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Anarchists, Maoists, and Anti-Imperialism

Vie, 02/02/2018 - 00:12

via PM Press

This interview, conducted by Luther Blissett, originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of the anarchist journal Freedom. It is also available online at Freedom News.

Luther Blissett: When looking at liberation movements and struggles for social justice, especially non-pacifist, there seems to be an emphasis on the folks who clash physically, and often lose, with property and authority. This is discussed a bit in Who’s Afraid of the Black Blocs. Is this an accurate, albeit short and generalising, representation? What are some of the other roles that are vital in supporting movements How do you think movements can attract more members to these other roles?

Gabriel Kuhn: These are really big questions. I’ll try to differentiate a bit. To begin with, we must not confound militant liberation struggles with street fighting tactics such as the black bloc. Black blocs are largely an urban First World phenomenon. They have their place under certain circumstances but the realities of militant masses in the Third World fighting both national and international oppressors is very different.

With respect to black blocs and militant resistance within First World autonomous movements, there have certainly been problems with fetishising the young, male streetfighter. There have also been problems with adventurism, irresponsibility, and a lack of both political and strategic vision. This does not discredit the tactic but it challenges us to reflect upon its use and improve it, mainly by tying it to broader social movements and other means of resistance in a collaborative effort that involves a bigger diversity of people.

Mass movements that employ militant means might have similar problems, but the variety of these movements is so big – from spontaneous popular uprisings to Maoist people’s armies – that it would be utterly inappropriate to make any generalisations. Where these problems exist, they need to be addressed, but to decide on whether or how this has to happen is up to the people involved on the ground.

Which roles are vital to support movements? I won’t gather points for originality here, but the answer is: any role that strengthens the research, analysis, propaganda, mobilisation, and confrontation that movements require. All kinds of people will be attracted to these roles as long as the struggle promises them a better life and they feel empowered rather than reduced to pawns in someone else’s game.

Blissett: Since the election of Trump, have you seen or heard changes in attitudes in Sweden such as an increase in fascist attacks or activity?

Kuhn: I don’t think that what has been dubbed “everyday Trumpism,” that is, the emboldening of the far right to seize public space and harass and humiliate people, has significantly increased in Sweden or other European countries because of Trump winning the election. Hate crimes — in particular directed against migrants and refugees – have been up for a while and there has been a strong anti-feminist and anti-civil-rights backlash.

But Trump’s victory certainly boosted these tendencies. One only needs to read the far-right’s publications or related websites. Trump’s victory is hailed as a confirmation that the chauvinistic politics of the far right indeed capture the will of the people. The US presidential elections have a huge impact the world over and in this case it has been particularly bad.

Blissett: Why do you think militants are drawn to Mao or Maoism?

Kuhn: In the 1960s and 1970s, Maoism seemed to be a bridge to world revolution as a Third Worldist adaptation of Marxism-Leninism. Radicals around the world rallied behind it. With the crisis that the Left has been experiencing since the end of the Cold War, the onset of neoliberalism, and the political and economic developments in China, the revolutionary hopes put in Maoism largely disappeared. In the First World, Maoism nearly went extinct.

In some Third World countries, however, among them Nepal, India, and the Philippines, fairly strong Maoist movements survived. The appeal of Maoism for Third World revolutionaries remains the application of Marxist-Leninist principles to the conditions of poor peasant societies. Today’s resurgence of Maoism among First World radicals is, in my opinion, due to three reasons:

1. A fair number of First World radicals have grown tired of what J. Moufawad-Paul, in his book The Communist Necessity, has called “movementism” — the belief that as long as people are in some way politically active, revolutionary change will occur based on the convergence of their efforts. Many radicals have come to see this as a dead end and believe that common strategies and visions are required to help this process along. We could also call this a critique of 21st century anarchism in practice. Maoism provides a tighter analytical framework for political action and a clearer vision of revolutionary change.

2. Maoism still benefits from its image as an unorthodox and progressive variety of Marxism-Leninism, given its Third World appeal, the historical background of the Sino-Soviet split, the radicalness of the Cultural Revolution, and a certain affinity with post-colonial studies. Loosely speaking, it’s more hip than tired old Leninist stuff.

3. Even when the Third World communist movement was in decline, there have been Maoist mass movements, posing a threat to the capitalist order and, in the case of Nepal, contributing to groundbreaking political changes (even if the subsequent actions of leading Nepali Maoists have been the subject of much criticism).

These are strong material manifestations of political engagement. In contrast, anarchism sometimes seems to have little more to offer than a few infoshops in gentrified neighbourhoods of First World cities. Needless to say, anarchism’s influence goes further in many ways, but some radicals are attracted by the large-scale social changes that Maoism promises.

Blissett: What are some of the most important current theory-centered concerns or work for libertarian anti-imperialists for the next five or 10 years?

Kuhn: a) We have to find ways to combine national and international (or transnational) working-class struggles. Nationalism has been dividing the global working class since about 200 years, creating various layers of workers, toiling and living under extremely different circumstances. It is one of the most effective means of “divide and conquer” ever conceived. Workers from one nation state see workers from another mainly as competitors, which is expressed in protectionism, anti-immigration sentiments, and plain racism and chauvinism.

The far right is exploiting these sentiments the world over. A truly internationalist working-class struggle means to identify the workers’ true enemies — the rich and powerful — and to formulate a common vision for achieving justice in global production and distribution. For workers in the First World – sometimes referred to as the “labour aristocracy” — this might imply the loss of some privileges that the imperialist order has bestowed upon them. Workers find it no easier to let go of privileges than anyone else. But no matter how difficult the challenge, it needs to be taken on if we want to get anywhere.

b) We need to slip libertarian convictions into this process without sliding into “movementism.” I consider an alliance of radicals with different ideological backgrounds mandatory if we want to play any role in current struggles.

One of the anarchists’ main tasks would be to keep the development of coercive power structures in check, which is a danger that is always looming. Anarchism has its shortcomings, and certainly not all the answers we need considering the complex societies we live in.

But it needs to be part of the revolutionary process in order to avoid pitfalls of the past. I don’t think it helps to throw hysterical fits whenever someone assumes “authority” or when a “hierarchy” is emerging, but someone has to make sure that no such structures consolidate, become a means in themselves, and form a new class of rulers.

Blissett: In terms of historical scholarship, where do you think the anarchist and anti-imperialist movements need more work?

Kuhn: To me, what seems most important is to analyse revolutionary change. How did it occur? What were the circumstances? How do they compare to the ones we are facing today? What happened afterwards? What went right? What went wrong? I think we have largely lost our grip on revolution. People still like to throw the word around to distinguish themselves from “reformists” or “liberals”, but very few can articulate what they actually mean by it. We have to rectify this, provide the term with meaning again, and pursue relevant politics.

Blissett: What is your current project that is closest to publication? Will you share some of the projects you currently have in the works?

Kuhn: I have just completed a German translation of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s excellent book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. This is coming out soon. The next bigger project is another translation, this time into English. Kersplebedeb will publish an English edition of Torkil Lauesen’s Det globale perspektiv, which I am very excited about.

Torkil was a member of the so-called Blekingegade Gang, a group of Marxist revolutionaries in Denmark that committed various high-revenue robberies in the 1970s and 1980s and passed on all the proceeds to Third World liberation movements. I already collaborated with Torkil for the PM Press book Turning Money Into Rebellion and am looking forward to doing so again.

Review: Straight Edge Oral History

Jue, 02/01/2018 - 22:40

via PM Press

by Gabriel Kuhn

Eight years after the PM Press release Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics, a new book adds to the still slim catalog of literature on this persistent drug-free subculture.

Tony Rettman, who brought us NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 in 2014, has once again teamed up with underground music publisher Bazillion Points, this time to produce Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History. Rettman doesn’t fool around when it comes to oral history. Except for a staccato-like rundown of straight edge highlights that fits on the inside flaps of the dust jacket, a one-page foreword by Anthony “Civ” Civorelli, and listings of “essential” straight edge records, the book consists exclusively of quotes from people who have been involved in straight edge culture in one way or another. This does not belittle Rettman’s role. It might not be the classical task of an author, but turning quotes from over 100 interviews into a narrative requires both skill and dedication. Needless to say, the approach puts the focus on anecdote rather than analysis, but there is nothing wrong with that. The stages that Rettman is taking us through are the ones to expect: DC, Boston, Southern California, New York, Salt Lake City, all the way up to “East Coast 2000”. There is no shortage of illustrations. The book is visually stunning and includes fantastic photographs and flyers.

In terms of politics, Rettman’s clear-headed history is strong on self-empowerment and DIY, perhaps less so on social issues. This, however, might just be an accurate representation of straight edge culture, especially in the US – which brings me to two reservations that are probably predictable for a European lefty:

One, by including three chapters totaling 23 pages on straight edge outside of the US, Rettman gives a nod to straight edge having become a worldwide movement. But, in my opinion, this backfires, as it suggests that the other 357 pages deservedly go to the US. I would have considered it more appropriate to ditch the foreign parts and call the book for what it essentially is, namely a history of straight edge in the US.

Two, I know that accusations of overrepresenting men when chronicling the history of male-dominated movements are problematic. Consciously reducing men’s numbers can help cover up a problem rather than highlighting it. But a man-to-woman ratio of about 100:1 is pretty brutal. Yes, straight edge might be a boys club, but that there aren’t more women with something meaningful to say about its history is hard to believe.

As I said, these quibbles are probably characteristic for a certain type of reader and might be entirely irrelevant for others. Anyone with an interest in straight edge history will find something worthwhile in this volume.

(January 2018)

The geopolitics of the Kurds and the case of Rojava

Jue, 02/01/2018 - 22:24


by Ercan Ayboga

Nowadays, with the defeat of the so called “Islamic State” (IS) on the ground in Syria the geopolitics of the Syrian Kurds is discussed more than ever. To be precise, we should speak of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and of the political structure “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria” (DFNS) of which Rojava (West/Syrian Kurdistan) is a part. What is of interest for this article is the criticism by some (or many) leftists against the military cooperation with the US. However, speaking only of the US would be too limiting, since in this particular conflict Russia, Turkey and Iran are also closely involved.

The geopolitics of the Syrian Kurds can be understood only in connection with the democratic-leftist Kurdish Freedom Movement (KFM). Starting with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in North Kurdistan (Bakur; Turkish part) in the 1970s, it spread to Rojava and East Kurdistan (Rojhilat; Iranian part) in the 1990s. When in 2003 the Party of Democratic Union (PYD) was founded, it accepted Öcalan’s political concept of Democratic Confederalism as basis. Due to the intensive repression by the Baath regime, the space remained small, but the organization of the population never ceased to exist.

In 2011, when the uprising against the Syrian regime started, the PYD saw its interest in benefitting from the weakness of the regime in order to organize people democratically in Rojava and the big cities of Syria. In the first months, the aim was to develop the self defense capacity as it was difficult to foresee further developments against the Baath regime as well as against the armed reactionary opposition. In the following months the revolutionary movement had been organized as TEV-DEM which apart from PYD included dozens of social organizations and people from the growing people’s councils all over Rojava. The Barzani-linked ENKS, the conservative Kurdish party bloc in Rojava, remained weak while TEV-DEM became the main player in Rojava. In spring 2012 when it was clear that the war is intensifying, the preparation for the liberation of Rojava started. The movement needed to be ready for the right moment.

TEV-DEM was faced with two basic decisions: Either Rojava will be defended by its own forces or it had to be given up. The second outcome would mean that other forces like the ENKS and/or the reactionary Syrian opposition would control Rojava.

Rojava was more difficult to defend than other parts of Kurdistan. On the level of terrain, the area is mainly flat and spread out. Furthermore, many international and regional powers had armed many warring forces in Syria. The unarmed democratic groups in Syria and the TEV-DEM, on the other hand, had no support from abroad. TEV-DEM had declared it a duty to defend Rojava, otherwise it would be a great setback for the KFM in all parts of Kurdistan. The point was to defend this revolution and to learn lessons from former revolutions in the world.

With the beginning of the successful liberation of Rojava’s towns in July 2012, the attacks against the area grew stronger. First, it was some FSA groups and Al-Nusra Front which could be defeated by the YPG (People’s Defense Units) and YPJ (Women’s Defense Units). Then came ISIS (later IS), and at first, from summer 2013 until May 2014, could be defeated as well. But with the occupation of Mosul IS had grew so strong to challenge even state armies. The Baath regime also attacked Rojava at times, motivated by the Iranian regime.

Currently the biggest threat to this region is the Turkish army which has been launching attacks since October 2015 almost daily at the borders and on the front lines. In fact, all of the regional and international powers had no interest in seeing an independent and democratic force in Syria become strong, this includes western states, which just ignored TEV-DEM, and Russia which met with TEV-DEM, but with no common goals. Even Turkey, Syria and Iran met with TEV-DEM politicians (later the Democratic Self-Administration (DSA) founded in January 2014 as a democratic enlargement), but with the sole aim to incorporate it into their own bloc.

In the summer of 2014 IS was at the peak of its power. The world was shocked and considered it a new major threat. This was the case in the Middle East as well as in the rest of the world. This was also the time when forces of the KFM were resisting against IS in Şengal, the main settlement of the Kurdish Ezidis in Başur. In the beginning of August 2014 both the PKK and YPG/YPJ rescued up to 80.000 Ezidis and prevented a bigger genocide – it was not the “international community” that saved these people, but those who who were till then either considered “terrorists” or ignored. From that moment, the perception of the Kurds in general, particularly of Rojava and the PKK started to change. A US led global coalition against IS was formed, at first focused only on Iraq.

Then, the large IS attack on Kobanî happened in September 2014. The Kurds resisted with whatever they had. Tens of thousands of people in Bakur gathered continuously at the border to Kobanî in order to show solidarity and protest Turkish states support for the IS. Around a thousand crossed the border to fight the IS. Because of the global IS threat and the successful resistance in Şengal the international media were also present at the border. Never before did the Kurds get so much attention. They were recognized not only as suffering, but rather as resisting. Kobanî was now well known and well seen worldwide.

The resistance was strong, but it was not enough in the face of IS. Because of the Turkish embargo, the YPG/YPJ from Cizîre, the biggest region in Rojava, could not join the resistance. If that was not the case, there would have been a balance of forces and international support would not have been necessary.

During the first days of October 2014 the US publicly declared that it could see no hope, even if it was already bombing IS in parts of Syria. A few days later, the US started to bomb IS systematically in and around Kobanî city. The resistance in Kobanî, a big uprising in Bakur/Turkey and the global public request for Kobanî support were the main driving factors for that. This intervention in Kobanî started under specific political conditions and it was not clear how long it will last. Only after that, did serious negotiations happen.

Motivations for the US and Syrian Kurds

On the short-term, the main motivation for the US was seeing that the defeat of IS in Kobanî would be very beneficial for their own strategy in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, Kobanî became IS’ Stalingrad. For the revolution of Rojava the defense of Kobanî was crucial, otherwise it could be marginalized in Syria. This is how two forces opposed ideologically ended up having the same short term interests.

The bombing of IS gave the US a strong partner in Syria. This comes after the US along with Turkey and some of the Gulf states had been supporting armed opposition groups. These groups however, were unable to overthrow the regime and were becoming weaker, or becoming more and more extreme in their Islamic ideology. Furthermore, these groups were less committed to their western sponsors and more to Turkey and the Gulf sponsors, which the US saw with suspicion. This is why a cooperation with the YPG/YPJ promised to give the US more influence in Syria and having an active role in designing a new Syria.

In the beginning of the military cooperation the USA planned to subordinate Rojava militarily to the government of Başur. The notes of the talks on March 14, 2015 between several HDP (People’s Democratic Party) parliamentarians and the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan state that the US exercised pressure on the YPG/YPJ to accept to be part of the PDK-Peshmerga commando structure, and that Öcalan took position against that. This did not happen, but the cooperation continued.

There are certainly other long-term motivations for the US to start the military cooperation with YPG/YPJ/SDF. One is to come back to the Middle East political scene and appear as a positive force after the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan which turned the US into an unwanted force in almost all Muslim majority countries.

This military engagement also served to limit the influence of Iran in Iraq which increased especially in the years until 2014. This became yet more important after Trump was elected.

Another reason is pressuring the Turkish government which has been moving away from its western allies in the last years. Turkey, has been trying to benefit from the conflicts between different powers, particularly the US and Russia to increase its influence in the Middle East. The support for Al Nusra and IS was part of this strategy while bypassing the embargo on Iran. For several years, the NATO has looked at these actions with suspicion. Turkey’s main concern in its international policies are the Kurds.

Furthermore, the US has actively supported the big parties PDK and YNK (PUK) in Başur since 1991 which led to a status of autonomy. There were expectations, among others, that the two parties would dominate the three other parts of Kurdistan and push back the KFM. But they failed. Instead, their corruption pushed Başur into a big economic and political crisis. Also, the PDK has been influenced by Turkey’s policies, especially by the sale of oil through Turkish pipelines.

Öcalan’s vision, on the other hand, is an inspiration for a new inclusive and democratic approach. Democratic Confederalism is the most powerful democratic concept in the Middle East. Millions of people in Bakur and Rojava had the possibility of experiencing it. Successful coalitions for democracy are formed with Turks, Arabs, Assyrians and others.

Neither the western states nor the Russian-Chinese block can propose anything to the multidimensional crisis of the Middle East – they are out of ideas. The discussion is almost only about “defeating terrorists, stability and building walls against refugees”.

The US wants to instrumentalize the KFM for its own interests either by taming the whole KFM or by disconnecting Rojava from the rest of the KFM. This could be done by offering more military support and international political support in exchange for promises of a strong political status within Syria if the DFNS would distance itself from Öcalan, and reject the KFM in Bakur (and the PKK), while giving more space to the PDK of Barzani and the YNK. However, since the beginning of the military cooperation in October 2014, there has not been much change in the balance of power and dependency between the two.

It would be much harder for the SDF to defend its territory without American military cooperation. The DFNS would be more vulnerable to attacks from Turkey and the Syrian regime, now that IS in no longer an existential threat. Now the SDF have much more fighters, technical capacities, motivations and thus a higher defense capacity, even if they had been defending their territory before US support.

Russia’s cooperation

The DFNS has important relations with Russia too, since 2012. Russia’s has multiple interests in this relationship, including that the SDF not deepen its military cooperation with the US.

For Russia this limited cooperation with the SDF can be used against Turkey, and the same goes for the US. While Turkey wanted to overthrow the Baath regime in the first years of the Syrian uprising, since 2016 it focuses almost only on limiting the growing power of the new democratic project in Rojava/Northern Syria. This approach of the Turkish government gives Russia the opportunity to play on the Turkish fears.

Having strong political-economic-military relations with Turkey, Russia allowed the Turkish army to invade the triangle region between Jarablus, Al-Bab and Azaz in Northern Syria, in return Turkey cut the support for armed groups in Aleppo. This invasion disconnected Kobanî and Afrîn. And with the Turkish army in Syria, Russia can exercise pressure on the SDF. This is the case especially around Afrîn, the site of the Turkish assault and where Russia has observation points it uses against both Turkey and SDF.

Russia has also been trying to seek an agreement between the growing DFNS and the Baath regime. The DFNS have repeatedly declared that they seek a strategic agreement with the Syrian regime which would make Syria democratic and federal. It has become public that the two sides have met several times. In these meetings, the Syrian regime was only ready to accept cultural rights for Kurds and a strengthening of municipalities, while the DFNS insisted that the reality of a broad democracy in Northern Syria and a basic democratization of Syria as a whole will be accepted. However, at the end of October 2017 the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallim, said that negotiations about autonomy for the Kurdish regions can be discussed, a surprising development. But this is a dangerous and unacceptable proposal because it would divide the Kurdish and Arabic regions. Here the DFNS is in a more advantageous situation and continues to insist to be accepted by the Baath regime as a federal region.

The DFNS considers its relations with Russia beneficial in several terms. One objective is to limit the attacks by the Turkish state against the SDF liberated territories. Another objective is to use Russia’s influence to pressure the Syrian regime to negotiate a democratic solution and include the DFNS in the international negotiations to end the armed conflict in Syria. The third objective is not to deepen the relations with the US and benefit from the conflicting interests of the two international and regional powers. However, both states have in their international policies the interest to stay in contact or even to develop ties with the Kurds which now includes also the KFM – even if it is tactical.

Characteristics of the cooperation

The military cooperation has often characterized by tensions. One big controversial discussion was over Minbiç (Manbij) which the SDF wanted liberated while the USA focused on Raqqa. The SDF launched its operation in Minbiç anyway without American support, and was already in the outskirts of the city when the US gave support to the operation, and finally achieving its goal on August 12, 2016. This case shows that the cooperation between the SDF and the US is not one-sided.

When at the end of August 2016, the Turkish army moved to occupy Jarablus, the SDF tried to reach the city and strike back at the Turkish army by pushing out IS from the south. Although the Turkish army suffered losses, it could take over Jarablus city while IS retreated within one day without fighting. Several days later a de-facto ceasefire between the SDF and the Turkish army was negotiated by the Americans and came into effect. But with the American support of the Turkish invasion, the coordination between the SDF and the US fell into crisis for several weeks.

Nonetheless, the SDF was able to resist quite successfully against the moving Turkish troops around Al-Bab. The fight only ended when Russia and the US sent soldiers to the front around Minbic.

The number of US soldiers in Northern Syria should not be exaggerated as they are not fighting on the ground, except in Raqqa city. They are however involved in training and coordination of arriving military equipment.

One month before the liberation of Raqqa, the SDF started the “Cizîre storm” operation to liberate the whole region east of the Euphrates river in the Deir Ez-Zor province. The SDF commanders stated that they were going to carry the operation even if the Americans were opposed to it because it was urgent: the Syrian army was progressing quickly towards Deir Ez-Zor city. The operation was successful.

Although there is military cooperation between the SDF and the US led Global Anti-IS Coalition, it is not possible to speak about a political cooperation. The US makes a clear distinction between the political and military dimension and have not insisted that the DFNS is part of the Geneva negotiations. Although the US government refused public accusations by Turkey that the YPG are terrorists using American weapons that will eventually fall in the hands of the PKK, it has never said anything positive in public about the political process in Rojava/Northern Syria. Until now, no leading figure from the DFNS or SDF was allowed to visit the US.

Although the military relationship with Russia is much less developed than with the US, politically Russia gave more direct and positive statements about the Syrian Kurds and the DFNS. For example in the beginning of 2017 Russia prepared a draft for a new constitution which included that Kurds should be involved in the international negotiations. Just recently Russia announced a “people’s congress of Syria” to which the PYD/Kurds would be invited.

Background of the war

The KFM says that what is happening in the Middle East is the Third World War with Syria at the very center, and there are three main forces: first is international imperialism represented mainly by the US and Russia ; second is the regional status quo powers with Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia as the main players with imperialist characteristics ; and third is the revolutionary and democratic forces led by the Rojava Revolution and the PKK. These three forces are fighting among one another and the result is complicated with continuously changing coalitions and armed conflicts. Each force develops relations with those who seem to be opposed to the enemy, in order to achieve their strategic interests.

This is related to the deep and structural crisis of capitalism experienced violently in the Middle East. It is not enough to have an ideological and political approach as many leftist and socialist organizations do, rather an organizational and military approach is crucial. Without being dogmatic, it is necessary to fight against threats, but also to be able to restructure one’s organization according to the conditions and to understand the dynamics and contradictions of other players in order to be able to benefit from them. The goal must be to defend the gains and build a strong self-organized society wherever it is possible to strengthen one’s own power. The creation of zones of freedom is not only possible with friendly forces. A dogmatic position will lead to the defeat, so each step needs to be calculated well, particularly for the Kurds who have been colonized by four nation-states. Because the KFM acts on this approach since its foundation, it could achieve the current level of strength. The stakes are high: either the forces of imperialism and capitalism win, or a new space for freedom is forged for humanity in the region, and this is why international and regional powers are fighting so violently to preserve the status quo.

The people in Rojava

Irrespective of all developments and discussions it is important to see how the military cooperation with the US affects the society of Rojava. There are two main questions. First, how do political activists and the population consider this military cooperation. And whether and how the economic-political-cultural structures have experienced any changes through this cooperation.

Between February and March 2017 I held around 50 interviews with political activists and people from different administrative bodies on their political work and the political-social situation. Apart from one person, no one regarded the military cooperation without any concerns. The interviewees said mostly that this cooperation has come up because of difficult conditions – particularly in Kobanî – and numerous enemies, but does not include a political dimension. For them the US is cooperating for its own interests and the cooperation is a tactical one. There was a clear awareness that the revolution should not rely on this military cooperation which could end at any time, but should try to benefit from it. The same goes for Russia. These were important answers based on a critical perception and far-sightedness. Activists continue to develop and deepen their political work and insist on a strongly self-organized society. I observed that in Rojava a self-organized and self-sufficient society includes more and stronger communes, people’s councils and other political structures, a communal economy which produces its own needs as much as possible, an independent education and health system and self-defense in all neighborhoods, communes and villages. This approach is connected to a 40 year experience of the KFM which never depended on any other political power. In the general political discussions, the military cooperation with the US was seldom a subject.

Like other political and social structures, the press of Rojava does not put the military cooperation in the center of the news. Rather the focus is on the political project of democratic federalism/autonomy, defense, liberation, the building of new structures in society and public demonstrations.

I met few people who expressed a big expectation from the US. The silence of the USA/NATO states when the Iraqi Army attacked Kirkuk after the referendum in Başur in September 25, 2017 has confirmed that a critical approach is crucial.

The efforts to build up communes everywhere never ceased after the start of the military cooperation with the US; rather the number of communes doubled. Also the creation of cooperatives continued; today there are a few hundred of cooperatives. The democratic-communal economy continues to be developed. The anti-capitalist mentality was stronger in 2017 than in 2014 when I traveled for the first time to Rojava.

In discussions with YPG and YPJ members there was not much attached value on the relations with the US: it certainly provided more military equipment, but the human is always the strongest weapon in a war.

A member of the YPG, who is in direct relations with commanders in all areas, told me that the US military never tried to impose anything directly or tried to intervene in the political-social-economic model or life because they are aware that the SDF and DFNS would never accept any kind of intervention in their internal policies. He also emphasized that they are prepared for an end of the military cooperation with the US Army at any time. According to him the cooperation has some serious advantages, but has also risks. Particularly to get used to the US support over time is a risk which needs to be discussed permanently, thus the YPG has to take measures. Another challenge is that because of the US presence within Syria the disputes with the Syrian regime should not end up in a big war because the DFNS wants to come to a mutual and respectful agreement with the Ba’ath regime.

About whether the SDF coordination has fears that the cooperation could change the interest and political vision of the fighters, he said: “We believe that we have a strong political project with Democratic Confederalism which is an inspiring tool for us. What kind of ideas offer does the US or other states offer to us? We have a stronger democracy which is direct and inclusive and a gender liberation in rapid development. Most importantly, we have a vision for a new life for the people of the greater region. What the capitalist states have, is money, weapons and democracy in structural crisis, not more.”

I spoke to dozens of international volunteers who are still coming to join the Rojava revolution, mainly from Europe or North America. Most had a positive position on the development in Northern Syria and wanted to stay longer and learn how people organize themselves, discuss and share what they have.

The many internationalists do not consider the military cooperation between SDF and USA as an obstacle for their engagement in Northern Syria. There are at least several hundred internationalists, not counting the Arabs, Turks and other people of the Middle East. This fact should be considered when people only see the cooperation with the US and neglect all the other deep revolutionary and social developments in Northern Syria.

But if the US ends the military cooperation without any peace agreement for Syria, the SDF controlled territory would be more vulnerable to big military attacks from the Turkish army and the Syrian regime. This would mean a new intensification of the whole Syrian conflict with an unclear outcome. Furthermore, the continuing cooperation could develop over time into a dependency of the DFNS/SDF on the US due to deteriorating conditions in Northern Syria.

The risks of the military cooperation with the US are debated openly. And the population understands the positive and negative sides which creates a sort of immunity against dependency.

Another mechanism against dependency is to benefit from the contradictions between all powers involved in the Syrian war. For instance by maintaining relations with Russia which is interested to have relations with the Kurds in Syria and Iraq for its own long-term interests.

For the KFM it was possible to survive within the Syrian war thanks to the “revolutionary diplomacy”, while developing a new political model, first in Rojava and then in other parts of Northern Syria. The revolutionary diplomacy includes permanent evaluation in order to see upcoming risks as well as initiatives to be active in these political and military cooperations.

Another important mechanism – of course also a principle – is to develop the international solidarity with the revolution of Rojava and in general with the KFM, for instance with the internationalists who would transfer the revolution to their countries, or the continuous political work on international level. The resistance in Kobanî has created a solidarity movement worldwide, but it is not strong enough. International solidarity should not be underestimated as anti-revolutionary forces lobby against the revolution at all stages. Only a strong international solidarity – also in the Middle East – with this revolution will make the revolutionaries less dependent on military cooperations with the US.

If the revolution of Rojava would fail, this would probably be a setback for democratic and revolutionary forces in Kurdistan, Syria and also the Middle East and the world. Its survival and development, however, has the big potential to change the mindsets of millions of people in Middle East.

Related Link:…ojava


Review: Anarchist Encounters. Russia in Revolution

Jue, 02/01/2018 - 22:17


by José Antonio Gutiérrez D.

Anarchist Encounters. Russia in Revolution. Edited by A.W. Zurbrugg (London: Anarres Editions -Merlin Press, 2017)

With the occasion of the recent centenary of the Russian Revolution of October, 1917, Anthony Zurbrugg has edited a wonderful contribution to our understanding of those turbulent times. As the revolution turned into a bitter civil war, exacerbated by the blockade of Soviet Russia by the allies of the Entente –mostly France, Britain and the US-, news of what was really going on in Russia were scarce. While the bourgeois press published horror stories, the left-wing movements associated to the Bolshevik movement reproduced propaganda documents which idealised everything Soviet. It was only in 1920 that it became possible for foreigners to visit the Soviet Union, and many unionists and revolutionaries from all over the world did so in order to offer they support and to witness the revolution with their very own eyes. The trip was not easy: often the travellers would be arrested by the countries of the so-called “free world” on their way in or out of the Soviet Union. However the hardships of such a trip, the testimonies left by these visitors give us an invaluable insight into the revolution as it developed, its complexities, hardship, difficulties, achievements and disappointments.

Bringing to life a world in revolution

What we found in this collection of reports put together by Zurbrugg, are testimonies written by anarchists who visited the USSR in the crucial years of 1920-1921, in a period in which still the majority of the anarchist movement supported the Bolsheviks, being oblivious (or in denial) of the suppression of the anarchists which started in 1918 and knowing little or nothing about the Makhnovist movement in the Ukraine. In short, these testimonies constitute a most valuable collection of encounters with the realities of an authoritarian revolution by libertarians. Many of these testimonies are available here for the first time in English, such as those written by Vilkens, Ángel Pestaña, Armando Borghi and Gastón Leval. The lengthy document by Emma Goldman, The Crushing of the Russian Revolution, had been published by Freedom Press in London in 1922 and it has been, as far as I am aware, unavailable since. These witnesses, are quite extraordinary figures. The Asturias born Manuel Fernández Alvar, aka Vilkens, to give but one example, went to Russia in 1920 to fight in the Red Army, but growing increasingly critical was arrested between October and November 1920, and then allowed to leave for France. He would die eventually in 1936 fighting fascism in Spain, in the defence of Guadarrama. Informed by these encounters, a critical stance of the international anarchist movement started to develop, as put succinctly by Vilkens: ‘The Russian revolution proves undeniably, against the opinion of reformists, that the capitalist class is not needed at all, that it is a parasite that society can do without. And here we are in agreement with the communists, except that the latter wish to impose a transitional regime which will make them the profiteers of the revolution while we do not expect anything for our own particular benefit and fight for the people themselves to benefit from the revolution’ (p.67).

Let us acknowledge that, like any testimony, these are highly subjective. It is also true that given these testimonies were written in 1920-1921, we miss an important element of the whole picture: they can’t tell us in what ways society actually did change in the period 1917-1920, because none of them was a witness to pre-revolutionary Russia nor to the first years of the revolutionary upheaval -the only Russian in this collection, Goldman, had left Russia in 1885 when she was a teenager. However, this is compensated with a wealth of information they provide about the day to day hardships of ordinary people and their impressions on the political realities of a society in revolution. They bring to life this fateful period with vivid snapshots. These testimonies are well-informed. All of the contributors spent months and even years in the land of the Soviets. None of them was hostile at first. All of them travelled to support the revolution and evaluate ways to defend it and expand it. Some of them had travelled to the International Congress of Unions of July 1920, as representatives of their own organisations, at a time when the Third International was coming into being. It was after their encounter with the harsh realities of post-revolutionary Russia, that they developed a critical stance. At first, however, most of them yearned intimately to be wrong when confronted with the evidence of the bureaucratic and despotic turn of the revolution. ‘How I would have preferred to be mistaken!’, thought Pestaña, ‘How I wold have preferred that this could be nothing but the workings of a fevered imagination, driven by the prejudice that might influence me driven by life under capitalism!’ (p.73). It is perhaps the fact that they had come with hopes and expectations what made their clash with reality the bitterer. And yet, in spite of their bitter disappointment, they still made efforts to be as balanced as possible, sometimes bordering on the pathetic, like Vilkens defending the Cheka of the accusations of torture in the international press: ‘Yet it is wrong to say that torture is employed by the Cheka. It executes easily, judges without guarantees, commits all sorts of injustices in the name of the proletariat, but as for torture, nothing would be so untrue. Bourgeois spies invent that. The Cheka is odious enough just as it is. It is the White armies that carry out savage mutilations and executions among the communists and the people’ (p.56).

The problem of creating a new society in the shell of the old

The value of these testimonies, above all, is that they are a reminder of the enormous difficulties of changing society, forcing us to put some more thought into general problems which are found in any revolutionary situation. No revolutionaries ever chose the conditions under which they will do the revolution and often they have had to work in exceedingly difficult circumstances of famine, civil war, embargoes, blockade, as the anarchist would found twenty years later in Spain. But the context of revolutionaries influences outcomes in other ways. Inasmuch as most revolutionaries want to also change radically society, there is never a blank slate in which to start putting into practice their social projects: they have soaked in values of the dominant society, they have to build a new world when the structures of the old permeate culture, communities, infrastructure, and institutions of all sorts. In spite of the claim that the Bolshevik revolution stamped out the last vestiges of the Czar’s regime, many of the testimonies here point at the continuities between the old regime and the new regime after the revolution. Most of these continuities referred to State structures, but also to political, community and class dynamics –here we find early critiques on how elements of the old regime managed to thrive and reproduce socially their privileged status through the bureaucratic structures of the State, a problem faced not only by radical revolutions, but also by reformist attempts elsewhere. Years later, Charles Bettelheim –who most certainly wasn’t an anarchist- would explore in detail this process in his famous Class Struggles in the USSR(Monthly Review Press, 1976). To what a degree the Bolsheviks reproduced the dominant ideology of the old regime, and how their ways aped the ways of the autocracy, is reflected here in an anecdotal fashion: following the official fashion of naming everything through acronyms, people in Russian cities derided the Sov-bourg, or the Soviet Bourgeoisie, that is, commissars, bureaucrats and technocrats, together with the Sod-Koms, or the mistresses of the commissars, many of whom came actually from the old aristocracy (p.36).

The international arena as a straight-jacket

Another big problem which revolutionaries have encountered time and again lies in the international arena, where often they found themselves surrounded by reactionary regimes, such as the Holy Alliance in the 18th century against French Revolution, and the Entente and its criminal blockade of Russia in 1920. These regimes are bent on isolating, invading, strangling, starving and smothering the revolution, thus making it non-viable and avoiding its spread to their own realms. The role of the Western capitalist countries in relation to the Russian tragedies and the famine of the early years of the revolution has been largely white-washed in mainstream historical accounts, in which they single-out the Bolshevik policy as sole responsible of this most dreadful body-count. The testimonies in this book put the record straight. The veteran anarchist Pyotr Kropotkin, in a private conversation with Goldman, in which she asked why he hadn’t denounced the arbitrary nature of the Bolshevik rule, confessed that ‘so long as Russia was being attacked by the combined imperialists of Europe, and Russian women and children were starved to death by the criminal blockade, he could not join the shrieking chorus of the ex-revolutionists in the cry of “Crucify!”’ (p.139). The Spanish anarcho-syndicalist Pestaña, while acknowledging the many faults of the Bolsheviks, also lashed out against the criminal behaviour of the West in outrage:

We refuse to hold them responsible for all the evils that afflict the Russian people. In saying so we proceed with the same candour that we used in rejecting and challenging the political procedures and sophistries that the Bolsheviks deployed to seize and remain in power. Yes, they are partly responsible, but for the smallest part, we must add from the off.
Material responsibility for all the miseries we witnessed in the seventy days we spent in Russia, falls as an affront, a stigma and a terrible accusation against Europe’s governments and bourgeoisie (…) One must absolve the Bolsheviks of this sin. They have enough faults already on their conscience as socialists and as actors in the drama of the dawning of a new world, without also burdening them with ones they did not commit, and sins for which they cannot be held responsible
’ (p.10-11)

The Kurdish in Rojava have found this same problem –as they have fought to create a new world based on the principles of freedom, autonomy and equality, they have faced a fierce reaction by the most conservative elements of the region, as well as the active military opposition of the Turkish State. But the international arena poses another most subtle problem which has massive repercussions for the organisation of a new and revolutionary society. As no nation can survive on its own in a world interconnected as this in which we live in, the relations to a world still organised in the form of conventional Nation-States poses enormous challenges for revolutionaries. The Kurdish of Rojava, for instance, in order to dialogue with the outside world, had to develop democratic autonomous administrations which mirrors more traditional representative administration, with its parliament, parties and ministers. Although this system has been described as transitional and it runs in parallel to the more direct-democracy oriented council network, it still imposes limitations to the ability of the revolutionaries to change radically their society. These objectives difficulties cannot be overstated and any serious movement aiming at changing society need to factor them in.

The thin-line that divides defence of the revolution from repression

Other immense problem for revolutions is posed by privileged sectors of society, even sectors of the subordinate classes enjoying meagre and very relative privileges: since times immemorial some sectors of the oppressed have been used by those in power to oppose other oppressed. How to proceed, as anarchists, with sectors who, without being part of the dominant classes still want to keep a privileged position in relation to other oppressed groups? Coercion, a fundamental fact in social life, has been always elusive in anarchist thinking, although revolution, as such, is a coercive action by definition –the suppression of some sectors of society, no matter it is made in the name of justice and freedom, is not a sweet affair. An example of this problem is explored in the testimonies of Pestaña, who discusses the situation of the anti-Bolshevik (and presumably anti-revolutionaries) Tula munitions factories’ workers, who had staged a strike shortly before he had visited them, which had been crushed with a great deal of ruthlessness by the Bolsheviks. His testimony, though short, is full of insights to feed into broader debates around these issues:

It should be pointed out –always in the interest of fullest impartiality and so that readers’ judgment is not distorted- that the sentences passed on these strikers (…) to us (…) seemed harsh and disproportionate, the strike was unjustified; furthermore at that moment it had counter-revolutionary consequences. Tula munition workers (…) enjoyed benefits and privileges not enjoyed by workers elsewhere. And these privileges were respected by the Soviet Government, inasmuch as was appropriate and possible (…) So (…) being in a superior position as compared to other workers all over Russia, what could justify a call to strike? Moreover, there was another factor that made the circumstances of this strike all even more tragic.
(…) Workers decided to declare a strike and stage a conflict in these workshops at the very moment when the whole world was anticipating the threat of a Polish invasion of Russia. Such a strike would leave the Red Army defenceless against the enemy, would it not? (…) the declaration of a strike might have led to an invasion by reactionary armies.
’ (p.70-71)

This testimony shows how bluntly real life puts to test the lofty theories and good intentions of genuine revolutionaries. No matter how reasonable the argument provided here, one may wonder if the Kronstadt workers and sailors weren’t accused in similar terms of potentially aiding even if involuntarily, the reactionary forces. Surely there were important differences –while the Kronstadt sailors and workers were actually defending the revolution and demanding an end to its bureaucratic deviations through a very practical programme elaborated in the original spirit of the Soviet system, the Tula workers seemed bent on gaining particular demands for themselves, placing their own relative privileges above the general needs of the bulk of the oppressed. However the historical verdict on this particular case, it proves that dealing with conflicting interests at a time of deep change, is always difficult and complex. No amount of well-meaning rhetoric can do away with this problem, and no one-size-fit-all solutions exist in order to deal with it either. Again, Vilkens summarises in powerful terms the difficulties faced by actual revolutions in terms of the thin line which divides defence of the revolution from repression, abuse and arbitrariness: ‘We do not believe that a revolution must be sweet and united, but what appears as unjustifiable and criminal is that it should be treated as an umbrella for all things’ (p.56).

History at the service of a better future

All in all, this is a highly recommended book which adds to the efforts being done by Anarres -Merlin Press, of making available to an English speaking audience a number of documents of the international anarchist movement which are rarely available in this language. However critical of the centralisation and the dictatorship of the single-party which developed in the USSR, these testimonies, as we have seen, are far from a black and white narrative. The narrative is complex, emotional but nuanced. If there is hurt and bitterness in these pages it is precisely because these are not detached observers. There is a rich texture here, in which the concerns of these militants, all committed to the revolution in their respective countries, comes up to the very forefront. They are just not observing events from a distance as train-spotters. They are thinking of what they can take with them to help them in their own revolutionary activities. They are trying to understand the events in Russia as a way to advance social transformation in their own contexts. It is with these eyes that contemporary activists should approach history in general and this book in particular. Almost a hundred years later, the voices of these anarchists still have a great contribution to make in the endeavour for a better future.

José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
25 January, 2018

We Will Breathe the Ashes of the Dead for the Rest of Our Lives

Jue, 02/01/2018 - 22:06

via Center for a Stateless Society

by William Gillis

Tuesday, as the world prepared to listen to the State of the Union, a small piece of news slunk out with horrifying implication. The Trump administration had withdrawn its pick for ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, after he privately expressed disagreement with a plan for a “limited strike” on North Korea.

This piece of news largely passed by unnoticed in the US, our media preoccupied with the FBI investigation into Trump and the daily circus of partisan conflict. But it is quite arguably the most blood chilling and stomach curdling development of the last year. It’s been widely reported that Trump is pressuring for a military strike on North Korea, over the objections of just about everyone in the military. But the implication has faded into the general miasma of surreality attached to the current administration, bigger buttons and all.

This move to drop an ambassador in favor of one on board with war would be so astonishingly reckless as means of signaling it suggests the administration is truly committed to military action — truly sees itself in the planning stages of a desired conflict. The tale of an embittered President under investigation seeking to distract and harness jingoistic approval by bombing a distant country is now almost a classic motif in US politics. But while Bill Clinton’s bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan were surely heinous, the prospect of an attack on North Korea occupies an entirely different dimension.

Beyond the nuclear warheads directly in play, beyond the risk of things spiraling out of control with The People’s Republic of China, there’s the simple fact that tens of millions of South Koreans sit under the guns of the North Korean regime. Seoul alone has a metro population of twenty five million. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed on the order of a couple hundred thousand, a crime that scarred generations; the catastrophe of an outright war on dense modern megacities like Seoul and Tokyo is unimaginable. Even the most fantastically conservative estimates of conflict with North Korea strain credulity to slide a death toll under a few million, and after the intial holocaust starry-eyed planners still talk of a conflict with only tens of thousands dead per day. There are fucking words for the scale of human suffering that is being casually gambled with.

One can list figures all one likes, one can point out that if the odds Trump starts a war are just 1/3rd that’s a roll of the dice where the payout likely averages to millions dead. No matter what you judge the risk of an full blown conflagration to be, it has become non-negligible, and must be multiplied by the scale of casualties. The human brain is poorly equipped to comprehend such statistics. Steve Bannon has talked of ten million dead. If you had but a fucking minute each to meet, to observe, to see rapid flashes of their lives, their loves and struggles, of every person in that number it would take you over nineteen sleepless years.

Gone in a matter of days. Gone because we remained worthlessly transfixed on the spectacle of a reality tv president. Can you imagine how generations to come — if, again, a conflict does not geopolitically spiral into a final cataclysm for the planet — will judge us in this moment? How will they look upon our inaction? The callousness of our audacity to dwell in shellshocked numbness? There will never be time enough to weep. We will never stop lining the museums of this holocaust.

If we allow Trump and Kim to achieve in an instant a scale of evil which took Stalin, Hitler, Leopold, Mao, and Churchill years we will never recover from it. We will live forever in the echo of the immensity of it. We will breathe the ashes of the dead for the rest of our lives.

Be assured, there will be no escaping this one. No consigning it beyond the reach of our cameras in the Congo or Java. No cute shell game to shuffle causation beyond our attention, to obfuscate systemic murder.

And the wound will cut across the entire world. You think the Syrian refugee crisis was bad? You think ecological collapse is proceeding at a breakneck pace now? You think current geopolitical developments are brutal?

That the world would finally come to unite against the thrashing rabid monster of American imperialism goes without saying, as does Trump’s ultimate fate. But it would dramatically empower many evils beyond Trump, beyond the long blood-drenched American empire and its establishment.

Those political movements most empowered will be the reactionaries of the left and right. No one will profit more than those leftists so inane and beyond redemption they already fly the flag of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The fiery cataclysm of war would consume not just the lives of those directly incinerated or ripped apart, but the memory of those already enslaved and murdered by the fascistic regime of the DPRK. A second slaughter, the sudden dismissal of generations of evil by the Kim regime into the margins of a new tale of sudden genocide. And in the billowing ashes it will be the fetishists of authoritarian communism — addicted to power fantasies and the aesthetic of mass graves — best positioned to seize the mantle of anti-imperialism. To speak for the dead, to paint the vampires of North Korea as Davids before Goliath. And who in the left will dare to tell the truth — that the fallen regime was itself an unimaginable blight — who will dare to tell the truth when it serves the “narrative” of Goliath? If history has shown anything it has shown that they will get away with it. There is no better way to paper over an atrocity than with another one.

And almost indistinguishable from these goblins is the alt-right. Richard Spencer has long flown the flags of his fellow ethnonationalists Assad and Kim, an orientation that smoothly lines up with the interests of his Russian patrons and allies. The alt-right has always known they would have to jump ship on Trump, they’ve been setting it up for ages, and the old paleoconservative pretenses of opposition to US imperialism are once again emerging in the platforms of literal fascists. Oh to be sure, Trump’s dumbass base will embrace anything that triggers the libs, including a Korean genocide, just as they delightedly shouted “nuke em till they glow” after September 11th. But just as with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the mistake becomes undeniable they will smoothly reposition themselves. No one on the right will have a better established narrative to justify and reframe their embrace of Trump than the literal fascists.

And in the background Russian and Chinese imperialism will delightedly expand to fill the crumbling edifice of American power, their own horrors from Chechnya and Tibet extended outward. A bloated empire riddled with resistance finally replaced in a fit of genocidal stupidity by upstart evils unburdened by as many contradictions. The US not finally overthrown by forces for liberation with their own strength and momentum, but collapsed around us like a rotting house.

If you are perverse enough to search for one in a Korean holocaust, rest assured, there are no silver linings.

Decency may eventually be rallied in the resulting ash-choked landscape, but if it comes it will not be as a result of such atrocity, but in spite of it.

Just as the bare minimum of conscience is not inaction but action, decency does not spring from passivity but active engagement.

Before such looming horror, we can feel powerless, mites condemned with awareness of the inexorably grinding gears around us. And there is a case to be made that — mites though we may be — throwing our bodies onto the gears of the war machine is the only conceivable way to retain our souls. For what are the lives of thousands of us in comparison to what is on the table?

That we must act is beyond question. But is there anything more insulting than a purely performative act?

History will not judge us for our ignorance, the inaccessibility of solid answers from our muddled state, but it will correctly judge us for our effort. It will ask why we could not bother to raise our eyes from the spectacle, could not look beyond the pressures of our immediate conflicts. It will demand to know how we could stare at an appreciable possibility of mass death and not do the fucking numbers.

It will view us as a man walking past a drowning child. Thousands of drowning children. Hundreds of thousands. Millions even. And it will know our true values. No bracelet, no performance of abnegation disconnected from consequence, will eclipse that reality.

There is much we do not know, the future is always unwritten. But there is no such thing as moral luck. Those with the benefit of historical distance will examine us not in light of what they know, but in light of what we know today. The problem isn’t that a war is certain, it’s that we have let it get on the table.

Almost any price is worth paying for even a sliver of a chance to stop this possibility. If we cannot find things to do with such a sliver of a chance then it is on us to search for them. Not to settle for performance. There are no easy answers, no easy retreats, that will wipe away this blood. What is demanded of us is immense. We must not hide from it.

I cannot tell you in these pages what to do. In part because speech is not free in this country and any urge to meaningfully resist evil risks getting you swiftly imprisoned. But also because I know that I do not know and cannot know the best means of resistance. Answers if they are to be found will be made by individuals looking around, each from their own unique vantagepoints, finding creative actions, ingenious ways to attack and derail the train of death.

Global Deliveroo strikes

Jue, 02/01/2018 - 20:41

via Libcom

Hong Kong

On Monday evening, January 22nd, up to 100 riders of Deliveroo HK, mostly Indian and Pakistani, gathered in front of the offices of the company in Jervois Street blocking the food delivery service.

The strike was triggered by the recent changes made by the company in the work schedules of the deliverers, that right up until then guaranteed 11 work hours paid at least 75 HK $ (around 7,8 €), including a one-hour lunch break. Now Deliveroo has decided to block the delivery app during non-peak hours (when there is low activity), in order to avoid paying to the workers the guaranteed minimum. Moreover, the new system would be able to select riders based on their performances (frequency, speed, respect for the standards imposed by the platform, etc.), punishing the less “efficient”. Platform disconnection, imposed by the company, would cause to the riders a loss of approximately 3 to 5 working hours, nearly 14 hours a week. At a degree of 100 HK $ / h (nearly 10,5 €), in terms of monthly income the reduction of the salary is estimated to be between 5.000 HK $ (521 €) and 6.000 HK $ (625 €).

Among the reasons for the protest, there is also that of compensation by the company for the traffic tickets. In order to comply with the terms of the delivery in the narrow streets of Hong Kong, most of the riders are forced to park their means of transportation in non-authorized parking spots and the police do not hesitate to fine them. Riders were reimbursed up to two tickets a day by Deliveroo, but now the company refuses to do so. This is in addition to gasoline and maintenance of the vehicle remains at the worker’s expense.

The strike, that continued until the next day, ended when the management announced the restoration of the 11 hour work day.

Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France and…

During the last weekend the Deliveroo deliverers from Belgium and the Netherlands went on strike to protest the company’s decision to turn all riders, from February 1th, into self-employed workers. In Brussels, the workers occupied the company headquarters for more than 3 days calling, on social media, sympathizers, precarious workers and unemployed to support their struggle, which they claim to be everyone’s.

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Capitalism’s Crisis of Stagnation and Austerity

Jue, 02/01/2018 - 18:55

via Libcom

As 2018 opens economic optimism is breaking out amongst the capitalist class. Leaving aside the vainglorious boasts of the current President of the United States that unemployment in the US has reached lows only last seen in the post-war boom, or that the New York stock market is now at all time record highs, more serious economic commentators are arguing that after a decade of misery (at least for 99% of the planet) the signs of recovery from the 2007-8 banking collapse are now behind us. If this sounds familiar it is because we have heard the same tale so many times.

“Recovery is just around the corner”. One small thing is different. Over the last decade the IMF has given a figure for global GDP growth which has been revised down in every year. In 2017 they gave a figure of 3% for 2018 and have now revised it up to a magnificent 3.1%. Others are more bullish. Gavyn Davies (ex-Goldman Sachs banker) on his blog has claimed that 5% or more is on the cards for this year.

So have all these years of austerity and quantitative easing finally solved the problems brought about by bursting of the speculative bubble of 2007-8? We leave forecasting of the actual rate of growth to the capitalist economic pundits, for whom this dodgy digit is significant, but the fundamentals of the system remain as unhealthy as ever.

The biggest problem remains the level and quality of debt. Debt in itself has always been central to capitalist accumulation, but that was mainly debt that was acquired to invest to create new value and thus new profits. That is not true today. In the UK, and around the world, we have had at least 7 years of austerity produced by governments’ attempt to reduce its debt burden. This has led to benefit cuts, underinvestment in public services and infrastructure and wage freezes but the one thing it has not done is end the dependency on debt. Indeed the problem has got worse.

According to the Bank for International Settlements the global debt burden was 225% of annual economic output in 2008. Today it stands at 330%. In bald figures Global Debt Monitor in January tell us that global debt (public and private combined) went from $71 billion in 2008 to an incredible $233 trillion today. At the moment this is sustainable only because interest rates are so low and are being kept low by state manipulation via the policies of central banks. The same central banks have also been using the very factor that brought the system to its knees in 2007 – more debt to keep the system going. So-called “quantitative easing” is shoring up the banks so that they can gradually write off or eliminate all the “toxic assets” (bad debt to normal people) acquired by financial capital. What this means is that they are transferring debt from the private to the public sector and basing it on an essentially worthless currency but accepted because it is backed by governments. As Pascal Blanque put it

After the 2008-09 financial crisis, the hope was that a combination of economic recovery, inflation and austerity would shrink the debt mountain. This, though, was too optimistic. Growth has been below par, inflation subdued and austerity self-defeating. (“Global debt is the danger: beware the butterfly moment” Financial Times 6 January 2018)

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Gene Sharp, US scholar whose writing helped inspire Arab Spring, dies at 90

Jue, 02/01/2018 - 04:24

via The Guardian

by Joanna Walters

Gene Sharp, an obscure American political scientist whose writing on non-violent political resistance ended up being an inspiring influence on the Arab Spring, has died peacefully at home at the age of 90.

Sharp distilled the wisdom of icons of non-violent struggle against oppression down the ages, put his own spin on it and disseminated the philosophy around the world, most famously in his seminal work From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. The book made waves upon publication in the early 1990s and became in effect a handbook for non-violent revolt.

It has been translated, often by activists themselves, into dozens of languages and cited directly in many grassroots uprisings and protests.

The retired professor believed fervently in the power of ordinary people to disempower dictators, motivating resistance leaders in the face of fear and violence with the idea that bullies ultimately could not rule if the masses withheld their support.

His death, at his home in Boston on Sunday, was confirmed on Tuesday by Jamila Raqib, the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution he founded in Massachusetts in 1983.

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Defeat is inevitable. Everybody knows it, even Trump

Mié, 01/31/2018 - 22:40

via Salon

by Lucian K. Truscott IV

I remember the day I first realized that Richard Nixon was doomed and one way or another would be removed from office. It was deep in the winter of 1974, I had been working for months on my own little corner of the Watergate story, and I was on Capitol Hill to meet one of the deputy counsels on the Senate Watergate Committee. I had been given an address on Capitol Hill for their offices, and when I arrived there I found myself standing outside an old movie theater. I was confused. This was supposed to be the office of the Senate Watergate Committee! I stopped somebody on the street and showed them my notebook where I had written down the address and asked them if I was in the right place. Yes, the passerby said. You’re at the right place. They’re right in there.

I entered through the theater’s front door and found no one in the lobby, so I wandered further inside. The theater wasn’t a theater anymore. It had been transformed into a makeshift office space. Fluorescent lamps hung down from the theater’s high ceiling illuminating a rabbit warren of cubicles packed with file cabinets and office storage boxes and desks buried beneath piles of paper. Phone lines and electrical wires were rigged into overhead conduits and dropped into the cubicles. Phones rang constantly, answered in a cacophony of voices by dozens of lawyers and investigators and researchers and staff assistants and research assistants and interns.

On my way over to Capitol Hill, I had stopped off to see a friend at the Washington Post. Its newsroom was a seething pit of activity. Woodward and Bernstein were there, of course, surrounded by dozens of other reporters working the phones, rifling through files, rushing off to interview sources. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill the House Judiciary Committee was staffing up with lawyers and investigators and researchers, getting ready for impeachment hearings. Only a few blocks away were the offices of Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, who had been appointed by Congress after Nixon had fired the first special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.”

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Why People Love “Assistance to the Poor” but Hate “Welfare”

Mié, 01/31/2018 - 22:00

via Truthout

By Ashley Jardina,

Last Spring, in a highly publicized meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, President Donald Trump received some startling news. One of the members mentioned to Trump that pushing forward with “welfare reform” would be hurtful to her constituents, “not all of whom are black.”

“Really?” Trump replied. “Then what are they?”

Statistically, they were probably white. But given the United States’ history with the word “welfare,” it’s not all that surprising that Trump was confused.

Despite the fact that white Americans benefit more from government assistance than people of color, means-tested aid is primarily associated with black people and other people of color — particularly when the term welfare is used. For many Americans, the word welfare conjures up a host of disparaging stereotypes so strongly linked to stigmatized beliefs about racial groups that — along with crime — it is arguably one of the most racialized terms in the country.

White people’s racial attitudes are the single most important influence on their views on welfare.

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This is How We Felt in Hawaii, During the False Nuclear Alert

Mié, 01/31/2018 - 21:16

via Dianuke

by Ryan Bradford | San Diego City Beat

I’m doing the most Hawaiian thing one could ever do when the threat of nuclear death descends upon us: snorkeling around a reef, looking at tropical fish. It’s dawn, supposedly the best time to to be in the water if you want to see a turtle, and boy, do I want to see a turtle. The sun is peeking out from behind the misty mountain top. Ukelele music isn’t playing per se, but the scene is so goddamn idyllic that it might as well be.

Back on the beach, my wife Jessica, along with my friends Lindsay and Steve, and Steve’s cousin James, are drying off. It’s the day before Lindsay and Steve are getting married, and this morning dip is supposed to be a brief calm before the deluge of stress that’s common with most weddings.

Sometime during the 20 minutes I’ve spent in the water—which accounts for the total amount of time I’ve ever snorkeled—I’ve already taken on an air of superiority toward the little creatures swimming underneath me. Life must suck in the ocean, I think, observing the tropical fish as they’re pushed around by current. How annoying it must be to have so little control.

I look toward the shore and notice James wading out toward me. He’s motioning me to come in, but there’s a noted calm in his movements. The kind of movements that people get when they want to break news gently. I’m immediately certain that James is warning me about a shark in the water, and that his subdued body language is an attempt to keep me from panicking. This does the exact opposite of its intended purpose and I half-swim, half-flail like an injured seal toward the shallows.

My mind races through all the other fearsome creatures of the deep: jellyfish, sting ray, Jaws, Godzilla.

Or it could just be a a riptide warning, I think, trying to calm myself, but jump back into panic mode: Or maybe a tsunami is headed our way.

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Baltimore Cops Kept Toy Guns to Plant Just in Case They Shot an Unarmed Person

Mié, 01/31/2018 - 21:11

via The Root

In April 2016, a 13-year-old boy was shot by officers of the Baltimore Police Department. The boy ran when faced with the police, so they gave chase. During the chase, the police spotted the boy holding a gun, and when he turned, they shot the teenager. The youngster wasn’t critically injured, and it seemed like an open-and-shut case of a justifiable use of force.

Now people are wondering.

The Baltimore Police Department is currently in court over one of the biggest scandals in the history of American law enforcement. The corruption case is replete with intrigue as police reveal secrets that sound like something out of an urban-fiction novel or a lost season of The Wire. It has revealed how one of America’s largest cities just happened to be filled with crooked cops, but no one seems to be talking about it outside of Baltimore.

According to the Baltimore Sun, it started when a 19-year-old woman from New Jersey overdosed in 2011 and authorities began tracing the origin of the drugs. It led them to a Baltimore drug crew and the discovery that a Baltimore police officer was involved. By the time they finished investigating, eight members of the elite Gun Trace Task Force had been charged with crimes ranging from racketeering to robbery.

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Ursula Le Guin and utopia (and Kropotkin on Edward Bellamy)

Dom, 01/28/2018 - 05:01

via Anarchist Writers

by Anarcho

Sad news – Ursula Le Guin has died, aged 88. First Iain Banks, now Le Guin. So somewhat sad. She was a great writer, one of the best ever. Needless to say, she was my favourite SF writer. Her alien worlds were, well, alien. Her characters, actual people and not cyphers. Her message, humane, egalitarian, libertarian. She will be missed – but her writings will endure. And I hope she saw this year’s women’s marches across the world:

“When women speak truly they speak subversively — they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want – to hear you erupting. You young Mount St Helenses who don’t know the power in you – I want to hear you.” (source)

Her parents were anthologists, and you can tell. Far too much of SF (and Fantasy, for that matter) is just middle-class, middle-aged, white, American male (who read or watched too many Westerns) projected into space. The lack of thought about culture is made up for by some fancy hard-ware and battles against a thinly-veiled stand-in for “communism” (i.e., Stalinism). The “harder” the SF, the more banal it appears to be. Not Le Guin. Her cultures reflect thought, an awareness that the norms of the current patriarchal, racist, class society are not the only ones. Humanity has provided a diverse range of cultures across time and space, if having an imagination is too much hard work. Much of SF – particularly in its so-called “golden era” – is not particularly imaginative. Again, not Le Guin – her works are imaginative in terms of “alien” cultures.

So, do yourself a favour and read her books – particularly The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness. You will not be disappointed.

Obviously, there was a lot positive articles on her and her legacy. I will mention one thing, namely a comment on The Dispossessed. It is almost like those who you think should be close to anarchism – Marxists, left-ish people – are the most disingenuous about it. I covered Ken MacLeod recently in this blog and here is something from the Guardian written to mark her death:

“But the physicist Shevek, who is working on a method of interstellar communication called the Principle of Simultaneity, is becoming disillusioned with the anarchist philosophy of Anarres and travels to Urras to find more freedom.”

Do people even bother to read the books they summarise? This is a travesty of the book’s plot and point. Shevek was not “disillusioned with the anarchist philosophy,” he was seeking to make Anarres live up to its anarchist philosophy! He spends a lot of his time on Urras advocating anarchism – if I remember correctly, it is even noted that he was surprised that they allowed him to do so at the Urras equivalent of the United Nations (because his speech is not reported in depth in the popular newspapers). He even compares his academic life to his live in Anarres, considering the academic environment the closest to what he is used to back home – discussion between equals.

And he travels to Urras as part of his struggle to help break the crystallised structures on Anarres – which saw the decision to decline communication with anarchists on Urrras! He did not travel to Urras to “fine more freedom” – he was well aware of the hierarchical nature of the system and experienced it first-hand. He even escapes his “freedom” at the university to join a mass anti-war protest… and he goes back to Anarres to continue to apply his anarchism to the crystallised libertarian society he seeks to bring back to its ideal.

Bloody idiot – and what an insult to her memory.

Since I mention Iain Banks, I should say a few words about their respective “utopias.” The difference is stark – the culture is, to coin a phrase, a Post-Scarcity Anarchism (another classic you should read – pdf) while Anarres is very much a “scarcity” anarchism (although the standard of living is high, it is limited by its ecology). Which makes The Dispossessed a far more realistic work. Banks postulates a level of technology which is, basically, magic and so he magics away all the issues any real anarchist society would face.

Sure, Le Guin did magic – in her Earthsea books! Anarres presents a society which you could see working today, not hundreds of years in the future. Yes, the Culture is fun and Banks presents the liberatory promise of the communism well in State of the Art:

“But back to me; I am as rich and as poor as anybody in the Culture (I use these words because it’s to Earth I want to compare our present position).  Rich; trapped as I am on board this uncaptained, leaderless tub, my wealth may not be very obvious, but it would seem immense to the average Earther.  At home I have the run of a charming and beautiful Orbital which would seem very clean and uncrowded to somebody from Earth; I have unlimited access to the free, fast, safe and totally dependable underplate transport system; I live in a wing of a family home of mansion proportions surrounded by hectares of gorgeous gardens.  I have an aircraft, a launch, the choice of mount from a large stable of aphores even the use of what would be called a spaceship by these people, plus a wide choice of deep space cruisers.  As I say, I’m constrained at the moment by being in Contact, but of course I could leave at any moment, and within months be home, with another two hundred years or more of carefree life to look forward to; and all for nothing; I don’t have to do anything for all this.

“But, at the same time, I am poor.  I own nothing.  Just as every atom in my body was once part of something else, in fact part of many different things, and just as the elementary particles were themselves part of other patterns before they came together to form the atoms that make up the magnificent physical and mental specimen you see standing so impressively before you… yes, thank you… and just as one day every atom of my being will one day be part of something else – a star, initially, because that is the way we choose to bury our dead – again, so everything around me, from the food that I eat and the drink that I drink and the figur­ine that I carve and the house I inhabit and the clothes I wear so elegantly… to the module I ride to the Plate that I stand on and the star that warms me is there when I am there rather than because I am.  These things may be arranged for me, but in that sense I only happen to be me, and they would be there for anybody else – should they desire them – too.  I do not, emphat­ically not own them.”

This sums it up well: you have access to the resources you need to develop yourself and you work with others as equals, not as masters and servants. Equality increases liberty, in other words. This is Kropotkin’s point, as discussed in his Communism and Anarchy – and to even better effect in the revised and expanded version which was included as section II of the 1913 edition of Modern Science and Anarchy (out later this year from AK Press!). To be an egalitarian is to be a libertarian, and to be a serious advocate of liberty you cannot ignore the hierarchies – restrictions of freedom – produced by wealth concentrations, or by patriarchy, racism and so on (it is no surprise that propertarians are generally middle-class white males… or those, like Ayn Rand, who internalise patriarchal positions as “natural”).

But, of course, the Culture manages this with super-intelligent computers and hyper-advanced technology – as I suggested in my last blog, if your system is dependent upon advanced technology (or impossible assumptions) then it best avoided. Anarres, however, manages it with the technologies of the 20th century – or slightly advanced versions – which makes it more relevant and appealing, in spite of its desert moon setting and the impact that has on the libertarian communist society depicted.

So it is hardly a utopia in this sense, unlike the Culture. In terms of its social organisation, again it is based on federations of syndicates and communities. Again, hardly utopian. Also, the people are people who seem aware of the need to treat others as they would like to be treated themselves. It hardly staggers belief that people brought up with enough to eat, taught to think rather than repeat, treated as people and not resources, would generalise what is now considered the best of us. Its flaws are equally believable – an informal bureaucracy has started to develop.

Shevek and his comrades see the problem and work on a solution which, as I indicated before, is straight out of anarchist theory. This is because anarchists are aware that people are imperfect and any society we create will be imperfect. We are well aware that even the best society will have flaws and need work. The struggle for freedom does not end with a successful revolution – things crystallise and it needs active minorities to shatter them in a progressive manner. Anyway, read Kropotkin as he discusses it often.

So for this reason The Dispossessed does not contradict communist-anarchism nor undermine it. Those who claim otherwise should read more communist-anarchist thinkers…

Unlike other utopias, I should note – I came across this amusing webpage which goes over Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in fine detail, noting its stupidities and crazy bits. It notes how her ideal utopia – Galt’s Gulch – is marked, as they note, by the “strange fact” that “there’s virtually no actual competition” and this is  “downright strange in a laissez-faire fantasy premised on ruthless competition.” More, the owner of the place displays “an inexplicable benevolence that runs counter to everything else [Rand] tells us about the way an economy is rightly supposed to function.” But then, propertarians do have this habit of contradicting themselves in different chapters of the same book

(I should note that attempts by individualist anarchists to seek contradictions in communist-anarchism are only convincing if you haven’t read Proudhon…)

Is anarchism utopian? No – for its does not postulate anything unbelievable or impossible about humans or social life. It does not seek perfection, just better (which would not be hard!). The people who are utopian are those who criticise anarchism – incorrectly, as it happens – for believing in the natural goodness of people rather than recognising that people are bad and who then turn around and say that a few of these bad people should be given power over the rest. So people will abuse freedom but not power… such is the position of “realistic” people, as Kropotkin noted many a time.

Talking of Kropotkin, I’ve pitched the idea of a collection of Kropotkin’s pamphlets to PM Press (AK Press declined) and I’m waiting for to see if they go for it. I was very aware working on Direct Struggle Against Capital that while I was including many rare texts, I was also not including many classics. So I thought a supplement to that book would be wise – one which collected as many of his pamphlets as possible.

As part of that work, I discovered how much the pamphlets collected in Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings (formerly, Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets) were edited and without any indication of where the edits where. Most of the pamphlets are missing a fifth or a quarter or more of the original. Here is an approximate estimate of what percentage of the texts are left:

The Spirit of Revolt 40% An Appeal to the Young 90% Law and Authority 98% Anarchist Morality 79% Anarchist-Communism: Its Basis and Principles 70% Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Its Ideal 73% Modern Science and Anarchism 47% Revolutionary Government 91%

I was shocked at the amount missing – particularly Anarchist Morality which I assumed would have been reproduced intact due to its message. So I’ve tracked down the originals – plus all the many pamphlets which were not included in the book, regardless of its editors claims otherwise. Some of the edits are strange. Still, Baldwin should be thanked for making these pamphlets available and inspired generations of anarchists with it.

Anyway, I’ve translated Anarchist Morality (because I could not track down the original pamphlet) and The Spirit of Revolt (because it has only been translated in full by George Woodcock in 1992 for the Black Rose edition of Words of a Rebel, I also have to question some of decisions made!). In terms of the former, the French original has ten parts and the one in Anarchism has nine (plus one very, very short one!) – it was, I believe, originally serialised in Freedom across ten issues. For the later, the final section on the French Revolution is completely missing – more than half the pamphlet!

Also, I’ve also added a few pamphlets which have been available only in French, plus rare ones like The Coming Rival of Socialism and Revolutionary Studies. For as I have noted elsewhere, Baldwin’s book misses out quite a few English-language pamphlets and so is not as comprehensive as it suggests it is. Likewise, Black Rose’s Collected Works project is hardly that, being a collection of some but by no means all of his vast output. It would be nice to do Kropotkin justice, but it would take a lot of work…

Hopefully hear whether this pamphlets project will become an actuality soon…

Finally, talking of “utopian” fiction, below is an obituary by Kropotkin for Edward Bellamy, the author of Looking Backward and other works. This book presented a State-socialist system (called “nationalism”!) in the future year… 2000 (I do love it when SF is based in a year which has passed – talking of which, they are leaving it pretty late to create replicants, off-world colonies, c-beams and the Tannhäuser Gate…).

I’ve not read anything by Bellamy, but his most famous book still has its influence, as can be seen by Michael Albert entitling his first book on his particular utopian (in the sense of unworkable) Parecon project, Looking Forward (which I have read and not been impressed by). I should note that reading Looking Forward apparently made William Morris angry enough write News from Nowhere, so we should be thankful for that – Kropotkin considered the book by his friend as “perhaps the most thoroughly and deeply Anarchistic conception of future society that has ever been written.” (“In Memory of William Morris,” Freedom, November 1896) Personally, I think The Dispossessed is far better – not least because Morris, as Kropotkin noted and deplored, was somewhat anti-machine – if Bellamy went too far in one direction, Morris went too far in the other (Kropotkin keeping a sensible position). Also, things happen in The Dispossessed beyond going for a walk and chatting with people…

So not a new translation this blog, but a rare article. I discovered the pdf of it on Lee Alan Dugatkin’s Kropotkin webpage and added it to my steadily growing collection of rare and newly translated articles by Kropotkin. It is also where Kropotkin notes that he thinks Proudhon’s point of view was “the only one which, in my opinion, was really scientific.” This, I assume, is a reference to Proudhon’s seeking the tendencies within capitalism which point beyond it (as done in, for example, System of Economic Contradictions) for he notes in Revolutionary Studies:

“We shall not construct a new society by looking backwards. We shall only do so by studying, as Proudhon, has already advised, the tendencies of society today and so forecasting the society of tomorrow.”

I think an interesting paper could be written on Proudhon’s influence on Kropotkin – it appears to be larger than many suspect. Perhaps because Proudhon was the first socialist thinker he read? Anyway, enjoy – but, please, also do yourself a favour read Ursula Le Guin. She was special and the world was lucky to have her in it.

Until I blog again, be seeing you!

Edward Bellamy

(Freedom, July 1898)

It is with great sorrow that many will learn of the death of Edward Bellamy, the author of Looking Backward and Equality. He has died quite young, worn out by overwork. When I wits in New York last autumn I was told that he was used up by-three years’ hard work on his last. hook, Equality, and that he had gone West in the hope of regaining his health.

We have spoken at length of his first work in the Révolte, and we have there analysed Bellamy’s Utopia. In America alone nearly 500,000 copies of the book have been sold, and it has made a deep impression. Hundreds of thousands of people who had once thought that the Socialist ideal could not he ceased have been shown by Bellamy that it is not impossible, and that the obstacles are neither technical difficulties nor the individualistic tendencies of men, but simply inertia, stupidity, indolence and the slavishness of thought. A number of Americans have been inspired by some of Bellamy’s ideas and are seriously thinking of establishing a Commune one day in one of the Eastern States on more or less Communistic principles, without adhering literally to his idea.

A finely prosperous colony already exists on these principles, and their journal is one of the best for general propaganda of Communist and Socialist ideas. There is nothing of the pretentious sect about it. Bellamy himself had none of this pretention, and his adherents do not possess the arrogance of the so-called “scientific.”

The principal feature-of Bellamy’s Utopia was that each inhabitant of the Socialist nation should be credited with a certain sum (about £800). He may spend it as he pleases, by taking in the public shops whatever he chooses— lodging, food, clothing, objects of luxury, according to his taste. If he does not spend all the £800, whatever is left is each year deducted from his credit. There is no way of treasuring up his money.

On the other hand, everyone, from the age of twenty to forty or fifty years, works in any capacity he may choose a certain-number of hours agreed upon. Committees estimate the value of the products and their selling price. It is a system of partial Communism. Unfortunately, Bellamy paid a tribute (absolutely useless in his own system) to authority in dreaming, like the Socialists of 1848, of au authoritarian organisation of production.

His last production, Equality, is much superior to his Utopia. It is in the form of a novel and conversation, a decidedly admirable criticism of the capitalist system. Bellamy in this book, which I recommend everyone to read, does not criticise capitalism from the moral, but from the economic point of view. He shows that this is the most absurdly uneconomic system of production. Bellamy does not go into metaphysics as does Marx ; neither does he appeal to sentiment. In order to show the evils of capitalism, he takes the point of view of Proudhon, the only one which, in my opinion, was really scientific. That is, he demonstrates that a million of workers who have produced, let us say, all that is necessary for our consumption, from raw materials to manufactured articles, and who have only their salary, cannot buy those same products; for in their selling price they comprise, besides the salary paid. the profit of the master and the capitalist in general. Consequently, each nation produces more than it can purchase with the total sum of its salaries.

From this he deduces all the vices of the capitalistic system, and analyses them so admirably that I know of no other Socialist work on this subject that equals Bellamy’s Equality

At the same time the hook is interesting, and while I travelled last autumn through Canada and the States, I saw it in every car, The vendors of papers and books in the trains never had enough, so great was the demand for the book. It is certainly not so interesting as Looking Backward, but it were well to have a French edition of it at a low price.

What a pity that Bellamy has not lived longer! He would have produced other excellent books. I am positive that were Bellamy to have met an Anarchist, who could have explained to him our ideal, he would have accepted it. The authoritarianism which he introduced into his Utopia was useless there and contradictory to the very system. It was simply a survival, a concession, a tribute to the past. Those who have known Bellamy speak of him with great sympathy. Of a very retiring and timid disposition, he did not seek to impose his personality, much less to become the head of a school. He was the first to be astonished by the success of his first book. – P. K. in Temps Nouveaux

Marching Nowhere: The Women’s March Needs to Address More Than Just Trump

Vie, 01/26/2018 - 23:28

via bitch magazine

by Rae Gray

Last Saturday saw the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration and the second worldwide Women’s March. This year’s March was in many ways plagued by the same issues as the first: a difficulty with decentering whiteness and cisness, most exemplified by the now famous “pink pussy hats;” overly liberal politics that failed to significantly challenge elements of the oppressive state’s machinery presence, such as the military or the police; and a broad and incoherent platform that allowed fractious agendas to make the March unsafe through transantagonism, sex-worker exclusion, anti-Indigenous sentiment, and “pro-life feminists.”

In one year, white women have learned nothing and gotten nowhere.

Consider what the first Women’s March seemed to be. In spite of the pink hats that quickly became the symbol of the march (borne by poor taste and assault-related black humor); the infighting it took to place women of color organizers and speakers at the center of the event; and the flaws, criticisms, and very real growing pains, it seemed for a moment that we had tapped into something. Even though it took an existential threat to the rights and privileges of white women for it to happen, there was finally a groundswell of support for the grassroots initiatives and progressive causes that people of color had been fighting for for so long. In the Establishment, Ijeoma Oluo wrote about how late these white women were to the anti-racism movement—but now that they’d arrived, it was time to get up to speed because we’ve needed this support for a long time. With roughly 4.2 million attendees and parallel movements in other countries, it seemed that the battle for civil rights in the 21st century had some weighty reinforcements—until the March ended.

For all the promise and bluster, it seems that the Women’s March scarcely translated into actual political will, or a significant number of white women willing to put their privilege and their bodies on the line.

The Women’s March organizers are certainly attempting to carve out a radical platform. This year’s March launched the Power to the Polls initiative that will be targeting swing states to register new voters, and last year the March presented a legislative agenda and held conferences to bolster and support that agenda. Many chapters had women of color taking the lead and events attempting to call attention to a multitude of issues; Indigenous women spoke on the importance of preserving the environment; the Mothers of the Movement spoke on police and state violence; and Janet Mock spoke on trans civil rights. Yet, this enthusiasm for a broad-based feminism was not always shared among the largely cis, white attendees.

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Why was this man arrested for giving water to migrants crossing the border?

Vie, 01/26/2018 - 23:21

via The Guardian

by Carrot Quinn

Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge, which includes 56 miles of Sonoran Desert along the US-Mexico border, is a stunningly beautiful wilderness. There are saguaros, endangered Sonoran pronghorn, petroglyphs, and jagged mountain ranges.

It is also where in the past year alone, humanitarian workers have discovered the bodies of 32 people. These remains were found by volunteers from No More Deaths and other humanitarian aid organizations that work to reduce deaths and suffering along the US-Mexico border.

If you go to Cabeza Prieta and walk along its arroyos, chances are you’ll find human remains too. While volunteering for No More Deaths, I’ve come across scattered rib bones, a femur, and a skull resting beneath a mesquite tree, 10 shades whiter than anything else around it.

On 17 January, No More Deaths released a report documenting the systematic destruction by border patrol of water and food supplies left in the desert for migrants. Over a nearly four-year period, 3,856 gallons of water had been destroyed. The report linked to video showing border patrol kicking over gallons and pouring them out onto the ground.

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Hunting for the ancient lost farms of North America

Vie, 01/26/2018 - 23:15

via Ars Technica

by Annalee Newitz

Adventurers and archaeologists have spent centuries searching for lost cities in the Americas. But over the past decade, they’ve started finding something else: lost farms.

Over 2,000 years ago in North America, indigenous people domesticated plants that are now part of our everyday diets, such as squashes and sunflowers. But they also bred crops that have since returned to the wild. These include erect knotweed (not to be confused with its invasive cousin, Asian knotweed), goosefoot, little barley, marsh elder, and maygrass. We haven’t simply lost a few plant strains: an entire cuisine with its own kinds of flavors and baked goods has simply disappeared.

By studying lost crops, archaeologists learn about everyday life in the ancient Woodland culture of the Americas, including how people ate plants that we call weeds today. But these plants also give us a window on social networks in the ancient Americas. Scientists can track the spread of cultivated seeds from one tiny settlement to the next in the vast region that would one day be known as the United States. This reveals which groups were connected culturally and how they formed alliances through food and farming.

Natalie Mueller is an archaeobotanist at Cornell University who has spent years hunting for erect knotweed across the southern US and up into Ohio and Illinois. She calls her quest the “Survey for Lost Crops,” and admits cheerfully that its members consist of her and “whoever I can drag along.” She’s published papers about her work in Nature, but also she spins yarns about her hot, bug-infested summer expeditions for lost farms on her blog. There, photographs of the rare wild plants are interspersed with humorous musings on contemporary local food delicacies like pickle pops.

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Anarchists: Government Shutdown Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Vie, 01/26/2018 - 22:17

via CrimethInc

Make the Shutdown Comprehensive and Permanent

Once again, the threat of a government shutdown looms over the capital. Politicians exchange barbs, pundits wag their fingers and wring their hands, and the rest of us get up and go to work like we do every day. The news anchors demand to know: whose fault is it? What labyrinthine eleventh-hour compromise will they devise to avoid it? The rest of the nation yawns with indifference.

But we want answers! What if the government does shut down? Who will funnel our taxable income to military contractors? Who will tap our phones and read our email? Who will raid 7-Elevens and deport people? Who will indoctrinate our children? Who will stop people from driving while black? Who will build the wall?

It doesn’t sound all that bad, actually. Unfortunately, the “shutdown” they’re talking about won’t interrupt any of those things. Compared to what this country needs, it’s just a bit of theatrics.

So here’s a different proposal for how to respond to the imminent shutdown of the US government. Let’s make it comprehensive and permanent.

What better way to cut through “partisan gridlock” than by abolishing both parties outright? Seriously, what have they ever done for us? Two gangs of thieves and swindlers competing to boss us around and bleed us dry. It’s hard to imagine a single problem that any of them can resolve better than we could on our own. They themselves are responsible for most of the issues they claim to address.

In recent years, societies around the world have discovered that the absence of a functioning government has produced remarkably little change in their daily lives. Since its prime minister quit a year ago, Northern Ireland has functioned without its elected assembly doing a thing. In Belgium, in 2010 and 2011, 589 days passed without the establishment of a government with no noticeable change in everyday life for most Belgians. Similar interludes went by in Spain and Germany with similarly insignificant consequences.

This goes to show how much of a joke democracy is in postmodern capitalism. Cybernetic bureaucracies keep capital and goods flowing while states do little more than skim off the top and perpetuate violence against us. For the time being, it would be too controversial to entrust all that violence to private security, so they make us pay for it and call it a public service. But hardly anyone is still pretending that governments exist to care for human beings.

In this context, the dazzling and infuriating spectacle of partisan politics is basically a shiny distraction, while the corporations and functionaries who make most of the choices that shape our lives with no oversight from us continue redesigning the world to facilitate their profits. Voting is little more than an anachronistic ritual reinforcing this illusion. It’s not good news that the average citizen of a Western democracy is so alienated from practical self-determination that he barely notices how irrelevant the only avenue for “participation” has become.

Elsewhere across the planet, however, we can find much more inspiring examples of society without government. In the autonomous cantons of Rojava, using a system of popular councils organized from the bottom up in neighborhoods and workplaces, Kurdish and other peoples are taking control of their lives and making decisions collectively on the most local level possible, with federated structures coordinating to address matters of collective concern. In stark contrast to the everyday indifference that is so prevalent in US democracy, these and other scattered instances of life without a centralized state offer far more robust and authentic model for self-determination than anything you can find on an American ballot.

But what about the impact a government shutdown will have on our lives? Won’t we suffer the loss of critical services? Sure, we all gripe about Washington and hate politicians, but when it comes down to it, don’t we need them?

Government shutdown? A good start.

According to most summaries of the shutdown scenario, most of the actually useful services we get from state bureaucracies or federal programs—Social Security, food stamps, the US Postal Service, free school lunches—will still continue. If we look at the history of these programs, this isn’t surprising. Many of them were modeled on autonomous initiatives started by powerful social movements; the government needs these programs to keep us from getting used to relying on ourselves. FBI chief super-villain J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panthers’ breakfast program “the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for”; the US Department of Agriculture was forced to start the School Breakfast Program in response, which now feeds 13 million students every day. Early anarchist Lysander Spooner created an independent postal system; in response, the government passed a law granting the US Postal System a monopoly, although Spooner forced the USPS to lower its prices to levels that ordinary people could afford. Advocates of “the people’s pension” deserve the credit for social security. If the government weren’t hogging all the resources, we might discover that we could maintain these programs better through grassroots organizing.

Now let’s look at the government functions that will actually be impacted under a shutdown.

We might not be able to get new passports. But believe it or not, for the vast majority of human history, people traveled freely without them. The problem here is simply that the shutdown doesn’t go far enough: if we could shut down government agencies and governments completely, we wouldn’t need passports in the first place. Tens of millions who lack citizenship status or proper visas could visit their families without fear of losing their homes. Dissidents could leave North Korea and Iran. People with arrest records could travel to Canada from the US without some arrogant jerk in a uniform talking down to them. You could go anywhere on earth without having to fill out a form or apply for a visa.

The shutdown could delay tax refunds. But the IRS will still continue collecting taxes—they just won’t give us back the pittance beyond what they claim we “owe.” Here’s a simple solution: they should stop stealing from us in the first place! It would be better if we could devote our resources to addressing problems directly, not sending checks to Washington so that nepotists and their cronies can buy more pork barrels and cruise missiles. Not only will this save us money—once the Pentagon budget runs out, it’ll make nuclear war a lot less likely. If you’ve been paying taxes in hopes of providing support to the retired senior citizen down the street, you could just give her the money directly instead of giving it to a bunch of bureaucrats taking up a collection in her name.

The fancy dining hall at the House of Representatives during the 2013 shutdown. If the shutdown went further, we could open it up to some of the 41 million people who struggle with hunger in the United States while politicians fatten themselves at our expense.

Federal courts might close if the shutdown lasts longer than ten days. That’s a good start, but it would be better if they shut down for good! Two and a half million people are in prison already—as many as were in the gulags under Joseph Stalin. Mass incarceration is one of the most serious problems in the US today and one of the key linchpins of white supremacy and class domination. Judges and prosecutors should stay home for good; they can count themselves lucky no one gave them a taste of their own medicine. With the foot of the criminal legal system off our necks, we could focus on rebuilding our communities and resolving our problems ourselves without police or prisons. For people who grew up with no models for conflict resolution except for running to the biggest gang in town, this is hard to imagine, but there are plenty of alternatives.

National parks might be shut down. Wait a minute—why would we need politicians and bureaucrats to enjoy the wilderness? It would take about an hour to crowdsource the basic maintenance functions of cleaning and upkeep for facilities. Then we could enjoy all of these supposedly public resources, free of charge.

Last time there was a shutdown, in 2013, one enterprising individual took over mowing the lawn around the Lincoln Memorial. This worked out fine—until the US Park Police interceded and forced him to stop. Obviously, the shutdown didn’t go far enough if there were still police on the job to keeping people from learning to take care of problems themselves!

Direct action gets the goods! A volunteer mowing the lawn around the Lincoln Memorial during the last shutdown.

Let’s be clear: the ones who are most worried about a government shutdown are the politicians themselves. Not for the reasons they claim—that one gang will lose votes to the other gang, or that the paychecks of federal workers will be delayed. No, they’re worried because a real shutdown could just show how pointless and parasitic their entire protection racket is. They’re worried that if we get a taste of what it’s like to organize collectively to solve our problems, we’ll never want to stop. Then they would be permanently out of a job.

As anarchists, we’ve got a hunch that people can get along just fine without a government. We’re convinced that everything the government does is either harmful and should be abolished outright (borders, prisons, armies, surveillance) or can be done better by groups of people working together freely (social welfare, preserving wilderness, coordinating production and distribution, collective self-defense).

Don’t confuse us with the so-called libertarians who laud the shutdown because they want the capitalist market to reign supreme over everything else. There’s no way that the prevailing regime of inequality and private property could exist without the coercive force of the state to enforce it. As anarchists, we’re in this for freedom—not the freedom to accumulate profit and property at everyone else’s expense of others, but the freedom to flourish in tandem with everyone, to pursue the concert of our interests without coercion.

Are you with us? Regardless of what the politicians do in the coming days or years, let’s work together to shut down the US government once and for all. Then we can get on with our lives.

Why It Matters that Ursula K. Le Guin Was an Anarchist

Vie, 01/26/2018 - 22:09

via CrimethInc

I’ve never liked the part of the story when the mentor figure dies and the young heroes say they aren’t ready to go it alone, that they still need her. I’ve never liked it because it felt clichéd and because I want to see intergenerational struggle better represented in fiction.

Today I don’t like that part of the story because… I don’t feel ready.

Last week, I lived in the same world as Ursula Le Guin, a grandmaster of science fiction who accepted awards by decrying capitalism and seemed, with every breath, to speak of the better worlds we can create. On Monday, January 22, 2018, she passed away. She was 88 years old and she knew it was coming, and of course my sorrow is for myself and my own loss and not for a woman who, after a lifetime of good work fighting for what she believed, died loved.

It’s also a sorrow, though, to have lost one of the most brilliant anarchists the world has ever known. Especially now, as we start into the hard times she said were coming.

To be clear, Ursula Le Guin didn’t, as I understand it, call herself an anarchist. I asked her about this. She told me that she didn’t call herself an anarchist because she didn’t feel that she deserved to—she didn’t do enough. I asked her if it was OK for us to call her one. She said she’d be honored.

Ursula, I promise you, the honor is ours.

When I think about anarchist fiction, the first story that comes into my head is a simple one, called “Ile Forest,” which appeared in Le Guin’s 1976 collection Orsinian Tales. The narrative is framed by two men discussing the nature of crime and law. One suggests that some crimes are simply unforgivable. The other refutes it. Murder, surely, argues the one, that isn’t for self-defense, is unforgivable.

The chief narrator of the story then goes on to relate a story of a murder—a vile one, a misogynist one—that leaves you with both discomfort and with the awareness that no, in that particular case, there would be no justice in seeking vengeance or legal repercussions against the murderer.

In a few thousand words, without even trying, she undermines the reader’s faith in both codified legal systems and vigilante justice.

It wasn’t that Le Guin carried her politics into her work. It’s that the same spirit animated both her writing and her politics. In her 2015 blog post “Utopiyin, Utopiyang” she writes:

“The kind of thinking we are, at last, beginning to do about how to change the goals of human domination and unlimited growth to those of human adaptability and long-term survival is a shift from yang to yin, and so involves acceptance of impermanence and imperfection, a patience with uncertainty and the makeshift, a friendship with water, darkness, and the earth.”

That’s the anarchist spirit that animated her work. Anarchism, as I see it, is about seeking a better world while accepting impermanence and imperfection.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about, reading about, and learning from others about how fiction can engage with politics. I don’t want to put Le Guin on a pedestal—she herself, in perfect form, refused to let people call her or her work genius—but no one wrote political fiction with the same flair for well-told book-length metaphor as she did.

The easiest book for me to talk about is The Dispossessed, because it’s the most widely-read anarchist utopian novel in the English language. When an anarchist like Le Guin writes her utopia, it’s explicitly “an ambiguous utopia.” It says so, right on the cover. It’s the story of an anarchist scientist at odds with his own anarchist society and the stifling social conventions that can grow up in the place of laws. It’s a story of that anarchist society, far from perfect, favorably compared to both capitalism and state communism. It’s also a story about how beautiful monogamous relationships can be once they’re not compulsory. When the anarcho-curious ask me for a novel to read that explores anarchism, I don’t always suggest it, since the anarchist world represented is so bleak (my go to, more often that not, is Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing). It’s too anarchist of a text to serve as propaganda.

Le Guin was also a pacifist. I’m not one myself, but I respect her position on the matter. I think it was that pacifism that helped her write about violent anti-colonial struggle with as much nuance as she did in The Word for World is Forest. There’s an inherent kindness in the violence in that book, which pits an indigenous alien race (the inspiration for the Ewoks of Star Wars, incidentally, in case you needed more proof that anarchists invent everything) against human invaders. The glory of struggle is muted, rendered realistically. The glory of it is as dangerous as the actual violence, as it should be.

Le Guin and other authors blew open the doors of what science fiction could be, presenting social sciences as equal to hard sciences. Her novel The Left Hand of Darkness is about people who alternate between male and female. As I understand it, it was an unprecedented work when it came out in 1969. I didn’t love it the way that I’ve loved some of her other books, but I’m not sure I can imagine what the world would look like if it had never been written. I can’t point to another work that has done more to seed the idea that gender can and should be fluid. It’s possible that my life as a non-binary trans woman would be completely different had she not written that book.

The Lathe of Heaven is psychedelic fiction at its finest and a parable of the power held by artists and those who imagine other worlds. Presciently, it explores a society destroyed by global warming.

For the luckier kids of my generation, Le Guin’s fantasy series, Earthsea, filled the role that Harry Potter has for people younger than me. I wish I’d read it as a kid, though I don’t regret how often I read The Hobbit. In the world of Earthsea, the villains who threaten the world are aspects of the heroes who have to save it.

The words Le Guin has written that have meant the most to me, though, are her short stories. If you want to understand why so many people cried to hear of her death, read “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas.” It is, simply, and I don’t say this hyperbolically, perfect. It’s short, and beautiful, and it’s exactly the kind of story that can change the world.

I haven’t read all of Le Guin’s books, and I have to admit, I’m glad about that today. I’m glad that there are more of her stories waiting for me.

The Left Hand of Darkness.

When I was a baby anarchist, I wanted to know what anarchism had to do with fiction. I get most of my ideas by talking to smart people, so I set out to ask smart people my question. I wrote Ursula Le Guin a letter and sent it to her PO Box. She emailed me back and I interviewed her for what I thought would be a zine.

That zine became my first book, which started what has since become both my career and, presumably, my life’s work. She had literally nothing to gain by helping me, encouraging me, and lending her tremendous social credibility to my project. I like to think she was excited to talk explicitly about anarchism in a way she didn’t often get to, but frankly I might be projecting my hopes onto her.

I think of her kindness to me as an act of solidarity between two people fighting the same fight.

That’s a big part of why I’ve cried so much since her death.

Later into that same book project, I started to ask myself why I cared so much why this or that author identified as an anarchist or worked for anarchist projects. I’ve always been less concerned with the boundaries of our ideology and more interested in words and deeds that encourage freethinking, autonomous individuals who act cooperatively. Whether or not Le Guin calls herself (or lets us call her) an anarchist doesn’t change what she’s written or how she’s impacted the world. Many of the best and most beneficial writers, activists, and friends I know or know of don’t call themselves anarchists, and that doesn’t change the love I have for them. I’ve also never been particularly excited about celebrity culture, idol worship, or really just fame as a concept.

Yet it mattered to me—still matters to me—that Le Guin was an anarchist.

I finally came to terms with why I care so much. I care because it means that those stories that have meant so much to me were written by someone with whom I’m aligned on a lot of very specific hopes and dreams. I care because I can use her own words to eviscerate anyone who attempts to recuperate her into some other camp—say, liberal capitalist or state communist—and use her celebrity to promote causes she did not support or actively opposed. I care because the accomplishments of anarchists have been written out of history time and time again, and Le Guin is famous for some very specific and undeniable achievements that will be very hard to erase. Maybe it’s hero worship. Maybe it’s basking in reflected light. I don’t know. I just know that she makes me proud to be an anarchist.

I don’t have a lot of heroes. Most of my favorite writers, I aspire to be their peers. Ursula Le Guin was a hero. She mentored me without knowing it. She encouraged my writing both directly, by telling me she was excited for what I would write, and indirectly, by telling me why writing is worthwhile and also with her book on writing Steering the Craft.

Right now, I’m thinking about her words on the importance of words. As I step back from most organizing, I think about what she told me a decade ago:

“Activist anarchists always hope I might be an activist, but I think they realize that I would be a lousy one, and let me go back to writing what I write.”

But she knew that words alone weren’t enough. Art is part of social change, but it isn’t anywhere near the whole of it. Le Guin did thankless work, too, attending demonstrations and stuffing envelopes for whatever organization could use her help. It’s that dichotomy that makes her my hero. I want everyone to leave me to my writing and not expect me to organize, but I want to be useful in other ways too.

Powell’s Books remembers.

Last night, three of us exchanged Signal messages about her passing. “It’s up to us now,” we said. “We have to work harder without her now,” we said. Signal messages are like whispers sometimes. In the dead of night, we say the things that scare us.

In 2014, Le Guin told the world:

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality.”

I don’t feel ready, but no one ever does. The truth is: we are ready. There are writers who remember freedom. Maybe more now than there have ever been. There are stories that need to be told, and we are telling them. Walidah Imarisha will tell them. Adrienne Marie Brown will tell them. Laurie Penny will tell them. Nisi Shawl will tell them. Cory Doctorow, Jules Bentley, Mimi Mondal, Lewis Shiner, Rebecca Campbell, Nick Mamatas, Evan Peterson, Alba Roja, Simon Jacobs, and more people than I can know or count will tell them.1

All of us will tell them, to each other, by whatever means. We’ll remember freedom. Maybe we’ll even get there.

This list is not to imply any specific political affiliation of the authors, only to tell you about writers who, I believe, remember freedom.

The Dirty War Over Diversity Inside Google

Vie, 01/26/2018 - 22:05

via Wired

by Nitasha Tiku

Fired Google engineer James Damore says he was vilified and harassed for questioning what he calls the company’s liberal political orthodoxy, particularly around the merits of diversity.

Now, outspoken diversity advocates at Google say that they are being targeted by a small group of their coworkers, in an effort to silence discussions about racial and gender diversity.

In interviews with WIRED, 15 current Google employees accuse coworkers of inciting outsiders to harass rank-and-file employees who are minority advocates, including queer and transgender employees. Since August, screenshots from Google’s internal discussion forums, including personal information, have been displayed on sites including Breitbart and Vox Popoli, a blog run by alt-right author Theodore Beale, who goes by the name Vox Day. Other screenshots were included in a 161-page lawsuit that Damore filed in January, alleging that Google discriminates against whites, males, and conservatives.

What followed, the employees say, was a wave of harassment. On forums like 4chan, members linked advocates’ names with their social-media accounts. At least three employees had their phone numbers, addresses, and deadnames (a transgender person’s name prior to transitioning) exposed. Google site reliability engineer Liz Fong-Jones, a trans woman, says she was the target of harassment, including violent threats and degrading slurs based on gender identity, race, and sexual orientation. More than a dozen pages of personal information about another employee were posted to Kiwi Farms, which New York has called “the web’s biggest community of stalkers.”

Meanwhile, inside Google, the diversity advocates say some employees have “weaponized human resources” by goading them into inflammatory statements, which are then captured and reported to HR for violating Google’s mores around civility or for offending white men.

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Ursula Le Guin Made Me An Anarchist

Vie, 01/26/2018 - 21:58

via Feministing

by Meg Sri

Late yesterday night, heartbreaking news broke out: beloved, pathbreaking and unapologetically feminist science fiction writer, Ursula Le Guin, passed away at age 88.

Le Guin was an author who meant many things to many people. She was, primarily, a storyteller: a weaver of rich and intricate worlds replete with dragons and wizardry and oceans and magical gifts and planets and space and conflict. She wrote prolifically, for all audiences: she was an author of short stories, children’s books, young adult books, science fiction, nonfiction, poetry and essays. Readers have described her as folding everything into her writing: poetry, wisdom, sadness, satisfaction, fantasy, realism. She spun worlds that were timeless not only in their breathtaking, intricate details, but worlds that were rich in their complex view of humanity and our relationships with each other, questioning through their portrayal of places other than Earth what it meant to live on it.

Le Guin was also a feminist and reflected this in both her writing and her spunky, fearless rejoinders to the largely male and patriarchal science fiction community. She pushed her way into the boys club of science fiction and then told it off: she asked men here to “consider idly, in some spare moment, whether by any chance they’ve been building any walls to keep the women out, or to keep them in their place, and what they may have lost by doing so.” She wrote powerfully, and inspirationally, to women, encouraging them to find for themselves a power and identity apart from male ideas of power and prestige: her 1986 commencement address to Bryn Mawr students is one of the most electrifying feminist graduation rallying cries ever written.

For me, however, Le Guin represented something quite apart from great, memorable literature. She represented something that was meant even more than her unapologetic and outspoken feminism. During my sophomore year of university, picking up The Dispossessed on the recommendation of a favorite professor, Ursula Le Guin’s work was the genesis of my political awakening.

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