Listen to the Episode — 37 min
Alanis: The Ex-Worker:
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Alanis: a twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Clara: for everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Welcome back to episode number three of the Ex-Worker! Today we’re going to be exploring green anarchism. We’ll also hear a statement from a grand jury resister, an interview with an anarchist activist against the Keystone XL pipeline a review of Fredy Perlman’s classic Against His-story, Against Leviathan, and so much more.
Alanis: My name is Alanis…
Clara: …and my name is Clara, and we’ll be your hosts.
Alanis: If you want learn more about anything we discuss on this episode, don’t forget to check out our website at crimethinc.com/podcast.
Clara: And we want to hear from you! If you have any feedback, questions, comments… send us an email to email@example.com or you can leave us a voice mail, by calling 202–59-NOWRK – that is, 202–596–6975.
Let’s get started!
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: On this episode’s Hot Wire, our report back from struggles around the globe over the last two weeks, we’re first gonna head to Washington, DC, where anti-police protestors marched in solidarity with the NATO 5, Chicago area activists who were imprisoned on trumped-up charges in an effort to prevent resistance to last year’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit.
The march was part of a week of solidarity events across the country to publicize the NATO 5 case and protest the state’s use of terrorism charges to crack down on anarchists and other radicals.
Alanis: In other state repression news, New York City anarchist Jerry Koch was arrested for refusing to testify before a grand jury. Here is a recording Jerry made explaining his decision to resist:
Jerry: My name is Jerry Koch, and by the time you are hearing this, I will be in federal prison for refusing to testify to a federal grand jury, which is to say, refusing to snitch. I believe that what the FBI actually wants in this situation is for me to turn over other people’s names and information, which is something that I staunchly refuse to do. Therefore, I voluntarily choose to go to prison to protect my friends, comrades, and loved ones. I’d like to once again thank all of you for your support and solidarity– it absolutely means the world to me to know that I am not alone and that I’m dealing with this with friends and loved ones who have my back.
Clara: In international news, a week of riots raged through immigrant neighborhoods in Stockholm, Sweden in response to police killing an elderly man.
Alanis: May 29th marked an international day of action to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Bolivian government’s repression against anarchists in La Paz, alleged to have participated in the defense of TIPNIS, an indigenous territory and national park, through a series of arsons, bombings, and sabotage that were claimed by the Informal Anarchist Federation-International Revolutionary Front (FAI-FRI).
Clara: Three days of events and actions took place in Santiago, Chile in memory of Mauricio Morales, an anarchist who was killed four years ago when a bomb he was carrying during an anti-prison action exploded prematurely. Actions included the torching of a police station by a group called the “Incendiary Cell for the Subversion of the Existent”, while another called the “Anarchic Gang of Fury” claimed credit for an attack on a prison guards’ gym.
Alanis: Federal police in Brussels, Belgium raided three homes and the Acrata anarchist library, arresting eleven anarchist comrades on terrorism charges. The raids, titled Operation Ashes, were intended to disrupt a vibrant insurrectionary culture that produced countless publications, texts and posters alongside years of fierce anti-capitalist and anti-prison resistance.
Clara: Miners in South Africa continued a wildcat strike against the orders of union bureaucrats and the ruling ANC party. Company police attacked strikers with rubber bullets, injuring 20.
Alanis: And now for the latest internet fad: Facebook terrorists! In Sabadell, Spain, police arrested five anarchist youth on charges of “glorification of terrorism” and being members of a group called “Anarchist Black Flag” for posts they made on Facebook, while a teenage hip hop artist outside Boston, Massachusetts faces twenty years in prison for communicating terrorist threats for a silly Facebook rant that referenced the Boston Marathon bombing.
And environmental protests continue to rage around the world, with clashes erupting at a coal seam gas company in Queensland, Australia, while hundreds of indigenous protestors in Malaysia rallied against the construction of hydropower dams.
Clara: Meanwhile, Tanzanian President Kikwete called out the military to quash protests against a gas pipeline’s construction in Mtwara, saying, “I believe it is something unacceptable that national resources can be restricted only to the place where they are found. It has never happened in any country of this world, there is no such policy anywhere, and it cannot start from Mtwara.”
Alanis: Nothing we could have said illustrates the connection between the state and environmental destruction more clearly. Of course, for most of the time that humans have lived on the earth, natural resources were restricted to the place where they were found. But wherever states emerged, resource extraction emerged in tandem, enriching elites at the expense of massive numbers of people and the land that nourished them.
Clara: Which leads us to our theme for this episode…
Alanis: We’ll begin our conversation on Green Anarchism with this episode’s entries from the CrimethInc Contradictionary. This episode is brought to you by Accident and Sustainable Technology.
Clara: [Contradictory Terms]
Alanis: For more explorations of the war in every word, visit crimethinc.com/contradictionary.
MAIN FEATURE: GREEN ANARCHISM
Alanis: Last time on the Ex-Worker, we heard a dialogue about work, how it works, and some anarchist critiques of it.
Clara: So we know that capitalism controls our time and how we relate to one another– but of course it doesn’t just affect us humans. It also has a huge impact on the other animals and plants who call the earth home, not to mention the planet itself!
Alanis: We all know the environment is in deep trouble– even most politicians have finally acknowledged that something is going on. Meanwhile, many of the activists and scientists who have been saying the same thing for more than 40 years worry that it may be too late.
Alanis: OK, I get it! This stuff isn’t as brand new as the supposedly “green condos” that just went up near my house. The environmental critique of capitalism has been around for a long time– since way before climate change became such a hot topic.
Clara: But in the meantime, governments and businesses are scrambling to cash in on the public’s growing unease about global warming- now you can buy away your fears with energy efficient light bulbs and carbon-neutral flights!
Alanis: But individual consumer choice isn’t the problem- green capitalism is still capitalism, and as long as our way of life is based on domination and hierarchy, it will always require the exploitation of people and all life on earth.
Clara: In this feature we’ll look at the ways people have rebelled against the environmentally devastating forces of capitalism- a rich history of struggles and ideas and a truly epic battle against the forces of state repression that continues to this day.
Clara: Let’s begin with a story from England in the early 1800s. Increasingly poor factory conditions left many workers fed up- especially those who remembered what life was like before their land-based way of living was taken away from them and exchanged for long days in windowless rooms, before the factories they worked in turned the air they breathed black…
Friend: The night of November 4th, 1811 was cloudy but still not winter-cold. In the little village of Bulwell, a small band gathered in the darkness, pulled up scarves around their faces, hoisted their weapons and marched in soldierly fashion to their destination.
Outside the house of a master weaver, they posted a guard to make sure no neighbors interfered with their work, forced their way inside through shutters or doors, and destroyed half a dozen weaving frames.
Clara: A week later, the workers attacked again: same procedure, same target, only this time the master weaver was ready…
Friend: The attackers approached the house, demanding that he let them in or surrender his frames. He refused, and a fusillade of eighteen or twenty shots was exchanged.
One weaver from a nearby village was killed. His comrades carried off the body and returned with a fury, breaking down the door. They smashed the frames and some of the furniture, set fire to the house and dispersed into the night, never identified, never caught.
Clara: More attacks followed in the coming weeks. With weavers’ taverns as rallying points, news spread from village to village. Inspired by the success of the first actions, communities all over the North of England started to act. At least a hundred frames were attacked in the last week of November, another hundred and fifty or more in December.
Magistrate: There is an outrageous spirit of tumult and riot,
Clara: …the magistrates of Nottingham declared to the public in November 1811:
Magistrate: Houses are broken into by armed men, many stocking frames are destroyed, the lives of opposers are threatened, arms are seized, haystacks are fired, and private property destroyed.
Clara: The spirit of rebellion rapidly spread across the Northern counties of England, uniting under the pseudonym “Nedd Ludd,” a reference to a fictitious frame-breaking folk character.
Friend: Posters were pinned up on the doors of offending workshops, warning them to concede to the demands of ‘Ned Ludd’s Army’ or suffer the consequences. For many businessmen, the threat worked as well as the act.
Clara: The repression following these attacks prevented the full-on insurrection the magistrates had predicted. Frame-breaking became a capital offense, and the presence of the army as well as volunteer citizen militia helped curtail more attacks and temporarily quelled the rage of the workers. The bosses had won this battle, but the war raged on…
Alanis: The Luddites weren’t environmentalists in the sense that we understand today. But they did connect their miserable work conditions to their displacement from their land and prior way of life, and the destruction of the natural beauty around them. Not to mention that these early rebellions set the stage for the next two hundred years of resistance, and inspired future environmentally conscious anti-capitalists.
Alanis: Fast forward to the early 20th century. Increasing industrialization and the restructuring of production after World War Two led to social unrest in the 1960’s and 70’s. Many young people were ripe with a new consciousness about the environmentally and socially devastating effects of capitalist production and US imperialism. Initially, activists focused on changing state policies to put restrictions on industry and preserve natural resources…
Clara: But soon it became clear that government regulation was inadequate and the environmental devastation was out of control; the ongoing civil rights and anti-war movements reinforced this broadening suspicion of the American government. Radical environmentalists adopted an anti-capitalist analysis that included women’s liberation, black power, and indigenous struggles.
Alanis: As governments continued to churn out nuclear arms and power plants, direct action and resistance flourished, as people put their bodies in the way of these irreversible developments. Anti-nuclear protests camps sprang up all over the US, Europe and Asia.
Clara: In the midst of the 1970s energy crisis, mainstream environmental organizations redirected popular focus back onto personal consumption and reform. One such initiative, Earth Day, spawned massive but relatively toothless demonstrations. The environmental movement had retreated from its rebellious potential to crawl back into its bureaucratic shell, never to emerge again.
During this time, anarchist magazines such as Fifth Estate served as an outlet for discussion, with writers such as Fredy Perlman and David Watson elaborating on burgeoning critiques of civilization and technology. Other publications such as Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and later Green Anarchy magazine would continue to explore these trajectories. Resistance was brewing, and the concept of direct action was taking hold– the idea that people shouldn’t just wait for representatives to change policies, but should enact change themselves.
Alanis: In the early 1980s a crew of eco-anarchists fed up with mainstream environmental institutions formed a new group called Earth First! They not only militantly defended the last fragments of the wild, but even attempted to reverse the process of industrialization by pulling down power lines and dams.
Clara: During this time, groups around the world turned to direct action in environmental struggles. But what set Earth First! apart was its commitment to biocentrism, the belief that humans are not superior to other living beings but just one small part of a larger, interconnected ecosystem. Deep ecology, a more formalized philosophy advocating for the inherent worth of all life outside of its utility to human beings, also took hold in the movement during this time. This spiritual outlook marked a significant departure from the historical anarchists who espoused atheism and the belief that humankind could be liberated from wage labor by science and progress.
Biocentrism and deep ecology weren’t new ideas. Many of their new proponents drew inspiration from (or at worst, appropriated) indigenous and non-western cultures and religious practices that centered a harmonious relationship with the earth. In western thought, biocentrism can be traced back to the early 20th century. In his essay on “The Sense of Nature,” French anarchist geographer Élisée Reclus wrote about the ”secret harmony“ that exists between the earth and humanity, and warned that when ”reckless societies allow themselves to meddle with that which creates the beauty of their domain, they always end up regretting it."
Alanis: So by the mid 1980’s, Earth First! groups emerged all over, halting logging and oil drilling operations through civil disobedience and sabotage. They published Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, a 350 page manual on how to disable pretty much any machine with which civilization attacks the wild.
Earth First!ers wrecked machinery, occupied forests, subverted billboards, dug up logging roads, spiked trees, invaded offices and smashed windows in defense of the earth.
Clara: The movement was on the move– but so was the state.
Alanis: The FBI wasn’t about to let a crew of hippies, feminists, cowboys and desert anarchists continue to hammer company profits. From the late 1980’s onwards, the radical environmental movement faced a wave of reaction that included infiltration, set-ups, conspiracy trials, raids and corporate-directed anti-environmental hate groups. The FBI even made an assassination attempt on Judi Bari, an Earth First! and labor activist whom they perceived as a leader, by placing a bomb in her car. This was a continuation of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, previously unleashed against radical groups in the 1960s and 70s.
Clara: Ideological splits and state repression seriously weakened Earth First! in the US. However, it survived as an organization through the 90’s and 2000’s, moving much more above ground. Meanwhile, the early actions and attitude of American Earth First! inspired a vibrant culture of eco-conscious protest camps and actions in the UK. The Brits took the spirit of Earth First! and ran with it, regularly showing up en masse to joyfully trash fields of Genetically modified crops, sabotage construction sites, or reclaim urban centers.
Alanis: In 1995, Ted Kaczynski – also known as the Unabomber – stood trial for 23 ecologically motivated attacks, carried out over nearly 20 years. From a remote cabin in Montana, Kaczynski sent homemade bombs to individuals in the airline and biotech research industries. Prior to his arrest, he had used the threat of more bombings to blackmail the New York Post into publishing his manifesto, entitled Industrial Society and Its Future.
Clara: While many anarchists disagreed with Kaczynski’s tactics, his actions helped bring anti-civilization (or anti-civ) ideas into the public eye. During this time, the writings of green anarchists such John Zerzan and Wolfi Landstreicher became more visible and popular, and the US saw a dramatic increase in green anarchist, anti-civ and anarcho-primitivist thought.
Alanis: Anarcho-Primitivism espouses total rejection of industrial civilization and domestication. Primitivist theorists draw on anthropological research to argue that agriculture and animal husbandry were the genesis of the alienation, social stratification and coercion that we experience in contemporary capitalist society.
John Zerzan: “Simply put, primitivism is what you get when you combine the best insights of anarchism and anthropology.”
Alanis: Author John Zerzan explains how primitivist critiques reveal limitations in the traditional anarchist analysis of capitalism:
John Zerzan: “Abolish Capitalism. Well, ok, again: for those anarchists who want the modern world, who want mass production society, industrial life, globalization, and everything else, show me how you get rid of wage labor and the commodity, which is the paycheck and the pricetag, the essence of what is capitalism… well then what do people get? If they are doing the functions– they’re in the mines, they’re in the smelters, they’re doing all this stuff to make the modern world possible, well then, isn’t that wage labor? What else would it be? How else could it operate? And the same with the commodity. How do people get what they need?
You wouldn’t want to call it wage labor, because you’re a good leftist-anarchist, so in other words, both of these are insuperable problems for the people that defend the traditional anarchist point of view.
If you have a simple society, if you don’t have social stratification, social complexity, if you have a face-to-face world, well, you don’t have those problems.
Clara: Anarcho-primitivists strive to “rewild,” a process of deeply reconnecting with the earth not limited to philosophizing or practicing primitive skills, but also challenging our pervasive dislocation from ourselves, each other, and our ecosystems.
Alanis: Many primitivists also advocate for the active dismantling of the physical infrastructure of civilization…
Clara: Enter the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF. Structured after the Animal Liberation Front, which had been active since the ’70’s, these ‘groups’ have no membership list or formal structure– any action can be carried out by an autonomous cell or individual and claimed for the ELF or ALF as long as it falls within a few basic guidelines: the action must expose and inflict maximum economic damage on those who profit from the destruction of the natural environment or exploit animals, while harming no animal or human life. The first ELF actions took place in 1992 in England, and the tactic quickly spread in the US, where the ELF claimed credit for over 1,200 actions in the 90’s and 2000’s. Hundreds remain unsolved to this day.
Alanis: Meanwhile, green anarchist and primitivist ideas became associated with dropout culture, crust punk, and lifestyle anarchism. Teenagers and twenty-somethings skipped out on high school or college to travel to summit protests and Earth First! action camps. One of these, the Cascadia Free State, blockaded a logging road with trenches, tree-sits and an epic fortress for 11 months in a valiant attempt to halt logging in an area home to an endangered owl. The Minnehaha Free State, blocked a planned highway construction through an indigenous sacred site in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 16 months.
Clara: Through the 90’s, many anarchists adopted a militant vegan lifestyle, participating in or vocally supporting ALF actions and other campaigns targeting factory farms, animal testing labs, and other businesses that exploit animals.
Alanis: The turn of the Millennium saw escalating anti-globalization protests, most notably against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999, where massive demonstrations comprised of environmental, labor, and social justice activists took over downtown, and a powerful black bloc wreaked havoc on corporate targets.
Clara: The anarchist movement in the US seemed to be gaining momentum. Until…
Talking Head: Apparently a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York
George Bush: Today we’ve had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.
Clara: Suddenly, the news media was chattering with a new buzzword: terrorism. While Muslim and immigrant communities received the brunt of populist hatred, attacks and government repression, the US government also used this opportunity to address its so-called “domestic terrorism” problem: the radical environmental movement. With increased funding and new powers under the PATRIOT Act, the FBI honed in on hundreds of unsolved ELF and ALF actions.
Alanis: In 2005, with the help of a former radical who cooperated with the FBI to avoid drug charges, the government arrested 13 ELF saboteurs. Each of them were charged with participation in an assortment of major actions, including the spectacular arson of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado that caused $12 million in damage.
Eight of the indictees testified against their former comrades; four stayed true to their principles and refused to cooperate. Four were able to flee abroad, although two were later recaptured. One more defendant, Avalon, tragically died in custody in an alleged suicide shortly after his arrest.
Clara: This wave of repression, dubbed Operation Backfire by the government and known as the Green Scare among activists, aimed to undermine the radical environmental movement by targeting both those who had taken direct action as well as anyone who might consider it.
Several more sweeps of repression ensnared young activist Eric McDavid for simply discussing actions, as well as targeting older, established activists such as Marie Mason for her prominent role in many ELF actions.
Prosecutors use the so-called terrorism enhancement to lengthen prison sentences in cases involving increasingly broad types of organizing, including nearly any form of environmental direct action. Similarly, since the passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, it is now legally an act of terrorism to interfere with any business that makes money by exploiting animals. A recent series of laws known as “Ag-gag bills” criminalizes even filming agricultural operations, including farms and slaughterhouses.
Alanis: This is a lot of repression. But what were we expecting? After all, we’re against the state and we have to expect that they’re going to push back against us. We have to learn from our mistakes in the Green Scare and face what comes with dignity and commitment to our beliefs. Even in the digital age, as it becomes increasingly difficult to find space that isn’t surveilled and policed, resistance still lives on, and ecologically based struggles are spreading.
Clara: Indigenous people, anarchists and environmentalists in Canada are waging resistance against Plan Nord, a devastating project that will tap resources in the North of Quebec, some of the last remaining wild space in Canada. Russian activists have been executing a militant campaign of direct action near Moscow, where a proposed highway is slated to annihilate the centuries-old Khimki forest. Farmers in Yogyakarta, Indonesia continue to wage resistance against proposed iron mining on their coastal farmland. And activists and farmers in northwestern France have occupied the site of a proposed Airport called the ZAD, the so-called “development zone,” and transformed it into an autonomous, police-free “zone a defendre” - a zone to be defended.
Alanis: The focus of Earth First! in the US has largely shifted towards opposing energy extraction projects such as oil pipelines and hydraulic fracturing, a strategic move given widespread sympathy from the environmental mainstream. Given this, green anarchists are questioning how to engage with and differentiate themselves from the left and the mainstream environmental movement, striving to break out of the mold of single-issue politics and bring the battle for wild nature into a wider context of social struggle.
Clara: Inspired by ecological actions and ideas, many anarchists continue their struggles in the streets as well as in the woods. The front lines of the industrial assault on life appear everywhere, from clear-cut forests to concrete jungles, in mass extinction and our own suburban domestication. In defending the wild spaces that remain, we can confront the hierarchies that constrain all of our lives, wherever we begin to fight back.
THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Alanis: And now it’s time for the Chopping Block, where in each episode we review a classic or contemporary anarchist text and let you know what we think. Today we’re focusing on one of the foundational texts of the green anarchist critique of civilization: Against His-story, Against Leviathan!, by the prolific Czech-born anarchist writer Fredy Perlman.
Clara: In his masterpiece Against His-story, Against Leviathan!, Fredy Perlman overhauls our understanding of history with a scathing critique of civilization. According to Perlman, the advent of civilization signaled the dissolution of pre-existing ecstatic human communities and the emergence of a monstrous, repressive leviathan: an enormous all-devouring beast that symbolizes the logic of a totalitarian system. Perlman’s primary question—why do people remain complicit in the theft of their living energies?—is answered in vivid, concrete images: the leviathan itself is characterized as a carcass brought to artificial life by the motions of the human beings trapped inside.
For Perlman this is not some historical puzzle, but our current dilemma. The enslavement of humans has become like a heavy armor or an ugly mask, more and more difficult to remove, emptying its victim of life, of ecstasy. The empty space is filled with springs and wheels, with dead things, with Leviathan’s substance.
Perlman posits that the supposed “harsh material conditions” before civilization weren’t as harsh as we’ve always been told, describing pre-civilized life as people who were much but had little– a life focused not on possession of things but rather possession of Being.
This rediscovery of the primitive signals not only a return to nature, but a new direction for freedom. He wrote, The state of nature is a community of freedoms – a garden of earthly delights filled with dances, games and feasts. This is the affirmation of paradise on earth – both in the remote, suppressed past and as a dormant, yet imminent, promise.
Today, such provocative declarations elicit the same scorn that was shown towards witches, pagan dancers, and native communities as they were put to the torch. Rationalism, the brutalized logic of slaves whose insides are filled with springs and wheels, cannot accommodate the possibility of paradise. They apply the word ‘wild’ to the free, Perlman wrote, but it is another public secret that the domesticated occasionally become wild but are never free so long as they remain in their pens.
Our capacity to become wild, to transgress the limitations of our pens, allows for hope. I take it for granted that resistance is the natural response to dehumanization, he observed, and, therefore, does not have to be explained or justified. And the potential is immediate, a presence within all of us, since people *never become altogether empty shells. A glimmer of life remains …*
Many who pick up Against His-story have to give it a few tries– it’s thick with historical references, but wading through the necessary citations is well worth it. If you can put aside the occasionally patronizing idealization of ancient and indigenous cultures, Against His-story sets out the fundamental critique of civilization underlying primitivist and situationist strains of thought among anarchists ever since.
Against His-story, Against Leviathan! was first printed by Black and Red Press in 1983 and is available through their website blackandred.org, or through LBC at littleblackcart.com.
Alanis: Now it’s time for the Mugshot, our profile of a contemporary anarchist project. Today we’re speaking with Sycamore, an anarchist from the midwestern US who has spent the last 7 months in Texas working on a campaign called Tar Sands Blockade. Taking a break from the action and returning home, he sat down with the Ex-Worker to reflect on some of his experiences with this project, and looks to the future of resistance to the pipeline, ecological destruction, and global capitalism.
Sycamore: The Keystone XL Pipeline is an extension of an already existing pipeline, and it’s going to be expanded even further in the next few years, as part of a network of tar sands pipelines all the way from Alberta, Canada to refineries in central Illinois and the gulf coast of Texas.
Alanis: The campaign began when students in north Texas hooked up with a landowner in Oklahoma, a former high-wire circus performer and carpenter, who had vowed to resist the Keystone XL by any means necessary. The students later discovered he was building a secret blockade– a massive fortress over 30 feet tall and 100 feet wide, rigged up with 7 tree-sit platforms.
Sycamore: I showed up one day before the police discovered the blockade, and I climbed into a tree without any sort of legal briefing or, like, any understanding of the context there. And the next day as I was meeting other people who were like sleeping up there, they were like describing the situation with a lawsuit which had just been issued, as well as some felony charges that people were facing because of lockdowns.
Alanis: Along with occupying trees directly in the way of the proposed construction, activists have performed “lockdowns,” a set of tactics based on the use of devices that physically attach protestors to buildings, machines, trees, or each other, in order to make it more difficult for police to remove them from an area.
Sycamore: I think there were maybe 3 or 4 lockdowns leading up to when when the police discovered the blockade. And later, those people, because they were the first to be arrested, were facing the most serious charges and also a pretty serious lawsuit at the hands ofThe corporation building the pipeline, Transcanada.
Alanis: Texas’ especially strict laws have been a thorn in the side of anti-pipeline activists.
Sycamore: If you buy something, alter it in some way, and then commit a crime, it’s considered a felony. So if you buy a PVC pipe, and drill a bolt into the middle and then hook a carabiner to it to connect your arm, you’re a felon at that point.
Alanis: The campaign has experienced increasing repression– multiple felony charges for activists, high bail amounts that have bankrupted the campaign several times, and FBI harassment. Currently, twelve people will likely serve a year or more in jail. But the high cost of repression is nothing compared to the havoc that these energy extraction projects will wreak on the North American ecosystem, and Sycamore sees resistance to Tar Sands as part of a larger anti-capitalist strategy.
Sycamore: The Alberta Tar Sands gigaproject is the size of England, and is the largest capital investment project on Earth right now. If everything goes according to plan, it’s slated to be the economic engine of North American capitalism in the forseeable future.
Although the pipeline itself is harmful, and it’s destroying forests and the drinking water of people along the route, stopping the pipeline, for me, is less of a goal than a tactic. Because the Tar Sands mines are bottlenecks for global capital, they’re huge chokepoints to apply pressure to. And that can cause severe economic damage to the industry, and to Canadian national pride generally, which has been one of the goals of the indigenous resistance there. The Canadian government is now labeling itself as “the new energy supplier of the world.”
Alanis: Sycamore continued to talk about how the struggle can be broadened beyond Texas:
Sycamore: One thing that I’ve become interested in in the last few months since moving home is maybe starting to focus less energy on resisting the Keystone XL. I personally think it’s become kinda a bit of a red herring and a distraction to the dozens of other tar sands pipelines that no one is talking about right now and that are going through even more sensitive regions like the Great Lakes area. I think there’s three tar sands pipelines that are being built next year through the Great Lakes.
Alanis: But those involved in the campaign are thinking ahead…
Sycamore: I’ve been coordinating with a group of people from different anti-extraction struggles that are resisting other pipelines, as well as mountain top removal, and fracking and tar sands mining in Utah, and this loose group of people has called for a week of escalated action against the extraction industry, from June 24th to 29th. And I personally think this would be a great time to experiment with new tactics instead of trying to reproduce a lot of the same things that obviously were not working for us in Texas.
Alanis: For more information about the Tar Sands Blockade, visit tarsandsblockade.org.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: And finally, it’s time for next week’s news, upcoming resistance events around the world. As we speak, the first anarchist book fair in Medellin, Columbia is taking place! From June 1st through 3rd there will be a variety of workshops, readings, and discussions exploring anarchist ideas in the South American nation’s second largest city.
Alanis: June 3rd through 9th, The Black Mesa Indigenous Support Collective is hosting a gathering celebrating the resistance of the Big Mountain/Black Mesa community on Dine land in occupied Arizona. The gathering will focus on decolonizing the mind and the mine, and will include workshops and conversations among indigenous and other frontline resistance communities from around the country. Participation for the gathering is currently full, but to support or find out more, check out supportblackmesa.org.
Clara: The Against the Prison System Festival takes place in Helsinki, Finland on the 8th and 9th, and from the 10th through the 16th, a week of events for the Anarchist Book Fair in Barcelona, Spain, as well as the Swedish Anarchist Book Fair in Stockholm on the 15th.
Alanis: June 11th is an important day for prisoner solidarity, honoring long-term anarchist prisoners Marie Mason and Eric McDavid. Solidarity events will take place across the US and internationally to commemorate these victims of the Green Scare and show our determination not only to remember and support them but to continue their struggles. Find out more at june11.org.
Clara: And speaking of prison, we have more political prisoner birthdays coming up:
On June 9th, Ramón Labañino Salazar, one of the Cuban Five, imprisoned by the US government for monitoring Miami-based right wing terrorist groups.
Alanis: On the 12th, Jared Chase, one of the NATO 5 we discussed earlier, facing terrorism charges after being framed by an informant for supposedly planning to make a molotov cocktail.
Clara: And on the 14th, Sekou Odinga, a former member of the Black Liberation Army charged with the liberation of Assata Shakur.
Alanis: Incidentally, Assata Shakur, the black liberation revolutionary currently living in Cuba, made the news recently when the FBI added her to its Most Wanted Terrorists list and doubled the bounty on her head to 2 million dollars. Yet in spite of that, over thirty three years after her escape from prison she is still free. So mad props to Sekou Odinga, Mutulu Shakur, Silvia Baraldini, the late Marilyn Buck, and all the other freedom fighters who made so many sacrifices for Assata and for all of us to be free.
Clara: Addresses for writing to all of these prisoners, plus links to all of the events we announced, can be found at our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
Alanis: That does it for this episode of the Ex-Worker. Thanks to everyone for listening! I’m Alanis,
Clara: and I’m Clara, and we’ll be back with our fourth episode on June 16th, when we’ll explore an anarchist perspective on prisons.
Alanis: This has been a production of the CrimethInc Ex-Workers Collective: the fringe of every mass, the exception to every rule, the eye of every storm. Thanks to Sycamore for coming on the show to speak with us.
Clara: And again thanks to Underground Reverie for the terrific music you hear on the show.
Alanis: Don’t forget to check us out at crimethinc.com/podcast. If you’ve got any comments or feedback, or ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave us a voice mail at 202–59-NOWRK - that is, 202–596–6975. Also, if you downloaded this podcast through iTunes, leave us a rating and let us know what you think.
Clara: Till next time: stay wild!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
Download MP3 (45 Min; 19MB)
Much inspiration from this episode was drawn from Do or Die: Voices of the Ecological resistance, a journal published in England at the height of Earth First! The Luddites War on Industry and Down with the Empire, Up with the spring!, provided material that we adapted for the theme segment, and the latter should be required reading for anyone interested in waging war on the techno-industrial nightmare.
For a thorough rundown of the Green Scare, check out the article Green Scared? Preliminary Lessons of the Green Scare from Rolling Thunder Issue #5.
Against Technology from Insurrection Magazine #5, and documents from the insurrectional anti-cruise missle base struggle in Comiso.
More thoughts about climate change and green capitalism.
It’s difficult to talk about contemporary green anarchist thought without giving lip service to author and activist Derrick Jensen, albeit with some huge reservations. Jensen is now largely discredited among anarchists for spearheading the authoritarian organization Deep Green Resistance, collaborating with law enforcement, and a recent scandal around DGR’s transphobic positions. That said, his books remain influential in eco-circles, exploring the interconnectedness of racism, ecological devastation, domestic violence and the necessity of resistance to industrial capitalism from a first-person narrative position.
From our conversation with Sycamore about the Tar Sands Blockade: Some additional information about the process of tar sands oil extraction. A website is under construction to help coordinate funds and solidarity for those arrested in the Blockade who are facing years of jail time.
June 11th is the international day of solidarity with Marie Mason, Eric McDavid, and long-term anarchist prisoners.
Other upcoming events: Black Mesa Indigenous Support Collective gathering, Against the Prison System Festival in Helsinki, Finland, Anarchist Book Fair in Barcelona, Spain. We discovered post-production that the Swedish Anarchist Book Far has been cancelled last minute.
Addresses for political prisoners with upcoming birthdays:
Ramón Labañino Salazar (June 9)
Luís Medina III #58734–004
2680 301 South
Jesup, GA 31599
Please address outside envelope to Luís Medina, inside card to Ramón Salazar.
Jared Chase (June 12)
Jared Chase 2012–0519003
Cook County Department of Correction
PO Box 089002
Chicago, IL 60608
Sekou Odinga (June 14)
Sekou Odinga 09-A–3775
Clinton Correctional Facility
PO Box 2001
Dannemora, NY 12929–2000
Music for the Ex-Worker provided by Underground Reverie