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Focus on Kurdistan

sam, 10/12/2019 - 17:10

The latest news, information and resources on Kurdistan.

Latest News ~ October 12, 2019

Recent News

2017 and earlier

Excellent Resources

News

News on Social Media

Support Groups / Solidarity

Background

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The New Age of Protest

mar, 10/08/2019 - 04:23

via CounterPunch

by John Feffer

Led by young people, climate strikers blocked traffic on two mornings at the end of last month in Washington, DC. On the first day, protestors chained themselves to a boat three blocks from the White House, and 32 activists were arrested. On the second day, activists targeted the EPA and Trump International Hotel. It was a not-so-subtle suggestion to commuters stuck in their cars on those mornings to think more favorably about public transportation or telecommuting. It was also a potent reminder, as Congress remains polarized on so many issues, that some paralysis is healthy in the nation’s capital.

The DC protests were part of a global climate strike that involved an estimated 6.6 million people. In New Zealand, 3.5 percent of the population participated. Melbourne, Berlin, and London each had rallies of 100,000 people. In Seattle, over a thousand workers walked out of Amazon headquarters, demanding that the company reduce its carbon emissions to zero.

It wasn’t just the children of the privileged in the industrialized world who were out on the streets. Protests took place in 125 countries and 1,600 cities, including 15 cities in the Philippines, throughout India, and all over Africa.

The global climate strike is just the latest mass protest this year. Demonstrations have roiled Hong Kong since the beginning of the summer. Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in Moscow through the fall to protest restrictions on local elections. Thousands of Brazilians thronged major cities to condemn their president’s handling of the Amazon fires, and the same outrage prompted people to gather with placards in front of Brazilian embassies all over the world. Protests against Venezuela’s leadership that broke out on January 1 have recently dwindled even as demonstrations to remove Haiti’s president have heated up and security forces have cracked down on Iraqis protesting the corruption and inefficiency of their government.

Anti-government rallies in Serbia became some of the longest running protests in Europe this summer. Elsewhere in Europe, the yellow vests continued to target the government of Emmanuel Macron into 2019. In the UK, thousands gathered to protest Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament in September.

Protestors marched last month in South Africa to decry rising violence against women. At the beginning of the year, the Women’s March 2019 again focused anger at Donald Trump and his administration’s record on women’s issues, while gun control supporters held “recess rallies” around the United States in August to push for stricter limits on firearms. After massive protests helped oust the previous prime minister in 2016, candlelight protests again returned to South Korea this last weekend as 800,000 people gathered to support an embattled justice minister and his reform agenda.

Analysts almost daily bemoan the erosion in democratic values that has accompanied the rise of autocratic politicians. And indeed, recourse to the streets can be a sign that people no longer believe that the ordinary mechanisms of democracy are working.

Viewed another way, however, the sheer number of protests and their geographic spread prove that 2019 was a banner year for engagement, for participation, for democracy. As protestors like to chant, this is what democracy looks like.

Ahead to the Past?

Fifty years ago, young people also declared that they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. In Warsaw in 1968, Polish students demonstrated in defense of free speech and against police brutality. It was part of a larger rebellion in the Soviet bloc, led by Alexander Dubcek’s “socialism with a human face” reforms in Czechoslovakia. Students in Germany contacted their rebellious counterparts on the other side of the Iron Curtain as part of their own campus actions. In Paris, meanwhile, French students took over the streets with slogans like “Be realistic, demand the impossible.”

It was a worldwide phenomenon. Students mobilized in Mexico, Pakistan, and Japan. The first protests against the military dictatorship began in Brazil. And, of course, huge anti-Vietnam War demonstrations convulsed the United States.

Then as now, young people were upset with government repression, grievous policies of war and environmental destruction, and systemic sclerosis. They were critical of an imposed political consensus – by military juntas, communist governments, and the joint efforts of liberal and conservative politicians in the democratic world.

Read more

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Google Worker Organizing News

dim, 09/22/2019 - 14:32

Workers at Google have been organizing and holding protests about issues such as sexual harassment, sexism and racism within the corporation, contracts with companies an countries engaged in human rights abuses, and climate change.

Note to Google workers: Congratulations on finding this page. Google currently doesn’t index our website at Google News, although it has done so in the past. Google has never explained this decision, despite our queries and appeals. Infoshop News is one of the oldest online news websites, online since 1995.This decision by Google not only affects us, but penalizes the independent media and the general public who is looking for news like we provide. If you can help us with this issue, please let us know.

Updated: September 22, 2019

General News

 

Sexism, Sexual Harassment, Racism and Workplace Culture ICE and Homeland Security Contracts Climate Protests Unionization Google Temps

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Hands Off Exarcheia: Athens’s Anarchist Community Fights Back

sam, 09/21/2019 - 04:32

via The Nation

Athens, Greece—One day the riot police were no longer stationed in front of Greece’s National Archeological Museum. For most of August, a group of them, wearing olive green military-style uniforms and wielding giant shields, had posted out front, facing the adjacent Athens neighborhood of Exarcheia—just waiting.

Exarcheia has long been a nucleus of radical intellectual thought and anarchist activity, and it is not welcoming to police. Residents have plastered the area with anti-cop slogans, politically charged street art, and anarchy circle As. “Evict Airbnb Not Squats” is scribbled on walls, and anti-Airbnb banners are strung throughout the gentrifying neighborhood.

At dawn on August 26, the riot police raided four formerly abandoned buildings known as “squats.” Two housed refugees, and two were anarchist squats. Now the security forces from the museum have occupied this hostile territory.

The early morning operation forced 143 refugees, including 31 minors, most of them from Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey, into police vans. Greek authorities say the detained refugees may be confined in overcrowded detention camps, and some will be deported.

“Riot police are all around the neighborhood now,” Tasos Sagris, a theater director, poet, and member of the anarchist cultural group Void Network, told me. “Violent assaults and homophobic and sexist attacks by fully armed policemen against activists, students, refugees, and common people are a daily phenomenon, as is launching large amounts of tear gas in residential areas.”

Read more

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The 32 Men Funding Climate Chaos

sam, 09/21/2019 - 03:29

via The Understory

We all know the daunting truth: Massive-scale extraction and burning of the earth’s resources, like precious forests and dirty fossil fuels, is driving our climate to a state of chaos. And while the light bulbs and recycling habits of everyday folks do add up, it’s the overall system and those at the top that are destroying our future. If we’re looking for people to blame, our fingers should be pointed at the vile decisions of a few dozen rich guys.

Just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. A brilliant resource at Decolonial Atlas names and shames these 100 fossil fuel executives—almost all men—as the Top 100 People Killing the Planet.

Fossil fuel companies can’t destroy the planet without outside help. While some of those companies are government funded, many rely heavily on financing from banks. The map below adds another layer to the entangled web of destructive fossil fuels by naming the CEOs and top leadership of the largest finance companies in the world. Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016, these 32 banks have funneled $1.9 TRILLION into fossil fuels.

Read more

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Anarchists’ Unlikely Tool for Fighting Climate Change: Farming

ven, 09/20/2019 - 01:55

Via The Daily Beast

By Arvind Dilawar

In the waning months of 2011, Tim Holland was deeply involved in Occupy Denver, the local arm of the international Occupy movement. The 41-year-old anarchist and hip-hop artist, who goes by the stage name Sole, had been living in the Mile High City since 2009. When Occupiers first set up an encampment at Lincoln Park, Holland organized street protests, public assemblies, fundraisers, reading groups, and more. Protesters interrupted city council meetings and repeatedly attempted to take over government buildings before the movement was quashed when their second encampment in Civic Center Park went up in a haze of flames. Following Occupy Denver’s suppression by law enforcement, gentrification in the city seemed to shift into hyperdrive, forcing Holland to rethink living there.

“I wanted to pull myself out of the rat race and reimagine what a new form of my political interventions and practices could be,” he said.

Holland had visited intentional communities in France, where radicals were successfully supporting themselves through farming. The idea of anarchists in North America doing the same captured his imagination. He left Denver in 2018, relocating with his wife and young child to an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Brunswick, Maine.

“Earlier in the year that I moved, I learned about the Ogallala Aquifer, which feeds all of the farmland of the breadbasket—and Colorado as well,” Holland said. “It’s going to be depleted in 20 years from now.” Wanting to reorient his life and politics around “food autonomy”—or self-sustaining food production—Holland saw the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer as not only a strike against staying in Denver but grim proof of what awaited much of American society, which depends on conventional food production to survive.

The dire threat that climate change poses to conventional food production in the United States has been anticipated for years. In a 2012 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted that post-2050 most crop and livestock production would suffer from a combination of rising temperatures, variable precipitation, and more frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts or floods. The USDA anticipates that, even in the short-term, these effects will exacerbate hunger among the poorest and most vulnerable.

For anarchists like Holland, the anonymously written text Desert was a wake-up call. The 80-page zine, published both online and in print in 2011, argues that the inevitability of climate change will lead to widespread desertification, which governments are incapable of preventing. As extreme as that may sound, Holland felt that he could see the writing on the wall, even from the relative privilege of Denver.

Read more

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Global Climate Strike 2019

jeu, 09/19/2019 - 15:21

People around the world are organizing a Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019. Demonstrations and protests are scheduled in hundreds of cities. Students are skipping class in many schools.

Updated September 19, 2019

Breaking News
  • News wire will be updated on September 20th.
Background Greta Thunberg’s Visit to the U.S. Websites

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76 anti-ICE protesters arrested during sit-in at Microsoft store in New York

dim, 09/15/2019 - 03:13

via CNN

(CNN)Seventy-six protesters were arrested Saturday afternoon for blocking traffic in Manhattan, a New York Police Department spokesman said.

The demonstrators staged a sit-in at the Microsoft store on Fifth Avenue to demand the tech company stop allowing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to use their technology, according to a press release from the “Close the Camps NYC” coalition that organized the protest.

#NoBusinessWithICE #ClosetheCamps #5thAve pic.twitter.com/glfgmblVrQ

— Close the Camps NYC (@CloseTheCampsNY) September 14, 2019

“As members of this society it is our responsibility to hold US corporations accountable,” said Beatriz Lozano, an organizer with Close the Camps NYC. “By being complicit in their actions we are being complicit in the targeting of the Latinx community and the racist torture and trauma that is being inflicted. We have the power to end this cruelty. “ In videos posted to Twitter, protesters could be seen in front of the Microsoft store holding signs and chanting “this is the price for business with ICE.” Read more

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Our forever war: how the white male hegemony uses violence to cling to power

dim, 09/15/2019 - 03:05

via The Guardian

by Rebecca Solnit

We were never not at war. By we I mean the colonizers of this continent, who waged war first against Native North America’s original occupants and then entered into a state of war to keep kidnapped Africans subjugated in slavery. After the official Indian wars ended, we found other means to keep Native people confined and disempowered. After slavery officially ended, we found other means to keep black people impoverished and disempowered. Those means were forms of war.

We launched a war to steal Mexico’s northern half, a project completed in 1848 with the acquisition of what is now California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona (minus the Gadsden purchase), part of Colorado, and New Mexico. Texas had already been seized by dubious means, in part because its Yankee settlers refused to accept Mexican law banning slavery. Then we treated Latinx people, even those who had been here before “here” was the USA, as invaders.

There’s a long history of massacres in response to slave uprisings and Native resistance, and the police killings of black people and white male killing of Native women might as well be called war by other means. The US began with a declaration that “all men are created equal” that left out all women, and since then its history has too often been devoted to perpetrating inequality. Recent mass shootings driven by racism and misogyny are a more extreme means of enforcing an oppression built into our economic and legal systems, and may be the result of a panic that those systems are not containing others well enough.

“War” might as well describe the domestic violence so epidemic that “on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States”, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, with an average of four domestic violence deaths a day. Of course the majority of perpetrators are men; the majority of victims are women.

We are a country at war, but who that “we” is – in a nation where so many have been so disenfranchised – should be central to the conversation. There are more guns in the US than people, and the rhetoric of gun rights has been used to defend the rights of these killing machines to spread everywhere – classrooms, Walmarts, public places, homes where children have access to them.

And the people most likely to own guns are those who have been the aggressors in these wars: men, particularly white men, who commit almost all the mass shootings in this country. As social media commentators have noted, if it were Islamic or other “other” groups committing multiple massacres there would be no doubt that this was terrorism. And as Jason Stanley notes early in his book How Fascism Works, “The most telling symptom of fascist politics is division. It aims to separate a population into an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’” But these divisions by race, religion, and gender have always structured the United States.

Read more

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Not Just the Bees, First-of-Its-Kind Study Shows Neonics May Be Killing Birds Too

sam, 09/14/2019 - 01:45

via Common Dreams

by Julia Conley

In addition to devastating effects on bee populations and the pollination needed to feed humans and other species, widely-used pesticides chemically related to nicotine may be deadly to birds and linked to some species’ declines, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan studied the pesticide imidacloprid, in the nicotine-linked class of chemicals called neonicotinoids, or neonics, and found that the pesticide had effects on migrating birds’ health and ability to reproduce.

We’ve heard a lot about neonics & bees—but they’re hurting birds too.

A first-of-its-kind study on wild birds shows the pesticides make them lose weight and delays migration.https://t.co/LDep60W0ay

— EHN (@EnvirHealthNews) September 12, 2019

The scientists gave small amounts of the pesticide to white-crowned sparrows and found that the limited consumption caused the birds to lose weight and delay their migration.

Within hours of being given the neonics, the birds stopped eating and lost an average of six percent of their body weight and about 17 percent of their fat stores, making it impossible for them to complete their long flights south. The birds took at least an extra 3.5 days to recover and migrate.

“It’s just a few days, but we know that just a few days can have significant consequences for survival and reproduction,” Margaret Eng, an ecotoxicologist who led the study told Science magazine, where the research was published Friday.

The disruption of the species’ normal migration led to decreased ability to reproduce and survive, the researchers found.

The study “causatively links a pesticide to something that is really, tangibly negative to birds that is causing their population declines,” study author Christy Morrissey told the Associated Press. “It’s clear evidence these chemicals can affect populations.”

More than 70 percent of North American farmland bird species are currently experiencing population declines.

The research shows for the first time “behavioral effects in free-living birds as result of neonicotinoid intoxication,” Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, told National Geographic after reviewing Eng’s study.

Scientists in Europe revealed in 2017 that neonicotinoids can decimate honey bee populations, threatening food sources for humans and other species.

The European Union banned the use of neonics in 2018 due to their effects on pollinators.

The EPA announced in May it would cancel the registrations of 12 neonicotinoid pesticides, but in July, the Trump administration removed restrictions on sulfoxaflor, a neonic that’s been found to kill bees in low doses.

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Should the Anti-Capitalists Contest Elections?

ven, 09/13/2019 - 20:19

via Zabalaza.net

by Lucien van der Walt

This is a lightly edited transcription of a talk given by Prof. Lucien van der Walt on a panel on the eve of the 2019 national elections in South Africa: the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG)/ Workers World Media Productions (WWMP) Public Forum, Isivivana Centre, Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa 25 April.

THANK YOU comrades for the points that you have made. Should anti-capitalists vote? The quick answer is “no.” Let’s be clear, the right to vote is important. It is better to be under a state where you can vote, where there are some basic civil and political rights, than under, for example, the apartheid state that we had. It is not that there is no difference – it is big victory for the working class that we’re under a bourgeois parliamentary democracy.

Having said that, using the state and using elections is not something that is going to take the working class forward, it is not something that is going to enable the working class to build the capacity to take power directly by itself, through bottom-up organs of working class democracy.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t an argument about whether comrades are sincere in their programmes when forming parties, it is not an argument that genuine comrades who believe in the party model secretly have malicious plans to get rich. We know that there are many politicians who are in it to get money, but not all.

So this is a message to the sincere comrades, of the left.

Fundamentally the state is not an organization that is able to ensure the deeper change, the creation of social and economic equality which we need in our country and in our society. The state is a top-down, centralised pyramid in the hands of a political elite of politicians, and of top government officials, who work with an economic elite, of big business people. Together this is the ruling class, a powerful minority that controls society, and monopolizes power and wealth through states and corporations.

We can have formal political and civil rights, but in the context of deep, profound, immiserating inequality in power and wealth, those rights are very limited. We all have the right to free speech but one person, sleeping under a bridge, and another person, the editor of a newspaper — well, one person’s right to free speech and another person’s right to free speech, can be completely different in reality. If you are desperately dependent on an employer to survive, to get a small amount of money, so that you can feed your kids, you are not likely to cause trouble and invoke your formal rights as a worker.

So, for the proper exercise of rights, you need equality in society — not just to be equal on paper. To that end we need a massive redistribution of power and wealth in society: we need to move away from a society in which run by, and for, a small ruling class of politicians, officials and capitalists.

As a simple example, to get decent housing in South Africa, we would have to spend billions of rands, we would have to redirect the construction industry away from producing shopping malls, from suburban houses, gentrified coffee shops and craft beer saloons. We would have to control the resources — the labour, the materials, the infrastructure — and we would have to have the power to decide that those resources go into housing — rather than something else.

Then we can start to talk about the large-scale delivery of decent housing for ordinary people. I don’t mean a little shacks, I don’t mean the tiny two room houses the state provides when pressured.

FROM FLOOR: Viva!

I am talking about housing where you can live in dignity, where, essentially we abolish the township system of large, segregated, impoverished working class districts, under-serviced, badly maintained, ill-treated, and sharply distinct from the suburbs. A massive redistribution of power and wealth enables us to move away from that system, and create unified towns — not bigger townships, but the end of townships by making the townships suburbs.

Now, that requires some massive redistribution of wealth and power — and direct control by ordinary people. And you will never get that by getting a piece of paper in a box every five years and hoping some politician will carry out their promises.

Comrade Zama Timbela, on my left, of the Progressive Civic Movement, was quite clear and totally correct: we have tried, and we are not the only ones who have tried. Many, many people have tried this. People much better than me have tried. If someone like Nelson Mandela couldn’t change the system, if pretty much anyone you care to name ended up producing that same inequality in society, why is it going to be different this time? How many more times do we have to form and support parties, and watch them fail the working class?

You cannot with the best will in the world make a car fly. It is the nature of the thing. You cannot make a dog go “meow.” You cannot take a state, which has got a very specific purpose in society — keeping the ruling class on top — and make it do something different.

I understand comrades’ argument that we want to use the state, and parliament, and elections, to make propaganda — and there we agree. But we disagree on how.

This comes down to how we analyse the state. The nature of the state is twofold. One, it is about the defence of inequality in society. Adam Smith, the famous liberal economist said, the wealthy, could not sleep peacefully at night unless there was an armed body, which could protect them: the state. The state’s role is to maintain the status quo.

FROM FLOOR: Thank you!

Second, the state serves is controlled directly by that ruling class, and the ruling class is not just capitalists in the private sector. The ruling class includes those people who control the army, the police, the parliamentarians, the mayor, the vice chancellor -those are all part of the ruling class and they have some disagreements, how much cattle or cash must this one pay to this one in a bribe, who gets a contract from ESKOM for coal, how much tax must be paid, how best to control and exploit the working class.

But all these differences fall aside when it comes to basic things. If you want to occupy some land for a shack, you are going to face evictions, jail. The union comrades will know that when you go on strike, the police will be there — not to arrest the bosses, but to police you. On strike you can be beaten, you will not get paid, you will get killed in some cases. On the other side, you could be like Marcus Jooste, and defraud people of nearly R40 billion, or like Jacob Zuma and be involved in “state capture” scams that amount to an estimated R100 billion, and you will not be arrested, evicted, or jailed. You will have to testify in parliament, maybe, and then you can go home to your mansion. You can loot ESKOM so much, that South Africa now has less electricity than it did in 2009, and all you will face is a toothless commission.

So, on one side, simply by maintaining the status quo of inequality, powerful monopoly corporations, deeply entrenched inequality in decision-making and income and resources across society, including in the state — the household of the former president, Zuma, cost tax payers up to R500 million, while people in expanded public works earn less than R20 an hour — the state ensures the current system goes on.

And, on the other side, the state is an apparatus for the direct accumulation of wealth and power. Senior state office, whether national, provincial or local, gives access to state resources. High salaries and perks — more than a million rand a year, a house, flights, free airtime just to sit in parliament — and even more — access to big money through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC)and state banks, giant state capitalist firms like ESKOM, and thousands of opportunities for graft through state contracts and outsourcing, all the way down. The Eastern Cape province has tens of thousands of “procurement points”; a municipality can have up to a thousand contracts with the private sector. State power means you can give those contracts to family, friends, fronts: then you, the politician, are sorted. And this is, sadly, what a lot of political party activity in South Africa is all about. Not the people, the politicians.

Votes are not going to change the system. Voting is not going to change the system. Major decisions are completely outside of the control of ordinary people on a day-to-day basis. It is better to have a non-racial parliament than P.W, Botha, but parliament is not democracy. It is a shell covering something else. Look on TV at parliament, watch the shenanigans of overpaid politicians, earning a million rand a year, wearing overalls or Gucci suits — I don’t care which — as they posture, parade and make speeches! These are rich, powerful people; they are not there for you, they are doing a job where you do not even get fined if you never come to work.

If you think they really represent you, then think about what they really do. At elections they talk to you and promise the world, but you will see, sooner or later, what world you will get. We never voted for privatization in 1994, but we got it. We never voted for police to be sent onto our campuses, we got it. We never voted for a job-loss bloodbath, we got it. We never voted for the “state capture” project, we got it.

And this isn’t a question of which particular party – I want to be clear – this is not a question of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), or the rival, conservative Democratic Alliance (DA, which rules here in Cape Town) or the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), an ANC breakaway that talks about socialism but has allied with DA all over the country. The DA evicts people, the ANC complains. The ANC evicts people, the DA complains. EFF, well it will evict people all on its own, if it ever had direct control of a municipality – and in fact it has served for years in municipal coalition governments with the DA, and so, been party to DA evicting people.

It is not a question of which party. We also need to get away from the thing that the problem is a few bad apples, a few bad people that we solve it if we replace Mbeki with Zuma, and Zuma with Ramaphosa, in the ANC, or Malema from EFF, or Maimane from DA – it does not matter.

This is where the idea of running a party to use elections for tactical reasons is a mistake. Yes, the masses do look at elections: but why not give them a different message? Why tell people to vote for a party, to expose the system, as if that does not teach people to trust the system? Yes, the political temperature of the working class rises at elections, but why give the message “vote” if know voting is based on an illusion in the state? That is creating illusions.

Yes, comrades, I recognize the new Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, linked to the left-wing National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), wants a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and so on — and states that it does not believe in a parliamentary road to socialism. I know the party says it’s running in elections for tactical reasons, mainly to make propaganda. But the reality is that most people outside the party cadre will and do think the party is promising to deliver more and better, and that the issues is just that the state is run by the wrong party.

Yes, you can use parliament for propaganda, the EFF showed it brilliantly – brilliantly! They made parliament interesting to watch. In the old days it wasn’t interesting to watch, unless you were having trouble sleeping and then you could take tips from the people in parliament.

But fundamentally that does nothing to build a bottom-up movement, it makes people into spectators at a show, politics into a performance by a few leaders. And, fundamentally the use of parties in elections, whatever the aims, is a method that sows illusions in the state. The idea that the masses must be encouraged to vote, so they can learn the hard lessons, is irresponsible. If you have a child and they burn their hand, they learn a lesson. But you don’t encourage them to burn their hand so they can be learn the lesson: you say “don’t burn your hand, don’t touch the fire!” The same thing with elections.

To sum up: you are not going to change the system with a piece of paper; if you want to vote, vote, that is your right; but it’s not going to change things. If people want to set up a party, good for them. And I respect the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party for at least putting a radical platform out there. But it is still not going to solve the problems.

First, political parties don’t change the state, the state changes political parties; people change. High salaries, access to contracts, and the exercise of power — these things change people. We cannot pretend someone from the working class, now suddenly rich, and busy running the state, is still working class in interest, experience or outlook.

Rather than political parties being the power of the people inside the state, they actually become the power of the state inside the working class, using networks of patronage, providing access for a select few to escape the working class and move into the elite, corrupting and capturing the leadership of working class movements including unions, and teaching the masses to have faith in the state — an organisation that oppresses them.

The party system generates divisions in the working class, as politicians chase votes: in South Africa, it’s perfectly clear that race tensions are inflamed by the parties. The party system creates a culture of dependency on the state: “we want the state to deliver, give us this, give us that.” People are left passive, disempowered from decisions, only briefly emerging in voting and –sometimes — in protests. The rest of the time, they have no control over their daily lives. The party system promotes a Moses syndrome: people are taught to wait for a Moses to bring freedom to take them to the land of Canaan. But none of these politicians is Moses, and there is no Canaan to be found in following them. In electing them, you are putting them in a land of milk and honey you will never enter.

If no state can really make a difference, and I include the so-called socialist states, which were class societies based on state-capitalism, if no state has put the working class, the poor, the peasants in power, then we need to think of a way that ordinary people can take power without the state. We need a politics at a distance from the state, we need to build organs of people’s power and of workers’ control, that in the current period can defend the working class — and that can develop the capacities for the people to take over, directly, themselves, without the state.

Second, rejecting the use of the vote is not rejecting democracy, but fighting for democracy: parliament is not democracy, so if you want democracy you need to build it outside the state.

Comrade Mandisi Vatu, from the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party: we have had this discussion before, so I am happy to meet you on this panel again. And I still ask: why does NUMSA want to put their faith into a party? What does a party add? Why doesn’t NUMSA prepare its members to seize and occupy and run the metal industry? You have 350 000 people, you have structures of workers’ control, so expand the workers’ democracy, from your structures outwards. The older unions, in the 1980s, argued that workers’ control of the unions should be expanded into workers’ control of the economy and we should get back to that. A large section of the anti-apartheid movement aimed to replace apartheid state structures with organs of people’s power, where civic organisations would take power in the townships. We should get back to that. Why outsource to a party, when a party cannot do these jobs, and when the state is the enemy?

What we have to do is organize and educate people and what that means is organizing people bottom up, to struggle, bottom-up to empower their daily lives, bottom up so they can actually have democracy. You will not have democracy with the state, but you can get it with your neighbours. You can get it with your workmates. And you can build in that a seed of a democracy where people redistribute wealth and power downwards – that is exactly what I mean. Society based on assemblies, community and worker councils that can plan the economy democratic.

FROM FLOOR: Viva!

Organise outside the state. The state is part of the problem. It is not the solution! The problem is not the capitalists, somewhere out there, that the state will sort out, that the state will serve the people. The state and the capitalists are two parts of the same, basic system.

We cannot get away from theory and ideology here. The comrade from the floor who raised the question of the importance of a programme is correct: yes, we need to have ideas and we need to think about how we link struggles today to deeper changes tomorrow, we need to think practically without getting stuck in reformism. And this is where theory comes in.

Struggle just isn’t enough. We saw this with the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa, where people rebelled to demand parliamentary democracy. Just that. And what we saw is that, if we don’t have direction, you get pushed back or moved aside, and lose out. In Egypt, the masses overthrew the military regime, and got elections to parliament. A far-right party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was the main force ready to take the gap. It won the elections and was so reactionary, killing opponents, terrorising minorities like the Christians, that millions of people breathed a sigh of relief when the military seized power again. They were back to square one. It is nonsense to think that struggle alone is enough, or even to pretend that struggle automatically takes us towards socialism and democracy. It does not and it cannot.

So, it is not enough just to struggle: we need to link daily struggle systematically towards a larger program of changing society. This is why I am glad that the comrades here, from the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, are raising the issues of a bigger project that builds on, but goes way beyond, immediate struggles, Because, ultimately, we need to be clear about what is wrong in society now, what our end goal of a new type of society is, and how we get from one to the other.

Comrade Ebrahim Fourie, on the panel, representing the Housing Assembly, is right that we need to be clear on words. Just to say that our end goal is “socialism” is too vague, as he notes. What does that mean? How do we get there? We need to engage theory, and history does matter; we cannot just say we’re now in the 21st century, everything is new, and the past is dead. We need — as different socialist currents — to look at what we did wrong in the past and right as well.

Comrades have labelled me an “anarchist” …

CROWD: Laughter.

But it’s a label I embrace! I am arguing for exactly that, anarchism and syndicalism: at the end of the day we need to be thinking about how the working class, and the popular classes more generally, can take power directly, and not keeping handing power over to others. If we reject capitalism, and if we reject the state, if we agree that handing power to politicians and parties has failed — and failed it has, comrades, make no mistake, there is not one successful example of this freeing the masses — then we need to build mass organisations that can fight in the present and replace capital and state in the future. So we must always draw a clear class-based distinction between the people of a country, and its ruling classes, and stay steadfast in being politically independent of the state, just as we are separate from the private corporations.

I appreciate that many comrades here feel solidarity with Venezuela, and so do I, since I oppose imperialist interventions. But I feel solidarity with the popular classes of Venezuela, not its regime. I feel solidarity with the people against both the United States government, and the Venezuelan government, both of which oppress the people. I do not choose between enemies and call this strategy. Likewise, I feel solidarity the people of Cuba, against the United States embargo, but I have no solidarity with the Cuban regime or the not Castro family.

A free society is one without social and economic inequality – a society in which ordinary people are in charge. In fact “ordinary people” in such a society are no longer “ordinary people” at all, since there is no elite against which we contrast the masses, the grassroots. There are no classes. We are all collectively owners of means of production, and we all collectively decide on how we use administrative, coercive and economic resources. We are in charge of schools, work and the community, and we can live lives of dignity and equality. We govern through assemblies, committees and councils, from the bottom up, with no ruling class minority. We have freedom of speech and association and belief, and we have equality through cooperation and community.

That means the abolition of the state. None of this is possible through, or under, a state structure. That also means the capitalism. While we live under systems which are pyramids, where a small ruling class holds the power and wealth, we will never be free. The masses cannot control a pyramid which is a way for a minority to centralise resources and decisions. You can vote how you like, but you do not control the MPs or the president, you can have a bank account but you do not control the bank. You can tweet President Ramaphosa, or write him an open letter, but he does not have the read it, and he does not have to do anything about it. That is the nature of the empty democracy we have.

You have to have substantial direct control. And that means that at the end of the day we have got to think how the working class can get some power today, and prepare for taking power directly in the future. We need permanent mass organizations in which we can debate the various perspectives, such as unions, neighbourhood groups, and unemployed organisations. I am against putting our faith in parties, but let’s have political pluralism in mass organisations, and hammer out the issues. Let’s test our different perspectives. Let’s be willing to change our minds and learn from one another. Let us not pretend there aren’t differences; differences matter. It should not be a precondition of joining a mass organisation that we support a particular party. And let us not exclude any party either.

This is part of building a counter-power, of mass-based organs of counter-power to resist in the present, and build capacities to take over in the future. We need to rebuild an alternative media and radical education. Today union investment firms hold major shares in Power FM, eTV and other broadcasters, yet these do nothing to promote working class hegemony or socialism or anarchism. We need to have a discussion on how to relink Unions and community. We need to think about ways that unions, and communities, have created alternatives in the past. Unions used the run, here in Cape Town, the Ray Alexander Workers Clinic. Why not revive such things? If the state has failed with public health, let’s start asking the state to deliver public health, let’s have our own clinics. Let’s get workers’ radio and TV going — not just a slot here and there, but as part of a systematic alternative. Let’s get the big battalions of the working class onto building alternative institutions.

Let’s rebuild worker/ community alliances and fundamentally let’s find ways to unite the exploited and oppressed, who are pitted against each other, every day: Coloured versus black versus white, South African versus foreign. And to unite people we have to fight the oppression amongst ourselves. Not as something after the revolution but as a precondition to unity now. But, we also have to understand that without a fundamental change in society, and a new system of equality and freedom, we are not going to tear up the roots of women’s oppression, of racism, of anti-immigrant ideas.

So, build alternative institutions that educate, organize people and build an alternative at a distance from the state. If you want democracy, make it. Build it now. Parliament is not democracy, the party road has failed, we need to build organs of counter-power and a project of revolutionary counter-culture. Thanks!

APPLAUSE.

The post Should the Anti-Capitalists Contest Elections? appeared first on Infoshop News.

Indigenous Anarchist Convergence

jeu, 09/12/2019 - 14:53

via Taala Hoogan Infoshop

“For what it is worth we will have to establish a way to live that is both indigenous, which is to say of the land that we are actually on, and anarchist, which is to say without authoritarian constraint.” – Aragorn!

“My ancestors wanted autonomy and I want that too.” – Jaydene, The Tower

“We have lived here long before the US government, and we will continue to live here long after it is gone.” – Diné relocation resister.

Kinlani/Flagstaff, AZ — More than 120 participants and over 30 groups and organizations converged at Táala Hooghan Infoshop to discuss, debate, and share their perspectives on Indigenous Anarchism.

The initial call-out for the convergence stated, “…we call for those also seeking a fulfilling life free from domination, coercion, & exploitation to gather around this fire. For those sickened by fascinations with dead white-men’s thoughts (and their academies and their laws), reformist & reactionary “decolonial activisms”, and the uninspired merry-go-round of leftist politics as a whole. For all those ungovernable forces of Nature…”

Though leftist reactions were often replicated and much time was spent with well rehearsed presentations, the primary goals of coming together and interrogating the propositions of Indigenous Anarchism were fulfilled. We were also able to coordinate this gathering with a budget of less than $800 (thanks to everyone online who donated!) as we relied heavily on the mutual aid from many of our relatives in Kinlani who cooked, donated food, opened up their homes, and volunteered to support. In those terms the convergence could be counted as a success, but what we share in this report back should not be viewed as a celebration. This is no way represents everything that was discussed, challenged, debated, or expressed. Perhaps this incomplete offering written from memory, limited recordings, and scrapped together notes, should be seen more as fragments of stones with which we can sharpen ourselves on.

When we put the save the date out for the Indigenous Anarchist Convergence (IAC) we had a focus set on a regional dialogue that would be shaped primarily by those who were fairly familiar with the ideas we’ve been working on, we did not anticipate the overwhelming response from people throughout the so-called US. We also specifically invited those few voices who we’ve read or directly talked with in great length about Indigenous Anarchism (some who couldn’t make it), and with that we knew we were inviting controversial people and that the potential for pushback was serious. The schedule was planned as one track and packed with discussions and workshops. Though each session was given substantial time (some over two hours), we shifted, waited, and went overtime as these functions inevitably do.

A preliminary gathering was held at Big Mountain hosted by Louise Benally and her family who have been resisting forced relocation by remaining on their ancestral homelands. This area has been declared the Sovereign Diné Nation by the residents who assert their autonomy free from US and tribal government control. Though only a few participants from the convergence attended, the connections and discussions (primarily in Diné bizaad), addressed land-based struggles, climate change, coal mining, traditional medicines, and autonomy.

The gathering also became a celebration of the shutdown of Navajo Generating Station, a coal fired power plant operating in the region, which ran its last train of coal just the day before. Diné elder matriarchs Rena Babbit Lane & Ruth Baikedy joined the next day as John Benally shared an herb walk then addressed the geo-politics of the so-called Navajo-Hopi Land dispute. Overall the preliminary gathering, which was held at a traditional hogan with no running water or electricity, demonstrated the strength and resolve of traditional ways of life that are the backbone of the autonomous resistance at Big Mountain.

On Friday evening at Táala Hooghan infoshop, the convergence started with a prayer by traditional practitioner Jones Benally that connected the gathering to the sacred mountains within which we were welcoming everyone.

A statement was made that “this gathering is going to be messy, mistakes will be made, yet we are excited with that and what possibilities may come from this. Though this convergence may be premature and we may not have the entire capacity to host, we did not want to wait for this to happen, we wanted to push the conversations forward so that we can intervene in the current shitty political realities we face in more direct and effective ways. We also do not want you to participate expecting this convergence to be an annual affair, as we would then face the trap of Indigenous anarchism being defined by our context and our terms, we know this gathering would look very different if it were to be held in your lands and that you would do some things very differently than us. We would offer that the next convergence be hosted elsewhere so please think about while being here.” A statement was also issued the infoshop could not guarantee it was a safe space, but that it should be viewed as a threatening space to all forms of oppressive behaviors and that known abusers, particularly perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence, would be kicked out of the gathering.

On the Indigenous front there were several distinct tensions addressed.
Discussions on “good vs bad traditionalism” including a challenge to “not romanticize a pre-contact utopia” with a primary focus on gender were prevalent throughout the weekend.

On the panel “Locating an Indigenous Anarchism, Chris Finley stated, “I want to make sure that Indigenous queer people, two spirit people are sacred people. Queerness is not a result of colonization, that idea is fucked up. I want to make sure that we are sacred parts of our community. One of the things that we can do, while the settlers get their shit together, is work on homophobia in our communities, because that is a huge part of how the settler state maintains power, and these are things that we can work on now.”

Brandon Benallie, of Ké’ Infoshop stated, “Traditionalism is not the same as our life ways.Traditionalism is like a museum piece that sits on a shelf and gets old, whereas our life ways are accumulating knowledge and always growing, it’s the people getting old who don’t want to grow.”

Another question was “how do we address movement policing elders or the elders who tell us go back to camp?” This primarily related to experiences in Standing Rock where elders held people back at the frontlines. Anecdotes were shared that provided no clear tactic other than recognizing that there are “elders and those who get older,” and it’s our challenge to understand how to address that dynamic based upon the situations in our communities. Julie Richards aka MAMA Julz, a water protector from the Mothers Against Meth Alliance, stated, “I want to be one of those elders who still locks down on the front lines to save our lands and future generations.”

Identity politics was also prevalent, including an assertion of the lack of centering of trans & afro-Indigenous voices. Issues of identify policing were challenged specifically with so-called “white passing” Indigenous Peoples. This brought up questions of settler colonial attempts at “paper genocide.” An afro-Indigenous trans person voiced that their struggle was one in which they are, “hated by society and the people you fight for.” Multiple calls were made to ensure that organizing spaces center trans and afro-Indigenous voices. Calls were also made to confront anti-blackness in Indigenous organizing (such as cooptation of Black Lives Matter by Native Lives Matter) and to ensure inclusivity in the movement to stop Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (#mmiw) by adding #mmiwgts to include trans and two spirit relatives who face further disproportionate hetero-patriarchal violence.

Land and place were central to nearly all conversations though some points were made that, “If Indigenous means of the earth, who is not an Indigenous anarchist?” and a concern that use of the term “turtle island” was too limiting or exclusive of a term. These tensions led some participating Diné and other Indigenous Peoples to clarify that their anarchism is a specific tendency due to their distinct cultural contexts.

The term “decolonization” seemed to have a heavier weight in the midst of these discussions as it was used very sparingly. Though in some ways the “decolonial” dynamics played out much as they do in other circles. The term “decolonization” is used in both radical and liberal spaces as an empty rhetorical buzzword, this is quite often seen in performative “land acknowledgements” when it should be meaningfully used with and in respect to the Indigenous Peoples’ whose lands we are on. That dynamic was most clear from those who came to the convergence from large cities. In some ways their contexts felt distant and alienating, which is a dynamic we usually brace ourselves to face from academics, so it was concerning though not surprising in relation to the space and ways in which our cultural protocols were ignored and in some ways disrespected.

Jaydene from the anarchist infoshop “the Tower” in so-called Canada spoke to the current “reconciliatory” efforts by the state to address genocide of Indigenous Peoples, “…settler-colonialism doesn’t exist in the past. Its violence is pervasive and ongoing, right now, tonight, everywhere we look. Reconciliation is the erasure of this current settler-colonial violence. Reconciliation – as a term – is about resolving a conflict, returning to a state of friendly relations… Decolonization – on the other hand – is about repealing the authority of the colonial state and redistributing land and resources. It also means embracing and legitimizing previously repressed Indigenous worldviews. Decolonization isn’t a light word. We have to think about what colonization is to understand it: the complete administrative and economic domination of a people and place. Decolonization doesn’t just mean anti-capitalist, it means anti-state. It is my belief that there can be no reconciliation that recognizes the self-determination of Indigenous peoples so long as the state of Canada exists.”
On the anarchist front there surprisingly seemed to be less disagreement. Much of the emphasis was put on an Indigenous anarchism as a unique radical anti-colonial tendency antagonistic towards the european orientation of the term. Observations were shared regarding how the concepts of mutual aid, non-hierarchal social relations, and direct action were already embedded in many, though not all, of our distinct Indigenous knowledge systems, and that state-based revolutionary strategies, like socialism and communism, are inherently anti-Indigenous. Though there was not a cohesive agreement, a tendency expressed was that anarchism is a tool or position with which we can use to distinguish ourselves and efforts from liberal and leftist-produced settler colonial politics (primarily reformism and Marxism and its “tangents”). Little time was wasted reacting to white anarchist identity, which was perhaps the primary reason the Anarchist People of Color (APOC) position welcoming Indigenous, Black, and Brown People was invoked.

Chris Finley shared their experiences coming to anarchism through the punk-rock scene and arriving at a place of Indigenous feminist anarchism, “…I came back to anarchy because I want to know not just what I am against, because I knew this shit was fucked up, but what I wanted to be for and who I wanted to be with in that for. That’s a difficult question, I am colonized, it’s really hard for us to think of something outside of this so we need other people and to help us through that and to imagine those things together.”

Jaydene stated, “Anarchism is a political philosophy – some might say a beautiful idea – that believes in self-governed societies based on voluntary association with one another. It advocates for non-hierarchical decision making, direct participation in those decisions by affected communities, and autonomy for all living persons. Furthermore, it leaves space for the valuation of non-human entities beyond their monetary worth or usefulness to human beings. My Indigenous teachings have communicated to me that our communities are important, but so are we as individuals. Traditional ways saw decision making as a participatory process, based on consensus, where communities made choices together. My teachings tell me that the land can offer us what we need, but never to take more than that. I see these ideas as fundamentally compatible. I’d like to see an anarchy of my people and the anarchy of settlers (also my people) enacted here together, side by side. With an equal distribution of power, each pursuing healthy relationships, acting from their own ideas and history. Just as the Two Row imagined. I would like to see the centralized state of Canada dismantled. I’d like to see communities take up the responsibility of organizing themselves in the absence of said central authority. My ancestors wanted autonomy, & I want that too.”

Louise Benally spoke to her experiences resisting forced relocation on Big Mountain and calling for further action to take down all these systems that are destroying Mother Earth. Louise stated that anarchism is “about action, you believe in yourself, you believe in what you’re going to speak about, you believe in what you’re doing, you’re not bound by a group or governmental entity, you do what you have to do. I believe in the earth and the spirits that work within the earth, that is where I first go. Working with and through nature, that is the only thing that I have faith in, I don’t trust any system because it has never done anything for me. I don’t practice christianity, that is not something that I understand. I don’t base my ways on that, I don’t believe in the US government because that is just about destruction of a culture and consumption of culture.”

The panel “Locating an Indigenous Anarchism” was named after Aragorn!’s zine’ that was published in 2005, from which he read a section of and provided a definition of Indigenous anarchism, “For what it is worth we will have to establish a way to live that is both indigenous, which is to say of the land that we are actually on, and anarchist, which is to say without authoritarian constraint.” Aragorn! stated, “On the one hand I have a very big problem with hyphenated anarchism, when people refer to themselves as anarchist and blank, they really mean the blank and the anarchism is a secondary concern. I’ve always seen seen anarchism and indigeneity as being synonymous terms. For me the idea of an anarchism that isn’t placed right here, never made sense. The idea of anarchism as a set of western enlightenment values that somehow we learned in school or something never made sense to me. One of the concerns I have about this weekend, is that sometimes our enthusiasm is more our concern and more the way that we communicate ourselves and our ideas than anything else, and in the case of something as important as this idea, this idea of a land based politics that is huge in size, I don’t want this to turn into politics as usual. I say that knowing that that’s going to be a challenge when it comes up in details.”

After reading the except from “Locating an Indigenous Anarchism” Aragorn! emphasized, “For me those are the only terms that matter, ‘authoritarian constraint’ and ‘place.’”

The Against Settler Colonial Politics panel on Sunday further asserted that, “anarchism is in fact something we can define ourselves,” The panel also referenced Russell Mean’s statement “For America To Live Europe Must Die” as an eloquent Indigenous response to the proposition of Marxist authoritarianism. A zine titled, “Marxism and its Tangents… for anarchists,” was distributed that stated, “…because sometimes people are not really on our team.” Some of the Q&A had push-back regarding a “need for leftist unity” and not to perpetuate “european-based leftist disputes,” to that responses were made that we “should be honest about leftist politics, that the conclusions of communism and socialism are anti-Indigenous.” A panelist asked the question, “are we criticizing authoritarianism or european dogma?” A sheet titled, “the Red Flags of Red Fasc(ists)” listing authoritarian leftist front groups was shared by a persxn who was at La Conxa in so-called LA when it was attacked by a Maoist group.

On the organizing/activism/struggle front, there were many workshops proposed about border struggles which were the primary focus of action against attacks on Indigenous lands and Peoples for the convergence. The O’odham Anti-Border Collective shared their strategies to maintain their ways of life despite ongoing occupation, borders, and barriers on their traditional homelands. On the Autonomous Organizing Against Borders panel, an organizer from so-called El Paso addressed how their community is responding to white supremacist attacks while they’re facing extreme state repression. They also shared how a radical community center was undermined by “the subtle forms of white supremacy that invade and co-opt our spaces.” They railed against “non-profit liberal power wielding mechanisms,” and asserted that, “we’re not here to ask for reform. The law is killing our people.”

Another organizer from occupied Tongva lands so-called Los Angeles discussed their work directly supporting migrant folx held in concentration camps. The organizer received a call from a trans migrant person being held in one of the concentration camps and put them on the microphone. The conversation was emotional and raw with the tension of these struggles filling every corner of the room.

 

On the “Solidarity Means Action, Anti-colonial-Struggle Means Attack!” panel MAMA Julz stated that, “Prayer and action go hand in hand, I’ve always stood on that. If we’re sitting there in prayers and there’s no-one out there then nothing is going to get done. Our ancestors want us to meet them half-way. No matter how scary it gets, remember that as long as we’re fighting for the people and mother earth in a good way, we’re always going to be protected. If you believe you can shut shit down, shut shit down, but pray first.”

 

Leona Morgan from Diné No Nukes and Haul No! spoke about fighting nuclear colonialism which has left thousands of abandoned uranium mines and spread cancer throughout Indigenous Lands. She stated that “70% of uranium comes from Indigenous lands” and that current proposals call for bringing all the nuclear waste from throughout the “US” into New Mexico effectively creating a “national sacrifice zone. They’re saying here is that nuclear power is a ‘clean’ solution to global warming while we are the ones getting cancer, were the ones that have our water, plants, and food sources contaminated.” She looked towards international anti-nuke direct action movements that are stopping uranium shipments and called for support, “We may need to do that here.”

 

Klee Benally from Protect the Peaks and an organizer of the convergence provided an overview of the struggle and failures to stop the desecration of the holy San Francisco Peaks, which is located just outside of Kinlani/Flagstaff. A ski resort has been allowed by the Forest Service to make fake snow out of millions of gallons of treated sewage on the mountain. Klee stated, “Settler colonial laws were never designed to benefit Indigenous peoples’ ways of life, they were designed to destroy them. To be more effective we need to be honest with ourselves and understand how Standing Rock was strategic failure in that it didn’t stop the pipeline, of course it was a social and cultural success, but we need to be critical in real-time about these struggles so we can be more effective. If we don’t talk about our failures how can we learn?”

On Sunday evening, before everyone started sharing their contact info, before dinner and after a lecture, we stopped and decided not to end in accordance with our traditional protocol.

An organizer for the convergence wrote in another report back, “Somewhere at the gathering, I expected to be in the presence of indigenous anarchism. I did not know if indigenous anarchism was the fire we would gather around, if it was the individuals converging, or if it was an empty space where individuals were to ignite the flames. It’s safe to say, my expectations were met. I witnessed an indigenous anarchism but it was unfamiliar to me, a Diné anarchist…. The potential I have discovered at the convergence is the particulars of Diné anarchy. Fires made from crystal and fires made from turquoise. Fires bright enough to find the light of other Diné anarchists in this dark world I find myself in. A world sickened from the industrialization of civilized humans whose culture of control and destruction forces all living things to adopt, adapt, or die. I suggest that Diné anarchy offers the addition of a choice to attack. An assault on our enemy that weakens their grip on, not only our glittering world, but the worlds of others. An opportunity for the anarchy of Ndee, of O’odham, and so on, to exact revenge on their colonizers. Until all that’s left for Diné anarchists is to dissuade the endorsements of the next idol expecting our obedience.”

For the moment we see Indigenous Anarchism as a reference point, but this term is so broad that for all it could encompass it also stifles. We’re not interested in re-engineering social arrangements, we’re interested in inspired formations, agitations, interventions, and acts towards total liberation. From our perspective, at the base of Do’koo’osliid, we see more use in building contextual understandings deeply rooted in our sacred lands and teachings. This places us in some ways at odds with a flattening that the larger emergent force of Indigenous Anarchism would have. As Aragorn! stated, “Indigenous anarchism is a politics that has yet to be written and maybe that is a good thing.”

For now we will continue to agitate, organize, write, discuss, and provoke to further radical autonomous/anti-authoritarian Indigenous tendencies towards total liberation.

The post Indigenous Anarchist Convergence appeared first on Infoshop News.

Why is the workplace a dictatorship?

jeu, 09/12/2019 - 13:06

via Organizing Work

by Eric Dirnbach

Eric Dirnbach reviews Elizabeth Anderson’s Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It).

The tyranny all around us

One of the primary critiques of capitalism from the Left for well over 150 years is that the capitalist workplace is a dictatorship. The boss or a group of investors owns the workplace and a group of managers or directors set all the rules that govern it. There is no democracy within the company. The workers either accept these rules or they can quit. But quitting generally means seeking employment within another workplace dictatorship.

Some workers are fortunate to have valued, marketable skills that yield highly paid, comfortable jobs where the lack of democracy is not so painful. Others may escape the formal workplace by becoming an independent contractor. A few will start their own business and employ other workers, thus becoming a new dictator. But most workers throughout their working lives move through a series of undemocratic workplaces at the complete whim of their boss’s rules, where they spend about a third of their time for four or five decades. We can see the consequences of this in surveys which show that a majority of people are unhappy at work.

And yet we are constantly told that the capitalist market offers freedom for all. How is it that mainstream discourse won’t recognize the obvious dictatorships that dominate the lives of most people? And how can we organize and fight for real freedom?

The promise of capitalism

With these questions in mind, I was really interested in the book Private Government by Elizabeth Anderson. A philosophy and women’s studies professor at the University of Michigan, Anderson covers the early development of the ideology of the “free market” and the brutal reality of the modern undemocratic workplace. She states, “We are told that our choice is between free markets and state control, when most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government.” The book centers on two of her lectures and then provides responses from other scholars.

Read more

The post Why is the workplace a dictatorship? appeared first on Infoshop News.

Berkeley Free Clinic at 50: Mutual Aid Meets Health Care

jeu, 09/12/2019 - 12:45

by Finn Black
Fifth Estate # 404, Summer, 2019

The Berkeley Free Clinic (BFC) is an all-volunteer, worker-owned collective that provides free medical and dental care, peer counseling, and information in Berkeley, Calif. We were founded in May 1969 on the ideas that healthcare is a human right, that professional licensing is not required to provide good medical care, and that medicine should not alienate people from their bodies. [See “Berkeley USA, 1969,” FE 81, June 12-25, 1969]

Unlike most free clinics, which are usually run by medical schools and staffed by physicians, our services are provided by lay people whom we train in basic clinical skills. Although we do not provide comprehensive medical care, we are able to meet the needs of people in our community who would otherwise be forced to go to the emergency room for simple problems like rashes and coughs.

Our model of care dismantles the power dynamics in medicine in which professionals serve as knowledge holders. We work to demystify healthcare, involving clients in learning about their bodies and helping them make informed decisions. As we turn 50, we’ve been reflecting on our history, values, and how to stay strong and relevant in a gentrified Berkeley that looks very different from the Berkeley of 1969.

At any given time, the BFC consists of roughly 250 members organized into 12 sections which specialize in providing direct services or logistics. Sections conduct their own recruitment, training, and decision making processes while drawing on the clinic’s physical and financial resources to provide services. Issues that impact multiple sections are handled at all-clinic meetings, which make decisions by majority vote.

Since we’re a large collective, change at the level of the entire clinic happens slowly, but the system of small sections makes it possible to implement projects without having to overcome the inertia of a large collective. The majority of our funding comes from individual donors and private grants, which gives us the freedom to use our money the way we choose.

Since our services are free, we do not deal with insurance companies, freeing us from certain government regulations. For example, we are not required to call the cops if someone reports being assaulted. We see roughly 4,000 patients a year with an annual budget of about $400,000, and the majority of those people are houseless, undocumented, and/or uninsured.

We were founded on May 25, 1969 in response to the People’s Park riots, when a group of street medics set up an emergency field hospital in a local elementary school. Most of our first members were Vietnam War veterans who had been trained as combat medics and gotten involved in the anti-war movement upon returning home.

Although the BFC began as a street medic response to police brutality, we soon began providing general medical care to people in Berkeley who otherwise lacked access. Initially, we provided 24 hour urgent and emergency care along with an evening drop-in clinic. There was a peer counseling program called Radical Approaches to Psychiatry and a team that provided 24 hour response to psychiatric emergencies, drug overdoses, and bad acid trips. We had a network of dentists who would see patients for free, a drug-information hotline, and an information and referrals system that linked new arrivals to Berkeley with places to crash.

In the first two years of its existence, power and knowledge within the BFC was held by military veterans.

New members had to individually apprentice themselves to a medic, which led to an exclusive structure. Even though the clinic was in theory anti-authoritarian, individuals who could make the biggest time commitments gained the most institutional knowledge and authority, even if that authority wasn’t formally acknowledged.

Throughout our history, a challenge of being a non-hierarchical collective is that when hierarchy does manifest itself, it doesn’t tend to happen in a way that is consensual and accountable.

In 1970, however, a group of radical feminists approached the clinic to start a women’s reproductive health night. This group, which at its peak was 120 members strong, brought a critical analysis of gender and power dynamics to the clinic and pushed for collective decision making and an end to the apprenticeship system. Most of the original military trained members left as a result of these changes and the clinic became much easier to get involved with.

In the 1980s, the BFC began to shrink. Prior to then, the clinic received government funding, but Reagan’s budget cuts caused a financial crisis that forced an elimination of the night shifts. Reductions in welfare programs also made it harder for people to drop out of the workforce and devote their time to unpaid projects.

The clinic continued to cut back on services through the 1990s, when daytime and afternoon shifts disappeared and the clinic adopted its current evening and weekend schedule. In 2005, word spread that BFC alumni often went on to attend top medical schools. Pre-medical students at U.C. Berkeley began joining to gain clinical experience and now make up over half of our volunteer applicants. Although pre-medical and anarchist are not mutually exclusive categories, we now get more applications from folks who aren’t specifically interested in anarchist projects.

The high proportion of students led to higher turnover, and thus a loss of institutional memory and a constant need to train more volunteers. Due to higher turnover, the BFC entered a period where many sections were in survival mode, struggling to train enough members to remain sustainable.

As we near our 50th Anniversary, several things have happened that seem to indicate a new era of revitalization at the clinic. One of these events is U.C. Berkeley’s plan to develop People’s Park. Seemingly unaware of our history, the university has reached out to BFC several times looking for our support. They asked us to conduct outreach to the unhoused folks in the park, hoping to show that the people they are displacing were offered services.

More insidiously, they offered to give us a space for the clinic in the new development. Although our current building is condemned for demolition and we are unsure of what the future holds, we declined the offer.

The numerous Antifa demonstrations that occurred in Berkeley in 2017 also brought new energy to the clinic. The BFC was born from rioting and fittingly, the need to fight fascists in the streets spurred us to return to our roots as street medics. We made connections with other health workers in the streets, and some joined BFC and brought fresh energy to the clinic.

The past two years have seen the formation of a trans health collective, street medic and overdose prevention workshops, a program to provide outreach medical services at homeless encampments, initiatives to provide mutual aid to sex worker organizations, and a deepening of our connections to other radical organizations in the Bay Area.

One of the beautiful things about being an anarchist collective is that we understand how to survive in the margins and do more with less. Despite the financial challenges of surviving in a gentrified city, the radical imagination is still our most valuable resource and the biggest limit on what we can do is our sense of what is possible.

Our continued existence is contingent not on money but on creative and enthusiastic folks getting involved. If you’d like to learn more about how to join our collective, visit berkeleyfreeclinic.org. We have open information sessions every third Monday at 7:30 pm and are located at 2339 Durant Ave., Berkeley, Calif. 94707.

Finn Black is an anarchist geographer and public health worker. They have been a member of the Berkeley Free Clinic’s HIV Prevention Services section since 2015, where they serve as a street medic and as a peer advocate for people living with HIV.

The post Berkeley Free Clinic at 50: Mutual Aid Meets Health Care appeared first on Infoshop News.

The Politics of Fandom: Science Fiction’s Historic Struggle over the Future

jeu, 09/12/2019 - 12:36

via Fifth Estate magazine

by Rich Dana (Ricardo Feral)
Fifth Estate # 404, Summer, 2019

A dedicated band of idealistic working-class teenagers crash a meeting of techno-fascists at a New York hotel, confronting the group’s dictatorial leaders.

It sounds like an Antifa adventure plucked from today’s headlines—but in fact, this plot unfolded at the first ever World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. Despite its reputation for campy story-telling and escapist plots, science fiction (SF) has always been highly political at its core, and this story began when Dave Kyle, a member of a fan club known as The Futurians, attempted to distribute a pamphlet criticizing the convention organizers.

The headline read: A Warning: Beware of Dictatorship! Today Be Aware of any Movement to Coerce or Bully You into Submission!

The Futurians were a famously scrappy club of leftist New York science fiction fans that included a remarkable roster of fledgling talent, including Donald A. Wollheim, John Michel, Isaac Asimov, Virginia Kidd, “Doc” Lowndes, Leslie Perri and Frederik Pohl, among others. Famous for their bohemian lifestyles, incendiary self-publishing, and penchant for themed costume parties, the Futurians were among the earliest proponents of what we now call zine culture and cosplay.

Their work helped define the Golden Age of SF and their radical philosophy later contributed, in a small way, to the cultural upheaval of the 1960s.

Peter Balestrieri, Curator of Science Fiction and Pop Culture at the University of Iowa Special Collections, is an authority on early fan culture and a self-described anarcho-syndicalist.

Balestrieri sees the Futurians as pioneers in the transformation of the genre.

He writes: “At a time when the world was plunging into a war against Fascism, the Futurians Science Fiction Club of New York, filled with leftists, sought to act like a radical labor union and tried to organize fandom to engage in that conflict.

Their opponents in New Fandom were interested in creating a single fan group with themselves at the top, acting more like dictators and opposing any Popular Front activities of the Futurians. However, validation for the Futurians came in the following decades as members of the club became some of the most prominent authors, editors, and publishers of science fiction, even as New Fandom became a footnote in fan history.

Balestrieri points out that the techno-fascist (my term) were also very influential in early fandom. The three young organizers of the 1939 convention, Sam Moscowitz, Jimmy Taurasi and Will Sykora were known as the Triumvirs and personified the right wing of SF fans.

The Futurians christened them “Der Fuhrer of the Newark Swamps, Il Duce of Flushing Flats and The Mikado of Long Island City,” respectively referring to the leaders of World War II Axis powers. They were the Futurian’s inter-borough rivals, known for their rigid views and devotion to the space operas featured in pulp adventure magazines.

When the Triumvirs got wind of the Futurians plans to distribute “Red” propaganda at their convention, they barred the club’s members from the meeting hall, outraging many of the fans in attendance. The event became known as “The Great Exclusion,” and created a political fracture in fandom that rages even today, erupting in conflicts like Gamergate and Sad Puppies affairs.

Looking at the traditional space opera sub-genre, with its militarized vision of space conquest and technocratic ideals, one can draw a direct line from the techno-philia of the Italian Futurists and Mussolini, to Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 Starship Troopers and today’s Halo video game franchise. Even Star Trek, with its heaping helpings of progressive social commentary, is at heart a descendant of the techno-utopianism of the Futurists and the neo-liberal vision of peace through superior firepower.

In his essay, “Why I Hate Star Trek,” John Zerzan writes, “Even quite a few ‘anarchists’ are, of their own volition, very big Trek fans. Which brings to mind one of its most repulsive features, its predication on a strict hierarchy. The order-giving/order-taking military framework is always present and constitutes the model of social reality; for the crew is never seen in a different context.” He notes the move from a military model in the original series to a corporate-style hierarchy in the Next Generation era.

As anyone who is even casually familiar with the SF genre knows, there is plenty of science fiction that offers an alternative view of the future to that of the space opera. Science fiction has always been inherently political. It developed in response to the rise of technology and the existential struggle between humanity and its mutant brainchild.

Cautionary dystopian stories exist in constant tension with techno-utopian ideals. From Thomas More’s Utopia to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to today’s “cli-fi” (climate fiction) and Afro-futurist writings, SF has served as a sandbox for alternative visions of technology and its implications.

In an interview by Bitch Media in 2016, Walidah Imarisha, a community organizer and co-editor of the anthology, Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements says: “All organizing is science fiction. When organizers imagine a world without poverty, without war, without borders or prisons—that’s science fiction…Being able to collectively dream those new worlds means that we can begin to create those new worlds here.”

Within the SF community, Imarisha’s collective vision is unfortunately not universal. The arguments over the future raged even within the ranks of the left-leaning Futurians. Judith Merril, a Trotskyist, and James Blish, who flirted briefly with theoretical technocracy (what was referred to among the Futurians as “paper fascism”) argued constantly.

In Damon Knight’s definitive memoir The Futurians, Merril said of Blish, “I thought he was very snotty and affected, and I frequently suspected his authoritative information…Jim and I would get into the same political argument each week, and I would beat him to the floor…and at the end of it he would say, ‘You’re right,’ and then he would come back the next week and start the same argument all over again…”

Blish went on to write novelizations for Star Trek. Merill became an influential editor and moved to Canada during the Vietnam war to help found an alternative college. She later became a beloved Canadian TV personality, “The UnDoctor,” who introduced each episode of the Doctor Who television series.

Fifty years after the “Great Exclusion,” a 70-year-old Dave Kyle, still a devoted SF fan, reminisced about the debacle. In the program for the Boston Worldcon, he wrote:

“[F]andom was hardly a decade old…In this cauldron of the 1930s, many young sf idealists decided that science fiction not only dreamed of brave new worlds, but offered reality. Fans, therefore, should become activists as well as dreamers…”

Although Ursula K. Le Guin wrote that, “Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive,” it has also served as a leading indicator of wider cultural movements. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land was an unlikely companion to imprisoned Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice on many bookshelves of the 1960s.

Today, marginalized people are again finding a voice through SF, much as the Russian-born Jewish, Isaac Asimov and his poor, NYC outer-borough teenage companions did in the 1930s.

The Futurian’s rallying cry lives on: Today, Be Aware of any Movement to Coerce or Bully You into Submission!

Related

All about the Futurians
http://fancyclopedia.org/futurians

To view Futurian fanzines
http://fanac.org/
http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/hevelin

The quintessential book about the club
The Futurians by Damon Knight (John Day, 1977)

More about SF and Social Justice
Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements
adrienne maree brown & Walidah Imarisha, editors (AK Press, 2015)

Rich Dana, AKA, Ricardo Feral, is a librarian/printer/carpenter and the publisher of OBSOLETE! He lives on a small farmstead in Iowa.

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Strangled by a Safety Net: When severance agreements demand workers’ silence

mer, 09/11/2019 - 03:07

via The Baffler

by Kim Kelly

The year 2019 has been an anxious one for the American worker. In March, a report from the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas noted that corporate layoffs had hit their highest level for a first quarter since 2009—a 35.6 percent increase from 2018. As a result, 190,410 workers were left out in the cold between January and April, even as the fascist in the White House continued to tout low unemployment numbers and crow about “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Media giants like Gannett and Verizon and digital upstarts like BuzzFeed and Vice Media accounted for at least 1,650 of these lost jobs. (Full disclosure: I was laid off alongside 249 Vice coworkers in February 2019.) And the trend shows no sign of abating: digital and print media outlets have continued to shutter, while Ford announced in May they’d be reducing their global white-collar workforce by 10 percent, including 2,300 job cuts in the United States alone.

Almost 80 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, which means that in the event of a layoff they have no savings to fall back on. Many will have to apply for unemployment compensation, which most states award to workers who have been in their job for a specified length of time (such as at least a year). The benefit is usually much less than the worker’s full paycheck was. The better option is to leave with severance pay—which the Department of Labor defines as a sum “granted to employees upon termination of employment” and is usually based on years of service. As the DOL makes clear, severance isn’t a right that’s enforceable by law outside of a union contract. And although there is one useful legal tool for workers without severance contracts, it only applies in certain cases. The WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) is a federal statute that requires companies with over a hundred employees to give workers at least sixty days’ notice prior to a plant closing or mass layoff, which is defined as affecting more than fifty jobs. Failure on management’s part to give appropriate notice entitles workers to sixty days’ worth of wages and benefits. But the WARN Act generally does not protect part-time employees, or those who have been with the company for under six months; in addition, the Labor Department notes that “regular federal, state, local, and federally-recognized Indian Tribal government entities that provide public services are not covered,” either.

For workers lucky enough to have the option, accepting a severance payout may preclude them from filing right away for unemployment benefits, depending on the state. In New York, for example, where the vast majority of 2019’s newly unemployed digital media workers are located, individuals who continue to receive the exact same benefits they did while working will be ineligible for unemployment (unless their weekly severance pay is less than the maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit). For those whose severance is structured in the form of weekly or biweekly “paychecks,” that means they’re unable to apply for any extra help until the pot runs out. At that point, they will either need to find a new job post-haste or become intimately familiar with the ins and outs of their state unemployment agency before their next rent check is due. Not to mention costs like health care—while laid-off workers who qualify for COBRA can temporarily continue on their employer-sponsored health plans, the premiums are often prohibitively expensive, especially for those newly facing financial hardship.

It’s true that individuals are sometimes able to negotiate for a better deal, but ultimately, without a union contract, even the most beloved employee is still at the mercy of the overlord in the corner office once they’ve decided it’s time for heads to roll.

Flight of the Golden Parachute

When the topic of severance packages comes up in polite conversation, it’s usually not in response to a news story about a group of workers who have unexpectedly had their livelihoods yanked out from under them. It’s because some swinish CEO or another has vacated their position and been rewarded for years of corporate malfeasance with an enormous parting gift. These golden parachutes are par for the course among a certain echelon of C-suite executives, whether they’ve put in thirty years or, in cases like that of former Merrill Lynch CEO Peter Kraus, a mere three months. The sums conjured up for their departures are enough to make Rupert Murdoch’s wizened human flesh mask blush—or send a normal person running toward their nearest guillotine wholesaler.

When former General Electric CEO Jack Welch—who became known in the early 1980s for popularizing mass layoffs as a demonstration of “corporate competitiveness”— left the company back in 2001, he collected an eye-watering $417 million in severance. According to a recent discussion among workers on The Layoff forum, a regular, non-CEO GE worker’s severance deal can be comparatively paltry; with some luck, they will receive one week’s salary per year of service—and perhaps as high as three weeks’ per year, if they’re really lucky. According to Glassdoor, engineer salaries at GE range from $53,652—$127,281. That may be a comparatively sweet deal considering the sorry state of severance pay in this country, but even in the best-case scenario, those numbers fall just a little short of what ol’ Jack raked in.

More recently, when Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer decided to bail after the company was taken over by Verizon in 2017, she was handed a $23 million severance package—and over $236 million worth of stock. The following year, Verizon slashed 7 percent of its global workforce, doling out 10,400 severance packages worth up to sixty weeks’ salary and benefits for those who voluntarily quit. But the company was later sued by two former employees who accused it of misrepresenting the amount of severance they would receive. It’s safe to assume Mayer did not have this problem.

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A Year of Organizing Freelance Journalists

mar, 09/10/2019 - 01:40

via Organizing Work

The Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union is one year old. A member-organizer describes the campaign.

In March of 2019, the Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union unintentionally went public. Having recently settled on a formal name for the organization, committee members were attempting to subtly stake out corresponding web assets, but the IWW FJU’s Twitter account — the social media platform most popular with journalists — immediately exploded. Within 24 hours, the union had received more than a hundred requests from freelancers looking to learn more. The IWW FJU was officially on the map.

Although that day in March is sometimes referred to as the union’s launch, work on what would become the IWW FJU had actually started back in September of 2018. Inspired by a wave of successful union elections among staff journalists and the informal organizing already being undertaken by some freelancers, the New York City branch of the IWW officially launched a campaign organizing freelance journalists. On the eve of that anniversary — and on the heels of the IWW FJU’s first victory — we look back on the previous year.

The issues facing freelance journalists

Despite working for a variety of publications covering different subjects, many freelance journalists face the same challenges. Arguably, the most egregious of these is delayed payment. Work in freelance journalism is obtained via two routes: pitching an idea for an article to an editor, or having an editor assign a subject to you. Either way, payment is often mandated, in a contract, to be made within 30 days following publication of the story. Publication can be held up by forces within and without a freelancer’s control (say, the freelancer choosing to prioritize other assignments, or the editor dragging their feet on revisions), but payments are typically only considered late 30 days after the story goes live.

Despite legally binding contracts mandating timely payment, it is common for publications to pay two to three months after this 30-day window. Because individual freelancers often lack the resources to enforce these contracts via legal means, and are intrinsically dissuaded from doing so if they hope to receive more work from the delinquent publication, freelancers will sometimes have hundreds or thousands of dollars in overdue invoices, which they are implicitly expected to float.

Besides delayed payments, freelancers also face other systemic challenges. Many new to the industry are expected to work “for exposure” (that is, for free or unlivable rates); writers covering sensitive topics are forced to shoulder the burden of legal liability and harassment from angry subjects and readers; health insurance is either a clusterfuck to obtain or simply out of reach. All of these problems follow the same dynamic: because freelancers are individually outgunned by the publications that they rely on for their livelihoods, they are forced to work under extremely exploitative conditions.

Staff journalists have demonstrated, to various degrees of success, that some of the ills facing writers can be addressed through organizing. In an industry where dozens, if not hundreds, of jobs are being shed at a time, staffers’ unions have brought a modicum of stability through collective bargaining, winning their members severance in otherwise ruthless mass layoffs. But where their union contracts end and freelancing begins is precisely the point that the industry is now pivoting about. As the gutting of the website Mic illustrates, staffers’ unions are only useful insofar as there are staffers; after being sold, Mic was relaunched without staffers — relying almost entirely on freelancers instead. If freelancers are not to be made de facto scabs, then they must be organized. And because staffers’ unions, bound by red tape and budgets, are not organizing freelancers, freelancers must organize themselves.

There have been some efforts to organize freelance journalists in the past, primarily around “minimum agreements.” These agreements, between publications like The NationJacobin, and In These Times, and the National Writers Union, stipulate minimum rates, rights, and so on for freelancers. It is a tactic which can be successful, provided it is backed by collective direct action pushing the publications to concede power, rather than just offering them an avenue to save face. Without such militancy, the agreements only codify below-market rates and the lowest standards that such progressive publications can get away with without offending their ideological supporters.

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Why don’t we just call Agile what it is: feminist

lun, 09/09/2019 - 00:39

via MobLab

by Hanna Thomas

We at Mobilisation Lab believe that collaborative, iterative and supportive approaches are fundamental ​if we are to win change at scale. These principles, so celebrated for their effectiveness in the business world today, were developed and continue to be used by movements of women, LGBTQ+ people, Black folks, Indigenous groups, immigrants and other grassroots communities.

In this important piece, Hanna Thomas of 350.org explores just how Lean-Agile methodologies actually encompass feminist, queer, anti-authoritarian and progressive ways of working—because that’s where they originated. Her writing originally appeared on Medium and is republished here with permission.

When Lean-Agile methodologies are brought up in progressive spaces, they’re often met with a suspicious side-eye. After all, as Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house“. Why on earth would we choose a methodology so beloved by big business, and how would we use it to deconstruct the harmful systems they impose on us?

I understand this line of thinking. Lean-Agile principles are foundational in the tech sector and getting take-up in other for-profit industries. Many of the well-known books that promote Lean-Agile (The Lean Start-up, and The Age of Agile, for example) include case studies drawn from big corporations and the military. The Age of Agile even includes an example on how the US military used Lean-Agile principles to build a fighter jet. To some in progressive spaces this may feel immoral at worst, irrelevant at best.

Plus, the history of Lean-Agile methodologies starts in large-scale manufacturing. Car manufacturer Toyota came up with a set of principles called The Toyota Way in the 70s, and organised them into 4 sections:

  • Long-Term Philosophy
  • The Right Process Will Produce the Right Results
  • Add Value to the Organization by Developing Your People
  • Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning

In the 90s, these principles were adopted and built upon by the software development world, culminating in 17 white guys gathering in a ski lodge in Utah called Snowbird (I know) and writing The Agile Manifesto in 2001:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The men who wrote the manifesto are unclear on whether they invited any women. Even so, the thing I notice from both the manifesto, the accompanying principles, and the fact that these 17 men call themselves “organizational anarchists” is that what they came up with is inherently subversive, anti-authoritarian, and feminist. There is an emphasis on self-organising, collaboration, experimentation, welcoming change, and building high-trust and supportive relationships.

Compare the Agile manifesto with the Riot Grrrl Manifesto, written 10 years earlier in 1991 by punk singer Kathleen Hanna and her band Bikini Kill. The underground feminist punk movement was underpinned by statements such as:

  • BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways.
  • BECAUSE we wanna make it easier for girls to see/hear each other’s work so that we can share strategies and criticize-applaud each other.
  • BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-hierarchical ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations.
  • BECAUSE we see fostering and supporting girl scenes and girl artists of all kinds as integral to this process.
  • BECAUSE I believe with my wholeheartmindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real.

The language is different, but the essence is the same — collaborative, supportive, non-hierarchical relationships that empower users and embrace change.

Jennifer Armbrust’s principles of a feminine economy lay it out even more clearly. Collaboration, ease, asking questions, cyclical growth, empathy, and interdependence are all such important cornerstones of a successful product development cycle.

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A Different​ War Story: the Soldier and Veteran Resistance Against the War in Vietnam

lun, 09/09/2019 - 00:00

via CounterPunch

by Richard Moser

The battle over American war stories began during the peak of the last revolution. Millions of Americans and tens of thousands of veterans and soldiers opposed the war in Vietnam. In the war’s moral outrages, crimes and betrayals, many saw the US empire for the first time. [1]

For the last 40 years, the ruling class has been running away from the problems revealed by the Vietnam War.

The disruptions caused by the Vietnam Era anti-war movement are part of an unfinished revolution that still begs questions. How can a nation that does not practice democracy — or a government that attacks the Bill of Rights at home — convincingly claim it is “a force for good in the world?” How can a military that drives climate change and guarantees the global interests of bankers and oil companies claim to protect or defend anything at all? How can an empire, as large and militaristic as ours, co-exist with democratic rule at home?

American exceptionalism — the idea that we are a chosen people, inherently good, and outside of the normal constraints and contradictions of history —  is one of the founding ideas of American culture. But, when the empire lurches from crisis to crisis even culture as deeply rooted as exceptionalism can be dragged into consciousness and challenged.

As long-time Vietnam Veterans Against the War leader and former Vets for Peace President Dave Cline once told me, “”Vietnam is where all that history changed.”

The Vietnam Legacy They Want You to Forget

US Involvement in South East Asia began as an effort to restore the French and British Empire in Asia. But neither imperial power could weather the storm of WWII or defeat the national liberation struggles that followed.  Soon enough the empire was ours — all ours — and so were the wars. Anti-communism and the Cold War positioned the US as “leader of the free world” and insisted that the Vietnam War was the moral equivalent of WWII.

The enchanting idea of “nation-building” cast the war effort as benign, high-minded and helpful. But the Vietnamese victory over US forces and the peace movement broke the spell and momentarily revealed the empire for what it truly was.

What cannot be honestly explained must be hidden. Because of its revolutionary implications — and its contradictory nature — the history of the soldier and veteran anti-war movements have been largely forgotten. It’s way past time to remember.

Since the Vietnam War the media has censored war news by listing it low on their agenda, omitting it altogether, or, today, marginalizing anti-war social media sites. The government stopped the formal draft and reduced their reliance on US troops to a mere .5% of the population making soldiers and veterans and war casualties less visible.

In order to keep the numbers down, the military brass cynically abused and wounded their own soldiers by forcing them into multiple tours with far too much exposure to combat. Those that endured the ordeal had some serious survival issues returning to “normal” life. Over twenty soldiers and veterans commit suicide each day. It’s hard to fudge that data.

The military had to attack its own soldiers to avoid the reemergence of a Vietnam era style anti-war movement. It was then that a massive peace movement — in the context of the civil rights/black power, student and women’s movement — became not just a movement against the war and — for millions of Americans at least– against empire itself.

By the early 1970s, the political heart of this wide-ranging peace movement was soldier and veteran dissent. Their power came from two sources. First was the fact that soldier resistance was a real material constraint on military operations and — second to the bloody sacrifices of the Vietnamese people themselves — was a major factor limiting the military’s ability to wage war.

Just as important, the soldiers and veterans had the cultural and political credibility to help working-class Americans question and challenge the war and, in some cases, the existing order itself.

“The most common charge leveled against the antiwar movement is that it was composed of cowards and draft dodgers. To have in it people who had served in the military…who were in fact patriots by the prowar folks own definition was a tremendous thing. VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) in 1970 and 1971 was unlike almost anything I’d seen in terms of its impact on the public…We took away more and more of the symbolic and rhetorical tools available to the prowar folks–just gradually squeezed them into a corner…we took away little by little the reasons people had not to listen to the antiwar movement.” [2]

“We took away more and more of the symbolic and rhetorical tools available to the prowar folks.” This is the transformative dynamic at the heart of military resistance which made it both revolutionary, deeply contradictory and hard for people to understand.

Ideals like the “citizen-solder” were claimed by the military because they motivated soldiers with high moral appeals. But under the conditions of the period, such ideals were transformed, refashioned and repurposed into a new service ideal that would wage — not war — but peace. They rocked the foundation of military culture not simply by criticizing it or repudiating it — that’s easy — but by transforming it — that’s the hardest thing in the world. Transformation is what revolutions are made of.

The Vietnam legacy reveals the importance of supporting anti-war soldiers and veterans because they have power far beyond their numbers. This argument is not idle speculation. Although I am not a veteran, I was nearly drafted into the Army in 1971-2. It made me rethink my life. Then I got involved as a young activist and organizer in the anti-war and radical movements of the period. Inspired by a few anti-war veterans I knew, I spent a decade researching the soldier and veteran anti-war movement and wrote New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent During the Vietnam Era.

Here is the shortest possible summary of a movement that came to speak for approximately half of all soldiers and veterans of the time:

During the American War in Vietnam, soldiers refused to go into combat and resisted commands of all kinds. The lowly foot soldier demanded democracy inside their combat units by insisted on discussing actions rather than simply following orders. They marched in protest and sent tens of thousands of letters to Congress opposing the war. In desperation, they attacked reckless officers — their own officers. An international underground newspaper network spread the word. Thousands resisted the war effort in ways large and small.

Massive prison riots of US soldiers in American military jails in Vietnam — like the uprising at Long Binh Jail — disrupted military command. Over 600 cases of combat refusal rose to the level of a court-martial, some involving entire units. US soldiers violently attacked US officers over a thousand times. Urban rebellions at home and the assassination of Martin Luther King had a profound impact pushing black troops toward war resistance.

The military brass lost their ability to enforce discipline and wage war. In 1971 Colonel Robert D. Heinl claimed:

“The morale, discipline, and battle-worthiness of the US armed forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.”

From the bottom up, US troops replaced “search and destroy” missions with “search and avoid” missions. In some areas of Vietnam “search and avoid” became a way of life. A US Army Colonel recalls:

“I had influence over an entire province. I put my men to work helping with the harvest…Once the NVA understood what I was doing they eased up. I am talking to you about a defacto truce you understand. The war stopped in most of the province. It’s the kind of history that doesn’t get recorded. Few people even know it happened and no one will ever admit that it happened.”[3]

Anti-war soldiers were simultaneously on the front lines of war and the front lines of the anti-war movement.[4]

When they came home veterans became the leading protestors as the civilian movement fractured. Black veterans joined civil rights groups or revolutionary organizations such as the Black Panthers that connected peace and internationalism with local community service.

The Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) had at least 25,000 members — 80% were combat veterans –and the VVAW became leaders in the anti-war movement in the early 1970’s.

The VVAW kicked off some of the largest civil disobedience protests against the war. In one of the most stirring moments of the entire peace movement veterans returned their medals on the steps of the US capital.

This was the most important working-class peace movement in American history. Since those days there has been an unbroken tradition of opposition to war from service members, veterans and their families. Today the tradition is carried on by the Veterans For Peace, About Face: Veterans Against War, Military Families Speak Out.

The VVAW remains the only peace group founded during the Vietnam resistance still in existence today.

Soldier and veteran resistance was a blow against the empire. Can it become one again?

Notes.

1/ See, New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent During the Vietnam War.

2/ Ben Chitty is quoted in, New Winter Soldiers, p.130

3/ Moser, p. 132

4/ See a new collection of essays Waging Peace in Vietnam, Edited by Ron Carver, David Cortright and Barbara Doherty

Richard Moser writes at befreedom.co where this article first appeared.

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One for All

dim, 09/08/2019 - 03:29

via The New Republic

By Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix

To avert global catastrophe, we urgently need to resurrect the ancient ideal of solidarity.

As you’ve probably heard, UN scientists recently warned that we have eleven years to avert climate disaster. We face a civilizational crisis that can only be solved by unprecedented action on an unprecedented scale. To avert this crisis, we must begin to see our fates as linked and make good on that insight. The culture of the atomized individual has brought us to the brink. Our obsession with wealth and power has turned out to be the path to destruction, of our habitat and ourselves. If we want to find a way forward, we must adopt a fundamentally different vision of human enterprise and shared endeavor.

Fortunately, one such model is hiding in plain sight, a framework that must play a central role if we are going to equitably address the biggest existential threat we have ever faced. It dates all the way back to ancient Rome, but in contemporary political discourse, it doesn’t surface all that much beyond certain left-leaning activist circles where people often end their emails with the sign off “in solidarity.” The idea of solidarity describes the ways in which we are bound together and how we can act, in concert, to change our circumstances.

Not that it’s all that easy to spot and harness the idea of solidarity in the wild. Indeed, our culture is currently awash in semblances of solidarity that, even when well-intentioned or laudable, fall short of the real thing. Consider common appeals to allyship and altruism; such locutions convey a sort of optional quality, a moralistic tone, and unreliable trendiness. They are invitations to be a good and generous person, rather than the necessary expressions of our interdependence. They’re thus woefully unequal to the task of sparking concerted mass action on the scale we now urgently need.

Meanwhile, high-profile aspiring leaders, such as billionaires Howard Schultz and Mike Bloomberg, prefer to speak of “empathy” and “helping others.” While again laudable as a personal quality, empathy tends to fall apart entirely as a precept for democratic political mobilization. Simply put, there’s a profound disparity of social power embedded within its practice. As employed by the Schultzes and Bloombergs of the world, it signals a constellation of feelings that members of our power elite are able to beneficently lavish on the less affluent and more oppressed. (And of course these same powerful political actors tend to express nothing but contempt out of the other side of their compassionate mouths for anyone trying to alleviate poverty by taxing their fortunes.)

People of means have long preferred charity—and its institutionalized counterpart, philanthropy—to solidarity. Under the virtuous-sounding guise of charity, the rich and powerful can bestow kindness from on high, without feeling implicated in or responsible for the systems that produce poverty and oppression in the first place. As Anand Giridharadas reveals in his bracing 2018 book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, philanthropy is structured so as to leave the distinction between the giver and the receiver intact. In this deeply retrograde dynamic, donors and patrons reap uncritical plaudits for their generosity without prodding the discourse toward any serious discussion of the sort of change that might produce a fairer society in which billionaire philanthropists no longer exist. (Billionaire Robert F. Smith’s recent commitment of approximately $40 million to pay off the student loans of Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating class was a touching random act of kindness, but that money could have been invested in grassroots organizing and lobbying to fight for free higher education as a right, not a gift.) Solidarity, in contrast to charity and philanthropy, isn’t one-sided. It is a form of reciprocity rooted in the acknowledgment that our lives are intertwined.

One important proviso here is that intertwined does not mean indistinguishable—because solidarity also entails the core recognition that we are not all exactly alike. In complex ways, solidarity is related to, but distinct from, identity. In his 2006 essay, “In Search of Solidarity,” Chris Hayes wrote that solidarity takes two forms, “mundane” and “sublime.” The mundane brand—which relates to what is often called identity politics—unites like to like, affirming sameness. That move can be empowering and divisive, depending on the specific case and context. But in solidarity’s more sublime register, a group or individual gazes outward, reaching past similarity toward something more capacious. A solidarity aiming at transformational change—the horizon toward which solidarity must now, of necessity, be directed—demands we not just recognize and sympathize with the plight of others but also join them as equals, reaching across differences without erasing them. Solidarity in its sublime form shatters the boundaries of identity, connecting us to others even when we are not the same.

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