Tuesday, August 31, 2010

As promised, a third anti-RCP installment. This time a blast from the past.

Well, John Riley and I had intended to do at least three installments in our anti-RCP series but events intervened, particularly on my end, and the third piece never got posted. I am hearing these days that most of the RCP wackos have left town now. Hopefully that's true.

I remember back in 2000 in LA for the DNC, when I first had the misfortune of running into these hacks, just what a joke the "flag on a flag" flag was that they waved around incessantly. For those who haven't seen it, I tried to find a picture online but the closest I could come was the image below (the flag on a banner, I suppose). Just picture it being waved around on a flag.

Lately I've been seeing these printed stencil on a poster images of RCP cult leader Bob Avakian floating around here and there. These aren't actual stencils, of course, printed on glossy paper such as they are. But they are printed to look like stencils, as if they have street cred. But in fact they rolled off some printing press somewhere. I think in many ways those posters and the "flag on a flag" really sums up the RCP. Something disconnected. A facsimile. And endlessly self-referential, for sure.

The flag on a banner! Attached to a bayonet so you know
it's all militant and shit!
Watch out! They may cut you!

Just read their newspaper. I checked out their account of the May 29th immigrant march. You can't make this shit up:
At the same time, the agitation that this system can't solve the problems of humanity but the revolution CAN, was captivating for many others. Some people took up the chant started by the communists, "No tenemos que vivir así. Otro mundo es posible" ("We don't have to live this way. Another world is possible"), especially when the anti-immigrant reactionaries came out. And those who were more revolutionary-minded were drawn to the banner that said, "No hay un problema de inmigración, sí hay un problema del capitalismo, la revolución es la solución" ("There is no immigration problem, there is a capitalism problem, revolution is the solution") and the Message and Call from the RCP, USA: "The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have." Several college students spoke to the great disparities in the world and how resources exist which could meet the needs of the people, but are instead being used for profit while masses of people are forced to try to find ways to survive. After the rally, several people who were seriously looking for a way out of all this got together to watch Bob Avakian's talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, and stayed up talking into the night about historic questions of changing the world. (emphasis mine)
I mean, seriously? If you hadn't seen their pathetic little cadre with your own eyes you'd almost believe the people were rallying behind the RCP's bold representation of a flag on a flag. Fortunately, they were not. You'll note the unbearably long paragraphs (and revolutionary enthusiasm!) of the RCP writer -- a hallmark that derives from emulation of their leader, known for his endless, record-breaking even, sentences. What Castro is to the speech, Avakian is to the sentence. Consider this bit I took from a randomly selected article:

To briefly summarize this, the point is that you can conceive of the political structures and the way that they relate to the larger society in the U.S. as something of a pyramid: at the top you have the ruling class forces, which, speaking in broad strokes and for general purposes, are divided on the one hand into the Republican Party and on the other hand the Democratic Party, and what these parties represent in terms of "conservatism" and "liberalism" (about which I'll have more to say a little bit later); and then, continuing the metaphor of the pyramid, you have lines extending (or angling) from the top of the pyramid, where the ruling class sits with its two basic wings, down to the social bases that these different wings of the bourgeoisie at the top of the pyramid seek to appeal to—on the one side the "right," and on the other side the "left," in the terms that are utilized commonly in the framework of bourgeois politics. (emphasis mine)
I've been known to use a semi-colon in my day, but reading Avakian reminds me more than ever of the importance of Kurt Vonnegut's legendary caution against semi-colons: "Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college." Please, Bob, break that shit up!

Anyhow, the response from our series has been very good, with people noting articles and analysis on the RCP that we had forgotten over the years or that we neglected to link to for one reason or another. One comrade out there reminded us of the wonderful essay, "The World Can't Wake", a blistering attack on the RCP's front group during their anti-war organizing phase, World Can't Wait. I remember enjoying that piece when it came out. There's also "What you should know about the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)" hosted at Infoshop, which has a lot of links and a recommended reading list that includes Daniel Cohn-Bendit's "Obsolete Communism" -- definitely a good read on the topic of authoritarian communists (even if Cohn-Bendit has disappointed us all more than a bit since May 1968).

But my favorite submission of all came from our abiding comrade in Tucson, Dan Todd, who sent along a poster he and John Zerzan distributed some years ago in the Bay, under their Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous monicker. Folks will remember Dan from his presentation at Beer & Revolution last January.

Perhaps there are others out there who have a copy of his collection of posters, "Cold Fury: Advertisements for Anarchy 1982-2010". Those who do will recognize the trademark Situationist-influenced style. Not included in his collection, I seem to remember it appearing in Zerzan's "Elements of Refusal", if memory serves, the RCP gets a mention, although it isn't the focus of the piece. However, the points made are universal and inform just how long the backward RCP has been mucking around the left, lurking and attaching itself like a lamprey to genuine peoples movements everywhere.

Anyhow, as (perhaps) the last in our series on the Revolutionary Communist Party, and as a prelude to a fond farewell (soon, I hope), I present it below.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Swinging from the Tyburn Tree: the violent creation of the working class and the resistance it spawned.

Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker's fantastic book, "The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic" is one of my favorite books of all time. That book, when combined with Linebaugh's excellent "The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century", offer two first-class and complimentary views on the violent imposition of capitalism on the English population and the rest of the then emerging colonial world. Naturally, people resisted this reorganization in all manner of ways.

Linebaugh's book in particular offers the reader not just a view of life before capitalism, but it also reveals the bloody battle that took place over the imposition of capitalist relations, centering on the hangings at the Tyburn gallows. On these gallows those poor in London, dispossessed of their commons and resisting or locked out of the new capitalist work regime, faced the grim, bloody justice of emerging capitalism, determined as it was to bring the English poor to heel before the new mode one way or another. Performed in public, before large crowds and en masse, the hangings amounted to mass state terrorism on the population. A warning of the most extreme kind: conform or die.

Itself often a point of violent contention, with mobs known to riot and rescue the judged from time to time, the hangings routinely involved those charged with stealing food and other minor offenses. The commodity form was just emerging and it was to be respected! This in an era of the mass dislocation of the enclosures gives a hint of the grand scale of the terror. Those lucky enough to escape the hanging tree suffered transportation to Europe's "New World" in bondage under harsh terms of indentured servitude. Thus it is from the resisting English working class, initially, that the colonial State got much of its settler masses.

In the "Many-Headed Hydra" Linebaugh and Rediker take time to point out as well, using the coastal Atlantic's sea-going working class as the example, the effects of the likewise emerging system of white supremacy. Sailors, a motley multi-racial bunch, routinely defied the new racial regulations of the day, bringing a working class wreck across racial lines to colonial society's elites, rioting and resisting their way from port to port. At the same time, these heterogeneous working class formations' contentions with colonial capitalism's racial forms and privileges also spurred the State to further regiment and formalize them. And as the settler State increasingly turned to chattel slavery kidnapped from Africa, the threat that faced the ruling English white elite in colonial America was always a tri-racial alliance of the emerging white working class, African slaves and indigenous tribes. It was this burning fuse that whiteness was constructed to douse. And it is this division that lives with us to this day.

Thinking of these early rebels from the capitalist and racialized order is important, because it shows us not only an alternate history, but it also a hint of what we had and how we lost it. Relationships which perhaps seem normal enough to us now, like work or policing, seem quite the opposite when we look back and realize the sheer violence that the State was willing to use to impose and defend what were then new and generally unwelcome institutions for the extraction of profit and the preservation of power and privilege.

Returning now to the sailors, there was one particular kind of sailor that terrorized the elite like no other. For hundreds of years, but peaking perhaps in the early 18th century, pirates stirred the fearful imaginations of blue-blooded American aristocrats like none other save perhaps the slave insurrections of the South. Indeed, when the Amistad ship, famous for its mutiny and flight out of bondage, first appeared on the North Carolina horizon it was described in no uncertain terms as a pirate ship. The comparison was apt, not least of all because of the infamously defiant multi-racial characteristics of the sailor class and, in particular, the pirate hordes that plagued corporate shipping.

Pirates themselves defied not just the racial regulations of their time, but also the system of work under capitalism. Seizing and plundering, electing their own leaders, dividing up the loot in egalitarian ways and living in the moment all defined the pirate existence on the open sea. This stood in sharp contrast to a system increasingly regulated by the clock and the turning of gears inside the dank, repressive factory. Naturally, aside from the general miserable conditions of life under capitalism, the prime recruiter for the pirate population was in fact the specific nature of life as a sailor. Life on a navy ship or merchant vessel was factory-like to the extreme. Many sailors served against their will and for little or no pay. It's easy to see how in these conditions questions of race and division can quickly fade away.

It's interesting to note that on the slave ships that navigated the Middle Passage with their stolen cargo, it wasn't uncommon for nets to stretch out from the ship out over the sea for some distance beyond the deck. Captured slaves it seems, would not infrequently attempt suicide by jumping into the sea when they had the opportunity, denying in essence the capitalist the value of their captured labor. In contemporary times, I'm reminded of the nets deployed around the FoxConn factories in China, meant to contain and nullify the wave of suicides afflicting the company and its workforce. Before the nets, many of those attempting self-liberation from Capital's undead grip took flight from the FoxConn factory roof itself, ending up a bloody mash on the sidewalk below. Capitalism lets nothing go without a fight, not even your own body.

So, its in this spirit that I post below two links to recent Marcus Rediker lectures both on piracy. The first, titled, "Black Pirates: The Curious Early History of the Amistad Rebellion" focuses on the framework of piracy as a way of looking at the Amistad rebellion. The second, "The Real Pirates Of the Caribbean", was given in 2007 at the 2007 Bristol Radical History Week in the UK and goes over some of the history he uncovered while writing his book, "Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age". Check them out. They're both well worth your time.

Watch "The Real Pirates Of the Caribbean" at the Bristol Radical History Group's webpage. Note that Rediker's lecture begins at the Tyburn tree. Many pirates likewise met their end there.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Urgent Request from Grace Daniels

Below my comments here I have re-posted a letter appealing for assistance in Grace Daniel's case. Please do everything you can to offer aid and comfort as requested. Your help is needed now more now than ever.

PCWC stands unequivocally behind everyone beaten and arrested by those thugs the Phoenix Police and MCSO at the January 16th anti-Arpaio march. We likewise denounce the leftist activists who collaborated in advance and after the fact with the attack and the bullshit press that, in the truest tribute to the Red Scare I've seen in some time, quickly tried and convicted our friends without bothering getting the facts.

One reason anarchists oppose law and policing is precisely because it focuses on process over substance, power over equality and the result therefore almost always resembles nothing even remotely like even a shadow of what we might call justice as most people understand the word. More often than not the outcome looks something akin to blackmail or, as Orwell put it in a slightly different context, a boot to the face. That the State is incapable of delivering justice in most cases -- for instance when factors like race, income or oppositional politics come into play -- reveals the entire spectacle to be a sham.

Often, when the cards are stacked against you as is the case with the majority of us that lack wealth and power, you are forced into a lose-lose situation, where the choice becomes more one of damage control and the hedging of bets in order to preserve your already limited freedom. Deeper questions of justice and wrong and right frustratingly fade into the background.

Frustratingly, I say, because despite the sheer absurdity of the process when taken at face value, at every turn the so-called justice system reminds you with the grand language of guilt and innocence, justice and reparation, that although what you're going through feels a lot like extortion, instead it is supposedly a quest for truth and fact. Bullshit! Cognitive dissonance prevails nowhere in this society so much as in the courtroom. And since the State is built on laws, it is in the courtroom where we often get our purest look at its hypocrisies, as well as its failings.

Consider, as a case in point, Grace's situation where two sentences, one a month and the other more than ten years are bandied about as equally viable options for the same alleged crime. Where does justice lie when the outcomes, both State-sanctioned, are so disparate? To speak of justice as long as these kinds of dichotomies exist is in reality to speak of nothing at all.

Realistically, going to trial can be very dangerous given the tendency of the agents of the State and their masters to lie, cheat and manufacture/disappear evidence/witnesses. It takes strength and courage to stand up against that onslaught, even if the struggle isn't carried through to trial. As anarchists we reject the State's definitions of guilt or innocence and we stand with our comrades under attack, even as we understand the limitations that the legal framework puts on defense and the sad pragmatism that often must result from the pathetic application of the stinking law.

For my part, I do not begrudge anyone, with the obvious exception of those whose deals lead to collaboration with the State, for taking the better of two shitty deals, or of not risking a fight that can have catastrophic results. Battling the State on their home turf is not easy and in the courtroom they hold all the cards. I myself have faced this situation more than once in my life. My deepest sympathies to anyone who sits in a similar position. Decisions rarely come easy.

Justice in capitalist democracy is a sham and I would no more hold a comrade to its anemic standards than I would myself. It's failings reveal only more clearly the need for an uncompromising revolution that overturns this wretched order: a kicking over of this justice death-machine that has left so many wrecked lives in its wake. Solidarity in struggle to all who face it in the name of liberty, freedom and equality for themselves and others, as well as to those who face it just to pay the rent or put food on the table.

Support our comrades under attack. Support Grace Daniels.

-Phoenix Insurgent

An Urgent Request from Grace Daniels

Friends, Family, Comrades:

I just spoke to my lawyer regarding the current state of proceedings regarding the charges being alleged against me since my arrest on January 16th at the Anti-Arpaio march in Phoenix, Arizona. I had hoped my next post on this topic would at least contain semi-positive news; unfortunately that is not the case. The prosecutor has disclosed their final plea deal which would require me to plead guilty to a class 5 felony, with a mandatory 30 days in jail, and a minimum of 1 year supervised probation (which could be up to 3 years).

I have until Wednesday to agree to take this plea or not, if I decide to go forward with the plea it would be effective on September 3rd, Friday. If I decide to take this to trial, the date is set for September 14th. Given the case that we have I normally would see taking this to trial as the best option, however, because a special sentencing statute specifying that this was a “dangerous” offense was added, the judge has no leeway in my sentencing and if convicted it would mean a mandatory 10.5 years in prison. As of right now although we have witnesses, we do not have any video documentation showing the moment that the alleged “crime” was committed. The police as anyone who was there knows, and as we know through the video that we have seen, had numerous cameras throughout the protest and at that moment. However, they are claiming that it does not exist at this point, meaning that it has likely been destroyed.

I am writing this as a last urgent call out to whoever reads this. Things that may help if received by Wednesday would be; character letters (guidelines specified below, you can email them to me at s0917daniels@gmail.com), any video documentation of the protest, and witnesses who saw me directly before, during, and after my arrest. If you feel you have any possible information or documentation that may help in this case, please email me for my lawyers phone number.

Thank you to everyone who has provided unending support and to those who continue to fight despite tactics such as these used to try to scare us into submission.

If you are unfamiliar with the events on the 16th, please see links below for more background and current updates in regards to the other 4 who were arrested that day.



Who they are - brief

How they know you, how long, etc

Acknowledge that they know essentially what you are charged with

Then, FOCUS on your good character traits, with specific examples if possible.

Character for non-violence generally, and if they have experience with you at marches, rallies, etc, your non-violence at those.

They can then simply request leniency on your behalf.

They should NOT profess your innocence unless they were there and saw you right before and up to your arrest – and of course, we have found no such person yet.

They should NOT try to school the prosecutors and/or judge on the justice system, jail, prison, etc.

The latter stuff just turns off the professional who is reading it and they will ignore the good stuff!

The focus is on you, not the case.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New PCWC Poster: Boycott Rosita's - No Love for Rightwing Tacos!

Our new PCWC poster "Boycott Rosita's: No Love for Rightwing Tacos" is finished and ready to be posted around town! It recently came to our attention that the Rosita's location in Tempe had quietly been the hub for rightwing and anti-immigrant organizing in Tempe, this included hosting Tea Party groups and a Sheriff Arpaio speaking engagement. The owners at Rosita's took their anti-immigrant and anti-worker activities a step further by firing a longtime employee in retaliation for posting about the Tea Party events on an anti-Arpaio facebook page. This news was all the more disturbing because we have been patrons there for years, all the tacos, burritos, and beers we'd bought were lining the pockets of a rightwing Mexican restaurant. We'd been funding our enemies!

In early July we were tipped off that Sheriff Arpaio was in Tempe speaking to supporters at Rosita's, so we made some calls, got a few friends together, and booked it over to crash the party. We missed that old bastard Arpaio by just a few minutes, but there was still a few dozen Tea Party people in the main dining room where the walls were adorned with a number of Republican "Tea Party" candidates' campaign signs. We were given the boot pretty quickly by management, who insisted they have the right to host Arpaio, the Tea Party, and whoever they want, regardless of how uncomfortable or fearful it makes the customers or employees.

One worker wasn't having it, so he went to the facebook group "People against Sheriff Joe Arpaio" and posted a call out for people to come down to Rosita's to confront the anti-immigrant gathering.

A disclaimer: We did not learn of this event from this employee, in fact a friend was eating lunch at Rosita's and saw Arpaio arrive and speak, it was this person who hit us up to tell us this was going down. I want to address this because the employee who wrote the post on facebook was fired a couple of days later, and that if the worker was fired because of our appearance at the restaurant it was not because of the post on facebook, because we hadn't seen it.

I've since met the worker, he told me that when he came to work a couple of days after the Arpaio-Tea Party event that his manager was waiting for him with a printed copy of the facebook page in hand. It struck me as bizarre that his boss would think to take a look at the anti-Arpaio facebook group for some evidence behind our interruption earlier that week, as this is a page that is monitored by Arpaio's security detail, and possibly other law enforcement agencies, it's not unlikely that the management was in collusion with MCSO. While this information could have been provided to Rosita's by one of Arpaio's goons, it also could've been a customer who saw the post and called it in, or some rightwinger keeping an eye on the anti-Arpaio site who reported it to the management.

This isn't the first incident in recent months of workers being fired in retaliation for standing in solidarity with immigrants, or taking action against rightwing anti-immigrant groups . In June I wrote in support of the 13 Latino Pei Wei workers who were denied a day off to attend the large immigrant demonstration back in May, these workers defied the company's orders by taking a wild cat strike to join the thousands of other people at the march. Like the Pei Wei workers, the Rosita's worker took action by blowing the whistle on the rightwing organizing going down in the restaurant, but unlike the Pei Wei workers this came from a white worker who took the initiative to go public on Rosita's love affair with the authorities and the racists from the right.

For all of the efforts of media outlets, politicians, and anti-immigrant activists who continue to exacerbate tensions between white workers and workers of color, these incidents show that while action by workers is isolated, there is an undercurrent of class solidarity that could grow to push the debate on SB 1070 in a liberatory direction. Along these lines, it may be surprising to workers who fight back to find that, whether brown or white, the capitalist has a pink slip waiting for those fighting against the white supremacist order by fighting for their dignity, or for those who defy their perceived elevated status on the class/race hierarchy to stand with workers struggling below them. This is the fragile truce between white workers and the capitalist class, a system that rewards white people with a series of privileges in return for their loyalty to the system of private property and profit that benefits the rich and powerful at the expense of our counterparts from communities of color.

The disciplining of workers who challenge the white supremacist order and the collaboration between the owners and the rightwing and anti-immigrant groups cannot stand, we ought to discipline the bosses who find it acceptable to bring this level of terror into the workplace and community. In this "right to work" state an employee can be fired with or without cause, so taking walk outs, strikes, or other forms of collective action almost certainly guarantee getting laid off.

We are calling for a permanent boycott of the two Rosita's restaurants in the valley, not with the intention of harming the workers, the owners of this restaurant do that enough by hosting the enemies of working people. We want to drag these cheer leaders of repression into the light, to shame them publicly, and to withdraw any monetary support for them since they've used so much of our money spent there to attack immigrants and communities of color, this is unacceptable. In these times it's important to "out" businesses that provide shelter or a space for anti-immigrant, rightwing, racist, and/or fascist groups.

General Plutarco Calles, Dec 1924

Perhaps the owners of Rosita's (Rosa's son and his wife) would do well to look at a little history, it could be easy for them too, they wouldn't have to start any further than their own restaurant's menu. Rosa Keeme, the founder of Rosita's, would probably have never made it to Tempe or opened a restaurant fifty years ago if her family had to contend with the border, movement, and immigration controls that Mexicans face these days. Rosa's mother, Maria Jesus Calles-Moreno, benefited significantly from the lack of border controls, in fact it may have saved her life.

If the biography on the menu is to be believed, Rosa's great uncle was Plutarco Elías Calles, a Mexican general, politician, and later a president and dictator-like figure who founded the group which later became the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the corrupt and brutal political body that ruled Mexico for seventy years. Plutarco ruled formally as president for awhile and then informally after that through his political machine until he was finally forced into a short exile in the United States. So, the Calles family, like many Mexican families during this era, was forced to flee to Sonora, Mexico to escape political repression. Over the years, the family moved back and forth from Sonora to Arizona, to Sonora, and back again, not all together any different than thousands of other Mexican workers who had to travel to the U.S. and back for decades doing seasonal work, or the millions of families that NAFTA uprooted and divided with the border wall.

We can't change capitalism, it has to be abolished, so we won't pretend that even if the owners of Rosita's came to their senses and put a stop to their cooperation with the anti-immigrant groups, that their restaurant, or virtually any other workplace, will be a workers' paradise. At the end of the day it's still an underpaid, overworked, misery inducing job, but I'll be damned if we let those who seek to actively lower our material conditions have an open place from which to propagandize and organize to keep us all down.

Shutdown racist, anti-immigrant, and rightwing organizing in Tempe, boycotting Rosita's is just the start!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Photo of the day

"Oil companies do not value our life; they want us to all die. In the past two years, we have experienced 10 oil spills and fishermen can no longer sustain their families. It is not tolerable."
-Williams Mkpa, a community leader in Ibeno, Nigeria

Vandalized BP service station in NYC.

Despite the massive PR campaign coming from the bastards at British Petroleum, it's reassuring that some people have long memories (see above photo). It's not as though BP suffered a severe enough economic backlash from the destruction they unleashed on the Gulf either when service stations reported only a 5% drop in sales across the board. Perhaps the BP spill was just little too close to home for business as usual to go on, BP reported a $15 billion dollar loss in the second quarter due to the costs of managing the spill, a large scale ecological collapse for the region.

Europe's second largest oil corporation has little to fear in the long run, just check out the track record of Exxon Mobil or Shell, 40 years of oil spills and systematic destruction of the earth and human communities in the Nigerian Delta has had little effect on long term profits or public perception, due to their massive PR operations and the general lack of action from the west over just about any atrocity in Africa. Despite all of their baggage, 2nd quarter 2010 profits from Shell were $4.5 billion dollars, Exxon Mobil pulled in $7.56 billion, both companies are party to the continued repression of the resistance to their operations in the Niger Delta.

If the Nigerian model is any sign of what's to come, the impunity of oil companies will continue to varying degrees whether in the Delta, the Gulf, or perhaps even the Mediterranean soon enough. So don't hold your breath for any of these oil companies to be reigned in by any state actor anytime soon either, the demands for profit and the explosion of the eco-crisis have gone hand in hand for decades now with little consequence for those in power. Without the intervention of a popular and effective direct action movement aimed at destroying the worldwide menace of industrial capitalism, we will no doubt continue to see this disaster spread to every corner of the earth until the bitter end.