Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blood on the Line: Resistance, Empire and Repression at the Border

This is the first text from a flyer distributed at the May 2nd demonstration in front of the county jail. Perhaps a critique will appear here if I have some time to do it. Certainly a lot can be said about the generally sad state of the pro-migrant camp these days.

By Phoenix Insurgent

The border fence is a result of three factors, inextricably intertwined: the expansion of capitalism, global war for empire and the desire of common people to organize their own lives free of the first two.

In 1854, the ratification of the Gadsden Purchase settled a border dispute stemming from the American invasion of Mexico seven years earlier (the “Halls of Montezuma” reference in the Marines battle hymn pays tribute to the occupation of Mexico City). With the war over, Southern capitalists and slavocrats turned their greedy eyes west, hoping to expand their trade and the slave system. Mountainous northern Arizona was deemed too difficult for a railway, and so the US purchased from Mexico the region that now encompasses southern Arizona. Thus the border moved, splitting both Mexican cities like Nogales and native peoples' traditional lands.

During this time, the border remained open and people moved relatively freely back and forth. A surveying team in the region left stone piles every couple miles as they traveled, delineating on the land a line on a map generally deemed meaningless by the region's inhabitants, who were keen on constructing their own lives free from such interference. In fact, the first physical barrier wasn't built between the two countries until 1918, when US war hysteria led to the Battle of Ambos Nogales.

Paranoid about a German-backed invasion from Mexico, the US deployed forces to Nogales. When a man crossing the border refused inspection by US troops, it quickly degenerated into open warfare, with American soldiers exchanging fire with Mexican troops and ordinary Mexicans fed up with the degrading treatment routinely meted out by US border guards. The resulting bloodshed left three US soldiers dead and hundreds dead and wounded on the Mexican side, including the mayor of Nogales. As a result, the US built the first chain link fence dividing the two countries.

Since then, as Capital and the State expanded their domination of the region, that fence has grown, even though our resistance to it has continued. While American Capital has become increasingly free to travel to Mexico, sucking the wealth into American banks, people have fought for their right to cross the border on their own terms, free from regulation. Tribes divided by the border have struggled to maintain their historical right to cross and migrant workers have voyaged back and forth in search of work and visiting family.

And, of course, millions of white Americans have crossed for vacations and to set up second homes, something that is largely unremarked by mainstream American society. Indeed hundreds of thousands of Americans live in Mexico, many of whom never register with Mexican immigration agencies. In the US, the freedom of white people specifically and American citizens in general – and the rich of all nations -- to travel to Mexico is considered a birthright, the spoils of war. Meanwhile, the legitimate desire of other people to do the same is criminalized and regulated.

Nevertheless, the right of all humans to travel wherever they wish, whenever they want is elementary to being a free person. As an obvious impediment to that, it is therefore our position that not only should the border fence be stopped and dismantled, but that free movement of all people should be encouraged. All people now held for “immigration” violations should be immediately freed and those already deported should be allowed free travel back if they so desire. All facilities for immigrant detention should be closed and leveled without delay.


Paul said...

(Following from the FB blog post)
I agree that it was unfortunate the way that the anarchists were kind of "kicked out" of the march, and that absent from the AZ immigrant rights movement are more creative and diverse tactics of direct action and information dissemination, I question why, if those marchers who seemed to feel so disenfranchised by the lack of understanding of the the march organizers and its own orange-shirted "police" of the desire to take the full street and push the PPD buttons rather than be shepharded in a way in your authority-approved march that ultimately doesn't really change anything...(aside perhaps from boosting morale, building unity, showing support, slowly gaining numbers?) then I question...
What are the anarchists doing about trying to work with Tonatierra and the others who organized the march and how it would play out to plan the tactical strategy of the day? Obviously we can't be certain that there would be consensus reached in all meeting together and discussing such matters, but...

From what I'm hearing, and what I witnessed and the questions and concerns it brings up to me, are:

what were a small handful of mostly white anarchists expecting when they are an extreme minority in a march of 2000 mostly hispanic people? that all those who organized the march and who were taking part were going to just follow their lead? it's hard to be democratic and take a vote on the strategies of a march while it's happening, don't you think?
and I don't know who threw out the word "provacateurs" the night before the march, or if that was partially the cause, are obviously aware that there is generally a stigma attached to anarchist by the mainstream media as being extremists and vandals and "provacateurs." I'm not saying I agree, just saying that I think even marches that try to think of themselves as "unifying" still ultimately might alienate some of their participants. Everybody marches for different reasons. I think it is unfair to be told to march in single file, don't march out of line, etc...but to me it seems unfortunate nonetheless that it from what i understand after being scolded, the anarchists left. it seems like an ideological pissing contest which if that was the case, the anarchists seem just as guilty as those policing them, as if they were saying, "NO, you should all march in the street, not on the sidewalk, and if you are not going to, we no longer stand with you."
Another thing that crosses my mind, is that it is not rare that police provocateurs are planted to start shit and give them a reason to go get the tear gas and start the beatdown. the media would often peg the anarchists as the scapegoat. to me, perhaps the underlying problem that led to yesterdays events is simply that their is a lot of ignorance among most people as to who true anarchists are and what motivates them. Perhaps it could be a lesson to them and to all the other groups that in many ways are always on the same side, at least for some of the issues, to better communicate and try to work together more effectively in the future, realizing that we have more unifying common goals than not, most likely.
That does in fact seem to be the biggest argument I've always gotten into with anarchists and activists in general--whether I'm doing "enough," or doing the "right" stuff. Then again...usually they could never even do their own fucking dishes. so...haha.
Thank you for your insight, it was nice to stumble upon your blog in the sea of bullshit, ignorance, hate and false-rumor-spreading that is the FB blog comment section. I'm interested in your perspective, to...well, my perspective. drop me a line,

Phoenix Insurgent said...

This is an initial response to Paul, while I emailed him. It's just a top of the head work and represents impressions and some loose conclusions I've come to over the last couple days, so these points are open to revision upon further consideration and/or the emergence of new information. Please take them as such.

Thanks for the kind words on the blog. I've been working on this one (which is a collective project of the Phoenix Class War Council) and my own personal one ( for many years trying to push the debate out of the boring business as usual that passes for politics in Az. Thanks also for the thoughtful comments.

I should say first that there was a variety of anarchists present at the march, as there has been for years at these things. Not everyone went into the street and indeed, not everyone even marched. I, for instance, wasn't interested in repeating the walk after that last endless trek a month or so ago, so I and several other comrades just drove down and met up at the rally. I supported taking the streets last time and I was out there, and I think that tactic was vindicated when the entire march followed us. There were more people on that march and it was just plain silly to slink down the sidewalk and I think taking the street once we all did it just made plain sense to everyone, even if it pissed off the event organizers. This, of course, is the root of the conflict this time around.

As I said, this time I didn't push for taking the street, even though I knew some anarchists were going to try it anyhow. Hell, they always do and that's just fine with me. Deep down, we all know that we SHOULD be in those streets. If it pops off and folks follow – great! But, as I said, my crew didn't do it this time. I think the burden was on the organizers and I was interested to see if they would revert to another boring old march down the sidewalk without our “provocation”. Confirming this was particularly important to me because some organizers have been parroting this contradictory line of being mad at us for taking the street last time and at the same time claiming that they were going to do it all along anyhow. Obviously, not taking the street this time on my part was a way to see if that was true (although we anarchists already knew from several reliable sources that the claim by organizers was false). I think they were just butt hurt, honestly. People haven't taken the streets since the megamarchas and the numbers have dropped quite precipitously since those days.

I figure it probably goes without saying that the perception that the anarchos left after being scolded is incorrect. I see how it could seem that way, since folks identify only those black bloc kids as anarchists, but there were about thirty of us milling about at the rally handing out flyers and other things. Since as I already said I didn't advocate taking the streets, I do think it was bad form for that group of anarchos to skip out when their mistake became clear. Still, that was only some anarchos, not even half of the number present over all. But, the larger point here I think is one of perception, and it's one that I run into all the time with any movement dominated by reformers and liberals. Namely, folks only recognize us when we act up. When we don't we're invisible. This wouldn't really matter if we weren't constantly being attacked for not doing anything when, in fact, the anarchists that I organize with have been organizing around this issue for almost a decade, including all manner of solidarity, organizing and direct action. You see how that puts us in a bit of a bind, and perhaps why we don't lose a lot of sleep over the leadership disliking us. As you hint at, we serve as a scapegoat either way. We know we'll be the first to be tossed under the train when things go awry. This awareness gives us some freedom I think. But, to answer a related question that you bring up, some anarchos do go to the organizing meetings. As you might guess, it's not all that productive.

Anyhow, my role as I see it at the rallies is to radicalize and politicize. Direct action is not always possible at rallies or even necessary. This rally didn't really offer any opportunities for it – although it would have been interesting if the organizers had opted to shut down the jail, for instance. The point is to seek out contradictions and the most radical tendencies within the base, especially those tendencies that are ignored or marginalized by the leadership. Those are the ones I push on because they are the ones that are easiest to radicalize on. So, when you see me at a rally, that's what I'm doing for the most part.

For instance, it's interesting to me how Joe suffers from terribly low levels of support amongst poor and working class people and yet there is absolutely no connection between white folks of those classes and the migrant movement, even though they both have some similar goals. Obviously, this is primarily because of the role of white supremacy in our society (the cross-class alliance between whites of all classes – Malcolm X's “devil's bargain”). But there's more going on here than just that. There is a failure on the part of the movement leadership to take advantage of natural congruences that exist in Arizona.

I also find it interesting that a huge percentage of the white folks who were at the march (I'd say probably over 50 percent) were anarchists and yet we are the same group that the leadership is keen to isolate and remove. For some reason essentially the only white folks that the movement can attract are militants. That's worth noting.

I think the fact is that the movement is desperately seeking the approval of the white majority in this state. Unfortunately, given the orientation of the movement, this isn't going to happen. That was obvious at the ballot box, as the minuteklan so often correctly points out. Therefore, there needs to be a change in orientation and tactics. The movement flirted with this when the general strike, but it didn't go far enough and the leadership got freaked out by the awakening of the base and the reaction of white folks. Because the leadership of the movement doesn't want to shake anything up in terms of the composition of the movement leadership - and they certainly don't want a class conscious movement -- they are then forced to appeal to the Feds to solve the issue for them. This leaves them in the position of appealing on moral grounds and therefore carefully managing their base. That's why they've been content to see the real, sometimes lumpen core of their base slip away. They were a problem in terms of legitimacy when it came to white folks who were freaked out by Mexican flags at rallies. It also means that they have to concede defeat and be willing to settle for a lesser evil (Gascon in Mesa, Saban for sheriff, etc) and make alliances with the class enemies of their base (Phx PD, Mayor Gordon, Phx Chamber of Commerce types, etc). This stance by the leadership is a problem from the perspective of a revolutionary, which I obviously am. I want people power, not Fed power. And class collaboration is a bad move.

Anyhow, those are my initial thoughts about your comments. Hit me back if you want to keep the dialog going.