Listen to the Episode — 48 min
Clara: The Ex-Worker:
Alanis: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Clara: a twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Alanis: for everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Clara: Welcome to episode number six of the Ex-Worker. In our last two episodes, we presented anarchist critiques of prisons and police; today, we’re going to start exploring how to live without them.
Alanis: Also, we’ve got an interview with Croatan Earth First, discussing the Round River Rendezvous that just took place, a review of the latest issue of Fifth Estate Magazine, some feedback from our listeners, plenty of news and events and all sorts of things.
My name is Alanis…
Clara: and my name is Clara, and we’ll be your crew on this voyage. If you feel seasick, or you think we’ve blown off course, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com, or by leaving us a voice mail: our number is 202–59-NOWRK⎯that’s 202–596–6975. And please take a sec to rate us on iTunes!
Alanis: Bon voyage.
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: This time on the Hot Wire, we’ve got all sorts of news from around the world. It’s been an eventful couple of weeks!
Alanis: George Zimmerman was acquitted by a Florida jury for the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, prompting explosions of rage across the country. Crowds of demonstrators blocked freeways in Los Angeles and Houston, while dozens were arrested from Oakland to New York.
Clara: Beginning on July 8th, 30,000 inmates in California prisons began a hunger strike to protest their brutal conditions. The strikers’ demands include decent food, an end to the so-called “debriefing” or forced snitching policy, alleviation of some of the worst aspects of solitary confinement… in other words, the absolute basic bare minimums human beings require to not be living in permanent torture. You can get updates about the strike and learn how to support it at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.
Alanis: In case we didn’t convince you last episode that law enforcement exists not to keep us safe but to protect the interests of the powerful, check this one out: the Department of Homeland Security issued a counter-terrorism bulletin to law enforcement warning about - get ready to be terrified - an online petition on the website Change.org objecting to animal cruelty by federal wildlife employees.
Clara: Last time we reported on Greek anarchist prisoner Kostas Sakkas, whose hunger strike to demand his immediate release had been going for over a month. Two days after police in Athens violently attacked a demonstration in solidarity with him, a Greek appeals court agreed to release him on bail after over 30 months in prison without trial.
Alanis: Another update about friends in trouble- Dane Rossman is out of jail! He’s an American activist who was extradited to Canada to face charges for resistance against the G20 summit in Toronto. He took a non-cooperating plea deal and was sentenced to pay some restitution and one day in jail. Dane, welcome home, and thanks for staying strong!
Clara: However, the NATO 3, the folks we reported on before facing charges from Chicago protests against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit, had their trial postponed until March of next year. They’ve been locked up for over a year and continue to have guards messing with them, so consider sending a letter their way - we’ve got their info on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
Alanis: Also, the lawsuit filed by former earth liberation prisoner Daniel McGowan against the US Bureau of Prisons over his experience in the hyper-repressive “Communication Management Units” has been dismissed by a federal judge. Boooo. But the Center for Constitutional Rights is still pursuing a broader lawsuit challenging the so-called “Little Guantanamo” units used to isolate Islamic and radical prisoners.
Clara: Elsewhere in the world, hundreds of protestors in China’s southern Guangdong Province marched against a proposed uranium processing plant, successfully forcing the government to abandon the project, while the military in Honduras murdered activist Tomas Garcia, a leader of indigenous resistance to the construction of the Agua Zarca dam in Rio Blanco.
Alanis: Finally, the state’s fear of masked protestors is spreading. As we reported last episode, Bill C309 banned wearing masks at demonstrations in Canada; now in Brazil, social upheavals including masked protestors have government officials nervous about the Pope’s planned visit to Rio de Janeiro next week. The Guy Fawkes mask first popularized through the graphic novel and movie V for Vendetta and went viral during the Occupy movement has become a global symbol of resistance, and has appeared in the streets of Brazil as thousands rebel against the government. General Abreu, in charge of security for Pope Francis’s opening Mass at the Roman Catholic World Youth Day festival, told reporters, “Masked people will be barred from entering. It is not the right space… for a subject with a hostile attitude, wearing a mask, to enter.” He clarified, however, that “A person holding a poster is not a threat.” Bear that in mind, ye peaceful protestors!
Now it’s time for LISTENER FEEDBACK… ouch.
Alanis: In this episode, we’re going to try something new: we’re going to report back on some of the conversations we’ve been having with you about the podcast. If we keep hearing from y’all, this could become a regular feature, so don’t forget to get in touch.
So: from “anonymous”, we received this comment about our last show (edited slightly for length; we link to the full comment on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast):
Anonymous: Congratulations on another great episode. However, I have one huge criticism. At the end, while listing political prisoner birthdays, you all somehow included the birthday of one of the Cuban 5, who are imprisoned due to their work as agents of the Cuban state. I’m not saying they should be in prison; no one should be in prison. But there are probably two million people in US prisons who better deserve a shout-out on an anarchist radio show. From my perspective, any other prisoners besides snitches, child molesters, rapists, and crime kingpins are closer to us than a secret agent of a state.
Your review of Tortuga’s book was lovely and inspiring. His words of defiance raised goosebumps on my arms and brought tears to my eyes. But other comrades have made even bigger sacrifices than he has. Every time that anarchists choose to extend “critical anti-imperialist solidarity” (or whatever) to the Cuban state, they are spitting on the memory of murdered anarchist comrades.
I quote from Frank Fernandez’ history of Cuban anarchism:
“At least one anarchist fighter in these bands, Augusto Sánchez, was executed by the government without trial after being taken prisoner. The government considered the guerrillas “bandits” and had very little respect for the lives of those who surrendered.”
Other anarchist “compañeros combatientes” were murdered by the Castro government: Tamargo, Aguilar, Jr. and Suárez were shot; Otero was found dead in his cell; Negrin, harassed beyond endurance, set himself on fire. Many others were arrested and imprisoned, where some died and others such as Victoriano Hernandez, sick and blind because of prison tortures, committed suicide upon release.
The Cuban 5 are servants not just of the same system but of the very SAME MEN who ordered that Victoriano Hernández be tortured and blinded. How could we extend solidarity to them? Note that this argument is distinct from the one that we should withhold support from combatants who have different (often Marxist-Leninist) ideas than ours. That matter is a little more complicated, since these other prisoners usually only offer abstract and imaginary support to whatever states they imagine to be “proletarian.” But the Cuban 5 are direct agents of Castro and the Cuban state. What about them justifies their inclusion on the show?
Alanis: That’s a pretty sharp question, anonymous! We consulted our friend who works on the monthly political prisoner birthday calendar, which includes the Cuban Five. Here’s what they said:
Friend: I think this is a question that should be up for debate in anarchist prisoner support circles; I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before. For quite a while, pretty much every big tent anarchist political prisoner support group has included them. I personally have my own reservations about the 5, but I also got no love for right wing Cubans who blow up civilian planes… With a shrug instead of a vigorous nod I’ve opted in favor of including them in our list to network with their supporters in an effort to have our POWs recognized in larger and larger circles. I haven’t seen this as draining our resources nor as approval for the Cuban state. I would love to hear more feedback from anarchist prisoner support groups who include them in their lists and why, as well as from groups who don’t and why.
Alanis: Within the broader movement against repression and to support prisoners, as our friend pointed out, it can make sense to draw links between different groups and communities who find themselves in the crosshairs of state violence. That’s why we included Cece MacDonald, for example, who’s not an anarchist but whose case exemplifies the violence of white supremacy and transphobia and the state’s punishment of those who defend themselves against it. But this is an anarchist podcast, so it does seem pretty inconsistent to promote prisoners who are agents of a state that rewarded anarchists for their revolutionary efforts with prison, torture, and death. Your point is well taken.
What do y’all think? Be in touch and let us know. We’ve got a link to the full thread on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
Clara: Now it’s time for a piece of the CrimethInc Contradictionary. This episode is brought to you by: Death Penalty and Hypocrisy.
Clara: For more explorations of the war in every word, visit crimethinc.com/contradictionary.
FEATURE: LIFE WITHOUT POLICE
Clara: So as we concluded last time: fuck the police. Fair enough, but how are we going to stay safe? How do we resolve our conflicts without police and prisons?
Alanis: That’s a big question. Where do we start? Well, the police always try to scare us into thinking that they’re necessary with all the stories about homicidal maniacs and such, just like the government uses terrorists as their bugaboo, as it were, to justify whatever repression and surveillance they want to do. So to break down these scare tactics, let’s actually look at what it is the police do.
Clara: Hmm… when I think about what it is the police actually do most of the time in my town, it’s random things like directing traffic or big crowds, responding to noise complaints, and crap like that.
Alanis: Certainly we don’t need an armed repressive wing of the state to wave cars through intersections when a traffic light goes out or ask the neighbors to turn their music down. A lot of the functions police fill could be done, and probably done better, by simple cooperation and communication between people.
Clara: And a lot of what they do is flat out unnecessary. Usually I just see them walking down the street harassing homeless people, kicking teenagers out of parks, and generally being assholes. Clearly we can do without that.
Alanis: The justification they always give when they’re stopping and searching people in their cars or on the street is that they’re looking for drugs. But that’s so obviously just an excuse to control people. As if smoking a joint or snorting some coke was more destructive than tearing someone away from their friends and family and locking them in a cage for ten or twenty years. What kind of sense does that make? Let people do what they want, and if they have a problem, give them health care and support in breaking addictions, not prison.
Clara: On the other hand, sometimes communities do struggle collectively against drug dealers and addiction, and have better results without police. There was an interesting example in Dublin, Ireland in the 1990s where working class neighborhoods ran a successful grassroots campaign to kick heroin dealers off the block, without relying on the state.
Alanis: Yeah, there was something like that too in Christiania, the autonomous neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark, which has no laws or police. They had found themselves with a pretty serious hard drug problem in their neighborhood, and after debates, decided to ask the cops for help. But the cops just used it as an excuse to establish a presence in the neighborhood and arrest people for soft drug possession while letting the harder drugs continue to destabilize the social world there. So the neighborhood residents kicked the police out and used social pressure and informal strategies to discourage hard drug dealers.
Clara: OK, so what about when someone breaks into your house?
Alanis: That happened to us a few months ago. We didn’t call the cops, though.
Clara: Why not?
Alanis: Well, because we’re anarchists, and cops are more likely to harm us than help us across the board. But regardless, it’s pretty unlikely that we’d get our stuff back even if they did arrest the people who did it. And sending someone to jail doesn’t make us safer, though it does make the prison system stronger and corporations richer. We just changed our locks, started leaving the lights on, and asked our neighbors to watch out for us when we’re out of town.
Also, we’re trying to stay focused on the real issue. Sure, it sucked that we lost some of our stuff. But capitalism and class society is the problem, not the loss of my laptop and speakers. And the police are the primary armed forces that uphold that system. Abandoning our vision of a world without work or rent or property so that we can maybe feel a little more secure to hang on to the stuff we’ve got doesn’t seem like a very good bargain.
Clara: There was an organization in west Philadelphia called Citizens Local Alliance for a Safer Philadelphia (CLASP) that formed in 1972 to address street crime and home burglaries, which the police weren’t preventing. They combined education and sharing resources with neighborhood walks by folks who lived in the area to intervene in thefts and burglaries. Within a few years there were hundreds of autonomously organized blocks which had dramatically fewer break-ins and muggings than blocks policed by the Philly city cops. Their experience showed how folks can be as or more effective than police in keeping their homes safe, even in supposedly high-crime urban areas.
Clara: Ok, so it seems like we could do away with the majority of what cops do, either because it’s useless, or because we could do it ourselves without all the coercion and violence or bad mustaches and donuts. But -
Alanis: - but -
Both: but what about the rapists and the murderers?
Alanis: Yeah, this is what everyone always says.
Clara: And of course: it’s scary! How are we gonna stay safe? It’s a serious question, and not an easy one to answer.
Alanis: Sure, but let’s keep a few things in mind.
One: humans lived together without police or prisons for the vast, vast majority of our time as a species, and still do in some places in the world. There’s nothing about “human nature” that would have us all killing each other without the state to keep us in line.
Clara: Ok, fair enough.
Alanis: Two, cops and their defenders work reeeeally hard to convince us that we need them. The media constantly blares news at us of crime, violence, and disorder, with the intention of keeping us afraid and dependent on the state. The police strategically ignore certain kinds of harm and actively contribute to others in order to reinforce this impression. Yet in the vast majority of circumstances, folks get along every day just fine, interacting and solving problems together without relying on the state.
Clara: Yeah, it’s true that violent crime is blown way out of proportion in order to keep us afraid and in line. But-
Alanis: Three, whatever they may say, the police aren’t there to keep us safe. They’re there to preserve the power of the ruling class over the rest of us. Whether it’s arresting rapists and murderers or keeping the homeless out of empty buildings and the hungry out of grocery stores, our safety only matters to the police if it upholds the law, property, and the state. And the vast majority of what they label crime or disorder are expressions of resistance to the violent and exploitative order they preserve. It’s like what Mayor Daley of Chicago said in 1968, “The policeman is not here to create disorder. The policeman is here to preserve disorder."
Clara: Yeah, yeah, I know. But you’re not listening! Yes, people have lived without cops; yes, violent crime is not nearly so prevalent and scary as they want us to think; and yes, the cops exist to protect power, not us. But you still haven’t given me (or any of our listeners) any idea about what we would do other than call the cops when our bodies or lives are threatened by others! If we actually want to live in an anarchist society with more people than just you and me in it, people are gonna want to have some idea about how we can resolve conflicts and keep each other safe without the state.
Alanis: Yeah, that’s true. It’s tough, because for the last century at least, cops have had such a stranglehold on us that we’ve had very few opportunities to see what it would actually be like to live without ’em and try other things.
Clara: Looking at statistics about “crime” and economics, it seems clear that societies in which resources are distributed fairly equally have way fewer thefts and violent attacks than societies like ours in which there are dramatic gaps between the haves and the have nots. So certainly a major part of alleviating violent crime is simply removing the barriers to a more free and equal distribution of wealth - which the police play the biggest role in upholding.
Alanis: We can also look at some traditional and indigenous societies in which harm isn’t seen as an issue of individual guilt but a collective responsibility for restoring harmony. Take, for example, the ritual apology methods of the Rotuman people of the South Pacific, or the peacemakers of Dine or Navajo communities in the southwest.
Clara: That’s cool, though I’m a little suspicious of relying on the accounts of mostly white anthropologists who may be taking these systems out of context. Still, these accounts at least challenge US- and European-based notions of what “justice” means and remind us that people all over the world have operated without these institutions we take for granted.
Alanis: The critique that defenders of the cops make is that while these strategies might work in small-scale communities, modern urban industrial societies are big and anonymous and fragmented enough that we don’t have the social bonds we could use as a basis for police-free living, so we have to have the state to keep us from hacking each other to bits. Are there any examples of how people have prevented violence without the state in urban areas in recent times?
Clara: Here’s one example: in the Seattle general strike of 1919, strikers organized a “Labor War Veteran’s Guard,” which defined its purpose as “to preserve law and order without the use of force. No volunteer will have any police power or be allowed to carry weapons of any sort, but to use persuasion only.” And it worked- even the US Army Major General deployed there said he’d never seen so quiet and orderly a city as during that time. Even though the strike was defeated, the combination of solidarity and non-coercive methods of keeping order showed there could be a viable urban alternative to the police.
Alanis: We can also look at the street committees formed during apartheid South Africa, when the white police forces were solely repressive against the black population and folks had to self-organize for internal safety. Members of these committees were publicly elected, had open meetings, and dealt with a wide variety of problems: at times with violence, but most often with other forms of redressing the harm that was done. Even when the apartheid regime fell and the African National Congress took over the government and the police forces, many of these street committees continued, and still exist today as an alternative alongside the formal police, challenging the state’s monopoly on defining order and justice.
Clara: In Catholic areas of Northern Ireland, where extreme hostility to the colonial police made it pretty much impossible for them to control the population, the IRA administered a fairly brutal kind of street justice, but Republican communities wanted to find alternatives for dealing with their problems. So in the late 1990s they devised Community Restorative Justice programs to deal with conflicts in the community without violence. These programs have successfully resolved thousands of cases without the police.
Alanis: On a smaller scale, there are groups such as Sista’s Liberated Ground, a collective of black and Latina working class women in Brooklyn who were aiming to end violence in their neighborhoods without relying on the state. They used a combination of public art, door-to-door advocacy, education around self-defense and conflict resolution, and circles to intervene in cases of violence.
Clara: And marginalized communities have always self-organized to defend themselves. For instance, there are the bad date hotlines set up by sex workers in different cities to share information about violent johns and protect themselves. Or queer community groups like Safe OUTside the System in New York, which organizes and educates about how to stop violence without relying on the police, who are often indifferent or homophobic, or the Northwest Network project called Friends Are Reaching Out that builds networks of communication in queer communities to help prevent abuse in relationships.
Alanis: What about when the threats are not from other folks in your community, but from the state itself, or other gangs of paramilitaries or bullies?
Clara: For a situation like that, we can look at the Civil Rights movement in the South in the 1960s. Armed defense groups fought off the Ku Klux Klan and other white terrorists when state forces wouldn’t stop the racist attacks. In the late 1950s, Robert F. Williams led an armed NAACP chapter in Monroe, North Carolina to defend black folks against the Klan.
Alanis: But I thought the Civil Rights Movement was all non-violent.
Clara: Well, that’s the story our leaders want us to believe. In 1959 Robert F Williams debated Martin Luther King Jr over the merits of nonviolence at the NAACP national convention; the organization suspended him for six months for disagreeing with the national leadership, even though his armed self-defense efforts were saving lives.
Robert F. Williams: And so I recommended that they meet violence with violence, that Negros must be prepared to repulse attacks, that they must be willing to fight, that they must be willing to die and to kill if necessary, that there was no law, no 14th amendment to the United States constitution of legal protection in the South, and that therefore they didn’t have any deterrent, and that they would have to create the deterrent force themselves [1:41 - 2:12]
And others in the movement were inspired by his example. The Deacons for Defense and Justice were an armed civil rights defense group founded in Louisiana in 1964, which eventually grew to have over 50 chapters across the South. They provided security for demonstrations and marches, guarded the homes of workers and activists targeted by racists, and intercepted police radio signals and showed up on the scene of arrests to keep the police in line (foreshadowing the Copwatch programs of today, as discussed on the last episode). Contrary to the mythology of nonviolence that governs most histories of the civil rights movement, these armed groups were important and influential on black resistance in the south and beyond.
Alanis: Yeah, the Black Panthers continued down some of those paths, with all the education they did around gun laws and self-defense, the escort programs they organized for the elderly, and their attempts to redistrict law enforcement to bring control over policing black neighborhoods into those communities.
Clara: Also, during the uprisings in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2006, the general assembly established these rotating community watches called topiles, modeled on indigenous customs, which helped defend the uprising against police and paramilitaries as well as dealing with internal problems.
Alanis: Likewise, some groups today are taking on how to stay safe both from violence within our own communities and from the police. Groups such as INCITE! Women of color against violence and Creative Interventions have been gathering and sharing strategies from communities of color about how to respond to both interpersonal and state violence.
Clara: That’s a whole other question - how do we respond when these things do happen? If we’re rejecting the police, that also means figuring out how to address harm without prisons or the criminal legal system.
Alanis: Good point… but that’s more than we’ve got time for on this episode. Next time we’ll take a closer look at strategies for conflict resolution and accountability beyond the state.
Clara: In our last episode we spoke with Kristian Williams, author of Our Enemies in Blue. In his afterward to that book, titled “Making Police Obsolete,” he discusses a few examples of efforts to do just that, some of which we discussed here. One theme that Kristian emphasizes is making our collective safety our own responsibility, not the state’s. No one said that being an anarchist was easy! But if we want to be free, we can’t delegate our safety to the state or any group outside of ourselves. We all have to work to shift the conditions that produce violence, and respond to it in transformative ways when it happens (as we’ll talk about more next time.)
Alanis: Of course, we don’t have any foolproof formulas to determine what we’d do in each situation - and we wouldn’t necessarily want to. As anarchists, we don’t aim to replace one totalitarian system imposed on every situation with a new one: we want to do away with all totalitarian systems and live our lives freely according to what makes sense in each place and group of people.
Clara: So in some ways that leaves more questions than answers. But hopefully some of the ideas and examples we discussed show just a bit of the diversity of strategies folks have used to live without cops.
Alanis: Let’s be clear, though- some of these groups we’ve discussed were authoritarian; some didn’t offer roles for women, or failed to challenge other hierarchies within the communities from which they originated. The point isn’t to put them on a pedestal or follow their models like a recipe. The point is to learn from their example that many different options exist to defend ourselves without the police.
Clara: So… what about you? How do you resolve conflicts with the people around you? What makes you feel safe? Most strategies for resisting police begin with the choices you make every day. Build networks in your neighborhood, at your job, in your family. Talk with them about who you would call or what you would do in an emergency, how you would address different situations when they came up. Learn and share the skills you need for self-defense, de-escalation, and meeting your needs together, not at each other’s expense.
Alanis: One of the real weaknesses of the police is that huge numbers of people hate them and wish they’d leave us be. We’re definitely not alone in that as anarchists.
Clara: But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to get rid of them or live without them. The police won’t just vanish overnight when the last person takes a self-defense class and writes down an emergency phone tree. They’re powerful, and they have a stake in keeping us afraid of each other and dependent on their violence. But even though it may seem like an uphill battle, don’t forget that this fundamental feeling of antagonism toward cops, the basic resentment nearly everyone feels about being spied on and bullied, can be a basis for rebellion across all sorts of differences.
Alanis: And we see this happening all around the world, more and more every day. Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Brazil… and those are just the ones in the headlines. Across every continent and every imaginable ideology, people unite around fighting the police. As we continue to resist them in the streets, let’s also work to make them obsolete in our everyday lives.
Alanis: Now it’s time for the Mugshot, our feature in which we take a look at a contemporary project that’s putting anarchist ideals into practice. Last episode we reported that the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous was taking place in western North Carolina, and so today we’re speaking to one of the organizers to learn a little bit more about the event, the group that put it on, and the struggles they’re fighting today.
Liz: Hi, My name is Liz. I work with Croatan Earth First.
Croatan Earth First is a radical environmental group based in central North Carolina. Right now we are really focused on working against hydrofracking, which is set to begin in the state by 2015. But we’re also interested in stopping extraction everywhere, so] interested in coordinating with other groups that are working on anti-extraction [um], bioregional and ecosystem protection around the country and the world.
Alanis: Liz first connected with the group because of her involvement in the Occupy movement’s brief explosion in fall 2011. Although the local encampment was short-lived, it served as a space for various radicals to get connected.
Liz: Occupy sort of dissolved, and out of that I made a number of good friends, a couple of whom acted as contacts and helped me start working with Earth First.
Alanis: Croatan Earth First has worked on a variety of issues, including a forest defense campaign in western North Carolina, but their main focus today is on the fight to stop hydrofracking, a dangerous and heavily polluting method of drilling for natural gas.
Alanis: Can you give a brief introduction to what hydrofracking is and why people oppose it?
Liz: Hydrofracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, it’s a process that uses millions of gallons of water mixed with a lot of different toxic, possibly carcinogenic and radioactive chemicals that are pumped into the ground at a high pressure to fracture underground rock formations to allow natural gas to bubble up and be collected for use for energy.
Alanis: Various other environmental groups in North Carolina are also working around the issue. But as we discussed in Episode Three of the Ex-Worker on green anarchism, Earth First! emerged out of a frustration among anarchists with the mainstream green movement’s timid and bureaucratic approaches - so they do things a little differently.
Liz: Earth First! is different from more mainstream environmental groups because more mainstream environmental groups I think focus on lobbying, things like lobbying, public awareness raising… Earth First! does work a lot to raise awareness about the things that are important to us, but we also do things more directly. so direct action that actually puts us between the land and the people that want to harm it.
Alanis: In addition to this focus on direct action, another feature that sets Earth First! apart is their commitment to ending all resource extraction and protecting ecosystems, rather than just humans or a single species within them. Liz pointed out mainstream environmental groups often focus on ending one extractive method, leaving the door open for another that’s equally devastating. What these groups lack, she says, is a biocentric viewpoint that values entire ecosystems and all life within them.
Alanis: So this year, Croatan Earth First! decided to host this year’s national Earth First gathering, the Round River Rendezvous, so folks involved in EF! groups and campaigns from all over North America came down to North Carolina for a week. What was the goal of the rendezvous?
Liz: The goal of the rendezvous was to let people from all over Canada and the US come together in North Carolina this year, to talk about the campaigns we’re working on across the country to protect our various bioregions and ecosystems and the land the we love and get to know each other, to have a chance to commiserate and celebrate with people that are fighting similar fights.
Alanis: The Round River Rendezvous, or “rondy,” as it’s known to the attendees, took place in the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina from the 1st through the 8th of July. Despite freakishly bad weather - it poured rain every single day, nearly threatening to wash out the camp at moments - hundreds of eco-defenders came from all over the continent and stayed for a week of events.
Liz: There were a lot of different and varied workshops at the rendezvous this year. There were some really meaningful workshops on anti-oppression that I think began to help us recognize and begin to address a learning curve in our movement over race and gender dynamics. There were also a lot of exciting workshops that gave people a chance to discuss the campaigns they were working on in different parts of the country, as well as skill sharing workshops, things that were a lot of fun and helped you gain valuable skills.
Alanis: Folks learned how to climb trees, tie knots, build platforms, and identify mushrooms, while others discussed feminism, cultural appropriation, or indigenous solidarity. In between, there were plant walks, performances, and rowdy nights around the campfire (when it wasn’t pouring too hard). But one of the most valuable opportunities of the rendezvous was the chance to learn from participants in major eco-defense efforts happening all over North America.
Liz: There was a really great evening panel that had four or five people from different campaigns across the country discussing their individual work. So we learned about the Keystone XL pipeline blockade in Texas, which is still standing and phenomenal, similar work against hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania, where they did a really intense tree-sit in January in the snow. We also got to hear from the RAMPS anti-mountain top removal and coal strip mining campaign in West Virginia. And finally, the anti-Line 9 campaign in Canada that’s networking and working with a lot of First Nations people there to stop a pipeline from being reconstructed and brought back into use in Canada.
Alanis: But these gatherings aren’t just a chance to chat and learn and catch up. Folks come ready to put their knowledge to use.
Alanis: At the end of each year’s summer rendezvous, participants plan and carry out an action to bring attention to a local environmental struggle. What happened this year?
Liz: I was really sad that I was not at the action this year, but what happened [um] was that a group of about a hundred people, rendezvous attendees, went to Morganton where there’s a chemical plant that produces resins that are necessary for hydrofracking and ships them all over the country. There were two tripod blockades set up at two entry points in the plant’s gate, [um] about twenty feet tall that two very brave people sat atop. And there was chanting and marching and really really beautiful banners that people put a lot of time and work into. And the gates of the plant were successfully blocked for a number of hours, until about noon, and then [uh] the protestors were ordered to disperse and sadly about ten people were kidnapped by the police and our brave tripod sitters came down.
Alanis: In addition to supporting the arrestees, Croatan Earth First! is absorbing the new skills learned and relationships forged through the rendezvous and making plans to continue their campaign to defend against fracking. Although there’s a lot of support and attention to the issue, it’s still an uphill battle.
Liz: The truth is that a lot of North Carolinians don’t know exactly what hydrofracking is and what a danger it could be to our water and air and land base; and also to continue the exciting direct action things that we’ve been doing over the last six months, most recently at the post-rondy action, as well as to continue networking and supporting [um] showing solidarity for anti-extraction campaigns across the country to learn from each other and move forward together.
Alanis: To learn more about Croatan Earth First! and hydrofracking, check out Croatan - that’s C-R-O-A-T-A-N - earthfirst dot com.
THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Clara: Now let’s move on to the Chopping Block, in which Ex-Workers tell you what we’ve been reading and what we think about it. This episode we’re taking a look at the summer 2013 issue of Fifth Estate Magazine, titled Sex and Anarchy.
Fifth Estate is the longest running anarchist magazine in the US. This anarchist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, and anti-profit project has been published cooperatively by a volunteer collective of friends and comrades from across North America since 1965. They’re committed to non-dogmatic, action-oriented writing and activity to bring about a new world. Over the years, the magazine has been a platform for all sorts of anarchist writing, from theory to reports on social movements to poetry to history. The Detroit-based magazine survived riots through the 1970s and 80s and traced the emergence of green anarchist thought through the critiques of civilization and technology put forth by contributors such as David Watson, Fredy Perlman and John Zerzan. Through the 1990s and 2000s, as the magazine’s base migrated to rural Tennessee and beyond, writers such as Peter Lamborn Wilson and Ron Sakolsky pushed the envelope with zany and creative pieces on surrealism, spirituality, sex, and all sorts of other passionate ramblings. Picking up any issue of Fifth Estate guarantees you an informative, weird, and thought-provoking read, and #389 is no exception.
This issue explores sexuality, gender, and relationships through an anarchist lens. It kicks off with an article from Jamie Heckert, co-editor of an academic anthology called Anarchism and Sexuality, which frames these themes within anarchist theory and history. Articles on polyamory discuss open and multi-partner relationships from different critical viewpoints, while another takes on the question of marriage from an anti-state perspective. Earth Liberation Front prisoner Marie Mason contributes a vivid, heart-wrenching poem called “Sex and Revolution,” alongside an update about her incarceration. And in the piece “Why Be So Attached to Your Penis?” Ron Sakolsky playfully examines the subversive theological and political implications of a recently discovered hermaphroditic mollusk with a detachable penis.
Beyond the issue’s central theme, several articles deal with prison, including coverage of grand jury resisters, an article by Fifth Estate editor Kelly Rose Pflug-Back about her incarceration in Canada after the Toronto G20 summit protests, and a fascinating interview she conducted with one of her fellow inmates about white supremacy, censorship, and resistance in an Ontario women’s jail. There’s also an article by John Zerzan on the history and cultural context of the Luddites, a poem by Peter Lamborn Wilson called “Neanderthal Liberation Front,” and a number of book reviews, letters, and other short articles.
I wasn’t impressed with all of the content, especially some of the articles on sex; and given the richness of queer and transgender anarchist critique in recent years, its total absence from the issue was hard to ignore. But there’s always something fascinating in Fifth Estate for nearly any reader interested in anarchist ideas. There’s a satisfying balance of news, reports, analysis, theory, and history, from a diverse range of contributors as well as the collective’s distinct style of art and graphics.
So do yourself a favor and check out the latest issue of the magazine that for nearly fifty years has stubbornly continued to churn out their unmistakable brand of visionary anarchism.
You can find out more, or see the table of contents for this issue and read a couple of articles, at www.fifthestate.org.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: And now … it’s time for Next Week’s News, our calendar of events that are coming up before our next episode.
So what are we looking at for the rest of July?
Alanis: Well, there are some big convergences coming up for environmental resistance. There’s the Canyon Country Rising Tide Direct Action Training Camp happening July 24th through 29th in southern Utah. It’ll be a week of direct action trainings and planning aimed at halting the first planned tar sands oil mining project in the US. This is a seriously creepy, majorly destructive project, and a major focus of eco-defense efforts, and what happens with it could set a precedent for future tar sands attempts in the US, so keep an eye on this resistance and support if you can. More information at http://canyoncountryactioncamp.org/.
Clara: And also out west, the Trans- and Womyn’s Action Camp (or TWAC) Cascadiawill take place July 23rd through 29th in western Oregon. TWAC is a movement to unite, support and inspire trans and womyn activists to take action against patriarchy, oppression and exploitation in defense of our communities and ecosystems. You can get more details at twac.wordpress.com.
Alanis: Over the next month, a speaking tour called “Building a Revolutionary Anarchism” will travel from Texas up the west coast and back through the midwest. It features Colin O’Malley of Rochester Red and Black, a class struggle anarchist organization based in upstate New York. “Building a Revolutionary Anarchism” will share lessons and perspectives from anarchist organizing in the US and Argentina. Informed largely by the South American organizing model of especifismo, the presentation will focus on the necessity building nationwide anarchist organization in the United States. If that’s your thing, check out our website for a link to schedule of cities and dates for the tour.
Clara: In international news, Ex-Workers from abroad report that there will be an Anarchist Fiesta gathering from July 22nd through 26th at Polytechnic College of the Philippines in Santa Mesa, Manila. It’ll be a five day series of anarchist activities including food, films, art, workshops, discussions, performances, and lots more.
Alanis: There’s also a European anti-militarism camp called “War Starts Here” kicking off today and lasting through the 29th. It’s taking place at the GÜZ, one of the biggest and most modern military troop training facilities in Europe, in eastern Germany near Magdeburg. Organizers say that at the GUZ, “Different forms and facets of militarization, war and counter insurgency meld together. Not only do we want to disrupt and attack them, but we want their activities to be visible to the wider community.”
Clara: And finally, the Dutch No Border Network is organizing a No Border Camp in Rotterdam from August 2nd through 10th. It’ll be a militant week of action, discussion and workshops connecting with the tireless actions of migrants in the Netherlands during the past year and a half.
Alanis: One last note: August 3rd is Bill Dunne’s birthday. He’s an anti-authoritarian revolutionary doing 75 years for assisting in an attempted jailbreak of radical prisoners in Seattle in 1979. He’s super active in the Anarchist Black Cross Federation as a writer and an activist, and works hard to support other prisoners and solidarity efforts. Drop him a line if you’ve got the chance! His address is available on our website.
That’ll do it this episode of the Ex-Worker. Thanks to each and every one of y’all for tuning in! I’m Alanis…
Clara: …and I’m Clara, and we’ll be back with our next episode on the 4th of August.
Alanis: This has been a production of the CrimethInc Ex-Worker’s Collective.
Clara: We want to thank Liz from Croatan Earth First! for speaking with us, and thanks to Underground Reverie for the music you’ve heard in this episode.
Alanis: Over at crimethinc.com/podcast, we post a full transcript of the show, which is actually really helpful: it’s got links to all the news and groups and events we mentioned, ways to read more or get involved, all kinds of stuff. So if you want to find the comment thread discussing anarchists and the Cuban Five, check references about the Seattle General Strike or the Deacons for Defense and Justice, find out what especifismo means, or learn more about anything else from the episode, check it out.
Clara: And of course we want to hear from you and continue the conversations about all the issues we touch on. Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave us a voicemail at 202–59-NOWRK; that is, 202–596–6975. And if you downloaded this podcast through iTunes, leave us a rating and let us know what you think.
Alanis: For a world without police cars or prison cells…
Clara: See you next time!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
Download MP3 (48 Min; 22MB)
Our discussion of how to stay safe without police draws on several sources, but in particular the afterword, “Making Police Obsolete,” from Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America by Kristian Williams, and Chapter 5: Crime in Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos. We also recommend the zine Alternatives to Police compiled by Rose City Copwatch.
Tour dates for “Building a Revolutionary Anarchism” talks by Colin O’Malley of Rochester Red and Black
Here’s the address for anti-authoritarian political prisoner Bill Dunne, whose birthday is on August 3rd:
Bill Dunne #10916–086
USP POLLOCK U.S. PENITENTIARY
P.O. BOX 2099
POLLOCK, LA 71467
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608
Music for the Ex-Worker provided by Underground Reverie.