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Clara: The Ex-Worker;
An audio strike against a monotone world;
A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Clara: Hey everyone! Thanks for tuning back in to the Ex-Worker. We’ve got a special episode lined up for you this time. As you may know, the CrimethInc. “To Change Everything” tour, featuring an international anarchist panel discussion, wrapped up in mid-November after over two months on the road and events in dozens of cities. Well over 2000 people across the so-called United States got to hear the panel and participate in discussion - including many of you listeners, we hope. But for the benefit of all of you who weren’t able to be at one of the events, plus for anyone who did make it and wants to re-engage with the ideas or continue the conversation, we’re offering up a full live audio recording of the “To Change Everything” panel discussion as our 44th episode of the Ex-Worker.
For many years, the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective has been a point of connection and collaboration between anarchists around the world. Through the CrimethInc. blog and website, the journal Rolling Thunder, the Ex-Worker podcast, various speaking tours and face to face projects, we’ve made an effort to connect people, projects, groups, and struggles across borders, to support translations of our English-language material into other languages as well as circulating English translations of anarchist analysis produced elsewhere. In a moment when events across the globe can act as inspirations and flashpoints for rebellions thousands of miles away, it seems more important than ever to be reporting and reflecting on resistance on an intercontinental scale.
In that spirit, we undertook the “To Change Everything” project, our most ambitious collaboration yet: collectives spanning five continents and over twenty-five languages worked together to produce a multimedia introduction to anarchist ideas, including a print publication, interactive website, video, stickers, audio zine, social media presence, events, and tours. Here in the US, we printed 150,000 copies in English, plus another 25,000 in Spanish, and circulated them for months in anticipation of a US tour that would build face-to-face connections among folks passionate about anarchist resistance. Since the project was international in scope from the beginning, we wanted the tour to reflect that. So we assembled a group of anarchists who had been involved in production and circulation of “To Change Everything” in their local contexts and brought them to the US to share reflections on the struggles going on where they live. The tour included participants from “To Change Everything” collectives in Slovenia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and for some stops, Argentina, along with some Ex-Workers from here in the US. The stories they shared touch on some of the most pressing and complex themes in resistance struggles today: the role of making demands; the concept of autonomy; what’s at stake when we frame struggles within the discourse of democracy; the renewed rise of nationalism and fascism; international solidarity; and what anarchists and anti-authoritarians have to offer in these vastly different but interconnected contexts across the globe.
This recording comes from the final stop of the tour, at Firestorm Cafe and Books in Asheville, North Carolina. After a brief introduction from the local organizer, you’ll hear one of the US-based Ex-Workers give some context for the project and the panel, followed by Ramona from Slovenia, Ze from Brazil, and Sasha from the Czech Republic. Another Ex-Worker concludes the panel by tying together the different themes and reflecting on them in a US context. After the panel discussion, you’ll hear a brief excerpt from the question and answer portion of the event, in which the panelists discuss the process of collaboration, translation and distribution of “To Change Everything” in their respective countries. Afterwards, stay tuned for some of our ideas about how to continue the dialogue, whether or not you were able to make it to one of the events this fall, and an invitation to contribute to our upcoming “year in review” episode!
We hope you enjoy it! Now, without further ado: the To Change Everything tour.
To Change Everything Panel Discussion
Firestorm Cafe and Books: Welcome to Firestorm. For anyone who doesn’t know, we’re a seven year old anarchist cooperative here in Asheville, North Carolina. And we’re really thrilled tonight to have folks from the To Change Everything tour. I’m going to let y’all introduce yourselves. But I just wanted to just start with a round of applause and appreciation for coming so far to be here. And now I’ll turn it over!
CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective [USA]: Hello! And welcome! Thank y’all so much for coming, thank you for having us here in Asheville. We’re thrilled to be here, thrilled to be in the fancy, glossy new Firestorm. Congratulations on this beautiful space. So I want to start off by telling you a little bit ab out why we’re here, what this tour is about and what the project is about, what anarchism is, and what the program this evening is gonna look like. So, to get started:
To Change Everything is an international anarchist collaboration and outreach project spanning many continents that takes the form of this pamphlet that we’ve produced; there’s many many thousands of copies that we’ve printed so feel free to take some home. And this project is not just something that we’re touring the US circulating; it’s been translated into over 25 different languages, from French to Spanish to Arabic to Tagalog and many others. And we are here to share this international project with some international perspectives. We’ve got a panel discussion assembled with folks who have been participants in social movements in different places around the world that have integrated anarchist ideas, anarchist tactics, anarchist question. And also folks who have participated in the TCE project as translators, folks who have brought these ideas and concepts into their local contexts.
So since we mentioned that this is an international anarchist project, we want to start off by telling you a little bit about how we see anarchism, what that means to us. So:
Anarchism is the pulse inside every human heart that beats in time with freedom and out of step with authority. It’s the simple idea that no one is more qualified than you to determine how you should live your life; that our lives can be sweetest when no one can wield power over anyone else. Depending on what your exposure is to anarchists in the media, you may have an image in your head of folks who run cooperative bookstores, or hand out food in the park, or dress up in black and break windows. But tonight we’re not going to be talking about anarchism just as a toolbox or a set of tactics. Instead we’re going to be focusing on anarchism as a set of questions that we can ask to evaluate our movements and our struggles, an approach to our efforts to change the world. We see anarchism as a practice of being ungovernable; a practice of preventing any external authority from imposing itself on us and the people we love.
But tonight we’re not going to be speaking about anarchism as an abstract set of ideas; we’re going to get concrete and practical by looking at how these concepts, how these questions and these lenses have been relevant in social upheavals happening around the world. As all of you know, since 2011 with the Arab Spring and spreading into the Occupy movement, the movement in the plazas, from Turkey to Brazil to Ukraine to many other places in the world: we’re in an era of global crises and global resistance. So we need to have a global lens to understand what’s happening and to assess how these ideas and concepts might be relevant.
So, to that end, we have Ramona, from the Balkans in southeastern Europe, who’s going to be sharing some experiences with some upheavals there that you may not have heard of. Many of you have heard about Greece and the anti-austerity protests and riots happening there. But you may be less familiar with resistance happening in smaller countries like Slovenia and Bosnia, where powerful uprisings have even overthrown governments, and have used directly democratic assemblies as a way of discussing and making decisions in these movements. So we’ll hear reflections on the upheavals happening there, and also some of the limitations that come up when we rely on the language of democracy inside of social upheavals.
We have Ze from Brazil,who’s going to talk about the protests that erupted in 2013 in response tot he government’s efforts to raise the cost of public transportation. From these massive uprisings that brought millions of people into the streets in over 100 cities, to the following year in the World Cup in 2014 folks when protested that as well, and new challenges that have come up and new efforts to increase transportation just this year. We’ll hear about some of the limitations of basing our political movements on single demands, and reflections on the concept of autonomy and what that could mean to us.
Also, we have Sasha, who’s here from the Czech Republic in central Europe, who’s going to be sharing stories about the rise of nationalism and fascism in those contexts, and what that has to do with war, militarism, racism, and the so-called “migrant crisis” or refugee crisis happening in Europe. And we’ll also hear about what international solidarity could look like, and what anarchists are doing.
So as we share these stories from around the world tonight, we don’t want you all to relate to these as exotic, faraway struggles that are maybe interesting, but not necessarily relevant to what’s happening here in Asheville or in North Carolina. Because the reason why we’re touring throughout the US - this is our very last stop on a nationwide tour of over 50 cities - the reason why we’re bringing these stories here is because we think that many of the same questions, many of the same challenges that these folks are encountering in their social movements in different parts of the world, are actually directly related and parallel to the kinds of struggles that we’re encountering here in the US. So after the panel discussion, we hope that you’ll stick around if you’re able for a discussion where we can share local experiences about what resonated in terms of the themes and questions from Slovenia to Brazil to the Czech Republic and right here in North Carolina. So thank you all so much for being here!
Ramona [Slovenia]: Hi everyone. My name is Ramona, I am from Slovenia; if you’re not exactly sure where that country is don’t be upset. It’s a small place in the northern Balkans. Slovenia went through ethnic war in the beginning of the 90s that marked the transition from socialist Yugoslavia to the kind of democracy only capitalism really knows how to offer. And of course if anarchists were not really present because of the political restrictions in the era during socialism, we definitely became a part of every major social struggle in Slovenia since the war and since independence. One of the biggest moments of such struggles was the uprising that happened in 2012–13. Those were six months of the the biggest decentralized anti-authoritarian uprising that among other things also overthrew government. And that kind of brought us to be a part of the cartography of uprisings that are happening all around the world in the last 5–7 years, from Arab Spring to Occupy to, here in the United States, Ferguson and Baltimore and so on. It seems that one of the things that is binding all of these uprisings all around the world is the question of democracy. Some movements are taking legitimacy away from their leaders, from representative democracy, and are somehow building up new kinds of structures, structures of mass experimentation with direct democracy. But this direct democracy and these experiments have also proven to be not sufficient enough, especially during Occupy. So therefore we have started to think in the uprising after some of those experiences in Slovenia and also beyond in the Balkans, how can we actually not just be critical towards direct democracy, but also invent a new kind of language that would battle the negative effect that democracy is bringing to our social movements. So tonight I would like to speak to you all about the question of autonomy as an alternative to the language of democracy.
Okay! In November 2012, it was a cold November night when the first radars started to burn in the second largest city in Slovenia, because the corrupt mayor installed those radar machines that measure speed of cars and then fine you if you’re over speeding on basically every major crossroads in the city. And in just a matter of a few days a whole bunch of people lost all their savings, all their income, because they couldn’t afford to pay those tickets. And that got a lot of people angry. and the way that they dealt with that anger was that they went and literally destroyed radar by radar during the night and that turned into a very popular sport, if you go on YouTube, you’ll see a whole bunch of different ways of how to do it. But those burnings and destructions soon became socially contextualized in protest. First against corruption and corrupt mayor, but also against general conditions in our society: against poverty, against austerity measures, to some extent also against capitalism and other forms of oppression. These soon gained a national character, and there were people were coming to the streets in places that they never came to the streets before. People were clashing with the police, and things got burned. We occupied a whole bunch of land and buildings and so on. And especially in the first few weeks of this uprising were particularly unpredictable. There were no demands; people didn’t want to negotiate there were no representatives.
It wasn’t just the authorities that were confused by this demandless movement, but it was also some of the people within the uprising that were coming from the middle class until the crisis in 2008–2009 relatively privileged and definitely didn’t start the uprising - it was started by the people who were most targeted in our society. But those people found that they were a little confused by this new terrain of struggle, so they wanted the movement to go back to the old way of politics where you have demands, where you have representatives, where you negotiate with the government and then you get a little something in return. Anarchists thought we needed to stop this from happening, because we knew that as soon as we entered the politics of demands, we were gonna create a situation where a wonderful experience of so many people finally having control over our lives while they were struggling on the streets, we would again be addressing the state as the only agent of change in our society not even to mention that if you have thousands and thousands of people, each coming to the streets with their own needs, desires, visions for the society we only need three demands - of course you have to say your demand can wait for another time. That creates hierarchy in the movement, and that also alienates a lot of people who no longer feel that they are part of the uprising.
So when we were thinking “how can we stop those demands from happening,” we knew - we learned that in Occupy, years before that - whoever wants to represent a movement will probably be seeking some kind of legitimacy. And in Occupy, that legitimacy was always given in general assembly, where it was democratically decided what it was that Occupy or the camp or the movement wants and everything that was happening outside of that space of general assembly, outside of democratic decision making, was seen as illegitimate. So we were expecting people to try to introduce demands into the general assemblies. So we said, well, how about we call for general assemblies first. But we make those assemblies not a space of decision making, not space that concentrates power in the institutions but rather we would create the general assembly as a space of convergence where we can come together, build trust, build community, talk and find other people who think like us or challenge our ideas. And we have managed to succeed. Demands were never issued on the level of the movement. And I think that is important because that means that the uprising was never reduced to a set of demands, but rather remained an open space. And because it was not a single issue campaign, it gave all of us who wanted to experiment with going beyond the existing democratic structure a lot of space to actually do that and see where that would leave us.
But also, as intense as the uprising was, we knew that in just one week upheaval we won’t be able to overthrow the state, or capitalism, or patriarchy, or racism or any other forms of oppression in our society. We knew that new battles would come so we wanted to make sure that we are going out of the uprising stronger than we went in, with more people that we know, with more experiences, with more knowledge, and also with an example of what it means to struggle, and that confronting the state on the streets is not the way that we are defeated because we have not achieved some kind of demand-oriented little victory, but is actually the way that we can advance our struggles.
OK, I will bring you now to my second example of an uprising that followed a year later in spring 2014 in Bosnia, and was even more intense than the uprising in Slovenia. Bosnia particularly suffered through the ethnic war. There was genocide, and for a really long time everything in Bosnia was separated. And there was not a lot of spaces where people would meet beyond their lines of ethnicity. The only way that politicians were able to maintain control over people in the years after the war was to try and deepen these divisions based on ethnic lines. And in 2014, people said enough to this kind of nationalism. They came to the streets in numbers never seen before and they burned down parliament and governmental buildings and offices of mayors and city councils all over the country and headquarters of political parties that were the symbols of their division and oppression.
After showing so much strength in the street, some people thought that that they need to open up another space, that riots are not enough that they want to have a space where they can talk calmly with people around you. And at the beginning, the assemblies proved to be everything that you could possibly want from a directly democratic body. They were massive, more than 1000 people at a time happening simultaneously all over the country. No political parties were allowed to speak. They were promoting gender equality, functions were rotating,people for the first time could actually be heard, about their problems, about their war experiences, about their poverty. But all of that did not prevent assemblies from instead of being tools of the movements, actually becoming some kind of weapon against it.
The problem was that as massive as they were, they were not including everyone, some people felt well, they didn’t want to be competing on the same podium for a word with people who are much more educated than they are. Other people didn’t want to engage in demand-oriented politics, because quite soon the assemblies became a place where some people were trying to coordinate demands throughout the country, some people said, you know what, we burned down the parliament. What else is there to say?
But that of course created a situation where assemblies became the agenda-setters for everyone. And that of course alienated some people. And it is no coincidence that the more people that participated in the assemblies, the less people there were confronting the state on the streets so when assemblies, after weeks of really hard work, presented those demands to the government, the government just put a list in the drawer because when they looked out the window, there was absolutely no one left on the streets to back those demands. The moment was gone; the movement was dead.
I think the most important lesson from the Bosnian uprising, that has truly inspired many uprisings in the balkans afterward, as an example of what it means to fight nationalism - I think that the most important lesson is that our strength doesn’t lie in our ability to gather massive amounts of people into democratic decision making processes. Instead of that, our strength lies in our capacity to act autonomously, and with those autonomous actions being able to protect the gains of our struggles.
In other words, we have to know when we are strong. When we create a situation like people in Bosnia did with their courageous actions where politicians are sending their families across the border absolutely certain that their last hour was about to come, you do not take a step back and ask for little crumbs under the table when we can have the whole bread.
So if democracy is not working, what actually is the thing, how autonomy in certain situations be working for us differently, more successfully? I’m gonna bring you back to 2011 in Slovenia, to my last example of an assembly that was happening in the University in Ljubljana the capital of slovenia, where government wanted to introduce tuitions into an otherwise free university system. And we were packed into the assembly with only one item on the agenda: whether or not we should occupy the university.
As anarchist, we felt like we need to go and really make a statement, that we need to shut down the university completely, that we need to make the kind of rupture that could actually stop the production of knowledge from happening, and we felt that that would open up enough space for us to articulate not just what we want in terms of defending the autonomy of the university and free education but also: to question what is [the] university, and what kind of privilege does it produce, and for who[m]? But a lot of people thought that we were being too radical, that what we needed to do was only occupy three classrooms, and if things don’t work then, we would go and realty show our strength and occupy everything else. we were not really bound to these people with anything, we were not in the same organization; some people we didn’t even know.
But we felt, if we were participating in a direct democratic process, we need to somehow respect the decision that is made in the assembly. So, even though we didn’t agree, we went and we occupied those few classrooms. A few weeks later everyone just left the university and the classrooms quietly, because the occupation was so insignificant that no one even bothered to evict it. They just moved classes to another location, it seemed like the only thing that came out of it was some kind of collective depression and the fact that not a single classroom has been occupied in Slovenia since 2011.
But I guess that was democracy. Looking back, I think what we should have done is gone back and said “you want to occupy those three classrooms? We’ll help you. But everyone who wants to go and occupy the remaining part of the university afterwords, let’s gather in that corner and let’s start building barricades. Would we be successful?
TCE Panel: I DON’T KNOW!
Ramona: But I do know that we would be following our desires our vision, our strategy, I know that we would not be seeking the permission of an authority, the authority of a general assembly that, paradoxically, we created ourselves and was not even imposed on us.
I know I have been very critical of direct democracy and the assemblies, but I still think that we need to find moments to come together, collectively, to create some kinds of moments of you know, collective action. But I think that it’s very important that we do not understand these moments of coming together as spaces of democracy, but rather as an opportunity to experiment with a new methodology of autonomy. If you think about some of the most inspirational struggles of the last few years, like Ferguson for example, not a single one of them ever started with a democratic vote, or people gathered in a general assembly for a long time discussing what is legitimate to do. All of those uprisings started from the very honest rage of people who with their courageous actions opening up space for a lot of different voices to be heard, and a lot of different ideas to be articulated.
So thank you so much for listening, and I look forward to our discussion
Ze [Brazil]: Boa noite. I’m Ze, from Brazil from São Paulo. And this is the last presentation after two months on the road, 50-something talks, it still has a special taste, this presentation is like “Mission complete”. So sorry for the inside jokes, we are very excited.
I will bring some reflections about the word autonomy, and autonomous movements in Brazil, which is the environment, this network where anarchists anti-capitalists started in Brazil, and were responsible for the last three years of the most important struggles and fights and waves of arrests in the last three years in Brazil, from 2013 in the fight against the fare hike, where governments of many cities and many states were putting up the prices of buses and metro and a kind of demonstration that happens every year when it happens, became a nationwide uprising and and opportunity for new tactics, new strategies, and anarchist methodology spread all over the country. And the next year, we were excited going from 2013 right to the protests to resist the FIFA world cup and the megaevents and their impacts on Brazil, especially in the most affected communities, the poor and marginalized communities. And this year, among many other struggles in general this year, we have another fare hike, another opportunity to fight in the same terrain, the same place we won our last big victory that we won, and we can look and see what’s working and what should change in our strategies and narratives.
So, in 2013, to understand basically what we did, what happened there, it was in June of 2013, some demonstrations were called against the 20-cent increase in public transportation. And for the first time, in a struggle, we could achieve a victory as autonomous movement, and like, spreading this anarchist tactics of autonomy, horizontality, consent, direct action… and going to the streets and inviting people to fight in the streets alongside us, and sharing all these skills and all these strategies without any party, any union, any traditional social movement, in the traditional left being like frowned over everything.
So for the first time we saw people considering to use these tactics and go beyond the traditional hierarchical and centralized model of the left, and it was a huge thing, after 12 years of the worker’s party, the left, in power, the streets empty, and all the movements being held back after helping the workers party to get in power, and we saw this protagonism of the autonomous movements and anarchist tactics, where we saw the window of possibility being more open, and we saw many more radical activities happening. We saw black blocs becoming a trend all over the country, people were using this crazy tactic of dressing in black with masks, fighting back against police brutality, smashing the banks, and corporations and surrounding the palaces with all the politicians inside, in all the most important cities. And this was a door for many people to go for the first time in the streets, actually, an entire generation were in the streets for the first time after being raised under the workers’ party government.
Many of these people who were in the streets in the Black Bloc were on the streets for the first time, it was a door for many people to be involved in some struggle, that were the most radical tactics on the streets. And it was important to see how many of our comrades that don’t fit the profile that is the student in the autonomous movements, the white, male, middle-class student who lives in the downtown and has all the resources to be a full time activists. All those who don’t fit this – all our black comrades, our comrades who live very far away from the urban area, or queer comrades – were finding each other building power and making a difference on the streets through these more spontaneous and ephemeral actions. We saw a contamination, in fact, after this victory people were wanting to join, to be in the streets for all the reasons, from the most radical to the most conservative. People were like, “we won something and it was just people, normal people and no huge movement, we can do more of this so people want to be on a street.” And we are hearing about the crisis of representation, the crisis of democracy, for the first time in years, when they realize that all the palaces are trying to be burned down, and so maybe the politicians and the left all the parties won’t have these ties anymore with society and especially with the youth. It was shocking for the left to realize this. We had at the end of June 100 cities rioting or having demonstrations, even cities that didn’t even have any far hike, we’re like “the entire country’s burning; let’s burn things here too.” They put down the tickets of busses and stuff, and 3–4 million people in the streets, according to official statistics. And of course we are not four million anarchists in the streets, we are a bunch of people from different backgrounds including people with a really weird taste in fashion, who were wearing the national flag as a cape, or with soccer shirts, and bunny ears and V masks, taking selfies with the police. So, considering that we are not in the same page. But after the selfies with the police, we saw that we don’t want the same thing maybe.
But it didn’t take that much time for them to show people to the police - these are the vandals – or protecting the banks or other property. So many conflicts emerge in the streets.
After this victory, we need to understand what we are doing, what happened. The autonomous movements, especially the free-pass movements, they bring this heritage of anarchist or autonomous or horizontal movements, or organizations like federalization, autonomy, horizontal decisions like consent, direct action, and the lack of connection to parties or government or any institution. The idea of being like this is the basic anarchist proposal that we should organize ourselves right now like the way we want to be organized in the future, like after some revolution or zombie apocalypse, whatever you call it – then we were all these movements of the anarchists, we have this narrative that we should act in this way, and the movement should act this way to be a reference for other people, other movements, that it’s possible to fight or to organize resistance outside of this model of the left.
But we never know what happens with our wishes until the day they come true.
We saw that a narrative was being built to understand what we did, and especially the narrative that goes around the specific demand. The main narrative was, the metaphor, the 20 cents, the price of the fare hike, that all the movements should follow this example of the free pass movement, they achieved the victory because they could invite people to the streets, with a specific demand, an achievable, reasonable demand, and show everyone “this is our twenty cents,” and “fight for this,” and short-term struggle we all can taste the small victories and eventually change the whole society one demand at a time, one twenty cents at a time. And of course not everyone agrees with this narrative, but it is the main narrative, many people are talking about this.
But anyways, we were excited, this was the first victory beyond any traditional pattern of social movements in Brazil we were very excited because we were thinking “this is the anarchist turn, because our tactics were used by some of these autonomous movements who have anarchists inside, it’s not like an anarchist movement, and all the people were now were joining in the streets and wanting to keep this kind of organizing, and after twelve years of the worker’s party in power nothing changed, the left didn’t do anything significant for people, we have 30 million people outside of the poverty line of course people are too poor but now with smart phones and televisions, but the neoliberal economy growing as ever, all the banks growing in profits, and we are like excited and looking forward to all the things in June 2014, the World Cup.
We should understand the World Cup, the megaevents, the Olympic Games that will happen in Brazil next year, the World Expo that São Paolo will try to host next year, but they lost, all the three biggest mega events of the world, Brazil will try to host in one single decade. They are not just parties, opportunities for advertising or billboards in the cities, stupid guys running for a ball – they are a much more complex mechanism to reshape the cities, to implement economic changes, to implement new laws as the criminalization of demonstrations, terrorist laws, etc. So that’s why all the governments from 3rd world or recent fragile democracy – South Africa, Brazil, in the future United Arab Emirates – all them want to host the world cup, want to host these mega-events to implement these changes, otherwise they wouldn’t have the excuse, if it wasn’t for this nationalist approach, this discourse of the legacy of the world cup. So we saw the worker’s party working hard to host the World Cup. And of course you cannot remove 200,000 people from their houses without compensation, like as in Brazil, without putting women and children from poor populations in vulnerable situations because of sex work, which happens a lot, because of all the motherfucking gringos who go to Brazil. You cannot do all those things without to implement a global model of a city, to update this model without a global model of police, too, without implementing the repressive forces, the laws.
The first sign we saw was the pacification of the favelas, where the police together we pacifying the favelas, saying that they will kick out the drug cartels and prepare the terrain for the megaevents, making them more peaceful for business. All these operations show that agenda of the army and the police were getting unified with other forces too, the police in Brazil were getting training drones trucks weapons everything, from the French army, the German army, and from here from Blackwater and FBI.
We could show our frustration; I hope you all heard about the resistance - soccer nation of the world against the World Cup happening in Brazil, we are there, we were in the streets, but we saw, we learned that expectations are not enough – if we don’t build ties, if we if we don’t build our popular struggle, of popular strength, I mean, in a more ambitious way that’s not just a militant way, a military way, if you don’t do this you can’t face such a big enemy. And we were there, but we couldn’t prevent FIFA from going home with the most profitable World Cup ever made, as expensive as the last three World Cups all together. And one of the most violent World Cups ever made. But anyway, we always have a reason to be on the streets; we can learn even from our defeats, we can wish we can get out of these moments stronger. Many other fights were happening, many other struggles. We always have a reason to be in the streets. We’re organizing another event, in January of this year we had another fare hike, so this time 50 cents! So this time, a bigger metaphor for those who like metaphors. Not just 20 cents.
But we didn’t see more and more people angry in the streets, we saw the opposite of June of 2013, we saw less and less people in the streets, in the end it was just the free pass movement, in the rain, alone, no one was there to back the struggle. And then we realized, we started to consider that we were fighting on a new terrain, that Brazil is not like a giant growing anymore, we were facing a recession; now we are totally. And we saw that many other reforms were being implemented to make less people join in the streets, like free transportation for public schools and public universities, before the fare hike, so less people to get angry on the streets. We saw a media blackout, no one was talking about demonstrations any more, it’s not nice to do the spectacle about police repression and stuff because they realize this catalyzed solidarity. We saw that the streets are very divided now. All these people, I said that there were 3–4 million people, 100 cities, on the streets at the end of June. this time people had different reasons to be on the streets, and not everyone was in the demonstration, now those weird people with the clothing, now they march by themselves, taking more…
TCE Panel: Selfies with the police!
All those things, we realized that now they march by themselves. And we realize that one thing that was important for this in the end of 2014, is that we have the elections, and the Workers’ Party trying to keep their seats, right wing trying to take it back. And many autonomous movements are making this campaign to vote for the left, and all this autonomous movements and even anarchist movements making this campaign to vote for the worker’s party because it’s better than the right wing back in power. And we lost the opportunity to talk about the crisis of representation to explore this issue and say, it doesn’t matter who’s in power, they will be against us, the most affected people.
Dilma, that’s the president, the woman who were related to the guerrilla groups during the dictatorship that were erased and tortured… she sent the army to the favelas to pacify the favelas for the World Cup. Like, it doesn’t matter who’s in power. Once they get there, we lost the opportunity to talk about it. And the polarization between traditional politics were very profitable for this new right wing. And many other people were on the streets, sharing the streets in 2013, learning some skills like acting in a decentralized way, inviting demonstrations in an autonomous way because they don’t wait for parties or traditional movements or any other institution. And now these institutions, the parties, are trying to follow their agenda and say to them what they want to hear. They have their own “twenty cents”, too: they want the impeachment of the president, sometimes very explicit about the return of the military dictatorship that was in Brazil until the 80’s. So we realized that many of these autonomous movement’s tactics were being updated and used by the new people. Then the main question for us is, when we talk about autonomy, when we want to spread our autonomous movements and methodology, we should be explicit about the long term perspectives, or at least like, open to debates about this. Because we will be sharing the tools, sharing the moments, the streets, the skills everything with those who don’t want the same thing in the future. And they will be with us until they find something more efficient, more reasonable, or some other state that can grant this reform in a better way, a more efficient way, even the most fascist way.
So when we talk about autonomy, we should question ourselves – autonomy FROM what: from which relations, from which institutions, which behaviors. And FOR what: what do we want to achieve with our autonomy; just the way we do the same thing, that everyone’s doing, but now it’s more horizontal? When we make all these questions, about what we want to do, how we want to do, maybe we consider that all these teenagers, who are on the streets for the first time, in black blocs, fighting the police, smashing the banks, smashing the palaces – all them were showing a long term commitment bigger than any 20 cents, they were showing that you cannot ask the state to disappear, you cannot ask the state to be less state, or the police to be less violent, less a tool for white supremacy. We should organize ourselves to make all those relations more solid, to grow our own power, instead of demand: take. Instead of ask: organize. Maybe all these new windows, new opportunities that were being opened - or broken. Others will open the cracks in this political desert as any pioneer vegetation open the way in a real desert for new grass, bushes, trees, and a future forest. So here with a project like this, we felt exhausting, demanding, fun tour like this, we’re trying to keep these cracks open, share the seeds for these new trees we want to have in our garden. Whatever. Compare notes and whatever. So thank you for joining us. I didn’t want to finish with “whatever,” so: see you on the streets, or any other battlefield you choose!
Sasha [Czech Republic]: Dobrý večer, or good evening in your language. I can’t believe that this is the last stop of this over–2-months tour. Not that I would be counting but including you we spoke to 2,483 people. So thank you all for coming.
Ze: Not that we are counting…
Sasha: Nah, we’re not counting, really.
My name is Sasha, I come from Eastern-Central Europe, Czech Republic, that’s right next to Germany. And I’ll say something about how racism, militarization, and police repression play an important role in growing nationalism. And I’ll show some examples of how to fight against it.
Let’s take it back through history. Did you guys hear about communist revolution?
TCE Panel: I didn’t.
Sasha: So basically, you and your comrades start to fight, masses start to fight against the old institutions of oppression and the state, you lost a lot of comrades falling in the battlefield, and when you’re turning towards a more total liberation, more horizontal society, and you start framing it, so far so good. And then the communists show up, they steal the revolution, they put you and all those who still want total liberation in prison and kill the rest, and they set up a one party military dictatorship. That’s a communist revolution in short.
And this happened in Czech Republic after the Second World War, and it ended up in 1989 when the Berlin wall fell down. And then all Eastern Europe transitioned from very painful and oppressive one-party socialism or communist dictatorship, to very painful and oppressive choose your party neoliberal capitalism. And in that time, many things changed, but some things remained the same, and one of them was ongoing mandatory military recruitment and need of having armor. And basically the aim of the weapons turned basically overnight 180 degrees so that the aim stopped being against the west and started pointing against the east. And then of course that had been on it’s own, it took no time for U.S.A. And other empires to show interest in Eastern europe, and in a few years, country by country, join UN and NATO. Despite the fact that ten years ago the mandatory draft was cancelled - I was really glad I didn’t have to serve military – now I see that nothing has really changed about the militarization. The export of arms and military equipment has been increasing every year, and was after this consolidation was when the Czech professional army joined the USA in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.
As well, with the new regime, many new things appeared, and I don’t mean CrimethInc., that came much later. I’m talking about fascism. Unfortunately fascists in the past 25 years in Europe have killed several hundreds of people. So, us, as anarchists, and anti-fascists, were fighting them, using all different kinds of tactics: stickers posters campaigns most often blockades, which usually ended up with clashes with police, because police were always protecting Nazis marching in our cities. And then soon AFA started to monitor and of course attack particular nazis, the leaders of the groups, and their property like shops, cars, bars in order to destabilize the fascist movement. And we have succeeded: we managed to kick these scumbags off of the streets. And in most Czech cities, the white power skinheads are not a threat anymore on the streets. Which that could look like a great history or a great victory. But it’s really not that much to celebrate because now we face much worse and more dangerous fascism, which has been emerging not only in the Czech republic, but all over Europe. And it’s not anymore a top few hundred boneheads who are marching in the streets with swastikas on their shirts, being basically hated by everyone, but who we see now are people who we went to school with, or some of their friends, or our teachers or some comrades even their parents, joining these new anti-immigrant and white supremacist movements by the thousands.
These movements call themselves very often ‘autonomous nationalists,’ and that exactly what Ze was just talking about, if we don’t make sure we spread our tactics together with our values, there will always be someone who will steal our tactics, most often our enemy, and use them against us. And our enemy number 1, or those who will most likely steal it, in Europe, is fascists or in the worst case, nonprofits or NGOs.
Though they are self-organized and autonomous, they still play a very important role for state fascism, because they give a great alibi to the politicians who can point them out anytime they need, because they can say, “oh, it wasn’t us who burned down the house full of a Roma family asleep in it.” Roma people are the biggest minority in eastern Europe. Or they can say “hey, it wasn’t us, it was them who attacked the refugee camp.” So under this great coverage, politicians can pretend to be the anti-fascist ones, while still put in more and more racist and nationalist laws.
So after a long time of developing this long-time successful tactic of militant antifascism, over two decades, we realized it has no use any more. And it’s up to anti-fascists all over the world to figure out how we’re gonna face this new wave of fascism emerging all over the place.
In addition to fighting fascists, there is another enemy to fight, for us as anarchists, and of course it’s the state. This year, just two days before May Day, police of Czech Republic started the biggest nationwide crackdown of any social movement in recent history, this time against anarchist and the animal liberation movement. They call it ‘Operation Fenix,’ or Phoenix in English, and in one night police raided several flats, social centers, places like this, and arrested [many] people. At the end of the day, six people remained in custody jail, were accused of a conspiracy of preparation of a terrorist attack against a train with military equipment. And as I said, this was the first time we’d experienced something like that, so many comrades and people in the movement got scared and they stepped back; and they were like, wow, how are we gonna deal with this situation because it’s a big repression, a big deal, and our comrades are accused of planning a terrorist attack, of terrorism, so if we’re gonna support them, we’re gonna be seen as terrorists as well. We’ll lose all the popularity that we’ve been building in the past many years, and put ourselves under big risks.
I think in contrary that if our friends, comrades, whomever are accused of terrorism, extremism, or any term which the state will bring, we have to oppose even louder in our narrative, and we do have to support them because if we don’t, we just show the authorities and law enforcement that their tactics were successful, and anytime they want to oppress us, or the most radical part of a scene, they can oppress us one by one by one, using the same tactics and the same narrative, because they know that we will always take a step back. And instead of looking at it like, ‘oh, maybe the drive will show that they didn’t actually plan it, who knows, maybe they are innocent, let’s wait for that and then maybe we can support them.’
To me, much more legitimate questions, are, look at it from a point of view, as my friend always says, how does it distribute power? And if I look at it and I see that someone’s accused of preparation for attack against a train with military equipment, I just need to say it’s a cargo train with no people in it, my questions would be: what is military equipment used for? How many people will die if military equipment of this scale, one train, would be used in warfare? Who are the usual casualties? And who usually profits from wars?
If I answer these questions to myself, then the sabotage of this kind of train like this can save many lives.
I’m not saying you guys go out and start to blow up trains or anything like that, I’m saying that if you do any courageous action like that, you have my full support and hopefully the support of people in the room as well.
This time it showed that Operation Fenix, or these question that I was putting out, became irrelevant, the entire Operation Fenix was just police entrapment, and by that I mean these two agents provocateurs infiltrated a group of anarchists, they gained their trust; they bugged their flat; and they were the ones who started to talk and throw around the idea of attacking the train in order to imprison them and discredit the movement. It was already really bad, but unfortunately this wasn’t enough for the authorities, and two months later we read about another attack, someone was supposed to have thrown a molotov cocktail against the home of the minister of defense. And all it was strange because anarchists never use these kinds of tactics in Czech recent history. But there was actually no fire, no firemen were called, no evidence at all. But of course it turned against us.
This time, it hit me even harder, or closer, than the first wave of repressions, because it was my friend Igor who was accused of this bogus attack against the house of the minister of defense. And now there are 7 detainees, though some of them are bailed out waiting for trial, and some of them or all of them might face up to life in prison. This is the first time that Czech police used tactics such as entrapment, or did such a big wave of repression against a social movement, and it was the very first time that, in Czech, anyone was framed as a terrorist.
And we got really angry, we were like, why are they framing us as terrorists, why right now when the fascist movement is growing so quickly? And why didn’t they use these frames years ago when fascists actually burned down the house or flat full of people sleeping in it, or killed several people? And the answer, well, you know why, Terrorism, you probably know better than me, living in the so-called United States, what is the term used for, and used by whom.
But why is all this happening now, I see that people all over the world are facing economic crisis, political crisis, and now this new thing that was introduced in the beginning, the so-called “refugee crisis”, and as well they read about the threat of war with Russia in the newspaper once a week at least, and in such conditions people are much more likely to seek for alternatives than anytime in the past 25 years. So I believe that our movement, if it can be open enough and militant enough at the same time, can offer these alternatives that can stir people and be very dangerous to the authorities. So this is the best way to discredit us and put us out of the game.
Because, at the same time, the actual minister of defense who said that his house was attacked, is actually signing contracts about military presence on Czech lands and new American bases, and his argument is the threat of war in Russia. So when I look back and see the past 6 month in Czech Republic, it doesn’t really seem to me like a coincidence that the agents provocateur choose the military train as the target. And it doesn’t surprise me that my friend Igor was the one who was accused of this bogus attack against the house of the Minister of Defense, because first of all, Igor is a very active anarchist, and the second, which is the most important part of the story, is that he is a Russian citizen. And it plays very well in the discourse of Czech Republic. IT would sound like a joke, if the situation were not that serious, but police actually framed Igor as pro-Putin anarchist.
So, it just plays very well for what is happening in Czech, they got a sensation and put it on the first page headlines and sell it, and, yeah, it’s important to realize that police didn’t solve any problems, I mean, they are the ones who create problems, without them there would be no case of terrorism at all. And the same place for the nationalists, now there is a big trend in Europe of closing down the borders, and if you think what the borders are for, here we are with this project that has been translated into 25 different languages, people from many different countries. Borders are just to separate us into smaller groups so authorities have a much easier time controlling us. When at the same time the flow of capital has no limits. There is no limits for multinational corporations profiting from destroying the earth and all the life on the planet.
All these things I’ve been talking about, as I said at the beginning, it’s not to show some exotic struggle somewhere, or show what is happening in a country which is probably smaller than North Carolina. It’s to connect it with broader events happening all over the world. And to me, all these things that are happening all over the world, are just tools for maintaining capitalism, especially in crisis, or maintaining the state. When I was talking about police repression, it’s not just Czech problem, there’s Operations Pandora and Pinata, have you heard about it? In Spain, up to this point, in the last year, about seventy people are framed as terrorists- our people, anarchists. Here in the USA from Red Scare, Green Scare, COINTELPRO, Eric McDavid, all these cases of repression. Or Mexico: Zapatistas, normalistas, you probably know what I mean by repression being all over the place.
The same with nationalism: autonomous nationalism or state fascists are getting more and more popular all over Europe now we’re facing the biggest wave of fascism probably since the second world war. Germany started to close their borders, with some of their neighbors, and we were like oh this is crazy, and then Slovenia did the same, and then Croatia did the same and, Hungary on and off, partly Austria, Italy; Hungary actually build fences all around the country, slovenia is starting to make fences to make Schengen, the Fortress Europe. And now we hear from Ze how in Brazil people are calling for a military dictatorship. All of these things are happening all over the planet at the same time. Which to me just proves that in capitalism, fascism is always present, but sometimes it seems like some country’s in an economic bubble, so it’s more free, but when a crisis hits, the authorities will always use fascism ghost under the bed which grows with our fear.
That to me means that we can’t just fight or see our resistance as single issue politics or separated cases only. If we want to gain leverage over our lives, we have to see our struggles in much wider and bigger perspectives, and every resistance we’re involved in fight against state and capitalism as well and against all forms of oppression, not just the ones behind the door, but forms of oppression within our communities too. I think our real power lies in seeking the connections across nations, ethnicities, gender, sex, you can name it. Because if we don’t, if we fall into the trap of this nationalist game, what is gonna happen if the nation is looking more successful, they’ll in Czech close the borders too. And of course, with the first crisis hitting, which it will because we still living in Capitalism that’s not nationalists don’t try to solve that, they will start a war just as happened in Ukraine about one year ago.
So i think instead of participating in international war, we should promote international solidarity against local repression and nationalism. What I mean by solidarity against repressions, one can probably imagine. Support prisoners, liberate all prisoners because we all sooner or later could become prisoners. And abolish the prison industrial complex as the most fundamental agent of racial division, especially here in the U.S. And it sounds easy, you know, How? But you get the idea.
What is solidarity against nationalism? When I was saying in the beginning that a lot of our tactics don’t work any more, we have to find new tactics. Solidarity, to me, doesn’t just fight fascism, it also prevents it and most importantly creates ties and networks. Between us, and those who are even more targeted than us.By us, I mean, in my case, those of us who have the privilege of having a European passport in our pockets.
Examples of solidarity can be, for example, brave people who break through those sealed borders in the balkans, or doing actions which force authorities to open the borders to allow migrants to have free transit into the north. But at the same time, people in central Europe, in parts of Europe driving down, offering any kind of support, material goods, or very often a free seat in their car, to take people up to the north. Of course, breaking through the borders, so-called smuggling people, is illegal. But we shouldn’t fight based on what is legal or not, again, what it would cost if we don’t take action and how much harm we can do if we do take action. And I think, if we think about it, in this case, it’s very easy to imagine what could happen to people if we don’t show our solidarity. And of course people don’t do it for profit either, people do it because they feel some need of providing solidarity.
All of these actions are happening on a local scale, especially what our comrades in the Balkans are doing, but the response is a global thing, and I think that’s very important.
I would like to wrap up my talk with sharing experiences with recent struggles against repression, and that is: every struggle or fight we are involved in, my experience is that it is much better and makes more sense to follow our own heart, our own feelings, and stick to our own agenda, stick to our guns, rather than fall into the trap of legality I was talking about or popularity – sometimes people tend to look too much how media or TV talk about us, or how many social media likes they have. Honestly, I think it’s much better to be hated for what we are than to be liked for what we are not. Any my positive experience was, perhaps at the end of the day, or week, or month, we might be surprised by how many people will join our sincere action. Thank you.
CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective [USA]: All of the stories that my friends have told, are stories about victories. Stories in which people, in many cases a small number of people, organize to confront their immediate problems and were able to make a big difference in the context they were struggling in; but they’re also all stories in which these victories opened up new challenges, opened up new questions, opened up new problems.
There are fascists in the streets, you organize to fight them, you push them off the streets, you think you’ve won, and your turn around and the rest of society behind your back is becoming more and more nationalist, more and more fascist.
The government is forcing austerity programs on you, you’re struggling, you rise up, you overthrow the government, you create truly democratic assemblies. The problems of capitalism remain, and those assemblies are the new obstacles to begin able to do the things it would take to solve the problems.
And then the story in Brazil: you raise the bus fare by twenty cents, you get millions of people onto the streets, protesting and force them not to increase the bus fare. Two years later your country is no longer in an economic bubble. And then the government can’t compromise anymore; they raise the bus faire by 50 cents. You try to stop them, you can’t, and the next thing you know, the people who were on the streets before are looking around trying to find other ways to solve their problems, like calling for the return of the military dictatorship.
From my perspective, all of these things are examples of why we don’t see ourselves as fighting individual opponents or individual problems, or trying to solve individual issues. We’re not up against specific pieces of legislation, or specific fascists or specific police. We’re up against systems. If we don’t have a systemic understanding, a holistic analysis of what we’re trying to do, we will always be confounded by the ways that even our victories put us into new challenges, present us with new versions of the same old problems.
This is a reason to have these conversations inter-intercontinental as well, to be in international dialogue, because these are not just local struggles, local movements, exotic uprisings, these are the same issues, the same struggles, the same problems that we are confronting here, in the United States, here in Asheville, North Carolina. We won’t be able to understand how they work or draw on examples of victories against them unless we are talking inter-continentally.
This was the reason why we organized to get the four of us and another friend of ours from Argentina who did some of this tour with us, to travel around the United States. So that Pendleton Oregon and Kansas City Missouri could be in dialogue with Ljubljana Slovenia, and São Paulo in Brazil, so that we can understand ourselves as a global network of people in struggle against global capitalism.
To speak a little bit about which of these stories from overseas have resonated with my experiences here. First this story about democracy, from Slovenia, we had Occupy, and we had the same debate and the same conflicts: how are we supposed to understand the general assemblies, basically a less-efficient version of the same legislature? Are we doing some kind of governance except more gruelingly horizontal? Or should we better understand these movement, spaces, these opportunities as spaces where we can encounter each other and our collective potential differently, in a truly decentralized and autonomous way.
At the end of the Occupy movement, I remember that there was a fierce debate (well, there were many fierce debates) but the one I remember best was over the question of how we should be coordinating. Some people, perhaps best represented by a journalist named Chris Hedges, argued that the most important thing was to have something that was easy for everyone to do and that everyone could agree about. This was similar to Adbusters’ original call of making one demand and ceaselessly repeat it until Obama is forced to capitulate. I’m quoting the Adbusters’ call. And Hedges though that if you get as many people as you can into the streets all holding their sign, around some kind of lowest common denominator, he believed that this was what had toppled the soviet bloc – if you look at the former soviet Bloc now you can see how great that worked.
Against this sort of lowest-common-denominator perspective, the alternative (arguably less democratic) was the idea that anarchist had, that right now in the United States, people don’t feel entitled to do any of the things that would actually suffice to change this society. We don’t feel we have the right to. We saw our role as being able to push the envelope, to demonstrate that things are possible, that people right now that people are not able to imagine, or are not able to feel they have the right to do. That those things might enter the public imagination, that people might be able to imagine themselves doing those things- perhaps not at first, but sooner or later.
This is the other idea of how social movements can grow and gain power, an idea based in autonomy. And I believe that the Black lives Matter movement, which gained momentum in Ferguson, includes this argument. That it wasn’t a million people sitting together in general assemblies trying to decide how they could best reach consensus about which protest tactics or points of unity would be the most valuable for confronting white supremacy. But rather, it was the courage of the people who were in the most affected situations acting freely, burning the Quick Trip, confronting the police immediately- that was what catalyzed that movement. So that’s the question of democracy: how we structure decision making in our movements.
Another theme that resonates with me is the question about demands. In Brazil it was this question of people saying “every movement should find it’s twenty cents.” Are we going to overthrow capitalism twenty cents at a time? To put it differently, is there any amount of protest activity that could force the free market to work in everyone’s best interest? That could compel a profit-driven economy to function to everyone’s betterment? Maybe if we just protested harder, maybe if we just organized our union drives better, maybe if we could just get some really good militant reformism going on, we could make the system work in everyone’s best interest.
If we don’t believe that that’s the case, but we organize around single issues rather than presenting our vision of a total change, not only we, but everyone else will be confused when our movements fail, or when they succeed and nothing changes. You block the increase of the bus fare, but then everything proceeds the way it was, and the people who you mobilize are looking around for something else to fix their problems. And what’s waiting? Now days, it’s nationalism and fascism, in many cases.
I think – I’ve been arguing this for a while, but I believe it’s more clearly true than ever – that it’s more realistic now to talk about changing everything than it is to fix our society one issue at a time. This is what it means to be confronting systemic problems. The crises that we face - the economic crisis, the ecological crisis, all of these crises - cannot be adjusted 20 cents at a time.
But there are two visions of systemic change as well. One is the one that we are arguing for- that we deconstruct, disable, destroy the prevailing systems, all the different mechanisms that impose inequalities between us, all the different mechanisms that impose control on us: total liberation for everyone. Not a blueprint, but that we all get together and talk bout what we want our lives to look like, and confront all the forces that are preventing them from looking that way.
The other model for systemic change, is talking about nationalism and fascism, and this is it: the idea that the apparent abundance of capitalism, and all the infrastructure of social democracy, could be preserved - but not for everyone. You just have to narrow the criteria of who counts as a person, whose interests should be preserved. This is what you could call the “gated community” model. The United States is a gated community; citizenship is a gated community. Property ownership is also a sort of gated community. For Dylan Roof, race is the gated community that he would like to impose- to create the haves and have nots, to draw those lines.
There are many different forms this could take- ISIS is yet another example of a group that is mobilizing around a line of inclusion. We can see the world breaking into sort of a new Balkanization, breaking into different groups that are in conflict over ethnic or religious or class interests. And people, many people will turn to this vision of social change if another vision is not clear.
Where are anarchists in all this? I want to argue that for the last fifteen or twenty years, we have done a great job of popularizing our tactics, popularizing our rhetoric of autonomy. Speaking to rooms of fifteen to twenty people, at a time, acting in demonstrations of up to 100 people – the black bloc in Seattle at the World Trade Organization was less than 100 people.
Acting in small groups we have had a huge impact on what tactics people can imagine utilizing. But we haven’t been as successful in popularizing our vision of another way of life, another way of relating to one another. Back in the anti-globalization era, in the time of the Seattle WTO protests, our dream was that one day there would be a social movement where everybody worked by consensus. That seemed impossible to us; I was there, I remember we said “If only everyone would use consensus, there wouldn’t be capitalism or democracy there would be something else!” We got to see that with Occupy.
This other model, the more recent model: if only everyone would occupy everything. That was an anarchist banner in 2009 that seemed crazy. Occupy Everything - what are you talking about? Two years later, occupy everything is on the agenda for millions of people around the world.
This Occupy model: you set up in a plaza, police try to evict you, you defend it, you have a standoff with them - this model has actually overthrown governments. Well if you look at how it was used in Ukraine, it did overthrow governments, but it was utilized by nationalists, if not out and out Nazis, to advance their agenda. That makes us anarchists look like the risk tolerant startup company that developed this methodology that could then be appropriated wholesale by more powerful actors. This is the danger of just spreading tactics, or even just spreading this demand for autonomy. There are many different ways to be autonomous, right?
So the reason for us to be on this tour is to try to draw attention back to our total vision for social change: this idea that we could confront all the different mechanisms that impose different forms of oppression. That we could change everything. This is why we still believe more than ever that it’s important to use this word – anarchy – which says something different from just saying “freedom” - which could mean George Bush or something - or even just saying autonomy.
But the most convincing, the most compelling evidence, for me, that it’s important to assert now that we are anarchists is that we’re seeing this word this concept this position of being against the authorities, we’re seeing people on the right wing usurp this also- so-called anarchy-capitalists, for example.
It’s up to us, that when framing the public imagination, contributing to what people can imagine, it’s up to us to show that we’re not just talking about being against the authorities we’re talking about being against all authority, and the potential for complete and total liberation.
Thank you for listening to me, and to all of our stories tonight.
QUESTION ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION AND TRANSLATION
Clara: Due to time constraints and privacy concerns, we’re not including the full discussion and Q and A that took place after the panel spoke. But we do want to include the panelists’ response to the final question from the audience, which asked about how To Change Everything was collaboratively written and translated, how the various versions across languages and national contexts differ, and the reactions they’ve gotten to the project.
CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective: Maybe I’ll start with the English version, and pass it around. Like most CrimethInc. projects, the initial version started with a bunch of drafts and discussion among an anonymous network of individuals who’ve know each other for a long time, and debate about what different parts should look like, circulating different versions. And then as we got deeper into it, we started to have those conversations more and more internationally; like, who wants to be part of coordinating this internationally? It doesn’t need to all be the same thing. It should all be adjusted according to context. Someone want to take it from there?
Ramona: Yeah, and it wasn’t just us influencing the English text, but it was also with the translations - it wasn’t just translating, but it was also changing. And I can speak for the Slovenian version; we have adapted not just pictures to make it more locally contextualized, but also a lot of examples and things that we thought were perhaps working in some other contexts but we felt it was important to emphasize something else in our own context. The reason why we agreed to this project when we were approached by the idea was that during the uprising, one of the things that you realized was that we have this anarchist newspaper bulletin and I remember we distributed hundreds and hundreds of copies at one protest, and the next day people were coming and saying, hey do you have a new issue? And we were like, come on people! Wait two months… or three or four.
But the thing is that, the space between the upheavals is sometimes much more close for new radical ideas than it is during a period when everything opens up and everyone wants to experiment with new things. And for us, we realized we don’t have enough outreach texts when people are asking what is anarchism? Of course we tried to answer it in the best way possible, but it’s always very helpful if you can give people a text that can be a tool of conversation to continue. So for us, this kind of text was exactly what was needed in that situation, what was lacking in our context, so therefore we were very enthusiastic. So we printed it out, with help from a lot of international friends who donated a lot of funds to make that happen. We started a very ambitious tour that literally visited every village not just big cities but also a lot of smaller ones, and meeting people and talking about it. And what was really interesting for us was people who were already in radical politics were like “oh yeah that’s great we’ll sign this we totally are on the same page.”
But, it brought people out to our events who were not familiar with anarchism, who have gone through uprising, or maybe not even that. But that text kind of helped them understand - I wouldn’t go so far as to say the conditions of their oppression, but definitely ways that made them feel less lonely in their everyday struggle and helped them to perhaps start thinking and have conversations about what it means to fight against some of those things, and what it means to find people who can fight alongside them.
So for me this is why I still believe in that text, because I have a feeling that it’s not - the text for me, it’s not a goal for me, of just producing this pamphlet and distributing it all over, and then having nice little tours about it, but I understand it as a tool of conversation that can go in many different places, way beyond what these texts are bringing.
Ze: In Brazil we had an entire collective dedicated to translate and discuss, adapt things that can resonate with Brazilian reality. Like the pictures, of course; many people won’t know what is the KKK, blond kids hugging a tree looks like a diaper advertisement… So we thought about how the image is talking with people there, and how the good examples, the things working; if you want to talk about racism, we use terms that will resonate with people in Brazil. You get the ideas.
But then we made 5,000 copies in Brazil - 200 million people [in Brazil], it doesn’t seem like compared to 100,000 copies here in the United States. It was shocking, People were like, whoa! 5,000 copies of something, anarchist publication for free… it had a big impact in a country like Brazil, where people have very limited access to resources, and actually it was the fanciest thing I was involved in, usually I photocopied shitty things, and it’s for free- it’s kind of weird, when people see it on the table and take it first.
But it was very interesting to build this dialogue after it was released at the end of 2014. We would have liked to do it before but we couldn’t, we had many technical problems…
CrimethInc.: They finished it months before any other group finished their version, actually…
Ze: We were like, “Send us the draft!” And they’re like, “Wait a little bit!”
It was important after the World Cup, the 2013 World Cup, people wanted to keep on the streets and maybe push for the discussion and the actions and everything, I think it would be a great moment to spread anarchist values and reasons to be still angry, still wanting to do something that is not just just against the fare hike, against the World Cup; if there’s no world cup, if there’s no fare hike, no one will see each other! C’mon, let’s be fighting for something like the worth of our lives.
Then we decided to do a website in portuguese, ParaMudarTudo.com, cause no one will remember, “to change…what?” Then we put all the text, posters people download to put on the streets or in bedrooms or whatever, the video and everything. We did a map, separated by state, of collectives, social centers, collectives of events, cooperatives, everything anarchists are doing, so people could be like, “very nice, I agree with this, but what do anarchists do?” And then they go there, find someone close to them to get involved to ask something to know. It is still a list; we want to do a map where we need some technical experience that we don’t have yet. But the website is kind of good, for a very do-it-yourself thing! We didn’t pay anybody, we’re learning to do this, this is why we did this. And try to keep in touch with a blog, Facebook page, all that shit… it’s bad, but it’s what people are using. So we keep updating news, new texts, indicating things, and doing what is, for example, cooperative for blah blah; then we list new cooperatives and talk a little bit what is Anarchist Black Cross? Well, it’s support with an anarchist approach, so we go to and talk with Anarchist Black Cross, with independent media, we put Indymedia and all the other anarchist medias we have.
So this kind of thing that’s updating tools for the new people that are appearing, we saw an increase of people wanting to join study groups, reading groups, any kind of activity after 2013 because anarchism became famous the slogans, the circle A, the black blocs. what is behind this? So yeah, it’s going for us as a project that it will be a gathering for many other things, not just importing part of a project, we’re using this opportunity, it’s happening all over the world, to show that there’s no borders, there’s nothing that can stop us. So let’s do it here too!
Cool, we can do other things in the future, slowly. We’re going for the next printing; at the end of this year, the beginning of the new year, we can do another 10,000 and see what happens next.
Sasha: In Czech, we had something like this, but a smaller tour. And with the project, what I learned here from Ze and Ramona, I see we could have done much more but always the resources and energy and capacity is all we’ve got. Back then it was the maximum we could have done, but now one of the things I’m gonna bring back is all these experiences of what this project could offer. So a lot of things could have been done better, or hopefully will.
And that brings me to this talk about “start anywhere,” with this thing: I don’t think that we should be scared that we might lose. Because to lose is not the worst thing, it’s not the most scary thing; the worst thing is if we don’t even start. And that’s the thing about this project, hopefully we’re gonna get somewhere farther from that. This tour, this project has already opened to me a lot of networks, of connections, which as proof is me being here. And a lot of connections back home, but it can be much farther. So, yeah. To change anything, start anywhere!
Thanks so much for having us!
Clara: And that, dear listeners, was the “To Change Everything” tour’s international panel discussion! This fall we presented 59 events in 57 towns, speaking with well over 2000 people altogether - but, as ambitious as that was, we know it was just a fraction of the places and people with interest in anarchist ideas - let alone the number of folks with whom it’s important to engage to re-imagine the world and how we might… well, change everything. So it’s crucial that we continue this process of connection and collaboration and dialogue. And we have a few ideas about how to do that.
First of all, if you took part in organizing an event on the tour, and you’ve got a local crew of folks interested in anarchism who want to continue acting and thinking together, we’ve got some ideas. Ex-Workers are hatching a plan for coordinated reading groups between crews in different cities, to keep on engaging with the ideas discussed on the tour and that vitally impact how we conduct our struggles at home. For starters, CrimethInc. will be releasing a text in early 2016 synthesizing our critiques of democracy, including historical and theoretical background as well as a litany of contemporary case studies illustrating the limits of democracy within social struggles. We invite comrades across the country to organize reading groups on this text and others; we will help arrange for discussion between groups. Feel free to get in touch if this sounds interesting, and stay posted to the podcast and the CrimethInc. blog for more updates.
Also, if you weren’t able to organize or attend a “To Change Everything” tour event in your area, but you’re interested and you suspect you’re not the only one, drop us a line and let’s start scheming for the next time around! 2016 will see more events and tours from CrimethInc. and related anarchist projects, so you’ll have more opportunities. Let’s start laying the groundwork for future events and collaborations! And last but not least - we’re soliciting contributions for our Year in Review episode. If you missed it last time, you can scroll back to Episode 33 to hear the kind of thing we’re thinking about… or if you want to evaluate our guesses about what this past year would hold! For this new episode, if you’d like to offer any reflections on 2015 - the most significant happenings of the year in the news or in the anarchist worlds you’re part of, strategic developments in protest or resistance, etc - or any predictions for 2016 - what you think will be significant, what anarchists should be looking out for, etc - then please drop us a line! Our email address, as always, is podcast at CrimethInc dot com. If you’d like us to include your thoughts in the episode, we’d need to get them from you by about December 20th - sorry for the short notice! - but even if you send them later, we’re interested in your thoughts and would love to open up dialogue.
So that’s it for this episode! You can read the full transcript of the “To Change Everything” tour panel discussion you just heard, along with links to reflections written by tour participants and other info, on our website at crimethinc.com/podcast. In our next episode we’ll revisit borders, migration, and the so-called refugee crisis in Europe and beyond. Till then, thanks for listening!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
As we mentioned, this episode of the podcast is being released in conjunction with the tour reportback, featuring tales galore … Check it out!
In the question and answer section, Ze mentions the website ParaMudarTudo.com as a map of liberatory and anarchist initiatives taking place in Brazil.
It’s not too late to get your perspectives in for the year in review episode, but even if you don’t make it in time we’d still love to hear what you thought and if you have any predictions for next year! Hit us up: podcast [at] crimethinc.com. In the meantime, if you want to reflect on our predictions for this year, check out Episode 33.
As we mentioned in the end of the episode, Ex-Workers are hatching a plan for coordinated reading groups between crews in different cities, to keep on engaging with the ideas discussed on the tour and that vitally impact how we conduct our struggles at home. CrimethInc. will be releasing a text in early 2016 synthesizing our critiques of democracy, including historical and theoretical background as well as a litany of contemporary case studies illustrating the limits of democracy within social struggles. We invite comrades across the country to organize reading groups on this text and others; we will help arrange for discussion between groups. Feel free to get in touch if this sounds interesting, and stay posted to the podcast and the CrimethInc. blog for more updates.