Category Archives: Spring 2006 (4/6/06)

Cop shortage opens doors

There’s been a lot of ink lately about a perceived police shortage in Oakland. This for a department whose motto already seems to be, “This is Oakland: we have bigger things to deal with.” Voters passed an initiative to fund more police, but the actual number of officers is declining because not enough eligible people are applying for the jobs. City hall apologists explain that too many candidates are lost to competition with the military and private firms, but critics say that no one wants to do this work in an ungrateful and dangerous city.

So if a lot of cops don’t want to police Oakland, and a lot of Oaklanders don’t want to be policed, what is keeping this historic consensus from moving forward? An increase in homicide and other violent crime is being blamed on the police shortage (even though this is happening nationwide as the country crumbles), and as usual pundits emphasize that more “beat” officers will stop people from attacking each other with impunity.

A lot of people, ranging from liberals who think social programs are the answer to all of society’s problems to anarchists who want to replace all the perceived useful functions of the cops with grass-roots collectives, believe that we should deal with the excessive violence with some other method rather than throwing more police at the problem. Yet a previous ballot initiative, funding such programs with a little thrown in for more cops, barely failed, while measure Y which barely passed funded a bunch of police with some programs tagged on. Part of the problem was that more people didn’t understand what the programs were and how they would help; I don’t have a clue myself actually.

Besides the convenience this creates for graffiti artists, squatters and other riff-raff, we’ve come upon an ideal time for anti-authoritarian radicals to talk to their neighbors and develop non-statist approaches to street security. Coming from a radical perspective means that we are interested in DIY autonomous measures, not to be confused with “watch” programs that inform to the police to protect property values and conspicuous consumption. The question is how to protect everyone, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable from grievous harm.

I’m always annoyed by Slingshot articles that proclaim what everyone else needs to do in mass cohesion, when the author hasn’t done anything. They should do it themself first and then write an article about their adventure (and why they know everyone else should do this in light of their experience). So I regret saying the preceding, which must be expressed this way because it’s only people staying in one place with roots in the same Oakland Flats neighborhood for years, seeing the same neighbors every day, a description that hasn’t been me in over four years, who can follow my suggestions. While few Slingshot readers live in the far-Eastern avenues, many have dwelt for years in outer West Oakland, the other hotspot.

But I’m also suggesting to others because time is running out. Like the other symptom of Brown-era municipal collapse, the school system, the vacuum can be filled by State or Federal control. After all, why was the military practicing invasions in Oakland a few years back? And currently most police applicants are screened and rejected, many for reasons we would agree with. If they deal with the problem by letting more questionable people join the force, or importing applicants living in far-flung reactionary suburbs, life here could become more challenging. Another solution from columnist Douglas Allen-Taylor in the Berkeley Daily Planet is a police hiring blitz in the inner city, diverting potential gangland enforcers into law enforcement.

While this is unlikely, it’s still important for the anarchists to reach these kids first. I know of a couple households who are open and caring, with firm boundaries, to the most troubled kids in the neighborhood, and this will certainly make a difference later on. If you happen to like government-based prevention programs, it’s time to invest in grassroots collectives, because the way local governments invent and fund programs is by imitating the people, since they don’t know what to do themselves.

Besides prevention, it also makes sense to put energy into “restorative justice” resolution systems, and domestic violence rapid response teams. But if everyone’s not comfortable with everything, we can leave the occasional maniac with a sawed-off shotgun to the Oakland PD for now. The bad guys on TV are only a small part of urban violence; it’s building community that will do the most towards safer and saner neighborhoods.

A different ride is needed

While the regular critical mass bike ride is strong because it is leaderless and avoids specific demands or targets, the critical mass tactic has been used very successfully to gum up the works in conjunction with protests. Even a relatively small group of bikes, obeying all traffic laws and thus hopefully avoiding arrest (assuming the cops don’t violate their own laws — don’t assume too much) can create massive traffic jams. For instance, at the protest of the Biotech Industry Organization conference in San Francisco in 2004, the police kept regular demonstrators off the streets and behind huge police lines, but the critical mass rode free, providing a kind of moving blockade and harassing buses full of delegates.

With that in mind, it might be nice to have another separate, regularly schedule bike ride with a more explicit radical agenda that could focus on harassing specific targets — be they war industries, employers trying to break their unions, earth destroyers, or particularly horrendous examples of the car-oriented urban landscape.

Such an idea needs to develop organically and with a lot of discussion. Maintaining a state of leaderlessness and avoiding specific goals and politics — a bike party line — are essential for such a tactic to success. Such an effort also needs a name that distinguishes it from the regular CM.

Whereas the regular CM usually tries to avoid tense situations or areas that are totally hostile to bikes, a more aggressive ride in the East Bay might intentionally ride around Emeryville – the local leader in car-oriented, bike unfriendly urban planning. The closest Emeryville gets to a downtown is a very busy freeway exit — terrible for a regular critical mass, but a nice target for an as yet un-named ride. (Emeryville — and many suburbs — has a very small police force . . . .)

A bike ride can be extremely disruptive without doing anything illegal or even obnoxious if it goes through congested areas that are already on the verge of gridlock either because of design or timing. Whereas the regular CM generally avoids such areas, a disruptive ride could specifically seek them out.

Such a ride might put more emphasis on having some good flyers and maybe even bike signs would help get messages out. I still suspect that such a ride would conclude that having shouting matches or physical confrontations with police or individual motorists (and thus getting off our bikes and stopping the ride) would be counter-productive. I also think a ride would do best to maintain the high ground by providing a visible example of alternatives and focus on what we’re for not what we’re against.

But ultimately, these details should be subject to discussion, practice, and innovation. I hope such a ride will start in the Oakland / Berkeley area during the summer of 2006 on the third Friday of each month. Drop by the May east bay critical mass if you want to talk about it . . .

Sane Chauvinism – Hard questions about how we take care of each other

Insane Liberation Front Manifesto:

We demand an end to the existence of mental institutions and all the oppression they represent.

We demand that all people imprisoned in mental hospitals be immediately freed.

We demand the establishment of neighborhood freakout centers, controlled by the people who use them. A place where people, if they feel they need help, can get it in a totally open atmosphere. (Everyone is insane and everyone freaks out).

We demand an end to mental commitments.

We demand an end to the practice of Psychiatry. It is based on the assumption that there is something wrong with the individual and not with society. The majorities of shrinks make money off us and see us as objects or categories.

We demand an end to economic discrimination against people who have undergone psychiatric treatment, and we demand that all their records be destroyed.

We want an end to sane chauvinism (intolerance toward people who appear strange and act differently) and that people be educated to fight against it.

We demand with other liberation groups an end to the capitalistic system with its racist, sexist oppression and with its competitive antihuman standards. We believe in cooperation.

We demand the right to the integrity of our bodies in all their functions, including the extremist situations, suicide. We demand that all the anti-suicide laws be wiped from the books.

From “The Radical Therapist”,

by Jerome Agel.

Do you ever feel that you are at the edge of a breakdown, see your life with despair and have no one to talk with because you are afraid of not being understood? Do you ever fear finding your worst fears and phobias hiding deep inside yourself and not knowing what to do with them? Do you ever think that you are “weird” (fucking society’s label) and that speaking up would make it worse? Do you ever find yourself being “too moody” and having emotional changes because of all the oppression and shit happening in this world nowadays and think that you might be crazy but are scared of being told that you need to see a specialist who would label you as mentally ill instead of an open-hearted and sensitive person subject to the evil things of this western civilization?

Do you ever run into people who live in another reality (whatever that means) and you feel like helping them but they are homeless, and others feel unsafe and threatened by them? But still you think that we all got to be compassionate towards others, so you want to help but you don’t know how because you ain’t a fucking doctor or got no resources?

Well, we’ve all been there before and ideally this is where community support and healing steps up.

Here’s the thing: we, all human beings, as radicals and activists are involved in too many things trying to change the world or just living our lifes’ dreams; we all then become too busy and forget that we need people; we need to be true and honest with each other and just sit the fuck down and talk about our fears, feelings, visions or the things that we see. For so long, society has tried to tell us that we ought to be normal, we got to have a job, be rational and all that crap. If you are different or ever find yourself communicating with animals or nature like the witches in the old times, are crying one moment and happy the next, you get locked up because you need to be “changed,” you need to become normal. They call it a rehabilitation program.

I know this person who is a projection of how sick this rotten society is. She did a bunch of drugs when she was young because of how her life was when she was growing up. Her childhood traumatized her: her parent’s oppression plus society’s twisted her mind and she lost it. She did a bunch of drugs to escape and her reality changed. I have met many people like that in my path.

She, because of her own choice, has been homeless for a while. She sees herself as an anarchist, an artist and a mom. She sees herself as an anti-system person who does not want to pay rent, get a job or get involved in society’s affairs.

This person kept getting kicked out of all the communal houses in the town where I live. People felt unsafe and threatened by her. Her presence and acts made them fear even for their children’s safety. This person would offer people poisonous hallucinogenic tea or inedible plants and shrubs. But we all have to remember something. Her reality was far different from ours.

Some people at the different collective houses offered her help, such as taking her to shelters where she could sleep and be safe instead of sleeping on the streets or trying to sneak into people’s houses. But talking with her was like talking to the wall. She was in denial and never wanted to be in a shelter- she wanted to be with people, do art, sit down and eat food with her friends, but people despised her because of their own fears and incapacity to offer her compassion because of the way she acted and the things she did. People got tired and wrapped up in their own bullshit so at some point it was too late to help. (You also can’t really help somebody if they don’t want to be helped.)

At some point she had a break down and called 911. For the third time (or maybe more) she got locked up–against her will.

This person was taken to a Psychiatric Hospital named St. John Georges. Three days ago there was an article in the paper about this place. What shocked me was that in the article it said, “The hospital had been cited by state and federal licensing agencies for failing to provide a safe environment for staff and patients”. Anyone could figure that out- the worst of the worst.

There is a law, Section 5150, that you can get taken to a hospital against your will and they hold you there for 72 hours if they think you are crazy or a threat to the community. After 72 hours, she got a hearing; nobody claimed her or tried to get her out, so she stayed and after 72 hours they started forcing her to take medication.

They have diagnosed her as bipolar and they are dosing her with Lithium, a “mood stabilizer” and a really bad chemical, which makes you numb and sucks your brain out. But she is not bipolar– that is just another label that the man has created.

I talked with the social worker that has her case and she said that the doctor and the judge will give her medicine until she changes, which means: until she stops talking about pixies, witches and the revolution, until she seems normal enough to hold a job or get a house.

Now, after a month or so, people in the community have started to make a move and this person has gotten herself someone who is going to play the role of her advocate.

I recently talked with her on the phone and she made sense, and this is what she said: “Maneli, I am not bipolar, I am just fucked up because I did a bunch of drugs when I was young because of how decadent my life and parents were. I want to be healthy, I want to get out, this is not a safe space and they are violating my privacy.” That sounded really “normal’ to me- clear thoughts, smooth words.

Anyway, one of the things that happened when she got locked up was that nobody cared, some people even wished that she was dead and had no compassion about mutual aid or her healing. But there were some people that still cared and know that to survive in this jungle, aside from focusing on your own personal healing, we’ve got to help each other. But to maintain our own sanity and help each other, we all must remain strong and grounded. And for that, you need community support; people who are there when you need them, people who won’t laugh at you or stop listening when you are having a breakdown. You need people who are able to communicate reciprocally in a healing way and practice mutual therapeutic acts.

A bunch of us came up with some ideas at a recent community discussion where we addressed issues including being homeless and mentally ill and the role of community support. Some of the ideas that were brought up and are actually practiced in other places were:

A group of people could open up a safe space (or freak-out place), but for that you need money to rent a space because unfortunately we all live in a capitalist world.

If you don’t have enough money to rent a space, you could start an Advocacy Group where people help each other by giving them information regarding resources of where to go, what to do, who to talk to and all that.

Or maybe we all need to have some sensitivity trainings where we learn how to treat each other right.

Well . . . that’s the story. Things like this happen all the time and people need help everywhere. And we all lose it at some point or another. We just need to be honest.

If you want help or want to help others and do not know what to do, here are some websites that you can check out:

Icarus Project : www. theicarusporject.net

Or mindfreedom.org (advocacy for psychiatric survivors)

Implicaitons of the Hamas Victory – could the popular rejection of the rotting road map for peace lead to a no-state solution?

This time, for the first time in my life, I do feel a change in the air. … the rebellion spirit of the Palestinian resistance is a spirit people can empathise with. You know why? Because the Palestinians are in the forefront of the war against evil. (Gilad Atzmon) [1]

A new era in the Palestinian liberation struggle is upon us. Rather than just a electoral repudiation of Fatah’s long years of corruption, mismanagement and collaboration with the Israeli plutocracy, the extraordinary success of Hamas at the polls comes from the gut, the depths of despair of an entire population. It is a powerful protest against the Occupation, a loud NO to persistent efforts by the Israeli military and political class to force Palestinian surrender and crush their national rights.

This vote by the Palestinian working masses was a resounding NO to political Zionism and its century-old agenda of Zionist segregation and land expropriation. NO to a pseudo-’settlement’ imposed by Washington. NO to abandonment of the demand for a right of return for the millions of Palestinian refugees. NO to shredding Palestine into Bantustans. NO to the Great Wall of Palestine. A massive electoral expression of muqawama, resistance. As embodied in the name Hamas itself, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement).

This article reflects on that victory, and on future pathways out of the impasse in Palestine/Israel, beyond the dead-end of the two-state solution. The social action of Hamas, its local dynamic pragmatism in addressing the everyday needs of Palestinians, may become the mother of inspiration for far more than observers at present can imagine.

Israeli jazz artist, novelist and peace activist Gilad Atzmon put it pointedly:

those who dwell in occupied Palestine had their say, they went to the poll and gave all us a major lesson. They presented us with the most heroic spirit of resistance. They told the West, and Israel, and the EU, and the Arab world … and the other gatekeepers, “you can all bugger off. We know what we want. We are tired of your phoney kindness. We are exhausted of your hypocritical willingness to help. We are sick of your solidarity. We don’t want you to tell us what we are and what we should be. Don’t liberate us and don’t save our women. We will take care of it all from now on” [ibid.].

Resistance to Ihtilal: the ‘Suffocation’

It’s useful to ponder a few facts of the singular political ecology of this election: it was carried out under the most grinding Occupation (Ihtilal, the ‘Suffocation’) currently in force anywhere on the planet — a free vote by ordinary people living under appalling oppression, in extreme poverty, their villages and towns turned into locked cages. Some two-thirds of the population lives below the official poverty line of $2.20 a day. A WB Report for 2004 described the economic situation as the “worst economic depression in history,” with unemployment of 60-70 percent in Gaza and 30-40 percent in the West Bank. The PA itself is a major employer, with some 136,000 on its staff rolls, their salaries supplied largely by international donor Capital.

31 of the candidates, 15 now elected, are behind bars in Israeli jails, probably unprecedented for any democratic poll in the world.

The Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi were openly assassinated by Israeli air strikes in March and April 2004. So the massive pro-Hamas vote is also in part a payback and political ‘blowback’ for that kind of targeted state violence by the Israeli political elite, tacitly supported by Washington.

To compound matters, some of those who won election are wanted by the Israeli authorities for ‘suspected involvement’ in anti-Israel violence. Most of these men are now in semi-seclusion, and fear arrest if they try to travel to Ramallah, the site of the Palestinian parliament. Is this the fruit of ‘free elections’ under an iron Occupation?

Refugees Excluded

Nor should we forget: this election was a poll by a clear minority of the true electorate of the Palestinian people, the far greater majority of whom live as refugees in a vast Diaspora — mainly in the Middle East, mostly ‘ethnically cleansed’ in 1948 and 1967, and as second-class citizens inside Israel proper. If all Palestinians could vote in a pan-Palestinian plebiscite, who knows what the results might be. Their right of return should be high on the agenda. Hamas is absolutely committed to it [2]. Meanwhile, Washington, its allies and the UN went to extraordinary lengths to allow Iraqi “out of country voters” (even in Israel) to participate in the poll in Iraq. But those same powers have shown no interest in giving Palestinian refugees a voice of any kind. They are ‘silenced’ in a classic sense.

Rooted in the Working People

Most centrally, Hamas is a multi-sided grassroots movement rooted since its founding in 1988 in the working people, the neighborhoods: its activities in the Palestinian street have concentrated on building an extensive education network, distribution of basic foodstuffs for the holidays, aid to the poor, youth camps, sports, care for the elderly, scholarships, sponsorship of light industry, and religious services in the mosques.

Armed resistance, the activity of the jihadist shahid (martyr for the faith) and the Ezzedin al-Qassem brigades, is a relatively small part of its program, demonized by the Western media as “terrorism” with no cause. It is Palestine’s principal weapon against military occupation. One of the Hamas women elected in Gaza, Mariam Farahat, known as Um Nidal (Mother of the Struggle), helped send three of her sons as shahid. She told ABC news: “Our land is occupied. You take all the means to banish the occupier. I sacrificed my children for this holy, patriotic duty. I love my children, but as Muslims we pressure ourselves and sacrifice our emotions for the interest of the homeland.”

Islamic fundamentalism is a major strand in Hamas ideology and integrity, but many of their supporters in the Palestinian street are secular and will remain so. As anarchist activist Ilan Shalif stressed: “From the polls it seems that the voters of Fatah and Hamas did not differ so much where their level of religious fervour was concerned” [3]. Some of its leaders and rank-and-file are hard-line, others are ‘pragmatists.’ People learn to distinguish between rhetoric and action.

The Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya has anchored itself not as a political party but a genuine people’s movement of mutual aid, highly efficient — and resistance to an entire choreography of systematic oppression. As one Palestinian village resident put it in response to ‘why people chose Hamas’: “If you sit with them they will say: ‘We hate Fatah. They did nothing for us. A few poor people suddenly became rich people. Hamas worked in another way. They worked with society. They worked with the poor.’ ” Many Palestinian Christians also cast their ballot for Hamas. Now anticipating a heavier Israel military hand in their daily lives, another villager commented: “They knew what they voted for … They know the consequences. If they want to liberate their land, they have to suffer” [4]. And the big gains for Hamas were among the local candidates, precisely at this scale. The Washington Post reported that the U.S. secretly channeled $2 million to Fatah in the closing phase of the campaign.

Imperative Now: Fight the “Wall of Siege” Against the Hamas Leadership

Despite the “wall of siege” the U.S. and many Western powers have erected to try to suffocate any attempts by Hamas to form a viable new government, Hamas is standing resolute. What baffles the Western oligarchies is that here you have a principled political movement, rooted in popular democratic support, and unwilling to yield to Western pressures, the “world according to Condy Rice” and financial blackmail.

Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk stated very clearly in early March 2006 in Moscow that recognizing Israel would negate all Palestinian rights. He said: “I gave the Russian officials a white sheet and I asked them to draw me a map of the Israel they want me to recognize and nobody was able to draw the map.” No one could. No one in the present or future Israeli government can do so. Israel is by definition a state without fixed borders that its own political class can recognize. Since its inception as a movement 120 years ago, political Zionism has been dedicated to grabbing ever more Palestinian land, territorial expansionism as a principle of political life. The building of the Great Wall is part of that. The expanding network of “apartheid highways” (for Jews only) around Jerusalem and throughout the occupied West Bank is part of that. The Israeli military takeover of the Jordan River Valley, in effect the West Bank’s “eastern boundary” with Jordan, now being consolidated, is also part of it. Hamas knows this. No doubt Washington will do everything to isolate, discredit and suffocate the Hamas leadership. And to split its ranks. Progressives everywhere, including inside Israel, need to fight against these moves.

What is emerging as of mid-March 2006 is indeed a kind of “Class War from Above,” orchestrated by international donor Capital, on Hamas and the will of the Palestinian people to resist, a form of geopolitical extortion.

It is time to de-demonize Hamas and listen to the will of the Palestinians, their voice. Gilad Atzmon echoes this:

If we are as democratic as we claim to be, it is down to us to respect and welcome the Palestinian people’s choice. I would suggest that to support Palestine is to support the Palestinian people and their right of return regardless of their political, theological or cultural choices [5].

Ever more Israelis may come to share that view. Ever more are disgusted with the militarization of their society and concomitant brutalization, its colonial-settler ideology of inequality, segregation and might over right, the endless bloodshed, the insanity of the ever expanding West Bank settlements [6]. Whatever the fundamentalist views of some strands in Hamas leadership, are they any more ‘extreme’ than some of the Jewish religious parties that may play a role in the next Israeli government? The sacralization of politics is a distinctive element on both sides of this divide.

Beyond the Rotting of Oslo: Thinking Outside the Box

The Hamas victory is a watershed. It is time for a new political class in Israel to move forward to a just solution. Beyond the contradictions, hypocrisies and cul-de-sac of the Oslo process. Mahmud al-Zahar, a key harder-line Hamas leader in Gaza, put it well: “As for a future government, we are putting all the possibilities on the table. What has the Israeli government presented to us? Nothing. Oslo is not only dead, it has rotted.” Khalid Mish’al, head of the Hamas Political Bureau, wrote:

Our message to the Israelis is this: we do not fight you because you belong to a certain faith or culture. Jews have lived in the Muslim world for 13 centuries in peace and harmony; they are in our religion “the people of the book” who have a covenant from God and His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be respected and protected. Our conflict with you is not religious but political. … But if you are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are prepared to negotiate the terms. Hamas is extending a hand of peace to those who are truly interested in a peace based on justice [7].

If the “‘two state solution’ has been all but killed off by the very powers who today claim to be supporting it, primarily Israel and the U.S. [and] the fictitious ‘Road Map’ is as much on life support as is Ariel Sharon himself” [8], perhaps other options can begin to be envisioned and pragmatic steps taken toward their realization. Many foresaw that the Oslo agreement would not bring stability to the region because it spelled Palestinian capitulation to colonization, no settlement freeze, the continuation of apartheid within Israel and across the West Bank and the de-Arabization of Palestine. Adam Hanieh notes: “The Hamas victory helps to dispel the myths surrounding the negotiations of the last decade. The Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has overwhelmingly stated that these negotiations have merely been a cover for the deepening of Israeli apartheid” [9].

Whatever the prevailing ‘two-state fantasies’ in the pipeline, none can provide a lasting just solution to the intractable impasse in Palestine. The populations are too massively intertwined (1.3 million Palestinians live in Israel, and 450,000 Jews in the West Bank), the physical geography of water and transport militates against it. The apartheid nature of the Israeli ‘ethnocracy’ [10], marginalizing its large Arab citizenry, cries out for radical change and civil equality within Israel. Moreover, both peoples’ identities and national meta-narratives are now interwoven with the total area of historic Palestine, most especially that of Hamas. In a unitary state, those narratives would move to revision. The very upending of old structures and command networks on both sides of the divide signaled by the Hamas breakthrough at the municipal level (and Sharon’s demise) may open up new wormholes in anti-state space.

An Old Vision Revitalized: One Democratic State

Can we imagine ordinary people working together to build a single democratic state for all Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, one democratic polity, its citizens living in ta’ayush (solidarity) and full equality? Sound totally utopian? This is the concrete vision of the Palestinian-American peace activist Mazin Qumsiyeh, as laid out in a powerful article in 2005. The compelling 2004 Olga Appeal by a group of non-Zionist Israeli intellectuals is also in this spirit [11].

And now there is an association: a growing fusion of people across the planet, including Israeli Jews and Palestinians, banded together in the organization ‘The Association for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel’ (www.one-democratic-state.org). There is a broad spectrum of political opinion, united by orientation to a few core principles for a unitary state.

Writing on the Hamas victory, Whitbeck is visionary:

The “destruction of Israel” is clearly a negative formulation. The “creation of a fully democratic state with equal rights for all” in all of Israel/Palestine could be a positive reformulation which would be recognized by the world as just and offer genuine hope for peace and reconciliation [12].

The revitalizing of the demand for refugee return could be part of that new agenda, as Hanieh suggests.

‘One State’ and Beyond

Perhaps the election victory of Hamas is a first step on that path to building a polity and society beyond the nation-state, a ‘no-state solution’ — a cooperative Arab-Jewish commonwealth in the ancient land of Canaan. Hamas’s own practical agenda, as it emerges, will initially likely be quite different, anchored in its 1988 Charter. But politics is in powerful flux, if people can discover new modalities for political organization in the workplace and neighborhood. Hamas may prove to be an inventive amalgam of pragmatism and principle. Radical pragmatism says: see what can emerge. But fight to let it emerge. It needs the midwives of grassroots activism.

Zapatismo in Palestine/Israel: Ya Basta/Khalas!

Social pragmatist paradigms for such bottom-up organizing are now multiplying in Latin America, within Zapatismo in Chiapas, the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil, the rise of the indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Ecuador and elsewhere, and as a complex of autonomous movements across Argentina, a “socialism of the people, participatory and decentralized” [13]. An analogous ferment is needed as an organizing tactic and avenue forward here. Holloway talks about it:

Probably we have to think of advancing through experiments and questions: “preguntando caminamos” “walking we ask questions”, as the Zapatistas put it. To think of moving forward through questions rather than answers means a different sort of politics, a different sort of organization. If nobody has the answers, then we have to think not of hierarchical structures of leadership, but horizontal structures that involve everyone as much as possible. What do we want? I think we want self-determination — the possibility of creating our own lives, the assumption of our own humanity. This means collective self-determination [14].

In Palestine, that would require a massive popular movement to “regain the commons” among ordinary Jews and Arabs, energizing a new ensemble of struggles for direct & inclusive democracy and participatory economy. It means bringing people in the neighborhoods into a new kind of political and economic decision-making in their own streets and communities, a pro-active role in the management of their own affairs, their work places.

Building an infrastructure of what was called in the togetherness of Arabs and Sephardic Jews in Spain in the Golden Age of Arab-Jewish symbiosis, living together, ‘convivencia.’

The goal of a libertarian-socialist multicultural and multi-faith Commonwealth could begin to energize new forms of decentralized direct democracy, people’s participation and horizontalism, neighborhood autonomy as it moves beyond notions of any conventional capitalist ‘state’ run by a corporate ruling class, in Israel a veiled dictatorship of 15 families over the Israeli economy, media and politics.

The people’s NO to the old politics in Palestine was a protest against their own lack of political participation and disaffection, their daily ordeal of dispossession and denigration under the Ihtilal. Those masses may well be open to proposals for new forms of political life, based on local control, autonomy and creative resistance [15]. Perhaps, as realism will require, initially within a Hamas-Green armature for transformation. Mousa Abu Marzook has emphasized: “Hamas has pledged transparency in government. Honest leadership will result from the accountability of its public servants. Hamas has elected 15 female legislators poised to play a significant role in public life. The movement has forged genuine and lasting relationships with Christian candidates.” It is explicitly open to pluralism, a major role for Palestinian women on the political road ahead. Marzook: “fair governance demands that the Palestinian nation be represented in a pluralistic environment. A new breed of Islamic leadership is ready to put into practice faith-based principles in a setting of tolerance and unity” [16].

One Big Union

Grassroots working-class syndicalism among Palestinians and Israelis, forging new bonds of solidarity, is one pathway out of the morass of the ‘national question’ — and the immense ever widening gap between poor and rich in Israeli-Jewish society. It can become a hands-on incubator for overcoming mutual distrust. One option that can appeal to workers and the many unemployed is to create IWW-like base groups in both communities. Not a small political party, but a work-oriented horizontally structured independent movement –- oriented to people’s everyday problems to make ends meet and have a say, and broader issues of self-determination and vernacular dignity. Building, from the bottom up, a scaffolding for organizing and change, aspiring to “a world in which production and distribution are organized by workers ourselves to meet the needs of the entire population, not merely a handful of exploiters” [17]. A Wobbly union is one such non-hierarchical vessel for nurturing autonomy. It is lean, concrete, a structure workers and their families can understand.

Or imagine a movement like that of Argentina’s Piquetaros (picketers) across Israel and Palestine: protesters, many unemployed and underemployed workers, staging marches again and again against the government to draw attention to the people’s plight.

But authentic organization springs from struggle, not vice versa. That must begin and be sustained.

A Call for Urgent Solidarity: Anarchists Against the Wall

Kobi Snitz in Tel Aviv has issued a call for online donations to the legal fund of Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW, Anarkhistim Neged ha-Gader): www.awalls.org. Help of various kinds, including direct participation on the front lines, is much welcome. The repression of internationals on this front by the Israeli military and police has been vicious.

AATW is involved in both direct action and demonstrations against the Wall, especially at the embattled villages of Budrus and Bil’in in the West Bank. It is committed to a joint struggle of Palestinians and Israelis. AATW’s contribution, an unprecedented mode of joint Arab-Jewish sumud (steadfastness), is widely recognized in both the Palestinian and Israeli media, and is regularly reported on AINFOS.

In part linked with them is the organization One Struggle/Ma’avak Ehad (www.onestruggle.org), another dedicated vegan anarchist group in frontal confrontation with all aspects of the Israeli state. Ma’avak Ehad, which initially helped spawn AATW, also deserves libertarian solidarity [18].

In its fierce commitment to direct action, AATW could serve as a mini-paradigm of joint Palestinian-Israeli action, its praxis perhaps a template for future more systematic radical organizing of workers (and students as workers-to-be), One Big Union ‘from the river to the sea.’ New beginnings for convivencia. Whether that is ‘Western cultural colonialism’ in the political sense that Atzmon criticizes only joint struggle will determine. Mazin Qumsiyeh has a good website with suggestions about what you can do where you live and work to aid the struggle for justice in Palestine, and the forging of new paths forward: http://qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/

NOTES

1. Gilad Atzmon, “Western Cultural Colonialism and the Palestinian Choice,” http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/ ; see also www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_20915.shtml

2. As Khalid Mish’al stated: “Our message to the Palestinians is this: our people are not only those who live under siege in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but also the millions languishing in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and the millions spread around the world unable to return home. We promise you that nothing in the world will deter us from pursuing our goal of liberation and return.” See Khalid Mish’al, “We will not sell our people or principles for foreign aid,” Guardian, Jan. 31, 2006, www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1698702,00.html

3. Ilan Shalif, “Palestinian Parliamentary Elections: The Hamas Victory ,” www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=2320

4. I. Fisher, “Villagers Who Voted for Hamas Saw Hope Despite Obstacles,” New York Times, Jan. 27, 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/01/27/international/middleeast/27cnd-voices.html

5. G. Atzmon, “Where to now, Palestine? Some reflections,” http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/2006/01/gilad-atzmon-where-to-now-palestine.html .

6. See especially the work of New Profile, www.newprofile.org/default.asp?language=en .

7. Khalid Mish’al, “We will not sell our people or principles for foreign aid.”

8. “Hamastan Indeed,” Mid East Realities, Jan. 26, 2006, www.middleeast.org/mernew.htm .

9. Oren Yiftachel, “‘Ethnocracy’: The Politics of Judaizing Israel/Palestine,” Constellations 6 (1999), www.geog.bgu.ac.il/members/yiftachel/new_papers_eng/Constellations-print.htm .

10. Adam Hanieh, “The End of a Political Fiction?,” http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/view/1772?PHPSESSID=81750c8739aeb00401b669854c9e0bff

11. M. Qumsiyeh, “A Two-State Solution is No Solution: Thinking Outside the Box on Israel / Palestine” (CounterPunch, June 2005, www.qumsiyeh.org/thinkingoutsidethebox/ ); Olga Appeal at www.qumsiyeh.org/theolgaappeal/ ). See also “One State for Palestine – Israel: Silvia Cattori interviews Mahmoud Musa,” Dec. 3, 2005, http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/2005/12/one-state-for-palestine-israel-silvia.html .

12. J. V. Whitbeck, “De-demonize Hamas and support democracy,” posted on USQuagmire listserv, Jan. 28, 2006.

13. Judy Rebick, “Socialism in the 21st Century,” http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/view/1767?PHPSESSID=30a53693842caebbebbe0d8bd9bb22ed ; see also Marina Sitrin, “Horizontalidad in Argentina,” http://info.interactivist.net/article.pl?sid=05/07/26/1417232 and idem, Horizontalidad: Voces de Poder Popular en Argentina, Chilavert 2005.

14. See M. Sitrin and J. Holloway, “Walking We Ask Questions,” http://spip.red.m2014.net/article.php3?id_article=118 . The ongoing re-establishment of the SDS in North America is a kindred potential paradigm for ideas for participatory social activism, with a strong libertarian socialist thrust, www.studentsforademocraticsociety.org .

15. See B. Templer, “Tanks & Ostriches,” http://the-dawn.org/2004/08/ostriches.html and idem, “Thirteen Theses,” http://midwestpopulistparty.org/Bill_Templer_Article_2.html

16. Mousa Abu Marzook, “What Hamas is Seeking,” Washington Post, Jan. 31, 2006.

17. IWW homepage. The IWW grew internationally by some 35% in 2005, celebrating its 100th anniversary in struggle. An active exemplary IWW local is the Edmonton General Membership Branch (http://edmonton.iww.ca/ ).

18. A well-informed analysis of the work of the anarchist collective One Struggle is W. Budington, “Animal Rights Activists: Up against the Wall,” the student underground, Oct. 2005, www.thestudentunderground.org/article.php? id=16&issue=51

The other campaign of Mexico

February 16 marked a full decade since the signing of the San Andres Accords, negotiated by rebel Zapatista commanders and Mexican federal legislators in the restive southern state of Chiapas. The Accords called for changes to the Mexican constitution as a minimum peace demand for the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), but have languished for ten years as the federal bureaucracy refused to implement them. As the anniversary passed, Zapatista leaders on a national tour dubbed La Otra (The Other Campaign — a reference to the presidential campaigns now underway in Mexico) arrived in the city of Puebla. They wore their trademark ski-masks, but left their rifles at home in Chiapas as a condition of the cease-fire.

La Otra is the most ambitious of the Zapatistas’ initiatives to extend their movement beyond Chiapas and launch a national revolutionary initiative which would bring the struggle for indigenous autonomy together with more general demands for democracy and social justice. With the peace dialogue now stalled by government intransigence and a long stalemate obtaining in Chiapas, the Zapatistas are taking their message directly to the people.

In a communiqué entitled “How big is the world?,” Zapatista Subcommander Marcos carried on his continuing dialogue with his alter-ego, a jungle beetle named Durito. In his usual surrealist and tongue-in-cheek style, Marcos re-asserted the Zapatistas’ national and even international ambitions. Marcos answers his own rhetorical question: “Much bigger than Chiapas!”

Marcos continued his verbal assault on all of Mexico’s major political parties, while still denying that the Zapatistas are promoting abstinence from the election. At Hidalgo’s National Politechnical University, he charged that all three major parties lack “moral authority” and that the leading members of Mexico’s political elite are “illiterate.” He called for a new constitution to be drawn up to protect Mexico’s resources.

Other meetings between rebel leaders and grassroots movements included a public assembly of sex workers in Apizaco, Tlaxcala. The official slogan of the meeting was “We are sex-workers, the politicians are prostitutes!”

Subcommander Marcos — dubbed “Delegate Zero” for the tour — speaking at Lerdo Park in the Veracruz state capital of Jalapa Feb. 2, noted: “This is going to fall,” in reference to late capitalism. But he said an “unprecedented” political mobilization will be the only way to avoid going down with the system.

In a meeting in Irapuato, Guanajuato, with members of the National Union of Popular and Independent Left Organizations (UCOPI), Marcos attacked the recent Chapultepec Pact on economic reform (signed last year by Mexico’s top political and industrial leaders), saying it will “convert the Mexican state into a police state” and “mean the end of our sovereignty.”

Marcos also met with Huichol indigenous leaders at the village of Bajio del Tule in Jalisco’s remote Sierra Norte. Said Maurilio de la Cruz Avila, representing the Council of Elders of San Sebastian Teponahuxtla: “We thank the land; it sustains us. For this we are in struggle. We will not sell our mother. Not one of the Wixaritari [Huichol] brothers would think of selling one piece of earth. This is the struggle against the government and the invader.”

Marcos tied the struggle for indigenous autonomy to the wider struggle for social change in Mexico: “It is not possible to extend the autonomy of the indigenous peoples beyond what has been achieved without a radical transformation of the system… If we leave things going the way they are, we will all be destroyed, individually or as a group, as long as we are separated.”

Repression against “La Otra”

A campaign of harassment of civil supporters of the Other Campaign continues to be reported from across Mexico. In recent days: A peaceful march by Triqui Indians of the Zapatista Indigenous Artisans Movement (Movimiento de Artesanos Indigenas Zapatistas) was attacked by riot police in Mexico City, who arrested 16; in Oaxaca City, days before the Zapatista delegation arrived, members of the local Alianza Magonista-Zapatista were arrested for distributing literature in support of “La Otra”; in Puebla, the campaign’s next stop, a march publicizing the imminent arrival was attacked by police with tear gas, with 27 injured, one with a fractured skull. In Santiago Xanica, Oaxaca, three followers of the Oaxacan Magonist Popular Antineoliberal Coordinating Committee (COMPA) were beaten and arrested for distributing leaflets in support of “La Otra.”

Hermann Bellinghausen reported for La Jornada on incidents of harassment against local activists working in preparation for the arrival of the Zapatista tour in various states throughout Mexico. In one typical instance, he cited a report from the Coordinadora de Sociedad Civil de la Región de Orizaba, in the state of Veracruz, of aggression by the authorities against a local group in Orizaba city, the Colectivo Feminista Cihuatlahtolli, which advocates for sex workers and AIDS prevention, and works against anti-woman violence. On Jan. 5, the Colectivo set up an information table in Orizaba’s Castillo park, with sound equipment and condoms to distribute for free. They were surrounded by 15 municipal police, who photographed and threatened them before cutting off the electricity to their sound system.

“This is the climate the municipal authorities are seeking to impose ahead of the eventual visit of Delegate Zero,” read the statement. The Colectivo Feminista had offered to open its Casa de la Mujer, which serves a shelter for battered women, to house Marcos and his fellow Zapatistas when the tour arrived.

Meanwhile, back in the Chiapas city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the offices of the Political Analysis and Social-Economic Investigation Center (CAPISE), one of the groups that organized logistical support for the Other Campaign, was burglarized and ransacked March 4.

In another apparent case of political harassment, the British-owned HSBC bank without reason ordered the accounts of Enlace Civil closed, an NGO that serves as an intermediary between aid organizations and Zapatista villages in Chiapas.

Oaxaca Mexico – the struggle continues

Mexico has had in its long history a great number of political prisoners. Only in the past century of 70 years of the PRI Party government rule, thousands of Mexicans and immigrant residents in Mexico have gone to prison for their political affiliation, their way of thinking or for defending their rights. Today in the 21st Century , things have not changed: hundreds of political prisoners are imprisoned by the Mexican state in its centers of extermination in the worst conditions — held in small and unhealthy spaces, harassed and humiliated — all as a punishment to the Mexican society and social activists who seek to defend their rights or change the actual system of exploitation in which we suffer. The situation has extended itself to this century, where the wealth of a few and their desire to extend their dominion to all walks of life has led them to use every avenue of repression of the state against any type of dissension.

To demonstrate how far this repression has gone in Oaxaca check this out: On Saturday, the 4th of March, 2006 at approximately 10am in the municipal agency of Santiago Cuixtla there was a community assembly to discuss the subject of natural resources (sand and gravel) that are being extracted from the river of Cuixtla. While the assembly met peacefully, there occurred an aggression of high powered firearms against the participants, directed by the aspiring municipal president by the substitute delegate of the PRI. The public officials were escorted by the Public Security police and the municipal police. These events left two people wounded: Jesus Carmona Mijangos and Marino Cruz Canseco and one disappeared: Tomas Ruiz Carmona. Also, the police arbitrarily detained eight of the attacked people all of whom were affiliated with the Indian Organization for Human Rights in Oaxaca (OIDHO) and the Popular Revolutionary Front (FPR). The repression continued on March 8th when the United Police of Essential Operations (UPOE) dissolved a demonstration of 600 people who demanded the freedom of the detainees and the punishment of the guilty. In the latest aggression they detained four more people and gravely injured another, Joel Roldan Mendoza, who suffered a cranial fracture. Also hundreds of people stationed in the first block of the city of Oaxaca impeded the public meeting. More information is available at www.espora.org/amz.

With situations as previously described it is essential that the problem of political prisoners in Mexico be divulged and receive the broadest support from organizations, collectives and individuals, understanding that the fight for their liberation must not neglect a fight for political prisoners around the world.

The Cerezo Committee, which fights for the freedom of the brothers Hector and Antonio Cerezo Contreras, students at the National Autonomous University and Pablo Alvarado Flores, Nahuatl Indian, who were unjustly imprisoned since August of 2001 in the maximum security prison Palma, is comprised by families and friends from the school and/or the work place of the Cerezo’s brothers. The group focuses on the unjust prison system, the torture and violation of human rights in high security prisons and the state of more than 500 political prisoners in Mexico. One of its objectives is to contribute through its capacity and resources to the freedom of all political prisoners of the country , and documenting and publishing an annual report of political prisoners in Mexico. The Committee has worked to register more than 500 political prisoners in Mexico. It has also participated in diverse initiatives to coordinate their freedom in the last four years. More information is available at www.espora.org/comitecerezo.

Musicians Against Sweat Shops – a local response to a growing problem

How can the music community work in solidarity with garment workers around the world? According to Musicians Against Sweat Shops (MASS) — an initiative of musicians, anti-sweatshop activists and sweatshop-free companies, buying apparel from independent trade unionized factories and worker-owned cooperative factories creates a demand for both sweatshop-free clothing and better jobs in the garment industry. It takes consumers in the North standing in solidarity with workers in the South to show companies that they can no longer scour the globe for cheap labor.

Sweatshops are commonly defined as places where workers are subject to extreme exploitation, the absence of a living wage or benefits, poor working conditions and arbitrary discipline such as verbal or physical abuse. Unfortunately, there is no legal definition of a sweatshop and, consequently, no definition of what “sweat-free” entails. American Apparel — a clothing manufacturer and distributor based in Los Angeles — is taking advantage of this loop-hole, claiming to be a “sweat-free” company.

Musicians Against SweatShops firmly believes that freedom of association and respect towards women are fundamental standards that a true “sweat-free” company should abide by. Unfortunately, questions surrounding anti-union activity by and sexual harassment lawsuits against American Apparel result in additional questioning of AAs respect for workers’ rights.

Musicians Against SweatShops stands in solidarity with workers and supports their struggles. Because of this, MASS believes that American Apparel’s advertising flies in the face of worker empowerment and, more specifically, working women. MASS’ National Coordinator Trina Tocco states that “if American Apparel is going to continue to be a self described sweatshop-free company, then AA should absolutely reevaluate their advertising strategy. With young women being the prominent group that suffer in sweatshops, one would think that American Apparel would pay particular attention to the portrayal of young women in their advertising.” American Apparel is blatantly using sex appeal to sell their product at the expense of working women who have fought for years to gain respect in the workplace.

Many people believe American Apparel is not a sweatshop, including Musicians Against SweatShops. However, American Apparel does not deserve constant praise for its “sweatshop free” designation. There is a distinction between those companies that completely disregard workers’ rights and those, like American Apparel, that have made headway (i.e. paying a living wage); but that does not make the latter ideal. Until American Apparel allows for a democratic representation of workers in its Los Angeles factories, the anti-sweatshop community actively refuses to acknowledge the company as sweatshop-free.

Targeting communities to simply consume “more ethical” products will not eliminate sweatshops. Systematic exploitation, outsourcing and sexual harassment are clearly symptoms of global capitalism. The anti-sweatshop movement is often criticized as working within a such a system, and rightly so. The movement points a finger at corporations instead of capitalism. However, for the thousands of garment workers depending on these factory jobs, do we tell them to wait for capitalism to fall? Or do we act in solidarity, supporting their right for better working conditions?

Musicians Against Sweat Shops empowers workers by specifically targeting the music merchandising scene to source their apparel from sweat-free suppliers. By utilizing for more information on the cultural influence of musicians, MASS educates and organizes people to support companies that support workers’ rights. And because musicians buy their gear wholesale — versus individuals buying a single t-shirt, changing musicians’ consumer patterns creates an economically feasible sweat-free demand. MASS also understands the reality of targeting a community that already shells out a hefty penny for their beloved concert t-shirt. So why not spend the extra two bucks to support garment workers?

Because of issues surrounding sweat-free marketing, it is important to learn more about what is behind a company’s tagline. Some companies and product lines that are represented by independent trade unions or worker-owned cooperatives include No Sweat Apparel, Just Garments, Justice Clothing, Union Wear, Union Line/Graybear, Nueva Vida, Ethical Threads and Windjammer. Musicians Against SweatShops — currently organized on a national level — is proud to give birth to its first local chapter in the Bay Area. BAMASS (Bay Area MASS) is looking for folks to help write grants, recruit bands, create educational workshops and research and run campaigns targeting local merchandise companies. MASS is also planning a benefit in May for Just Garments — a worker-owned cooperative factory in El Salvador. If you’re not in the Bay Area, start your own MASS network. For more information, check out www.musiciansagainstsweatshops.org or email alex@nosweatshop.org.

thinking through school

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance”

-Will Durant (1885 – 1981)

Much of the radical community compares our schools to jails and places where children are kept to slave away hard hours for nothing but a grade that doesn’t mean much in the long run. After attending the March 18th Anarchist Book Fair in San Francisco, I realized this message seems to be one that is heavily preached from pamphlets, posters, t shirts, and patches. This anti education sentiment does not only hold it’s ground in high school, but college as well. I find that many of my radical friends look down on me for going to college yet preach the word of Noam Chomsky or Ward Churchill. Why is this? Why in this community has education been turned in to this evil dragon just trying to make you bow down to its wishes?

In the CrimethInc essay “No Masters” it states “If you liked school, you’ll love work. The cruel, absurd abuses of power, the self-satisfied authority that the teachers and principals lorded over you, the intimidation and ridicule of your classmates don’t end at graduation.” In some ways I agree with this statement. I admit I hated high school but it wasn’t because of the work I did but it was because of the idiots who couldn’t sit down and let the teacher discuss a book with us or the silly pep rallies I was forced to go to because of school spirit. I also am forced to admit I did not come on to the scene of my freshmen year of high school getting straight A’s; I had to learn how to learn. This is a concept that many radicals refuse to admit is that school is never going to be something that comes easy to you, one has to work at it (oh no I used the “w” word!). A common area that, not only radicals hate, but most high school student’s dislike, is math. Even mentioning the word makes some people curl up in the fetal position, but the concept of learning math is not because teachers are mean and like to force us too learn the quadratic formula or cosigns, the reason math is required is that scientifically, math stimulates our brains more than any other subject. It’s like biking for the brain! If you want to think about it in more logical terms, math makes as much since as anarchism, both concepts attempt to attach concrete solutions too abstract ideas. This essay is not about math, even though I could fill a whole newspaper with info about it so I will come to another point of education, and that is ignorance.

Most people of heard the phrase “ignorance is bliss” but if ignorance is bliss then so is a bullet to the head. The radical community has this idea that the schooling system is so fucked up that we should just drop out. What good does dropping out do anyway? Yes, you are no longer being oppressed by the forces of homework and grades but what do you miss from it? In an ideal setting the radical community would be able to self educate everyone and not worry about oppression and what not. One thing I respect more than anything is self education. All of the great scholars like Plato, Socrates, Isaac Newton and even Einstein were able to do this, but the plain fact is most people do not have the will power to diversify themselves like a college education would. When most people ask me what I’m going to be when I get out of college I simply tell them “I don’t know, I just here to learn.” to most people that drops their jaw. “Blasphemous! You don’t want to hurry out of here to get a good paying job at a firm or company.” I treasure my education greatly. Everyday I sit in a class where teachers have spent at least 8 years teaching the same subject, so you know they love it and even if it’s a class I dislike, I can still get a kick out of how passionate a teacher can get talking about his or her subject. It’s truly beautiful. What I’m getting at is that for 99% of the population, dropping out will solve no problems. What dropping out allows one to do is to not get a well rounded experience on an academic level which is one full of critical thought.

This leads in to my final point of why the radical community needs education and schooling. I mentioned before that my friends regard Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill as people who know what they’re talking about. Yet who are these people to the radicals? They are the leaders. They are telling us, the actors, what’s going on and if we are left with just the ideas of a select few this will cause more problems then it already has. Dropping out, as I mentioned before will not help most people, but if one finds that this system is too oppressive for them, an easy and effective solution is skill shares. This allows people from different backgrounds to share their knowledge and learn something more. The large point I am trying to express is the radical community needs to strive for higher education because it would better us off. It would prevent what is currently happening which is the bureaucratic protests and lack of informing not only the radical community of the big picture problems, such as mistakes of the past, but informing society as well. The issue of education is a sticky one and with this article I have barely skimmed the surface but now the match has been lit. This article is done. The ball is in your court (or the book for that matter).

Rod Coronado Charged with Illegal Speech

Eco-activist Rod Coronado was indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested February 23 on charges of “teaching and demonstrating the making of a destructive device.” He is been accused of explaining, at a public speaking engagement in response to a question, how to build a destructive device, with the alleged intent on his part to impart such technology to those who would use it rashly. The root of this expectation is Rod’s activist history. He has consistently taken the path most likely to result in the survival of the greatest number of people, animals, and ecosystems.

The charges are frivolous. Not only is there no clear intention of contributing to direct action by allegedly being open with such information, but anyone who wants to build a destructive object can easily Google the knowledge, and wouldn’t be foolish enough to raise their hand and ask someone at an obviously surveilled event.

Rod was a Sea Shepherd guy for a while, and then he got busted in the 90s for actions against animal facilities, and did about five years. Because he was an unrepentant advocate for all-out resistance to animal/ecological abuse, everything he did was taken as a serious threat. When he recently put his body on the line against a state-sponsored mountain lion hunt (see last issue), the system came down harshly, hoping he’ll do a couple years just for that.

The latest charge of answering an audience question is part of Operation Backfire, a woodsy sounding Federal program to arrest and prosecute any activity possible that was undertaken to protect animals or for ecological reasons. This is the same operation targeting alleged ELF arsonists in Oregon and producing the conspiracy charges in Auburn, Calif.

This case is a landmark in the prosecution not only of illegal actions but the activism that inspired and explained these actions. Combined with the Auburn case, in which the defendants are accused only of discussing actions that never occurred, there is a new climate where even thinking about property damage to preserve living creatures is dangerous. While the system gives lip service to ideas that were once radical such as racial equality and feminism, this society is still very threatened by biocentrism, the idea that humans are part of a web of life and are not the whole point of everything, and will do anything to protect those who make billions from abusing animals and nature.

Additionally, many analysts see the entire crackdown against ecological activists as the inevitable progression of a police state, as mere property damage is considered the equivalent of foreign guerrilla attacks that kill scores or thousands. The limits on speech and freedom originally applied to Muslims will eventually be applied to everyone vulnerable or controversial.

War on terrorism targets eco activists BUT WE WON’T BE SCARED

Over the past few months, radical environmentalists from New York to Oregon have been arrested and accused of “eco-terrorism” — a term invented by pro-industry think-tanks that falsely links non-violent activists with atrocities like those committed on September 11. All those arrested are facing outrageously harsh prison sentences, sometimes for vague crimes in which no action actually occurred, and in other cases for instances of property destruction in which no one was injured. The harshness of the sentences are based on the politics of the defendants more than the seriousness of any crime — even assuming there was any crime. Some defendants face life terms for arsons which — if committed for non-political motives — would only earn them a few months behind bars. All of this has been termed the “green scare” to compare it with the “red scares” of the 1920 and 1950s — witch hunts against radicals based on what people thought, not what they did. The point of these government actions is to scare us, but we won’t be scared.

The recent cases include the eco-activists indicted in Oregon, the comrades arrested in Auburn, the SHAC 7 and Rod Coronado, among other cases. (See specific articles, pg. 12, 13 and 22.) The government’s attempt to label these activists as terrorists is a dangerous and baseless extension of the “war on terrorism” to domestic environmental activists. Whereas the State Department defines “terrorism” as involving violence against human beings, the FBI definition of domestic terrorism includes any politically motivated crime. Even actions such as graffiti, gluing a lock or clogging a toilet are included in the FBI’s lists of domestic terrorist incidents. Although the FBI describes property damage as “violence” for purposes of prosecuting activists, the FBI’s national Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system defines “violent crime” as murder, rape, robbery and assault. The FBI has used the media to accuse activists of being eco-terrorists even though none of them have been charged under the terrorist criminal statutes (US Code Sec. 2331) and “eco-terrorist” is not defined in federal law.

These arrests come as a result of extensive surveillance and the use of paid informants. They coincide with other draconian measures that are being taken by the government, such as the push for immigration legislation which would increase the persecution of people who are indigenous to this land mass, but are deemed ‘illegal aliens’, and those who support them, and increased surveillance of groups participating in direct actions that run damage control for capitalism outside of ‘legal’ frameworks like Food Not Bombs and Critical Mass.

The FBI has identified “ecoterrorism” as the Number One domestic terrorism threat, although in 2003, FBI statistics showed 7,400 hate crimes and only 450 environmental crimes — none involving human injury. By contrast, since 1977, anti-abortion activists have perpetrated more than 59,000 acts of violence and destruction in the U.S. including seven murders, 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 165 arsons, three kidnappings, 122 assaults, 343 death threats and, most recently, 480 anthrax threats, according to the National Abortion Rights Action League.

In an excellent recent article, Catherine Komp credits industry groups — such as Ron Arnold’s Center for the Defense of Free enterprise — with inventing and promoting the concept of eco-terrorism. She explains that industry groups are now working to pass eco-terrorist laws: “The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative public-policy organization funded by more than 300 corporations, collaborated with the US Sportsmen’s Alliance, an advocacy group for hunters, fishers, and trappers, to write the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act. If passed into law, the Act would consider arson, property destruction or trespassing acts of domestic terrorism – if committed by animal-rights activists. The groups also wish to criminalize acts [such as] providing ‘financial support or other resources,’ including lodging, training or transportation to aid eco-terrorist activities.” While these laws have not yet passed, she notes “On the state level . . . lawmakers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, Arizona, Washington and Hawaii are pushing various versions of the ecological terrorism legislation.”

It is important to ask why the state is putting so much energy and imposing literal and rhetorical force against people who have not harmed or threatened to harm any living thing. The reason this is happening is because those in power want to draw attention away from the failing ‘war on terror’ abroad and scare people from supporting groups and activities which call attention to the way that neo-liberal economic policies lead to poverty, death, and ecological destruction. This is especially true for movements that have gained broad public support.

Large segments of the public are beginning to question the sustainability of the ‘American way of life.’ Real environmental dilemmas are every day becoming more urgent and less easy to disregard. The idea that our world and the life in it, in all its diversity, is more important than property or monetary gain is one that resonates with most people. The result of this is that policy makers can no longer ignore environmental issues. Even George Bush has had to admit that our society is addicted to oil.

The people with money and power are trying to pacify and commercialize the environmental movement like they have every other social movement or sub-culture that has set itself against the status quo, purging it of its most radical elements and buying out what is left. The green scare is an attempt to separate militant environmental activists who have a radical analysis from mainstream environmentalism by falsely equating militancy and attacks on property with terrorism — the mass destruction of life.

Meanwhile what is left of the movement is herded into state sanctioned channels of dissent, such as voting, letter writing, product purchasing and boycotts, which often render all but the most short-term solutions unachievable. The results range from promoting unsustainable and lucrative alternatives to oil like ethanol to commodifying the aesthetics of environmentally conscious living so completely that once alternative lifestyles become just another set of niche-markets within the system of global capital. All of this despite the fact that the neo-liberal order itself is daily responsible for more real terror and destruction of life in all its forms than any other force — and that the only way to address the root causes of environmental catastrophes is to disassemble the system.

The green scare is also part of a larger process whereby the government slowly pushes forward the boundary of its power, gradually desensitizing people to increased top-down repression and control. Visible markers of this advance can be seen on a myriad of fronts, from the high profile arrests of people for ‘eco-terrorism’ to increasing intimidation of radical projects on a more widespread scale. Projects like Food Not Bombs and Critical Mass are a threat to those in power because they go against the principles of neo-liberal capitalism by demonstrating that people can come together and get things done without being motivated by the market; that mutual aid and direct action can be more persuasive and effective than isolation and greed.

The objective of these intimidation tactics, in the end, is to scare us because we have scared them and because we are being effective. We have scared the rulers by failing to respect the greed ethic of capitalism and by valuing life and the environment over corporate profits and property. They want us to watch what we say and who we associate with or to focus on reacting to their oppression instead of engaging with our world and creating new and beautiful visions for it. If environmental consciousness is to become ubiquitous, they want to make sure that it is also harmless and ineffective.

The only way they can win is if we give in to fear and spend all our energy reacting to their repression. They win if we cease to live in defiance of their brutal machine. Efforts like prisoner support are important, but can’t take the place of staying militantly on the offensive with vibrant and creative actions that are motivated by mutual love and respect for ourselves and our world.