Listen to the Episode — 96 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: Hello, and welcome back to another enthralling edition of the Ex-Worker. This episode has a lot going on! We’ll be taking care of some things we’ve had on the back burner while we’ve been busy reviewing 2015, including some listener feedback on Adbusters and occupations, a short report from some goings-on in the land down under, a bunch of updates on political prisoners, a review of the book Huye, Hombre, Huye, and What We Really Think About the Bay Area.
Clara: The main course of this episode, however, will be devoted to a conversation about democracy. Election year is chugging right along in the USA, and rather than waste our breath taking potshots at the nominees (although it’s hard because they make it waaay too easy) we’re going to examine whether democracy is actually what we’re fighting for as anarchists after all.
Alanis: Soon we’ll be releasing an audio ’zine version of the forthcoming CrimethInc. feature “Democracy or Freedom.” So if anything we’re saying in this episode piques your interest, keep your eyes peeled for the audio version from our feed on iTunes, our website, or your favorite podcatcher, or you’ll be able to check out the text version at crimethinc.com/blog.
Clara: You can find a links to everything we mention in this episode in our show notes, available on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast. And, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, you can shoot us an email at podcast at crimethinc.com.
Alanis: Let’s get started!
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: We’ll get things crackin’ with the Hot Wire, our look at resistance and revolt happening around the globe. Alanis, what’s going on out there?
Alanis: Protesters clashed with police in Hong Kong on the night of the lunar new year against a police crackdown on unlicensed street vendors. Cops responded to protesters throwing stones and setting fire to garbage cans by firing live ammunition and arresting some demonstrators. Forty four policemen and journalists were reportedly injured. The central authorities in Beijing are regarding the clashes with growing concern, and have thus far encouraged the Hong Kong government to take a no-compromise attitude to the growing number of protests that have taken place over the past few years.
Clara: Around 3000 activists gathered to protest the destruction of a forest in northern Turkey, which is being clear-cut to make way for a gold and copper mine. While some demonstrators placed their bodies in the way of roads and tracks, others parked some 300 cars in the way or constructed and lit other varieties of barricades, prompting the cops to move in with tow trucks and teargas.
Alanis: In Berlin, Germany, roving groups of 20 to 100 hooded vandals torched dozens of luxury cars over the course of a weekend after Freidrichshain, a district in the capital, was declared a ‘danger zone.’ This designation almost certainly signals the impetus to ‘clean up’ squats and other undesirables in the neighborhood in order to pave the way for gentrification. Autonomous groups in Berlin have threatened to exact 1 million euros in property damage if police crack down on squats or other social centers.
Clara: Protesters in Peru took to the streets of Lima in droves to protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, yet another trade agreement that does exactly what trade agreements are meant to do - to make it easier for the rich to get richer while keeping the poor poor. The protests began calmly but by evening cops were using sticks, shotguns and teargas to quell the rowdy crowds.
Alanis: In Montevideo, Uruguay, a number of people gathered in Libertad Square for a public demonstration against the eviction of the autonomous social center La Solidaria. The action took place in the context of a call for an international week of actions in support of the social center, which has been squatted since 2012.
Clara: An anti-terrorist media spectacle is unfolding in Greece, where a suspected clandestine member of the group Revolutionary Struggle attempted to hijack and re-route a helicopter toward Kordiallos Prison, in what police believe was an attempt to spring RS prisoner Nikos Maziotis. Unfortunately, the ex-policeman pilot claims he recognized Pola Roupa from media photographs, and he fought back when she pulled a pistol on him. The conflict ended with the helicopter grounded and bullet-ridden; the woman fled the scene, and cops are searching for her.
Alanis: Greek anarchists from the group Rouvikonas disrupted a state TV broadcast when they stormed a station during the evening news. While they were unable to read their prepared statement, which critiqued the economic and immigration reforms in Greece, the station was forced to switch over to archive footage while the anarchists, uh, firmly insisted that they be able to have their say. Unfortunately 22 anarchists were detained by police outside the station.
Clara: And, in Athens, a building at the Polytechnic University was occupied to provide shelter for refugee families.
Alanis: Anarchists, antifascists, and other protestors wilded out in Nantes after the French government declared that they’d be extending the current state of emergency another three months. At an anti-airport carnival in Rennes earlier in the month, banks, insurance companies, travel and real estate agencies were vandalized after a judge ordered the expulsion of the occupiers of the ZAD at Notre Dame des Landes. Expect more action from northwestern France soon because of the ZAD eviction, as well as the impending eviction of the so-called Jungle of the Migrant Camps in Calais.
Clara: Meanwhile, a Calais solidarity group in London blocked the entrance to a private club where French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann was reportedly at an event, throwing smoke bombs and generally causing a ruckus to bring attention to the proposed eviction.
Alanis: Three antifascists were stabbed and several others were arrested while confronting the KKK in Anaheim, California on February 27th. At least one Nazi was also sent to the hospital during the scuffles. The arrested need to raise money for their legal defense, so if you have a few bucks to spare follow the link to their fundraising page on our website.
Clara: A few members of the anti-immigration group PÉGIDA Québec were chased away by some 200 anarchists when they tried to demonstrate in the Montréal. Anti-Islamic demonstrations were confronted all over Europe as part of an international day against PÉGIDA, which in German stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.
Alanis: Two police cars were set on fire in Prague, Czech Republic, in solidarity with imprisoned anarchist Martin Ignačák, who is currently being refused vegan food in prison.
Clara: Four comrades in Belgium are facing 1–5 years in prison for ‘organized destruction of personal property’ in connection with actions against the construction of a new Maxi-Prison in Haren. More information about the long, inspiring struggle against the prison and links to donate to their legal fund are in the show notes. Incendiary attacks against luxury cars in Marseille were dedicated to those arrested in Belgium.
Alanis: Protesters lightly clashed with police in Salt Lake City, Utah of all places, when police refused to release body camera footage of the shooting of 17-year-old Somali refugee Ali Mohamed.
Clara: A queer anarchist march took place in Tucson, Arizona in memory of Kayden Clarke, a 24-year-old transgender man with Asperger’s Syndrome who was killed by police in early February in Mesa, Arizona.
Alanis: And a queer group called “No pride in prisons” attempted to stop police and corrections officers from joining in Auckland New Zealand’s pride parade. Instead, the police held the protesters back from joining the parade, but no arrests were made.
Clara: If you’ve ever wondered why we here at the Ex-Worker are not fired up about free speech and the First Amendment, check out this headline. The Ku Klux Klan in Georgia has filed a lawsuit after the state denied them the right to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program. With legal representation from, you guessed it, the ACLU, the KKK’s case has reached the state supreme court. The ACLU claims that if the state can deny the KKK’s right to have their name on a sign saying that they pick up trash along the side of the road, then next thing you know the state could prevent groups like Black Lives Matter or whomever the government disagrees with from adopting highways, and then what would we have? Tyranny! Thanks, ACLU, for once again arguing for why good radicals should support fascists.
Alanis: Meanwhile, hackers posted thousands of files hacked from a database belonging to the Fraternal Order of Police, the massive organization representing over 300,000 US cops. The data is being hosted by The Chthulu, aka Thomas White, who warned the pigs not to try to retaliate, saying, “If you want to go nuclear with me, feel free to do so, but trust me when I say you might want to think long and hard before you do.” Damn!
Clara: And now let’s dig into our inbox and see what we’re got for listener feedback. Alanis, what’s going on in there?
Alanis: Well, we’ve been saving it up for months now, and there’s actually quite a bit to catch up on. We’ll start with a message responding to our grumpiness about the predominance of pieces focusing on events in the Bay Area in the anthology Taking Sides, which we reviewed in Episode 45. One listener mentioned that they were first introduced to the Ex-Worker by listening to Episode 14 on squatting, and because it included an interview with folks at a squat in Oakland, they had assumed that our project was based out of the Bay Area. Thus they found it “funny to hear an anti-Bay Area rant” in one of our episodes.
Clara: Juuuust to be clear with everyone- we at the Ex-Worker are by no means anti-Bay Area. It’s true that we’re not based out of the Bay Area; we’re a geographically dispersed collective that includes folks across the US and in several different countries. But we’ve had several folks from the Bay Area contribute valuable material to the podcast. In addition to the interview with the Oakland squatters in Episode 14 which the listener mentioned, there was the interview with Critical Resistance in Episode 8, the report on the Bay Area rebellions in memory of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in Episode 33, and various other features. We definitely admire and are deeply inspired by a lot of the actions going on in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and thereabouts, as well as the thoughtful analysis that comes out of the many different and often conflicting circles of anarchists out there. Our critique isn’t of the Bay itself, but of the tendency to centralize or over-represent Bay Area experiences within discussions about North American anarchism.
Alanis: Part of the reason for this is that many of the most prolific and widely circulated anarchist publishers, writers, and media makers are based in the Bay, and since they speak from their experiences and context, what we read or listen to tends to disproportionately come from there. Another reason is that Bay Area anarchism is broad and diverse enough that it includes quite a lot of distinct currents, including strong anarchist people of color movements influenced by Afro-pessimist and anti-colonial ideas, insurrectionary. individualist, and nihilist currents, queer and trans-specific perspectives, and many others. So a lot of different theoretical arcs have been influenced by Bay Area folks; there’s not a single character or tendency that defines Bay Area anarchism in the way there often is in smaller scenes. And of course there are a lot of upheavals going on there and a lot of militant actions taking place, which we’re excited to read about and learn from. All of these are positive things. But one of the unfortunate consequences is that conditions that are actually pretty specific to the Bay or California tend to be presented as central concerns for anarchists in general, rather than as manifestations of anarchist struggle in a local context.
Here’s an example: there was a yearly anarchist gathering I used to attend on the east coast. Although overall it was great, queer and trans folks used to give the organizers shit because they tended to de-prioritize queer/trans themed workshops despite there being a lot of demand for them. One time when I went - I think this was eight or ten years ago - this patterns was playing out, so that among many dozens of workshops, there was only a single one on queer or trans themes. And it happened to be a workshop discussing LGBT-driven gentrification facilitated by two folks from San Francisco. Although it was interesting, my own impression and the sense I got from most others there was that the struggles facing queer and trans folks outside of these hip urban enclaves were extremely different, to the point where the discussion felt basically irrelevant to folks living outside of the Bay (except maybe folks from New York or one or two other major cities). Although that’s just one isolated example, I feel like I’m seeing similar things happening in anarchist publications or discussions in recent years, particularly about gentrification, or the legacy of Occupy, or the contours of anti-police struggle, or various other things.
Clara: Yeah, it seems like a pretty common phenomenon for folks living in these areas to see their own concerns and struggles and discourses as either the standard or the most advanced politically - which makes it harder for the rest of us from other regions and smaller cities and towns, who generally have access to less infrastructure and fewer resources, to figure out how to benefit from the experience of anarchists living in the so-called strongholds. Of course all of us should be participating in and reflecting on local struggles wherever we are, whether it’s the Bay or Des Moines or Tuscaloosa. But - well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but to me it’d be helpful if anarchists who live in areas with dense concentrations of comrades and infrastructure would take it upon themselves to decentralize their activities, build networks with other regions, develop analysis oriented towards broader audiences beyond select urban contexts… “think outside the Bay,” if you will.
Alanis: That’s another reason why we’re excited about The Spaces Between, this tour and interview and writing project going on recently exploring anarchism in the US outside of the so-called hotspots. Over the last couple of weeks they’ve visited a lot of places around the east coast and midwest, gathering and sharing stories from folks in towns with smaller or less glamorous anarchist scenes, often devoid of an established institutional left with whom to have a love/hate relationship. We’ll have an interview to share with folks from that tour in an upcoming episode.
Clara: One of our goals for the Ex-Worker is to seek out anarchist perspectives from a wide range of contexts, whether that be in the news we report or the folks we interview or the analysis we share. So we’ll certainly continue to include the Bay, but we’ll try to avoid reproducing that disproportionate focus.
Alanis: Although, all that said, it might be worth acknowledging that according to our rough estimates of download data, we have more than twice as many listeners from California than from any other US state or other area of the world. So, all you Californians, please know that we love and appreciate y’all! I hope we’re not alienating any of y’all out there. Keep us posted about what’s going on wherever you are to podcast at crimethinc dot com.
[quick music break]
Alanis: Moving on with the feedback, one listener took us to task for our rather mocking mention of Adbusters Magazine’s “Billion People March” campaign back in Episode 44.
Clara: In case you’ve forgotten, this latest concept by Adbusters guru Kalle Lasn involved trying to catalyze a massive international day of protest oriented towards a single demand, which seemed to be a 1% tax on all stock market and currency trades payable to the United Nations. Our listener wrote:
Alanis: I don’t see why you found it necessary to talk so much shit about Adbusters and their Billion People March idea. I think Adbusters is rad; certainly I don’t agree with all of their positions, but I don’t agree with all of CrimethInc’s positions, either. The specific demand they came up with about this 1% tax idea is definitely a weird one. But I think their point is to catalyze huge numbers of people to get into the streets and resist, which is a goal I would imagine that you share, too. We can never tell what the next thing that’ll bring thousands of people to the streets will be; who would have thought Occupy Wall Street would become so huge and spread so far and wide? So why shit on this effort? It sounds like you actually want them to fail so that you can be proven right. If a billion people hit the streets, we could make whatever demands we wanted, regardless of what Adbusters says (or CrimethInc. for that matter). Shouldn’t you focus your hostility or sarcasm on the many enemies you have in common rather than making fun of people who are also attempting to spark mass protest against governments and corporate power?
Clara: Fair enough, dear listener, fair enough. Just to clear a few things up: I have a lot of respect for Adbusters. The thing they do, they do really well.
Alanis: What is that thing?
Clara: I dunno, like… evocatively portraying the alienation of postmodern life through visually compelling collages of images and short texts. Picking up where the Situationists left off in the critique of the spectacle and advertising and daily life under capitalism. And drawing connections between first world boredom and existential crisis and third world poverty and misery. Something like that. They’ve totally inspired and catalyzed a whole lot of people to be more critical of consumerism, media spectacles, environmental destruction, corporate capitalism, and lots of other stuff. So the point is certainly not to hate on Adbusters.
Alanis: So what was the point?
Clara: More to critique what we think is a misguided strategy of focusing on making demands. This is the latest project of many that have tried to homogenize the energy of these super diverse movements and upheavals and synthesize them into a few talking points or policy proposals. If it worked, it might concentrate collective power in a certain way, but to what end? And at what cost? Any demand the state has the ability to grant will ultimately reinforce their power and our dependence. Did you ever read anything by that guy Saul Alinsky, the “Rules for Radicals” author, the community organizer that supposedly influenced Obama as a youngster?
Alanis: Uh, no…
Clara: Well, it’s not that important. But bear with me for a second; I used to be pretty in to this guy before I became an anarchist. So Alinsky, as a social activist and democratic citizen, had this vision of society as a three-legged stool. One leg is the government, the state, and the second leg is the business sector, corporations and such. And then the third leg is all the rest of us - “civil society,” if you like.
Clara: So he observes that corporations and business interests are all pretty well organized as a sector, and the state and all its bureaucracies are certainly pretty organized, but that the rest of us in civil society are not organized. And his vision of a just democratic world is a three-legged stool, with all three legs strong and stable and able to counter-balance each other; according to the metaphor, if two legs are strong but the third leg, us, is wobbly, then it’s likely to topple over, and democracy won’t work. So the task is for us to organize ourselves, through nonprofits or community groups or churches or coalitions or however we lump together, so we can hold the state and the corporations accountable and make democracy work.
Alanis: But I’m an anarchist, so my vision of a free society isn’t this three legged stool where we’re constantly struggling to react against and counterbalance the state and capitalist firms. It’s a world in which there is no state and no capitalism, and all of us organize our own lives horizontally.
Clara: Yeah, same here. That’s why I’m an anarchist, and why the president of the United States is a drone-deploying police-defending former Alinsky-style community organizer. What I’m getting at is that this Adbusters vision of getting everyone together to make one big demand is straight out of this Rules for Radicals framework. (They even have a section on the Billion People March website called “Rules for Radicals”, though it isn’t actually drawn from Alinsky.) The people, civil society, the third leg, makes the demand; the state is the one who grants it; and the corporations are the one from whom it is exacted (in the case of this one percent tax on currency transactions or whatever that they wanted). In this model, the entire system is strengthened when all the parts are in balance; so successfully organizing to make a demand in this fashion might seem like it makes “us”, i.e. “the people,” stronger, but only insofar as it legitimizes and strengthens the state as the mediator between us and the second leg of the stool, capital.
Alanis: Not to mention how it sets up the people who get to be the leaders or representatives of this “civil society” third leg to appropriate our power, whether as nonprofit managers or union bureaucrats or ministers or what have you.
Clara: Exactly. So if what you’re going for is actually an anarchist society without capitalism or the state or hierarchy, you’re not making any headway towards your goals if you’re strengthening all three legs of this stool as per the Alinsky model. We see our task as kicking the stool over, chopping it up to burn as firewood, and then rebuilding a self-organized society from the ashes.
Alanis: Hear hear.
Clara: So do you get what I’m saying?
Alanis: Yeah, sure I do. I mean, yes, I agree with your critique of demand politics. But this was originally about Adbusters, remember? I would say in Adbusters’ defense: they’re sort of like an idea factory, an assembly line that exists to churn out tons of potential memes. Some of them catch on, some of them don’t, but a few of them - like the concept of culture jamming, Buy Nothing Day, and most dramatically, Occupy Wall Street - have gone viral and taken on lives of their own. Others, like their attempt to become a brand marketing non-sweatshop sneakers to dethrone Nike’s role at the top of the shoe market, or their obsession with alternative economists for a while, didn’t seem to inspire that many people. So be it. We shouldn’t approach a project like theirs as a platform putting out principled proposals from a unified ideology that we can agree with or reject wholesale. I think that’s a misunderstanding of what their niche is in the radical ecosystem. What’s cool about them is that they generate alllll these different ideas, and for the ones that catch on, people pick them up and run with them and take them far beyond what Adbusters could have envisioned. It’s more like throwing out a bunch of open source codes that other programmers can tinker with and adapt to their own purposes. And in that sense, it’s pretty cool.
Clara: Yeah, that’s a good point. Still, not to be a dogmatic strategist here, but I think they’d be more effective if they learned lessons from the things that did and didn’t take off. Specifically with Occupy, one lesson I absorbed is that Occupy’s ability to take off and spread so widely and bring so many different kinds of people together was contingent on it never crystallizing into the form of a single demand, never becoming something that politicians could enter into dialogue with and appropriate. It was never containable, never a known quantity. So part of what that meant was that in a lot of places, it was really boring, or dominated by pacifists or weird libertarians, or was marginalized or crushed pretty easily. But then in other places, it turned out to be really powerful, and the basis for lasting relationships and resistance. Sure, if you’d asked me in August 2011 what I thought about the concept of Occupy Wall Street, and what I thought would come of it, I’d have probably been pretty cynical. But sure enough, it took off. A lot of people argued that Occupy didn’t continue as a political movement because it never got its shit together and issued unified demands like a mature movement would. That was the conventional wisdom… of liberal scumbags without much of a grasp on history, at least. Personally, I think the opposite was true; the political wisdom of Occupy, and any legacy that might live on from it, stemmed from its refusal, or indeed its inability, to centralize and unify in that way.
Alanis: Well, along those lines, I guess we can evaluate how this new proposed meme has been doing so far. I looked around online to try to see what happened on December 19th, the date of the so-called Billion People March.
Clara: Find anything?
Alanis: Well, according to the campaign’s website, “On #D19 forty grassroots groups around the world took to the streets in dozens of cities on five continents to demand deep down, paradigm-shifting change to our global system.” According to an article on the Earth First Journal newswire, events were listed in places ranging from Guatemala to Iran to Saskatchewan.
Clara: So… did anything actually happen?
Alanis: Well… it’s hard to say. I can’t really prove that things DIDN’T happen. But I couldn’t find any news reports about any of those scheduled events. According to the #BillionPeopleMarch tag on Twitter, there was a picture of eight people with environmentalist signs in Fort Wayne, Indiana; some graffiti or maybe an art installation in Norway; a small flashmob somewhere in coastal Australia; a “Billion People Meditation” event in New York City, along with a group of eight Revolutionary Communist Party members flying signs “representing 4 the 7billion ppl of the planet who need #RevolutionNothingLess”… ugh.
Clara: Perhaps the funniest and most demoralizing reportback was a tweet from “Malatesta’s Ghost”, reporting on the Billion People March event scheduled in Brighton, UK. It read:
“Waste of time. Went to #BillionPeopleMarch. Waited 10 mins for other 999,999,999 to turn up. They didn’t. On way home now via beer shop.”
Clara: So, I dunno how to conclude here. Again, my point isn’t to shit on Adbusters. Now that their idea seems, for all intents and purposes, to have been a bust, I’m definitely not happy to have been proven right. Shit, I wish that millions of people had taken to the streets and I was having to eat crow right now! But unfortunately, it seems pretty clear from the reports, or lack thereof, that they don’t have the capacity to organize even a fraction of the folks who used to come together for Buy Nothing Day under the banner of this new meme. So… on to the next one, I guess. I wish them luck.
Alanis: I guess, if I was following your argument, I might infer that a probable reason why this one didn’t catch is that it was trying to resurrect an outmoded demand model. Honestly, their “we are the fuck-it-all generation” meme sounds more promising to me; I’d totally go rage in the streets with a bunch of bored and angry strangers under a banner that says “FUCK IT ALL GENERATION”. Reading accounts from all sorts of uprisings from Tottenham to Sao Paulo to Ferguson, it seems like being bored and pissed off and generally alienated without any specific political analysis is actually a pretty major catalyst for some of the wildest stuff that’s gone down the past few years. You can call it nihilism or whatever you like, but one thing Adbusters has going for it is a pretty compelling ability to aesthetically invoke that sense of dismal hyper-bored fuck-it-all post-post-modernity. What else is gonna bring us together if not this sense that literally everything this society has to offer us is bankrupt and fake and exhausted and inauthentic and empty? If they could just stop trying to use it to get us to buy shoes or read “dissident economists” or advocate for some kooky tax, and instead just focused on helping us find each other in our boredom and rage - then we might get somewhere.
Clara: One listener from the US wrote in with thoughts about how discourses around militant resistance have shifted over the past year and what that might mean for tactics that might generalize in the new year. Here’s what they had to say:
Alanis: It seems like over the past year and change a lot has been done a lot to change expectations about what is possible in a social movement in the US. Widespread property destruction, rioting, and confrontations with the police have taken place in various cities throughout the US, and there seems to be little reason to expect that these tactics might not spread further. Where a few years ago, even far left commentators declared that those who would destroy property were an anti-social “cancer”, now we find mainstream news sources running editorials in defense of looting. Shit’s weird.
To think about 2016, I wonder if perhaps now that we seem to be surpassing some of the limits we came up against in Occupy, the time might be ripe to try our hand at taking buildings for own purposes once again. Of course, there are successful clandestinely executed occupations throughout the country, but if we could stage the reclamation of abandoned buildings as a brazen tactic within a social movement (as was attempted in Santa Cruz, Oakland, and North Carolina during Occupy) this would seem a worthwhile barrier to try to break.
In a broader sense, if the national dialogue around property destruction has changed so dramatically in just the past few years, it would seem to indicate that the context we find ourselves fighting in can change rapidly. Let’s keep our wits about ourselves, be open to pushing the envelope in new directions, and here’s hoping that over the next few years the world we find ourselves struggling in has had so many waves of resistance and tactical improvisation that it would be unrecognizable from our current vantage point.
Clara: Brilliant! I think there’s a lot of insight in those reflections. One of our year in review correspondents last year emphasized the importance of being prepared to evaluate and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, and this year has definitely proved that right. Take the example of the Baltimore uprising this spring. The entire process moved extremely quickly, with rapid escalation of hostility on the part of protestors, rapid deployment of the National Guard, and the decision to press charges and indict the six officers who killed Freddie Gray announced quickly in an effort to quell the rebellion. With the rebellion contained to one urban area, the combined military and law enforcement capacities deployed to repress the riots were stretched, but not too far. But if the unrest had spread to Philadelphia, New York, DC, Richmond, and elsewhere in the region, shit might have gotten really ungovernable really fast. Anarchists may have missed an opportunity by failing to actively and visibly take part within and beyond Baltimore during the small window that opened up there. Last winter, friends from Oakland reported that the rounds of demonstrations in the Bay area were seriously challenging the logistical and financial capacity of law enforcement to repress them. If we’ve learned one thing from the past year and a half, it’s that we need to be ready to mobilize rapidly when windows of possibility open up and to take advantage of the dramatic expansion of what folks feel entitled to do in rebellious situations.
Alanis: Of course, the threat of left co-optation as a counterinsurgency strategy is very real. In places where politicians and self-appointed activist leadership were unable to take over the course of events, despite their best efforts, as in Ferguson and moments in Oakland, shit got very interesting. In places where they were able to exert effective control, as in Minneapolis this fall, they were able to be pacified more quickly. Anarchists have been right to identify this as a major obstacle to insurrectionary possibility over the past year and a half, and to point out certain formulations of identity politics and the concept of the ally as tools of counterinsurgency in these situations. That said, white supremacy and anti-blackness remain fundamental organizing principles of American society, and any reactionary approach to critiquing identity politics that doesn’t ground into this basic reality will be both ineffective and allied with our enemies.
Clara: On the topic of the mainstream media supporting or at least excusing riots over the last year and change, it’s true that that has happened, as we discussed in Episode 40 on struggles against white supremacy and the police. Yet at the same time this tentative support usually takes the form of portraying rioters as victims lashing out rather than people who know what they’re doing. You know, everyone cites that Martin Luther King, Jr. quote about riots as the language of the unheard… as if the problem for people targeted by white supremacy and poverty was one of amplification rather than material and structural oppression.
Alanis: Again carrying on this notion that everything politically meaningful can be reduced to speech, as civil libertarians love to think.
Clara: The essay The Poor Person’s Defense of Riots by Delio Vasquez, which appears in Taking Sides, the AK Press anthology we reviewed in Episode 45, talks about this. It argues that we should understand rioting not as a symptom of powerless people who are mad because they haven’t figured out how to participate in legitimate politics, but passionate yet rational agents taking decisive action in their interests.
Alanis: One of the problems I could imagine us facing if we tried to pick up on and expand our practices of building occupations is that such a concerted and legibly political action may not qualify for the provisional excuse of powerless victims lashing out. A direct frontal assault on the system of private ownership is definitely raising the stakes.
Clara: And that’s what anarchists are there for, right?
Alanis: Oh yeah, of course. I’m definitely not arguing against that as a tactic - quite the opposite! I’m just wondering if we would be able to ride the wave of riot sympathy in that direction. In a way, this supposed sympathy is a double-edged sword, because it only validates collective power as an expression of powerlessness, ultimately conceived of as a wake-up call for the proper authorities rather than a total displacement of them.
Clara: Also, with the Occupy movement, no particular group or demographic was able to monopolize the legitimacy to act, as much as many tried. Whereas rebellions that erupt in response to racist police killings tend to center either members of the community or racial group from whom the murdered person came (or their self-appointed leaders), or the person’s family of origin (or those claiming to represent them). While none of these groups are homogenous in their interests or predictable in their responses, this structure of legitimacy in post-police killing riots (as contrasted to Occupy) lends itself to co-optation and pacification, outside agitator discourses, claims of opportunism against people who try to push the envelope, etc. So while the rage of the protestors is immediately legible, this very legibility defines some of its limits. Another way of saying it is that Ferguson, Baltimore, and related upheavals are framed as fundamentally reactive, versus Occupy - weird as it was - as basically proactive, and thus both less legible and more open-ended. Each of these offers a double-edged sword, and different strategic considerations.
Alanis: Still, it’s definitely true looking back on the development of tactics and popular sentiments since 2008 that what has been seen as possible or legitimate has been expanding with each round of unrest. So let’s definitely keep experimenting to see which tactics might catch on and open up unforeseen possibilities.
[short music break]
Clara: Although we make an effort to pull news from all over the world, wherever there are anarchists and people in resistance, you may have noticed that our coverage of Australia has been pretty sparse. We asked several episodes for anyone listening from the land down under to write in with reports or tips on websites for keeping up with anarchist happenings and perspectives there. And listener “Cut Snake” obliged, sending us this message:
Alanis: G’day! I’m one of a very few anarchists in the country town of Bendigo, Central Victoria, Australia. I recently heard that you were looking for ways to follow Anarchist action in Australia and thought I’d link you to some of the Anarchist sites that I keep an eye on. Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily vouch for the awesomeness or politics in every article.
You will find that a lot of the information on these blogs is focused on two specific issues that are sweeping the country at the moment (although they have been issues for quite some time), being outrage at the concentration camps that our government outsource to small island nations to ‘keep us safe’ from asylum seekers; and anti-fascist action directed at several up-and-coming right wing groups, namely the United Patriots Front, Reclaim Australia and the Australian Liberty Alliance.
My small town has recently seen a ragingly fast upward trend in fascist-loving, brutally violent flagwits after the UPF came in to stir up trouble around the building of a proposed mosque after they were gracelessly ejected from Melbourne on July 18 (you’ll find that info on the above mentioned blogs, specifically Slackbastard). A small group of us antifascists have since been chased from council meetings, had our vehicles attacked and had scary folks with southern cross tattoos attempting to find out our personal info. Luckily we have a great network of supporters in Melbourne who come up to assist when we need, sharing skills and keeping us safe by increasing our numbers on the street. The thing is we’re marching and fighting for an oppressed peoples’ right to build a house of worship when we are devout atheists. We deny and fucking hate all gods but are getting punched in the face and harassed on the street in defence of other people’s right to pray to one.
Thanks for your podcast, it amps me up on my way to work while I’m pulling down fascist posters and putting ANTIFA stickers on bus stops.
In closing, BASH THE FASH, FUCK THE PATRIARCHY, ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE and CIRCLE THE A EVERY DAY. Signed, Cut Snake."
Clara: Hey Cut Snake, thanks a bunch for all of these links; we’ve got the whole list posted on our website. As we were reflecting in our year in review episodes, anti-fascism is definitely going to be a key theme for anarchists around the world in the months to come. Here in the US, where the Republican presidential nomination looks like it will probably go to a man who has called for a ban on all Muslim immigration into the United States, who has been endorsed by KKK leaders, our anti-fascist strategies have to develop to remain relevant. In the US as in much of Europe and very probably Australia too, racist and xenophobic views that were previously thought of as extreme are generalizing through large swaths of the population.
Alanis: Your point about denying and hating all gods while absorbing repression in defense of religious freedom for Muslims points out an interesting tension in how we conceive of Islam and Islamophobia as anarchists. This is such an important and complex question that we’re actually going to devote a whole episode to it in the coming months, so we’ll set it aside for now. But we’re flagging that as a topic well worth exploring, and we’re interested to hear your thoughts. If you want to weigh in on anti-religious anarchism, Islamophobia, and solidarity, hit us up at podcast at crimethinc dot com.
[short music break]
Clara: And a few last short items to add. In our last episode, we reviewed the latest issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, on the theme of Justice. In our review, we mentioned the essay “Brick by Brick: Creating a World Without Prisons,” an essay by Layne Mullett that we thought was an excellent introduction to a broad critique of the prison industrial complex from an anti-authoritarian perspective, and mentioned how much we think it’d be great to circulate in zine format as an outreach tool or for books to prisoners groups. Well, we just noticed that it was posted in its entirety online, so if you want to read it or share it or take the text and format it, you can find the link on our website.
Alanis: Also, the Flatirons Anarchist Alliance wrote in to say: “You folks listed off some other great anarchist podcasts on the last show Episode 45, but missed one that I think vibes real well with what you do. It’s called Solecast. It’s on iTunes and is done by a Denver hip hop artist.”
Clara: Holy shit, you were right! We checked it out, and it’s definitely worth a listen! The host describes it as “ a podcast about Philosophy, Radical Politics, Anarchism, Culture, Resistance, and much more. I interview artists, academics, writers, organizers and revolutionaries.” Episodes have included interviews with Janet Biehl on Rojava, Will Potter from Green is the New Red, Frank Lopez from SubMedia, and lots more. The podcast’s website is at soleone.org/solecast - that’s spelled S-O-L-E-O-N-E dot org slash S-O-L-E-C-A-S-T. Check it out.
Alanis: And that, I believe, is all the listener feedback we can possibly stuff into one episode. So now, on with the show!
POLITICAL PRISONER UPDATES
Clara: And now we want to share some prisoner updates. We’ve always covered radical prisoners and prison struggles on the Ex-Worker, but we’re going to be stepping up our coverage of US political prisoners and prisoners of war in upcoming episodes.
Alanis: To be clear, we still challenge the division of prisoners into political and social categories, as we believe that all incarceration is political and any challenge or resistance to the prison industrial complex should be celebrated. Still, we choose to highlight folks who’ve been targeted for their struggles against white supremacy, capitalism, ecological destruction, and state violence, because we think it’s crucical to sustaining these struggles long-term that we let folks know that they will be supported when they face state repression. And these folks inside continue to serve as sources of inspiration and strength for us on the outside. So that said, here are some updates to share.
Clara: First of all, we have some extremely exciting news to report. Albert Woodfox, or Shaka Cinque, the final remaining prisoner of the Angola Three, was finally freed last month on his 69th Birthday! After forming a chapter of the Black Panther Party in a Louisiana prison, he was framed for the murder of a prison guard, and spent 43 years and 10 months in a 6x9 foot solitary confinement cell - longer than any other prisoner in US history. In the first interview he gave after his release, Albert discussed how important it was to his survival through decades of hellish isolation to avoid becoming what he called “institutionalized.”
[Albert Woodfox](http://www.democracynow.org/2016/2/22/exclusive_interview_albert_woodfox_of_angola 14:26 - 15:29:): You know, institutionalized is when guys become concerned with the prison and what’s going on and contribute to the prison cause. You know, for us, the object was not just to survive, but to continue to grow and improve ourselves as human beings. When you become institutionalized and look inward, you pretty much give up on being a part of society. And we knew that our own humanity depended upon us not losing our right to be a part of society, even though we were in prison. And that, you know, it gave us strength. You know, we were not fighting for the prison, but we were fighting for society, we were fighting for all of the injustices that happened in America and around the world.
Alanis: His supporters issued a statement saying, “On behalf of the Angola 3 - Albert Woodfox, Robert King, and in memory of Herman Wallace - we would like to sincerely thank all the organizations, activists, artists, legal experts, and other individuals who have so graciously given their time and talent to the Angola 3’s extraordinary struggle for justice. This victory belongs to all of us and should motivate us to stand up and demand even more fervently that long-term solitary confinement be abolished, and all the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.”
Clara: Although as anarchists we think that anyone locked in a cage is “wrongfully incarcerated,” whether “innocent” or not, we share the elation of Albert’s supporters and their conviction to fight against the miseries of prison society. Thanks to all you Ex-Worker listeners who wrote to him while he was inside, doing the little bit that you could to support him in his struggle to not become institutionalized - a struggle in which he ultimately triumphed. Congratulations, Albert, and welcome back.
Alanis: Unfortunately, not all our news is good news. We’re sad to report that Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a longtime black liberation prisoner who helped Assata Shakur escape to freedom, was supposed to be released from prison in February… but his release was denied at the last minute. He’ll be facing the parole board later this spring. We’ve posted a link on our website to a statement he wrote explaining the situation with more info on how to show support. Supporters have also launched a new website at MutuluIsWelcomeHere.com to gather stories describing his the positive impacts he has made and to organize solidarity events leading up to his parole hearing, so check that out as well.
Clara: Former Black Panther Maliki Shakur Latine will also be heading to the parole board in April, and he’s collecting parole letters; check out justiceformaliki.org for details.
Alanis: Brandon Baxter is one of the Cleveland Four, anarchists active in the Occupy movement who were entrapped in an FBI plot. He’s just been transferred to FCI Terre Haute in Indiana, a medium security prison, after a few years in maximums. His supporters are doing a small fundraising campaign right now to help with costs to get him some visitors. Brandon hasn’t received any visitors since his sentencing, and he’s never had a in person visit since his arrest. He’s about 11 hours away from his supporters who plan to visit and they need to raise some money for a car rental. They’re only a couple of hundred bucks short, so even if you can throw in a few dollars it’ll make a difference. Any donations not used for this trip will go into the general fund to support the Cleveland Four getting visitors. We’ve got the donation link posted on our website. To learn more about their case, check out cleveland4solidarity.org or listen to Episode 17 on Conspiracy.
Clara: Eric King, an anarchist from Kansas City accused of an alleged attack on a politician’s office, has accepted a non-cooperating plea deal for a ten year prison sentence; after time served, he’s got eight and a half years left to go. On top of this, the facility where he’s locked up CCA is now on lock-down, and Eric has been put in solitary confinement. Please take a few minutes to send Eric a postcard or letter to remind him that folks are thinking of him. We’ve got his mailing address and support info posted on our website.
Alanis: Former earth liberation prisoner Daniel McGowan will be in court on March 15th in Washington, DC to support the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case against the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ “Communication Management Units.” The CMUs are experimental prison units that impose severe restrictions on prisoners’ communications, both within the prison and with the outside world. If you’re in the DC area and you want to show some solidarity against a particularly vicious form of repression - one that has primarily targeted Muslims and political radicals - you can find the info on our website.
Clara: Rebecca Rubin, who is serving time in California on charges of environmentally motivated arsons with the ALF and ELF, will reportedly be transferred to a halfway house in Portland, Oregon next month, which is great news!
Alanis: On March 23, Tyler Lang has his sentencing hearing for his charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for releasing thousands of animals from a fur farm. If you can be in Chicago, please attend the hearing to show support for Tyler. It is important that on this difficult day for Tyler that he feel surrounded by love and solidarity, and that the judge see that Tyler is part of a community that is there for him. All the details are on our website. His co-defendant Kevin Olliff was sentenced to three years, which with time serve means he’s only got about three months left to go; that’s great news!
Clara: Jay Chase of the NATO 3 has one more pretrial hearing in Chicago on March 23rd - actually at the same time as Tyler Lang’s sentencing hearing, though in a different courtroom, awkwardly - before he goes to trial on April 11th. Supporters ask anyone to come out who’s able and to continue sending Jay support through letters or mailing softcover books. Stay posted on updates at freethenato3.wordpress.com.
Alanis: Whew, that was a lot!
Clara: Incidentally, if you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of political prisoners in the US, our friends at New York City Anarchist Black Cross have just released a new Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners](https://nycabc.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/nycabc_polprisonerlisting_11–1feb2016.pdf), which you can find on their website at nycabc.wordpress.com. It’s got detailed info on all their cases including up to date mailing addresses plus tips on writing to prisoners; it’s a great overview if you want to support radical prisoners but aren’t sure where to start.
The Narrator: No word in our political vocabulary today is more overused, mystified, and misunderstood than democracy. It’s used by our most radical allies to describe their projects for decentralizing power, and by our most authoritarian opponents to describe their totalitarian states. Nearly every state around the world purports to be a democracy, and nearly every social struggle within or against those states claims to be fighting to make their societies more democratic. No matter what we think it means, we can’t escape the discourse of democracy; it’s almost unthinkable for any freedom-loving person to oppose it. Right?
Well, no, not anymore. It’s high time that we as anarchists got clear on what we think about democracy and its relationship to what we’re fighting for. It’s fair to say that there’s no single “anarchist position” on democracy - but we think there should be. You don’t have to agree with us, of course, but we hope this discussion will provoke you to think about democracy in a new way. It’s not just a question of word choice or abstract theory; these issues cuts to the heart of how we frame our revolutionary visions and the tactics we use in pursuit of them. There’s a lot at stake, and we can’t afford to sidestep or gloss over the limits imposed by the methods and discourses of democracy.
So with this episode we’re kicking off an in-depth engagement with democracy and anarchy that we hope will span many episodes. And it’s not just on the podcast; this month CrimethInc. will be releasing a series of texts addressing the problems with democracy, ranging from historical and theoretical expositions to case studies from contemporary social movements around the world. And we’re going to be encouraging you, dear listeners, to take part in this ongoing conversation - much more on that later. But for now, we’ll cut to Clara and Alanis as they attempt to sort through what it is we’re talking about when we take on democracy and its relationship to anarchy.
Clara: So… democracy.
Alanis: Yeah, democracy!
Clara: What do you think?
Alanis: What do you mean?
Clara: Well, is democracy a good thing?
Alanis: Uh, yeah, of course!
Clara: Is it what we’re fighting for as anarchists?
Alanis: Yeah! I mean, well, a certain kind of democracy.
Clara: Which kind is that?
Alanis: You know… not American democracy, or parliamentary democracy, but real democracy.
Clara: Like “Real Democracy Now”, the Spanish movement that participated in the plaza occupations that basically morphed into the Podemos political party?
Alanis: Well, no, not like that. I’m not talking about political parties or efforts to make government more transparent or accountable or something. We could say participatory democracy, but that could mean a lot of things, including some friendly, more inclusive versions of government.
Clara: Crowd-sourced state power.
Alanis: Yeah, exactly. Not that. So when I say that anarchists want democracy, I mean… OK, not representative democracy, but direct democracy. Not delegating our authority to leaders, but making decisions directly ourselves, horizontally, by consensus or similar processes in which everyone gets a voice, unmediated by people in power over us.
Clara: Hmm, OK. Like in general assemblies in the Occupy movement or other radical social movement spaces?
Alanis: Yeah! Well… kind of like that.
Clara: What do you mean?
Alanis: I mean… well, not necessarily exactly like that. Sure, there were some problems with those spaces and those processes.
Clara: So your idea of anarchist utopia isn’t a seven billion person consensus meeting?
Alanis: Dear god, no. But in general, what I’m getting at is the impulse to do things ourselves without representatives, you know? Finding processes that include everyone, that make political representation irrelevant, where we can make decisions collectively.
Clara: Processes that include everyone… Let’s think this through. So for example, let’s say in a social movement like Occupy, everyone should be able to weigh in on and potentially veto any action the movement would take?
Alanis: Umm… well…
Clara: Because you know exactly what would happen then; we saw it over and over. Any old liberal or reactionary or undercover cop could waltz in, block every consensus decision to do anything that could challenge the status quo, and have defeated the movement’s capacity to act before it even gets off the ground.
Alanis: OK, so direct democracy doesn’t have to mean that EVERYone is included in EVERY decision. I guess, well… OK, there should be multiple spaces of decision-making, where people who are impacted differently by different decisions can participate or not participate. I don’t know exactly how it should be structured, but the idea is that we all make decisions collectively and horizontally, together with the others who are affected by them and have a stake in them.
Clara: But what you’re describing doesn’t change the situation I’m imagining. Certainly in a social movement there are lots of participants with whom we disagree strongly on core issues who nonetheless have a stake in the decisions that are made about tactics, goals, direction, etc. And if we pan back towards how we might imagine society being structured in a revolutionary future, the problems are even more pronounced. The rich aren’t going to agree to a society in which resources are distributed according to need by consensus. White supremacy and patriarchy aren’t likely to be dismantled by a majority or super-majority vote. We’re not going to get to a world that might actually be livable for all of us by means of direct democracy.
Alanis: Wait, you sound like Lenin over there! So are you arguing for a dictatorship of the proletariat or something?
Clara: No, I’m arguing for anarchy.
Alanis: But so am I!
Clara: No, you’re arguing for democracy.
Alanis: But what I’m trying to say is that on a certain level, they’re the same thing…
Clara: And I’m arguing that they’re not.
Alanis: But… All right, let’s back up a minute here. So obviously many of the things that are called democracy aren’t what we’re fighting for.
Clara: The vast majority of them, if not all of them.
Alanis: Fine, but… OK, maybe it’s not so much a structure or a process, but a logic, a trajectory, a direction to go in. An adjective rather than a noun. So we want our struggles, our movements, our collectives, our internal processes, and all of that to be democratic.
Alanis: You know, horizontal. Participatory. Transparent. Non-hierarchical. Everyone has a voice.
Clara: Well, let’s pick those apart. Participatory: we’ve already addressed this, but I’m assuming you don’t mean involving participation by cops, fascists, and so forth.
Alanis: Well, yeah, of course not.
Clara: So then being “participatory” isn’t an absolute value. And transparent: can we acknowledge that anti-capitalist, anti-state revolution will not take place by following the law of the capitalist state 100% of the time?
Alanis: Of course.
Clara: Then “transparency” is suicidal. Should our affinity groups be "transparent’ when we’re planning direct actions?
Alanis: No, of course not. The point is that the mechanisms of decision-making should be transparent to those involved in them and bound to them.
Clara: OK, so that might be an attribute of the decision-making process within the future system you want to see. But if it’s not an essential attribute of the process by which we’re going to arrive at that system, then I don’t think we can claim transparency as an absolute value either.
And this notion of everyone having a “voice”. I don’t just want “a voice”; I already have one. Voting gives me “a voice”, in the sense of the ability to scream into the void, or to mindlessly recite either of the two pre-approved options they’ve chosen for me. And the US state’s notion of “free speech” is totally a smokescreen to divert our desire for freedom into the concept of “dissent”. I don’t want a voice; I want self-determination, autonomy, control over my own life.
Alanis: Sure, I’d agree with that.
Clara: Horizontal I’m down with, if you mean that power is dispersed rather than concentrated. And non-hierarchical is a core value for any anarchist. So really it sounds like within what you’re calling “democratic” as an adjective is a combination of things, some of which line up with my values as an anarchist and some of which don’t. And the things that do - horizontality and opposition to hierarchy - are less “democratic” than, well, anarchist.
Alanis: So rather than democracy, what anarchists are actually fighting for, as you see it, is…
Clara: That just about sums it up.
[short music break]
The Narrator: OK, let’s pause here for a moment. Clara and Alanis have already stumbled on some of the key problems with democracy from an anarchist perspective. Let’s unpack them a little bit.
Problem Number 1: Nobody agrees on what “democracy” actually is.
Who advocates for democracy? Well, just about everyone, these days. From Kim Jong-Il of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea to anarchist David Graeber. From Saddam Hussein in his speeches in the 1970s as the Ba’ath party came to power, to George W. Bush in his speeches about the US military’s colonial invasion of Iraq to overthrow Hussein. Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders; socialists, communists, revolutionaries in Rojava, and many anarchists; everyone is united in saying that democracy is the one true faith, the only way forward. That alone should be enough to give us pause; if everyone, from friends and fellow travelers to our staunchest enemies, advocates for one single thing, probably that thing is worth questioning.
Of course, if you unpack what the hell these different people and forces actually mean concretely, there are wildly, wildly different senses in which the word is being used. Politically, what’s called “democracy” by its practitioners ranges from one party military dictatorship to two party corporate-dominated republics to multi-party parliamentary systems to non-party, decentralized, federated, council-based grassroots systems. In economic terms, systems from centrally planned economies to welfare states to decentralized neoliberal free market capitalism to solidarity economies based in worker ownership and syndicalism have all been described as democratic. As an adjective to describe processes or structures within organizations, workplaces, unions, collectives, and so forth, “democratic” can mean majority vote, or consensus-based, or having a leadership that’s responsive to feedback, or leaders chosen by vote, or having no formal leadership at all; etc etc, on and on. Even the efforts to qualify democracy with any number of different adjectives or modifiers - real or true or participatory or direct or whatever - don’t get around this problem. They may exclude , but ultimately they end up being as vague and slippery and contentious as the overall discourse. “Direct democracy” can mean a state run by constant electronic voting via smart phone on every small decision, or a worker co-op in a capitalist economy, or federated system of councils run by consensus, or any number of other weird experiments, some of which are in line with our values and anarchists and some of which aren’t.
The point is, there is no consensus, so to speak, about what anyone is talking about when they talk about democracy. And that’s dangerous. When we affirm that our values are democratic, or define our goals and aspirations in the language of democracy, we’re tying ourselves to a discourse that is so vague and devoid of content, and so thoroughly appropriated by our enemies, that it’s almost certain to have some unintended consequences to our disadvantage. At best we’re just confusing both allies and opponents, and at worst we’re directly strengthening the positions of our enemies. It would be much better, we would argue, to directly and concretely spell out what we affirm and what we oppose, so there’s no risk of being misunderstood or appropriated by our enemies. That means talking about anarchy, not democracy.
Likewise, when we say we want freedom - another notoriously vague and universally used word - we need to be clear that we mean self-determination and autonomy without authority, hierarchy, capitalism, police, prisons, borders, or states. If we try to use democracy as a shorthand for those things, when the majority of democracy’s advocates do not mean that at all, we’ll never get where we’re trying to go.
Alanis: OK, so maybe we shouldn’t use the word democracy to describe the kind of system we’re trying to promote. I agree that we should be explicit about the shit we do and don’t wanna see in a revolutionary world. But if I was gonna try to rescue the idea of anarchism as radical democracy, I’d say that we should still be able to affirm democracy as a value, alongside freedom, autonomy, horizontality, all that other good stuff. Since it’s so universally promoted in social movements that are contesting capitalism and state power, wouldn’t it make sense to assert it as a value alongside the other values we’re promoting? It can be a way to talk not just about the world after the rev, but the kinds of processes we want to use to get there, right?
Clara: Well, no, I don’t think so.
Alanis: Why not?
Clara: A few reasons. For one, like we just said, it’s completely vague and claimed by everyone to the point that whatever its meaning has become totally incoherent. But more importantly, I don’t think that doing things “democratically” is an anarchist value at all.
Alanis: Isn’t it? I mean, aren’t anarchists concerned not just with ends but also with means? A unity of means and ends? Like Makhno and everybody wrote in the international anarchist Platform in the 1920s, that the classical anarchists “desired an anarchist movement welded by unity of ends and means.”
Clara: Yes, exactly, but where promoting democracy as a value misses the point is by focusing on means to the exclusion of ends. The language of democracy focuses obsessively on the processes of making decisions, and not on the decisions we actually make, or the outcomes they produce.
Alanis: How do you mean?
Clara: To take some examples: a group of people - say, a neighborhood assembly - can decide by consensus to exclude people of color from their neighborhood, or to ask police to increase patrols, or that everyone who lives in the neighborhood has to fly an American flag out in front of their house. Nobody would argue that these are anarchist decisions… would you?
Alanis: No, of course not.
Clara: But they are democratic, in most every meaningful or commonly accepted sense. Democracy is concerned only with how decisions are made - if everyone who is held to them had a say in it, if the process was open and transparent, if no one participant had disproportionate power. But anarchism, like you pointed out, is concerned with both means and ends, with both processes and outcomes. If a democratic group, be it a collective or an assembly or a legislature or whatever, decides to do something that upholds hierarchy and domination, as anarchists we’re bound to oppose it, regardless of how democratic the decision-making process was by which it came to pass. If we’re going to affirm something as a core anarchist value, it had better be something clearer, something that doesn’t actually produce shit that’s contradicts everything we stand for!
Alanis: But… hmm.
Clara: See what I mean?
Alanis: It’s just hard for me to imagine describing something exclusionary or racist or cop-promoting as democratic.
Clara: Sure it is. But that’s because we’ve all been force-fed the democratic Kool Aid since elementary school. We’re so used to making democracy a synonym for anything that’s good, or anything that we agree with, that it’s lost any anchoring to reality. If democracy is a decision-making process, then of course people can democratically decide whatever they want, including shit that we find repulsive. And that’s every bit as true for direct democracy as representative democracy or any other kind.
Alanis: But… I dunno, I just think that democracy as a value, not a specific process, means something different.
Clara: What exactly?
Alanis: I dunno… inclusive, just, non-hierarchical, that kind of thing.
Clara: You’re just saying things that you like! They don’t have anything to do with “democracy” at all! If at times people who are promoting values like the ones you’re describing have used the word democratic as a synonym for some of them, they’ve just muddied the waters, to the detriment of all of us who want inclusion or justice or whatever else. JUST SAY WHAT IT IS YOU STAND FOR. Directly and clearly, with no room for ambiguity. Leave democracy out of it.
[short music break]
The Narrator: And so Clara and Alanis have fleshed out what we’ll call Problem Number 2: democracy focuses on process and not content.
Without trying to make a mission statement for all of us, I’d say that in broad strokes, as anarchists, we want a free world based in solidarity, mutual aid, autonomy, and self-determination in which the state, capitalism, and all forms of hierarchy and domination are absent. Notice that what I’m describing there are values, or more precisely modes of relations among people and groups; I’m not describing the specific structures and decision-making processes that I think should exist in an anarchist world. Another pretty key aspect of my politics as an anarchist is that I don’t want a homogenous world, in which there’s one single system or a set of methods for doing things. That’s a bad idea for a thousand reasons. To name just a few: diversity makes systems more resilient; different cultures and local conditions will entail different ways of doing things; freedom is an ongoing experiment rather than a fixed platform; any uniform set of practices would require top-down control to impose; and so forth. So insofar as “democracy” is understood as a single specific way of structuring society and making decisions, we should be suspicious of it.
This is true even if we think about democracy not as a specific set of proposals or structures, but just as a value guiding the direction of our groups and struggles. Clara made this point pretty clearly, but just to re-emphasize it, making things “democratic” is not an anarchist value in and of itself. At best, you could say that being democratic is necessary but not sufficient; from another angle, you could say that democracy carries enough baggage to undo any positive (which is to say, from our perspective, anarchist) dimensions that people associate with it.
And that leads us to Problem Number 3: democratic discourses and processes tend to produce bad outcomes.
We’d argue against democracy not just on principle, but in practice, too. It would take all day to list the litany of crimes committed by state regimes that claim to be democratic, from United States or French imperialism to Chinese or North Korean autocracy to Cuban or Venezuelan repression and so on and so on. Many progressives and radicals presume that the solution to the problems of democracy (representative, parliamentary, imperial, qualify it how you like) is more, better, different democracy. The problem is never in democracy itself, but in its quantity or quality. And democracy is framed both as the desired outcome and, in many cases, the process by which that outcome will be achieved. Hence the anti-globalization era protest chant, “This is what democracy looks like” - and its counterpoint, directed at the police or the WTO or some other opponent, “That is what [something else, like “hypocrisy” or “police state”; namely, not democracy] looks like.” But do we have any evidence that using the language or tools of democracy successfully challenges the entrenched power of the state, capitalism, and other systems of oppression?
In a word, no. The so-called democratic revolutions of the last decade, from the Color Revolutions of Ukraine, Georgia, and the former Yugoslavia to those of the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, have without exception resulted in new regimes that reproduce the familiar alienated misery of representative democracy and capitalism. And what about movements that did not topple governments but nonetheless deeply impacted societies and brought people together, such as the Movement of the Plazas in Spain or the “Que Se Vayan Todos” rebellions in Argentina, Gezi Park in Turkey or the Occupy Movement? In all of these and many others, the language and tools of democracy, while seeming to provide initial inspiration, ultimately proved, again without exception, to limit rather than catalyze radical change.
Let’s take an example from the toolbox of direct democracy. Many people imagine consensus process as the epitome of democracy, where everyone takes part and everyone has an equal voice. But even though consensus can be a valuable tool for making horizontal decisions in a small collective, it presents a lot of problems when we extend it outward, as Clara discussed earlier. “Breaking with Consensus Reality,” an essay excerpted from the zine Terror Incognita and released by CrimethInc. during the Occupy movement, addresses this conundrum of how universally open, participatory, consensus-based spaces don’t tend to produce results that challenge the status quo. Not only can they be subverted laughably easily by infiltrators, but even without trolls or undercover cops, the range of political disagreements even among earnest participants in a movement will reduce what’s possible to do by consensus to the lowest common denominator. In other words, the solutions advanced to the problems we’re facing will look preeetty darn similar to the world we live in now and the values that govern it. If we rely only on direct democracy, we subject our ability to act to a bell curve of social respectibility, relinquishing our agency to those with more liberal politics. This is what we call “consensus reality”. Here’s a quote from that text that fleshes out the point:
"Consensus reality is the range of possible thought and action within a system of power relations. It is enforced not only through traditional institutions of control—such as mass media, religion, and the family—but also through the innumerable subtle norms manifested in common sense, civil discourse, and day-to-day life. It isn’t simply the aggregate of all our desires, melded together in a great compromise that allows us all to get along, as democratic mythology would have it. Consensus reality constitutes the ruling class’s coordinated attempt to uphold their dominance and our exploitation as efficiently as possible. Capitalist democracy secures that efficiency; it is the system that currently provides the largest number of people with incentive to participate in their own exploitation. It offers us a series of meaningless options to disguise a profound lack of agency over our lives. The trump card of capitalist democracy is the idea that everyone’s consent is respected in a marketplace of ideas within which desires can be freely expressed and influenced. We can argue that this marketplace isn’t truly free—corporations control the mass media, some views get more airtime than others, thus the consent is not fully informed—but this doesn’t get at the heart of things. Obviously, equal access to means of influence on a level playing field is impossible in capitalist society. But systems of power, not just speech, determine the framework within which we experience reality. All political systems—whether anarchist, fascist, or democratic—produce particular patterns of social relations. Mere discussion of these systems does not; it cannot transcend the framework in which it occurs. Free speech discourse offers each of us our own box of colored chalk to decorate the cement blocks around our feet, and calls that freedom; whether we can walk away doesn’t even enter into the picture. Our experience of what we are and aren’t able to do determines our sense of what is possible far more than our ideas and discourses. To shift the boundaries of our imagination and desires, we have to find ways to make new experiences possible beyond the bounds of consensus reality."
Clara: Damn, that’s pretty sharp.
Alanis: That definitely explains the critique of free speech you were offering earlier.
Clara: And I like how it focuses in on the way that political systems produce patterns of social relations. At its heart anarchism is a question of how we relate to each other, individually and collectively. It’s an approach to the world, not a specific set of institutions.
Alanis: Yeah, but there seems to be a contradiction in here that I don’t think you’ve fully addressed.
Clara: What’s that?
Alanis: Even if the concept of democracy itself appears to be incoherent, the notion of what it means to be anti-democratic is fairly straightforward. Insofar as something narrows or centralizes decision-making power, reduces avenues for participation and self-determination, or limits options and choices, it’s called undemocratic or anti-democratic. And certainly these are not the values you’re trying to affirm in your critiques of democracy. You say that anarchism is best understood as a question of relations. OK, but even if democracy is not synonymous with anarchy, relations-wise, it’s certainly not its opposite. The opposite of democracy, on the level of relations, probably looks a lot more like authoritarianism or even fascism.
Clara: Ah, this has to do with why you called me a Leninist.
Alanis: Yeah, exactly.
Clara: By the way - ouch! Low blow!
Alanis: But seriously, what I mean is that there are some weird totalitarian implications to your anti-democratic line.
Clara: Actually, if you read State and Revolution and some of his other writings (which I obviously don’t recommend, but whatever, do what you like), you’ll see that Lenin had a fairly coherent critique of bourgeois democracy. He argued that a communist revolution had to go beyond the formal equality of democracy into dismantling the relations of capitalist production. In that sense, we’ve actually got some common ground in theory, though very obviously not in practice. Of course, he wrote that in 1917, before he had actually taken power and gained the capacity to enact the repression and hierarchical control that were always at the heart of Bolshevism…
Alanis: Whatever, fuck a bunch of Lenin. The point I was trying to raise is that it seems like there are some contradictions between your rejection of democracy and your anarchism. Will you hear me out?
Clara: Yes, sorry. Please proceed.
Alanis: I think you’ve made a pretty good case for articulating what anarchism is about without reference to democracy. But I still think there are risks to positioning anarchists as opponents of democracy. Partly that’s on a strategic level, since “anti-democratic” is a slur used by lots of people, especially radicals, to oppose things that generally speaking we would also oppose. It’s not likely to be a winning strategy to position yourself in opposition to the primary discourse that even radical social movements challenging capitalism and the state use to describe their aims and values.
Clara: Yeah, I think that’s a valid concern. But I don’t think that should intimidate us out of being clear and direct about our opposition to democracy. Here’s why. For one thing, let’s be real; with the possible exception of a few residual monarchies or warlords and a handful of fascists, virtually no rulers or regimes or political organizers today are openly and directly rejecting the language of democracy to promote a different state-based vision of society. Across the political spectrum, as we were saying earlier, almost all of these vastly different leaders and demagogues are claiming to be fighting for democracy. There’s really not a lot of competition in the arena among those opposing the language of democracy, especially not within social struggles. So I doubt there’s much risk of anarchists being confused with so-called “anti-democratic” forces.
Alanis: Hmm, I’m not sure about that. For one, while I haven’t read their writings in depth, I’m pretty sure that the Islamist challenge to western secular capitalist democracy doesn’t rely on the language of democracy, and that trend is far from marginal. In fact, it’s making a bid to be the primary alternative to Western-style capitalist democracy, based in a very different value system and discourse. At the same time, fascism is on the rise across Europe and in other parts of the world. And while not all fascist parties are explicitly anti-democratic, they’re at least less reliant on that discourse than their liberal and conservative counterparts. So it doesn’t seem accurate to say that it’s just a few remote and isolated forces that are challenging democracy.
Clara: That’s a good point about ISIS. Though the way I would then interpret that would be to argue that if the only visible challenge to democracy is coming from religious fundamentalists or fascists, then we’re in dire straits in the world to come, as it becomes increasingly clear that democracy is not going to solve the world’s problems. And the fact that anarchists and anti-authoritarians are on the front lines of the fights against both ISIS and European fascism keeps me from worrying that anyone’s going to get us confused with them when we critique democracy. It’s crucial that we’re always combining developments in our theories and discourses with our actual actions day to day on the ground in social struggles. That’s how we’ll build the trust and connections necessary for our ideas to potentially make a meaningful impact. It took spaces like Occupy or Gezi Park or the fare hike protests in Brazil for large numbers of non-anarchist people throughout society to start paying attention to anarchist ideas and taking them seriously. We shouldn’t presume that significant numbers of people will come to adopt our ideas just from reading texts or listening to podcasts or whatnot; these come to life and work best in conjunction with shared experiences of struggle.
The Narrator: Obviously we’ve just scratched the surface of an extremely complex and contentious topic here. We’ve wrote a lot more than we had space to use in this initial episode. There are lots of objections that could be raised to our framework, and a lot more examination to do of the history of democracy and the contemporary examples of how it’s used.
We think that these questions about democracy are crucially important to be addressing in this political moment. In an election year in the US, when our total saturation in the election spectacle also corresponds to a near-universal disgust and disillusionment with politicians and parties, it’s especially important that we be thinking critically about what our critiques are, what language we use to express what we’re fighting for, and what sorts of tools for resistance and alternatives we’re proposing.
So this episode will kick off a multi-layered engagement with the topic. Later this month, CrimethInc. will release a major series of essays focusing on the anarchist critique of democracy, including a historical and theoretical discussion of the topic and a number of different case studies written by participants in recent social upheavals around the world, assessing how the language and tools of democracy have impacted their struggles. Here’s an announcement describing the series, its focus and its significance.
Alanis: Billions around the world have watched the ominous pageantry of the US Presidential race: Trump, the champion of the new extreme right, laying the groundwork for the despotism to come; Sanders, the partisan of an impossible dream, who nonetheless succeeded in luring disaffected millions back into electoral politics; Clinton, the despised representative of the status quo—around whom the hapless majority are forced to rally, since the future is sure to be even worse. In response to this bleak spectacle, the usual pundits object that this isn’t real democracy.
This talk about real democracy should be familiar to anyone who lived through the Occupy movement or one of its overseas equivalents. In 2011, from Tunis to Madrid and New York, movements that were ostensibly about the crisis of capitalism turned into experiments with new forms of governance. By 2014, the luster of real democracy had worn off: the Ukrainian revolution confirmed the right-wing appropriation of the discourse, while the movement that spread from Ferguson began with a riot, not an assembly. But next time revolution is on the agenda, we’ll surely see all the same rhetoric about democracy trotted out once more. As long as democracy is the only paradigm we have for change, even anarchists will promote it.
What is democracy, precisely? Will it ever deliver on what it promises? How significant is the difference between state democracy and direct democracy? Is anarchism a kind of direct democracy, or something else entirely? And how do democratic discourse and procedures serve the social movements that adopt them?
This month, we’ll be publishing a ten-part series exploring these questions, presenting an anarchist analysis of democracy in all its forms. The flagship text, “From Democracy to Freedom,” offers a critique of democracy from its origins 2500 years ago up to today, examining its representative, direct, and consensus-based variants. We’ll follow up with case studies from participants in several of the recent movements that have been acclaimed as models of direct democracy: 15M in Spain (2011), the occupation of Syntagma Square in Greece (2011), Occupy in the United States (2011–2012), the Slovenian uprising (2012–2013), the plenums in Bosnia (2014), and the Rojava revolution (2012–2016). We’ll conclude the series with guest contributions on the subject from Paul Z. Simons, Uri Gordon, and others.
The Narrator: In conjunction with these releases, the Ex-Worker podcast will be producing an audio zine version of the major democracy text as our next episode. We’re also supporting people around the US and beyond in establishing reading groups to tackle and debate the texts as they come out. Using a networking platform developed by the Riseup tech collective called Crabgrass, we’ll be releasing a detailed proposal for a series of decentralized but interlocking reading groups across North America and beyond. Our hope is to catalyze discussions among crews of interested anarchists in many different contexts, to reflect on how these concepts play out in your local struggles and to compare your experiences to those of others elsewhere. We also hope to draw on these discussions in future episodes as we collectively develop and refine our ideas about how to understand democracy, anarchy, and freedom. Stay posted to the CrimethInc. blog and upcoming episodes of the Ex-Worker for more details. And feel free to share your reflections with us as we continue to grapple the question of which tools and frameworks can best equip us to dismantle authority and cultivate horizontal relations with everyone.
THE CHOPPING BLOCK: HUYE, HOMBRE, HUYE
Alanis: After all this talk of prisoners, it’s appropriate that this episode’s review focuses on a memoir written by a defiant radical prisoner. On the Chopping Block this time around, we’ll be taking a look at Huye, Hombre, Huye, an account of struggles inside Spanish prisons written by Xosé Tarrío González.
Clara: In Huye, Hombre, Huye: Diary of a Maximum Security Prisoner, Xosé Tarrío González relates his experiences in Spanish prisons from 1987 to 1992, part of which was spent in the secretive FIES prison wings. Originally published in Spain in 1997, the book was translated into English and published by Little Black Cart in 2014..Although the writing isn’t overtly “political”, everything Xosé writes comes from the perspective of wanting complete and total freedom – not only from the prisons holding him, but from the world that maintains prisons.
The story itself starts in 1987, when Xosé is sent to prison for a little over two years for a small robbery. In the initial health screening, Xosé is diagnosed with AIDS, causing him to immediately clean up his drug habit and focus on obtaining the most freedom he can in his life. Once in prison, he immediately has to face the realities and dangers of everyday life there, where the guards pay little regard to anyone’s health or safety within the prison walls and the fellow prisoners vie for dominance and power over one another. In his first year alone, he’s part of several fights with other prisoners, eventually leading to him stabbing and accidentally killing a prisoner. In addition to these fights, Xosé participates in riots, hostage-takings, and several escapes, leading him to be sentenced to a total of 71 years in maximum-security prison.
Though Xosé rarely talks about his anarchism, a number of anarchist themes are prevalent throughout his writings. Even while he’s locked up, he and fellow prisoners cultivate a sense of mutual aid, expressed through small acts like sharing food, cigarettes, or messages to other prisoners, but also leading to cooperation as they plan escape attempts and riots. I would be interested in knowing more about the social and political environment at the time, because a large number of prisoners seem to have had sympathy for anarchist ideas. In particular, Xosé becomes close to two well-known anarchist prisoners: bank robber and international fugitive Gabriel Pombo da Silva, and Juan José Garfia, public enemy number one in Spain and author of Adios Prison, a book published by Elephant Editions detailing five different prison escapes, including one by Xosé. Being in maximum security makes it hard for Xosé to communicate with the outside world, but he relates how sharing humor and friendship with the other prisoners helped keep him alive.
The anarchist desire for freedom is always at the forefront of Xosé’s mind, and it seems like he’ll stop at nothing to escape the walls around him. Just in the five years documented in Huye, Hombre, Huye, Xosé uses an outrageous range of tactics to make escape attempts. Sometimes he acts alone, sawing bars and using rope to descend, while other times he works in concert with other prisoners to stage riots, take hostages, and escape from transport vehicles. In 1991, after being in prison for almost five years, Xosé finally makes a successful escape. While being transported on a boat to a prison in the Canary Islands, Xosé and another prisoner manage to open the locks on their cells, overpower their distracted guards, and disguise themselves as civilians to exit the ship. Unfortunately, Xosé is captured just three days later during a random check at a bus stop. Despite having three days outside of prison, Xosé knows he will never be free. He writes, “I would not be free while all over the face of the earth there existed other men ready to knock me down or to jail me and chain me up. I would not be free while a cold prison cell awaited me.” For those of us reading the book who act with an anarchist passion, we too know that even for those of us who aren’t locked behind bars, the State is just waiting for a reason to put us there.
During Xosé’s incarceration, prison struggles begin heating up across Spain. In several instances, Xosé takes part in riots in support of the Association of Prisoners in Special Regimes (reconstituted). The purpose of the riots is to issue a clear set of demands to the administration, including release of prisoners with terminal diseases, ending abuses towards prisoners and their families, and the creation of minimum security centers with health care for prisoners with AIDS. While we can debate the merits of issuing demands in our struggles, the Spanish prisoners in these security prisons felt that riots with demands were the best chance they had for being heard in the outside world. Unfortunately, the media worked in concert with the jails and the State to suppress news of the riots or the prisoners’ demands.
As a result of prison revolts across the country, the Spanish state used this “state of emergency” to began illegally enacting the FIES regimes. The FIES, which translates to the File System for Special Attention Prisoners, is a euphemistic name for the Spanish policy of isolating prisoners and restricting their communications with one another and the outside world. Though these “prisons inside a prison” are atrocious, they are in no way unique to Spain. They can be seen as similar to the CMUs, or Communications Management Units, in America that prisoners are sent to as a result of “terrorist” designations, though they are also used as a tool for silencing political activists. While the FIES prisons no longer “officially” exist in Spain, the same restrictions are enacted as part of what is now called the Internal Conflict Recovery Program, or PRIC. Just as the School of the Americas, after becoming the target of massive protests, was rebranded the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation, the case of the PRIC shows the State’s strategy to deflect critiques by whitewashing its programs and continuing the same policies under different names.
While I very highly recommend Huye, Hombre, Huye, it can be a very uncomfortable book to read. I don’t feel it’s my place to criticize the author, but from an outside perspective, many of his actions and the way they are discussed come across as very masculine. At times his motivation for violent attacks on other prisoners seems to be either to prove that he’s not a person to be messed with, or to enact revenge for previous wrongs. I don’t say this to criticize Xosé as a person, but to show that prisons structurally create a cycle of violence wherein prisoners have to struggle to treat each other like human beings. It’s an intense story, and one of the things I took away from it is a cautionary stance towards lionizing those who participate in prison revolts and escapes. While we may want to show solidarity and support for these actions, we run the risk of blindly praising those who commit them. This story shows that the participants in these rebellions are nuanced, with their own faults and weaknesses.
Xosé Tarrío González was released from prison in 2004 to spend his final days in a hospital in his hometown, where he eventually fell into a coma and died of AIDS on January 2nd, 2005. That night, Spanish anarchists remembered the life of their comrade with demonstrations and the sabotage of ATMs with Molotov cocktails––the best way to commemorate. In 2009, a plaza in Madrid was commemorated as Xosé Tarrío Square, where anarchist lectures, screenings, and conferences still take place today.
Alanis: You can find Huye, Hombre, Huye at littleblackcart.com.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: All right! Let’s wrap things up with Next Week’s News. What’s on the calendar, Alanis?
Alanis: From March 18th to 20th in Athens, Ohio, Appalachia Resist! will host an action camp in to connect environmental justice and social justice efforts in the Appalachian region. Here’s how they describe themselves: Appalachia Resist! is a small group of rural activists who use direct action as a tactic to resist the fracking industry in our region. We work and live in a rural working class community that is predominant white. We see that struggles for environmental justice and the ongoing fight for racial justice are linked. We want to articulate that link and find concrete ways to work together to push back against a system that brutalizes and sees as disposable the bodies of low income rural people, people of color, gender nonconforming people, women, native, and undocumented people. Mentioning all these people together should not be a way of erasing difference (this is not “all lives matter”) but a way of seeking actual solidarity based on mutual liberation. This is a monumental task, and we are definitely not experts. But we think it’s important and necessary. They’re encouraging regional activists working on racial justice, anti-rape culture, prison solidarity and prison abolition, environmental justice and anti-extraction, and other struggles to take part.
Clara: Don’t forget about the sentencing hearing for animal liberation prisoner Tyler Lang and the court appearance for Jay Chase of the NATO 3, both on March 23rd in Chicago, and the court hearing against CMUs in Washington, DC on the 15th.
Alanis: In Seoul, South Korea, the Anarchist Film Festival of Hannam-dong will open March 24th through 26th at “Take Out Drawing”, an art space standing in defiance of gentrification in downtown Seoul.
Clara: On April 23rd at Stone Mountain, outside Atlanta, Georgia, there’s a big white supremacist rally planned, and anti-fascists around the region are gearing up to shut it down. Check out the website alloutatl.com for more info on the mobilization; it articulates some shared principles that address some of the nuances of diverse anti-racist mobilizations in a particularly thoughtful way.
Alanis: The anarchist book fair season kicks off in earnest in April, with book fairs in Zagreb, Croatia on the 8th through 10th; Dublin, Ireland on the 15th and 16th; Sheffield, UK on the 23rd, Oakland, California on the 26th, and Bristol, UK on the 30th, followed by Bern, Switzerland on May 6th and 7th.
Clara: And always last but never least, some prisoner birthdays this month.
Alanis: On March 2nd was Luke O’Donovan, an anarchist serving prison time plus years of exile from his home for defending himself from a homophobic attack;
Clara: On March 5th, Reverend Joy Powell, targeted for her activism against police brutality, racism and oppression;
Alanis: On March 17th, Ruchell Cinque Magee, the longest held political prisoner in the United States, participant with the Jackson brothers in the 1970 Marin County Courthouse Rebellion;
Clara: On the 21st, Jaan Laaman of the United Freedom Front, which carried out a number of bombings in the 1970s and 80s as “armed propaganda” against US imperialism and the apartheid regime in South Africa;
Alanis: On the 27th, Kevin Olliff, an animal liberation prisoner who freed thousands of mink in fur farm raids;
Clara: And on April 2nd, Delbert Orr Africa and Charles Sims Africa from the MOVE 9.
Alanis: Please take a moment to write to these folks and let them know they’re not alone and they’re not forgotten. All of their mailing addresses are posted on our website, along with links to info on their cases.
Clara: And that’s it for this episode of the Ex-Worker! Thanks to everyone who wrote in with listener feedback, news, events, and other contributions for this episode. Next time around we’re going to be releasing an audio zine of CrimethInc.’s soon to be released analysis of democracy. Stay posted for more information on how to get plugged in to the reading groups and contribute to the ongoing collective reflection on anarchy, democracy, and strategy in contemporary revolts.
Alanis: And as always, keep in touch with us, by email to podcast at crimethinc dot com. Pop on over to our website at crimethinc.com/podcast for a full transcript of today’s show and lots more information to follow up on everything we discussed.
Clara: Thanks, and catch you next time.
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
New York Anarchist Black Cross (NYC ABC) is doing a fantastic job of keeping us updated on political prisoners and prisoners of war. If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of political prisoners in the US, you can check out their new Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners. It’s got detailed info on all their cases including up to date mailing addresses plus tips on writing to prisoners; it’s a great overview if you want to support radical prisoners but aren’t sure where to start.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a longtime black liberation prisoner who helped Assata Shakur escape to freedom, was supposed to be released from prison in February… but his release was denied at the last minute. He’ll be facing the parole board later this spring. Here’s a link to a statement he wrote explaining the situation with more info on how to show support. Supporters have also launched a new website at MutuluIsWelcomeHere.com to gather stories describing his the positive impacts he has made and to organize solidarity events leading up to his parole hearing.
Former Black Panther Maliki Shakur Latine will also be heading to the parole board in April, and he’s collecting parole letters; check out justiceformaliki.org for details.
Supporters of Brandon Baxter (one of the Cleveland Four, anarchists active in the Occupy movement who were entrapped in an FBI plot) are doing a small fundraising campaign right now to help with costs to get him some visitors in his new digs at FCI Terre Haute in Indiana. Brandon hasn’t received any visitors since his sentencing, and he’s never had a in person visit since his arrest. He’s about 11 hours away from his supporters who plan to visit and they need to raise some money for a car rental. They’re only a couple of hundred bucks short, so even if you can throw in a few dollars it’ll make a difference. Any donations not used for this trip will go into the general fund to support the Cleveland Four getting visitors. To learn more about their case, check out cleveland4solidarity.org or listen to Episode 17 on Conspiracy.
Eric King, an anarchist from Kansas City accused of an alleged attack on a politician’s office, has accepted a non-cooperating plea deal for a ten year prison sentence; after time served, he’s got eight and a half years left to go. On top of this, the facility where he’s locked up CCA is now on lock-down, and Eric has been put in solitary confinement. Please take a few minutes to send Eric a postcard or letter to remind him that folks are thinking of him.
Eric King 27090045
100 Highway Terrace
Leavenworth, KS 66048
Former earth liberation prisoner Daniel McGowan will be in court on March 15th in Washington, DC to support the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case against the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ “Communication Management Units.” The CMUs are experimental prison units that impose severe restrictions on prisoners’ communications, both within the prison and with the outside world. If you’re in the DC area and you want to show some solidarity against a particularly vicious form of repression - one that has primarily targeted Muslims and political radicals - you can find the info on our website.
On March 23, Tyler Lang has his sentencing hearing for his charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for releasing thousands of animals from a fur farm. If you can be in Chicago, please attend the hearing to show support for Tyler. It is important that on this difficult day for Tyler that he feel surrounded by love and solidarity, and that the judge see that Tyler is part of a community that is there for him. His co-defendant Kevin Olliff was sentenced to three years, which with time serve means he’s only got about three months left to go!
J ay Chase of the NATO 3 has one more pretrial hearing in Chicago on March 23rd - actually at the same time as Tyler Lang’s sentencing hearing, though in a different courtroom, before he goes to trial on April 11th. Supporters ask anyone to come out who’s able and to continue sending Jay support through letters or mailing softcover books. Stay posted on updates at freethenato3.wordpress.com.
Solecast, the excellent anarchist podcast we mentioned at the end of the listener feedback, can be found on it’s website here and on iTunes. We highly recommend that you check it out!
As we mentioned, anarchist in Belgium are facing repression and prison time for alleged property destruction related to a long struggle against the construction of a Maxi-Prison in Haren. A little more information about the struggle and information about how to send money or otherwise show solidarity can be found here.
Our listener Cut Snake wrote in response to our request to send us a list of blogs and websites that publish news of interest to anarchists and antifascists from Australia. This should keep us all busy for a while:
REZZA ANTIFA SLACKBASTARD
MELBOURNE ANARCHIST CLUB
MELBOURNE ANARCHIST COMMUNIST GROUP
Huye Hombre Huye, the book we reviewed on today’s chopping block, is available from little black cart on their website.
The material from our theme segment today was inspired by the new 10-part Crimethinc. Feature critiquing democracy. It’s not posted yet, but when it is it’ll be up at crimethinc.com. And don’t forget to stay tuned to the podcast for our upcoming audio version, plus more information about how to plug into reading groups.
The theme segment also mentioned and quoted from another piece called ‘Breaking with Consensus Reality,’ from the zine Terror Incognita, released in the U.S. around the time of the Occupy movement.
From March 18th to 20th in Athens, Ohio, Appalachia Resist! will host an action camp in to connect environmental justice and social justice efforts in the Appalachian region. Here’s how they describe themselves: Appalachia Resist! is a small group of rural activists who use direct action as a tactic to resist the fracking industry in our region. We work and live in a rural working class community that is predominant white. We see that struggles for environmental justice and the ongoing fight for racial justice are linked. We want to articulate that link and find concrete ways to work together to push back against a system that brutalizes and sees as disposable the bodies of low income rural people, people of color, gender nonconforming people, women, native, and undocumented people. Mentioning all these people together should not be a way of erasing difference (this is not “all lives matter”) but a way of seeking actual solidarity based on mutual liberation. This is a monumental task, and we are definitely not experts. But we think it’s important and necessary. They’re encouraging regional activists working on racial justice, anti-rape culture, prison solidarity and prison abolition, environmental justice and anti-extraction, and other struggles to take part.
In Seoul, South Korea, the Anarchist Film Festival of Hannam-dong will open March 24th through 26th at “Take Out Drawing”, an art space standing in defiance of gentrification in downtown Seoul.
On April 23rd at Stone Mountain, outside Atlanta, Georgia, there’s a big white supremacist rally planned, and anti-fascists around the region are gearing up to shut it down. Check out the website alloutatl.com for more info on the mobilization; it articulates some shared principles that address some of the nuances of diverse anti-racist mobilizations in a particularly thoughtful way.
The anarchist book fair season kicks off in earnest in April, with book fairs in Zagreb, Croatia on the 8th through 10th; Dublin, Ireland on the 15th and 16th; Sheffield, UK on the 23rd, Oakland, California on the 26th, and Bristol, UK on the 30th, followed by Bern, Switzerland on May 6th and 7th.
Prisoner birthdays this Month:
Luke O’Donovan #1001372271
Washington State Prison
P.O. Box 206
Davisboro, GA 31018
Reverend Joy Powell #07G0632
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 1000
Bedford Hills, NY 10507–2499
Ruchell Cinque Magee #A92051
Calif. State Prison, D–5 #1, P.O. Box 4670
Los Angeles County, Lancaster, CA 93539
Jaan Laaman #10372–016
P.O. Box 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734
KEVIN JOHNSON 47353–424
Metropolitan Correctional Center
71 West Van Buren Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Delbert Orr Africa #AM4985
1000 Follies Road
Dallas, PA 18612
Charles Sims Africa #AM4975
1000 Follies Rd.
Dallas, PA 18612