Friday, April 30, 2010

A Strike, a Boycott, a Holiday, a Refusal: Peter Linebaugh on May Day.

With May Day looming, I think it's always worth looking back and remembering its origins -- and this year perhaps more than others in recent memory, given the uprisings currently happening here in Arizona. Lucky for me that Jon Riley and I were shooting the shit over beers the other night and he reminded me of this wonderful essay on May Day by Peter Linebaugh.

Linebaugh is absolutely one of my absolute favorite authors. You really can't go wrong with any of his books, but in particular I have really, really gotten a lot out of "The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century" and "The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic".

Indeed, you'd be doing yourself a favor if you went out right now and bought them, to tell you the truth. The lessons I learned from those two books pay unending dividends. Anyhow, enough of my praise. Delve into a little bit for yourself below. When you're done, perhaps check out some of his talks on youtube, one of which includes a walking tour of revolutionary London with some perhaps familiar Class War notables and other rabble.

Anyhow, I hope with all the nice things I've said about him and his work, he won't mind if I repost the entire essay on May Day below. Cheers!

-Phoenix Insurgent

A Strike, a Boycott, a Holiday, a Refusal

May Day with Heart


The moon and hours have revolved again, dear hearts, and May Day is upon us. Spring has sprung as usual, though a strike, a boycott, a holiday, a refusal--call it what you will--looms hopefully on Monday morrow, and that is unusual. We'll wear white in solidarity with the immigrant worker against rampant criminalization, against the universal miserablism, the broken levees, the constant enclosures, great walls, razor-wired borders, burning frontiers, and the castrametation of the planet by the USA (as the Romans called the science of military base construction).

I asked Massimo De Angelis, a family man, who went up to Gleneagles last year to protest against the G-8, what to say on May Day. He replied, as is his wont, as if he were a hobgoblin sitting on a mushroom. He likes the mushroom because it is nocturnal, it may cause dreams, and many of the fungi are not yet privatized. As for the hobgoblin it is a country figure of tricks and mischief against the masters. Plus, I know he likes Helen MacFarlane's translation of The Communist Manifesto, "A frightful hobgoblin stalks throughout Europe."

"Well," the hobgoblin said to me, says he, "whatever you say, say it with heart."

Very well, but James Green, the splendid labor historian, says that after the terrible events in Chicago beginning on May Day 1886, Americans suffered "a loss of heart." The labor historian tells us we have lost precisely what the hobgoblin asks us to find.

How are we to resolve this dilemma? This year the answer must come from the South. Eduardo Galeano, the historian from Uruguay, reminds us of a simple etymology, that the word "record" as in the record of the past, derives from Latin, to pass again through the heart ("cordis").

We cannot avoid the ache of history; its grief we feel in the gut. In preparation for the May Day general strike (will it be general?) by the undocumented workers we organize our banners (and May poles?), prepare our slogans (open borders, troops home, no enclosures, health care for all), hopefully many will try their hand at a manifesto, and we alert our lawyer friends to prepare defense for the inevitable victims. It is also essential to study our past, and to learn about our May Day. We must study the record. It must pass through our heart again.

So, we take off the classics from the shelf, or make sure our local library has them at hand Martin Duberman's fine novel on Haymarket, Roediger and Rosemont's timeless scrapbook, the late Paul Avrich stirring monograph, or the old CP classic on May Day by Philip Foner. To these we now add James Green's just published Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (Pantheon Books, 2006). Go get it! We need it for Monday and every May Day thereafter. The book is trying to put some freedom back into history telling us that it could have been otherwise. We call this human agency. The theory is something like this. It's human history, we're humans, history is something we make with our deeds and words. This is where free-will rubs up against determinism. As soon as you put class into the theory it begins to make sense: the ruling class is determined to exploit us, so naturally it says that it can't help it - the steam hammer is stronger than John Henry, you can't stand in the way of progress, and so on. That's the determinism. On the other hand, the working-class will be free. We are not cogs in a wheel; we have not forgotten the good old wooden shoe. We do have choices. We will (for instance) wear a white t-shirt on May Day. Human agency thus resolves itself into the struggle between the classes.

It never took any multicultural brilliance to discern that the actual fundaments of the USA are threefold:

a) it was robbed from the indigenous peoples,

b) its swamps were drained, forests felled, and fields prepared by African slaves, or

c) that the railroads, factories, mills, and mines were built and run by immigrants from Europe and Asia.

The ruling class from Madison on forward knew its duty to keep these three, if not fighting one another, then separated. Thus, radical reconstruction came to an end in 1877 in New Orleans beginning that period of Afro-American history called "the Nadir"; the plains Indians were destroyed in 1877 taking the death of Crazy Horse for a symbol of the destruction, and the third, in a word, death at Haymarket.

The Cuban poet, José Martí, lived in exile in New York at the time and wrote brilliantly on the Haymarket martyrs. Although "the disagreements and rivalries of the races already arguing about supremacy in this part of the continent, might have stood in the way of the immediate formation of a formidable labor party with identical methods and purposes, the common denominator of pain has accelerated the concerted action of all who suffer." Here is heart as a political principle.

James Green recovers forgotten dreams, that one, for instance which tied Abraham Lincoln to the cooperative commonwealth. The great sacrifices included the death of Lincoln whose funeral catafalque came through tens of thousands of mourners in Chicago on May Day 1865, amidst a light drizzle of rain. America could become a cooperative commonwealth instead of a competitive camp of capitalism. William Sylvis, Andrew Cameron, and Ira Steward maintained continuity in the north after the Civil War. William Sylvis rebuilt the Molders' Union, foundry workers at the farm reaper works of McCormick. They were the industrial vanguard by 1865. Andrew Cameron was a Scottish Chartist, and an editor in Chicago of the Workingman's Advocate whose idea was that production should be for use, not profit. Ira Steward, an abolitionist and machinist from Massachusetts, established the Eight-Hour Leagues in 1866, on 2 May of that year in Chicago. A year later the first eight-hour law took effect on May Day, passed by the Illinois legislature and signed by Richard Oglesby, governor and friend of Abraham Lincoln, the rail-splitter. Q.E.D.

What happened in 1886? The context was this. The imperialists had divided up Africa the year before. " accumulating mansions and factories on the one hand, and wretched masses of people on the other," is how Martí painted the background. Otherwise, the founding of the American Federation of Labor by the cigar maker Samuel Gompers, riots in Seattle against Chinese laborers, the capture of Geronimo, the gold rush to Witwatersrand in South Africa, Gottlieb Daimler perfected the internal combustion engine, Das Kapital was published in English, the French Impressionist pointillist canvas Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is displayed and was designed to erase thoroughly the visual memories of the Paris Commune and la semaine sanglante.

Despite boom and bust of the trade cycle, despite unemployment, union workers "began to anticipate their own emancipation from the endless workday and growing tyranny of wage labor." The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, they called themselves, mystical and with a moral code of chivalry and generous manhood. The motto of the Knights was One for All, and All for One." From squalor they proposed nobility. An 1877 circular read,

"Working men of Chicago! Have you no rights? No ambition? No Manhood? Will you remain disunited while your masters rob you of your rights and the fruits of your labor? For the sake of our wives and children and our own self-respect, LET US WAIT NO LONGER! ORGANIZE AT ONCE!"

The freight handlers struck, the upholsterers struck, the lumber shovers went on strike. 400 seamstresses left work in joyous mood. A storm of strikes swept Chicago, on the First of May 1886. The great refusal, Jim Green calls it. It was a new kind of labor movement that "pulled in immigrants and common laborers." Irish, Bohemian, German, French, Czech, Scots, English, to name a few. Socialist Sunday Schools, brass bands, choirs, little theatres,' saloons there was a working-class culture in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune (6 May 1886) hated it and compared the immigrants to zoological nightmares. It demanded deportation of "ungrateful hyenas" or "slavic wolves" and "wild beasts" and the Bohemian women who "acted like tigresses."

In the spring of 1886 strikes appeared everywhere in industrial centers; called the Great Upheaval agitating for shorter hours. Of course they were against mechanization of labor, against the exploitation of child labor, opposed to the convict lease system of labor, and opposed to contract labor. The anthem of the Knights of Labor was the "Eight-Hour Song,"

We want to feel the sunshine;
We want to smell the flowers;
We're sure God has willed it.
And we mean to have eight hours.

We're summoning our forces from Shipyard, shop and mill;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, Eight hours for what we will.

Sam Fielden joined the International Working People's Association in 1884 after fifteen years hauling stone and digging ditches. His father was a Lancashire handloom weaver and a ten-hour man. Sam was a Methodist.

Thanksgiving Day of 1884 they had a poor people's march and Parsons quoted from James (the brother of Jesus?) chapter five,

"Next a word to you who have great possessions. Weep and wail over the miserable fate descending on you. Your riches have rotted; your fine clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold have rusted away, and the very rust will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire. You have piled up wealth in an age that is near its close. The wages you never paid to the men who mowed your fields are loud against you, and the outcry of the reapers has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on earth in wanton luxury, fattening yourselves like cattle and the day for slaughter has come. You have condemned the innocent and murdered him; he offers no resistance."

What a remarkable prophecy! The Sioux Wars removed the people of the Plains, the U.S. Cavalry thundered up and down, murdering Indians, and lathering the land with blood, while the mechanical reaper shaved the grasses. When historians speak of "the open frontier," it means the Indians were wiped out. This is the genocide which led to the agricultural depression in Europe, produced by the mechanical reaper scalping the prairie. No, the reapers were not paid.

Fast Food Nation perhaps may not yet have been up to speed yet the starting gun had been fired. Swift and Armour were the big meatpackers: they organized the mechanization of death, the machines of mass slaughter of cattle and swine. The Union Stock Yards had just been constructed. The employers threatened to employ "the whole machinery of government," including the army, "to enforce the laws of the market." Mechanization indeed was taking command.

On May Day 1886 as the workers of the USA struck for the eight-hour day, the police shot and killed four strikers at the McCormick works. August Spies issued the flyer, calling the workers to rise, to arms, for revenge. On the 4 May strikes resumed, now joined by union switchmen, laundry girls, even students from some of the schools.

At the Haymarket, tons of hay and bushels of vegetables were brought in from the Dutch truck farms. Transportation was by horse power. Indeed, then horses were part of the working class, as Jason Hribal has provoked us to thinking. Haymarket in Chicago in May 1886 was like Guernica in Spain in 1937 when the Condor Legion wiped it out by bombing: that is to say it was a busy, crowded market, ideal for terrorism.

The weather changed, the moonlit sky suddenly turned dark, as a cloud blew over, just preceding the blast. The police advanced. A bomb was thrown. In the mêlée a large number of police were wounded by the friendly fire from their own revolvers. Sam Fielden was shot in the leg. Henry Spies took a bullet for his brother. Seven policemen fell. But who threw the bomb? John Swinton, the most influential labor journalist in the land, argued that the police themselves provoked the violence to stop the strike movement for the eight hour day.

A period of police terrorism ensued. There were hundreds of arrests. There were raids at meeting halls, saloons, and newspaper offices. Captain Schaak put suspects into the sweatbox (small pitch dark wooden container) for hours to make them talk. Albert Parsons fled to Mexico, it was rumored, or was "hiding out among the negroes." That summer there was a trial, conducted by passion, judged by bigotry. Green tells the story with verve and drama. Witnesses were paid off. The jury consisted of salesmen, clerks, a high school principal, well-off all.

Nina Van Zandt, the handsome Vassar graduate and heiress, made eyes at August Spies during the trial. In the jailhouse, the love affair developed. Spies told the court, "Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out. The ground is on fire upon which you stand."

Michael Schwab defended anarchy saying it was the antithesis of violence. Parsons charged the court with "judicial murder." He explained socialism and anarchism. "I am doomed by you to suffer an ignominious death because I am an outspoken enemy of coercion, of privilege, of force, of authority. your every word and act are recorded. You are being weighed in the balance. The people are conscious of your power your stolen power. I, a working man, stand here and to your face, in your stronghold of oppression, denounce your crimes against humanity." Neebe was found guilty but punished with 15 years in the penitentiary. Louis Lingg killed himself. Fielden and Schwab had their sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Albert Parsons refused alcohol. He sang "La Marseillaise" and songs by Bobbie Burns. August Spies newspaper editor of the Arbeiter Zeitung in 1884. On August Spies had said, "The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today."

We are finding voice. Cindy Sheehan gives us voice. "Si se puede," gives us voice. The Chicago idea' was this: trade unions could take mass action against capital and the state. This idea has been disappeared or throttled. The magical realism of the ruling class proclaims May Day to be Law Day (had they not heard of Ozymandias, or Humpty Dumpty?) None died from a broken neck, all strangled to death, slowly as it appeared to the witnesses, convulsing and twisting on the rope.

That was 11 of November 1887.

James Green tells us that it was a turning point in American history. The killing at the McCormick plant, the bombing at Haymarket, the court proceedings, and the hanging of 11 November 1887 extinguished the Knights of Labor, defeated the eight-hour movement, suppressed the radicals. The Mary Magdalen, so to speak, of the suffering proletariat was Lucy Parsons, widow of Albert, daughter of Mexico. She bore witness to subsequent generations, and touching Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Eugene Debs, with the principles of los mártiri. Henry Demarest Lloyd was silenced, then wrote Wealth Against Commonwealth, the exposé of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company, the first of the muck-rakers.

Beneath the concameration of the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York City Samuel Gompers of the new American Federation of Labor appealed against the death sentence. Instead fifty years of industrial violence, and when workers, especially immigrants, found themselves at war with their employers, the courts, the police, the armed forces. These laid the "bone deep grudges" which Nelson Algren wrote about. James Green concludes, "we are today living with the legacy of those long-ago events."

The 151 foot Statue of Liberty was dedicated only two weeks before the hangings in Chicago. Inscribed on its pedestal were the words of Emma Lazarus

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

John Pemberton, a pharmacist, who invented a medicine to relieve headaches and alleviate nausea. It combines coca leaves from the Andes with cola nuts from Africa, mixed with water, caramel, and sugar: Coca-Cola, the Atlantic remedy for the ills of the barbarism of capitalism.

Both William Morris in England and José Martí exiled from Cuba in Manhatten likened the Chicago working class to a cornered animal.

William Morris wrote a death march for the funeral of Alfred Linnell, the young man killed by the London police after the 13 November 1887 Trafalgar Square meeting and demonstration. It was two days after the hanging at Haymarket. Alfred Linnell, lo!, will come knocking at the gate, unbidden, insistent, calm, upright. The Harold Pinter moment.

What cometh here from west to east awending?
And who are these, the marchers stern and slow?
We bear the message that the rich are sending
Aback to those who bade them wake and know.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.

We asked them for a life of toilsome earning,
They bade us bide their leisure for our bread;
We craved to speak to tell our woeful learning:
We come back speechless, bearing back our dead.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.

They will not learn; they have no ears to hearken.

They turn their faces from the eyes of fate;

Their gay-lit halls shut out the skies and darken.

But, lo! This dead man knocking at the gate
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.

He took it to the street: one week he is beaten up at Trafalgar Square, another week a poor law clerk is murdered by police at Trafalgar Square, and a third time in the streets, to sing this lament. This is heart. With his bids and bides and bades, with the awending and the woefuls, the man is searching for some kind of language that has endurance, that is beneath the radar, off the grid, and might be recognized by hobgoblins and coyotes.

Morris serialized The Dream of John Ball between November 1886 and January 1887. The dates give us the clue, the Haymarket trials had passed. The revolutionary attempt in Chicago had been preempted. The Chicago idea had failed, temporarily at least. In these circumstances Morris dove deep to middle ages, and ranged far, to Afro-America. In that way he maintained his revolutionary commitment. He imagines victory! "To dusk the day," means to win. "They" refers to the police, employers, capitalists, and ruling class. Eloquence arises from silence. He was reading aloud on the same day his own Dream of John Ball and B'rer Rabbit. He is looking for a people's story told in the people's language with the people's future: the opposite of the official story, not at all the evasions institutional prose, nor the commands of cogitation machines.

Prince Kropotkin at the Sunday lecture supper at the Hammersmith socialist hall told the fable of the Russians and the Redskins. He told this story rather than commit himself, one way or the other, to the quarrelsome socialists and anarchists. The African American slave selects a hero, "the weakest and most harmless of animals," Br'er Rabbit of course, "and brings him out victorious in contests with the bear, the wolf, and the fox." Not malice triumphs but mischievousness.

In 1887 Lord Acton wrote "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." U.S. wheat prices fell to 67¢ a bushel, England eats bread from grains of North American plains, indirect consequence of defeat of the Plains Indians and the McCormick workers. Jim Crow law passed in Florida requiring racial segregation among railway passengers.

Pablo Neruda, José Martí, even Walt Whitman had a big, hemispheric conception of America: two continents, half the planet, yet united by the German geographer Humboldt's Afro-America, a big S' New Orleans, Cuba, Venezuela, and Brazil. What happens in one part effects the other sugar, aluminum, gold, bananas, silver, copper, coffee, rum, pot and coke yes, they are the products, the commodities, ripped from the bowels of the earth. They're easier to recognize than the undergrounds of people, whose migrations, sailings, tunneling have preserved the memory of los martiri.

José Martí predicted that "the world's working class will revive them [memories of the Haymarket martyrs] every First of May. That is still not known, but Martí always writes as if hearing, where it is least expected, the cry of a newborn child," wrote Galeano.

In Havana in 1887 the anarcho-syndicalists started a newspaper El Productor which covered the Haymarket tragedy. On 1890 they prepared a May Day Manifesto calling on Cubans to support the international demonstration for the eight-hour day. The workers responded with a unified, musical parade. Speeches calling for equal rights between Blacks and Whites and called for the unity of all workers. The authors of the May Day Manifesto were arrested and brought to trial. Their acquittal was greeted by a huge demo.

May Day celebrated in Mexico in 1913. From then on Primero de Mayo became a national holiday known as the Day of the Martyrs of Chicago. Italy, France, Spain, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico. In 1903 Teddy Roosevelt signed an immigration law denying entry into the US of anarchists, paupers, prostitutes, and the insane.

Galeano celebrated the marriage of heart and mind. "From the moment we enter school or church, education chops us into pieces: it teaches us to divorce soul from body and mind from heart. The fishermen of the Columbian coast must be learned doctors of ethics and morality, for they invented the word sentipensante, feeling-thinking, to define language that speaks the truth."

In Milan on the first international May Day (1890) a correspondent wrote, "On this day laborers all over the world should feel the unity of their class as a bond superior to all others" Is it possible to make such a solidarity? Can heart be so large? On May Day 1894 Coxey's Army of the Commonweal, arrived in Washington to lobby for the unemployed, only to be arrested and imprisoned for walking on the grass. The Wobblies or I.W.W. printed thousands of stickers, reading

I Won't Work More Than 8 hours After May 1st 1912 How about you ?

On May Day 1917 all Petrograd was en fete as the New York Times reported and business was at a complete standstill. In Germany meanwhile the Spartacus group leafleted, "Women workers! Male workers! The last groans of our thousands of murdered brothers and sons, the sobs of the wasted women and children call us forcibly and imperiously to the red worker's May 1st demonstration, with the gleaming words: down with the war! Up with people's brotherliness!" At the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on May Day 1925 garment workers raised their voices to sing the "Internationale." Congress mandated the eight-hour day in the Fair Labor Standards Act. 1886 to 1938 = fifty-two years. In May Day of that year a march on the South Side of Chicago was led by a float featuring a hooded man. In one direction of time, August Spies; in another direction of time, Abu Ghraib.

Galeano visited Chicago but his exploration of Haymarket was fruitless, instead he found an old poster at a bookstore displaying the African proverb, "Until the lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter." The hunter had put in 1889 a statue of a policeman at Haymarket. The Weathermen blew up the police monument on 6 October 1969 and then again in 1970.

The urbanocide of Katrina, the castrametation of Iraq, the devaluation of the working class, the absolute rule of the petrolarchs have produced gut-wrenching grief and sorrow. Our head spins and spins in the dizzy search for cause-and-effect, searching the origin of this twisted, agonizing karma.

Half way between the gut and the head lies the heart. The heart and soul of our movement may be found on May Day and it's going to take our arms and legs to find them as well as our brains. So, let us join the hobgoblin.

Take heart with Death in the Haymarket in hand!

All out for May Day!

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. He is the author of two of CounterPunch's favorite books, The London Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at:


Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make (1951, and reprinted by University of Chicago, 2001)

Massimo De Angelis,

Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton, 1984)

Martin Duberman, Haymarket: A Novel (Seven Stories Press: New York, 2003)

Philip Foner's May Day: A Short History of the International Workers' Holiday, 1886-1986 (International Publishers: New York, 1986)

Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire, ii, Faces and Masks, translated by Cedric Belfrage (Quartet, 1987)

Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces, translated by Cedric Belfrage and Mark Schafer (W.W. Norton,: New York, 1991)

James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (Pantheon Books, 2006)

Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings (1880)

Rayford Logan, The Negro in American Life and Thought: The Nadir, 1877-1901

Fiona MacCarthy, William Morris: A Life for Our Time (Knopf, New York, 1995)

Deborah Shnookal and Mirta Muñiz (eds.), José Martí Reader: Writings on the Americas (Ocean Press: New York, 1999)

David Roediger and Franklin Rosemont, Haymarket Scrapbook (Charles H. Kerr, Chicago 1986)

E.P. Thompson, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary (1955, 1977)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No state has the right to control movement of free people.

As news comes again today that Democrats are committed to "securing the border" as a prerequisite for immigration reform, I think it's quite fortunate timing that our comrades over at O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective have posted up their compelling piece, "Movement Demands Autonomy: An O'odham Perspective on Border Controls and Immigration". Previously appearing as a pamphlet, this article does a fine job as a primer on understanding the point of view of the O'odham on questions of movement and the border -- a perspective that is sadly marginalized to say the least.

Indeed, we as anarchists, along with the indigenous peoples of this region, are well-placed to call out this bogus pairing of one so-called "reform" with another for what it really is -- a sell out. First off, if anyone has the right to say who can come and go, it is the original people of this land. And, second, the "securing" of the border that Democrats demand is not only a concession to the right wing but it is a betrayal of the various peoples whose traditional lands cross and are crossed by the border, including but not limited to Tohono O'odham territory in the south of Arizona and north of Mexico. Truth is, the people of Arizona should be turning to the indigenous to answer the question of who shall pass through these lands, not the racist settler state government.

In fact, when we hear "secure" what we ought to really understand is "militarization". Already T.O. is an armed camp of almost Warsaw Ghetto like quality, with border patrol and local cops (beefed up with Federal money) running wherever they please, harassing locals and denying traditional rights of crossing, not to mention maintaining checkpoints at the points of entry and exit from the rez (not just at border crossing points, which would be awful enough). The same controls and demands that will soon be made on migrants and everyone else the state deems worthy of suspicion are already in full effect on T.O. The surveillance we see here on our freeways originates on those border fences, checkpoints and spy towers. And the demand for their proliferation to the south will only increase them up here in the end. The dreadful situation in T.O. will soon manifest everywhere if we do nothing.

Of course, one can appreciate the bind that many indigenous people are in these days. "Reform" sells them out and the attack of SB1070 subjects them to the same profiling and abuse that it does the Mexican and other migrants who cross their lands, a great many of whom are in fact indigenous themselves. And the status quo is hardly acceptable either. These and other facts naturally dictate that there is no option on the table in the mainstream now which is satisfactory to solving this problem.

The fact is, as we and our comrades in OSABC have been saying for quite a long time now, there is no solution to the question of the movement of people without starting from the position of the indigenous. Not only are they more than deserving of justice given their history and ties to this land, but it is precisely their situation that reveals the bogus deal that is "immigration reform".

Knowing that, no one can in good conscience ignore or put their struggles on the back burner, or treat them as an after thought. If there is no justice for the indigenous of this region, then there is no justice at all. No borders, no State, no papers!

Read OSABC's article here:
Movement Demands Autonomy: An O'odham Perspective on Border Controls and Immigration

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Resistance to SB1070 that you may have missed.

One of the problems with the overwhelmingly leftist orientation of the anti-SB1070 rally today, as evidenced by the seemingly unending admonitions to register to vote (for Democrats), is that it tends to obscure potential fractures and fissures on what may appear to be unanimity on the right with regard to the bill.

If you know anything about PCWC these days, it's probably that we look precisely for these kinds of potential openings in movements so that we can force open a space for more libertarian (in the traditional anarchist and anti-capitalist sense of the word) organizing, especially if we can encourage the development of contradictions that will cause a falling out on one side or another of white supremacy, and particularly amongst white movements on top of that. In our evaluation, it is the cross-class alliance of white supremacy that screws up what might otherwise be a revolutionary working class solidarity that would allow the overthrow of the capitalist state.

Anyhow, the events of the last few days have been momentous indeed, but in the rush of media attention and, as I mentioned before, due to the overwhelmingly leftist reformist orientation of the anti-SB1070 movement leadership (since they control the bulk of the message -- often with Stalinist like precision), some smaller actions have been overlooked. Here I will highlight two of them.

The first is of someone known to PCWC, and with whom we have interacted very cordially at a variety of our events, but who I won't identify since I don't know if he wants to be named. Regular attendees of PCWC actions and events will probably know him. The video linked below, taken by someone in the counter-protest on Friday, shows this person bravely moving into the reactionary crowd and calling them out vigorously for their support of the bill. In true fanatical fashion, this man begins yelling forcefully "This bill is the mark of the beast!", "Prepare for the New World Order!" and "Who would Jesus hate?!".

This is important for a few reasons. One, it comes at the right reactionaries on terrain that they are familiar with. This is something that we, as anarchists are not able to do anywhere near as effectively. Two, it opens a front on the reactionaries from their rear, hitting them in a way and from a direction that they do not expect. Three, it comes as a heartfelt and genuine defense of the true values professed by the libertarian and even Christian right, while recognizing the general tendency not to live up to them in any meaningful way.

In my opinion the disconnect that is being called out between professed Christianity and actual results derives from their adherence to white supremacist values. They defend their cross-class alliance of whiteness over their professed values of Christian love for their brother and sister, effectively. And, probably most importantly, the charges made in the video demands accountability and asserts an either/or dichotomy that attempts to erase middle ground, asserting, will you be Christian or will you hate? Will you be Christian or will you support the "mark of the beast"? This is very important because to oppose the bill in many ways contains within it the potentiality of refusing the alliance of whiteness. PCWC has spent quite a lot of effort encouraging this sort of thing and I welcome it and support it. Cheers for this revolt!

The second video is one published by Shelton at 4409. Shelton is perhaps best known amongst anarchists for his work around speed cameras. We have engaged on this front several times in the last year, encouraging their work but also being critical of pointing out what we perceive to be the unconscious white supremacist undercurrents of their strategy.

I want to be clear, this is not to say that we consider Shelton a white supremacist or anything of the sort. Even though he opposes what he calls "amnesty" for the undocumented, we believe that the racism inherent in the argument he makes is not conscious or malicious: it is the sort of white supremacy that underlies most of the assumptions that underpin white organizing in general, whether of the left or right. The flaw is not his in particular and it is important to separate it from the kind of overt racist strategy that we see being pursued by those who support the bill.

And, indeed, the arguments that Shelton has made in the past against the bill are generally pretty good although, as with the anti-SB1070 current on the left, he suffers the same problem of demanding increased policing at the border. On the left, this manifests in a demand for reform that included heightened border patrol enforcement at la linea itself. This is important for a lot of reasons, but not least of all because it sacrifices the lives of people that live on the border, specifically but not limited to the Tohono O'odham people, whose land down south is bisected by the border and who have an inherent right of travel across it. This right is currently under heavy assault by the very forces that many opponents of the bill propose to "secure" the border.

On the right the opposition to SB1070 is weakened by a similar assertion that if policing at the border were increased, then there would be less need for internal surveillance and checks on movement. Indeed, this is also the critical flaw in the libertarian/constitutionalist opposition to internal border patrol checkpoints. You can see how, ironically, these two positions, though from opposite poles of the political spectrum, suffer from the same problem. The fact is, militarization of the border must be separated from the discussion of SB1070 (and, of course, it must be opposed). If not, it remains a devil's bargain that sells some out in the name of defending others. That's not solidarity.

So, in that context, consider Shelton's interesting new video, in which he goes to the state capitol and confronts legislators on the bill and its effects. Aside from its entertaining nature, it is really informative about the kinds of opposition to this bill that could -- and sometimes does -- spread from the right. This is a tendency that I continue to believe is worth engaging with and I would be very interested in developing some sort of way of further fleshing out common ground for critical solidarity with elements of this type that are interested in challenging the bill and constraints on free movement generally (the position we defend). Of course, in the end, we will not accept any increased policing at the border because we believe in free movement for all. However, that in my opinion does not preclude the increasing investigation of points of common struggle within this milieu.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two events in Arizona this week: Liberate Earth Day, and Police alternatives teach-in

We wanted to give a shot out to a couple events that some friends are hosting this week! With all of the attention given to SB1070, and the inspiring resistance that manifested, it's good to showcase some of the other projects of resistance coming up in our city and state.

Tomorrow, our friends in Flagstaff at the Taala Hooghan Infoshop are hosting the second annual "Liberate Earth Day: End Corporate Greenwashing & “Green” Capitalism." Coming with a perspective that both shuns the false alternative offered by the reform based environmental groups (non-profit industrial complex), and orients the struggle against ecological destruction on anti-colonial and anti-capitalist terms! Below is the schedule for tomorrow!

"The Taala Hooghan Infoshop & Youth Media Arts Center is very excited to present our 2nd Annual Liberate Earth Day Event for an end to corporate greenwashing & “green” capitalism. An anti-capitalist/anti-colonial event for healthy and sustainable communities!
Second Annual LIBERATE EARTH DAY! End Corporate Greenwashing & “Green” Capitalism!

Sunday, April 25th 3:00PM – 10:00PM – FREE
At Taala Hooghan Infoshop
1700 N. 2nd St. East Flagstaff, Arizona

Workshops and discussions on:
• Abolish Profit Farming & the Importance of Autonomous Agriculture
• Green Consumerism: The Misguided Discourse on Sustainability
• Eco-Feminism
• Derrick Jensen: The Problem of Civilization and Resistance (online video discussion)
• Defending Sacred Lands – Intersections of environmental and social struggles for justice
• Direct Action: Tactical training and discussion Free food by Flagstaff Food Not Bombs"
Click here for a full schedule and description of workshops.

Some comrades in Phoenix have organized an anti-police event this Friday in downtown, this event will be a great opportunity for anarchists and anti-authoritarians to gather and create the possibilities for a world without police.
Police Alternatives Teach-In April 30th 5pm @ Civic Space Park

Come meet other members of the community to discuss alternatives to using police as a means to conflict resolution.

Learn about successful alternative models already established around the United States as well as reasons why relying on armed strangers rather than neighbors or friends only increases the possibility for unnecessary violence to occur.

Every day laws are being passed that legitimatize the police as the armed enforcers to racist policies.

Every year at least 600 people are killed by on duty police officers, with Arizona being the state with the 3rd highest rate of unarmed suspects being murdered by police.

By creating safe autonomous communities, it is possible to prevent these murders by making the current police system obsolete.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some thoughts on SB1070 & civil disobedience

by Jon Riley

Solidarity to the 40 Tucson High students who walked out of class, and to the 9 students arrested at the state capitol yesterday!

Our hats are off to all the youth who took courageous acts today, it is inspiring to see resistance to SB1070, a piece of legislation that has passed the Arizona Legislature, and is waiting for final approval this week by Governor Brewer. This bill was drafted by the notorious anti-immigrant bigot, and state senator, Russell Pearce. Pearce continues to push for legislation that could take Arizona back to something that would only resemble the worst days of the segregation south. In essence, if SB1070 is passed, the state of Arizona will have state sanctioned racial profiling, white supremacists like Pearce are counting on this bill to intimidate much of the Hispanic population so that they would move out of state. This is state sanctioned ethnic cleansing. This one's a game changer.

This wasn't lost upon the nine people who chained themselves to doors at the state capitol today, the most dramatic escalation taken by those in power was met with a response from those below. More than a symbolic gesture, maybe more of a declaration, the immigrant movement in Phoenix took a big step forward today, birthing a civil disobedience campaign that will organize against and oppose the continuing racist assault.

We see this attack on immigrants and communities of color in the cities mirrored in the century old border controls and movement restrictions that the Tohono O'odham people continue to resist on their traditional homeland. Just to travel home, from a village on one side of the border to a village on the other side becomes a life or death situation. IDs are mandatory, profiling is a daily occurrence, the agents of state have their finger on the trigger guard and their eyes on you. How much different will anywhere else be in Arizona if this bill passes? This picture will become more clear everywhere, as the city cop checks for "papers" in Mesa, the border patrol agent in Sells mans a checkpoint, and ICE agents conduct workplace raids in Flagstaff. The struggles that have been isolated, or hidden to each other for too long are finding each other now, only as the attack on human freedom and dignity becomes total.

Lately, we at PCWC have had a saying about this bill, that if is signed into law it will be "the end of politics," this is the end of the debate as far as we're concerned. Unlike a conflict in politics, there's no debate with the law, should we hold onto the illusion that the voice of struggle holds sway in the police station, courtroom, capitol, mayor's office, or white house?

To be sure, this is a dark time, terror lingers on across Arizona these nights, and surely worse will come. Not all is lost though, and these words from a Greek comrade may be of use in these desperate times. "Action dries your tears," he said, and there's always a place for action in our lives.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Some things worth checking out

Death and the Mielieboer: The Eugène Terre'Blanche Murder & Poor-White Canon-fodder in South Africa

But who are the Boers, truly, beyond the cartoons of black-bearded back-countrymen, scarecrows in the corn, leaning on ancient muskets? Afrikaners today are often are the sons, daughters, granddaughters and grandsons of the tens thousands of women who were deliberately starved to death in British concentration camps a century before as their farms were put to the torch. Do not brush aside this key fact because of the whiteness of their skin: their women-folk and children were deliberately exterminated in an imperialist war that generated so much global opposition at the time that it was the Iraq of its day: Scandinavians, Irishmen and Russians gave their lives on the far-away veld; angered Québécois burned down public buildings; and awed anti-American guerrillas in the Philippines learned their tactics by night. Scratch a highveld Boer and you will likely find a bitter hatred of British imperialism – based on living-memory family experience of the camps. And that war was provoked by the imperialists because Britain lusted after and finally burgled the goldfields of the highveld from a frontier people who had progressively retreated into the African interior away from the claws of the bankers, into the spears of the Bantu.

True, they were and often remain an austere, narrow people: one of their Calvinist sects, the Doppers, is deliberately named after the tin cap or dop used to extinguish a candle, the message being the need to extinguish the Enlightenment. And true, they often beat "their blacks" with an offhanded cruelty, and at best established a paternalistic overlordship over them known as baasskap (boss-hood). But in their warfare with, suffering at the hands of, and eventual enslavement of the Bantu, a strange relationship developed: alone among all white settlers on the African continent, they self-identified en masse as Afikaners, as Africans, not Europeans, and seve
red their ties to their distant motherlands. The they and their black neighbours lived, ate, thought and died, merged and became inextricably intertwined: well over 10-million more black South Africans today speak Afrikaans, the slave's idiom-rich, story-telling pidgin-Dutch of old, than do whites; while platteland (big-sky farmland) Afrikaners are fluent in African vernacular languages. For the British-backed English-speaking elites, the mining bosses and big land-owners, this closeness was worrisome; something had to be done to divide and rule them. Racialised divisions worked successfully among the working class until multiracial revolutionary syndicalism mounted a challenge from 1917 – a challenge undermined and dissipated within five years by the black nationalist mystifications of the aspirant bourgeois party that became the ANC. It may be that despite their progressive approach to the racial question, the syndicalists lost their grip on the labour movement because of the allure of politics of racial polarity that pitted whites and blacks against each other, a politics seized on with fervour by the NP on its ascension to power in 1948.
Via Anarkismo.

University Struggles at the End of the Edu-Deal

The student movement, however, faces a political problem, most evident in the US and, to a lesser extent, in Europe. The movement has two souls. On the one side, it demands free university education, reviving the dream of publicly financed 'mass scholarity', ostensibly proposing to return to the model of the Keynesian era. On the other, it is in revolt against the university itself, calling for a mass exit from it or aiming to transform the campus into a base for alternative knowledge production that is accessible to those outside its 'walls'.iv

This dichotomy, which some characterise as a return to the 'reform versus revolution' disputes of the past, has become most visible in the debate sparked off during the University of California strikes last year, over 'demands' versus 'occupations', which at times has taken an acrimonious tone, as these terms have become complex signifiers for hierarchies and identities, differential power relations, and consequences for risk taking.

The contrast is not purely ideological. It is rooted in the contradictions facing every antagonistic movement today. Economic restructuring has fragmented the workforce, deepened divisions and, not last, it has increased the effort and time required for daily reproduction. A student population holding two or three jobs is less prone to organise than its more affluent peers in the '6os.

At the same time there is a sense, among many, that there is nothing more to negotiate, that demands have become superfluous since, for the majority of students, acquiring a certificate is no guarantee for the future which promises simply more precarity and constant self-recycling. Many students realise that capitalism has nothing to offer this generation, that no 'new deal' is possible, even in the metropolitan areas of the world, where most wealth is accumulated. Though there is a widespread temptation to revive it, the Keynesian interest group politics of making demands and 'dealing' is long dead.
Via Mute

A People's History of Koch Industries: How Stalin Funded the Tea Party Movement
The Soviet oil planners were delighted with Koch’s refineries, which “operated commendably, and would in the future be the type preferred by the heads of the Soviet Union’s petroleum industry when purchasing new cracking equipment.” The Communists were so impressed they kept giving Winkler-Koch business and regularly sent Soviet engineers to train in Wichita. It was a sign of growing mutual trust.

By the time he got out in 1933, Koch earned $500,000, which was a ton of money for a kid fresh out of college. This nut of money served as the foundation for the family’s future wealth, which Koch no doubt started acquiring at rock-bottom prices. After all, 1933 was one of the two worst years of the Great Depression—all assets were priced to go at 90% off. In the end, the capitalist-hating socialists ended up treating Koch fairly, way better than the monopolistic thrashing he got from his native land. So you’d think he’d at least something good to say about the Soviet Union when he got home?

Nope, not at all. He hated the Commies real bad. But for some reason he kept it to himself until the late 1950s (possibly because he was still doing work for the Soviet Union). Then, after coming back from a trip to the Soviet Union in 1956, he flies off the handle. According to a 1956 AP article, Fred Koch was among eleven prominent residents of Wichita, Kansas, “left for Moscow by plane today in an effort to convince the Russian people that Soviet propaganda about capitalists is untrue.” Sounds like the perfect cover for a business trip.

Via The Exiled

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thoughts on our role in the emerging struggle against the racist state of Arizona

This is not meant to be a final conclusion, just an attempt to get my initial thoughts down about what we could be facing and the means I see as the best way to approach it.

As what seems like the inevitable signing of Russell Pearce's anti-immigrant law grows near, driving a nail into the coffin that is the political strategy pursued by local pro-migrant organizers, the question increasingly becomes what will be the nature of the resistance that will emerge to oppose it. Politics as a means of settling it is clearly dead. There is no political solution and there is no one left to appeal to. Friday's ICE raids proved that. We need to be thinking about the kind of resistance that will work and how we can organize it.

Likewise, we need to be thinking about what the terrain of struggle will be. Who will be our allies? What or who will we target? If we are done trying to convince, what does that mean? It seems to me that the only option left is a campaign of direct action aimed at causing real consequences for the system. We must begin to develop the organizational forms that can disrupt and shut down the functions of the state and Capital in Arizona if need be. The sort of forms that can cause havoc and can respond quickly to the ongoing crisis with a variety of creative resistance measures.

The natural form in my opinion is the affinity group and some kind of facilitating structure for coordination, perhaps a spokescouncil or an assembly. Perhaps the latter that can transform into the former when necessary. Above all, this limited organization must be anti-political, anti-bureaucratic and horizontal. Anyone who can put together an affinity group and agree to a few key points should be able to participate, but no politicians or political parties should be allowed in. For guidance in this we can look to the Zapatistas "Other Campaign". The politicians have failed us utterly, as we always knew they would. We must be done with them.

To my mind, the natural starting point for defining participation in such a group would be the DO@ statement. If someone can agree with that, then they should be able to participate in the resistance we organize. If not, they are, of course, free to do their own thing, as anyone is. Perhaps boiling them down a bit would be worthwhile to develop a clear and concise criteria for organizing. Perhaps there are other criteria that would work just as well. We need to be thinking about that. In particular we need to think of ways to keep the leftist activists out.

One thing the DO@ statement brings to the table is a broader view of the struggle beyond just the country politicos that have been the general focus of movement leadership in town. Whether that was a good way to organize or not is irrelevant now: the problem, with this new law, will be clearly and unambiguously bigger than the county. The DO@ refrain, "Free movement for all, no dislocations for anyone", likewise seems a good starting point to me.

One thing to keep our eye on is the machinations of the leftist managers of struggle. They are desperate now. Already they have tried to intervene against direct action and the will in all likelihood continue to do so. They know they have little to offer the resistance now, but that doesn't mean they won't use all manner of tricks to try to hold on to the movement. It's time for them to recognize failure when they see it. Whatever role they have now must be in bringing their counsel to support the direct action movement that must certainly begin the second that law is signed. I'm sure they have a lot to share, but they must admit that the nature of the struggle is now much changed and so naturally should our tactics and strategies. Rather than scaring people with charges, fines and jail times, they need to be organizing legal defense for what may come. Certainly they have much to offer in this regard.

We also need to be thinking about our opposition and our potential allies. At the Tempe Tea Party rally libertarians stood outside flyering against Pearce's law. This continues to be an important breach in the front of white supremacy and we must recognize it. We must continue to engage it and we must continue to push on that contradiction so that others are emboldened to break with the racist trajectory. We have to also be building connections, not necessarily finding a base of support, but finding sympathizers. We'll need each other. We are autonomous and speak for ourselves, but there are friends out there. Let's get to know and encourage each other.

Likewise, aside from direct action, we need to be producing literature, flyers and media on a scale that we heretofore have not considered in Phoenix. Thousands and thousands of copies must be distributed. We need to think about going places we haven't gone before. Sports games. Gun shows. Malls. Churches. "What side are you on?" we must demand. The priority must be in getting arguments in the hands of white people that can force them to choose one side or the other. We cannot allow the luxury of the middle ground anymore. This similarly goes for the liberal activists and party hacks who will try to negotiate on their own and others' behalves. We must make this position impossible. Our role is to push as far and as hard as we can and to refuse compromise.

These are some of the initial thoughts I have on the struggle that seems likely ahead of us. Above all, we must be creative and refuse to be pushed into the narrow paths of struggle that the state, leftist managers and the reactionary right will attempt to impose on us. Lift your eyes and look to the horizon. Take in the broader view. Look for places where we are strong, where they are weak, or where we can act vigorously and quickly. Consider our strengths versus their weaknesses. Look for contradictions that will be profitable. Fortify yourself, find your comrades and get ready. Solidarity means attack!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

High Noon is Too Late for Tea: Seeking Ways to Engage and Oppose the Tea Party Movement

It's been quite interesting to see the reactionary right go haywire over the recent call to "crash the tea parties". Reading their blogs, one can literally track the echo chamber effect in real time. One wing nut on the information superhighway characterizes the anarchists without proof as stooges for the Feds (the standard accusation from these folks) and before you know it the next kook is citing the first kook as proof.

For the Truthers in the movement in particular, the standard frame through which they see the world goes like this: the CIA/Feds manipulate movements that aren't "awake" (a term that refers to everyone outside that wing of the Tea Party movement). This skepticism of movements stems in part from their inherently conservative nature. They distrust peoples movements that tend to lead to generally progressive results. Naturally, then, in their eyes such movements must be run by outside paymasters. They are composed of poor fools who don't know they are being used (at best) if not outright paid thugs. Throw in a healthy dose of internets and capital letters and -- boom! -- the anarchists have transformed into a front for the CIA! Infoshop is an organization run by the NWO! Reality be damned!

If the Tea Party people could slow their roll for a minute, I think they would find a lot to learn from this exercise in self-delusion. But for them the ideology, so drenched in American patriotic mythology, trumps the reality. Because of this, a "teachable moment", so to say, is unlikely. So, instead, let's think about what we as anarchists can learn from the call and the reaction.

The first thing that occurs to me is the general wishy-washiness of the call put out on Infoshop. It really doesn't call for much. Indeed, some on the right have found it quite confusing. One criticism made frequently on right wing message boards and blogs that I think is quite prescient is the questioning of how anarchists can come out in defense of government. This is a fair point. Still, calling for the defense of social programs as a bulwark against austerity and direct attack by the capitalists is not necessarily a contradiction. For anarchists it's always been more about the how than the nature of the concession exacted from the elite. After all, we're revolutionaries not reformists. The goal, as always, is the generalization of the attack until a broad insurrection rises to destroy Capital and the State. The struggle is the means to that end.

However, when framed as an attempt to move the Tea Party to the left, it certainly starts to enter the dangerous waters of leftist defense of the State for its own sake. This is clearly not an anarchist position. Indeed, it's not clear at all how, as the call out suggests, a more leftist Tea Party (or Tea Partiers of a more leftist persuasion) would be any better. Are we calling them to support Obama? To become dissident Democrats? To become socialists? What exactly would moving them to the left mean and, more importantly, what would it mean for anarchists and the prospects for revolution? This relationship -- one of persuading Tea Partiers to move leftward -- fails to define anarchists as anything other than extreme liberals and is problematic to say the least. In this case we are nothing but the shepherds of the social welfare state, herding those who wander from the herd to its defense. People on the right are correct to call the piece out on this hypocrisy.

Next, I think that while the very short article is correct to recognize a shift towards fascism in some (increasingly dominant) tendencies within the Tea Party movement, its analysis is in the end quite unsophisticated. For instance, the piece really fails to recognize contradictions within the movement that can be exploited, not to move it to the left, but to divide it, neutralize it and, hopefully, to cause a shaking out of its more truly libertarian elements towards advancing the attack on Capitalism and State. That is, framed correctly, it is possible to intervene in this movement in order to give encouragement to the libertarian and working class elements within it so that they will break with the overall fascist tendency, the reactionary free market ideology and the infantile patriotism. I'll get back to this with some examples from Phoenix Class War Council's organizing here in Phoenix.

But as an aside, before I move on, I do think it's interesting and quite embarrassing for the Tea Partiers that several, much longer and much more critical essays (that deal with the question in depth), have passed them by entirely. It seems that this tiny little essay was just the right dimensions to be digestible by their very limited critical capacities. Likewise, it was probably just simple enough for the big money interests to blast it out like a megaphone to be consumed by the more conspiratorial and hardcore conservative reactionary elements of the movement.

Of course, being generally unaware of the recuperation of their own movement by big money interests because of the weaknesses in their own pro-Capital ideology (the class war equivalent of "Yes, sir, may I have another?"), Tea Partiers have been unable to interact meaningfully outside of the narrow script being written for them by the likes of long-time GOP operative Grover Norquist. Indeed, framed as it is between the "austerity for you, bailouts for us" politics of Obama's banker buddies and the white free marketeers of the Republican "drown big government in the bathtub" cadres, the capitalist class as a whole must be laughing its collective ass off over gold-flaked martinis considering the dialectical outcome of that lovefest of reactionary kissing cousins.

As it is, the Tea Party is being used as a hammer to attack the last remaining source of middle class wages in the US -- the state bureaucracy. The hypocrisy of blue hairs on Medicare and Social Security ranting against "socialism", or military families on government pensions and Veterans Administration health care screaming about "Obamacare" is certainly good for a hearty belly laugh. But the sad truth is teachers, municipal workers and the rest, among the last vestiges of the albeit quite flawed union organizations in the US, are now taking the brunt of the final assault on what remains of concessions extracted from the capitalists by the working class. Such past attacks on Capital, however, having been corrupted by the political relationship of white supremacy, never included everyone, and large populations were left out or pushed out of the deal. And, white supremacy being a relationship to Capital that exists at Capital's convenience, and now having dismantled the heart of organized workers in Detroit (to the cheers of much of the white working and middle class), the capitalists are now moving in for the kill. The Tea Party (having refused solidarity as a weapon), armed now only with its self-hating free market fantasies, is the eager accomplice to the murder, witting or not.

Of course, as anarchists we should defend neither the state bureaucracy nor bloated leftist unions in a knee-jerk fashion. Still, we are left with the fact that the attack on the formally organized wing of the working class has reached levels unprecedented in most Americans' lifetimes. Something fundamental has changed in the relationship between capital and the working and middle class. The Tea Party emerges from this new cocktail. They seek to reassert what they perceive to be a looming collapse of the deal of white supremacy. But is the deal still to be had?

When considering this question, the libertarians within the movement should not be confused with the conservative, fascist wing. The libertarians are attracted by ideology, but they are not the knife's edge in this fight. We share some key things in common with them and the Tea Party is not necessarily a happy home for them. Like the relationship between anarchists and communists, the one between libertarians and conservatives is not as seamless as outsiders might otherwise believe. In fact, they are a point of potential conflict because their overall politics do not fit well within the overall goals of the movement, and the conservative leaderhip knows it. Hence their vigorous push to consolidate control and marginalize libertarian elements.

In PCWC lingo, this conflict is a site of potential "fractures and fissures". That is, putting pressure on this contradiction can potentially cause a split, a falling out or a "coming to Jesus" moment. It can also force one element to stay true to its stated ideology over otherwise reactionary political tendencies. This is something to keep in mind and it points to a fourth way to engage the Tea Party movement beyond either ignoring them, attempting to move them to the left or outright unconditional opposition.

Let me give an example of what I mean. When PCWC was organizing the Inglourious Basterds Bloc to confront the National Socialist Movement, we reached out to libertarians on the right. In Arizona, the libertarian tendency is probably the largest dissident faction in politics. So, in our call to action, which was posted to the largest libertarian news site in the state and got a lot of play in local media, we addressed a particular section to them:
We at PCWC also want to extend a particular invitation to our friends in the Libertarian movement. Because of your vigorous protests at Obama's recent speech, you have been painted as racist. We know that you feel this is unfair. You see yourselves as protesting this country's turn towards fascism. We sympathize with this argument and are ourselves no fans of the Obama administration. However, we want to point out that unlike some of your past protests, the NSM rally offers you the perfect opportunity to make known your opposition to fascism in an unambiguous way. We hope you come to the event.
Our intent here was to call the libertarians in Arizona, who had been flirting with anti-immigration positions for quite a while, to choose whether they were going to act on their alleged opposition to fascism or whether they were going to defend the Nazis. Up to this time, large parts of the libertarian movement in the state had flirted, to say the least, with a kind of anti-immigrant politics that emerged mostly from their unconscious defense of whiteness. At best, they had stood by without speaking up against the crack down on immigrants and brown people generally.

If you know anything about libertarianism as an ideology, whether right or left, a firm commitment to free movement comprises a core tenet. Our sense, through careful analysis of the anti-immigration movement, was that the libertarian wing was uncomfortable to say the least with the relationship. It was more a politics of default, which is what whiteness is in many ways. We also recognized that at the heart of the conservative reactionary wing of even the anti-immigrant front is a pretension to libertarian, constitutionalist values. Values that are almost never lived up to when they come in conflict with whiteness. So, we said to libertarians: will you defend your rhetoric or your whiteness? Will you stand up against fascism or find yourself in the camp of the NSM? If you stand today against fascism we will stand along side you. It's important to note here that such calls were not disingenuous. We meant it.

In this sense, we hoped to appeal to the better nature of the libertarians and to weaken the broader reactionary current. This was in the context of several other interventions into movements in which they participate. And libertarians did the right thing and came out. Interestingly, a week following our triumphant victory against the NSM, the "mainstream" anti-immigrant movement "Save Our State" had a rally. The NSM, who had showed up without challenge many times before to these events, was attacked physically and driven out by organizers. The NSM are racists, they claimed, and had no place at the SOS event. Split accomplished. NSM out maneuvered. The right had attacked the right and the NSM had been denied future access to fertile grounds for organizing. And libertarians had taken a consistent position against white supremacy.

Later, libertarians started to turn out for pro-migrant events. Their politics are now more consistent and a facet of the white reaction has been weakened. A few months after Inglourious Basterds Bloc, there has been a bit of a revolt in the Republican party against the main pusher in the Senate of anti-immigrant legislation. The most prominent face of libertarianism in the state has come out against a new anti-immigration law because it opens the door to Real ID controls on movement.

Interviewed by local New Times writer Stephen Lemons, he said: "This is the police state in immigration camouflage. You want to know how that Nazi Germany [stuff] happens? This is how it happens." Lemons continued, writing, "Hancock observed that the immigration issue often becomes a Trojan horse for civil liberties, with people willing to give up their rights in exchange for ridding their community of illegal immigrants. He called Russell Pearce a 'Judas goat,' leading ordinary citizens 'to the slaughter.'" This in particular was a point we had hit hard on in the past.

In essence what they had done was choose a consistent position over their alliance to whiteness. And we welcome it. This was possible because, among other things, we recognized a contradiction within their position, thought about their politics and their relations to others, and engaged them. We pushed on a contradiction, held them to their rhetoric and offered an either/or choice: defend the NSM or defend migrants. What will it be? We were both vocal and unequivocal in our position. We were fanatical: free movement for all people without compromise. It's worth noting that since being booted from the SOS event, the NSM has not shown its face -- even to counter protest at immigration rallies.

So, I reference this one particular incidence of the "fissures and fractures" practice we have been using as a potential fourth way to engage the Tea Party. I could list others. But the essence of the strategy is this: find the contradictions within it and push on them; try to give elements in the movement either/or choices; call them on their hypocrisies; and, most importantly, find elements within them to whom sympathetic arguments can be made. These elements, if approached honestly and directly, can pick up your criticisms and make them their own.

Because, when facing your opponent, it's not always necessary to defeat them outright through head on attack. And persuasion of the broad reactionary current is generally impossible. However, you can, especially when you're a minority movement, look to split them and see what the political fallout is. In our experience at PCWC, the result tends to change political relationships in some interesting ways, remaking the field of battle and providing for new opportunities for anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist politics that weren't possible before.

We find this is particularly the case with the context of white supremacy, which is in fact a political relation that tends to trump all others. In the case of those who advocate the free market, history shows to what extent their denunciations of social programs is in fact belied by their reliance on the social program of whiteness, which has its roots in settlerism, slavery and imperialism and has its most prominent manifestation domestically nowadays in the the prisons and the various police departments. Indeed, the Tea Party's demand for the dismantlement of the welfare state, framed as it is under non-revolutionary pro-capitalist conditions, is in fact a demand made against what they believe to be the improper redistributive nature of taxation and the welfare state; that is, the welfare state, they think, takes wealth from those who "earn it" (which we understand to mean whites) and gives it to those who do not (everyone else). They of course reject this characterization, but that in my opinion doesn't make it less true.

It is the contradiction of white supremacy that reveals the lie behind the working class revolt elements within the Tea Party. It is also what will in the end deny them anything more than the pathetic privileges of white supremacy at the end of the day. Such a limited vision is anything but revolutionary to be sure. And, by reinforcing white supremacy, it does nothing to go after the fatcats that many of the Tea Party members are legitimately angry at. Notice the disappearance of anti-bailout rhetoric from the movement.

By finding ways in which this contradiction can fall out one way or the other, new relations by definition become possible. Previously contradictory relations sort themselves out. Further, by taking a revolutionary anarchist position against both the state in general (but against the attack by the capitalists on its few remaining positive redistributive tendencies), and also against white supremacy, the issue becomes framed in a way that is likely to drive the conservative element batshit insane. And because of the fundamental nature of white supremacy to maintaining American capitalism, the opportunities for revolution become enhanced considerably.

The goal is not to build revolutionary alliances with the libertarian right. Such a thing isn't possible. It is to undermine the broader opposition, to give space and encouragement to a dissident faction with which some common ground exists (itself within a larger reactionary movement), to reveal the true nature of that movement, and, in our case, to weaken white supremacy in order to open up the potential for a broader revolt against capitalism and the state.

Of course, such interventions, however useful, only buy time and opportunity. But once that opportunity comes knocking, you need to have something there as an alternative. That means events that can be attended. Actions that can be pointed to and that can inspire. Decent theory that can explain the true cause of the crisis. Solidarity that can be delivered. And allies in the broader struggle. For white people, what this means is following the decades old admonishment from Malcolm X: it is our obligation to confront white supremacy within the white communities from which we come. Reaching out, over, behind and around reactionary movements to engage white people in discussion of anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist and anti-racist ideas is vital. In many ways, we share potential constituencies.

Capitalism is in collapse. The state is anemic. Traditional reactionary currents are in flux. If we lose this one, it's on us.