Wednesday, October 28, 2009
In exchange for accepting these privileges, however, whites agree to police the rest of the non-white population. That's the reason white supremacy was created. Originating as an English imperial ideology for the conquest of Ireland and the rest of what we now call Britain, it moved to North America after the rich English elites had trouble with what we would now call a tri-racial alliance against them. Natives, English indentured servants (most of them transported here for petty crimes against the emerging capitalist system in England) and African slaves had a tendency to realize quite quickly in the so-called "New World" that they had much more in common with each other than with the pale-skinned, blue-blooded ruling class that lorded over them. So, they kept getting together and trying to overthrow those titled bastards. Again and again.
This was naturally a problem for the elite, so a hierarchical racialized system was created to divide this class, and to empower the wealthy. It was encoded in law. Whites were given several important privileges. Firstly, they were entitled to a limit on their servitude, while that of Africans was made permanent. Likewise, whites were given access to cleared Indian lands. The new role for whites demanded they act as police and, in relation to the native population, as soldiers. Therefore, a white man was obligated to serve in slave patrols and had the right to demand papers from any Black person he encountered. Likewise, no Native had any rights a white person was required to respect. Here in Arizona, Mexicans were repeatedly disenfranchised and expropriated of their land by white militias, vigilantes, soldiers and early police formations (Arizona Rangers were notorious). All this was backed up by the rich white elite who wanted to exploit Arizona's resources. So, while white supremacy won the land for whites in general, there weren't any rich whites dying in those copper mines. As now, wealthy whites back then got a much better deal.
Over the years this relationship took new and different forms. Now, among the chief privileges of whiteness is a general immunity from police harassment and the threat of prison. Likewise, white families carry many times the wealth, largely inherited, than people of color. This is understandable: this racist, sexist society keeps throwing the male breadwinner of color in prison. Naturally under these conditions family wealth will be much reduced. Continuing, better access to better schools and hospitals, and other things, rounds this system out in the modern day. At the same time, the definition of whiteness expanded as needed, eventually including even the Irish in America, who it was originally framed against.
When you know this, particularly the flexible political nature of whiteness, what you learn is that race is not a born fact, but instead a political relationship. As some have said, you are white when you are treated white. Indeed, many in the so-called white power movement now would not have been considered white even seventy or eighty years ago, and would have been hounded by the very so-called "Nativists" that they now pretend to be.
So, instead, the NSM and other white nationalist groups create fake histories and pray to Norse gods and such. They worship long-suicided leaders that actually sold their type out in the very societies they mythologize. For instance, how many NSM emails start with "stormtrooper"? And yet, in the heat of their Hitler love fest and working class posing, they forget the Night of the Long Knives, when Hitler sold out the Nazi SA ("stormtrooper") working class formations (despite their reactionary nature) so he could build alliances with German industrialists, bankers and nobility. Even amongst National Socialist foot soldiers Hitler would brook no working class demands for redistribution of wealth once he got in power, even turning against allies who had been there since the beginning. The NSM are hysterical and a-historical at the same time. Any white person looking for liberation would be wise to look elsewhere.
Returning to the anti-liberatory nature of white supremacy. The benefits of whiteness may seem like a great deal, but because the system of capitalism transfers wealth up the ladder from the working class to the capitalists, and since white supremacy naturally maintains rather than challenges white supremacy, it necessarily means that by defending it, NSM dupes guarantee not only the continued exploitation of people of color, but also, in a cruel irony, of their fellow whites as well. I think this might be why everyone calls them boneheads.
So, you see, this is why all the white supremacist organizing in the last three hundred years or so has not led to the liberation of the white working class. It can't. By definition. If it could have, it would have. Instead, all it does is enrich and entrench a powerful, mostly white elite, who run everyone else's lives.
The way to advance the working class, white or otherwise, is to attack white supremacy. This undermines the glue that holds capitalism together and opens the way for revolutionary struggle and for the advancement of the working class at the expense of the capitalist class. Only a unified working class can take down capital. The Nazi NSM has no answer for this. They offer more division, which only makes the capitalists, white or otherwise, laugh their asses off with glee. Note that you don't hear the NSM calling for the expropriation of the white capitalist class. That's a glimpse at how little things will change under their program. Got a shitty job today? They can guarantee you'll still have it after they take over.
They want white people to take pride in their whiteness precisely because they can offer no real improvement in the other conditions of life - for anyone! It's the old bait and switch. Hence, offering no real way out of the exploitation of capitalism, these boneheads rant and threaten and generally look like caricatures of themselves. Lacking a class critique, as their class position sinks in times of capitalist crisis, they are able only to look down for someone to blame. Their white blinders prevent them from seeing the white capitalist class above them, exploiting them and everyone else.
Indeed, what is the sad mantra of the NSM during this crisis? "Take back your jobs, white people." Pathetic. What a boring, limited vision. Is this all we're worth? I don't know about you, but my job sucks. I don't even want it. Nothing meaningful comes of it. It does nothing for me except pay the bills that I shouldn't have to pay in the first place. Like going to a doctor, or paying rent, or getting food. It's a circular relationship that all goes back to the capitalists in the end.
After all, if we are to believe that it is Mexicans that have taken our jobs, as the NSM claims, we have to ignore the fact that the Arizona capitalist class is made up of white people and it is they who do the hiring and firing. To illustrate the complete ridiculousness of this, let's switch from jobs to housing. Does the NSM also suggest that it is Mexicans that have taken white people's houses? If true, that would mean the bankers that foreclose and the sheriffs who evict us are all undocumented Mexicans. Clearly that is so far from reality as to be totally laughable. Is this the best the NSM can do?
Hear this everyone: The NSM will put you back to work like the wannabe slave drivers that they are. Will you follow the new slavemaster? Can't we think of something better than that? How about instead we expropriate all the money and property that the capitalists stole from all of us and then work a whole lot less? How about we loot the banks, burn all the mortgages and credit card debt, and let everyone stay where they are? The rest of the empty properties can be redistributed. That's a pretty simple thing to do, but it would require going after the capitalist elite, and they are almost totally lily white. Think about how much less you'd have to work if we did that. How much more would you live if we did that?
No more rents. No more mortgages. No more foreclosures. No more deportations.
And isn't a foreclosure a kind of deportation, anyhow? Still, the NSM wants to give you 40 hours a week so that you can stay in your house as long as you consent to the foreclosure/deportation of someone else? What a sad vision -- made possible by the NSM's failure to understand that capitalism in the US is run by rich white folks.
The National Socialist Movement offers the white working class nothing but continued exploitation and misery. If we want freedom, the path is clear: take aim at white supremacy and attack, attack, attack! And those who seek to reinforce the system of capitalist exploitation through the retrograde politics of white racism are not just our natural enemies, but they are our class enemies as well. Let's take them down! Fuck the NSM!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
PCWC announces the Inglourious Basterds Bloc against the National Socialist Movement anti-immigrant rally November 7th.
The Phoenix Class War Council is pleased to announce the formation of the Inglourious Basterds Bloc, a temporary anti-racist, anti-authoritarian convergence for the purpose of confronting the National Socialist Movement at the November 7th anti-immigration rally.
Some have said that ignoring the Nazis is the best tactic to take. They point out that the NSM only wants publicity and if we confront them, it will give them exactly what they want. We at PCWC, however, take the exact opposite position. We think that, for once, the NSM ought to get some publicity. Why is this?
For a variety of reasons -- not least of all the weak position taken by the established pro-migrant organizations in town -- the so-called "nativist" camp has succeeded in normalizing an extremely reactionary argument on immigration. In Arizona, the debate and policies have lurched so far to the right that outright racist arguments don't stand out as starkly as they otherwise would. This has had tangible and unmistakable effects, from the massive numbers deported (or, "self-deported" out of fear) to the incarceration, profiling and round ups of hundreds of thousands.
It is this climate that has attracted the NSM here and it has not gone unnoticed that various clownish, though frequently armed, Nazis have begun showing up at pro-migrant marches, sieg heiling their little hearts out. Because of the congruence between the mainstream nativist camp (it pains us to acknowledge such a thing exists) and the positions of the NSM, we think it is useful to point out the cozy nature of their arguments. Ever faithful to their reputation as stooges and government dupes (how many Feds are in the group, we wonder), the NSM is doing the work for us.
If Americans can be counted on for anything, it's for hating Nazis, and images of brownshirted fascists in full historical reenactment regalia (or, alternately, dressing like SWAT team wannabes) spouting their anti-immigrant nonsense will highlight the extreme nature of what passes for the mainstream discussion in Arizona, and to show that there is strong resistance to it. The NSM's traveling circus affords us the opportunity to twist their spectacle to our ends.
We at PCWC also want to extend a particular invitation to our friends in the Libertarian movement. Because of your vigorous protests at Obama's recent speech, you have been painted as racist. We know that you feel this is unfair. You see yourselves as protesting this country's turn towards fascism. We sympathize with this argument and are ourselves no fans of the Obama administration. However, we want to point out that unlike some of your past protests, the NSM rally offers you the perfect opportunity to make known your opposition to fascism in an unambiguous way. We hope you come to the event.
We are not here to preach tactics nor to lecture anyone on the law. People can think for themselves. Similarly, we are an autonomous working class force, and we are beholden to no politician or self-appointed movement leader. We speak for ourselves and no one else and we claim no monopoly on good ideas for confronting these Nazi thugs. We hope a variety of creative and interesting tactics are employed by as broad a collection of people as possible. Remember, the NSM wants a show, so we encourage all participants, regardless of their level of militancy, to treat the event as a stage. Further, it should be pointed out that militancy does not necessarily have to manifest itself in the obvious ways. Think imaginatively and we're sure that many opportunities to show up these Nazi buffoons will present themselves.
Likewise, to those in the anarchist and anti-authoritarian milieu who think that taking on Nazis misses the overall context of the broader system of white supremacy, we encourage you to investigate the political situation in Arizona. As we have already pointed out, the dialog here has swung so far to the extreme right that, sadly, fertile ground exists for these boneheads. Saying we shouldn't focus on Nazis is like saying that folks shouldn't have gone after the Klan in the 50's and 60's. Our politics focus on the revolutionary importance of attacking the system of white supremacy, and that does not preclude going after the militant manifestation of white working class reaction. We recognize your criticisms and we invite you to join us on November 7th regardless.
We are working class and we reject the backwards anti-liberatory positions of the National Socialist Movement. True liberation for the working class can only come about by destroying capitalism and the state, and in the United States this means attacking white supremacy, the cross-class alliance that holds the Empire together and keeps the capitalists sitting pretty in their mansions and private jets. It's the pathetic, reactionary alliance of white supremacy that undermines our class war against the rich and transforms it into an inter-class civil war, benefiting only the ruling class. The retrograde racism of the NSM is a step backwards for working class people. PCWC rejects it unequivocally and instead we demand free movement for free people.
Against all borders! See you in the streets!
For a fuller understanding of where we're coming from, read this piece:
The NSM offers nothing for the white working class but more exploitation and misery.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I think the most interesting part of the action is the call out to other affected and oppositional communities, including the white folks in Ahwatukee, who will now face an interesting conundrum: will they organize in solidarity with native folks or will they assert their reactionary white privilege? The dare that OSABC puts to them is exactly the kind of thing that we at PCWC think more anarchists ought to be doing. Their fanatical, yet open-handed, call out has the potential to polarize, and in so doing, to force white folks to choose a side on the issue.
At the same time, OSABC has put a clear demand out there: no to the freeway, anywhere. This serves to bookend the call for solidarity and in no uncertain terms offers a way out for all opposing it that doesn't involve shifting it onto other people's neighborhoods and land. If we stop it entirely, then no one gets fucked over.
In the end, if white folks in particular hope to protect themselves from the noise and other environmental and health problems that will arise from the new road (not to mention the dislocations that would follow in its wake), they would do well to seek allies where they can, and to join those who have already staked out a position. They can look to others who, perhaps until now, they saw as facing different conditions or struggles, and now begin to see common ground. If this happens, then the cross class alliance of white supremacy will have been, at least temporarily, undermined, and this advances the class war.
Focusing on the freeway also has the potential to highlight the general misery of suburban living under capitalism. After all, what does a further extension of the freeway really mean? More suburbs? More time in cars? A commute to an empty job? A lifeline to the decaying exoburbs? Families held together by nothing more than little Jimmy's baseball schedule? Or Janie's dance lessons?
In a real way, the expansion of the freeway system is a symptom of the miserableness of life in late capitalism and stopping it would necessarily send a message that we reject a life where everything is disconnected. Where no one lives where they work. Where our work is a factory for the reproduction of and commodification of boredom and ritualized humiliation. Where among life's most distinctive features are depression, isolation and cheap facsimile. Where social mobility is dead but freeway mobility lives, securing our yawning shuffling from home to work or the grocery store and back again. Where gloom and heartache are every day's weather report.
The age of oil is coming to an end. While it reigned, it facilitated capitalism's insatiable desire to remake and isolate us. To tear apart our families and affinities, leaving us naked to its predations, and in the process spewing us across continents to land into cookie cutter tan stucco houses. Meanwhile our grandparents die in institutions far away and our high school friends do whatever they do (not that we would know), since we couldn't possibly keep in touch with them in any meaningful way from here. Our social networks record our social collapse. Our friends lists are populated by work "mates" and bosses. So many of us have nothing real.
The car is a noose and the freeway is the scaffold. Together, we can smash this miserable road we're on and make good our escape. Not one more mile.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
This is the first in what I would like to be an ongoing, if irregular series linking up theoretical pieces to current news, in the hopes of increasing the appreciation for theory, as well as sparking some dialog about ideas and action in the real world. Here at PCWC we really believe in the importance of reading history and theory in order to understand our world and how to take action in it towards creating a world of equality and freedom. As we say on our bookmarks (which are available free at any of our public events), "READ SMASH READ AGAIN". That is, get your ideas, try them out, evaluate them and read some more. Repeat. The more context you have, the better.
This weekend I ran across the news of a mudslide in Sicily that has killed at least 22 people. I noticed while reading the coverage that environmentalists and locals decried illegal building and corner cutting for the disaster. This from the Times:
The scale of the disaster was blamed on illegal development linked to the mafia.In addition, Euronews reports that "[t]orrential rain triggered mudlides that swept away roads and houses in the town of Messina. But officials say shoddy building practices contributed to the tragedy and have opened a manslaughter inquiry." As anger mounts among survivors, they have increasingly demanded accountability for the disaster. Again from Euronews: "[Survivors] want to know why construction was allowed on apparently unstable land. Some accuse the government of being more concerned with a project to build a bridge between Sicily and the mainland than the welfare the island's residents."
Torrential floods knocked over buildings, buried vehicles in mud and forced many people to flee to the roofs of their homes.
Among the dead was a man who was submerged and suffocated in mud on the main piazza of one of Messina's suburbs. Another man drowned when his cellar flooded. The injured were evacuated by boat and helicopter because roads were impassable.
Roads and railways were choked with mud, cutting off at least three villages and forcing rescue workers to try to reach then on foot.
As the Italian government declared a state of emergency, authorities blamed a fierce overnight storm which dumped nine inches of rain in just three hours.
But locals and environmental groups said the disaster had been worsened by years of deforestation and illegal building of houses and apartment blocks, some of it linked to Sicily's Cosa Nostra mafia.
"We're paying a very high price for having devastated the environment with unlawful and uncontrolled development," said Vittorio Cogliati Dezza, president of Italy's main environmental organisation, Legambiente.
Responding to the mounting pressure, the hard right prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, promised government aid to rebuild. According to the VOA, "Italy's prime minister visited areas struck by deadly mudslides in Sicily and promised to build new houses for the hundreds of people left homeless. He said he would provide new homes for them just like he did for the victims of the quake in l'Aquila earlier this year."
The money will flow and more construction will take place, we are assured. Certainly that's the logical response to disaster, isn't it? Note the almost casual referencing of a previous disaster as a precedent for the response to the current one. Setting aside the image of that fascist Berlusconi riding to the rescue yet again, replacing the destroyed buildings with new, shiny ones, placating residents and setting everything right, is there more to this story? Is there something we can draw on from theory in order to understand what's going on in Italy (and all over the world) as disasters increasingly mount?
In that light, today I want to highlight the writings of Amadeo Bordiga, especially his ideas of technology, "disaster" and capitalism. Bordiga was a leading light of the Italian Communist Left for quite some time, and while most of his positions on the party are not terribly useful for anarchists -- in particular he had a rather limited view of the ability of workers themselves to self-organize -- he did maintain a militant position against the participation of the party in the bourgeois democratic process throughout his life that is interesting. Notable not just for that, but for his rejection of the popular front method of organizing (a form that would prove fatal for revolution in Spain during the civil war) and his face to face calling out of Stalin as the "gravedigger of the revolution", Bordiga also had very interesting ideas on the inherent tendency of technology under capitalism to result in death, destruction and, as he called it, the "murder of the dead".
For Bordiga, technology necessarily led to "disaster" because of two in-born and inescapable tendencies of capitalism. First, the necessity to maximize profit and to minimize costs naturally created the conditions in which shoddy work and the cutting of corners caused systemic failures, not necessarily immediately, but often in the future. Second, capitalism, always in need of creating more commodities, therefore likewise tended to destroy what Marx called "dead labor" so as to re-create that which was destroyed with "living labor". In many ways, war is the ultimate expression of this reality, but it happens throughout economies in many other ways. Dead labor is the things that workers have produced that continue to have productive capability. Machines was one example Marx used frequently. In short, destroy it and you get to force workers to make it (or something else) again, and that gets the capitalists more profit and more capital (with the added benefit of re-disciplining the working class).
He writes in his essay "Murder of the Dead":
This lesson is instructive to us in this time of ongoing and seemingly never-ending disaster. Bordiga reminds us that these so-called disasters are not disasters at all. That is, they are not random. Because these system failures result from the inherent limitation of capitalism, in Bordiga's view, the resulting destruction and death ought to be treated as pre-meditated crimes, not accidents. In that sense, the advance of technology and sciences under capitalism results in what we ought to consider murder. Treating them as disasters removes the hand behind them from the scene, cleansing it of culpability and obscuring analysis.
Modern capital, which needs consumers as it needs to produce ever more, has a great interest in letting the products of dead labour fall into disuse as soon as possible so as to impose their renewal with living labour, the only type from which it “sucks” profit. That is why it is in seventh heaven when war breaks out and that is why it is so well trained for the practice of disasters. Car production in America is massive, but all, or nearly all, families have a car, so demand might be exhausted. So then it is better that the cars last only a short time. So that this is indeed the case, firstly they are badly built with a series of botched parts. If the users break their necks more often, no matter: a client is lost, but there is another car to substitute. Then they call on fashion with a large cretinising subsidy of advertising propaganda, through which everyone wants the latest model, like the women who are ashamed to put on a dress, even if perfectly good, “from last year”. The fools are taken in and it does not matter that a Ford built in 1920 lasts longer than a brand new 1951 model. And finally the dumped cars are not used even for scrap, and are thrown into car cemeteries. Who dares to take one saying: you have thrown it away as if it were worthless, what harm is there in me fixing and reusing it? He would get a kick up the backside and a gaol sentence.
To exploit living labour, capital must destroy dead labour which is still useful. Loving to suck warm young blood, it kills corpses.
Indeed, as the environment continues along its ever-increasing lurch towards collapse, spurred on by the very same cancerous force of capitalism, it's worth looking critically at such catastrophes in order to prevent the tendency of the system and its protectors from both creating the disaster and then profiting from its solution. So towards subverting that end, I would recommend readers consider the re-issue by Antagonism Press of a collection of Bordiga's essays on disasters. The whole book is online for reading, but I would recommend the introduction and the chapter "Murder of the Dead" as particularly instructive. The rest of the articles, for the enterprising reader, do not disappoint either. The book is short and well worth your time.
In an age of collapse and systemic failure, especially noting the way that anarchists and anti-authoritarians have been turning their attention towards disasters as breeches of the general monotony and regular discourse of civlization (and opportunities for struggle and mutual aid), as well as, as Naomi Klein has pointed out, albeit in a much less radical fashion, the tendency of the capitalist class to engineer and then capitalize on crises, it is therefore quite important that we develop a theoretical understanding of crisis, collapse and systemic failure. Bordiga goes a long way towards informing us in that direction.
Murder of the Dead by Amadeo Bordiga
Murdering the dead: Amadeo Bordiga on capitalism and other disasters - Introduction by Antagonism