Sunday, June 27, 2010

Support the Arpaio Five!

This is a reminder that several comrades of ours still face charges stemming from the police attack on the Dine', O'odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian contingent (DO@) at the January 16th anti-Arpaio march. If you visit the support page, you can read updates and donate money for the defense. Please consider helping out our friends in their fight against this bullshit.

Rereading the DO@ statement lately, I'm impressed with how prescient it was, as well as how the problems within the movement that were highlighted in it remain with us. Indeed, the statement was a clear, unambiguous call for a new kind of movement that recognized that the fight against white supremacy and colonialism transcended the crass and limited opposition to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. This is a point that was brought clearly home the day that SB1070 passed and the movement in general was forced to recognize the truth, even if (as usual), the people who made that point earlier have continued to be ostracized and attacked.

In addition, it critiqued the boring repetition of useless marches and predicated and called for the rise of a direct action-oriented movement, which was ridiculed at the time but has since come to pass. There is certainly a time for marches and vigils, but I think it was clear to all of us involved in organizing and writing that statement that that time had long since passed, given the situation in Arizona. As I said, that logic, though lost on the conservative movement leadership (and other non-profiteer types outside the state) and various self-appointed gatekeepers, has found fertile ground in many people these days, as we saw most recently with the lock down of the Tucson border patrol office by an affinity group of anti-authoritarian, anarchist and indigenous militants.

But, perhaps most of all, it called for a broadening of the movement, of a reconsideration of the composition of the movement and for a radically democratic and participatory movement to replace the rigid, leftist, hierarchical movement that currently holds power. We see more and more evidence of this emerging these days, whether in the student self-organized walkouts during the week SB1070 passed to the neighborhood assemblies now forming in several cities in the Valley, originally initiated by anarchists and other residents in Tempe (including PCWC), that have begun to spread, prefiguring a new way of resisting the law and racism in general that bypasses both statewide government and the movement hacks, and determines to drill down as small as it takes to get a core that can set up resistance in collective, accountable and democratic fashion.

As men and women willing to stand up and defend that vision with their bodies and their futures, the Arpaio Five deserve our support. Please visit their page and make a donation. And continue to fight for the movement we want.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nazis patrol Pinal County, a history of the resistance so far, and the always looming question of why the Right suffers no hang up about non-violence.

Today I want to highlight three things that I see as related and I think some readers will, too. As the situation gets worse and worse here in Arizona, even as we chalk up some successes here and there, it's worth taking a moment to consider the circumstances of our revolt and ways to consider the ideas and movements that manifest around us and in which we participate.

As leftist organizers, movement hacks, non-profiteers, wannabe politicos, student dreamers and all the other assorted movement professionals pour into Arizona to celebrate their "Freedom Summer" at our expense, I find the need to reflect particularly pressing. And, believe me, I can feel these movement types pressing in from all sides these days. I wonder, do they know what they are in for? Not that ignorance would stop them from telling me what I ought to do while they're on vacation in the state I've lived in my entire life.

If I said in an earlier article that those people who move here bring their biases with them, for which we are collectively blamed, the same is true for activists from out of state. In an era of "Freedom Summer (redux)" and SDS (respawned), how could it be otherwise?

Force for liberation or recuperation? Or attack on radicals and those who have already made up their minds not to compromise? "Freedom summer" certainly begs the question. One thing for sure, those of us who live here almost certainly will be left to clean up the mess when the Fall semester comes and the boys and girls of Summer have gone back to their leftist ghettos to update their resumes.


Check out, for instance, the always amusing (if still sometimes wrong) Feathered Bastard column over at the Phoenix New Times, where Stephen Lemons writes about the local NSM chapter (who we confronted last year). Lemons points out perennial tubby bear Nazi JT Ready's call out to his racist comrades to conduct armed patrols in Southern Arizona for migrants.

The article is interesting for a several reasons, but one of the things I picked up on was Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's failure to denounce the Nazi composition of the patrols. Sure, he says that he doesn't think the patrols would be helpful, but it seems as if Babeu, like the local media (with the exception of Lemons), has opted to treat Ready's little Nazi crew as legitimate, giving him a pass on his white supremacist beliefs and his many violent threats. Consider the fact the two media headlines about the event identify the NSM in the title only as a "militia", not as Nazis or even a "Nazi militia". A more honest characterization would surely change the way people view the action.

Indeed, when asked by Lemons about what he thought about the patrols, Babeu said, "Local law enforcement can't handle this on our own, yet it will only complicate our concerns to have untrained and armed citizens, who are not from Pinal County - patrolling our desert areas." Well, sure, I suppose it might. But is there anything particularly remarkable about those armed patrols being conducted by the National Socialist Movement, Babeu? Not worthy of comment? This reflects the general climate here in Arizona these days.

For me it's particularly noteworthy because I pointed out in my analysis of the anti-speed camera movement last summer the inherent problems of the leaders of main anti-camera group allying with Sheriff Babeu precisely because it opened the door to the reinforcement of white supremacy, rather than taking the opportunity to challenge it that rejecting his support (and, later, that of Sheriff Joe) would have provided. Instead, ideologically unable to articulate a strictly "no-cameras" position, they chose an argument that offered more police as a substitute for cameras, which naturally brings with it the well-known racist enforcement Arizona police are known for. This weak-kneed comment from Babeu, either because he sympathizes or because the radicalism of the fascist NSM has mainstreamed enough that he worries about challenging it, seems to go towards further proving that point.

One last point before I move on. The boldness of the NSM lately in carrying their firearms to rallies, to interviews, in displaying them to the media, in carrying them on patrols and in sporting them at counter-protests, ought to give everyone pause, not least of all any anarchists who are not currently able to defend themselves. Self-defense ought to be on everyone's mind these days. Never forget that Nazis like these aren't just the voice of white reaction against people of color and for the defense of the privileges of whiteness, they are also the sword tip of Capital's attack on those who would truly challenge the capitalist order, such as anarchists.


Next, I want to point out to readers the excellent article posted up yesterday by our comrades at Survival Solidarity out of Tucson. Just in time for the monsoons that alternately scorch and then drench Arizona day after day this time of year, they have provided for us a map of where we have been and where we may be going, at the same time they cleverly reveal the way the border imposes itself in relations far beyond those at la linea.

I like this analysis because it fits very well into the (not strictly) insurrectionist view of Capital reproducing itself everywhere at all times not just in our social relations but likewise even within the contradiction between Capital's demand for cheap, precarious labor and it's concomitant fear of the need to self-organize in defense of its every day and never-ending attacks. Of course, perhaps outside that, or at least parallel to it, lies the demand of American capitalism for a reactionary white working class that will lead the way in attacking its most exploited elements.

The piece does a really good job of making clear the violence, generally unspoken, that underlies and pervades the enforcement of these social relations and, naturally, which must at the same time be reflected in the fight to define ourselves against these illegitimate impositions. As Derek Jensen has, I think, quite usefully pointed out, violence that goes down the social hierarchy generally goes unremarked on while violence that with an upward trajectory, aimed at the exploiter, always elicits condemnation from the system and its defenders. Perhaps there's more than a little of this in the media's hysteria over the largely non-existent problem of migrant-caused violence versus the normalization afforded unmistakable violent threats to people of color represented by the NSM.


Lastly, I want to share an audio interview with Peter Gelderloos and Gord Hill. Gelderloos will be known to folks familiar with PCWC's "Beer & Revolution" social night. Traveling with the Greek anarchists, Gelderloos is perhaps best known for his book "How Non-Violence Protects the State" (PDF here) which, I'm happy to say, quotes a little pamphlet I wrote many years ago a couple times.

Hill, perhaps less familiar to people, is most recently the author of "500 Years of Indigenous Resistance, the Comic Book", in which Hill sets out to accomplish the admirable goal of demolishing the myth of the conquest of Indigenous peoples of North America: that on one hand they were felled by disease or that on the other defeated by the violence of an inherently superior settler state. In fact, he asserts, there was plenty of resistance, taking a variety of forms, and that that resistance often succeeded in dealing severe blows to the colonizer.

In the interview, with features both of them, the two do a wonderful job of breaking down the ideological underpinnings of non-violence/pacifism, in particular the class relations that infuse them. Hill takes a swipe at the non-profit industrial complex as a key element in maintaining the domination of the often a-historical assertions of the effectiveness of the strategies. It also tackles head on the tendency of the enforcers of non-violence/pacifism to act as the vanguard of state repression while claiming to be protecting the movement. This is accomplished by singling out those militants who deviate from the orthodoxy. I know we've seen this here in Arizona many times.

As the professional managers of revolt race to take their well-paid positions here in Arizona, these points are worth paying attention to. I think Gelderloos and Hill also successfully demolish some of the key mythologies that the defenders of non-violence/pacifism uphold, including exposing the false idea of the "public" as a construct of the media itself. The inherent authoritarianism of non-violence/pacifism likewise get a good working over.


Overall, I think that regular readers of this blog will find the three pieces cited above to be quite complementary and well-worth your investigations. The fact is, as Survival Solidarity points out (and perhaps even the boneheads in the NSM understand), we stand today on the verge of social explosion. Perhaps we can feel the winds sucking in as the spark even now demands more and more oxygen. Or maybe that's us holding our breath in this blazing heat. It's hard to tell these days.

Who knows what's coming? The white supremacist system continues to descend into crisis, driven by the demands of its white working and middle class base for the respect of their petty privileges in an age of economic collapse. It's the bastard class politics of whiteness. We at PCWC continue organizing in our neighborhood, intervening in movements and working in close solidarity with our comrades in struggle both to defend against the attack but also to turn the crisis in another direction, one in which whiteness is not the means of capital's assault, but instead the collapse of which opens the door for a broad and much-needed house cleaning.

Still, the rising strength and boldness of the reactionary right combined with the complete and utterly predictable impotency of the liberal left give pause for careful thought. In a year that has already seen several small outbreaks of violence from the right, I would be surprised if there wasn't a violent and remarkable -- even by media standards -- explosion from them or those they inspire at some point before the summer's flame is finally extinguished. Clearly that is their goal.

I'm thinking today of a line from the song "This Gun Is Not a Gun" by the British songwriter, Chris T-T: "This cowardice is not cowardice/ We're just taking a breath before we do this."

Inhale and then into the fight!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not in my Hood: Tempe residents organize against SB1070

by Jon Riley

As Arizona veers closer to becoming a white supremacist police state, there can be no doubt that many in the immigrant rights movement are wondering what's next. The pickets, rallies, and marches organized by the mainstream movement have failed to stop the attacks on Arizona's immigrant and Latino communities. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and Latinos have "self-deported" from Arizona for years, and with the passage of SB 1070 many thousands more will likely follow. Even when the marches were absurdly long (often in 100+ degree weather), or the movement leadership sold out radicals and marginalized indigenous people, year after year we attended these events to show our solidarity with immigrants.

Up until the signing of the law, our primary activities had been supporting our O'odham friends in their struggles and campaigns against the border militarization and ecological destruction effecting O'odham communities. Our own projects reflected our deep commitment to attacking white supremacy and the ongoing colonialism in the Southwest.

We intervened both in word and deed in many of the right libertarian/constitutionalist movements in Arizona, specifically those opposing the speed/red-light cameras and the border patrol check points. Within their agitation to the police state we saw contradictions that could challenge whiteness and create the fissures needed for white working class movements that challenge the police state and engage in projects of solidarity with communities of color.

It was after this recent May Day rally at the state capitol that some us started discussing our tasks for the coming months, and asking ourselves some important questions. The most important question was how do we go about building areas safe from SB1070 in our town, and in what ways shall we attempt this. The first and most obvious step was reaching out to like minded people, so we went back to our communities, our neighborhoods, and began working with others residents opposed to the racist and anti-immigrant social order.

In Tempe, a mixed group of politically active folks and first-timers put a week's worth of afternoons into fliering local neighborhoods. Calling for a neighborhood assembly and picnic, this flier presented a reasonable stance given the many diverse communities that would be threatened by the new law. O
pen to all who want to see a non-compliance/no enforcement stance from the city of Tempe, it attracted more than 40 people who shared ideas and got to know one another. Most importantly, the residents took the initiative. In a week's time there were yard signs (pictured below), a website, a neighborhood protest against SB1070, a banner and sign making party, a hot marching band for the demo, and even more fliering on a much larger scale.

Our unpermitted demonstration
drew over 100 residents. Folks from the neighboring town of Guadalupe, a few hacks from the mainstream immigrant groups, students, teachers, small business owners, workers, mothers, and radical resisters showed up. We took the streets, snaked through the hood, and saw our neighbors come outside and give us a thumbs up. A handful of others came out, cursing Mexicans, immigrants, and/or the demonstration, most folks ignored them and walked on. We stopped at Mill Ave. & University -the busiest intersection in Tempe- and residents in the march spoke passionately on a megaphone, sharing their knowledge and solutions. After resting a minute we marched to the city council building where more speeches were given, the final speaker discussed how the proposed comprehensive immigration reform actually calls for the militarization of indigenous lands along the border. People in the crowd defiantly shouted back
"Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!"
"Tear down the damn fence!"
"We need open movement."

This demonstration is a first step in the campaign towards creating safe places from racist laws. We are inspired by the leadership and initiative of our neighbors as we participate in the only campaign in Maricopa County against the enforcement of SB1070 in a city organized solely by its residents. We are excited by the future possibilities for freedom in our neighborhoods across the valley.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fired workers and Phoenix Wobblies picket Pei Wei restaurant in Chandler

Cheers to the laid off Pei Wei workers, supported by wobblies from the Phoenix IWW , for taking action after thirteen Latino employees were fired for participating in the large mobilization against SB 1070 two weeks back. Over 20 people, including the workers fired for resisting SB 1070, held a protest outside of the Pei Wei chain's Chandler location last Saturday. In the words of one employee: "We decided not to go to work because we don't want SB 1070 to go through," said Maria Laurean, who works at Pei Wei. "It’s nothing against the company. It's just to show the American people, 'who's going to run the restaurants?'"

In the video below, one of the fired workers discusses the hypocritical and racist decision making of the management, as a white worker who no-showed was given a slap on the wrist, while the Latino workers, who are fighting back against state sanctioned racial profiling, are given pink slips. This isn't the first time that Pei Wei has fired workers for standing up against anti-immigration policies, a couple of years back a store manager was fired after telling four Maricopa county deputies “You are the guys arresting all of my kitchen staff." The thin skinned cops complained to Sheriff Joe, who in turn wrote a letter to the parent company of Pei Wei, P.F. Chang's, and the worker was promptly fired.

It's heartening that Phoenix wobblies are throwing down to support working people under attack, through projects of solidarity lies the possibilities for a free world. A world where a job is no longer an impediment to spending a day lounging in the sun, resting from an illness, or relaxing with a lover. Or, for that matter, taking to the streets to fight back against racist laws that will target communities of color across the state.

Solidarity to all those struggling under the regime of capital!