Monday, November 30, 2009

More required reading from the struggle against the university in California

"How many do you suppose will follow?" said Paul.

"As many people as are bored to death or sick of things the way they are," said Lasher.

"All of 'em," said Finnerty.

"And then what?" said Paul.

-Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

As the ongoing struggle against the university system in California continues, it has produced a lot of very interesting analysis and actions. We've yet to see these ideas and tactics translate across the border to Arizona, but PCWC will be pleased as punch whenever they finally do. While the situation in California looks a lot more like what some have called a "failed state" -- a system in crisis and collapse -- conditions are not that much different here at home. Tuition rises steadily higher, locking some students into decades of debt payments at the same time it locks working class students out, but the leadership of the student movement, what there is of it in Arizona, has proven itself totally unfit to the challenge.

I must say that it's been many, many years since any of us in PCWC has oriented towards student struggles. Generally they have not showed the political depth or militancy that we find necessary and interesting. Too often they have reflected a wimpy liberalism or reformist leftism that offers nothing at all in terms of possibilities for the shattering the misery of every day life on the university, to say nothing of posing any real threat of breaking beyond the ivory tower to articulate any ideas or generate any actions of relevance to those of us on the outside.

Nevertheless, the ongoing capitalist crisis has the potential, as we witness now in California, of radicalizing large segments of the students and workers that surround and participate in the factory of the university. And we know from history (Greece, Mexico, France, etc) that the universities can sometimes emerge at the forefront of the class war against Capital and the state. Will the struggle bust out and broaden? The latest round of occupations, much expanded thanks to the hard work of militants involved in earlier seizures, offers hope.

But if those struggles are to expand and, as we hope they might, grow finally to topple the corpse machine that we call every day life in the US -- and the exclusivity of the university system with it -- those of us within them must recognize the multiplicitous and often duplicitous nature of the enemy that challenges us and take aim, because the potential for failure lies not just in the reaction from the state and the obvious opponents to freedom, but also in the recuperative nature of the student leftist leadership itself. They must be challenged because, within the university context, it is they that stand between us and direct confrontation with Capital if what we want is to bring the class war to school. These gatekeepers, these professional managers of social struggle, will use all manner of excuses, arguments and ruses to maintain their death grip on the movement and we must be prepared to cut that hand off quickly and mercilessly lest we suffer the sell out and manipulation that is their stock and trade.

Thankfully, because of the the general absence of a Left of any consequence in Arizona, student militants here may find themselves at a substantial advantage over their Cali counterparts. The Left here has proven itself quite impotent and, therefore, not difficult to challenge and, honestly, ignore, when need be. That being said, militants must not make the mistake of building the Left as a tool for expressing our will onto Capital. The Left is not a threat to Capital, it is a manifestation of Capital and therefore aims for its preservation. We must understand this. The aim of the militant and the revolutionary, among other things, is to broaden the debate, to expand the mode and terms of struggle, and to push for the furthest reaching attack on Capital possible. This necessarily brings us into conflict with the guardians of the torch of campus activism. We must douse that light.

More can be said about strategy and the theories we need to deploy in the streets and in the university malls if we hope to be victorious, but for now, let's consider this point. Towards that end, I have re-posted below the entire text of an article composed by some of PCWC's California comrades who are currently engaged in the dust up over there. This inspiring piece articulates exactly the difficulties that the Leftist organizer presents for revolutionaries. Until we understand the true role of this counter-revolutionary, we have little hope of success in our fight. Further, this article is unique because it comes from a class war, non-student perspective, providing a fresh way to look at the struggle. Enjoy!


The Bricks We Throw at Police Today Will Build the Liberation Schools of Tomorrow

"If you're scared today you'll be scared tomorrow as well and always and so you've got to make a start now right away we must show that in this school we aren't slaves we have to do it so we can do what they're doing in all other schools to show that we're the ones to decide because the school is ours."

The Unseen, Nanni Balestrini

Days later, voices in unison still ring in our ears. "Who's university?" At night in bed, we mumble the reply to ourselves in our dreams. "Our university!" And in the midst of building occupations and the festive and fierce skirmishes with the police, concepts like belonging and ownership take the opportunity to assume a wholly new character. Only the village idiot or, the modern equivalent, a bureaucrat in the university administration would think we were screaming about something as suffocating as property rights when last week we announced, "The School is Ours!" When the day erupted, when the escape plan from the drudgery of college life was hatched, it was clear to everyone that the university not only belonged to the students who were forcefully reasserting their claim but also to the faculty, to every professor and TA who wishes they could enliven the mandatory curriculum in their repetitive 101 class, to the service workers who can't wait for their shift to end, and to every other wage-earner on campus ensuring the daily functioning of the school.

Last week, the actualization of our communal will gave us a new clarity. The usual divisiveness of proprietorship was forcefully challenged; cascades of hidden meaning rush onto rigid notions of possession and our eyes look past surface appearances. So now when asked, "who does the university belong to?" we can't fail to recognize that the college itself was built by labor from generations past, the notebook paper is produced by workers in South America, the campus computers are the output of work in Chinese factories, the food in the student cafe is touched by innumerable hands before it reaches the plates, and all the furniture at UC Berkeley is produced by the incarcerated at San Quentin. Thus the university, its normal operation and existence, ought to be attributed to far more than it regularly is. To claim that the school is ours requires our definition of ownership to not only shatter the repressive myth that the college belongs to the State of California and the Regents but to also extend belonging past national and state borders and throughout time. It's clear, the entire university, for that matter, every university belongs to everyone, employed and unemployed, all students and all workers, to everyone of the global class that produces and reproduces the world as we now know it. The school is ours because it's everyone's and the destruction of the property relation, with all its damaging and limiting consequences, is implicit in the affirmation of this truth. It's our university...

…but, as of now, in its present configuration, who would want something so disgusting as a school?

The Poverty of Student Life is the Poverty of Capitalist Society

It's now larger than any conspiratorial plot by Thomas Huxley. In fact, he could have never envisioned the extent to which contemporary class society would transform education as such into another separated activity, detached from the totality of life and devoid of any practical worth or good, while, simultaneously, being in perfect accord with the needs of capitalist production.

Learning is now sapped of all its content, education is but another part of the assembly line in the social factory, and the university itself serves an important function within the reproduction of disjointed life in this divided society. While the collegiate apparatus infests countless minds with the logic and technical knowledge of capital, the illusion is being sold that somehow academic labor is divorced from the world of work. Our apologies, but a term paper is not the production of autonomous and creative knowledge, it is work and therefore exploitation. It is human activity animated for the sake of capital not for humanity itself. The conditioning and preparation of students for a life crushed by regimented value creation is the essential purpose of the college: to teach the young how to give and take orders. Nothing about the university is neutral; its role in society is clear. The lines are being drawn.

The Representation of the Student Body Has Become an Enemy of the Student Body

You will always be offered dialogue as if that were its own end; it will die in bureaucracy's stale air, as if trapped in a soundless room. In insurrectionary times, action is the speech that can be heard.
-Slogan written on a Digital Wall

Far before last week's events, we've located them in the enemy's camp. Student activist-leaders shamed, begged, pleaded, and finally began to shriek and scream at us when we ignored their megaphone-amplified orders. In their last ditch effort to see their commands followed, they physically assisted the police in blocking us from occupying buildings and protected the outnumbered cops from our punches and shoves. It's obvious they've chosen their side some time ago. These are the idiots who were telling people who tried to break down the door of California Hall on November 18th that they should not do so because "there was no consensus." These are the same fools who sabotaged the attempted storming of the Regents meeting at UCLA and the occupation of Covel Hall, ruining months of self-directed planning, after declaring the crowd had become too "agitated." The Cynthias, who later that day went on to disrupt the occupation of Carter-Huggins Hall. These are the same politicians, who grabbed the megaphone as students marched in to the President's office in Downtown Oakland, prepared to raise utter hell and instead directed them into a dialogue with middle-level administrators, later issuing an order that the crowd must leave "peacefully." Disgusting, yet typical. The only consensus they want is rallied around the social peace and the preservation of the existent institutions and the only alteration they want of the power structure is their ascent to the top of it. By actively collaborating with the administration and police, by orchestrating arrests, by frittering away the momentum of the angry, they validate the insults we flung at them and they revealed themselves for the "student cops," "class traitors" and "snitches" they are.

For them it's a knee-jerk reaction: challenge their power and they fall back on identity politics. If they don't get their way they cry privilege. When the actions escalate, when we begin to feel our power, the self-appointed are waiting to remind us that there may be the undocumented present – the activist super-ego. Somehow in their tiny paternalistic brains they believe they know what's best for immigrants implying that the undocumented are too stupid to understand the consequences of their actions and god granted the student leaders the wisdom to guide these lost souls. In their foolish heads, immigrants remain passive sheep, black people never confront the police and just enjoy the beatings they get, and the working class always takes orders from the boss.

In pseudo-progressive tongue they speak a state-like discourse of diversity; the groans of the student-activist zombie is the grammar of the dead revolutions of the past. Their vision of race politics ignores the triumphs and wallows in the failures of the 60's movements. The stagnant ghosts of yesterday's deadlocked struggle; they are the hated consequences of the civil rights era that produced a rainbow of tyranny with a Black president mutilating Afghanis, Asian cops brutalizing students on campus, and Latino prison guards chaining prisoners. In this same way, the opportunists act out their complicity with the structures of order. When students defy preset racial categories and unify in order to take action on their own behalf, the student cops attempt to reinforce the present day's violent separations and reestablish governance. They fail to recognize that divisions among proletarians are questioned only within the struggle itself and the festering scissions between the exploited can only be sutured with hands steadied by combat with the exploiters. Like a scalpel used to reopen stitched wounds, the student activists' brand of multi-culturalism is undoubtedly a tool of state repression.

During the scuffle with the police in front of California Hall on the inaugural day of the strike, one of the student cops asked, "What's going to happen when we get into the building?" For us, given the social context of the strike, the answer is obvious, for them, even the question is problematic because of the risk it poses to their position of dominance. In the moment of rupture, their role as managers becomes void. Self-directed action crowds out the programmatic. They forever need to stand on the edge of the reality that something could pop off, because it is in that possibility that they can control the situation and ensure that things do, in fact, move in their way towards nowhere. When things get hot, the self-elected of the student movement are waiting with their trusty fire extinguishers ready in hand because they know that when people act on their own and valorize their self-interest, their authority crumbles and everyone can see how bankrupt their strategy of social containment actually is. The student activist stutter-steps on the path of nothingness. But we hope to turn the mob against them. To seize their megaphones and declare: "Death to Bureaucracy!" Some may ask, "Why have these hooligans come to our campus?" "They've come to ruin everything!" the student leaders will say.

And for once, we agree.

We Are Not Students, We Are Dynamite!

A movement results from combinations that even its own participants cannot control. And that its enemies cannot calculate. It evolves in ways that cannot be predicted, and even those who foresee it are taken by surprise.
-Paco Ignacio Taibo

Many will ask then, why have we thrown ourselves into the 'student movement?' We are not students, at least not now and never in the UC system. It is not feasible for us to attend the UC in the first place, either because of the cost or the lack of desire to live the rest of our lives ridden with overwhelming debt.

We have not come to the university to make demands of the Board of Regents or the university administration. Nor do we wish to participate in some form of 'democracy' where the 'student movement' decides (or is told to do so by student leaders) how to negotiate with the power structure. For us, Sacramento and its budget referendums are as useless as the empty words spewing from the mouths of the union leaders and activists on campus. Nothing about the "democratizing" the school system or forcing it to become better managed or more "transparent" even mildly entices us. No, we didn't join the student movement to obtain any of these paltry demands.

Last week, we began to attack the university not just because we are proletarians scorned by and excluded from the UC, or that we hope by resisting we may reduce costs and thus join the UC system and elevate our class positions. Our choice to collaborate in the assault on California's school was driven solely by our own selfish class interest: to take its shit and use it for ourselves. Occupied buildings become spaces from which to further strike the exploiters of this world and, at the same time, disrupt and suppress the ability of the college to function.

Like any other institution structured by class society, the university is one of our targets. We made our presence in the student movement to break down the divisions between students angry over fee hikes, workers striking against lay offs, and faculty at odds with the administration over cuts and furloughs. These are not separate struggles over different issues, but sections of a class that have a clear and unified enemy. We have come for the same reason we intervene in any tension: to push for the total destruction of capitalist exploitation and for the re-composition of the proletariat towards communism.

And so, ask yourself how could one even go about reforming something as debilitating as a university? Demanding its democratization would only mean a reconfiguration of horror. To ask for transparency is nothing but a request for a front row seat to watch an atrocity exhibition. Even the seemingly reasonable appeal for reducing the cost of tuition will leave the noose of debt wrapped snuggly around our necks. There's nothing the university can give anyone, but last week's accomplishments show that there is everything for us to take. If anything, our actions, as a means in themselves, were more important than any of the crumbs the UC system or the Regents Board might wipe off the table for us. During these days, we felt the need for obliterating renewal give rise to intense enthusiasm. We felt the spirit irradiate throughout campus and press everyone "to push the university struggle [not only] to its limits," but to its ultimate conclusion: against the university itself.

…And So It Must Spread

"It is surely not difficult to see that our time is a time of birth and transition to a new period. The spirit has broken with what was hitherto the world of its existence and imagination and is about to submerge all this in the past; it is at work giving itself a new form."

-The Phenomenology of Spirit

The stench that the university emits has become unbearable and students everywhere are reacting against the institution that has perpetually rotted away their being via an arsenal of disciplinary techniques. At campuses across California the corrosion of life is brought to a quick halt when the college's daily mechanism of power is given the Luddite treatment, and suddenly, studying becomes quite meaningless. Shamefully, the administration, terrified they are losing control and supervision of the pupils they spent so much time training, turn riot police on anyone ripping off their chains. At UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, SF State and CSU Fresno the unlimited occupations display the universal need for free and liberated space. The recalcitrance is spreading. In Austria, students left their occupied territory at the Fine Arts Academy to march on the US embassy in solidarity with the police repression on California campuses. On the same continent, the occupations in Greece have now extended outside the universities into the high schools and even the middle schools. Everywhere, the youth are recognizing the school as a vapid dungeon stunting their growth and, at the same time, they are refusing submission to the crushing of their bodily order. All over, a new generation is seeking the passion for the real, for what is immediately practicable, here and now.

The assaults on police officers, the confrontations with the administration, the refusal of lectures, and the squatted buildings point the objective struggle in the direction of the complete and total negation of the university. That is, brick by brick smashing the academic monolith into pieces and abolishing the college as a specialized institution restricted to a specific segment of society. This will require the instillation of technique known as learning to be wholly subverted and recomposing education as a generalized and practical activity of the entire population; an undermining through which the student shall auto-destruct.

Going halfway always spells defeat, and so, the spreading of movement is our only assurance against this stagnation. Complete self-abolition necessitates that the logic of revolt spill out of the universities and flood the entire social terrain. But the weapons of normalcy are concealed everywhere and especially within the most mundane characteristics of daily life. The allegiance to the bourgeois family structure and interruptions by holiday vacations and school breaks threaten to douse the fuse before its ignition and hinder our momentum.

Let us not lose sight of the tasks before us.

We must forcefully eject the police from the campus. Find their holes and burn them out. Block their movements near occupied spaces. Build barricades; protect that which has been re-taken. We need only to look to Chile or Greece to see the immense advantage movements possess once they seize territory and declare it free of police. Blockade the entrances and gates of the campus as the students have already begun to experiment with at UC Santa Cruz.

We must also denounce and destroy the student Left (the recuperative, the parasitic, the "representative") that seeks to de-escalate the movement and integrate it back into politics. Our venom is not only directed at those who assisted the police in blocking angry students from entering California Hall at UC Berkeley or obstructed the crowds during the Regents meeting at UCLA but also of those who sought to negotiate with the police "on behalf" of the occupiers of Wheeler Hall. It is telling that the police will negotiate with them, because to the cops, they are reasonable. We are not, however, because we seek the immediate annihilation of both the pigs and the activists.

Renew the strikes and extend their reach. Occupy the student stores and loot them. Sell off the computers in the lab to raise funds. Set up social spaces for students and non-students alike to come in and use freely. Appropriate the copy machines and make news of the revolt. Takeover the cafeterias and bars and begin preparing the communal feast. Burn the debt records and the construction plans. Chisel away the statues and vandalize the pictures of the old order. In short, create not an 'alternative' that can easily make its fit within the existent, but rather a commune in which power is built to destroy capitalist society. When faced with a university building, the choices are limited; either convert it to ashes or begin the immediate materialization of the international soviet.

To all waged and unwaged workers – students or not, unemployed, precarious or criminal we call on you to join this struggle. The universities can become not only our playgrounds but also the foundations from which we can build a partisan war machine fit for the battle to retrieve our stolen lives.

And to the majority of the students, from those paying their way to those swimming in debt, all used as collateral by the Regents, who bravely occupied buildings across California and fought the police against the barricades – we say this clearly: we are with you! We stood by you as you faced down the police in the storming rain and defended the occupiers. Your actions are an inspiration to us all and we hope to meet you again on the front lines. In you we see the spirit of insurgent students everywhere.

As our Austrian friends recently told us, "Take out your hairspray and your lighter"! Tear down the education factory. Attack the Left and everything that it "represents." Attack the new bosses before they become the old ones. Life serves the risk taker – and we're rolling the fucking dice!


-Three Non-Matriculating Proletarians

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Considering the effects of the anti-NSM action two weeks later

Local videographer and anti-fascist bulldog Dennis Gilman has posted up his much-anticipated video from the anti-National Socialist action a couple weeks ago. The video is quite interesting and in particular I enjoy the way it complements the point that PCWC was making with regard to the rally.

Unlike so many liberals and pro-immigrant movement movers and shakers, who would rather have ducked their heads in the sand as the racist NSM pranced about on the state capitol lawn (and in fact denounced the action in some embarrassing cases), PCWC wanted the National Socialist Movement to get some attention precisely because we wanted to highlight both the overall reactionary climate and rhetoric surrounding the "mainstream" anti-immigrant movement (after all, what attracted these NSM scum to Phoenix if not the tenor of the reactionary politics?), but also specifically to point out the congruence between the NSM's vile message and that of the "mainstream" anti-immigrant types. We at PCWC see no light between them. Dennis seems to have caught onto the same theme and he does a great job, especially in the first part of the video, of making that overlap in message starkly clear.

One week after the NSM strutted its sad sack stuff and then had to slink away in shame, one of those mainstream anti-immigrant groups had a rally on the very same lawn in front of the capitol that the NSM occupied. The NSM showed their ugly faces and were promptly booted to the curb by an obviously defensive Nativist crowd, fearing the association, which left the pathetic local NSM cadre (a far cry from the only slightly less pathetic "crowd of 40" from Texas and Cali that showed up two weeks ago) to shout and wave their swastikas and Hitler paraphernalia impotently from the sidelines.

Denouncing the Nazis at his rally, Jim Fairmont of the equally racist American Citizens United said, "That's a completely, you know, racist organization. This is not about racism, it's about law enforcement. Period." Sure, dude. Given the fact that these very same Nazis had previously found the anti-immigrant protests safe territory, one wonders if this confrontation would have happened had the anti-NSM action not taken place.

Aside from successfully checking the NSM's recruitment aim (something that would have gone un-countered had no confrontation taken place, as so many liberals had advised), there are other successes that anarchists should take from this. The new split in the reactionary movement, along with the fact in the popular imagination the so-called "Nativist" movement must now run from an association with National Socialism is a tremendous victory for the anarchist and migrant/immigrant movement.

And, as Dennis points out in his video, the fracture created by this action hints at the potential of fanatical organizing to open spaces wide enough even potentially to consume reactionary politicians like Russell Pearce. And it's more evidence of the usefulness of a fanatical politics in a state so overwhelmingly reactionary as Arizona. In this case, the NSM itself served as our fanatical foil, creating an all or nothing, in or out dynamic that forced people to make a choice. Now they can be held accountable for that choice and more than a few have egg on their faces for not turning out now that the action is widely understood to have been successful. The venue created an unambiguous space for anarchists to step forward and we will benefit as a movement because of it.

Consider also that we were able to persuade some of our libertarian friends join us and to assert their commitment to anti-fascism and to the traditional libertarian open border position. We may find that our allies may lie in places that, thanks to the limitations of ideology, we have not previously looked. We must also continue to look for fissures and other points of potential fracture in the movements of our opposition and then charge ahead into the gap. We can remake this debate if we try.

Finally, I want to point out one other facet of the action which as far as I know no one in the mainstream press caught onto, namely, the alliance of Native youth and anarchists in the streets (not that these are necessarily exclusive). We've all worked hard at this and it was a real pleasure to take it to the street together and to see it deployed successfully. Together we took the battle to our common enemy and shut them down. This is a great victory and something I know we at PCWC hope to continue to build on for further actions. Not only that, but this is a validation of the strategy of autonomy and insurrection. As one comrade recently told me, we come together for specific actions and purposes. We don't build new, bulky organizations. We build affinity, get people moving and attack, attack, attack. Look for the weak spot and strike!

Thanks also to Dennis for the shout out to PCWC. Much appreciated. Below I have posted the video as well as a couple of links to the two essays that we put out in advance of the action, framing our position, as well as an analysis of the event by PCWC comrade Crudo, one of our friends from Modesto Anarcho. I think in hindsight they may now be interesting to review what we accomplished versus what we wanted so we can improve our efforts in the future. We must constantly consider the results of the applications of our theories. That's our path to kicking over this whole miserable system.

(1) PCWC announces the Inglourious Basterds Bloc against the National Socialist Movement anti-immigrant rally November 7th.

(2) The NSM offers nothing for the white working class but more exploitation and misery.

(3) Phoenix: Where Anarchists Pack Heat and Send Nazis Packing

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Photo of the day

Another "crime suppression sweep" ended tonight, I put the sweeps in quotations because, like many in the valley, we at PCWC understand this term to be code words for the regular anti-immigrant and racial profiling police operation ordered by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Despite the broad range of opposition from civil liberty groups, Latino residents, and police accountability groups, the "sweeps" conducted by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office continue to terrorize the Mexican-American and immigrant communities of the county. Phoenix Insurgent has previously written on the limitations and dead end-ism of the Left's approach to opposing the Arizona's anti-immigrant hysteria, and we at PCWC continue to fight for free movement for free people.

So, it was pleasing to see Sheriff Joe gripe on his twitter account today about an action by "a disobedient", a person engaging in unmediated action against an oppressor, in this case Sheriff Joe, that occurred while he gave his press conference on the latest mass racial profiling police operation. The scribbler of "Fuck Joe!" even went so far as to put it in the most appropriate place: one of the walls of the jail complex. Bravo!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When the Border Is Everywhere: Examining the Resistance to Speed Cameras and Border Checkpoints in Arizona.

By Phoenix Insurgent

The last couple of years has seen two interesting convergences in Arizona politics. First, the constantly expanding control grid, consisting of cameras and other measures for the regulation of movement, has finally burst into the popular consciousness in the greater Phoenix area, thanks primarily to the spread of highway photo radar and both fixed and mobile roadside units (including red light cameras). These particular cameras, much more visible than the thousands of smaller cameras comprising the broader surveillance grid that has been set up largely under a similar public safety argument, are contracted out to private – sometimes foreign -- companies by the state and other government institutions, and represent a recurring and concrete intrusion into the lives of drivers.

The tickets issued by the cameras are generally viewed by the population as illegitimate, not leastwise because they are issued by faceless (private, corporate) machines. Secondarily, they are viewed as a sneaky tax by a greedy government intent on getting its hands in everybody's wallets. People receiving the tickets in the mail (the primary method of notification) routinely disregard them and, when process servers are sent out, they sometimes receive violent reactions from the served. As a result, the private firms running the cameras have sometimes resorted to subterfuge in order to deliver the summons, including a famous case in which a server dressed up like a UPS driver. Such sneaky tactics haven't won many friends, it goes without saying. In fact, some drivers have taken to wearing disguises. As reported in the Arizona Republic recently, one man has dodged more than 30 tickets by wearing a monkey mask while driving. Police identified him after staking out his house and following his car as he drove to work.

Monkey-masked driver eludes speed cameras.

In reaction to this expansion of state and corporate power, a resistance movement has risen up, consisting on one hand of above ground, organized, largely right libertarian and constitutionalist activists. These groups, primarily headed up by an organization called CameraFRAUD, have engaged in lobbying, street protests and a ballot initiative in order to stop the cameras. CameraFRAUD emerged from the Ron Paul milieu and represents for the most part the standard ideology of that tendency. In addition to the above ground movement, there have been countless illegal and quasi-legal attacks on the cameras themselves, ranging from vandalism to street theater to the murder of a camera technician. So far, for the most part, those who have attacked the cameras have gotten away with it.

Meanwhile, this has happened in the context of a massive reaction from the Arizona white working and middle class, primarily centered on defending their white privileges against what they have generally mis-diagnosed as an attack from poor and working class Mexicans and other immigrants. This has taken the form of everything from reactionary ballot initiatives to vigilantism and violence. The collapse of much of the middle class in Arizona, hidden for some time due to the proliferation of debt, migration and the housing boom, has become clear for all to see. It is obvious now to them that the capitalist class has sold them out to a large degree, in search for large returns on investments abroad and financial speculation to replace falling rates of profit at home.

So, I say that whites have “mis-diagnosed” the problem because even though there is some truth to the general allegation that cheap immigrant labor does in some instances impact the wages of other “legal” labor, the movements that have emerged to defend the class position of whites has foundered, as has been the case historically, on the borders of whiteness. That is, rather than pointing their rage upwards at the capitalists, politicians and bureaucrats that set different segments of the working class against each other, the white movement has seen fit instead to defend its whiteness and the accompanying privileges. In a real sense, a civil war rages within the working class in Arizona.

As a result of their limited class imagination, whites in Arizona have demanded a massive expansion in the border policing apparatus in the hopes that it will protect their class position, which has become increasingly tenuous in the last decade. As a result of this, checkpoints set up by the border patrol have moved north of la linea and into what are perceived by their white residents as white communities far from the border (up to 100 miles north in some cases). This has caused friction between white residents and the border patrol and has created the conditions for an emergence of an anti-checkpoint movement on the political right. Meanwhile, the encroachment and regular harassment doled out by the border patrol to border communities of color, such as the Tohono O'odham Nation, have generally passed without notice in white communities.

Still, the support for the anti-migrant round ups and police apparatus is not just reflected in terms of an expansion of the number of agents and checkpoints. Support for the technological class war on migrants and immigrants at the border has been strong and has included encouragement for the deployment of cameras and all manner of other Big Brother technics and machinery -- as long as they are pointed south. Such demands have even included the imposition of government controls and bureaucratic approval in order to work legally in the state. Workers now, when applying for jobs, must run their identities through a computerized database which effectively requires state permission for employment. Despite the notoriously libertarian bent of Arizona politics all these police state policies have received broad support, with the notable exception of the freeway cameras.

Considering the Contradiction

What explains this contradiction? In Arizona, as in the rest of the US, the white working class, rather than engage in outright class war with the capitalist class, has over the course of several centuries opted for a cross-class alliance with them. In this relationship, whites receive a special package of privileges that cleaves their political allegiances from other working class people of color and transplants it onto the white ruling class.

Because of the settler nature of the American civilization, combined with its foundations on indigenous and then imported slavery, this alliance was developed in order for the white ruling class to prevent a unified front emerging against their domination of the population and exploitation of the continent's resources. As most Europeans arriving in the “New World” were poor and, often, involuntarily delivered here as a result of the expanding capitalist system of production in England and then other places, class antagonisms were a real and constant problem. In exchange for certain concrete benefits, the English and other European transported working classes in the US built on and expanded this alliance, which we now call “whiteness” or, “being white”.

These benefits are concrete but not always financial. For instance, better access to schooling and other means of social mobility, combined with reduced exposure to the negative effects of policing and to the so-called justice system, make up this package. The flip side of this deal is true as well, because while whiteness has broadened to include a wider section of those generally of European descent, this expansion is framed against others and exists at their expense. In a real way, for instance, the persistence of a police and prison apparatus that primarily targets people of color (including a Border Patrol that almost exclusively targets those perceived to be of Mexican or Central American origin) is the proof of the importance of whiteness to white people of all classes.

In the case of the anti-camera and anti-checkpoints movements, underlying them both are questions of who should and who shouldn't have the right to free movement and therefore who is deserving and undeserving of police scrutiny while doing so. The generally unstated assumption is that as a result of their loyalty to continued white capitalist domination, whites deserve free movement within the country (and not just there, to be honest: into and out of Mexico and the rest of the world, as well – especially when one considers the military as a kind of subsidized travel agency for working class whites). Within both movements, such talk generally operates within the coded framework of “citizenship”. Anti-checkpoint activists on video, for instance, can be seen emphasizing over and over their outrage at being treated like non-citizens, or demanding that their rights as citizens be respected by border patrol. How one can tell a citizen undeserving of scrutiny from an “illegal” foreigner that warrants policing is rarely articulated specifically except on the fringes. Still the relationships are clear. As one border agent recently told me at a checkpoint: “I just need to see everybody's faces.”

This article is an attempt to look at both movements and to evaluate them in terms of their potentiality for liberatory outcomes. I consider what I believe to be their inherent weaknesses and the reasons for them. Likewise, I suggest some alternatives that I think would create the opportunities that I think would otherwise be lost due to the inherent limitations of the actors and arguments being put forward.

The Story So Far

When Thomas Patrick Destories drove his truck along side a DPS photo radar van on the night of April 19th and opened fire, killing 51 year-old Doug Georgianni, the Redflex technician inside, it was a violent culmination to what had been before that many months of creative civil disobedience and direct action by angry residents against the much-hated spy lenses. Previous attacks had ranged from covering cameras with sticky notes and silly string to attacking them with pickaxes, rocks and sledgehammers. And last Christmas Valley drivers received an early present from a jolly band of militants disguised as Santas, who adorned several Tempe cameras with gaily wrapped gifts and festive fabric, disabling them for hours. Just a little over a week after the Santa action, Department of Public Safety Director Roger Vanderpool ordered the threshold for triggering the cameras raised by one mile per hour to 11 miles over the limit.

Sticky notes on a speed camera.

The post-it notes were an inside joke that referenced an exchange between current Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (then secretary of state) and a Redflex employee who dismissed a state investigation with a curt response delivered via sticky note. The Santas, who posted a video of their antics to YouTube, became a viral sensation, dominating local television and radio coverage for several days, racking up well over two hundred thousand views and more than a thousand comments on YouTube alone.

Up until the killing of Georgianni the public was solidly behind the anti-camera insurgency, filling up web forums with supportive comments and openly offering sympathetic statements to local news, something quite unusual for the law and order city that regularly backs the infamous anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe “Toughest Sheriff in America” Arpaio year after year. Even local media seemed at times gleefully supportive, recognizing the broad hatred for the cameras. “When a man swung a pickax at the metal housing of a freeway speed camera, the clang resonated with untold numbers of Arizona drivers frustrated with the 3-month-old program,” reported the Arizona Republic following the axing (a position they would reverse after the April murder).

Given the nature of the Santas' actions, local Tempe law enforcement weren't even sure a crime had been committed and initially reported not to be pursuing an investigation. A poll conducted by a local news channel showed a super-majority opposed to criminal charges and over 40 percent saying they ought to “get an award.” The light-hearted tone coming out of Tempe PD soon changed after pressure from Redflex, the company responsible for the roadside cameras, but no one was ever apprehended in the case. Likewise, the first pickaxe attack, for which Glendale resident Travis Munroe Townsend was arrested and which later spawned a copycat attack, resulted in only probation and fine, much reduced from the originally threatened three years in prison and $150,000 dollar penalty. Posters on message boards praised Townsend as a true American patriot taking on despotism and the pilfering corporate state behemoth.

The Position of the Politicos

Indeed, there was no unanimity amongst prosecutors, officers or police associations when it came to the cameras. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas at one point famously challenged the tickets issued by the unmanned cameras while Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu received rave reviews from many anti-camera activists for canceling the Redflex contract in that county. One poster, “IloveBush” on the Arizona Republic's webpage wrote, “Makes me proud to live in Pinal county...FINALLY!!! 8)” That comment was followed by exhortations from other readers for Maricopa Sheriff Arpaio to follow Babeu's lead which, on November 14th, he finally did by signing CameraFRAUD's petition. A photo of the much-hated Arpaio posing with anti-camera activists while making his mark appeared on CameraFRAUD's blog under the enthusiastic title, "Sheriff Joe signs!"

Sheriff Joe Arpaio signs CameraFRAUD's petition.

Justifying his move, Babeu said, “There was only a $12,000 increase in revenue after paying for the salaries associated with photo radar and our accidents actually increased by 16%. So not only did it not have an impact of traffic safety, it almost cost us money." Message boards again filled with encouragement. Even Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Mark Spencer spoke out against them for a variety of reasons, perhaps recognizing the threat that the automation of police work meant for his rank and file.

At the state level, however, despite some fissures in the legislature, there is stalwart defense of the cameras. Having initially claimed that the Big Brother deployment on state highways and roads had everything to do with safety and nothing to do with revenue, the government quickly did an about face just a year later, pleading poverty and defending the program almost purely on the grounds of revenue generation. Said then-Governor Janet Napolitano, "It wasn't designated primarily for revenue generation but since we have it (and) it works, we want to move statewide." Such statements were greeted skeptically by Arizona drivers, to say the least, but they served to reinforce the perceptions of libertarians that the cameras were primarily a pick-pocketing operation for the state.

The Composition of the Anti-Speed Camera Resistance

The main forces in organized Arizona anti-camera activism are CameraFRAUD and 4409. Both have their origins in Arizona libertarianism and the Ron Paul presidential campaign. CameraFRAUD was founded by D.T. Arneson and 4409 is run by a local activist named Jason Shelton. The two work together and there is much overlap between them. Indeed, Shelton was recently arrested on charges unrelated to his activism and police knew where to grab him – at a CameraFRAUD protest. As such, they adhere to the general tenets of American libertarianism, including an affinity for small government for the most part and a romantic vision of patriotic anti-corporate capitalism. There is much overlap between the two in terms of support and philosophy.

In the same vein, libertarianism in Arizona has a particular white, often xenophobic character that is reactionary when it comes to race. In many ways, then, this libertarianism is primarily concerned with the rights of white people. This, it turns out, is the key to understanding the true nature of CameraFRAUD's argument against the cameras.

So, looking at the analysis being made by CameraFRAUD, we see these tendencies play out. For them, the cameras are first and foremost money-making scams foisted on the citizenry by a corrupt corporate/state bureaucracy aiming to subvert American sovereignty (Redflex is an Australian corporation), to spy on its citizenry, to deny due process and to fatten the wallets of its cronies.

Good things about the organized anti-camera movement

The organized anti-camera movement has shown some creativity that deserves to be recognized. One recent Camera Fraud action involved a “flash mob” of sorts in which supporters on separate occasions rolled up on two parked camera vans, one owned by Redflex and one owned by American Traffic Solutions. Displaying signs denouncing the cameras they warned passing motorists.

Of course, unless the cameras inside the van were actually obstructed, the action itself does nothing that the companies themselves don't do, since both Redflex and ATS place warning signs several hundred yards down the street that put drivers on notice of the oncoming speed trap. Indeed, the weakness of this tactic was perhaps inadvertently pointed out on the CameraFRAUD website by an anti-camera protester present at the action: “CameraFRAUD demonstration signs reduced traffic speeds up to 50%, thereby causing the van driver to soon leave due to an unprofitable location… Perhaps the City of Mesa should contract with us instead.” This parallel with the agenda behind policing is a point I will return to later.

CameraFRAUD demonstrating over a freeway overpass.

Other actions have included regular freeway overpass protests in which signs and banners have been displayed for passing motorists. Such actions serve to get the word out and to bring organized resistance out into the open. The DPS has shown some frustration with such protests from time to time, but in general they pose no threat beyond establishing a visual presence for dissent. The protests do seem popular, however, eliciting honks of support from passing motorists.

Likewise, the movement has reached out into venues that, in particular, anarchists are generally deficient at engaging. Car shows, gun shows and rodeos all appeared on a recent calendar of events on the CameraFRAUD website. Likewise, CameraFRAUD has done a pretty good job of getting its voice out in the media. As the only organized resistance, the media generally goes to them for comment when cameras are attacked. This puts them in a position of mediator between militants and the broader political/media establishment.

Good things about the un-organized, clandestine anti-camera movement

The unorganized, essentially clandestine direct action section of the movement has engaged in all kinds of creative actions. They have not engaged in bargaining with politicians and therefore have maintained an extreme wing of the movement that essentially takes an immediatist, insurrectionist position. Each sticky note and pickaxe attack is a reminder to the political establishment that supports the cameras, both for purposes of revenue, profit and control, of the seething anger and tendency towards militant action against perceived oppression.

Likewise, the attacks serve as a dare to the organized and less radical movement above ground. While CameraFRAUD collects signatures for their ballot initiative, there is always, lurking in the background, the threat of a much less mediated all out assault on them. These actions point the way towards an alternative to politicking. Right now the two are not necessarily in open opposition, but one can easily see a situation where CameraFRAUD, having made alliances with politicos and cops in order to achieve its limited objectives, could be forced to denounce other, more radical actions against the “scameras” in exchange for political legitimacy.

Given their inherently conservative nature, those who defend the cameras will use the emergence of radical or even inappropriate tactics to smear the whole movement and create divisions, even when those actions are justified by the political circumstances. The seeds of such conflict are planted, and we have already seen the chants of righteous indignation from the political elite after the murder of Georgianni. Speaking to the Arizona Republic about the fallout from the murder in an article entitled, “Slaying fuels debate over speed cameras in Arizona”, DPS spokesman Lt. James Warriner said, “Because of (critics’) vocalness, you could almost say they’ve led to this, too — because of their protests, the encouragement of people to strike out.

The Arizona Republic editorial page lashed out April 21st in a vicious piece following the murder, claiming in bold letters that the “Murder counter[ed] any humor found in camera fight” up to that point. Barely concealing their political agenda in opportunistic black mourning clothes they lectured the city that the fun and games were officially over. The editorial board manufactured a direct relationship (even a false time line) from the pickaxe to the Santas to the murder which, according to them, meant all resistance to the cameras ought to stop immediately. Still, some in the broader population supported the killing.

To their credit, although they did offer a statement of condolence, CameraFRAUD resisted the immediate temptation to accept the ruling class revisionism that attempted to use the murder to discredit other organizers, militants or supporters. In the same article, CameraFRAUD member Shawn Dow said, "They're putting these people in marked police vehicles that are civilians that have no training, no way to defend themselves. We should have trained police officers - cops, not cameras."

This question of police versus cameras is one I will return to in the next section.

Problems with the arguments of the organized resistance

Currently, CameraFRAUD is primarily focusing on pushing a ballot initiative to ban the quasi-police cameras (a gray area that will soon vanish as the cameras are increasingly linked with various real time police databases) from state roads. But make no mistake, CameraFRAUD is not anti-police, and not even anti-police state, despite their professed love for liberty. Speaking to Channel 15 News in Phoenix, group founder D.T. Arneson said, "Basically, what we're saying is that we want more cops not cameras."

Though this may seem a bit surprising, in fact this jibes quite well with the group's praise for Sheriff Babeu and points to an important contradiction in CameraFRAUD's philosophy that, we will see, can only be resolved by recognizing the underlying white supremacist nature of their orientation.

Following Babeu's triumph over the cameras, the Arizona Republic reported his plan for replacing them:

Babeu thinks that putting more deputies on patrol offers the best way to improve safety, instead of relying on cameras that "can't catch drunk drivers" or stop motorists involved in illegal or dangerous activities.

The sheriff has increased his traffic-enforcement unit from two to four deputies, and a fifth will join the team soon. Babeu said the changes were made at no county cost as part of a departmentwide reorganization.

Babeu estimated that the volume of citations issued annually by the Sheriff's Office would increase sharply as a result of having more deputies on the streets. He said the five-member team alone could generate 10,400 to 20,800 citations a year.

Did the libertarian and constitutionalist lovers of liberty object to this blatant connection between their organizing and the expansion of the police state. Not at all. Instead, perhaps as reward for his stalwart defense of liberty, CameraFRAUD gave Babeu the honor of being the first to sign their petition at the press conference announcing the initiative.

Sheriff Babeu signs the CameraFRAUD petition.

Some victory! Certainly not for the people of Pinal County who now suffer both the prying eyes and harassment from more police. And, judging it by purely libertarian principles, it's hard to see how this expansion of the human police state could be a victory in the eyes of CameraFRAUD either. Except, when we look at it this way, we see a startling parallel to the interests of police agencies in general that is quite confusing for those who claim to be defenders of liberty. What is it about CameraFRAUD's politics that make them incapable of seeing the cameras and the police as two facets of the same apparatus of oppression? Why the perceived need to support more police in exchange for reduced cameras? This is a problem we will seek to resolve.

Notorious anti-immigrant lawmaker Russell Pearce speaks at the CameraFRAUD press conference.

Towards that end, it's important to note that also on hand at that press conference was notorious racist and anti-immigrant lawmaker, state Rep. Russell Pearce, author of much of the anti-immigration legislation in Arizona. Pearce received what amounted to a ringing endorsement in a video hosted on 4409's YouTube page, complete with emotional piano background music. The 4409 write up accompanying Pearce's speech links to Pearce's page and describes him in near-glowing terms:

I've never endorsed anyone besides Ron Paul but I have to say I do respect this man because he takes the time to show up to the legislative District 18 meetings wanting to hear from the people... You will have to decide this election but I think it's a no brainer. Choose the man that shows up to hear you voice your opinion.”

And it's here with this ringing endorsement of a racist, anti-immigrant fear-monger and extremist that we start to get a glimpse of what is truly the unifying, although unstated, common thread underlying Camera FRAUD's analysis: white supremacy and white privilege. This is a pathology common to Arizona libertarianism in general. After all, what else explains a supposedly libertarian movement's support for a a man who supports border cameras as well as powers for local law cops to enforce immigration laws. In essence, it's an endorsement of a two-tiered police state.

Problems with the unorganized anti-camera movement

The unorganized movement that opposes the cameras is harder to nail down, but we see all the tendencies that are prevalent in the organized movement, but even more so. People posting to message boards and comment threads on media articles regularly rely on the language of citizenship and patriotism to describe those that take action against the cameras. Likewise, the argument generally takes place on terms familiar to the organized movement, focusing on the injustice of the tickets or the greed of the state government or the companies contracted to operate the cameras. But quite often, the discussion veers into racist territory. I think this is deserving of special attention.

Looking at the discussion that the Santas action provoked is particularly telling because they were the only group to express a critique of the cameras that went beyond the Big Brother rhetoric espoused by the organized movement. At the end of their video a statement linking the cameras at the border to the cameras on the freeways demanded free movement for all people. As local journalist Stephen Lemons pointed out in a blog entry about the Santa's action:

"Ho Ho Ho! Death to the surveillance state!" declares the video, which just went up today. "Free movement for all people!"

I think this may be the first time I've seen the Orwellian Redflex cameras linked to the border wall. It's a good point, as both are part of the militarization and creeping authoritarianism in our society. The video is even more explicit when it states that Santa will be giving, "Lumps of coal to all those who make it their business to watch and control. From the border wall to the freeway and redlight cameras."

This is, in fact, the classic libertarian point of view, and it is certainly one I can endorse. I hope there are more satirical acts of nonviolent resistance planned. Neither property nor persons are harmed in such actions. After all, if the contracted process servers for these Redflex tickets are dressing as UPS delivery guys, as has happened in at least one case that I know of, folks should be able to fight back against our Redflex oppressors wearing Santa outfits.

But while Lemons supported the action, the response on the message board was more conflicted. One commenter with the obviously Nazi handle, Smirk88, wrote:

All you pro immigration wetbacks can kiss my dick. This country is fucked up because of who we let in here, not who we keep out.

That said, I hate this 1984 shit and good for the Santas! Best xmas gift this country could ever get.

Obviously the Santas linking of the cameras and the border controls hit a chord, revealing the conflicted nature of the argument against cameras being made in many quarters. On the YouTube discussion thread, another viewer wrote, “arrest the beaners. they have no right to be here. keep the cameras on the borders, NOT in every other place inland. case closed.”

Likewise, when the Arizona Republic published an article in late August of this year discussing a reduction in crashes, several posters were quick to dismiss any link to the cameras and instead agreed with one commenter who suggested that “Less ILLEGALS maybe?” was the true cause of the reduction in accidents. Other comments were more blunt in their attacks on migrants, making clear their belief that free movement is something that ought to adhere only to “citizens”.

The White Lie Behind the Anti-Camera Movement

To get at the heart of this, let's take, for instance, a study done a few years ago by the University of Cincinnati regarding DPS and racial profiling in Arizona. The researchers found, among other things, that non-whites were searched when stopped two and a half times more frequently than whites, that they were treated more harshly when detained and that they were held for longer periods of time. This despite the fact that whites were as likely and sometimes much more likely than other groups to have contraband with them. Indeed, and perhaps an important point for Russell Pearce to take note of, undocumented migrants were found to be five times less likely to have illegal materials with them than whites!

And here we get into what would appear to be a major contradiction -- if we weren't beginning to understand the white supremacy that underlies CameraFRAUD's argument against the cameras. Looking at these statistics, it appears that perhaps a person of color traveling state roads would actually be safer from police harassment with cameras rather than the actual police that CameraFRAUD would replace them with. After all, no one traveling under the set limit gets photographed, while merely being black or brown regularly attracts the attention of DPS officers. And yet CameraFRAUD maintains its call for increased cops, which even if we are to assume that they would do their job without racial bias would mean a massive increase in the power of the Big Brother state.

How does this add up, then? Being generally composed of white people, the libertarian movement, of which CameraFRAUD is a part, is totally blind to the racial profiling that comes with increased policing. To the members of CameraFRAUD, the cameras target law-abiding whites unjustly, violating one of the fundamental tenets of what W.E.B. DuBois called the “wages of whiteness”, in this case less exposure to policing. That whites receive these benefits is obviously true to anyone who has studied racial disparities in incarceration, not to mention the disproportionate figures noted above with regard to DPS.

If anyone wondered why CameraFRAUD has the will to call for the abolition of photo radar but not the imagination to call for reductions in police – or at least to refrain from calling for more of them – this is the answer. The activists of CameraFRAUD view their travel as legitimate and, what's more important, they rightly recognize (although don't articulate) that, due to their white privilege, they would naturally be disproportionately immune from the effects of increased numbers of cops – even cops writing tickets. Underlying this is the concomitant assumption that travel by people of color is illegitimate, or at least worthy of suspicion.

This is a common theme in American history. In slavery days a black person, free or not, was a suspect merely for traveling. And this was true in the so-called Free North as well as in the South. A white man had the right to demand travel papers or proof of citizenship from any Black person he encountered. What's more, he was expected to participate in the slave patrols that terrorized escaped slaves that headed north towards the relatively greater freedom of the capitalist North. Further, we know that the promise of Manifest Destiny (which applied to Mexican Arizona, AKA Northern Sonora, it should be remembered) had at its heart both the freedom of whites to migrate west as well as the expectation that local police and military would provide protection from local hostiles.

Knowing this, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised to see CameraFRAUD's arguments suffer from the unconscious linkage between race and movement. Aside from the obvious problem with the the racial connotations of the argument, the strategy sabotages its own supposed libertarian ethic because it inherently leads back to increased policing. As such, the argument is a circular one that not only never breaks with the dominant racial dialog, but also reinforces the overall logic of the police state. No argument that CameraFRAUD makes undermines the greater political designs of the police state or the capitalist and bureaucratic elites that hope to use it to suppress and exploit the population, which would be the true aim of any dedicated libertarian. Quite the opposite in fact. They provide a pathway for the recuperation of the movement back into the police apparatus.

In essence, their failure to address the underlying racist nature of their argument makes them incapable of creating a vision of a broader human liberty. Instead, they settle for a limited, white liberty that is inherently reactionary. To be clear: if you make an argument against the cameras that, whatever their flaws, at least offer a relatively egalitarian form of oppression, merely to replace them with a more specific oppression, namely policing on the streets and at the border (from which you expect to be exempted), then you are not a movement truly struggling for liberty at all. You are defending a reactionary policy.

What's more, because this argument further empowers those reactionary forces that seek to reinforce the cross-class alliance between whites, it weakens any movement that would hope to challenge the dominant order. Rectifying this would at a minimum require dropping the call for more police.

Free Movement for White People

In order to get a better picture of why the anti-camera movement, as it is now oriented, is a movement for the defense of white people's special rights of travel at the expense of the freedom of movement of others, we need to consider CameraFRAUD partner 4409's recent opposition to the border checkpoints. Spearheaded in this case by a pastor of a local hyper-conservative, essentially reactionary church, members of the two groups have lately been confronting border checkpoints.

Steven Anderson, pastor at Tempe's Faithful Word Baptist Church, has been the lead organizer of a series of ad hoc protests and aggressive actions at internal Border Patrol checkpoints. One confrontation resulted in his violent arrest, leaving him with eleven stitches. Speaking to the Arizona Republic on April 17, 2009, Anderson said, “I have the right to travel in this country without being stopped and searched and grilled and interrogated.” As we have seen, this is a common position within the libertarian/constitutionalist milieu.

Pastor Steven Anderson confronting Border Patrol at an anti-checkpoint protest.

Anderson regularly posts his videos to YouTube and it's worth considering some of the things being said in them by participants, including himself. As one video opens, we hear Anderson lead activists in a prayer: “Father, thanks for letting us be born in the US.” In another, a woman rants against the Border Patrol, saying, “I think these guys need to go back to school and look at their compasses and figure out that the border is 50 miles south.”

This demand for increased enforcement at the border is common. Indeed, when interviewed about the anti-border checkpoint actions for a local public access show, CameraFRAUD regular Jason Shelton questioned the true intent of the stops. “Is it really about catching illegals? No. Really it's about conditioning the American people to accept this kind of invasion of their privacy.” Continuing, he advised the Border Patrol to “[g]o catch real illegals down at the actual border.”

I don't want to belabor a point here, just point out the congruence between the arguments being made by the two movements, which I think is particularly important given their overlapping and mutually complementary compositions. This, of course, is no coincidence.

In July public discontent with the checkpoints in southern Arizona exploded in several surrounding towns. Complaining of harassment, the ACLU called a series of community meetings to air public grievances. They got quite heated with two arguments emerging, one all-supportive of the Border Patrol and another seeking to dismantle the checkpoints and replace them with increased policing at the border itself. Phoenix Class War Council (PCWC) and our comrades in O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective (OSABC) made a trip down to check one out. Writing on their blog, OSABC described the scene:

This small retirement community was now experiencing the reality of "securing" the border and the end result of the Border Patrol enforcement (harassment). A reality that we as O'odham are all so familiar with and go through on our travels on the Tohono O'odham reservation. Of course, we knew our voice, the O'odham Voice, the Indigenous Voice was going to be overlooked. So we decided to engage the overall "white" crowd. Presenting how we, young O'odham, see the Border debate through a completely different scope. That we see it through the scope of the continuation, of the colonization of our traditional lands, by "foreign" and otherwise "alien" peoples not from this area of the world. Who never consulted the original peoples of this land, the Akimel O'odham and Tohono O'odham, with "their" borders? We shared our history with all the " U.S. " citizens in attendance, and dared to engage their concept of what the borders means to them.

The ACLU presented an overview of authority that Border Agents possessed, much to the audience's dislike. Being that the Border Patrol is entrusted with such power in the name of securing the state. These people were caught in the dilemma of their "own" vision of what America's southern border should look like: a militarized zone, blocking an "inferior, diseased-infested, criminal invasion" (we have heard all of these insulting descriptions of immigrants uttered by anti-immigrants over the years) of their beloved "homeland"; A dilemma which shook their everyday way of life with the elevated enforcement at the I-19 checkpoint between Tucson and Nogales. Leaving them to ask the question, "WHY"? "Why am I subject to the routine stops, out of line questioning and searches too?" "I'm an American citizen!" "I'm a tax payer!"

Here we see the logic of the white anti-checkpoint movement, limited as it is, turned back not only on itself but also on others, just like as we have seen with the organized right wing anti-camera movement. Failing to comprehend that their argument feeds back into the very oppressive system they claim to oppose, they wind up defending their white privileges, sometimes through coded language and sometimes through vigilante patrols. Demanding free movement for whites while opposing it for others has led them into a feedback loop.

Border Patrol surveillance towers on Tohono O'odham land.

Interestingly, it is OSABC's argument that breaks the cycle, specifically because it is impossible for the anti-checkpoint militants, regardless of their opinions of so-called illegal immigrants, to deny the legitimate right of native peoples whose lands and relations were split by the border to cross freely. Indigenous peoples' demand for free movement necessarily subverts the white argument of both border controls and internal checkpoints. Their land is divided and their people must travel freely in order to maintain their ways of living. Further, their presence in Arizona obviously predates any white 'nativist'. In Green Valley, this analysis successfully split the audience and opened a new dialog on the free movement that went beyond the limited debate about freedom for whites to travel. In essence, the free movement argument reframed the debate in a new way. This is an example worth learning from and echoes the approach to the cameras taken by the Santas with regard to the cameras. A third argument is emerging in both debates that has much potential.

Free Movement in the Southwest

Movement in the Southwest in modern times has always related directly to white supremacy, the flows of Capital and war. In his book, “Minorities in Phoenix”, Bradford Luckingham cites a newspaper report from 1888 which describes a situation that rings eerily familiar throughout Arizona history.

Forty-Six Mexicans with their families arrived in Phoenix this morning from Altar, Sonora. The whole company counting men, women and children numbered over one hundred, and all came on foot, “packing” their luggage themselves. There was not a horse, mule or burro in the outfit. They are loud in their complaints against the Sonoran government, where they say it is impossible for poor people to make a decent living on account of the impositions of the rich.

Despite the political and economic repression in Mexico, up until the US government began seriously restricting legal Mexican border crossings in 1968, the vast majority of Mexicans who came to Arizona after it became a US territory did so temporarily, generally returning to Mexico.

This mirrored a trend amongst European immigrants to the US as a whole. As noted in his book “Round Trip America”, Mark Wyman points out the temporary nature of a large portion of even European immigration to the US. Immigrants from Europe often found social and political conditions inhospitable in the “land of bosses and clocks,” as they called it. Here in the Southwest, as with the immigration from Europe, economic reasons drove the movements of Mexican migrants. And, paralleling the resistance many European immigrants received from reactionary Anglos on the East Coast, the pressure of regular popular attacks from white nativists, who increasingly settled in Arizona with the spread of the railroads, put pressure, often violently, on migrants. Periodic expulsions, sometimes backed by wealthy whites interested in expropriating Mexicans that owned land made life difficult to say the least.

Whites frequently joined vigilante organizations that attacked poor Mexican farmers and workers, and they were joined in their efforts by police organizations like the Arizona Rangers. While working class whites felt entitled to the many thousand-mile move across the continent in search of work and land, the only movement that many were willing to grant Mexicans was one way. Starting during WWI whites began clamoring for an increasingly militarized border. For some time this has brought the working and middle class sections, more subject to the disciplining effects that capitalist-driven migration can have on wages, into conflict with the rich landowners, miners and industrialists who have benefited primarily from the cheap labor.

The railroads also brought other folks to Arizona, including Blacks escaping from the Jim Crow South. While Arizona was a segregated state, it was seen as an improvement on the neo-serfdom of the post-Civil War South. Likewise, the work on the railroads drew Chinese to the region who set up Chinatowns throughout Arizona cities, notably Phoenix. The experience of these people was similar to that of Mexicans in that their existence was tenuous and generally subject to the two-fold demand from the rich whites for their exploitation and then from other whites that acted in defense of their growing white privileges in the Apartheid Arizona political system. Unlike Mexicans, however, Chinese were far from home. The nearness of Mexico offered Mexicans able to travel a sort of temporary sanctuary from the daily white domination.

Further, European encroachment displaced many indigenous peoples native to the area. To defend their settler encroachments on native lands, whites demanded the militarization of the state, calling for the deployment of the military. Likewise the railroads demanded protection from indigenous resistance, leading most remarkably, as previously noted, to the American attack on Mexico which resulted in the transfer of the southern part of Arizona specifically for rail lines that would deliver labor to the West and raw materials to the East. Interestingly, this final transfer of land between empires had the further effect of dividing the land of the Tohono O'odham, who to this day face increasing restrictions on their traditional ways of life thanks to this arbitrary division.

Indeed, it is precisely the mobile nature of American whites that has obscured a fundamental fact about Arizona. Even setting aside the obvious pre-Colonial history, Arizona has only relatively recently become a white state in terms of population. While the dominant white American elite was quick to set up a racialized system here in Arizona, census numbers show that in terms of numbers this is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Said another way, what is it about a white American that thinks they ought to have free reign of the continent, to move from the Northeast to Arizona, and yet at the same time someone from Sonora, who can trace their lineage to the region back generations, ought to stay right where they are? Many whites will answer that “citizenship” and “sovereignty” are the defining factors. I think what we have seen here is that it's far more complicated than that. White migrations to Arizona have never stopped. From pre-Territorial days to now, whites have exercised one of the fundamental tenets of whiteness: freedom of movement. And they have necessarily sought to deny or limit this freedom for others.


Kudos to Camera Fraud and 4409 for going after the cameras, but as we have seen, merely going after the cameras without taking a position against the proliferation of police forces in general leads to increased oppression for others, particularly people of color and poor, who are necessarily the main targets of police power. In essence, then, stopping the cameras in this context becomes an exercise in “oppression shifting,” in which the desire is to shift the Big Brother state off white people (termed “infringement”) and onto others who supposedly deserve it.

Towards confronting this, it is a positive development to see white people going after the border checkpoints because these are not only the location of a general attack on freedom of movement, but dismantling them would also go a long way towards making free movement across borders possible for everyone. This would obviously reduce the State's attack on migrants.

However, as we have seen, if the argument is merely to take down the checkpoints because “citizen's rights” (a code word for white rights) are being infringed, and therefore that they ought to be replaced with increased controls at the borders (one way, controls, it should be pointed out), the argument not only returns to one that reinforces white privilege, but it winds up making the border patrol's own point with regard to beefing up its budget and expanding its power. And this, therefore only leads to more checkpoints and infringements in the end (that's how we got here in the first place). A test of the this position could come with the checkpoint movement's reaction to the demands of native peoples, whose land crosses the border and are similarly under assault by the Border Patrol and their checkpoints.

Because of this, it's my contention that in order for the movement against cameras and checkpoints to be consistent, and to avoid the pitfall of reinforcing a white supremacist position (that of free movement for whites only), it must demand total free movement for all and orient itself appropriately against increased police on the street and increased border patrol at the border (and everywhere else).

After all, if the demand being made is for travelers not to have to provide documents to the border guards at checkpoints – and the same argument goes for the cameras vis a vis increasing police on the roads -- then this must necessarily mean a return to relying on profiling. This is clearly no victory for freedom, even if it reduces the “infringements” on white people. The only way to avoid this is to oppose police power specifically and to demand free movement generally.

In essence, the infringement that white travelers are feeling is in reality a blow back from their support over the last few years in particular for a broad increase in powers for the border patrol. And enthusiasm for this increase, like the support for replacing cameras with more police, is a reflection of the movement's belief that it can somehow be exempted from this heightened scrutiny. And that belief stems from its desire to maintain its white privilege.

In the end, then, the exasperation and anger of the anti-camera and anti-checkpoint movement is a frustration at the violation of its white privilege. Since this privilege can only be an exclusive privilege, it has no relation to freedom. It is its opposite. Combating this means fighting white privilege, and that means building a movement for free movement for all people on the streets and between nations.