Saturday, February 6, 2010
Last Sunday was our biggest Beer & Revolution yet. Somewhere around seventy people or so managed to come out, pack themselves into the upstairs at Boulders on Broadway and listen to Eugene's John Zerzan and Tucson's Dan Todd speak on primitivism and the many problems with anarchist practice and presentation in the era of mass society. I'd like to thank John for coming up and delivering the goods, and for being, as expected, such an uncompromising, provocative speaker. I'd also like to thank Dan for both making the night possible, but also for being a supportive comrade and presenting such an interesting talk. We'll have our audio up soon (along with, hopefully, the audio from last November's B&R with Crudo from Modesto Anarcho) so others can appreciate the insightful comments and questions that, as usual, came from B&R's thoughtful anarcho-population.
In a way, it was a great climax to what has been a little more than a year of organizing under the Phoenix Class War Council banner. Has it been only a year?! Many people expressed to me their excitement at the event and the sense that, after the stress of the last few weeks, something like this was needed. I find myself in that same camp. Sunday was a good time and a great success and it was wonderful to look around the room and see so many comrades, both old and new -- people I've shared the pen with, people I've taken the streets with, people I've handed out flyers with, people I've faced down the cops with, people I've traveled with, people I've talked with, people I've read books with and people I've tasted pepper spray with.
In that year or so I've become excited about Phoenix anarchy again and it feels good, especially after at least a couple of years of serious doubts. Indeed, in a lot of ways PCWC was and is an ultimatum: it was this or throw in the towel and become a survivalist. Over the years, seeing so many of the movements and groups we put so much energy into defeated, marginalized or, most frequently, co-opted, was depressing to say the least. But it did light a fire in me to think about how things could have been different. It seems I wasn't the only one.
I didn't want to go down without a fight, but it did seem like we had done a lot of fighting over the years to little affect. When PCWC formed, we vowed that we were going to try new things and, most of all, exciting things. We were going to think hard about how to frame what we wanted to say, to ditch our residual leftism and to think about who we were talking to, and to try to interact in new ways and with movements we previously would have written off or, perhaps, even opposed. We weren't going to be cowed by calls to leftist unity or by reactionary anti-right oppositionalism. In short, we were going to build an anarchy that took Arizona's particular political and historical situation seriously. We weren't going to pretend this was either California, New York or, for fuck's sake, Europe. After all, Phoenix is O'odham land. Our politics should reflect that. So we set ourselves to study. Props, among others to our comrades in O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective and, also, to the deceased Bradford Luckingham, for helping us get a better sense of that.
And we were going to come out of the closet, so to speak, and to embrace the awkwardness of our politics. No more excuses. No more would we apologize for our Luddism: technology is class war. Neither would we hide our race traitor politics: white supremacy is the glue that holds American capitalism together. We would oppose the cadres and mass organization-builders. We wouldn't disguise our contempt for the Left: we have no use for their recuperations and professional activism. We would continue to emphasize that there are no objective economic conditions for revolution: we can burn this down whenever we want (and don't we try a little bit every day?). We wouldn't shirk from our determination to drive a stake into the shriveled heart of this vampire capitalism but we would stick to our conviction that the most likely way to topple the capitalist dictatorship was by attacking the contradiction of white supremacy. Still, we wouldn't be dogmatic about where that struggle would be -- it could just as well be at the border as in the streets. We were going to think hard about how we engaged our enemies and perhaps re-evaluate who we considered our friends. We'd listen hard for sounds of movement we might have otherwise missed. As a political minority, we were going to look for arguments that would have the power to remake movements and to open opportunities for struggle that were libertarian. We were going to look for the weak points in the armor of our opponents. And we weren't going to compromise. The middle ground is the graveyard of movements.
We would take those ideas that were useful, wherever they were, and we would make them coherent and consistent because, after all, they were to us, regardless of whether they were to anyone else. We would show how they were all class war to us. We'd acknowledge a history of anarchist struggle that went back both a hundred thousand years and at the same time to all the dates that the Euro-oriented anarchists celebrate. We'd recognize Ukraine, Spain, Hungary, Czechoslovakia. 1917, 1936, 1956, 1968. Et cetera. We'd dutifully mourn on the correct anniversaries. But we'd also defer to a thousand years of Indigenous living and struggle in the Southwest "U.S." And word up to Chiapas, Argentina and Chile while we're at it. And sweet Greece, our lover still. At the same time, we'd remember Nat Turner, the LA riots, the Underground Railroad, Bleeding Kansas and the San Patricio Brigade. These would not be contradictions to us.
Most importantly, perhaps, we were going to try and show how anarchy can win. How we can avoid boredom and accomplish goals. And we wanted to celebrate a culture of success and reject routine. We want to read, think and attempt. Then do it again. Try something we haven't and see what happens. Push on a contradiction and see how things re-order themselves. Have our hands in a few different pots to see which one seems fruitful.
Considering all that, I can unequivocally say that we have accomplished these goals, and that I am so happy to see so many others in town share both this same spirit and desire. If this year has convinced me of anything, it's that a small group of people, thinking carefully and creatively, can have a huge impact. And that when you might think you're just a small group, it will quickly turn out that you are far from alone. I have learned again that I can inspire and be inspired. That my own conditions can drive me and that the conditions of others can as well. And that both can come together to build solidarity, struggle and, I hope, revolution. I feel lucky to have this kind of movement in Phoenix. This is the spirit that propels me into PCWC's second year.
In the last year we took the streets more than once. We faced down the cops. We revealed the contradictions in a movement that, wrongly, gives one racist police agency a pass even while, rightly, attacking another. We took over the lobby at the Arpaio talk at ASU (while our comrades sang him off the stage) and showed that we can take and hold space. We had articles published in both the right wing Libertarian press and the pro-migrant press -- at the same time! We faced down Nazis in the Inglourious Basterds Bloc and proved that we can stand our ground, even when the liberals run and hide or, even, denounce us. Their arrows bounce off us. We captured the imagination of the press more than once. We challenged the colonialist attitudes of the leadership of the immigration movement. We saw more than once a glimpse of a movement that could truly throw the system into crisis -- but on our terms. And we lust for it again. We put out a newspaper and countless flyers. We saw the police state at the border and tested the limits of resistance to the fontera cops and the bloody wall they defend. We put 'anarchist' back in the google news search for Arizona more than once.
We formed the DO@ bloc, which was truly a history-making event in Arizona. We fought out of self-interest and we fought for solidarity. We did half a dozen Beer & Revolutions. We sold books, set off a First Friday insurrection and formed up the Hip Hop Bloc. We did shows for a variety of causes. We screwed up our courage and interviewed anarchist popular celebrities. We sent t-shirts that we made across the seas and saw them sported by hip hop stars at shows in our own neighborhood. We met new comrades, traveled to Europe and Mexico, and helped to build a renewed statewide anarchist community. We expanded the debate on the Border Patrol checkpoints. We intervened in the fight against the speed cameras. We gave no quarter to those who would seek to manage the struggle for freedom. We felt our power and dispelled as myth the sense of helplessness that the state, capitalism and the Spectacle seeks to impose on us from birth. We can do this. We know it. Even more now.
Still, we have some challenges ahead of us. First and foremost, we must defend our comrades arrested at the anti-Arpaio march (and to call out those who would hang them out to dry). This is a point without compromise. Beyond that, we have a tremendous burden: we must find a way in this next year to press further our initial attempts to dialogue with white people about the necessity of throwing their lot in against white supremacy and with the migrant movement, to challenge them to find connections in their own struggles to the fight of those they incorrectly perceive as alien. We have had surprising success so far. Now we must expand it.
At the same time, we must remain critical of all the forces within movements that seek to marginalize, invisibilize and control. When movements stop moving, they die, and we are tired of movements (de-)composed of grave diggers. We must push for broader arguments, the building of new connections, the expansion of the democratic space within movements and a tolerance for a diversity of tactics. Creativity is our watchword. That which hasn't been done must be done.
We have struck a heavy, if imperfect, blow with the DO@ bloc. Not everything we do will be an unqualified success -- politics is complicated, especially when we're dealing with movements, leaders, vested interests and, to top it off, groundbreaking solidarity and ideas of a kind and combination not seen in Arizona in a long time, if ever. Some will not appreciate it, most of all the media. That obvious fact doesn't get us down. We don't judge ourselves by the predictable denunciations that emanate from the dinosaur left or capitalism's lap dog media. We value much more the words of support that come from unexpected places. But the new reactionary bedfellows -- the leadership of the migrant movement and the racist county attorney Andrew Thomas, all denouncing with equal volume both our arrested comrades and the anarchist movement in general -- speaks volumes, not least about the challenge we represent to the status quo. We should think about that. Imagine the force that could drive them together!
When you're doing something new, it's not always possible to get it totally right. Still, people should not let themselves be misled about the effect of DO@; it was a tremendously complicated thing and it was history making. We accomplished all of the goals that we set out for ourselves. Now we must follow this up, ensuring that voices previously excluded are heard and, importantly, respected, and that the message of DO@ bloc gets the response it deserves. We shouldn't let the liberal left ignore the statement of the bloc by diverting everyone's attention to the quite foreseeable police violence at the march.
This year I hope to expand the impact of our ideas beyond Arizona and the Southwest. I want to get the new magazine out. I'd like Beer and Rev to have a first year anniversary. I would be into expanding PCWC. I want to put out a broadsheet and some new shirts. I wouldn't mind seeing a ten year anniversary of May Day 2000 (May Day Y2k10). I would like to engage more around sports and around the economic crisis. I'd like to be surprised by something (don't get any ideas, coppers, I meant something good!). I'd like to see the freeway expansion stopped. I'd like to see the emergence of a direct action movement around deportations and foreclosures. And I would love to see the direct action movement around the speed cameras return. I want to see anarchists in the news a couple more times. I'd like to intervene in a struggle that we haven't yet intervened in. I'd like to get a new copy machine. I'd like to do more interviews of anarchist and anti-authoritarian musicians. I'd like to put out a positive vision of what we want and where we stand. I want to break a thousand hits in a day on the web page and set a new record for us. I'd like to find new ways to deepen and spread the influence of anarchist ideas.
And, most of all, I'd like to be even more excited about Phoenix anarchy this time next year than I am right now. Cheers to my comrades, old and new. Let's press the attack! Now more than ever!