Episode anhören — 120 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: Happy new year, everyone! Welcome back to the Ex-Worker. In our final episode of the year, we’re going to take a look back at the wild ride that was 2014. Comrades from around the world write in to share their reflections about the most significant events of the last year, and what the prospects for resistance look like for 2015.
Alanis: We also have reports to share from squatters in Prague and rebels in the streets of Oakland and Berkeley, plus discussions in response to listener feedback about our engagement with news and events, the Agency article on Ebola, and the relations between police and other arms of the state. We’re also gonna tip our hand a bit and reveal some of our schemes and dreams for the next year. My name is Alanis…
Clara: …And I’m Clara, and we’ll be your hosts. Don’t forget to check out our website at crimethinc.com/podcast to see a full transcript of this episode, plus links and notes and sources and plenty more.
Alanis: And we’d love to hear from you by email at podcast at crimethinc dot com with any feedback, criticism, reports, or suggestions. Don’t be shy!
Clara: 2014 was one hell of a year, and there’s a lot to report… so let’s get started!
THE HOT WIRE
Alanis: We’ll kick things off with the Hot Wire, our look at resistance and revolt happening around the globe. Clara, what is going on out there?
Clara: Let’s get the bad news over with first… Early on December 16th, numerous anarchist houses and social centers in and around Barcelona, Spain were subjected to raids and seizures, resulting in the arrests of 11 comrades on vague charges of terrorism. Dubbed “Operation Pandora” by the Spanish state, the arrested are now accused of being involved in the GAC, or Coordinated Anarchist Groups, a group of people which allegedly “held some meetings and edited some books,” but which the Spanish state and media recently dubbed a terrorist organization. Seven of the arrested are being held in pretrial imprisonment, which could last up to 4 years if the state decides to apply the anti-terrorist law. The other four have been released under strictly surveilled conditions.
Alanis: The arrests come on the heels of the Spanish state’s detention of two Chilean anarchist comrades. Mónica Caballero and Francisco Solar, both ex-suspects in the Chilean Bombs case, who are accused of placing an explosive at the Basílica del Pilar in Zaragoza and belonging to an alleged terrorist organization. Right before the Pandora raids, the Spanish government made an announcement that “the ministries of Interior Affairs of Spain and Chile are opening a new phase of enforced collaboration in the struggle against anarchist terrorism.”
Clara: Solidarity thus far has been broad and fierce. The day of the raids, graffiti and posters began to appear around Barcelona, Madrid, and several smaller cities, and waves of large, combative demonstrations took place in response to the arrests, and again when the news arrived that many of the defendants would be held in pretrial imprisonment. Participants utilized the hashtag #YoSoyTambienAnarquista, which translates to “I am also an anarchist.”
Alanis: Now that is how you respond to repression!
Clara: No kidding. We’ll have an interview to share in our next episode with Barcelona anarchists discussing more about the repression and counter-repression efforts there.
Alanis: Meanwhile, a disruptive demonstration also took place at the Spanish consulate in San Francisco, California, drawing attention to the arrests as well as the Spain’s new “Ley de Mordaza” or “Gag Law,” which makes it illegal to insult or film cops, or to assemble in large groups. And a telecom center in Rovereto, Italy was also attacked with incendiary devices, with a communique issued for the action sending greetings of solidarity to the Operation Pandora arrestees, as well as to several other prisoners of the Spanish and Italian states.
Clara: In Florence, Italy, an ATM was torched in solidarity with anarchists imprisoned in the struggle against the TAV, or high speed train, construction in Italy.
Alanis: Back in the US, anti-police highway takeovers and shutdowns continue. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 74 people were arrested after shutting down both directions of Interstate 43 during a Friday rush hour to protest the non-indictment of the officer who killed Dontre Hamilton. The officer who shot Dontre a whopping 14 times was fired from his the squad but somehow dodged indictment for the murder. As usual, the police are blaming the protests on “out of town hipsters” and “white anarchist agitators.”
Clara: And, yet another night of rioting broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Berkeley on Christmas-eve-eve, after the pigs shot and killed another young black man. A nearby QuickTrip gas station was looted and burnt.
In the first direct revenge killing of police in response to the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, 28 year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two NYPD officers in Brooklyn before killing himself. He had posted a message on Twitter shortly before saying, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take one of ours… let’s take 2 of theirs. #ShootThePolice #RIPEricGarner #RIPMikeBrown This May be my final post… I’m putting pigs in a blanket.”
New York mayor Bill de Blasio called the shooting “a despicable act that goes at the very heart of our society and our democracy. When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It’s an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on everything we hold dear.”
Alanis: Of course, you’ll never hear someone say something similar about Mike Brown, or Tamir Rice, or Eric Garner, or Akai Gurley. The mayor wants us to believe that their murders by police aren’t an attack on all of us. Their murders don’t tear at the foundation of of our society, because racist murder and the devaluing of black lives is part of that foundation. Fuck you, Mayor de Blasio. Regardless of how you feel about shooting police, an attack on them is definitely not an attack on us. In some cases, it might save our lives.
Clara: But there’s more to this story. Before attacking the NYPD officers, Brinsley first shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend. In the midst of all of this attention focused on police violence, mostly targeting men of color, it’s sometimes easy to overlook everyday violence against women, largely by intimate partners.
Alanis: The reason why murders by police have catalyzed such a furious response, especially from within communities of color, is not just because they are cruel and violent to a particular person, but because they serve to terrorize entire communities. We see them as threads within a tapestry of racist domination, woven together with all the other oppressive structures and daily indignities of life in racist America.
Clara: This analysis actually owes a lot to feminist conceptions of how men’s violence against women reinforces, and is reinforced by, so many other dimensions of gender oppression in daily life, which intertwine to constrain the lives of women. So let’s not leave this first shooting out of the narrative, or define it as “personal” in contrast to his shooting of the police as “political.” The mayor may say that an attack on cops is an attack on us all; yet violence against intimate partners directly reinforces the fabric of gender oppression that literally is an attack on all women and detrimental to us all - far more than revenge killings against members of a murderous police force. Whether you see Ismaaiyl Brinsley as a cold-blooded killer or a tragic hero, don’t forget that ending men’s violence against women is every bit as important to building a world free of domination and oppression as ending police violence and the police as an institution.
Alanis: Since Brinsley’s shooting, police have subsequently arrested at least six people for allegedly making anti-police threats via social media, charging them with making “terroristic threats.”
Clara: In Stockholm, Sweden, a contingent of rabblerousers smashed up a police station and burned several cars. Unfortunately, 11 participants were scooped up by police and are facing charges of arson, rioting, and violence against officials. Nearly all of the arrestees are under 18.
Alanis: Elsewhere in Scandinavia, riots erupted in Helsinki, Finland on December 6th, the national independence day. Anarchists and other autonomous leftists had historically organized relatively peaceful protests on that day, until last year when things got rowdy and 500 demonstrators broke away to smash up the city center. This year, organizers themed the day “from the Suburbs to the Palace.” The gathering of several hundred people began in the outskirts of the city, hanging out and enjoying subversive rap music and vegan food. The crowd started moving, took over a metro train and headed toward the center. They began to smash fast-food businesses, paint subversive messages on the walls, and burn stolen Finnish flags. Part of the crowd was eventually kettled and 30 people were arrested, mostly journalists and bystanders. Police estimate that 100,000 Euros worth of property destruction took place.
Clara: In Istanbul, Turkey, the Caferağa Mahalle Evi, a squatted community center, was evicted. All documents in the squat were destroyed, and the historic metal door was welded shut, so those who were using the space have not been able to re-enter and assess the damage. Participants in the social center responded with a solidarity demonstration the morning of the eviction.
Alanis: The Obama administration is pursuing a new policy of de-escalation with the Cuban government, highlighted by the release of two Americans held in Cuban prisons in exchange for the remaining members of the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino. The Cuban Five were Cuban intelligence agents arrested in Miami and incarcerated by the US on charges of spying for the Castro government; their case had attracted international attention and the anti-imperialist left had championed their cause. We had an interesting debate back in Episode 6 about whether the Cuban Five should be a focus of prisoner support efforts by anarchists; one listener criticized us for including their names in our listing of political prisoner birthdays, when the Five were agents of a state with a proven record of anti-anarchist repression. Personally, I thought their argument was convincing, and from then on I didn’t include their names and addresses in our listing - of course, not because I thought they should be in prison, but because of all the millions of US prisoners who deserve support and freedom, agents of an anti-anarchist state didn’t necessarily deserve our focus moreso than so many others, except within a logic of broad anti-imperialism that we’ve criticized at length in Episode 24 and elsewhere. In any case, the Cuban Five are now all free and back in Cuba.
Clara: Incidentally, a Vice News article raised an interesting point about the implications that newly thawed US-Cuban relations may have for American political refugees living in Cuba, most notably Assata Shakur. Neither government has addressed it directly, but New Jersey cops hope that under the newly thawed US/Cuba relations she’ll be extradited back to the US to serve the rest of her prison term. Shakur is a former soldier of the Black Liberation Army; imprisoned on charges of killing a cop in 1973, she successfully escaped from prison in 1979 and sought asylum in Cuba in 1984. Her autobiography “Assata” remains one of the classic narratives of revolutionary black resistance in the US. The FBI added her to their list of top ten most wanted “terrorists” and teamed up with the state of New Jersey to offer a $2 million bounty for information leading to her capture. https://news.vice.com/article/new-ties-raise-old-questions-about-the-fate-of-assata-shakur-and-other-us-fugitives-in-cuba
Alanis: In a bold anti-Christmas action, a crew of hackers called the Lizard Squad targeted the electronics corporation Sony in a DDOS attack on Christmas Day, leaving millions unable to access online Xbox and Playstation services. As the BBC reported, “The disruption did mean that many families were unable to enjoy their new Christmas presents.” Take that, Santa!
Clara: And, in news that seems almost too good to be true (at least insofar as we can get excited about more laws), the State of New York has passed legislation banning hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as “fracking,” the notorious earth-destroying and water-poisoning natural gas extraction process. While some insist that faltering oil prices did the trick, others credit a seven-year legal battle waged by activists. But of course, all the rowdy, direct actions which have taken place in the region are missing from the official narrative of this so-called “victory.” Thankfully, the Earth First! Journal Newswire has compiled a dossier of actions from the course of the six-year struggle, ranging from conference disruptions to construction site blockades, all with the purpose of shutting down fracking operations and natural gas infrastructure.
Alanis: You can find a link to the list, as well as more information about everything from today’s Hot Wire in the show notes for today’s episode on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
Clara: In addition to our regular news, we have two longer reports to share from comrades engaged in ongoing struggles - first, a crew of squatters and rebels in Prague, and then some antagonists from Oakland, California active in the wave of uprisings unfolding out in the Bay area.
REPORT: SQUATTING, EVICTION AND RESISTANCE IN PRAGUE
Alanis: We received a message from “dreamers, cop-haters, and other anarchists from Prague” with an update on resistance in the Czech Republic. Here’s what they wrote:
Clara: In the last weekend of November, a group of people in Prague opened a squat in a former clinic that had been abandoned for years. Three days after occupying the building, they hosted an open meeting about the future of the new autonomous social center and discussed tactics for its defense, followed by a party with dinner and a show. During the first week of its existence, “Klinika” became a point of convergence for many different people and collectives. Events took place every day, ranging from anti-capitalist and environmentalist presentations to a benefit jukebox party to a DIY poster exhibition to a “skate on what you find” session, since the house was big enough to host even a small skate park inside. Other projects planned for the space included a free bike workshop, vegan cafe, infoshop, and library. During the first nine days, hundreds of diverse people visited the place and showed their support.
But we are still living in the world where state’s power weighs down upon us, so Klinika was evicted on the morning of Tuesday, December 9th.
The house officially belongs to state. At first, it looked like the Prague municipal government wanted to negotiate, and some participants from Klinika went to the government agency that deals with state property. But an anti-extremist division from the police department showed up to the meeting to say that they have records on many of the activists who were taking part in the new social center, claiming that they are repeat offenders of crimes like squatting, rioting and failing to disperse at demonstrations. After hearing this, the state stopped negotiations, demanded that the occupiers leave the house, and then ordered the police to evict it. So the police were directly responsible for the eviction from the beginning - they weren’t just some dupes who got bad commands and were “just doing their job,” as they say. They were actually the ones who determined who was or wasn’t worth negotiating with.
Right after the eviction, a spontaneous demonstration took place and people occupied a Prague municipal building, and later a planned program took a place in the office of a Czech government ministry, with many people showing their support and solidarity. On Saturday, December 13th, a demonstration of over one thousand people took place - which for an issue such as squatting and on short notice is quite a lot for Prague - and marched through the city towards Klinika. The march was colorful and a lot of people who wouldn’t ever show up to an anarchist demonstration came to support: there were many people with children, a samba band, an endless amount of banners and colored smoke torches. We could hear slogans like “Empty houses, heads (are) empty” and “The struggle continues,” directed at the cops in Czech and Roma languages. A group of people re-entered the squat and about one third of the marchers left. Vans full of police arrived just as the sun went down and began to violently attack the demonstration, firing tear gas and injuring five people, and ultimately the house was evicted a second time.
Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t agree with resquatting the house, worrying that the action would give us a bad image or just make us seem like troublemakers. But many others have realized that the state and especially the police are our enemies, and that we cannot ask them for anything - all we can do is fight. Police have shown that they have no mercy again and again, and no one expects anything from them anymore. Tactics in Prague had been very peaceful to this point, with a broad range of people interested in supporting the project, but after the police’s brutality on Saturday night things have changed.
On Sunday night, December 14th, a police car in Prague was set on fire, though a police unit from the station managed to extinguish the flames before it burned down. A communique was released by a group called Anarchist Solidarity Action, which reads:
Alanis: "We are Anarchist Solidarity Action! In the evening hours of December 14th we lit up a police car! Police of the Czech Republic interfered with negotiations between the Klinika social center and the state, ended the dialogue and then evicted the house. On Saturday there was a demo and reoccupation of the house, which the state had let sit abandoned for 5 years. The police again responded violently, pushing people out and injured several people.
In the USA, police killed Michael Brown, Eric Garner and hundreds of others, mostly people of color, whose names and stories we will never hear! Police all over the world spread fear, controlling, pursuing, bullying, degrading, beating, shooting, kidnapping, arresting and killing!
Police stand in between empty houses and people without homes; between empty buildings and people who have meaningful uses for them; between overflowing food shelves or even dumpsters and people who are starving; between the powerful few and the rest of us who slave away day by day working for them. The police stand between our dreams and their fulfillment. Bit by bit they get under our skin and into our minds.
Solidarity with the mourners of M. Brown, E. Garner and all victims of police violence. Solidarity to all political prisoners and oppressed all over the world. And last but not least, solidarity to the Klinika collective!
Anarchistická Solidární Akce - Anarchist Solidarity Action"
Clara: The next day, the news was filled with pictures of the slightly burned police car, but only parts of communique were quoted by the mass media. Later, the full communique was released through some anarchist media channels. The Klinika collective officially distanced themselves from this attack, labeling it as counterproductive, violent and stupid, because they believed it could hurt their position in further negotiations with the state. The internet was full of discussions as to whether it was a real attack or a police provocation. This shows how unusual this kind of sabotage is in Czech, when people wouldn’t even believe that it happened.
Unfortunately this kind of direct action divided people; alongside those who feel confused and don’t know what to think, most are split into two groups. One group thinks that this was a very counterproductive action, and that instead we should focus on creating a nicer image of ourselves to attract more supporters and media attention, and try to get some politicians on our side to negotiate with the state and the city of Prague. The second group feels that this struggle and the rage it brings up have a deeper context than the fight over this one house, and that the struggle for Klinika cannot be taken out of context of the fight against the power of the state and capitalism.
But regardless of their opinion about whether or not to burn down police cars, the vast majority of people involved in the struggle for Klinika believe that it’s crucial for Prague to have a truly autonomous center without European Union, state or corporate sponsorship or grants.
There’s a website for Klinika, which is 451.cz/klinika - it’s in the Czech language only, but you can see photos of the space there.
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!
-Dreamers, cop haters and other anarchists from Prague.
FROM FERGUSON TO OAKLAND: REPORT FROM BAY AREA ANTI-POLICE RESISTANCE
Alanis: The movement that began in Ferguson in response to the murder of Michael Brown has spread around the United States, setting off nightly clashes in the Bay Area. Scrambling to keep up with events, our contacts in Oakland have composed an overview of the past weeks of anti-police revolt. In this account, published on December 12th, they describe the trajectory of die-ins, marches, riots, blockades, barricading, and looting, and explore the implications for the future of protest movements around the country. We share this excerpt with love and solidarity for the fighters in the streets of the Bay Area, and in hopes that its reflections may shed light on anti-police struggles wherever you’re listening. You can read the full article at crimethinc.com/blog.
Clara: A wild and growing anti-police revolt is in full swing across the Bay Area. It is a node in the growing national movement sparked by the insurrection in Ferguson following the police execution of Michael Brown, and at the same time it is a continuation of local struggles dating back at least to the 2009 Oscar Grant riots in Oakland. Some of us who have participated in events in the Bay over the past weeks urgently desire to communicate to others around the world about what is unfolding here. Our aim is not to claim bragging rights or to establish Oakland as the riot capital of the United States. On the contrary, it is necessary to spread word of the unprecedented nature of these events precisely because it suddenly seems more possible than ever before that revolt against white supremacy and the police could spread beyond the usual spaces of protest.
In order to illustrate the magnitude of what has unfolded since a grand jury announced it would not indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, we must make one point clear: we are losing track of how many highways have been blockaded, which stores have been looted, which intersections have seen the fiercest fighting with police. All of this has been unfolding on a nightly basis for over two weeks. Roughly 600 people have been arrested. Many of the main business districts across the East Bay are boarded up. It has become routine to hear police and news helicopters tracking the latest riot each night. Militarized police forces from across northern California are now regularly being deployed in our streets. Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Emeryville have all experienced riots and looting.
Alanis: Many of us have been through various movements and small-scale revolts in Oakland and the Bay Area over the past decade or more. Yet this is something different. While the numbers taking the streets on any given night are not massive—usually in the range of 500 to 1500—the consistency and level of intensity that this insurrectionary wave has unleashed have not been seen here in decades. All this is unfolding outside the control of any organization or political clique. At this point, there are barely even specific call outs for marches or meet ups: crowds of neighbors, students, activists, and militants are now gathering each night on their own chaotic initiative. An informal alliance of graffiti crews, groups of friends composed primarily of young Black and Brown rebels, and clusters of anarchists of various stripes and backgrounds has emerged to create the most vibrant and combative tendencies within the uprising. Those who show up with suggestions as to where the energy of the crowd might best be applied are given a hearing, and sometimes their proposals are carried out. Those who attempt to calm and manage the situation are ignored, and often attacked if they attempt to impede others’ actions.
The initial wave of rioting, marches, and blockades in Oakland during the week of November 24 was just the beginning. There followed multiple blockades of the 880 and 980 freeways, numerous die-ins blocking roadways, and shutdowns of the West Oakland BART station—and then the riots began in earnest.
Clara: The rhythm of unrest has changed tempo repeatedly over these twenty days, but shows no signs of quieting. Revolt has shifted fluidly between various forms of resistance—from relatively calm marches to mass highway blockades, intense street fighting, and targeted expropriation. This has kept the movement resilient and capable of bringing in a diverse range of new participants day after day, even when there are sharp disagreements over which tactics are appropriate and little consensus over what direction the movement should take.
It is difficult to anticipate what will happen next. No one predicted that this revolt would be sustaining this level of intensity more than two weeks after people first gathered at 14th and Broadway while Ferguson burned. The long-term repercussions are unclear. At the very least, it seems that the reactionary period of social decomposition that followed the high points of struggle here in the Bay during 2011 and early 2012 is over, and something new and even more ferocious is taking shape. We can also tentatively conclude that the tactic of blockading major infrastructure, including highways, has spread beyond the high water mark previously set by the port blockades of the Occupy movement. There have been at least ten highway blockades in the East Bay alone over the past couple weeks; such blockading is now considered a favorable tactic even by those who identify as “peaceful protesters.”
Alanis: Meanwhile, the consistent pace of combative demonstrations that traverse municipal boundaries is pushing local law enforcement infrastructure to its limits. Police units are increasingly reluctant to engage with the crowds; officers who find themselves locked in street fights are retreating more frequently.
Of course, the unrelenting pace of events is also straining the anti-repression infrastructure that has become such a vital sustaining force for rebellious movements here in the Bay. This infrastructure is one of the lasting local manifestations of Occupy Oakland; it has roots stretching back to the Oakland 100 Support Committee, formed in the immediate aftermath of the original Oscar Grant riots. Arrests are now occurring every night, arraignments every day, rides must be coordinated to and from Santa Rita Jail constantly and additional money is desperately needed to bail out arrestees with more serious charges. How we follow through with displays of solidarity and direct material support for arrestees will determine how much strength we gain from this uprising moving forward.
Clara: Standing in the streets of Oakland in December 2014, it seems that we have come full circle almost exactly six years after Oscar Grant was executed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. The journey that began by the Lake Merritt BART station on January 7, 2009 when that first OPD car was smashed has taken many twists and turns through various waves of protest and movements, many of which have manifested in rioting and clashes with police in and around downtown Oakland. Meanwhile, a wave of small uprisings has unfolded in an increasing number of locations across the country in response to one police execution after another: Portland in 2010, Denver in 2010, Seattle in 2011, San Francisco in 2011, Atlanta in 2012, Anaheim in 2012, Santa Rosa in 2013, Flatbush in 2013, Durham in 2013, Salinas in 2014, Albuquerque in 2014. In each of these local uprisings, the name of a person whose life was taken by the state was snatched from oblivion and burned into collective memory through the actions of those who chose to revolt.
The brave people of Ferguson pushed this past the point of no return by doggedly refusing to leave the streets night after night, showing that these revolts could extend in time and increase in intensity. If there is one answer as to why those of us in the Bay now find ourselves in a near insurrectionary situation tonight, it is simply this: we are no longer alone. Another city has set a new precedent for resisting the racist police state, so Oakland is no longer an outlier.
Alanis: The new paradigm of struggle emanating from Ferguson was further reinforced during the second week of the revolt, as news spread that a New York grand jury had failed to indict any NYPD officer in the strangling of Eric Garner. What had previously been restricted to singular outbursts of anger in reaction to individual cases of police executing Black and Brown people became a systemic struggle confronting the structures of white power and state violence within this country. This struggle is no longer just about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, or Oscar Grant, or even the thousands killed by police whose names have never entered the public consciousness. It is about the violent marginalization and enforced social death of entire Black and Brown communities. It is about the role of the police in exercising lethal force with impunity to maintain this order and uphold the slave state foundations of American capitalism.
We can now finally speak of a national anti-police movement that came into being through the fires and blockades of late 2014. This should be celebrated as a massive victory for resistance in the United States. An important milestone has been reached and we are watching the results unfold every night before our eyes.
Clara: Many days ago, it became impossible to predict what would come next. We hope this uncontrollability spreads to new locations, in ever more creative forms of disruption and attack.
Alanis: Some Oakland Antagonists, December 10, 2014
Clara: And now it’s time for some listener feedback. What have we got today, Alanis?
Alanis: Well, we saw a comment about Episode 32 from one Azathoth, which reads:
Clara: “CrimethInc, why the lack of critical engagement with so much of the show’s material? As the previous poster said…”
Alanis: This refers to another comment critical of the Ebola article that we excerpted on the show…
“…some of Agency’s comments are just thoroughly ridiculous, and it seems a huge disservice to your listeners to simply say that this is a thing that some people are doing in this facile, neutral way. The same goes for much of the Hotwire: you simply make a laundry list of actions with nothing more than an exclamatory ‘Damn’ or ‘Oh!’ afterward - do you really have nothing to say editorially about some of the tactics and goals therein (I mean, protests for Democracy, really?)? While I often disagree with CrimethInc’s positions, I at least value hearing what y’all have to say - laundry lists of actions can be found in a variety of sources, and anarchist podcasts are often guilty of being redundant with one another when it comes to listing them; what makes the anarchist podcasts worth listening to in this respect is hearing what each of them thinks when it comes to evaluating them.”
Alanis: I think that’s a fair critique. There’s a few things to respond to in it. First off, to be less facile and neutral, I actively support the Agency project’s goal of helping anarchists communicate with non-anarchists and creating accessible anarchist perspectives in a variety of media outlets. We mentioned the project and highlighted their latest article as a way of directing our listeners to it and generating some interest. Looking at North American anarchism over the last 10 years, there seems to have been a drift away from mass mobilizations, conferences, and activist gatherings towards book fairs, as well as shifts in publishing towards theoretical or highly specific and internally oriented writings rather than general interest propaganda and DIY zines and such. I’m not sure if this is a cause or a consequence, or both, but it correlates to a decrease in anarchist communications oriented towards a broad or general or non-anarchist audience, and fewer physical spaces in which anarchists and anti-authoritarians mix with interested or mobilized folks of other political tendencies to learn from each other. I don’t think this is a positive development. We want this podcast to be interesting both to long-time anarchists and to people encountering these ideas for the first time, so we’re always trying to balance accessible or introductory content with more in-depth or scene-specific discussions. (And we’re always interested to hear from y’all about how we’re doing, incidentally, so let us know what you think.) And Agency seems like a project with compatible goals, in terms of amplifying anarchist voices in mass media intended for other audiences. So there you go.
As to the Ebola article specifically: I chose to read excerpts from it because I agree in general with the kind of thing the article aspires to do: that is, take an issue that’s being widely discussed in society and apply an anarchist analysis to it. In particular I liked the way they framed it in terms of questions we would need to ask in an anarchist society, or through an anarchist approach to a problem.
Clara: That said, I actually had several critiques of the article. As one commenter said, “We shouldn’t be trying to show that we’d be even better managers of the world than the capitalists are.” I’d agree with that, both because management is incompatible with freedom, and because I don’t think it plays to the strengths of what anarchists have to offer tactically and analytically to these sorts of crises.
Alanis: I’d like to see a broader critical analysis of the self-organized relief efforts after Katrina and Sandy, or more recently around the West Virginia water contamination crisis, where anarchists were active along with others in efforts to support people with basic resources when the state declined to do so. Did folks involved in those projects feel like they built a foundation of lasting autonomy on any level? What does “solidarity not charity” actually mean in practice in these situations, beyond just being a kind of inane slogan?
Clara: Also, I’m not sure I agree that the state’s actions in these crises were “failures.” If you look at New Orleans in Katrina, following the line of Naomi Klein’s “disaster capitalism” logic, the death and displacement caused by the flood cleared the way for massive neoliberal accumulation through privatizations and gentrification. And even in a case like West Virginia, within the logic of austerity, forcing people in crisis to self-organize for their basic needs simply saves the state money, provided that the self-organized structures don’t create a basis for lasting autonomy that can become antagonistic to the state… which doesn’t seem to have happened in any of these places, though I’d love to be corrected if I’m wrong.
Alanis: Contrast that to the Cuban government’s responses to hurricanes, for example, which by all accounts are extremely efficient in preventing deaths and avoidable damage. Communists in the US have cited this as justification that authoritarian leftist regimes are more efficient than democratic capitalist ones in terms of saving lives in natural disasters. A different way to look at it is that these types of states have different goals. In a more directly authoritarian state like Castro’s Cuba, the strategy is to compel people to understand their interests as coinciding exactly with those of the state, to induce their loyalty and justify their direct surveillance and repression. So it’s in the state’s interest to make citizens feel like they’re cared for by the state - plus they have the infrastructure of massive daily state control to compel folks to relocate and organize it all. (Incidentally, this sort of challenges the contention from the Agency article that “consent and persuasion are the channels through which things actually get done,” at least in terms of natural disaster response under different state regimes.) On the other hand, in the US, there’s a very strong ideology that the market is the organizing principle of society and people have to earn anything they ask of the state (despite the fact that the state only exists by its parasitic theft of our resources, but anyway…) So it’s really important to the strategy of capitalist control and diffuse state power that folks not grow to feel entitled to the government protecting their lives - hence such an extreme and seemingly bizarre backlash against Obamacare and things like that. So without being conspiratorial, I think it’s fair to say that the US state benefits on the whole from its so-called “failures” around natural disasters and such, by securing the primacy of the market as the organizing principle of how human life is maintained and managed, or neglected and terminated… that’s what they call “freedom.”
So to bring this back to Ebola, we shouldn’t think that it’s failure or inefficiency that results in massive death and suffering, to be corrected by courageous volunteers enacting sensible policies. The circulation of the literal virus, as well as the international hysteria around it, serves powerful interests, economically as well as geopolitically. It seems weird for anarchists to make the claim that the state is there to “serve the people most in need,” even by implication through pointing out how it failed to do so. That’s just not what the state is there for. To whatever extent they do or don’t protect and manage human life, whether in the US or Cuba or Sierra Lione, depends on particular strategies for upholding state power and capitalist domination in that area. And, incidentally, state and capitalist strategies may come into conflict: whether in Cuba, where the state tries to control and limit the capitalist market, or in Sierra Lione or Liberia, where capitalist mercenaries underwrite or overthrow government regimes according to the dictates of diamond mining and energy interests. Another problem with the Agency article is how the authors seem at times to conflate state and market health systems, which actually have super different approaches to something like an Ebola epidemic - as anarcho-capitalists would be the first to point out. The state exists to secure and extend its power to dominate through force; capitalism exists to generate profit. Life, or health, or freedom, or any of the other various things we might want: these are all incidental within the logic of these systems, to be promoted or discarded depending on whether they advance those underlying goals in any given situation. As anarchists, what we have to offer is a totally different logic for approaching social organization, based neither on profit nor on domination. We shouldn’t claim to be able to do what the state or the market does, just better or more efficiently.
Clara: Of course, another pretty obvious way to respond to Ebola from a different anarchist perspective would be to point out that industrial civilization and mass society are the root causes of the geometric spread of epidemic disease, and that solutions based on more industrial technology, more international travel, and so forth will always be two steps back for one step forward. A notion of anarchism based on high-tech syndicalism to solve global crises better than current state or market structures will simply rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic so that the collapse of all life on earth will be experienced as horizontally as possible. But since that perspective doesn’t fly in the mass media, it’s never going to have the chance to circulate as widely as a pro-science and technology critique like Chuck–0 and Carwil’s.
Alanis: Anyway, there’s plenty more we could criticize or discuss about the article. In the last episode, we didn’t mean to simply parrot it uncritically; we just wanted to briefly highlight a project with whose general goals we feel sympathy without making the episode even loooonger than it already was. In the future, when we highlight articles from Agency or other places, we’ll make sure we do engage with it rather than simply reading it.
Clara: And finally: while we do occasionally weigh in on what we think about news items, the Hot Wire is more of a laundry list than an analysis of the actions. We do make an effort to collect news from a variety of sources, at least some of which may be off the map of what most North American anarchists are already reading; and we know that at least some listeners do use it as a source of news that they don’t get elsewhere. Still, we don’t want to be redundant with other podcasts, and we do obviously have lots of opinions.
Alanis: I guess I’d assumed that the information was more interesting than our opinions, and since we’re giving our opinions about quite a lot throughout the shows, that section made more sense as journalism than commentary. But if you’d like we can go on more rants.
Clara: I never thought I’d hear someone asking me to go on more rants.
Alanis: Well, the people command and we obey!
Clara: Oh, shut up.
Alanis: Serve the people, as I’ve always said!
Clara: Seriously, stop.
Alanis: The Ex-Ex-Worker! A Maoist strike against a multitone world!
Clara: OK, moving right along…
Alanis: We got a small correction to our last episode that opens up to some interesting questions about the relationship between police and other arms of the state. In our last episode, Clara said: "In fact, it’s the mayor of Oakland who thrives on the media’s selective obsession with certain protest tactics, because it allows her to obscure her complicity in the racist violence of the police department she controls.”
Clara: One listener pointed out that there has been considerable tension between Mayor Quan and the police since at least 2011, and at some points it’s been in question whether she has any control over them at all. Apart from a minor case of fact-checking, this is actually interesting because of how it reminds us that the “state” is not a monolithic body whose different limbs necessarily have the same interests. The police are capable of operating as a force with some degree of autonomy, which can create conflicts between them and the political class, who often have the bear many of the consequences of popular resistance to police violence.
Alanis: That makes sense. Take the situation in Greece with the fascist Golden Dawn party, who we discussed at some length in Episodes 11 and 12. A high percentage of the police and military are members or supporters of the party. After the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member, the state initiated some repression of the party, jailing some of its high-ranking members. But a broader state effort to thoroughly root out the Golden Dawn could risk prompting a revolt by the police who would be expected to carry it out, perhaps even a coup against the government. Yet if the state didn’t appear to take some sort of action against the murderous fascists, the upheavals and resistance from anarchists, anti-fascists and others could risk spreading and destabilizing state control. While sometimes the political class are able to simply use the police as an instrument of their power, often they’re walking a tightrope between the risks to their own control from giving police too much power on the one hand, and the risks of civil society becoming ungovernable without force to keep them in line on the other.
Clara: Aww, poor politicians! That sounds really challenging!
Alanis: Cry me a river, right? But that actually points to a different angle for looking at the question of why cops could kill Mike Brown and Eric Garner and so many others with no legal consequences.
Clara: Ah, I see where you’re going. Politicians praising cops for their bravery and boosting their budgets and defending their ability to kill with impunity… it’s not just to appeal to pro-cop voters. It’s to keep the cops themselves on their good side. Because law enforcement in the United States are a huge, well-organized, and heavily armed gang - there are nearly a million sworn officers who can arrest people in the US as of 2008 - imagine the consequences if they decided that they felt collectively threatened whatever regime was in power!
Alanis: We can see this in Obama’s response to the rebellions in Ferguson. Remember that since he took office, a whole range of armed right-wing cranks have stepped up organizing in militias and talk all kinds of shit - much of it racist and anti-Islamic - about how they have to be ready to overthrow their government to defend freedom when it’s threatened. On the surface that rhetoric might sound compatible with anarchist ideals. But then realize that many of the people who are on that page have connections with law enforcement and the military. So if you’re Obama, and you’re already under siege from the well-armed racist right for being a black president, and now you’re in a situation where a national anti-police rebellion is unfolding with, it has to be said, some pretty obvious and uncontroversial complaints (as in, would you please stop allowing the murder of black men by cops to go utterly unchecked?). Yet if the grand jury indicts them, and cops start facing consistent consequences for their murderous racist violence - and especially if a politician indicates that they should - this could undermine the trust, even loyalty, of law enforcement towards the political class…
Obama: “First and foremost we are a nation built on the rule of law… There are Americans who agree with it and Americans deeply disappointed, even angry. That’s an understandable reaction. But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
Clara: Let’s unpack that a little. First and foremost, rule of law… decoded, that means: law enforcement, I’m in your corner. Your power and your prerogative comes first, over any obvious undeniable injustice or oppression. This business about some agree, some disagree is the most banal, trivializing, wishy-washy shit I’ve ever heard. And after he quotes Mike Brown’s father to try to pacify demonstrators, it gets even worse:
Obama: “Understand our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do: to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence; distinguish them from the vast majority, who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact.”
Alanis: This is repulsive. Utterly despicable. And word for word out of the playbook of police divide and conquer tactics. A violent minority (read: criminals, anarchists, et cetera) attempting to “take advantage” of a pacified vast majority who… just want their voices heard about police/community interactions? Are you fucking serious? People are being literally slaughtered in the streets day after day and you think what people want is to have their voices heard about how the police who slaughter folks of color interact with the communities they are slaughtering? And you have the nerve to call what the police do as maintaining our safety? Despicable.
Clara: The only way to make sense of this is in the context of the threat that law enforcement poses to the political class. Obama knows he’s walking that tightrope, where if he doesn’t keep kissing the boots of the police, there’s a risk they could go rogue, yet if he doesn’t appear to validate popular rage on some level, that could spill over into an ungovernable situation. While I obviously have no pity for Obama, it’s an impossible situation to be in, and he knows it. He can only hope and pray that this counter-insurgency strategy will work: de-legitimizing militancy, dividing protestors against each other, and relying on brute force while begging the police to not make things any worse by being more brutal than they absolutely have to be. Otherwise, it will be naked military force versus uncontrollable widespread rebellion, and we know which side he’s on.
Alanis: It’s worth pointing out who that press conference is intended for. People who had planned to get wild in the street if they let Darren Wilson off are not going to decide not to loot and burn because Obama says so. The speech is intended in part for liberals to stiffen their resolve to snitch on fellow protestors and divide the movement. But first and foremost it’s intended for the police: his vote of allegiance to the law enforcement establishment. Just because I’m the first black president doesn’t mean I’m not 100% behind “the rule of law” - i.e., your unrestrained ability to kill people who look like me for any reason or no reason at all.
Clara: He goes on to talk about the need for reform, alludes to the legacy of racism, and harps on the importance of “trust” and “good relationships” between cops and their victims. One of the most revolting lines:
Obama: “Nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.”
Alanis: Oh, that’s right! If we just had good policing, we wouldn’t need food, or decent housing, or clean water and air, or anything like that. I’m not really sure how we’re gonna get that stuff, in a brutal capitalist economy enforced by state violence, but at least we’ll know that our neighbors and family members will go to jail if they can’t get their needs met within the laws designed by our masters to keep us poor!
So how do we make change, Mr. Obama? How do we deal with the difficult issues facing us?
Obama: “What we need to do is to understand them and figure out how do we make more progress? And that can be done. That won’t be done by throwing bottles; that won’t be done by smashing car windows; that won’t be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property…”
Clara: WRONG. He knows every bit as much as we do that the only reason anyone knows Mike Brown’s name, the only reason he is making this press conference, is because people rioted! Literally! It’s indisputable! There is literally no other explanation possible! Dozens and dozens of other police murders of young black men have taken place this year, but none catalyzed this kind of attention and interest! If people there hadn’t thrown bottles and smashed car windows and vandalized property, there would be no national conversation on race relations and police reform happening in the mass media! It’s just a fucking fact!
Alanis: ATTENTION LISTENERS: THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE EX-WORKER. THE ONLY REASON WHY “CHANGE” OR SO-CALLED “PROGRESS” HAPPENS IS BECAUSE PEOPLE BREAK THE LAWS AND PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF THIS SOCIETY. ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU OTHERWISE IS YOUR ENEMY. THANK YOU.
FEATURE: THE EX-WORKER’S YEAR IN REVIEW
Clara: So, 2014…
Alanis: One hell of a year!
Clara: One hell of a year indeed. Where do we even begin?
Alanis: Well, as the new year arrived, we saw the ambiguous success of the Ukrainian Revolution, followed by Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and a war fought between pro-Russian separatists and the forces of the new Kiev government over the eastern region. In February a mass uprising kicked off in Bosnia, with dramatic attacks on government and political party buildings and clashes with police, followed by large popular plenums; in some places, the protests managed to overcome nationalist divisions. As the civil war in Syria continued to rage, we saw the rapid emergence and military of the Islamic State, or ISIS. The opposition to their advance, especially around Kobane in the Rojava region, involved Kurdish national liberation forces, self-organized militias, and anarchists as well as others. A new military-led regime in Egypt cracked down on protests, slaughtering 400 Islamist demonstrators in a single day. Anti-austerity struggles continue to flare up around Europe, most recently in Belgium. Recent months in Mexico reflected both horrifying violence and a popular groundswell of resistance, after the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa revealed undeniable collusion between the violence of the state and drug cartels. The massive spectacle of the World Cup in Brazil proved one of the most widely watched and bitterly resisted events of the year, though unfortunately state repression proved more successful in dampening uprisings against the Cup than the revolts against transit fare increases the previous summer. In terms of global feminist resistance, much attention has focused on sexual violence against women over the past year, including uproars on college campuses and the Bill Cosby scandal in the US, as well as large demonstrations in India, Kenya, and elsewhere. Ecological protests and camps resisted resource extraction, particularly hydrofracking for natural gas, with some particularly inspiring instances emerging from indigenous communities combining environmental defense with challenges to the very sovereignty of the state. And here in the US, the massive rebellions emerging in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s murder by police in Ferguson and grand jury decisions allowing killer cops to walk free dramatically shifted the context for struggles in the streets, shaking many of us out of a post-Occupy malaise.
Clara: Even with all of that, we’re obviously just scratching the surface here. So rather than attempting a comprehensive review of the last year from our limited perspective, we decided to ask our friends and comrades around the world to help us. We contacted many of the folks who’ve contributed their ideas and reports to the podcast to ask two questions:
Alanis: First, what do you think were the most significant events or developments in 2014, where you live or globally?
Second, what do you expect for 2015? What should anarchists and radicals be watching out for?
Clara: We got quite a few responses, from across North America and as far off as Russia and Columbia. Some focus more on recounting events, while others offer strategic reflections. We’ll share a few of them in this episode in hopes that these perspectives will provide some insight into how anarchists in other places have experienced the last year, and what we should keep an eye on over the next one.
Alanis: It’s not surprising that for US anarchists, police violence and the rebellions emanating from Ferguson provided the starting point for reflections on 2014. One friend from the northeast had this to say about the last year:
Clara: "All I can think about is police murdering young black and brown people. While I don’t believe this is any more significant than any of the horrors happening in Gaza or Sierra Leone, or how the US military industrial congressional complex is training ISIS while continuing their campaign of Islamophobic ideological terrorism, there’s a genocide happening at home that’s impossible to ignore because of how brazenly and unaccountably police are just fucking killing people. They’re getting raises or paid administrative leave or book deals or crowd funding checks. Our society is a hellworld and I think a lot of kids are starting to acknowledge that, moving outside the bizarre bullshit meme that was #Occupy and starting to actually connect to the immediate, nearby, constant violence that is the police state… to feel it and witness it and hold it enough to know that just a chant is not enough, and if it has to be nonviolent it can at least be a massive blockade or disruption. It’s a refreshing departure from the ugly pointless utopianism of the last couple years among ‘activists’. Criticisms of the concepts of ‘innocence’ and ‘allies’ are a good start; moving toward apolitical criminal support and true accomplice work would be important, too.
Also, social media feels really important to me now. It’s legible and established; and it’s so painfully clear how foolish the mass media parrots/police mouthpieces are when we have cell phone footage and Twitter accounts that detail facts without being molested by an editor or some other content overseer. Podcasts and zines have been nice to rely on too. It’s so lovely and important how hard places like the Bay, Berkeley, New York, Missouri, and lots of other places popped off. Seeing some of the shit written on specific walls even in smaller cities, and how poorly the police cruisers are cared for there, makes my heart feel like there’s some semblance of meaningful powerful agency in the hands of us alienated dispossessed nobodies.
In 2015 I expect Empire to find a new way to monetize the edginess of anti-police demonstrations; I expect to see a proliferation of commodities that leverage the brand associated with activism lifestyle; I expect the economy to demand more sacrifices in the form of prisoners. Anarchists and radicals should be watching out for people who care more about immediate material dismantling of white supremacist and patriarchical and surveillance state infrastructure, and should not be watching out for other people who call themselves this or that type of ‘anarchist’ or ‘radical’. Anarchists should watch out for identities and set theirs aside and try to just connect to people based other realer shit. Most important of all anarchists and radicals and whoevers should be watching out for strategic ways to get away with robbing banks and burning down police stations.
Love, President Barack Obama"
Alanis: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your much more inspiring comments this time around! One theme of our conversations over the past weeks has been about how the post-grand jury rebellions have reframed our understandings of affinity in many different cities. It’s different in different contexts, of course, but some have found things in common in the streets with folks quite different from themselves, while others have found that folks from activist or leftist circles are not in fact comrades at all. So I appreciate your imperative to focus on finding shared interests through struggle, beyond anarchist or radical identities. Clara: And I think it’s especially important that we as anarchists seriously grapple with the different risks and possibilities that social media and instant communication offer in moments of crisis. This year has seen more and more surveillance and repression conducted through social media against us; yet we’ve become more and more dependent on it to catalyze protests, which in turn can spread far faster than we could anticipate and can be coordinated over vast distances with relative ease. Alanis: And in terms of media: whatever one thinks about its “democratic” potential, in terms of subverting the top-down hegemony of the corporate media, social media also subject us and our actions to the tyranny of ever more diffuse majorities. Anyone with a Twitter account can weigh in and shape the course of a narrative, no matter how trollish or reactionary, and of course this includes cops and their allies. While we need not have the start-up capital to buy a TV station to have our voices heard, these horizontal and participatory networks still trade in the currency of attention - numbers of hits or likes as the new capital - that fluctuate minute to minute, yet over time tend to cleave to the bell curve of social norms. Let’s continue to develop our understanding of what these new conditions imply about where we should devote our energies in the crises to come.
Clara: Heading further north, a correspondent from Montreal, Canada sent us this report on the last year of Quebecquois anarchy:
Alanis: "In spring of this year, Montréal’s two annual ‘combat manifestations’ (that is, spiky protests) took place, on March 15 and May 1. The first was crushed utterly. The second featured significantly fewer arrests, and it was interesting. In and around the demonstrations, the police, for all their enormous number, made mistakes, and anarchists - lucky ones, clever ones, crazy ones - were able to do some of the things they wanted to do, and get away with it. There was some tactical experimentation during the thing, and some internal-to-the-movement arguing about strategy after. But really, though, neither of these was the most interesting demonstration of the year by far.
On June 17, municipal city employees lit a bonfire at Montréal City Hall to protest cuts to pensions that the Liberal mayor and the Liberal government of Québec (which beat the nationalist Parti Québécois in a spring election) are calling in. The police watched on without making arrests; they are also facing cuts, along with everyone else. It was especially hilarious/infuriating because, just next door, participants from the student strike who received tickets were in court at the Palais de Justice. And then on August 18, firefighters, at least a few police, and others actually charged into Montréal City Hall and disrupted a meeting of the council.
Looking ahead to next year, there is a lot of organizing going on for May 1, 2015. A general strike has been called. If a certain number of student associations agree to it, there will probably be a short but interesting student strike. The IWW and the CLAC (that’s the Industrial Workers of the World and the Anti-Capitalist Convergence of Montreal) are working together in some way, too. Probably the Maoists are making preparations. It will be interesting, to say the least.
It seems to me, though, that regardless of what radicals do, there is going to be a disruptive movement at some point. The cops, the firefighters, the garbage collectors, and a lot of other people are angry; they feel as though their money is being stolen out of their pockets. This anger is one of the key things; another is that the movement is full of people with messed-up ideas. There are a lot of people with racist, misogynist, nationalist, authoritarian ideas in the population affected directly by austerity measures, even if we temporarily ignore police and prison guards."
Clara: That makes me think back to 2011, when the protestors occupied the capitol building in Wisconsin in protest against cuts for government workers. Many of them were marching behind the banner “Defend the middle class” - not a very compelling framework for mass resistance, to say the least - but those government workers represented one of the demographics that the state could previously count on for unshakeable loyalty, even amidst economic crisis. The last holdouts of the dying Fordist compromise, you could say. Here in the US, the police and the military have been some of the last blocs who’ve been relatively cushioned from government cuts, probably because they’re so crucial to upholding the economic oppression at the heart of global austerity and enforcing these cuts on the rest of us. If police budgets start to get cut - perhaps under pressure from the massive anti-police backlash emanating from Ferguson rebellions, or perhaps just because of economic crisis rippling out from the collapse of the ruble in Russia and other factors - I wonder how that would play out in the US. Canada is a very different context, of course, with a much stronger sense of collective entitlement to the welfare state protections that the Liberal government is trying to weaken or dismantle than exists here. But we’ll keep an eye on how things unfold there and what lessons we can learn.
Alanis: Our Montreal correspondent adds that the indigenous resistance to fracking in New Brunswick offers “a very good example of a movement that actually achieved its bare minimum goals, and at very minimal cost to itself, despite enormous repression. On December 18 a fracking moratorium was introduced by the new Liberal government, but it also got SWN [the energy corporation attempting to frack the Elsipogtog lands] out of the area. The warriors who got arrested got out with relatively few legal consequences.”
Alanis: Heading south, we heard from comrades in Mexico City, who pointed to some of the important developments in Mexico last year:
Clara: “We think some of the most important things that happened in this year is the abduction and disappearance of the 43 normalistas and the assassination of four of them. This event shows the danger of being an activist in a place like Mexico. Another very important thing that happened this year is that some anarchists comrades were sent to prison, including Carlos, Amelie, Fallon and Luis, so we’re fighting for their liberation as well as the liberation of Fernando, Abraham, and other anarchist comrades. In the state of Oaxaca, in the Itsmo region, there is an important regional autonomous struggle in the municipio of Alvaro Obregon. Many anarchists are working together with their process, because this is an indigenous region, and although the Mexican state wants to institute federal elections in there to control the area, this region is still resisting the government, while also fighting against a multinational wind energy corporation. About 2015, we can only say that we hope to keep projects alive and find a way to confront the state and government, not just in violent ways, but also through building autonomous projects, like the one in Alvaro Obregon. We’d like all of you to stay alert about this region, and about anarchist prisoners in Mexico. Because we expect that 2015 will be an even more repressive year, so we want to approach this year well-protected in all ways.”
Alanis: Alongside marches, demonstrations, the occupation of an airport, and numerous other tactics, another developing trend in Mexico is the organization of “autodefensas,” community militias or self-policing forces autonomous from the government and drug cartels. Whether these will prove forces for liberation and autonomy, or simply another competitor for the monopoly on violent force used to exploit the population, remains to be seen, and will probably vary in different areas. But this year’s events leave no doubt that countless millions of Mexicans have lost all faith in the state and are prepared to resist or subvert it in a variety of ways.
BLACK MOSQUITO / GERMANY
Clara: Heading across the Atlantic, we asked our friends from Black Mosquito for their thoughts on the last year in Germany, and they sent back these spontaneous thoughts:
Alanis: “Over the last year, we witnessed the unexpected rise of neo-fascist groups in Germany. For example, this spring these so-called ”peace“ movements popped up with demonstrations every Monday – which are basically pro-Putin demonstrations mixed with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (such as chemtrail ideas) – with several thousand people across Germany attending. Next, there was a demonstration of 5,000 hooligans in Cologne, with a racist background. Over the summer, there were several anti-Semitic demonstrations and attacks against synagogues and Jewish people on the streets. And just at the end of the year, a movement against the ”Islamisation of Germany" just appeared – which is basically a pure racist German mob movement – with 17,000 people at a single demonstration. This has all been flanked with a huge increase of Nazi attacks, ranging from street harassment to the burning of homes under construction for refugees.
A little sign of hope appeared when a group of racist hooligans made a second attempt to march through Hannover – and some of these idiots got the shit beaten out of them.
More hopeful signs for us came out of Rojava / Kurdistan. Since the fight for Kobane, people are gathering on the streets across Germany, breaking the isolation of different ideological backgrounds and joining together with the Kurdish movement. This movement brings together people from different backgrounds and opens up a perspective of liberation for many people.
In 2015, we expect these new neo-fascist groups to continue growing – and radicals and anarchists should be prepared to fight back against them. By all means necessary. We should be prepared to deny every aspect of nationalist thinking and to fight it wherever we witness it. Furthermore, anarchists and radicals should come out of their niches and their tiny subcultural bubbles and get involved in creating a movement with teeth. The international perspective of liberation in Rojava and all of Kurdistan can be used as a reference point for a new perspective on global social revolution. In creating a real alternative to the existent, we also can fight back against fascist tendencies from the ground up."
LINKING URBAN AND LAND-BASED STRUGGLES
Clara: Here’s one of the more thought-provoking reflections we received, from an anarchist who has spent time in Europe and North America over the last year. It offers a self-critical framework drawing on military strategic and tactical thought to link urban revolts with rural struggles.
Alanis: I spent today at a new land occupation, thrown up by local radicals (many of them of them back-to-the-landers from the 60s) against a new “green energy” development. It’s the end of the year, and our meeting in a barn was predictably marked by the cold and the early darkness. But there was warm food and drink and lots of discussion about how to coordinate diverse, contradictory efforts. Looking over the last year at Burnaby Mountain in the Coast Salish territory, the ZADs in France, the Unist’ot’en camps, and the revitalization of Earth First!, there seems to be a significant upturn in land-based struggles, at least in the post-industrial world that I’m familiar with. And there’s obviously the explosion of anti-police, anti-repression revolt across Mexico and the U.S. beginning in Ferguson and Ayotzinapa, which is a different kind of struggle over land, or at least over who will control the urban spaces many of us live in. And so much of this revolt feels very different from our “normal” projects and struggles. Even if it’s likely that the most explosive element will subside for the time being by the time 2015 rolls around, the shocking speed with which it generalized has already created a more fertile climate for our projects. Reflecting on the incredibly rapid pace at which rebellions unfold and spread today, I’m reminded of a concept central to contemporary U.S. military doctrine called the OODA loop. OODA stands for observe-orient-decide-act. It’s the basic structure for acting intentionally in a strategic conflict. Basically, the quicker you can do these things in sequence, the more effective you will be. U.S. military strategists believe that, in a conflict, whoever has a shorter OODA loop has the decisive advantage.
As an anarchist, I’m skeptical of appropriating military jargon, but I think this framework is simple enough to prove useful to us. It emphasizes intentionality and not just lashing out. We should observe a situation and orient ourselves to it. Only then can we decide how to act within it. But we have to act decisively, and if we do that more quickly than our enemies, we can off-balance forces that are much stronger than we are. The famous “swarm effect” of a good black bloc illustrates the power of a very short OODA loop, with decentralized collective decision-making that short-circuits the slow top-down command structure of riot police. But it’s not just a tactical concept, either. It’s easy enough to compare various North American cities over the course of the past month and see which ones had radicals that acted intelligently and decisively and kept everyone from the police to the leftists off-balance. You can also figure out which cities had radicals whose OODA loops were longer than those of the authorities, and who never escaped a reactive position. What worries me when the situation turns around so quickly is that we, as anarchists, carry all our habits from slower, more depressing moments into these new situations. Over the months, my comrades and I have struggled to switch from a perspective developed in hard, slow times to the mindset required for processing and moving in much faster, stronger currents during upswings. These patterns are often very useful when the going is tough: lowered expectations make sense when optimism seems unreasonable. Emotional and political armoring protects us from the world’s blows enough to keep going, but can also prevent us from opening up to the world when that makes sense. Failing to shrug off the armor built up during periods of defeat not only leaves me closed off to the beauty offered by moments of revolt, but makes me and my comrades stiffer and less responsive to the blindingly fast cycles of conflict that emerge during periods of revolt. In the next year, I think it will be important to tie together the two different rhythms of land-occupations and urban revolt. The slow burn of one provides flexibility and sustenance for the explosiveness of the other. We’ve already seen how young comrades coming out of Occupy Wall Street found refuge in the anti-pipelines camps after the urban tent-cities were evicted. We’ve built many different bases over the past few years and will continue to build more. Anytime we start a new land-occupation, collective farm or social center, we should make sure these bases are useful and relevant even to the most unexpected social explosion."
Clara: Up in Finland, our comrade Antti sent reflections on local and global shifts from a Baltic perspective. To the first question, he replied:
Alanis: “Globally, in terms of movements, I think the most significant events were the metastasis of the Syrian civil war and the upheaval in Ukraine and resulting war. Of these two, the Ukrainian events are perhaps more drastic. No other European government has been violently overthrown since events in Romania in 1989.”
Clara: Antti wrote in again with a minor correction on that point:
Alanis: “Sorry, forgot about violent revolution in Albania in 1997 which toppled the government, my bad. But anyway it was 16 years since previous violent overthrow of a government in Europe.”
Clara: Incidentally, there’s an interesting Elephant Editions analysis of the 1997 Albanian uprisings that’s worth reading; we’ve got a link to it on our website. He continues:
Alanis: “One important consequence of the events in Ukraine is that the old left has shown its true face all around the Western world by allying itself with Kremlin interests, either directly or indirectly. Many past alliances of the anti-globalist era (which in Europe lasted longer than in North America) now seem outdated or outright naive.”
Clara: We’d direct listeners to our criticisms of the “anti-imperialist” framework in Episode 24 for more discussion on this point.
Alanis: “Locally in Finland, the most important developments were catastrophic economic shifts which during a one year period turned Finland from one of the few Eurozone successes to its worst performing economy (besides Cyprus). And also the decision of Finnish political elite to ally itself with Russian state nuclear monopoly in the construction of a Russian nuclear power plant in the Pyhäjoki municipality in the Gulf of Bothnia. Both of these developments mean that some tension is ahead.”
Clara: For the following year, Antti identified a few factors to watch out for:
Alanis: "Globally, I think most important trends will be deflationary developments in global energy prices, which might be (but aren’t necessarily) related to peak oil. This will create pressure in energy production countries, especially Russia (whose economy is already in a free fall), Venezuela, countries around the Persian Gulf and perhaps Nigeria. My guess is that Venezuelan government will be the first one to crumble in this list, whereas in Russia it may take a year or two until next cycle of struggles kicks off after defeat of the 2011–2012 cycle.
In Finland, there won’t be any drastic developments. The current ruling party will lose the elections, but the next ruling party has no real political differences and the politics of the next government will be the same shit. It will take at least a year or two until the current heavy economic crisis and nuclear reactor construction will significantly change the political landscape. This is why I personally prefer infrastructure projects and only occasionally work on campaigns.
But I am certain that we will manage to send a message that anarchists are around - in the Finnish political landscape, anarchists have not been something that are taken for granted to be around, but this will change now."
Alanis: We also contacted a comrade in Moscow, whose reply touched on some similar themes. In 2014,
Clara: “I think that for everybody in the post-Soviet Union, the main thing was the revolution (and counter-revolution) in Ukraine. Guys from a lot of countries were at the Maidan and were inspired by it. But then came the change in rulers and the war in the Donbass region, which divided some leftists and antifascists (but not anarchists). For us it was a really helpful experience.”
Alanis: Thinking ahead to 2015:
Clara: “Now we have big economic problems in Russia. Society here has the background of the economic crisis in the 1990s; some just say, ‘We’ve had worse,’ but others don’t want to go back to the 90s. At the same time, the Nazi movement has split (around the conflict in Donbass). So maybe now there’s the chance for anarchists to make something big and have the support of average people.”
Alanis: The Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, close to the Russian border, has been the site of military and paramilitary conflicts between pro-Russian separatist forces and the new Ukrainian government based in Kiev, established after the Maidan protests succeeded in toppling former President Yanukovich.
Clara: Here are some reflections sent by comrades in Columbia about upheavals in their country over the last year:
Alanis: This year in Colombia a lot of sectors of the population had to face different issues, including the illegal open pit mining in many regions exercised by companies like Drummond, and the building of hydroelectric plants, roads, freeways, and even housing projects along with the persecution and repression of activists and communities that resist these projects undertaken in the name of progress and development. The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó had suffered intimidation by paramilitary forces and the Colombian army itself, and paramilitary resurgence in many areas of the country has been reported as well.
The campesino movement took the streets, raising their voices against seed certification processes (including patenting and GMOs), the problems related to the state of the roads, free trade agreements, and many inconveniences that now keep them in misery. Also, this year the corruption in the private health system in Colombia was unmasked, revealing to the public how money from companies like Saludcoop were contributing to private schools, the building of golf courses, vacation resorts, etc. A strike of judicial system employees has lasted more than 70 days, which has affected a lot of legal procedures, especially the ones that involve prisoners.
Another relevant fact is the recent discovery of the acts of espionage against people who are involved in the peace dialogues, with sabotage promoted by Uribe’s party by spreading discrediting information against those they spied upon using the mass media. And extrajudicial killings continued on 2014, as was publicly denounced by alternative media.
On the positive side, men now don’t need a military card to graduate from colleges and universities anymore, which is a giant victory for everyone who belongs to the anti-military and conscientious objection movement.
The initiative to re-criminalize abortion in Colombia promoted by the Conservative party and an NGO in the end was not passed; we feel that this is a victory on the way to self-determination of women.
A permanent tented occupation on a wetland called Humedal La Conejera in Bogota where a project to build an apartment building is being undertaken, a process damaging to all wildlife and habitat there. The people camping there are demanding that this company stop construction. The people staying there are impeding the employees from moving all the building materials inside, sabotaging the sale of these apartments through direct action, and sharing all their knowledge and spaces with the community.
On the anarchist side: our comrade and friend Sergio David Urrego Reyes, a 16 year old boy, committed suicide on August 5th because of all the pressure that he was suffering from the principal, psychologist, and coordinator from the school where he was studying. The relationship that Sergio had with a male pal -and his bisexuality- were discovered and persecuted by the school, driving him to suicide. Sadly, but with the rage that mobilizes us, we denounced, yelled, painted and sabotaged this school, Gimnasio Castillo Campestre. The actions were driven by the hand of Sergio’s mother Alba Reyes, and Sergio’s comrades from an anarchist organization that works around the students’ conditions where he belonged."
Alanis: Let’s head now back to Europe and hear from comrades in Slovenia, describing the process of leftist parties attempting to recuperate the energy of social uprisings and how anarchists are responding.
Clara: In the year 2014, the Balkans continued to take part in global uprisings against austerity, representative political systems and the general social condition people live in. The anti-nationalist and radical uprising in Bosnia, as an organic development of previous struggles, filled our hearts with new kind of energy for our local struggles. Combined with experience from similar events two years before in Slovenia, it showed that we must prepare ourselves, as resistance is reinventing itself in a new form of struggle.
With the rising resistance against austerity and the other anti-social measures that governments are imposing all over Europe, and especially in its southern and eastern parts, the response of the elites to this resistance is going in two directions. On the one hand, we have seen - also in Slovenia - more and more criminalization and repression, especially against anarchists in an obvious attempt to isolate the most radical parts of the movements in order to neutralize them. With number of terrorism charges rising, we cannot be naive and expect this will stop any time soon.
The second response is acknowledging that people have massively lost trust in the representative politics as it is. The state therefore continues to offer concessions within the sphere of ‘democracy’ - more e-elections, e-participation, social enterprises and so on - giving people the illusion that their voices matter, and that a more equal society is possible within this one.
The reinvention of the parliamentarian left that we are seeing all over Europe, from Syriza in Greece to the Slovenian United Left to the Spanish Podemos party, is part of the attempt of states to preserve the privileges of the elites. All these parties are using the methods and discourses of popular social movements, and understand themselves to be part of grassroots politics - just inside the parliament. Their slightly more radical discourse succeeds in gaining votes and popularity as a political party by riding on the wave of popular discontent, while also helping to neutralize the masses that used to fight on the streets.
With these parties moving into terrain that anarchists and other libertarians once held, we must ask ourselves what forms of struggles we must invent within broader social movements in order to retain our unpredictability, ungovernability and subversiveness that pushes for real change in the system, and not merely its reform."
Clara: Now we’re going to hear from our correspondent in Brazil, with some updates about how the context developed there in the aftermath of the World Cup and recent elections.
Alanis: As all the comrades around the globe have seen, this year was a very restless year in Brazil. We had the FIFA World Cup in June and July, and the goddamn elections for governor, president and the parliament in October. And throughout the year we have been suffering a water crisis in the southeast. One of the worst cases we have is in the state of Sao Paulo, where the reservoirs of the city are down to only 6% of their capacity. People in suburban areas are without water during the afternoon and night – sometimes all day long – so that the rich neighborhoods and businesses can continue their normality. All of this has resulted, for the most part, from political decisions, of course. But the media and the government insists that it is because of the summer weather and our consumption as citizens.
This year, we saw how repression in the future will be. What comrades in the US are seeing, especially after the uprisings in Ferguson - the militarization of police on the streets, cops killing black people, the people retaliating - this has been our routine here for decades, and it’s getting worse. And after the World Cup, we had the president - the “left choice” within the political spectrum here - putting together the army, national guard, military police, civil police, and federal organs to work against their own citizens. The army took over the state occupation in favelas in Rio de Janeiro and are still there. There was resistance against the exception laws, the privatization of public space, the use of public money to promote the biggest profit in the history of the World Cup. But it was less than expected after what we saw during the June 2013 uprisings. This made the radical movements improve their methods. We saw a new wave of solidarity and support for prisioners. The homeless movements, the movements of people affected by the World Cup, and others were acting together to show that not every one is happy with this event.
But at the same time we saw the rise of the right wing with marches against the ruling Worker’s Party. In the elections we saw a phenomenal rise in racist, anti-leftist and nationalist messages all over the social networks and on the streets. In the middle of the polarization, we saw many anarchist people and collectives, social movements, and black and women’s movements defending President Dilma Rousseff and the Workers Party and more progressive parties against the right wing parties. It is something that we still need to understand better, since the uprisings in 2013 were full of messages against the representational system and its policies. And President Dilma was at the forefront of the measures that negatively affected the homeless, precarious workers in the city and the communities on the country side and in the forest, and on the unification of repression forces.
We got more excited when we saw that this election had the highest rate of abstention in 15 years, showing how many people don’t believe in democracy or the parties. The number of people that voted null or didn’t even go to vote was higher than the second place runner-up for president, and bigger than the number of people that elected the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Dilma was re-elected, and her neoliberal measures are already being seen in who she chose as ministers. A famous wealthy farmer from the agribusiness industry was named to take care of the agricultural ministry, while the fascist ex-mayor of Sao Paulo will take care of cities management. This only shows us that the next year will be even worse. At the same time, the government of Sao Paulo is buying new riot trucks and the mayor (also from the Worker’s Party) wants to increase the transport rate again, now not just 20 cents this time, but 50. Here we go again, motherfuckers!
As anarchists, we should learn how to keep in better touch with the new networks we have formed and keep them operating, learning how to provide what we need for a long term state of exception and resistance. This includes more social centers, more skills to provide our water and food once we are facing a real threat of crisis without water, legal support, and our international network of support and solidarity. Thanks for being part of this.
All our love to comrades from the Ex-Worker podcast and all those who are listening!"
Alanis: Let’s head back to the United States for a bit. We got a response from Panagioti, former editor at the Earth First! Journal, with some updates from southern Florida:
Clara: "For 2014, one of the most significant local developments where I live are the relationships growing between anarchists from the Everglades Earth First! group and members of the Seminole communities in south Florida, both federally-recognized tribe members and independent traditionalists. After the past year of organizing together against plans for a massive power plant fueled by fracked gas to be built by Florida Power & Light (FPL) on the edge of the Big Cypress Reservation, the plan was rejected through a court battle. FPL is appealing, but opposition has remained committed to fighting. The Seminole communities of south Florida are recent descendents of one of the strongest domestic guerrilla resistance efforts against the US empire, during the repeated attempts at forced relocation in the mid–1800s. Learning from this history, and seeing ourselves as being a part in the ongoing efforts to fight back against this system’s encroachment into the Everglades has been very inspiring.
What to watch out for in 2015: along these lines, in Sept. 2015, the State of Florida is planning to celebrate the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine, which is seen as the first colonial outpost of what would later become the US Empire. So, from Sept 4 - 8, the City, the State and the Federal governments will be dumping public resources into funding this celebration of genocide and manifest destiny… including visits from the King and Queen of Spain. Active members of the Seminole communities who anarchists have worked with in the fight against the FPL power plant are now looking at a mobilization around the 450th celebration to shed light on the origins of this industrial system that is destroying the plant.
So, if you’ve been longing to confront the system from an anti-colonial analysis, plus take a shot at the last remnants of imperialist monarchy, this might be your chance. Organizers are already looking to draw connections between the local struggles, for example, an FPL gas pipeline in the permitting process aiming to supply the previously mentioned power plant. The mobilization is also being viewed as an opportunity to attack a symbol of the prison industrial complex, as St. Augustine’s trademark tourist attraction is the Castillo de San Marcos, which was used as a prison for indigenous resistors. Not to mention, in 2011 American Indian political prisoner Leonard Peltier was moved to a Florida prison not too far away, so this could also be a chance to make some noise for his release.
It should be noted that St. Augustine is a small town with few roads in and out–ripe for a take-over. So, mark your calendars."
Alanis: Hear that, Ex-Workers? Keep your schedules open for early September next year, and we’ll see you there. Panagioti adds, "If you are feeling on the fence, think about this passage from El Requirimiento, a 1513 declaration by the Spanish monarchy that was read (in Spanish) by conquistadors to indigenous peoples to ordain divine justification for their conquest:
“I will take the persons of yourselves, your wives, and your children to make slaves, sell and dispose of you, as their Majesties shall think fit; and I will take your goods, doing you all the evil and injury that I may be able; as to vassals who do not obey, but reject their master, resist and deny him; and I declare to you that the deaths and damages that arise therefrom will be your fault, and not that of his Majesty, nor mine, nor of these cavaliers who come with me.”
Clara: This intention is the foundation of European settlement, in Florida and across the Americas. It’s past time to bring this system grinding to a halt; not only our freedom but our collective survival depends on it.
Alanis: We heard some similar themes from our friend the Stimulator, host of our favorite video podcast “It’s the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine” over at submedia.tv. Here are Stim’s reflections on the last year:
Clara: I’m most excited about movements of indigenous sovereignty in Turtle Island. Seems like both north and south of the colonial border, autonomous traditionalists are bypassing the colonial government’s imposed sell-out “Indian Act” system, and taking matters into their own hands. Blockades and actions have been a weekly occurrence, it seems. From highway, pipelines, trains and fracking equipment blockades to land occupations and straight up take overs of hydro electric dams. Anarchists and radicals have been allies with sovereigntist indigenous folks and have been doing front-line solidarity work for over twenty years. The Canadian government has been worried about this alliance as one of the major threats to its national security. Anarchists in Turtle Island who are in proximity to indigenous communities should connect with these folks and become their accomplices. They should also read “Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex.”
Alanis: We’ve got the link up for that on our website if you want to take a look.
Incidentally, one thing to definitely celebrate from 2014 is that it marked the tenth anniversary of subMedia.tv! [cheering] A full decade of badass anarchist cinema is no small accomplishment. Who knows if we’ll still be podcasting in ten years… but we want to take a moment to acknowledge how important and awesome it is to sustain revolutionary media efforts over the long term. The Stimulator has put together a greatest hits collection called “A Decade of Subversion,” which you can download from their website or buy on DVD to help support forthcoming projects. Check it out!
Alanis: Speaking of long-term anarchist audio heroes, we can’t forget to mention John Zerzan, the tireless anarcho-primitivist author, speaker, and host of the weekly Anarchy Radio show out of Eugene, Oregon. You can hear John’s shows over at archive.org - yep, we’ve got that link posted, too - and if memory serves, he’s been kicking out Anarchy Radio for almost 15 years at this point! Congrats!
Clara: We asked the Zerz for his reflections on the last year as well as the next one, and here’s what he had to say:
Alanis: "The biggest phenomenon is, arguably, that of this last month of 2014 - namely, the many aspects of the general reaction against the latest pig killings of unarmed blacks. At last many are fed up beyond enduring the unending lethal violence by cops. This has been powerful and may well spread to take on other aspects of domination and oppression.
In terms of our anti-authoritarian milieu, I find it significant that there has been movement away from old anarchism toward green anarchy. Examples, among quite a few, include Free Radical Radio, new blogs like Uncivilized Animals, and the Black and Green Press project, new and forthcoming. For some time lip service has been commonly paid to the ‘anti-civ’ and ‘post-left’ identifications - with many of those so self-described changing nothing in terms of what they say and do. Now there are more who actually try to develop and apply such orientations in their theory and practice, in my opinion.
There is a lot of potentially radical energy out there in many places that we’ve already seen on offer, from Santiago to Berlin, Bristol. Barcelona, Istanbul, Rio, etc. in 2014. I think it will grow and deepen as civilization shows more clearly by the day that it has no answers at all. We need to take advantage of this reality and push ahead. The road may be much more open than many think. One front is that of Luddite resistance. Political ideology has greatly faded and the overall system now falls back on technology for claims and promises to attempt to preserve power. We have not paid much attention to this but it is a vital place to fight, to expose what is perhaps authority’s last hope, ideologically and otherwise."
Clara: Wow! That’s actually a fair bit more optimistic than I’d expected. We opened a discussion on green anarchism way back in Episode 3, but we’ll continue to look into critiques of technology, anarcho-primitivism, and related ideas as we roll along in the new year.
ANOTHER YEAR OF THE EX-WORKER
Alanis: Whew… Great! It’s really exciting to get these perspectives from all over about what’s significant and what to look out for… it reframes my understanding of anarchism into a much broader context.
Clara: Yeah! This is one of the most rewarding things for me about working on this project: the chance to connect with other comrades across the world.
Alanis: So what about OUR year in review? I mean, like in terms of the Ex-Worker podcast?
Clara: Huh. Well, let’s see. This is number 33, so… we put out 18 episodes this year, a total of 1,231 minutes worth of material -
Alanis: Holy crap! That’s a lot!
Clara: Yeah, twenty and a half hours!
Alanis: We’re so prolific!
Clara: Uh, or long-winded…
Alanis: Hmm, yeah, well. We covered unfolding rebellions, including the Bosnian uprising, World Cup resistance in Brazil, and the anti-police protests from Ferguson and beyond. We discussed a lot of history - of anarcha-feminism, of anarchists in relation to communists and socialists, the origins of white supremacy and capitalism, Paris 1968, and so forth. We also took on some in-depth explorations of anarchist ideas, including Situationism, communization theory, critiques of socialism and communism, and anarcho-capitalism and libertarianism. Plus we took two episodes to profile contemporary anarchism in Chile, analyzed state repression strategies through conspiracy charges, recorded our first live episode, and offered a personal touch with stories about how people became anarchists.
Clara: Not too shabby, I’d say.
Alanis:We also failed to live up to our stated identity as a twice-monthly podcast, and a lot of things came out later than we intended. Sorry about that, everyone; we hope y’all can forgive us. It was a busy year!
Clara: The CrimethInc Ex-Worker’s Collective, the broader endeavor within which we at the Ex-Worker podcast comprise one project, also had a pretty eventful year.
Alanis: The blog turned out around 15 new features, including reports about uprisings and rebellions in Ukraine, Bosnia, Ferguson, and Oakland. We tabled at anarchist book fairs from New Orleans, Louisiana to Zagreb, Croatia to Lima, Peru. Several speaking tours took place on three different continents and across nineteen countries, with presentations on the politics of care, patterns in international revolts, political prisoner support, and more. A new issue of the journal Rolling Thunder came out, #11, debuting the new design format and featuring several interesting and in-depth new articles and analyses.
Clara: Also, we expanded our efforts into more languages than ever before. For example, our book “Work” appeared in a German translation to support anti-capitalist struggles there, while the police poster was translated into Portuguese for use in the movement against the World Cup in Brazil. And the forthcoming “To Change Everything” project is going to appear in more languages than you can believe, so look out for that.
Alanis: Speaking of which, our first ever fundraising drive, the Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication and translation of the new introductory anarchist pamphlet “To Change Everything,” proved wildly successful. After coming to fruition over the last year, the new text will be coming out in video and audio versions along with print copies in several different languages.
Clara: All this is cool. But one thing we did not succeed in doing was catalyzing irreversible global anarchist revolution. So we’re gonna have to keep at it in 2015.
Alanis: I guess so.
Alanis: So do you have any New Year’s resolutions, Clara?
Clara: Let’s see. I dunno… go to the gym more often, try to eat less sugar, end global capitalism, undermine state power, dismantle patriarchy and white supremacy…
Alanis: Well, I’m glad you’re taking care of those. Me, I hate going to the gym!
Clara: Ha. What about you? In terms of the podcast, I mean.
Alanis: Hmm… to try our best to get episodes out on time and actually be a “twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action”?
Clara: A good place to start.
Alanis: Actually, we’ve got a lot of schemes for 2015 at the Ex-Worker. Some of these are more concrete plans, while some may remain idle fantasies. But still, we wanted to mention them partly as a challenge to ourselves - if it’s out there, we’re more likely to feel like we really gotta do it! - and partly to see which ones resonate with you listeners. So let us know.
Clara: Well, we talked about some of the episode topics we wanted to see over the next year. Some of the ones that are on the agenda include: borders and migration;
Alanis: Anti-colonial and indigenous struggles, and how they intersect with anarchist approaches and frameworks;
Clara: Finishing the anarcha-feminism cycle we started this fall, with an episode on contemporary anarcha-feminism (we haven’t forgotten, we promise!), and also one on queer anarchism;
Alanis: A feature about the Hambacher Forest occupation in Germany;
Clara: Expanding our discussion about green anarchism, anarcho-primitivism and critiques of technology;
Alanis: Anarchism and education;
Clara: Animal liberation;
Alanis: Anarchism and struggles in Palestine;
Clara: Forms of anarchist organization, including questions about anonymity;
Alanis: Plus a whole bunch of others.
Clara: At times, we’ve tried to plan ahead and make a schedule of upcoming episodes… but what we’ve found is that life consistently intervenes and presents urgent concerns that become episodes. If you’d asked us a year ago if we’d be doing an episode, for example, on a mass anti-government uprising in Bosnia, or on how a police murder in a suburb of St Louis catalyzed a nationwide rebellion against the cops… well, we probably wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here we are. We know that’s going to continue to happen…
Alanis: …And we think that’s one of the important things this podcast is here to do - to spread word about contemporary rebellions and perspectives from those who’ve participated in them. So rather than sticking to a firm schedule, we’re gonna continue to respond to immediate events even as we slowly chip away at all the less time-specific topics we want to address.
Clara: Now, beyond episode topics: we’ve got other ideas about how to keep developing the podcast.
Alanis: We noticed that some folks autonomously decided to post excerpts from different episodes, including our discussions of insurrectionary anarchism and anarcho-capitalism, as YouTube videos. That’s awesome! And we want to get these ideas out to audiences who might not encounter the full audio versions via iTunes or other podcatchers. So we’re planning to start our own YouTube channel, and post features from past episodes as well as new ones as they come out, focusing on the material that isn’t as time specific as, say, news and event announcements. To be clear, this isn’t to discourage anyone from taking any part of the episodes they want and making their own videos or whatever. We just want to start circulating the show in a new format to see what happens.
Clara: Also, there have been some discussions about particular podcast episodes on Reddit, on comment threads at anarchistnews.org or YouTube, and probably other places we haven’t found yet. Ideally, we would like to have some sort of message board or online area where listeners can connect with each other, discuss the episodes and give feedback or critiques. But we’re not sure what the best format for that would be.
Alanis: So what do y’all think? Would that be useful? What would be the best platform? Should we set something up, or does someone else want to? How can we keep in mind concerns about security and anonymity? Let us know what you think.
Clara: Some folks have made zine versions of some episodes, including the ones on police and on prisons, available to read online or print as PDFs. That is TOTALLY AWESOME! Thanks so much for doing that! We’d encourage anyone who feels moved by any of the material to do the same - with or without our permission - but if you have a particular idea you want to pitch to us, always feel free to write. We may be able to help with editing, providing links or source material, or other such things.
Alanis: Another scheme for 2015 is to branch out into audio versions of other CrimethInc. texts! We’re starting with the new piece “To Change Everything,” which as we mentioned earlier is going to have an audio version…
Clara: …produced by yours truly!
Alanis: Yep! And we’re open to producing audio versions of longer CrimethInc. texts, both as they come out and looking back at the catalog of books and articles we’ve already produced. We’re still going to prioritize the podcast episodes, but depending on how much extra time we have on our hands…
Alanis: Let’s see, what else…
Clara: More live episodes!
Alanis: Aha, yes! In 2014 we also had our first live episode, [#31](http://crimethinc.com/podcast/31), and over the next year, we’re interested in doing this more often. Some of us in the Ex-Worker podcast collective hope to do some touring, either to do presentations on the podcast or some of the content it covers, and/or to record live episodes in your town. The format can vary, depending on what’s going on where you are; presentations, group discussions, interviews, whatever makes sense. But if you have a crew of people in your area who’d like to host some Ex-Workers and you want to organize something, send us an email!
Clara: Whew. OK! Let’s take a break before we get TOTALLY out of control with the brainstorming and fantasizing.
Alanis: We try to always keep in mind that no matter how wild our own thoughts can get when we imagine where this project could go, ultimately it depends on y’all - your participation, your feedback, your interest, your energy. So please do get in touch and let us know what resonates with you, and how you’d like to plug in.
Clara: We’re always looking for more collaborators, contributors, musicians, editors, engineers, writers, readers, interviewees… so if you want to be part of the show, drop us a line, and we’ll see what we can work out.
PRISONER BIRTHDAY ANNOUNCEMENTS AND CLOSING
Alanis: Usually we close things out with Next Week’s News. But this time around we don’t have any events to share: certainly not because they’re not happening -
Clara: In fact, we’re having trouble keeping up with all the demos and protests unfolding all over…
Alanis: But just because we’re rushing out the door to get ready for New Year’s Eve noise demonstrations and partying like it’s 2015 and such. We’ll pick the calendar back up next time.
Clara: But we’re not gonna forget our friends in prison with upcoming birthdays. Don’t forget to send a letter or a card to these folks and let them know they’re in our thoughts.
Alanis: On January 6th, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Puerto Rican independentista, turning 72 years old this year with over 33 of them spent inside on charges of “seditious conspiracy” for organizing against the US’s colonial occupation of Puerto Rico;
Clara: On January 8th, Jeremy Hammond, 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;
Alanis: On January 9th, Abdul Aziz, one of the anti-colonial rebels of the Virgin Islands Five;
Clara: On January 14th, Herman Bell, former Black Panther and COINTELPRO target;
Alanis: And also on the 14th, Sundiata Acoli, another former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army soldier, whose release was ordered by a appeals court judge in October, though he remains in prison today. We hope that this year he’ll finally gain his freedom, but until then, send him a note to let him know he’s in our thoughts.
Clara: So that’s it for another year of the Ex-Worker! We’ll be back in 2015 with an interview about the repression in Barcelona, an analysis of the politics of whistleblowing, the next installment in our history of white supremacy, capitalism and the United States, plus plenty more.
Alanis: Thanks so much to all of our correspondents around the world who got in touch to share their reflections on last year and what they anticipate during the next. And thanks to all of you, for making it worth our while to do this project! Hit us up at podcast at crimethinc dot com with your responses to this episode, our plans for the next year, or whatever else crosses your mind.
Clara: See you next year!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
Update / correction: We reported on a Vice News article discussing the potential implications of newly thawed US/Cuba relations on Assata Shakur and other political refugees from the US living in Cuba. Turns out that we missed this article from the Guardian that indicates that the Cuban government explicitly does not plan to consider extraditing Shakur or other American refugees.
You can read the full report from the Oakland/Bay Area uprisings here on the CrimethInc. blog.
Check out the website for Klinika, the twice-evicted squat in Prague; it’s in the Czech language only, but you can see photos of the space there.
The Stimulator also suggested that anarchists who want to support indigenous resistance check out the essay “Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex”.
In our reflections on the last year of the Ex-Worker podcast, we mentioned that folks have made zine versions of some episodes, including the ones on police and on prisons. Others have excerpted parts of episodes and posted them to YouTube, including our features on insurrectionary anarchism, libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism (watch out for the comment threads!), and the World Cup protests in Brazil. If you turn up other examples of folks using our material in other platforms - which we totally support, with or without our permission! - drop us a line and we’ll post them.
Our correspondents in Mexico mentioned the struggle of indigenous autonomists from the municipality of Alvaro Obregon in Oaxaca as one to watch out for in 2015.
A couple of times in this episode, we referred to our criticisms of the “anti-imperialist” framework; you can hear some elaboration on this in Episode 24, specifically in response to North Korea, Russia, Ukraine, and rejecting the “enemy of my enemy is my friend deserving of my solidarity” logic.
Our Finnish correspondent alludes to the 1997 uprisings in Albania; to read an anarchist perspective on it, check out “Albania: Laboratory of Subversion” by Elephant Editions.
Upcoming Prisoner Birthdays:
Oscar Lopez Rivera #87651–024
FCI Terre Haute
Post Office Box 33
Terre Haute, Indiana 47808
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
Address envelope to Warren Ballantine, card 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 4
Address envelope to Clark Squire, address card to Sundiata Acoli