All posts by Pirate Prentice

DIY – Do it right!

After reading the “Customize your bike – think outside the same old frame” article in the issue #97 of Slingshot (Summer 2008), I became wildly enthusiastic about installing raised ‘bmx style’ handlebars on my beat-up old mountain bike. Those raised ‘bmx’ bars should alleviate the back problems that I had been having while riding my old beater, as well as increasing my balance and stability while riding. However, due to a partial disability and a major lack of coordination, I was unable to install those higher handlebars myself.

Fortunately, a friend of mine who had already customized his own frame told me he could install a set of raised ‘bmx’ style handlebars. He installed the new handlebar set for me and I went riding off into the sunset, happily ever after.

Well not really. About a week later, I was locking my bike to a parking meter downtown when those new handlebars worked loose from the handlebar stem and flopped straight down. Cursing all the while, I walked down to the local hardware store and re-attached the handlebars using the proper-sized bolts.

About one week after the first incident, I was stopped at an intersection when the entire front wheel slipped off to a forty-five degree angle from the rest of the bike. The handlebar stem was slightly too small and had become detached from the steering tube! I had some very scary visions of what might have happened if that stem had broken loose while I was riding in front of a 2,500 lb. inattentive slaughter mobile.

While I’ m still enthusiastic and supportive of DIY, I’m now a lot more cautious. My friend was in a hurry and didn’t bother to get the proper-fitting materials for the job. I was in a hurry and didn’t bother to take a critical look at his work. I would have noticed both mechanical fuck-up’s if I had taken five minutes to inspect the bike before riding off.

Do It Yourself means Taking Responsibility for Yourself. We are not depending on OSHA, the FDA, municipal building inspectors, or any other bureaucracy to look after our safety. If we’re going to DIY that means we have to Do It Right. By Do It Right, I’m not referring to the cosmetic, superficial stuff but the fundamentals. Our dwellings should be, structurally sound, our bikes mechanically safe, and our foods non-toxic.

Doing It Right means not eating the dumpstered egg/mayo sandwiches that have been sitting in the sun for a few days. It means not causing your roof to collapse by cutting through a load-bearing beam while renovating your attic (this happened to a friend). It means not almost electrocuting yourself by cutting through the house wiring with a skill saw (another friend did this one).

You can avoid calamities more by recalling your folk tales and children’s bedtime stories than by reading a ‘how-to’ or technical manual. Remember all the bad things that happened to those folks who tried to get the last little bit…Or the stories with characters full of pride and hubris. Who did know a lot, but not quite as much as they thought they did.

I talked with several professional contractors who have over fifty years combined experience doing general maintenance and construction work. They told me that their primary learning experiences were ‘hands-on’, working with other more experienced people. You do not have to become a union apprentice to learn carpentry or any other trade. But you should be networking with people you meet in skill shares and free skool classes and helping them complete their projects.

Try listing and assembling the tools and materials you’ll need before you start a major project. Of course this list will never be complete, because there’s always going to be something you didn’t expect. However, the more complete your list, the smoother and more enjoyable the experience will be. There’s an almost euphoric satisfaction when a project ‘flows’, and everything falls into place.

When repairing anything mechanical think of it as three dimensional jig-saw puzzle. If people put it together, it can be taken apart, fixed, and reassembled. Consult the manuals, but if things look too puzzling, consult with more experienced friends, before starting to take things apart.

There is an aesthetic quality in DIY that’s lacking in the expensive, massproduced consumer crap that permeates today’s society. Whether it’s a bicycle or a house, every piece of DIY is a direct expression of the person who created it. Be proud of your work. It is an extension of yourself.

Do It Yourself! Do It Right!

Beware: Nosy Neighbors

Attorney General John Ashcroft and television sleazeball Ed MacMahon, renowned for his Publisher’s Clearinghouse and Budweiser beer advertisements, announced in a news conference March 6 that the middle-class Neighborhood Watch organization would no longer be monitoring suspected car thieves and burglars. Instead they will be focusing on “Domestic Terrorists”, (e.g. us). During this press conference, they also released a 24 page “Citizen Preparedness Guide” which offers guidelines to snooping and informing on your neighbors.

My first thought was that this new Neighborhood Watch could be used for some excellent monkey-wrenching. I could report that police car that is constantly patrolling my neighborhood to the Neighborhood Watch.

But seriously, this shit is scary. Like a modern witch hunt, we will soon be one telephone call away from being shoved into camps like the hundreds of other suspected terrorists the federal government is currently holding in detention throughout this country.

To make matters worse, the government announced it will be initiating Operation TIPS this summer. Operation TIPS trains delivery men, taxi drivers, mailmen, and other public service employees to snitch on the public they serve.

The FBI, CIA, INS, ATF, and the Secret Service all already have toll free numbers used to report any suspicious activities. Now, not only do we have to be afraid of being investigated by this alphabet soup of government agencies, we have to watch out for our mailmen, garbage collectors, and next door neighbors as well. Welcome to the Land of the Free.

Don’t Point That Flag at Me

The idea that an understanding of the genocide, that a memory of the holocausts, can only

lead people to want to dismantle the system, is erroneous. The continuing appeal of

nationalism suggests that the opposite is truer, namely that an understanding of genocide has

led people to mobilize genocidal armies, that the memory of holocausts has led people to

perpetrate holocausts.

- The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism by Fredy Perlman

I have seen lots of folks brandishing Palestinian flags at demonstrations lately. Flying flags from cars,

flourishing flags during marches, dancing down the street with flags at the protests. Superficially, it

was exhilarating to see a displaced people, (many, though certainly not all, of the flag wavers were

Palestinian), expressing solidarity with their oppressed brethren half a world away. On a deeper

level, it was profoundly disturbing. I kept flashing back to all those televised welcome-home parades

at the end of the Gulf War. My fellow Americans were also waving their flags with a wild

enthusiasm. Ultimately, flags are more deadly than bullets. A bullet can kill only once; a flag induces

a mass hysteria that can kill millions.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely support the Palestinian people and their struggle against the

continuing atrocities of the Israeli government. However, support for the people is not the same as support for a bloody corrupt dictator and a handful of religious fanatics. Fanatics who have no respect for their own peoples lives.

Neither Yasser Arafat nor Hamas want peace. Neither does George Bush, nor Ariel Sharon nor any other political leader. They all need the violence to continue in order to maintain their own power; having an external enemy induces insane levels of patriotism. Insane patriotism is the most effective method to divert domestic discontent from the State, as well as generating enormous revenues. If there is to be peace in the Middle East, it will have to be made between the Palestinian and Israeli people and not by their respective governments. Governments are what got them into this mess in the first place.

Direct Actions are already taking place among both the Palestinians and Israelis who are demanding

a just peace and government reforms. Earlier this year, a coalition of Israeli peace groups attempted to break the siege of Ramallah with food and medical supplies. There are over four hundred and sixty refusniks from the Israeli Defense Force who have refused to serve in the occupied territories.

Recently, several hundred Palestinian academics and professor’s convened a National Peoples congress in

Ramallah to call for new elections of the Palestinian leadership, legislative council, and local authorities.

After the immediate Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, and the dismantlement of the illegal Zionist settlements on the West Bank that were responsible for sparking this latest intifada, most see a two-state solution as the only answer. The Palestinians will have their own state, consisting of the West Bank ad the Gaza strip. This will co-exist with the present, though smaller, Israeli state.

What about a no-state solution? Self determination for everyone, no borders, police, or soldiers. A right-of-return for both Jews and Palestinians.

A no -state is more practical than two-state solution,. As distasteful as this is for the left to admit Israel can never have lasting peace as an independent nation. Not, because Israel is inherently evil, but because Aaramco, Exxon, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell have a personal investment in a continuous, low-level conflict. The corrupt oil oligarchies in the Middle East need an Israeli foreign devil in order to stabilize their own governments. The multi-nationals need that stability to keep the oil flowing. The global corporations that Israel has always thought of an ally are in fact an enemy.

This conflict is not unique to Israel/Palestine. There is a greater number of suicide bombings in Sri Lanka than in Israel. There are wars and insurrections presently taking place in Sierra Leonne, Sudan, Bolivia, Afganistan, and Iraq. All of these conflicts have two things in common – the leaders on one or both sides are using the conflict to maintain their domination over their own people and some corporation is making, or hopes to be making, a lot of money from them

We can no longer continue to put all our efforts into these political struggles. No matter which side wins,

the people always lose. Only after we destroy Global Capitalism, here in the United States

as well as abroad, can we have a lasting peace – in the Middle East or anywhere else.

Well, I have already stated that some good is occasionally accomplished by political action —

But I am abundantly convinced that the occasional good accomplished is more than

counterbalanced by the evil; just as I am convinced that though there are occasional evils

resulting through direct action, they are more than counterbalanced by the good.

Direct Action by Voltairine De Cleyre

Revolting Against the Tyrany

A History of Direct Action and Social Change in early America

The people who make history are almost never in the history books. Anonymous people performing Direct Action have always been responsible for social change. All legislative reforms have been in response to Direct Action. Any legislative reforms have always been minimal, just enough to enable the elite to maintain their power.

Direct Actions leading to the American Constitution

The Constitution was never designed to preserve freedom. It only restricts the freedoms that the people had already achieved.

Corporate greed was responsible for the first English settlements in North America. Both the Jamestown and the Pilgrim colonies established charters or contracts with the Virginia and Plymouth Companies respectively, (groups of wealthy London merchants), before sailing for the New World. These charters limited all exports and imports to the English corporations as well as establishing the colonial governments. The Jamestown Charter was immediately challenged upon landing by the removal of Captain John Smith from the ruling council. The pilgrims revoked their charter altogether and replaced it with the famous ‘Mayflower Compact’.

Likewise, North Carolina’s colonists revolted against a constitution, written by John Locke. which called for an establishment of a newly created hereditary nobility of Landgraves and Caziques who would rule the colony under a hereditary chief officer called a Palatine. The Palatine and his deputies were immediately seized and imprisoned upon their arrival in the colony. The colonists did eventually submit, but Locke’s constitution was never implemented.

Similar pressures throughout the colonies forced England to recognize limited representative government. By the 1760′s, each of the original 13 colonies had a freely elected lower assembly. This assembly could propose laws and act as a limited check on both the appointed upper assembly and the Royal Governor. England continued to regulate trade and other external matters, while allowing the colonies to govern their own internal affairs.

Of course this freedom only applied if you were white, property holding and male. Despite very early attempts to establish equality by several of the original governors, (such as James Oglethorpe and William Penn), the colonists rapidly duplicated the class structures that they had in England. The upper and middle classes migrated here with their servants. Indentured servants comprised of convicts and/or the desperate poor of England were sold in all of the colonies. Once these ‘persons of vile and low condition’ worked off their indentures, they were little better off. Colonial legislatures passed laws restricting their rights, (particularly the right of assembly). Their conditions were only improved by constant struggle and rebellion against the upper classes.

In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led a rebellion of frontiersmen, indentured servants, and black slaves, which burned Jamestown and forced the Royal Governor to scurry back to England. There were tenant farmer rebellions against the property owners in New Jersey in the 1740′s and in the New York’s Hudson valley during 1740′s and 1760′s. When threatened with eviction by the state of New York, Ethan Allen and his “Green Mountain Boys” led a rebellion that was responsible for the formation of Vermont. The Regulator Movement” in North Carolina in the 1760′s resulted in the death of over 2,000 men. However, it also led to the passage of land and tax reform legislation.

These rebellions were not confined to the farmers and frontiersmen. In 1636 indentured servants and fishermen mutinied in Maine. In 1663, Maryland faced strikes. In Boston during 1648 the shoemakers and coopers both organized guilds and in 1675 Boston ship carpenters issued a formal protest against conditions. There were labor strikes and stoppages New York City in 1677, 1684, 1741, and 1746. There was an ironworker’s strike in 1774, a printer’ strike in 1778, and a sailor’s and rope maker’ strike in 1779.

Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson redirected this emerging class anger from the wealthy merchants, planters and the British to the British exclusively. The founding fathers wanted a revolution to establish property and import/export rights and not human rights. Minimal improvements did occur after the revolution. Pennsylvania abolished property qualifications for voting and several other colonies lowered them. In several colonies, small tenant farmers were given portions of land formerly owned by Pro-British landlords. Nevertheless the basic class structure remained.

The Bill of Rights was only added to the constitution after the first congressional assembly due to overwhelming popular pressure. The constitution was written to protect the rights and privileges of the wealthy from future revolution. It permits minimal social reforms, while maximizing the opportunities for the upper classes to accumulate wealth.

Direct Actions leading to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation

Nowhere in American History is the efficiency of direct action more evident than in struggles of the African Americans. It is one of the greatest American myths that Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves. The slaves emancipated themselves, (working with a coalition of black, white, male and female abolitionists).

Previous slave rebellions had forced the south to perpetuate itself as an armed camp. Thousands of fugitive slaves radicalized any white Northerners with whom they came in contact and inflamed them against the south and its ‘peculiar institution’. Slaves rebelled by minimizing production on the plantations.

Consequently, by 1860, the agricultural economies of many southern states, such as Virginia and the Carolinas, were in shambles. The only way the institution of slavery could survive was by selling slaves to the western territories. The south seceded from the north out of economic necessity, fearing the Republican Party’s platform banning any further expansion of slavery. Lincoln then waged the civil war to preserve the rights a handful of greedy white northerners to continue to make profits. He was forced to issue the emancipation proclamation after a year and a half of an increasingly unpopular war in order to: forestall British or French intervention, regain popular support for a war that the North did not appear to be winning, and aid in the enlistment of Black troops.

Direct Action is seldom quick and always dangerous for the participant. But, it gets results. There were over two hundred and thirty slave rebellions and plots before 1860. The first conspiracy of slaves and poor whites was recorded in Virginia in 1663. It would take two hundred years for that conspiracy to come to fruition.

Gabriel Prosser (1800 VA ), Denmark Vesey (1821 SC ), and Nat Turner (1831 VA) led a series of armed insurrections that terrified the slave owners in Virginia and the Carolinas. Both Prosser’s and Vesey’s attempted rebellions were large (Vesey’s conspiracy involved an estimated three to six thousand men), well organized conspiracies that only failed due to a combination of informants and bad luck, (a flood washed out the bridges the day that Prosser gathered with over 900 followers to seize the Richmond armory). Nat Turner did have a temporary success. Together with an estimated sixty to ninety men, he seized the town of New Jerusalem with its arms and ammunition. He spared the poor whites but slew over seventy-five of the white planters and their families. These rebellions all failed in their immediate goals, but they ultimately acted as source of inspiration for many. And if you think they no longer inspire consider this: the South Carolina legislature recently refused to allow a statue of Denmark Vesey to be erected on the statehouse grounds, already littered with Confederate war memorials, on the grounds that he ‘advocated violence’.

Resistance was not confined to the southern states. In 1829, a black Bostonian who had emigrated from North Carolina named David Walker published, “An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World”, which advocated Afro-American unity and a direct rebellion against the Southern plantation owners saying, ” . . .they want us for their slaves, and think nothing of murdering us . . . therefore, if there is an attempt made by us, kill or be killed. . . and believe this, that it is no more harm for you to kill a man who is trying to kill you, than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty.” This publication was distributed both in the north and widely (though clandestinely), in the south. It earned him a bounty on his head of $3,000 dead or $10,000 alive in several southern states. He also helped move Benjamin Lundly, William Lloyd Garrison, and other white, prominent, anti-slavery advocates from moderate reconciliation to a strong abolitionist stance, but someone earned that southern bounty. David Walker was dead and believed poisoned within three years, (and two re-issues), of the “Appeal”.

After 1843, the “Appeal” was republished and distributed by a former slave and Presbyterian Minister, named Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, together with his own “Address to the Slaves of America”. “Address” called for an immediate violent revolution, invoking the heroism of Vesey and Turner. It was originally submitted as a proposal to a national convention of Black leaders in Buffalo NY but failed to pass by a single vote and vehemently opposed by Fredrick Douglas who pronounced it “too radical”. But “Address” inspired the black northern communities to a more militant and organized response and was also widely read by the abolitionist organizations, which by that time had exceeded one quarter of a million registered members.

The trickle of fugitive slaves had turned into a flood. The 1840′s and 1850′s saw a dramatic increase in anti-slavery sentiments and any pro-slavery legislation that was passed by Congress only fueled this opposition. The passage of the “Fugitive Slave Act” resulted in the formation of black and white armed vigilance committees that actively opposed the slave-hunters, often at gunpoint. Many former slaves crossed back into the south to help their brethren escape. We only know of a few names but there were many more; Harriet Tubman, Jane Lewis, Elizabeth Anderson, John Mason, and Arnold Cragston.

The history books teach us that the abolitionist movement culminated with John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Is this really the case? The indications were that the both the black and white abolitionists were growing stronger and more militant. Could an independent south have survived: deprived of any geographic expansion, living in constant anticipation of slave rebellions, and, due to the abolitionists, hemorrhaging its main marketable commodity? Maybe, all Lincoln did was preempt a foreordained revolution and guarantee Afro-American economic and political enslavement for the next 140 years.

Planning for Revolution Requires Communication

There’s no doubt about it folks, we are in hard times. This country is on the verge of waging a bloody interminable war. Jingoistic nationalism is on the rise. Our civil liberties are already being restricted. In addition, there is good chance that some of us may be looking out from the razor wire before very long. The only bright side of this is that we no longer have to preach quite so hard about the evils of corporate capitalism. The State will soon be graphically illustrating these evils more efficiently than we ever could.

People are not stupid. They will become either increasingly radicalized or increasingly nationalistic. We can discourage the nationalistic option by encouraging participation in any of the of the multitudinous anti-war, anti-racist, civil liberties, pro-justice groups in which they feel most comfortable. As this crisis continues, all these different groups will be forced to draw the same conclusions regarding Capitalism that we reached a long time ago. The remainder of this article consists of a series of tentative methods to facilitate self-organization in our communities.

Work within your own Community

Other groups must organize themselves. You are not going to be very effective if you are a white middle class adult, trying to affiliate yourself with young people of color in Oakland.

Instead, start talking to folks in your own neighborhood. You might be amazed how radicalized most people already are and what bullshit president-select Bush is flinging around when he brags about the unanimous American support for his pro-war and repressive ant-terrorist policies.

Discover what groups your neighbors are already participating in and work out ways of coordinating the efforts of their groups and yours. Suggest new groups that match their inclinations and existing political beliefs.

Encourage local homes and businesses to display flyers and/or posters that are both direct and explicit, while not endorsing a particular organization or cause. Excellent examples are the “Hate Free Zone” flyers made by Global Exchange, or the “War is Not the Answer” Poster by The Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance. Better yet, create your own. This will act as a counter-display to all of those frightening American flags that people are waving. It is also a display of both our solidarity and our diversity.

Avoid Rhetoric

Nothing frightens and alienates people more than someone spewing a bunch of Marxist-Leninist bible-babble or politically correct bullshit at them. You will never communicate with people unless you talk to them about concrete immediate issues, while avoiding any diatribes.

Also, avoid the rhetoric and p.c. criticism within our own groups. We all have some racist, sexist, homophobic, and classist attitudes. We live in a society that has fostered those attitudes in us since birth. The best we can do is be aware of them and minimize them. Rhetoric only discourages individual participation in the group’s discussion. It deflects us from our immediate crucial goals.

Rhetoric also makes it incredibly easy for police agents to infiltrate our movements. The cops can mimic our jargon with few problems. It is much more difficult for them to imitate the way we actually think, feel and relate.

Discover Who Our Allies Are

These groups can range from the Animal Liberation Front to the American Friends Service Committee, from the Pagan Cluster to Jews for Economic Justice to a variety of Christian social justice organizations. Go to a variety of meetings and see if you can coordinate any activities. Alternatively, you could form a separate affinity group, dedicated to a specific action from like-minded people in these different organizations.

Be aware of the existence of these different groups although you might not want to participate. If you know of their existence, you can recommend them to your friends and neighbors.

Likewise, whenever you attend a mass demonstration, go there with the primary goal of connecting with people you don’t normally hang with. These folks might make you aware of further actions. On the other hand, you may want to connect with them at a future time.

Critically Examine All of the Above Statements

All of these suggestions are based solely on my personal experiences. I do not pretend to be an expert theorist and my experiences within the Anarchist movement have been limited. The only thing that I am sure of is this: We must build Solidarity while maintaining our Diversity. Any pre-defined system that replaces the capitalist state we have now will be just as evil.


Senate Democrats “Unify” Behind Bush

The Senate unanimously voted to restore $1.3 billion to the defense budget for a “missile defense system” September 22.

Senate Democrats successfully denied funding for missile defense earlier this month. Now in this climate of war-hysteria, they unanimously voted to restore funding for a system that they know could not possibly work., a system designed to protect us against enemies who no longer exist.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, urged the Senate to restore funding for this missile defense system he previously opposed. He also withdrew provisions from a bill that required Bush to obtain congressional approval before undertaking activities that would violate the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty.

Senator Levin said he had backed off on those issues because “An attempt to resolve them now would create dissent where we need unity”.

Unity. The one thing war is very effective at is creating unity by way of fear. Unity behind the president no matter how moronic his policies are. Unity behind a military that’s receiving a $343 billion defense budget this year, but cannot defend its own command center against a passenger plane. The Senate is sacrificing our civil rights with anti-terrorist legislation, but that’s acceptable because it’s in the name of Unity.

Repression in times of war has always been in the name of Unity. Wait and see.