Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Martin Wright Interviewed by Ian Bone

Some of you may know that while I was in London last year I got a totally unexpected but fabulous whirlwind tour of Whitechapel by Martin Wright, longtime Class War militant. Getting off the subway in Whitechapel was a culture shock to say the least. The neighborhood, Martin pointed out later, had been a working class center of struggle for a long, long time in London. Now, still working class -- and still a point of class conflict -- it had a very large population of conservative Muslims. I saw the first real burqa of my life there. And the second. And the third...

The street was alive with activity. Street vendors everywhere, selling just about everything if I remember right. We wandered down the street, looking for Freedom Books. It was the most foreign experience I had on that trip and certainly was not expected. Eventually, after some searching, we found the bookstore and on our way out, while offering up a copy of PCWC's paper to the cashier, I ran into Martin. One thing led to another and before we knew it I was getting a hands on tour. Martin pointed out everyplace of note, telling us the story of what riot happened where, and also dutifully noting every tag representing the local anarchist crew, the Whitechapel Anarchist Group. The neighborhood was covered in their graffiti.

So, being a fan of Class War legend Ian Bone's blog, I was perusing it the other day and one click led to another and all of a sudden I was watching a video of Bone's always entertaining but as far as I can tell now sadly defunct radio show "Anarchism in the UK" featuring Martin as the guest. In the interview Martin talks at length about anti-fascism, insurrection as a goal and tactic of struggle, the history of Class War and a number of other very interesting topics.

One of the things I like a lot is the uncompromising anarchy that was the hallmark of Class War. As soon as I found out about Class War, years and years ago, I instantly liked it. And that affinity has never faded. Indeed I was talking with a comrade tonight discussing the importance of anarchy without excuses. One that clearly delineates exactly what makes us different from the cesspool of leftist crap that so dominates what passes for critical analysis these days. It seems to me that if anarchism offers anything, it is straight shooting, saying what can't be said -- or saying what we all say to each other but that the power structure won't allow to be heard. Fuck the rich. Screw the cops. Work sucks. Things like this. Obvious truths that are banned from respectable discourse.

Sure, we should -- and PCWC certainly does this -- make the connections that reveal commonalities in struggles. We can force either/or choices that reveal contradictions. But, whatever else we do, one thing anarchists can offer is intransigence and consistency. A refusal to bow to politics. A refusal to apologize for our unbending attitude towards power and politics. If we have nothing else, we must have this.

Check out the video below (follow these links to parts B and C):

Oh yeah, one more thing:
Bash The Rich Film

Oh yeah, one more thing after that:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Considering the immigrant crackdown in the context of the Chinese Exclusion Act

The other day I revisited a chapter in Christian Parenti's excellent book "The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror". The cause of my return was the recent awakening of the local right libertarian movement to the connection between the demand for the policing of immigrants and the steady march of the police state in general. Local anti-immigrant hothead and state Senator Russell Pearce has recently come under fire from within the Right for an anti-immigrant bill that libertarians believe, with good justification, will open the door to the imposition of the Real ID or similar national ID card.

Parenti's book, a good read overall, has a truly amazing chapter on the relation between the enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act and other similar laws and the rise of the first ID cards (the chapter can be read online for free). Likewise, it goes into a good amount of detail about the ingenious ways that Chinese immigrants developed for resisting and overcoming increasingly onerous State regulation of their movements and relations. Forgery, bribery, flaunting of the law, lying, reliance on familial relations, mass resistance and refusal -- all of these and more constituted the tool box from which Chinese immigrants drew upon in their fight to define for themselves the terms of their lives in the land of the Flower Flag Country.

The story parallels so precisely the situation here in Arizona that the chapter ought to be required reading for anyone organizing against controls on movement, not least of all right libertarians interested in understanding the roots of the national ID card and the ever-present excuse of policing people of color that makes it possible. Parenti writes, "Ultimately Chinese exclusion was the first campaign of mass identification and registration of a civilian population by the US federal government. Conversely, the paper sons industry was the first largest informal anti-surveillance movement in US history."

So, the awakening on the right to this scam is a very important development. We at PCWC have engaged that movement several times over the question, what we see as the contradiction between the demand by the Right for a police regime for immigrants at the same time it demands immunity for itself and declaims the increasing infringement by the state on their own freedoms. This contradiction stands in stark relief when that same movement insists that the demands it makes -- against all evidence -- are somehow not racist. Being interested in contradictions, PCWC has focused on revealing this incongruity and pointing out that, contrary to what many on the Right say, it is in fact the latent white supremacist immunity from policing that is the hidden solution to the conundrum.

To us it's obvious: one can't support the expansion of police power in one sector without expecting it to expand generally. The support by the white population for increasing controls on immigrants, from eVerify to the border wall, has allowed the State the cover it needed to vastly expand the overall system of policing. Now, these controls are being generalized in the forms of freeway speed cameras, national ID cards, national police powers for local cops, internal checkpoints, etc. Lacking an analysis of white supremacy and its affect on the working class (and similarly without a true understanding of class), libertarians have had a hard time recognizing this contradiction.

The white supremacist influence on their politics blinded libertarians on the Right to the encroaching police state under their very nose. They assumed -- perhaps only unconsciously in the case of many -- that, as whites tend to be generally, they would be exempted from the unblinking gaze of the surveillance state as its domain grew. Indeed, as we have analyzed here in the past, some of their attempted resistance to enhanced policing, because it is perverted by the system of white supremacy, has indeed sought precisely to undermine the broadening of the police apparatus and technology only to demand a return to older methods that tended to land disproportionately on people of color. Not very libertarian!

That is, their fight uses the false cover of a fight against tyranny to obscure what is in reality a demand for a "get out of jail free card" from a system that they hope will focus on people of color specifically and leave them, the "good citizens" that "don't break the law" alone. For example, the dominant tendency within the fight against freeway cameras reflects this tendency, since it demands the removal of a relatively "democratic" policing system (in the sense that it tickets anyone who goes over the limit regardless of race) and its replacement with more human police who will, naturally, tend to reflect the general anti-people of color biases that dominate in other spheres. Of course, some in the struggle against surveillance have dissented, most notably the Santas who disabled speed and red light cameras in December 2008. Overall, however, their position was an extreme minority at the time.

The dominant dialog on the Right with regard to the question of immigration is of course problematic not just because it allows the unobstructed -- even welcomed -- advance of the police state, but also because strategically this blind spot undermines class unity by turning one section of the working class into the complicit police officer and jailer of another section. Under these conditions the kind of unity that is required to project a real working class power against Capital becomes impossible. The white part of the working class, then, is in many ways operating within a cross-class alliance with the capitalists, serving the function of a hammer on people who should naturally be their comrades in struggle.

What's important is not just the way that the ruling class exploits or encourages this backstabbing, but also the way that white workers demand the protection of the nanny state's policing apparatus in order to preserve their privileged status in the workplace and other areas. This should be noted because it reveals the common cause of white workers and the capitalist elite. For instance, in the case of Chinese exclusion white workers wanted regulation of the workforce in their favor and the ruling class wanted a timid, marginalized and exploitable foreign labor pool. The two complemented each other and form, in the case of the white working class, a kind of white welfare system, guaranteeing higher wages and other social benefits in exchange for loyalty to the cross-class alliance of whiteness.

So the realization amongst some in the libertarian Right milieu of the true nature of the anti-immigrant agenda -- at least as far as the policing angle goes -- is a very positive development. They may reject the point I am going to make next, but I don't think that makes it less true. When libertarians support resistance to the application of special police powers over immigrants (and thus people of color in general) by seeing within that attack an assault on themselves as well, they are defying the traditional political bonds of whiteness. And, in doing so, they open the way for broader struggle that can further bring the attack on capitalism and the state.

Monday, March 22, 2010

PCWC Roots: Wolfi Landstreicher

There's a lot of interesting things going on in Phoenix these days. Things are in flux. Our faith in our theories is being reinforced. The recent libertarian revolt against racist right wing legislator Russell Pearce has been a validation on many levels, not least of all the proposition that fight back against the racist anti-immigrant order can come from more than the boring, reformist left. Many people greeted PCWC's interventions and approaches to the libertarian right with deep skepticism (to say the least).

But, after a solid year of engagement (with some flirtation around the anti-NSM and other actions), it's nice to see the libertarians rise up in force and stick to their values, calling out Pearce for the racist fascist he is, and seeing through the bullshit. This is an amazing development, especially for an overwhelmingly white movement. For them to recognize that the controls on movement proposed by Pearce for local bogeyman "illegal immigrants" will generalize beyond their supposed intended target is a breakthrough of gigantic proportions. It's a step against whiteness, whether that movement sees it as such or not. And putting whiteness in crisis is a vital step towards opening up opportunities for the broader attack against the miserable domination of Capital and the State.

I won't write too much more about this now. Things are still in motion, but I can't help but remark on it because it's so momentous. If this angle of attack can spread, let's say, to eVerify and other interventions into the lives of those who seek to self-organize against the power of the system of domination, we will be well on our way to generalizing the struggle. It feels like a major validation of PCWC's theory of "Fractures & Fissures". Where you find a contradiction, you find an opportunity.

I suppose I'm thinking about theory a lot lately not just because we've been seeing the results of our applications of theory onto the terrain of struggle, but also because PCWC's rather "eclectic" collection of theoretical influences has come up a few times recently.

During our time with the Greeks, here and in the Bay, I know I was inspired by just how much the anti-ideological view we take towards anarchy was reflected back at us in their attitudes and politics. It felt very sympatico, even if we came from different national contexts. I was really amazed by their ability to remain entirely open-minded when it came to learning about the political situation here in the US. Reading their book "We Are An Image From The Future", just released by AK Press, is an inspiration to say the least. If all goes well, PCWC hopes to accept their invitation to visit Greece this summer to describe the situation here in the US.

It's true that PCWC takes its influences from a varied range of anarchist theory and opinion. We were lucky to come into organized anarchism during a time when a lot of new ideas were being tossed about, competing and debating. We are race traitor and individualist. Anarchist-communist and anti-tech. We are class war and social war. We are insurrectionist and fanatical.

So, being inclined at the moment towards theory, I suppose it was a stroke of good luck that Ardent Press put out Wolfi Landstreicher's collection of his writings for "Willful Disobedience" in time for the SF anarchist book fair. Even though I think I have all the issues he put out under that title, I snatched it up as soon as I saw it. Wolfi, both through WD and his collective project "Killing King Abacus" was a tremendous influence on us coming up.

Re-reading the book this weekend, I was reminded of just how much of an affect it had on me. Having come into anarchy from a pretty individualist perspective to begin with, but at the same time having to reconcile that with the race traitor politics I was exploring -- in particular its view of strategy -- Wolfi's writings helped me a great deal to realize that my own revolt against this vampiric system was the only place to start in terms of finding common ground with others in struggle.

What I mean is, anarchy is not a moral trip, and it isn't a monkish project of self-sacrifice either. I want to overthrow this system because of what it does to me every day. One must first and foremost be motivated by one's own liberation. Otherwise, it's no different than bullshit liberalism. I'm no one's savior except my own. But revolution is not an act of navel gazing. We win by fighting together, side by side. True solidarity comes, then, from finding commonalities with the struggles of others, and recognizing that one's liberation is inextricably tied into the the liberation of others.

Beyond that, Wolfi's idea of "projectual living" appealed to me greatly. While many of the race traitor theorists I was interacting with were very Marxist influenced in terms of their view of revolutionary struggle, I really found objectionable their resistance to the everyday fight we must engage in just to live with anything approaching dignity in this system. There were no perfect times to struggle. We must fight now. Every day is a new battle, even if the enemy remains the same. Our lives are projects towards the overthrow of this rotten order. As I do in (anti-)politics, so I do in my life. I fight for room to breathe. I attack the system at every opportunity because it seeks to strangle me. Even if much of our lives in this society are an accommodation if we are lucky, we must to the best of our ability stand in opposition -- to strike back -- every moment that we can.

At the same time, the building of massive formal organizations was unappealing to me. Seeing the way the Bring the Ruckus (race traitor) collective operated here in town proved to me the disingenuous nature of cadre organization and the many ways that formal organizing substituted defending the party line for true relations of affinity. Because, they believed, the organization would bring the revolution, the organization must be defended at all costs. Even if they were anarchists in theory, in practice, while in the organization they acted like authoritarians. I didn't want to build the organization. It was Wolfi's writings that helped to inform me in those struggles against BTR and their machinations, and to light the way towards a much more natural and effective form of organizing. -- one that PCWC practices today.

So, it's on that note that I both recommend that people pick up Wolfi's book and check out the many writings from those days that are available online. With the spring weather making outdoors bearable again, I've been spending the last few days sitting under the tree in the garden with a cold beer getting re-acquainted with an old friend. I highly recommend those folks who find PCWC's politics appealing do the same.

You can find many of the articles from Willful Disobedience at this link. And order Wolfi's book from Ardent Press here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Got $20 bucks? Help our Greek comrades continue their U.S. tour!

The VOID Network breaking it down to a packed house during their talk at Beer & Revolution.

Before kicking back with a six pack of Guinness this St. Patrick's Day, please consider kicking down $5 or $20 to lend some mutual aid to our Greek comrades from the VOID Network.

That's right, we're asking you to buy the cheap stuff tonight.

Our Athenian comrades had a really crappy incident last night, their vehicle was broken into in Berkeley, and all of their materials (Boxes of books and pamphlets) for the U.S. tour were stolen. In addition to this theft, the window to the vehicle was smashed, but the worst news of all is that the projector they used to share the images from the revolt was also taken. In short, everything bankrolling the tour is gone.

They are now in desperate need of mutual aid, in the form of monetary assistance, ASAP. The broken window must be fixed before they can continue on their tour, and a donation will help restock those books and pamphlets as well. We were very grateful the folks from VOID took the time to stop in Phoenix for a few days, and it would be a tragedy if they were unable to continue their tour, so please kick some cash down if you've got it.

Hit up Little Black cart and donate:

-$20 donation to the VOID Network
-$5 donation to the VOID Network

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

There's no immigration law like no law at all: On revolution as the necessary conclusion of the migrant movement

A tendency has emerged here in Phoenix that I find very exciting. More and more, as we resist the leftist model, so seductive to others, of building bigger and often disingenuous organizations (instead keeping our relations intimate and small scale), I have found that many of us have converged around a familiar and familial politics that is almost entirely unique in the US. With few exceptions (probably Modesto most notably), a particular strain of class war, race traitor, insurrectionist, and primitivist influenced politics has emerged here. Many anarchists in this town defy conventions, reject orthodoxy and instead take our influences based on what makes sense rather than whatever arbitrary groupings of ideas fall under what predetermined label.

Is it the hot summers? Is it the never-industrialized vastness of the ever-growing suburban wasteland? Phoenix seemed for so long to be like the universe -- vast but always somehow getting fucking bigger. A constantly growing behemoth, ever eating up more desert. Is it the proximity to the border? Is it the fact that Arizona was a segregated state? Is it the fact that you can see the horizon from anywhere in town? Or that the sun sets so brilliantly every evening? Is it because Phoenix was built on blood, for white people and to the exclusion of the native peoples who continue to make this area their home? Is it the malls that provided the plastic playgrounds of our youths? Is it the fact that almost no one living here was born here? Is it the waves of conquest, migration, dispossession and expulsion that define our history? To be from Arizona and also older than ten is a rare thing here, even in this age of economic collapse and foreclosed homes.

One author in particular who consistently writes exactly that kind of analysis publishes regularly at "Chaparral Respects No Borders". A very interesting article has recently been posted there that deserves a wide audience regarding the struggle over free movement, freedom from dislocation and, in particular, the kind of movement that we need in order to settle the questions we face. This most recent article reflects all the characteristics that I find inspiring about much of the writing coming out of Phoenix these days.

The piece uses one of my favorite techniques in writing. It takes a supposition that many people take seriously -- especially one upheld by movement leaders on all sides of an issue -- and subjects it to the real world. That is, for the sake of argument, one takes the positions of one's opposition and one's supposed allies, for instance, seriously and then kind of works backwards with it, showing weaknesses and contradictions along the way. We at PCWC are constantly keeping our eye out for contradictions, and so this approach always gets my attention.

Writing in the most recent piece, "The Best Immigration Law is No Law at All: Some thoughts on the logical conclusion for allies of undocumented migrants", the author smashes apart the presumptions of the movement liberals. The piece destroys the arguments from those that constantly push a legal framework as the solution to the question of free movement. And it lays bare the logical conclusions of those arguments, refuting the idea that the law can offer any answer to the demand of people to travel where they will, when they will. After all, law permits, it does not free: it prescribes freedom's limits. It is the enclosure to the commons.

At the same time, the piece does not spare the Right, pointing out their hypocrisy with regard to the question of class war in Mexico. The racist right in Arizona constantly demands revolution in Mexico, but will they overcome their reactionary ideology to support an anti-capitalist revolution? The forces of the Right hold sway in Mexico, so just who is the Right in the US calling to revolution? And against what? That is a dare that stands before that pathetic movement, and it's a contradiction worth pushing on since it will force them to choose between their reactionary defense of whiteness and colonialism and their supposed commitment to change in Mexico. They can't have it both ways.

The piece is firmly rooted within an anarchist analysis. It deeply calls into question the ability of the State to provide justice, as well as the alliances within movements that serve to maintain that myth. Most importantly, I think, the article recognizes the fact that it will be the people themselves who will organize themselves for their own liberation. It will not be through the hypocritical vehicle of politics that liberation will be delivered. Freedom will come when we are capable of demanding it ourselves, without the needless and regressive mediation of the state, Capital or the managerial activist left.

Read it:
The Best Immigration Law is No Law at All
Some thoughts on the logical conclusion for allies of undocumented migrants

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The VOID Network reports on their visit to Phoenix

What a pleasure it is to meet new comrades from across the world! This weekend PCWC was lucky enough to share time, beers and plenty of conversation with our new Greek comrades from the VOID Network. We saw them as well as their traveling companion, Peter, off yesterday morning over omelets and pancakes and can't wait to see them again in San Francisco at the end of the week.

The three travelers delivered two interesting presentations while they were here, one on the squatting struggle in Barcelona (something we at PCWC, almost accidentally, had some very exciting experiences with a couple years back), and the other on the Greek insurrection of December 2008, and in Greece generally. Peter and the VOID Network comrades were thoughtful and open to hearing how anarchists and Indigenous peoples here in this part of the world see things and organize.

It was particularly exciting to meet people who were convinced, as we are, that any anarchy in the US -- insurrectionary or otherwise -- must reflect our local conditions and history. We cannot just take anarchist politics, actions and organizing techniques from other cultures and apply them wholesale here. We need an anarchy with American characteristics, if I can use that for shorthand, which analyzes honestly the history of the struggle against capitalism, the state and colonialism here where we live.

We can, however, be inspired by the struggle and tactics of others, and inspired we were for sure. The Greek struggle is a fascinating one, and what the anarchists there have accomplished it truly amazing. There is much to learn from. We were thrilled by the multimedia discussion they led at our Beer & Revolution night on Sunday. In what I think was a great way to start the night, the gathered audience, numbering about fifty over the course of the night, was requested to throw out their questions right at the beginning so that the talk could focus on what everyone wanted to know. This method definitely kept the talk interesting and amusing.

All in all, it was a very fulfilling experience and it is nice to read in their blog that it wasn't a one-way exchange. We, for instance, shared our analysis of the critical nature of white supremacy in maintaining US capitalism and the importance of attacking it as a revolutionary strategy. Likewise, we shared our "Fractures and Fissures" method of intervention and why we use it. For my part in particular, I really found it interesting to hear how Greek anarchists organize within what is a broadly shared cultural experience and how that affects the way they appeal to people.

For those interested in reading about their analysis of their time in town, follow the link below to the blog of the VOID Network, where they discuss in depth their visit, as well as their voyages in general. Very good stuff, comrades!

Click below:
Phoenix Arizona // O'Odham Tribe Land / We Are an Image from The Future U.S.A. Tour 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tonight: March's Beer & Revolution with the VOID Network

Beer & Revolution is back for March! Thanks to everyone who came out for our last B&R in January with Dan Todd and John Zerzan. Over 70 people packed the upstairs space at Boulders on Broadway for a remarkable evening of (anti-) politics and discussion, PCWC recorded this talk and I'll try to have it online before the end of the month.

We're very excited for our next B&R, this Sunday we're fortunate to have some comrades from the other side of the globe, members 0f the VOID Network, straight outta Athens, will be in town to deliver a talk on the (now) infamous rebellion that shook Greece in 2008. The execution of young Alex Grigoropoulos set off days of riots, which became weeks of social upheaval, a broad revolt that challenged the police, capital, the state, and the faux social peace of every day life.

The VOID Network will also examine the context of other revolts, as well as the state repression that follows, in Catalunya (Spain), and the United Kingdom, and what these developments may mean for other social struggles worldwide.

The speakers from the VOID Network have also released a book, "We Are an Image from the Future: The Greek Revolt of 2008," published by AK Press, featuring interviews with anarchists and antiauthoritarians from Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, and several villages and islands.

This will be an exciting night to hear directly from a few of the participants of the ruptures in Greece, to have some beers (or soda, tea, water, etc.) with friends and comrades, and to enjoy a night of politics and conversation.

One important note, this month's Beer & Revolution WILL NOT be held at the usual stomping grounds of Boulders on Broadway, due to a scheduling conflict. It will be held, for this month only, right down the street at Casey Moore's Oyster House on 9th and Ash. Casey's is gracious enough to let us borrow the dining room this Sunday night, and we're very happy to have B&R there. The other change is that it we'll begin a bit later than usual, around 9 PM, so make sure to get there a bit early, as we'll be starting closer to the posted time than usual. The final bit of news is that we managed to keep this an all-ages event, our comrades under 21 will be able to attend this month's forum.

Come one, come all, we're very excited for tonight, and look forward to seeing folks at Casey's!

Bring your politics!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Photo of the day

Today's photo is bad ass, straight up. It would appear that someone(s) managed to get atop of the Coor building at ASU main campus and drop this inspiring banner. It's no secret that much of ASU's notoriously apolitical student body is more likely to go for sun bathing and beer pong than organizing and fighting against another tuition attack, thus making this action all the more heartening for us non-students at PCWC.

Not to say the are no critiques of the new student movement (my comrade Phoenix Insurgent posted one of his yesterday), I have a few of my own as well. It's always worth keeping an eye of the wing of the movement demanding tuition reform, or some other appeasement that keeps this movement within the realm of university and student life. This middle ground of the movement will ensure the student discontent stays within the confines of the school, preventing it from spilling out into the broader sphere of social tensions at play.

(photo via ASU resists)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Some thoughts on the ongoing student struggle from someone who is not a student

The grandfather of a friend of mine was a forced Jewish laborer in the Nazi munition camps during World War 2. When reparations were finally paid to the survivors, his grandfather refused them. My friend asked his grandfather why. "Because as it is now, I was a forced laborer against my will, but if I take the compensation, then I was just an employee of the Nazi state."

It's interesting. During one of the more curious exchanges between the Greek government, now in deep financial crisis, and the German government, who most elites are expecting to bail the Greeks out, the Greek Deputy Prime Minister evoked the history of Nazi occupation of Greece during the Second World War. He said: 'They took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back. I don't say they have to give back the money necessarily but they have at least to say "thanks".'

More than 300,000 Greeks died in that occupation as agriculture production was shifted to feed the Nazi war machine. And after the Nazis came the Americans, with their anti-communism, coups and dictatorship. American anarchists are quite familiar with the role of the Greek students in bringing those CIA-backed governments to their knees.

Here at home, of course, many people have raised the demand for reparations. The foundation of the idea is certainly sound. Land was stolen, labor was stolen. Little to no payment was given. Even today, the repercussions resound throughout communities. Take a look at the difference in family wealth between white families and essentially all other demographics. Check out the disparities from the suburb to the reservation, or from the exoburb to the south end of town. Surely this requires rectification, if not remuneration. And, despite its dominance as local currency in the white middle class part of town, that payment cannot be tendered in boredom or ennui.

The sad emotional state of the suburbs is no compensation for the death and destruction wrought on those tagged at birth as enemies of American capitalism. Many white insurrectionist anarchists seem to want to leapfrog over what is derisively called "identity politics"; nevertheless, what are we to do with the reality of a white supremacy that, despite all the European communist theory thrown at it, still persists? Indeed, the insurrectionist call to jettison analysis of race -- or, perhaps, to put it on the same level as the boredom and emptiness of white suburban life -- seems at times like an alleged sophistication hiding what would otherwise be considered crass right wing analysis.

Still, the anarchist response to such things has usually been that our reparations take the form of expropriation. We will seize back what was stolen; dispossess the dispossessor. What is worth keeping we will keep and reorganize under a totally different ethic. What isn't worth keeping, we'll burn. As Errico Malatesta said, "If one really wants to change the system in fact and not just superficially, it will be necessary to destroy capitalism de facto, expropriating those who now control all social wealth, and immediately set about organizing a new social life on a local basis and without passing through legal channels. This means to say that in order to create a 'social republic' one must first bring about... anarchy!"

We aren't afraid of ruins, as Durruti said. Still, some of our parents were, weren't they? They fled to the outskirts when they got the chance. Some of our parents got stuck in those ruins and desperately wanted their kids to escape them. But either way, there was no escaping the ruin of Capital, was there? The architecture of the collapse of industrialism imprinted on the suburbs, too. Cookie cutter homes. Some are squats now. But a great deal of the empty ones are gutted, showing that even desperate people see little point in expropriating them beyond what can be carried away. Their Wal-Mart design serves only one purpose: the reproduction of the alienation of Capital. Deep down we all know this.

Neighborhoods without neighbors. Hours wasted driving to meaningless jobs. The price the white middle class is willing to pay not to live near poor Blacks, first and foremost. And others of course. The chemicals of Capital fill the gap, but the shame remains, manifesting as fear and violence. Students shoot up the schools. Dad shoots up his work. The lithium of the recovering inner city heroin addict and the Valium of the 1950's middle class housewife have merged to keep the rest in place, even if that restless leg syndrome won't let up. These are suburbs but they aren't les banlieues. Could they be? What does it mean to hope that they could be?

But, of course, as I referenced above, in this day and age, where the destructiveness of capitalism to the Earth is widely recognized in anarchist circles, and where Capital's ubiquitous presence squeezes profit and commodifies everything everywhere, seizing the means of production, as Malatesta mostly meant, seems like less and less of a sufficient answer. Not to say that we won't take them. Just that taking them doesn't quite seem like the answer it once seemed.

So, getting back to the question of reparations, if we are in an age of all-encompassing Capital, and at the same time, most of the actual production we do is both pointless at best and harmful at worst, what do we do? Is destroying Capital, including its physical edifice -- from factory to prison to university -- a kind of reparation? If I burn the warehouse down, after looting it of course, rather than collectivize, is this a reparation? Or is it revenge? Perhaps both? Does that make me the enemy of someone who wants to collectivize?

I find myself asking these questions as I watch the increasingly militant student movement in California. I sympathize with the desire to smash the university, both physically and politically. Nevertheless, I often wonder, as I read the likewise increasingly fiery proclamations emerging from the insurrectionist tendency within it, whether that struggle, which contains both the demand for the destruction of the entire vampiric order and at the same time the refusal to accept compensation from it, may find itself unable to communicate with, not only most the university population, but also the general population as a whole. And I wonder if its determination to downplay or ignore the ongoing role of white supremacy in American capitalism, may lead to a critical weakness as it torchlit marches ahead.

Of course, as I often hear, the demand is to generalize the struggle. Certainly. That is the goal of any nascent uprising. And there are indications that this is happening. But isn't the larger question, perhaps setting aside for now the tendency of the American working class to look down on university students as privileged, how a movement can articulate and mobilize behind a position based on what will be perceived as an attack on standards of living and social mobility. An attack on opportunity, even.

This is not to deny that, in reality, the university does not in fact deliver those things for many, even most, people. Clearly it is just another factory reproducing a class necessary for Capital's expansion. It's like asking if one's job fulfills. It feels like the set up to a joke. No one but a few could take it seriously.

Nevertheless, the university is not perceived this way in the common conception. Nor is the student experience broadly viewed from the outside as oppressive (quite unlike, for instance, high school and other compulsory education). So, it seems to me, the dare on the university student movement is not merely to generalize itself by, for instance, seeking a replication of its tactics (as I said, this is obviously necessary), but to make an argument that the critique it has of its own conditions, while perhaps contrary to the generally held mythology, are in fact just as miserable as life under other modes of capitalist production.

Towards resolving this dilemma, which I do not think is unique to the student uprising, we must spend time thinking very hard about the kind of arguments that can break through these widely help misconceptions. I think it's sometimes possible to get lost gazing into the fires we set. And it's not always true that the fire that liberates us liberates everyone else. Or, even if it could, if you're going to burn your own house down, you need to think hard about how to convince your neighbors not to call the fire department. And not to become a vigilante fire fighter, for sure. They're going to get nervous as those flames lick ever higher and higher and closer and closer to their own house.

Because, in the end, we're talking about a radical departure from the way that society is organized today. I mean, we clearly need fire -- and lots of it. But, while I think we rightly resist the temptation to prescribe what that world would look like specifically after the flames of the revolution have subsided, I think it's important to generalize the argument and, importantly, to look for critical contradictions within the experiences of others that can make clear how the student struggle is related to others, even those that have not yet emerged. Find these contradictions and push on them. See what happens. The odds are things will realign in new ways. New opportunities that were not initially obvious will present themselves.

For instance, do most people realize that the destruction of the university at its logical conclusion means the destruction of the work system as well? Perhaps the workers may lament the tuition increase as something akin to a pay cut, but does the more radical analysis find purchase with them? As someone who is not a student, I am prepared to suggest that the answer might be no. Or it might be sort of yes if they are putting their own kids through school. The movement must think of contradictions in the system that can be attacked that will plainly reveal this reality.

Figuring that out, I think, is the task before the student insurrection. It is not incumbent on the movement to listen to the self-serving warnings of the professional leftist managers of social revolt. But that doesn't mean there aren't people worth listening to. Look around for others making absolutist demands and connect with them. Consider how their demands fit into the already existing analysis. "Fuck work" is an obvious starting point. But there are others. Whose land are you on? Can you answer this question? This is a good place to start, too.

To get to this place, it will require, perhaps, a little less European insurrectionist communist theory, and a little more connecting with real life experience, especially the lived experience of others. To generalize the struggle the analysis must also be generalized in some sense. This, as the Zapatistas say, requires listening. But there is a strong insurrectionist tradition in American history. Think John Brown. Think Nat Turner. Think Set-tainte of the Kiowa. Think Harriett Tubman. People who at least at some points in their lives refused compromise. Consider their names and their struggles. Incorporate the demands of others into the flyers, banners, manifestos and communiques.

White supremacy will be a fatal weak point if it is not confronted head on, so it must be done now. Think how white supremacy fucks up the struggle against capitalism. Why do working class white Minutemen track down and confront working class or peasant Mexican migrants? Why did poor Southern whites join the slave patrols that returned to their masters Blacks that participated in the ongoing general strike against the slave system? This makes sense only when we consider the cross-class alliance of white supremacy.

This doesn't mean a watering down of politics. On the contrary. But take a fanatical approach. Attack the middle ground but try as much as possible to ground your infinite demands in obvious truths. Then attack those who deny reality with a friend/enemy dichotomy. Think how the Abolitionists attacked the wishy-washy middle. There's something to be learned there. Read William Lloyd Garrison. From the middle will emerge your worst enemies. You've already seen the damage a handful of liberals can do. Therefore, it is incumbent on you to destroy the middle ground. It pretends to offer reason but instead delivers only more insanity.

But, above all else, in the US every movement must consider carefully how its politics fit into the overall context of white supremacy. But there's hope: when the system of white supremacy is in crisis -- which means that enough crazy motherfucking white people reject their whiteness in solidarity with people of color that the reactionary system can no longer be counted on to undermine class solidarity -- amazing things happen. The very explosions insurrectionists desire manifest! The women's movement emerges. Gender and sexual relations shift. And on and on. Capital becomes weak and stumbles. The Reconstruction legislature of South Carolina sent revolutionary salutations to the Paris Commune. Think about that. The capitalist machine counts on the alliance of whiteness to create within struggles an emergency escape hatch for white people of all classes. This must be refused.

White supremacy may seem quaint and "olde timey" in the age of a Black president, but it's grip is still on us. It is the cross class alliance that time and time again turns the white working class against what would otherwise be its comrades. It is the knife's edge of Capital. If the student movement can generalize itself, whatever else it does, it must attack white supremacy head on. This is what will throw the system into crisis. This contradiction is what will build that unstoppable constituency that will overturn Capital.

Think insurrection. Think John Brown. Think Bleeding Kansas. Think solidarity. Death to Capital.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Defending diversity of tactics in Vancouver

Below I have linked the first part of a panel discussion co-hosted by rabble.ca and Working TV that took place Saturday February 20 in Vancouver on diversity of tactics following the anti-Olympics actions. This question is one that we in Phoenix are familiar with and the panelist defending the black bloc in this case, Harsha Walia, does the best job that I've seen yet in breaking down the accusations leveled at the bloc. I think there's a lot of good stuff here and I appreciate the way she has organized the ideas in her presentation. Enjoy!

Click here to see the rest of the discussion.