Thursday, May 28, 2009

Restless Sleep

Phoenix Insurgent

I recently came across the Situationist-inspired film "Call It Sleep". As expected, the movie spends some time discussing and explaining various Situationist themes, many of which are quite relevant today, or at least remain open questions. Revolutionaries who haven't yet encountered the Situationists or their theories (or, for instance, the May 1968 uprising in France) would find this film well-worth watching as something of a primer on their theory, as well as a work that still rings true today in many ways in terms of describing the broad strokes in which Capital paints our lives today.

Probably the foremost analytical "discovery" of the Situationists is the idea of the Spectacle, which is different, though related, to the idea of the mass media. The Spectacle, as I have heard Nowtopia author Chris Carlsson explain it best, is the voice of power telling you that your lived experience is nonsense and that the only story worth knowing (and comparing yourself to) is the narrative of Capital. It's clear to me that this analysis has been borne out, with one of it's chief symptoms being the increasing "medicization" of the western world. What modern society calls depression comes from the divorce between your desires, the desires that are implanted in you by power, your lived reality and the isolation that results from an atomized spectacularized capitalism. Capital is everywhere and you are nowhere. It is everything and you are nothing.

Nevertheless, I do have some minor disagreements with this film. First, and it will come as no surprise to Phoenix Insurgent readers, but while the Situationist-influenced dialogue posits (and often wishes were true because of its own generally white composition) the decomposition of traditional modes of social ordering and social control like race and gender, these categories have not yet ceased operating in the real world. The position of the Situationists is one of putting the theoretical cart before the actual horse.

To take an example, we at PCWC still maintain that the cross-class relationship of white supremacy remains a critical component supporting the maintenance of modern capitalist domination in the US. While I can appreciate the perhaps future and even particular desire of certain factions within Capital to remake this relationship and to replace it with a broader narrative, it's clear to anyone living in the southwest that this hasn't happened yet. Thus, attacking white supremacy is still a worthwhile endeavor for those that seek total liberation given the defining role it plays within American society.

That these decompositions haven't happened yet is perhaps a bizarre reflection of both the schizophrenia of the elite class in the new era and the power of the working class itself to maintain the petty privileges of whiteness in an era of globalized re-ordering, even if they are (in the case of whiteness) regressive identities and, perhaps, on the wane. In a sense, the continuing appeal of whiteness itself is an ironic proof that the white working class thinks and acts politically, which is good news. Sadly, however, it isn't a liberatory position in the long run. Still, recognizing this is a step above the dumb trailer trash elitist analysis so prevalent on the left. Without understand the continuing power of white supremacy to define the political framework for the white working class, I think theorists are at a loss to explain the actual positions taken by it.

By way of explaining this continuing appeal, it does seem that what we are seeing play out in Arizona, for instance, is a battle between two capitalist classes -- one older and rooted in ideas of traditional class divisions and allied by convenience with the white working class, and one new and rooted in transnationalism (although not internationalism, as the libertarian Right wrongly assumes). Perhaps it's the ground level expression of the classic contest between Marx's industrial Capital and finance Capital. That this battle is being waged within the elite class -- especially now in a day when GM has to fight for scraps while the banks get trillions without question -- cannot be denied. And it's precisely the fact that there is a contest around this issue that we know that it has not yet been settled.

In a broader sense, I'm very interested in the congruence between the anti-Bolshevik/Cadre argument of Situationism, the anti-Leftist and anti-organizational argument of post-Leftism and the fanatical argument being made by Joel Olson. "Call It Sleep" ends with the Soweto youth uprising of 1976 in South Africa, in which youth attacked Capital and the State and at the same time refused (and assaulted) the progressive and even radical mediators who sought to give voice to their struggle in their place. In true fanatical fashion, they attacked the moderate middle, demanding all or nothing, total emancipation or zilch. This put both the State and the recuperators in the middle and in the same boat.

One is reminded of the revolt in Paris in 2006 in which suburban North African French likewise attacked both state and capital, police car and store front, and at the same time worked their way through the anti-CPE protests of the students, robbing and stealing IPods from the protesters as they went. There is no room for compromise, perhaps, it turns out. At the least, we see parallels here that are worth exploring.

So, the post-Leftist seeks to refuse the default alliance of the left while the Situationist seeks to attack the anti-democratic, mediated and elitist role of the Bolshevik. And at the same time, the fanatic tries to evaporate the moderate middle ground, from which the compromising and recuperationist liberal emerges. Surely there is something in common here that can be investigated. And maybe that's our role now, viewing this film twenty-some years later.

Watch the full version here:

Monday, May 25, 2009

PCWC presents Beer and Revolution

Collin Sick

A long discussed idea has been made real, an anarchist bar night here in the valley. Years back an essay about the turn of the century German anarchist bar culture had made the rounds here in Phoenix. This piece, Beer and Revolution: Some Aspects of German Anarchist Culture in New York, 1880-1900 ran in Social Anarchism journal back in 2002 (if I recall), and had been passed around by some of the Phoenix anarchists of the day, unfortunately it has since been out of circulation for some time as the Social Anarchism (SA) website hadn't been updated in sometime. As PCWC talked more seriously about starting some sort of a "pub night," I found contact information for the author of the piece, Tom Goyens, and contacted him about reprinting the piece, which he supported and sent the full version to me.

I have a few criticisms of the piece, mainly the attack on "individualist anarchists." PCWC doesn't hold a strict "either/or" ideological conviction on the anarchist schools of thought, rather we look for the most usable pieces of ideas to construct a vision that jibes with our lived experiences. Mostly, Goyens piece offers valuable insights into the workings of the radical milleau of the time, and clearly we are supportive and thankful for his research. For those of you really excited by this history you will want to check out his 2007 book Beer and Revolution: The German Anarchist Movement in New York City, 1880-1914.

This brings me to our latest endeavor. Inspired by the attempts at building a social culture around political discussion and ideas, we have decided to give it a shot here in the valley. We've chosen a local bar in Tempe, Boulders on Broadway (click link for map) , after spending a few Sunday nights there sampling their wide selection of tasty beers. The staff is friendly, there's a great selection of drinks, lots of space, and there's in-door bike parking for all of our bike loving friends. The first night will be held at Boulders on Broadway on Sunday, June 7. Boulders on Broadway is located at the northeast corner of Broadway Rd. & Roosevelt in Tempe. The event will kick off at 9 and last for a couple hours or until people want to leave.

We hope our readers, anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and other radicals join us for our latest experiment in politics. We hope to have a few surprises as well, making this a night to remember, and a future event that will hopefully contribute to an active, critical, and thinking anarchist movement here in the valley of the sun. Below is the flier we distributed at last night's Propagandhi show, we have a few hundred more to get out in the next two weeks. Spread the word!

PCWC is glad to finally premiere the first web appearance of Goyens' entertaining article on the immigrant German anarchist culture below. Cheers!

Beer and Revolution: Some Aspects of German Anarchist Culture in New York, 1880-1900

by Tom Goyens

Paul Goodman once characterized a free society as the "extension of spheres of free action until they make up most of the social life" (Parisi, ed., 1986, p.26). In a similar spirit, Colin Ward thought an anarchist society existed or could be formed "like a seed beneath the snow" (Parisi, ed., 1986, p.16). Goodman and Ward are but two authors who, during the fifties and beyond, launched new ideas in the hope to revitalize the anarchist movement in the West. It is generally understood that the radicalism of the sixties heralded a new kind of anarchism, as Gerald Runkle portrayed in Anarchism: Old and New, published in 1972. The New Anarchism distanced itself from pre-World War I anarchism dominated by immigrant groups and seemingly preoccupied with violence and outmoded analyses of class and power.

In this sense, the German immigrant anarchists of the 1880s and 1890s, personified by the figure of Johann Most, could be said to be of the old school of revolutionaries, having little in common with the subtleties of contemporary activists and thinkers. On the surface this is true. The printed record of this movement such as newspaper accounts, anarchist editorials, manifestoes and pamphlets, clearly shows the impact of Bakunin's notion of underground groups, conspiratorial action, the need for a violent revolution to bring down the bastions of power and greed. Acts of regicide, even if not committed by an anarchist, were hailed as genuinely revolutionary statements. In short, as James Joll put it, the phrase 'propaganda by the deed' was "taking on a more sinister meaning" (Joll, 1964, p.124).

But this same record, beyond the editorial pages, also reveals the workings of an alternative "sphere of free action," maintained by German anarchists who lived and worked in the hive of the American metropolis. Admittedly, linking Goodman and Most would be ridiculous. Nonetheless, the concept of a defiantly built community has antecedents in the life and times of the German anarchists, who not all followed the ranting of Most. This is not to obscure the historical context in which immigrant radicalism operated, a context of murderous violence on the part of the elite that unquestionably drove some of the disaffected to extremism. Nonetheless, parallels exist between an immigrant anarchist community as it thrived in New York City during the 1880s and 1890s, and the network of autonomous anarchist groups, infoshops, and grassroots activists of today.

Setting Up a Federative Network

The German radical socialists of the 1870s and 1880s were the first group to launch an anarchist movement in the United States. Of course individualist anarchists had been active in America since the 1840s, but they tended to either escape from mainstream society by setting up alternative but insular commun(iti)es, or they engaged in scattered polemic and authorial attacks on America's problems. As radical individualists they shunned collective organizing and stayed away from active involvement in the workers' movement. The Germans, and later other ethnic groups, walked a different path. It is their network of meeting places in which politics, leisure and togetherness were cultivated that deserves attention.

The groundwork for the German immigrant anarchist movement was laid in November 1880 when a number of social-revolutionaries (as the anarchists initially called themselves) formed the New York Social-Revolutionary Club after being expelled from the increasingly authoritarian Socialist Labor Party. Nearly all members of the Club were German exiles, victims of Bismarck's anti-socialist legislation which caused widespread emigration of radicals. In New York there also existed the remnant of a German section of the moribund International, most of them radical socialists. The next step was the formation of the Revolutionary Socialist Party during a poorly attended congress of revolutionaries in Chicago in 1881.

But the event that energized and publicized this tiny rather obscure German movement was the arrival of Johann Most in New York in December 1882. Much has been written about Most and his impetuous fervor for revolution in word and deed. His emphasis on violence and terrorism in order to overthrow the established order has been rightly criticized, though he never committed acts of violence himself. However, Most had built a solid reputation as an electrifying speaker and first-rate editor. These qualities he eagerly lent to the project of building a collective (and visible) anarchist movement. After a highly effective lecture tour throughout the Northeast and Midwest, Most championed a newly proposed congress in Pittsburgh in 1883. This convention and especially the resulting manifesto constituted the first relatively successful attempt at non-authoritarian organization; an honor that has been overlooked by many scholars. Despite clauses advocating violent revolution and a few inconsistencies, the Pittsburgh Manifesto outlined a blueprint for the formation of autonomous groups, an Information Bureau and the endorsement of anarchist papers as "official" mouthpieces of the movement (among them Freiheit, edited by Most). Key objectives included equality regardless of gender and race, cooperative production and exchange, and the federalist principle (no central authority) exemplified by the newly formed International Working People's Association (IWPA).

Each group possessed complete autonomy. In cities where more than one group existed, such as in New York and the New Jersey industrial belt, it was proposed to form a General Committee to coordinate joint actions. The Information Bureau, stripped of executive powers, functioned as a means for communication between the often polyglot groups, and also served as an archive. Ultimately though, the center of activity was located within the group with memberships ranging from a dozen to about one hundred each. The Pittsburgh gathering had thus, for the first time, clearly defined the line between Socialism and Anarchism in America.

One has to zoom in to the group level to appreciate the kaleidoscopic character of this early Anarchist movement –a perspective often absent from the myopic studies of the "formal" embodiment of anarchism in this country. The strength of this German anarchist community in New York City, as estimated in Freiheit, was about 2500, with another 5000 anarchists living in Chicago, and some 1700 in other cities (Freiheit, 6 December 1886).

Saloons and Picnics: A Micro-sphere of German-American Anarchists

In his social history of the Chicago anarchist movement, Bruce Nelson came to the conclusion that they had created and maintained a "self-consciously visible, vital and militant movement culture." "Without its club life, press, unions and culture," Nelson asserts, "the ideology of that movement is unintelligent" (Nelson, 1988, p.240-1). Much the same is true for the movement on the east coast, particularly in New York.

Despite the staggering growth of industrial capitalism, the brotherliness between business and politics, and the ubiquitous parade of police power, the German immigrant anarchists succeeded in building a "sphere of free action" in which they could move and expand. Even though this program of group building was conceived as a means toward the realization of Social Revolution, and not so much as a revolutionary act in itself, it is worth examining this "sphere," for it illustrates the need for an autonomous space, a concept still (if not more) relevant today. As will be seen, this "sphere" was not entirely static or insulated; it showed quite some initiative to organize and educate non-anarchists.

The German working-class saloon was the most characteristic meeting place of German anarchists. Owned by Germans, these saloons dotted the streetscape of the Lower East Side, New York's immigrant ghetto. They served the famed lager-beer with hot meals and were different from the traditional American saloons in that women were allowed to enter (quite to the astonishment of reporters). As a radical meeting place, the saloon or bierhal had its origin in the German socialist movement of the 1860s and 1870s, but the dens frequented by anarchists in New York quickly became distinguished from those chosen by socialists. Typically, each group or club conducted its regular bi-monthly meetings in its own pub. New York Group I, of which Most was a leader, gathered at Frederic Krämer's place, and later at Paul Wilzig's saloon, whereas Group Newark invariably met at Edward Willms’ place, to name but a few.

The most famous saloon of all, the "gathering-place for all bold, joyful, and freedom-loving spirits," as its owner advertised, was Justus Schwab's place on First Street (Avrich, 1984, p.50). In popularity, Schwab was seconded only by Most. He had been in New York since the 1870s and became quite well-off, but never relinquished the spirit of rebellion and solidarity with the less-fortunate. Schwab's place was not just a taproom, however, but functioned in every sense as the foremost infoshop of New York radicals. Besides billboards and a piano it featured a library of no less than 600 volumes (of which Emma Goldman made ample use). The backroom, as in all saloons, served as a forum for discussion. Schwab, a close friend of Most, also acted as primary agent for Freiheit in the New York area. It is perhaps no surprise that the death of Justus Schwab in 1900 was seen as another blow to the declining German anarchist movement. His funeral brought together some 2000 people in a procession through the streets of the East Side, as it was witnessed by one New York Times reporter (NYT, 21 December 1900).

Oratory was a central community-building instrument as well as an effective weapon against tyranny and oppression. Perhaps less so today, lectures and speechmaking were as much part of the anarchist community as group meetings and socializing. Lectures were given in saloons, but more importantly, mass meetings were frequently organized to address the entire anarchist (and others) community. These gatherings took place in large halls such as Cooper Union or Germania Assembly Rooms, to name a few. Johann Most was of course the most respected speaker, and his monthly schedule, as gleaned from the anarchist papers, was truly impressive. He spoke at occasions such as the anniversary of the Paris Commune or the commemoration of the 1887 execution of the Chicago anarchists. He addressed general protest meetings attended by thousands of men and women as well as smaller meetings of the Russian Progressive Union or the Pioneers of Liberty, the first Jewish anarchist organization in the 1890s. Such congregations significantly contributed to the bonding of radicals in the urban centers. As many now believe, anarchism is essentially about building relationships, engendering a feeling of solidarity among like-minded people, a feeling that surely must have inspired many attendants. But mass meetings also enabled the movement to demonstrate, even flaunt, solidarity by way of filling a large hall to voice protest. They knew that these rallies were not only attended by workers, but also by plainclothesmen and a legion of reporters.

If propaganda was the main activity of the anarchists' public campaign, the need to practice anarchist ideals almost went without saying. It is this internal club life in all its manifestations that has been so neglected by historians, yet it rendered a meaningfulness to an otherwise dreary and frustrating life of the proletarian activist. One could argue that the participation in a fellowship of anarchists offered more satisfaction (for the rank and file members) than a Nechaev-esque commitment to the cause as it was outlined in the public expressions of anarchism (by mainstream and radical media alike).

Nothing can illustrate this camaraderie better than the frequency with which the German anarchists (often in collaboration with other ethnic groups) organized picnics and outings. Not only did the neighboring parks offer a welcome retreat from the slums of Manhattan, but these occasions embodied anarchism itself. Invariably, beer drinking, music and target shooting formed the cornerstone of these family gatherings in which women and children were as involved as the men (children's games and a raffle never failed). Usually the red or black flag was carried along, and speeches by Most and others clarified their mission once again.

The importance of vocal and instrumental music to the anarchist community cannot be overstated. Nearly every union that was organized along anarchist principles had its own singing society or concert band. In December 1886, the independent singing society Vorwärts (Forward) was formed. They held regular meetings every Friday evening at Lauda's Hall, and it was advertised that only "revolutionary-minded workers" were admitted (Freiheit, 11 December 1886). In Newark alone no fewer than four German anarchist singing societies were active in the Spring of 1887, with names such as "Liberty" and "Teutonia" (Freiheit, 19 March 1887). Singing and dancing were always part of a large meeting. "Women and youngsters fond of dancing," reported the Freiheit after a large Commune-fest, "were not a little happy when after the winding up of the actual Program, a section of the older attendants with their wives withdrew from the festivities thus creating some space for the well-represented youth" (Freiheit, 26 March 1887). Other activities generously sponsored by the German anarchists were theater, Midsummer Night and Christmas celebrations, as well as discussion and mutual aid groups.

It was clear that much of this community life was carried by elements of ethnicity such as a common language, and a love of beer and music. But the solidarity among multi-ethnic radical workers should not be underestimated. Anarchists did not view national identity as un-anarchistic, but rather as a celebration of pluralism. An event such as the remembrance of the Paris Commune, often organized under German leadership, attracted French, Italian, Bohemian and Russian groups, who, at the end of the evening, could all stand up and sing the Marseillaise accompanied by Sundersdorf's music ensemble.

Extending the "Sphere of Free Action"

Despite the community of spirits among immigrant radicals, the glaring absence of English-speaking workers was painfully visible. Why was it that the large majority of socialists and anarchists were from European descent? This typical pre-WWI phenomenon has been food for thought for many scholars, but it is significant to realize that it also troubled the German anarchists during the last two decades of the nineteenth-century. In a larger perspective, this brings to light the question of how inclusive an anarchist organization should be without compromising too much its own principles –an issue still relevant today.

To some extent, the anarchist groups that were formed in the wake of the Pittsburgh Congress possessed some exclusivity in the sense that they were based on card-holding membership and a near-underground status. This can partly be explained by the rampant repression after the Haymarket incident, which produced a veritable Red Scare. For fear of infiltration, the admission of new members was subjected to identity checks and even a two-week surveillance of the newcomer.

But even more essential was the forging of a constructive relationship with the larger body of American working men and women as well as with American middle-class liberals. Again, nineteenth-century anarchists faced the same issues that contemporary organizers need to tackle. In an article published in November 2001, Kim Fyke and Gabriel Sayegh attempt to put this crucial issue at the forefront. They rightly criticize modern anarchists for their lack of broad-based organizing and their aversion to any notions of leadership. The authors call for the building of an "anti-authoritarian revolutionary project" that can uplift an anarchist elite, dominated by white middle-class males, now doomed by "self-imposed isolation" (Fyke & Sayegh, 2001, p.2).

The core of these ideas can easily be traced back to the first anarchists engaged in collective action, the immigrant radicals. It was imperative, they thought, that inroads be made into the vast passivity (as they saw it) of the American workers, an ever-growing segment of the country's population. From the conclusion of the Pittsburgh Congress until 1884, not one English-language paper was included as official organ of the IWPA (there were, however, seven German and two Czech papers). When in 1884 the English-language paper Alarm joined the ranks it was welcomed as a valuable addition in the arsenal of propaganda geared towards the native-born worker. But organizing Anglo-American workers proved difficult. One reason, according to a writer in Freiheit, was the lack of funds, which was complicated by the fact that there was no central treasury. One speaker, associated with the Germans, who did make some inroads was Hamilton Garside who delivered several lectures on the right to rebel in the 1889. But when in June 1889 a meeting for American workers was called at which Most improvised a speech in English, it turned out that most attendants were immigrants.

These frustrations were aggravated by the massive display of patriotism at the centennial celebration of the drafting of the Constitution in May 1887. But even if Most, who criticized American hypocrisy, realized that the patriotic fervor was mostly indulged in by the elite, he nonetheless dismissed the average American as an unscrupulous egoist. "The Americans," he wrote in Freiheit, "are on average devoid of any Idealism" (Freiheit, 27 February 1887).

The problem of building a "non-authoritarian revolutionary project," to use Fyke and Sayegh's phrase, for the German anarchist continued during the 1890s. Such a project was still believed to be largely proletarian, and needed to include English-speaking American workers. The position and influence of Johann Most was in decline, which for some was a blessing. Younger anarchists abandoned Bakunin's collectivist ideas and embraced the tenets of communist-anarchism as espoused by Peter Kropotkin and Errico Malatesta. Among them was Claus Timmermann who in 1891 moved from St. Louis to New York and established his newspaper Der Anarchist on East 5th Street on the Lower East Side.

Timmermann's venture quickly attracted a number of young activists such as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, both of whom had been disciples of Most. Not only did they transcend the ethnic boundaries by offering lectures in English, but also by widening the scope of issue which, they believed, anarchists should concern themselves. These issues ranged from prison reform and birth control to free speech and sexual liberation. Most importantly, Goldman was able to forge strong alliances with American liberals and progressives, especially during the first decades of the twentieth-century.

During the 1890s, Timmermann, who mastered the English language, published two more German-language anarchist periodicals, and soon realized that what was needed was English-language propaganda. He decided to devote his energy to the publication of pamphlets in English, including translations of the work of Kropotkin and Elisée Reclus, two prominent theoreticians of communist-anarchism.

The German anarchists naturally also sought to include more German workers, or workers of the same trade. Trade unionism was a cornerstone of German radicalism and a large portion of anarchists were involved in what they called progressive unions. They tended to criticize parliamentary politics and embraced a kind of anarcho-syndicalism. This branch was heavily present in Chicago where the anarchists were in the forefront of the workers' and eight-hour day movements. The trade unions with the most anarchists in the New York City area were the machine operators, the furniture workers and the cabinet-makers, all holding regular meetings, picnics, outings and get-togethers.

On the group or club level this spirit of recruitment was also visible, though members proceeded with caution. Most of the time the business meetings were conducted by the members only, whereas club gatherings with a topical speaker were often open to visitors. The Social-Revolutionary Club, founded in 1880, when advertising its meetings invariably included the postscript: "Opponents of Anarchy will have freedom of speech" (Freiheit, 5 February 1887). Also, when in 1887 a proposal to re-locate the Information Bureau to New York was approved by all the groups, it was suggested that the identities of all contact persons be kept secret. This secrecy was immediately opposed by the groups in St. Louis who argued that open information on how to set up groups could be useful for individuals outside the IWPA. Another initiative was taken by some of the leaders of the New York Group I, such as Johann Most and Carl Wölky, when they urged members to announce the meetings to their co-workers, the tactic of word-of-mouth.

Despite these efforts, the German anarchist movement was slowly being superseded by another ethnic group that was growing enormously during the first decades of the new century, the Russian-Jewish socialists. These young radicals, such as Roman Lewis, Saul Yanovsky and others, were influenced by Most and took over much of the German infrastructure to build their own Yiddish-speaking anarchist culture. Some of these Jewish anarchists were able to expand their audience and became American radicals, forging a broader radical front in which younger generation Germans also participated, such as Timmermann, Carl Nold and Max Baginski.

It seems that the barriers for extending the anarchist sphere during the turn of the century consisted of ethnic, generational and ideological conflicts. Still the anarchist movement was able, in a small way, to join the growing progressive momentum during the 1910s, where the potential for a broad-based front of liberal forces was possible, a potential repeated during the 1960s and early 1970s.

But to a large extent, it was anarchism's uncompromising critique of capitalism and parliamentary politics and its call for revolutionary measures that alienated it from the larger American society, especially liberals. In an essay on the abolitionist movement, Martin Duberman points to the powerfully engrained optimism of the American mainstream, which caused it to discard any radical attack on institutions. "And so the majority has generally found it necessary," Duberman writes, "to label 'extreme' any measures that calls for large-scale readjustment" (Duberman, 1999, p.5-6). An insight that is as relevant for the nineteenth as for our own century.


Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Martin Duberman, Left Out: The Politics of Exclusion/Essays/1964-1999. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Kim Fyke & Gabriel Sayegh, "Anarchism and the Struggle to Move Forward," published on the website of

the Richmond Independent Media Center, November 2001.

James Joll, The Anarchists. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1964.

Bruce Nelson, Beyond the Martyrs: A Social History of Chicago's Anarchists, 1870-1900. New

Brunswick, NJ & London: Rutgers University Press, 1988.

Peter Parisi, ed. Artist of the Actual: Essays on Paul Goodman. Metuchen, NJ & London: Scarecrow

Press, 1986.

Gerald Runkle, Anarchism: Old and New. New York: Dell Publishing, 1972.

Bio: Tom Goyens

This is my first contribution to SA. I am a graduate student at the University of Leuven, Belgium working on a dissertation about immigrant anarchists in New York City. I live in Williamsburg where friends and I run an infoshop.

Monday, May 18, 2009

News of interest 5/18/09

How to survive the coming century

ALLIGATORS basking off the English coast; a vast Brazilian desert; the mythical lost cities of Saigon, New Orleans, Venice and Mumbai; and 90 per cent of humanity vanished. Welcome to the world warmed by 4 °C.

Clearly this is a vision of the future that no one wants, but it might happen. Fearing that the best efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions may fail, or that planetary climate feedback mechanisms will accelerate warming, some scientists and economists are considering not only what this world of the future might be like, but how it could sustain a growing human population. They argue that surviving in the kinds of numbers that exist today, or even more, will be possible, but only if we use our uniquely human ingenuity to cooperate as a species to radically reorganise our world.

The good news is that the survival of humankind itself is not at stake: the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained. But maintaining the current global population of nearly 7 billion, or more, is going to require serious planning.

-New Scientist

Militants threaten to blockade oil vessels

Nigeria's main militant group said on Monday it would blockade key waterways in the Niger Delta to try to prevent crude oil exports after days of military helicopter and gunboat raids on its camps.

The security forces launched an offensive against militant camps around Warri in the western Niger Delta on Friday after two oil vessels were hijacked and its soldiers were attacked, leading to the heaviest fighting in at least eight months.

"We have ordered the blockade of key waterway channels to oil industry vessels both for the export of crude and gas and importation of refined petroleum products," the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said.

"This means vessels now ply such routes at their risk," the group said in an e-mailed statement.


Reliving the Sean Bell Case by Renaming a Street

New York politicians love to rename streets, and the battles that ensue range from the explosive to the mundane.

The City Council’s vote in 2007 to reject renaming a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, after the black activist Sonny Carson came closer to dividing the Council along racial lines than any issue that members could recall. On the other hand, when Rose Feiss, the founder of a lampshade factory, was honored in 1987 with an eponymous boulevard in the South Bronx, the main objection was that the change might confuse people looking for the former Walnut Street.

So William G. Bell is prepared for anything as he pushes for a Sean Bell Way in Jamaica, Queens. “I can’t get no more disappointed than what I already went through,” said Mr. Bell, who is seeking to rename several blocks of Liverpool Street for his son Sean, 23, who was killed there in a barrage of police bullets as he left a nightclub on what would have been his wedding day, Nov. 25, 2006.

Police officers testified that in a chaotic scene outside the club they believed that a friend of Sean Bell’s had a gun. No gun was found. When a Queens judge last year acquitted the three detectives involved, the decision spurred protests that led to hundreds of arrests.
-New York Times

Indigenous Chiapans Insist They Are in Prison For Belonging to the EZLN

El Amate, Chiapas. May 6 - "I have been detained because I belong to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation" (EZLN), Miguel Vazquez Moreno declared today when he gave his testimony in the second criminal court in the State Center for Social Rehabilitation of Convicts (CERSS in its Spanish initials) number 14, El Amate, where none of the officials and employees, of course, are wearing face masks. Nor do they seem aware that there is a national and state health emergency.

In contrast to his first "statement" given under coercion in pre-charge detention, Vazquez Moreno is assisted by an interpreter who speaks his language, or at least a variation of his dialect (the interpreter the authorities have provided is from Cancuc, while the eight detained men from San Sebastian Bachajon speak the tzeltal dialect of Chilon). But, at least they understand each other, and that is enough.

From behind the railing he declares himself innocent of the charges against him, and requests that he be freed for lack of evidence to proceed with a trial. And he introduces himself in this manner: "I am from the ejido San Sebastian Bachajon and I belong to the support bases of the EZLN, an organization that defends its right to exercise autonomy and self-determination as indigenous peoples, its right to territory and natural resources."
-La Journada (translated to English by Kristin Bricker)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Contradictions in the border debate: CAROB flyers the Border Security Expo

Phoenix Insurgent

Below I have linked to the text of a flyer distributed Tuesday at the Border Security Expo by PCWC's comrades in the local pro-migrant anarchist group CAROB. Organizers of the Expo itself recently reported their satisfaction with the event, which eerily presented a variety of technologies that vendors hope to see deployed sooner rather than later at the border, but which we will surely see not long after on our streets and in the hands of local police forces. Obama's recent re-invigoration of the high tech border effort will certainly help things move along in that unfortunate respect.

Considering the CAROB flyer, I think it does several things worth remarking on that we at PCWC have been trying to work on ourselves. Most importantly, from my perspective, the piece looks for connections, fault lines and hypocrisies that result from or defy spoken or unspoken ideologies. For instance, linking the deployment of surveillance technology narrowly at the border to their broader spread away from the border and onto our freeways is a point well worth pushing (and one made by the infamous Santa's last Christmas). The same is true with the point about comparing the border and the airport. After all, it's freedom of movement that is being both challenged and defended within the camera/checkpoint dialogue.

At PCWC we've explored similar terrain with our pieces about the light rail and immigrant detention camps. A soon to be forthcoming article by me on cameras statewide and the resistance to them in one context, versus the embracing of them in the other will explore the white supremacist tension that lies at the heart of both issues: that freedom of movement is reserved for whites, not for migrants. One of the interesting things about the Arizona movement against immigration, against the internal checkpoints and against the roadside cameras is its generally libertarian composition. There is much overlap within each particular facet and each makes similar appeals and arguments, but each is tainted by an underlying and often unstated white supremacist assumptions. Presciently, CAROB has recognized the link here between the resistance by many in the white libertarian movement and whites in general to the internal checkpoints, even as these same people remain generally mum or even supportive when it comes to their utilization against migrants or on Native lands.

For instance, evoking the magical word "citizen" is a frequent line of defense used by those white libertarians that challenge the checkpoints, revealing a tacit acceptance of the police tactic if only it were deployed against what are presumed to be the right people -- i.e., Mexicans and others categorized as alien by the white power system (which has historically included more than just migrants). We see further in this example how the word "citizen" itself operates as a codeword for "white" in most cases. Sadly, references to the constitution itself, in this context, likewise echo past rejoinders for the defense of white citizenship. Clearly, such positions have no place in a truly libertarian movement.

Which is precisely why they are so interesting to engage. While many people find the contradictions above reason enough to define an opposition and to line up against it, those of us here at PCWC are more interested in what unseen opportunities may be revealed by them. Which is not to say that one would form an alliance with racist reactionaries. Obviously not. However, not every white libertarian is a Minuteklan supporter. And much of the support in the broader white community isn't as deep as it seems at first glance.

If contradictions exist (and they surely do), within their debate, then it means opportunities to engage with libertarian elements inclined to an anti-racist dialogue that defy the left-right straightjack may present themselves and, if finessed and studied, they may provide the potential to redefine the way that whiteness plays out in that context. Perhaps a rift can be created between the reactionaries and wider white society by focusing on these potentialities. And shifting the ground under whiteness opens further opportunities for class struggle.

For instance, and from a fanatical point of view, a campaign against the internal checkpoints that adheres to unbending opposition to white supremacy might reveal some interesting partners and openings for class struggle and, just as importantly, for the liberation of spaces in the southwest for movement by all people. This is something we here at PCWC have really just started to explore but I think it's quite worth investigating.

Read CAROB's interesting article here:

CAROB flier for Border Security Expo

Monday, May 11, 2009

News of Interest 5/11/09

For Somali Pirates, Worst Enemy May Be on Shore

Mr. Boyah, who lives in a simple little house, explains: “Don’t be surprised when I tell you all the money has disappeared. When someone who never had money suddenly gets money, it just goes.”

He claims that his estimated take of several hundred thousand dollars disappeared down a vortex of parties, weddings, jewelry, cars and qat, the stimulating leaf that Somalis chew like bubble gum.
Also, because of the extended network of relatives and clansmen, “it’s not like three people split a million bucks,” he said. “It’s more like 300.”

Oh, Mr. Boyah added, he also gives 15 percent to charity, especially to the elderly and infirm.
“I’d love to give them more,” he said.

Over all, he seemed like a man on a genuine quest for redemption — or a very good liar.
-New York Times

U.S., Europe Are an Ocean Apart on Human Toll of Joblessness
The little German town of Hohenlockenstedt, where Mr. Butt worked, also used to be a manufacturing powerhouse. In the 1970s it had more industrial jobs than inhabitants; factories had to bus workers in.

Today, hardly any industry is left. In December, the auto-parts factory where Mr. Butt worked for eight years, HWU GmbH, announced its own shutdown. Workers protested, occupying the factory for a week. Mr. Butt, a burly 42-year-old, participated as employees barricaded the gates with forklifts and slept in the factory's canteen. Their demand: Save our jobs.

It was hopeless. Mr. Butt found himself out of work in January.
Normally, German workers get severance pay in large-scale layoffs, but HWU didn't have enough money. As a result, Mr. Butt's benefits are about as bad as it gets for a laid-off German factory worker. Still, compared with the U.S., it's a lucrative package. First, he (and everyone else) got a job at a so-called "transfer" company, a private business that offers training and job-hunting advice with funding from the state and the former employer.

Through transfer companies, German workers can receive the bulk of their former salary for as much as a year before they even have to apply for unemployment. Mr. Butt is getting four months at 80% of his old salary of €2,700 (roughly $3,600) a month. After tax, he's taking home about €350 less than before.
-Wall Street Journal

The masterpiece that killed George Orwell

The circumstances surrounding the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four make a haunting narrative that helps to explain the bleakness of Orwell's dystopia. Here was an English writer, desperately sick, grappling alone with the demons of his imagination in a bleak Scottish outpost in the desolate aftermath of the second world war. The idea for Nineteen Eighty-Four, alternatively, "The Last Man in Europe", had been incubating in Orwell's mind since the Spanish civil war. His novel, which owes something to Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian fiction We, probably began to acquire a definitive shape during 1943-44, around the time he and his wife, Eileen adopted their only son, Richard. Orwell himself claimed that he was partly inspired by the meeting of the Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference of 1944. Isaac Deutscher, an Observer colleague, reported that Orwell was "convinced that Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt consciously plotted to divide the world" at Tehran.
-The Guardian

A Pocket-Size Leveler in an Outsize Land

The cellphone appeals, too, because it plays into the Indian need to place people. Cellular differences today perform the role that forehead markings and strings around torsos and metal bracelets once did: announcing who outranks whom.

Small people have small phones, and big people have big ones. Small people have numerical-soup numbers, and big people have numbers that end in 77777 or something equally important-sounding or easy to remember. Small people have one phone, and big people have two. Small people set their phones merely to ring, and big people make Bollywood songs play when you call them.

The cellphone, in short, has made itself Indian. There are 65 times more cellphone connections than broadband Internet links, and the gap is widening. And so those who wish to influence Indians are not waiting for the computer to catch on, but are seeking ways to adapt the cellphone to the things Westerners do online.

Indian companies have invented methods, via simple cellphone text-messaging, to wire money to temples, pay for groceries, find jobs and send and receive e-mail messages (on humble phones with no data connection).

But the most intriguing notion is that cellphones could transform Indian democracy.

Even in this voting season — the results of a four-week election will be announced May 16 — Indians are famously cynical about their senior-citizen-dominated, dynastic, corrupt politics. The educated often sit out elections. But with cellphones becoming near universal, experiments are sprouting with the goal of forging a new bond between citizen and state, through real-time, 24-hour cellular participation.
-The New York Times

Prison radio station is nominated for four national awards
Although prison radio has been around since the mid-1990s in Britain, when Feltham Young Offenders Institute started a station, there is now one in every seven prisons.

The aim is to provide communication at a place where conditions are poor, and where prisoners, who are on remand awaiting trial on allegations ranging from credit card fraud to murder, arrive with a typical reading age of about 11.
Nominated in the speech category at tonight’s awards is Prisoner’s Voices, a discussion programme in which inmates interview each other — and where Mark (not his real name), who has “a lot of hate and dislove for myself”, talks about cutting his wrists and says that his arms “to be honest, look a mess”.

A prisoner harms himself every other day at HMP Brixton, and while most incidents are trivial, seven inmates killed themselves between 2006 and 2008, at a jail that the chief inspector described as one that “exemplifies all the problems of our overcrowded prison system”.

-Times of London

DOJ Budget Details High-Tech Crime Fighting Tools

Another high-tech program includes the development of the Biometric Technology Center, a joint Justice, FBI and DoD program. Building the center will cost $97.6 million and will serve as a research and development center for biometric technology.

Last year, the FBI announced it would partner with the University of West Virginia to establish the center.
Eventually, the Biometric project will be a vast database of personal data including fingerprints, iris scans and DNA which the FBI calls the Next Generation Identification (NGI).

The FBI has awarded the NGI contract to Lockheed Martin to update and maintain the database which is expected to come online in 2010. After being fully deployed the NGI contract could cost up to $1 billion.

DOJ's budget request also mentions an INTERPOL program called Project Vennlig, which is a terrorist information sharing program run by the international anti-crime organization. The Defense Department initiated the program to obtain criminal information about insurgents killed or captured in Iraq.

The DOJ budget request notes the program gathers information from insurgents' cell phones and documents found in their possession: "The purpose of the initiative is to obtain and integrate collected information for the use of INTERPOL member countries and U.S. law enforcement agencies in proactively targeting terrorism."
-ABC News

Friday, May 8, 2009

Joel Olson: Politics of Protestant Violence: Abolitionists and Anti-Abortionists

Phoenix Insurgent

Joel Olson's politics have influenced those of us in PCWC a great deal, there's no doubt about that. Not so much when it comes to the organizational question (Joel is a founding member of Bring the Ruckus, a group that PCWC has come into conflict with several times), but certainly when it comes to the fundamental importance of white supremacy in American society. Of course, that's just fine because we at PCWC take what we think is worth taking from wherever it needs taking from.

For those that don't know, essentially boiled down to its essence, race traitor politics is an analysis that puts forward the hypothesis that white supremacy is the primary contradiction in American politics. Whiteness is a political relationship and a political alliance. Said another way, whiteness is the agreement between what we call white people of all classes that, in exchange for not upsetting the capitalist applecart, even poor whites will receive a series of benefits above and beyond similarly classed people of other races. And this necessarily means the continued exploitation and reduced status of people of color. Thus it puts white people's political aspirations in contradiction to those of the rest of the working class and therefore likewise against the cause of revolution.

For instance, much more than people of color, even a poor white can expect not to be harassed by the police as much (and therefore to remain out of the prison system), to have better access to schools and health care, to have access to better jobs and higher income, and to accumulate family wealth and a variety of other benefits. In order to receive these benefits, poor and middle class white folks have to agree to a devil's bargain with rich whites. This cross-class alliance is responsible for the otherwise unexplainable and bizarre political behavior of whites, who consistently refuse (much to the consternation of liberals and leftists of all stripes) to take revolutionary or even progressive positions of solidarity with people of color (witness the immigration question here in Arizona, where Sheriff Joe's electoral numbers are dwarfed by the totals in favor of anti-immigrant propositions). It explains why whites do not find common cause with people of color from their own class: they have been given a sort of aristocratic position within the class. It's what DuBois called the "wages of whiteness". Thus, whites wind up reactionaries that defend the current order. They defend their whiteness. And that sustains capitalism, despite the fact that even white folks who aren't rich are exploited under the system as well.

Of course, strategically this has implications for the way we organize. The analysis suggests that, if white supremacy is so important to the maintenance of capitalist domination in the US, then the way to attack that domination is to put that glue, white supremacy, into crisis. In essence, not to act politically like a white person. The idea is that if the elite can no longer count on the allegiance of white folks to white supremacy, then the opportunity for a real attack on capitalism and the state become possible.

Anyhow, there's more to it than that, but that's it in a nutshell. One of the other interesting things that Joel researches is the role of fanaticism in politics. A couple years ago, he gave a talk at ASU on fanatacism which I recommend everyone listen to, and I did an analysis of it at my old blog, Phoenix Insurgent (check both out here). As Joel puts it, fanaticism is "a critique and a rejection of political moderation - not a rejection of reason, of rationality or anything like that. And, as such, fanaticism and reason can be consistent. And furthermore, it can be consistent with justice and democracy in times when moderation lends support to the enemies of democracy."

In essence, fanaticism is a political orientation towards both one's enemies and the middle ground at the same time. It seeks to evaporate the middle ground occupied by political moderates at the same time it engages its enemies. That's because the fanatic wants to force sides to be drawn on an issue. The fanatic seeks to polarize.

This jibes really well with the anti- or post-leftism that guides many of PCWC's actions and ideas. Leftism, as I see it is a false political alliance that assumes relationships and a continuity of ideas and goals that is simply not generally borne out by history. That is, if the anarchist and the communist are both leftists, then why does the communist sell out the anarchist (and everyone else, for that matter) so frequently in history? Likewise the liberal. So often the mantra on the left is that "we're all on the same side". But the results of political struggle tell a different story. That's reason to question the existence of the left, then, at least in terms of revolutionary strategy.

So, whereas the post-leftist looks for alliances that break out of or defy the tired old leftist spectrum, the fanatic seeks to do a very similar thing, although by pointing a good deal of its arrows at political moderates -- many of whom may pose as more pragmatic allies. To the fanatic, the existence of the moderate is a political problem that must be resolved if progress is to be made. The moderate is a political impediment. To this end, the fanatic takes positions and actions that force the middle to make a choice.

Anyhow, the long and short of it is that Joel has been doing some interesting research that brings the two main currents that PCWC agrees with him on together in his study of the abolitionists and fanatacism. Here in Phoenix, PCWC has been circulating and promoting his ideas in this regard (and we carry his book, "The Abolition of White Democracy") and so it was with some excitement that it came to my attention via Collin Sick that Joel had recently given a talk on the topic at NAU (where he teaches) and that the video had made it onto the internet. Thanks to whoever put it up we can now all enjoy it. I recommend it highly and I've posted the first of four parts below. Check it out. The other four parts are posted here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

News of Interest 5/7/09

Texas police shake down drivers, lawsuit claims

Maryland resident Amanee Busbee said she also was threatened with losing custody of her child after being stopped in Tenaha with her fiancé and his business partner. They were headed to Houston with $50,000 to complete the purchase of a restaurant, she said.

"The police officer would say things to me like, 'Your son is going to child protective services because you are not saying what we need to hear,' " Busbee said.

Guillory, who practices in nearby Nacogdoches, Texas, estimates authorities in Tenaha seized $3 million between 2006 and 2008, and in about 150 cases -- virtually all of which involved African-American or Latino motorists -- the seizures were improper.

"They are disproportionately going after racial minorities," he said. "My take on the matter is that the police in Tenaha, Texas, were picking on and preying on people that were least likely to fight back."


Nevada town rallies to save prison camp

A small town finds out that slave labor is something worth fighting for in this recession.
In this former boomtown forgotten by much of the state, the small prison is a savior for residents and the cash-strapped town manager. Supervised inmates shovel snowed-in driveways, yank out weeds, clean rain gutters, slash brush and dig graves.

"They do everything but herd cattle," said Perchetti, 63, who runs the Tonopah Convention Center. "Shoot, they fixed my plumbing a few times."

So when state officials proposed mothballing the camp to help narrow Nevada's $3-billion budget gap, residents prepared for battle. They repeatedly car-pooled to the capital -- a 460-mile round trip. To lawmakers and their staff, they handed out save-the-camp pleas written by senior citizens, high school principals, the Salvation Army, students.
-Los Angeles Times

SC man is latest accused recession bank robber

See also this article from the Arizona Republic today for local insight into this phenomenon otherwise known as the "reverse bailout".
Windsor is one of a growing list of unlikely suspects, ordinary people from ministers to ex-cops citing financial duress since the start of the recession in late 2007 for allegedly turning to a crime that targets fast cash — bank robbery.

Money troubles, specifically job losses, have also been named as possible motives in at least four of the mass shootings that have scarred the country this winter, including the deaths of 13 people and a gunman in Binghamton, N.Y., the killings of three police officers in Pittsburgh and four more plus the shooter in Oakland, Calif., and the deaths of 10 people and a gunman in south Alabama.

Bank holdups haven't grabbed the same attention, but industry figures show they go up during recessions, and experts say the pressure inevitably pushes some otherwise law-abiding people to find themselves accosting a teller at a window.
-Associated Press

Millionaires don't feel so rich: survey

Some 46% of the 1,012 participants in the annual Fidelity Investments study said they "do not feel wealthy and are taking action to reassess and rebuild their wealth."
0:00 /5:27Buffett: Behind the scenes

That's a big change from last year, when only 19% said they didn't feel rich. Fidelity blamed the drop on the corresponding plunge in wealth, with an average 19% reduction in household income and investable assets, and a 28% plunge in real estate holdings.

Fidelity, a Boston-based financial services company, described the average respondent as having $3.5 million in assets and $306,000 in annual household income.

Cow jumps fence, escapes slaughterhouse

I think there's a lesson here for all of us.

A cow has escaped from a New York City slaughterhouse and may have a new lease on life.

Police say the black heifer bolted Wednesday afternoon from Musa Hala Inc., which butchers animals according to religious restrictions.

The cow wandered in Queens for about a kilometre before police captured her an hour later and took her to an Animal Care and Control centre, where she was nicknamed Molly.
-Associated Press

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Phoenix Class War Council Presents: The I <3 Somali Pirate T-Shirt Promo

Collin Sick

This video was something we did for fun over the weekend after a very successful weekend with our new shirts. Friday saw PCWC tabling at the monthly First Friday art walk in Phoenix, and much like last month our table was busy all night. We moved a bunch of books, pamphlets, and copies of our paper, in addition to the "No More Racism" and "I <3 height="344" width="425">

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A future remembered in past tense

Phoenix Insurgent

Below I have embedded Helena Norberg's classic film "Ancient Futures" about globalization and capitalist accumulation on the Indian/Tibetan border. Her video, brought to my attention this week by the very informative anti-authoritarian radio show Unwelcome Guests, shows visually what many have tried to articulate in words: that poverty is an inevitable result of capitalism, not the failure of it. That is, capitalism creates poverty from whole cloth where none existed before. Norberg illustrates this by showing us that material deprivation and poverty are not the same thing.

Indeed, we see this in Mexico, where the process of capital accumulation that has occurred since the Spanish set foot there, and increasing steadily with the passage of NAFTA and the laws that preceded it, has privatized vast swaths of land, uprooting whole communities. Once living lives without material abundance as most economists would understand it but high degrees of autonomy, now they are forced into the cities of North America where they must work for a wage, creating the phenomenon of rising wages alongside rising poverty.

Capitalist economists literally don't count what you produce for yourself or trade to others in your small hamlet, but it does count those rent payments and grocery store bills. If you didn't sell it, it doesn't count, in other words. Thus, your material wealth may seem to increase at the same time your level of poverty does.

Since the PCWC members have recently read John Gibler's wonderfully insightful book "Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt", I thought I would introduce Norberg's video with an excerpt from that. As an aside, PCWC recently got a chance to hang with Gibler after a talk he gave and we can vouch that this guy is the real deal and his book is an insightful and provocative people's history of Mexico. Go get it now. You'll thank us for it.

John Gibler:
But what is this, one may resonably ask, about poverty being an ideology, an idea? Isn't poverty a condition, and a bad one at that? Isn't poverty about living without nutritious food, without electricity and indoor plumbing, without access to adequate medical care, drinking water, good roads? Wouldn't it be insulting to say these conditions don't exist or aren't bad?

Excavating poverty's ideological content does not deny the existence of harsh and brutal living conditions, or insinuate that such conditions reflect a wiser, truer way of life than modern industrial capitalism (a typical red herring used to counter critics). The excavation is meant to show how people ended up in horrid conditions, why they are seldom able to change those conditions, and who is responsible for pinning them there; it is meant to help understand both historical and present human actions that forced (and continue to force) people into miserable situations. The ideology of poverty performs a kind of discursive illusion to obscure both historical and current human responsibility for the creation of destitution and suffering, and thus to convince the hundreds of millions of people who are destitute that no one is really to blame for their state, and that national governments and international economists are the best ones to figure out how to help them in their toil.
We can take this a step further by considering that what this discourse further does is lock us into a dialectic in which the struggle is against poverty, or for the advancement of particular groups (workers, women, national minorities) within this economic construct. Thus, the logic of the system that creates poverty becomes the defining characteristic of the struggle against it. You can see how it's very difficult to escape from this two-edged sword. In the end, this explains why so many struggles against capitalism only wind up with the subject further embedded within it. Take the unions and communist parties as prime examples. Once standing in opposition to Capital, they everywhere now bargain with it and even prop it up.

What this illustrates is the complexity of our task as revolutionaries and the depths to which the dominant ideology of capitalism has infected the dialogue of even those who seek to resist it. Here at PCWC, we seek to dig deep beyond the surface. But one question dogs us at every turn: what if our distance from these changes, what if the transformation wrought by Capital on our lives is so complete, that our imaginations fail us? This is the question of our time.

Perhaps my answer will sound more than a little Situationist influenced, then, when I say:
All power to the imagination!

And now, "Ancient Futures":

Monday, May 4, 2009

Release them all! Stop jailing migrants!

This is the second text printed on the fliers that PCWC members distributed on the May Day/May 2nd immigrant solidarity march in Phoenix. This piece was by our good friend and comrade Sallydarity, "Release them all! Stop jailing migrants!" is yet another valuable contribution of hers to the understanding of the situation facing immigrants in Maricopa County.

by Sallydarity

We've heard the stories: Undocumented immigrants are getting kidnapped and held for ransom, and perhaps found in drop houses if the police get a tip. The migrants are vulnerable targets because they have been criminalized by the state. Something we don't hear too much about is that the biggest armed gang in the country is kidnapping migrants and holding them against their will. They're not holding them in drop houses; these uniformed kidnappers are handcuffing the migrants and incarcerating them in jails and detention centers.

If we feel that it is tragic when traffickers do it, why do we let the police get away with it? Whether they are "rescued" from traffickers, stopped while driving in one of Arpaio's sweeps, or confronted with the ridiculous charge of conspiracy to smuggle themselves, migrants get caught up in the US prison system for no other reason but crossing a man-made line in the sand.

Arpaio, taking pleasure in humiliating brown-skinned people and getting cheers from racists, stands out as the villain of Maricopa County. But the other police departments are acting in similar, more quiet ways. While migrants and activists wait to hear what the federal government will do to save us from Sheriff Joe, the Department of Homeland Security is holding hundreds of thousands of people- triple the number of people in detention just ten years ago- in detention centers. If they end 287g they will only replace it with something more tasteful; something called "Secure Communities" which will target our "criminal alien" population. Meanwhile our legislature is coming up with new ways to criminalize migrants.

Migrants have been criminalized for who they are and where they are from- not for doing harm. If anything is harmful, it's punishing people for trying to survive the results of colonialism, capitalism, and globalization (which most US citizens enjoy the benefits of). When it is nearly impossible to make a living and nearly impossible to migrate legally, anyone would travel to where they have more opportunities. Why then would advocates for immigrants' rights legitimize the arrests of undocumented immigrants by complaining only about the "legal" people who get caught up in the racial profiling sweeps? We mustn't buy into the efforts to divide us! We need to bring down the walls between us, as well as the physical walls- the border walls, the jail walls, and the walls of the detention centers.

It should be a crime to imprison people for trying to survive!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

News of interest 5/3/09

A Workers’ Paradise Found Off Japan’s Coast

HIME ISLAND, Japan — If Marxism had ever produced a functional, prosperous society, it might have looked something like this tiny southern Japanese island.

At first glance, there is little to set Hime (pronounced HEE-may) apart from the hundreds of other small inhabited islands that dot the coasts of Japan’s main isles. The 2,519 mostly graying islanders subsist on fishing and shrimp farming, and every summer hold a Shinto religious festival featuring dancers dressed as foxes.

But once off the ferry, the island’s sole public transportation link to the outside, visitors are greeted by an unusual sight: a tall, bronze statue of Hime’s previous mayor, rare in a country that typically shuns such political aggrandizement. Rarer still is that the statue was erected by his son, who is the island’s current mayor.
-New York Times

The Secret History of Kim Jong Il

I first met Kim Jong Il in October 1959. He was a senior at the elite Namsan Senior High School, and I was a 27-year-old professor of Russian at the Pyongyang University of Education. I also happened to have been chosen as a private tutor for the family of North Korean President Kim Il Sung. One day, the Great Leader remarked that he found his son’s Russian to be very poor and told me to go to his school and evaluate both Kim Jong Il’s proficiency and the quality of Russian education there. Handpicked by Joseph Stalin to rule over North Korea and a fluent Russian speaker himself, Kim Il Sung deemed study of the language essential to relations with the Soviet Union, North Korea’s biggest political, economic, and military patron. At the school, I attended every Russian class, made evaluations, and then summoned the 17-year-old Kim Jong Il into the principal’s office. The principal, one of the school’s Russian teachers, and I, in accordance with Kim Il Sung’s orders, jointly administered an oral Russian exam for Kim Jong Il.
-Foreign Policy Magazine

Drug War Repression Hits Zapatistas and the Other Campaign

In an operation that bears all the marks of drug war-style repression, state and federal police detained six adherents to the Other Campaign, one Zapatista, and one unaffiliated man in Agua Azul, Chiapas. The military was also involved; it shot six warning shots into the air with live ammunition at a protest blockade, and it provided military intelligence that Chiapas state officials say was used to detain the men. The Agua Azul region is an area that in recent years has been the site of violent attacks against Zapatistas perpetrated by members of the paramilitary Organization For Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC). OPDDIC members allegedly participated in the operation
-Narco News

San Francisco May Day: Anarchists Attack Union Square Stores

High-end Union Square stores felt the wrath of a “black bloc” Friday night, just before nine p.m. That’s when, according to witnesses, a herd of about 50 protesters wearing black bandanas over their faces and cloaked in black hoodies tore through O’Farrell and Grant Streets, leaving havoc in their wake.

The group, police believe to be anarchists, may have splintered off from a May Day protest on immigration, before smashing at least 15 storefront windows in the Union Square shopping district. Debeers, Longchamp, Prada, Armani, Tumi, Guess and Montblanc were among the stores hit by the masked mob. Bystanders said the group shot paintballs and burned fake $100 bills while using bricks and sledgehammers to smash-in windows. Their message: down with capitalism.

-SF Law and Politics Examiner

Mike Davis: The swine flu crisis lays bare the meat industry's monstrous power

The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the faecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever. The initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection already travelling at higher velocity than did the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.

Stealing the limelight from our officially appointed assassin, H5N1, this porcine virus is a threat of unknown magnitude. It seems less lethal than Sars in 2003, but as an influenza it may be more durable than Sars. Given that domesticated seasonal type-A influenzas kill as many one million people a year, even a modest increment of virulence, especially if combined with high incidence, could produce carnage equivalent to a major war.

Meanwhile, one of its first victims has been the consoling faith, long preached by the World Health Organisation, that pandemics can be contained by the rapid responses of medical bureaucracies, independent of the quality of local public health. Since the initial H5N1 deaths in Hong Kong in 1997, the WHO, with the support of most national health services, has promoted a strategy focused on the identification and isolation of a pandemic strain within its local radius of outbreak, followed by a thorough dousing of the population with antivirals and (if available) vaccine.

-The Guardian