Category Archives: Winter 2000 (11/9/00)

Rent Hike or Strike

The housing crisis in the Bay Area has reached a new plateau of desperation, with rents doubling or more in recent years. Tiny studios go for $1,500, if you can even find one. Hordes of tenants, renter\’s resumes in hand, jockey for each vacancy. If things keep going like they\’re going, San Francisco, Berkeley and maybe even Oakland will lose their diverse, vibrant quality. Each will be exclusive playgrounds for the rich, \”cleansed\” of most blacks, Latinos, and Asians¾of most of the middle and working class. The only artists or young people will be trustfunders, heirs to oil fortunes, or nouveau riche dot.comers. It\’s increasingly common for people-close friends, family members, neighbors, even this issue a Slingshot writer-to just give up on the whole Bay Area housing mess and move to another state. The more \”undesirables\” that move out, the more this area forever loses its unique character and the few who remain begin to wonder, \”is it worth it to hang on?\” Meanwhile, greedy landlords are chortling in delight-replacing single moms, taxi drivers, musicians and young people with khaki-wearing stock option millionaires, at triple the rent. Their units haven\’t improved, they\’ve spent nothing to fix up the dump, but suddenly they reap riches.

All of us tenants who hate this grim future scramble to figure out some kind of solution before its too late. Rent control laws have been weakened at the state level, and Oakland\’s attempt to pass a just-cause eviction statute failed. Some hope bans on new high rent housing will help, but this just intensifies price pressure on older, cheaper units. Building more dense urban housing helps, but takes years and most new units are built for the rich. No one is considering building enough new housing to change the market and bring prices down. Government subsidized new housing is a drop in the bucket.

Are there any other options? What have others done in similar situations? And how does class struggle over housing fit into the general struggle for revolution? In certain ways, the situation was similar in Barcelona in 1931. Their solution: a massive rent strike with direct actions to re-house anyone evicted. How many people have to get individually evicted before we realize that this isn\’t just bad luck, but a system acting simultaneously on thousands of people, and that together, it can be fought!

A Lesson from History: The 1931 Barcelona Rent Strike

The Barcelona Rent Strike not only reduced rent costs for working class families, but also was an education in self-organization for thousands of workers. It, along with other struggles in the 1930s, created an organized working class that in 1936 made the most successful attempt yet to overthrow capitalism and create libertarian communism.

In the 15 years leading up to the rent strike, Barcelona\’s population had increased by 62%. The city was one of the fastest growing in Europe. Inflation was running rampant but wages had not risen. There had been rent increases of up to 150%. Only 2,200 units of public housing had been built. Barcelona was in the midst of a huge housing crisis as shanty towns grew around the city.

In January 1931, Solidaridad Obrera, the anarchist union CNT\’s paper, published an article calling for action around the housing crisis. The CNT wanted to widen the union into a real participatory social movement. They knew that only via mass organization, participation and struggle could the foundations be laid so that people would acquire the skills to construct a new society.

In April the CNT construction workers set up the Economic Defense Commission (EDC) to study the expense corresponding to each worker for wages earned in relation to rents. On May 1st the EDC presented its first basic demand, that there should be a 40% cut in rents. They also demanded that bosses hire 15% more workers to ease unemployment and that food prices would be agreed and local defense groups would weed out speculators.

After the publication of these demands workers re-installed an evicted family on May 4th. The EDC sought to encourage this action by holding meetings in working class areas of Barcelona and the surrounding towns. Large numbers of women attended and got involved as it was usually left to them to pay the bills and rent. Mass leafleting took place and a huge rally was advertised. On 23rd June an evicted family was re-housed by the local people in Hospitalet and this caused great discussion in that part of the city.

The mass rally on July 5th declared the demands of the campaign to be (1) that in July the security deposit should be taken by landlords for rent; (2) from then on rent would only be paid at 40% of the previous rate; (3) that the unemployed should not have to pay rent. If the landlords refused to take the reduced rent then they would get nothing as a rent strike was recommended.

The EDC claimed that there were 45,000 strikers in July growing to 100,000 in August. Every working class building or area became organized. The authorities did not have enough guards to prevent evicted families from being re-entered onto property.

From the end of July onwards the repression of the strikers grew, with the Chamber of Catalonia (i.e. Chamber of Commerce) ordering the arrest of all organizers. The EDC rally scheduled for July 27th was banned.

In early August the EDC began to publish a series of articles exposing landlord tax-fraud, pointing out how there was one law for the rich and another for the poor. In turn the state arrested 53 members of the CNT. This led to a riot inside the prison and a general strike outside. By October, the EDC were forced to go underground after the CNT was heavily fined for not turning over the names of those involved.

The strike was ending, however it never entirely ended in many districts. What successfully broke it was the practice of arresting tenants when they returned to their homes.

It took major repression by the state to end the strike but a valuable journey had begun. For many young people this was the first time they had been exposed to the ideas of anarchism and direct action. They would go on to join the CNT and become the revolutionaries of 1936. The rent strike was the beginning of many campaigns which established anarchist ideas and practices in the communities. People were exposed to playing a vital part in fighting their own oppression. All illusions in the Republican government were quickly shattered.

The lessons of mass action and self organization would later be put to use by the people who went on to make history in 1936. When the fascist coup happened in 1936 in Spain, the left there and in other countries called for the state to put down the fascists. The more radical Marxist groups called upon the state to \’arm the workers\’ (earlier the same demand was heard when the fascists took power in both Italy and Germany). Yet the anarchists of the CNT got out onto the streets, took the arms for themselves and immediately began to defeat the fascists.

Why did this happen? Anarchism has a proud tradition of self-activity and mass participation. The anarchists in Spain did not cry out for the state to put down the fascists. In 1936 tens of thousands of anarchists were ready to seize arms and fight the fascists. No leaders, no calls on the state, just people who knew what to do and went out and did it. This self-organization was in part the legacy of the Barcelona rent strike of 1931.

Reprinted with permission from Workers Solidarity Movement, PO Box 1528, Dublin 8, Ireland

Left Rejected

The North American Anarchist Conference (NAAC), held in Los Angeles August 11-13, 2000, the weekend before the Democratic National Convention, attracted an unusually large media presence, including the Washington Post, the Nation, and the L.A. Times. Curiosity about anarchists has become heightened in the last year, as the anti-globalization movement is frequently attributed to anarchists by government officials, police and media commentators.

The conference brought out the need for a stronger and clearer articulation of the basic anarchist ideas. Anarchism is without government, a condition sustained by the creation of non-hierarchical social structures which are not institutionalized and so do not outlive their usefulness.

It is antithetical to anarchism to base the concept of freedom on government permission, yet some attendees presented arguments based on the assumption of legal or constitutional rights. Jay Brophy urged anarchist teachers to work in public schools, claiming that anarchist pedagogy can freely exist under state control.

At one point, the conflict between leftist and anarchist perspectives became explosive. During the panel discussion, Cris Crass of San Francisco Food Not Bombs asserted that \”A movement dominated by white men will never bring about change in this country. Never.\” He went on to stress the importance of \”developing the capacity for everyone to become a leader in this movement.\” John Zerzan, an Anarcho-Primitivist theorist, sharply criticized Crass\’s speech for its advocacy of a rights-based, leadership-based politics. Zerzan declared, \”There\’s nothing anarchist about it. It\’s leftism, not revolutionary.\”

\”The Left\” includes a range of perspectives from liberalism to communism, which seek state-directed social progress. By definition, anarchism, which seeks to eliminate the state, is not part of the left.

Nevertheless, anarchists have historically clung to the fringes of the left. Lawrence Jarech, a Berkeley anti-authoritarian, raised this issue at the conference. The anarchist presence in various left movements has been as a radical conscience, he explains. Anarchists trail after leftists trying to get them to be more like anarchists, which they don\’t want to be. Jarech urges that \”we consolidate among ourselves … as a discrete social movement with a discrete social philosophy.\”

DeeDee, an anarchist from Eugene, addressed the need for building more anarchist structures. At present, anarchists are often dependent on the resources of hierarchical leftist organizations. In joining leftist organizations, anarchists sacrifice their goals to serve the goals of the organization.

Discussion of tactics was hampered during the conference by terms of debate historically set by such left movements as pacifism. Anti-statism, if it is to be an active movement and not merely an ideological position, requires using force against the state. Without force, the state will never perish. Anarchists must employ strategies which are effective and serve the needs and goals of anarchism. But this focus has been obscured by the popularity of pacifism and nonviolence among anti-authoritarians, including many anarchists. Moreover, in the last year the term \”violence\” has been much abused, applied to such acts as property damage and shouting, in an effort to prevent genuine confrontations between demonstrators and the state from developing out of police-approved marches.

Anarchists must be able to critique our tactics if we are going to be effective and maintain any advantage over the police in confrontational situations. An anarchist from Europe commented that in Europe the black bloc is being abandoned because it no longer serves their tactical needs and the police are too familiar with it.

The NAAC enjoyed some police-provided entertainment, but the conference was held without serious interruptions. Neither the police presence nor the media presence had significant impact on the discussions or results of the conference; attendees were able to make helpful contacts and return refreshed and inspired to undertake new work.

Balloons Over Prague

Thousands disrupt Prague IMF/World Bank meeting

The IMF and the World Bank (WB) were created by rich nations after WWII supposedly to stabilize national economies and pull them out of poverty. Now over 50 years later they do the opposite. They continue in colonialism\’s footsteps, keeping some countries very rich while forcing two-thirds of the world\’s population into poverty. However, protests continue to gain momentum and pressure continues to mount on these institutions. They\’ve now hired public relations experts and James Wolfensohn, head of the World Bank with personal wealth of over $100 million, is quick to tell anyone who will listen how much he cares about the world\’s poor. Every four years the IMF and WB hold a giant meeting. This time the 14,000 bankers chose the Czech Republic. As an ex-communist country it is trying hard to show how much it embraces capitalism.

Organizing protest in Czechoslovakia was a challenge. There has only been an activist scene there since 1990. So with almost no funds and no NGO support a small group of Czechs and foreigners did what we could. September 26th, the first day of the meeting, we gathered at Namesti Miru (Peace Square). The government\’s threats worked to some degree: only 5-8,000 came. They were, however, the most militant protesters from all over Europe. There were 11,000 police, the entire police force of the country. The rally ended at 12:00 pm and we split into three marches. Our plan was to surround the Congress Center and block in the delegates.

The Congress Center is perched on a hill, bordered by a river and a deep valley. The Yellow march took the bridge over the valley. They were Belgian, French and others, led by Ya Basta from Italy. They used inner tubes and foam armor for protection, and at one point released balloons into police lines. They were well organized but were unable to force their way through 500 police with armored personnel carriers and pepper spray.

The Blue march went through the valley. It consisted of about 1,000 anarchists from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Spain, and Greece. Two blocks from the center they met a wall of heavily armored police with water cannon tanks. A huge battle began. Protesters threw rocks and an occasional molotov. Police continually used water cannons, tons of concussion grenades, batons and teargas. After about two hours protesters were pushed back, and built burning barricades in the streets. Some reached the Congress Center and spray painted it.

The Pink March had several factions including many socialists. The main highway was occupied all day. In another place Spanish protesters were beaten and arrested. Pink and Silver was a big Samba Band mostly from the UK. At one point they got right up to the Center.

The delegates finally escaped by taking the subway. At 6:30 over 1,000 of us went on an energetic march downtown. At 7:30 we met another group that had blockaded the delegate\’s opera, forcing it to be canceled. At this point some people went to a main square and smashed symbols of capitalism: a bank, Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds. Others marched to the delegate\’s banquet: it was also canceled. The IMF/WB were so scared that they quickly wrapped up their meetings the next day and fled the city, canceling the last day. We shut them down. We won!

In all, several hundred protesters, 120 police and 2 delegates were injured. That day police arrested 422 people, mostly as they left protests. The second day\’s small march was surrounded by police; most were eventually let go. Police swept the city. They stopped, searched and arrested 468 more people. Once in jail, hundreds were beaten, many severely. No prisoners were allowed phone calls or a lawyer, and most were denied food, water and sleep.

On the 28th there was a protest for the release of those in jail. Riot police surrounded and arrested 70 people. They were released that night with pressure from the Spanish embassy and jail solidarity. Most of the other prisoners were released over the next few days, many with bruises and injuries. 230 were foreigners, who were driven to the border or given 24 hours to leave the country, making it hard for them to file official complaints. Six are still in jail. In all 20 face charges such as assaulting police or criminal damage.

We demand the release of the activists still in prison, and the dismissal of all charges. We further call for investigation into police actions and beatings in the jails.

Support: Solidarita, L.K. , P.O. box 13, 679 21 Cerna Hora, Czech Republic.

Phone +420603-310170.

For legal info:

www.ackerj.clara.net/oph.htm

www.praha.indymedia.org

S26 Global Tour

While our comrades were battling the cops in Prague on September 26 – attempting to disrupt the IMF/World Bank meeting – thousands of people in over 30 countries were participating in a Global Day of Action to denounce the horrendous policies of these world bodies, and the global; capitalist system they promote. It would be impossible to summarize all of the actions that took place that day. Actions tok place in Adelaide, Amherst, Ankara, Athens, Barcelona, Bath, Belfast, Belo Horizonte, Bergama, Berkeley, Bogota, Boise, Boulder, Brasilia, Bristol, Bruxelles, Buffalo, Buenos Aires, Burlington, Calcutta, Campinas, Canberra, Caracas, Chicago, Cordoba, Cork, Dallas, Dekalb, Delhi, Denver, Dhaka, Dijon, Duluth, Fortaleza, Frankfurt, Gainesville, Geneva, Guingamp, Hadley, Hartford, Istanbul, Izmir, Korneva de Llobregat, Kyiv, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Malmo, Melbourne, Montreal, Moscow, Mumbai, New South Wales, Oxford, Palm Beach, Perth, Portland, Providence, Reus, Salvador, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Stavanger, Stockholm, Sydney, Tarragona, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Trick Candles, Tucson, Uppsala, Utrecht, Washington, Wellington, Wroclaw, Zagreb. We don\’t even know where all of these places are!

What isn\’t impossible to summarize is that the corporate form of globalization, in which only the rich and corporations enjoy the benefits and the rest of us pay the price, is coming up against a truly global people\’s movement. Organized decentrally from the grass roots up (the way we would like to see the world organized), the global solidarity witnessed on September 26 is the kind of \”globalization\” the world needs!

Here are some reports, chosen at random. (If you\’re city isn\’t listed, that doesn\’t mean cool stuff didn\’t happen there . . .):

Ankara, Turkey
200 students gathered around the Mc Donalds and shouted \”go home IMF\”. In the city center 400 people from the Ankara anti-globalization platform gathered for music and street theatre and \”Global Resistance Against Global Exploitation\” Another protest took place in front of the World Bank/IMF office.
Barcelona, Spain
on S23, 4000 people with a samba band blessed the vans taking people to Prague. A march from the top of Barcelona down to the sea passed banks and the stock exchange, all of which ended up more brightly decorated than usual
Berkeley, California
About 500 people successfully reclaimed the streets in solidarity with the protests in Prague against the IMF/World Bank. 400 people went on a torch-lit march accompanied by a mobile sound system past the brand new, expanded police station and jail to call attention to the connections between globalized capitalism and the expansion of the police state here at home. 100 other people on bikes, also with a bike towed mobile sound system, went on a diversionary Critical Mass Bike ride. Coordinated by radio, the two groups converged in downtown Berkeley at the place the police least expected: the place they had started. The street was blockaded for 3 hours with a tripod and trashcans while participants danced wildly to a huge sound system and ate food from Food Not Bombs. A puppet of a landlord was thrown into a huge bonfire and people played soccer in the usually busy streets. Eventually, police moved in with a fire truck to extinguish the bonfire. The group then marched through downtown Berkeley, breaking the windows of two banks (including Citicorp, target of a national protest campaign) and unsuccessfully attempting to arson McDonald\’s restaurant. The evening\’s impromptu slogan: in the East Bay, we don\’t have puppets, we have effigies! And we know what to do with them!
Buenos Aires, Argentina
3000 people protested the IMF/World Bank for hours, conducting a carnival against capitalism. At one point, 150 people simultaneously mooned the IMF.
Calcutta, India
500 people rallied for seven hours. Various speakers declared unequivocal support to the worldwide movement against capitalist globalization. A long stretch of the street was decorated with banners and placards. The speeches, songs and street dramas drew a large audience.
Delhi, India
100 people blocked the entrance to the World Bank offices for two hours. They shouted slogans such as \”We want water, not Pepsi!\” \”World Bank Agents Down Down\”, \”World Bank Quit India\”, and \”Structural Adjustment Down Down\”. The slogans were pasted on the windows and the gates of the World Bank office.
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Two marches went to the World Bank offices.
Johannesburg, South Africa
500 people held an anti-capitalist festival with music and speeches and then marched through downtown, accompanied by street puppets, demanding the shut down of the IMF/World Bank and cancellation of the apartheid debt. The march stopped at various government buildings where protesters did the famous toyi-toyi. The last stop was the headquarters of Anglo-American, South Africa\’s largest capitalist conglomerate, whose security guards attacked the march with tear gas & truncheons.
Melbourne, Australia
More than 600 rallied and heard speakers despite pouring rain.
Montreal, Canada
150 people carrying banners reading \”Smash Capitalism before it smashes you!\” and \”La rebellion est un droit! À bas le capitalisme!\” [tr. Rebellion is a right! Down with capitalism!\"] paraded through the downtown streets, ending at the Stock Exchange Tower. They were blocked from going near a McDonald\’s vandalized at a recent protest.
Portland, Oregon
A Reclaim the Streets march with a sound system united with a Teamsters protest in downtown whereupon 500 people blocked streets for several hours, vandalizing police cars and throwing bottles at the police. 20 were arrested and 1 hospitalized.
Tel Aviv, Israel
1000 people assembled in the city center for 3 hours for street theater and other protest art, and then marched through the banking street.
Utrecht, Netherlands
500 people marched through the city, stopping at banks to protest the IMF/World Bank.
Wellington, New Zeland
200 protesters gave out free veggie burgers (and cups of tea) in front of a McDonald\’s before briefly occupying the Westpac Trust bank, which was targeted because of its role in uranium mining in Australia. The police attacked, arresting 14 and injuring a number. After the melee, the crowd gave out 150 free cookies with \”capitalism is crumbling\” and \”anarchy is how the cookie crumbles\” stickers. Unfortunately, the police had earlier knocked over the cookie basket and crushed many of them

Damming Up Justice

People around the world are escalating the fight to remove large dams and reclaim watersheds, fisheries, and their traditional way of life. Once thought to provide environmentally clean power, in reality dams are extremely damaging to both the environment and the lives of many people who make their homes in the watershed. The number of dams being planned has been drastically reduced over the past two decades due to mass protests and economic problems with power generation. However, the World Bank continues to fund dam projects in countries with repressive regimes that allow little popular opposition.

Dams affect every corner of the earth. There are more than 40,000 large dams in the world, almost half of which are in China. Dams have significantly altered more than three quarters of the rivers in the northern hemisphere; in China, between 40 and 60 million people have been displaced by dams. Dam construction occurred most furiously between 1950 and 1980, but by now has slowed nearly to a halt.

Why were dams built so feverishly, and why is the World Bank still funding these unjustifiable projects? Dams are built for a number of reasons. To generate power that is supposedly cleaner than burning fossil fuels. Dam proponents also say that irrigation, flood control and improved navigation are all benefits of dams and the reservoir has increased \’recreational\’ value.

Some municipalities draw water from dammed reservoirs, although this accounts for less than a fifth of reservoirs world-wide. If drinking water were a major purpose for dams, the dams would be much smaller than those built primarily for power generation. Most people world-wide rely on groundwater for drinking water.

Perhaps more powerfully than other human constructions, dams signify control of nature. Water behind a dam becomes a tool of commerce and leisure. Dams hold tremendous political appeal, at least before construction begins and things begin to sour; big projects that control nature and harness power are easily related to national pride and the power of the state. But large dams do not benefit people practicing traditional agriculture and ways of life. Nor are dams beneficial to the earth itself.

Rivers Die

Closely related to the social catastrophe of large dams is the environmental devastation caused by these behemoths. Rivers are extremely important dynamic systems: the water that forms rivers has literally shaped the face of the earth. Dams render rivers static, with dire consequences. Rivers and their valleys are among the most diverse environments on earth. Because each river is unique, each riverine environment is ecologically distinct. The changes caused by dams both upstream and downstream have lead to population declines in 51% of the world\’s freshwater species, according to a 1999 report by the World Wildlife Fund. Diverse habitats are flooded, migratory routes are cut off by reservoirs, and logging in remote areas is facilitated by the roads used in dam construction, as well as by displaced farmers clearing more farmland. Dams trap sediment, with consequences that reach the ocean floor. The river downstream of the dam is deprived of sediment and over time becomes a straight, rock-lined channel that supports fewer species and allows less natural flood control. At the mouth of the river, extremely diverse delta environments die without sediment inflow. The balance of sand deposit and erosion along beaches is disturbed, causing coastlines to erode, sea cliffs to collapse and beaches to disappear.

Dams also drastically alter river chemistry and nutrient flow. The water let out of dams is cold and pure. Nutrients that should be replenishing downstream flood plain farmland are trapped behind the concrete, giving rise to blossoming algae populations that, in severe cases, leave water unfit for drinking or agriculture. High algae populations consume the oxygen in the water, leaving the water more acidic and thus more able to dissolve heavy metals from rocks, leading to further contamination.

Rotting vegetation in newer reservoirs actually emits the same greenhouse gases that fossil fuel consumption releases, sometimes at comparable levels! In a particularly notorious case, workers at the Brokopondo Dam in Surinam (South America) had to wear masks for two years after the reservoir began to fill, to protect themselves from severe levels of hydrogen sulfide.

Social Catastrophe

Dams have forced roughly 60 million people worldwide to abandon their homes and land. Millions more people lose their land to roads and irrigation canals, and/or lose access to grazing, foraging, and farm land covered by the reservoir. Diseases carried by insects breeding in reservoirs become serious health problems. People living downstream from the dams are deprived of annual floods that fertilized soil and recharged their wells. The vast majority of people affected are politically powerless, often indigenous people or ethnic minorities.

People are rarely compensated for their losses. Reimbursements that do materialize can hardly rectify the loss of a highly specialized way of life. Resettling people living in a river valley to the plains, or even to a reservoir shore, is far more drastic than moving a family from one US suburb to another. An Indian indigenous person displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam described the inadequacy of the compensation process: \”Our firewood comes from the forest, our fodder from there, our herbs and medicines from there… our fish come from the river down here – which rehabilitation scheme of theirs will even look at all these as our earnings, as items to be compensated?\” Capitalist, investment-minded dam sponsors do not understand the importance of common resources and the intricacies of local economies based on direct interactions with specific ecosystems.

As people fight for more just resettlement policies, they drive up the total cost of dam construction. Particularly fierce struggles or high population densities can result in resettlement costs of more than a third of total construction. These spiraling costs are a major factor in private industry\’s unwillingness to fund new dam projects.

Economic failures

Subsidies are the ship that carried the parasitic dams over the face of the earth. Dams are economic failures which survive only by absorbing money from the state, either via government construction or hidden subsidies to private industry.

Dams are consistently more expensive and take longer to build than planned. They infrequently deliver all of the promised power, due to periods of low rainfall. This is called \’hydrological risk\’. This risk increases as global warming contributes to more erratic rainfall patterns.

Hydrological risk was rarely examined during the era of government funding. However, with the wave of privatization that hit in the 1990s, profit-blinded investors have arranged schemes to pass the costs of hydrological risks along to the power utility. In an opaque dam subsidy, power consumers absorb these costs so that dam investors get returns even when the dam is not generating power.

Why do dams, receive such generous subsidies? Dams are a grand monument to state power, control of nature, the advancement from ÒprimitiveÓ, natural, dynamic chaos to the ordered, engineered, reasoned state. Dams supposedly improve the value of rivers by harnessing water power. The World Bank, the major funder of dams in lesser-industrialized countries, observed in 1987, \”It is difficult to conceive of a scenario in which India can afford to let the waters of a major river such as the Narmada run wasted to the sea.\”

Dams are the epitome of pork barrel politics, a sure way to bring astronomical amounts of fast money to a district. A significant portion of the money flows via illicit channels. For example, Itaipu dam on the Paraguay-Brazil border is \”perhaps the largest fraud in the history of capitalism,\” according to Brazilian journalist Paulo Schilling and Paraguayan ex-legislator Ricardo Canese. Bribes to Brazilian and Paraguayan military rulers rocketed total construction costs from the estimated $3.4 billion to $20 billion.

A relatively small number of construction and equipment companies feed on the $20 billion spent annually on dams. Well-known dam builders include Bechtel Corp, located in San Francisco, Toshiba and Mitsubishi.

Other industries benefit from dams and hence support them. In the United States, electricity-intensive industries, agribusiness, water supply utilities, barge owners, and cities that want \”flood control\” are major advocates. The aluminum industry, whose smelters rely on a strong electric current, is in bed with dam-builders worldwide.

Dams have been a major sink for aid money. During the Cold War, dams were a powerful symbol of domination by capitalist, industrialized countries and the \”improvements\” in life offered by these advancements. More recently, as the dam industry has withered in the northern hemisphere, aid for dams in the southern hemisphere is primarily a life jacket for the dam-building industry.

The World Bank is the star player in the dam-money-as-aid racket. Dams conveniently allow large sums of money to move into southern countries, and large northern construction companies to continue working, much to the pleasure of both northern and southern Bank board members. Because World Bank loans are secured by taxpayers in industrial countries, and repaid by taxpayers in lesser-industrialized countries, there is little incentive to make sure Bank-funded dams are economically viable.

Scrutiny and Mutiny

Wealthy, powerful people are con artists, wrecking the earth and the lives of poor and indigenous people with the dam scam. But, through a strange, inspiring combination of factors, the scam is almost up. As dam privatization continues, close economic scrutiny by potential investors reveals what a bad deal dams are. Capitalists are partially responsible for the death of their own fat baby.

Also largely responsible for the dramatic drop in dam construction are massive protests by people fucked over by dams around the world. In Thailand this past spring, villagers took over two major dams. More than 1,000 people occupied the crest of the Pak Mun dam and began removing rocks forming part of the dam, a structure that traps water over a salt dome, leaving the water too salty for drinking and agricultural use. At Rasa Salai dam, people set up makeshift huts and vowed not to leave as reservoir waters rose around them.

Protests around the world are making dam construction more expensive, discouraging private investors. The World Bank has greatly decreased funding for dam projects in countries with vocal opposition, preferring the calmer waters of repressive regimes like China.

Despite the bleak reality, dam builders, like addicts, continue to salivate over the ultimate high. Pipe dreams include the Atlantropa Project, which involves damming Straits of Gibraltar, thus turning the Mediterranean sea into freshwater body fed by water from Zaire River. Fanatics would also like to dike off James Bay in Canada to make it a freshwater body comparable to Lake Superior. Water would be sent to Great Lakes, Canadian Prairies, US Midwest and even to the ever-hungry US Southwest.

The Russian government considered reversing flow of major Siberian rivers to empty into Central Asia and Aral Sea, shrinking to death by water diversion to the Russian breadbasket region. Some dream of a huge reservoir in Canadian Rocks to hold irrigation water for CA, TX, AR and Mexico.

The absurdity of each of these plans reveals the obscene lust for wealth and control of nature that fuels all large dam construction. Fortunately, people are fighting these absurd projects.

For additional info contact: International Rivers Network, 1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703. Phone: (510) 848-1155.

www.irn.org.

Protest Against Resumed Dam Project in India

Protesters set fire to government vehicles and staged demonstrations as India resumed construction of a dam in the western state of Gujarat.

An irate mob burned four cars belonging to state ministers soon after the Home Minster officially began construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, which had been stalled for six years by an environmental lawsuit.

The Save Narmada Movement, whose petition against the Sardar Sarovar was thrown out by India\’s Supreme Court last month has vowed to carry on with its protests against the project.

The Home Minister said that along with the Pokhran nuclear blasts and the Kargil conflict with Pakistan, the Narmada verdict will be one of the most important achievements of the government.

Educating for Freedom

Freedom is central to anarchist and radical anti-authoritarian thought on education. But what does freedom in education really mean? Does it refer to the development through education of young men and women with the essential tools for freedom, such as critical thinking and self-reliance? Does it concern the socialization of children for a new, classless society? Does it refer to a process of self-directed learning? Or is it concerned with assuring each person a nurturing yet genuine freedom during their first, dependent, years?

William Godwin was one of the first anarchists to critique education. Responding in 1793 to proposals for national education, he warned that if the task of educating children was given to the state, it would strengthen the state\’s hegemony of power. It would not benefit society to \”form all minds on one model,\” through a standardized curriculum and schooling experience. Students would not learn critical thinking, he said, \”but the art of vindicating such tenets as may chance to be established.\”

Most of these points would be repeated by later generations of radical educators. However Godwin raised one crucial point which would take a long time to resurface in the discussions of liberatory pedagogy: \”He that learns because he desires to learn will listen to the instructions he receives, and apprehend their meaning. He that teaches because he desires to teach will discharge his occupation with enthusiasm and energy. But the moment political institution undertakes to assign to every man his place, the functions of all will be discharged with supineness and indifference.\” Desire is the motivating factor in education, and is the element which must be preserved in the relationship of student and teacher in order for the freedom of both to be respected.

In the early 19th century, the idea of socializing children for a new society based on freedom began to be put into practice in communes such as Charles Fourier\’s Harmony. Fourier was a sensitive observer of children\’s behavior, and he noticed that between the ages of four and a half and nine children are most interested in the concrete and material. He also noticed their frequent activity changing, love of noise, and attraction to the work of their elders. From these observations, he concluded that children could be guided to simple productive labor (such as shelling peas), and so grow to be industrious adults for whom labor is the satisfaction of natural instincts.

During the 19th century, class struggle became more acute as the pace of industrial mass production increased. The labor movement, together with other class struggle movements such as socialism and anarchism, embraced the ideal of instruction intégrale.

Instruction intégrale gave equal importance to manual labor, defined as skilled trades, and intellectual study for individual development. Every child, regardless of the economic situation of their parents, would be trained both in clear, critical, unprejudiced thinking, and in the technical skills to satisfy their originality, to transform idea to product. Responding to the physically debilitating effects of industrial work, instruction intégrale also articulated the need for pedagogy which gave the students physical training (gymnastics was usually specified) as well as intellectual and technical studies.

\”In the rounded human being,\” Michael Bakunin contended, \”each of these pursuits, the muscular and the nervous, must be developed in equal measure … there must no longer be this division into workers and scholars, and henceforth there must be only men.\”

One of the major pedagogical concerns of proponents of instruction intégrale was to foster children\’s discovery of truth through observation. They thought the class conflict would be resolved when generations of boys and girls grew to adulthood with their intelligences fully prepared for independent thought and work, without the habit of repeating as truths theories which they have not discovered or proven for themselves. The pupils would learn to experience their world directly; they would not grow up (as children do today) filled with explanations of social phenomena which contradict the evidence, leading to disillusionment or a neurotic rejection of reality.

But it was not until the appearance of the Modern School movement that the problem pedagogy itself posed for freedom was acknowledged. In Spain, Francisco Ferrer concluded that \”The school dominates the children physically, morally, and intellectually, in order to control the development of their faculties in the way desired, and deprives them of contact with nature in order to modify them as required.\”

Ferrer recognized that perception, emotion and will should be unified, although too often the will is severed from thought and feeling. The preservation in childhood of that vital link was his pedagogical mission. He founded the Modern, Scientific and Rational School (quickly shorted to the Modern School) in 1901. Spontaneity was more valued than the acquisition of information; knowledge was drawn from experience or rational demonstration; and children were subjected to neither reward nor punishment. The state recognized the danger this sort of education posed to the social acceptance of authority, and in 1909 Francisco Ferrer was arrested, imprisoned, and shot.

The Modern School movement shifted radical pedagogy away from adult-managed socialization of children for the (idealized) economic and political life of adults, to child-centered pedagogy. The autonomy of children was for the first time respected; desire was for the first time fully recognized as the most potent force for learning.

This shift was facilitated more or less directly by the emergence of new psychological theories which posited distinct stages of emotional and cognitive development. Unfortunately, this new body of knowledge entered at the same time the hands of pedagogues whose work was the maintenance and replication of the social order.

Psychology is used in schools to make a standardized curriculum \”age appropriate,\” to teach to different learning styles, and to \”manage\” the behavior of children who patently do not consent to being in the classroom. Psychology is used as well to explain away the \”attitude problems\” of children growing up in environments riddled with class divisions and myriad other social dysfunctions. In short, it is used to conceal and silence the old and ever-present struggle of master and subject, which is not an individual but a class conflict. This is regarded as \”enlightened\” though it is nothing more or less than the ancient custom of noblesse oblige, consisting now of the privileged class of adult experts distributing charity among the very people they daily oppress.

But knowledge is not the same as understanding. Any number of college courses in psychology will not suffice to awaken the understanding of our \”expert\” educators unless they also feel. They suffer from complacency. In this condition they are poorly equipped to observe the world as it either supports or contradicts their theoretical knowledge, and worse, they are slow to be receptive to emotional impressions which run against their expectations.

They instruct children in \”facts\” which they have not discovered or proven for themselves. When children fail at this dismal kind of \”learning,\” they subject them to anxiety-inducing \”remediation.\” The prevailing idea is that with expert intervention all children have the capacity to meet an established standard of information acquisition.

In fact, children are expected to meet production quotas at school. This is not very surprising in a capitalist country; educational systems mirror society. The \”GNP\” of children is measured individually in their successes or failures in the classroom, and nationally in their test scores, which are solemnly analyzed by grown men and women. The results seem to disappoint: some principals will lose their jobs, some teachers will redouble their efforts, some paranoids will write to the papers darkly about superior test scores in Japan, and some newspaper editors will assign hard-hitting investigative reports from America\’s classrooms. A major conservative think-tank will commission a book…

Since children are expected to produce, it is not surprising that teachers are not merely instructors, but \”classroom management,\” maintaining discipline. Now, it is for the convenience of working parents that the school day mirrors a work day in length. But for whose convenience does the school mirror a work-place in discipline? None but the educators themselves, who for some reason choose to work with children even though they dislike noise and chaos.

Putting the tools of psychology into the poorly trained hands of teachers and pedagogues-who, unlike psychologists are not required to undergo psychoanalysis themselves-is a hazardous enterprise.

Erich Fromm observed that pedagogy has moved from overt force to anonymous force: \”today\’s teacher says, \”I\’m sure you\’ll like to do this.\” Replacing violence with manipulation does not result in freedom. Yesterday\’s child could hate the oppressive teacher; today\’s child bows under the oppressive internalized belief that her unhappiness in school is evidence of personal psychological maladjustment. Or as A.S. Neill put it, \”When there is a boss, there is no real freedom. This applies even more to the benevolent boss than to the disciplinarian. The child of spirit can rebel against the hard boss, but the soft boss merely makes the child impotently soft and unsure of his real feelings.\”

Of course even anti-authoritarian adults must be authorities for children. The challenge is to find ways to be authoritative which don\’t oppress; to relieve children\’s responsibility for themselves just enough to be nurturing and give the comforting message that they are being cared for, but not in so doing to disempower them, and deprive them of a sense of autonomy.

This cannot be achieved in the traditional school, even if it is \”progressive\” and \”creative.\” Radical education requires radical schools. The entire structure of education needs to accommodate the needs of each and every child.

The insights of developmentalism have tremendous potential to help adults interact more helpfully with children. A child\’s educational experience should nurture him emotionally. This doesn\’t mean the manipulative kindness of adults who want to command his attention, but the responsiveness of adults who are listening. In such an environment, learning will happen more, not less.

Education must be thought of in holistic terms: mind, body and soul. Only this can accomplish the greater work of building a solid foundation for social freedom and individual autonomy.

Children often try to get this sort of all-encompassing attention. They expect the teacher to be activity supervisor, love-and- attention-giver, answerer-of-intellectual-questions, fixer-of-social-problems, etc. But the potential for true holistic interaction is continually thwarted by a disappointing curriculum and the law of classroom management, which punishes or represses children\’s \”disruptive\” needs.

What are these needs?

To begin with, there is the body\’s need for exercise. Children can learn to bow beneath discipline and disappointment to sit still and read from books, but they will be infinitely happier if allowed to be physically active. The needs of the body frequently predominate the needs of the mind in children. I wish the same was true of adults, because I do not believe this is a developmental stage of childhood. But children are still conscious of their bodies, and must use them.

Almost every child is able to move spontaneously and to discover their body\’s range without difficulty. The role of the teacher in dance is to help the child gently and safely to expand their range and increase their self-control. There are certainly systems at work in dance: the movements of the body are limited by the direction of motion of the limbs, by the flexibility and strength of the muscles, and by the distribution of weight. These are the physical laws which order our movements, and the role of the teacher is to teach the freedom of the body within its natural limits. It would be interesting to see how many areas of knowledge we can adapt to the framework of dance.

Children also have a need for their own time, just as adults do. Children are more sensitive than most adults to social fatigue, that is, to the moment when it is no longer fun to be in a group, and they wish to be by themselves. Compelling a group of children to endure each other\’s company and be in continuous social interaction for the school day breeds frustration, anger and anti-social behavior.

Children are frequently angry in school. It is important to listen to children\’s anger, because they are letting us know how we are failing them. One common source is feeling frustrated and stupid at school. This has a simple solution: respect the individuality of children\’s cognitive processes.

Our perceptions, memory, judgment and reasoning are mental processes. These, generally termed cognitive skills, develop gradually, stimulated over the course of a lifetime by an individual\’s changing experiences and interests. In my case, I developed a strong mechanical cognition long ahead of analytical cognition. I understood how simple machines functioned, but had great difficulty with arithmetic. Only in my twenties did my analytical cognition really begin to develop, through the study of linguistics, philosophy, and finally, extended to a limited comprehension of mathematics. I remain far better at following the \”difficult\” pathways of philosophy, than the supposedly \”easier\” pathways of arithmetic. I do not think I am unusual in this regard.

The human intellect does not conform to a standard pattern, yet traditional approaches to education are based on the assumption that all children should be able to successfully adapt to standardized teaching methods and cognitive exercises, and ultimately, that the goal of education is to implant in each child an identical, testable mastery of a set curriculum.

In educating children for (and in) freedom, can we fully escape from the concept of universal education? Must every child master arithmetic, or learn to read fluently?

In my view, this is an unrealistic expectation; it also creates the grounds for severely wounding children\’s self-esteem by setting for all children tasks which will be, for a few, almost impossible. I am convinced that, for the individual, self-esteem is a gift of greater value than mastery of any particular body of knowledge.

Division of labor exists in our world, and it allows us to choose to develop our strengths rather than pound away at our limitations, as if we had to be and do everything for ourselves.

We are not alone, we exist in the world surrounded by other people. We are members of communities, created by geography, economics and choice. Education should prepare children for being strong, confident adults, who are able to help and be helped.

I myself am not especially good at memorization, or even doing Ambition and Distraction (forget Uglification and Derision!), so I use my fingers for counting. It hasn\’t slowed me down-I\’ve even worked successfully as a waitress! (And was very proud of myself, too.) I still need fingers, and I still encounter problems. Sometimes even with the help of a calculator I\’m at a loss: I ask for help. My problem is someone else\’s work-of-an-instant, or fun brain-teaser. And the \”problem\” is painlessly solved.

Sometimes it is necessary to build knowledge in a systematic fashion. Other times, a systematic approach is a purely arbitrary choice, not required by the subject under study. Grammar, arithmetic, music and science are examples of areas of knowledge which are innately systematic. History, literature, social values, and to some extent art are examples of areas of knowledge which do not need to be systematically learned.

Children wear themselves out trying to adapt to puzzling institutional disciplines, and make sense of studies which tend to dull their curiosity rather than foster it. We must take responsibility for finding every opportunity to release children from systems which suppress their happiness, freedom and maturation.

We must restructure education to fit the needs of children, according to the value of social freedom. In so doing, we must keep uppermost in mind that the great and important work of childhood is to develop a sound mind and joyful spirit in a healthy body; nothing more, nothing less.

Justice for Camilo Viveros and Eric Steinberg

Activists face decades in prison for allegedly throwing bike at police chief a Republican National Convention

Camilo Viveiros and Eric Steinberg, both accused of involvement in an incident at the Republican National Convention in which a bicycle was allegedly thrown at police chief John Timoney and other officers, may be facing decades behind bars, and need your help. Even after numerous charges against the pair were dropped at an October hearing (which the government is appealing!), Camilo is still facing 2 felonies and 3 misdemeanors, including felony assault, and Eric is facing one felony and two misdemeanors. Camilo\’s lawyers believe he could face 15-30 years in prison if convicted.

Camilo and Eric were held on $450,000 bail for two weeks after the convention, and finally released on $150,000 bail. They have been tried in the press and denounced by Philadelphia politicians as violent outside agitators. One officer suffered a concussion in the incident, and getting a fair trial under the circumstances may be difficult.

These cases are part of the severe legal crackdown on protesters at the RNC, and are aimed to have a chilling effect on future protests, scaring people from going into the streets. Don\’t let them make an example of Camilo and Eric!

Funds are desperately needed to fight these cases. For more information or to make contributions, contact Friends of Camilo, PO Box 58247, Philadelphia, PA 19102, stayingstrong@hotmail.com.

Free Free and Critter

As Slingshot goes to press, forest activists Jeffrey \”Free\” Luers and Craig \”Critter\” Marshall are going on trial in Eugene, Oregon, charged with 9 felonies including arson and attempted arson. They are accused of starting a fire Joe Romania Chevrolet and attempting to set fire to the Tyree Oil Company. Both companies contribute to global warming which is threatening the extinction of thousands of species. If convicted on all counts, they could face 86 years behind bars!

Free and Critter\’s arrest and trial is part of the Eugene Police Department\’s latest attempt to intimidate the rapidly growing anarchist scene in Eugene. In essence, the police hope to \”make an example\” of Free and Critter, and send a message to radicals that \”you could be next.\” The trial comes on the heels of the conviction of Robert Thaxton, who was sentenced to 7 years in prison last year for an alleged assault on a police officer at a street protest. We can\’t let the state create any more political prisoners!

The evidence against Free and Critter and the way they were arrested are all suspect. Free and Critter were stopped by police on June 16, at 1:30 am for driving with a headlight out. After calling in their license numbers and identity, they were arrested and held for arson. Eugene police say they followed Free and Critter\’s car from the site of the fire. However, the Springfield (next city over) police officers who made the arrest report having pulled the car over for a routine traffic violation.

The day after the arrest, police searched Free\’s home looking for common household items like items as empty plastic containers, sponges, incense sticks, matches, rubber bands, paint, gasoline, and correspondence. A member of Free\’s household was detained for 2 hours and questioned. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was identified at the scene. There is reason to believe that Free and Critter, as well as other Eugene anarchists, were under surveillance by police for months before the arrest, and the police were waiting for an excuse to charge them with some sort of crime. Both men have been active in forest protection campaigns, local copwatch activities, and other community projects, including self-defense for women, cooperative child-care and Food Not Bombs.

Free and Critter are on their way to being the latest US political prisoners. They need your help. Funds are desperately needed for their legal defense. Send money to: Free and Critter Fund, 454 Willamette St. #205, Eugene, Oregon 97401. Or call (541) 343-8548. eae@efn.org.

Free and Critter can receive written correspondence, including photocopied materials with no stapes at least until they are transferred to prison after their trail, when their address will change. Call the legal team to figure out where they are. As of this writing, write: Jeffrey Luers (Free) #1306729 or Craig Marshall (Critter) #1340996, both at 101 W. 5th Street, Eugene, Oregon 97401