Listen to the Episode — 100 min
Alanis: The Ex-Worker;
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Alanis: A monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock...
Clara: Hey folks! Welcome back to the Ex-Worker. In this episode we're bringing you a recap of 2015 in all its glory and horror -- this year, anarchists around the globe wilded out in the streets and in the prisons, published some things, blockaded infrastructure, got together to talk about our ideas, set some stuff on fire and even had journalists say some really, really dumb stuff about us!
Alanis: In this episode we'll focus on our own reflections and analysis: a summary of some of the highlights and lowlights of the year; reflections on gender, race, identity, affinity, and solidarity, including a review of the AK Press anthology "Taking Sides"; reflections on how we relate to mass movements as anarchists; updates on anarchist publishing and media, and on how anarchists were represented in the mass media, including some truly hilarious interventions from former talk show hosts - yup, get ready for it; and our evaluation of our own last year as a podcast, and some plans and appeals for 2016.
Clara: And we'll add to that some end of year thoughts from the North American anarchist news website "It's Going Down" an update about NATO 3 prisoner Jared "Jay" Chase, an announcement for a new tour and writing project called "The Spaces Between," and so much more! It's gonna be a lot!
Alanis: So much, in fact, that we're leaving out a whole lot of our year in review reflections from across the globe. Just like last year, we solicited contributions from contacts all over the globe, and we got a lot of interesting responses. But we'll save them for our next episode. In the meantime, I'm Alanis... Clara: ...and I'm Clara, and we'll be your hosts. For a full transcript of this episode and to check out all our past episodes, visit our website at crimethinc.com/podcast.
Alanis: And if you wanna get in touch, you can always send us an email at podcast at crimethinc dot com.
Clara: Away we go!
THE EX-WORKER'S YEAR IN REVIEW
Alanis: Ordinarily we'd start this episode off with the Hot Wire, our look at resistance and revolt happening around the world. But this entire episode is basically an account and analysis of the last year of resistance and revolt around the world. So we're just gonna jump right in to it.
Clara: So how do we sum up this crazy-ass last year?
Alanis: It's hard. And we have a lot of reports from folks coming up, so we don't want to be redundant. But we'll start off with a few highlights and lowlights without which any anarchist reflection on 2015 would be incomplete.
Clara: The year started off on a shockingly positive note, with the unexpected release of several anarchist comrades from prison. In the US, eco-anarchist prisoner Eric McDavid was released after serving 9 years of his nearly 20 year sentence. A petition filed by his legal team forced the U.S. Government to release some 2,500 pages of documents, including personal correspondence between Eric and an FBI informant known as “Anna,” proving beyond a doubt, that, yes, she did use her seductive sway over him to pressure him into discussing some destructive attacks against environmentally devastating targets... which, of course, were never even carried out, just talked about.
Alanis: Incidentally, if you want to see something really creepy, the website The Intercept has put out a documentary which chronicles Eric's case using actual video and audio footage captured by the FBI in the course of his entrapment. The link's up on our website.
Clara: Then in March, two comrades from Canada, Amélie and Fallon, along with another from Mexico, Carlos, were unexpectedly released from prison in Mexico, where they had been sitting for over a year after being convicted of incendiary attacks which took place in Mexico City in January of 2014. They were supposed to serve over 7 years, so their release was a welcome surprise.
Alanis: Popular fury over racist police violence remained a focal point of struggle and conflict in the US, including an unexpectedly fierce explosion in Baltimore and clashes on the anniversary of Mike Brown's murder in Ferguson and other cities. But overall it seems like this year has seen a slowing of Black Lives Matter-themed events and protests. A promising flare-up in Minneapolis, including an occupation outside a police station, was largely derailed by "community leader" limitations and police repression. At the same time, white racist backlash has expanded frighteningly, from Dylann Roof's massacre at a black church to the shooting of five Black Lives Matter protestors in Minneapolis by white vigilantes. Much more on these developments and their implications to come.
Clara: The Kurdish struggle against the Islamic State and for what they call democratic autonomy proved an inspiration across the world, including to us anarchists, who have some conflicted feelings but are mostly thrilled to see a seemingly anti-authoritarian revolution succeeding on a massive scale. We devoted two whole episodes to it this year, plus more coverage on the CrimethInc. blog, and we'll hear reflections from anarchists doing solidarity work there later in this episode. Alanis: As Kurds in the borderlands made gains against ISIS and secured autonomous territory, the situation in Turkey deteriorated, with the conservative Erdogan government using two brutal bombings of leftist gatherings in Suruc and Ankara, in which well over 100 people, including several anarchists, were killed, as an impetus for widespread repression against Kurdish communities in Turkey - despite the fact that they were almost certainly at a bare minimum aware of and complicit in the massacres.
Clara: The nationalist war between Ukraine and Russia continued to simmer, with conditions in each country becoming more and more repressive - which goes to show that the model of occupying the public squares to overthrow the government can be deployed to serve many agendas, including ones far from what we might see as liberation. Russia also waded in to the conflict in Syria, bombing opposition forces (and tons of civilians) to prop up the miserable Assad regime, and directly precipitating the flow of even more desperate migrants out of the country. Alanis: As a result, the so-called refugee crisis in Europe intensified to unprecedented proportions this year, with well over a million people fleeing their homelands in Syria, North Africa, and beyond and crossing border after border through great peril to re-settle in the generally unwelcoming European Union. You'll recall we devoted Episode 43 to the crisis and anarchist responses and solidarity efforts, and we'll be doing more coverage in upcoming episodes as well.
Clara: Greek voters elected the left-wing Syriza party in power, and surprise! They didn't do shit, beyond becoming the managers of the austerity efforts they campaigned to oppose. Greek voters turned out in massive numbers to a referendum to vote NO! against the EU austerity conditions, and - surprise again! Their vote didn't matter in the slightest! Now, Greek non-voters, particularly anarchists, did tons of things, from hunger strikes in prison to substantial riots in the streets to occupying social centers and so forth.
Alanis: The disappearance of 43 radical students in Mexico in late 2014 continued to catalyze protests and resistance across Mexico as well as international solidarity. Self-defense militias in various areas of Mexico continue to help more and more communities regain autonomy from both cartels and the government - though not all of them serve radical or popular agendas.
Clara: Substantial unrest swept South Africa as well, including a number of wild student protests.
Alanis: Yeah, in some ways this was like the year of the rebellious student: university folks in South Africa, normalistas in Mexico, student strike in Montreal, the totally inspiring high school occupations in Sao Paulo - we'll hear more about those shortly - and even here in US, with high school students walking out of classes in Baltimore during the uprisings and in Minneapolis in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Clara: Rebellion within prisons continued to grow and spread on an international scale. Over 4500 inmates in Greek prisons went on hunger strike in June to protest the institution of C-type, or maximum-security, prisons there. Other individual hunger strikes were undertaken by Ohio death row inmate Keith laMar, our favorite loudmouth Sean Swain, and Michael Kimble, an anarchist imprisoned in Alabama. Four anarchist prisoners in Chile – Nataly Casanova, Juan Flores, Guillermo Duran and Enrique Guzmán – also undertook a coordinated hunger strike demanding transfers and an end to harassment of those supporting them on the outside. In Turkey, vegan anarchist prisoner Osman Evcan is currently on his 3rd hunger strike for access to vegan food.
Alanis: Members of the nihilist group Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, or CCF, who are imprisoned in Greece, went on hunger strike in April, demanding the release of their friends and relatives who were arrested in January of this year after a botched escape attempt. Evi Statiri, partner of CCF member Gerasimos Tsakalos, was finally released in October after a hunger strike of her own.
Clara: This year saw significant anti-anarchist repression in Spain and Catalunya, including the raids of Operation Pandora and Pinata that have seen nearly 70 anarchists targeted with bogus terrorism charges, as well as Operation Phoenix in the Czech Republic, stemming from a state-fabricated bomb plot.
Alanis: Of course everyone heard about the Islamic State attacks in Paris, which people are already calling "The French 9/11", both in terms of a nationally and internationally epoch-defining tragedy or whatever, and more specifically as the perfect excuse for the French state to go full speed into permanent national security deployment, with hyper-surveillance and crackdowns on protest and the whole nine yards. Brave demonstrators voiced their opposition to the COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris, showing that even the State of Emergency called after the Islamic State terrorist attacks couldn't prevent them from wilding out.
Clara: In animal liberation news, thousands of animals were freed in ALF raids on fur farms in Canada, the Netherlands and Italy, hen farms in the UK, and pheasant operations in Spain, France, and the US. And hundreds of smaller actions of economic sabotage and propaganda took place across North America and Europe, but also Mexico, Chile, Turkey, and elsewhere.
Alanis: Swedish animal liberation prisoners Ebba and Richard were released, but Kevin and Tyler in the US are facing sentencing in 2016 after taking non-cooperating plea deals for actions related to fur farm raids. Nicole and Joseph, two California animal liberation activists, are also facing charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and will likely go to trial this year.
Clara: In so-called British Columbia, Canada, the Unist'ot'en Camp entered it's 6th year of occupying traditional lands in order to blockade pipeline construction; another indigenous blockade was established even further North, on Lelu Island, where Tsimchian people are preventing the the surveying boats from Malaysian company Petronas and their attempts to begin construction in a liquefied natural gas terminal.
Alanis: Further east, activists continued to host gatherings opposed to continued resource extraction, and, in one of the year's beautifully understated direct actions, simply TURNED OFF an oil pipeline valve and chained themselves to it, costing Enbridge nearly 5 billion dollars in lost assets after their stock plummeted 8% that day.
Clara: Comrades in Montreal began the year with a student strike – though not as epic as the one in 2012, it still managed to wreak some havoc. And ended the year with a trifecta of rowdy demonstrations.
Alanis: And sending out the year with a bang, imprisoned anarchists in Greece published a call for 'A Black December,' a month of coordinated, decentralized anarchist action and counter-information across tendencies and in memory of fallen, imprisoned, and fugitive comrades. Comrades around the world have gladly obliged, and at press time scores of actions have been published, from banners hangs to incendiary attacks, graffiti and postering to full-scale riots. You can find a compiled list of actions claimed for Black December on the website of Contrainfo, a Greece-based counter-information and translation collective. We'll post a link on our website.
Clara: In tech developments, the state continued to unveil all sorts of nasty crowd-control weapons and surveillance devices against us, and to expand their legal rights to use 'em: in North Dakota, cops can now legally attack demonstrations with tear gas and pepper spray from the air with unstaffed drones.
Alanis: But cyber and techie resistance is still in full swing. In February the radical hackers of Anonymous declared war on the Islamic State, exposing and disabling hundreds of Twitter accounts, email addresses and websites purportedly affiliated with ISIS. The Electronic Frontier Foundation updated their :Surveillance Self-Defense page, which includes extensive information on, as they put it, "Tips, Tools and How-tos for Safer Online Communications". You can find it at ssd.eff.org.
Clara: And at a conference in Brooklyn called Radical Networks this fall, designers Pedro Oliveira and Xuedi Chen "presented the Backslash kit, a package of devices that help protesters stay safe and connected during demonstrations." Their statement is worth quoting at length:
Backslash: "Technology has been playing an important role in new wave of protest, from Arab Spring to Occupy Central. These technologies can be divided up into two categories: those used by the authorities (long range acoustic devices, water cannons, active denial systems, stingrays, etc) and those used by protestors (social networks and DIY protection gear). There is a huge disparity between the amount of technologies used by the authorities and the technologies available to protesters and activists during protests and riots. That gap is only getting wider.
While social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Firechat have played important roles in allowing activists to organize and spread messages, we found one fact to be extremely interesting. During the Arab Spring movement, the highest levels of participation were seen during periods of internet blackouts.... The modern protester believes that connectivity is a basic human right.
How can we level the technological playing field for activists and the general population? Could we develop open source devices to help activists communicate during a network blackout or to aid protesters to avoid conflict with the authorities? As designers, we find this to be a very compelling challenge. We are interested in the technologies that could help to start this conversation.
The Backslash kit is a series of functional devices designed for protests and riots of the future.. Backslash aims to retain the right to connect in protest sites through disruptive innovation and the creative appropriation of existing technologies. The range of devices include a smart bandana for embedding hidden messages and public keys, independently networked wearable devices, personal blackbox devices to register abuse of law enforcement and fast deployment routers for off grid communication.
At its core, Backslash is about creating a space to explore and research the tense relationship between protests and technology and a space to cultivate dialogue about freedom of expression, riots and disruptive technology.
Political, social and technological conditions vary immensely from country to country. Not every protest is like Hong Kong where the average protester has 3 personal devices connected to the internet. A one size fits all solution to these dynamic situations is impractical. This really highlights the significance of community driven design and the importance of inciting this discourse with the global tech community. We recognize that creative and trans-disciplinary approach at local hackerspaces and fab labs are uniquely capable of engineering innovative solutions that best fit the needs of their immediate community...
In protests of the future, how will the underground fight back?
Alanis: While I'm not personally invested in their discourse of "human rights" to "free speech and assembly," I am definitely interested in challenging the balance of power between the state and people in rebellion.
Clara:You can check it out at backslash.cc - and we recommend that you do.
YEAR IN REVIEW: GENDER AND IDENTITY
Clara: All right, so how about struggle on the terrain of gender?
Alanis: Well, austerity politics around the world continued to disproportionately impact women, in terms of cuts of social services for mothers, and the way that rising unemployment correlates to increased rates of gender violence, and the way that state cutbacks externalize or de-wage forms of labor most frequently done by women, and so forth. An insane amount of vitriol was focused on Planned Parenthood as part of a backlash against reproductive autonomy for women. There was a big federal crackdown on sex workers, including the raid of the male escort site Rent Boy and changes in how Backpage and other commonly used escort websites work. Globally, the visible presence of all-women's militias in the Kurdish struggle against ISIS along with the profound advances in women's autonomy in Rojava, are by far the most encouraging thing I know of from 2015.
Clara: Of course, there are different ways to respond to misogynist fundamentalism. In response to the Islamic State's focus on reprehensibly violent patriarchy in its conquests and the plight of migrant women fleeing instability in Syria, North Africa, and elsewhere, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon outlined a plan for UN peacekeeping missions - that's another word for military occupations - that includes "deploying gender advisors to all special political missions."
Alanis: Wow. Not sure what to think about that.
Clara: And speaking of gender and military occupation, the Pentagon announced that all combat roles in the US military will be open to women starting next year! And who knows, maybe next year they'll even get to serve under a female Commander in Chief for the first time! Feminism, right?
Alanis: Yet another reason why we do not prefer to use the language of "equality" to describe what we're fighting for as anarchists.
Clara: Speaking of which, courts in the US and voters in Ireland approved same-sex marriage in those countries... which, although it assuredly reflects seismic shifts in popular attitudes towards gay and lesbian folks and gender norms, is at best a deeply conservative, assimilationist, and frankly boring development for LGBT movements, and at worst a counterinsurgency effort to stifle whatever radical potential queer folks had to undermine patriarchal norms of sexuality, gender, and the family.
Alanis: Uh... got some feelings about that, Clara?
Clara: YES I HAVE SOME FEELINGS ABOUT IT. But I'll save those for a future episode. Anyway - transgender folks and identities were totally trending this year, with Caitlin Jenner blah blah blah and all these TV shows and really mainstream media coverage of trans and even genderqueer folks. There's an interesting parallel happening in anarchist and prisoner support circles, with the high profile cases of Chelsea Manning and Marius Mason prompting a lot of attention to how gender is configured within the prison industrial complex.
Alanis: It's worth pointing out that those are two white trans people, and that cases like those of Cece MacDonald, Niara Burton, and other trans women of color, who are particularly targeted by racist and transphobic violence, have gotten way less attention. At the same time, trans folks of color, particularly black trans folks, and their advocates have used the Black Lives Matter movement to bring some crucial attention to structural oppression and state violence against their communities.
Clara: Ya know, I read this New York Times Magazine article about 2015 called "The Year We Obsessed Over Identity," which, despite focusing on pop culture, seemed oddly relevant to our experiences in anarchist and radical circles.
Alanis: Say more!
Clara: There's this pretty significant way in which our old narratives of identity in the US - both the hegemonic oppressive ones, and the standard accepted liberal or activist counterpoints - are all being stretched, split, broken down, remixed, queered, destabilized, laughed at... Yet there are also obviously very real and concrete ways in which, for example, having black skin tends to make one a magnet for bullets in 2015 America, or that violence and degradation targeting femininity has barely slackened despite the public proliferation of transgender identities. In pop culture, the arts, youth cultures, and such, we have this focus on identity breakdown/remix/mashup/etc, and then we have reaction against that - including from the right, i.e. Donald Trump, speaking for everyone who's freaked out by black people and Muslims and trannies and trying to turn back the clock; but also from the left, in the form of the traditional managers of identity - politicians, activist and nonprofit leaders, and all those who see their role as bridges between particular marginalized communities and the structures that have historically marginalized them. These folks are also trying to oppose this breakdown of the system of authority based on fixed identities - not by negating social changes or gains, but by managing and controlling them. Gay leaders who tell us to get married, black leaders who tell kids to pull their pants up and go back to school or work and stop rioting, feminist women campaigning for Hillary Clinton, and, of course, responsible allies telling the rest of everyone to "follow the leadership of those most affected."
Alanis: Whoa, whoa, hold on. Are you saying that we should reject all identity based organizing as repressive and conservative, and that, for example, non-black or non-trans or whatever people with privilege should just do what they want without any accountability to folks who are most targeted by oppression and violence? That sounds like a suspiciously reactionary position.
Clara: Yeah, and if that were what I was saying, that probably would be reactionary. But it's not, at all. Hear me out while I try to sort through this.
Alanis: OK, go on.
Clara: I'm trying to point out that if we take our heads out of the anti-oppression textbooks we grew up with and actually look at what's happening in terms of resistance and rebellion today, we're finding that a whole lot of lines are getting redrawn. A traditional reading of identity politics goes something like this: you've got all these identities, and insofar as you're oppressed you share interests with people who have the same identities, and insofar as you're privileged you can choose to ally yourself against your own position in supporting the interests of folks with oppressed identities by following their leadership. Simple enough. As we discussed back in Episode 9, some insurrectionary anarchists and others advanced a counter-proposal that we should organize on the basis not of identity but of affinity - that whoever we feel kinship with or share circumstances or goals or desires with, those are the folks we should organize with, regardless of what identities we do or don't share with them, be they racial or ethnic or sexual or political. It contested the idea that identities corresponded to fixed interests, which lends itself to authoritarian leadership and control, and argued instead that we determine our own interests. This also dovetails with insurrectionary critiques of the left, which has tended to rely heavily on discourses of identity - national, racial, political, economic, etc - to exert control over large groups of people and direct the course of their struggles from above.
Alanis: So far, so good...
Clara: Now, there are more and less obnoxious ways to interpret this. Some of the more obnoxious readings of this critique took it as an excuse to basically ignore the operation of social oppression altogether, to disregard white supremacy and patriarchy and specifically their impact on individuals and groups in struggle. This is stupid and irresponsible; we can't make any sense of the situation we're in without focusing on systems of social oppression, let alone organize against it effectively across lines of difference with any success. However, setting aside some of these frustrating misreadings of insurrectionary hypotheses about identity versus affinity, there are some basic tenets of this critique that have been absolutely, indisputably confirmed by the last few years of events.
Alanis: Like what?
Clara: Like how being part of an identity group does not necessarily mean you share interests with other folks who hold that identity. Lesbians and gays who want to get married may be in direct conflict with queers who want sexual and relational freedom outside of state sanction. Women who want to see Hillary Clinton as president are in direct conflict with women who don't believe that their status has improved due to global US military domination. And folks of color participating the Black Lives Matter movement may have dramatically different, sometimes mutually exclusive goals. For starters, folks from different backgrounds lumped together as "people of color" may actually have totally different experiences of white supremacy; and even within black communities, pastors or small business owners may come into direct conflict with unemployed young folks or prisoners or others; etc etc. Some folks want more and better policing, some want no cops at all; some want "justice" within a state system, some want nothing to do with any state system; some want to make demands to the political class and use protests as leverage to achieve them, others want to obtain useful durable goods without paying for them. Seriously!
Alanis: And of course if we reject the logic of representation here - the notion that certain leaders or organizations can speak for all the folks from their identity group - then this notion of being an ally based on "following the leadership of the most affected" basically falls apart. Which leaves us... where?
Clara: That's the question, isn't it? Because some of the insurrectionary hypotheses don't necessarily offer us a lot of insight into some of these thorny on-the-ground questions here. In practice, it seems like a lot of anarchists - here, let's specifically say majority-white groups of anarchists seeking to connect to anti-racist struggles, for example - lots of anarchists have taken the approach of finding folks from within a specific community or struggle whose beliefs more or less reflect our own, and using them as a model or trying to be accountable to them in a limited way. That's an improvement in some ways, in that it still centers folks who are most targeted, while recognizing that solidarity doesn't mean relinquishing our own values and desires and critical thinking.
Alanis: But the problem is... well, I could imagine, in some circumstances at least, that this could amount to a kind of tokenization, where anarchists search around for a person of fill-in-the-blank identity to function as their ventriloquist dummy to justify whatever it is they wanted to do anyway; that's pretty disingenuous. Or that it could be used as an impetus to disregard the perspectives of anyone with whom you disagreed, because if someone calls you out for being oppressive, then, oh, you just must not share affinity with them. It definitely risks coming across as acting in bad faith, which undermines the trust that's necessary to build relationships that can challenge social oppression.
Clara: Right. What's appealing about some of these two-dimensional twentieth century approaches to identity and allyship is that there's always an easy answer; there's a script to follow, which the privileged can use to know their lines in a given situation, and to distinguish themselves as "good allies" from the "bad" oppressive people. But if there's one thing we've learned from these complex struggles in the streets in recent years, it's that it's basically never that simple. Almost no matter what we do, there will be some folks who'll love it and some who'll hate it within any given demographic.
Alanis: Excluding police, who will always hate whatever we do. If we're doing it right, at least.
Clara: Yeah, duh. But for, let's say, militant white folks participating in Black Lives Matter demos, we'll always be entering into settings in which a ton of different conflicts are playing out over divergent goals, strategies, tactics, etc, both inter- and intra-community. And there will always be community leaders who are ready to parrot police lines about outside agitators because they perceive a threat to their control of the situation.
Alanis: At the same time, just because police and leftist hacks play the "outside agitator" card doesn't mean that we're off the hook for being responsible for how our actions and tactics affect others. Rolling in to a protest situation and acting to escalate conflict may result in pretty serious consequences that folks other than us, and sometimes folks who are more targeted than us, will have to bear.
Clara: Which, although clearly true and important to consider, doesn't mean that people in resistance are responsible for state repression - as some of these community leaders and certainly cops and politicians would like everyone to believe.
Alanis: True! Back and forth, back and forth, and it's all true! Gah, so fucking complicated!
THE CHOPPING BLOCK: REVIEW OF "TAKING SIDES"
Clara: Yep. But fortunately a lot of smart people who've been acting and reflecting on these questions have written insightful analyses on these themes over the last couple of years. Some really sensitive and nuanced discussions of this have come from anarchists in St. Louis, who've reflected on their participation in the Ferguson uprisings and beyond; check out the Anti-State STL blog to read some of those. Various anarchist publications have taken up these questions. And in particular I wanna highlight a book that was released by AK Press in October called "Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism." It's a collection of short pieces that all deal with these questions of identity and solidarity from different anti-authoritarian and anarchist perspectives. You may have seen a zine circulating over the last year called Revolutionary Solidarity.
Alanis: Wait, the one with the piece from the Italian anarchist Daniele Carmignani that we mentioned in Episode 28?
Clara: Nope, that's something different. This one was compiled in the US, and was subtitled "A Critical Reader for Accomplices." It included an excerpt from the excellent zine "Who Is Oakland"; the by now well-known essay "Accomplices Not Allies," which we've referenced in past episodes; the critique of ally politics that appeared in Rolling Thunder #12 this year, and several others. Folks over at the Resonance Anarchist Audio Distro made a recording of it. Well, "Taking Sides" is kind of a book-length expansion pack on that zine. It includes explicitly black, indigenous, immigrant, queer, Jewish, and various other voices, across 13 different pieces that range from historical essays to analytical zine excerpts to short interviews. One of the things I appreciated most was...
Alanis: Wait, wait, hold on a sec, Clara.
Alanis: Is this the Chopping Block book review?
Clara: Uh, yep, sure looks like it.
Alanis: You trickster! I thought we were still doing our year in review summary!
Clara: We are. And that's the thing- I wanted to review this book because these critical conversations are a crucial part of what happened over the last year. Even if there aren't any easy answers, one of the more encouraging things from this last year is that it seems like anarchists are reviving the tradition of thoughtful, critical, constructive dialogue based on analyzing our concrete experiences in struggle and assessing how useful the theories we have are, and developing new ones where we need to. We can't separate these conversations from a laundry list of actions, because they were integral to those actions, and in some ways are more significant in their capacity to shape our action in the future. For all the shit we talk about the anarchist milieu or anarchyland or whatever, fact is, there are a lot of brilliant and thoughtful people active in our struggles today, and we should take the opportunity to learn from each other's insights and discuss them with each other.
Alanis: OK, I'm convinced. Carry on.
Clara: Right. So AK Press, despite the devastating fire they had at their warehouse earlier this year, managed to release this little reader. It's slim - 156 pages, but small and spaciously designed - but it includes some of the highlights from critical conversations about identity and solidarity in North America over recent years. Editor Cindy Milstein contributes an essay written during the height of Bay Area Ferguson solidarity as well as a prologue that sets out the mission of the anthology. After acknowledging that the pieces don't all agree with each other, it asserts that they do agree on "the need to concentrate our organizing efforts squarely on questions of power. They assert that we must unearth, contest, and aim to dismantle all manifestations and structures of hierarchical power, wherever we find them, including when they appear in our movements. They pick a side: freedom versus domination, in the most expansive sense. And they see this commitment as a lived practice, inherently filled with generative tensions."
Alanis: I like that. It's saying both that we don't have to have all the answers or settle on a common dogma, and that the commitment to figuring it out happens in practice, in struggle, and that the tensions we encounter should be generating useful material to work with rather than paralyzing us. So there's no excuse for not acting just because we're not sure about the right way to be a responsible ally or whatever.
Clara: Yeah, exactly. I'm not sure that I saw much evidence of actual disagreement among these pieces, per se. But there are definitely different focuses and emphases, different lenses through which to approach the same questions. But generally speaking, the concept of the ally is pretty thoroughly and permanently dispatched; the term accomplice is advanced as not just a new term to use, but a different paradigm for conceiving of shared rebellious affinity instead of guilt-driven identity.
Alanis: OK, that sounds all fine and dandy as a shift in the discourse or the conceptual framework or what have you, but I'm not sure I actually understand what that means concretely in terms of how we act differently based on that. "Accomplices Not Allies" does make some useful points, but it's mostly telling us things not to do, and it's targeting a fairly particular notion of nonprofit-led allyship that's rather specific to Arizona indigenous solidarity, and may or may not generalize to other contexts.
Clara: That's fair. I'd say what it means concretely will vary situation to situation based on your context. But as an example, say you're a white anarchist at a Black Lives Matter-style demo. Rather than either listening quietly and politely to speaker after speaker and staying on the sidewalk, as the leaders are likely telling you to do, or chucking bottles at cops and pulling newspaper boxes into the streets with your three friends when everyone else is on the sidewalk and telling you to chill out - which may or may not be strategic in that moment - you could, for example, show up with a bunch of bandanas and, um, art supplies, and a little flyer explaining how to keep yourself safe from surveillance. You can hand them out, see who's interested, and, based on the situation, decide if it makes sense to contribute to raising the stakes in that situation, or perhaps just connect with folks with whom you might wanna do actions elsewhere. The idea is like, according to the logic of the state, you're a criminal, and you wanna find other folks who are targeted similarly or have similar desires to see what we might wanna do together, and that's the best chance you have to make a contribution to a struggle on your own terms, rather than following somebody's leadership on the one hand, or just doing your own thing solo or with your tiny crew and telling everyone else to fuck off in a way that can come across as reinforcing racist entitlement on the other hand. That's just a quick example off the top of my head, not a program to follow or anything. Really, my best suggestion is to read the other essays in this book, because it sort of triangulates the concept and gives a sense of it better than I could by trying to flat out define it.
Alanis: Sure, I get what you're saying.
Clara: Oh, and as to your other point: whether or not "Accomplices Not Allies" is specific to a narrow context, the fact that it has spread so widely, and that its proposed shift and language is rapidly becoming the new norm among certain circles of rebels, shows that at least a whole bunch of other people are finding it valuable. Anyway, if that doesn't speak to you as much, you could check out the pieces that came from the context of the Oscar Grant riots, on "Outside Agitators" and an excerpt from "Unfinished Acts"; or "Dangerous Allies," new and revised material from the folks who wrote the zine "Who is Oakland", or...
Alanis: Is there anything that's not from the Bay Area? Seriously...
Clara: Geez! Grumpy today, aren't you?
Alanis: Sorry, the holidays are not my best time. They're over now; I can move on with my life. It's just that sometimes I get tired of hearing Oakland, Oakland, Oakland, the Bay, the Bay, the Bay... do people not realize that the vast majority of anarchists in the world, even in the US, do not live there or in any remotely similar conditions? Anyway, sorry - sure, there's a lot of material from the Bay, but that's because a lot of important struggles and valuable reflections came from there, I know. Anything else you'd highlight from the anthology?
Clara: Uh, yeah. But are you sure you're done with your rant there?
Alanis. Yes, I'm sure.
Clara: OK, just checking. Anyway, I really appreciated Michael Staudenmaier's opening essay "Brave Motherfuckers," because it puts all of these questions about revolutionary solidarity across lines of identity in the US into a historical context. It backs up to the New Left of the 60s and then proceeds through the revolutionary anti-imperialist groups of the 70s and 80s and on to the Love and Rage Federation of the 90s, showing how these different radical groups grappled with questions of identity, particularly race, and solidarity. It was SUPER helpful for me in grounding these debates we're having today in a longer tradition and thinking about lessons we can learn from the recent past.
Alanis: Oh, cool.
Clara: And the article "A Critique of Ally Politics", which also appeared in Rolling Thunder #12, is also really solid. It weaves personal experiences and stories - from, I might add, outside of the Bay area - in with reflections and analysis. But really, the whole thing is studded with gems. Some just cut right through all the bullshit of mainstream rhetoric to brutally and beautifully get to the core of the matter, like from Benji Hart's article "In Defense of Baltimore": "When there is a larger national outcry in defense of plate glass windows and car doors than for black young people, a point is being made."
Alanis: Whew. Damn, that pretty well sums it up.
Clara: Others offer elegant suggestions for how to approach the tightrope walk of navigating identity politics under settler colonialism, like when Harsha Walia writes, "The appropriate line between being too interventionist and being paralyzed will be aided by a willingness to decenter oneself, and learning and acting from a place of responsibility rather than guilt."
Alanis: Sensible enough.
Clara: Or take this from the excerpt from Unfinished Acts: "The side of history on which we find ourselves is not determined by whether or not we share the experiences of one horror or another, or how we individually identify, but instead on our own resolution to see the end of each of these miseries that perpetuate the racist, capitalist shit show called society."
Alanis: Woo! GOT 'EM! Okay, so the book is great and everyone should read it. Do you have any critiques of it?
Clara: Well, really the main thing I'd say is that I wish there was a bit more background offered for each essay. Sure, someone from the Bay already knows what the Oscar Grant riots were and why they were significant, but for those of us out in the provinces far from the metropoles of struggle, it would be useful to have some context to orient ourselves. Like, here's an example: there's an essay by Harsha Walia, whose interview we featured in Episode 43 on Borders and Migration; it's called "Decolonize Together: Moving beyond a Politics of Solidarity toward a Practice of Decolonization." It's really well written, and especially helpful in this volume, because it highlights an indigenous-centric radical perspective with a different focus than a lot of stuff reflecting on race relations through the lens of anti-black police murders. So there's this point in it where she writes that indigenous people are "the primary targets of repressive policing and prosecutions in the criminal injustice system."
Alanis: Wait. Is... that right?
Clara: Well, certainly not in the US, neither demographically nor politically, given the centrality of anti-black state violence. Genocidal conquest and dispossession of native land was certainly central to the project of the United States, and I obviously don't wanna argue that one group is more centrally oppressed than another. But I don't think we can sidestep black communities as the primary targets of police and legal system violence in the US. So reading that phrase, my brain sort of skipped a beat. But then I remembered, oh yeah, she's writing from so-called Canada, where the historical and demographic and political situation is really different. I happened to know that because we'd just run that interview with her a couple episodes back. But a random US reader might not know that, and might be confused. So if AK Press releases a future edition of "Taking Sides," I would love to see each essay start with not just a sentence or two, but an actual substantive introduction, both to give us the context to avoid misunderstandings like that and also to help us engage with the critiques more richly. That said, I know they wanted to put out the book quickly while all these debates are so raging and timely, so no shade. Really, I'd love for this to become a popular title and to come out again every few years, expanded to include pieces that reflect new circumstances and theoretical developments. And yes, more pieces that aren't from the Bay area...
Alanis: Thank you!
Clara: ...but that come from all sorts of other places, including specific engagements with these questions in smaller towns with different relationships to the institutional left.
Alanis: Spoiler alert - at the end of this episode in Next Week's News, we'll announce a project called "The Spaces Between" that deals with exactly this! So stay tuned.
Clara: Yeah, but other than that, no complaints! It's well designed, wide-ranging, not terribly expensive... I don't think I agreed with everything every author or collective wrote, but for that to even be possible it'd have to reflect an ideological unanimity that would subvert the whole purpose of having such a diverse compilation. So I liked that some pieces I agreed more and less with, but that all of them made me think, and some really challenged some of my preconceived ideas and made me re-examine my perspectives about some critical issues.
Alanis: And that, I think, is the best compliment you could have given the book.
Clara: Yeah, I suppose you're right.
Alanis: So Taking Sides is available from akpress.org; if you can't spare the twelve bucks, most of the individual essays in it can be read online in one form or another; we'll post as many as we can find on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
"IT'S GOING DOWN" YEAR IN REVIEW
Alanis: As we did for our 2014 Year in Review, this year we asked many of our friends and comrades around the world for their thoughts about 2015's most significant events and developments, and what they thought we should look out for in 2016. We got a number of responses, some of which we'll share here, and we hope to continue to hear from you about your year in review thoughts in the coming weeks - if you point out anything we overlooked, we'll share it in the listener feedback.
Clara: To get started, we wanted to share an excerpt from the end of year thoughts published by It's Going Down, our favorite new anarchist website of 2015. Here's what they have to say:
It's Going Down: 2015 was a year marked by showdowns between people and power, both large and small, as well as looming crisis. In the United States, there continued to exist a burgeoning threat of potential rebellion and insurgency against the police and white supremacy, as the spirit of the Ferguson rebellion continued onto Oakland and then to Baltimore. Cities such as Denver, Minneapolis, Olympia, and elsewhere, saw protests, riots, blockades, and more.
According to the website killedbypolice.net, even more people were killed by law enforcement in 2015 than in 2014. Meanwhile, police associations and politicians placed blame on the Black Lives Matter movement for brewing hatred and violence against the police. These attacks were meant to breed justification for mass killing and incarceration, as the police continue to come down even harder in neighborhoods of color in particular, and working class & poor communities more broadly, as they continue to fear widespread rebellion.
As revolutionaries, it’s important for us to keep in mind that in North America, the police grow out of a colonial and white supremacist framework that seeks to contain wholesale the population to ensure social peace. For us, we put this contextualization into one of civil war; the increasing violence of the police is part of a campaign of counter-insurgency against whole sections of the population as well as any resistance against it. Within this context, we stress the importance of choosing sides within this war, and deepening, both through action and thought, why we must do so.
Furthermore, we see that the attempts to push for reforms has been largely a total failure, even if in the process they sometimes employed very radical means. One of our tasks is to discover and experiment with tactics which continue to push the envelope of anti-police activity beyond just protest or registering dissent, into the creation of new worlds and expanded conflict with the State.
As autonomous rebels, we also come up against the very real power of the Left and the official organizations which seek to manage and contain outbreaks of social unrest. As the recent protests in Minneapolis showed, it's extremely problematic how groups that assume leadership over revolt have managed to pacify people, holding them back not only from taking action, but from even thinking about and getting organized to carry out action. Unfortunately, most of the time there seems to be very little criticism even when this happens right in front of our eyes.
Building real relationships with people not only in struggle but also in communities that have the potential to be is a task that we will return to again and again. Towards this end we need ideas, we need action, and we need reflection on past experiments. As we have stated before, the work ahead isn’t often sexy and it isn’t easy. It takes time, commitment, and patience.
As we enter into 2016, the brutality of the police and their continued murder spree shows no signs of letting up. Some police associations have thrown their support behind Trump in an apparent bid for protection from the State against potential reforms. The continued baseline of policing seems to be extreme force without fear of reprisal. Navigating and acting within this terrain is pivotal, both in terms of engagement within revolt when it breaks out and also in building capacity within our neighborhoods and cities against the police.
There has been much written and done in regards to police terror, but often we are too removed or silent when it comes to organizing and action happening behind prison walls. This is why this year, as Black December was called, it has been exciting to see the growth of anti-prison projects which involve prisoners at the forefront. Such projects include the Missouri Prison Newsletter, the Incarcerated Worker, Wildfire, and in the ongoing activity of social struggles such as the fight to abolish solitary confinement. With hunger strikes, riots, and work stoppages taking place throughout North America, we are excited about the possibilities of continued connections and relationships formed.
But while we see possibility in struggles against white supremacy both on the streets and behind the bars, we also are seeing an increase of both the autonomous far-right (from militia groups like the Oathkeepers to white nationalists such as the Traditionalist Youth Network) along side the expanding fascist creep in the mainstream, as evidenced by Trump’s campaign. While discussion of widening fascist activity is something we have talked about much in the past here, it’s worth restating that not since the 1990s has the racist far-Right felt so comfortable in the streets. From neo-Nazis protesting in support of the cops in Olympia, KKK and NSM members rallying in South Carolina, to racist Patriot movement supporters shooting at Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Minneapolis, the Right has been emboldened like never before in recent history.
But we have to remember that outside of demonstrations in the big cities, we have a lot of work to do. White nationalist groups try to make themselves appear to be the saviors of the white poor and working-middle classes in the US. While reading the history of fascism will show that it is an anti-working-class movement that aspires to build ‘cross-class solidarity‘ in order to take the reigns of production away from the ‘capitalists’ and the State from the ‘Marxists,’ this is still a story that has the potential to gain adherents within the wider population...
But we also have tools on our disposal as well. We have a long history of working-class insurrectionary activity which has attacked the State, capital, and white supremacy. We also can look to various anarchist groups which have organized within poor and working-class white (among others) communities and learn from their previous activity, as well as large scale campaigns in places like Appalachia against Mountain Top Removal. In short, on the anti-fascist front, we face two battles. Both physically against the far-right, but also in the communities they seek to connect to. Any serious struggle must take on both facets with full force.
In the backdrop to all this is both the looming ecological crisis as well as the inspiring resistance to pipelines in Canada and across the world. But as discussion and acknowledgment of climate change and the dangers that it brings enters more into the mainstream, it appears that the corporate environmental movement is tightening its grip even more. This month, it was revealed that in Canada large environmental NGOs met in talks with industry heads in order to stop any potential resistance to pipelines in exchange for small reforms. Likewise, 350.org, one of the ‘leaders’ of the mainstream environmental movement, continued its sorry spectacle of “protest” outside of the annual COP gathering. This inability of the major environmental players to summon up any meaningful resistance to industrial civilization is telling: the Left is unable to fight in any meaningful way.
We need to think long and hard about what a revolutionary and anti-industrial climate movement would look like, out of the hands of NGOs and non-profits. As many have pointed out, the most inspiring resistance to LNG, fracking, and oil pipelines has come from indigenous people in so-called Canada. How do we build solidarity with people resisting on the ground, but also apply these lessons, tactics, and strategies to our own struggles wherever we are? What would it mean to be involved in a fight that wasn’t centered around mass spectacles aimed at getting politicians and industry to change what gives them wealth and power, but instead, the destruction of civilization? A struggle rooted in the land itself and communities tied to that land that seeks to remove, destroy, and blockade the flows of capital and energy which are destroying life on this planet isn’t going to fall out of the sky; it’ll have to be built.
Grabbing few headlines however, is the ongoing fight for autonomy, land, and freedom in Mexico against the narco-state and police repression. While information about Rojava has increasingly come into North America with exciting tales of the Kurdish fight against ISIS and for a horizontally organized society, in many ways, indigenous and rebel communities have been waging similar, and often no less violent struggles, for decades. This January marks the 22nd anniversary of the Zapatiata uprising, and just in the last year we’ve seen bloody battles by native people’s to kick out the government from their villages, militant struggles waged by normalista students, and also an extremely intense rejection of the Mexican election. In the coming year, we should push for deeper connections between rebels in Mexico fighting for land and autonomy with others in North America.
We hope 2016 will be a year of asking hard questions: where are we weak and why? We are also excited to see people starting to analyze their local terrain in order to better attack within it. To experiment, to try new forms and projects, expand their spaces, publications, crews and reach out to other communities. We are excited that people are discussing the effects of previous waves of repression and yet continue to move forward, approaching action as a means to create capacity and as a vehicle to get organized around. Hopefully people will use the new year to take stock of their activities, think critically about their activity, and continue to push forward, making new bonds, offering new models, and building our capacity. Happy New Year!
Alanis: To read It's Going Down's full report on "All the News You Didn't Even Know Was Going Down" in 2015 that we excerpted above, including extensive links to coverage of all the events and themes referenced, visit itsgoingdown.org or follow the link on our website.
Clara: Also, an exciting update: the folks at It's Going Down have produced a new 52 page print magazine including original essays and republished coverage. It's intended as a "tool of reflection and documentation of resistance and the role of autonomous revolutionaries within it across North America." They're announcing a crowd-funding campaign to cover their costs, and have asked readers to donate, throw benefits to help us, and share the campaign with friends and comrades. So if you've got a few bucks to spare, check 'em out over at itsgoingdown.org. Congrats and big props to their collective for creating and maintaining such a solid and informative new project - we're excited to see how it develops.
YEAR IN REVIEW: ANARCHIST PUBLISHING AND MEDIA
Clara: So how about the world of anarchist publishing and media?
Alanis: Well, here in North America, 2015 saw the release of new issues from long-standing anarchist publications like Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and Fifth Estate, which celebrated its fiftieth year of publishing - that's fifty, five-zero, people! Congrats to Fifth Estate for continuing to kick out the jams for all these years. We also saw a new issue on the theme of "justice" from Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the journal of the Institute for Anarchist Studies; we'll be reviewing that in our next episode. We did not see a new issue of the journal Social Anarchism this year, unfortunately, in large part due to the death of its longtime editor Howard Ehrlich in February. One particularly exciting development was the re-emergence of Fire to the Prisons, the insurrectionary "periodical of frustration" which, under new editors, released issue 12 this year after a break of a few years. We're excited to see where it goes.
Clara: The vacuum in anarcho-primitivist publishing left by the demise of Green Anarchy magazine has been filled by two solid new publications: the green anarchist magazine Black Seed - whose first issue we reviewed back in Episode 25 - which released its third and fourth issues this year, and also the Black and Green Review, a new journal which kicked off this year with two issues. The latter was published by Black and Green Press, which also released a new book by Kevin Tucker this year, titled "Roots: A Field Guide to Anarcho-Primitivism." Listeners interested in this stripe of thought might also want to check out The Wildernist, an online magazine that, although not specifically anarchist or primitivist, treads overlapping paths of green and anti-civ thought, and recently released its third and final issue, titled "Live Wild or Die".
Alanis: Two very exciting releases published this year were new issues from two of my favorite journals dealing with gender and sexuality from anarchist perspectives: Baedan, a queer journal of nihilism, or heresy, or time travel, as this third issue proclaims; and LIES, a journal of materialist feminism. The first issue of LIES included two of the most important articles on gender, identity, and resistance I've read in the last five years, and Baedan has consistently blown our minds with the way it playfully pushes the outer limits of queer theory towards gleefully destructive ends. Preliminary readings indicate that the new issues both have fascinating and important stuff in them; we'll be reviewing each of them in upcoming episodes in 2016.
Clara: There have also been a number of local or topical anarchist newsletters and small print publications thriving in different cities. Among the ones we know of are Storming Heaven and The Transmetropolitan Review, both from Seattle; Wildfire, which focuses on anarchist prisoner solidarity; The Dirt, which just put out their third issue; Anathema, a Philadelphia anarchist periodical; FireWorks in the San Francisco Bay area; and I'm pretty sure there are others, but at least those have crossed our radars in recent months. And of course good ol' Slingshot in Berkeley is still going strong - kudos to them!
Alanis: AK Press survived a devastating fire at their warehouse early in the year and has managed to keep on publishing a fantastic array of anarchist titles across a wide range of genres and distributing an even wider range of things. A few highlights from the last year include a newly revised an updated edition of Kristian Williams' classic history of police in America, Our Enemies In Blue - we interviewed the author in Episode 5; works on anarchist history, including Robert Graham on the First International and works by and about Errico Malatesta; Dixie Be Damned, covering 300 years of insurrectionary history in the American South; Octavia's Brood, a collection of sci-fi stories from radical writers, for you radical nerds and fiction buffs; and of course the reader Taking Sides, which we reviewed earlier in this episode.
Clara: Obviously this quick overview just touches on stuff published in the US. There are so, so many rad anarchist publications coming out elsewhere in the world, and we'll do our best to highlight them when we encounter them; but due to limitations of space and language skills, this is all we've got for now.
Alanis: Of course, we are not the only anarchist podcast out there. Our friends at the Final Straw continue to pound out excellent interviews on their weekly - good grief, every week! can you imagine? - radio show and podcast; as always, we highly recommend that you check them out if you haven't yet. Other anarchist podcasts that began or continued to come out this year include Which Side, a vegan anarchist podcast, which has had some cool stuff this year; Free Radical Radio; John Zerzan's Anarchy Radio; The Brilliant; and probably a few others. But we particularly want to highlight Resonance: An Anarchist Audio Distro, which, as the name implies, is doing a terrific job releasing quality audio versions of a wide range of useful anarchist texts, both classic and contemporary, including some CrimethInc. stuff. If you haven't encountered them yet, definitely check out their link on our website and find some new stuff to listen to in the new year.
Clara: Unfortunately, if you search for anarchist or anarchism in the iTunes Store under podcasts, you're still gonna find a lot of anarcho-capitalist and libertarian bullshit, including the Anarcast, the 21st Century Anarchist Podcast, The Anarchist Experience, the Anarchist Standard, etc etc. So be careful not to waste your time listening to even more arguments about why markets and capitalism are going to save us all if we could just get the state out of the way. If you see any keywords like voluntaryism, the Austrian school of economics, Hayek, Rothbard, or such things, you know you're in the wrong place. If you're tempted, check out our Episode 18, where we take a crack at those ideas from an actually anarchist perspective.
Alanis: And no discussion of anarchist media from the last year would be complete without a shout-out to It's Going Down, the new North American anarchist news website whose arrival cheered us up significantly, and whose year-end reflections we just shared. Their "All the News You Didn't Even Know Was Going Down" and "Bloc Party" columns are excellent, and their site both collects a useful array of coverage from other sources and posts consistent interesting and high quality coverage of their own. Kudos to their crew for maintaining a great site and making our lives easier.
Clara: Also, Unicorn Riot is a rad new media collective that produces interesting video news shows; I don't know that they're explicitly anarchist, but their material is solidly radical and always of interest.
Alanis: Also, their website is unicornriot.ninja. How is that even real?
Clara: And last but never least, congrats to our pals at SubMedia.tv on ten fucking foul-mouthed years of badass anarchist media! Yahoo! Just in case you for some incomprehensible reason have not checked them out yet, go to submedia.tv and get ready to have your mind blown and/or laugh your ass off.
2015 YEAR IN REVIEW: ANARCHISTS IN THE MEDIA
Alanis: OK, aside from media projects done by friends and comrades, what about anarchists and anarchy in the mass media in 2015?
Clara: Probably the most crassly demoralizing thing I read was a Time Magazine article about the release of a Sex Pistols-themed credit card by the UK-based company Virgin Money. To quote: “In 1977 Virgin Records signed one of their most iconic bands, The Sex Pistols,” the Virgin Money site states. “They challenged convention and the established way of thinking—just as we are doing today in our quest to shake up UK banking.” “To bring a bit of rebellion to your wallet,” Virgin Money has introduced three different Sex Pistols-themed cards featuring the names and imagery of the band, including an “Anarchy in the U.K.” card.
Alanis: God, that makes me wanna barf.
Clara: I'm just waiting for Bank of America to come out with a credit card showing a cop car on fire. "From Ferguson to Baltimore to your hometown; whether you need black bandanas and sweatshirts or molotov making supplies, we're here to help you get the resources you need to make your voice heard."
Alanis: Uh, Clara...
Clara: Hammer: twenty dollars.
Black hoodie: fifteen dollars.
Felony charges and restitution: $17,000 plus eighteen months in jail.
That photo that goes viral on social media of you smashing a cop car's window: PRICELESS.
Anarchy: it's everywhere you want to be.
Alanis: Right. So, what else?
Clara: Well, politicians and cops and media continued to parrot their standard lines about outside agitators and anarchists as the evildoers who attempt to hijack legitimate peaceful protests and direct them towards crime and chaos. We saw this all over the country but particularly in Baltimore; one of the more hilarious examples of this came from none other than Geraldo Rivera on Fox News, who sees confronting protestors with a camera crew and accusations of anarchism as an opportunity to bolster his masculinity. Get ready, y'all - this is a lot.
Geraldo Rivera: Everybody is keen to react to what is happening in the case itself. you know that now they are talking about a fourth stop on that van, the van that arrested Freddie Gray, 25 year old Freddie Gray, a fourth unauthorized stop detected by a private surveillance camera, that... What's your problem? What's your problem? What's your problem? What? What? You can only talk in like, what? You're only brave, only brave when the camera's turned? Only brave when the camera's turned? Hey, you anarchist, you anarchist! You’re nothing, you ain’t nothing! You know, this is really something, these guys, the light gets off them and they're all brave, brave as can be. All right, here come the officers. They're not, they are absolutely not going to condone any kind of... what's that?
Protestor: Why is there so much hostility from all over, what's the word here? I'm just curious.
Geraldo Rivera: These aren't locals, these guys aren't local. It's like, "Occupy" here and there. They're professional anarchists. The people I think always have been wonderful to me in my long... that smarmy little creep like that. That’s a thug right there! That’s a white thug right there. [laughs] Yeah, right, there ya go.
Alanis: Wow. I'm literally speechless.
Clara: Yeah. He said that.
Alanis: There's a lot to unpack in that.
Clara: It kind of sounds like he looked at his index cards Fox News gave him with the lines he's supposed to use to delegitimize the protests, but got them all sort of mixed up. It's like, yeah! fuckin' anarchists! You guys are pussies! And outside agitators! And kind of like black people!
Alanis: Yeah, that characterization of the supposed anarchist as a "white thug" shows how the racist discourses of black men as criminals gets sort of crossed with the racialized discourse of the white anarchist outside agitator in the contexts of protests and riots.
Clara: The "professional anarchists" thing is wild - man, I wish I could be a professional anarchist, but no one will hire me, so I have to do it for free. Where do I apply? I have a few police departments I can use as references...
Alanis: What they're saying is that we don't care about Freddie Gray, or Baltimore, or anything specific to what's going on; we're just traveling from town to town using any excuse to wreak havoc.
Clara: Like it's the anti-globalization era all over again!
Alanis: An article from Police Magazine titled "Understanding the Black Bloc" put it this way:
Police Magazine: "From a certain skewed perspective, the roots of the modern-day anarchist could appear noble and utilitarian, viewed as a righteous struggle for the common worker versus the heartless capitalistic machine. However, when the typical criminal anarchists today stand face-to-face with helmeted police forces at political conventions or international financial summits armed with urine-filled water guns and surreptitious boxes of broken glass ready for throwing; they are far removed from their roots... a nefarious subset of anarchists simply seek to destroy property and often injure police forces.
Clara: Oh, I can't wait for a Greek insurrectionary cell to release a communique and attribute some action to the "Nefarious Subset for Destruction and Injury"!
Alanis: Hush. The article continues:
Police Magazine: The criminal-minded anarchist mantra of "FSU" (Fuck Shit Up), used as a unifying rallying cry and often seen in anarchist graffiti and signage, testifies to the malevolent intentions of some modern-day anarchists."
Clara: "The criminal-minded anarchist mantra!" Ho ho! I'm just imagining a yoga class full of kids in yoga pants and black bandanas chanting "FSUUUUU...FSUUUUUU..."
Alanis: What is with you today?
Clara: Sorry, it's the new year, I'm feeling kind of punchy.
Alanis: So I see. Anyway - cops and the media seem especially obsessed with attributing all this popular anti-police rage to anarchists, so as to delegitimize it and try to get even their critics back onside with defending police. An Omaha, Nebraska news website reported on a speech given by the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who characterized the Black Lives Matter movement and related protests like so: “This profession is under siege from a group of cop-hating anarchists... This movement is not about civil rights... It is a socialist movement.”
Clara: Riiiight... the socialist movement of cop-hating anarchists!
Alanis: Well, some of us still see it that way. The Haymarket anarchists would fit the bill, and maybe NEFAC.
Clara: Sure, but I think the nuances of whether anarchists identify as the anti-state subset of socialists or prefer a post-left understanding are probably lost on the sheriff of Milwaukee County. From this perspective, just about everyone left of Donald Trump is lumped together in a monolithic anti-cop mass and smeared with whatever keywords they think will arouse the most fear and disgust. In this narrative, anarchists signify the terrifying barbaric force of vandals and criminals on the streets, while socialists represent the organized forces of totalitarian government with whom they are supposedly allied.
Alanis: But the problem is that so many people are undeniably furious at cops that this narrative risks backfiring and making it seem like masses of people are ready for total anarchy. Here's another clip from Baltimore, where a cop on CNN is really butt-hurt about how the assembled masses have no use for him or his profession:
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN: Yesterday I was watching the coverage when you were positioned right here. You were listening to hours of speeches. And many of them you found as a person of law enforcement background to be very uncomfortable. Those speakers you heard here yesterday, some of whom were calling for anarchy, are they going to be satisfied with what they just heard from the mayor and the governor essentially saying time to move on? TOM FUENTES, CNN: No, and I don't know what would satisfy them. What the gentleman here with a bullhorn was shouting with several thousand people cheering him on was all police are pigs, all police are bad, we don't need any police, all of our brothers and sisters who were arrested claiming to burn businesses, the rioters, essentially, should be let out, they're good people, and everybody should be let out of jail and all police should be either eliminated or put in jail.
Clara: Yeah, that about sums it up! Surprisingly lucid for a CNN reporter. Still, I totally see what you mean about how this shows how media efforts to attribute all protesting or all property destruction or all cop hating to "anarchists" might actually backfire. This year saw more legitimacy given to riots and hatred of police than probably ever before in the American mainstream. So cops and politicians and media pundits who take this line that feeling this way makes you an anarchist might actually play directly into our hands.
Alanis: So they have to take even weirder measures to make anarchists seem like threatening wackjobs. My personal vote for most bizarre anarchist-related news story of the year was reported by the New York Post and CBS News in late October, with the headline "FBI Warns of Possible 'Halloween Revolt' by Anarchists."
Clara: Oh, reeeeally?
Alanis: Yeah, apparently. According to the article: "The FBI has issued an alert to law enforcement about a possible 'Halloween Revolt' by a dangerous anarchist group, an official has confirmed to CBS News... A group known as the National Liberation Militia may be planning to dress in costume, cause a disturbance, and then ambush police who come to help. The Post reports the group has recommended members wear typical holiday masks and bring weapons like bricks and firearms."
Clara: Huh. The "National Liberation Militia"? I seem to have overlooked them on my list of Dangerous Anarchist Groups to send Christmas cards to.
Alanis: Right? If it's not a total fabrication, it sounds like a dumb prank somebody posted on their Facebook page that the FBI decided to try to use for some mileage in cultivating the climate of fear around anarchists.
Clara: Spooky. I bet the kids of FBI agents dress up as Black Bloc protestors to go trick-or-treating.
Alanis: Seriously though, one weird case this year that didn't get much attention in anarchist media was that of Samuel Bradbury, who was convicted in July of violating federal law for making a post on Facebook claiming that he was going to kill some cops and blow up a courthouse in Indiana. He was part of a crew called the 765 Anarchists, and he claimed they were going to, quote, "purge the vile pig scum from this land and restore constitutional rights to the people." Now, he and his friends claimed it was intended as satire, as a joke; the judge and jury didn't buy it. I wasn't able to find out if he was sentenced or not, but he was facing up to ten years. His case is significant for a few reasons: partly because it involves demonizing anarchists in the media; partly because it illustrates the growing trend towards prosecuting people not for doing things, but for thinking or talking about or "conspiring" to do things; and partly because - not to be a broken record here, but seriously - it gives us YET ANOTHER CLEAR REASON why NO ONE SHOULD BE ON FACEBOOK.
Clara: Another somewhat similar case involved an anarchist from Ashland, Kentucky named Joe Waugh, who was arrested and faced five to ten years in prison for allegedly detonating some Molotov cocktails in a train tunnel. He was labeled a terrorist in the media, but he claims that the explosions, which didn't hurt anyone or do any damage, were just part of making a music video... And the reason he was arrested was because of a video allegedly showing him near the scene that was posted on, you guessed it, Facebook.
Alanis: Surprise, surprise.
Clara: He has a lot of visible punk tattoos and is open about being an anarchist, both online and in the shop he runs in Ashland, where he carries anarchist literature among other things. And he claims that's why he's being targeted: To quote Joe: "In my view, how I see it, I think that if I were a normal-looking person, none of this would’ve happened. It’s a lot of hype. As soon as they heard the word anarchist, which the arresting officer said the first thing I stated was ‘By the way, I’m an anarchist’ —which I’d be a complete and total idiot to say. Nothing like that was ever brought up... I think the way I look and with what my political views, or lack of political views or whatever, it kind of blew up into something it never was."
Alanis: So in both of these cases, we have people who wouldn't by any means be considered "political prisoners", in the sense of facing charges for protesting or robbing banks to fund social struggles or something. But nonetheless, they were people who openly identified as anarchists who were targeted for doing pretty mundane and ultimately harmless things. We should keep an eye on cases like these, because they fit into an overall law enforcement strategy of targeting anarchists - especially those on the fringes, rather than active participants in social struggles - to increase the climate of fear around anarchists and discourage us from asserting ourselves while legitimizing more extensive repression.
Clara: MERRY CRISIS AND HAPPY NEW FEAR! Again!
YEAR IN REVIEW: THE EX-WORKER PODCAST
Clara: OK, now that we've taken a look at the global news highlights and lowlights of 2015, as well as the happenings within the world of anarchy and anarchism, there's one more year in review sort of thing we should do.
Clara: The Ex-Worker!
Alanis: You mean, like, us?
Clara: Yes! Us!
Alanis: Sigh... do we have to?
Clara: Whaddya mean? Yes, of course! Why not?
Alanis: I dunno, Clara... I mean, in some ways it was a good year, but I wanted us to do so much more! In 2014 we put out 18 episodes - which even if it's not twice-monthly, as promised, is at least closer - whereas this year we only put out a dozen. And there were two chunks of the year when a solid two months went by with no episodes! I know we were busy, but I wish we'd done more.
Clara: OK, OK, I hear you, Alanis. But you can look at it another way. The average length of episodes got longer: 93 minutes - over an hour and a half! - which is considerably longer than last year's average of 68 minutes an episode. We put out our longest episode to date, the gargantuan "Staying Safe So We Can Be Dangerous Together", which clocked in at a whopping 156 minutes. In 2015 we released a total of 1,124 minutes worth of episodage! Even though it was spread out over fewer episodes, it's nearly as much total material as in 2014, which was 1,231 minutes, if memory serves.
Alanis: Good grief, Clara! Quite the number cruncher.
Clara: But the point is- yes, we put out fewer episodes, and yes it was on an erratic schedule; but we put out a lot of a material, and I think it what we did release was pretty good.
Alanis: Yeah, fair enough. I mean, we continued some important discussions about white supremacy, capitalism, and policing, as well as whistleblowing, online crypto-anarchy, repression and surveillance, fascism and anti-fascism, borders and migration, and a lot more; we covered developments with radical prisoners from Eric McDavid to the MOVE 9, and released a profile of small-town anarchism in Lake Worth, Florida.
Clara: At the same time we expanded our international coverage a lot, with interviews and reports from all over the world, from Finland to Belarus to Korea to the Czech Republic and beyond; we discussed a lot about the ongoing revolution in Rojava, as well as repression in Spain and hunger strikes in Greece and developments in Turkey, and of course the so-called refugee crisis in Europe. Plus we released an audio documentary about the Hambacher Forest in Germany.
Alanis: Really, that's not too bad.
Clara: Agreed. Still - I've been putting some thought into it, and I think that rather than claiming to be a twice-monthly podcast - when we obviously aren't - I think we should just go ahead and acknowledge that we're a monthly podcast, which seems to match our actual output.
Alanis: OK, that makes sense. But if we're gonna do that, let's try to put it out on a regular schedule so we're not PLAYING GAMES WITH OUR LISTENERS' HEARTS, never knowing if they're gonna get one or two or no podcasts in any given month!
Clara: Deal. We'll put out an episode per month, in the first week of every month, so y'all can look forward to it. And we might sneak in some extra ones in between from time to time, so keep posted.
Alanis: Great. To all our listeners - thanks for your patience as we jerked and jolted our way through a difficult 2015. We managed to come out on the other side reasonably intact, and we're still committed to giving y'all high-quality in-depth anarchist reporting and analysis on a regular basis in 2016.
Clara: But to do that, we need you! Like, all of you! Or at least any of you who can offer some time or some thoughts to make the Ex-Worker better. There are lots and lots of ways you can help or contribute, including...
Alanis: transcribing audio interviews for our scripts;
Clara: developing episodes on topics you want to see covered, or educating us on something so we can improve our coverage;
Alanis: reviewing books or magazines or other anarchist media;
Clara: conducting audio interviews with anarchists about various topics;
Alanis: compiling news for the Hot Wire or events for Next Week's News;
Clara: sending us feedback, criticism, links to stuff we could check out;
Alanis: hosting us for speaking events or even live episodes in your town!
Clara: And we wanna offer a huge shout-out and thank you to everyone who has done one or more of these things over the past year!
Alanis: We're asking for your support in making this podcast happen because we're all volunteers who are busy participating a wide range of projects and struggles against authority, and while we're committed to the Ex-Worker and dearly love it, there aren't enough of us to make it as awesome as we want to while still remaining active on all the other fronts we want to. And goodness knows there is plenty to do!
Clara: Indeed, as we noted in our 2014 year in review, we've still failed to check off the primary item on our to do lists...
Alanis: Which is, of course, catalyzing irreversible global anarchist revolution.
Clara: We're working on it, we're working on it...
REFLECTIONS ON MASS MOVEMENTS
Clara: Actually, speaking of catalyzing irreversible global revolution...
Clara: I've been thinking about how much of our coverage on the Ex-Worker, and CrimethInc.'s overall focus of their analysis in recent years, has been devoted to covering mass movements and uprisings, specifically mobilizations that involve lots of people milling about in public places - plazas and squares and streets and stuff - either yelling or breaking things or having assemblies or fighting police or whatever.
Alanis: Right. What's the problem?
Clara: It's not a problem - obviously that stuff is really important. I just think it's also important to reiterate to our listeners (and to ourselves) that being an anarchist – or striving to put anarchist ideas into practice in our everyday lives, which is the same thing – doesn't only look like getting busy in the streets when a bunch of other people are also getting busy in the streets. Just because we're living in a time period where tactics that we've been developing are gaining traction within broad segments of the population doesn't mean that those tactics are the only or even the best way to be an anarchist. They just happen to be popular at the moment.
Alanis: Some of us, and a lot of our listeners, just don't live in places where riots break out every other week. And, even if we do live somewhere where these things are happening, there's still a hanging question mark of how we relate to them, especially if they have strong elements that are a directly in opposition to our own political ideas or hostile to us... demands-based rhetoric, pro-democracy or reform frameworks, or militant peace-policing, just to name a few.
Clara: I think I have a metaphor for this that relates to my personal life...
Alanis: Uh... go for it?
Clara: Okay, it's a little convoluted, but bear with me. So, when I think about the relationships that I want to have with other people – you know, friendships, partnerships, whatever – I know that in order to be a good friend, or lover, or comrade to someone, my sense of who I am and my self-worth have to be really strong, and also situated inside me. Being close with other people is a super easy way to get validation – other people can help you feel funny or smart or desirable or like you're a person who is worth spending time with. And I'm not saying it's bad to get these things from other people at all – because obviously friendships and partnerships can be deep amazing sources of connecting with people, finding affinity, chemistry, whatever – these aren't things you can experience very easily by yourself. But if your entire conception of who you are or what you're worth is placed in other people, then, for instance, if those people leave you or for some reason you're unable to get that, then where does that leave you? I like to say that “I want to be with somebody because I want to, not because I need to.”
Alanis: Well that's probably a good policy in general... but this is the Ex-Worker, not the Ex-Codependent or whatever. How exactly does it relate to rioting?
Clara: Okay, fine, but this is basically the same way that I want to relate to mass movements. They can be really amazing sources of passion, putting anarchist ideas into practice, breaking with our normal lives and the ways we interact with people and the physical spaces we encounter every day... in these processes we learn about ourselves and even stretch the limits of what we even think is possible! But I don't think it's healthy to place our entire conception of what it means to be anarchists in participating in mass mobilizations. Because, well, we haven't always had the opportunities to latch on to or try to help catalyze these things. In fact, for those of us who have been around anarchist spaces even just a few years before 2011, we can remember a time where large occupations or demonstrations were something that we heard about happening in far-away countries... or maybe California. It's even more the case if you talk to folks who were around in the 80's and 90's... but now, in 2015, riots, occupations and mass uprisings are commonplace in cities across North America and the world. Maybe some people who have become involved in anarchist politics since (give or take) the Occupy movement can't imagine a time when these things weren't relatively commonplace.
Alanis: For better or worse, struggles ebb and flow, and we have to assume that we're not always going to have these opportunities to be in the streets with people, though we certainly hope so. But we have to ensure that our struggles remain as vibrant and multi-faceted as they have been- because we're up against such powerful enemies and some pretty shitty odds, we have to assume that the things we rely on could get ripped away from us at a moment's notice.
And... well, I hate to be a downer, but many of these amazing, history-making radical moments are followed by some combination of slimy state recuperation (such as a more reformist or leftist party or individual taking power, appeasing to large swaths of the movement, and killing the imperative to resist), and really scary and intense repression, which can isolate and eradicate the most radical or militant wings of resistance movements. In order to survive all this, we're gonna need everything – our ideas, our principles, our practices, our connections, our stories and histories, our friendships – strong and intact to make it through the lean times. These upheavals are always followed by down times, and it's just as important to prepare for and know what to do during those times as it is to give it all we've got during the peaks; that's what we were trying to explore in the "After the Crest" series of essays that appeared on the CrimethInc. site a couple of years ago.
Clara: Totally, that makes sense. We definitely need to broaden our sense of what meaningful anarchist activity could be beyond the high points of rioting in the streets of major cities. It's interesting; I was just thinking about this when I was listening to the To Change Everything tour presentation we released as Episode 44. If you listen, all of the panelists talk about "the streets" as the location of political activity; when the streets are full, anything is possible, rupture is happening and revolution is impending; when the streets empty out again, it's a sign that movements are dead and repressive power can move in. But "the streets" are only one area of our lives; resistance happens everywhere, from cities to the forests, from our kitchens and bedrooms to our classrooms and workplaces. This notion that being in the streets is synonymous with transformative possibility seems to leave out the vast majority of our lives. Plus it maintains this public/private distinction that's actually pretty gendered, and leaves out a lot of modes of activity that may be less glamorous or confrontational, but may in the long run actually be more central to how power is challenged and reconfigured in our everyday lives.
Alanis: Yeah, for sure. That's partly why I really like that we've been not only using this year-in-review to talk about awesome shit that's been happening in the streets, but also anarchist media projects, gatherings and infrastructures and smaller actions that have been happening outside of giant assemblies and demos. Because anarchy happens there, too.
Clara: For sure! And hopefully we can carry this idea into our next year of making the podcast. Let's try to make sure that we continue to have a balance of reporting on global goings-on, as well as keeping the podcast as a space to share our stories and develop and clarify our ideas in a contextual and timely way.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
Alanis: Well, have you got any other new year's resolutions, Clara?
Clara: Oh, yeah, sure. Lots.
Alanis: Any you'd care to share?
Clara: Sigh... I dunno, I don't wanna jinx them!
Alanis: Oh, c'mon!
Clara: Well, there are a LOT of topics I want us to cover.
Alanis: Such as?
Clara: But that's the thing. If I name 'em all, and we don't do 'em, then you can all hold it against me. But if I keep 'em to myself, then anything we put out will be a (hopefully pleasant) surprise!
Alanis: Fine, fine. Well, for one, I know we're gonna be devoting some substantial discussion to democracy, as a discourse and a practice, in 2016. It was a major focus of the discussions on To Change Everything tours, in the US and internationally, and there's a major CrimethInc. text forthcoming soon on the subject. And given that it's a presidential election year, what better time to focus on everything that's wrong with democracy!
Clara: Yeah, that's a safe bet. Counter-electoral ideas are definitely prominently on my mind for 2016, for sure.
Alanis: We also have a long-overdue continuation of our history of white supremacy and capitalism lurking somewhere waiting to be finished, along with an episode on animal liberation and anarchism, more discussion of borders and migration, finally following up the two historical episodes with a discussion of contemporary anarcha-feminisms...
Clara: Alanis, c'mon! You're blowing up all my surprises! Spoiler alert!
Alanis: Oh, hush. I know that's not all you've got up your sleeve.
Clara: Very true, very true.
Alanis: I know we'll continue expanding our international coverage, with interviews with anarchists around the world in places we haven't addressed much to this point. But I won't tip our hands too much.
Clara: All right, we've been talking plenty here. And we haven't even made it to all the rad year in review reflections we got from anarchists in other countries!
Alanis: Tell you what- let's save them for our next episode and go ahead and wrap things up with Next Week's News. Deal?
NEXT WEEK'S NEWS
Clara: Deal. 2016 is gonna be chock full of exciting happenings, I can just feel it. What do we know about so far, Alanis?
Alanis: There's been a call issued for a day of action in solidarity with the ZAD on January 16th! There will be a huge demonstration in Nantes, France - which will probably be a test to see how the French state, newly empowered by their post-terrorist blank check for repressive force, will respond. Organize solidarity actions against Vinci, the massive construction company charged with building the airport in Notre Dame des Landres against whom the ZAD has been occupied, or any other target that makes sense!
Clara: January 22nd has been declared an International Day of Solidarity with Trans Prisoners. The day is being spearheaded by Marius Mason, the trans Green Scare prisoner currently held in Texas. This annual event, led by trans prisoners and their supporters from around the world, offers a chance for those on the outside to remember those behind bars, give real solidarity and support and raise awareness about issues facing trans prisoners. It is a chance for those on the inside to have a voice and organize together. Events are scheduled all around the world, including letter writing gatherings, film screenings, public forums, workshops, vigils, fundraisers, shows, and actions. You can read more details at transprisoners.net And if you're planning an event, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know so they can add it to the website. We've posted the info along with a number of links related to trans prisoner solidarity on our website.
Alanis: We've also seen a call from a crew of anarchists from Denver and Richmond for a project called "The Spaces Between" that I bet will be of interest to a lot of you listeners. Here are the deets, from a call that we originally read on It's Going Down:
Clara: All too often as anarchists in the U.S. we look to places like Oakland or New York for cues of how to get it done. The problem with this being that most of us don’t live in anarchist-disney world, where anything is possible and everything is flammable, and we couldn’t afford the rents in Oakland anyway. This February and March we will be publishing a collection of interviews and essays from the spaces in between to bring to your towns!
This tour features friends from Denver, Colorado and Richmond, Virginia coming to your town to talk about what it looks like for anarchists outside those spaces with longstanding institutional left bases. We think there is a lot to learn from the less glamorous towns and small cities where anarchists continue fighting in spite of it all. Sharing our experiences of building, failing, rebuilding, fucking it up and sometimes winning, we hope to strike up conversations in your towns with your friends. Let’s talk community defense work, anti-police struggles, combating gentrification, how not to let the liberals get us down and more. Interested in having us come to your space or collective? Hit us up at: email@example.com
Alanis: We got a hold of one of the organizers from the tour, and they offered some additional thoughts about the project, the tour and their future goals:
Clara: "Right now we're collecting short essays and interviews with folks who are entrenched in anarchist organizing outside of those supposed 'anarchist strongholds.' We all tend to look at like Oakland, Seattle or whatever large city is the flavor of the week, but organizing outside of those places looks so different: the tactics, the resources, the non-existent institutional left to have some love/hate relationship with... While on the tour we hope to continue collecting interviews to be used as part of a larger writing project, a longer zine or book, that includes some more theoretical analysis in conjunction with the personal experiences. The idea with the tour is to create some space to center those of us in anarchy land who often get left behind in the conversation, or quite honestly just plain forgotten. We also think there is a lot of creative use of tactics happening in those 'in-between spaces,' which could offer valuable lessons for those who do live in the bigger strongholds."
Alanis: Refreshing, isn't it?
Alanis: This sounds like a really rad project! We're especially interested in it because quite a lot of our listeners are tuning in from outside of the so-called hot spots of North American anarchism. So we're eager to hear the kinds of reflections this project is soliciting. They'll be on tour from February 20th through March 5th; the events they have scheduled so far are on the east coast and northeast, generally. Give them a holler if you've got thoughts to contribute or you'd like them to come to your area; we'll keep you posted about their tour schedule.
Clara: Nicole and Joseph, animal rights activists in California who are facing charges under the infamous Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for allegedly freeing animals from fur farms, will likely go to trial this spring, with their next hearing scheduled for March 1st in San Diego. Keep up to date on their case at supportnicoleandjoseph.com.
Alanis: And last but never least, a few prisoner birthdays to share.
Clara: Actually, Alanis, hang on a sec. Before we share the list of upcoming birthdays, I wanna share an update about anarchist prisoner Jay Chase from the NATO 3.
Alanis: Sure, go ahead!
Clara: We discussed the NATO 3 case at length back in Episode 17 on "Conspiracy," if you want some background on the case. Here's a statement from a supporter about Jay's situation.
NATO 3 Support: Jared (Jay) Chase of the NATO 3 is serving an 8-year sentence for helping undercover cops with their own idea to make Molotov cocktails, which were never used, to protest the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. Originally charged with multiple counts of terrorism under Illinois state law, he and his co-defendants were acquitted of ALL terrorism-related charges, but convicted on lesser charges, including misdemeanor mob action and possession of an incendiary device with intent to commit arson.
Jay was scheduled to be released on parole in May 2016. However, he still has an unresolved battery charge, resulting from an incident with Cook County Jail guards during his pre-trial confinement. His doctor’s testimony at sentencing revealed that Jay's hereditary Huntington’s disease is a likely factor contributing to his behavior in custody and the pending charges. He has not been receiving the recommended medical care and nutritional supplements required to treat his condition while in custody, further adding to his erratic behavior and sense of powerlessness. This medical neglect is not only making things worse but contributing to a situation in which our comrade may die in prison.
Jay has fired his attorneys and only recently got another one appointed. His trial is set for April 2016. He continues to face harsh treatment in custody, including losing "good time," visitation rights, having personal property destroyed, time in solitary confinement and even being housed on suicide watch. He has gone on many hunger strikes as his only recourse to demand that they meet his medical and nutritional needs, without much success.
In October of 2014, Chase wrote to several supporters, “I am a transgender woman,” asking to be referred to as Maya Chase. Supporters spread the word in blogs and via social media that Chase's preferred name was Maya and pronouns were feminine. In a more recent letter, however, dated September 21, 2015, Chase explicitly requested that his legal name and male pronouns be used once again to identify him: These are his words: “Also let me apologize for rushing so much in my last letter [that] I didn't get to explain the sudden change of names. After a lot of thinking I’ve decided even though I am Bi/TS/GQ, I don’t think I want to spend the rest of my life as a Woman 24/7. So you can refer to me in mascul[ine] terms.” Letters from that date forward have been signed using "Jared" or "Jay."
Jay needs all the love and support of our community as he navigates a hostile and inhumane institution from the inside. His co-defendants are out and trying to live their lives and adjust to the free world. Sadly, the campaigns that Jay came from, namely Occupy, have disappeared with no sense of responsibility for Jay or any of the Occupy cases such as the Cleveland 4. There are some solid people who support Jay in Chicago but he needs a lot more solidarity.
It is imperative that anarchists stand up for Jay, pack the courts for his trial, send him books and letters and if you can, visit. Jay feels very down and probably that he has nothing to lose due to his deteriorating health and pending charges.
Clara: We've just received word that Jay has a court date coming up on February 3rd in Chicago; anyone who's in the area and able to go, please come out to support him.
Alanis: Thanks for the update! We've posted a link with the court date info as well as Jay's mailing address and background on the case on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast. Let's make sure it's a new year's resolution for all of us to always remember and concretely support the anarchists and radicals who are locked up as a result of state repression in 2016. And on that note: January is a big month for birthdays of incarcerated revolutionaries, for whatever reason, so get some friends together and have a letter writing party to kick off the new year!
Clara: On December 30th was Casey Brezik, an anarchist imprisoned in Missouri accused of injuring a college dean in a plot to assassinate the governor;
Alanis: On January 6th, Oscar López Rivera, Puerto Rican independence fighter, turning 73 years old this year with over 34 of them spent inside on charges of “seditious conspiracy” for organizing against the US’s colonial occupation of Puerto Rico;
Clara: On January 8th, the Hammond brothers: Jeremy, hacktivist from Anonymous, anarchist, and unapologetic rebel, doing ten years for hacking into the private intelligence firm Stratfor to expose various nefarious corporate and government misdeeds; and his brother Jason, sentenced to years in prison for his role in the successful Tinley Park action crushing a white supremacist meeting;
Alanis: On the 9th, Abdul Aziz, one of the anti-colonial rebels of the Virgin Islands Five;
Clara: On January 14th, Sundiata Acoli, former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army soldier;
Alanis: And also on the 14th, Herman Bell, former Black Panther and COINTELPRO target. Herman's going to be up for parole in February; we've got a link on our website, courtesy of New York City Anarchist Black Cross, to a petition you can sign to advocate for his release.
Clara: On the 15th, Joe-Joe Bowen, a Black Liberation Army soldier and prison rebel;
Alanis: And finally, on the 26th, Marius Mason, Earth Liberation Front saboteur, poet, trans activist, and all-around badass.
Clara: Don't forget that it makes a huge difference to write to radical prisoners: both on the inside, where it can help keep folks' spirits strong and increase their prestige while reducing their vulnerability; and also on the outside, as part of showing that radical social movements can support folks doing time for their actions. So take a few minutes and send them a card or a letter.
Alanis: By the way - did y'all realize that in the show notes for each episode, in addition to their mailing addresses, we always include a link to their support site and more info about their cases? Since we're taking the time to do that each time, you should take advantage of it if you wanna find out more about who these folks are and the context for their cases and struggles.
Clara: And that's it for this episode – and this year – of the Ex-Worker. So long, 2015 - goodbye and good riddance! Thanks to everyone who contributed their reflections to this monster of an episode, and extra thanks to everyone who's out there fighting to make this world a place we might actually want to call home someday.
Alanis: As always, more links, information and a full transcript of this episode can be found on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast. In our next episode we'll continue our year in review with all the international reflections on 2015 we didn't have space to fit in this time around, plus lots more. Until next time...
Clara: Long live anarchy! Or something!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
In our roundup of the year’s developments in anarchist publishing and media, we mentioned Fifth Estate (happy 50th anniversary!), Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, and Fire to the Prisons, the insurrectionary “periodical of frustration” which, under new editors, released issue 12; in anarcho-primitivist and green/wild publishing, Black Seed, Black and Green Review, and The Wildernist; around queer/feminist/gender/sexuality, Baedan, and the LIES Journal; local or topical anarchist newsletters and small print publications, including such as Storming Heaven and The Transmetropolitan Review [Seattle]; Wildfire [anarchist prisoner solidarity], The Dirt, Anathema, [Philadelphia] FireWorks [the San Francisco Bay area], and Slingshot [Berkeley]; new AK Press titles, including Our Enemies In Blue, Robert Graham on the First International, Dixie Be Damned, Octavia’s Brood, and of course the reader Taking Sides, which we reviewed earlier in this episode; in podcasts, The Final Straw, Which Side, Free Radical Radio; John Zerzan’s Anarchy Radio; The Brilliant, and in particular Resonance: An Anarchist Audio Distro; and in video, Unicorn Riot and of course SubMedia.
We reviewed “Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism” on the Chopping Block. We recommend you get a copy from AK Press, but if you can’t or you want to get started right now, you can find most of the essays in it online. Here are links to The Poor Person’s Defense of Riots, Decolonize Together, the zine “Who is Oakland?” (a precursor to the “Dangerous Allies” piece), “A Critique of Ally Politics”, which also appeared in Rolling Thunder #12, Accomplices Not Allies, “Coconspirators”, the zine “You Can’t Shoot Us All” from which the piece “Outside Agitators” was excerpted, “Spread the Miracle - Abolish the Police”, “Not Murdered and Not Missing”, “In Support of Baltimore”, “Solidarity, as Weapon and Practice, versus Killer Cops and White Supremacy”.
Also, Resonance Anarchiust Audio Distro released an audio version of “Revolutionary Solidarity: A Critical Reader for Accomplices”, which was the precursor to “Taking Sides” and includes seven of its essays. That’s not the same as the one with the piece from the Italian anarchist Daniele Carmignani that we mentioned in Episode 28, which is also well worth reading.
We read a long excerpt from the “All the News You Didn’t Even Know Was Going Down” 2015 year in review from our friends at the excellent new anarchist media site It’s Going Down. Keep an eye out for their soon-to-be-launched crowdfunding campaign to raise money for their print magazine.
Our roundup of 2015 mass media coverage of anarchism included a Time Magazine article about the release of a Sex Pistols-themed credit card, Geraldo Rivera on Fox News, a “Police Magazine” article titled “Understanding the Black Bloc” Omaha, Nebraska news website report on a speech given by the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, a cop on CNN who was really butt-hurt about how the assembled masses of Baltimore have no use for him or his profession, and the cases of Samuel Bradbury and Joe Waugh.
Check out all the actions that happened under the auspices of “Black December”!
January 22nd has been declared an International Day of Solidarity with Trans Prisoners. The day is being spearheaded by Marius Mason, the trans Green Scare prisoner currently held in Texas. This annual event, led by trans prisoners and their supporters from around the world, offers a chance for those on the outside to remember those behind bars, give real solidarity and support and raise awareness about issues facing trans prisoners. It is a chance for those on the inside to have a voice and organize together. Events are scheduled all around the world, including letter writing gatherings, film screenings, public forums, workshops, vigils, fundraisers, shows, and actions. You can read more details at transprisoners.net And if you’re planning an event, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know so they can add it to the website. We’ve posted the info along with a number of links related to trans prisoner solidarity on our website.
Please take a moment to support Jared “Jay” Chase of the NATO 3! You can attend his pre-trial court date on February 3rd in Chicago, follow his case on Twitter, Facebook, or the NATO 3 support page. You can also write to Jay at:
Jared Chase M44710
P.O. Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764
Contact organizers from “The Spaces Between”, the publishing project and tour (dates February 20th - March 5th) focusing on the experiences of anarchists outside of major urban “strongholds” and cities with substantial institutional lefts, by emailing email@example.com.
Here’s the link we mentioned to the Intercept’s documentary chronicling Eric McDavid’s case using actual video and audio footage captured by the FBI in the course of his entrapment.
In our roundup of tech developments, we highlighted the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense page of “Tips, Tools and How-tos for Safer Online Communications” and the Backslash kit of devices to help protestors stay safe and connected during demonstrations.
In our discussion of identity and solidarity, we cited a New York Times Magazine article about 2015 called “The Year We Obsessed Over Identity”.
Black liberation prisoner Herman Bell is up for parole in February. While you won’t find us advocating that you sign petitions very often, this time around it could help make a concrete difference towards freeing a longtime fighter for liberation; take a look at this petition on his behalf to the parole board and sign it if you feel inclined. Also, if you’re in the Asheville, NC area, don’t miss this solidarity event for Herman on January 14th, his 68th birthday, at Firestorm Books & Coffee.
Upcoming Prisoner Birthdays:
Casey Brezik #1154765
Jefferson City Correctional Center
8200 No More Victims Road
Jefferson City, Missouri 65101
Oscar Lopez Rivera #87651–024
FCI Terre Haute
Post Office Box 33
Terre Haute, Indiana 47808
Jason Hammond M50190
Vandalia Correctional Center
Post Office Box 500
Vandalia, Illinois 62471
Jeremy Hammond #18729–424
Post Office Box 4000
Manchester, Kentucky 40962
Abdul Aziz (Warren Ballantine) #1415430
Golden Grove Prison
RR 1 Box 9955
Kings Hill, Saint Croix
Virgin Islands 00850
Please address envelope to Warren Ballantine, card/letter to Abdul (Aziz)
Herman Bell #79-C–0262
Great Meadow Correctional Facility
11739 State Route 22
Post Office Box 51
Comstock, New York 12821–0051
Sundiata Acoli (Clark Squire) #39794–066
Post Office Box 1000
Cumberland, Maryland 21501
Please address envelope to Clark Squire, card/letter to Sundiata Acoli
Joseph Bowen #AM 4272
SCI Coal Township
1 Kelley Drive
Coal Township, Pennsylvania 17866–1020
Marius (Marie) Mason #04672–061
Post Office Box 27137
Fort Worth, Texas 76127
*Please address envelope to Marie, card/letter to Marius *