Category Archives: Spring 2010 (5/1/10)

Tip of an iceberg of community: Infoshops and radical community centers

It’s summer traveling season so here’s a few places to visit on your travels that aren’t in the 2010 Slingshot organizer. Please let us know if you run into any other places we should list in the 2011 Organizer, or if you spot any errors. The deadline for the 2011 edition is August 1. I love putting this column together each issue. In a way, it is the most boring article in each issue ? just a list of places, names and numbers. No real plot development or analysis. And it is also more work per word than any other article ? each few lines requires a lot of research. But it is exciting because each listing is the tip of a huge, exciting iceberg of community, engagement, and action. When I read an email from a new project just starting up, behind the few lines of text is a flood of personal bonds developed at meetings, collecting zines, posting fliers, and building bookshelves. Cooperating with others to build something new ? a place for meetings, shows, learning and organizing ? is a beautiful act of caring, optimism and love. It is an expression of a community of people daring to seek social transformation and willing to struggle for a new world. Give these folks a hug, some support, buy a zine or a cup of coffee, or join in and volunteer to stock the shelves or do the dishes. Or maybe you’re already part of one of these projects ? if so, please accept my gratitude! Check Slingshot’s on-line radical contact list (slingshot.tao.ca) for more updated listings than what is in the printed organizer; it also includes web links where possible.

Bad Egg Books – Eugene, OR

Finally an infoshop back in my hometown! They have a reading room and store with zines and free wi-fi plus a members’ lending library for books and movies. 112 East 13th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401, (541) 636-3570.

NorthStar Center – Lansing, MI

A radical community center that features events, a reading group and a workers center. They also publish a newsletter. They’ve been around for 3 years. Visit Mon-Thurs 4-8. 106 Lathrop St., MI 48912 [mailing: P.O. Box 4794?E. Lansing, MI 48826] 517.371.2001, northstarcenter.net

The Wingnut – Richmond, VA

An all-ages, sober, social justice organizing and events space that hosts Food Not Bombs, a weekly craft night, acoustic shows, meetings and potlucks. 2005 Barton Avenue, Richmond, VA 23222, (804) 303 5449, thewingnutrva.wordpress.com

Brewing Grounds for Change – Milwaukee, WI

They are an all volunteer coffee shop and community organizing center with a zine library, a free store and they host music shows, art exhibits and meetings. Open 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. 2008 N Farwell Ave Milwaukee, WI 53202 414-273-9777

L@s Quixotes Infoshop & Radical Library – Seattle, WA

They are building a radical lending library and infoshop, starting off in rent-free space upstairs at Pilot Books until they can find their own space and raise enough money for a full scale project. Visit at 219 E Broadway, Seattle, WA 98102 quixotes.infoshop@gmail.com, losquixotesinfoshop.wordpress.com/

Bici Bike Coop – Birmingham, AL

A community bike shop with classes on bike repair, cheap parts and service, and bike education, rides and activism. Open Mon – Thurs, 6-8. 1211 28th Street South, Suite G2, Birmingham, AL 35205 (Behind Rhodes Park) bicicoop.org

Baltimore Free Farms – Baltimore, MD

A community garden collective that opens up and rehabilitates green spaces for food production and skill shares. They have three gardens and are expanding. Visit their flagship garden at 3519 Ash Street, Baltimore, MD 21211 443-740-8183 ashstreetgarden.com

Dandelion Communitea Cafe – Orlando, FL

An organic vegetarian cafe that hosts art openings, a poetry night, film nights, moon circles and vegan potlucks. 618 N Thornton Ave, Orlando FL 32803 407.362.1864, dandelioncommunitea.com/

Phoenix Project Collective – Dallas, TX

An all volunteer radical community center and arts and all-ages music space that hosts shows and speakers, has a bike coop, and a book exchange. 406 S. Haskell, Dallas, TX 75226 www.myspace.com/sea_wench

Ethos Vegan Kitchen – Orlando, FL

A vegan restaurant ? rare in the area ? that is a for-profit mom and pop business. 1235 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL, 32804 407.228.3898 www.ethosvegankitchen.com

Florida School of Holistic Living – Orlando, FL

A non-profit school teaching herbalism and natural stuff. 622A N. Thornton Ave. Orlando, FL 32803 – 407.595.3731 www.holisticlivingschool.org

ISKCON – Tampa Bay, FL

They are a Krishna temple that asked to be listed as a radical contact. Check them out and let us know what you think: 14610 N. 17th St., Lutz, Fl 33549(813) 971-6474

Feraldom Gallery – Motueka, New Zealand

A free radical gallery that hosts a pirate radio station (88.5 B Aware FM) featuring music and talk shows on dumpster diving and local actions. 111 High St. Motueka – NZ.

Corrections to the 2010 Slingshot Organizer:

• The Catalyst Infoshop in Prescott, AZ has lost their space at 109 N. McCormick – we don’t know their new address yet.

• Liberty Hall in Portland, OR has closed.

• The Peace and Justice Center (& store) in Burlington, VT has moved to 60 Lake St, 1C, Burlington, VT 05401.

• The Taala Hooghan Infoshop in Flagstaff, AZ has moved again for the second time in 6 months: now they’re at 1704 N. 2nd St. Flagstaff, AZ 86004 with a 2 year lease. www.taalahooghan.org

• The City Thrift in Austin, TX has moved to 2943 East 12th St., Austin, TX 78702, same phone.

• The Third Space Infoshop in Norma, OK got shut down in December for fire code violations and all their materials are now in storage. There are no current plans to reopen.

• The Stonewall library in Ft. Lauderdale, FL has moved – the new address is 1300 E. Sunrise Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304.

• Confluence Books in Grand Junction, CO has moved – their new address is 749 Rood Ave. suite A, Grand Junction, CO 81501 970-245-4442, confluencebooks@riseup.net

• We listed the Train Yard in Las Cruces, NM in last issue. Their contact phone # is 575-640-2280 – you have to search for them on facebook for information on their physical location.

• Bread and Roses Workers’ Cultural Center in Denver has just moved – they are not defunct. Their new address is 2727 27th Ave, unit D, Denver, CO 80211. workersbreadandroses.org

• The Empowerment Infoshop in London, Ontario, Canada has changed their phone # to 519-435-0307. They may be changing locations September so stay tuned.

• The Hamilton Zine Library does still exist at 27 King William St., Hamilton, ON L8N 1A3, Canada.

• The infoshop in Savona, Italy has a new mailing address: Via Chiavella 3R, C.P. 249, 17100 Savona, Italy. They are the only place carrying the Slingshot organizer in Italy (at least to our knowledge.)

• The phone number for the 128 Community House in New Zealand is 04 9727260. Also, our friend confirmed that Blackstar books in Dunedin is still there.

• We got a package returned from Sandpaper books in Los Angeles. Does anyone know if they still exist or not?

• We got a note saying that the Sarasota Florida infoshop closed ? let us know if you have any more info.

• Greencup Books in Birmingham, AL closed.

2011 Slingshot Organizer – a twinkle in our eyes . . .

Thanks to everyone who bought a 2010 Slingshot Organizer — they pay for this paper to be free all over the place. There are still copies available if you want to buy one. If you’re connected to a group that could help us give some free surplus copies to low-income teens or other folks who are unable to afford one, let us know. Email slingshot@tao.ca.

We’re about to start working on the 2011 Organizer which will be available October 1. Contact us now if you want to help create it — there are many ways to plug in.

• In May and June, we need help editing, correcting and improving the list of historical dates. Deadline for finishing: July 1.

• If you want to design a section of the calendar, let us know or send us random art by July 1. Deadline to finish calendar pages or give us suggestions for 2011 is August 1.

• We need all new radical contact listings and cover art submissions by August 1.

• If you have ideas for the short features we publish in the back, let us know by August 1. We try to print different features every year.

• If you’re in the Bay Area during the first two weeks of August you can help with the final organizer design — all done by hand, which is extra fun. Contact us. We especially need to find some really careful proofreaders in mid-August. We love sharing the Organizer with ya.

Direct Action as a way of life – blocking coal and climate change

Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) is a volunteer-run collective, in solidarity with the Diné families and elders in Black Mesa/Big Mountain, AZ who have been resisting cultural genocide for over thirty-five years — targeted for unjust large-scale coal mining operations and forced relocation policies of the U.S government. Throughout those thirty-five years the US government and Peabody Coal have forcefully relocated thousands of Diné people away from their ancestral homeland, the land that they belong to, in the name of greed, energy and progress. Many families and elders have refused to leave, even though they are under constant pressure to do so. Their daily lives have become a direct action to save their land base, maintain their traditional life ways, and take a stand against global warming and globalization. They are not creating a new way of sustainable living, but are struggling to live as they always have — with the earth and not against it.

The resisting families are encouraging people to come to Black Mesa now. They request support all year long. One of the primary ways that non-native people who support the Diné live out solidarity is to honor the direct requests of these families and extend an invitation to all people interested in supporting their resistance, to come to Black Mesa, to their threatened ancestral homelands, walk with their sheep, haul water and wood, and do whatever they ask. By coming to Black Mesa, supporters can assist the elders and their families in daily chores, which helps visitors to engage with the story that they are telling, as well as to claim a more personal stake against environmental degradation, climate change, and continued legacies of colonialism and genocide. One can assist by being there so they can go to meetings, organize, weave rugs, visit family members who have been hospitalized, rest after a difficult winter and regain strength for the upcoming spring. With spring comes planting crops, shearing sheep, and lambing. Come for a month. Or longer.

Supporting these communities, whose very presence stands in the way of large-scale coal mining and further environmental degradation, is one way to work on the front lines for climate justice and against a future of climate chaos. There are also opportunities for long-term, committed supporters and organizers off the land.

BMIS is looking for Regional Coordinators to organize year-round support and work towards movement building, which would maintain and enhance communication channels between the Big Mountain resistance communities and networks that are being established to support the Big Mountain resistance, as well as other local forms of indigenous resistance, while building shared analysis, vision and movements for the liberation of all peoples and our planet. We are looking for organizers to connect to local climate justice, anti-racism, and decolonization projects, set up sheepherder send-off parties which can double as political education and fundraising events, put on screenings of “Broken Rainbow”, as well as host speaking engagements, give report-backs from the land and coordinate other educational events to spread the word about the struggle. We hope to connect with folks who will organize local responses to calls to action from the land, look into and spread information about corporate and political connections to Peabody Coal, and build a local capacity to fight racism and participate in multiracial movements for justice.

Contact us for more information if you are interested in supporting this struggle, and please visit our website for a deeper analysis and more info: www.blackmesais.org blackmeasis@gmail.com, 928.773.8086,P.O. Box 23501, Flagstaff, Arizona 86002

Struggle and Deceit – SME Mexican electric workers union

On October 11, 2009, Mexico woke up in confusion. The night before, a midget in Presidential clothing, shielded behind hundreds of soldiers disguised as policemen, abolished the electric company in charge of the most populated part of Mexico, Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LFC). The real reason for the action was that its union was too feisty — the action was a form of privitization meant to transfer power from workers to owners. President Calderón’s excuse was that the company had become a financial burden for the nation.

That morning, the clock ticked for hours but there was nothing but noise. The people in charge of the company had just vanished, no speeches, no nothing, just vanished. The midget was on every TV channel, every radio station, repeating over and over again his lame excuses for dissolving the company. He assured the nation that now, Mexicans would enjoy a first class electric service, with competitive rates provided by a first class company, Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE). Six months later, I’m still waiting.

After the announcement there were immediately questions. “Can he do that?”, “Does he have the constitutional power?”, “Will the new company be able to assume control?” The only ones with easy answers were the 44,000 LFC union members. “We will fight” they said.

In the days after the declaration, it became apparent that CFE could not take over the electrical system so easily. Millions of people lost electrical power for weeks. The “highly trained and specialized” CFE technicians couldn’t operate LFC facilities — they didn’t know how. The technology that kept the system operating was too old for them to operate. LFC workers complained that soldiers were arriving at their homes before dawn and kidnapping them to force them to fix problems in every aspect of the electrical service.

Those problems continue to exist right now. It can be a sunny day, no clouds, no wind, no rain, just a perfect day, and suddenly there’s a blackout that lasts for several hours. That’s the “first class” service CFE provides. And the new company is bleeding money, the exact excuse used to legitimate the disappearance of LFC. The reason is because CFE is not collecting fees — people are not paying because they don’t agree with the price. No one is checking meters to see how much energy is being used — instead everything is “calculated”. CFE doesn’t have enough employees to cover the whole service area and the former LFC workers won’t help them.

The beginning

Historically, electrical service in Mexico was provided by foreign companies. Mexican Light and Power (MLP) was the biggest of all. This company provided electricity for Mexico City and all the states around it since it was created in 1903. By 1911 it was the biggest and most modern electric company in all Latin America but that was never reflected in good salaries and work conditions for their workers. Several attempts were made to create a union but the result were always the same: police repression and the firing from the company of the unionists. This changed in 1914 after a tramway workers strike that represented a great victory for unionism in Mexico. In December, 1914 Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (Mexican Electric Workers Union – SME) was formed. During its first 5 months of existence, the union organized two strikes and made substantial improvements in working conditions, salaries, and work hours.

In 1936, the general contract for the workers expired and the company and union couldn’t reach an agreement. The workers demanded increases in retirement payments and access to medical services. MLP denied all of this and also decided to eliminate the right to retire after 35 working years. The union’s General Secretary went to see the President and said “Mr. President, the strike is about to begin but I guarantee that all public services will continue to work.” July 16 the strike began with the support of the most important unions in the country and the Labor Secretary on their side. Ten days later, MLP had to agree to all 107 union demands and sign a contract that would be an example for unions around the world.

By 1958 it became evident that as long as private companies provided the electrical service, it would be impossible for the country to implement a national electrification program. To solve this, on September 27, 1960 the Mexican president nationalized all electrical services.

After the nationalization, there were two national companies and two unions in charge of generating electricity and providing electrical service to the Mexican people. There was the STERM union that was controlled by the government that worked for CFE and there was the SME union that was an independent union that worked for LFC.

In 1970, the government tried to abolish LFC and transfer all its assets to CFE but failed. Instead, LFC was prohibited from building new powerplants and in 1985 its service area was reduced. In 1994, LFC was recognized as a public company with no government links or control.

The reasons and explanations

The official campaign to discredit LFC and its workers has been quite effective because its assertion that the company was inefficient was true. LFC was an inefficient company from an economical, capitalist perspective. Every year, several billions had to be transferred to the company for it to continue operating. That definitively sounds like an excellent reason for it to cease operating. That is until you hear the reason it was inefficient. When you are forced to buy a product at a certain price and then you have to sell it at a lower price, you cannot make money. Since 1970, the company has been prohibited from producing the electricity it sold. Instead, it had to buy power from CFE at prices determined by the government. The government blamed the workers, calling them inefficient and saying that the financial problems of the company were because the workers salaries were exaggeratedly high and their contract had many benefits other contracts didn’t have. But if their contracts were better than other contracts, that meant they had a good union and the union did what it was supposed to do. It didn’t mean they didn’t deserve what they had. This chart explains things quite well:

Function in the company Monthly salary

(Mexican pesos)

General Director 145,800

Finances sub Director 145,000

General lawyer 145,000

Auditory Director 104,500

Unionized worker 6,000

(One US dollar is around 14 Mexican pesos right now)

Just to compare, the Mexican President gets every month 152,000. So maybe it is not the unionized workers that have exaggerated salaries. Moreover, the largest enterprises and government offices don’t pay for the electricity they use, even though they are charged a lower price that the normal users. Here is a list with some of those big users:

User Debt in millions of pesos

Mexican Congress 4.1

US Embassy 1.7

Attorney’s Office (PGR) 1.5

Mexico City subway 16.6

Foreign Affairs Office 1.5

Estado de México government 1816

Hidalgo government 316.3

Besides the flaws in the government’s arguments, it is also relevant who is making them. The Labor Secretary Javier Lozano has been an active protagonist in this situation, supporting the President’s decision and declaring invalid all of the arguments the SME has presented to support its case. This makes it impossible for SME to win because the person that should be looking out for the workers and unions’ interests, or at least be a neutral judge, is one of the main supporters of the disappearance of the company. For those that believe in God, it is like suing Jesus and letting God be the judge — you just will never have a chance of winning.

The REAL motives

Money. That is always the cause, the need to privatize things. Why give things away cheap when you can privatize and charge whatever you want? People can’t choose — if they don’t like the prices, they can’t do anything about it since there is no other option. For years, one government after the other has reduced the investment in education, public health, and in this case, energy generation. You don’t invest at all at a company that provides a vital service for a country, you force the company to cut the budget and to expand its service, and eventually the company will become financially ineffective. This provides the perfect excuse to privatize it. It has already happened with the telephones, the railways, and now electric energy is the next candidate. But there is something more, something else that can be privatized and that has not been mentioned. There is optical fiber, a huge network of optical fiber that reaches all of the country. Most of it belongs to CFE, but since it is a government-loyal company with a government-loyal union, you will never hear a word about someone inside the company protesting for the privatization of the optical fiber network. But in the center of the country, its most populated region, the network didn’t belong to them, it belonged to LFC and its union would never allow this privatization to occur. So what had to be done was to get them out of the way. A spotless tactic, get one union out of the way and you will be able to privatize two things. Two for the price of one — what a bargain.

The public reaction

Lots of people raised their voices back in October to support SME, great voices, powerful voices. The best lawyers in constitutional rights offered their services to prove that the presidential action was unconstitutional nothing more than a clear and flagrant violation by the government of the union’s autonomy. But it is difficult to prove a violation when the judges do what the boss says, and the boss is the one being accused. There was a lot of hope that millions of people would follow the national strike called for March 16 but nothing happened. Few people went out to show their support to the movement. Once again, television and the cheap entertainment it provides were more powerful than the cries of thousands of families for justice and a decent job. The government’s tactic is to wait for the clock to tick enough for all of the SME workers to get another job or, in the worst of case, for people to forget all of it and only recall it as a dark memory in the past, a story that maybe happened. And then, another injustice will be consummated, one more for the history books, another defeat for the union movements around the globe. Just like a Mexican historian wrote about the 1976 electric workers movement:

“La solidaridad con los electricistas de la Tendencia Democrática fue limitada, se realizaron varias maniobras y actos públicos, hubo desplegados de apoyo, volantes y hasta paros solidarios de agrupaciones sindicales universitarias. Sin embargo la movilización no alcanzó grandes proporciones. Se esperaba mucho más de lo que se dio (sucedió).”

(Solidarity with the Democratic Current electric workers was limited, public acts took place, there were statements being published, flyers, and even solidarity interruptions at universities. But nevertheless, public reaction didn’t reach huge proportions. It was expected a lot more than what finally happened.)

Rabble Calendar issue #103

May

May 16 • 11-1 pm

City Slicker Farms Bike Tour – SF

fermentchange.org/

May 23 • 7 pm

Commemoration of 20th anniversary of car bomb attack on Judi Bari – La Peña 3105 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley 510-548-3113 judibari.org

May 23

Soupstock – Food Not Bombs 30th Anniversary – Boston Common – foodnotbombs.net/boston_soupstock_2010

May 29-30

Boston Skillshare – Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts bostonskillshare.org/2010/info

June

June 11 • 6 pm

Berkeley Critical Mass – Bike Prom ride – Berkeley BART

June 19-26

High Country Earth First! Gathering – San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. feralfutures.blogspot.com/

June 22-26

US Social Forum – Detroit, Michigan ussf2010.org

June 25-27

Protest the G8 Summit – Huntsville, Ontario, Canada.

June 25 • 3 pm

Trans March leaves @ 7 – Delores Park, SF

June 26 • 3 pm

Dyke March leaves @ 7 – Dolores Park, SF

June 29-July 6

Earth First! North Woods Round River Rendezvous maine.earth-first.net

July

Week of July 4th

Rainbow gathering Location announced early June. welcomehome.org

July 7-12

Cascadia Trans & Womyn’s Action Camp! twac@riseup.net twac.wordpress.com

July 23-27

Peace News Summer Camp – Oxfordshire, UK peacenewscamp.wordpress.com

July 29-August 3

Climate Action Camp – Belgium klimaatactiekamp.org

July 30-August 9

Disarmament Summer permaculture/protest encampment at US nuke laboratory – Los Alamos, NM – thinkoutsidethebomb.org

August

August 4-9

UK EF! Summer Gathering earthfirst.org.uk/actionreports/

August 12-18

Punk Week – Ann Arbor, MI myspace.com/punkweekinfo

August 13 • 8 pm

Long Haul Infoshop 17th birthday party! 3124 Shattuck, Berkeley

August 21 – 22 • 10-5 Sat / 11-5 Sun

2010 Seattle Anarchist Book Fair – at the Vera Project (www.theveraproject.org). info info@seattleanarchist.org.

August 22 • 4 pm

Slingshot new Volunteer meeting 3124 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

August 27-30

National Animal Rights Gathering veggies.org.uk

October

October 10

Global work party to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – 350.org