Monday, May 17, 2010

The fight continues: A reminder from the Phoenix Class War Council about the struggle in Arizona

Friends in the North American anarchist movement,

I suppose it goes without saying that things here in Arizona have been moving fast and furious since the week or so before SB1070 passed. The resistance continues to broaden. Direct actions and civil disobedience continue to spread in a state where "responsible" leaders on all sides try hard to pretend that such things are not necessary for social change. In the face of the attack, the twin "trust the politicians"/ "trust the political process" mantras that have been repeated for the last several years have become ridiculous to the point of absurdity.

The racist rift that has, for the rest of the country, burst quite impolitely out into the light of day continues to deepen and polarize. In Phoenix, violence has already broken out on at least two occasions, leaving one dead, and we're heading into what promises to be a particularly hot summer, even by Arizona standards. If nothing happens to change it, SB1070 will go into effect on July 28th, when the temperatures march towards 120 degrees. The kind of days where you sweat just sitting still. The forces of reaction, armed and ready, prepare to form up to defend the border again. The National Socialist Movement, who we successfully countered last year, have re-emerged from their holes at long last and are interviewed on television by a complacent, cowardly and pitifully uncritical media afraid to call them the Nazis that they are. Things are in flux and the struggle intensifies. It's too early to call this "Bleeding Arizona", but we do wonder: are we on the verge of an explosion?

It is in that context that we decided to put up this note to our comrades in the state and, in particular, outside it. We know that you rely on us for analysis and news about the class war here. We apologize for not updating the site as much as we have in the past. And for not directly addressing the ever-growing crisis in our backyard with the written word as much as we would like to. It may help you to know that we have begun along with some other comrades a new site to chronicle all the resistance to SB1070. You can get updates on the situation in Arizona very easily there and we add several new articles a day from a variety of sources.

But the truth is, we have been very busy intervening, fighting and organizing, and taking the time to write has not been easy (especially with the Suns in the Western Conference Finals!). Likewise, aside from the pace of struggle, a lot of what is going on cannot be written about for a variety of reasons. We hope you understand. When we get a minute to put something comprehensive together, we will. In the meantime, we hope that our past analysis has helped prepare the way for those interested in acting in solidarity or joining us in the fight.

Along with everyone else, we are running to keep up with events, which is natural in situations like these, where the people show ever increasing signs of pushing past vampiric politicians and professional managers of struggle and making a break for it. The movement leadership here in Phoenix, at least, have failed miserably in their obligation to deliver even the most modest self-defense for migrants in town, not to mention to provide a vehicle for the fight back. This most recent bill (a particularly onerous one indeed, but not the first of its kind in Arizona by any means) has revealed this bankruptcy to many. With each internal movement peace cop and every repeated, failed tactic or strategy, the defeat delivered by mainstream organizers to us all seems more and more clear, which is why more and more people are stepping outside the conventional movement organizations and taking action themselves.

It has been our contention and continues to be that the struggle in Arizona contains all the elements necessary for a social explosion. In Arizona we have reflected the segregationist, colonialist history of America (the Arizona territory was in the Confederacy, for instance, and imposed a regime of segregation after the Civil War).

In fact, there's a semi-famous story about a Nazi officer, a prisoner of war, being shipped across the country to a POW camp during World War II and who passes through Arizona on his way. Among his military police escort is a black soldier. The unit stops at a roadside diner to eat, taking a seat in the dining room. Almost everyone takes a seat there, that is. Because Arizona is a segregated state, the black MP has to eat in the kitchen, with the Mexican staff. That's Arizona in a nutshell: Nazis eat in the dining room.

Of course, there's another story about a cadre of imprisoned Nazis during the war who managed to get a map of Phoenix and to construct a rubber raft while they were held at a camp in the city. A crafty bunch, they got over the wall and to the Salt River, where they expected to float to the Colorado River, Mexico and, ultimately, to the ocean and to whatever Nazis consider freedom. Unfortunately for them, the Salt River had long ago suffered from dry weather and damming upriver. They were quickly recaptured.

So our history isn't everything -- it's also what people bring with them. While we have a racist past to be sure, we likewise have the ongoing settler expansion, which continues to this day as an internal influx of people from other parts of the US. The population of Arizona has more than doubled in the last thirty years, thrusting Phoenix practically overnight from a backwater to the fifth largest city in the nation, and gobbling up land at a rate that quickly gave our city a geographical area larger than LA, bumping uncomfortably up against the two O'odham reservations that sit to the south and east of the Valley.

While many people in states outside Arizona bemoan the backward nature of Arizona politics, it's important to note that given this flood of people from other parts of the US, Arizona's politics are not really just "Arizona's politics". They are the politics of the rest of the country, magnified -- smashed together in collapsing now but once overpriced suburbs and set on fire by long commutes to work in the company of hot-headed right wing radio jocks.

In Arizona, white people who have moved two thousand miles in just the last few years to set up their suburban homestead or to secure their cheap retirement denounce the movement of people who may have only traveled a few hundred miles, or who may have migrated back and forth for generations. Or, it's true, who may have been deported during one of the previous economic crashes, dispossessed of their labor and their meager earnings and deposited across la linea when they became inconvenient to the demands of Capital, just like the Wobblies from Bisbee in an earlier era, the largest part of whom were Mexican.

Perhaps people who move here can be forgiven for not knowing the history of Arizona, but did they not at least look at a map before they piled their possessions in a U-Haul and headed West? That funny shaped thing to our South is Mexico! And Phoenix is in the "Sonoran Desert", a name it shares with the Mexican state of Sonora that borders us. The Sonoran Desert also contains the O'odham pilgrimage site of Magdelena. The rising border fences and military deployments that so many new Arizonans request will impede or even make impossible this yearly voyage. Likewise the demands for papers cannot be met by many traditional people, born outside cities and unable to acquire documents acceptable to law enforcement and border authorities. Sometimes the obvious ain't so obvious to everyone.

But, unfortunately, when these internal white American "immigrants" and migrant workers to Arizona (and what else do you call people who moved here for jobs at Taser International and Boeing that now find themselves foreclosed and dispossessed in the era of the new austerity?) left their crowded East Coast cities and turned West, their RV's and East Coast and Midwest accents weren't all they brought with them: they also brought their racist politics, which finds fertile grounds in the not-so-long-ago-stolen Arizona land.

So, we have the default white supremacist class politics of the white middle and working classes, who substitute their vulgar and petty cross-class alliance with the white ruling class for what ought to be a genuine class consciousness of solidarity, selling the rest of their class out in the process. But we also have a long history of open borders and free movement of peoples. The border with Mexico has, for all intents and purposes, been open for all of human history until just the last few years. And we have a history of indigenous resistance, which stretches back hundreds of years but continues today in the resistance to the predations of corporations like Resolution Copper in Superior and Peabody Coal on Black Mesa.

And we have a history of worker resistance, too. The bitter Phelps Dodge copper strike in 1983 wasn't that long ago, even if the Phelps Dodge Tower sits now victoriously in the heart of downtown, in the "Copper Square" district named for it (and copper's place in Arizona is enshrined on our very flag). But we remember that the very same National Guard units that racist politicians now threaten to deploy at the border in order to satiate the demands of the white working class for the the recognition of their white privileges, dividing Tohono O'odham lands and disrupting their natural right to travel freely, are the very selfsame units that Governor Babbit deployed to break that strike. It's interesting to note that the Bisbee City Council just voted to oppose SB1070, joining Flagstaff and Tucson, so let's never say that lessons can't be learned and that things can't be different. Other cities will, we hope, soon follow.

As for us, we continue to believe that another dialog is possible around movement and dislocation, as well as the conditions that cause it, hinder it and seek to control it. In particular we have learned from our O'odham comrades, with whom we have worked very closely over the last couple years, that we must maintain the heat on those who demand immigration reform. Because from our experience such demands usually contain a call for militarization of the border, and we firmly believe that we should not "solve" the question of illegalization by shifting the burden onto people at the border, in particular indigenous people.

We remain committed to the principles laid out in the Diné, O'odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian bloc statement. The process isn't easy, but the fight to elbow out some room for a broader discussion continues. At the same time, as white revolutionaries, we still take very seriously the admonition of Malcolm X to organize within the communities we come from and amongst white people. The struggle continues to find arguments and to push on contradictions that can open up opportunities for white people to act against whiteness so that a genuine ethic of solidarity can prevail, creating the kinds of conditions that can turn this struggle into a revolutionary one. We will continue to intervene in white movements and to see what shakes out.

In the near future we hope to get together a statement that can offer direction for those anarchists/anti-authoritarians interested in engaging in solidarity actions. Your solidarity means a lot to us, and to those who have been in contact or who have come out already, many thanks. As we said before, there is a real opportunity for anarchist ideas to spread in this context. Much is happening, though, so to list a lot of specific actions is beyond our means right now.

In solidarity from occupied O'odham land,
Phoenix Class War Council

Go Suns!


Anonymous said...

great article, can i ask what is your definition of "settler" and why you don't allow anonymous comments?

TRIBAL P.I.N.E. said...

settler is someone who moves and settles on land which they are not familiar plus progeny of those.

hense, everyone except the regional tribes of maricopa county, and all the continent.

Phoenix Insurgent said...

I would agree with the general definition given by Tribal P.I.N.E. and would add that some relationships and behaviors tend to express out of the settler relationship. These include, but are not limited to, a tendency towards viewing the indigenous population as resources, enemies, illegitimate, backwards or, sometimes worst of all, invisible. And, of course, the seizing of territory and property.

In terms of anonymous comments, I've just never been fond of them. A lot of time when you administer a blog you can get crap comments (like ads), for one thing, and it's a pain to keep tabs on them. Second, while I do sometimes see the barrier of registration perhaps limiting discussion, I find more often that it tends to create opportunities for reactionaries, trolls and overly-simplistic analysis.

There's nothing worse than deleting some right-wing fucks crap comment and then have them spam the page, or accuse you of censorship, or whatever. Non-anonymous comments tends to prevent that in my experience.

But I'm not ideologically wedded to it. For instance, we left comments open on the SB1070 Resistance page we set up.

Anonymous said...

pine and insurgent, do you not see some problem with essentializing "indigeneity"? where i grew up, where i am from, is not where my ancestors are from - they left europe because of war, famine, the destruction of their homes - i didn't choose where they moved to. in what sense am i a "settler"? also tribal peoples have moved and migrated for thousands of years before contact with whites; many maintain stories of this. what prevents them from having becoming settlers? i guess that is more a question for pine...

it's not that i don't get or agree with most of what you are saying, i just think there are some problematic references to white guilt and indigenous nationalism that i sem to notice from time to time here...


migrating is essential for survival, as all people who occupied the continent where the az is drawn on.
Before the influx of anglo euros a totally different universe was occuring. white guilt dosen't seem like a real concept if it's baised only on physicality. Since all "red" or "brown" tribal lineages are NOT all grouped to be the same. However, If you would instead of trace your own root then perhaps a different perspective could be seen as a tribal member of whatever lineage you're "from". White is incorrect as a identity.