Nov 29, 2006

Social critic and author Mike Davis writes that in the growing world of urban slums,

"Marx has yielded the historical stage to Mohammed and the Holy Ghost. If God died in the cities of the industrial revolution, he has risen again in the postindustrial cities of the developing world.

Today, populist Islam and Pentecostal Christianity... occupy a social space analogous to that of early twentieth-century socialism and anarchism... where... Islamist movements like Justice and Welfare... have become the real governments of the slums: organizing night schools, providing legal aid to victims of state abuse, buying medicine for the sick, subsidizing pilgrimages, and paying for funerals.

And indeed, a Justice and Welfare activist recognized that 'confronted with the neglect of the state, and faced with the brutality of daily life, people discover, thanks to us, solidarity, self-help, fraternity. They understand that Islam is humanism'."

Nov 28, 2006

Terraces & Peripheries: Left Snobbery & the Radical Right

An examination of far-right influence within Italian soccer and wider realms of the "peripheries".

from the article,

"In its renunciation of everything, the left has ended up regarding it as inappropriate to maintain any kind of organic link with the 'people', who by definition are not (and never have been) very presentable in sophisticated settings, whether economic or intellectual. The result, as everyone who takes the trouble to do the least work on the ground will easily find out, is quite depressing. In the peripheries, the left is perceived, without too many fine distinctions, as one of the various faces of the 'centre', people who come from outside, who live a gilded life out there (or so it seems) in the world of inclusion, of individuals, of post-work and post-something, but who have nothing to do with those for whom every day is a struggle".

Nov 16, 2006

The Three-Way Fight and militant antifascism: a short review

A communiqué from a group of western U.S. antifascists recently appeared on the international class struggle anarchist news website, anarkismo. The communiqué adopts the concept of a Three Way Fight. From the title and language it is clear that the authors have followed and find an affinity with some of the concepts and debates associated with this blog. The following review of the communiqué is more tangential than in-depth, and should not be taken as an endorsement of the communiqué.

The authors (who situate themselves politically as participants in the anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist movement) argue that there is a contemporary radical fascism that is “extremely hostile to bourgeois democracy and capitalism” as well as to the “egalitarian, anti-authoritarian values” of the authors’ own movement. This perspective parallels that of other radical and libertarian antifascists who have attempted to draw attention to the autonomous, popular and insurgent aspects of fascist movements - those historical as well as contemporary. These are sometimes seen as characteristics of a fascism in its movement developing stages as opposed to fascism in power.

This autonomous characteristic is important and often ignored (or denied) by much of the Left. Seeing fascism as a movement that is opposed to the current order helps explain why many disaffected people – middle, working, poor - are attracted to it. We can also see how such a movement can develop in the void of State order, with the reactionary forces constructing their own governing system complete with economies, defined social relations, and policing mechanism like militias.

While the authors do not deny the links sometimes existing between fascists and agencies of the State, they attempt to define fascism as being more than a pejorative for strategic approaches by a ruling class on the defensive. They describe modern fascism as a heterogeneous political consciousness based on a hyper-authoritarianism and myths for a national rebirth. These fascist ideas appeal to sectors of global society who feel alienated and marginalized by neo-liberal globalization. A central argument of the authors is made when they state,

“It can only be expected that as global capitalism continues to dominate and alienate more people, the various forms of fascism, like anti-authoritarianism, will continue to gain ground, though not necessarily at a comparable pace… A global economic or ecologic crisis will send a lot of people looking for answers, and some people will find the superficial self-serving answers they are looking for in fascism”

This is an extremely important position. One, it proposes that the emergence of a fascist consciousness is the product of peoples own choices, based on their own experiences in the face of prevailing socio-economic conditions, rather than their thoughts being a manufactured ideology imposed from outside (although fascism certainly is an ideology about a final imposition of values and social patterns). Two, it makes clear that anti-authoritarians are facing an opposition other than the current State.

At this point the communiqué transitions into an argument for the necessity of armed defense (offense?) against fascism. The authors use two examples to illustrate their point. The first is the 1979 Greensboro Massacre and the second is the emergence of armed White militias in New Orleans immediately following the Hurricane Katrina.

Not having any fundamental differences with either the examples that the authors outline or the political framework they are laying out, I still have some reservations and questions regarding the communiqué.

Admittedly I was prepared to not like the piece. Within the radical antifascist camps there is a tendency to emphasize the action component over the more difficult development of ideas and analysis. In part, this is because much of the U.S. Left only gives lip service to militancy and the use of force when necessary, especially in combating fascists. While politicos want to argue politics into a coma, radical antifascists understand the urgency and need for “direct action”, now, and not after the speeches and paper sales. Still, this overemphasis can easily become an over-hyping, a self justifying of the antifascist groups existence, where action gets center stage and the more difficult development of political positions is put off or superficially developed.

The result is that ideas and strategies within the antifascist movements become stunted. The lack of ongoing and critical dialogue (internal and external to the movement’s organizations) can lead to general confusion over what the struggle is about, and possibly, and unfortunately all to often, sections of the movement adopting exaggerated and potentially dangerous stances.

The title of the communiqués, Armed Resistance and Militant Anti-Fascism, and the articles emphasis on armed action, initially, reinforced what I was expecting.

The article does, if only briefly, attempt to elaborate a position, a position that is at odds with much Left conceptions of fascism. The authors then cite examples of antifascist work that attempts to build more broadly and build semi-popular action.

In the communiqué the author’s state,

“The presence of whites and blacks working together to defend a community against the racist militias was often cited locally by residents as having helped ease the tensions in a racially and economically divided area that was devastated before Katrina ever came ashore. The militia’s power had been clearly diminished after facing armed opposition, and their power withered away as free medical clinics and aid distribution sites were developed into full operations”

There is no doubt that the action cited here defended a community against racist terror attacks. The authors point out that residents working with antifascists created new spaces for survival. This organizing, with real risks involved, is an essential in creating a radical consciousness (individual as well as collective) that defies the State’s logic. This autonomous action prepares people to act independently and can prefigure more substantial breaks with the State in the future.

Still, the armed component of the communiqué resonates louder than the examples of intersections between conscious antifascists and a community under attack. Perhaps the article is not intended to be a full analysis – it is fairly short – but I think that the possible result is that the action side of things becomes itself the political strategy.

Next, I ask what is the reason for the release of the communiqué? A survey of U.S. antifascist activity through news, periodicals or websites shows little discussion of militant antifascist action beyond street protest. While this alone makes such a communiqué valuable, I’m still trying to see what the overall message being put forth is. The piece lays out an important analysis of modern fascism, but I am compelled to ask (once again) if they aren’t overemphasizing the armed action component of antifascist struggle? Do the authors assume that domestic fascists and “proto” fascists are preparing for violent force against their opposition? Against anti-racist campaigns? Are the authors announcing in not so many words that they would be ready and capable of repelling an attack or there is a need to start organizing armed antifascist militias? Or was the communiqué only issued to draw out lessons from past and present antifascist activity? Perhaps all of the above.

Given the poverty of contemporary and radical antifascist analysis the communiqué should be looked over and debated. I hope these initial thoughts spark some of that.

Nov 14, 2006

War Within The HammerSkin Nation

The S.P.L.C. has just published a new report on the factionalism within the neo-Nazi "skinhead" movement. The report details the rise of the Vinlander Social Club/Blood and Honour U.S.A, from rogue element within the movement, to a potential dominant trend opposing the traditional leadership of the Hammerskin Nation.

The VSC/B&H have made clear their dissatisfaction and contempt for previous forms of neo-Nazi organization and are seeking to form new relationships and networks.

From the B&H U.S.A. website,

"There are conflicts raging on the Nationalist scene. At times, bitter ones have made enemies out of former friends. Alliances change and many feel frustrated from the disunity. We are not going to act as a hammer of one position against another. Still, we have our views on all matters, which we will not compromise. And we have our friends, who we shall not abandon for the sake of fragile peace and make-believe harmony. We believe in Direct Action, Leaderless Resistance and National revolution. We base that belief, not only on the company we keep, but we take this radical, often lonely and always dangerous stand because we have seen the failures of the old ways. And the entities and ideas which failed at the peak of their strength can hardly be picked up and polished as a new alternative for the future, which will surely become far more alarming and oppressive times."

The report issued by the S.P.L.C. is important because it's documenting internal shifts - organizational and political - that may alter the neo-Nazi scene fundamentally. But that said, one must read the report with a critical and suspicious eye. The S.P.L.C., while hailed by many anti-racists for their research and lawsuits against fascists and the far-right, is an unofficial organ of the federal government. An article from the now defunct ARA Research Bulletin describes them this way,

"The Southern Poverty Law Center has quietly gone about filling a special role in government monitoring. As a private organization wrapped in the banner of Civil Rights, it carries out political surveillance that current u.s. law forbids the f.b.i., a.t.f. and other police agencies from doing".

Unfortunately, radical anti-fascists have developed to few investigative apparatus, and even fewer media outlets dedicated to research and analysis. If the radical and anti-system antifas are to be truely independent, then there is gonna have to be serious work put in to building autonomous infrastructures. The S.P.L.C., A.D.L, and those who would work with them, are unreliable and ultimatley at odds with us.

Nov 11, 2006

Intra-Ruling Class Conflict? - Pt 2

An article by James Petras was emailed to me this past Monday. Although the article is pre-midterm elections by just a few days , I think Tuesday's outcomes give strength to aspects of Petras' postions, notably, that pressure from the public sphere will play a manipulatable role in the confrontation between the ruling class strategy Baker represents and that of the NeoCons.

I think a weakenss of Petras' argument (or, at the least, that which I dont fully accept) is his continual refering to NeoCon as the ZionCon. With the way Petras employs the term one would assume that the primary basis of that neoCon thought which has been the overwhelming dynamo of the Bush administration is that it is a NeoCon ideology devised solely to support Israel. Petras ignores NeoCon thought that emphasis nation-building premised on Western democratic morals and culture. I see the Bush clique as an at times contradictory combination of secular NeoCon thought and the mesianic fundamentalism of the pro-Zionist Christian Right. I question if Petras dosent overestimate the later as the defining element of recent U.S. foriegn policy.

From, Texas Versus Tel Aviv: US Policy in the Middle East:

If Baker has moved methodically and prudently toward a re-orientation of US policy from the line pushed by the ZCCM (Zioncons), he has done so by carefully organizing an army of researchers, experts and notables whose reports will be distilled into a series of policy proposals which will argue for a ‘winning empire-building strategy’ as opposed to the current impasse and decline of empire. Baker knows first hand the power of the Zioncon configuration and therefore it is highly unlikely that he will openly attribute the current disastrous course of policy to the subordination of US policy to the interests of the State of Israel. Instead he has established an organizational apparatus whose composition in fact excludes the Zioncons, and therefore re-establishes US imperial interests as the centerpiece of policy-making. Likewise Baker will not directly confront Rumsfeld, Chaney, Rice, Elliot Abrams and the other civilian-militarists in power; instead he will present a series of findings and proposals, which will be incompatible with their tenure in office. Baker is counting on the growing majority of Republican and Democratic Congress-members questioning current policy, a shift in the mass media, growing dissent among active Generals, career State Department and Pentagon officials, sectors of the economic elite and massive repudiation by public opinion to force the Rumsfeld-Hadley-Abrams power center out of office and their replacement by officials and advisers more open to a new approach to the Middle East.

Nov 9, 2006

Dr. Strangelove Out, CIA Big Boss In

As mentioned in a previous blog post, James Baker's Iraq Study Group, has been brought in to review the Occupation and provide some direction.

Donald "Strangelove" Rumsfeld's quick resignation yesterday was perhaps less to do with voter displeasure with the war than as part of the Baker plan. Bush's nomination of former CIA boss, Robert Gates, came almost instantaneously with Dr. Strangelove's announcement of departure, perhaps illustrating that the shuffle was conceived of in advance of the midterm election. And given that Gate's is himself a member of the Iraq Study Group, the probability ratio for the scenario is only heightened.

from, San Francisco Chronicle
CHANGING COURSE: Rumsfeld out Iraq strategy, Pentagon policy will be shaken up, analysts say.

Nov 8, 2006

A Massacre

As the Dems and their supporters whoop it up and party, their Israeli friends are bombing Palestinians. Even beauracrat al Fatah boss/ Palestinian Authority president Abu Mazen declared a massacre and three days of national mourning at what the U.S. backed I.D.F. did yesterday.

Early Wednesday morning Israeli tanks launched an artillery attack on the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun killing 19, including a family of 13, seven of whom were children. In total, 70+ Beit Hanoun residents have been murdered by the I.D.F since the offensive began last week. Another 300+ have been injured.

Although Ehud Olmert ushered out an statement with regrets for any innocent loss of life in the I.D.F. operation, it is nothing given the continual and overwhelming assaults the Israeli State has leveled against Gaza.

In response to the attack Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said,

"Once again we are shaken by the images of limbs and blood and tears ... and the world stands silent…Where are the Arabs? Where are the Arab rulers? ... Where is the scream of anger in the face of the butchers to repel them and make them feel that continuing to kill will bring them to their end?"

The response by Nasrallah is not untypical for him. He often has condemned Arab governments for their lackeyism and refusal to intervene on the side of the Palestinians. Nasrallah’s speeches and Hezbollah’s ability to engage the I.D.F. and remain undefeated (although not militarily victorious either) has gained Hezbollah much sympathy from diverse quarters – Arab, non-Arab, Islamic, secular, Right and Left.

So as the Dems celebrate, the killings go on.

Nov 7, 2006

Thoughts on the vote and why some do or don't do it

Alright, every politico has heard the line, "If voting changed anything it would be illegal". I won’t bore with more stale rhetoric trying to justify the quote. Instead I’ll put this forward: there are a lot of people who DO vote because they want change. They get involved in campaigns or they get in conversations at work or in the union or in their schools or at home, they want to be involved so they vote. They might flier or they put up signs in their yards or they might even have an informational event at their homes.

People, on varying levels, are concerned about the future of themselves, their families and the life of their communities. They want to see things done about: schools that are overcrowded and under-funded; what they will do in the future because their major town employer is closing up shop and moving overseas to take advantage of the heavier exploited labor pool; how their going to keep well when their healthcare coverage is inadequate or simply non-existent; trying to hold back the continued downward slide of the disparities between people don’t have much and people who have more than enough; not wanting to see increased border militarization; an end to the war and occupation of Iraq… You get the picture. These are real issues weighing heavily on peoples minds. And many people still think “democracy”, and making moves on what they most are concerned with, comes through casting their vote. I think this is understandable.

I say understandable because there are few examples of contemporary U.S. non-electoral organizing movements that can demonstrate the ability to force a win in their demands (large and small) on an independent political basis (or, even if they don’t win, people continue to see the potentials in their own activity). Even when there are organizing drives that are based within the grassroots, to often they are not participatory and allowing for maximum input and formulation of direction from the base – unions are notorious for this line of action where goals and strategy are set by the leadership and the base is asked to ratify without having full discussion and debate of the issues at hand. So, all of us being accustomed to this top-down format often see the ballot as a way to have a say - small, but a say nonetheless.

Many anarchists point towards low voter turnouts as an indicator of people’s anger or alienation from the “system”. While many don’t vote, more often it has less to do with a conscious rejection of the system as it has to do with apathy. Yes, I know that there is a slice of the populace who are active/action oriented in various ways and abstain from voting (I’m one of them), but for a good many who don’t vote, unfortunately, they are not likely to be found working within collective projects: sorry, but apathy is not a coherent expression of anti-system politics - it is more cynicism and despair often coupled with the notions of, “I have to concern myself with my own happiness and getting what I need – so FTW and all those schemes of trying to right the wrongs, because nothing is going to change.”, or something to this effect.

But the apathetic are understandable, too. They see anti-system politics, challenging the authority, and ideas of fundamental rearrangement of society as pie in the sky utopianism. Those who do know history see movements having come and gone and people having their lives lost or wasted for ideas. They say the dreamers, organizers and rebels fought the good fight, but where did it get them other than in trouble or dead. And in the end things still look bad if not worse. So why waste precious moments trying to change things that arent ever going to change? The politics of dog-eat-dog individualism overrides the politics collectivism. But once again, this is all understandable although unfortunate.

Until, movements arise that demonstrate the need and ability to move beyond the ballot, breaking with the system and it’s values, then many will continue to participate in the voting process.

Until, situations unfold creating space in which individuals re-evaluate their relationship with society and through a personal evaluation come to participate in projects with a vision for collective action, then political apathy and the capitalist mentality of competition and pursued personal satisfaction will remain.

So in the mean time, what? Aiding in the erosion of public trust in governemt and beauracrats while simultaneously working to build autonomus networks in neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. We need to be building cultural institutions that promote working class pride while antagonistic to authority and their representatives. We need to popularize emerging struggles and connect them with struggles in other regions and locales if and when possible. We must continuously push for the greatest reforms by forcing concessions from the State, while never relying on reforms as an end. Never allowing the rules of the system to define our objectives or strategy… and, while not berating those who do vote, always expressing why the vote will never get us in a position of having a real say and control over our lives.

And with that said, a few closing words from the band Chumbawamba's album, Never Mind The Ballots:

Here's To The Rest Of Your Life
Why settle for what we're shown, When there is so much more
Sometimes the book of law is only half the story
The choice seems obvious, There is no choice
Only the option of looking outside
This narrow definition of what you see is all there will ever be
There comes a time--that time is now when every second, every day when every action, every thought will tell the world how you cast your vote

They break our legs, And we say thank you when they offer us crutches
They break our legs, And we say thank you when they offer us crutches

Tired of mild reform, Sick of hand-me-downs
We topple all the theories to the ground
All real change must come from below
Our bosses must live in fear of the factory floor

And when they smile and they ask for my support
I'll give them these words and a bloody nose
You don't help your enemy when you're at war!

There are moments in all of our lives:
Tiny sparks still deep inside
When a new-born baby cries
When you're watching clouds in a summer sky
The first time you walked out on strike
Love and sex and holding tight
Things that can't be bought by promises and votes

I hate the straight-jacket schools I grew up in
I hate MPs, judges, and magistrates
I hate being taught to base my life on TV stars
I hate being kept waiting by bureaucrats
I hate wars, and all the people who love them
I hate the idea of living on other people's backs
I hate being filed and registered and classified
I hate being watched and monitored
I hate police
I hate the way you talk down at me
I hate being told what to do
I hate you when you don't listen
I hate the way you distort my sexuality with pornography
I hate the pain we inflict on each other, on animals, and on the earth
And I hate how love songs have become cliches Through endless, shallow repetition

Each angry word, Every cynical put-down, Every song is carefully born from a hope of something better to come
Dreams make the plans to change this world not just some future heaven
But today and every day
In our place of work, In the queue for the metro bus
Organize!Here's the rest of our lives!

Nov 2, 2006

Communique from APPO


In these moments, the Federal Police (PFP) are trying to enter Ciudad Universitaria (the university facilities in Oaxaca), they have launched tear gas inside and some elements have entered the premesis. Before these facts which violate any judicial orders including University Autonomy, which the Autonomous University Benito Juárez, in Oaxaca, won after a great student struggle, and which cost the lives of many of their best students.

The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca makes the energetic call for the absolute defense of Ciudad Universitaria. We cannot permit that these university students be assaulted by the forces of occupation that the despots of the PFP have become.

We call the people of Oaxaca to the absolute defense of Ciudad Universitaria, en past days we have called for the peaceful withdrawal from the points where the APPO were established, and we did that to demonstrate the APPO’s disposition towards dialogue in this conflict, despite the fact that the government of Fox and Calderón, evidenced by the invasion of federal troops, was not. We showed ourselves to be prudent, willing to dialogue, the invading forces were not assaulted, and we only called for peaceful resistance; all of our actions were carried our in an orderly and peaceful manner, we ordered withdrawal so as not to fall into provocations, we called for people not to fall into confrontations with the PFP despite their aggressions. But as imperialist lackeys, you, Fox and Calderón, confuse prudence with weakness, peacefulness with cowardice, and thinking that the people of Oaxaca are a cowardly people, you are trying to put an end to them.