired by the 2012 Quebec student strike which spread beyond the campus, student activists in the UK increasingly realised that in order for their actions to have impact they had to be grounded in workers’ struggle. Students began to oppose redundancies, outsourcing, and pay cuts. They joined picket lines and supported the campaigns of smaller unions in London like the IWGB or the Pop-Up Union in Sussex. To understand the limitations of these student networks, and how by 2015 most had dissolved or were eaten up by the Labour Party, we need to look at the role of the left of capital within them.

The Left of Capital

The strongest political current among students was, without a doubt, Trotskyism. In the course of the student movement, groups like the SWP, SPEW, Socialist Appeal and the AWL managed to build a presence on many campuses. They formed their own student societies through which they recruited students into their organisations and, more or less critically, reinforced the idea that working within the “labour movement” (i.e. the Labour Party and the trade unions) should be the primary orientation for young socialists. They funnelled members of student networks into standing in student union elections and trying to “transform” the NUS (the same tactic they apply to the Labour Party and the trade unions). The alternative was anarchism, a tendency which saw a period of popularity after Millbank, but often in a caricatured form. The young anarchists were prone to localism and fetishised direct action and democratisation. In groups like the NCAFC, which sought to unite the different student networks towards a common goal, these tendencies clashed (Trotskyists vs. Trotskyists, anarchists vs. Trotskyists, etc.). Interest in anarchism however waned pretty fast and did not translate into a real membership swell for the existing anarchist organisations, leaving Trotskyism as almost the only game in town for students looking for revolutionary perspectives. Initiatives like the NCAFC were entirely lost to Labour and NUS entryism.

Since the gradual decline of the student movement, the student networks that existed gave way to single issue campaigns again (environmentalism, feminism, divestment, anti-racism, LGBT, etc.), a tendency compatible with the soft-spot for immediatism and decentralisation common among anarchists but now stripped of any anti-reformist framework. Meanwhile, many former student activists have found a new home, and a career path, in the bureaucracy of the Labour Party, the trade unions, groups like Acorn and liberal NGOs – and are well on their way to becoming future managers of capitalist society (like the Cohn-Bendits and Sanders’ of the past). In other words, with few exceptions, both anarchism and Trotskyism tended to reinforce middle class aspirations and liberal political perspectives (by encouraging either direct action reformism or institutional reformism). It should be no surprise then that when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in 2015, and promised to rethink tuition fees and restore maintenance grants, so many student radicals of all colours, even anarchists, rallied around him (just as they had previously rallied around the Liberal Democrats and then the Greens).

While a tiny section of the student movement have come to realise that capitalism has nothing to offer them and that struggle has to be carried outside of the existing structures (trade unions and parliamentary parties), the majority have not. Others still have simply become disillusioned with politics in general. For around seven years (2010-7) students kept on marching under the same slogans of “free education now”, “tax the rich”, “grants not debt”, “no fees, no cuts, no debt” to little or no effect. Petitions were signed, pleas were made, banners were dropped. Even rent strikes and mass pickets were tried, but the illusion that the education system can be reformed in the interest of “students and workers” was never dispelled. The term “socialism”, so popular nowadays4, was never properly understood. While students knew what they were “against”, there was little agreement about what they were “for”.

What next?

Not all is lost. The fight for free education and against cuts and marketisation was only a beginning. As the 2018 strike of lecturers showed, a new generation of students has absorbed a sense of class consciousness from previous years and recognises their interests as that of workers.5 However, the old illusions – in reforming the Labour Party and the trade unions – have not gone away. Arguably, with Corbyn at the head of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, these illusions are now stronger than before. Inevitably, contradictions within the education system or world events, aggravated by nearly 50 years of economic crisis, will spark student unrest again. In the meantime, through groups of internationalists at campuses and colleges which encourage the autonomy of workers’ struggle, what class conscious students can do is learn from the mistakes of the 2010 student movement, escape the student ghetto (and its leftist student societies) and begin to formulate a political alternative to capitalism which that movement failed to do. With trade and currency wars threatening extended imperialist wars, as in the Gulf today, and with climate change competing with that threat in a race towards human extinction, the time to start building an international anti-capitalist political organisation of the working class is now. If you are interested in being part of this, or are already in a group with similar aims, get in touch and enter into discussion with us.


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  • 2. Some of these networks had been in existence since early 2009, when the Gaza War galvanised students into occupying more than 20 universities, initially to condemn the Israeli attacks and demand divestment from the arms trade, but soon taking aim at other issues such as marketisation of higher education/
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The post Reflections on the Student Movement in the UK appeared first on Infoshop News.

What the hell is going on in Kashmir at the moment?

dim, 08/18/2019 - 20:15

via Freedom News

The short answer is, we don’t really know an awful lot about what’s going on in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. There’s the media, internet and telephone network blackout, which is frightening in itself especially if you have family or friends in the region. But if your question is, what is it that’s led up to the recent events over there that you’ve heard about on the news, here’s a simple and (relatively) brief introduction.

It goes further back than this, but let’s start with 1947.  That year saw the end of British rule and the partition of India (majority Hindu) and Pakistan (majority Muslim). Under the partition plan of the Indian Independence Act, the maharaja (local leader) at the time, Hari Singh, was able to choose whether to accede to India or Pakistan. He chose India and the two countries went to war with each other, resulting in (for practical purposes) the partition of Jammu and Kashmir, although both countries claim it to be fully theirs.

In 1951, China slowly occupied eastern Kashmir and, in 1962, China and India went to war, in which China was the victor. India and Pakistan went to war again over the region in 1965, ending in a ceasefire; and again briefly in 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir, ending with India taking back Kargil. The 1980s and 1990s saw escalations of pro-independence insurgency, with widespread violence against civilians by both sides. Over the last twenty years there have been attempts at peace talks punctuated by protests and further violent incidents.

Since the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which is Hindu nationalist in nature, led by Narendra Modi, came to power in 2014, there have been more protests (for example, over the often violently-enforced ban on eating beef, a divisive and discriminatory law dating back to colonial times); violent flare-ups including the burning of schools; many deaths and thousands injured (both soldiers and civilians) on the contested border; the imposition of a curfew in most parts of Indian-administered Kashmir after security forces killed Burhan Wani, a popular militant and commander of Kashmiri separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen, which led to violent protests; the evacuation of thousands from villages in Pakistani-administered Kashmir after seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in violence on the Line of Control (ceasefire line); and more attacks, including the killing of seven Hindu pilgrims in 2017.

The most recent development that you may have heard about is that the Indian government has stripped the state of Jammu and Kashmir of its “special status”, meaning that its autonomy is being taken away.

So why’s this happening now and why does it matter?

The BJP claims that stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy is the correction of a “historical error”. The BJP’s general secretary, Chikkamagaravalli Thimme Gowda Ravi, has condemned Section 370 for creating a “perception” that India and Kashmir are separate entities thereby leading to “terrorist activities” and insisting that “Kashmir is an integral part of India”. Pakistan, of course, disagrees with this assertion.

In early August 2019, vast numbers of Indian troops were deployed, tourists were ordered to leave and pilgrimages were cancelled, schools were closed and communication lines shut down, so it’s been clear something was going on. There was speculation and concern in the press that Article 35A of the Indian constitution, which is part of Section 370 and deals with the privileges given to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, was to be scrapped. The BJP then made the shock announcement on Monday of this week that it was in fact repealing most of Section 370, which has been the main thing holding Kashmir’s fragile and complex relationship with India together.

Modi and the BJP have been against Section 370 for a long time, claiming that provisions made under it were only ever meant to be temporary; it was in the party’s 2019 election manifesto to revoke it, claiming that this would be a necessary step in order to bring progress and development to Kashmir, to integrate the region into the rest of India and bring it into line with the rest of the country. The general elections in April/May of this year saw the BJP decisively re-elected with a large mandate so it has quickly set about delivering on its promise. But the announcement itself came as a shock to many because although the process must have been underway for a long time, it was ultimately done in secrecy and under a media blackout.

It matters because this surely isn’t the way to do things in a democracy. It matters because Section 370 allowed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to do things like have its own constitution, make its own laws and rules about who can settle and live there permanently, who can own property and so forth. Many people believe that the Home Minister’s announcement in parliament on Monday is intended as a distraction from other problems, such as the slowing economy; and furthermore, that the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, is pushing to change the demographic character of the currently majority-Muslim region by forcing a change in who can settle and buy property there (i.e. to include non-Kashmiris) and to prove that it takes a tough position on Kashmir – and on Pakistan.

The removal of J&K’s special status means that the state will no longer be able to have its own constitution and will have to fall in line with the Indian constitution like all other states. This mightn’t sound like a big deal on the face of it, to many of us in the diaspora, or to people who have no connection to or little knowledge of the long-running dispute, and of course those of us who are anarchists would like to see the abolition of property and borders; but bear in mind that most of us are in the very privileged position of not living in a warzone, where simply having an Indian or Pakistani name, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or just having an opinion on the matter, can put our lives and our families’ lives in danger. It’s important to note here that Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim state and the BJP is a Hindu nationalist party which takes a discriminatory and often violently oppositional stance towards India’s Muslim population and towards Pakistan.

A bill has been passed by parliament so that it looks likely that, assuming all goes to the government’s plan, the state will soon be partitioned into two parts, to be federally administered: one region would combine predominantly-Hindu Jammu and the predominantly-Muslim Kashmir valley, which would have its own legislature, while the other region would be predominantly-Buddhist Ladakh, to be ruled by central government directly with no legislature of its own. Fears have been expressed that Kashmir could become a lot like Palestine.

Others in parliament are divided over the issue. Some, such as Delhi’s AAP (Aam Admni Party), support the repeal of Section 370, while others have voiced their vehement disagreement; Palaniappan Chidambaram of the opposition Indian National Congress Party, for example, has described the move as “a fatal legal error” and “the beginning of the disintegration of India”, while Mehbooba Mufti (until June last year the chief minister in the Jammu and Kashmir region) has described this as “the darkest day in Indian democracy”. China too has condemned the move, calling it “unacceptable”.

The legality of the move is questionable too. Any amendment to Section 370 must, according to the Indian constitution, be agreed by the “state government” – but there hasn’t been much of one in Jammu and Kashmir for well over a year, since the government was reduced to a minority and federal rule was imposed by India. The BJP – of course – claims all this is within its rights and that such decisions (without consulting the state’s lawmakers) in such situations are not unprecedented. Constitutional experts, however, are not in agreement over the issue and have directly contradicted each other.

Of course, as you can probably tell by now, Kashmir is a political hot potato, so although opposition parties could launch a legal challenge, many are afraid of being accused of being “anti-India” and of political suicide. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has declared that he will fight what he has described as a breach of international law, expressing concern that this will lead to ethnic cleansing of Kashmir by India and suggesting that he could take it to the UN security council and Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has mentioned seeking assistance from the U.S. None of this, of course, precludes a legal challenge coming from independent groups or individual activists.

So what about this media and communications blackout?

Mobile and landline telephone networks, social media and the internet were locked down a couple of days ago (Sunday 4th August 2019) and at time of writing communications are still down; local leaders, including Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah (former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers) and Sajad Lone (chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference party) have been arrested. Tens of thousands of troops are now patrolling the streets and a curfew has been imposed. The justification given for these draconian measures is that there are concerns that the revocation of Section 370 may lead to large protests and violent unrest by those already unhappy with Indian rule.

Some news is being communicated from Jammu and Kashmir via the few working landlines in the region. However, people are mostly unable to communicate and of course, given the long, turbulent history of insurgency/counter-insurgency, suppression of populations and violence against citizens (tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed since 1989), people are now fearing for the safety of friends and family in the area. People have been queuing up at cash machines and petrol stations in panic and Eid celebrations planned for next week look likely to be cancelled given the tense situation.

What about the Kashmiris? It’s hard to tell what they think because of the communications lock-down, although there are certain things it’s fairly safe to guess at – the alarm and fear, the sense of injustice, anger and betrayal, for example – but politically, it’s currently difficult to know what the general mood is without making assumptions. Furthermore, with the media blackout, it’s uncertain how aware people there can actually be of the discussions going on in parliament hundreds of miles away about their future, which hardly bodes well for democratic process; and neither does the fact that government can so summarily disregard the will of the approximately 13 million people of Jammu and Kashmir and lock up their representatives in what is supposed to be a democracy bode well for the safety of the common citizen. If the government can do this to Jammu and Kashmir, what – and who – will be next?


Correction 14/08: Jammu and Kashmir are set to become a union territory rather than a state. This means less authonomy and fewer rights.


The post What the hell is going on in Kashmir at the moment? appeared first on Infoshop News.

The Struggle for Hawaiian Decolonization Erupts to Protect Maunakea

sam, 08/17/2019 - 16:10

via Center for a Stateless Society

by Sam Dunkovich

Over the past few weeks, the topic of indigenous self-determination and the decolonization of US-occupied lands has re-emerged, not only with the protests against neoliberal austerity in Puerto Rico, but also in less-covered protests by indigenous Hawaiians and allies on Maunakea. What’s occurring on Maunakea could very well be considered the next DAPL protest, as what native people are fighting against is the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) destined to be built on the sacred mountain of Maunakea. Not only is it an environmental affront, like the DAPL, but it is also a continuation of the legacy of the settler-colonial empire under neoliberal capitalism.

The current struggle started with a decree on July 15th by Hawaiian Gov. David Ige that construction would commence for the TMT. In response, kūpuna (elders) of the Big Island set up a blockade to prevent construction materials from reaching the mountain cap. Two days went by without issue and then, on July 17th, the state sent in police officers to arrest these activists, arresting 35 elders many of whom were in their 70s and 80s, with some needing to use wheelchairs or walkers.

In response to this state crackdown by police, the struggle has not only expanded across Hawaii, but into the mainland United States as well, where over 250,000 native Hawaiians live. Government buildings and offices have been occupied by Hawaiians and supporters, while over 1,000 people took to the streets in protest in Waikiki. A camp has also been set up at Pu’u Huluhulu, located at the base of the Maunakea access road. There are several thousand currently in the camp, and the activists have even received some celebrity support, including a visit from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The camp has been able to support not only shared food and transport services, but also to set up a free Pu’u Huluhulu University with over 20 courses covering topics such as the Hawaiian language, history, health, and gender studies.

Despite the massive demonstrations by indigenous people for self-determination and control of their ancestral land, the governor has not backed down, instead going so far to spread rumors that protestors were using drugs and alcohol, perpetuating a long-standing trope used to stigmatize indigenous people. The reality is that the camp has a no drugs or alcohol policy.

While many white mainlander transplants and scientists have argued this is anti-progress and anti-science, the reality is that Hawaiians, who have already lost so much of their land and culture to American colonization (and subsequent illegal annexation), are fighting for the right to control and access ancestral land. Hawaiians have suffered massive losses of their historical practices through banning of Hawaiian culture the and mass influx of Christian missionaries, but also the seizure of native land by the US government, military bases, billionaire elites, mega-farms, and hotel mega complexes. This ongoing land theft is reflected in the high rates of indigenous poverty.

Despite all of these challenges, the fight has helped to rekindle a sense of native pride and has mobilized global support from students and faculty urging universities to pull support for the TMT. Indigenous groups across the United States are protesting in solidarity, and the Spanish Government has even offered the immediate construction of the telescope on the Canary Islands instead, which has the same desirable attributes for a telescope site as Maunakea. On, over 46,000 people have called for the resignation of Governor Ige. Across the world, we are seeing indigenous people fight back against the US empire and, if Puerto Rico is any signifier, there are many more victories to come.

Note: If you’re interested in following this topic, follow @puuhuluhulu on twitter and their Facebook page.

The post The Struggle for Hawaiian Decolonization Erupts to Protect Maunakea appeared first on Infoshop News.

No Citizens: Abolishing Borders Beyond the Nation-State

sam, 08/17/2019 - 15:45

via Center for a Stateless Society

by Leif J.

The very existence of borders is one of the founding injustices of this world. Most of us recognize this implicitly, and I won’t spend too much time here trying to argue what’s been clearly argued by generations of anarchists: Borders and citizenship are constitutive elements of the nation-state, and as such must be overturned and overcome. Governments depend on the existence of a defined territory in which to exercise a monopoly on force. Likewise, they lay claim to a specific, limited population which they call “citizens” and set against the citizenry of neighboring states. Borders and citizenship define the “outside” against which statist conceptions of identity are always contrasted. Anarchists, then, have two easy angles from which to think about borders. Firstly, the freedom we are working toward necessarily includes freedom of mobility. Secondly, national borders — as constitutive elements of the state — are a powerful target for attack, sites where the impossibility of the nation-state is constantly visible, where migrants and others are constantly undermining state power. While the border is, has been, and hopefully always will be an impossibility, a fiction imposed by state planners on a world much too resistant and messy to be divided in these ways, it is also a key site where the state struggles to impose a particular version of order. It is crucial that we work to undermine both these physical borders and the logics that underpin them.

At this moment, the latest in a long string of state-created “border crises,” along with calls for the abolition of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), has brought forth myriad images of the future of human mobility in North America, both hopeful and totalitarian. Against this backdrop, it’s important not to lose sight of our goals. In the past decades, “the border,” which we imagined as a line in desert dividing the U.S. from Mexico has changed shape, morphing into broad enforcement zones that extend throughout Mexico and far into the U.S. The border is now effectively everywhere, as a sorting device which divides citizens and noncitizens. Since the first U.S. “border policy” was enacted in the Chinese Exclusion Act, this divide has always been about race, and the current frenzy around citizenship and belonging is no different. In the U.S., the border is at work in every airport, in freeway checkpoints far from any territorial boundary, in ICE bus sweeps and workplace raids – and of course in the hands of the police as they cooperate with immigration enforcement. In some places, border controls can also be activated through obligatory and seemingly innocuous bureaucratic procedures: Meetings with school officials, hospital administrators, and other elements of the state become opportunities for control. When we say we’re against borders, we of course mean that we oppose all of this – that we work against the whole apparatus that divides those inside a line from those outside it.

This much, at least, should not be controversial. Going further, however, it must be emphasized that to undermine the national border is not enough. This is harder for many people, anarchists and otherwise, to recognize: Localism has a powerful hold on the Left, and responses to the exclusions inherent in citizenship often rest on the assertion of (local) belonging for migrants. However, our responses to nation-state borders too often propose urban, local, or regional arrangements that recreate the problem at different scales. In contrast, our opposition to borders must be firmly cosmopolitan in the truest sense of the word: Working in opposition to legalized belonging, and in favor of free association and the right to mobility. Anarchists need a real critique of borders at all scales.

No Sanctuary: Urban citizenship can’t save us 

One common response to the rising tides of nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment has been the establishment of certain urban centers as “sanctuary” cities. Often, this includes promises of non-cooperation with federal immigration enforcement on the part of local police, and may also include the provision of identifying documentation to noncitizens and undocumented people intended to enable smooth interactions with the local state. In some cases, state, city, or university governments make explicit attempts to make undocumented populations unintelligible to state authorities by ensuring that they are undistinguishable from the documented population. At the same time, pledges of noncooperation are seldom as comprehensive as they could be. Moments like the Oakland / SF mayor’s official warning of imminent raids, the Madison WI mayor’s less-strong solidarity efforts in 2018, or the Chicago mayor’s recent declaration of noncooperation with immigration authorities are few and far between. Regardless, in many cases local police are compelled by higher legal orders to cooperate with federal enforcement.

It is important to recognize the value in these strategies as policy changes with explicit, positive effects for undocumented people and noncitizens generally: Sanctuary city policies shield many – potentially millions – of undocumented people from immigration enforcement. At the same time, however, they functionally serve to re-scale citizenship from the nation-state to the city, creating a new conception of urban citizenship. Amidst one of the most hostile legal climates for immigrants in modern history, this may be a strategically valuable move to protect communities pending the total abolition of borders and citizenship. Nevertheless, it seems necessary to clarify that the negative aspects of citizenship are not diminished by their reframing at the local level.

First, it’s worth noting that the localization of immigration policy creates local borders and threatens noncitizens and migrants more often it protects them. Migration policy research finds that 70% of locally-created immigration policy is restrictive rather than protective. While we like to point to examples of sanctuary, local governments often look for ways to expand or move beyond federal control of immigrants, and often these grassroots responses are more explicitly racist than is possible on the national stage – even under the current regime.

Second, and more importantly, it’s crucial to recognize that there is nothing inherent in the nation-state that differentiates it from government taking place at other scales. To illustrate this, it’s useful to think beyond U.S. and European state strategies to control migration. While urban China may seem far from the U.S.-Mexico border, the strategies that are currently being employed by the nominally socialist state to “manage” the movement of over 120 million workers – most of whom are coming from poor rural communities – look surprisingly familiar, despite the fact that the migrants in question will likely never cross a nation-state boundary. Migrants, many of whom are moving from impoverished farming communities to urban centers to work in low-paying industries, are a legally separated class, unable to access many core city services including compulsory education and healthcare subsidies.

In late 2017, Beijing embarked on a campaign explicitly focused on driving migrants out of the city, in part by demolishing residential areas with high migrant populations, with minimal warning and no relocation plans. Under existing legal structures, formal urban citizenship in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangdong is unobtainable for the vast majority of migrants who make up anywhere between 35 and 80 percent of the population of those cities. Even being born in the city is of no help, as second generation migrants retain their parents’ status. In the words of a friend, the only viable ways to obtain true urban citizenship are through marriage or by becoming rich. Beyond this contemporary example, there are numerous others – from South African apartheid to the history of redlining in American cities – that demonstrate the feasibility and dire impact of the construction of borders at scales other than that of the nation-state.

At the very least, the existence of bounded cities should give us pause when considering cities as a key scale at which to create liberatory polities. While it is hard to imagine political borders being drawn around San Francisco that could create a full apartheid barrier between the city and, say, Oakland (or Wyoming), there is nothing inherent to city government that makes it less exclusive, or less oppressive, than the current U.S. Federal Government. Schemes that provide urban or localized citizenship benefits regardless of national migration status can be helpful to migrants, but nonetheless replicate a logic of geographically exclusive belonging and exclusion that is hard to get away from without doing away with the concept of citizenship entirely.

Fractal Borders: What direction does the barbed wire face? 

Some greek anarchists recently coined a phrase that’s worth considering from two angles: All Cops Are Borders. On one hand, it’s true that interactions with the police are the primary way undocumented people in the U.S. and much of Europe end up in deportation proceedings, and cops are indeed key elements of the border system. Police cooperation is what allowed the Obama administration to deport more people from the U.S. than Bush, and these cooperative agreements are still operating under Trump, even as ICE spools up increasingly brutal and widespread raids of workplaces and communities.

At the same time, the police form another kind of boundary line, as an occupation force that kills and exiles poor people and people of color throughout the U.S. On paper, the state’s legal framework differentiates between deportation and criminal sentencing: The first is supposedly a “non-punitive” measure, even as families are broken up and children exiled; the second is supposedly intended to rehabilitate. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see that the exile inherent in our vast prison system draws a boundary, legally and geographically isolating a large (and disproportionately black and brown) population from their friends and loved ones. In the end, both deportation and mass incarceration put specific populations on the wrong side of a fence.

It’s at this point that we can point to an idea about borders that many people should be able to understand intuitively: To understand the workings of power across space, we need no more than to look at the direction the barbed wire faces. While fencing along the southern border of the United States faces outward, for the supposed protection of the citizens residing on the inside and against threats originating outside state territorial boundaries, we should also recognize a border in the razor wire surrounding thousands of prison facilities nationwide. Abolitionist language commonly refers to inside-outside solidarity between those “inside” prisons and those “on the outside” in the free(er) space created for citizens, but we can also think of prisons as pockets of the “outside” scattered across state territory. Prisons are not, after all, “in” the society guarded by the state: Rather, they are precisely the places the state uses to exclude those whose existence challenges the order of law and capitalist property. Prison walls serve to keep those “outside the law” outside society.

To speak even more generally, it might be possible to map a cohesive topology of the fence that starkly divides “inside” from “out,” including not only national borders and prisons, but also the less noticeable but no less important architectural features of everyday life, from the gated community (used to isolate an island of wealth from surrounding poverty) to the fence in my own city that surrounds a public housing project, isolating it from the whiter, wealthier neighborhood that surrounds it. In each of these cases, the fence has a clear and visible direction: Keeping “outsiders” out of the world constructed by citizenship. While the intensities of enforcement differ, it’s useful to think of borders not as bright, clearly defined lines on maps dividing state territories, but rather closer to a set of nested and interlocking fractal spaces that replicates similar logics through space across multiple scales.

In this world, where all cops are borders, and spaces are criss-crossed by a fractal archipelago of visible and invisible fences, it is the responsibility of those of us on both sides of them to tear them all down, brick by brick. Just as border abolition is inextricably linked to prison abolition, prison abolition must include justice for the vast diaspora of those who have been separated from their friends, families, and communities by border enforcement. What follows are some preliminary notes on the construction of projects that could strive to undermine—and not to replicate—the world of fractal, interconnected borders that we face now.

Abolish Citizenship, Abolish Every Border

Anti-border work at multiple scales is a core strategic commitment for anarchist organizing. To oppose nation-state borders, however, is not enough. If we hope to build a prefigurative politics – one that begins now to build the new world in the always-crumbling shell of the old – it is necessary to find ways to think beyond the logic of the border. While it’s easy and clearly positive to directly attack the physical structure of the border (and really, we should be taking bolt cutters and dynamite to different fences every night until every physical border wall is demolished), the specter of citizenship and belonging haunts many of our conceptions of liberation. In statist political theory, citizenship is largely seen as an unalloyed positive: To be a citizen is to inhabit shared identity that brings “us” together, the foundation of the supposed “social contract,”  a set of mutual responsibilities, or even something that has been envisioned as close to anarchist concepts of affinity. Unlike affinity, however, the image of citizenship is impossible without an “outside” for citizens to define themselves against: Those who do not share the same state, those who are not covered by or who decide not to abide by the fiction of a “social contract” based on their own exploitation, or those who have not been considered human by those who defined citizenship and its exclusions.

The fact is, it’s not as easy as it should be to think about communities that are not based on a fundamental exclusion. This is partly a result of unavoidable issues of difference and distance. These are, currently, both undesirable and impossible to “overcome” or render inoperable. Still, it is easy to fall into the traps of border-thinking, and many of our more practical ideas of participation and community-building often tend to replicate the theoretical underpinnings of state citizenship.  Regardless of how cosmopolitan our intentions, the logic of our liberatory strategies are often informed by localism, regionalism, and the construction of (exclusive) community. Despite their attraction and momentary usefulness, these concepts tend to replicate the hierarchies of citizenship, in which the identity of those “inside” a community, collective, commune, or organization is defined through the exclusion of those on the outside.

Working Beyond Border Logics

There is no single piece of advice or toolkit for building movements, projects, or affinities that fully shake off borders. This is difficult work: On one hand, we aim to multiply difference rather than erase it – anarchist or not, the Zapatista framework of “un mundo en que quepan muchos mundos,” a world that might fit many worlds, carries a lot of water here. On the other hand, we are steadfastly against the creation of a more-intensive world of fractal borders, where balkanized militant subcultures jealously guard minuscule patches of physical or cultural real-estate. In the end, vigilant rejection of the logic of borders and citizenship may be the most powerful tool we have. Beyond these, however, I want to offer a few tools to consider as elements for anarchist action that aims not to replicate the logic of the border.

  • Affinity: Anarchists have been organizing along the lines of free association based on affinity for centuries. This is a well-worn concept, but it is also one that offers a powerful critique of the impulse to build and defend a stable, inflexible, and centralized organization which is to be defended against “outsiders” who can be assumed to have less stake in the piece of conceptual, cultural, or physical space occupied by a given project. At its best, organization based on affinity allows for open collaboration that recognizes and allows for difference. By focusing not on the valuation of group-members and devaluation of non-members, but rather on a simple question of affinity (or not) to the group’s common aim, the principle of affinity places limits on the ability of an inside-outside hierarchy to form. Ideally, a focus on specific affinities allows organizing to function across difference, and in fact become stronger through diversity. Nevertheless, our organizing often and regrettably fails to live up to these principles.
  • Solidarity: The classical conception of solidarity—that my liberation is bound up with yours, regardless of distance—is a profound tool for the recognition that the border is impossible. From inside-outside solidarity work by prison abolitionists, to the customary banner drops and spontaneous attacks on embassies in solidarity with anarchist prisoners near and far, to direct solidarity work with migrants braving desert and shipwreck, solidarity work at its best directly builds bridges across borders, and opens communities and projects to the possibility of life in common that is not bounded by conceptions of “us” and “them.” While we all must fight where we stand, it must be recognized that none of us stand in places that are not touched by vast networks of exploitation reaching around the world, and that if we want to win, our actions must allow this fact to shape the directions our struggles take.
  • Translation: There is no shortage of anarchist translation projects distributing texts internationally, but it is important to recognize the importance of building a broader culture of translation in the sense of working messily across difference, both linguistic and otherwise. Too often, “translation” is taken to mean an alchemical project taken on only by experts, by which crystallized meaning is transmuted as directly as possible from one purified and refined language to another. As anarchists, we need to shake this idea off. Translation in the sense we should strive for is the kind of messy communication that happens when we work together, attempting to understand and make ourselves understood, building a new language together in the process. Translation, undertaken as work across boundaries, is an invaluable tool in undermining both the logic of the border in its physical and political manifestations.

Many of us are already engaged in action against borders. On boats in the Mediterranean, in migrant camps throughout Mexico, in the deserts of the southern U.S. border, and at the gates of prisons worldwide, anarchists and anti-authoritarians are fighting for a world with free movement, without nation-states, and without the arbitrary lines they draw across land, families, and individual bodies. As we do this work and dream of futures where real affinity is possible, we must oppose not only the specific borders we face, but the common logic that underpins them. While we can only work from the positions we occupy – region, neighborhood, identity, or community – it is crucial to avoid turning to reactive, reactionary localism at any scale. When we build local communes, we can’t allow the logic of the border to seep into our organizing, positioning the commune in opposition to outsiders. When we work to build solidarity networks in urban neighborhoods, we have to remember not only to keep them open to everyone who lives there, regardless of state-defined citizenship status, but also to not recreate petty neighborhood nationalisms. Often, our actions already reflect these aspirations, building admirably open and flexible collectivities in opposition to the existing order of things. It is too easy, still, to fall into the traps of localist thinking, organizing for ourselves and not for outsiders. By ensuring that the work we do through affinity doesn’t congeal into rigid organizationalism, weaving principles of solidarity into everything we do, and emphasizing translation and translatability of our narratives of struggle wherever possible, we can only strengthen our movements, whether they are focused on migrant solidarity or not. Retreats to bounded localism, however, can only serve to strengthen the logic of the border.

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The revolution in Sudan is far from over

sam, 08/17/2019 - 13:24

via ROAR magazine

by Mohammed Elnaiem, Dr. Mohammed Abdelraoof


political agreement has been reached between the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) — the broad alliance of civil society and rebel groups leading the revolution in Sudan — and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) currently in power. For months, the two forces have been at a gridlock in negotiations.

As the representatives of the people in the streets, the FFC has a mandate to ensure a democratic transition. On the other side, the TMC — supported by UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — wants to block one. If the agreement is finally signed, the two groups will share power. History will judge whether or not the leaders of the revolution made the correct decision? We suspect this to be capitulation.

What are the vast majority of revolutionaries fighting for? A civilian government, freedom, peace and social justice. Who gives them strength? The martyrs of the struggle, those killed over the course of the 30-year dictatorship, and the hope that we may get justice for the price they paid. We do not believe this agreement will achieve the goals we have been fighting for and neither will it provide justice for the many victims of the regime.

Culture of impunity continues

The three-year transitional period has been sketched out in two documents, a political roadmap and a constitutional declaration. The parties have agreed upon three governing bodies to rule the country: the Sovereign Council, a council of ministers and a legislative council (parliament).

The Sovereign Council is most important to us; it is the supreme body tasked with assigning the Judiciary, representing the country, and appointing governors and mayors. It will be made up of 11 members; five FFC-appointed civilians, and five military men appointed by the TMC. One “neutral” member — a retired military official — will supposedly be the 11th member.

This is not the only concession that the FFC made; a military figure will also head the Sovereign Council for 21 months — most of the transitional period — while the civilians are granted only 18 months at the head of the council.

This flawed arrangement is supposed to kick off a peace process in the peripheries of the country with all of the armed movements, elevate the youth and women — though it does not explain how — and dismantle the deep state. It is hard to be hopeful that this agreement will achieve any of this.

When the FFC went to the negotiating table, they told their supporters that they were going to demand an investigation into the massacre of June 3, when hundreds of people were murdered, raped and thrown into the Nile. The brutality gained global attention, but the investigation eventually exonerated the TMC from any wrongdoing. It was an unsurprising outcome, given they investigated themselves. The FFC acted shocked; we were not.

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Appalachia’s Long, Proud Tradition of Labor Militancy

sam, 08/17/2019 - 02:16

via Teen Vogue

by Kim Kelly

Harlan County, Kentucky, may be one of labor’s most hallowed battlegrounds. Its soil has been soaked in the blood of union men and women time and time again since the early 20th century, when major labor disputes between miners and greedy mine operators roiled the area. Now, almost a century after the infamous Battle of Blair Mountain in neighboring West Virginia, one of the biggest and bloodiest class war uprisings in U.S. history, suffering Appalachian coal miners have taken matters into their own hands once again.

On July 29, about 50 coal miners in Cumberland, Kentucky, banded together to stop a moving train. They blocked the tracks, refusing to allow the train, carrying $1 million worth of coal, to pass, according to Newsweek. They did the same thing the next day, and the next — literally putting their bodies on the line. Their protest began because Blackjewel, the company where they had until recently been employed, filed for bankruptcy in early July without paying the approximately $5 million in back pay the company owes to 1,700 miners, an attorney for the group told CNN. The standoff has now stretched on for weeks. The miners are not only dealing with financial hardships, but are also in legal limbo, unable to access health care benefits or file for unemployment, Cumberland mayor Charles Raleigh told CNN. The community and local churches have pitched in to help, and a collective of local trans anarchist activists are on the ground providing mutual aid, but many miners are still struggling. The Blackjewel mine was reportedly not unionized, but its former workers have used the tried-and-true union tactic of collective action to fight for what they are owed.

In doing so they’ve become part of a long, proud tradition of Appalachian labor militancy. In 1921, 10,000 West Virginia coal miners seeking union recognition went to war with the mine operators who refused their right to organize. The dispute culminated in an armed five-day standoff in which strikebreakers and local, state, and federal authorities faced off with the miners (and some dropped bombs on their homes). This conflict became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain,, and the effect it had on the region’s strong culture of resistance continues to echo.

Less than a decade later, in the 1930s, the same region saw a series of violent clashes pitting coal miners and their union, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), against the mine operators blocking their unionizing efforts, and the bosses hired gun thugs. During that period, miners and union organizers in Kentucky were subject to extreme violence and intimidation from mine operators and law enforcement, and due to a rash of shootings and bombings the area earned the nickname “Bloody Harlan.” Forty years later, in 1973, miners at the Brookside Mine in Harlan County went on strike, and a young filmmaker named Barbara Kopple was on hand to capture the scene, which erupted into more bloodshed as the strike stretched to 13 months. The resulting documentary, Harlan County USA, is a classic of labor cinema, and an essential document in understanding Appalachia’s working-class history.

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Dozens Arrested as Over 1,000 Jewish Activists and Allies Shut Down Entrances to ICE Headquarters Demanding Closure of Trump Detention Camps

sam, 07/20/2019 - 23:27

via Common Dreams

by Jake Johnson

“It’s not just symbolic—we’re actually shutting down ICE,” said one organizer

Over a thousand progressive Jewish activists and allies on Tuesday shut down the entrances to ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. to protest President Donald Trump’s treatment of migrants and demand the closure of the administration’s detention camps.

As The Daily Beast reported, ICE employees “were forced to walk around the protesters, looking for ways to enter the building, as people outside caught glimpses of workers inside checking the doors.”

“We will not allow them to get to their destructive place of work,” said one activist who attended the demonstration, which was organized by Jewish advocacy group Never Again Action and immigrant rights campaigners with Movimiento Cosecha.

Protesters locked arms in the middle of the street leading to ICE headquarters and faced off with city police. Dozens of demonstrators were reportedly arrested during the action, which lasted around five hours.

“It’s not just symbolic—we’re actually shutting down ICE,” one organizer told Buzzfeed.

“More than a thousand Jews, immigrants, and allies shut down DHS/ICE headquarters for hours today,” wrote historian Angus Johnston. “This is a more significant development in the history of this administration than the House censure resolution.”

It’s a dark day in America when police are lined up against Jews protesting Concentration Camps.#JewsAgainstICE

— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) July 16, 2019

Protesters here are singing in Hebrew and Spanish, chanting and insisting they will not be moved. #DC police have blocked off the street outside #ICE headquarters, where a handful of protesters are dancing. No sign of arrests outside the building so far.

— Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) July 16, 2019

We are going to shut down business as usual until Congress shut down ICE. Don’t believe us? @NeverAgainActn @CosechaMovement

— Alyssa Rubin (@aly_mixed_up) July 16, 2019

On an overpass, activists unfurled a banner that addressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is under fire from progressives for approving Republican legislation that handed ICE and other immigration agencies $4.6 billion with no safeguards for migrant children, who are enduring horrific conditions inside Trump’s detention centers.

“Pelosi, never again is now. #DignityNotDetention,” the banner read.

The #JewsAgainstICE protestors have dropped a banner: “Pelosi, never again is now.

— julia reinstein (@juliareinstein) July 16, 2019

“Every undocumented Movimiento Cosecha organizer who shut down ICE HQ today did 100 times more to shut down ICE and close the camps than Speaker Pelosi has done in the past two years,” Never Again Action wrote on Twitter. “It’s time to organize, because the Dems won’t fix this unless we make them.”

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The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won

sam, 07/20/2019 - 23:08

via CounterPunch

by Rob Urie

For students of political history, a cottage industry has grown in recent years around identifying the historical circumstances and intellectual origins of neoliberalism. While the initial conditions have been identified in the post-WWII effort to cleave German fascism from its American roots, what hasn’t been explained is the hold it has over a broad range of Western political ideology.

This background has bearing on the current effort by the American political establishment to crush ‘the squad’ of left House Democrats whose apparent trespass was to mean what they said about representing the interests of the American public. Establishment incredulity centers on the question: why enact policies when signaling shared beliefs (‘virtue’) has maintained the social order for this long?

The problem that AOC and company created was to put forward popular programs like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and a Job Guarantee in concert with plausible explanations of how to pay for them. Each of these represent well-considered responses to profound market failures. What their establishment colleagues have yet to come to terms with is that neoliberalism has left a plurality of Americans living in a ‘shithole country.’

Party leaders joining forces to charge ‘the squad’ and their supporters with being un-American is to assert an imagined community. In legal, institutional and historical terms, ‘the squad’ is as American as any of their establishment accusers. What is meant by the charge is that the American ‘community’ is defined by a set of beliefs, not citizenship, geography or institutional affiliations.

Who it is who gets to define this set of beliefs is the point of contention. Given that ‘the squad’ and their supporters are factually Americans, the onus could in theory be reversed to ask: why don’t the establishment politicians and their supporters leave? The answer gets to the self-legitimating nature of representative democracy. The establishment was elected to represent the people, which gives it legitimacy of place, goes the theory.

But the same could be claimed for ‘the squad.’ Its members were elected to represent their respective constituencies. This gets to the deeper question of legitimacy that establishment interests don’t want raised. Understood by the establishment is that ‘the squad’ must get around both party leaderships to get its programs enacted. In this sense, opposition to ‘the squad’ appears as it is: opposition to the public interest.

Lest this be less than evident, if this is played well it is a political gift to the left. As circumstances stand, there is zero likelihood of getting these and like policies past the establishment gatekeepers in both parties. The establishment’s move to join forces to ‘other’ left opposition relies on the Democrats’ conceit that in the eyes of the public they, and the establishment they claim to defend, are worth keeping. Maybe, maybe not.

This same Democratic party establishment has facilitated Donald Trump’s presidency every step of the way. The Russia! scam was a competition for strategic assets. The dirty industries were Mr. Trump’s from the get-go. If he brought over Goldman Sachs and tech to his side, the Democrats would be screwed. This ‘insider-ball’ works only so long as material conditions remain conducive to political somnambulance. The ‘love it or leave it’ gambit suggests rising insecurity within the establishment.

In 2018 establishment Democrats used the #resistance to ‘sheepdog’ the left back into the fold going into the mid-term elections. ‘The squad’ was elected and the House Democrats, who lack the power to enact legislation, set about virtue signaling by passing policies they have no intention of pursuing if returned to power. ‘The squad’ was useful in this regard up to the point it continued pushing an actual agenda.

To support this assertion, soon after being returned to power House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a lieutenant to assure health insurance executives that House Democrats had no intention of enacting Medicare for All. This follows Barack Obama’s move to assure Canadian legislators that his promise to renegotiate NAFTA was just campaign rhetoric. Establishment Democrats quickly tired of ‘the squad’ once it became evident that they are serious.

Much as it was intended when it was used to attack anti-Vietnam War protestors in the 1960s and 1970s, the ‘America, love it or leave it’ slogan is a call-to-arms for an imagined community in the same way that Mr. Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ refers to an imagined past. The ‘othering’ it embodies goes beyond racism to imply that supporters of social democratic policies are anti-American.

Lost on the left is that this gimmick is intended to stir mutual fear and hatred between rural and suburban flag-wavers and urban democratic socialists. ‘The squad’ understands this tactic— this is what makes them a threat. Bernie Sanders went on Fox News to sell Medicare for All as a universal benefit. AOC offered to speak with coal miners in Kentucky who feared being left unemployed and penniless if a Green New Deal were passed.

While public opinion has it that Donald Trump has been more effective at rallying nationalistic rage, establishment Democrats used Russiagate to precisely this same end. Americans were either with the Democrats or they were with Putin, went the chide. With Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump joining forces to construct a nationalist wedge against the left, the political use-value of ‘identity’ politics is on the side of the political establishment— exactly where it has always been.

Another way of framing this is through the question: are Democrats ignorant of their history, or does faith guide their interpretation of the party’s policies? Arch segregationist Joe Biden is converted to a ‘friend of segregationists’ by Democrats who use his words to interpret his acts. The man built a political career advocating for the racial segregation of public schools. He went on to demonize poor blacks as he played a key role in building the racialized gulag system of mass incarceration.

The issue of identity gets to the heart of the neoliberal basis of Democratic politics. Grant for the moment that racism, patriarchy, xenophobia and gender bias describe real social phenomena. (I believe they do). The question then becomes: what, if anything, should be done about them? Each of these describes an aspect of social power. ‘The squad’s’ programs are intended to redistribute power democratically in the dimensions of healthcare, environmental justice and guaranteed employment that pays a living wage.

Given the existing distribution of power, those with the least stand to gain the most from these programs. To the extent that racism, patriarchy and gender bias have determined the existing distribution of power, correcting these would be accomplished via the size of the benefit matching the degree of the disparity. This is the nature of universal benefits. And it is what makes ‘the squad’s’ programs so politically potent.

Asked reverse-wise, why wouldn’t establishment Republicans be overcome with joy at an internecine squabble that threatens to tear the Democrats apart? Donald Trump ran and won as an opposition candidate. The establishment Democrats are running as the viable political alternative to Mr. Trump. Faux opposition between the parties is the mechanism by which establishment interests have long been perpetuated.

Should the left prevail, Mr. Trump would be stripped of his insurgent status. Establishment Democrats have proclaimed themselves guardians of the status quo. It is in their joint interest to ‘other’ the left, which is what they are doing. Otherwise, the Democrats have spent four decades demonstrating that they are fine with racism, xenophobia, patriarchy and gender bias if it serves their political ends. But where is the public interest to be found in any of this?

The faith versus acts divide that Democrats have relied on politically is a carryover from Christian theology. The rationale of the party faithful is that Democrats use racial appeals like the 1994 Crime Bill, opposing school busing and ‘ending welfare as we know it’ to win elections. In contrast, Republicans hold racist opinions, which makes them racists. However, committing racist acts makes people racists, regardless of their beliefs about race.

The subtext of these establishment machinations is that the American political system exists to provide cover for rule by capital. The posture of the political center as the locus of reason is belied by the willingness of establishment forces to risk killing everyone on the planet with nuclear weapons, environmental decline, genocidal wars and dysfunctional economics. It is this political center that is extreme, willing to risk everything to maintain control.

While it may be simplistic to posit a singularity of capitalist interests, is it also true that the manufacture of nuclear weapons is a business, that environmental decline is a by-product of capitalist production, that wars are undertaken both to control resources and to use up military inventory and that the level of economic dysfunction is proportional to the concentration of income and wealth amongst the oligarchs.

One could grant— improbably, that the collective ‘we’ were brought to this place in history honestly, that the world is complicated and that through genocide, slavery and wars too numerous to count, we did the best we could. But this wouldn’t have one iota of relevance to where we take it from here. In this sense, ‘the squad’ exists amongst the potential heroes of this moment.

Possibly of value here is Noam Chomsky’s functional definition of class as who it is that gets to decide. Capitalism has always been ‘authoritarian,’ with owners and bosses doing the deciding. Ironically, from the bourgeois perspective, politics finds these same authoritarians determining public policy through their surrogates in the political realm. Donald Trump’s existence is an argument against concentrated power, not who wields it.

An argument could be made that ‘the squad’ was elected on precisely this point. Policies that promote economic democracy are the best way to achieve political democracy. Conversely, the greatest threat to political democracy is concentrated economic power. The Federal government spent at least a few trillion dollars on gratuitous wars in recent years, and several trillion more on bailing out financial interests. The money has always been there to meet social needs.

From the lips of my Democratic congressman in a recent town hall meeting, ‘prosperity’ is the first order of business for serious Democrats. Through this prism Medicare for All is Obamacare with higher payouts to insurance company executives and the Green New Deal is a public / private partnership to restore Central Park views to apartments along Fifth Avenue. The official lack of urgency surrounding climate change and species loss is profound, even heroic.

The disconnect between believing and acting is just as profound. Given his connections to the Democratic party establishment, it is certain that these views come straight from the top. Democrats ‘believe’ (have faith in) the science regarding climate change just as they believe that ‘prosperity’ has bearing on the lives of the little people who elect them. What more is there to be done after one believes the science? What matters is believing, having faith.

The progressive commentariat has knives out for Nancy Pelosi, much as it has long had for Donald Trump. The question is need of an answer: is the goal better representation for the oligarchs or some semblance of democratic control? The American political establishment exists to serve monied interests. The way to restore democratic control is to de-concentrate wealth. The insistence that ‘the problem’ is a personnel issue only serves to perpetuate concentrated power.

The ‘love it or leave it’ chide suggests that political tensions are rising. This is the time for the left to press on. The public supports programs that make their lives better. AOC can bring in people to credibly explain how we can afford these programs, and how we can’t afford not to implement them. Class, the 0.1%., 9.9% and 90% in income and wealth terms, is a good proxy for the distribution of political power. Universal benefits like ‘the squad’ is proposing would go far toward restoring the power people have over their own lives. The ultimate goal is economic democracy.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.

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Puerto Rican Feminists Demand Governor’s Resignation Due to Remarks

sam, 07/20/2019 - 22:54

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation

Introduction by Aurora Santiago-Ortiz

La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, referred to as “La Cole,” began in 2013 when feminist activists from the Puerto Rican student movement and other radical activist spaces decided to create an intentional space to address multiple and simultaneous oppressions affecting womxn and femmes. La Cole is an intersectional political organization, with an explicitly anti-capitalist, anti-racist, pro-queer and trans agenda from its inception. La Cole is a highly visible presence in Puerto Rico’s public sphere and have consistently put forward their opposition to capitalist and neoliberal government policies that have dispossessed and disenfranchised the most vulnerable populations in Puerto Rico: Black, poor, trans, queer, womxn and femmes. These policies are reflected in the closing of public schools, public university funding cuts, and health care and services.

During the past two years, La Cole has carried out an intensive campaign against the alarming number of femicides in Puerto Rico, which were at 23 in 2018, with many more cases under investigation. Among the investigated are members of the Puerto Rican police force. In 2019 to date, 9 women have died at the hands of intimate partners or ex-partners, including a 13-year-old girl. In November 2018, La Cole drafted an Executive Order so that Governor Ricardo Rosselló would declare a State of Emergency and create public policy addressing the femicides in Puerto Rico. La Cole spent two nights camping out in front of the Governor’s mansion, holding workshops and other activities to educate and raise awareness of gender violence. Governor Rosselló did not meet with La Cole and no such State of Emergency has been declared. 

It should come as no surprise that when 889 pages of a private Telegram group chat which included the Governor surfaced this past weekend, the public reacted with outrage in reading the misogynist, racist, and classist comments coming from the Governor, and several of his cabinet members, and advisers.  

Statement by Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Puerto Rico

Versión en español abajo

Members of the Colectiva Feminista en Construcción demanded the resignation of Governor Ricardo Roselló Nevares, after the publication of a series of Telegram messages, in which he makes misogynistic and homophobic remarks, as do other members of his cabinet.

“For over a year we have been claiming a State of Emergency due to the violence that women suffer in this country. We have addressed our claims to the state, denouncing their inaction and complicity in maintaining this state of emergency, by not taking affirmative and effective actions to address it. If this government has been consistent in anything, it has been in ignoring this reality. That, along with the governor’s unfortunate remarks, such as calling former councilman Mark Viverito a “hooker,” among other sexist and homophobic statements, shows us the discriminatory nature of his administration and his inability to govern this country, so we demand its immediate resignation,” said Zoán Dávila Roldán, spokesperson for the Collective.

For her part, Vanesa Contreras Capó, also a spokesperson for the organization, stressed that the gender violence that plagues the country not only manifests itself within relationships, but is a reflection of social institutions, the education system, the lack of health services, of the government, its public policy, and the recent cases of corruption, in which funds were allegedly diverted from the departments of education and health. Therefore, she considers, citizen action is necessary.

“Yesterday and today have been decisive days for Puerto Rico. The rampant corruption and sexism of the government of this country force us to take to the streets and demand not only the resignation of the misogynist governor, Ricardo Roselló, but also demand resources for a citizen audit of the debt. At times when institutional violence has shown us its worst face, in the Collective we are ready to continue promoting the mobilizations that will succeed in stopping robbery, looting and institutional violence, “said Contreras Capó.

Last November, the Collective stayed for three days in front of La Fortaleza, denouncing the gender violence, in all of its diverse manifestations, that affects women all over the country. There they demanded that the governor declare a state of emergency and implement a plan that addresses this problem in a holistic manner. Similarly, in conversations with his aides, they denounced the austerity measures implemented by his government, which have put the lives and well-being of women and their families in the country at risk. At this time, the governor did not heed the organization. Later, he expressed to the spokespersons of the Collective, that “he would not sign the Executive Order.”

“Now we know why the governor did not hear us while we were three days in front of Fortaleza. Now we know why he did not want to meet with us, now we know why they continue murdering, attacking, raping, abusing, harassing women in this country with impunity; because the one who runs the country is the first to do violence to us,” said Dávila Roldán.

The call of the Colectiva Feminista en Construcción is focused on the state, knowing that it holds the power to facilitate the conditions to overcome the inequalities that women in the country face. Consequently, it has demanded the implementation of education with a gender perspective, a demand which has been ignored by the governor. His remarks not only highlight the need to address gender violence through prevention and education, but it underscores the call for declaring a state of emergency.

“Governor Ricardo Rosselló has done violence not only to women – whom he insults directly – but to the country. His attack was not that he called us “whores,” “kittens,” or any other macho epithet; the governor’s attack is that he still has not declared a state of emergency against gender violence,” concluded Contreras Capó.

Image: Colectiva Feminista en Construcción

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Enclosure of the commons

sam, 07/20/2019 - 19:37

via New Frame

by Peter Linebaugh

This is an edited extract from Red Round Globe Hot Burning: A Tale at the Crossroads of Commons and Closure, of Love and Terror, of Race and Class, and of Kate and Ned Despard, which has recently been published by the University of California Press.

Global phenomena of resistance to enclosures have been led by the Zapatistas in Mexico (1994), the anti-globalisers of intellectual property at the “battle of Seattle” (1999), the women of the Via Campesino against the corporate seizure of the planetary germplasm, the shack dwellers from Durban to Cape Town, the women of the Niger River delta protesting naked against the oil spillers, the indigenous peoples of the Andes Mountains against the water takers, the seed preservers of Bangladesh, the tree huggers of the Himalayas, the movement of “the circles and the squares” in the hundreds of municipal Occupys (2011) and the thousands of water protectors at Standing Rock (2017). Inspired by these phenomena, revisions of the meaning of “the commons”, and its relationship to communism, socialism, anarchism and utopianism, have become part of the worldwide discourse against the effort to shut it down or enclose it. In general the story is a couple hundred years old.

In 1793, William Blake, the London artist, poet and prophet, came to the conclusion that Enclosure = Death.

This is what Blake wrote:

They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up,
And they inclos’d my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
And sunk my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot burning
Till all from life I was obliterated and erased. 

Blake had the prophetic power to imagine a different world, and a different heart. That single phrase, “a red round globe hot burning”, might refer to the war between England and France, or to the struggle for freedom among the Haitian slaves, or to the fires making steam for the new engines of the time – war, revolution and work – but it is even deeper than that. It concerns the planet itself. Blake’s geology anticipates the planetary Anthropocene, the “red round globe hot burning”. As for the five senses that close up his heart and brain, they refer to the dominant philosophy of the time – secular, empirical, utilitarian – and the resulting political economy. How else might knowledge be obtained?

War between France and England began in 1793 and did not conclude until 1815. There is a story of possible republics – France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Haiti and the United States – but each fell short of equality or of any real notion of commonwealth. France became an empire under Napoleon. England became an empire as the United Kingdom. One island disappeared as an independent polity (Ireland), while another’s independence actually began to appear (Haiti). The United States consolidated itself as a white, settler-property regime with Jefferson’s election (1800) and more than tripled its size with the Louisiana Purchase (1803).

The North American continent was taken, surveyed into squares and sold. In England, thousands of individual parliamentary acts of enclosure closed the country, parish by parish. The United States (1789) and the United Kingdom (1801) were new political entities devoted to the enclosure of the commons. They became deeply entangled as plantation production shifted from Caribbean sugar to mainland cotton, destroying cotton production in India and the Ottoman Empire. Cotton imports rose from £32 million in 1798 to £60.5 million in 1802, while the value of exported English manufactures went from £2 million in 1792 to £7.8 million in 1802. Edmund Cartwright’s steam-powered loom was adopted in 1801. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin was at work by 1793, and cotton production had tripled by 1800. It was the machine, particularly the steam engine and the cotton gin, that economically connected the other two structures, Enclosure and Slavery. The ship connected them geographically.

Enclosure refers to land, where most people worked. Its enclosure was their loss. No longer able to subsist on land, people were dispossessed, and in a literal painful way they became rootless. Arnold Toynbee, the originator of the phrase “industrial revolution”, in his lectures of 1888 showed that it was preceded by the enclosures of the commons. Karl Marx understood this, making it the theme of the origin of capitalism.

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The New Imperialist Structure

sam, 07/20/2019 - 19:26

via Monthly Review


Contemporary capitalism is a capitalism of generalized monopolies. What I mean by that is that monopolies no longer form islands (important as they may be) in an ocean of corporations that are not monopolies—and consequently are relatively autonomous—but an integrated system, and consequently now tightly control all productive systems. Small and medium-sized companies, and even large ones that are not themselves formally owned by the oligopolies, are enclosed in networks of control established by the monopolies upstream and downstream. Consequently, their margin of autonomy has shrunk considerably. These production units have become subcontractors for the monopolies. This system of generalized monopolies is the result of a new stage in the centralization of capital in the countries of the triad that developed in the 1980s and ’90s.

Simultaneously, these generalized monopolies dominate the world economy. Globalization is the name that they themselves have given to the imperatives through which they exercise their control over the productive systems of world capitalism’s peripheries (the entire world beyond the partners of the triad). This is nothing other than a new stage of imperialism.

As a system, generalized and globalized monopoly capitalism ensures that these monopolies derive a monopoly rent levied on the mass of surplus value (transformed into profits) that capital extracts from the exploitation of labor. To the extent that these monopolies operate in the peripheries of the globalized system, this monopoly rent becomes an imperialist rent. The capital accumulation process—which defines capitalism in all of its successive historical forms—is consequently governed by the maximization of monopolistic/imperialist rent.

This displacement of the center of gravity of capital accumulation lies behind the continual pursuit of the concentration of incomes and fortunes, increasing monopoly rents, and captured mostly by the oligarchies (plutocracies) that control the oligopolistic groups, to the detriment of labor incomes and even the revenues of non-monopolistic capital.In turn, this continually growing disequilibrium is itself the origin of the financialization of the economic system. What I mean is that a growing portion of the surplus can no longer be invested in the expansion and strengthening of productive systems and that the “financial investment” of this growing surplus is the only possible alternative for continuing the accumulation controlled by the monopolies. This financialization, which accentuates the growth in unequal distribution of income (and wealth), generates the growing surplus on which it feeds. The financial investments (or, more accurately, investments of financial speculation) continue to grow at breathtaking rates, disproportionate with the rates of gross national product growth (which itself then becomes largely false) or rates of investment in the productive system. The breathtaking growth in financial investments requires—and sustains—among other things, the growth in the debt, in all its forms, particularly sovereign debt. When existing governments claim to pursue the goal of “debt reduction,” they deliberately lie. The strategy of financialized monopolies needs growth in the debt (which they seek and do not oppose)—a financially attractive means to absorb the surplus from monopoly rents. Austerity policies imposed to “reduce the debt,” as it is said, actually end up increasing its volume, which is the sought-after consequence.

The Plutocrats: The New Ruling Class of Obsolescent Capitalism

The logic of accumulation lies in the growing concentration and centralization of control over capital. Formal ownership can be spread out (as in the “owners” of shares in pension plans), whereas the management of this property is controlled by financial capital.

We have reached a level of centralization in capital’s power of domination, such that the bourgeoisie’s forms of existence and organization as known up to now have been completely transformed. The bourgeoisie was initially formed from stable bourgeois families. From one generation to the next, the heirs carried on the specialized activities of their companies. The bourgeoisie was built and built itself over the long run. This stability encouraged confidence in “bourgeois values” and promoted their influence throughout the entire society. To a large extent, the bourgeoisie as dominant class was accepted as such. Its access to the privileges of comfort and wealth seemed deserved in return for the services they rendered. It also seemed mainly national in orientation, sensitive to national interests, whatever the ambiguities and limitations of this manipulated concept might have been. The new ruling class abruptly breaks with this tradition. Some describe the transformation in question as the development of active shareholders (sometimes even characterized as populist shareholders) fully reestablishing property rights. This laudatory and misleading characterization legitimizes the change and fails to recognize that the major aspect of the transformation involves the degree of concentration in control of capital and the accompanying centralization of power. The new ruling class is no longer counted in the tens of thousands or even millions, as was the case with the older bourgeoisie. Moreover, a large proportion of the new bourgeoisie is made up of newcomers who emerged more by the success of their financial operations (particularly in the stock market) than by their contribution to the technological breakthroughs of our era. Their ultrarapid rise is in stark contrast with their predecessors, whose rise took place over numerous decades.

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Noam Chomsky: Trump Is Trying to Exploit Tension With Iran for 2020

sam, 07/20/2019 - 13:28

via Truthout

by David Barsamian

Any concern about Iranian weapons of mass destruction could be alleviated by the single means of heeding Iran’s call to establish a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East,” says legendary public intellectual Noam Chomsky, but that isn’t stopping the Trump administration from concocting stories about Iran threatening to “conquer the world” in order to escalate tensions and thereby strengthen Trump’s hand going into the 2020 election.

In this exclusive transcript of a conversation aired on Alternative Radio, Noam Chomsky — the brilliant MIT professor and linguist who in one index is ranked as the eighth most cited person in history, right up there with Shakespeare and Marx — discusses Iran’s military deterrence strategy and the actions taken by U.S. leaders who cannot countenance what the State Department describes as Iran’s “successful defiance.”

David Barsamian: Let’s talk about Iran, in particular, locating it in post-1945 U.S. foreign policy. Washington laid out its Grand Area Strategy and Iran takes on enormous significance because of its oil wealth.

Noam Chomsky: Oil wealth and strategic position. It was taken for granted in the Grand Area Strategy planning that the U.S. would dominate the Middle East, what Eisenhower called the “strategically most important part of the world,” a material prize without any analogue.

The basic idea of the early stage of the Grand Strategy and the early stages of the war were that the U.S. would take over what they called the Grand Area, of course, the Western Hemisphere, the former British Empire and the Far East. They assumed at that time that Germany would probably win the war, so there would be two major powers, one German-based with a lot of Eurasia and the U.S. with this Grand Area. By the time it was clear that the Russians would defeat Germany, after Stalingrad and then the great tank battle in Kursk, the planning was modified, and the idea was that the Grand Area would include as much of Eurasia as possible, of course, maintaining control of Middle East oil resources.

There was a conflict over Iran right at the end of the Second World War. The Russians supported a separatist movement in the north. The British wanted to maintain control. The Russians were essentially expelled. Iran was a client state under British control. There was, however, a nationalist movement, and the Iranian leader, Mohammad Mossadegh, led a movement to try to nationalize Iranian oil.

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How American Workers Won the Eight-Hour Workday

lun, 07/15/2019 - 03:50

via Teen Vogue

by Kim Kelly

We’ve all had one of those days, when the clock seems frozen in time and the workday drags on, and on, and on. Eight hours can feel like a lifetime, the minutes crawling by, your mood souring by the second.

Now imagine how much worse you’d feel if you had been standing on a hard factory floor for eight hours already and were staring down two more hours, or four, or even more than that? And what if you were pulling those kind of interminable days six times a week—or seven? That’s what a typical day used to be like for the typical worker in an American city, who would struggle through 12-plus-hour shifts at a factory, slaughterhouse, cotton mill, or garment shop until they could trudge home and collapse for a few hours before waking up and doing it all over again.

The eight-hour day and the two-day weekend to which we’ve become so accustomed were not always a given. For many years, they were little more than a pipe dream, the kind of outlandish notions that anarchists, socialists, and trade unionists whispered about at clandestine meetings (and shouted about in beer halls). The idea of having two whole days off per week to rest and spend time with family once seemed like an unimaginable luxury to the toiling class, as out of reach as a $15 minimum wage (or the idea of a standard minimum wage at all). The fight for the eight-hour workday once captivated the American political imagination much like ambitious, potentially transformative policy proposals like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal have become rallying cries for the working class.

This all goes back to the Industrial Revolution, a period between 1750 and 1900 that saw the United States, the United Kingdom, and a number of other European countries embark on a rapid shift away from an economic system built around agriculture and hand-crafted goods and toward industrial manufacturing. At first, this primarily impacted the Northeast and Midwest. It took longer for industrialization to take hold in the South and West, where agriculture was king and the greedy railroad barons who controlled farmers’ access to the market kept freight prices high.

That meant that scores of people moved away from the countryside and funneled into expanding cities like Chicago and New York City to find work. Those cities soon became crowded and dirty, and the workers themselves suffered due to the low wages, squalid living conditions, and countless factories belching smoke into the sky that came to characterize turn-of-the-century urban life.

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Noam Chomsky: Trump Is Consolidating Far-Right Power Globally

lun, 07/15/2019 - 03:42

via Truthout

by C.J. Polychroniou

it is no easy task to make sense of U.S. foreign policy in the current era. Trump is wildly unpredictable and lacks any semblance of a coherent view of world affairs, appearing to believe that all it takes is “the art of the deal” to turn “enemies” into friends. Meanwhile, since Trump’s rise to power, the end of U.S. hegemony has come into sight.

In the exclusive Truthout interview below, renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky — one of the world’s most astute critics of U.S. foreign policy in the postwar era — sheds considerable light on the current state of U.S. foreign policy, including Trump’s relations with the leaders of North Korea, Russia and China, as well as his so-called “Middle East Peace Plan.”

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, in 2016 Trump called U.S foreign policy “a complete and total disaster,” claiming that previous administrations in the post-Cold War era were guided by unrealistic expectations that damaged America’s national interests. Since taking office, he has withdrawn the country from a series of international agreements, demanding that countries pay for U.S. protection, and seeking to advance U.S economic interests through tariffs and protectionism. These moves have led many analysts to speak of a new era in U.S. relations with the world. What’s your own take on Trump’s foreign policy?

Noam Chomsky: One of the most appropriate comments I’ve seen on Trump’s foreign policy appeared in an article in The New Republic written by David Roth, the editor of a sports blog: “The spectacle of expert analysts and thought leaders parsing the actions of a man with no expertise or capacity for analysis is the purest acid satire — but less because of how badly that expert analysis has failed than because of how sincerely misplaced it is … there is nothing here to parse, no hidden meanings or tactical elisions or slow-rolled strategic campaign.”

That seems generally accurate. This is a man, after all, who dismisses the information and analyses of his massive intelligence system in favor of what was said this morning on “Fox and Friends,” where everyone tells him how much they love him. With all due skepticism about the quality of intelligence, this is sheer madness considering the stakes.

And it continues, in ways that are almost surreal. At the recent G20 conference, Trump was asked about Putin’s statement that Western liberalism is obsolete. Trump assumed he must be talking about California: Western liberalism. Putin “may feel that way,” Trump responded: “He sees what’s going on. And I guess, if you look at what’s happening in Los Angeles, where it’s so sad to look; and what’s happening in San Francisco and a couple of other cities which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people.”

He was asked why the U.S. alone is refusing to join the G20 in a commitment to address global warming and responded by praising the quality of U.S. air and water, apparently not understanding the distinction.

It’s hard to find a comment on foreign policy that departs from this impressive norm. Efforts to detect some coherent global strategy indeed seem to be a kind of acid satire.

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Trump is Not the Main Problem

dim, 07/07/2019 - 04:19


by Wayne Price

Democrats, Trump, and the Upcoming Elections: How Should Anarchists See Them?

Many liberals and other Democrats see Trump as the main problem facing the U.S. Therefore their focus is on defeating him in the next election (or impeachment). They focus on the
electoral system and hope for salvation through government action. I disagree. Trump is a
major problem, but he is the culmination of years of political and economic development,
and is related to similar politics in other countries. The fight against Trumpism requires
a non-electoral and militant program.

To many liberals, progressives, unionists, activists of various just causes, Democrats of all stripes, democratic socialists, and concerned citizens, the problem the U.S. is facing is essentially that Donald J. Trump is president, and is backed by the Republican Party. I disagree with this widespread belief.

It is likely that Trump will be removed from office in the next two years, whether by
impeachment (unlikely due to the Senate Republicans) or by national elections (probably
but not certainly). Liberals, progressives, etc., look forward to this as a glorious day.
The sun will come out from behind the darkling clouds, little birds will sing again, the
miasma of evil and stupidity will lift from the land, and all will be well again. Things
will finally go back to “normal.”

Alas, I do not think that things will be “normal” ever again. I too long to see the vile
Trump gone. I am not cynical and have hopes for the future. Yet I do not see the
replacement of Trump by a Democrat or other establishment politician as the coming of a
glorious new day.

But first I should make clear my views on Trump. As a revolutionary anarchist-socialist, I
have never liked any of the presidents of my lifetime. But I have particularly hated a
few, starting with the Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, because of the U.S. war on Vietnam. (We
chanted, “Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today!?”) And I especially hated the
Republicans Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. They were the cutting edge
of the ruling class’ attacks on working people of the U.S. and the world.

But I have never hated any politician as much as I hate the despicable Trump. Personally
he is utterly devoid of conscience or of empathy for others. Mean and cruel, he is
completely self-centered. Devoid of honor, he breaks laws and ethical norms, big and
little, and sells out friends and associates (and “his” country) without a qualm. He sees
women as things to be used. He is a racist. He cannot keep from lying on matters important
and unimportant. While he has a certain sly cunning, Trump is ignorant, incurious, and
stupid. He makes stupid decisions-not just from my standpoint but from that of U.S.

Politically, he holds some bizarre views which are unusual even among the corporate rich
and the right wing Republican establishment: his attachment to the Russian state and
Putin, his unwillingness to condemn Nazis, his reckless use of tariffs, his commitment to
building a wall on the Mexican border, his quarrels with U.S. allies, etc. While most
Republican politicians have bowed to anti-immigrant fervor, Trump really believes in the
“threat” of immigrants. He is not a fascist but neither is he a non-fascist.

As a result of all this, Trump is a very unpopular president (according to the polls).
This is so even in spite of a relative (if shallow and uneven) prosperity (which raises
the question of how voters would react if the next downturn takes place before the
national election). Why do the Republican politicos still support him? Mitch McConnell,
leader of the Senate Republicans, is an intelligent man, if totally cynical. Why does he
back Trump, considering what he must think of him? There are two pro-Trump forces pressing
on the Republicans, one from above and one from below.

From above: Most of the capitalist class did not support Trump in the last election and
would prefer someone else even now. But they love the enormous tax cuts for the rich which
the Republicans passed, with his strong support. They like his and his party’s attacks on
Obamacare. They love the deregulation which he has pushed through all parts of the
executive branch. They are delighted with the conservative, pro-business, judges whom he
has appointed-to the Supreme Court and throughout the federal judiciary. And so on. They
do not want to kill the goose which is laying the golden eggs, even if the goose is
otherwise nuts.

From below: Around 40 per cent, more or less, of the population supports Trump solidly
and fervently. This is the base of the current Republican Party. Republican politicians
fear being voted out in primaries if they oppose Trump. This grouping ranges from crazed
fascists (who identify with the Nazis and Klan) to some who voted for Obama in previous
elections (the loosest part of this base). These people have been lied to and miseducated
in a conscious effort by right-wing forces. They are fed a steady diet of Fox “News,” talk
radio, and Internet blogs which put them in a delusional bubble. Their sexual fears are
whipped up, over homosexuality and abortion rights, by their church leaders. Many are
strongly racist and vote for Trump for that reason; others vote for him for other reasons
but are not turned off by his racism.

A large section of these people do have real grievances: after eight years of Obama,
including a brittle “recovery,” much of the country was still poor, stagnant, and lacking
good jobs. This included many rural and semi-rural areas, in and out of the “Rust Belt.”
The white workers and middle class residents of these regions rejected Hillary Clinton as
an establishment politician. They expected (correctly) that she would continue the
policies which had not helped them (but many also rejected her because she was a woman).
Unfortunately, turning to Trump was no answer to their problems.

The Historical Pattern of Presidents

Does this mean that kicking Donald Trump out of the White House will bring things back to
“normal”? Even though big business will still push for its program of tax cuts and
deregulation and even though a big minority continues to support right wing politics? Can
these forces be defeated through elections?

It is worth going over some history here. The Democrat Lyndon Johnson, who had betrayed
liberals’ hopes by his war on Vietnam, was followed by Richard Nixon. Hated by the Left,
and caught up in the Watergate Scandal, he was forced to resign. Then his hand-picked
successor was beaten in an election by Jimmy Carter. To liberals, progressives, etc.,
these were indeed glorious developments. A new day dawned! Yet Carter, after one term, was
defeated by Ronald Reagan, a far-right “conservative” (which is what reactionaries are
called in the U.S.). He won two terms, plus one presidential term for his vice president,
George H. W. Bush. But Bush was then defeated by Bill Clinton. Clinton could play the
saxophone and appeared to get along well with African-Americans. Again, a glorious new day
finally seemed to have dawned! But after two terms of Clintonian Democracy, the people
voted down his vice president, Al Gore, and elected George W. Bush. (Actually Gore
probably won the popular vote, by a hair’s width, but the Supreme Court majority put Bush
in.) Bush was terrible and stupid, said the liberals, progressives, etc., gnashing their
teeth. He won a second term (probably fairly).

Then Barack Obama was elected, an African-American president! Liberals were ecstatic. Pete
Seeger sang at the inauguration with Bruce Springsteen. Naturally, African-Americans were
particularly pleased, although few of them believed claims that the U.S. was now a
“post-racial” society. Sure enough, the history-making Obama was then followed by…Donald
Trump. (Actually Trump lost the popular vote by a few percentage points, but the archaic
Electoral College put him in.) I am not going to discuss voting suppression by the
Republicans, and various shenanigans by Comey of the FBI, the Russians, etc., which
undermined Hillary Clinton. The U.S. state has intervened in other countries’ politics at
least as much as Russia has.

This little history does not mention the effects of mid-term elections, which often
empowered the reactionary opposition to bind Democratic presidents from carrying out their
more-or-less progressive agendas (as in Obama’s last six years). Nor am I discussing just
how limited these “progressive” agendas turned out to be, time after time-much to the
surprise and dismay of the liberals, progressives, etc. (as in Obama’s first two years).
My point here is the obvious one that the repeated defeats of reactionary presidents and
presidential candidates has not ushered in the dawn of a glorious new day. Instead, the
more-or-less progressive presidents have repeatedly been followed by another reactionary
president. Over time the Republicans have gotten more reactionary and the Democrats have
occupied the space once taken by the Republicans-until we have reached the current
president, a new low in U.S. history.

Why is this? Partially the reason is the two-party system. Unlike many other countries,
U.S. laws make it very difficult to form effective third parties. (There has not been a
new major party since Lincoln’s Republicans replaced the Whigs.) So if people get fed up
with one party, they have little choice but to turn to the other. The range of political
discourse is very limited, generally from mildly liberal to extremely reactionary (but not
usually fascist). The newspapers and television play this up, mostly analyzing elections
as “horse races” and ignoring programs. Citizens are taught to look at the personality of
the individual running rather than at what programs they might implement.

However it would be a mistake to focus too much on U.S. factors. The growth of right-wing,
nationalist, “populism” is world-wide. Other countries, with leaders with personalities
quite different from Trump’s, and with electoral systems quite different from the U.S.
constitution, have developed their own forms of reactionary “populism.” There is Britain
with its “Brexit,” authoritarian right-wing leaders in Hungary, Poland, Italy, and Brazil,
the rise of the far-right LePen in France, Netanyahu in Israel, Modi in India, Duerte in
the Phillipines, and other examples. There are also authoritarian regimes which do not
bother with elections but have similar politics-Putin’s Russia being somewhere in-between
these types.

So, on the one hand, there has been a pattern of increasingly bad presidents, racheting
down, through waves of “moderate” Democrats and reactionary Republicans. On the other
hand, there is a world-wide growth of far-right, authoritarian, regimes. These
developments demonstrate that the problem is bigger than just Trump.

Something New is Happening

For decades after World War II, U.S. politics swung back and forth between the Democrats
and the Republicans. There was little difference between the two. It was a platitude of
U.S. “political science” that this was a strength of U.S. politics, providing stability
and consensus. This changed about the time that the post-World War II prosperity came to
an end (in the 1970s). The economy stagnated, and the making of profits became more
difficult. Big business declared war on the working class (and the environment) in open
and covert ways. The Republicans became the leaders of that attack. Today many look back
on the era of political consensus with sighs of regret. The bitter partisanship of the two
parties is dismaying to many politicians, political “scientists,” and ordinary voters. The
Republicans have moved to the far-right, and the Democrats have stayed just behind them.

Even this development has been shaken up in recent years. On the right, there has grown
white-supremacist, fascist, violent, forces. (By “fascist” I do not mean people who are
simply very conservative, but people who wish to overturn the representative bourgeois
democracy of the U.S. and replace it with a dictatorship.) They have been encouraged by
Trump and have encouraged him, even if he himself is not a fascist.

Perhaps even more surprising is the growth of a socialist movement. Polls have found
thirty to forty percent of the population-especially young adults-with a positive view of
“socialism.” Many have become disillusioned with capitalism. The presidential runs of
Bernie Sanders built on this sentiment and encouraged it. The Democratic Socialists of
America rapidly expanded, attracting people of varying views (even anarchists joined, to
form a Libertarian Socialist Caucus). Socialists were elected to local and national
office, the most well-known, besides Sanders, being Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

These socialists are not very “socialist.” They do not advocate taking away the wealth of
what Sanders has called “the billionaire class.” They do not propose socializing the major
corporations-not even the oil producers and the rest of the energy sector. By
“socializing” I mean anything from national government ownership to municipal ownership to
worker management to consumer cooperatives. (As an anarchist-socialist, I am for the last
two.) Their model is usually an idealized version of the New Deal of Franklyn Roosevelt.
This was an effort to save capitalism from its own failures in the Great Depression-to
save capitalism from itself. That is, they hope to use the existing capitalist state to
manage the market economy in a more efficient, more benevolent, fashion, supposedly in the
interests of the working population. As such their program is not particularly different
from that of liberals, such as Elizabeth Warren. This should not be surprising given the
semi-liberal programs of European social-democratic parties, such as in the Nordic
(Scandinavian) countries, the UK, France, or Germany. Although far from Stalinist
totalitarianism, liberals and democratic socialists have an unjustified faith in the
effectiveness of the state to solve social problems.

The Democrats?

As I am writing there a year and some months to go before the election. The Democrats
still enjoy over 20 candidates for their presidential nomination. They are struggling over
how “left” their rhetoric should be and how generous their proposals should sound (so far,
not one has called for big cuts in the military budget). If they sound “too left,” they
may seem to threaten the capitalist system. This could drive off the big donors who
otherwise would support them against Trump. And it might (or might not) drive off the
moderate base of the Democrats (as opposed to educating them). But if they are not “left”
enough, they will not really challenge Trump, his Republicans, and his corporate backers.
Nor will they motivate their liberal base. What to do?

Liberals often complain about how wishy-washy and spineless the Democrats are in the face
of right-wing attacks. This is in contrast to the Republicans who are “principled” and
even fanatical about their goals. There is a reason for this difference. If the
Republicans stir up their white, relatively privileged, racist, middle class base into
hysterical frenzies, this might result in the nomination of a Trump or, at worst, an
attack on bourgeois democracy-but not on capitalism. But if the Democrats were to rile up
their base, to excite the African-American community and blue collar workers, to mobilize
unions and to organize mass action by youth-this could threaten capitalism. Unlimited
demands by workers, People of Color, people threatened by climate change, etc., would go
past the limits of the capitalist economy. This the Democrats cannot allow and will not

As far as I am concerned, the Democratic candidates are vying to be the top manager of the
most dangerous institution in the world today, This is the U.S. national military-state
and its capitalist economy. I am not sympathetic to this goal. (The U.S. has a military
force larger than the next eight national states. It is a key part of the
life-threatening, climate-destroying, system of national states and the capitalist world

Some liberals, progressives, etc., are impressed with the current flock of Democratic
candidates. This requires taking their words at face value, ignoring what they do not say
(about foreign policy or military spending, for example). And a focus on individuals,
rather than the history of the party. Others, more realistic, argue that the Democrats are
the “lesser evil.” This is to admit that they are evil, even if lesser. I would not deny
that, especially in comparison to Trump and his minions.

But here is my question: Who has a program which is adequate to solve the deep problems of
the U.S. and world? That is, global warming and other ecological catastrophes, the danger
of nuclear war, the probability of a collapse of the capitalist economy-as well as
“lesser” problems such as continuing racism, gender oppression, LGBTQ repression, economic
inequality, stagnation,”small” wars, political authoritarianism, and so on. The very
survival of industrial civilization, and perhaps of humanity and our fellow creatures, is
at stake. Whether the Democrats mean well or are hypocrites and liars, their programs are
simply inadequate for the crises we face. Can it be claimed, by any knowledgable person,
that any Democrat has such a needed program?

It would be delightful to get rid of Donald Trump, this pustule on the ass of humanity.
But if the result is that we are still on the road to armageddon and the destruction of
the world, then my joy is limited.

What Shall We Do?

This is not a discussion of whether to vote. I don’t really care. I doubt that the votes
of a handful of anarchists-or even of all the conscious socialists and radicals in the
country-would make a difference.

The issue is not what a few individuals should do. it is what we radicals should advocate
that mass institutions and movements should do. This includes the unions, the
African-American community, Latinx communities, LGBTQ groups, the ecological and
environmental movement, feminist organizations, etc. These are the base of the Democratic
Party. They donate a large amount of money, and human energy and time, to the Democrats’
electoral efforts. Yet their rewards have not been great. In recent elections, the
Democrats have turned their backs on them, especially on the unions and the working class.
Similarly, unlike the Republicans, the Democrats have admitted that there is a climate
crisis. Yet they have done little about it and advocated limited programs. They have
sought African-Americans votes but done little to improve their lives. And so on.

Errico Malatesta, the Italian revolutionary anarchist-socialist, was a co-worker with
Bakunin and Kropotkin. He commented, “Electionists…compare what is done in the electoral
struggle with what would happen if nothing were done; while instead they should compare
the results obtained when other methods are followed and with what might be achieved if
all effort used to send representatives to power…were[instead]employed in the fight to
directly achieve what is desired.” (Malatesta 2019; 179)

There needs to be massive union organizing drives through the U.S. There should be city
and regional general strikes to fight back against attacks on working people. There need
to be massive and militant demonstrations, with civil disobedience, to fight against
police brutality and other aspects of racism and poverty. Cities should be brought to a
halt until steps are taken to limit global warming. Colleges should be occupied by their
students. So factories and other workplaces.should be occupied by their workers, who
should run them for the common good.

If a Democrat is elected president, with a Democratic Congress, we can expect liberals,
progressives, and activists to be disappointed. The Democrats, whatever their motives,
will stay within the limits of capitalism. Therefore they cannot stop climate change or
improve the living conditions of working people-not under the current conditions of
capitalist stagnation and decline. This disappointment will lead to greater opposition, I
hope. Opposition should not be channeled into the Democratic Party (there to wither and
die),nor into other electoral parties (that is, into other supports of the capitalist
state). They should be directed to direct action and militant activities.

To save the humans, a different system is needed-one based on cooperation, equality, and
freedom, with production for use not profit, and with radically-democratic self-management
of the economy and all aspects of society. Only a few are for this now, but a radical left
wing of the developing movements can be built to fight for this revolutionary goal. If we
are not mesmerized by the flam-flam of the electoral system.


Malatesta, Errico (2019) (Davide Turcato, Ed.) (Paul Sharkey, Trans.). “Towards Anarchy”;
Malatesta in America 1899-1900. The Complete Works of Errico Malatesta; Vol. IV. Chico CA:
AK Press.

*written for

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The American Counterrevolution

dim, 07/07/2019 - 02:45

via Commune magazine

The fireworks of the Fourth of July commemorate a slave republic that still deserves to burn.

Forty-one of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. In the rare instances where US history acknowledges this fact, slave ownership by the Founding Fathers is presented as hypocrisy, an embarrassing inconsistency in the American Revolution’s otherwise admirable quest to expand human liberty. But for most of these men, slave ownership was not a moral blind spot within an otherwise liberatory panorama, but an entirely consistent aspect of their belief in an independent, white-supremacist settler state. While the American Revolution had a variety of motivations, the preservation of slavery and the business of slavery was a key issue in elites’ drive for independence. In response to this conservative mutiny, enslaved people led a simultaneous and often divergent revolution for emancipation, one that leaves us a truer legacy of a fight for freedom than that we celebrate on July 4.

The events of the revolution turned, in some sense, upon the plight of a single person. James Somerset was an enslaved man living in Boston, Massachusetts when British customs officer Charles Stewart purchased him and eventually brought him to London. In England, Somerset fled bondage in 1771, though he was soon recaptured and imprisoned on a ship bound for a Jamaican sugar plantation. Somerset’s family, working closely with London abolitionist networks, put in an application for a writ of habeas corpus on Somerset’s behalf and forced the British courts to evaluate whether Somerset’s imprisonment and planned removal were legal. In 1772, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield made the momentous ruling that British law did not positively protect slavery, and so Somerset was set free.

The exact meaning of Lord Mansfield’s ruling continues to be debated. Some interpret it as effectively freeing all slaves within England itself, others as more narrowly prohibiting masters from forcibly taking enslaved people outside of England. Many would continue to be enslaved in England for decades, but in the months and years following the decision, thousands left their masters and claimed their freedom. Regardless of the legal details, then, here was James Somerset, an enslaved man who won his freedom through his escape and thereby enabled countless others to emancipate themselves. The Somerset case terrified elites across the British empire, who feared an imminent ruling banning slavery in the West Indies and mainland North America. Such a decision wouldn’t come until 1833, but in planters’ fervid imaginations, British power had fallen into the hands of radical abolitionists.

The press in the thirteen American colonies raged against the Somerset decision. Forty-three stories appeared in twenty colonial papers, warning colonists of the potential for the British Parliament to tax slaves or even ban slavery altogether. Ads for runaway slaves reported that slaves had fled for England, inspired by Mansfield’s ruling. For southerners especially, Somerset was a dramatic escalation of British tyranny. Parliament’s subsequent failure to act to preserve slavery after Mansfield’s decision was definitive proof that Britain had no interest in protecting its colonies’ economic interests.

Colonists dreaded the loss of economic and political power that would come with emancipation, but they also harbored deep fears of slave rebellions, which they felt the British were ignoring or encouraging. Enslaved people had led a constant campaign against human bondage in the Americas during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, from the 1739 Stono Rebellion, to the 1741 New York Conspiracy, to Tacky’s War in 1760 Jamaica. Anglo-Protestant settlers were furious that the Crown did not take more serious measures to quell these rebellions, angered that England failed, for instance, to fully destroy Spanish Florida, which they saw as key in enabling the Stono Rebellion. Colonists imagined the British were colluding with enslaved people and free indigenous people to subjugate the interests of Anglo-Protestant expansion to a corrupted and increasingly heterogenous empire. Britain’s Proclamation Line of 1763, which banned settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains in a concession to indigenous resistance, further confirmed the Crown’s treachery. Settlers prominently expressed those concerns in the Declaration of Independence, which lists as one of its prime grievances, “[England] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

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How Community Land Trusts Can Help Address the Affordable Housing Crisis

dim, 07/07/2019 - 02:17

via Jacobin

By Oksana Mironova

Over the past fifty years, cycles of disinvestment and aggressive reinvestment in urban real estate markets, stagnating wages, and neoliberal shifts in federal housing policy have created a complex housing system that is fueled by debt and fails to serve a large swath of the population. Housing advocates continually struggle with logistical questions about the longevity and depth of affordability in affordable housing and structural questions about the roles of the market and the state in the provision of housing.

It is difficult to pin down the functional definition of what a house is in America: shelter, sanctuary, a societal building block, a wealth building mechanism, and/or a commodity. What is clear, from high rent burdens, widespread evictions, and growing homelessness, is that existing tools are not working.

Over the past few years, the community land trust (CLT) model has been increasingly promoted as a solution by affordable housing advocates of many kinds, from anti-gentrification and tenants advocates to traditional community development organizations to large philanthropic institutions like the Ford Foundation and the Federal Reserve. The CLT model is highly flexible, and has huge potential for addressing the affordable housing crisis in America today.

What Is a CLT?

At its core, a CLT is an entity organized to maintain the ownership of land for a specific, community-oriented purpose, forever. It is designed to be a non-traditional form of property ownership, where the ownership of land is separated from the ownership of property.

The relationship between the entity that owns the land and the entity that builds and operates the buildings that are on the land are defined by what’s called a “ground lease.” In the United States, ground leases are most commonly used in the development of commercial real estate. They give the developer of a building strong control over what happens to a property for a long period of time (for as long as ninety-nine years), while allowing the land owner to retain the rights to the land itself. In real estate terms, a ground lease allows a developer to substantially lower their front-end costs by avoiding paying for land.

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Capitalism is Awfully Nice

dim, 07/07/2019 - 02:12

The farther down you are on the system’s ladder, the nicer you are required to be

by Fifth Estate # 403, Spring 2019

From childhood, most of us are taught what is supposedly an essential skill for living within industrial capitalist society: how to be nice. To be nice is to act in a way that gives others pleasure, comfort, and satisfaction in order to receive social rewards or prevent social penalties. To succeed in capitalism, it is important to be liked and likable. Nice people can get and keep jobs, make business deals, have social lives, and more.

Expectations of niceness are often higher for women, people of color, and workers, creating much more risk for people in these groups if they are perceived as not nice. With countless stories of women getting assaulted after resisting male sexual advances, it’s no wonder so many women choose to appease men even when they do not desire a sexual interaction. While still costly, it often seems to be significantly lower risk to give in.

Similarly, it is a common experience for people of color to receive more negative attention for expressing anger or dissatisfaction than their white counterparts. Workers also risk losing employment if they do not respond to their bosses and managers in a nice way that keeps them comfortable. This is true even when bosses and managers are communicating in an aggressive way, or making unreasonable demands.

Because of the consequences we may face if we fail to be nice, we often feel compelled to be so even when it is not a genuine expression, and this comes with inherent internal costs. If we authentically wanted to give someone pleasure, comfort, or satisfaction, there would be no internal costs. In fact, it would likely nourish us in some way, like when we see our children eating a healthy meal, or a lover experiencing sexual pleasure.

When we feel extrinsically compelled to act nice in a way that does not reflect what we know to be true, then the dissonance comes at a cost to our own well-being, and can perpetuate systems that do not work.

The cumulative effect of this dissonance over time takes a toll on personal and community health.

Niceness socialization prevents feedback that might disrupt the status quo. That is precisely why the less privilege one has, the higher the risks are for going against expectations of niceness. When we are nice, we play our part in upholding the illusion that the systems we live in work well.

Those who are in positions of power in oppressive systems are prevented from experiencing discomfort and risk, because those costs are taken on by others with less power who have been socialized to be nice.

I grew up in conservative Muslim communities in New York, raised with a huge expectation for me to be nice and obedient.

On top of that, there was also a lot of Islamophobia, before 9/11 and even more after. I felt like I had to represent all Muslims and prove that we weren’t all anti-American terrorists. The combination of this pressure from two directions created a context in which I felt very compelled to be nice. I mostly succeeded at it, having a lot of friends and being well regarded by most of my teachers.

In my teenage years, I rebelled against that pressure, refusing to wear hijab or do much of what I was obligated to do. I went to punk shows and dropped out of high school. I did a major pendulum swing away from being nice, and spoke directly and aggressively even when I lost friends or hurt others.

Both ends of that spectrum were missing something. In my childhood, I was missing authenticity. In my teenage years, I was missing care.

What could it look like if instead of niceness or brutal honesty, we aimed to integrate authenticity and care?

There are two things that are directly necessary to move toward a culture of authenticity and care. One is to build this in microcosmic ways within our communities and movements, and the other is to support each other in facing the risks of refusing to be nice when we engage with oppressive systems.

To increase our capacity to act with authenticity and care within our own communities, we can look at where we have agency in terms of recreating expectations of niceness. For example, if someone has trouble locating their own needs and experience, then they may need practice and support to develop the necessary self-awareness to act authentically.

If someone struggles with receiving feedback without defensiveness, then they may need practice and support to develop the capacity to vulnerably hear others. If someone tends to be received as stoic regardless of an inner experience of care, they may need practice and support to find ways to express genuine care.

We can ask questions to help each other locate our care and experiences so we can express them authentically. We can engage in community dialogue to explore these things together and come up with mutually supportive ideas that engage our unique circumstances and gifts.

In order to increase our capacity to refuse to be nice in the face of great risk, we can act in solidarity with one another. This might look like empathetic or material support once someone has already experienced some sort of cost for refusing to be nice.

It could also look like finding ways to use our collective strength to make it more difficult for someone to be singled out. We see this when workers choose to strike together when only one of them is being targeted for speaking out about terrible conditions.

It could look like supporting each other to actively choose whether we want to take a risk or be nice, rather than do so out of habit. It also means having compassion for ourselves and others when we lack the capacity and support to take the risks of acting authentically with care.

Integrating care into this model means refusing to give in to dehumanizing others even when we are determined to stop them from causing harm. Humans are not compartmentalized beings, and dissonance causes cumulative harm to our communities. It’s no wonder military and police families experience higher than normal domestic violence rates.

Not only does the revolution begin at home, but the war comes home with us whether we like it or not.

Holding care for others does not mean saying things perfectly so that we are managing other’s responses to us. It is not possible to predict or manage someone’s response. It is only possible to authentically express our care and experience, and be willing to take the risk of showing up for the outcome.

Moving away from niceness toward authenticity and care will allow feedback to enter systems and change them. They might not change because someone powerful finally understands something, but because disrupting the norm opens up non-normative possibilities.

Acting authentically makes visible the often invisible costs that we take on in order to survive in an oppressive system. Refusing to be nice can sometimes mean facing very real danger, and it does us no good to minimize that.

We can cultivate willingness to face risks, big and small, with self-awareness, support, and solidarity.

Mars Z. Goetia is a working-class mother, anarchist, musician, and prison abolitionist. She studies and practices group facilitation and radical approaches to conflict and harm. Since 2003, Mars has lived in a close-knit anarchist community in Santa Cruz, Calif.

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Emma Goldman: A New Declaration of Independence

jeu, 07/04/2019 - 17:41

by Emma Goldman

When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.

The mere fact that these forces–inimical to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–are legalized by statute laws, sanctified by divine rights, and enforced by political power, in no way justifies their continued existence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all human beings, irrespective of race, color, or sex, are born with the equal right to share at the table of life; that to secure this right, there must be established among men economic, social, and political freedom; we hold further that government exists but to maintain special privilege and property rights; that it coerces man into submission and therefore robs him of dignity, self-respect, and life.

The history of the American kings of capital and authority is the history of repeated crimes, injustice, oppression, outrage, and abuse, all aiming at the suppression of individual liberties and the exploitation of the people. A vast country, rich enough to supply all her children with all possible comforts, and ensure well-being to all, is in the hands of a few, while the nameless millions are at the mercy of ruthless wealth gatherers, unscrupulous lawmakers, and corrupt politicians. Sturdy sons of America are forced to tramp the country in a fruitless search for bread, and many of her daughters are driven into the street, while thousands of tender children are daily sacrificed on the altar of Mammon. The reign of these kings is holding mankind in slavery, perpetuating poverty and disease, maintaining crime and corruption; it is fettering the spirit of liberty, throttling the voice of justice, and degrading and oppressing humanity. It is engaged in continual war and slaughter, devastating the country and destroying the best and finest qualities of man; it nurtures superstition and ignorance, sows prejudice and strife, and turns the human family into a camp of Ishmaelites.

We, therefore, the liberty-loving men and women, realizing the great injustice and brutality of this state of affairs, earnestly and boldly do hereby declare, That each and every individual is and ought to be free to own himself and to enjoy the full fruit of his labor; that man is absolved from all allegiance to the kings of authority and capital; that he has, by the very fact of his being, free access to the land and all means of production, and entire liberty of disposing of the fruits of his efforts; that each and every individual has the unquestionable and unabridgeable right of free and voluntary association with other equally sovereign individuals for economic, political, social, and all other purposes, and that to achieve this end man must emancipate himself from the sacredness of property, the respect for man-made law, the fear of the Church, the cowardice of public opinion, the stupid arrogance of national, racial, religious, and sex superiority, and from the narrow puritanical conception of human life. And for the support of this Declaration, and with a firm reliance on the harmonious blending of man’s social and individual tendencies, the lovers of liberty joyfully consecrate their uncompromising devotion, their energy and intelligence, their solidarity and their lives.

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Put Away the Flags

jeu, 07/04/2019 - 17:35


By Howard Zinn • Published in The Progressive • July 2, 2006

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism – that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder – one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking – cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on – have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours – huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction – what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early.

When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession.”

When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our “Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence.” After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: “We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country.”

It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.

We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, “to civilize and Christianize” the Filipino people.

As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: “The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness.”

We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

Yet they are victims, too, of our government’s lies.

How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for “liberty,” for “democracy”?

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

Published in The Progressive • July 2, 2006

Image: Zinn with Veterans for Peace sign • Photographer unknown • Veterans News Now

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